HC Deb 03 April 1894 vol 22 cc1287-315
MR. DALZIEL (&c.) Kirkcaldy,

I rise to move— That it is desirable, while retaining intact the power and supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, to establish a Legislature in Scotland for dealing with purely Scottish affairs. I am not unconscious of the fact that, having regard to the proposal submitted yesterday by the Government, closely affecting the position and character of Scotch business, there may be a disposition in some quarters to regard my proposal as somewhat unnecessary and inopportune. That is not my view. On the contrary, I doubt whether, if I had been privileged to select my own time, I could have chosen a moment more calculated to bring home to the mind of the House and the country the force of my Resolution, and the expediency of adopting the principle which it involves. What are the circumstances? Yesterday and to-day two proposals have been made for Committees—one by the Government, and the other by an influential Member of the Tory Party. The proposals differ in character and in detail; but they are alike in this—that they proceed upon the assumption that the state of business in the House has arrived at the point when, if the Parliamentary machine is to discharge all the functions that are properly expected of it, some new and bold departure will have to be undertaken. We are agreed that the disease from which the patient is suffering is congestion. We only differ as to the remedy that is to be applied. If there was any doubt about the nature of the disease, I would mention one fact, and call one witness. Having taken pains to ascertain the number of Bills introduced last Session, I find that there are no fewer than 386, and that, putting aside purely Departmental Bills, only 58 come under the consideration of the House. I do not claim that that is an absolutely reliable test, but it is fair to assume that every one of the 386 Bills embodied a proposal desired by a certain section of the community, and the fact that only 58 of them were even discussed is an indication that further time is necessary for the Debates in this House. The witness I will call will not be thought to be violently enthusiastic on behalf of reform. It is The Scotsman newspaper. Some three years ago a pamphlet was published from The Scotsman office putting before Scotland and the country a proposal for what was termed a local National Assembly, and I have no hesitation in saying that it is one of the most remarkable contributions that have been made to the Home Rule controversy. What did the writer say? He said— The Imperial Parliament cannot adequately cope with the legislative requirements of the different parts of the United Kingdom. The Imperial Parliament has admitted its own incapacity to deal with all the subjects it once used to take in hand. It has parted with some of its work from time to time, delegating it to other hands. Still the pressure increases, and it is simple fatuity to suppose the question of further and wider delegation can be long delayed. That is a Unionist opinion, certainly not tainted with any Radical fallacy. As a Scotch Member, I am grateful to the Government for having, even at this late hour, arrived at the decision that something must be done in order to carry through Scotch legislation. But it is four or five years since my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries Burghs (Mr. R. T. Reid) put forward the proposal for a Grand Committee. It was again brought forward on the day on which the present Parliament assembled by the Member for North Aberdeen. Being then supported with a requisition by an overwhelming majority of the Scotch Liberal Members, the Government were asked to give one or two nights in order to set up a Scotch Grand Committee, and I think there is some reason to wonder that the Government did not see the force of the proposition that was then made. The best that can be said of the Grand Committee is that it is one stage, and one stage only. All that we should be able to save by it would be the Committee stage; and we have to face the possibility of the other stages being in consequence considerably prolonged. I accept the proposal for the Grand Committee in the spirit in which I am sure it is offered by the Government, that is as a temporary makeshift, and not as an integral part of the fabric of the Scottish Government. It is fashionable in some quarters to suggest that there really is no solid demand in Scotland for the principle embodied in my Resolution. The hon. Baronet the Member for Wigtonshire (Sir H. Maxwell) took upon himself the responsibility of saying that there is no demand on the part of Scotland for Home Rule. I wish to ask, by what means are we to test the feelings of the Scottish people upon public questions? Are we to take the opinion of the hon. Baronet, who is identified with a Party which has only a minority out of the whole representation of Scotland? The legitimate way to find out the opinion of the people of Scotland is to look to their Representatives in the House of Commons, and the Representatives of Scotland, by an overwhelming majority, voted on the last occasion this Motion was before the House for the principle of Home Rule. The demand in Scotland is a growing demand, and is formed upon the solid opinion that in the direction of Home Rule lies the only possible way in which the judgment of the people of Scotland, as expressed at the polls, can be translated into legislative action. The progress of this movement has been remarkable. In 1889, when the Motion for Home Rule was brought forward by the Member for Caithness, it was rejected by 121 votes. In 1890 it was rejected by 40. In 1892 it was rejected by 20; and in 1893 it was rejected by 18. This Resolution is not brought forward in any spirit of enmity or resentment against England, and, if it were, ruin and disaster would be immediately brought upon the cause. The proposal is offered to the House as a practical solution of the difficulty that 1ms arisen through the neglect of Scottish business in the House of Commons. I will quote two authorities, to give an idea of the general feeling that has existed with regard to the treatment of Scotland in the Imperial Parliament. Professor Aytoun, writing in 1853, said— The form in which our affairs have been administered for well-nigh 100 years is quite inadequate for the purpose for which it was originally intended, and the rapid development of the wealth and population of the country ought long ago to have suggested the propriety of a more rational arrangement. The case is a very clear one, founded upon justice and public policy: and if properly argued no Government can venture to treat it lightly. The late Prime Minister, when receiving the freedom of Aberdeen 23 years ago, said— I admit without the least hesitation that the present condition of the action of Parliament with regard to Scotch business is unsatisfactory. You have much more reason to complain that we have not been able to deal with several subjects interesting to the people of Scotland, and material to its welfare, with the promptitude that we should all have desired. But it is on what has happened since 1886 that I desire to base the demand which I put before the House. In that year the Local Government Bill was brought in. It was a Bill which did not raise any great Constitutional question. It was approached in a non-Party spirit by the great majority of the Representatives for Scotland; and yet I find that on every vital feature of the Bill the opinion of the majority of the Scottish people was practically set aside. On the question of the control of the police, 48 Members for Scotland desired that that should be given to the County Councils, and 18 were against it. With respect to giving the County Councils the same licensing power as the burghs, 48 were in favour and 12 against. On the question of the compulsory acquisition of land 46 were in favour of giving power to the County Councils and 12 were against. And there was practically the same unequal division with respect to the question of rights of way. In face of facts such as these it is beside the question to pretend that Scottish opinion is fairly considered or even receives any respect at all in this House. To pass from Government Bills, I come to other questions which have been brought forward, or attempted to be brought forward, in this House. There is the question of access to mountains. That is a question to which a great deal of importance is attached by a large section of the people of Scotland, and yet the Chancellor of the Duchy, year after year, for nine different years, brought the question before the House, and it was only through what, I think, was an inadvertence on the part of the Conservative Government, that another Member was able to secure a majority in favour of that proposal. The year afterwards the Conservative Government brought forward a Bill dealing with (he question, but I think I may fairly claim that it was not considered a satisfactory measure by the great body of Scotch Members. I take next the question of the Local Veto Bill—a question of some importance. Apart alto- gether from the merits or demerits of that question, we must admit that in Scotland the local veto question receives the support of a very large and influential section of the population. For 10 years Mr. M'Lagan, recently a Member of this House, attempted to get a settlement of that question, but he was never able to do so. There is another question of equal importance—the question of the amendment of the Crofters Act. That Act was passed some six or seven years since, and the most important flaw in it, from the point of view of the crofters' Representatives, is that it does not apply to leaseholders. Every year since that Act was passed an attempt has been made by the Member for Caithness and other crofters' Representatives to obtain an opportunity for amending that Act in the direction of the inclusion of leaseholders. They have never been successful, and there is not the slightest hope that the question will be dealt with during the present Session, or even during the present Parliament. Coming to last Session, there was the Fatal Accidents Bill. That was a Bill, again, of a non-Party character, and it was sent to a Grand Committee, I believe, without a Division. It passed through the Grand Committee, and was brought into the House, and because what I consider a perfectly legitimate Amendment, suggesting that juries should be called in case of injury, was put in the Bill it was withdrawn by the Lord Advocate on the ground that it was impossible to get the two or three hours necessary in order to discuss that Amendment. The result was that that Bill, which was supported by every Representative Working Class Organisation in Scotland, by every Trades Union, and by every Representative Association, was lost. In the face of facts such as these it is idle to pretend that Scottish desires and Scottish opinion can ever be properly considered in this House. It is agreed by Parties on both sides of the House that, so far as the financial relations between the two countries are concerned, Scotland has a very great deal to complain of, and I am glad that the Government has, after several years, seen their way to promise that an inquiry will take place into the matter. I would just remind the House, in considering the general position of Scot- land, that by general consent it is admitted that Scotland is overtaxed at the present time to the extent of £1,000,000 or £1,500,000 per year. Not only so, but Scotland is not treated in the same liberal way with regard to Imperial grants as the other parts of the Kingdom are, or have been in the past. I would also remind the House that from the point of view of population the average contribution per bead in Ireland is £1 11s. 3d.; in England it is £2 2s. 3d., and in Scotland it is £2 5s. 8d., so that in that respect we have something to complain of. Then there is the question of Private Bill legislation. That is a very old complaint of Scotland. It was brought forward in 1876, and it has been renewed in almost every successive year. I will give the House just one or two figures as to the cost of Private Bill legislation. I have had supplied to me by the Treasurer of Glasgow a statement which shows that from 1865 to 1892 no less than £283,028 14s. 6d. were spent in the promotion of and opposition to Private Bills. From Edinburgh I learn that from 1872 to 1893 £75,000 were spent in the same fashion. In Dundee, since 1871, upwards of £60,000 were spent in connection with Private Bill legislation, and I believe the full total for Scotland for the 14 years from 1872 to 1885 is not less than £1,294,812. [Cheers] I understand the cheers from gentlemen opposite. I suppose their reply to me on this point will be that they introduced a Bill when they were in Office, and that if that Bill had been allowed to pass the whole question would have been properly settled. But the Government was in Office for six years, and how was it they could not find time to pass the measure? I am aware that it was opposed by certain Members, but that is no answer to the complaint that if it was a good Bill time ought to have been found to pass it. I think that Bill was an excellent Bill as far as it went, and I would like to see a Bill of the same character introduced again, but I hope it will be a more thorough-going and complete measure, and will deal with Unopposed as well as Opposed Private Bills. What is the Tory position on this question? Are they going to oppose all idea of decentralisation? I do not think I am justified in assuming anything of the kind. The Leader of the Opposition put forward last night one of the most revolutionary proposals which I ever heard. The Government brought forward a proposal that Scotch Members should practically be supreme so far as Scotch Bills were concerned, and what was the attitude of gentlemen opposite? They complained that the proposal did not go far enough. They said they wanted it for England, for Ireland, and for Wales. I think if they go that length they will very soon be prepared to go a little further, and to recognise that if it was good for Scotch, for English, and for Welsh Members to be supreme on their local questions in this House it is, perhaps, a little better that they should discuss the questions in the localities more particularly concerned. It is no longer a question of whether Home Rule is to be granted, but it is a question how that decentralisation can be applied. Therefore, the conclusion which I arrive at is, in the first place, that Parliament is overburdened, and that relief is necessary; secondly, that Scottish interests have been neglected in the past, and that there is no prospect that they will be better attended to in the future; thirdly, that the principles of representative government demand that Scotch opinion should be supreme in Scottish affairs, and this is only possible by the establishment of a Scottish Legislature; fourthly, that Scotland presents an ideal field for a great experiment in local self-government. [Laughter and cheers.] I can hardly suppose that those Members opposite who are Scotchmen will take up the view that Scotland does not possess an ideal field for local self-government. I am in favour of Home Rule all round. I believe that is the only possible way in which we can properly carry forward the legislation of the country. My idea is that this House will have to undergo a very great and material change so far as the business laid before it is concerned. We are too much occupied in discussing purely local questions which can be better settled in the localities concerned. Let this House devote itself—first, to the consideration of all the great questions which have the same application to all portions of the Kingdom; and, in the second place, to the consideration of the great Colonial, Indian, and Imperial questions which ought to engage more than they do at present the close attention of the House. It is because I believe my Resolution is a step in that direction that I submit it to the House.

MR. BIRRELL (Fife, W.)

said, he desired to second the Motion. He did not suppose there would be many persons within the House found to disagree upon its merits, or with the proposition that if they were given a geographical area—he used the words "geographical area" because he preferred to avoid the word "nation," which always excited the worst possible passion in this House—with a separate Judicature of its own, with separate laws of its own, the best, and he should suppose the most obvious, mode of legislating for such an area would be a Representative Assembly within the jurisdiction itself. It was a great disadvantage for any country to be separated by a distance from the seat of Government, and he believed the newly-awakened interest in regard to London legislation was due to the Metropolis possessing an admirable Local Body to look after its affairs, and to the fact that they were surrounded by a horde of London Members within easy cab fare of their constituencies, and who were able to bring to bear upon this House a constant pressure which those constituencies at a distance were unable to do. He had no doubt that a Legislative Assembly of Scotsmen sitting in Edinburgh would develop a most useful representative activity in many fields which were at present unexplored. There were numberless law reforms and land reforms which, he was sure, if there was a Legislature in Edinburgh, would engage the attention of Scottish lawyers which did not engage them at present, when Scottish legislative reform was a hopeless dream. There was public health, which engaged much public attention in a country largely inhabited by doctors. They complained of the very inferior and obsolete weapon which the old Public Health Act had put into their hands to wage warfare against insanitary conditions, which were not altogether undeserving of attention. There were questions of right-of-way, liquor traffic, and educational questions, and the last, if Scotland was to maintain her pre-eminence, would certainly require great consideration. He believed a Scottish Legislative Assembly would deal with these questions in a grave and useful spirit. Then there was the crucial question of the Scottish Church. He believed that there were some Imperialists of such a complexion that they really believed that the Scottish people should not deal with their own Church without first taking the opinion of the Calvinists of Wales and other parts of the Kingdom. His view was that the question was purely one for the Scottish people. It was idle to talk of a referendum, or to suppose that the United Kingdom would ever consent to a General Election which would turn simply on the question whether one section of the Presbyterian Body should have an Establishment or not. They might wish to confine people's thoughts to the restricted area, but in practice they would find it perfectly impossible. He did not believe that even in a Scottish Legislative Assembly they would be able to do it, but a General Election there which did turn on that question would practically amount to a referendum on that question, because the Scottish people would recognise the importance of the question, and give it precedence over all others. Although a Disestablisher to the backbone, and baptised into the spirit of the Disruption, he still believed it was a monstrous thing that the Scottish Church should be disestablished by the votes of English Nonconformists, who might be giving their vote simply with an eye to the disestablishment of the English Church at home. Here was an opportunity for Tory Members who had been so active on platforms during the last few weeks in making the assertion that Disestablishment was a question for the Scottish people. They had now an opportunity to assent to a proposal which would remit that question to a Scottish Assembly. The objections to Scottish Home Rule were not serious in character. There were no Fenians in Scotland and no Orangemen. Though some miserable and cowardly attempts had lately been made to fan the dying embers of religious bigotry in Scotland into a flame, they had miserably failed, as they deserved. The objections were not serious. They were mainly of a personal character. Scottish Members opposite had a great objection to what they regarded as a one- horse Legislature sitting in Scotland. The Member for Buteshire (Mr. Graham Murray) on the last occasion when this subject was before the House wound up an eloquent speech by declaring his unwillingness to barter the heritage of an Imperial Parliament for any miserable Parliament that might be offered in its stead, and he would never forget the expression on the face of that distinguished man, now the Lord President, when as Lord Advocate he contemplated the bare possibility of the existence of a Scotch Legislature. The hon. Member had said it would be a bleak and barren prospect. But, after all, a Representative Assembly existed not simply as a playground, and for the amusement and edification of its Members, however distinguished, but for the purpose of attending to the legislative needs of the country in whose service it was summoned. If by any chance even a dull Scotch Assembly transacted Scotch business better than that House—and he admitted that many of the local Scotch Assemblies were dull indeed, though he could not speak with the authority of the late Lord Advocate—then he could quite imagine that Scotland would prefer a Parliament of its own in Edinburgh, although its proceedings would be enlivened by those flashes of wit and philosophic discourses which made a seat in the Imperial Chamber at once a liberal education and a round of cheap amusement. Scotch electors had given their Representatives no mandate to be witty—if they had it might be discharged, at all events, to their own satisfaction—but they sent them to Westminster, in the first place, to look after the affairs of the Empire; and, in the second place, to pass laws for Scotland. As a matter of fact, they had very little time for either of those duties. The interests of the Empire were almost entirely overlooked, and the affairs of Scotland were neglected, while Members were kept there month after month engaged in pursuits in which their constituents certainly took no interest whatever. He would point out that there was no need for those gentlemen who had such an unconquerable objection to appear in a Local Assembly at Edinburgh to sit there at all. The difficulty arose, he supposed, from a feeling that the grant of Scotch Home Rule would necessitate the same grant for England, and that the latter would seriously interfere with the present system of Cabinet Government. But that would not necessarily follow at all, even assuming there were an English Administration apart from the Imperial Government. He did not think that Scotch Members were in the least degree anxious to interfere in matters purely English, and, having regard to the condition of Scotch business and also to the common-sense reasons of the case, he thought that the time had come when devolution should be allowed to take its natural course. All purely Scotch legislative business in which Englishmen really did not take any interest should be left in the hands of Scotchmen, who, he submitted, had a right to demand that they should be allowed to pass those laws which only operated within the jurisdiction of Scotland. Those were some of the reasons why he had great pleasure in seconding the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it is desirable, while retaining intact the power and supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, to establish a Legislature in Scotland for dealing with purely Scottish affairs."—(Mr. Dalziel.)

* MR. HOZIER (Lanarkshire, S.)

said, he must congratulate the hon. Member on his witty speech, but, at the same time, he could not help thinking that it had been intended to be delivered last night. He could not agree with the remarks of the hon. Gentleman that Scot-laud was an "ideal" field for an experimental Home Rule Bill, and he would be exceedingly sorry to think that Scotchmen should have Home Rule or any other measure forced upon them against their will. He was a Scotchman himself, and it was only natural, therefore, that he should object entirely to apply the old maxim Fiat experimentum in corpore vili when such a question as that was raised, and he regretted to hear that the hon. Member considered Scotland to be an "ideally vile body" for such an experiment. The speech of the hon. Member for West Fife was clearly intended to be delivered last night, for he actually told the House at the commencement of it that the "rose to support the appointment of this Committee." The hon. Member had said that there were no Orangemen in Scotland. That was not the case, for if he would investigate the matter he would find that there were many of them, and that, too, in Lanarkshire, the greatest county of Scotland. Having spoken at considerable length last evening on a cognate subject, he would not detain the House by offering any extended observations then. The Highlanders from Black heath and the patriots of Putney had been putting on their kilts, and it was only right that those who were not real Scotchmen should take a leading part in that pseudo-patriotic Debate. He would like all those gentlemen to be allowed to have their Highland fling to their hearts' content. He was sure that the real Scottish Members were all anxious to hear the Englishman who happened to be Home Secretary as well as a Fifeshire Member explain his pseudo-patriotic views, and to hear the English Solicitor General explain why he went to Forfarshire at the behest of the English wirepullers in order to secure what was supposed to be a safe seat to advance his professional career. Above all, they were anxious to hear their English Secretary for Scotland, who last year supported Home Rule for Scotland, and who was subsequently "hauled over the coals," ridiculed, and scorned in the other House by the Scottish nobleman who was now Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. There was, indeed, one movement in which, like his hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy, he, too, took the deepest interest—the movement in favour of an improvement in the Private Bill legislation for Scotland. He was certain that the Scottish Members on the Opposition Benches were unanimous on this point. A Bill had been brought forward by the late Government, but it was obstructed and destroyed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs, who was now Secretary for War. Personally, he (Mr. Hozier) could only say he would do all he could to promote such a measure. He denied that Scottish constituencies had declared in favour of Home Rule for Scotland, and the fact that the present Gladstonian Members supported it did not show that that was the case. In the vast majority of instances Home Rule for Scotland had never been before the constituencies at all. Practically, all Unionists were opposed to a separate Parliament for Scotland; the Unionist vote was solid against Home Rule for Scotland, and no one pretended that even the Gladstonians were unanimously in favour of it. In most of the Gladstonian constituencies Scottish Home Rulers were a very small minority, even among Gladstonians, but that small minority was like the mosquito—it made a very great deal of noise for its size, and it was able to make its presence felt. This small minority, for example, could make its presence felt in the selection of a Gladstonian candidate; and, again, oven after a candidate had been selected, he might still he "heckled" into shape by the Home Rule minority. He wished to put a question to the hon. Member for Caithness, who was the President of the Scottish Home Rule Association, and to the Secretary for Scotland. If a separate Parliament were granted to Scotland tomorrow, would the question of the Disestablishment of the Church of Scotland be handed over to it? Perhaps the Secretary for Scotland would kindly either nod or shake his head in answer to that question. He was going to Scotland soon, and he would like to be able to take back an answer. As the right hon. Gentleman made no response, perhaps the hon. Member for Caithness would answer. There was no answer given to that question. An election was going to take place in a few days in a constituency neighbouring his own, and he had every right to know the opinion of the Government. He should also like to know whether the Secretary for Scotland "homologated," to use the Scotch term, and concurred in the statement made last week by Mr. Caldwell, the Gladstonian candidate for Mid Lanark, when the President of the Scottish Home Rule Association, the hon. Member for Caithness, was on the platform? Mr. Caldwell said— Disestablishment is a matter of principle with the Liberal Party, and the Liberal Party having denied, or intending to deny, the right to Ireland, has no right whatever to leave the matter"(of the Established Church)"to be determined by a vote of Scotland, even although there should be a majority of the people of Scotland in favour of the Established Church. That was a curious statement to be made by a Scotch Home Ruler. If these words meant anything they meant that, even if a separate Parliament were given to Scotland, it would not be competent to deal with the Church question; and that, even if a General Election were to be held on the question of Disestablishment in Scotland, and a majority in favour of maintaining the "auld Kirk" were returned, the Government would still be bound, as a matter of principle, to disestablish and disendow the Church of Scotland in spite of the strongest protests of the people of Scotland.

MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint, &c.)

entirely agreed with the hon. Member's statement that the cause of Home Rule for Scotland was rapidly gaining ground, and had been doing so year by year. It was quite evident that the Scotch people had made up their minds on the question, and when Scotland made up her mind on any particular subject she generally succeeded in attaining it. The certainty of her doing so in this instance was in the not very distant future. He wished to explain his attitude on this Motion as a Welsh Member. Home Rule for Scot-laud was, as he had said, a certainty at no distant date; and he would impress on the House that Home Rule for Wales must not be left out of the question. Not much had been said of the neglect of Welsh business, though Wales had waited Session after Session for her legislation, until weariness had almost ripened into disgust with the lumbering and clogged machine called Imperial Parliament. Last year a Local Veto Bill for Wales passed its Second Reading, and only one Welsh Member opposed it, while 26 supported it. Yet there was not the least hope of that Bill passing into law. A large number of Bills in which Wales was interested were pending, but, with one single exception, there was no chance of their being passed this Session. The same might be said with regard to this Session, because they knew they would have no opportunity of passing that Bill into law. There were two principal objections to Home Rule for Wales. The first one denied the nationhood of the country, and the other was founded upon the small population of Wales. With regard to the first objection, he should imagine that there was hardly anyone in the House who would venture seriously to assert that the Welsh were not a nation. The people of Wales were becoming more and more a National Body; separate acts of legislation were being continually passed for the Principality, He did not know whether Scotch or Irish Members were accustomed to hear the vernacular spoken in their countries, but he might say that there were a considerable number of Welsh Members sitting in that House who used it in Wales as the usual mode of communication. He would now come to the objection that Wales was too small for Homo Rule.


The hon. Gentleman must remember that this Motion applies to Scotland only. He is entitled to use the ease of Wales as an illustration, but he is not entitled to go into the whole question of Home Rule for Wales.


said, he would only mention the ease of Wales in reference to its bearing upon Home Rule for Scotland. With regard to the objection that Wales was too small for Home Rule, he had only to remind the House of what was the ease with regard to other Legislatures all over the world. Canada had nine Parliaments, and Australasia, with a population of 4,000,000, had also a large number of Parliaments, while Germany, with a population of 26,000,000, had 22 separate Parliaments. He entirely agreed that the arguments against Home Rule for Ireland did not apply to Scotland. The case of Wales was similar to that of Scotland in several respects, and the arguments against Home Rule for Ireland did not apply to Wales. Both Scotland and Wales were, at all events, willing to be made the subjects of a Home Rule experiment. He could not go into the ease of Wales because of the Speaker's ruling, and he simply wished to say that, knowing something of Wales, and that the circumstances of that country were in many respects identical with those of Scotland, he hoped as an adoption of the principle of Home Rule this Motion would be carried by the House.

* SIR C. PEARSON (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)

said, he would not follow the hon. Member at any great length into the analogy, which no Scottish Member would for a moment grudge, between the cases of Wales and of Scotland in this matter, although he did not agree with him that there were so many points of similarity between the two countries as the hon. Member seemed to imagine. Nor did he think that there was really the rivalry between the two countries to present the body politic for any anatomical experiment which the Government might wish to make in the direction of the Resolution. Nor would be examine the theory which he presented upon the reproductive powers of Parliaments. He desired to look at the subject mainly from a Scottish point of view. This subject evidently demanded very careful treatment, and no subject could have been treated more dissimilarly than it was by the Mover and Seconder. They had the "severe" and the "lively," and he was glad that the Member for West Fife, in the course of a most entertaining speech, at last recognised that this was a subject which had its difficulties. What were the grounds on which this Motion was made at the present time? They might have expected to hear some now aspect of the case—some development of the circumstances, some stronger arguments than had previously been put forward. But they only had the old arguments. They had the old assertion about the neglect of Scottish business in the House, and that they would get rid of that neglect only by applying this ridiculous specific of Home Rule as the remedy. He was disposed to dispute both these propositions. He would remind the House that this proposal was to have a Legislature in Scotland for purely Scottish affairs, while retaining intact the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. Upon the latter part they had heard nothing. Yet it was the more important, and they all knew how it was felt to be most difficult—practically impossible—to reconcile the existence of a separate Legislature and Executive with the supremacy of an Imperial Parliament in the Debates on a measure relating to another part of the Kingdom in the present Parliament. And yet this abstract Resolution was moved without any allusion whatever to this most difficult subject. They would notice further that as usual England was not in it. They were getting accustomed to the idea of Federation with the omission of the predominant partner. But it was felt throughout the country that any such scheme should be disclosed on the responsibility of a Government and submitted as a whole for the discussion of, and consideration by, the House. He was not surprised to find that the Mover experienced a difficulty in discussing the Resolution apart from the discussion of the previous night. But he was yet to learn that certain statements then made committed gentlemen on the Conservative side of the House to certain views as to the propriety of Federation. That was a suggestion which was utterly baseless. He asserted, in the first place, that there was no demand whatever in Scotland which ought for a moment to move the House in the direction of this Resolution. He went further, and said that the cause which had been championed by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy was, so far as indications enabled them to judge, a back-going cause in Scotland. He observed the hon. Gentleman omitted the year 1891 in his Parliamentary history of this matter. That happened to be the only year in which a Bill was tabled embodying anything approaching to the details pointed at in this Resolution; and what happened to it? The discussion upon it was set down for a particular evening, and the keenness of the interest which hon. Members for Scotland felt in the subject, and the urgency of the demand in Scotland, were set forth by the simple fact that the House was counted out.


I did not include that, because it is well-known that the Bill came on quite unexpectedly, almost at the end of the Sitting. The Scottish Members did not expect it to come on, and I did not think it was worthy of being considered an important factor.


said, he should have assented to the hon. Member's view of the matter had it not been for the use which had been made of the fact in Scotland as representing the way in which Scottish business was neglected in the House of Commons. So far as he could judge, the Association which had already been mentioned, and of which the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark), he believed, was still the President, had been largely availed of—he did not say created—by Members of this House for what he might call English consumption. He did not know how many Members were Vice Presidents of it. He thought the time had come when they must protest against the use which was attempted to be made of such an Association—on the one hand, holding out to the people of England that it expressed the views of Scotland on the matter; and, on the other hand, in Scotland assuming the position of renouncing the Association and all its works, and severing connection with it. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy said Scottish business had been neglected for a long series of years, and was still neglected. The hon. Member made two quotations upon the first point—one 20 years old, and the other 40, the latter being, if he (Sir C. Pearson) mistook not, a complaint which pointed not in the direction of this Resolution, but rather in the direction of the restoration of the ancient office of Secretary for Scotland, which had been done. The other part of the hon. Member's remarks on the neglect of Scottish business led him to say that the words "neglect of Scottish business" hardly expressed the truth of the case. It appeared to him they were all, or nearly all, agreed in regretting that Scottish business did not get faster through the House, but, at the same time, it was not absolutely exceptional in that particular. He was not aware that English business got on any faster. But it was not a case of neglect, nor did he regard it as a case of the machinery of the House breaking down except up to a certain point. He regarded the persons primarily chargeable, not for neglect, but for mismanagement in delaying the progress of Scottish legislation, as the Government of the day, if that delay had happened. They were the parties responsible for the division and appropriation of the time of the House. He pointed to the fact that he did not think it would be disputed, whatever might be thought opposite of the conduct of business all round by the late Unionist Government, that during the six years that that Government was in Office Scottish business showed in at least as good a proportion relatively as the legislation for England, Wales, and Ireland. That demonstrated, to his mind, at all events, that there was something not inherent in the machinery of Parliament which was primarily re- sponsible for the present state of matters. There were, he admitted, two limitations under which all Governments must approach this question. One was the great difficulty, both as regards the House as a whole, and individual Members of it, which was brought about by the enormous increase of Private Bills. He could only say that the late Unionist Government did their very best, by the introduction of Bills, to remove that difficulty. If the proposals were had, they might have been amended by fair criticism. The other direction in which they were all agreed that this House could be relieved was by devolution of powers to Local Bodies. Local government had been awarded both to England and Scotland. The bodies thus created were bodies upon whom large administrative or executive powers might be, and no doubt would be, devolved to the relief of the necessity of legislation in this House in certain directions. To say that English votes overbore Scottish opinion was simply one mode of saying that this was a united Parliament, and that England was the predominant partner. They did not in one sense object to English votes overriding, as was said, Scottish opinion, because, if it was a price to be paid, it was one they were willing to pay for membership of an Imperial Parliament, and it was astonishing to him to find Scottish Members taking objections to the Divisions on the Scottish Local Government Bill when not so many months ago they had welcomed Welsh and Irish votes, not to speak of Scottish votes, to vote down the English majority on purely English questions. Another consideration ought to make this House throw out the Resolution. This Legislature was proposed to sit in Scotland to deal with purely Scottish affairs. Passing by the difficulty of drawing a distinction between affairs that were purely Scottish and those which were not, was it not too much for any hon. Member to move such a Resolution without even telling them what he proposed as to the relation between the membership of the Scottish Legislative Body and the membership of the Imperial Parliament? Were the Members of the proposed domestic Legislature to attend the Imperial Legislature at Westminster or not? If the Members of the Scottish Legislature were not required to attend at Westminster the scheme would bear separation on the face of it, and, not only so, but would deprive Scotland of her fair share of the management and control of Imperial concerns. On the other hand, if they were required to attend at Westminster, was it not plain that the difficulty which was expounded at length last year would arise—namely, that either the Scotch Members, besides having a Legislature of their own, would turn the balance in the Imperial Parliament on Irish or English affairs, or else that they must walk in or out according to the subject-matter of discussion? The Bill of 1891 enacted that they should be ipso facto Members of the Imperial Parliament, or rather that the Members of the Imperial Parliament should be ipso facto Members of the Scottish Legislature. The present Prime Minister (Lord Rosebery), speaking in Edinburgh in 1892, said— I am far from being one of those who would throw any discredit on the simple and elementary proposition that to discuss distinctly Scottish affairs the best persons are elected Scottish Representatives, but I will say in all seriousness I have great doubts as to whether that obvious proposition is best carried out by making them Scottish Members of the House of Commons. I believe that you elect your Representatives to go to Westminster on one footing, and that if you had to elect your Representatives to a local Parliament you would choose them from a more large and a more restricted point of view. The noble Lord added that it would be necessary to draw a clear line between the persons elected as Imperial Representatives and those elected for local purposes. Until a repudiation of that position was forthcoming from someone who was responsible for the only Bill on the subject that had yet been put in, he must assume that that Bill represented the views of average Scottish Home Rulers, and, if so, he must leave them to settle their accounts with their chief, Lord Rosebery. The situation in which the House had been placed by this Motion was one of extreme interest. The Motion had been introduced, of course not intentionally, in the middle of a discussion upon—he did not like to say an alternative scheme of Home Rule—but, at all events, a proposition which was supported last night upon some such grounds. What he was anxious to get at was the position of the Government upon the Motion now before the House. Which of the two proposals did the Government mean to support? Did it mean to say, "We desire a Scottish Legislature sitting in Edinburgh, and also a Scottish Grand Committee sitting upstairs?" He thought it was too late for the Government to say, as they had done on previous occasions, that the matter was one on which they had no views and no policy. Did they mean business on the present occasion, and, if so, did they mean business upon their own Grand Committee Resolution, or were they still in the frame of mind in which the Prime Minister was about nine months ago in another place, when he said, referring to a Scottish Home Rule Motion— Is this fatal Motion to become a precedent for future deliberations? If so, I can see what will happen. Some noble Lord will rise and ask Her Majesty's Government what are their views about the Creed of St. Athanasius. No one will deny that that deals with subjects much more vital, and much more important, and on which it is much more imperative to form an opinion than on the question of Scottish Home Rule. What had the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Sir G. Trevelyan) to say to this? A Government which had pledged itself, first, to give Home Rule to Ireland, and, secondly, to give nothing to Ireland which it was not ready to give to Scotland, was bound to answer the question, and not to put it off as they had done on a previous occasion by a statement that they had no policy upon the subject.


Mr. Speaker, last year I took part in a Debate on this Resolution, and I then made a speech in support of it. Certainly, I am very unwilling to repeat a speech of that length to-night; but I know that there may be some hon. Members present now who were not present then, and I certainly am unwilling to give a silent vote upon this occasion. My vote will be given in favour of the Resolution of my two hon. Friends who, like the hon. Friend I supported last year, ask for a separate Legislature for Scotland. [Ironical Opposition cheers.] Oh, I do not mind any scoffs of hard words that come from the Opposition. I have learnt by the experience of yesterday that it is not necessary to bring forward a sweeping change and to accompany it with violent, subversive, and revolutionary language in order to be charged with subverting the Constitution of the country. Yesterday I brought forward a practical and workmanlike proposal for adding a third to the two existing Grand Committees in this House. [Opposition laughter and ironical cheers.] I think, Sir, that, considering how the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down was listened to, gentlemen opposite might give mo a fair hearing. Well, that was a proposal for enabling Scottish business to be better done in this House and English business to be better and more easily done. On that occasion I was denounced in language the which would have been quite strong enough if the Government had then and there proposed to separate the two Kingdoms. That proposal represents what the Government, as a Government, intended to do in order to meet the great demands of Scotch business and the great and growing national feeling of Scotland. They believe that in making that proposal of a Grand Committee they have done a really useful work for Scotland, and they are more confirmed in that belief by the opposition which it has aroused, and which shows that something has clearly been done for the great principle of devolution and for the great principle of management of national affairs in accordance with national opinions. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Pearson) asks me whether the Government mean business in this matter. They do mean business.


In which matter?


In the matter of the Grand Committee. They intend to carry the Grand Committee through by every means which they can possibly employ, and by staking everything upon it, and up to that extent they are prepared to pledge and bind themselves to the Scotch Members. Further than that on this occasion the Government, as a Government, do not intend to go. As regards individual Members, whether on this Bench or elsewhere, they must use their own judgment and their own way of looking at the public interests in order to determine in what direction they should vote. For my own part, I am very glad that this question has been brought forward. There is very great use in an abstract Resolution for the purpose of promoting public questions, and there is very great use in taking a Division in order to show what real, solid backing of public opinion, represented as who believe that public opinion is, by the balance of Parliamentary opinion, there is in the country. It was the opinion of the late Professor Fawcett that there is no means by which a great public question can be pushed forward with such certainty as by the advocates of that question showing their belief in it by supporting their opinion in the Lobby. This question is going forward, although the right hon. Gentleman opposite thinks it is going backward. In the last Parliament 30 Scotch Members voted for a separate Legislative Assembly in Scotland; 40 Scotch Members voted in favour of it in this Parliament, and we shall see how many will vote for it to-night. I believe the question has progressed. Another 12 months have gone by, and there has been another 12 months' block of Scotch business. There is great unanimity in Scotland in favour of the measures they cannot get, and a greater determination to have them. The right hon. Gentleman opposite gave other reasons for the block in Scotch business than those which were given in the two excellent speeches in which this Resolution was moved and seconded. The right hon. Gentleman said the Government were responsible for the appropriation and division of the time of the House. I thoroughly allow that, but they are not responsible for the amount of the time. The time is limited in amount; and the Government, as Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo said when he was asked for more infantry, cannot make time which does not exist. There is no way of making time except by the received method of developing the work of the Committee of the whole House upon Committees upstairs, and by the more heroic remedy proposed by my hon. Friend below the Gangway, of devolving the business of the House upon Local Bodies of sufficient dignity. The right hon. Gentleman opposite says he is in favour of devolution to Local Bodies. I did not quite catch the full meaning of his argument, but he spoke of County Councils and, I presume, District Councils, Parish Councils, and Municipal Councils, and said that we could devolve the work of Parliament upon them. Well, Sir, there is very little of the legislative work of Parliament that you can devolve upon any body unless it be to a Committee or a genuine local Parlia- ment. But I must own that whenever we tried in the last Parliament to devolve on Local Bodies some little part of our own duties, we met with very small success. We proposed to devolve on the County Councils the power of acquiring land for public purposes instead of obliging them to come to Parliament for Provisional Orders. Forty-six Scotch Members were in favour of that change and 12 against it, but unfortunately the Scotch Members were not allowed to have their own way. We proposed that County Councils should have power to protect rights of way—power of a sort which in some degree is at present held by them. Forty-three Scotch Members were in favour of and 12 against that proposal, but the Scotch Members were not allowed to have their own way. We proposed that the County Councils should be allowed to regulate their own duties of health. Forty Scotch Members were in favour of that proposal and 12 against it, but again the Scotch Members were not allowed to have their own way. The right hon. Gentleman told us that those who had spoken up to this time in support of the Motion had only used the old arguments. Well, after a reform has been for some time before the country you may be pretty certain of one thing, and that is that if you have a good argument in its favour it probably will be an old one, because the arguments in favour of a reform are few, simple, and strong, whilst those against it, if it is a good reform, are many, new, and ingenious. In what respect, I would ask, has it been shown that it would be dangerous to have a Parliament for Scotland? Have we been told that the country is too small and unimportant, when it has a population as large as a second-class Kingdom, and is a country with manners, customs, and laws of its own, and an administration of its own? Have we been shown that the population to which these powers are asked to be entrusted is a population that cannot be trusted with them? Have we been shown that the Scotch people are a people in which classes are divided by deep and bitter differences, and cannot be allowed to fight their own battle within their own confines without being kept in order by a Parliament sitting in Westminster? Have we been shown that Scotchmen do not understand and are unfit to manage their own education, their own Universities, their own municipal affairs, their own local traffic, and all the other matters which concern the morality, the welfare, and the prosperity of the country? No, Sir; let hon. Gentlemen show that Scotchmen are not fit to have that self-government which is enjoyed by many smaller, poorer, and much less intelligent nations, or let them allow that we have indeed a good case. My belief is, that this feeling in Scotland in favour of Scottish self-government is growing and will grow, and I hope the Division to-night will show that many Scotchmen want it and that many Englishmen, Irishmen, and Welshmen are willing to help them to get it.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)

I am inclined to think that the speech we have just listened to from the right hon. Gentleman is a unique performance in our Parliamentary annals. The Prime Minister of the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman is a Member, speaking upon this very question of Home Rule for Scotland not long ago, said— I have not the gift of enthusiasm possessed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland, which carries him a great deal further than that, and I am not responsible for all his opinions. I do not think that when the Prime Minister delivered himself of that interesting verdict upon his own colleague, he could have foreseen the performance upon this very subject which that colleague was destined to execute within a few months of the time at which that utterance was made in the House of Lords. For what is it the right hon. Gentleman has just done? On Monday, the 2nd of April, he comes down to this House and makes a speech in favour of Scotch Grand Committees which will have the effect of handing over to Scotchmen a power over the legislation dealing with Scotland not possessed by Englishmen, Welshmen, or Irishmen. That proposal is discussed, but is not divided upon. Some of the most important criticisms on it have yet to be delivered. But on one of the days of the week sandwiched in between the day on which that proposal is made, and the day on which it has to be decided upon, the same right hon. Gentleman comes down to this House and tells us that he, though an Englishman, is so enamoured of Scotch liberties that, not content with getting Scotchmen privileges in this House which no other nationality possesses, he desires in addition to give Scotland a separate Legislature ! Sir, was there ever such a comedy performed in this House; was ever legislation made more ridiculous? Have we ever seen—has the oldest Member in this House ever seen—a performance like this, in which the same Minister proposes on two successive days these two inconsistent schemes, and on the second day, when he himself is advocating a change which will rend in pieces the Constitution of this country, finds himself supported during his speech upon the Bench by three Law Officers, two Under Secretaries, and no Cabinet Minister at all? The Secretary for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) and the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) are present, but they only came in for the peroration. During the progress of his speech I anxiously watched to see who were the supporters on that Bench of this second edition of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal for expediting Scotch legislation, and I am accurate in saying that they consisted of two Scotch Law Officers, one English Law Officer, and two Under Secretaries. Sir, this is to make the House of Commons ridiculous. I did not hear the speech of the hon. Gentleman who proposed this Motion, and I am ready to believe everything good of it; but I have heard all the other speeches, and the idea that we are to sanction a change which will fundamentally alter the Constitution of this country and which will reverse in its most essential particulars the Act of Union passed some 180 odd years ago—that we are to reverse that legislation after a Debate of this kind, in which my countrymen have evidently set it before them as an object that they are to prove to the world at large that they can appreciate a joke—is really too absurd. Now, Sir, I listened to the admirable literary exhibition of that English Member for Fifeshire, whose books we have all read with delight and whose speech to-night was very interesting and amusing; but it was not a speech, if I may venture to criticise the hon. Gentleman, which was an adequate preface for a great Constitutional change. The humorous treatment of Scotch legislation is a very good pastime for the House of Commons in its more wearied moments, but it is not, I venture to say, a proper preface for passing a, Resolution, which, if acted upon—and I believe it never will be acted upon—would make a revolution in our affairs which hardly any patriotic Scotchman has contemplated without horror for the last 100 years. The element of comedy, the elements contributing to this Parliamentary farce which we have been listening to to-night, have not been contributed by my own countrymen alone. A Member for Wales intervened in the earlier part of the Debate, and that hon. Gentleman the Member for Flintshire, was only stopped by your intervention, Mr. Speaker, from giving us his views on Welsh Home Rule, and although he was not permitted to develop at length his argument upon that great theme, he made it perfectly clear to the House that there was no argument to be advanced in favour of Scotch Home Rule which could not be advanced with equal force in favour of Welsh Home Rule; not only with equal force but with greater force, for whereas about half the Scotch electors who voted at the last Election were strongly opposed to Scotch Home Bule, I believe, though I have not verified the figures, that the proportions who supported Members holding the political views of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Flintshire are probably greater. But even Wales does not stand alone in this appetite for a separate Legislature, which is gradually growing up in every part of the Kingdom, [Ministerial cheers] London wants one. Why is that not cheered by hon. Gentlemen opposite? Why are they going to refuse to London what they pant to give to Wales and long to give to Scotland? London is larger in population than Scotland, a very great deal larger than Wales, and I believe even larger than Ireland, and I cannot conceive any argument that can be advanced in fax our of Home Rule for Scotland, Wales, or Ireland that cannot be advanced in favour of Home Rule for London. If there be such an argument I desire to hear it. It has not been advanced in this House, and I wait for it. If we are to have Welsh, Scotch, Irish, and London Home Rule, why may I not, as a Lancashire Member, claim Lancashire Home Rule? The population of Lancashire is not inferior to the population of Scotland. Certainly, Lancashire and Yorkshire together are far in excess of the population of Wales, and I do not know that they are inferior in intellect and in the power to manage their own affairs. Do you propose to have a separate Parliament for Lancashire and Yorkshire? If not, why do you not propose it? Why are we to be put off with this futile and inconsequent treatment of a great Constitutional question? Why are we to be dragged down here at the fag-end of a Tuesday evening in order to hear Scotch jokes upon Scotch business, but not to hear one single argument worthy of the great subject which hon. Gentlemen in their more flippant hours appear anxious to treat of? Is the constitution of this country a matter to be treated upon in this House in the absence of the Leader of the House—in the absence of every Cabinet colleague of the Leader of the House, except one Scotch Member and the President of the Local Government Board; are we actually to be asked to come to a decision on questions like this when our natural guides have chosen the better part and gone to bed? It is turning, if I may venture to say it, the privileges of private Members into a farce when they ask us to come to these momentous decisions under circumstances and upon grounds like these. Neither the arguments that they have advanced nor the circumstances under which they have been advanced nor, if I may say it with respect, the men by whom the arguments have been advanced are of a kind to command the assent of the House of Commons in a controversy which touches nearly in its issues the greatest topics which this House can deal with. I have abstained, as the House will see—and it is only following the example of every speaker who preceded me—from touching upon the real merits of this question, because I consider that the circumstances under which it is brought forward have rendered discussion of the merits absolutely absurd. In no speech that has been delivered to-night, neither in the speech of the Seconder—I did not hear that of the Mover—nor in the speeches of those who have supported him, nor in the speech of the Minister for Scotland himself, has this topic been treated on its merits; and the idea that the Act of 1707 is to be reversed on a Tuesday night between half-past 9 and 12 upon such speeches as we have heard is to say that this House has repudiated its main functions. I think before the Secretary for Scotland asks us to accept the Motion for which he is going to vote he ought to induce at least a moiety of his own Cabinet to support him by their presence; but in the absence of the Government, and in the absence of any argument urged from any quarter of the House adequate to the great theme on which we are nominally engaged, I trust the House will show its contempt for the proposal and the manner in which the proposal is introduced by rejecting it without ceremony in the Lobby.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 180; Noes 170.—(Division List, No. 12.) Resolved, That it is desirable, while retaining intact the power and supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, to establish a Legislature in Scotland for dealing with purely Scottish affairs.


Am I in Order, Sir, in asking the Government whether they propose to bring in a Bill?

[No reply was given]