§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Sir G. TREVELYAN,) Glasgow, Bridgeton
rose to move—That, in addition to the two Standing Committees appointed, under Standing Order No. 47, a Standing Committee shall be appointed for the consideration of all Bills relating exclusively to Scotland which may, by order of the House, be committed to them, and that the provisions of Standing Order No. 47 shall apply to the said Standing Committee; that the said Standing Committee do consist of all the Members representing Scottish constituencies, together with 15 other Members, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection, who shall have power from time to time to discharge the Members so nominated by them, and to appoint others in substitution for those discharged; that Standing Orders No. 49 and 50 do apply to the said Standing Committee.He said: I beg to propose this Resolution the considerations in connection with which are so bound up with the daily experiences of hon. Members in the proceedings of this House and the effect of those proceedings upon the progress of Scotch legislation that I think a plain and brief statement of the requirements and facts upon which it is founded will best show what I believe to be the strength of the case which I propose to lay before the House, When one brings forward a proposal to this effect it is necessary to prove three things—first, that the existing state of things imperatively demands a remedy; secondly, that the remedy proposed will be efficacious, and that the dangers and difficulties which it brings with it do not approach in gravity to those which it removes; and, thirdly, that the informed public opinion of those who are most interested in the question is in favour of the change, or, at any 1117 rate, in the same direction. If I can make good these propositions it only remains that the Government should be ready to go through with this change, and on that point I can assure the House that nothing will be wanting. We do not regard this as a partisan measure. We look upon it as a practical and businesslike measure for getting more time for the Public Business of the House, and for doing justice to a great class of Members whose interests have had scant justice done them in the past. And we put it forward as a proposal for dealing with a state of things which must be dealt with decisively and at once. If anyone doubts that the present state of things must be altered, it is not the Scottish Members. They know how the business of their country has been left undone. They know the value of the time which is due to Scotland, and of which they get such a scanty share. I have often thought that the worst effect of the faulty custom of business to which men have become accustomed is that it lowers their standard from what is possible and what ought to be done; and I am quite certain that hon. Members who are not Scottish Members do not realise the plight in which Scottish Members are—not only are in this, but have been in all Parliaments. I am sure Scottish Members have been told in many a Session before this—and it is a very common thing to be told—"Oh, yes; you have no important Scottish Bill this Session; you had none last Session; but the Session before last you had such and such a Bill." Sow, is it not in itself an abuse of very great magnitude that 70 busy men, the Representatives of a certain country, should come to Parliament, and only every other year be able to do important business about the country which they represent? If that was the ease in any other trade or calling than that of a Member of Parliament, we should say it was a state of things which absolutely required to be remedied. Whoever is satisfied with this state of things, it is not the Scottish Members. The Scottish Members have taken every opportunity which they could to testify their dissatisfaction. In this Parliament they have only had one such opportunity, and then the hon. Member for Caithness moved—That, in consequence of the pressure of Public Business and the failure of this House 1118 to deal with Scottish affairs in accordance with the wishes of the Scottish people, it is desirable to devolve on a Scottish Legislature all matters exclusively relating to Scotland.Now, this expression of the grievance oft Scotsmen is very strong; the remedy proposed is very strong; and Scottish Members voted in favour of that Resolution by two to one; whilst I believe that there were many who agreed with the preamble of that Resolution who only differed from the conclusion about Home Rule. If the Resolution had been plainly put to the House I believe that almost every Scots-man would have voted for it. But it! may be said that this is a temporary feeling in this Parliament. What was the feeling of the Scottish Members in the last Parliament about Scottish business? That was a Parliament when there were fewer Members who belonged to that Party to which we on this side for the most part belong. It was a Parliament which was very heavily worked, but less overburdened than this Parliament; and Scottish opinion was that Scotsmen ought to manage their own business much more in their own fashion, and with a greater command of public time. In May, 1889, a Scottish Local Government Bill was read a second time, and it was moved that it should be sent to a Committee of the whole House. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds moved that, instead of sending it to a Committee of the whole House, it should be sent to a Select Committee composed of all the Scottish Representatives and of 30 other Members to be nominated by the Committee of Selection. Thirty-five Scottish Members voted for this Resolution and 15 against. In 1890 the Scottish Burghs Police Bill was referred to a Select Committee, and then my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, now Civil Lord of the Admiralty, moved that it should be referred to a Committee consisting of Members representing Scottish constituencies. On that occasion 31 Scottish Members voted for the Resolution and 13 against; and in the same Parliament the Resolution which I am now moving was moved very much in the same shape, and 30 Scottish Members to 16 voted in favour of it. The Scottish feeling, therefore, is permanent; it was the same in the last Parliament as it is in this 1119 Parliament, only in those days the Ministry, for reasons which I do not criticise for a moment, invited the great majority of Members to go counter to the wishes of the Scottish Members. That is not the course we take to-night. We offer the Scottish Members a proposal for enabling them, at one of the most important periods of process in the manufacture of their Bills, to have those Bills moulded in accordance with Scottish opinion; and as far as we can influence and devise English, Welsh, and Irish Members, we shall ask them not to thwart the Scottish Members, but to assist them in obtaining what we know to be the wish and what we believe to be the interest of Scotland. If hon. Members for other parts of the country will look at this matter calmly they will see that it is in the interest of the whole House, and not of Scotland alone, that this proposal is brought forward. The Parish Councils Bill for Scotland, according to all the Rules which govern the sequence of business in this House, is a debt to Scotland which must be paid out of the general time of the House. The Scottish Parish Councils Bill raises as many important questions as the English Bill—questions as thoroughly understood by Scotland's Representatives, and exciting quite as great interest in Scotland as the English provisions did in England. The English Parish Councils Bill took 42 days of the time of the House in Committee. How long will the Scottish Parish Councils Bill take? I think it is not an exaggeration to say that 15 or 16 days are the very least that Scottish Members will have to demand from the general time of the House for the purpose of passing the Parish Councils Bill through Committee; and the Parish Councils Bill is only the first of a good many items and measures which are due to Scotland. Scotland has a very large population. It is a country very highly organised, and, therefore, dependent to a remarkable degree upon legislation for the free working of its administrative machinery and for its social and commercial progress. I do not think it is too much to say that not a week passes but some Scottish Local Body that thoroughly understands its business comes to the Scottish Office and asks that some statute passed in former years should be altered in an im- 1120 portant particular, and saying that without this alteration the Statute will not work. The Burgh Police Act is one in which many alterations have been proposed. Then there are the private Members. This year the Scottish Members have not been very fortunate in the Ballot; and yet I already see on the Table of the House at least eight very important Scottish Bills, and I know that a good many more are in preparation. It requires almost endless patience and perseverance, and it requires almost humiliating appeals to the indulgence of English Members, to get one of those Bills occasionally passed between 12 and 1 o'clock in the morning. This proposal, therefore, to obtain time which is not taken from the general time of the House is a proposal for the advantage of Scotland indeed, but likewise greatly to the advantage of England and the rest of the Kingdom. I see that there are certain signs on the Order Book. One hon. Member, who agrees, I fancy, with this general proposal, thinks it does not go far enough. We are asking the House to take a new step, and therefore it is better and wiser to proceed on the old lines where they have been found efficient. We have followed carefully the old proposals with regard to Grand Committees. The number of Members proposed on this Grand Committee is almost the same; the quorum is the same; the Members who are not Scottish Members are to be selected by the same impartial body, and the Chairman is to be chosen by the same method from the experience, almost professional, of the Chairmen's Panel. In all respects the proposal is on the old model except in the business that is referred to the Committee and in the number of Members specially interested in the business, who are greatly increased in proportion. And, now, Sir, we place all the Scottish Members on this Committee. If you cannot put all the Members from Scotland on the Committee, I think you might as well leave it alone for a very obvious reason. If 30 or 40 Members were excluded, and if they know that business intimately connected with the country they represented was done in their absence, then the whole of the business would have to be done over again in the House, which would not be 1121 the case if this proposal is adopted. I remember that we have often been told that the Grand Committee ought to be the microcosm of the House in Committee of the whole House. This is the great argument I advance for the Committee which we propose to set up. This Scotch Grand Committee will not only he a sort of microcosm of the House in Committee of the whole House on Scotch business; it will be the House in Committee on Scotch business itself. What is the House in Committee on Scotch business? Before that Committee has gone on 10 minutes all the Members except the Scotch Members have left the House. No one but a Scotch Member speaks; no one listens—[Opposition laughter]—but Scotch Members. But I am sorry to say that the Members who are in the precincts of the House come in to vote. Nothing is more striking—it is one of the best-known phenomena of Parliamentary life—the indifference which English Members show to the details of Scotch Debates. I do not care much for the amusement which I have caused amongst hon. Gentlemen opposite, for I am speaking' now to Scotch Members, who know that what I am saying is the fact, and who have felt it long. This indifference of English Members is very remarkable; and if you read the London correspondents' writing in the English provincial papers, you will see that they seem to grudge the time given to a Scotch Debate on Scotch business. Anyone who will road the English newspapers the day after a Scotch Debate on a Scotch question will see that what I say is precisely true. But Scotland is quite unconcerned at this indifference of Englishmen, if only Scotchmen are to be allowed to do their business in their own manner and at their own time. In Committee of the whole House on Scotch business you have every possible disadvantage, and yon have not the great advantage which the proposal before the House will give—that in this Scotch (hand Committee you will get the opinion of Scotland. This proposal will enable you at a most important stage in each Scotch Bill to get the real opinion of Scotland; and my belief is that, in 9 cases out of 10, or 19 cases out of 20, Parliament will be only too glad to know what Scotland thinks, and will endorse its ascertained opinion. I have 1122 shown that the present state of things requires a remedy, and I have shown that this remedy, whatever else it will be, will be efficacious. I have shown also that the Scotch Members desire it. I will now refer to the question whether the evils and objections of this proposal outweigh the advantages. What are the dangers and disadvantages of this proposal? Are they dangers to the Empire or to the Kingdom at large? No Imperial question can possibly come on before this Scotch Committee. No question that can seriously affect any other part of the Kingdom directly can come before this Committee either. I shall soon introduce the Local Government Bill for Scotland, which will effect very large changes in all departments of Scotch life. I speak quite sincerely and honestly when I say that there is absolutely nothing in that Bill which can affect England, Ireland, or Wales, except as far as England, Wales, and Ireland are affected by the increased or diminished prosperity and content of Scotland. If anything is brought forward which touches other parts of the Kingdom the Chairman will rule it out of order, and if anything is brought forward which can injure the interests of other parts of the Kingdom there will be Members from other parts of the Kingdom to know what is being done in the Committee and to bring it before the attention of the House afterwards, and I venture to say that the House will take very sharp notice of it. But I believe the danger to be absolutely illusory. We are making a machinery which is to be worked by men of sense. And Scotch Members are men of sense. They know that this Scotch Grand Committee would not be worth a single Session's purchase if its Members used it to meddle with the affairs of other parts of the country. I suppose that the main argument which will be brought against this proposal will be the argument which was put forward—not at great length, but with great animation—by the right hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, in the course of last month. There was one particular sentence in that speech to which I wish to refer, and the right hon. Gentleman will admit that it is the cardinal sentence. He said—It would be utterly unfair to English interests that, while the English were to have 1123 no voice in the framing of Scotch measures, Scotchmen and Irishmen should determine the form in which English measures were to be passed.But are the English to have no voice in the framing of Scotch measures? First of all leave has to be obtained to introduce the Bill, and with a contentious measure that is a serious stage. Then the House as a whole must approve or reject the principle of the Bill on the Second Beading, and in full House Instructions will be moved on going into Committee. Afterwards the House will revise the work of the Committee on the Report stage, with the Speaker in the Chair, and consider the measure in its final shape on the Third Beading. Without the concurrence of the English majority, over and over again given, no Scotch measure can possibly become law; and we do not endeavour to get the concurrence of that majority by any Parliamentary device. But we expect to get a very favourable hearing from the majority of the House when they find out what the Scotch opinion is on Scotch measures, and we believe that the House will treat that opinion with great respect. England, therefore, will have a voice in Scotch business; and what is the extent to which Scotchmen will interfere with English business? By far the most of the measures which are discussed in Committee of the whole House are not English measures in the sense that they are measures peculiarly for England alone. Electorate Bills, trade Bills, agricultural Bills, Bills affecting the factory laws, India, the Colonies, the Army and the Navy—in all these Scotland has as much interest as England. That is one class of the Bills in which Scotchmen will have a voice. Then there are the English Bills which go to Grand Committees, and I venture to say that the number of these will be considerably increased, because when purely Scotch Bills are referred to this Scotch Grand Committee the time which Scotch business now takes before Grand Committees will be saved, and there will be more time for referring English Bills to the other Grand Committees. What are these Grand Committees? When English business comes before them they are almost completely English bodies. Even when Scotch business comes before a Grand Committee and 15 extra Scotch- 1124 men are put on, the English Members still have a very large majority. Now, when a Scotch Bill comes before this Grand Committee which we propose there will be a very large majority of Scotch Members. The right hon. Gentleman asks us whether England is to have reciprocity. This seems to me to be exactly reciprocity. This seems to me to be fairness and justice, the proposal that a Grand Committee on Scotch business should be managed by a majority of Scotch Members, just as English business is managed by a majority of English Members. I quite admit that something still remains, and the benefit of that admission it will be cheaper to concede at once to the right hon. Gentleman. I admit that from time to time a Bill will come before the Committee of the whole House affecting England, Wales, or Ireland, on which Scotchmen will have a vote on the same day that they have been disposing of Scotch business with only a small infusion of English Members. So far that is an anomaly, but it is not sufficiently serious that for the sake of it you ought to defeat a scheme which I believe to be useful and workmanlike; and I am sure that anomaly will not be regarded as a sufficient answer to our proposals by that practical nation the method of conducting whose business we are now discussing. I thank the House for the patience with which I have been listened to, and I have now, in conclusion, a word to say on some non-contentious topics. It is the great advantage of this proposal that it promotes public work without doing an injury to any individual. I refer to the problem of the private Member, which always presents itself when we discuss the procedure of this House. This scheme makes no demand on the time of the private Member, but it gives a great value to that time which it does not now possess. What method have private Members of initiating business of their own in this House? They may bring forward a Motion on Tuesday or Friday, or they may introduce a Bill for Second Beading on a Wednesday. But what is the use of bringing forward Resolutions in favour of legislation and of ripening questions for legislation when there is no time to legislate? What is the use of getting Bills read a second time on a, Wednesday when there is no public time 1125 to pass them through Committee? But here you will have a special body to facilitate the transaction of special business which, I venture to say, in five years will have passed those private Scotch Bills best worth passing, and which, if a Scotch Member carried a Resolution in favour of legislation on a Tuesday or a Friday, will give the Government time to pass a Bill and carry that Resolution into law. Again, we do not push forward business by suppressing free speech, That is an argument which seems to be universally popular. Instead of cutting short the opportunities of speech we invite into the sphere of Debate many and many a man who now thinks he can best promote public business by his silence. [Laughter] I do not see anything to laugh at in that. There are many such Members in this House, and we hope to give them a field in which they can speak by giving them an audience they like, and an audience which likes nothing so much as substance, point, and brevity. The Committee of the whole House is very different from what it used to be in the old days. I remember very well the time when it was a most exceptional thing to make a peroration in Committee, but now perorations in Committee are the commonest things; and what is a more serious reflection is that, if you want to go back to the old Committee limit of 10 minutes for a speech, it is to the Grand Committees, and not to a Committee of the whole House, that you must go. My belief is that on this Scotch Grand Committee business will be done after the good old Scotch fashion, which is so well known in Scotch Town Councils, County Councils, Ecclesiastical Assemblies, and Conferences of Town and County Local Bodies. [An hon. MEMBER: What is the Scotch fashion?] If the hon. Gentleman wants to know what the Scotch fashion of doing business is lot him ask my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire to lend him a copy of the proceedings of the Conference of County Councils, and there he will see in what a short time, with what practical argument, and with what largo divisions the most important questions connected with the coming Scotch Local Government Bill were discussed and settled. This proposal is not made for the purpose of getting time for the advantage of the 1126 Government. I refuse to separate the Government from the House on a question of the importance of passing legislation. The Government have no more interest than the rest of this House in carrying good legislation. I believe there are two motives that induce hon. Members to enter Parliament. One is the honourable ambition to take a personal part in the business of the nation, and the other is a desire to assist in passing measures into law. To hon. Members who are actuated by these motives—and I believe they are an enormous majority of this House—the proposal of the Government, if they carefully examine it, will, I think, be found acceptable. It is a proposal to give Members genuine work of a sort in which they are specially interested; work the object of which they see and the conduct of which they can hope to influence. It is a proposal, likewise, to enable good measures to be carried, which most Scotchmen—in some cases almost all Scotchmen—desire, but for which under the present system no time can be found, or will be found, I am afraid, for years to come. These are the two main recommendations of our proposals, and against them, in themselves, I do not think any man will find anything to say. Objections of principle—still more objections of precedent and custom—will be found, and will, no doubt, be eloquently and forcibly put forward against the proposal; but, none the less, the Government, with the knowledge of all that can be said against it, confidently recommend the proposal to the approbation of Scotland, to the sympathy of Members from other parts of the Kingdom, and to the judgment of the House of Commons.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in addition to the two Standing Committees appointed under Standing Order, No. 47, a Standing Committee shall be appointed for the consideration of all Bills relating exclusively to Scotland which may, by Order of the House, be committed to them, and that the provisions of Standing Order, No. 47, shall apply to the said Standing Committee.
That the said Standing Committee do consist of all the Members representing Scottish constituencies, together with 15 other Members, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection, who shall have power from time to time to discharge the Members so nominated by them, and to appoint others in substitution for those discharged.
That Standing Orders Nos. 49 and 50 do apply to the said Standing Committee."—(Sir G. Trevelyan.)
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
Mr. Speaker, in almost the closing words of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, he informed us that the Government were aware of everything that could be said against the proposal which he has laid before the House. I confess I never should have conjectured that from the speech to which we have listened. Nothing more amazed me in that speech, considering the occasion on which it is delivered, than the absolute ignorance, apparently, on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, that he and the Government of which he is a Member are endeavouring to make a change in our procedure which, I do not hesitate to say, would revolutionise the practice of this House. The right hon. Gentleman either knows, or does not know, of the Parliamentary arguments, the arguments drawn from Constitutional and Parliamentary practice, which may be urged against this proposal. If he does not know of them, what are we to think of a Government which allows itself to be represented by a Minister who, on an occasion of this sort, puts on one side all the really great issues on which we are called upon to decide, and occupies our time with a discussion, not unimportant in its proper place, of the precise opportunities which Scotch Members have of delighting each other with their own eloquence? What are we to think of him if he did not know of these arguments? Put, if he did know of them—if he had them in his mind, and refused to touch upon them—what are we to think of the guidance given to the House on an important occasion like this by those who are responsible, after all, for laying before us the main considerations on which we ought to base our decision? Some of the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman used I do not think it worth while to touch upon. He told us, and I gathered from him—and apparently some hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite agreed with him—that he regarded the manner and character of Scotch speakers as of so admirable a kind—so far above the head of a mere English Member—that it would be grossly unfair to ask them to perform in an empty theatre, or to unsympathetic 1128 auditors, and that they ought really to be collectively relegated to some large room near the grand staircase where there would be the perfection of performances and the most appreciative of audiences. Well, Sir, as a Scotchman, I protest against this. I love to speak to my countrymen, but I do not wish to be confined absolutely to them. I prefer to lay my views, such as they are, before larger and more mixed audiences. Though that is not an important argument, yet it is almost the most important argument which the right hon. Gentleman gave us, except only the argument of the neglect, or alleged neglect, of Scotch business. I have never concealed from the House that with regard to legislation for Scotland, and also for England and Ireland, the machinery of this House very often does not supply the means for passing measures as quickly as many of us desire. There are occasions on which this would be a very proper topic to bring before the House, but I venture to say it is not a proper topic or argument on which we are to be asked, for the first time, to introduce this principle of nationality into our Grand Committees—to construct those Committees and to frame them in a manner absolutely subversive, as I shall show directly, of the immemorial precedents set by this House in that matter. The right hon. Gentleman asks us what dangers to the Empire follow from his plan? I say I do not think that any dangers do follow to the Empire; but, after all, there are interests other than those commonly described as Imperial which are very much threatened by it, and interests which, in my judgment, really and truly in strictness deserve the full epithet of being as wide in their importance as those affecting the whole Empire over which Parliament is called upon to rule. For what is the issue? It is the constitution of Parliament itself. It is the constitution of the most important branch of the Legislature, and nothing of that kind can be put off, as we have been asked to do to-day by gentlemen who think that no argument ought to be touched upon in dealing with this question except that which concerns legislation affecting the northern portion of this island. What is the procedure of the Government? Having determined apparently to upset our immemorial traditions, they do so, not in a scheme 1129 the whole bearings and results of which we can see and understand—not in a scheme which applies to England and Ireland as well as to Scotland, but in a scheme confined to one relatively small portion of the 35,000,000 of population over whom we directly rule. The enormous issues which are really at stake are deliberately concealed from us by the procedure the Government have adopted, and before I sit down I shall move an Amendment asking' the House to refuse altogether to consider these piecemeal proposals, and to wait before finally approving or, as I hope, finally condemning any plan of this sort until we see it, in broad and unmistakable outlines, logically extended to every portion of the United Kingdom, and in all its bearings clear before us and the country. I have complained of many omissions made by the right hon. Gentleman in his speech, but I am glad he made one omission. He made no appeal to Scotch national sentiment. He told us a good deal about Scotch business, but of Scotch national sentiment he said nothing, and in this, I think, he acted well. I, Sir, am one of those who have always believed that these subordinate patriotisms, if I may use the expression, are a most useful element in our public life, and I should be the last person in this House to say one single word in disparagement of Scotch patriotism. But the right hon. Gentleman has shown clearly, by his own speech, that this is no question of Scotch patriotism or nationality. It is a question of carrying through rather more quickly, or rather more slowly, a certain amount of Scotch legislation. That is the only argument upon the one side, whereas on the other aide there are arguments which I venture to lay before the House which ought to make it hesitate, not once or twice, but many times, before lending itself to any device of this description. I should like to know when the Party opposite were converted to this plan. I see before me one of the greatest independent authorities upon the business of this House, the hon. Member for Bedford City. A speech of his has just been put into my hands, delivered a few years ago—subsequent to the conversion to Home Rule of hon. Gentlemen opposite—in which this very proposal was discussed, and 1130 the Member for Bedford, while advocating Grand Committees as a plan for aiding Scotch legislation, distinctly laid it down that if the proposal was that this Committee should consist of Scotch Members exclusively, or that on the Committee the Scotch Members should so preponderate in number as to overbear all other opinions, it was a had and a dangerous proposal, and would only tend to accentuate the differences that might possibly exist between the two countries. These were words of sense, sobriety, and wisdom, and I quote them the more gladly because I think I gathered from the attitude taken by the hon. Gentleman this afternoon that he proposes to give us some further observations on the same topic to-night. I trust those observations will be in the same strain. Let us consider for one moment what this Committee is to be. It is to consist, to begin with, of all the Scotch Members, and the right hon. Gentleman quietly assumes that the mere fact of putting all the Scotch Members on the Committee is, by that process alone, an adequate method of representing Scotch opinion upon the details of local legislation. I deny that proposition altogether. I traverse it; I differ from it in toto. Why are Scotch Members elected by their various constituencies? Are they elected simply and solely because of their views on such legislation as is described in this Resolution—"Resolution solely relating to Scotland"? They are nothing of the kind; they are elected as part of the general system. They are elected in reference to an Imperial Parliament, in which Parties have a certain balance, and in which the various Parties have a certain policy. And if you were to grant Home Rule to Scotland to-morrow, as some gentlemen desire; if you were really to have in that country a separate Legislature—which Heaven forbid!—do you imagine for one moment that the representation in that separate Legislature would follow the lines adopted by the Scotch constituencies when they are sending Members to the Imperial Parliament? Clearly it would not. The most elementary student in Constitutional Government knows that it would not. When I am told Scotland thinks this or that, all I know is that gentlemen have been sent here to sup- 1131 port one or other of the great Parties in the State, that Scotland may be taken to uphold these Parties in proportion as it sends Members to support one Party or the other. In that sense they represent Scotch opinion. But to tell me that they hold this or that opinion upon a subclause in a Parish Councils Bill, and therefore that is the voice of Scotland upon it, is to talk nonsense, and nonsense to which I absolutely decline to listen. The truth is, that upon a large number of these questions Scotch Members are no more experts—indeed, are not so great experts as a large number of English Members. What special qualification for dealing with the details of a County Council Bill applying practically solely to the rural districts has a gentleman who, so far as we know at all events, represents a strictly urban constituency, and that alone? Why, he has none. Again, what special qualification has a Member representing the Highlands for dealing with the problems of the Lowlands? The Lowlands of Scotland, agriculturally speaking, are incomparably nearer in all their conditions of life to the North of England than to the Highlands, and if you want expert opinion you had better travel to Northumberland or Cumberland rather than to Inverness-shire or Ross-shire. Does anybody doubt that? If so, he is not qualified to talk about Scotland. But, after all, I decline to consider this question as a Scotch question in the sense in which the right hon. Gentleman considers it. To begin with, is there such a thing as a Bill relating exclusively to Scotland? There is no such thing. The idea that we can legislate either for Ireland, or Scotland, or Wales, or England, and that that legislation passed for these countries does not react upon the other countries, is a fantastic absurdity. That is why I think Scotchmen as Scotchmen, and having in view the legislation of their own country, should resist this proposal. It must, if you carry it, be followed in the long run by a similar proposal for England; and if Scotland is to be excluded from her share of legislating for England, the result will be that Scotland will not have a greater but a lesser power over the legislation not merely of the United Kingdom, but of Scotland itself, than she possesses at the present moment. Therefore, in the in- 1132 terests of Scotchmen desiring to legislate for their own country, I protest against this scheme. But Scotchmen have an even deeper interest than the mere legislating for their own country. The greatest interest of Scotland is the greatness of the House of Commons. The greatest interest that Scotchmen can have is the ancient traditions of this House; and if you destroy them in the pretended interests of Scotland, then depend upon it a judicial revenge at no distant date will come upon you, and you will find Scotchmen excluded from their fair share of their inheritance of the legislation for these Three Kingdoms. I should like for a moment to ask the right hon. Gentleman what on earth he means by saying that in the proposed Grand Committee the ancient Rules governing Grand Committees have been carefully followed. The right hon. Gentleman evidently has not made himself acquainted with the method in which Grand Committees are constituted. I will endeavour to enlighten him. The mode by which Grand Committees are formed is this: An endeavour is made by those responsible for the selection of the original members of these Committees and of the added members to make the Committee as a whole the most perfect reflex possible of the constitution of this House, so far as regards the great Parties into which this House is divided. That is the principle which has governed not merely the constitution of Grand Committees, but all Committees, and, as I shall show, it is not merely the traditional practice, but a practice absolutely necessary if we are to maintain Governmental responsibility in matters of legislation. Now, what is the proposal of the Government—a proposal made without a word of explanation and without giving the House the slightest hint that they were initiating any new policy? As I understand, they mean to put every Scotch Member upon the Committee. There are 72 Scotch Members, 49 or 50 of whom are supporters of the Government, and 22 or 23 opposed to them. I may be allowed, perhaps, to state in passing that that distribution of Members by no means represents the distribution of opinion politically in Scotland. In fact, it has no resemblance to it whatever, for whereas the relation of Scotch Members in this House is as between 22 to 50 or 23 and 49, I believe 1133 the actual votes cast in favour of the two Parties respectively is as nearly as possible equal; and if these 72 were divided according to the votes of the constituencies, and hon. Gentlemen opposite had no advantage from the method in which the seats are divided, the Members on this side of the House, instead of numbering 23, would number nearly one-half of the whole 72. But I only make that remark in passing, because I am quite ready to take for the purposes of the argument the present representation of Scotland in this House. To the 72 Scotch Members you propose to add 15, making your total up to 87. And I presume the Committee of Selection, in choosing the 15, would follow the immemorial principle of giving the Government eight and the Opposition seven. That would give the Government 57 and the Opposition 30 Members on the Committee. Is that the proportion between the two Parties in the House? Can you describe a Committee in which the Parties are divided in the proportion of 57 to 30 as having the slightest resemblance to a House of 670 Members, in which the majority of the Government is not so great as it would be in the Grand Committee? Why, a more shameless proposal surely was never made. To listen to the right hon. Gentleman they were carrying on the ancient traditions of Grand Committees; but we find, when we look into the figures, that it is only a concealed dodge for giving the Government in the Committee stage of Scotch Bills a power which they have not got and cannot get in the House of Commons as at present constituted or as it is likely, as far as I can judge, to be constituted in the future. I do not know what answer the Government will give to that; but one thing is perfectly clear, that this circumstance to which I have called your attention is alone sufficient to upset the Government scheme, because if you once admit it you will never again be able to apply the immemorial principle on which we form our Committees, and never again will a Committee, Grand or Select, be a reflection of opinion in this House. But that is not the conclusion of the case against the Government proposal. The right hon. Gentleman did not in his speech mention Ireland. He mentioned England very perfunctorily, but Ireland 1134 not at all. After all, England and Ireland are portions of the United Kingdom, and when you are introducing a new and revolutionary scheme for dealing with the legislation of one part of the United Kingdom the least you can do is to toll us how your scheme will operate when by an inevitable logical process it, is extended to other parts of the Kingdom also. Well, I take the case of Ireland first. Do you mean to extend this plan to Ireland? Is that your intention? It appears to me that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman could have been made word for word in favour of the application of such a plan to the case of Ireland, except that I suppose he would not have uttered a long and eloquent eulogy upon the brevity of Irish speaking. With that single exception there is no argument brought before us by the right hon. Gentleman which would not justify a precisely similar scheme if applied to Ireland. Well, then are you prepared to apply it to Ireland? I can only tell you that if you do a more chaotic condition of Irish legislation than that into which you will undoubtedly plunge can hardly be conceived. Hon. Members opposite may affect to think that that can only happen when a Unionist Government is in Office, and that if a Government of Liberal complexion holds the reins of power there will be harmony, and that nothing will be done in the Grand Committee by the majority of Members representing Irish constituencies to which the Government could object. But everybody knows that that is not the ease. Everybody knows that, whilst hon. Gentlemen opposite may be perfectly prepared to wash their hands of Ireland and to allow Irishmen to cut their own throats in their own way in their own country, they would not allow Irishmen in this House to use this House for purposes which they knew to be unjust. Therefore, I believe that the Government will never dare to extend this plan to Ireland, although they think it can be safely extended to Scotland. But, after all, the case of Ireland is not so important or so serious as the case of England. The ease of England was alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman, but it does not appear to us that he really understood the difficulty, which he certainly failed to surmount. I will take a concrete case. I will take the case of the Bill to which 1135 the right hon. Gentleman referred, the Scotch Parish Councils Bill. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to hand over his Parish Councils Bill for Scotland to his new Grand Committee, and in that Grand Committee Scotchmen as Scotchmen and Home Rulers as Home Rulers will have it all their own way and will be able to do exactly what they liked with the Bill. Now, consider what happened in the case of England. You brought forward a Parish Councils Bill for England, but you did not send it to a Grand Committee composed of Englishmen with a small proportion of Scotchmen and Irishmen added. If you had done so a very different Bill would have emerged from the Committee to the one which you have lately passed into law, and I want to know whether you think that unequal treatment of that kind will be acquiesced in indefinitely by England? I speak upon this point as a Scotchman, and I say that no greater danger menaces the political interests of Scotland than the danger that by our insane action we may arouse England to a sense that she is an oppressed nationality, and compel her to use the power which she undoubtedly possesses to exclude from all share in her affairs those who do not happen to live within her borders. Then I should like the Government to consider this question of England from another point of view. The whole system of Constitutional government as developed in modern times is this:—A certain number of gentlemen are selected by the Crown who have the confidence of a majority of this House, and upon those gentlemen is thrown the burden not merely of administering the Army, the Navy, and all the Public Offices from day to day, but of directing and guiding the course of our legislation; and if you take away from the responsible Government of the day the power of directing our legislation you strip them of half their functions. What would be the position of a Government if there were an English Grand Committee of which they did not happen to possess the confidence? The Government will read a Bill a second time by the aid of their small Party majority. They will then send it to the English Grand Committee, and that Committee will deal with it as it thinks fit, and will then send it back to the House very likely 1136 in a strangely different guise from that in which it was originally presented. The unfortunate Ministerial author of the measure, beaten time after time in the Grand Committee, will have either to drop the Bill, to accept it as it is, or to reverse on the Report stage everything done in the Grand Committee. Of these three possible alternatives which is the one the Government would desire? Would they like to have to fight on the Report stage a Bill of which they disapprove; would they prefer to drop their favourite measures rather than see them passed, or would they reverse on the Report stage everything done in the Committee stage, having before them the certain conclusion that they would be told on every platform throughout England that they had gone against the declared wishes of the English people as expressed in the Grand Committee. I say their position would be intolerable, and that Government would no more trust a, plan by which they would band over their English legislation to a Grand Committee than they would dare, for example, to carry into effect many of the reforms which are so glibly advocated on platforms during bye-elections. I wish the Government would explain to us on what principle they mean to refuse this boon to England, and if they do not mean to refuse it, how they mean to carry on the Government with the Grand Committee system applicable to England. They are in this absolute dilemma: Give this to Scotland and refuse it to England, and you will make every Englishman and every English Member feel that he is not allowed to legislate for his own country as Scotchmen are allowed to legislate for their country. Grant it to England, and you make legislation by a responsible Government an absurdity whenever a Government happens to be in Office which does not command a majority of English votes. I have often thought of this question, and have asked myself how that dilemma is to be avoided. Never have I found anybody who could tell me a method of avoiding it, nor have I ever myself been able to devise any such method. I do not know that it is necessary for me to add anything to the arguments which I have endeavoured to address to the question—in that respect breaking away from the example set me by the right hon. Gentleman; but I 1137 think, if the House realises that one consequence of this must be as regards Scotland that in every ease in which the House reverses the decision of the Scotch Grand Committee you will embitter Scotch feeling, and that you will give occasion for friction between the two countries which does not exist at the present time; if you reflect on that in the first place—if you reflect, in the second place, that this scheme of appointing a Grand Committee is nothing more than a device by means of which the Government are to obtain an influence over the Committee stage of Scotch Bills outside the walls of this Chamber which they never could obtain inside it; if you reflect that this is an absolute departure from every tradition that has hitherto guided this House in framing these Committees; if you reflect that this is an outrage upon England if you do not extend this privilege to her, but the destruction in this House if you do extend it to her of Parliamentary Government by a responsible Minister in this House; if you reflect, as I am bound as a Scotchman to reflect, that these sham gifts to my country are necessarily but the prelude to depriving her, as I think, of some of her most valuable political privileges: and if, lastly, you remember that it is a change which goes to the very root of our whole Parliamentary system, which has not been proposed as an organic scheme, has not been laid before us with all its logical consequences, has not been presented to our judgment in a form in which we can finally decide upon it, then I think you will agree with me that we ought absolutely to decline to consider for one instant a proposal which, if made at all, must be presented to us in a very different guise and a very different speech to that which the right hon. Gentleman has made. As embodying, not indeed my views upon the broad principles involved—those I have endeavoured to state in my speech—but, as involving my views upon the procedure of the Government in this matter, I beg now to ask the House to accept the words of an Amendment to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman which I have placed, Mr. Speaker, in your hands.
Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words—
This House declines to sanction, in regard to Bills relating to one portion only of the United Kingdom, any plan by which the ancient practice as to the constitution of Committees of this House shall be fundamentally altered until it has had an opportunity of pronouncing upon a general scheme which shall extend a like treatment to Bills relating to each of the other portions of the United Kingdom."—(Mr. A.J. Balfour.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words' in addition to the two Standing Committees appointed under Standing Order, No. 47 'stand part of the Question."
§ * MR. PAUL (Edinburgh, S.)
said, that in rising to follow the right hon. Gentleman who had last spoken, he did not for a moment suppose that he could meet him on equal terms in argument, and his only excuse for taking the course he had, perhaps rashly, taken was because he thought it desirable this question should not be discussed entirely by means of one of those oratorical duels between the Front Benches which were the subject of such general admiration and instruction to them, but which sometimes prevented the views of an independent Member being heard. He wondered, in listening to the eloquent speech of the right hon. Gentleman, in which he described the proposal made by the Secretary for Scotland as subverting the ancient traditions of this House, whether the right hon. Gentleman had in his mind the remembrance that a similar proposal, not applied to Scotland but Ireland, had been made many years ago by Mr. John Bright, who was not distinguished by a rash desire to subvert the ancient traditions either of this House or of the British Constitution? The right hon. Gentleman told them that as a Scotchman—and he was one of the most distinguished of living Scotchmen—much as he enjoyed addressing his countrymen he did not desire to be confined to that privilege, but that he desired a larger and more varied audience than he would have under this proposal. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman did not number among his many distinctions that of being a Scottish Member, therefore his privileges wore not attacked in this Motion; and, in the second place, if he were, and thought fit in pursuance of his duty to take part in the proceedings of the Standing Committee, that would not prevent him or any Member of that Committee from afterwards taking part in the 1139 proceedings of the whole House. The right hon. Gentleman said that Scottish Members were not elected by their constituencies solely to deal with Scottish questions. No, but they were elected in the first instance to deal with Scottish questions. If he might venture upon a general criticism of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman he should point out that he had treated the whole question as regarded these Committees from a Party point of view. He seemed to assume that any Scotch Bill sent to a Committee of Scottish Members would divide them, as they wore divided now, on great principles in this House. He (Mr. Paul) did not believe that would be the result. His own experience had been very small, but he did sit upon a Standing Committee which dealt with a Scottish measure—the Fatal Accidents Inquiry Bill. He and other Scottish Members took a great interest in that Bill, and he did not find on the Committee that they were divided in accordance with their opinions on Home Rule for Ireland or Home Rule for Scotland. And was the Scottish Local Government Bill a measure which would naturally divide the Scottish Members in accordance with Party? No, he believed they would be always found voting on it independently, and regarding it as a measure on which every Scottish Member would endeavour to do what was best for the national interests, what was best for Scotland and the conduct of local government in that country, and for this purpose alone. The right hon. Gentleman said there were Highland Members who might not understand the position of the Lowlands, and Lowland Members who might not understand the position of the Highlands. Yes, but they would be all there. All parts of Scotland would be represented, as all parts of the Kingdom were supposed to be represented on Standing Committees dealing with an English Bill. He was told that England had an equal right to a Standing Committee on an English Bill. He most frankly and fully admitted it. He would take the case to which the right hon. Gentleman referred—the case of the Local Government Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said that the English Members were out-voted by the Members from Scotland and Ireland, and if that, in any case, were so, 1140 he (Mr. Paul) must bear part of the responsibility, and he bore it very cheerfully; for what happened when that Bill went up to another place? Very considerable alterations were made in it, most restrictive alterations going in the same direction—but very much further—as the Amendments moved from the Opposition side in Committee. The House of Commons rejected all these alterations of the slightest importance, and he believed that in every single case the rejection of these Amendments on a Division was supported by an English majority, because he knew that gentlemen opposite who supported the Lords Amendments did not receive the assistance of the followers of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, who were accustomed to act with them in general politics. This, therefore, was not an instance in which an Act had been altered and amended over the heads and against the opinion of the majority of English Members. He did not believe, in the case of Scotland, that that was a real danger at all. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Secretary for Scotland had said nothing about national sentiment. What had national sentiment to do with it? This was a matter of business. It was an attempt—the right hon. Gentleman thought an unfortunate attempt—to get Scottish business done with greater celerity, not in accordance with the views of any one Party in Scotland, but in accordance with the general opinion of the Scottish public on matters which they understood. The right hon. Gentleman said that that (the Liberal) side of the House would have an unfair preponderance on the Standing Committee, because they would have a majority of 27. If this Committee was appointed, and if the Scottish Local Government Bill were sent to it, there would not be a series of Party Divisions, but a series of businesslike discussions. Why any English Member should desire the privilege of taking part in the details of Scottish business he could not conceive. He was sure he did not regard it as any privilege to take part in the details of a Bill which purely related to England, although it happened to be his own country, and he was quite willing to leave it to the Representatives of English constituencies. He would point out, if this majority, which the right hon. Gentle- 1141 man considered unfair, were used for purposes which he considered illegitimate, it was open to the right hon. Gentleman or any Member of his Party to raise any question again in this House upon Report. He did not believe that would be done unreasonably or in small cases; but if there were any reason to suppose the Standing Committee had abused the powers entrusted to it, it would be open to anyone to invite the House to reverse the decision of the Committee. He supported this proposal, not from any Party point of view, but because he believed it was really a business-like reform, which was intended to, and which he was sure would conduce to the despatch of Scottish business, and he was persuaded when it was tried it would be generally accepted by public opinion as being, not a proposal for subverting the traditions of the House of Commons, or any other traditions, but a proposal for a reasonable, sensible, moderate, and practical purpose.
§ * MR. HOZIER (Lanarkshire, S.)
said, that curiously enough his light hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, who introduced this proposal, was an Englishman representing a Scottish constituency; his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who followed him, was a Scotchman representing an English constituency, whilst the third speaker, the Member for South Edinburgh, was an Englishman representing a Scottish constituency. That showed how they worked in and in, in regard to nationalities, and how there ought not to be any hard-and-fast line drawn between the politics of the three countries. He would like to ask his hon. Friend whether he as an Englishman so represented South Edinburgh, because he was specially acquainted with Scottish business? [Mr. PAUL: I endeavour to learn.] At the same time he did not think an apprentice, however willing, was the sort of person they ought to employ as an expert in important business. He congratulated the Secretary for Scotland upon the magnificence of his courage. He could imagine no courage greater than for the right hon. Gentleman to lay down the proposition that this was a non-partisan proposal, and then support his statement by proving that his own Party were the only people who had ever voted for it. Again, the right hon. 1142 Gentleman said it was exactly the same as the other Grand Committees, and its opinion ought to have every possible weight, because the talk in the Grand Committee was to be an absolute reflex of what the talk was in the House. Put it was the reflex of votes in the House itself that they ought to have in the Grand Committees. They did not care much about the talk, but it was because a Report which came from a Grand Committee was supported by votes which were a reflex of the majority of the whole of this House that such Reports of Standing Grand Committees had so much weight in the House itself. The Secretary for Scotland went on to say that this Scottish Grand Committee was a charming substitute for the gag, and he appeared to consider it a magnificent thing for the Scottish Members to be able to air their eloquence in a Grand Committee, instead of being closured and gagged in the House of Commons. Possibly that might please some people, but it did not hold out any special attractions to him. This proposal was that the Committee should consist of the whole of the Scottish Members with 15 additional Members to be added by the Committee of Selection. These 15 were added no doubt for one of two reasons. In the first place, perhaps, to enable Scotchmen who sat for English constituencies to take part in the deliberations, and to give the Scotch Members the benefit of their advice and experience, because many Scotchmen sitting for English constituencies had very great experience of Scottish business. But, on the other hand, these 15 might be added so that a sort of supervision might be exercised over the Scotchmen, to see that they acted exactly as they ought. He was inclined to think that these 15 were, as a matter of fact, to be added as a sort of sop to meet the scruples of hon. Members, who were very well represented by the hon. Member for Bedford city. That hon. Gentleman was pre-eminently qualified to speak on this subject from his long experience on the Committee of Selection. He would ask the hon. Gentleman whether the addition of 15 Members, most of whom might very possibly be Scotchmen, to the Committee of Scottish Members numbering 72, would prevent the Scottish Members from so preponderating in numbers as to override all other 1143 opinions? Unless it did prevent them from so preponderating it was, in the opinion of the hon. Member for Bedford himself, a had and dangerous proposal. From the time he first had the honour of entering the House he had listened very attentively to the words of wisdom which had fallen from the lips of the hon. Member for Bedford. At first he used to look with admiration at the hon. Gentleman, who stood up as a sort of umpire between the two Parties. As time went on, however, and as he studied the hon. Gentleman's declarations, he was sorry to say he had been obliged to come to the conclusion that this self-constituted umpire was rather too much like those extremely useful umpires at cricket who invariably gave their own side "not out," and he was inclined to think that on the present occasion they would find the Member for Bedford would give his own side "not out," certainly by vote, probably both by vote and voice. But there was another body of Members whom this addition of 15 would rather annoy. For instance, the hon. Member for Dumfries said, on the 6th March, 1888, that he would not for a moment ask for or care to see a Committee which did not consist exclusively of Scottish Members. How would be like this Committee to which 15 additional Members were to be added? The hon. Member on the same occasion further said that, as a Scottish Member, he would never think of voting against English opinion on any Bill exclusively relating to England. He supposed the hon. Member for Dumfries bore that in mind during the whole of the proceedings on the English Parish Councils Bill, and he trusted he would also bear it in mind when the subject of Sunday closing for England came to the front. The Secretary for Scotland gave no reasons for this proposal, but he fancied the reasons in the view of the Government were, first, the neglect of Scottish business; and, second, that this Committee was to be a sort of means of giving effect to the Home Rule principle. As to the neglect of Scottish business, no one realised more than he the lamentable remissness on the part of the present Government with regard to Scottish business, but that was not always the case. From 1886 to 1892 even the Scottish Gladstonian papers were perfectly astonished at the progress they made with Scottish business. For 1144 instance, they passed the Local Government Act for Scotland, the Burgh Police Act—about the biggest Act of Parliament ever passed—the Criminal Law Amendment Act, Free Education, and so on, whilst, at the same time, Scotland was deriving benefit from such general measures as the Mines Regulation Act. But there was no doubt there was a most lamentable neglect of Scottish business at present. As far as he knew, the only Scottish measure that had been passed during this Parliament was the County of the City of Glasgow Act, a small, comparatively unimportant, and entirely non-contentious measure. Two other Scotch measures were indeed introduced, and it was entirely owing to the present Government that any time at all was wasted upon them. One was the Scottish Sea Fisheries Bill, which was received with howls of execration by the people whom it principally concerned, and the other was the Suspensory Bill for Scotland, which was simply laughed out of court. That was the whole of the programme as regarded Scotland, everything else being indefinitely postponed and deferred by the present Government. Even the Scottish Education Estimates for last year were not brought before the House until the 28th of July, and even then they had to be discussed before the Scotch Education Report was issued. That showed gross mismanagement. Yet never was a Government in such a position as the present Government to deal with Scottish questions. Six Members of the Cabinet, ever since the formation of this Government had been closely connected with Scotland: besides many subordinate Members of the Government were also Scotch Members, and would anybody tell him that in these circumstances they had not got the power if they only had the will to put Scotch questions to the front? But as the Opposition had always pointed out, it was perfectly impossible to expect the present Government to proceed with Scotch and English measures while they were hampered with Home Rule and loved Irish questions alone. Ireland was, as a matter of fact, the spoiled darling of the present Cabinet, whilst Scotland and England got all the kicks and none of the halfpence. As he had said, a second reason for the introduction of this proposal was that it would be a means of giving effect to the 1145 Home Rule principle. He would, however, point out that the Scottish Home Rule Association, of which the Member for Caithness was President, scouted the very idea of this proposal for a Grand Committee, and further, that the hon. Baronet who represented the College Division of Glasgow, on March 6, 1888 said—As for this peddling and pottering through Grand Committees it was not wanted by the people of Scotland. It would not satisfy them, and it would not cure the evils complained of.In reality, legislation raised much more questions of community and identity of interest than of community and identity of nationality. The interests of his constituents in Lanarkshire were infinitely more hound up with the interests of Lancashire and Yorkshire than with those of Orkney and Shetland, or, indeed, with any of the seaboard counties of Scotland. But if they did go in for this proposal of a Grand Committee on the score of nationality they must bear in mind that. Englishmen or even Scotchmen domiciled in England were in no way Scottish National Members. As a matter of fact those hon. Members who were, in reality, much more English than Scotch, though they happened to represent Scottish constituencies, felt themselves bound, as Anglo-Scottish Members, to be much more Scotch than the Scotch themselves. They were the people who were always talking of Scotch opinion being overridden, and he found when they spoke in this strain they always meant Scottish Gladstonian opinion. Had this so called Scottish opinion—which he called Gladstonian opinion—always proved to be in the right? In the last Parliament the temperance question was brought prominently forward in connection with the Local Government Bill for Scotland. There was a proposal made that the licensing question should be handed over to the County Councils, the Gladstonian Party saying it was the will of Scotland that this should be done. He had the Circular of the Independent Order of the Good Templars of Scotland in his hand who, having considered this proposal, said that nothing could be more monstrous or lamentable, whilst the Scottish National Temperance Convention said that no proposal could have been worse. Therefore, on this great 1146 question of temperance, on which the Gladstonian Members pretended to be qualified to speak, they were, in the last Parliament, utterly wrong so far as these two important Societies were concerned. But even in this very Parliament, when his right hon. Friend introduced the first Education Minute, several Gladstonian Members got up, and professing, as always, to speak for the whole people of Scotland, staled that was not at all what was desired. The Secretary for Scotland withdrew his first and introduced his second Education Minute, and Circulars were sent out to all the different Committees in Scotland to ascertain their views. He had the Report of the Scotch Education Department, which showed that of 39 Educational Committees 24 preferred to adhere to the first Minute, while only 15 were in favour of the second, showing that the Scotch Gladstonian Members were again utterly wrong. The 'Report of the Education Department stated—Notwithstanding the divergence of opinion shown, and the large support which their original proposal has met with, my Lords,that was, of course, the Secretary for Scotland—feel bound to attach great weight to the strong expression of opinion by the Scottish Representatives during the Debate upon the subject, and they hesitate in view of it to limit further than is absolutely necessary the freedom of local action.The Scottish Gladstonians were thus clearly wrong with regard to temperance and Scottish education, and they were equally wrong in wishing that a suspensory Bill for Scotland for that proposal had been howled out of court with shrieks of execration. With regard to the Sea Fisheries Bill, never had there been a measure so discredited and disgraced, though it was praised by most of the Scottish Gladstonian Members. With reference to the proposal before the House, there were many objections and difficulties in it connected even with procedure, not the least being the financial difficulty. He, therefore, regretted the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not present, but he could promise the right hon. Gentleman there would be absolute unanimity among the Scottish Members on this financial question. They would all try to get as large grants from the Imperial Exchequer as possible. If the Sea 1147 Fisheries (Scotland) Bill passed it would not be the local rates but the Imperial funds that would be called upon. But he would point out to the right hon. Gentleman the great difficulty, which was really the crux of the whole matter. It was embodied in the familiar proverb, "What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." If Scotch Bills wore sent to a Committee of Scotch Members then Irish Bills must be committed to Irish Members, Welsh Bills to Welsh Members, and, above all, English Bills must be sent to a Grand Committee of English Members. Just consider for a moment how that would work out. How would the present Government like to send their Evicted Tenants' Bill to a Committee of the Irish Members? How would they like to send their Welsh Disestablishment Bill to a Committee composed of Welsh and English Members? Again, how would they like to have sent their English Parish Council Bill—which, by-the-bye, as Lord Rosebery boasted in Edinburgh, had been passed by Irish votes—to a Committee composed of English Members? Or, how would they like to hand over such a question as English Sunday Closing to a Committee of English Members? But it might be urged that the Government would never commit so suicidal an Act. They knew they were in a minority in England, which Lord Rosebery called the "predominant partner" of the United Kingdom. Let it be remembered that the present Government would not always be in power. Before many months, possibly before many weeks were over, another Government might be in power which would have a majority in England, "the predominant partner" of the United Kingdom. Then what a precedent would have been set by the adoption of this proposal. Was it supposed that the predominant partner in the United Kingdom would consent to be domineered over by the other partners? They would find, he thought, that the predominant partner would insist upon having predominance. As to the details of the Bills, measures of all kinds throughout the United Kingdom had to be framed more or less in accordance with the policy of the Government of the day, and the Government of the day and its policy were guided by the wishes of the majority in the House of Commons as a whole. Englishmen who 1148 were good enough to represent Scotch constituencies were naturally obliged to talk a great deal about Scotch nationality and Scotch opinion. They had to out-Herod Herod. In ordinary life it was only a "parvenu" who was always posing as being a descendant of the Plantagenets. The posing patriots from Putney and the Highlanders from Hampstead were about as contemptible as the posing parvenu. Curiously enough, he (Mr. Hozier) loved Scotland more than any Englishman who ever yet sat for a Scottish constituency, and could afford to be perfectly frank. Scotland had always been, and please God always would be, a nation—unlike Wales, she need not pretend to be a nation. The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir G. O. Morgan), no doubt, had told Scotchmen they had no language, but only a dialect, but at all events Scotland had clearly defined boundaries, and they required no qualification, as was necessary with Welshmen in speaking of "Wales including Monmouthshire." A Scottish King succeeded to the English Throne, and Scotchmen were proud to think that England was therefore part of Scotland, and that London was the capital of the United Kingdom.
§ * SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
said, one very short answer to the suggestion of the right hon. Member opposite, that Scotch Bills should not be sent to a Scotch Committee without at the same time sending English Bills to a Standing Committee composed of Englishmen, was, that a Committee composed of all the English Members of the House would be a practical impossibility. There were about 400 English Members in the House, and a Standing Committee composed of all those Members would not be able to find accommodation within the precincts of Westminster. A new room would have to be provided for that Committee, as large as the House itself. As Chairman of Grand Committees of six years standing, he could speak with practical experience on this subject. In the first place, the formation of a Scotch Committee composed entirely of the Scotch Members would practically exclude Scotchmen from serving on any Committees relating to other matters, for no man, however eager for work, could possibly serve on two Standing Committees. But there was another nationality, who were 1149 even more entitled than Scotchmen to have their affairs referred to their own Representatives. He referred to Wales. He was not expressing his own opinion alone, but would quote the words of the right hon. Member for Midlothian, whose opinion he was sure the hon. Member would respect, in one of the last speeches he made in that House. Speaking in answer to the hon. Member for North Denbighshire, the right hon. Gentleman said—I should be very glad indeed, after we have seen what practical progress can be made with the Scotch measures, to see what better provision can be made for Welsh measures, for it will be felt that Wales should not. I think, stand in a worse position.He had at one time thought of putting down an Amendment which would extend the Resolution to Wales, but unfortunately such Amendments were like red herrings, to draw the attention of the House from the issue upon which it should be concentrated to side issues. When once the experiment had been made in regard to Scotland he hoped the Government would see their way to extending the operation of the Resolution to Wales. However, it was with Scotland that they had to do at present. The hon. Member spoke of this as a dose of Home Rule. But it was a very infinitesimal dose. What would happen was that Scotch Bills would, after being introduced and read a second time, be referred to a Committee consisting not entirely of Scotch Members but with 15 others added—why, he did not know. For his own part, he should have thought it would be better to send them to the Scotch Members. The measures having, in effect, been referred to the Scotch Members would come back to the House itself and be discussed finally on Report. Certain results would follow from adopting that course. In the first place, discussions upon them in Committee of the whole House would be avoided in the next place, such Committees did not, as a general rule, act upon Party lines. It had been said that there would be an enormous preponderating majority of Liberals on the Committee; but he understood gentlemen opposite to say that the next General Election would reverse all that. Anyhow, he did not think it would make the slightest difference, because, as a matter of fact, in nearly every case when he had sat as Chairman of a Grand Committee there was no such thing 1150 as a Party vote. During last Session he had, as Chairman of a Grand Committee, taken a course which some considered to have been dictated by Party spirit. After a discussion had gone on for, as he considered, an almost interminable time, he had ruled that the Question should be put. It was said; he did so to prevent an Amendment of a political opponent being discussed. That was quite untrue, for he should have done just the same thing in the case of a Liberal Member. At the same time, he might say that although he thought his action was technically right, and although it was afterwards approved by the Speaker, he regretted it now, for it was impossible for a Chairman on these Grand Committees to be too careful to avoid even the semblance of partiality. But really the great argument in favour of them was that the services were obtained of men who understood the business brought before them. How many of the entire 670 Members of the House knew anything about such matters as were ordinarily referred to Grand Committees? As a rule, no one attended them but those who were interested in the question; and if Scotch measures were referred to a Scotch Committee it would only be attended by men who understood and were really competent to discuss the matter brought forward. That was the result of his own practical experience on the Bail Bill (Scotland) Committee, when every English Member as soon as the discussion had been commenced fled from the room as if it was infected by the plague. One of the Amendments was proposed on the ground that the Motion did not go far enough, but the answer to that had been given by the Secretary for Scotland. Another Amendment had been placed on the Paper by the hon. Member for Wigtownshire, that the Motion was contrary to the usages of Parliament. But the Standing Committees themselves were an innovation upon the usages of Parliament, and 30 years ago they would have been resented as an infraction of the privileges of Parliament. Besides, this proposal was not quite so novel an experiment as had been represented. When he first entered the House it was the custom for Scotch measures to be referred to an informal meeting of all the Scotch Members. There was a general consensus of opinion among sensible men that measures 1151 affecting Scotland should be discussed by Scotchmen, and at these informal meetings the opinions of the Scotch Members were elicited; on those expressions of opinion changes were made in the Bills, and the result was that Scotch measures used for a long time to be passed through the House of Commons with the greatest ease and rapidity. It was only by adapting our old institutions to the changed conditions of the times that we could hope to preserve the one or satisfy the other.
§ * MR. G. W. BALFOUR (Leeds, Central)
said, the remarks which had fallen from the right hon. Member for East Denbighshire raised the question what kind of Bills it was proposed to refer to this Scotch Grand Committee. The right hon. Member had suggested that it would be unnecessary to appoint a similar Grand Committee for England, because the Scotch Members would have their whole time taken up by their attendance upon the Committees on Scotch Bills, and would naturally be unable to sit upon Committees dealing with English measures. But what of those English Bills which were now discussed in Committees of the whole House? He would ask whether or not it was proposed that Bills of a contentious character should be sent to the Grand Committee? Hitherto, only Bills of a nou-contentiou3 character were supposed to be referred to Grand Committees. But it was rather difficult to distinguish between contentious and non-contentious measures. A very good illustration of that difficulty occurred during the last Session of Parliament in the ease of the Employers' Liability Bill. If the House could be assured that it was intended to refer to this Scotch Committee only Bills of a non-contentious character much of the objection would be removed; but the House had had no such assurance given, and the idea seemed to be that Bills of every kind should be so referred. If it was intended to refer such a measure as a Parish Councils Bill to a Scotch Grand Committee, how could it be maintained that the two countries were receiving equal treatment? Unless this proposal could be applied to the other parts of the United Kingdom as well as to Scotland it stood condemned. If this Resolution were passed, and the Government refused to extend it to England, their successors would have to retrace the step now taken. The 1152 only alternative would be to complete it by extending these Committees, at all events, to England. All the hon. Members who had spoken in favour of this Resolution had endeavoured to minimise its partisan character. But its partisan character could not be concealed. In 1884, when the extension of the franchise was being considered, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian put forward a most extraordinary and fantastic theory of representation—that the number of Representatives should be larger in proportion to the distance from the centre, thus giving to Ireland and Scotland a larger number of Representatives in the House than their population would strictly entitle them to. That theory was laughed out of court at the time; but the Party opposite were trying to adopt it in practice. They acted upon it last year when they proposed to bring Irish Members here to vote on British questions, while British Members were to be prevented from having a voice in Irish questions; and it was very much the same thing in this proposal. The proposal of the Government was so constructed as to enable a Radical Government to pass Radical measures distasteful to the majority of English Representatives by means of Scotch and Irish votes, and when a Unionist Government came into power, to make it impossible for them to introduce a measure dealing with Scotland without danger that that measure would be fundamentally altered in Grand Committee to such an extent as would make it no longer acceptable to its authors. The scheme was obviously inequitable, unless extended to England and Ireland. Yet it could not be so extended without danger to national unity. He was a Scotsman, like the Leader of the Opposition, sitting for an English constituency. Personally, he regarded himself, in the first instance, as a citizen of the United Kingdom, and a Scotsman only in the second instance. He did not want to reverse that order, and become a Scotsman first. In both these capacities, however, he objected to the Resolution, even if it were extended to England and Ireland. He felt convinced that such a scheme would weaken their common country by tending to split it up into nationalities. If they once embarked upon this policy, it would ultimately have the effect of rousing England to assert 1153 her claims as against other parts of the United Kingdom, and that could only have one end—namely, the degradation of Ireland and Scotland into the position of subordinate provinces.
§ * MR. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)
said, the Committee must always represent the Party that was in power at the time. The Liberal Party was at present in power, and the Scottish Members were Liberals. The Scottish Committee would therefore have a Liberal majority. It was perfectly true that that majority would not exactly correspond to the majority in this House; but that, after all, was a matter of very little object. If questions rose on Party lines in such a Committee—which he did not think they often did—the Party in power would still be in a majority, and it seemed to him a very small affair whether this majority was a large one or a small one. He maintained that the cases of England and Scotland were entirely different. Scotland required this scheme, and England did not. In this Parliament Scottish affairs did not get their requisite attention, and English affairs did. If Scottish affairs were attended to as English affairs were, as many laws should be passed for Scotland as for England. Population was not a thing that settled the legislative demands of a country. They were going to introduce a Parish Councils Bill. If Scotland had 40,000,000 of inhabitants instead of four, would they need 10 Bills? They might, under certain circumstances—if every 4,000,000 additional inhabitants were entirely different from each other and the first 4,000,000. In fact, the question depended on the complexity of the social, commercial, industrial, and political life of the country. That was the real measure of the legislative necessities of a country. In this case, he maintained, Scotland was the same as England, and Scotland offered as great a field for legislation as England itself. Did Scotland get it? The Imperial Parliament passed certain measures which were applicable to England and Scotland both, and it passed certain measures applicable to Ireland and Wales. He put these out of the question. There remained the measures which applied to England and Scotland alone. If Scotland got fair treatment, there would be as many measures passed for Scotland as for England. In the 12 years from 1880 to 1154 1892 there were three different Parliaments and four different Governments in Office. One half of the time the Conservative Government ruled, and the other half the Liberal Government. During that time 318 measures were passed for England exclusively, and for Scotland only 102. That was to say, three times as many for the one as the other. That showed distinctly the inequality of legislative treatment, and it was in order to redress that inequality that he, for one, was willing to support the present proposal for a Committee. He did not regard it as a step towards Federalism, which was a much wider and more important proposal, but he regarded it as a simple temporary alleviation of the block in Scottish business.
§ * SIR H. MAXWELL (Wigton)
said, it was extremely refreshing to one who had occupied a scat in the House for some years to receive an assurance from a Member who had sat in the House for as many months that they might accept this proposal with every assurance of safety. The hon. Gentleman who had just finished a most interesting and too brief a speech had told them that there was no ground whatever for the apprehensions on that side of the House because of the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland; but he thought it would be admitted both by his own friends and by Members on that side of the House also that he entirely forgot to adduce anything in the shape of argument in support of that contention, and that they might therefore be forgiven if they still entertained a considerable feeling of apprehension as to the ultimate effect and conclusion of the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman. He had given notice upon the Paper of an Amendment to the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman. He did not propose to move that Amendment, for this reason—that his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition had already moved an Amendment which, if it did not go quite as far as his own, still embodied the principle which he wished the House to take into consideration. If he might express any preference in favour of his own Amendment it was in this respect—that it seemed to him possible that there might be placed upon the terms of his right hon. Friend's Amendment a construction which he was sure he had guarded him- 1155 self against, and which the words themselves were not intended to bear. Under the guise of an apparently simple Amendment of the Rules of Procedure the Secretary for Scotland had put before them an insidious and far-reaching measure. He proposed to ask the House to regard it in two aspects—first, its result on the character of the Imperial Legislature; and, secondly, its results as affecting the standing and convenience of the Scotch Members. The second, of course, was by far the least important. He proposed to take it first. The Scotch Members were not merely delegates returned to give voice upon affairs restricted in scope to the material interests of limited localities, but upon Imperial matters which affected the Scotch people just as much as they affected the people South of the Tweed. That was the interpretation which he put upon their Constitutional function—that was the mission on which they were sent from the last General Election. What they had to consider was how far their ability to discharge that function and to carry out that mission would be interfered with by the pressure of the additional duties which would be thrown upon them under the Resolution of the Secretary for Scotland. He believed it was admitted generally that there were limits to physical endurance. Both Houses of Parliament had been largely occupied of late, and rightly so, in consideration of the conditions of and the hours of labour. The had had a Sweating Commission, and there had been legislation also upon the hours of labour of railway servants, and it was only two or three nights ago that they were listening to the hon. Member for Peterborough, who was urging the Committee to take into consideration the hours of attendance of messengers and others employed about the Houses of Parliament. Members of Parliament were made of the same material as messengers of Parliament, and there was a limit to their physical endurance, just as there was a limit to the endurance of the messengers of Parliament, and it was time that a word should be put in upon their behalf lest their hours of labour should become excessive also. If this Resolution was carried they would have the Grand Committee meeting at 12 o'clock in the day. Of course, it would be the desire of every Scotch Member to 1156 take a full part in these proceedings, and he would be expected by his constituency to do so. The proceedings of the Grand Committee would last until 3 o'clock, and then the Scotch Members were to be asked to comedown to that House to take part in discussions upon questions of the highest and greatest importance—questions of peace and war, of public liberty, of commerce, agriculture and education. Would they be, under those circumstances, in the same position as English and Irish and Welsh Members? Would they be as fresh when they had to undertake business in the House as other hon. Members, or would they not rather find themselves at a great disadvantage? Was it not conceivable that after having their minds saturated with the subtleties of the hon. Member for Ross, or wearied with the witticisms of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, they would be at a disadvantage compared with the Members who came down to the House without these exhausting preliminaries? Of course, it might be said that in this respect they would be on a par with the Members who took part in Committees and Royal Commissions. But the fact was that at the present time they took their full share of the work done upon the Royal Commissions and Committees. He himself served upon one Royal Commission, four Committees of the House last year, and a Departmental Committee besides. It was not for him to say that the presence of Scotch Members upon these Committees was essential, but he might say that Parliamentary life would be shorn, so far as the Scotch Members were concerned, of a great deal of the interest which it at present possessed if they had not an opportunity of discharging their duties upon these Committees. It was his desire that the Scotch Members should take their full share in the proceedings of the Imperial Parliament; and they were extremely loth to surrender any part which they now took in those proceedings. Then, were Scotch Members to be debarred from serving on Private Bill Committees? Perhaps the Scotch Members would not feel the deprivation very keenly if that were so, but, at the same time, it would hardly be fair to English and Irish Members to throw upon them the entire burden of the Private Bill legislation upstairs. Attend- 1157 ance upon Private Bill Committees was compulsory, and that rule would debar the Scotch Members from taking' part in the proceedings of the Grand Committee, and therefore one of two things must happen—the Scotch Member must be a less useful Member in the respect that he would not be available for the purposes of Private Bill legislation, or he would be obliged to sacrifice his duties as a Scotch Member of Parliament. If that was the case in regard to private Members, how did it operate with regard to the occupants of the Bench opposite? There were sitting on that Bench the Members for Forfar, Stirling Burghs, East Fife, the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow, Leith Burghs, Dundee, the Border Burghs, and the County of Clackmannan, all of whom were Members of the present Government. He was sure that Members of the present Administration would agree with their predecessors that it was a sufficiently full tax upon a man's energy to transact the work of a Public Department, and afterwards to represent that Department, and his constituents also, in this House, without the additional duty of representing the interests of Scotland at the same time upon a Grand Committee. Even the present Members of the Ministry had not succeeded in finding a solution of Sir Boyle Roche's problem. He yielded to no man in admiration for the abilities of the Secretary of State for War, but he believed that it was even beyond his power to attend to his business at the War Office and simultaneously to watch over the interests of the people of the Stirling Burghs at the grand Committee. The Home Secretary, too, was popularly supposed to be no sinecurist, but the good folk in the East Neuk o' Fife would expect him to have some care for their affairs before the Grand Committee, and it must come to this—that either the business of a great Department must be neglected, and the Ministers must attend the meetings of the Scotch Grand Committee, or that, upon the other hand, the proceedings of that Committee must be carried on in the absence of some of the ablest of Scottish Representatives. He should be told, perhaps, that he took an exaggerated view of the amount of business that would be relegated to these Grand Committees. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for 1158 Caithness said "Hear, hear!" Well, one of two things must be the truth—either this Scottish business was so moderate in amount that it would not overtax the energies of the Scottish Members in the way in which he had sketched, or it was so great and pressing that it was utterly beyond the powers of the Imperial Parliament, as such, to transact it. One of these two alternatives must be the truth. If the first was the truth, then he submitted there was no case for the change. If Scottish business was so moderate in amount that it would not overtax the energies of Scottish Members, then it must be the method and not the machine that was at fault—the administration of business, and not the extent of it. But if the second was the case, that Scottish business was so large in bulk as to have got beyond all control of the House, then Scottish Members would certainly be under the disability he had described. The hon. Member who spoke last had made an allusion illustrated by a profuse amount of figures which he (Sir H. Maxwell) confessed he was not able to follow as to the amount of Scottish business transacted in the last 12 years measured by the number of Bills. Well, he would not go back 12 years. If, as the hon. Member said, 102 exclusively Scottish measures passed into law in those 12 years and at the same time 318 exclusively English measures passed into law, he did not think there was much to complain of. England was more than three times as large as Scotland, and the calculation of the hon. Member had only given England three times as many Bills as Scotland.
§ SIR H. MAXWELL
said, that was a matter of opinion. England had nine-times as many people as Scotland, and if the measure were, as some people thought it ought, by population England should have nine times as many Bills as Scotland instead of three times as many. He would go back no farther than last Session. Last Session was exceptional in many respects, though not exceptional in the amount of Scottish business presented for the consideration of the House. There were two Bills mentioned in the Queen's Speech, and one of them was proceeded with. There was the Scottish 1159 Suspensory Bill, which did not, seem to excite very much enthusiasm either within the walls of the House or without them, and there was the Scottish Fishery Bill. The latter measure he would not say was an average example, but it was a very striking example of the management of Scottish business in the House. They should scrutinise it a little closely in order to find out where the flaw really existed. Was it in the method, or was it it in the machine—was it in the Legislature itself, or was it in the Executive? The Scottish Fishery Bill was a measure which Scottish Members in all parts of the House were anxious to see passed into law. They were willing to make sacrifices of their own views; they were willing, even, to accept a measure less perfect in many respects than, in their opinion, it might have been, in order that the important interests to be affected by that Bill might receive the attention which was undoubtedly their due. But no sooner was the Bill introduced to the House than it was seen to be an infant that could not live. It lingered on during the summer months. By heroic measures the Secretary for Scotland was able to get it through Committee as a non-contentious measure, and it went to the House of Lords. No sooner did it go there than the monstrous deformity of the production was recognised in the land that was to be affected by it. Numerous deputations came up from most influential towns in Scotland, and implored Parliament to reject the measure which was going to do them such an injustice. It was well known that the measure was not rejected, but returned to the House for consideration—consideration which the Government refused to give it, and they dropped the measure. But the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland surely would not have the hardihood to mention the Scottish Fisheries Bill as an example of the neglect of Scottish business in the House. There was nothing to prevent the measure passing last Session except its inherent imperfections—except its inherently unworkable nature. The next time the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland left his native country and crossed the border to go to Scotland he would find that it was notorious there, amongst all the persons who might be affected by the Bill, and 1160 who were interested in its passing, that it was lost, not on account of proceedings in the House, not on account of obstruction or delays in the other House, but on account of the imperfection of the measure and of the obstinacy and, he was bound to add, the in competency, of the Minister in charge of it. He hope the right hon. Gentleman would understand that he did not use the word "incompetence" in any but the most limited sense. The right hon. Gentleman's reputation in other fields was far too high for him (Sir H. Maxwell) to wish to attempt to put any slight upon it. He wished to be understood as restricting the observation entirely to the right hon. Gentleman's administration of affairs at the Scotch Office, on which he, at least, was unable to compliment the right hon. Gentleman. This seemed to him (Sir H. Maxwell) to be an instance of a Scottish Bill which, by the cooperation of the Scottish Members among themselves, might at this moment have been an Act of Parliament had it been workable. It was the defects of the measure, and not the opposition in either House, that put an end to it. But he did not see, for his part, how the Bill could have proceeded any further, even if it had been referred to the Grand Committee. The same obstacles would have arisen; the same defects would have been fatal to its existence, and the only result would have been that the Scottish Members would have been asked to do double the work of the English and Irish Members, with nothing to show for it in the end. They protested against the proposed increase of their labours when, as they maintained, there was no cause for it. They did not grudge their labour. They had put their hands to the plough, and were not to be blamed if they demurred to the demand to put their feet on the treadmill. As to the other and larger consideration, the bearing of this proposal upon the character of the Imperial Parliament, the House was asked to assent to a compromise couched in the modest and unobtrusive garb of an amendment of procedure, but it was, in fact, a vital and serious change in the constitution of the House. A very similar proposal was made in the year 1882 when the Grand Committee were first set up. Mr. O'Donnell proposed that an Irish Grand Committee 1161 should deal with exclusively Irish affairs, and that proposal was dealt with by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Gladstone) in the following words:—The hon. Member invited the Government to sanction at this moment the principle that certain Imperial powers—the powers of the Imperial Parliament—should be exercised by Members taken exclusively from one part of the United Kingdom. I greatly doubt whether Parliament would ever sanction anything of the kind. For this House to divide itself in the manner proposed would be an extraordinary and unnecessary innovation, and an innovation which the House will not, I think, under any circumstances be prepared to entertain. We are proposing to the House, and we are bound to the Rules of our proposal, arrangements of mutual practical convenience. Therefore, how can we possibly accede to the Amendment—which, to say nothing else, involves an enormous Constitutional innovation.The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland had used almost identical words in proposing the Resolution. The late Sir George Campbell in 1888 proposed the establishment of a Scotch Grand Committee for the same purpose as that of the Committee which was now proposed to the House. The Gladstonian Party had at that time accepted the policy of Home Rule for Ireland, and therefore it was not surprising to find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, being still in opposition, yielded to the temptation to give his verbal sanction to the proposal, which was opposed by the Government of the day. The right hon. Gentleman, however, did not vote in favour of the proposal. His right hon. Friend (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had shown what a wide departure from the immemorial custom of the House in the appointment of Committees was involved in the proposal of the Government in one respect, but had not touched upon the departure from the principle upon which Grand Committees were originally established. Grand Committees were usually composed of 60 Members selected from all parts of the House impartially by a Committee of Selection, and to them were added 15 Members in the character of exports. Under the proposal of the Government the system would be exactly reversed. The Committee would consist of 72 Scotch Members to deal with Scotch affairs, with 15 nondescript Members added in order to dilute the too exclusively Scotch nature of the proceedings. This was an extreme 1162 instance of what grammarians termed a husteron proteron—putting the cart, before the horse. So far from carrying out, as the right hon. Gentleman said, the system upon which Grand Committees had always been appointed, it was an exact reversal and a sharp departure from those lines. The Grand Committee had been spoken of as a microcosm reflecting the House of Commons. How could it reflect the House faithfully, or how could it in any degree be a microcosm reflecting the House when the balance of Parties in it would be so absolutely dissimilar and disproportioned? The very structure and furniture of the Chamber in which they were assembled, and of the Chamber in which the Grand Committee would sit, were designed to carry out the idea of government by Party. He could quite well understand the desire of the English Members to escape discussion upon Scottish affairs. He could, however, tell them how this had been done in the past and how it might, with perfect ease, be done in the future. Almost his first experience in the House of Commons, 14 years ago, was that of being placed on a Select Committee, presided over by the hon. Baronet the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Sir C. Cameron). It was a Committee on a subject in which he thought most English Members did not take an ardent interest. The subject-was the herring brand. The Committee despatched its business upstairs in three or four days, and subsequently the Bill passed through the House without a single Amendment in Committee. That was the way in which they were accustomed to transact Scottish business, and it was the way in which it seemed they might transact it now. It was very often boasted that we were a businesslike people, but it seemed to him that they would be adopting a very curious method of dealing with business if they accepted the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. There were, of course, numerous differences between the procedure and the character of the Scotch and English peoples. Their laws were different, their churches were different, their agricultural tenure in many respects was different, and there were many other points of difference, but they were perfectly capable, acting as reasonable men, to settle their own affairs among themselves in the way 1163 they had been accustomed to. The hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter), who shook his head, would recollect one of the most portentious measures, in point of size, ever brought into the House—the Scottish Burgh Police Bill—a measure of upwards of 600 clauses. How was that Bill dealt with?
§ SIR H. MAXWELL
said, the hon. Member asked him how long it took. He would reply by asking why did it take so long? It passed through the mill of a Select Committee of Scotch Members upstairs, and that was a kind of mill which, though it ground small, did not grind as slowly as might be supposed. It came down to the House in a perfectly workable form. It was then opposed by Mr. Caldwell, who put down an impossible number of Amendments. Of course, Mr. Caldwell might have done just the same in a Grand Committee.
§ * SIR H. MAXWELL
said, he failed to see the relevancy of the interruption. He was endeavouring to speak of this matter in no Party spirit, and he had merely referred to Mr. Caldwell as a Scotch Member. At all events, the tactics Mr. Caldwell pursued were successful, as he prevented the Bill passing that Session. Next year the Bill went through the Committee stage in all its enormous proportions, and passed through the House ultimately with perfect ease and with almost perfect satisfaction to the towns and burghs affected. Why were they to give up proceedings of this reasonable and friendly nature? What had come upon Scotch Members that they could no longer meet the Lord Advocate in friendly discussion? He was sure there was nothing in the demeanour or the character of the present Lord Advocate (Mr. J. B. Balfour) to render him unapproachable in a greater degree than his immediate predecessor, and he (Sir H. Maxwell) was quite willing to testify to the admirable results which had been obtained by the consultations which had been referred to. Of course, what really commended this proposal to the House was that it was a kind of half measure of Home Rule—a kind of halfway house. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Trevelyan) was not very long ago 1164 somewhat an authority on halfway houses. He denounced them in no ambiguous language as undesirable and dangerous tenements, and declared, in phraseology which Members were not likely to forget, that for his part he would never consent to be a tenant of one of them. The times had changed, and here was the right hon. Gentleman offering for the occupation of hon. Members a halfway house between the present system of Imperial legislation in Scotland and Home Rule. The proposal, however, did not find very cordial acceptance. The Secretary of the Scotch Home Rule Association had written a letter to The Times and other public journals couched in terms not very amiable or very respectful towards Her Majesty's Government. He evidently objected to this halfway house, and did not think that half a loaf was better than no bread. He talked of this proposal as an extra time job which Her Majesty's Government were seeking to impose upon Scottish Members. He said—The Government either believe in Home Rule or they do not. If they do not believe in it they are playing a hypocritical, base part. I£ they do believe in it they are playing a mean, base, cowardly part.This was rather an unfortunate alternative, and for his (Sir H. Maxwell's) part he preferred not to apply such terms to the present occupants of such exalted positions. It was obvious, however, from this letter and from the harsh expressions contained in it that the present proposal would not satisfy the Home Rulers in Scotland. The only reason which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian gave for accepting Sir George Campbell's proposal for a Scotch Grand Committee in 188S was that it anticipated larger demands. If the proposal was not to do that, what reason was there for it? Why should they waste time upon a proposal which, the hon. Member for Caithness had given them to understand, was already unacceptable in lieu of a full measure? Scottish Members on his side of the House, for their part, objected to this "extra time job" altogether. They had no stomach for it. They did not desire to be relegated to a one-horse Parliament upstairs, turned into a kind of garret legislators, Parliamentary pariahs, 1165 in order that they might grasp a barren chimera of make-believe autonomy. They had been returned to this House as Imperial Members, and Imperial Members they intended to remain, in act as well as in name, until the people of Scotland decreed it otherwise; and he called upon—should be say the hospitality, the generosity, or the public spirit of Her Majesty's Government, to make suitable and decorous arrangements for the transaction of their national business.
§ MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)
said, the only objection he had to the hon. Baronet's speech was that he had made precisely the same speech against the proposal of Home Rule for Scotland. He thought he even recognised some of the extremely well-turned phrases as having been used by the hon. Baronet to denounce the denationalisation of his country; and such speeches had been made by gentlemen like the hon. Baronet against every proposal to facilitate the passing of Scotch Bills and the transaction of Scotch business. There was not a gentleman who had regard for his own character for candour who would deny that during the past 18 mouths the business of Scotland had been disgracefully neglected, and any candid man would admit that that neglect had been continuing for the six years which preceded the present Parliament. As an illustration he would mention the Burgh Police Act of 1891, containing about 700 clauses, which had been brought in for 10 successive years by the Government of the day, and, having reached a certain point, had been abandoned. Was that the pace at which the hon. Baronet desired to see legislation progress? He would take another case, that of Mr. M'Lagan's Bill referring to liquor. He voted for the Second Reading of that Bill in 1884, but he had never had another opportunity of doing so, although in the interval Scotch Members had been diligently endeavouring, by combination and otherwise, to bring that Bill forward again, so that they might have an opportunity of voting upon it. Scotch Members did not succeed in getting Bills through because their measures were objected to, thwarted, and blocked at every stage by English Conservative Members, who thought they had a 1166 prescriptive right to do so. The fresh proposal of the Government was due to the pressure of Scotch Members. Nearly every unofficial Member for Scotland, in August, 1892, presented, in deferential terms, a request to the late Prime Minister for this Committee, but that representation was treated with complete indifference—he was almost going to say contempt. Then at the beginning of this year they unanimously passed other Resolutions, but the note of deference was absent. They said that it was the duty of the Government to press forward Scotch business, and that unless the Committee were granted all prospects of Scotch legislation were illusory. To that language they adhered. He was satisfied with the Committee proposed by his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland, who had always been most sympathetic and most desirous to push forward Scotch business; and he must say that although his right hon. Friend did not care for it, he, himself, with other hon. Members, was pained by the expression by the hon. Baronet, in a tone not often heard from him in the House, towards the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland. At the same time, he thought the proposal might have been better. It might have provided for the Second Reading also, and it might have omitted the 15 additional Members. What objection was there to the proposal as made? The Resolution retained the absolute control of the House over all Scotch business, and admittedly Scotch Bills would be committed to the most qualified people that could be imagined, for their consideration. Only one stage out of five was to be relegated to the Scotch Committee. Undoubtedly, the Committee stage was committed under this Resolution to the most qualified people. It was absurd to suppose that an ordinary Grand Committee was satisfactory in dealing with special matters relating to Scotch business. Hon. Gentlemen opposite objected to Home Rule, and to this Grand Committee; what did they propose themselves for the purpose of furthering Scotch business? It was notoriously the case that throughout the different constituencies in Scotland hon. Members opposite went about and complained of the inability of the Liberal Government 1167 to pass measures. That was the theme that had been harped upon in his own constituency and elsewhere. Was it generous or manly to adopt that course, when every attempt was being made to relieve Parliament of a congestion of business? It was unworthy of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and would not have been done except under stress of Party politics. He had observed the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London; he did not know whether it was intended to destroy or merely to supplement the terms of the Resolution, but the hon. Baronet raised the question whether this Committee would apply to Scotland alone, or whether it was also to be extended to England and Ireland. He would like to know, in the first place, whether it was the case that English Members desired it? If they did not desire it, they surely could not complain if it was not extended to them. If they did desire it, for his part he thought it would be the grossest possible unfairness to refuse it to them. The fact was, that the House was a composite body, representing various countries, and the hon. Baronet was not alone in regarding him self from a cosmopolitan point of view as regarded the constituencies of the United Kingdom; but there were special interests, and Members from Scotland protested against being constantly overridden by a majority of gentlemen who really did not know the circumstances of the case, and who did not listen to the Debates. What they really wanted was not, at the present moment, any interference at all with the constitution of the House, but merely machinery by which, in one stage alone, the business of a particular part of the House, which had been sadly neglected for many years, should be accelerated and put into proper shape. There was authority of a very high order for the proposal the Government had made. The late Sir T. Erskine May whom many hon. Members would remember, wrote an article in 1854 strongly recommending the Grand Committees, and exposing the great evils which had arisen from the congestion of Parliamentary business. He reprinted in 1881 this most interesting article, with a letter addressed to the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone), in which he said— 1168I have long been persuaded that useful results cannot be obtained from the abounding talents, industry, and public spirit of so numerous a body as the House of Commons without a careful division of labour amongst its Members. To this principle I first adverted in 1854, and I have since enforced it on numerous occasions before Committees of Inquiry. Should this principle be carried out, the House would relieve itself from that exhausting pressure of public affairs which tends to impair its credit and efficiency, while its Members, instead of being weighted with tedious Debates and irksome walks through the Division bobbies, would find scope for their special talents in labour more congenial to their tastes, and more conducive to the public good.Then he quoted a sentence from the late Lord Ossington, saying that what had been most honourable service had become intolerable slavery. That was, he thought, the position of hon. Gentlemen in this House now, who were expected to spend their time in cheering Ministers or ex-Ministers, and in marching through the Lobbies when their own business was pressing, which he regarded as useless and most irksome labour. This was a mere business proposal which was, however, most important to enable them to get their work done. It was not a Constitutional question of any importance at all. [Cries of "Oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen were very sensitive about Constitutional questions—he referred particularly to the Liberal Unionists; but did they remember the readiness with which they offered self-government to Ireland in any form except that of Home Rule—that extreme anxiety for the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament? Scotchmen did not ask for Home Rule at present; they were going to ask for that to-morrow; they only asked now for an amendment of the proceedings in one of the five stages in the House of Commons. But the truth was, any stick was good enough to beat a dog with. The Unionists opposed the proposal because they wished to be able to say at the next General Election that the Liberals were able to do nothing for Scotland. Many Members opposite were, no doubt, sincere in their opposition, but he believed that gentlemen on the Liberal Unionist Benches were cheering with their tongues in their cheeks. They knew very well that the dangers to be apprehended from the proposal were extremely small, and their desire was to stop legislation in order to 1169 manufacture not quite candidly a cry throughout the country.
§ * MR. A. CROSS (Glasgow, Camlachie)
said, that there were certain considerations upon which this proposal was based that he, for one, could not pass by as trivial or unimportant. It was said that the business of the House was congested, that the House was overwhelmed with business, and it was also said that Scotch business had been neglected. He did not deny that there was some force in these considerations, but they had been exaggerated. In one sense Parliament had more time, because the great Party controversial questions had been settled, but there were social questions of equal importance to those great controversial questions, and in respect of those questions progress had not been so rapid as he would like to see it. To assist progress, therefore, he did not think the present proposal should be passed by without serious consideration. If he were asked what Scotch business was neglected he should say that it was Private Bills. The proposal had much to recommend it—it would not involve any revolution, or even a General Election, and he was, therefore, not prepared to pass it by without careful consideration. It had been objected to by the Leader of the Opposition, but though he proposed to vote with that right hon. Gentleman he did not take that course for quite the same reasons. It was not so much against the traditional custom of the House as it at first might appear, because at present Scotch business was practically left to the discussion of Scotch Members; at present they practically had as much as they would have under the Regulation they were now discussing. He would remind the hon. Baronet the Member for Wigtonshire that the traditions and customs of the House, as a whole, would not be interfered with, for there would be the introduction stage, the Second and Third Reading and Report stages, on which the House would be able to discuss the subject-matter of Scotch Bills. The most serious objection he had to the proposal was the fact that it was confined entirely to Scotland. It was the essence of his position that the treatment to be accorded to the legislation of the four countries should be the same all round, and he could not assent to any plan which did not place all the countries on the same footing in that respect. He also objected 1170 to the proposal on the ground that the Scotch Committee would show a complexion of Parties different from that existing in the whole House, for there would be an overwhelming majority of Gladstonians in it. He also objected to it, because in the present Parliament Scotch Members had not been returned upon any local questions, but upon broad general issues. He did not say that Scotch business was not neglected in the House. He did not justify the Amendment on that ground, or on the ground that the House was overcrowded with business. He did not argue that Scotchmen knew their own business better than other sections of the House. The theory he maintained was that, in this House they wore not Scotchmen governing Scotchmen, or Englishmen governing Englishmen, but Englishmen, Irishmen, and Scotchmen legislating for the United Kingdom. Much legislation had been passed for Scotland with the aid of English votes which had been greatly to the advantage of that country, and which, in some cases, had been far ahead of sentiment in England. He might refer, for example, to the question of Church patronage. Scotland was placed in a satisfactory position in regard to that subject long before English opinion was ripe on the subject. The Law of Hypothec had been abolished in Scotland, whilst the Law of Distress still existed in England. These examples were enough to illustrate his point, although, if necessary, he could adduce many others. He would also point out to the House that English legislation—the legislation which had marked the course of the history of England for 40 or 50 years—had been markedly influenced by the presence in the House of the Scotch element. They had all been individually and collectively associated with that legislation, and it was his belief that the legislation bearing the marks of all sections of Members had been legislation which had greatly benefited by the process. After giving the matter careful consideration he had been constrained to oppose the Resolution in its present form, in the hope that the matter might again come up in a form that might be acceptable to the majority of the Members of the House, as he believed it would be to the country. It contained the germ of an idea which, properly presented, might take the place of other ideas which had no chance of becoming law, and which, if they did 1171 would in their nature involve great perils and dangers to the Empire.
§ * SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said, it would be difficult to overrate the importance of this subject, which so closely affected not only the procedure but also the constitution and policy of the House of Commons. For his part, he would have been glad if the proposal of the Government presented a solution of some of those Parliamentary problems which many hon. Members must feel to be so perplexing, and he should have welcomed any practical alternative to some of those difficult constitutional suggestions which had been made, having for their object the elucidation and, consistently with Imperial feeling, the enforcement of local views and opinions. Personally, he had strong prepossessions in favour both of local government and local legislation. He did not entertain the fears which possessed many on this subject. On the contrary, he thought that much of our lost legislation, and certainly a very large portion of our public liberty, had emanated from that local action of our Municipalities, which was one of the most characteristic features of the history of this country. Under the influence of this feeling some years ago, and before the adoption of the new Parliamentary system of Grand Committees, he proposed, at a meeting of his own Party in the Foreign Office, a resolution in favour of devolution of that character, and he was convinced by experience that what was then needful was much more needful now owing to the great pressure of Parliamentary work, and also that such necessity was one that would probably greatly grow. He might be allowed to say that he practised the principles which he advocated because he had taken part in the administration of the Grand Committees of both Trade and Law. He had taken charge of a Bill through the latter, and when many of his Party thought it their duty to withdraw on the Employers' Liability Bill he had not done so. So he spoke from some experience. The result of that experience had been to convince him that the Standing Committees were useful and successful, and he looked forward almost as a matter of necessity to the development of that class of work in conducting Parliamentary affairs. In fact, he believed it was absolutely necessary for the purpose of transacting Parliamentary business. 1172 Parliamentary work was not always well done, and it was frequently not done at all; and though the hon. Baronet the Member for Wigton laid some stress on the difficulty of reconciling Party feeling with the procedure of Standing Committees, one of the things which recommended those Committees to him was that they generally dealt more with business and with practical details and less with Party politics than marked the House, or the Committees of the House. He also desired to ascertain and give weight to local and even to national feeling in legislation. The basis of good legislation, he thought, was to ascertain what were the national or the local requirements and then to adapt them to legislation in the Imperial Parliament. Therefore, he was of opinion that the system of Standing Committees not merely for Scotland, but for the whole of the United Kingdom, and for the purpose of facilitating the business of the House was absolutely necessary. He was not much overcome by the argument of the horn Baronet the Member for Wigton, that Members who had served on Grand Committees or Select Committees during the day would be completely exhausted and unfit for further legislative work. The conclusion he drew was that the business, at any rate of Private Bills, ought not to be transacted at Westminster at all, but ought to be relegated either to Commissions or to the County Councils, or partly to one and partly to the other, and at a recent meeting of the Chamber of Commerce that view was strongly and widely expressed by unanimous resolutions—supported by all parts and parties of the Irish nation, Belfast, Cork, and Dublin, by Scotland, and by every part of England—in favour of that form of Parliamentary devolution. He thought also that there was something to be said for eliciting national and local feeling through a system of Standing Committees. It might be that such a proposal might at one time have been—indeed, it might be yet—an alternative to more drastic and less Constitutional proposals. He saw that the Attorney General shook his head. Well, the Scotch Home Rule Association had addressed the Members of the House urging that this Motion should be resisted, mainly on the ground that it was antagonistic to the proposal of Home Rule for Scotland. He thought there was a great deal to be said in favour of legis- 1173 lation of this kind being transacted in Grand Committees, because the Grand Committees were subject to the immediate check of the Imperial Parliament: they were able to be controlled by the House if they deviated from their proper lines, and their Bills could be subjected at once to the influence of reason instead of to agitation outside Parliament. Therefore, he was strongly in favour of the greater adoption of the principle of devolution through Standing Committees; and of referring to these Committees Bills, whether relating to England, Scotland, or Ireland, in order that the details might be thoroughly thrashed out and practically dealt with. But to determine otherwise than that Bills referring to all parts of the United Kingdom should be so dealt with indiscriminately would be, as the hon. Member for Dumfries had said, a gross unfairness. If they did it for one part of the United Kingdom they must inevitably and justly do it for all. And at this point arose the practical difficulty of this proposal which, as he had candidly said, commended itself to him in some respects. He very much doubted whether there could be practically a geographical classification of Hills. He would take as an illustration of the difficulty the Scotch Sea Fisheries Bill of last Session. He had personally a very large interest in the fishing industry. He had devoted years to its practical and scientific aspects: but be was bound to say from his experience that that Bill could not be limited to Scotland. It had a more widely reaching effect; it affected the food of the community of all those islands. He had been surprised to hear the brand of herrings referred to in the course of the Debate as a local matter. Why, this question of brand had been the means of either closing or opening up to us the markets of the world. Take the illustration of the Baltimore fisheries in Ireland, in which, owing to a better and more scientific system of curing, the American markets which had been formerly closed were now open to fish from that locality. Surely, then, the brand was a matter of even world-wide interest. Whatever might be said of local fishing industries along the coasts, the seas were unlimited geographically, and English fishing vessels constantly intermixed in Northern Seas with Scotch fishing vessels. Again, in the application of 1174 science, which was so essential to the fishing industry, in which such admirable work had been done by the Scotch Fishery Board, who had set a great example to the district fisheries committees in England, it was not a matter limited to Scotland only, but touched the fishing industry of the British Isles. Therefore, there was the greatest difficulty in drawing up a geographical classification of Bills. He granted that the Scotch Fishery Bill had been practically considered in a Scotch Standing Committee. He had been present in the House during the discussion; he had been greatly interested in the discussion; and had not found it Scotch business forbidding as was supposed, but had received a great deal of information. Notwithstanding that, he felt that if he had taken part in the discussion it would have been an intrusion, and practically the subject was limited in discussion to the Scotch Members, though it certainly affected English and Irish fishing interests to a very great degree. He granted, too, that discussion on Scotch Bills had been unduly pushed into corners of the House; many times towards the close of the Session, sometimes between stages of the Appropriation Bill, there had been a Scotch discussion, and too frequently the House had been deserted except by Scotch Members, though the Bills under discussion affected the commercial and even the political arrangements of the whole of the United Kingdom. In the able speech of the Leader of the Opposition there was one consideration urged which should at least make them think before they too readily adopted this proposal, and that was the tendency it might have to emphasise separate national considerations. He had been sorry to hear the other day, and he was sure they all had been sorry to hear, an expression like that of "predominant partner." The very basis of the continuity of a United Kingdom was the principle of equality; and if they were to establish a Scotch Grand Committee to look after Scotch business, a claim would irresistibly be made on the part of England for a like privilege and advantage, so that, in order to cope with this difficulty of the moment, they might bring forward antagonistic interests, which it should be their duty to suppress. Besides that, they would have the difficulty of reconciling this deviation with the system of Party government, which, for good or 1175 evil, had boon set up in this country. Therefore, from these observations, he drew the conclusion that the very best measure of this character that could be proposed to the House was a plan applicable to each division of the United Kingdom. He refused, if he could help it, to make any new departure in favour of one portion of the United Kingdom, to the comparative disadvantage, or even the appearance of comparative disadvantage, of another. He had learned a lesson in that respect from Irish local government—a lesson which he recalled with very great regret. Ireland was told—and the co-operation of Irish Members was obtained on the faith of the promise—that as soon as England had been provided with local government, Scotland and Ireland should follow. The words that were used from the Conservative Treasury Bench on the subject—words which he had constantly reiterated on public platforms with approval—were "simultaneity and similarity"; but though England had received local Government in its fulness, though Scotland had received it in part, and it was now proposed to give it to her completely in the present Session, yet Ireland, where the existing system of local government could not be defended, had been kept at a constitutional disadvantage compared with other parts of the United Kingdom. Believing, as he did, that in treating with our various nationalities the only possible standing-ground was the standing-ground of equality, he thought that to make any new departure in favour of one branch which might possibly be resented by the other branches was a mistake, except it formed part of one consistent and complete plan, and it would lead to greater disadvantages than those which now undoubtedly existed in relation to Scotch business in the House. Those were reasons that influenced him to vote against the proposal of the Government, in which, as he had explained, he saw some good. The proposal was not a complete solution of the difficulty, but it might be, notwithstanding, some solution of the existing evils. On the other hand, he was convinced that in its present form it contained elements of danger and would lead to considerable disadvantages. If hereafter some joint, equal, and consistent plan of the character he had sketched, based on national feeling, 1176 and giving national machinery to work it out, should be proposed, then, if it did not impair the relations between the different branches of the United Kingdom, if it gave facilities for the transaction of Parliamentary business, for which there was so much need, and was conducive to useful legislation, it would have from him at any time, and from whatever quarter or Party it came, the most ready consideration and such support as he could possibly give to it.
§ MR. CRAWFORD (Lanarkshire, N.E.)
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken gave in the early portion of his speech extremely strong arguments in favour of the Motion before the House; but later on the hon. Gentleman adduced various considerations which would lead him to vote against the Motion. It was the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's speech which induced him to offer a few observations on the Motion which he had not otherwise intended to do. The hon. Gentleman had said he was in favour of devolution in the particular form of Grand Committees, but dissented from the present application of the principle, because it was not possible to proceed on geographical lines. He ventured to differ from the hon. Gentleman in the observation. He insisted that geographical classification of Bills was possible, and that in the case of Scot-laud it was desirable, because the laws and local institutions of Scotland were totally different from those of England; and accordingly to deal with Scotch legislation in detail—that was, in Committee—Members should be conversant with the laws and institutions of Scotland. That was a very good reason for a geographical derivation. The hon. Gentleman referred to the expression which was used by the Prime Minister about the "predominant partner," and said it was an expression which they all regretted. He certainly did not regret the use of the phrase referring to the "predominant partner." It was an expression which he entirely endorsed. The reason why a Committee for Scotch affairs was necessary was because England was the predominant partner. It was mere cant to deny that she is so. How was she the "predominant partner?" In votes. As the French said, "Victory is given to big battalions," and accordingly the time of the House was allotted 1177 to those who had an enormous preponderance in votes, the others being squeezed out. That was the reason why they had to complain of the preponderance of the great partner—it was not because of any ill will exhibited towards Scotland by the English Members. The Scotch Members co-operated with the English Members in the most cordial manner, but they found that the result was one arrived at on arithmetical principles. Where there were six or seven Members to one the latter got proportionately only about one-seventh part of the time. The time at the disposal of the House was not sufficient for its present business, and that practically meant that Scotch business was squeezed out altogether. Doubtless, no one could shut his eyes to the fact to what was candidly stated by the Secretary for Scotland in moving his Motion—namely, that the Motion proposed to a certain extent what was an anomaly—that was to say, it proposed to establish a Standing Committee for Scotch business, but did not propose to set up similar Committees for English and Irish business. So for as Ireland was concerned, it stood on a very different footing to Scotland. But so far as England was concerned he would ask the House and the country to look at this question in a practical manner. If the proposal were likely to damage the English Members of the House in the smallest degree it could not possibly be carried, and, indeed, would not have been proposed. It could not, however, damage the English Members. No one could say that it would reduce their chances of getting their business transacted. When the Members from one part of the Kingdom were in the proportion of six or seven to one in regard to those from another part of the Kingdom, whereas the larger body could outvote and impose their will upon the smaller body, whether these liked it or not, the reverse process was not possible. The English Members had nothing to fear from the influence of the Scotch Members. No instance could be adduced in which English opinion had been outvoted by the force of Scottish votes. He, therefore, asked the House to treat this as a practical matter. While the Scotch Members asked for it, and claimed it as a necessary means of getting their work done, he would even on a separate 1178 ground ask the House to assent to the Motion—namely, as a further stop in the process of devolution, and as a practical experiment which could be taken without risk to any section of the House.
§ * SIR M. J. STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
said, he could have wished that the precedent set by the late First Lord of the Treasury had not been followed on this occasion—namely, that of bringing on very important Scotch matters on a Monday—on what was practically the opening day after the Easter Recess. It was rather hard to expect all Scotch Members to be in their places early on Monday afternoon. He himself had been unfortunate enough not to have heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland. Therefore, he spoke under some disadvantage, not having heard the initial part of the Debate. But there were questions connected with the proposed Grand Committee which must strike an humble Member like himself as being most important to be thoroughly considered in the House before being passed. In the first place, he could not see what real object was to be gained by carrying on the Grand Committee. Speaking from a Unionist point of view, in this Parliament there would be, with the addition of the 15 English Members to be added to the Committee, a majority of 57 against 30, and discussion would, therefore, proceed in Grand Committee on a Party basis. Downstairs in the House they were, however, able to take a less partisan view. The Government must not imagine that they had got the whole mind of Scotland in their favour because their supporters were pledged up to the hilt to vote in certain directions. The minority were not so pledged, and upstairs, in this proposed Grand Committee, they would have little chance of shaping matters in the way they desired. The result would be that there would be in the House longer Debates on Report and Third Reading stages. There would, therefore, be no economy of time effected. He had been a Member of the House for some years, and his experience had been that when it was sought to curtail discussion by methods which were not considered fair, discussion was not curtailed, but extended, for they derived less advantage from the views of gentlemen whose minds were unprejudiced. If the Resolu- 1179 tion were carried, he predicted that instead of their having amicable relations upstairs, there would oftentimes he extreme bitterness, and that was not the way to provide for good legislation on any given subject. It was said that the law of Scotland was so essentially different from that of England that it was almost impossible to explain it and carry measures in the House where they had so little room for discussion. But whose fault was it that they had so little room for discussion in the House? The Scotch Members opposite practically controlled the Government, and if they insisted they could get Scotch business taken; but they preferred to sit mute and acquiesce in whatever the Front Bench chose to propose. Then they came down and said, "We want all the Scotch Members to discuss Scotch measures upstairs." That was not what Scotch Members came to this Imperial Parliament to do. They came here because they were still a United Parliament, and were determined to discuss from an Imperial point of view all measures brought before them. They dreaded anything which would prevent that discussion. Though they might be told that that opportunity would still be afforded them on the floor of the House, his reply was that the discussion to which he referred should take place on initial stages of measures before men's minds were prejudiced. In the Committee Room upstairs men's minds would be fixed upon the carrying out of a certain policy as defined at the polls. It was before the minds of the majority were fixed that it was desirable to endeavour to persuade them to take the right view before they gave their casting vote. The hon. Member who had just spoken referred to the French saying that "victory was given to big battalions": then why did not the big battalions of Scotch Members sitting behind the Government insist on victory on the floor of the House? Why were they afraid to meet their opponents in the open? Why did they want to go upstairs to a Committee Room? Did they really expect that the Unionist Members were going to fall into this trap? Did they think they were going into a Grand Committee Room to be out-voted upon every question? Were they, for instance, 1180 going to consent to a measure for Scotch Disestablishment being discussed in the Grand Committee which the Motion proposed to establish without the country having a chance to express an opinion upon it? The votes of English Members were overridden every day by the Scotch Members behind the Government. The latter overruled, for example, almost every important vote that was given by English Members upon the Parish Councils Bill and the Employers' Liability Bill. They followed their Leaders; but now they turned round and insisted on having it their own way in Scotch legislation as well. The Amendment of the Member for the City of Loudon was more to the point than the proposal of the Government. If they were to be treated in this way in Scotland, England should be treated similarly; also Ireland. To single out Scotland for exceptional treatment would not expedite business, nor would it be for the good of the country. The proposal would be most unfair for the House, for the country, and for the Government. The Front Bench men would have to attend to business in the House and be absent, so the Grand Committee would suffer. If, on the other hand, they stuck to their duties in Committee, would not Imperial interests suffer? He could not see that any considerable amount of time would be gained by its adoption. It would be opposed to the spirit of our Constitution, while the amount of bitterness which would be engendered in the Committee Room upstairs was not likely to facilitate business there, nor smooth the course of legislation. On these grounds he should record his protest by opposing the Resolution, and he trusted that all Scotch Members who loved their country and wished to see its interests advanced would do the same.
§ * SIR J. LENG (Dundee)
said, the hon. Baronet who had just spoken had drawn a very gloomy picture of the results of the discussion and consideration of Scotch business by the Members for Scotland. In this he followed the hon. Member for Wigton, who seemed to think it should be a matter for complaint that there should be so many as 72 gentlemen whom he designated as experts on Scotch questions. In the appointment of Members to the Stand- 1181 ing Committee on Trade, and also to the Standing Committee on Law, it had always been understood that the gentlemen were selected on account of their knowledge of trade, or legal questions; at all events, the predominating number of the Members of such Committees were placed on them, because they were considered specially qualified to deal with these questions, and it certainly seemed remarkable that the hon. Baronet the Member for Wigton should see so much that was objectionable in referring questions to be considered by Members who specially understood them. In the course of the Debate reference! had been made to the great differences there were, not only in the laws of Scotland, but in the legal phraseology and in the customs and habits of the country. Well, Scotch Members should be, and no doubt generally were, specially versed in these differences, and able to deal with them. The hon. Baronet who had just spoken had also referred to the mischief likely to arise from these discussions on Scotch Hills upstairs. One of the great complaints on the Liberal side of the House was that they might introduce Bills year after year, but never have an opportunity of having them discussed. He was a comparatively new Member of the House, but he had brought in a Bill now for four successive Sessions. His misfortune in the Ballot was such that he had never been able to obtain a day when there was the least likelihood of the Bill coming on for discussion. He would just refer for a moment to the history of that Bill. It was one which proposed to abolish grocers' licences in Scotland. Years ago, between the '70's and the '80's, great complaint was made on the subject, and in the year 1878 a Royal Commission was appointed when the Party opposite was in power, with the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Fergusson) as its Chairman. It made a very full and minute inquiry, and a more able Report could not have been made than that which was drawn up by the Chairman, but from 1878 to 1890 no steps whatever were taken to carry out the recommendations made in that Report. He brought in a Bill largely with that purpose. There were two alternative proposals—one to abolish the licence entirely, and the other to carry out simpliciter the recommendations of the 1182 Commission. This was the fifth year in which the Bill had been before the House, and there was not the least chance of it being brought on for discussion, hence his desire that some facility should be given for the discussion of such measures. They had heard a great deal about immemorial usage and ancient traditions, but he feared that other meanings wore likely to be given to these phrases. They were in danger of drifting into immemorial uselessness, and, instead of perpetual talking about ancient traditions, he should like to see more of the modern transaction of business in a businesslike way. This continual talk, talk, talking, accomplishing nothing, was beginning to excite a strong feeling on the part of many of their constituents. They had heard that this was a new departure. Well, they needed a great many new departures. Times had changed, and the House must change with them. It must adapt itself to the changed circumstances in which they wore placed. He was glad to observe that the noble Lord now at the head of the Government, referring to the phrase which had been frequently used with regard to another House, that the time had come when it must either be ended or mended, said that that phrase had its application to the House of Commons as well, and it was true. There were many things in the House that needed to be ended. They must set themselves to ending some things and mending many others. At present the forces of obstruction were allowed much freer play in that House, owing to its ancient Rules and Regulations, than were the forces of construction. They needed more constructive ability, and loss of this perpetual obstruction of every useful proposal. He had referred to one measure. There were many others. He would only name one. The people of Scotland throughout the length and breadth of the land had been interested for years in an amendment of the law with regard to rights of way, and Bills for amending the law had been before the House for the last dozen years. Just as an illustration of how much talk they had had, and how little work they had accomplished, he mentioned that in the last Session 49 Scotch Bills were introduced—not a few of them by Members on the other side of the House. Out of the 49, 41 were 1183 dropped or withdrawn, and only eight received the Royal Assent. He was not so foolish as to say that the whole of the 41 were measures that ought to be passed, but he did say that there were amongst the Bills which were obstructed and with which no progress could be made a considerable number which, if they could have been referred to a Committee consisting mainly of Scotch Members, would have been passed to the advantage of the country. The time had come when a change should be made. They were continually told that proposals of this kind were calculated to affect the useful character of the Imperial Parliament. The greater number of the measures to which he referred were measures many of them of purely Scottish interest, some of them of comparatively local interest, the dealing with which outside the House would leave the House much more time for the consideration and discussion of great Imperial questions. The true way to aggrandise the Imperial character of Parliament was to devolve upon Committees or local Legislatures those sectional measures which only affected one part of the country. He hoped that they would really look to the transaction of business, and that they would have less and less talk and less and less obstruction. For that reason he would support this experimental proposal. Let them try it, and see whether it was not an improvement on the present state of things. His own belief was that it would be greatly to their advantage, and for that reason he would support the Motion.
§ MR. COCHRANE
said, that the intricacies of Scottish law had been referred to, and it had been stated that one of the advantages of the proposed Committee would be that hon. Members who composed it would be conversant with these intricacies. Well, he himself had had a great deal to do with Scottish law, to the great advantage of the Legal Profession in that country. But as a Scotchman, and as representing a Scottish constituency, and as one who had had this opportunity of which he spoke, he could not pretend to a knowledge of any branch of Scottish law. Therefore, if this Grand Committee was to be composed of Members who had any knowledge of Scottish law it would become necessary for the hon. Baronet to move an Amendment 1184 that there should be a technical examination to qualify Members before they could be permitted to take part in it. Once or twice reference had been made to the Scotch Fisheries Bill. It had been suggested that that Bill was an illustration of a Scotch measure which might be submitted with advantage to a Grand Committee. He was not prepared to dispute that, but he did not see why such a measure could not have been submitted to one of the ordinary Standing Committees. It had been said very justly that that Bill did not receive that amount of discussion when it came up for Second Reading to which a Bill of that importance was entitled. He quite agreed with that. The Bill came up at a late hour in the evening, and many Members who were interested in it would have liked to have had an opportunity for more discussion upon it. The remark which was made to him in the Lobby of the House was, that if he agreed with the principle of the Bill it was not necessary to discuss it, as the details had been thoroughly considered by the Government; but he thought they were all astonished that these remarks should have been made by the hon. Members who supported the Bill, when they found that the measure when it came to be discussed in another place was full of the most absurd and ridiculous provisions. He thought this Bill might quite as well have been discussed in an ordinary Standing Committee, and that any advantage which would have been derived from this Grand Committee would have been just as well derived from an ordinary Committee of the House. They had been told, and he believed properly so, that no Member could possibly attend the meetings of this Grand Committee and at the same time look after his business in the House of Commons. As a Scotch Member he protested against the making of such a fundamental change in their duties as would practically take place if the Scotch Members were relegated to a Scotch Grand Committee. The Scotch Members were in that House to deal not only with Scotch matters, but with English and Irish and Scotch questions. They were not sent there merely to deal with Scotch parochial matters, or with any Scotch question by themselves, but were entitled to be assisted by other intellects in the House, coming from every quarter 1185 of the United Kingdom. He did not believe they had any mandate from their constituents to remove their affairs from the cognisance of the House and to take them to a Committee Room. It was an extraordinary Committee that was proposed under this Resolution. It was not in any sense a Committee such as they had seen before in that House. It was not a reflex of the opinion of that House; it was, in fact, neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring. The Scotch Members would not have the entire control of the Committee; but 15 Englishmen, or Welshmen, or Irishmen, were to be put in to see, he supposed, that they did not misbehave themselves in Committee Room 15. Some speakers had said that these 15 Members would have but little influence upon their deliberations and Debates; but it had been said, also, that there were a great many questions upon which the Scotch Members would not be divided in the Grand Committee as in that House; but if they were very nearly divided, was it not a monstrous thing that these 15 other Members should be brought in to decide their questions? If they were to have a kind of Home Rule, let them have Home Rule, and not a kind of watered down Home Rule under which their opinions were to be set at nought by a small packed body of English, Welsh, and Irish Members. Another point which had been alluded to, and one which ought to weigh a great deal with them, was that if these Grand Committees were set up they would lose the support, and advice, and opinion of those who were most qualified to assist them in their deliberations. In the Cabinet there were some of the ablest of the Scottish Representatives, and there was no doubt they would not be able to give to the Standing Committee that attention which they were now able to give to Scottish affairs. The Grand Committee would be sitting at hours which would be inconvenient for them—say, from 12 to 4—when Ministers would be busy in their Offices, and they must either neglect business at their Offices or the work of the Grand Committee. They would not only lose the advice and assistance of these gentlemen, but of the Scottish Members representing English constituencies—the Leader of the Opposition, and many others who were as fully qualified to deal with these 1186 matters as Scotch Representatives themselves. Then there was the question of the influence exercised by Scotch Members upon Imperial matters. There was no doubt that they exercised a great deal of influence, and, he hoped, in the right direction, but they would be withdrawn from much of that if they were to be sent into this Grand Committee. He believed there was a stronger Liberal feeling in Scotland than in England, even among the Unionists, and that their votes upon English questions had had a good effect, such as in the case of the Parish Councils Bill, where votes were given by Scottish Members upon a matter of principle. This was a great privilege that Scotland possessed, and one which ought not to be taken away from it. No doubt if they went away the English Members would say the}' were glad to get rid of them, and ask why they should take an active part in English affairs at all. Why the number of 15 English Members was selected it seemed difficult to account for. The Secretary for Scotland never gave them any reasons why he selected 15 in preference to any other number, and he thought they were entitled to some explanation from him. As to the measures being principally for the relief of Scotland, it was difficult to see how they could determine that certain measures should only refer to Scotland. They might have a Registration Bill before the Committee, and they might have an Amendment moved extending the suffrage to females. They might say that it only affected Scotland directly, but it would indirectly affect the policy of the whole country. He did not see how the fact that they wore going to deal with Scottish affairs in this Grand Committee would place more time at the disposal of the English Members. They were told by the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries that only one-fifth of the Scotch Bills would be dealt with by the Standing Committee. If four-fifths of the time was still to be occupied in the House very little would be gained. It was his opinion that if the Secretary for Scotland had approached the Government, backed up as he would have been by 72 Scottish Members, all anxious to pass measures of a non-contentious character, that he would get more attention from the Cabinet than at the pre- 1187 sent time, and that they would accomplish their business more satisfactorily than under this proposal for a Grand Committee.
§ MR. J. WILSON (Govan)
said, that if they were to have a mandate from their constituents for everything done in that House they would never be done with matters, and he thought the less they heard about mandates from their constituents the better. They were sent there by their constituents to do the best they could, and to lend their minds to the consideration of the subjects that came before them in the best interests of the country. The Member for Kirkcudbright twitted them that, now that they had a Liberal Government in power, they did not trust that Government. He (Mr. Wilson) was reminded that the Member for the Collage Division (Sir C. Cameron) had had on the Paper for the last seven or eight years a Bill that had passed the Second Reading in this House, for the purpose of the early closing of public-houses. Such a Bill was passed in this House, but the other House took out of the Bill all towns above 50,000 inhabitants. His hon. Friend had endeavoured year after year to got his Bill passed, and every Municipality had petitioned in favour of the Bill; but this House, so far as the Opposition were concerned, had turned a deaf ear to these representations. So long as Scottish Members were there they ought to be allowed to pass their own social legislation. He hoped that, whatever was done, the House would see the propriety of giving something to the Scottish Members. He hoped their backbones would always stiffen, and, if the House did not give them what they wanted, that they would go a step further, and, like their Irish friends, maintain that they must settle their own affairs in their own country. His constituents and the great body of the people of Scotland said that the Scottish Members were not carrying out the purpose for which they were sent there, because there had been no legislation for Scotland worth speaking of.
§ * MR. ANSTRUTHER (St. Andrew's, &c.)
said, it appeared to him that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. R. T. Reid) was guilty of something like misrepresentation when he charged those who sat in that quarter of the House with performing at one time the difficult physical function of cheering 1188 with their tongues in their checks, and opposing measures of this kind in order that they might, from insidious motives, be enabled at some later period to quote the neglect of Scottish business against the Government of the day. He entirely disclaimed any such intention in opposing the Resolution of the Secretary for Scotland, and he did not think it lay in the mouth of his hon. and learned Friend to charge those who took the course they did on the Sea Fisheries Regulation Bill of last vear—a course acknowledged by the Secretary for Scotland as being one of great forbearance—it did not he with the hon. and learned Member to make so unfounded and unwarrantable a charge against them. It appeared that most of his hon. Friends representing Scottish constituencies, and especially those of them who, with some lack of enthusiasm, had supported this heroic remedy, entirely ignored the magnitude of the Constitutional change which was proposed by the Resolution. It seemed most anomalous that that Resolution should have been advocated, in the first place, by the present Secretary for Scotland, and, in the second place, by the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Denbighshire, both of whom were Members of the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, which was responsible for the initiation of the principle of devolution to Standing Committees. In the Debate which followed upon the Resolution of the late Prime Minister, in 1882, Sir Richard Cross challenged the Prime Minister as to whether he meant that his system should apply to measures relating to parts of the United Kingdom such as was now proposed by the Secretary for Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, interrupting Sir R. Cross, said with some vehemence—I never used such an expression, or intimated such an idea, that Scotland should be allowed to discuss its affairs by itself.Later on, in reply to another interruption, the right hon. Gentleman said it would be absurd to make any connection between these local matters and the Grand Committees. He (Mr. Anstruther), therefore, understood that the Grand Committees were advocated, in the first place, to devolve upon a section of the Members of the House the duty of considering in detail measures which were non-conten- 1189 tious, and which, it might be fairly expected, would be dealt with solely with reference to their merits, and, in the second place, that these measures should be general in their application, although special in their character. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), in the course of the Debate on the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, said he would advocate the division of the whole House into panels, on the condition that each should be a perfectly true miniature of the House itself. Did the Resolution of the Secretary for Scotland comply with any of these three conditions which had been universally accepted? The Secretary for Scotland had not mentioned, with the exception of the Local Government Bill, what were the measures which it was the intention of the Government to refer to the Standing Committee of Scottish Members. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman was entirely at variance with the principles laid down by the late Prime Minister, and they had very high authority for condemning a proposal which should compel the Members for any Division of tins United Kingdom to sit upon a Grand Committee by themselves. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dumfries had quoted the authority of Sir Erskine May; but he should be very much surprised to find that Sir Erskine May ever advocated a proposal which vitiated in three essentials the principles upon which Standing Committees had always been advocated and appointed. The late Mr. Forster, in 1882, only gave his consent to the Resolution of the Government on the understanding that the constitution of the Grand Committee should be fairly representative of the House. Was the Grand Committee proposed by the Secretary for Scotland a fair Committee? If this proposal of the right hon. Gentleman had been in operation in the last Parliament, they would have had a Committee consisting of 38 supporters and 49 opponents of the Government; while a fair constitution of such a Committee on the lines laid down for Grand Committees would have given the Government a majority of 15. Was this a fair Committee? He submitted to the House that the plan now proposed by the Government was not a fair one. But the right hon. Gentleman might have gone further. It so happened 1190 that this Parliament was most favourable to the proposed plan, and it had a semblance of fairness about it. In the last Parliament the balance of the Parties in the House presented a somewhat different aspect than they did now, for the majority of the Scotch Members who would thou have voted for the proposal would have been 14. The majority for the Government at the General Election of 1886 was 118 (394 against 277), the Scotch Members being 43 against 29, a majority of 14 against the Government of the day, If this remedy which the right hon. Gentleman expected to work so smoothly and from which he anticipated so little friction had been adopted in the last Parliament, the Scotch Committee would have consisted of 38 Members supporting the Government and 49 against—a majority of I against the Government, while the fair constitution under the Rules of the House (Standing Order 48) of the Grand Committee in 1887 would have been a majority of 15 in favour of the Government, so that the difference in reality would have been 26 in the whole. They had a still further means of testing how the principles proposed to be adopted by the Government were likely to prove fair in their application. Lord Rosebery had, in forecasting what the next Parliament would be, anticipated that he would have 385 supporters against 285 of the Opposition, and that the Scotch. Members would be divided in the proportion of 62 to 10. According to that forecast there would be a difference of no less than 42 votes between the constitution of the Scotch Grand Committee, and a Grand Committee appointed under the present Standing Order. He thought he had shown conclusively that the proposal of the right hon. Baronet had not fulfilled the three main conditions under which Standing Committees had been on former occasions sanctioned by this House. They had been told that the proposal would commend itself to hon. Members on several grounds. It was said that there was no time given for the proper discussion of Scotch business. So far as his experience had gone during the time he had had the honour of sitting in the House, he had noticed that whenever Scotch Members had really a bonâ fide reform to bring forward they were met by the greatest consideration, and every facility for fully discussing the Bill was 1191 given them. When, on the other hand, the measure put forward was merely a "log-rolling" affair, the Scotch Members competing with a number of other sections, the Government very justly and properly ignored it. In the last Parliament the Scotch Members supporting the Government represented a proportion of one-thirteenth of the whole Party; the proportion was in the present Session one-seventh, so that if they wore unable now to induce the Government to give adequate time to the consideration of Scotch business, he could only say that either their influence or their importunity varied in an inverse ratio to their numbers. They had been told that evening with considerable hardihood by the hon. Member for South Edinburgh—who certainly had spoken with very considerable authority on Scotch matters—that he had been elected to represent a Scotch burgh for Scotch considerations first and Imperial considerations afterwards. He had seen also that another Englishman and Scotch Member, the Home Secretary, had thought it worth his while to go down to Berwickshire to influence Scottish affairs. It was noticeable that in his speech at Duns he referred to the fact that he had no local connection with the county he represented. He made no charge against the right hon. Gentleman, and was quite willing to agree that for the purposes of representing the political views of the majority of East Fife on Imperial questions the right hon. Gentleman's opinion and vote was not only as good as any other man's, but better than many might be. But how did that square with the argument that the Scottish Members were specially qualified by the fact of representing Scottish constituencies to deal with the details of Scottish business? For example, what had he as a constituent of the Home Secretary to thank the right hon. Gentleman for since the Election of 1892? There had been sent him a pamphlet containing reports of two speeches delivered by the right hon. Gentleman in the constituency between 6 p.m. on one Friday in October last and 11 p.m. on the following night, with a note regretting that the official duties of the right hon. Gentleman prevented him from visiting other portions of the division of East Fife which he had the honour of representing in Parliament, and presenting his constituents with copies of his 1192 speeches. It was almost surprising he had not added "price 1d." He made no charge whatever against the right hon. Gentleman, nor did he allege that he was disqualified for that reason to represent the political opinions of the majority of the electors of East Fife in the Imperial Parliament; but such a position of affairs destroyed the argument that the Scottish Members elected as at present had special qualifications for dealing in a Standing Committee with the details of Scottish business. One other consideration only had been put forward in support of this proposal. It was urged that the decisions of such a body would come before the House when Bills came back from the Grand Committee backed by such authority that they would at once be endorsed without a word of comment or criticism. If that were the case, then there was no necessity for the proposed devolution; if, however, it was not the case, the minority of the Committee holding strong opinions might choose to raise the whole issue in the House upon the Report stage, perhaps overruling the decision of the Committee, and leading to greater delay not only in reference to Scotch measures, but in the general business of the House, than the right hon. Gentleman seemed to anticipate. He was opposed to the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman wished to thrust upon them, because he believed that it fundamentally touched the principles upon which any system of devolution had hitherto been advocated. It would be really forced upon them by a majority who did not pretend to have any interest in Scotch affairs, which they would rather prefer to manage for themselves in Scotland. If that should be necessary they would prefer to work under the ægis of St. Andrew, and not to have St. George wandering across the Border to interfere with them when they were perfectly competent to take care of themselves. If they were to shift for themselves under their own national emblem they should not be asked to provide political provender for others as well. The right hon. Gentleman might search to the bottom every system of devolution, and he would find that so far from conducing to the smooth conduct of Scottish business, this proposal would lead to greater friction and to even greater delay than that which the Scottish Members had now so much reason to deplore.
§ SIR J. CARMICHAEL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
said, he would make no comments upon the speech of the hon. Member for St. Andrews, but would say at once that he would vote for the proposal of his right hon. Friend with unalloyed satisfaction. He had listened carefully to the Debate, and there was no single result anticipated from this proposal by any hon. Member on either side which he should not embrace with gratification. The Leader of the Opposition said that the proposal would revolutionise the procedure of the House of Commons. As far as Scotch business was concerned, that was a consummation devoutly to be wished, and if the necessary consequence of the Motion must be that a similar Committee should be granted to England, he was prepared to accept that result. The sooner their procedure was revolutionised the better. But they were told in the same breath that England would turn and refuse the boon of an English Grand Committee for English measures.
§ SIR J. CARMICHAEL
said, they had been told that it would be regarded as a most pernicious measure. He could understand that, position, because English Members were in so large a majority that they already could be sure of controlling their own business if they felt strongly on any subject; but it would be rather acting like the dog-in-the-manger to refuse what was asked by the majority of Scotch Members on the ground that, they did not want it themselves. The hon. Member for Central Leeds pointed out that if these Committees were established no Unionist Government, would ever be able to legislate for Scotland, and no Radical Government could ever legislate for England, because in both cases the measures would be mutilated in the Grand Committee. That argument involved an admission that legislation was now forced on Scotland and England against the wishes of those countries, and surely it would be better that each country should wait for a sympathetic Government to legislate for it than to continue the present system. The House was also told that this Grand Committee was only the half-way house to Home Rule. If that were the case, again he would hail the result with great, gratification. He would give his vote now in favour of Scotch Members managing their own business, and to-morrow for 1194 their managing it in Scotland. Home Rule was, no doubt, looked upon by their Unionist Members with no great favour as being a disintegration of the Empire, but that fear reminded him very much of what happened in the days of Eli, who used to tremble for the ark of God.
§ * MR. A. G. MURRAY (Buteshire)
said, it had been suggested that this Motion was constituted on the same lines as the Standing Committee which were provided for under Standing Order, No. 47, but he denied that there was any resemblance in the proposal of the Government to a Standing Committee as hitherto understood. It differed from them in three essential particulars. The principle now proposed was one of nationality, and the Committee was not kept primarily for non-contentious matters. Further, the Committee would not be like previous Committees with which they were acquainted. Again, unlike every other Committee, Grand or otherwise, with which they had been hitherto acquainted, it, would not be in its composition like the rest of the House, divided between the Parties in the same proportion as in the House. Further than that, there was the point that this Committee was to apply to Scotland alone, and that so far as the intentions of the Government had been indicated there were not to be similar Committees for either England, Wales, or Scotland. That point had, however, been very admirably dealt with by the hon. Member for St. Andrews. He wished to call attention to the extraordinary proceeding of the Government in the conduct of the Debate. The Leader of the Opposition at a very early period of the Debate called attention to several very important principles which were violated by the proposal of the Government, and showed that, either by accident or design, the right hon. Gentleman who proposed the Motion kept out of view entirely the great Parliamentary change which it entailed and the far-reaching effect which would flow from that change. That speech of his right hon. Friend was delivered at 5 o'clock, and having listened to every speech since delivered, he had no hesitation in saying that there had not in the interval been the faintest shadow of an attempt to answer any one of the arguments of his right hon. Friend. He thought that the cat had been let out of the bag by the hon. Member for 1195 Dumfries, when he said that the proposal originated, not in the views of the Government, but in the fact that the Scotch Members had been for some time making themselves somewhat unpleasant. Although they had a Cabinet bristling with Scotchmen, they had seen few of them that night. They had had a few transient visits from the Secretary for War, but where was the Leader of the House? He was, perhaps, closeted with his convictions and sympathies which in a gentleman like him, with his respect for Parliamentary traditions, were far away indeed from the Motion before the House. The points made with such clearness by the Leader of the Opposition were, first, that the Members of Scotch constituencies were not specially qualified above all other Members to deal with the details of Scotch measures, because they were elected not upon local but upon Imperial considerations; secondly, that the point of demarcation between measures was more often one between burgh and county rather than between England and Scotland; thirdly, that the definition of a purely Scotch question was impossible; fourthly, that the effect of passing this measure would be that you would inflict an insult upon England if you denied a similar measure to her; and, finally, that it would become quite impossible to carry on Government on the true and old Party lines, unless they had by accident that which they never had had—a general majority in Parliament represented by a majority of each of the four nations. He ventured to assert, without fear of contradiction, that these arguments of the Leader of the Opposition had been left unanswered. The Member for South Edinburgh, who was eminently qualified to give an answer, if it could be given, had only shown that the case for the Government was poor indeed. He had suggested the possibility of the Government being out-voted, and of finding himself fighting alongside the hon. Member for East Lanarkshire, but the picture of the Ethiopian changing his skin and the leopard its spots would only apply where they were dealing with measures which were truly non-contentious. His very argument was destructive of the proposition of the general plan. The only other argument he advanced was that they ought not to deal with the question of proportion, as that was an arithmetical fallacy. A majority was a majority, and 1196 it did not matter whether it was proportionately large or small. He doubted if the hon. Member for Merionethshire would have subscribed to that theory on the previous Tuesday week. They also had a speech from the Member for East Denbighshire, who, referring to the Gaelic and Welsh tongues, talked about the brogue of Burns. He would like to say in reference to that—although he feared the observation might fall flat—that they might depend upon it that if Burns had a brogue, he wore it on his foot and not upon his tongue. The only argument that had been advanced on the Government side that night was that Scotch legislation in the past had not gone on so quickly as could have been desired, and that, therefore, a Grand Committee was necessary. But if quickness alone was desired, why have a Committee at all? Why not appoint a Committee of five of the Government's own supporters, or why not settle the business at a caucus at Dover House? The mere question of quickness did not grapple with the difficulties put forward by his right hon. Friend. He had pointed out that it was not proposed to form a similar Committee for England, but he would point out how English opinion had been borne down by Scotch opinion. The Secretary for Scotland said that a proper subject for consideration of the Grand Committee would be the Local Government Bill for Scotland. They had had the English Parish Councils Bill last Session, and he supposed that everybody would agree that one of the crucial points in Committee on that Bill was the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby. He had analysed the first Division on that Amendment, and he found that, whereas the Government had a majority of 46, if they deducted the Scotch and Irish Members from both sides, the Government would have been placed in a minority of 10. No doubt some hon. Members had had the courage of their opinions. The hon. Member for Dumfries had told them that he was willing, if necessary, to vote for equal treatment to England. But what did the Government say? The Government knew perfectly well that if they granted such a Committee for England the conduct of business in that House would, as the Leader of the Opposition had pointed out, be impossible. Then, as to the argument that Scotch Members were 1197 specially qualified to deal with Scotch matters, he ventured to suggest that on legal questions the number so qualified would be very few. It was supposed that the House at large would have some control over Scotch measures, because under this proposal it would be master of the Second Reading stage. The Secretary for Scotland said he could not understand any apprehensions of direct interference by the Scotch Grand Committee with any English points or English principles. Direct interference! No. But surely he must know that there was an indirect action—that where a measure was passed for one country it was likely to repeat itself in another. The right hon. Gentleman convicted himself even on this point out of his own mouth, because he said there was a debt due to Scotland, and that debt was a Parish Councils Bill. Why? Because they had passed an English Parish Councils Bill. Whenever legislation embodying new principles were successfully passed for one Kingdom, sooner or later it would, he ventured to assert, have an influence on the other. England obtained free education sooner than it would otherwise have done simply because Scotland got it a year or so before. He could point to countless instances where the really important principle of a measure was raised in Committee and not on the Second Reading. For instance, important as were the principles raised on the Second Reading of the Home Rule Bill, he ventured to say that far more important points were raised in Committee on that Bill. That was proved by the very title of the Bill itself. It was not even called the Home Rule Bill; it was called "a Bill to amend the Provisions of the Government of Ireland," and that might have meant anything. The really important points involving changes of Constitutional law were raised in Committee. He might mention other instances. There was the dissociation of taxation and representation, which would be involved in some Bills to come before them, but that point would have to be raised in Committee, especially in connection with the Registration Bills. The same applied to questions of the incidence of taxation as regarded real and personal property. Let them take this year's Bills. He found that there were altogether 11 Scotch Bills, and out 1198 of these he could find only one, or at most two, which did not seem to raise a perfectly general principle—a principle as applicable to England as to Scotland, and it would be out of the question to say that these principles would not be, and ought not to be, debated in the full House. Let them take, for instance, the Church of Scotland Reference Bill. That measure obviously raised a very important Constitutional question—whether there should be a referendum to the people of Scotland on the question of Establishment or not. Next came a Bill which was not general, inasmuch as it simply raised a question as to the expenses of County Councils; but then there was the Crofters Holdings Amendment Act, which proposed to extend crofter legislation to all leaseholds under £30. Was not that a general question which would have a far-reaching effect from one country to the other? There were also, among other Bills, the Bill for the abolition of grocers' certificates and the Local Veto (Scotland) Bill. Surely these were not merely Scotch questions, but questions for the consideration of the entire Kingdom. Then there were the Mining Accidents Bill and the Bill dealing with the question of road subventions. On each of these Bills, if they were sent to a Grand Committee, questions of principle would arise proper for the discussion of the House in its full strength, and it would be a great pity if they were not debated by the whole House. The personal question could not entirely be left out of view. It had been conceded by some hon. Members opposite that the result of passing this Motion would be that some of the Scotch Members should not serve on any other Grand Committee. Speaking personally, however, he might say that he felt that if there was any way in which he could be of use on Grand Committees it would specially be in assisting the English Attorney General in amending the law of this country, by making to him suggestions for improvements borrowed from the more excellent law of Scotland. But under this plan he would not be able to do that. It would be a very great misfortune if they were deprived of the assistance, on Grand Committees, of several Scotch Members who now served most usefully and efficiently on them. There were, for instance, his right hon. Friend the Leader of the 1199 Opposition, also one of the hon. Members for Ipswich, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for North-East Manchester. It might be suggested that they could be included in the 15 added Members, but it was not to be supposed the Committee would be composed exclusively of Scotchmen. It was, furthermore, said that there would be a certain amount of check in discussing matters upon Report; but, after the experience of last Session on the Employers' Liability Bill, be would have thought that nobody would be very much enamoured of discussing, upon Report, matters which had not been raised on previous stages. What was the proposed Scotch Committee going to do upstairs? If their decisions were going to be discussed at length and revised in the House afterwards, it would raise a truly national grievance, and he would object to go upstairs to take part in a mere Debating Society, instead of as at present conducting, with others, the Imperial business of that Imperial House of Commons. It might be said that there had been a great deal of delay in passing Scotch Bills, but during the late Government they managed to get through a good deal of Scotch legislation, and if so much had not been managed lately, he suggested that Scotch Members on the other side might make themselves a little more unpleasant. Some people liked to be wooed with blandishments rather than by rougher wooing. The experience of the Irish Members seemed to show that the Government preferred the latter kind. He really thought some way might be found for getting through Scotch business without adopting a measure which would work badly in itself and would certainly effect a dislocation of all their old ideas of Parliamentary procedure.
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J.B. BALFOUR,) Clackmannan, &c.
My hon. and learned Friend began by stating that the Standing Committee proposed to be constituted was one in name, but not in nature. He spoke as if such Committees were in some sense sacred, and as if they had the advantage of great antiquity. But, as a matter of fact, the Standing Committees of the past 12 years were themselves an experiment, and in the discussions which took place in 1881 or 1882 many of the objections which we have heard to-night were raised. It was, however, quite the intention of the 1200 House, unless my memory deceives me, that, if those Grand Committees proved successful, their range, operation, and utility should be extended, and the mere fact that this would be an additional Grand Committee is no reason against establishing it. I, therefore, cannot admit that argument of my hon. Friend. If the experiment is one that seems tit for extension there is no Parliamentary Rule or law why it should not be extended. In this case it may well be that nationality will form a guide for giving a range of subjects to be so dealt with. One of the matters which we had in view when those Grand Committees were first set up was that there should be a certain fitness, or assumed fitness, on the part of those who were invited to serve upon them for the particular subjects to which their attention was to be addressed. Accordingly, in setting up the Grand Committee on Law, a preponderating number of lawyers was placed upon it, and in the same way in connection with the Grand Committee on Trade, a large number of Members were selected who were supposed to have wide experience in trade and commerce. That principle at once constitutes a guide in forming a Grand Committee to deal with the special and peculiar affairs of particular nationalities. That is what we propose to do in this case, and therefore it seems to me that the argument of my hon. and learned Friend, so far as it is founded on precedent and Parliamentary practice, is not valid, seeing that all we propose to do is to make a moderate extension of a principle which is not in itself many years old. The next point of my hon. and learned Friend was that the original intention of appointing Grand Committees was that they should deal with non-contentious matters, by which I suppose he meant matters non-contentious in a political or Party sense. I suppose there never has been any Bill sent to these Grand Committees which has not raised very fair subjects of contention—contention, however, of a kind which I hope may be solved, and which often has been solved, by friendly and full and fair discussions. There are a great many such Bills applicable to Scotland, and I hope we are not so contentious that we fight politically about everything. I can hardly imagine a matter in which there is a better 1201 prospect of the more satisfactory conditions which my hon. and learned Friend desires than the very example which has been mentioned to-night of the Parish Councils Bill. That is a measure on which the immense majority of the questions likely to arise are not, as far as I conceive or know, in the least likely to be contentions in a Party sense. But I am not prepared to admit that when a Bill has been read a second time, and the House as a whole has affirmed its general principle, the fact that some contentions matters may remain is a reason against sending it to a Grand Committee. If a Bill did involve matters of a character which were not fit for such a Committee the House need not send it to the Committee. I must remind the House that the proposal of the Government is not to require that all Bills should be sent to a Grand Committee. The proposal will leave it to the House to select such Bills as are fit in its judgment to be sent to such a Committee. These were the principal points my hon. and learned Friend stated as against the proposal to apply this very useful principle of Grand Committees to Scotch questions. I do not admit in the least that nationality, merely forming a guide or indication, may not be very useful as pointing the way to the Committee stage. If we look at this matter in a mere practical way, I am sure that all who have had the honour of carrying Scotch Bills through Committees of the whole House know that when a Scotch Bill gets into Committee, it resolves itself as a matter of fact into a Grand Committee of Scotch Members, and the discussion is conducted solely by Scotch Members. Some English and Irish Members have told me that they were quite unable to understand the phraseology of the Bills we were dealing with, and for that and other reasons they left us to ourselves. It is quite plain that there are very many Bills relating to Scotland, and to other parts of the country as well, with respect to which it is necessary that there should be a great deal of somewhat conversational discussion, and I do not at all share the feeling of my hon. and learned Friend, or it may have been some previous speaker, that if Scotch Bills were sent to a Grand Committee, instead of being left in a more peaceful atmosphere, such as he said reigns usually with the House, they would be in a more stormy atmosphere, such as he said reigns usually 1202 in Grand Committees. My experience of Grand Committees is exactly the opposite. I do not profess to impure into the reasons for it, but it does seem as if a Grand Committee is much more of a business body than the House itself. Therefore, that argument is not one which should deter the House from adopting this proposal if it otherwise commends itself My hon. and learned Friend said the Government had not answered some of the arguments advanced by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J. Balfour). I am quite sure that no one in this part of the House intended any discourtesy by that, and, of course, the answer will come in good time. I have tabulated the points which my hon. and learned Friend said were made by the Leader of the Opposition, He said, in the first place, that Members were elected not for local but for national purposes. Of course, I quite admit that Members are elected for national or Imperial purposes, but I utterly deny that they are not elected also for local purposes. They are elected for both purposes, and accordingly if a Member is going to fulfil the full measure of his functions he will take part in the discussion of Imperial matters in the House as a whole, and he will, in dealing with local matters, at least as appropriately take part in the discussion, and will do so more effectively, I think, in a body smaller than the House, and one which will give more attention to local interests. It would be quite a mistake to say that either class of interest was exclusive of the other. They both exist, and a Member would not fulfil his duties rightly unless he attended to both. The fact that a Member is elected for Imperial as well as local purposes is no argument against this method of devolution of the latter to a Grand Committee. Another point the right hon. Gentleman raised was as to the distinction between burgh and county Members. I must confess that I do not quite see what bearing that has upon the question. One of the great values of either a Grand Committee or the House as a whole is that they contain Representatives not of one type of constituency only, but of all types. The proposal is not to elect the burgh Members alone, or the county Members alone, but to elect them all. They would, therefore, be qualified to represent the country in all its aspects and all its interests. The 1203 third point which my hon. and learned Friend said the Leader of the Opposition had taken was that there was no definition of what were Scotch subjects. The language used in the Resolution is "all Bills relating exclusively to Scotland." I do not think that is difficult to understand. You have only to read a Bill to see whether it relates exclusively to Scotland. If it does, it may be sent to the Grand Committee, and if it does not, it will not be so sent. But surely there is nothing in the definition to make it impossible, either by a ruling of the Chair, or—what is left quite open by this proposal—the determination of the House, to decide whether a Bill is fitted to be referred to such a Committee or not. The House is left the master of the reference, and if the House should, in its wisdom, think that a Bill does not relate exclusively to Scotland, it has the power to keep it. Another point raised by the right hon. Gentleman was that this would be adding insult to injury. I am quite sure that no one from Scotland has the least desire to speak with the least disrespect of England, but I do not in the least see how by offering to withdraw our presence or——
§ MR. J. B. BALFOUR
If England wants it, and gives the same evidence of a desire for it that Scotland does, England will be able to take it. I am not aware that there is any reason why, if England wants it, she should not have it. But I ask how can it be an insult to England, or to anybody else, to allow Scotland to settle the details of her own domestic affairs, and prepare them for the ultimate judgment of the House? Then the Leader of the Opposition said that discussions in Committee would be carried on upon Party lines, unless you have corresponding proportions of Representatives of each of the four nations. There, again, I could quite understand the objection if the proposal was to begin and end Bills by the decision of the Scotch Members, because it might be said that you would have inconsistent legislation with respect to the different counties. But surely if the House is the master of the Second Reading, and of the Report stage and Third Reading, it has in its own hands the power of preserving consistency and continuity of 1204 legislation. I cannot doubt that, so far from our adding insult to injury, the prevalent feeling in England will be one of amity and generosity to Scotland, and that there will be a desire to allow the smaller country, which has certain peculiarities, or, rather, differences of law and custom, to deal with one stage of its own Bills, and to save the House the time and trouble of dealing with that stage. The Leader of the Opposition said this was a change that would revolutionise the proceedings of this House. That sounds remarkably like what one heard said for days and weeks in 1882. I do not think it would revolutionise the proceedings of the House at all; but suppose it did, if it was reasonably necessary for carrying on the purposes for which this House exists, some change should plainly be allowed. I would just put it to hon. Members on both sides of the House who object to this proposal, are they satisfied with the existing provisions for the conduct of Scotch business? If they are satisfied, I understand their opposition; if not, I do not understand why they should oppose our scheme without tabling some alternative scheme. I have not heard anyone go the length of saying that there is no necessity for some change. We all know very well that the increase of what may be called the Imperial or general business of this House is so great that the House has not been in later times so able to devote itself to local questions and local interests as it was before. It has become a matter of almost universal admission that there must be some devolution. Many gentlemen opposite I know object very strongly to the idea of anything in the nature of Home Rule for Scotland. I should have thought that was exactly the state of mind that would have led them to welcome this moderate and temperate proposal. It is a proposal which will keep under the absolute control of Parliament all Scotch measures, while, at the same time, it will enable Scotch Members at one particular stage to shape after full discussion of a Bill its details, and to bring it back to the House in a form approved by the prevalent sense of Scotland. My hon. and learned Friend said that some of the enactments of the Parish Councils Bill were carried by Scotch and Irish votes. Be it so. Even if this proposal is assented to, it will be quite open to English Members, if they desire, after the Committee 1205 stage, to over-rule what has been done by the Scotch Members. I do not think they would exercise that power; I have far too high an opinion of their generosity to believe it, but they would have the power; and, therefore, there is no inequality in that treatment. There is one other point upon which I should like to say a word. It has been over and over again said to-night, "Why don't you ask for more time from the Government?" There has been a series of appeals to my hon. Friends on this side asking why they do not press the Government for more time. That would be a most excellent argument if time was an unlimited commodity, and if the Government had the whole time of the House to deal with and give away. But the Government have only a limited time to work upon. There are some things to be done which will not brook delay or postponement, and any Government must necessarily, in disposing of its limited quantity of time, have regard to the pressing character of the necessities of the case, and sometimes, perhaps, to the number of those who are making claims upon them. That being so, the smallest country is almost certain to go to the wall, and that, again, is a reason, when time is so necessarily limited, why it is difficult to give to Scotland as much of the time of Parliament as she reasonably requires. ["Why?"] I have already staled that time being of limited quantity, and matters of Imperial concern having the first claim, and there being a larger number of claims from other quarters, there is a tendency for Scotland not to got what she requires. It is not intended by this proposal to evade any claims which belong to the greater and more pressing questions, but side by side we desire to advance and mature the Committee stage of certain Bills, and, therefore, the suggestion that a demand should be made upon the time of the House which the House has not to give, and that hon. Members for England should be kept hanging about the Lobbies outside—because I am afraid they are not much interested in the Committee stages of these Bills—is not: a good reason for opposing this moderate and temporary devolution, and by which you gain a remedy greatly needed. My hon. Friend seemed to dread the effect of what I may call the reaction of the decisions by the Scotch Grand 1206 Committee upon English legislation. He said that though the decisions of the Grand Committee might have no direct effect, they would have an indirect effect. I am very much flattered by that suggestion, because the only indirect effect they could have would be by reason of their reasonableness and propriety, and I should not have expected that my hon. Friend, as a Scotchman, would have used the argument that the decisions of the Committee would have an indirect effect on English legislation as an argument against this proposal. These are the main points which were touched upon by my hon. and learned Friend. He gave as an instance of subjects which could not be left to such a Committee the difference in the two systems in regard to land tenure. I could not imagine a better example of what might with propriety be left to be dealt with by a Scotch Committee than the one which relates to the highly technical and special relations of landlord and tenant and of land tenure generally in Scotland. The Crofters Act might be given as an instance of that. It has been a great benefit to the country, and it is the kind of measure which might usefully go to a Scotch Committee. My hon. and learned Friend referred to the Referendum, to Disestablishment, and various other Bills, but every one of these Bills would be dealt with as regards its principle upon the Second Heading. The question as to whether there should be a Referendum, or Disestablishment, would be decided by the House as a whole, and only in the event of the House as a whole deciding that they were matters to be dealt with in Committee, would they make this reference to the Grand Committee of Scotch Members. If they decided in favour of such a reference, then I submit to the House it would be only reasonable it should be made to a Committee composed in the way proposed in this Resolution.
§ * MR. THORBURN (Peebles and Selkirk)
remarked that during the time he had sat in this House he had never heard a measure proposed with less argument in its favour to the House than the one now under discussion. The right hon. Gentleman in submitting it stated three propositions: first of all, that the existing state of matters required a remedy; secondly, that the scheme must be 1207 efficacious; and, thirdly, that those best able to judge of the matter were in favour of this proposal. He thought that no one would dispute that the existing business conditions ought to be remedied, but he doubted whether the remedy proposed by the Government would be efficacious. As regarded the remark that those best able to judge were in its favour, he thought it very likely that the right hon. Gentleman and himself took different views as to the capacity of gentlemen to form an opinion on this matter. The right hon. Gentleman stated that it would give more time to the business of the House. He was directly at issue with the right hon. Gentleman on that point. He believed if this proposal were carried out that the discussions upon Scotch questions in this House would not be materially lessened, because each Bill would be discussed to the fullest degree when it came to the Report stage and Third Reading. The right hon. Gentleman also complained that the congested state of the business of the House was such that as constituted it was not able to overtake Scotch business. He thought the present Government to a great extent—at all events, in this Parliament—were to blame for that, because they had got the millstone of the Irish question about their neck, together with the Newcastle Programme, and no doubt these two formidable items blocked the way. This Committee, they were told, was to be composed of all Scotch Members, plus 15 added by the Committee of Selection. Unless these 15 to be added were all Unionists, then the Grand Committee upstairs would not reflect the political complexion of this House, and that, to his mind, was a fatal objection to this proposal. Even if all the 15 added Members were Unionists, the political complexion of the House would still not be represented. The right hon. Gentleman said that when Scotch business was being discussed in this House it was left entirely to Scotch Members, and English Members did not put in an appearance to hear the arguments. But the very same thing might be said of English questions which Scotch Members voted upon. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he did not wish for the support of his Irish allies that night who had been conspicuous by their absence throughout the whole of this 1208 Debate? The right hon. Gentleman had described his proposal as a useful and workmanlike scheme. For his part, he was inclined to adopt the views of the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow, when, speaking some two or three years ago on a similar proposal in this House, he described it as a peddling proposal. He would describe this proposal as not only peddling but parochial. It was said that Members would be able to speak at length in this Grand Committee and that there would be no Closure, but he found from the Reports that the Closure had again and again been applied in Grand Committees. The hon. Member for South Edinburgh had made a very remarkable speech. There was no argument in it in favour of this proposal, but he supposed the hon. Member wished to appear before his constituents as more Scotch than Scotchmen themselves. The hon. Gentleman said he took little interest in any question which was not Scotch. [Mr. PAUL: No.] If the hon. Member denied it he was quite prepared to accept his denial. He could only say for himself that while he was a Scotchman he took a great interest in many English questions, and he was an Imperialist out and out. He was proud of being a Scotchman, but he was still prouder of being a citizen of this great Empire, and he protested against the proposal of the Government as derogating from the power of the Imperial Parliament. If this Committee were given to Scotland, the same treatment could not logically be refused to England and Ireland, and possibly also to Wales. The result of such an arrangement would be to give a Radical complexion to Scotch questions referred to the Committee, a Conservative complexion to English questions, a possibly revolutionary complexion to Irish questions, and a Radical complexion to Welsh questions. When the Gladstonian Party were in power Scotch questions which went to the Grand Committee might also pass through this House. English questions, however, would not in all probability be passed as they left the Grand Committee, and as to Irish questions, it would depend very much upon the necessities of the Government whether they were allowed to pass them or not. When a Unionist Government was in power Scotch questions would not go through this House in the state they passed the Grand Com- 1209 mittee; English questions would, in all probability, pass through the House, but Irish questions certainly would not. If the Government said they would pass similar Committees for England, Ireland, and Wales their position would be logical, but not otherwise. The late Mr. Bright, speaking at Birmingham in 1886, did make a suggestion similar to this, but he did so as an alternative to Home Rule. Did the Government mean this as a substitute for Home Rule, not only as regarded Scotland, but as regarded Ireland and the other portions of the United Kingdom? If so, while strongly objecting to the principle, he would consider whether he could not look upon it in a more favourable light than be did at the present moment. But would hon. Gentlemen from Ireland accept it as an alternative to Home Rule. He suspected they would not, for Ireland would not then be a nation in the sense desired by those hon. Members. In only one case, to his mind, would a Grand Committee for Scotch questions be satisfactory, and that would be for Bills which were non-contentious. If contentious measures were taken, then the time of the Grand Committee would be practically wasted, because the measures would be again fully discussed in the House on the Report and Third Reading stages. If the Grand Committee were constituted of Scotch Members, another objection was that they would not be able to serve on other Grand Committees or very likely on other Committees in that House. In the last Session of Parliament 43 Scotch Members served on the Scotch Committees; 18 Members served on one Committee, 11 on two, 9 on three, and 5 on four; and taking the average sittings as five, that represented a very considerable amount of work. This Parliament had a great record since the Union of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and he would do nothing which should in any way weaken the authority of that Parliament.
§ SIR E. CLARKE (Plymouth)
said, he noticed that there were sympathetic cheers when the last speaker claimed that as a Scottish Member he was entitled to speak on this important subject, but it might be possibly thought that it was time for English Members to take part in this Debate. They had had 19 speeches either from Scotchmen or 1210 from Englishmen representing Scotch constituencies, and so far there had been only one speech by an Englishman representing an English constituency. It was desirable, be thought, that some debate at all events upon this matter should take place by English Members of Parliament, having regard to the effect that this great proposal would have upon their position. He did not imagine for a moment that the speech of the Lord Advocate was intended as an answer to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. The way in which his right hon. and learned Friend said that an answer would be made in good time showed that he was not looking upon his own speech as a summing up and reply, and there was a more remarkable evidence of that fact than was shown in the modesty of the observation to which he had referred, afforded by the Lord Advocate expressly declining to deal with the cardinal proposition of the Amendment which the Leader of the Opposition had put before the House. That cardinal proposition was that the proposal made to the House was one of so much gravity and so far-reaching in its effect that this House would decline to consider it unless the Ministry proposing it to the House and the Ministry which would have the conduct of affairs under the new state of circumstances set up by the new Rule was ready to declare to the House the whole of its mind and purpose with regard to this matter. It was quite obvious that this proposal before the House was a proposal in itself of a very limited scope. A great deal of the discussion which had taken place that evening would have been much more appropriate to-morrow evening when there was to be a Committee to consider the methods of advancing the business of the House. If they were only to deal with this proposal in the spirit in which some hon. Members had addressed themselves to the discussion, they might fairly have said that to-morrow night's Debate might be considered as an adjournment of this, and speeches might then be made which might be considered as a prolongation of this Debate. But it was something far different that they were discussing. He was almost as enthusiastic a reformer of the procedure of this House as was the hon. Member for Dundee, and during the last 10 or 12 years he had ventured to advocate alterations of its 1211 Rules which, he believed, would have assisted it to carry on the business. When Scotch Members in plaintive tones told them they were unable to bring Private Bills to a fruition and unable to obtain for them deliberate discussion and the adequate judgment of the House, they were not speaking of a grievance known to the Scotch Members alone. There were English Members who were just as anxious to pass Bills as the hon. Member for Dundee was to take away grocers' licences; but just as the hon. Member had to wait for an opportunity of discussing that fully before a delighted House, so English Members had to wait for an opportunity of discussing many Bills which a good many of them had got tired of putting down on the Notice Paper of the House, and in many cases had abandoned in despair. One of the Scotch Members had pointed out to them that this was not a matter upon which the Scotch Members had any very peculiar and remarkable grievances, and when that Scotch Member told them that in 12 years Scotland had passed 102 Bills against 318 for England, it appeared to some of them that Scotland had had, on the whole, rather an unfair share of the legislative activity of the House. But these questions merely of how they could promote the discussion of Private Bills or the passing of more Bills through the House were matters upon which they could meet without any great clashing of Party hostility, and he dared say that tomorrow evening, when he hoped the House would be discussing seriously and with a desire to do good work the Motion for a Committee to inquire into the arrangements that might be made for forwarding their business, it would be found that no division of Party would separate them in endeavouring to push forward reforms in the arrangements of this House. But this proposal of the Secretary for Scotland was a very much graver matter. His right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate talked about this being a moderate extension of the system of Grand Committees. He surely must have allowed to pass from his mind altogether the essential distinction between the Grand Committee now proposed and 'any Grand or Select Committees ever appointed by this House. For the first time they were asked to draw distinctions between 1212 Members of the House as to their legislative authority and legislative work—distinctions which were not themselves set up by their training or capacity to inform the House upon the subject before it, but simply dependent upon the accident of their coming from one particular constituency. If there was one principle that had maintained the dignity of this House and given it efficiency and authority for its work it had been the steadfast maintenance of that principle which years ago Edmund Burke expressed in the splendid language, that a Member of Parliament was not a delegate for a particular constituency, but that, when he was elected, whether he came from an English, Irish, or Scotch constituency, he was a Member of one Parliamentary Assembly, sharing with his fellows, with equal rights and equal responsibilities, the duty of doing his best for the welfare of the whole country. That was the principle of Membership of Parliament amongst them, and that was the only principle upon which Membership of this House could remain what it was to many of them—a great enjoyment and pride. To set up any other principle, to suggest that a Member who came to this House was to be considered here as simply the Representative of a certain number of persons living in one particular locality, would destroy the dignity and pleasure of the position of Members of Parliament altogether. They had a very curious instance the other day in this House of the sort of feeling to which he was referring. It would be remembered that, not a fortnight ago, there was a discussion in this House involving the question of the Naval Estimates. A strong protest—and, in principle, a very right one—was made against the special activity of Members representing certain constituencies in this House with regard to public expenditure. Why was the protest made? It was made upon the distinct ground that, when a Member of Parliament came to this House, he ceased to be, or ought to cease to be, merely the advocate of the local interest and class of persons in his constituency and take his share of Imperial responsibility and larger Parliamentary duties. He said this was a very grave matter. It was not an extension of the Grand Committee system, but an entire departure from the principle 1213 upon which that system was based. He did not want to admit, even casually, that he thought the system of Grand Committees in this House had been a success. He did not think that system was a success. There were, no doubt, Bills of the class of Bankruptcy Bills, or Partnership Bills, which might very well be sent to a Grand Committee; but they had found in their experience of Grand Committees, constituted even in the fair way in which they were appointed, they had broken down directly there had boon a difference on the question before them involving strong Party feelings. Hon. Members of the House would recollect how the right hon. and learned Member for Bury was disappointed in 1883 that he could not carry through the Grand Committee his Bill for the consolidation of the Criminal Law, because the moment they came to a matter which involved the antagonism of the Irish Members the whole work of the Committee was thrown away. On two occasions the Grand Committees had had the Employers' Liability Bill before them, and the whole time of these Grand Committees had been absolutely wasted. He did not think, except for matters which involved no Party antagonism at all, and no principles upon which Members felt strongly, that Grand Committees were valuable, and for these he did not think the machinery of a Grand Committee was wanted at all. He was not one who believed in the system of Grand Committees, and he should be glad if the House adopted some simple Amendment introducing a Rule by which it would find itself able without difficulty to discharge the legislative business it wanted to do. The right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division, in proposing this Resolution, said it was necessary for them first to prove that there was a necessity for the taking of this step. He agreed the light hon. Gentleman ought to have proved it, but he did not, and the fault of his speech was that he began by stating what he ought to show, and sat down, after a not very prolonged speech, without having shown it at all. The right hon. Gentleman did not tell them for what Bills the Government desired to have this Grand Committee appointed. He did indicate one—-the Scottish Local Government Bill—which he would propose to send to the Committee, but whether that would or would not be a fit Bill to go to a 1214 Grand Committee he (Sir E. Clarke) did not know. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned no other, though, before he came forward to make such a vast change as this would cause in the Rules of the House, he was bound to show the House what it was the Government wanted to do, and had not been able to do because of the difficulties that existed; and although they had taken every means to overcome the difficulties, the right hon. Gentleman did neither. He mentioned one Bill—the Scottish Local Government Bill—but that Bill had not yet been introduced. Where was his example of Bills the Government had introduced and had tried to push forward and failed to carry because of those difficulties? They knew why he did not mention thorn, because the mind of everybody went back at once to the Scotch Suspensory Bill and that marvellous effort of legislative activity, the Scottish Fisheries Bill, and for the right hon. Gentleman to have mentioned those to the House would have been to evoke not sympathy, but to have raised a laugh, so, of course, he did not mention them. But the right hon. Gentleman had brought no instance before the House of a Bill which had been actually brought forward, and which had failed to pass because of these great difficulties. He told them of no Scottish Bill that had ever been referred to the Grand Committee as constituted with regard to which any difficulty had arisen. He believed that only once or twice had a Scottish Bill been referred to a Grand Committee, and he was quite sure that in these one or two instances there was not a failure. So they had this great Constitutional change proposed to the House, the extent of which the Government would not tell them—first, without being told what the views were that the Government desired to advance, and, secondly, without having any statement from the Government as to the difficulty found in the present practice of the House. Then there was another very important thing to be considered in this case. When the Government proposed the present system of Grand Committees the understanding was—and the plan had been acted upon almost invariably since—that only Government Bills were to be submitted to these Grand Committees; and although that had been slightly departed from, he did not think that any private Member's Bill had been 1215 submitted to the Grand Committee unless it were connected with some Government proposal which had been already submitted to the Committee, or was in the process of such submission. But in this case all the private Members among the Scotch Members of this House would be on this Grand Committee; and were they to have the advantage of having all their Bills which had been in private Members' hands sent up to this Committee? Surely if private Scotch Members were to have the advantage of Committees at which all the difficulties which beset other Members of the House in their measures were to be got rid of then the claims for a similar Committee on the part of England, Ireland, and Wales were irresistible. It would be a case of grievous hardship to all the English Members of this House if their Scotch compeers had a Committee ready in one part of the House to deal with their Private Bills, while they were condemned to all the delays and disappointments of the general system under which they had suffered. He ventured, therefore, to say upon all these three grounds that this was something far more serious than what his right hon. and learned Friend spoke of as a moderate extension of the system of Grand Committees in this House, and he would make a further protest against it upon another ground. Hitherto, when the House had dealt in any way with the devolution of its work, it was selected either by its own direct action or the action of some of its trusted Members, persons whose capacity qualified them for dealing with the measures submitted to the Committee. How would that principle be interfered with here? The Committee would consist of Scotch Members. How about Scotchmen who were not Scotch Members? The arrangement which would exclude them would be an unnatural and an unfair one, because their exclusion would result in Members being appointed upon this Scottish Committee who were inferior in their knowledge of Scottish matters to many of those who were outside the ranks of the Scottish Members.
It being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Thursday.