HC Deb 18 May 1900 vol 83 cc629-72

Motion made and Question proposed, " That a sum, not exceeding £8,095, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1901, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Her Majesty's Secretary for Scotland and Subordinate Offices, including a Grant in Aid of the Congested Districts (Scotland) Fund."

MR. WEIR (ROSS and Cromarty)

said that so much of the time of the House had been taken up that evening by Irish business that he would be very brief in his observations. He wished to draw attention to the inadequate and unsatisfactory representation of the Secretary for Scotland in that House. Under a Liberal Administration they had the Secretary for Scotland in the House of Commons. The Lord Advocate had many outside duties to perform, for he was a director of various companies. He had also to attend upstairs to Bills relating to Scotland, and he had also to be in a position to justify Cabinet Ministers holding directorships. The Lord Advocate had far too many irons in the fire to attend to Scotch affairs. He was not alone in this complaint, for on the 20th March last the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Aberdeenshire said the Lord Advocate was, as usual, absent, and he also stated that the right hon. Gentleman had not the courtesy to be in his place to hear what was said upon Scotch business. The result was that Scotland had to suffer very seriously in this respect. The Lord Advocate was ignorant of many of the subjects with which he had to deal in the House, and he had too many irons in the fire to attend to the work of his own Department. The Solicitor General for Scotland was not in the House of Commons, and if the Lord Advocate was absent Scotch business was then handed over to a junior Lord of the Treasury, who knew nothing about Scotland. He contended that Scotland should have at least another representative in the House of Commons, and the Government ought to take care to appoint deputies to attend to the work satisfactorily and not in the way it had been done by the right hon. Gentleman. There were various other matters he had intended to speak upon, but having regard to the lateness of the evening he would not deal with them. He begged to move that the salary of the Secretary for Scotland be reduced by £100.

Motion made, and Question put, " That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £100, See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxx., page 1348. in respect of the Salary of the Secretary for Scotland."—(Mr. Weir.)

SIR CHARLES CAMERON (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

While I do not wish to endorse every item which the hon. Member has brought as a charge against this particular Government, I entirely sympathise with the desire he expressed to see the Secretary for Scotland a Member of this House. I was in the House of Commons when the office was created, and I am perfectly certain, and I know that the large number of hon. Members who supported the proposal will agree with me, that the original intention was that we should have the office of Secretary for Scotland held by a Member of this House, and not be exposed to the inconvenience of having a gentleman of ability who, without any knowledge of Parliamentary affairs, should be put in charge of Scotch business in this House. That was the principle which guided Scotch Members in pressing for the establishment of the Scotch Secretaryship, and I must say that that object appears to have been entirely frustrated by the practice which has been adopted by the present Government. On the discussion of this Vote last year it was ruled that matters pertaining to the administrative duties of the Secretary for Scotland might be brought up on this Vote, although it was competent to bring them up under another Vote. I brought up last year a matter which I thought might have been more conveniently brought up on another Vote. You, Mr. Lowther, saw the difference between the administrative and official work of the Secretary for Scotland, and you allowed a discussion on that point. The point I wish to call attention to is one of policy, in connection with which the Secretary for Scotland is entirely responsible, and which he has dealt with personally. It relates to education. The Secretary for Scotland has had the matter in hand, and he has personally gone into it. I refer to the continued neglect to provide 1,100 children in Renfrewshire with education. That is a policy which the Secretary for Scotland has allowed to continue.


This matter does not come under this Vote, but it is absolutely immaterial to me which Vote the question is taken upon.


I think: it will be perhaps more convenient upon this Vote, because the Secretary for Scotland has been personally and directly responsible for the policy pursued in. this matter. He has had personal interviews, on the subject, and made suggestions and proposals, and I think, under those circumstances, one is perfectly entitled to discuss this matter on this Vote.


I think this matter ought to be raised on the Education Vote.


It was raised before on a Vote in connection with a grant given to the School Board. In this case what has transpired since has been direct negotiations between the Secretary for Scotland, and what I contend is that he has adopted a policy contrary to the well-being of those requiring education, and that he is responsible for the fact that 1,100 children have been neglected in this respect.


I think the matter belongs to education, for it is a criticism of the system now being carried on. I think, therefore, it ought to be raised on the Education Vote.

* MR. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)

I listened with great attention to the opening remarks of my hon. friend the Member for Ross-shire, and as far as I was able to follow the drift of what he said, I came to the conclusion that he was moving a reduction of the salary of the Secretary for Scotland. That is a motion for which I intend to vote if it is pressed to a division, and I desire to state the reasons for which I will do so as briefly as possible. I have, I may say, a high respect for the present Secretary for Scotland, both as a man and a Minister. Therefore, I desire to dissociate my action from any supposition that, in voting for a reduction of his salary, I am actuated by any personal feeling or anything of that sort. I wish also to dissociate myself from the reflection made in the heat of the moment by my hon. friend upon the competency of the Lord Advocate.


I made no reference to the incompetency of the Lord Advocate. He is a most capable and a most brilliant lawyer, but he is not the official Minister who is responsible.


Then I beg my hon. friend's pardon. I understood that he had said that the Lord Advocate was ignorant, but I will not pursue that point further. I think there is some just ground for the complaint made by my hon. friend, that we have no one in this House who really represents the Scotch Office with knowledge, and who can answer with responsibility and authority the very important questions which are sometimes put not only from this side, but also from the opposite side of the House. So far as the Lord Advocate is concerned I wish to say, without using the expression offensively, that in regard to this matter the Lord Advocate is merely a conduit pipe between the Scotch Office in Whitehall Gardens and this House. That is an exceedingly unsatisfactory state of affairs, and but for the fact that the Lord Advocate possesses a great knowledge of nearly all Scotch business and is an exceedingly able man, the position would be infinitely worse. We are now in a different position from that in which we were before the creation of the office of Secretary for Scotland. Up to that time the office of Lord Advocate was a great office. The Lord Advocate, in point of fact, had not only all Scotch legal business, but it might be said that he had all Scotch Parliamentary business in his hands. He was a great official personage who, of course, was always in the House of Commons, and therefore as long as these conditions prevailed there was every reason to be perfectly satisfied that adequate attention was secured for Scottish affairs; but since the great mass of Scotch business has been divorced from the office of the Lord Advocate, and especially since the Government have transferred the Scotch Office to the House of Lords, we who represent Scotch constituencies in this Chamber are obliged to be content with such perfunctory answers as we can get, and which we know to be perfunctory, not from any fault of the Lord Advocate, but because we know he is merely a conduit pipe between Whitehall and Westminster. That is a very unsatisfactory position, and it is on that ground, and on that ground alone, without meaning any disrespect whatever, either to the Scotch Secretary or to the Lord Advocate personally, that I feel myself bound to vote with my hon. friend.

MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)

I quite coincide with everything that has been said by my hon. friend the Member for Wick Burghs. There is no doubt whatever that Scotland suffers enormously from the fact that the Secretary for Scotland is not in this House. I do not, of course, complain of the adequacy of the Lord Advocate as representing the Secretary for Scotland, nor of his ability. So far as that is concerned, there is no question on this side of the House. But every hon. Member knows perfectly well that the Lord Advocate has not got a free hand. When a measure comes down to the House the Lord Advocate has got his brief, and is instructed with regard to what he can concede, and he can make no concession beyond that until he can consult his chief. That is a very serious matter, and for this reason: if Scotch business were managed by the Lord Advocate he would be the only responsible Minister in charge of a Bill, and, subject to the Cabinet, could make any concessions he thought fit. Everyone knows that when a Bill comes forward, however carefully it may be prepared, the Minister in charge of it feels it necessary from time to time, after hearing the arguments brought forward in this House, to make concessions, and after these concessions the Bill is oftentimes immensely improved and its progress is expedited. That is an advantage which we have for instance in the case of the President of the Board of Trade, and indeed of almost every other Department of the Government. The member of the Government in charge of a Bill has, as a rule, the most perfect control over it and is, either on the spur of the moment or after consultation with his colleagues on the Treasury Bench, able to make concessions whenever they are considered desirable. But in this particular case the Lord Advocate has no power to make a concession. The man who has the power to make a concession is the man who never hears the arguments. We may speak to these benches, be they empty or be they full, but the man who should hear is the man who never hears. He is never in this House. He does not even come to the gallery provided for him, like the Secretary of State for War when the Army Estimates are under discussion. The Secretary for Scotland, on whom the whole legislation of Scotland depends, is a man who notoriously never sits in the gallery of this House to listen to the discussion of Scotch business. Where is he to-night? He is the man whose salary we are considering, and why does he not come to the gallery and listen to the discussion and hear the grievances of the people of Scotland. Look at the power of the Secretary for Scotland. There is not one single thing connected with the government of the people of Scotland that he does not control. He is President of the Local Government Board, he has control of the Lunacy Board, and he now also controls all the Private Bill legislation of Scotland. He has every department of Scotland under his thumb; no person can move without him, and yet that man with all that power never appears in this House to listen to the arguments that may be addressed to the Government. What is the result? It is, of course, that we get a cast-iron Bill sent down here, which it is impossible to amend. We may discuss it as long as we like, but the man who alone is capable of being moved in the matter is the man who never bears our arguments. The Lord Advocate, with all his ability and eloquence as an advocate, has to get up and plead the case put before him in the Bill, whereas, if he had the measure under his own control, I venture to say he would in many cases alter it far more than he is able to do at present. There never was a more justifiable reduction than that which has been moved on this Vote. It is bad enough that the Secretary for Scotland should be in the other House, that he should not be in touch with the constituencies, and that he has not to seek election. But all that in itself would not be a sufficient justification to move a reduction of his salary, because there are undoubtedly in the other House men on both sides with very wide views. But I maintain that it is not doing justice to Scotland when a Scotch measure is before the House, or when the Scotch Estimates are under discussion, that he should not think it worth his while to come here and acquaint himself with the views of Scotch Members, and adapt his policy more in accordance with the views of the House of Commons. If we have a Scotch. Bill it is sent to a Grand Committee and Scotch Members are ignored, and when it is passing through this House we are given no opportunity of amending it. On the ground, therefore, that the Secretary of Scotland is not represented in this House by one having full authority to make concessions, and that Scotch business is entirely in the control of a man who is not acquainted with the views of the Scotch Members, I certainly shall support the reduction that has been moved.


Two questions have arisen in this discussion. One is as to the general undesirability, according to hon. Members opposite, of the Secretary of Scotland not being in this House, and the other, which is somewhat a matter personal to myself, refers to my personal inadequacy to represent the Secretary for Scotland, and the various-evils which follow in its train. I may perhaps be permitted to take the last subject first, as it is the less considerable of the two. So far as I myself am concerned, I find it very difficult to know exactly where I stand, because on the one hand I am told by hon. Gentlemen that I am a person of great ability, and the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty declared that the furthest thing from his mind was. to consider me in any way incompetent.


As a brilliant lawyer.


I quite understand. All these compliments are very dear to me; but then, on the other hand, I find that, according to the view of the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty, I am very ignorant, and have no grasp of Scotch affairs. That is a sad thing. How it is possible to be at one time a competent lawyer, as he is so-anxious to assure me I am, and at the same time to be very ignorant and to have no grasp for Scotch affairs, is to me a puzzle. I was born in Scotland, which is, perhaps more than many hon. Members opposite can say; I have passed my whole professional life in Scotland; and though it is undesirable to talk about oneself, I have an idea I can stand a competitive examination regarding public affairs in Scotland against any Member of this House. I have not yet found any superior knowledge on the part of the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty or anyone else. The hon. Member brought in a question which is really germane to quite another subject which we were talking about the other evening. Whatever may be said on the question of Ministers being directors of companies, my being a director of a private company does not interfere with my labours in this House, and so far as I remember, I have not been a single day absent since I have been in office; and if the hon. Member will look at the division lists he will find corroboration of my statement. So far as private practice is concerned, which under the existing Minute I am allowed, that is merely theoretical, because, considering the duties to be discharged in this House, it is quite impossible for me to conduct a private practice in Edinburgh. The hon. Member complains that I am very ignorant and have no grasp of Scotch affairs, and it is perfectly evident that whatever I may say to the contrary will not convince him or anyone else. After all, I shall have to trust to the general sense of the House on that subject. I have never found that the House fails to discriminate between Members who do their business and those who do not, and I can therefore repose on the general verdict of the House regarding my knowledge of Scotch affairs. The hon. Member complained particularly about questions and said that the answers showed that I had no knowledge of the subject. I may point out at once that that argument does not square with the argument of the hon. Member for Wick Burghs. Allow me to assure the hon. Member that so far as questions are concerned the Secretary of Scotland and myself both take an entire responsibility for them. The answers are prepared in the Scotch Office, but except in the case of illness or of unavoidable absence, no question is ever answered by me which has not been considered by my noble friend and myself, and we take entire responsibility in that matter. It is not a question of the answers being framed for us by clerks, as has been suggested in one of the speeches. The hon. Member for Wick Burghs said the answers were perfunctory, but that is, of course, a matter which must be judged of by those who hear them. When the hon. Member suggests that I rarely see the Scotch Secretary he is very far afield, because I can assure him that I see the Scotch Secretary every single day, except, of course, when on rare occasions he is absent in Scotland. The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty quoted from a. speech delivered on the 20th of March by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen-shire, in which he said that I had not the courtesy to appear in the House when Scotch business was brought on. I did not know that that had been said until afterwards; and, perhaps, it is just as well that the Committee should know now the particular occasion of my absence. The question discussed by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire was something referring to Scotch fisheries, and the occasion was the Consolidated Fund Bill No. 2. I see two hon. Members opposite who have been in this. House a long time, and I think they will admit that it is absolutely out of the question that a Minister should be continually in his place on the Consolidated Fund Bill No. 2, unless, of course, he has had intimation from an hon. Gentleman that he proposes to raise some question. The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire did not, as he knows, give me any intimation that he was about to raise any question, and when I asked him why he charged me with discourtesy he said that the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty had told him that he was going to raise the question. Certainly the hon. Member did not communicate that to me, and if I was aware that a question were to be raised I should, as an ordinary matter of House of Commons etiquette, have been present, but I never heard anything about it, and it is absurd to charge a Minister with being guilty of discourtesy because he was not in his place in the Consolidated Fund Bill No. 2, on which it is extremely rare to raise questions of the kind raised by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire. That ends the matter so far as I am concerned. Now I come to the larger question of the presence of the Secretary for Scotland in the House of Lords. Everything the hon. Gentleman has said seems to me to be absolutely applicable to any collocation of offices of which the head is in the House of Lords. The hon. Member for Mid Lanark says that if I am in charge of a Bill I cannot make any concessions without the consent of my chief. It is very far the opposite. Certainly I can say no one has ever had a freer hand given him by the chief of his office, and I am glad I have, because I can say without any hesitation that I thoroughly enjoy the confidence of my noble friend the Secretary for Scotland. As a matter of fact the hon. Gentleman knows that I have again and again made concessions in Bills. Of course on any occasion on which I proposed to give up some vital part of a Bill I have exactly what any Under Secretary has, if his chief is not here, namely, the advantage of being able to consult with my right hon. friend the Leader of the House, and undoubtedly, with the sanction of the Leader of the House, there is nothing I may not do with a Bill that is expedient. So far as the actual power of making concessions is concerned, what is the difference in my position from, say, the position of the Under Secretary for War? At this moment his chief is in the Upper House; where is the difference between his Department and mine at the present moment? Take again, for instance, the Post Office or the Foreign Office, though of course I admit that the Foreign Office is not, as a rule, concerned in Bills. When the party opposite was in office there was a time when Lord Kimberley was at the Colonial Office, Lord Spencer at the Admiralty, and Lord Ripon at the India Office, and they were represented by Under Secretaries in this House, and surely hon. Gentlemen opposite have not forgotten that under their own regime Lord Dalhousie—whose early death we all deplore—was Secretary for Scotland in the House of Lords. The hon. Member for Wick Burghs said that it was quite different in the old days, before the office of Secretary for Scotland was created, but I must inform him that the Home Secretary had precisely the same relation to the Lord Advocate in those days as the Secretary for Scotland has now.


That was a very late arrangement.


Not at all. Really the hon. Gentleman does not know the history of this matter. The Lord Advocate was never in the Cabinet, and therefore never had direct audience of Her Majesty, and consequently, in matters which required direct audience he always had to go to a Secretary of State. If the hon. Member will look at the older Acts of Parliament he will find that the Secretary of State is mentioned over and over again, and all the so-called creation of the position of Secretary for Scotland did was merely to transfer to a new official the power which had previously been exercised by one of the Secretaries for State, generally the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Then the Lord Advocate had relations with more than one Secretary of State; now he practically has relations only with the Secretary for Scotland, so far as the business of his office is concerned. But the creation of the position of Secretary for Scotland—except in so far as it might lead to what might be called a personal eclipse of the Lord Advocate if the Secretary for Scotland happened to be in the House of Commons and had conduct of Bills, and would therefore be more in the eye of the House than the Minister who had not—made no difference whatever so far as the conduct of business was concerned. The matter comes back to this. Unless hon. Members hold that the head of a Department is never to sit in the House of Lords there is no real grievance in the Secretary for Scotland being in the Upper Chamber. That is a proposition which I do not think can be controverted. The practical knowledge which the Lord Advocate has of Scottish affairs is certainly no harm to him; and I do not think that hon. Members can contend that a Lord Advocate is more unfit to represent the Secretary for Scotland than an Under Secretary to represent a Secretary of State. Without desiring to make any comparisons I confess I am personally comforted by this, that if it is a question of what the hon. Member for Ross speaks of—namely, of knowledge or ignorance of Scottish affairs, I think it is likely that I should have quite as much a tincture of that particular knowledge as was displayed in the House in halcyon days when an English gentleman, although a Scotch Member—Sir George Trevelyan—was Secretary for Scotland. And I think, if the comparison were made, though I would not enter into it personally, that I would not have very much to fear from the result.


Not on Highland matters. Sir George Trevelyan was head and shoulders above you in Highland affairs.


It is very difficult to understand the hon. Gentleman's standard, but I have been intimately acquainted with the Highlands all my life. The matter really comes to a general discussion as to the advisability of having any practical representative of the Department in the House of Lords at all. Unless the whole system of dealing with office is to be interfered with, it is impossible for hon. Members to show that there is any peculiar grievance in the Secretary for Scotland being in the other House.

* MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)

regretted that he was not present in the House when the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate referred to remarks which he had made on a previous occasion. The right hon. Gentleman had called his attention to them at the time they were made, and he had given an explanation of them. He regretted that he had used any words which had wounded the right hon. Gentleman in any way. The last desire he had in the world was to impute to him any want of courtesy. The best merit of the Lord Advocate was that in answer to questions he always gave the answer yes or no, and whatever he did say he stuck to. The position of the Lord Advocate in the House of Commons, previous to the creation of the post of the Scottish Secretary, was totally different to the position which the right hon. Gentleman now occupied. He was the one Scotch official in the House to whom every Scotch Member went upon any subject which came up. He conducted all the legislative business of the House. He answered questions on his own responsibility, and was in a totally different position to an Under Secretary of State for War, for instance, whose superior occupied a seat in the House of Lords. The grievance before the House was one of old standing, and resolved itself into a question of whether the Scottish Secretary should be in the House of Commons or the House of Lords. It was disadvantageous to both parties that he should sit in the House of Lords—to the Scotch Members because he was the person in authority mainly responsible for the conduct of Scottish business, and he could not be approached in the same way as the Lord Advocate or any other Minister who occupied a seat in the House of Commons. The disadvantage to Scotch Members was amply illustrated by the fact that there were at the present moment, and had been for some few years, little trifling reforms of a non-contentious character which he firmly believed, had Scotch Members been able to have approached the Scottish Secretary in the House of Commons, would have been dealt with long ago. The disadvantage to the Scottish Secretary, for whom he had the greatest regard, was that although he was a good Scotchman and knew Scottish business thoroughly, he had never held a seat in the House of Commons. The result was that he did not know the House, that he overestimated the difficulty of getting legislation passed, and therefore was unduly timid in pressing forward such measures of reform which, had he been familiar with the House, he would have passed into law at a much earlier period. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate, with considerable ingenuity, referred to various instances of Government officers who had seats in the Upper House, and who were represented by an Under Secretary in the House of Commons. The great difference between those Gentlemen and the Secretary for Scotland was that he was the supreme executive officer for Scotland. Whoever heard of the Chief Secretary for Ireland being in the House of Lords? Never since 1830, when Lord Melbourne occupied the office of Homo Secretary, had that Minister been in the House of Lords. What was wanted for Scotland was the same thing. What Scottish Members demanded was that the executive Minister' for Scotland should be in the House of Commons.

MR. WASON (Clackmannan and Kinross)

desired to call the attention of the Lord Advocate to a grievance which, though small, was very substantial, affecting the smaller towns in Scotland. It was the absence of any restriction by the authorities dealing with the sale of ice cream. [Laughter.] No doubt such a grievance excited the risibility of hon. Members, and everything that contributed to that was advantageous to the House. But there was no question that it was a great grievance, and all that Scotland asked was that the shops should be brought under the control of the liquor licensing laws, so that they might not, as they frequently do, keep open all night long, and that they should not be allowed to be open on Sundays.


Order, order! Such an important matter as that would require legislation, and cannot be dealt with under the Votes.


regretted that that was so, and called attention to the fact that in the Sanitary and Police Acts every provision was made for the city of Aberdeen, and what was good for that city was surely good for the rest of the country.

* MR. WYLIE (Dumbartonshire)

thought it was a pity that any Members of the House, whatever their opinions might be with regard to the desirability of the Secretary of Scotland occupying a seat in the House of Commons, should allow themselves to make an almost personal attack upon the Lord Advocate, whose ability and courtesy were very well known to all Scottish Members. He deprecated that such attacks should be made.


said the hon. Gentleman had entirely misunderstood the remarks of his hon. friend, who attributed no personal incapacity to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate.


pointed out that he was not referring to the hon. Gentleman's hon. friend, but to other remarks made by

previous speakers when the hon. Gentleman was not in the House.


expressed his opinion that the remarks referred to were expressions of commiseration with the Lord Advocate at the difficult position in which he often found himself. He agreed with the remark of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, and thought that as the Scotch Secretary was the chief executive officer for Scottish affairs, and that the entire power of administering that country centred in him, it was necessary that he should be in the House of Commons.


said he was sorry personalities had bulked so largely in the discussion. He could not help thinking, however, that it was to a large extent the fault of the Lord Advocate himself, who had at great length gone into his qualifications for his post, and had besides been extremely unhappy in the comparison he made between himself and the late Secretary for Scotland. Those who had had the pleasure of sitting in that House with Sir George Trevelyan should be the last to undervalue the great services he rendered to Scotland.. He thought the Lord Advocate's defence of his position was utterly untenable. The right hon. gentleman must remember that the Scottish Secretary was for Scotland Home Secretary and President of the Local Government Board, and represented to a. very large extent the Board of Trade. In fact, he occupied positions which in England were occupied by half a dozen Ministers with seats in the House of Commons.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 51;. Noes, 95. (Division List No. 128.)

Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire) Duckworth, James Lyell, Sir Leonard
Barlow, John Emmott Dunn, Sir William Macaleese, Daniel
Bramsdon, Thomas Arthur Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan) MacDonnell, Dr. M. A. (Q'n'sCo)
Buchanan, Thomas Rybun Farquharson, Dr. Robert MacNeill, John Gordon Swift
Burns, John Fenwick, Charles M'Crae, George
Caldwell, James Goddard, Daniel Ford M'Dermott, Patrick
Carmichael, Sir T. D. Gibson- Gourley, Sir Edw. Temperley M'Ghee, Richard
Clark, Dr. G.B.(Caithness-sh.) Healy Timothy M. (N. Louth) Moss, Samuel
Colville John Hedderwick, Thomas C. H. O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Commins, Andrew Horniman, Frederick John Pearson, Sir Weetman D.
Crombie, John William Kilbride, Denis Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Donelan, Captain A. Kinloch, Sir John George Smyth Reid, Sir Robert Threshie
Doogan, P. C. Leng, Sir John Rickett, J. Compton
Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark) Lewis, John Herbert Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.) Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath) Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Hudd'rsfld)
Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire) Wallace, Robert TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Souttar, Robinson Wason, Eugene Mr. Weir and Sir Charles.
Steadman, William Charles Wilson, Henry J.. (York, W. R.) Cameron.
Archdale, Edward Mervyn Gilliat, John Saunders More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Goldsworthy, Major-General Morrell, George Herbert
Baird, John George Alexander Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute)
Balfour, Rt. Hn. Gerald W. (Leeds) Goschen, George J. (Sussex) Plat-Higgins, Frederick
Banbury, Frederick George Green, W. D. (Wednesbury) Plunkett, Rt. Hon. H. Curzon
Bethell, Commander Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robert W. Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Haslett, Sir James Homer Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Blundell Colonel Henry Hickman, Sir Alfred Renshaw, Charles Bine
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Houston, R. P. Rentoul, James Alexander
Billiard, Sir Harry Howell, William Tudor Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. Thomson
Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin) Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil Robinson, Brooke
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Hudson, George Bickersteth Royds, Clement Molyneux
Cavendish, V.C.W.(Derbysh.) Hutton, John (Yorks. N. R.) Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)
Cayzer, Sir Charles William Jebb, Richard Claverhouse Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)
Charrington, Spencer Jenkins, Sir J. Jones Sinclair, Louis (Romford)
Clare, Octavius Leigh Johnston, William (Belfast) Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.)
Coghill, Douglas Harry Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex) Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Knowles, Lees Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.
Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth) Laurie, Lieut.-General Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge Lawrence, Sir E. Durning-(Corn) Sutherland, Sir Thomas
Curzon, Viscount Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie Thorburn, Sir Walter
Donkin, Richard Sim Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Sw'nsea) Thornton, Percy M.
Doxford, Sir Wm. Theodore Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverpool) Tritton, Charles Ernest
Faber, George Denison Lonsdale, John Brownlee Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)
Fellowes Hon. Ailwyn Edward Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller Wanklyn, James Leslie
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Lowe, Francis William Welby, Lt.-Ct. A. C. E. (Taunt'n)
Firbank, Joseph Thomas Macartney, W. G. Ellison Welby, Sir C. G. E. (Notts.)
Fisher, William Hayes Macdona, John Cumming Williams, Jos. Powell- (Birm.)
Fletcher, Sir Henry McArthur, Chas. (Liverpool) Wylie, Alexander
Forster, Henry William M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinbgh, W.)
Foster, Colonel (Lancaster) M'Killop, James TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk) Milddlemore, J. Throgmorton) Sir William Walrond and
Garfit, William Moore, William (Antrim, N.) Mr. Anstruther.

Original Question again proposed.


said he proposed to move a reduction of £10, with a view to obtaining a little further information. He noticed one item of £200 for "inspection," and he desired to know how that had been expended, as the charge appeared to him to be excessive. There was a further sum put down for " messengers," but nothing to say what those messengers were for. There was also provision made for the migration of crofters. The Congested Districts Board was established for the purpose, among other things, of developing agriculture, dairy farming, and the breeding of live stock and poultry in the congested districts. The Board had only spent a small sum of money in connection with these objects. There was on the part of the Board a great want of business capacity. There was a screw loose somewhere. There was something seriously wrong. He complained that the Board had not provided meal mills, which were very much wanted in certain districts, although that was one of the objects the Board was appointed to carry out. With regard to the migration of crofters from the congested districts he pointed out that not one had been sent away, although it was, now three years since the Government provided money for that purpose. In reply to a question on 30th March last the Lord Advocate stated that the whole subject would be dealt with in the forthcoming Report of the Congested Districts Board. That Report ought to have been in the hands of Members before this Vote was taken, but it was not yet submitted. This was extremely unsatisfactory, for they would have no opportunity of discussing the Report for another year. He further called attention to the failure of the Board to erect lighthouses at points where they were required. The Lord Advocate had stated, in reply to a question, that he did not know how they were to be maintained after they were erected. There was a sum of £400 at the disposal of the Secretary for Scotland for the purpose of maintaining lighthouses, and the Scotch Office did not know anything about it. He had to toil through the Appropriation Accounts, and do the work that ought to be done by the Scotch Office.


The statement is perfectly accurate. The Board have not arrived at any conclusion as to whether they should or should not maintain all these lighthouses.


A very convenient way to get out of it. He was not surprised that the affairs of the Congested Districts Board wore not attended to as they ought to be. The secretary of the Board was a clerk in the Exchequer Office. That gentleman for his duties in the Exchequer Office received £650 a year, and he also received £150 a year for acting as secretary of the Congested Districts Board. There was also £150 paid from the funds for certain officers in the Exchequer Office. Was that the way to conduct business? For £300 they would get a man who would devote his whole time to the work of the Congested Districts Board. As a protest against the conduct of the Congested Districts Board he moved that the Vote be reduced by £10.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item E (Congested Districts Board, Scotland, Grant-in-aid) be reduced by £10."—(Mr. Weir.)


said that up to the 31st March the Congested Districts Board had got £85,000, and no Report had been given since one which was dated 31st January, 1899. Why was there no Report of what the Board had been doing since then The Board was getting money at the rate of £35,000 a year, and the Lord Advocate should have information to give to the Committee as to what was being done when he came with a Vote of that kind, What was the policy they were going to pursue in regard to the expenditure of this money? They were at the present moment perfectly in the dark. He ventured to say that they had far more money in their pocket than they could possibly spend during the current year.

SIR LEONARD LYELL (Orkney and Shetland)

I should like to press the right hon. Gentleman for some explanation as to why nothing has been done in regard to the erection and maintenance of lighthouses. I believe that some arrangement could be made whereby the maintenance of the lights would be shared by the Congested Districts Board and the local authorities. I would specially call attention to the inadequate provision made for certain harbour works in Orkney. I brought this question before the Secretary for Scotland and the Lord Advocate, and received a most unsatisfactory reply. The harbour I specially refer to is that of St. Margaret's Hope. The population of the island consists of small farmers who are unable to provide the money themselves, although the total trade of the place is not inconsiderable. Although every requirement has been complied with, the smallest possible grant has so far been withheld. There has been no distinct refusal; the matter still awaits consideration and termination. I want to know why this matter has been hung up for so long. The Lord Advocate gave me an evasive answer to-day, saying that grants had been given to other places not very far off, and therefore this place, which the county authorities of every description maintain has the first claim upon the attention of the Government, has to stand over for some indefinite period. It is no satisfaction to the people of one island that a neighbouring island is to have a pier but they are to be left out. The constitution of this Congested Districts Board is most unsatisfactory. It is especially unsatisfactory to the people of the country and to Members of this House that the really responsible person who has to deal with these matters, the Secretary for Scotland, is not a member of the House of Commons so that questions could be put straight to him. The Congested Districts Board consists of the Secretary for Scotland, the Under Secretary, and the heads of im- portant Boards. But these gentlemen are all fully occupied in their respective offices; they do not get any additional pay for sitting on the Congested Districts Board, and the work is performed in a perfunctory manner. We do not know whether or not they entertain or give any attention to the representations which are made, or upon whose advice they come to their conclusions. The result is extremely unsatisfactory. For these reasons I most strongly support the motion of my hon. friend, and I hope the Committee will enter their protest by dividing upon this important question.


I know something, though not perhaps very much, about the question which has been raised by the hon. Baronet, and there is no doubt that in the part of the country to which he has referred the action of the Congested Districts Board in regard to the harbour at St. Margaret's Hope constitutes a very distinct grievance. In fact, the Congested Districts Board have played with the question; they have put the inhabitants of the island to very considerable expense in preparing at least two surveys and possible schemes for a harbour, and then, after all, have hung the matter up. In the meantime they have undertaken to erect a pier at a place called Burray, in the neighbourhood of St. Margaret's Hope, which is absolutely unsuitable, as compared with St. Margaret's Hope, for any useful purpose. No seaman who knows anything about the place or the traffic between the north of Scotland and the Orkneys, would hesitate for one moment in a choice between the proposed harbour at St. Margaret's Hope and at Burray where the Congested Districts Board have agreed to put up a pier. I suppose the reason is that the pier at Burray is less expensive than the pier at St. Margaret's Hope, but I do not understand that it is the busi- of the Congested Districts Board to erect piers at places where they will be of comparatively little value, simply because they cost less than piers which might be erected at places where they would be of distinct value, not only to the coasting-trade, but also to the mail steamers travelling between the north of Scotland and the Orkneys. I will pass from that point to the consideration of the Con- gested Districts Board itself. That board was created three years ago under pressure for a distinct purpose, but up to this date it has absolutely failed to accomplish that purpose or to justify its existence upon any ground whatever. The Board has done practically nothing. It was created in 1897, and from that time it has gone on accumulating sums of money which have been annually voted by Parliament for the very specific purpose of relieving the districts in certain congested areas in the Highlands, and it has not relieved a single area or spot in any congested district throughout the Highlands, In February last, in answer to a question addressed to him, the Lord Advocate stated, by way of showing how much this Board was doing, that out of a balance of £62,000 it had promised, in conformity with recommendations of committees appointed by the Board, to expend about £27,000. But there has been absolutely no evidence given by the Lord Advocate or anybody else that a single sovereign of that money has been expended. Further, the Lord Advocate said that the Board was negotiating for the purchase of certain lands in order to relieve congested areas, a purchase which might possibly involve the Board in a further expenditure of £18,000. But when information was asked in regard to this land purchase scheme it turned out that the Board had devised some totally unworkable scheme, a scheme so unworkable and so ill calculated to meet the wants of the people for: whom it was intended that not a single applicant came forward for a portion of the land. The scheme was too preposterous to enter into the imagination of any man who understood the difficulties of the people for whose benefit this Act was intended. If I remember rightly, under that scheme, with the advantage of money advanced by the Congested Districts Board, a crofter coming from a congested area where poverty was rampant was to be offered a tenancy which would have cost him something like £23 per annum, and he would further have had the inestimable benefit of a loan of £300 for the erection of buildings at an interest of 2¾ per cent. The total cost to the man, therefore, would amount to about £30 per annum. "But," said the Lord Advocate, " we should arrange that the shooting will be let for some £12 10s. per annum, so that the rent will be reduced to about £18." Just imagine a scheme of that character! Who was going to guarantee the value of shooting over holdings which were cut into miserable patches to be cultivated by crofters? The scheme was too preposterous. It was even worse than that, because as originally designed these crofters were to be compelled to take over at a valuation the sheep which happened to be on these large grazing farms. Nobody who knows anything about the system of sheep and cattle valuation in the Highlands would for a moment dream of buying sheep at a Highland valuation. So far as that particular is concerned the scheme was seen to be so absurd that the sheep valuation was speedily dropped; but the praises of the rest of the scheme were sung by the Lord Advocate, as anyone who desires to pursue the subject may see by a reference to Hansard of February last. But there is something more than that. I believe it was upon the same occasion the Lord Advocate told us that the Congested Districts Board had actually paid £1,451 for the purposes of migration. The principal object of this Act, which took this House some time to pass, was in the first place to purchase land for the people in congested areas, and, in the next place, to migrate some of the people from the congested areas to other parts of the kingdom. We were told at that time that £1,451 had been actually paid by the Board, but a month later, in reply to a question by the hon. Member for Ross as to whether or not any crofters had been migrated, the Lord Advocate confessed that not a single crofter in the Highlands had been migrated under the Act. It is a curious thing that we should have this Act in operation for three years, during which period the members of the Board have been drawing their salaries annually, and yet, so far as we know, not a single farthing of the sum voted by the House has been expended for the purposes intended by Parliament. I therefore think that, in the absence of the Report, we ought to have a very full explanation from the Lord Advocate, and an assurance that the Board is not one of the legislative farces which have been passed in recent years. Refer to Debate on Mr. Weir's Amendment to the Address, 8th February, 1900, The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxviii., page 973.


The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty referred to the salary of the inspector of alkaline works in the Scotch Office. He is appointed under the Alkali Acts, and the same gentleman acts for Scotland as for England, and his salary is divided equitably between the two countries, and I have no hesitation in saying that it has been fairly apportioned between them. That is the meaning of the sum in the Vote. The hon. Member also asked why the messengers in the Scotch Education Department are borne on the Scotch Office Vote instead of on the Education Vote. That can also be simply explained. It might be arranged otherwise, but the whole office expenses of Dover House—which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, contains the Scotch Office, the Education Department for Scotland, and the Lord Advocate's office—are borne on the Scotch Office Vote. The travelling expenses referred to are the travelling expenses incurred under the Alkali Acts. Of course, the inspector has to visit the works he inspects. I do not know precisely what sum is actually spent, but I take it that this is an estimate of what would ordinarily be spent in travelling during the year. Now I come to a topic of much more general interest, raised by hon. Gentlemen, and that is the question of the Congested Districts Board. First of all, lot me say this about the Report. The hon. Member for Mid Lanark complained that this Report was overdue, because he said that the last one had been issued on 31st January, 1899. I think he will remember that, at the end of that Report, it was intimated that hereafter the Reports would coincide with the financial year, an arrangement which is obviously more convenient for the House, because it will enable hon. Members to see precisely how the account stands at the end of the financial year. Of course that delayed the issue of the Report for three months, but in future I have no doubt the Report will be issued soon after the end of each financial year. That is the reason why the Report is later than it would be if it were only brought up to 1st January. As regards the statement that the Report has been held back there is nothing of the sort. The reason why the Report is not in the hands of Members during the discussion of the Scotch estimates is what I have stated, and also because we are taking the estimates earlier this year than usual. I am very sorry the Report is not in the hands of Members, because I cannot help thinking that if it were we should have been spared some of the very wild statements, I cannot call them anything else, as to the action of the Congested Districts Board. When that Report is issued I think a perusal of it will show that the very last charge that can justly be brought against the Board is that it has been perfunctory and careless or has not done anything at all. In regard to the purely irresponsible charges which the hon. Member for Wick Burghs has uttered against the Board, it is all very well to say that the members of the Board are holders of other positions. They were chosen for that precise reason. I do not know that there is anything more difficult than the proper administration of funds of this sort. Of course, if we were to follow the policy of the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty and to pauperise the people by giving them doles and grants, it would be easy enough, but to spend money among a poor population who naturally—as we all would if we were poor—want to got help in a pecuniary direction, in order not to patronise them but to help the district, is a matter of very great difficulty. It is a matter which clever men find it hard to perform, and one that we could not do better than bring to our side the very best experience that the country could give us. Accordingly, these Gentlemen were selected, not because they had or had not salaries for other positions, but because, so far as we could, we wanted to avail ourselves of the best possible experience. No doubt my noble friend the Secretary for Scotland is chairman of the Board, and rightly so, but he is responsible for the policy of the Board. There is the Vice-President of the Local Government Board, who, by daily communication with the inspectors of the poor in every part of the country, has immense local knowledge. Then there is the Chairman of the Fishery Board, who of course is in direct touch with many parts of the very country to be relieved. Then there is the chairman of the Crofter Committee, whom I have heard praised by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and who ought to know something about the congested districts, and three other gentlemen chosen as representatives of the Highlands, the death of one of whom we have unfortunately to deplore —I mean Sir Kenneth McKenzie—who brought not only immense knowledge but assiduity to the work he had to perform. All I can say regarding these gentlemen is that I do not know that you could select in Scotland gentlemen who are more likely to bring knowledge and experience to the very difficult matter they have to attend to. As to what they have done, let me first refer to the question of money. The state of the account on 31st March, 1900, was that there was a balance no doubt of £60,000 in the hands of the Board, but at the same time there was a possible expenditure on liabilities of £40,000; that is to say, the account only showed the actual expenditure up to 31st March, but in addition the Board had a large liability in connection with various schemes for which payment had been promised on certain conditions, and it was estimated that if these conditions wore fulfilled £40,000 might be required. In regard to the mere fact of the Board having a balance, I must humbly confess that that appears to me an indication of a very wise policy. The Board state at the end of the Report, which will shortly be in the hands of hon. Members, that they consider it is much better to proceed with caution than by precipitate action, and not run the risk of making a mistake which might defeat the purpose for which the Board was established. [An HON. MEMBER: What have they done?] I am going to tell the hon. Member. They certainly have not spared themselves in the work they were appointed to carry out. The language of hon. Gentlemen opposite is that they have done nothing, and that they have been perfunctory, and this language is used without the slightest knowledge of what the Board has or has not done. In the first place I should like to mention one thing they have not done. They found again and again in their inquiries, with a view to helping the inhabitants of the congested districts, that one of the greatest difficulties with which the young person of either sex in these districts had to contend with was the disadvantage that he or she, when the time came to go out into the world, had never had that early training which children in other districts necessarily get from their surround- ings. In an ordinary country district a boy has continually brought before him the general idea of taking to a trade, but in these districts in the Highlands and along the seaboard a boy gets no such idea, because there are no trades and no worker in wood or iron to get a chance of looking at. The lives he sees his elders lead is that they fish for a certain part of the year, they do a little in the way of cultivation, and they get an occasional job in connection with sport, but that they have long periods of enforced idleness. The Western Highlander has never by right of descent, so to speak, been a real fisherman. I do not mean by that that very many Western Highlanders are not very competent boatmen and accustomed to the sea, but somehow or other he has never brought himself, like the East Coast fisherman has with such conspicuous success, to look to the sea as a means of livelihood altogether, and to take to the sea as his occupation. The West Coast man has always been accustomed to look to a certain extent to the land for a modicum of cultivation, and to the sea for the purpose of fishing. The girls have no chance of knowing what domestic service really is, even of the most rudimentary kind, and the result is that they are put at an immense disadvantage, as compared with others more favourably situated elsewhere. One thing which is especially noticeable when we come to consider seafaring life is that these west country boys are ignorant of its ordinary conditions, and they are very often exposed to ridicule. Ridicule to the sensitive nature found in the Celt is a very serious thing when a person has not had much experience of life. In this House we learn to be thick-skinned, but to the sensitive young man we find that ridicule is a very serious thing, and much of it will very often kill that spirit of enterprise which we are doing our very best to foster. Certain experiments have been made in the way of trying to give some of these children a certain amount of experience in what I may call the very rudiments of trade, and in the case of the girls giving them some sort of experience in what I may call the ABC of domestic service. The Congested Districts Board felt very strongly that they would be helping these districts very much if in some way or other, through the school boards or otherwise, they could impart some kind of rudimentary instruc- tion in this direction. Unfortunately the powers of the Congested Districts Board are such that the Law Officers of the Crown had to advise the Board that they could not spend money in that direction. With a view to procuring that power my noble friend introduced last year a Bill which passed all its stages in the House of Lords which would have allowed a sum of money to be used in this direction. Hon. Members know that that Bill was blocked by hon. Members opposite belonging to those very portions of the country whose constituents would have been benefited, and the responsibility for that failure I am very glad to put upon their shoulders.


I did nothing to block that Bill; in fact, I was rather in its favour.


And I did not block the Bill, nor obstruct it in any way.


But the hon. Member opposite was one of those who prevented it passing through the House.


Certainly not.


Then I am not at one with the view of the hon. Member about that matter. But let me now come to what we have done. In the first place, let me take this question of migration, about which hon. Members are so much interested. Various attempts have been made in this direction, and some have been successful and others have not. I find that the total sum for loans was £1,310, and £210 in grants to the crofters, or an equivalent to £1,400. The hon. Member for Wick Burghs has spoken of one of our larger experiments as a scheme which is totally unworkable and too preposterous and absurd. I do not know what the hon. Member's knowledge is upon this question, but I think he will be scarcely prepared to compare his knowledge with that of the Rev. J. K. Maclean and the Rev. Donald Mackenzie. Here is what they say about this question. They made a communication to the Secretary for Scotland in his capacity of Secretary to the Congested Districts Board, and they forwarded the following resolution— Resolved: To express the thanks of those districts to Lord Balfour of Burleigh and the Congested Districts Board for their earnest and large attempt to meet the need of those districts for more land by devising such a liberal scheme of loans. That is the scheme which the hon. Member for Wick Burghs calls preposterous and absurd, and yet yon have two ministers of the Free Church supporting at a meeting a resolution in the terms which I have read. Whether the people have taken advantage of this scheme or not is a very different thing to calling it preposterous and absurd. They went on to describe the scheme as a large and earnest attempt to deal with the question, but, at the same time, they did want it altered in regard to the taking over of the stock at valuation. Accordingly, the Congested Districts Board modified that provision, and instead of asking the settlers to take over the stock at valuation, the Board themselves proposed to buy the stock at valuation, which should be disposed of by arrangement between themselves. Unfortunately applications were not made by a sufficient number of people with enough stock to allow the matter to go on, but the experiment is not necessarily a failure yet. So late as 23rd February, 1900—the resolution I read was passed on the 23rd October, 1899—a letter was received from Mr. Lindsay, the Convener of Sutherland, in which he says— I noticed with much disappointment in the newspapers of last week that the negotiations for the purchase and settlement of Syre Farm, in this county, had been broken off and the scheme all but abandoned. The purchase of this farm by the Congested Districts Board, and the probable resale thereof to suitable tenants, raised hopes that the time had arrived when the restoration of the people to the land could be begun under very favourable circumstances. I attach so much importance to the success of this scheme, and the policy involved in it, that I think no reasonable effort ought to be spared in removing as far as possible all obstacles to such success. From a careful perusal of the recital of the various steps already taken I am not fully satis-lied that there are not misunderstandings on both sides, and misconceptions on the part of the applicants as to the full bearing and very favourable nature of the terms offered by the Board.


I should like to know if the right hon. Gentleman is quoting from the Report of this year?


I am quoting from the appendix of this year. The result of that was that an arrangement has been made with the town of Sutherland, and we hope that there may be still some chance of trying to bring this question to a successful issue. Upon this subject I want to show the Committee how utterly reckless the statements are which are made so lightly by hon. Members on the opposite side of the House in regard to the question of the Congested Districts Board being really in earnest in this matter. As far as the Congested Districts Board was concerned, experiments were made upon land near Stornoway, but there was only one applicant who seemed to show that the desire to acquire this land was not very large. There were other attempts made in Skye, one of which has already been reported upon. Now I have dealt with the subject of migration, but what I have mentioned does not by any means exhaust the operations of the Congested Districts Board. The Board have done much for the improvement of agriculture by providing live stock, and there was also a very large distribution of seed in the year 1899, and there will be another large distribution in 1900. The Board have also conducted certain experiments on potato sprays. One hon. Member opposite seemed to ridicule these experiments, but they were being watched with the very greatest interest in the Highlands. As a matter of fact, so far as we have got with our experiments, it seems to be shown that the effect of this spray has been decidedly beneficial. These experiments are all carried out under the supervision of a gentleman who came from Ireland, and who has been on the Congested Districts Board, and who has had a great deal of practical experience in this matter. There is also an experiment being carried out as to improved methods of cultivation. It is very difficult to get those west countrymen to adopt methods of cultivation other than those which they have been accustomed to for many years. They are in the habit of planting their potatoes near to each other, with the result that you do not get the same results as if they were planted a proper distance from each other. The only way of really bringing this fact home to people of this class is to provide them with an object lesson in potato cultivation. Accordingly, provision had been made for planting certain patches of potatoes under precisely similar soil and similar manurial conditions. Some of those patches have the potatoes planted at the ordinary distances which obtain in those neighbourhoods, and others have been planted at distances which more enlightened agriculturists suggest. In this way a good deal has been done in the matter of providing facilities to impress upon the people the advantages of improved methods of cultivation. Besides this, in the year 1889, I think there wore thirty stud animals distributed in various parts of the country, and this departure has been found to be perfectly satisfactory. The demand for stallions has not been very great, and the Congested Districts Board hope it will be realised that there is much advantage to be gained in this direction. The rams have also been very successful. And now I come to the question of piers and harbours. I will pass at once to the question raised by the hon. Member for Orkney about this pier at St. Margaret's Hope. The hon. Member is really quite in error when he thinks that the pier at Burray is in any way in substitution of the pier at St. Margaret's Hope.


I did not say that, for it was the right hon. Gentleman's own statement.


No, but the hon. Member inferred it, and it is the inference I am taking exception to. I am sure he will not find anything I have said which bears that inference. He said that he did not think it was the business of the Board to choose one pier rather than another. I do not think that anyone who knows the two towns would use that argument. I do not think I am at all misrepresenting him in saying that his complaint was that we had chosen to make a pier at Burray instead of at St. Margaret's Hope.


I never said anything of the sort. What I really referred to was that the piers which had the greatest claims upon the Secretary for Scotland were being neglected, while other piers with less claim were receiving attention.


I do not wish for a moment to enter into an argument as to what the hon. Member said or did not say. All I want to do is to assure him that, as a matter of fact, the question of Burray having got a pier has nothing to do with the reason assigned by the hon. Member. Now why did Burray come first instead of St. Margaret's? These two places both applied practically at once, and I have no doubt there was a good deal of local jealousy. One hon. Member opposite said it would be no comfort to the inhabitants of St. Margaret's Hope to know that Burray had got a pier. But the Burray people came forward in the first instance with a practical and feasible scheme, while the St. Margaret's Hope people did not. Their scheme was inadmissible, and it had to be sent back again. In the meantime the Burray people had got a start, and accordingly their pier was granted. Of course, it is very much more economical not to have two piers going on at once. The hon. Member for Ross has charged me with great ignorance of Scotch affairs, and he spoke as if he had got a complete ease. I called the hon. Member's attention at the time to some of the points he has raised, and he has totally misrepresented the very plain answer I gave to his questions. So far from being ignorant upon this question of the maintenance of lighthouses, I could not be quite ignorant, because I stated that last year the sum of £403 had been spent for the year 1899 upon lighthouses, and this year the sum of £731 has been set aside for this purpose. The question of policy is a much more difficult one. I think I have shown the Committee, though I am afraid at some length, but it was necessary to go into particulars, that the Congested Districts Board has been anything but idle and that it is not a perfunctory Board, and I cannot help thinking that the general sense of the Scotch people will be with it in its endeavours to do what it can not to pauperise the people by rushing blindfolded into schemes of migration which with pauper- ism combined seems to be the only outcome of some of the proposals of hon. Gentlemen opposite.

MR. THOMAS SHAW (Hawick Burghs)

I do not propose to detain the Committee by reference other than brief to the details given by the right hon. Gentleman, but two questions of general importance have been raised more particularly with regard to the position of Scotch Members in this House and the information they receive for the purpose of conducting discussions. I regret extremely that my right hon. and learned friend should have spoken of the speech of my hon. friend the Member for the Wick Burghs in the terms which he thought fit to employ. His general charge against my hon. friend was that he was talking this evening without any know lodge, and accordingly with irresponsibility. That is a serious charge, and the basis of it is that my hon. friend was not in possession of the main body of the facts contained in the Report of the Congested Districts Board. My retort to the Government in this matter is that they are responsible for having selected this evening for the discussion of the Scotch Estimates, and that the responsibility is not alone theirs, but that we are asked this evening to discuss Scotch estimates in the absence of the Reports of the Congested Districts Board, the Lunacy Board, the Local Government Board, and the Fisheries Board. We are governed by public boards in Scotland, and I think that the Government, having selected this evening for the discussion of the Scotch Votes, ought to be the last to talk of this discussion being without knowledge, when want of knowledge has bean determined by the absence of these Reports. There is another more general question still. I agree that the main body of opinion on this Vote has been directed to the question of the Congested Districts Board, and the main subject discussed has been what this Board has done with regard to the migration of crofters, and the selection and purchase of land for that operation. I need not repeat now what I stated in this House to the best of my strength and ability, when the Bill was passed in 1897, in urging that we should invest in the Board larger powers for the compulsory purchase of land. That advice was not, of course, acceded to, and I am bound to say, notwithstanding all the details that have been given by the right hon. Gentleman, that the Congested Districts Board up to this time has made practically no progress in the main item of its task, which was the acquisition of land for the purpose of relieving congestion in certain parts of Scotland, and settling the population on land from which they could earn a living, I will give the Committee by way of summary what the Board has done in this direction. It has boon vested by Parliament with about £80,000 of money, and it, has spent on its main enterprise £1,520. That is practically a contemptible result, and I think we are entitled to condemn the administration of a Board which has only that to show for its operations. What has been said by the Government with reference to the case of Strathnauer? Nothing has been done by way of migrating crofters into Strathnauer, and the result of the whole trans action is pronounced in these fatal words, "The scheme is not necessarily a failure yet." All that a public board can say is that the main item of its programme, with regard to the acquisition of land, cannot be said to be necessarily a failure yet. There is commendation! Here is Her Majesty's Government responsible for the creation of this Board, and for selecting and apportioning its duties, and for its composition; they have the Board and the money, and yet its main scheme is pronounced in the wonderful words I have quoted. The matter is to be kept open, it is said, and it is hoped that something may even yet be done. We hope so, too; but it is very trying indeed to the patience of the Highland population that that is all that can be said for the operations of the Congested Districts Board. Then there was another very wonderful scheme the scheme for the selection of land and its division into quarter-acre plots. That was seriously mentioned as part of the labours of the Congested District Board, but after the scheme was fully fledged and placed before the population of the district, it was found that not a quarter-acre of land could be purchased on the arrangement made by the Board. I think even after the statement of the Lord Advocate that that is a very pitiful result of the operations of a great public body. The position in which we have been placed as Scotch Members when we are asked to discuss these matters in the dark, and are then reproached with discussing them without knowledge, is bad enough, but it is not that merely I complain of. There is something underlying the absence of success in these schemes which is far deeper than any party question, and that is this —what is the position of the population of these districts, the urgency of whose case was the reason for the measure of 1897? Their lot is as it was when the measure was introduced; it is still one of conspicuous hardship, and I submit that in voting for this Amendment hon. Members will be voting for the condemnation of the prolongation of a policy under which these congested districts still remain as congested as ever, and by which misery is being prolonged, simply because this Board will not abandon its policy of lethargy and adopt a policy of courage. The Board first of all made an investigation into certain schemes of educational requirements in the Western Highlands, and it made certain suggestions, and, I suppose, it wasted time—probably months—and at the end of all these negotiations or transactions it occurred to someone to inquire whether under the Act the Board had any power in the matter, and it was found it had not, and that it had been fruitlessly wasting its time. How can we respect a Board of that kind? I do protest against the methods of this Board and against the absence of any serious conviction on the part of the Government that before we are asked to discuss Scotch Votes we ought to have information from these Boards. We have been asked to discuss four times over matters on which Reports should have been in our hands long ago. On the whole I say that the result of the action of the Congested Districts Board, if it continues, will be one of two things. Either the Board will go, as an administrative entity in Scotland, and you will have to get some Board which will address itself to administration and not to hoarding up money, or else the grant will go, and the people of Scotland will agree that the Board has disproved its right to a grant by the lethargy of its administration.

* DR. CLARK (Caithnessshire)

I hope the Lord Advocate will withdraw this Vote, because we have no information which enables us to grant this money. I might draw his attention to the fact that he informed my hon. friend two months ago that the Report from which he has been reading to-night would be in our hands last month. In March we were told we would have it in April, and now, in the middle of May, he has got the Report to enable him to answer questions, but we are not to have it, and under those circumstances he ought not to ask for this Vote to-night. Unless the Government withdraws the Vote I will move to report progress, in order to discuss the conduct of the Government from that standpoint. I have always been opposed to the action of this Board. I said that the constitution, of the Board as proposed in the Bill of 1897 was a bad one, and I so far got the House of Commons to agree with me that an Amendment was passed that there should be three members appointed apart from the official members. I regret to say that these three members are not of. the class that ought to have been appointed. How can we have any confidence with a Board of this kind? I will give two illustrations of how it acts. In the Report of 1898 it is stated that the Board has been engaged in negotiations for the purchase of a large farm. How does the matter stand with regard to that now? The Lord Advocate informed my hon. friend in March of this year that the Board had found that the farm referred to could not be got as it was under lease until 1902. One more instance. If, as the Lord Advocate says, wild language has been used by the hon. Member for the Wick Burghs, language just as wild has been used in the Highlands by important official persons with reference to the Board. What did Cameron of Lochiel say last week at a meeting of the County Council of Inverness? A report was brought before the Council to maintain a pier under the Act. I should like to know how the money for the pier was spent. It cost the Government £1,800, and here is the language used by Cameron of Lochiel after a report made by Captain Moore, of H.M.S. " Research," which showed that the money was spent in building a pier where there were no roads for miles, and where it was dangerous for a ship to go near. Here is what Cameron of Lochiel said at the meeting of the County Council— There is no more stupendous monument of folly or waste of public money existing in the Queen's dominions. I think the phraseology of my hon. friend is mild compared with the language used by the Convener of the county of Inverness. That is the character of the work which is being carried out, and I for one am opposed to granting further money to this Board. Regarding the constitution of the Board the Secretary for Scotland has plenty of work to do besides, and he cannot give attention to minute details, and the other official members of the Board are exactly in the same position. The Chairman of the Crofters' Commission is also sheriff of his county, and you cannot expect him to do more work. It is physically impossible. Indeed, it is wonderful how he can do the work he has to do. The same thing applies to the other official members, and practically we have a board composed of officials whose own work would occupy all their time. As to the case of Strathnaver, it is a bad scheme and can never be carried out. It is quite true that meetings have been held and that petitions have been forwarded by parish ministers and Free Church ministers; but what is the evidence brought forward? These gentlemen simply point out the absurdity of the Government's own scheme. If that be the condition of things I do not see why we should vote this money. Nothing has been done by the Board except to hoard up money. The Lord Advocate has given us information regarding the character of the Western Highlander as against the east coast man. The reason why fishermen on the east coast are so much more successful is that they have railways near all their harbours and can send their fish to market by rail. On the west coast we have got few railways, and no steamers in winter, and when fish is landed it often cannot be sent to the markets. It is not the case that the west coast men are not as good seamen as the east coast men. When they enter the Navy or the merchant service they show great efficiency, and masters who have them on their ships know that to be the case. I must say that such a statement comes with a very bad grace from the present Government, on whom my hon. friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty has been pressing the desirability of having a training ship on the west coast, where boys could be trained for the sea, but the Admiralty and the Scotch Office have refused to do anything in the matter. I do not think that a single penny either of the money voted by this House or of the money taken from Scotch sources should be spent in educational projects. The money voted was intended for the relief of the congestion in these districts, and only £1,500 has, in three years, been spent for that purpose. I hope the Government will withdraw the Vote in order that we may have the facts before us before we are asked to vote this money. It is three years now since the Board was constituted, and I do not think we ought to vote another penny until we have the Report. I move to report progress.

Motion made, and Question proposed, " That the Chairman do report progress; and ask leave to sit again."—(Dr. Clark.)


The hon. Member for Caithness and the hon. Member for Wick know very well that the Report cannot be completed in the ordinary course till the end of May.


I was in the House at the time, and heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that the Report would be in the hands of Members in April.


The hon. Member has not been much in the House lately. The Report will be brought out at the usual time.


I do not think the Lord Advocate really appreciates the grounds on which we ask that this Vote should be postponed. I believe the speech which the Lord Advocate delivered an hour ago to be perfectly unexampled in the House of Commons. We are asked to pass Votes for a particular body without having the Report concerning that body in our possession. The Lord Advocate, in a speech occupying forty minutes, read extracts from a Report which we have not got, and then he complains of our ignorance. But he went

further and told us that the Congested Districts Board in their Report blamed certain Members of the House, because some Bill of the Government did not pass last year. I say such a remark ought not to have been made. It is not treating the House of Commons, the representative body of the nation, with proper respect to ask them to vote this ,£20,000, when they have no Report of the proceedings of this Board before us, on which we can say "Yea" or "Nay" in a matter of confidence in them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is always talking of economy and protecting the public purse. Precious economy this, which does not allow us to know how this money is to be spent, and permits the representative of the Government to get up and read extracts from a Report which is not in our possession, and accuse us of ignorance of that which we can absolutely know nothing!

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 55; noes, 102. (Division List No. 129.)

Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire) Haldane, Richard Burdon Robson, William Snowdon
Barlow, John Emmott Hayne, Rt. Hon. C. Seale- Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)
Bryce, Rt. Hon. James Healy, Timothy M. (N. Louth) Smith, Samuel (Flint)
Burns, John Hedderwick, Thos. Chas. H. Souttar, Robinson
Caldwell, James Horniman, Frederick John Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Cameron, Sir Charles (Glasgow) Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C. Tanner, Charles Kearns
Carmichael, Sir T. D. Gibson- Kilbride, Denis Tennant, Harold John
Channing, Francis Allston Kinloch, Sir John George Smyth Wallace, Robert
Clark, Dr. G. B. Lyell, Sir Leonard Wason, Eugene
Colville, John Macaleese, Daniel Weir, James Galloway
Commins, Andrew MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)
Crombie, John William M'Crae, George Wilson, John (Govan)
Doogan, P. C. M'Ghee, Richard Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)
Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark) Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)
Duckworth, James Nussey, Thomas Willans
Dunn, Sir William O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Evans, Samuel T.(Glamorgan) O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Mr. Buchanan and Captain
Farquharson, Dr. Robert Pearson, Sir Weetman D. Sinclair.
Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith) Redmond, William (Clare)
Goddard, Daniel Ford Reid, Sir Robert Threshie
Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick) Roberts, John Bryn (Eilion)
Archdale, Edward Mervyn Banbury, Frederick George Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol) Bullard, Sir Harry
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Bethell, Commander Campbell J. H. M. (Dublin)
Baird, John George Alex. Blundell, Colonel Henry Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.
Balfour, Rt. Hn Gerald W.(Leeds) Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derby.)
Chamberlain, J. Austen (Wore.) Hutton, John (Yorks, N.R.) Rothschild, Hn. Lionel Walter
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Jebb, Richard Claverhouse Royds, Clement Molyneux
Charrington, Spencer Jenkins, Sir John Jones Russell, Gen. P. S.(Cheltenham)
Clare, Octavius Leigh Johnston, Wm. (Belfast) Shaw-Stewart, M. H.(Renfrew)
Coghill, Douglas Harry Keswick, William Sidebottom, J. W. (Cheshire)
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Knowles, Lees Sinclair, Louis (Romford)
Colomb, Sir John C. Ready Lawrence, Sir E. Durning-(Corn) Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Corbett, A. C. (Glasgow) Leigh-Bennett, Henry Carrie Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)
Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Swnsea) Smith, J. Parker (Lanarks.)
Curzon, Viscount Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverpool) Smith, Hon. W. F. D.(Strand)
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Lonsdale. John Brownlee Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw. Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
Finch, George H. Macartney, W. G. Ellison Strutt, Hon. Humphry Napier
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Macdona, John Cumming Talbot, Rt. Hn J.G.(Oxf'd Univ.)
Fisher, William Hayes M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Thorburn, Sir Walter
FitzGerald, Sir R. Penrose- M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh, W.) Thornton, Percy M.
Fitz Wygram, General Sir E. Malcolm, Ian Wanklyn, James Leslie
Foster, Colonel (Lancaster) Middlemore, In. Throgmorton Welby, Sir C. G. E (Notts.)
Garfit, William Moore, William (Antrim, N.) Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-
Gedge, Sydney More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire) Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Goldsworthy, Major-General Morrell, George Herbert Williams, J. Powell- (Birm.)
Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir J. Eldon Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford) Wilson, J. W. (Worestersh, N.
Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. Geo's Murray, Rt. Hn A. Graham (Bute) Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Goschen, George J. (Sussex) Murray, Charles J. (Coventry) Wylie, Alexander
Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Phillpotts, Captain Arthur Wyndham, George
Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord George Plunkett, Rt. Hn. Horace C.
Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robert Wm. Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Helder, Augustus Remnant, James Farquharson Sir William Walrond and
Hobhouse, Henry Renshaw, Charles Bine Mr. Anstruther.
Howell, William Tudor Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson
Hozier, Hon. James H. Cecil Robinson, Brooke

Question again proposed, "That Item Elbe reduced by £10."


I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £100. Anything more likely to bring discussions in Committee of Supply into absolute discredit I cannot imagine than the circumstances related by hon. Members who were in the House immediately before the last division. We are called here to discuss not only this particular matter, but everything which concerns Scotch administration, and yet we are not provided with the necessary Reports, facts, and figures bearing on the questions at issue. For that reason alone I press on the Government the desirability, even now, of postponing the final voting of this money at this period of the session. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is well aware that the responsibility of bringing on this Vote to-night does not lie with any Member on this side of the House, and we may fairly fail in support of his action. I should like to know what would be the feeling in England if English Members were called upon to discuss the Education Vote or the Board of Trade Vote without the Reports of those Departments being placed before them; and I need hardly remind the House how careful the representatives of Ireland would be to safeguard on such an occasion the interests of their constituents. I most cordially support the contention raised on this point. I think it is derogatory to those who are not supporters of the Government, and to the House itself, and is likely to undermine proper and careful vigilance over public expenditure. The pointlessness of the discussion is due to the fact that we have not got the figures and facts before us; and this has been characteristic of more than one discussion on Scottish affairs. As a great favour we have given a day to discuss the Scotch Estimates, but the evening is frittered away, and no advance made, because we have not in our possession the Reports of the Departments for which we are called upon to vote money. I maintain that the manner in which that money has been spent has been demoralising and pauperising. The Lord Advocate spoke of the necessity of making experiments, and said we had got some help from Ireland in regard to seed potatoes. It is pleasing to look to Ireland and see how agricultural development has progressed there; but no similar development has been introduced into Scotland. Nothing is, to me, more to be regretted than that we do not cultivate our own resources; and the Scotch Office, not content with doing nothing, endeavours to withdraw its operations from the control of the British Parliament, and from the pressure of public opinion. There is no doubt whatever that there is room for a wise policy in regard to Scottish administration, and I protest against the idea that you are dealing fairly with the remote parts of the country, which are not so fully or so constantly represented in the House as the Metropolis and other parts of the kingdom, by throwing at them a lump sum of money. I can see nothing more demoralising to any part of the country than to have a lump sum of money put aside every year by Parliament for which no useful purpose is to be found. The Lord Advocate has admitted himself tonight that a great deal is to be regretted in the condition of the north of Scotland on account of the lack of communication with markets. The people there are struggling with great difficulties, and have not the same chance in the race of life as those down here. I am not blaming the Lord Advocate for voting money which these Departments do not know what to do with. I do not suppose that of the £80,000 voted to the Congested Districts Board they have spent £5,000; and I am certain that the day will come when it will be generally realised that we ought to have some more vigorous policy in Scottish administration than we now possess. The real evil is the lack of time and attention of Parliament to Scottish affairs.


My right hon. friend the Leader of the House has always shown anxiety to meet the convenience of all sections of the House in regard to these discussions on the Estimates. No communication was made, directly or indirectly, to me objecting to this Vote being taken to-night on the ground that the Reports of the different Boards had not been issued. Hon. Members know that early in the week I communicated with the Leader of the Opposition, and intimated to him that in he would be kind enough to discover if the Scottish Members desired to discuss any particular Vote, we would endeavour to meet their wishes. It was never suggested that the Vote for the Congested Districts Board should not be taken tonight. It was only after four hours discussion that the hon. Member for Caithness-shire moved that we should report progress. Under those circumstances I do not think it would be justifiable to report progress, and I think that the Vote might now be taken.

It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.