HC Deb 08 June 1898 vol 58 cc1001-11 "That the Act shall not apply to Scotland or Ireland."—(Mr. Caldwell.)
MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)

My object in moving this clause is to make the matter quite clear. I know, of course, that the Bill cannot apply to either country, but I want it perfectly plain on the face of the Bill. There is nothing in the Bill which would apply to Scotland, because we have no parish meeting and me rural district councils; all we have got are county councils and parish councils, but I may point out that a great inconvenience arises in a Bill of this kind being brought on which on the face of it relates only to England, because a Bill in almost the same terms was introduced, and I pointed out that the objects of that Bill were totally inapplicable to the case of Scotland, and with the knowledge of the Lord Advocate I put down an amendment to the effect that it should not apply to Scotland or Ireland, and now I find this is practically the same Bill. I am sorry the Lord Advocate is not here.


This Bill does not apply to Scotland at all. I will explain. The Act of 1881 referred to in this Bill did not apply to Scotland at all. The provisions of that Act only apply to Scotland by the subsequent Act of 1892, and that Act is not referred to in this Bill. Therefore the provisions of this Bill do not apply to Scotland.


That is exactly what the legal people in Scotland say. It is only by implication that this Bill does not apply; and the legal profession in Scotland have brought it under our notice that it is important where a Bill may by implication apply to Scotland it should bear on the face of it the fact that it does not apply to Scotland, and there is quite a general consensus of opinion as to that. By implication this Act may be thought to apply to Scotland because there are parish councils in Scotland as well as in England. That is the arrangement I made with the Lord Advocate that we should make it perfectly clear that where a Bill does not apply to Scotland, and is not intended to apply to Scotland, it should bear it on the face of it that it did not apply.


I shall be very glad to see this Bill made applicable to Scotland, because it is wanted in some parts of the Highlands of Scotland as badly as anywhere. I am rather afraid that in its present form Scotland is excluded because it applies to the Post Office Telegraphs Act, 1881, but if it could be made to apply to Scotland it would be very useful. Some of our parish councils would be very glad indeed to get power to have telegraph communication, because it would be very convenient to them, and they would willingly pay for it, but, as I have said, I am afraid that in its present shape it cannot apply. I quite sympathise with my honourable Friend that sometimes we unconsciously legislate for Scotland, and I think that when we are legislating for one country or the other, we ought to have a final clause to determine as to where the Act shall apply. At present, as far as the Bill now under consideration is concerned, we do not know where it will apply, or whether, if the Irish Local Government Bill becomes law this Session, it may not apply to Ireland. I think that something in this direction is required to let us know what we are doing.

MR. GRANT LAWSON (York, N.R., Thirsk)

I am very much surprised that the honourable Member for Mid Lanark has proposed such an Amendment. He is usually one of the keenest advocates of the rights of Scotland in any legislation brought forward in this House. On general principles I object to a clause of this sort—on general Unionist principles. My idea is that every Bill should apply, as far as possible, to every part of the United Kingdom. I do not like this separatist form of legislation, or separatist form of new clauses. I have sat in this House on several occasions, and heard discussions on post office facilities for Scotland, and the cry has always been that the Imperial Exchequer should provide these telegraphic or Post Office facilities for the people of Scotland. In England we work on another principle altogether. We like to pay our own expenses as we go along, as far as possible. Our councils are ready to contribute out of the rates for the procuring of additional facilities of this character. Scotland, apparently, is not. She desires to have these things paid for out of the Imperial Exchequer. I suspect that the honourable Member for Mid Lanark, by putting in this limiting clause, and so preventing the district and parish councils in Scotland from having the opportunity of providing out of their own funds for these facilities, is anxious to strengthen his case when he comes to say that the Imperial Exchequer must find the funds. If this Bill does not apply to Scotland, what will happen? We shall have appeals, as we have had year after year, that the Post Office should find these facilities. The honourable Member's argument will be strengthened. He will say that this House has decided that the local authorities in Scotland shall not have the power to do anything for themselves. I desire that the Bill should extend to every part of the United Kingdom, as far as it is capable of being so extended. The honourable Member for Caithness has pointed out that it is quite possible that, owing to legislation, sooner or later, this Bill will apply to Ireland. I am perfectly certain that it cannot apply to Ireland, because there are no rural councils and no parish meetings. I cannot at all imagine an Irish parish meeting. There are, I understand, parish meetings in Scotland.




I hope I shall not be taken as setting up as an expert in the law of Scotland, because that is one thing which no man not born in Scotland can possibly understand. I have been asked to contribute to parish expenses in Scotland, and from that I gather that there are parishes in Scotland, and the Local Government Bill gave them some form of local government. It will be news to me if that local government is not in the form of a parish meeting or a parish council. If it is parish councils, they can be made to have the facilities which are given under this Bill expressly to England and Wales. I hope that for these reasons the honourable Member for Mid-Lanark will not press his new clause to a Division. If he does, I shall vote against it, on the ground that we desire to do good to all parts of the United Kingdom by this legislation.


The desire of this House should be to legislate in such a fashion as to command the confidence of the country. If we are to have legislation on the lines just laid down by my honourable Friend, then the people of Scotland would look with contempt on the character of the legislation coming from this House. Here is a Bill for the purpose of giving certain powers to three differently organised bodies in England, and we have nothing at all analogous in Scotland to any of the three. We have no rural district council in Scotland, and we have no parish meeting. We have got a parish council, but, although it is the same name as you have in England, it has entirely different, functions alto- gether. Our parish councils are our poor law boards. They have existed a long time in Scotland, but under another name. Formerly they were called parochial boards; now they are parish councils, and their work is entirely for poor law purposes, although we have simplified them, and given them some extra powers. If we are going to legislate, let us understand what we are doing, and not let us have English Members, who evidently are entirely unacquainted with the condition of things in Scotland, legislating for conditions which they do not understand anything about. I should like to see our parish councils having this power. We desired to have this power for our county councils. We were defeated by the Government, but we have not got the same need for it now as when we fought this question before. But I do protest against the fact of English Members bringing in a Bill that applies to England, and suits English customs, and then trying to apply that Bill to Scotland, where it does not suit, and that that Bill is so veiled that Scotch judges have to waste their time over them, and have to come to some hap-hazard conclusion. The Bill ought to be limited by the last clause, so as to determine that it is not intended to apply to Scotland.

MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)

I think this Bill ought to make it clear, one way or the other, whether it applies to Scotland or not. For my own part, I quite agree with the suggestion that it ought to be made to apply to Scotland. The honourable Member for Thirsk avowed, frankly and candidly, his ignorance of Scotch affairs, and I think that his opinions of Scotland are pretty nearly derived from the places where he has spent happy autumns. I think that the same facilities which are granted by this Bill to England ought to be given to Scotland, but you cannot do that under this Bill. The terms of this Act are quite inapplicable to Scotland, and, supposing that, by a liberal construction, it were made to extend to Scotland, it would raise all kinds of difficulties. If the Bill is to extend to Scotland, the only way would be on the Report stage to get a clause put in in proper terms for applying to Scotland. There will be a Report stage, because the Bill has already been amended, and if similar facilities are to be given to Scotland as are given to England—and they might do good, and could not possibly do harm—I think that the promoters of this Bill should draw up a short and appropriate clause, incorporating the terms by which it should be made applicable to Scotland. I am, therefore, entirely opposed to the clause proposed by the honourable Member for Mid Lanark.


I should like to suggest to the promoters of this Bill that it would be advisable for us to get it as it stands for England, and then let the Scotch Members bring in a Bill dealing with the extension on their own lines. I think there is some risk at this comparatively early stage of the Session of losing the Bill by attempting to restrict it with a view to meeting conditions which it is obviously not intended to meet, and which will require much consideration. I venture to submit to my honourable Friend that he should accept the new clause and allow the Bill to have its obvious application.


I think it is pretty clear that the Bill will have to state, on the face of it, whether it will have to apply to Scotland or not. The Secretary to the Treasury says that, on the face of it, it does not apply to Scotland, and then another honourable Member says that it ought to apply, and if you do not put in this clause it means that it will apply. Obviously that is a condition of affairs that ought not to be allowed to remain on the Bill. Legal authorities in Scotland have pointed out the inconvenience of any Bill which, on the face of it, is only meant for England, and yet, owing to the absence of restrictive words, gives rise to a great deal of litigation and doubt. If the Bill, as the right honourable Gentleman says, is not intended for Scotland, it should say so. In this particular case the Lord Advocate has agreed that the Bill does not apply to Scotland, and there are certain special circumstances connected with Scotland known to the Lord Advocate, but. not known generally to Members of this House.

There was passed in Scotland last year a Congested Districts Act, the effect of which is to confer upon the District Board the power to give guarantees of the description mentioned here. Now, you have no corresponding provision in the case of England, and, therefore, we have conferred, in the case of these poor districts, the right out of the Congested Districts fund to provide guarantees. Very well, it is obvious that we are not going to reconstitute now the parish councils as a new authority. The result will be this: that the Congested Districts Board will say, "We won't give this guarantee; go to the parish council and get the guarantee from them, for they have the power"; and then the parish council would say, "We are not going to give this guarantee; go to the Congested Districts Board." Here is a Bill which, on the face of it, did not apply to Scotland, and upon which the Debate did not take place until after 12 o'clock at night, and it was understood that this Bill was not to apply to Scotland, and if it does it will militate in the future against Bills being carried after 12 o'clock. In a Bill of this kind, which evidently relates to the common law of Scotland, why should the Lord Advocate not be consulted? Why should we not have the Scotch Office represented? The Lord Advocate says the phraseology does not apply to the case of Scotland. Now, with his consent, I put down an Amendment upon a former occasion that it shall not apply to Scotland. I may mention that the whole object of this Bill is that the Post Office—which, in the case of the Highlands of Scotland, has hitherto provided these postal facilities in these districts—will throw the burden upon the parish council, and so you shift the responsibility off the Post Office, which is deriving a large revenue, and allow it to get rid of responsibility which up to the present, it has discharged. If the case of Scotland is to be included, we ought to have the opportunity of a Debate upon the Second Reading; and I can simply state this, that in future I shall take very good care that Bills of that kind shall not be allowed to pass the Second Reading, as sometimes they are allowed to do, and honourable Members opposite will have themselves to blame for the result if they persist in putting forward and applying these Bills to Scotland, because, when the Second Reading was passed, it was upon the understanding that it would apply to England alone, and which we did not think concerned us. I must certainly insist upon this Amendment.


It appears that the object of this Bill is to give to the Scotch people more opportunities of pressing the postal authorities than they have had before. The honourable Member for Caithness says it does not apply to Scotland because there is no parish meeting. If that is so, it is a fatal argument against it, and if there are no parish meetings it cannot apply. I think there are parish meetings in Scotland. If the Committee will look at the Bill, they will see in the first clause of the Act that it does not refer to the parish meeting or the Parish Council Act for Scotland. It refers to section 8 of the Post Office Act of 1891 and section 2 of the Post Office and Telegraphs Act of 1897. These sections are to be read in conjunction with this Act, and they do not refer to Scotland at all. Surely there is nothing in the Post Office Act which gives any definition of the Scotch species of local government. I think it is a matter as to parish meetings. If so, then it would apply to Scotland to some extent. Now, Sir, the argument has been used that Scotch Members ought to bring in a Bill themselves upon this subject. I gather that the honourable Member for Mid Lanark has already brought in a Bill on this question.


No. There was a Bill brought forward on this side of the House similar to this, but it came on at an earlier stage, and I put down a similar Amendment. The Bill was in similar terms, and it did not apply to Scotland.


Do I understand the honourable Member to say that a similar Bill has already been brought in?


Not exactly, but perhaps the Secretary to the Treasury can explain it. There is a Bill doing the very same thing, apparently, which the Lord Advocate is proposing now, and the two Bills are practically to the same effect. This Hill came to the Committee stage first, and, therefore, my Amendment comes upon this Act. We expected the other Measure to have been put down a week or two ago, and then it was agreed to accept my Amendment.


I cannot understand why we have not this Bill before the Committee which the honourable Member for Mid Lanark has been in negotiation upon with the Front Ministerial Bench, and possibly with both Front Benches.

MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)

I only rise for the purpose of appealing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary to the Treasury to see if they cannot put a stop to this useless and endless discussion which is now going on. We have now what might be called "a sudden clearing up of the order book," and we have a lot of useful Measures which we can get through if we only get on with the Debate. If the Scotch Members do not want this Bill to apply to Scotland, why attempt to compel them to take it? I think if one of the members of the Government—say, the Chancellor of the Exchequer—would come to our assistance we might put an end to this discussion, and then let as get on to some other business.


The honourable Member for Leicester seems to have entirely missed the spirit of the occasion. I have listened to this Debate with a considerable amount of amusement. I have not read the Bill before the House, but, as far as I can gather, it does not in terms apply to Scotland. That, I think, is admitted. But the honourable Member for Mid Lanark desires to make it still more certain by putting a clause in the Bill that it shall not apply to Scotland. I cannot myself see that it makes much difference whether this Amendment is put in or not. Perhaps the honourable Member had some remote intention with regard to the postponement of a discussion upon some Bill which might come on after this Debate.


No; not at all.


Well, if that is the case, perhaps the honourable Member is anxious to give the spectators of our proceedings an object lesson in the manner in which the House of Commons likes to spend a. Wednesday afternoon. I really think that we have almost had enough of this Debate, and might decide to accept the Amendment of the honourable Member.

* MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)

I think the promoters of this Bill would have been very well advised if, after listening to the speech of the honourable Member for Mid Lanark, and in the interests of the more tranquil conducting of unopposed business after 12 o'clock, they had accepted this Amendment. I cannot understand why they do not assent to it now. The honourable Member opposite, who is one of the promoters of the Bill, seems to be in a state of dubiety as to whether this Bill applies, or does not apply, to Scotland. As a Scottish Member, I have read the Bill carefully, and I am clearly of the opinion that it does not, and could not, apply to Scotland. That being so, what possible objection can there be to putting a clause in at the end of the Bill in order to make certainty still more certain?

MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)

The question is whether the Bill ought not to apply to Scotland, and I do not know that I am prepared to accept the opinion of the honourable Member for Mid Lanark as representing the views of Scotland generally. We can, if necessary, put down before the Report stage a new clause for introducing Scotland in the Bill. I hope this Amendment will not be accepted, because it is superfluous and in the wrong direction, and I think if the honourable Member looks into it more carefully he will see that this is the case.

Question put— That the clause be read a second time.

House divided: —Ayes 72; Noes 50. —(Division List No. 127.)

Allan, William (Gateshead) Farquharson, Dr. Robert Pease, Alfred E. (Cleveland)
Anstruther, H. T. Fenwick, Charles Pease, Jos. A. (Northumb.)
Asher, Alexander Fisher, William Hayes Pirie, Duncan V.
Ashton, Thomas Gair Gibbons, J. Lloyd Purvis, Robert
Asquith, Rt. Hon, Herbert H. Goddard, Daniel Ford Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye
Atherley-Jones, L. Gull, Sir Cameron Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)
Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire) Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. W. Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Bagot, Capt. J. FitzRoy Harwood, George Souttar, Robinson
Barton, Dunbar Plunket Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale- Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.
Beach, Rt. Hn. SirM. H. (Bristol) Hill, Sir Edw. Stock (Bristol) Steadman, William Charles
Billson, Alfred Horniman, Frederick John Strachey, Edward
Blake, Edward Jameson, Major J. Eustace Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath>
Bond, Edward Jebb, Richard Claverhouse Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H.
Brigg, John Jones, D. Brynmor (Swansea) Walrond, Sir William Hood
Broadhurst, Henry Kenyon-Slaney, Col. Wm. Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)
Burns, John Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland) Warr, Augustus Frederick
Burt, Thomas Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington) Wedderburn, Sir William
Channing, Francis Allston Leng, Sir John
Clark, Dr. G. B. (Caithness) Loder, Gerald Walter E. Wilson, John (Govan)
Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E. M'Hugh, E. (Armagh, S.) Woodall, William
Collings. Rt. Hon. Jesse McKenna, Reginald Yoxall, James Henry
Curran, Thos. B. (Donegal) Maddison, Fred.
Davies, M Vaughan- (Card'gn) Monk, Charles James TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Doughty, George Montagu, Sir S. (Whitechapel) Mr. Caldwell and Mr.
Duckworth, James Nicol, Donald Ninian Colville.
Evans, Sir F. H. (South'ton) Norton, Capt. Cecil Wm.
Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F. Green, W. D. (Wednesbury) Richardson, Sir T. (Hartlep'l)
Arrol, Sir William Hobhouse, Henry Royds, Clement Molyneux
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Hudson, George Bickersteth Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)
Baldwin, Alfred Hutton, John (Yorks., N.R.) Sharpe, William Edward T.
Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir J. H. Sidebottom, Wm. (Derbysh.)
Bethell, Commander Kenyon, James Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Brookfield, A. Montagu Knowles, Lees Stephens, Henry Charles
Bullard, Sir Harry Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.) Stone, Sir Benjamin
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Maclure, Sir John William Talbot, Rt. Hn. J.G.(Oxf'dUniv.)
Chaloner. Captain R. G. W. Maple, Sir John Blundell Tomlinson, W. E. Murray
Denny, Colonel Muntz, Philip A. Verney, Hon. Richard G.
Finch, George H Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry) Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)
FitzGerald, Sir R. Penrose- Northcote, Hn. SirH. (Staff'd) Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.
Flower, Ernest Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay Willox, Sir John Archibald
Folkestone, Viscount Parkes, Ebenezer
Goldsworthy, Major-General Phillpotts, Captain Arthur TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Gordon, Hon. John Edward Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Mr. Parker Smith and Mr.
Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Renshaw, Charles Bine Duncombe.

Clause added to Bill.

Bill reported, as amended; to be considered upon Wednesday next.

House resumed.