HC Deb 22 July 1897 vol 51 cc735-9

For the purpose of administering the sums available for the improvement of congested districts in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, the following persons shall be Commissioners (called the Congested Districts (Scotland) Commissioners), that is to say:—The Secretary for Scotland, the Under Secretary for Scotland, the Chairman of the Local Government Board for Scotland, the Chairman of the Fishery Board for Scotland, the Chairman of the Crofters' Commission, and such other persons, not exceeding three, as the Secretary for Scotland may from time to time nominate. The Secretary for Scotland may from time to time make, alter, and vary such rules as he shall deem necessary for regulating the proceedings of the Commissioners, and the times and places of their meetings.

MR. J. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)

moved to add at the end of the Clause:— Three Members of the Commissioners shall form a quorum, and any act of the Commissioners may be signified under the hands of any three of their number. He said that there was no provision in the Bill for a quorum of the Board of Commissioners.


said that the Amendment was not necessary. The Secretary for Scotland had power to make rules for regulating the proceedings of the Commissioners.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2,—


  1. (1.) The Secretary for Scotland may appoint as Secretary to the Commissioners one of the senior officers in the Department of the Secretary for Scotland, or in any Government Department in Scotland, and with the consent of the Treasury, may assign to him an additional salary. The Secretary for Scotland may also, with the consent of the Treasury, direct any of the officers in any Government Department in Scotland to discharge in relation to the Commissioners such duties, not inconsistent with those of their permanent offices, as he may think proper.
  2. (2.) The salaries or remuneration of the officers (if any) employed by the Commissioners, and the administrative expenses of the Commissioners, shall be fixed by the Treasury and paid out of the sums by this Act to be annually voted by Parliament.


moved, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "as" ["Secretary for Scotland may appoint as"] and to insert "a." As the Bill stood the Secretary for Scotland might appoint as secretary to the Commission one of the senior officers in any of the Government Departments in Scotland. Apart from the general objection to, creating plural offices, he thought the Secretary to this Commission ought to be a gentleman who should give his entire time to the work. Supposing the Amendment were accepted, the Secretary for Scotland could still appoint any one he pleased as secretary to the Commission, but it was objectionable, and never occurred before, that in statutes power was conferred on a Minister to constitute one of the officers in his Department secretary to any Commission.


said there was some discussion about this in Committee, and he promised to consider it, and the conclusion the Government had come to was that the phraseology in the Bill was best. In an experimental Act of this sort he honestly thought it would be the greatest protection to the Secretary for Scotland to be obliged to take an officer of one of the Government Departments. Otherwise, if he appointed an outsider the cry would be raised that the secretaryship had been given to "a landlord's man," or "a crofter's man," as the case might be. Apart from that, he doubted whether the appointment was one which would fully occupy the time and attention of one man, unless he were made to do a great deal of clerical work; and, further, the Treasury might be trusted not to give the gentleman who might be nominated too much salary, and make a pluralist of him.

DR. CLARK (Caithness)

did not see the necessity for tying the Secretary for Scotland's hands by a clause in the Bill.

MR. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)

said it seemed an extraordinary thing, if they could not trust their own Secretary for Scotland to nominate a secretary to this Commission, while at the same time they were giving him otherwise very wide powers under the Bill.

Amendment negatived.


moved to leave out the word "senior," in order to give the Secretary for Scotland a wider choice.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 3,—


For the purposes of this Act a fund (to be called the Congested Districts (Scotland) Fund) shall be constituted, to which shall, front time to time, be carried—

  1. (1) the sum of fifteen thousand pounds annually, available for the improvement of congested districts in the Highlands and islands of Scotland under and during the continuance of the Agricultural Rates, Congested Districts, and Burgh Land Tax Relief (Scotland) Act 1896; and
  2. (2) any sums not exceeding twenty thousand pounds annually voted by Parliament for the said purpose and during the said continuance; and
  3. (3) any moneys received for payment of interest or repayment of principal of any loan made by the Commissioners under the provisions of this Act; and
  4. (4) any other sums applicable to the purposes of this Act.


moved in Sub-section (2) to leave out the words "and during the said continuance." The effect of the words in question was to limit the payment of the £20,000 into the fund to the five years during which the Agricultural Rates Congested Districts Bill would be in operation. When the £20,000 was allocated to the congested districts of Scotland, he understood and the House understood that the £20,000 was a perpetual sum in the usual way that all grants were understood to be perpetual. Then, when the Resolution was passed, it contained no limit of time, and he did not think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained that the £20,000 was to be only for live years, and he only wanted to bring the Bill into harmony with the understanding and the terms of the Resolution. The grant was now limited to five years. He did not think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer meant this, but rather that it was to be a perpetual sum in the ordinary way. The object of his Amendment was to make the Bill agree with the Resolution.


thought that the hon. Member was guilty of what was considered not to be a wise process—namely, of looking a gift horse in the mouth. The Government never understood that the grant should be made for more than five years, because the original grant of £15,000 a year, on which the Bill was based, was made for five years by the Act of last Session. It did not at all follow that this £20,000 would not be continued at the end of five years; it might be increased or diminished; much would depend on the circumstances of the time. But he did not think it would be reasonable, having regard to the temporary nature of the original grant, that this should be made permanent. It would be far better that the whole matter should be reconsidered by Parliament at that time, especially as the result of this exceptional expenditure might so improve the condition of the people as to put them on the same footing as the rest of the people elsewhere, thereby rendering a grant unnecessary.


thought that the experiment of five years would give a far chance of seeing whether it was successful. At the end of that time Parliament would be able to reconsider the subject.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4,—