§ Mr. PIRIE
I am sorry to have to trouble the House at this hour, but, as usual, a question put to the Scottish Secretary today requires a little further elucidation. I put to him a question, and also some supplementary questions, which gave him every chance of making the position of the Government clear on a matter of very great importance to Scotland, but it was left as vague as possible. Last November the right hon. Gentleman 1730 made a speech at Edinburgh in which he announced a great Government pronouncement on Scottish Home Rule. He admitted, in answer to my question to-day, that he did give a pledge that the Government would draft a Bill for the better government of Scotland. He now says, of course, that he did not pledge himself that the Government would pass the Bill this Session. Does he propose now to take advantage of the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty by co-operating with the hon. Member and allowing the people of Scotland to know what the Government's ideas are on Scottish Home Rule? I think this is an exceptional opportunity, and I cannot understand the right hon. Gentleman's reluctance, if he is genuine and sincere in his desire to advance Scottish Home Rule. I asked in a supplementary question to-day whether he would not co-operate with my hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty in this matter, and he replied, "I have no authority to give any pledge of that kind." Surely if the Secretary for Scotland is really anxious to put before the Scottish nation the views of the Government on Scottish Home Rule, he would get the authority of the Prime Minister to do so. He replies that he has not the authority, but let him get it, and co-operate in this matter with the Member for Ross and Cromarty. Some years ago I had the privilege of introducing a temperance measure for Scotland, and his Department was only too anxious to co-operate in the drafting of that measure, and they took it up in Committee in order that the people of Scotland might know what was at the back of the mind of the Government. Here is a similar opportunity for the Government. There ought to be a special inducement in this; the right hon. Gentleman is an honorary vice-president of the Scottish Home Rule Council. In describing this meeting at Edinburgh a well-known Scottish Home Ruler moved an amendment to the special resolution, asking that a definite statement of the Government's views on the question be placed before the Scottish people. That amendment was carried unanimously, as was the resolution, by that great meeting. Therefore that is a special reason why the right hon. Gentleman should give a definite statement on this matter. The right hon. Gentleman goes on to say that much more can be done to advance the cause of Scottish Home Rule by local organisation. 1731 That is a document for which he is responsible. He is one of the Vice-Presidents of the Association. If he does not agree with that resolution why does he not resign? Many people not far from his constituency would be only too delighted if he did resign, for if there is one constituency in Scotland where he cannot show his face it is that one. I have shown that if the right hon. Gentleman is sincere he ought to take the action I have suggested and let the Scottish people know the reason their votes are being asked for, and not let them sell their votes for a mess of pottage. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will clear up the situation and fall in with my suggestion that he should co-operate with the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty in drafting that measure. I do not say that it can be passed this year, but at least he might co-operate with him in drafting it. Who knows that the Government will be in power next Session? Let him take advantage of it this Session.
The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. McKinnon Wood)
I do not know what ground there is for my hon. Friend exciting himself. His statement about my constituency was unwarranted, but I do not propose to enter into those personal matters, He informs me that I am a vice-president of the council, and therefore responsible for the report. There are many experienced Members on the other side of the House, and I should like to appeal to the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Younger) if he holds himself responsible for every word of every society of which he is a subscriber, or supporter, or sympathiser? But the particular sentence which the hon. Member quoted is one with which I heartily agree. I have no fault to find with it, and I make myself thoroughly responsible for it. In fact, it is what I recommended when I made a speech on the subject in Edinburgh. It is what I think my hon. Friend would be well employed in carrying out instead of making attacks upon those who are sympathisers. I am not aware that there is any difference of opinion between my hon. Friend and myself. I should be very sorry to say I agree with all of my hon. Friend's opinions, because that would be a rash statement; but, as far as I have heard them expressed, I have no fault to find with them. I think he might have given me the credit of having performed the elementary duty of a Minister in a matter of this sort, and of having consulted with the Prime Minister on the subject. 1732 Of course, properly, the question should have been addressed to the Prime Minister. He it is who decides what business is to be taken, and not any of his colleagues. But I have answered the question because the hon. Member referred to a pledge given by me. He did not allege that the pledge had been broken. He did not allege for a moment that I gave any promise that the Government would introduce a Bill this Session. There are occasions where a private Bill, having a special preference in point of time, or having attained a certain stage in the proceedings of the House, may be taken up by a Government because it has that advantage, but there is no such advantage in the case of this Bill, and I am bound to say, on the authority of the Prime Minister, that the Government do not see their way to deal with it this Session.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I have no authority to make any statement upon the matter. Both my hon. Friends have had long experience of this House, and they both know perfectly well that questions as to the business of the House are questions for which the Prime Minister is responsible, and which should be addressed to him. Under these circumstances, I think I have answered the only material point in the speech of the hon. Member. I do not think it is at all necessary for me to enter into extraneous matters.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
Will the right hon. Gentleman use his influence with the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) to save the time of the House by not bringing forward his Bill at all? We had a demonstration last year intended to show that the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Cowan) and other hon. Members opposite were consistent in their support of Home Rule policy generally. Surely that is enough for the purpose. We had better wait until we see what is going to happen to the Home Rule Bill for Ireland before we trouble to debate a Bill on the subject of Home Rule for Scotland. It is absolutely unnecessary, and I do not think it is sincere, except on the part of the hon. Member and one or two others who are sincere Home Rulers. I am afraid it is a matter of expediency with the Secretary for Scotland. No doubt he quite properly thinks that if 1733 you pass a measure of Home Rule for Scotland you must in some way meet the views of the various other constituent parts of the United Kingdom. I do not know that he made any very strong declaration in Edinburgh. I do not remember that he gave any specific pledge that the Bill would be brought in, certainly in the present Session. I am glad that he is not going to give the advantage of his Department to the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty, who proposes to bring in this Bill with about the same chance of success on a Friday as the hon. Member for Aberdeen enjoyed last year.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I am bound to say in regard to the remarks just made, I am in perfect sympathy. I do not, however, wish to associate myself with the personal remarks made in reference to the Secretary for Scotland, which I thought rather weakened the case put forward by my hon. Friend. Last year the Prime Minister gave a definite pledge that a Member of the Cabinet would go to Scotland and state the position of the Government on Scotch Home Rule. The right hon. Gentleman was selected as that Minister to convey the policy of the Government to the people of Scotland. At that great mass meeting he stated that the policy of Home Rule for Scotland was the policy of the Cabinet. Now we hear that there is no hope this Session, and he holds cut no hope for next Session.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I did not say anything of the kind. I said it was a question which must be addressed to the Prime Minister, and the hon. Gentleman knows that is the only reply I could have given.
Sir H. DALZIEL
I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I still adhere to what I said, that the right hon. Gentleman in plain English language gives us no hope and no sympathy either. Is that true?
Sir H. DALZIEL
What I meant was that the right hon. Gentleman gives us no hope. He does not say, "I will do everything I can to bring the Bill on, and I will use all my persuasive powers and my position as Secretary of State for Scotland, and I will not dismiss the idea 1734 and hope that the Bill will come on." He does not give us one ray of hope, and I say it is straining the allegiance of Scottish Home Rulers a good deal when he conies down to a meeting and gives every hope that there is some expectation well grounded that the Government are going to do something with regard to this matter, and now nothing is going to be done in the present Parliament. It is far better to tell the people of Scotland we can hold out no hope whatever that we shall deal with the question this Parliament. That would be a much more satisfactory position.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I think note should be taken of the remarkable avowal by the hon. Baronet (Sir George Younger) that if the Irish Home Rule Bill is passed we shall then be compelled to go on to a Federal measure of the same kind for Scotland.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I never said anything of the kind. I only said that some hon. Members, including the Secretary for Scotland, thought it was a necessary part of that operation.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I apparently gave the hon. Baronet credit for more intelligence than he is willing to avow. It must be obvious to anyone that if we establish Home Rule in Ireland we shall be compelled afterwards to go on and bring the other organisations of the United Kingdom into line and establish a federal system there. I was one of those who heard the pledge given by the Secretary for Scotland at the meeting in Edinburgh, that the Government intended to draft a Bill to give Home Rule to Scotland. That was what we had a right to expect, and a pledge with which we were satisfied. I did not expect to get any further declaration of policy at the present time, indeed, it is not necessary, because this question does not now depend on any declaration of the Government, it depends upon the logic of events. If Home Rule is carried for Ireland, I am convinced there will be an agitation in this country that will be irresistible for the extension of Home Rule all round.
§ It being Half-past Eleven of the clock, MR. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at Half after Eleven o'clock.