§ Mr. PIRIE
asked the Lord Advocate (1) whether, with reference to the deputation of about 100 gentlemen received at Dover House on Thursday last in connection with the allocation of the Education (Scotland) 1251 Fund, he can state any precedent for deputations with divergent views on the question at issue being received simultaneously, and the proceedings taking therefore the form of a public debate; whether he can state the total estimated expense to the ratepayers of Scotland of the visit of the deputations and the number of days given up to attending the proceedings by many of those present; and whether, seeing that the answer of the Secretary for Scotland, which was read from a pre-written document, was necessarily therefore without reference to many of the points touched by speakers on both sides, and could as well have been communicated by letter or by the Press to the people of Scotland, he will endeavour to stop the repetition of such proceedings in future; and (2) asked the Prime Minister whether, having regard to the difference of opinion among local education authorities and the Scotch Education Department as to whether the Minute of Allocation distributing the balance among district authorities is in accordance with the Education (Scotland) Act, 1908, and in view of the great interests involved the Government will consent to have a special case stated and to have validity decided constitutionally and authoritatively by a decision of the Law Courts?
§ Mr. URE
It does not seem necessary to cite a precedent for what was a convenient and useful method of dealing with the business in hand; but if precedent were needed it would be found in recent proceedings on the Insurance Bill. The actual proceedings lasted about an hour and a-half; but the number of persons who attended, the consequent expense and the amount of time given up by individual persons were matters determined by those responsible for the deputations and it is not possible for me to give any estimate of these. The answer of the Secretary for Scotland was framed with reference to the printed statements on the points at issue submitted to the Department by both sides prior to meeting the deputation, to which the speeches made on the occasion did not add anything. I would remind the hon. Member that the interviews in question took place, not at the instance of the Secretary for Scotland, but of the representatives of various local authorities in Scotland, and while the Secretary for Scotland would have been glad on this, as on other occasions, to have arranged for an interview 1252 in Scotland, he considered that he ought to have regard to the express request of the representatives of the districts opposing the Minute that the interview should take place on as early a date as possible after the reassembling of Parliament, at which time it was not possible to arrange for an interview elsewhere than in London.
The matter referred to in my hon. Friend's question to the Prime Minister is one in which Parliament itself and not any court of law must be the final tribunal. The Minute on which the difference of opinion arises is necessarily submitted to Parliament and any question of its conformity with the general instructions of the Act or as to its acceptability in any other respect whatever is one for the decision of Parliament itself.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
May I ask whether the interview with the Chancellor of the Exchequer conformed to the procedure pursued by the Secretary for Scotland in this case?