HC Deb 06 August 1890 vol 348 cc53-68

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £7,533 be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1891, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Her Majesty's Secretary for Scotland and Subordinate Officers.

(5.13.) MR. MARJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)

I rise to move to reduce the salary of the Secretary for Scotland by the sum of £100. I wish, first, to draw attention to the great inconvenience caused to Scotch Members by the postponement of the Scotch Estimates to this very late period of the Session. Had the Votes been taken in their regular order, it would have been possible to discuss many most interesting points which must now be passed over in comparative silence. The second point to which I wish to call attention is the manner in which the Secretary for Scotland has treated the Scotch fishery interest. I myself have never made these Scotch fishery subjects a Party question, because it is one on which I think both sides of the House may not only agree, but may do much good by that agreement. I have to complain, however, of the treatment which this matter has received at the hands of the Secretary for Scotland, and doubtless this is a matter which is very much a personal one as between the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland and myself. About three years ago the Secretary for Scotland asked me to preside over a Committee to inquire into the mussel fisheries of Scotland and to report upon that and other cognate matters. Accordingly, I and two Colleagues entered upon that inquiry, and we made a Report which I was assured was a very reasonable and moderate Report. I then asked the Secretary for Scotland what course he intended to take upon that question, and he said would it not be better for me to put my views and those of my Colleagues in the form of a Bill. I said I would do so, and accordingly I carried that promise out. A Bill was drawn up, and the principal part of that Bill was the giving to Scotland of the same advantages which England already possesses in regard to District Fisheries Committees. England obtained these advantages two years ago, and we naturally desired that they should be conferred upon us; but when our Bill was formed, objection was taken to the method adopted for the introduction of a representative element on the Scottish Fishery Board. It was thought that the proposals for the election of representative members were too vague, and accordingly the Government, when that Bill was introduced last Session, opposed it. This Session I re-introduced the Bill with some Amendment especially relating to the point on which objection was taken the year before. As an illustration of the character of that Bill, I would state that on the back of the measure beside the names of hon. Members sitting on this side of the House from all parts of Scotland are those of the hon. Members representing Inverness (Mr. Finlay) and Argyllshire (Mr. Malcolm). I do not think the House would be inclined to class these two gentlemen with any radical or revolutionary proposal, and both of them have told me they think the Bill an excellent one, and that they agree with every word it contains, the hon. Member for Argyllshire being himself particularly interested in those matters which the provisions relative to the mussel fisheries would effect. But, nevertheless, I was again met by the non possumus of the other side of the House, although that opposition was to a certain extent modified by the promise of the Government that they would introduce a Bill upon the subject in another place. Well, Sir, I kept on putting questions as to when that Bill was to see the light It so happened that the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland took a trip to the Northern Isles about the middle of the Session, and none of us were able to find him, because he was beating about among the Orkneys. His absence under these circumstances was assigned by the Government as a reason for the late introduction of the measure. At last that Bill did appear, and what did I find? Why, that it was actually drafted from my own measure; that is to say, it was my own Bill cut down and mutilated. That fact gave me the hope that it would be proceeded with; but when, eventually, it came before the House of Lords; the Secretary for Scotland said he could see no chance of carrying the measure through, and therefore he moved the discharge of the Order. I cannot understand what valid reason there was for such a course. I regarded the Bill as a very modest attempt to realise the object we had in view; and I was prepared to accept the Government measure, not, perhaps, with gratitude, but at any rate on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread, in a belief, and certainly in the hope, that I might have been enabled to improve it to some extent. There was one provision in that Bill which proposed to divide the Scotch coasts into four district areas. I should have tried to extend that number, my own Bill having originally provided for six District Committees, but I had considerable doubt as to whether the number should be six or eight. I do not, however, wish to go into all the minutiæ of the Bill. What I wish to put before the Committee is that England, having already its District Fishery Committees, and all sides agreeing that it is impossible for us to satisfactorily manage our Scotch Fisheries without some such arrangement, the Government having also indicated their opinion that a considerable reform is needed, especially in regard to the constitution of the Scottish Fishery Board, and in the management of the mussel fisheries of Scotland by the appointment of a Committee over which I had the honour to preside, it is, I say, a scandal and a shame that nothing should have been done this Session on so important a matter, about which there was practically a general agreement. I suggested earlier in the Session that the two Bills should be referred to a Select Committee; and if the Government had assented to that course, we should have been able to take a great step in advance in regard to our Scotch fishery business this Session. For the reasons I have just given, I, now beg to move the reduction of the Vote for the salary of the Secretary for Scotland by £100.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries), be reduced by £100, part of the Salary of the Secretary for Scotland.—(Mr. Marjoribanks.)

(5.23.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)

I desire briefly to second the Amendment of my right hon. Friend. When we realise in Scotland that nothing has been done in these matters during the present Session, great discontent will be created throughout the fishing community. You can find time to wrangle for a couple of days over a question of how a few thousand pounds are to be expended in connection with the local taxation scheme, and yet you say it is impossible to consider a Bill such as that brought on by my right hon. Friend and adopted by the Government for dealing with important and vital interests affecting the Scotch fisheries. The subject of the reform of the Scotch Fishery Board is one which is constantly being discussed among the fishers of the North. It is one on which deep feeling is entertained. The body as it exists is one that has done little or no good; it has removed very few evils, and there is very slight hope that it will ever serve any really useful purpose. At any rate, the complaints which have at different times been addressed to the Board by the fishermen of Scotland have received very scant attention.


I would point out to the hon. Member that his remarks are getting somewhat beyond the proposal contained in the Amendment.


I was only emphasising certain matters on which the people of Scotland were anxious that there should be legislation during the current Session. I will, however, only add that I extremely regret that nothing has been done in this direction, and that this subject should have been treated with culpable neglect by Her Majesty's Government.


I think hon. Members will see that, looking at the period of the Session at which we have arrived, and at the amount of business which must necessarily be got through, it would be impossible to pass such a Bill as has been recommended by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, especially when it is remembered that the right hon. Gentleman has just indicated much larger and more ambitious views than those to which the Government propose by their Bill to give effect. Were those views enforced by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends it is clear that it would be practically impossible to secure the passing of such a measure. The withdrawal of the Bill has, therefore, been inevitable, but at the same time there can be no doubt that its introduction has had good effect of placing on record a definite, although perhaps, a moderate proposal. I trust that hereafter, when this matter comes up for practical treatment, we shall be enabled, as I hope will be the case from what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman, to secure the co-operation of hon. Members on both sides of the House to secure a reasonable and satisfactory proposal on this important subject. I will not now enter into details with regard to this question, especially after the rulings we have had from the Chair, but I can assure the Committee that the Government will bear in mind the anxiety that has been expressed in many quarters that there should be legislation on this subject, and that they will give a full consideration to the reasonableness of the views that have been expressed during this discussion.


I can hardly accept the explanation which has just been given by the right hon. Gentleman as satisfactory, because I cannot think the Government has been so pressed for time in regard to this matter that they could not have brought forward at an earlier period some measure on the subject. My Report on the mussel fisheries was presented to the House in 1889, and I subsequently introduced a Bill which was practically the same as my Bill of this Session, except as regards mere points of detail. In fact, last Session I was thanked for the valuable contribution I was said to have made on this subject, and I was assured that the matter would be carefully considered during the Recess. Therefore, I can hardly conceive what excuse the right hon. Gentleman and the Government of which he is a Member can have for not having proceeded with a Bill on the subject this Session. If those who preside over the Scotch Department were really anxious to deal with this important question they ought to have produced their Bill at the beginning of the Session after the consideration they were supposed to have given to the subject during the Recess.

(5.32.) MR. A. SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)

I join in the regret which has been expressed that the Government have not dealt with this matter in relation to the constitution of the Scotch Fishery Board this Session, but atany rate we have been enabled to extract a promise from the right hon. and learned Gentleman that next Session the Government will proceed to consider that matter and deal with it in a practical way. The fact that the Government have agreed to take the question up at all is tantamount to the expression of an opinion that the existing Board is entirely out of date. I trust, therefore, that after the promise just made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman we shall have a Bill next Session very much in advance of the proposal hitherto made, and that some tangible result will be arrived at. If my right hon. Friend goes to a Division on his Amendment, I shall have much pleasure in supporting him, because I cannot but join in the protest which has been made against the Government's neglect of the Scotch fishing interest.

(5.34.) MR. ANSTRUTHER (St. Andrews, &c.)

I have only to say that I feel it my duty to support the Amendment of my right hon. Friend, and, in doing so, I must express my regret that no reform of the Scotch Fishery Board has been carried by the Government this Session. There is among the fishing community of Scotland a widespread feeling that the organisation and administration of the Fishery Board should be improved. If the Amendment of my right hon. Friend is pressed, I shall be bound to give my vote in its favour as an expression of my disappointment.

(5.35.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 79; Noes 113.—(Div. List, No. 239.)

(5.43.) MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)

I have now to move the reduction of this Vote by the sum of £50, in order to make a protest on one point in connection with the Secretary's Office. Most of the Scotch Members on this side of the House hold a strong opinion that the Secretary of Scotland ought to be a Member of this House, and not of the House of Lords. I am well aware that in the conditions under which this Vote comes before the House it is impossible to attempt anything like an adequate discussion of this question, and I would guard myself against any misunderstanding by stating that I do not wish to say a word against Lord Lothian personally, because I believe the Scotch Members generally are perfectly well satisfied as to the personal qualifications of the noble Lord. Nor do I desire to say anything derogatory to the character and conduct of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is in this House the representative of the Secretary for Scotland, but I must protest against the system of keeping the Secretary for Scotland in a House in which we cannot have recourse to him. We believe that the office he holds was created with the intention that the Scotch Secretary should be in this House, but as long as the post is filled by a Member of the other House it will fail to receive the confidence of those who sit in this Assembly. Having said this, I will content myself with simply moving the reduction of the Vote by £50.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item (a) (Salaries), be reduced by £50, part of the Salary of the Secretary for Scotland."—(Mr. Edmund Robertson.)

(5.47.) MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)

This is a most important question in connection with the office of Secretary for Scotland. Every year we have to complain of the manner in which Scotch business is conducted, and one of the principal grounds of our complaint arises from the fact that the gentleman responsible for the conduct of Scotch business is not a Member of this House, and therefore inaccessible to its Members; and the result is that communication between Members of this House and the Secretary sitting in the other House is practically impossible. Another serious injury to Scotch business arises from the fact that in regard to Scotch measures the Lord Advocate, who represents in this House the Secretary of State, is here simply as an agent instead of as the principal. Great difficulty thus arises, because the Lord Advocate is not always in a position to consult his chief on questions that arise in Debates in this House. We desire, therefore, to enter an emphatic protest against a system which greatly reduces the efficiency of the office. If we do not succeed in inducing the present Government to make the change we desire, I trust that at any rate their successors in office will give some consideration to Scotch opinion and see that that change is effectuated.

(5.50.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 64; Noes 105.—(Div. List, No. 240.)

Original Question again proposed.

(5.58.) MR. ASHER (Elgin, &c.)

There is a matter connected with this Vote of some importance to my constituents to which I desire to call the attention of the Committee. I allude to the scheme of the Educational Endowment Commissioners for the administration of certain endowments in the County of Banff. I know that I should not be in order in discussing the alteration which has been made upon that scheme, but my constituents have grave cause for complaint as to the course taken by the Secretary for Scotland in this matter. A deputation, consisting of the Duke of Fife, the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duff), and myself, and a large number of gentlemen representing the educational interests of Banffshire, waited on the Secretary for Scotland for the purpose of asking him so to frame the scheme as to make the bursaries under it tenable in schools for higher education to be approved by the Scotch Education Department, and which were near the bursars' homes. The Secretary for Scotland adopted the views of the deputation, and remitted the scheme to the Commissioners, who altered it accordingly, and it was thereafter approved in that form by the Scotch Education Department. My constituents, of course, assumed that the scheme which had been thus adjusted would have the support of the Government. But on the morning of the day on which the House adjourned for the Easter Recess, a Motion was made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Ipswich for undoing the very thing the deputation had got the Secretary for Scotland to get inserted in the scheme. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who represents the Scotch Department in this House voted in favour of this Motion without giving any explanation of the unusual course he was adopting. Under these circumstances I say we have serious cause for complaint, and we are entitled to know whether the Secretary for Scotland has changed his mind, or whether the Scotch Education Department has changed its mind, and if so why this change was not communicated to the deputation who waited upon the Secretary for Scotland. I accept entirely the responsibility of not being in my place to defend the scheme as it stood. That is not the question. The question is, whether we were not entitled to look to the Secretary for Scotland to take care, after what had taken place with regard to the adjustment of the scheme, that the scheme and the views embodied in it and approved of by the Scotch Education Department should receive the support of the Government in this House. This is the only opportunity I have had of bringing the matter before the House. I thought the occurrence I have mentioned must have happened through an oversight, and I, therefore, introduced a Bill for the purpose of restoring the scheme to the form in which it stood when it passed the Education Department. I have had no opportunity of discussing this matter in connection with that Bill, the measure having been systematically blocked by the Government and the hon. Member for Ipswich since its introduction. So far as I have been able to discover there is not a single Scotch Member in the House opposed to the Bill—


Order, order!


I may, Sir, have gone beyond the limits of the question before the Committee, but my point is that we are entitled to complain that the Secretary for Scotland did not take care that the alteration which had been introduced into the scheme of arrangement with him would be supported by the Representative of the Scotch Education Department in this House, or at any rate that he did not give us notice of any change of opinion or intention so as to put us on our guard.


As my constituents are very much interested in this question I wish to endorse the views of my hon. and learned Friend. My constituents are sorely vexed about the matter. Throughout the County of Banff, except in one parish, the people are unanimous in wishing that the views of the Commissioners had been carried out. I am at a loss to understand how it was that the Lord Advocate opposed the views of his Colleague Lord Balfour of Burleigh. The Commission recommended a certain course, which was adopted by the Government, but subsequently the hon. Member for Ipswich—a Scotchman, but not a Scotch Member—brought forward a Motion by which the recommendation was upset. The First Lord of the Treasury voted for his Colleague Lord Balfour of Burleigh, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman supported the Amendment, and, very naturally, my constituents were very much astonished at what took place. I cannot go into the merits of this question, but I would emphasise the statement of my hon. and learned Friend who expressed surprise at the representative of a Scotch Department going directly against the views of the Commission.

(6.6.) MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON

I cannot help thinking that the speeches we have just heard arise from a misconception of the position of the Government as to a scheme of this kind. The hon. Member for Banffshire goes the length of saying that because Lord Balfour of Burleigh was a party to a certain scheme that, therefore, we were bound to adhere to it. That is altogether erroneous. What has occurred is this. These schemes require, in the first place, to obtain the sanction of the Scotch Education Department. That sanction is given, not on the footing of any absolute or implicit approval, but as showing that the Scotch Education Department do not see cause to interfere with the scheme. The scheme then has to lie on the Table of the House, when a Motion may be made to reject it. In several cases, when schemes have received the approval of the Scotch Education Department the Government have formally agreed to Motions to reject them. That took place in two instances only a few weeks before this Banff scheme came up, namely, in the cases of the Fergusson bequest and the Orphan Hospital of Edinburgh. In each case the Government intimated that the Motion to reject the scheme would not be opposed. In the case under discussion the Government left the matter open, and the Government Tellers were not employed. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite will see that he goes too far when he attributes misconduct to a Member of the Government every time he votes for the rejection of a scheme which has received the imprimatur of the Scotch Education Department. In this case we did not cast the weight of the Government against the scheme, but left it an open question, and, that being so, every Member on this Bench who was impressed by the statement of the hon. Member for Ipswich very naturally voted with him. All that can be said against the Secretary for Scotland is that he received a deputation, and listened with great patience to their statements, the result being that the scheme was remitted to the Commissioners and altered in accordance with their view; but that did not preclude the Government from taking the course they did when the scheme came before them in the House, that is to say, from allowing it to be considered on its merits.

(6 9.) MR. ASHER

I do not for a moment suggest that the Government are bound to support all the schemes of the Commissioners, but in this instance the Secretary for Scotland had arranged the terms of the scheme, and we therefore had a right to expect that the Government in the House of Commons would support the views of the Secretary for Scotland. I addressed a question to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate a short time ago, as to the course he took in regard to this scheme, and he informed me that he had been convinced by the arguments of the hon. Member for Ipswich. I then, naturally, looked at the reports of the observations of that hon. Member, but neither in Hansard nor in the Times could anything in the form of an argument be found. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has never given a single reason for the change of opinion of the Secretary for Scotland.

(6.11.) MR. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N. E.)

I am glad this point has been brought before the House, as it is a matter which has excited a good deal of feeling throughout Scotland. The doctrine laid down by the Lord Advocate in this case is an important one. He says that when the Commissioners have framed a scheme and submitted it to the Education Department——


This is irregular save under very special circumstances, which bear on alterations made in schemes through the influence of the Secretary for Scotland. If the right hon. Gentleman desires to discuss these schemes he must wait for the Scotch Education Vote.


I was going to discuss the action of the Secretary for Scotland as Vice President of the Education Board in regard to these schemes.


His action as a member of the Scotch Education Board must be discussed on the Scotch Education Vote. There were special circumstances which made the first part of the discussion not inappropriate.


I will only say that I entirely demur to the doctrine of the Lord Advocate, that the Government are entitled to throw over schemes which are approved by the Secretary for Scotland, as head of the Education Department.

(6.14.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

We have had a great many interesting discussions, because these are Scotch matters, but the English taxpayer is entirely lost sight of. The Votes are put off to such a time that it is almost impossible for the advocates of economy with any effect to call attention to the most gross and reckless waste on the part of the Government in regard to these Votes. This is a new office, created only a short time ago, and yet I find that there is a Secretary for Scotland at a salary of £2,000 a year, an Assistant Permanent Secretary at a salary of £1,500, and another Under Secretary at a salary of £1,000. Besides these officials there are five clerks, who really do whatever business there is to do in the office, and two private secretaries, six messengers, and five charwomen. I would point out that whenever these new offices are established, instead of distributing the work fairly, and taking a sufficiency of men to do it, the Government immediately foist into high places a number of gentlemen with the sole object of giving them salaries. That is the result of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, and of the Estimates being put off from one year to another. I think the attention of the public ought to be drawn to the matter.

(6.16.) MR. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)

I desire to say, having had business relations with the Scotch Office, that the offices in the Department are by no means sinecures. I should say that instead of there being an excess of clerks there is a deficiency.

SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

I have often called attention to this matter, but have refrained from doing so to-day, because I wished to save time, and because I am a patriotic Scotchman, and this is money which goes to Scotland. I think care should be taken to properly organise these Departments, and to see that highly-paid officials are not appointed to do the work which, properly speaking, should be done by ordinary clerks.

(6.17.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)

The Assistant Permanent Secretary is only paid at the rate of an ordinary clerk in the English Home Office, next door to the Scotch Office. The Secretary for Scotland only receives £2,000 a year, whereas the Secretary for Scotland gets £5,000. In connection with Scotland, everything seems to be screwed down to the lowest.

Question put, and agreed to.

  1. 2. £3,795, to complete the sum for Lunacy Commission, Scotland.
  2. 3. £4,025, to complete the sum for the Registrar General's Office, Scotland.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

(6.18.) MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

I hope we shall be able to dispose of the Foreign Office Vote as well as the Scotch Estimates to-morrow.


I think we should have some explanation as to the meaning of this proposal to report Progress. Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House proposed that the Rules should be suspended, so that we might go on for any length of time. Is that only to apply to Sittings after 12 o'clock? If so, my strictures of yesterday are correct, and the right hon. Gentleman wants to force us to sit after midnight, and to pass Votes when our energies are exhausted. At present, our energies are not exhausted—mine are not. I am quite fresh, and am ready to go on to a reasonable hour—to 11 or 12 o'clock. I think it right to draw attention to the conduct of the Government in this matter, for it shows how hollow and loose are their assertions when they charge us with impeding the progress of Business. As a matter of fact, the object of this Motion to report Progress is to enable Ministers to go and indulge in an orgie in another part of London with a corrupt Corporation. To enable this to be done, the Session is to last one day longer. After this, I hope the right hon. Gentleman opposite will not complain of my humble efforts to advance the business of this House.

(6.21.) MR. W. H. SMITH

I shall always be careful not to attribute to the hon. Gentleman anything which he does not attribute to himself. No one has insisted more on the orderly conduct of business than the hon. Member for Northampton—always, Sir, from his own point of view. I am in the recollection of the House, I know, when I say that it is not customary to sit much beyond 6 o'clock on Wednesdays, and, recognising that great progress has been made within the last two days, I do not think it fair to impose too heavy a task on hon. Members. As regards the Foreign Office Vote, referred to by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, I am entirely in the hands of the House, and I have undertaken to place the Vote as first Order of the Day after the Bills have been disposed of, which undertaking has met with the approval of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Childers). If the House generally wishes that the Vote shall be taken before the Scotch Votes, I am perfectly willing to accept such an arrangement. I cannot ask the House to sit to an unreasonable hour on Thursday, but if the Scotch Estimates are completed at 10 or 11 o'clock, there would be no objection to take the Foreign Office Vote then. However, as I say, I am entirely in the hands of the House, having, earlier in the day, promised that the Vote shall be taken as the first Order on Friday.

(6.25.) MR. BRYCE

The right hon. Gentleman has not quite understood me. I did not suggest that, the Scotch Estimates having been introduced, they should be stopped in order to interpose the Foreign Office Vote, but that the Foreign Office Vote should be taken after the Scotch Estimates are concluded.


I am perfectly prepared to assent to that. I could not ask the House to sit to an unreasonable hour to consider the Foreign Office Vote. If the Scotch Estimates should be concluded to-morrow at a reasonable hour—say 10 or 11 o'clock—there would be no objection to going on with the Foreign Office Vote.


I think there was a definite arrangement made at the commencement of to-day's Sitting that the Foreign Office Vote should be taken on Friday. The object was that there should be a clear day for the discussion, and that it should take place at a reasonable hour. I do not say it should not go on till a little after 12, but that it should not be continued till 1, 2, or 3 o'clock in the morning. Will the right hon. Gentleman agree to report Progress at about half-past 12 if he takes the Foreign Office Vote to-morrow?

(6.27.) MR. W. H. SMITH

If we finish the Scotch Estimates to-morrow at 10 or half-past 10 there would be every desire to meet the views of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, and if the discussion has not been completed by, say, 1 o'clock to report Progress.


Are we to understand that the Scotch Votes will be taken first to-morrow?


After the Bills.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.

Committee to sit again To-morrow.

It being after Six of the clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.

House adjourned at half after Six o'clock.