HC Deb 10 April 1919 vol 114 cc2383-93

(1) There shall be transferred to the Board—

  1. (a) all the powers and duties of the Local Government Board for Scotland;
  2. 2384
  3. (b) all the powers and duties of the Scottish Insurance Commissioners;
  4. (c) all the powers of the Privy Council and of the Lord President of the Council under the Midwives (Scotland) Act, 1915;
  5. (d) all the powers and duties of the Secretary for Scotland under the Alkali, etc., Works Regulation Act, 1906;
  6. (e) all the powers and duties of the Secretary for Scotland under the Burial Grounds (Scotland) Act, 1855;
  7. (f) all the powers and duties of the Secretary for Scotland under the Rivers Pollution Prevention Acts, 1876 and 1893, Section 2385 fifty-five of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1889, and the Rivers Pollution Prevention (Border Councils) Act, 1898;
  8. (g) all the powers and duties of the Secretary for Scotland under the Births, Deaths, and Marriages (Scotland) Acts, 1854 to 1910, the Marriage Notice (Scotland) Act, 1878, and the Vaccination (Scotland) Acts, 1863 to 1907;
  9. (h) all the powers and duties of the Secretary for Scotland and the Highlands and Islands (Medical Service) Board under the Highlands and Islands (Medical Service) Grant Act, 1913:

Provided that in such matters of a judicial nature under the National Insurance (Health) Acts, 1911 to 1918, as may be prescribed under those Acts, the powers and duties of the Scottish Insurance Commissioners by this Act transferred to the Board shall be exercised by the Board through a special body or special bodies of persons constituted in such manner as may be prescribed.

(2) It shall be lawful for His Majesty from time to time by Order in Council to transfer to the Board—

  1. (a) all or any of the powers and duties of the Scottish Education Department with respect to the medical inspection and treatment of children and young persons;
  2. (b) any of the powers and duties of the Secretary for Scotland under the enactments relating to lunacy and mental deficiency;
  3. (c) all or any of the powers and duties of the Minister of Pensions with respect to the health of disabled officers and men after they have left the Service, so far as those powers and duties relate to Scotland;
  4. (d) any other powers and duties in Scotland of any Government Department which appear to His Majesty to relate to matters affecting or incidental to the health of the people.


"With reference to this Bill, I want to make a final appeal to my right hon. Friend to withdraw his objection to proceeding with it this evening. I would like to remind him of one or two considerations which seem to strengthen the case for going on with it to-night. The Bill was considered in the Scottish Grand Committee, and there it proved to be a really non-contentious measure. There were only two Divisions taken during the sitting of the Grand Committee, and both of these were upon Labour Amendments. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Labour Party (Mr. Adamson) has informed me that he has no objection whatever to the Bill being proceeded with tonight.


I called upon the right hon. Gentleman to move his Amendment to Clause 4. I do not know to what he is speaking now.


I beg pardon. Then I beg to move in Sub-Section (1), to leave out the word "Provided" ["Provided-that in such matters"] and to insert instead thereof (i) All the powers and duties of the Scottish Education Department with respect to the medical inspection and treatment of children and young persons: Provided that for the purpose of facilitating, the effective exercise and performance by the Board of the last-mentioned powers and duties the Board may make arrangements with the Scottish Education Department respecting the submission and approval of schemes of education authorities and the payment of grants to education authorities, so far as such schemes and payment relate to, or are in respect of, medical inspection and treatment And provided also. In supporting the Amendment I would like to express the hope that my right hon. Friend will withdraw his opposition to proceeding with the Bill now. This Amendment is moved by me in accordance with a promise which I made in the Scottish Grand Committee, and it fully implements that promise. I think my Scottish colleagues who were present in the Committee will agree that it is a fulfilment, and an ample fulfilment, of the pledge which I gave.


In order to put myself strictly in order, I beg to move, That the Debate be now adjourned. I do it not by way of obstructing the progress of this very excellent measure, but in order to secure adequate consideration of it on Report. When the new Rules were approved by this House, it was in. the contemplation of all of us that it was an essential part of the arrangement that, as there would not be, as in the old days, but one Committee sitting on Bills of minor importance, the other measures being dealt with here, but perhaps a large number of Committees sitting concurrently, dealing with Bills which, under the old order of things, would have been debated in a full House—there would be full opportunity of discussion on Report. In giving my support to that new arrangement, I always had it in mind that the Report stage would be an occasion on which a full and ample opportunity would be given for considering what had taken place in Committee, not only by those who were members of the Committee, but by others who, by reason of the new order of things, might not be able to attend the Committee.

I and certainly some of my colleagues are engaged constantly on the Transport Bill and could not possibly get there. What has happened in regard to this? They got the Second Reading after two or three hours' discussion. I do not think it was on the Whip. Anyhow, we did not expect it to come on. I did my best under rather difficult circumstances with other Members on this side of the House to persuade them to take the Second Reading of that Bill. It was done. The Bill went to Committee quite quickly. I was not at the Committee, and certainly some of my colleagues were not able to be there because of other things. The Bill went through Committee yesterday. The Bill might have been available at eight o'clock. My hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) got it at ten o'clock. That is the only opportunity we have had of considering what has happened upstairs. If my right hon. Friend and those who support him think that is a fair Parliamentary opportunity, the thing has become a farce. If my right hon. Friend says there is urgency and that something vital is going to happen in Scotland if he cannot get the Report and Third Reading within the next few days, that is a matter for consideration, but there is no such case as that made. It is a very natural desire of course to get all the business you possibly can in the shortest possible space of time, but could you have anything more unfair than to put this Bill just now into our hands and ask us to go on without an opportunity of setting down Amendments? Only those who had the good fortune to be at the Committee yesterday could put down Amendments. Is it to be supposed that that is playing the ordinary Parliamentary game of the old days?

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir J. HOPE

We are playing the Scotch game.


I am endeavouring to do the same thing, to see that Scottish interests, apart from individual Members in this House, have a fair opportunity of communicating with us here to decide how this Bill shall be dealt with on Report. Scottish public bodies have a right to communicate with us here with regard to such an important measure.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that all Scottish public bodies have already communicated other views?


The hon. and gallant Gentleman arrogates to himself the sole representation of Scotland. We know what his claim is anyhow. I shall not press the matter any further. By all means go on. Now we know where we are.


I trust that the House will not agree to the Motion now made with such indignation by the right hon. Gentleman. Having shown the great power of the Opposition in the recent Division, I should have thought he would have been content with that, and have allowed us to get on with business, but the right hon. Gentleman as Leader of the Opposition has, of course, to observe meticulously the rule for the guidance of an opposition—always to oppose—even if the interests of Scotland are to suffer, as is shown by the indignation of his colleagues in the Scottish representation whose opinion is different from his, We had not the advantage of the right hon. Gentleman's presence in the Scottish Committee upstairs. We had not the advantage of the presence of one of the Whips of that powerful party, to which the right hon. Gentleman belongs, who is occupied, I believe, otherwise in the northern parts of the Kingdom. He now comes here without knowledge of the procedure of the Committee or of the explanation made by the Secretary for Scotland or of the fact that general agreement had been found on this or other points, and that the right hon. Gentleman is now proposing an Amendment which carries out the very liberal offer which he made in Committee upstairs to meet opposition and was ad vanced there. The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman is rather in opposition to the view that I myself and some of my Friends took, but I thought that as a considerable body of opinion in the Committee was opposed to my own view and that of some of my Friends, it was well to make certain concessions, and I agree that on the whole it was fair, and I am quite prepared to support the Amendment of my right hon. Friend if it comes to a Division. In order to satisfy the claim of an opposition, we are asked to agree to an adjournment and to stand in the way of legislation that is demanded rapidly by Scotland, when we are asked to accept an Amendment which we have all carefully considered upstairs, which is in satisfaction of the arguments advanced upstairs. The right hon. Gentleman did not take an attitude of strong opposition to the proposals for more rapid procedure through the Standing Committees. I had a little doubt about it myself, but after all I am prepared to judge each case according to circumstances. Sometimes I believe that new proposals in Committee might be too rapid, hut nowhere could rapid procedure be more justified than in the present instance. I am quite certain that if the Leader of the Opposition; who has felt himself bound to make this Motion, had been present he would have come to the same conclusion. I trust that the Secretary for Scotland will not accept this Motion.


I know that the House will not think that my right hon. Friend is in any sense hostile to this Bill. He says what is perfectly obvious, that when these new rules were made, with which many of us are in strong agreement, for the purpose of facilitating business, it was not contemplated that the only stage in which the House had no opportunity of examining the details should be a stage taken after a long debate with a suspension of the Eleven o'Clock Rule. I will give an instance of how hardly it works. Two Standing Committees were sitting during the last week, that on the Transport Bill and the Scottish Grand Committee. Several Scottish members, including myself, had quite an interest in the Transport Bill, and we were compelled to attend the Committee on that Bill, and therefore compelled to be absent from the Scottish Grand Committee. Therefore those Members should have had the opportunity to move Amendments on Report, but they had not the opportunity unless they were very rapid of putting Amendments on the Paper. Under those circumstances I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it is reasonable to ask that we should not take the Report to-night and that it should be put down, if necessary, for Thursday next. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no!"] Certainly I am prepared to remain until Thursday, and if an alternative is required that is the suggestion I make.


As a general rule I think I should have found myself in alliance with the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in agreeing that we should not take matters on Report concerning Scotland after eleven o'clock at night. But the circumstances on this occasion, I am bound to admit, are somewhat different. My hon. Friend (Captain Benn), whom we welcome as a brilliant acquisition to the Scottish representation, told us that he has been in a difficulty during the week because certain Scottish Members had not been able to attend the Scottish Grand Committee. That was a matter entirely for their own decision. We have had two meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee. If my hon. Friend considered certain interests coming before the Transport Committee more important than the health of the Scottish community that was his affair.

Captain BENN

I was speaking from the point of view of my own Constituency. I had a duty to perform to them, and their interests were most vitally concerned in the Transport Bill.


I am quite sure he was able to put a good case for his constituency, and I have no doubt that he succeeded, but when Members belong to two Committees they must make a decision as to which Committee they are going to attend, and it must not be a reason for delaying legislation that they are unable, according to their own judgment, to attend a particular Committee. I have never seen a larger representation than we had, but for some reason or other we had not the advantage of the presence of either my right hon. Friend or hon. Friend opposite on that Committee, and therefore we had to proceed in their absence. When my hon. Friend says that we were going to attach importance to the Report stage under the new Regulations, permit me to say that when the Scottish Grand Committee was formed one of the great cases we made was that the decisions of the Scottish Grand Committee should stand and should not be reversed either by absent Members or by English or Irish Members when the question came back to this House, and that in the interests of the decision of the Scottish Grand Committee we should not encourage anything which means the revision of any decision at which they arrived. But the case for proceeding with this Bill to-night is that there has been no opposition to it. I think my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh will agree, though there may be some points of difference. I moved an Amendment on an important point, but I took the decision of my Scottish colleagues and I had not the advantage of the support of my hon. Friend on that occasion, as no doubt I would have had if he had been present. When we discuss a matter in Scottish Grand Committee and thresh it out do not let us have the whole matter again discussed on the floor of the House. Many Scottish Members have made their arrangements to go to Scotland tomorrow. They will not be here in the beginning of the week. We have an opportunity now of getting this Bill, and the whole of Scotland is practically united in its favour. Nine-tenths of the Scottish Members are unanimously in favour of the Bill, and I appeal to my right hon. and hon. Friends opposite not to persevere with their opposition. Let us make a certainty of getting the Bill, and in that we shall satisfy the people of Scotland.


I am not going to complain that I was not present at the Committee. I was in Scotland, looking after the political health of Scotland, and I hope with very desirable results. But that is not the point of the objection to this Bill. Let me recall the circumstances under which my right hon. Friend got the Second Reading of the Bill. It was not down on the Order Paper as the Order to be taken, except in the sense that eight or ten Orders are put down. The Order for the day was the English Housing Bill, but the discussion on the Financial Resolution of the Ways and Communications Bill took up the bulk of the time, and, without notice to Scottish Members, three Scottish measures were taken—the Teachers' Superannuation Bill, the Intestate Husbands Bill, and. the present Bill. It was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman that it was an admirable opportunity to get the Bill upstairs, and he got his Second Reading in much less time than the Second Reading of any large Scottish measure has ever been obtained. I agree that a Scottish Member must make his choice as to whether he will attend the Scottish Grand Committee or any other Committee. I was deprived by my own choice of the opportunity of being present at the Committee stage of the Bill, and my desire was to discuss some of its points. I went to the Vote Office in order to get a copy of the amended Bill, so that I could see what had been done in Committee, but I only obtained the Bill at ten o'clock to-night.


I obtained my copy at quarter to three this afternoon.


A copy of the Bill as amended in the Scottish Grand Committee was available at ten o'clock this morning.


I readily accept the statement of Mr. Speaker that he got his copy this afternoon, and the statement of my right hon. Friend that the Bill as amended was available this morning. That may be so, but these facts are not public property. The proper way of intimating an amended Bill to the House is to deliver it with the Votes in the morning.


Is it not the duty of alert Whips to find these things out?


That is true, and in view of the fact that we have an addition of two Whips on this bench to-day I left it to them. The Bill ought to be delivered in the morning, and it is not fair to the House ii an amended Bill has to be applied for at the Vote Office. A great many interests in Scotland, including, for example, the Committee of the Insurance Associations in Scotland, have not had the opportunity of reviewing this Bill in its present state. What is to hinder my right hon. Friend putting this down on Monday? We shall not hold it up from this side. We will give him the Bill then if he will allow us the opportunity of looking over it in its amended form.


Hon. Members who are not members of the Scottish Committee should know the circumstances which are now being debated. We have had the sittings of the Scottish Committee with an unparalleled attendance. I have been in this House since 1910, and I have never seen a larger attendance in the Scottish Grand Committee than during the Debates on this Bill. Unfortunately, we were deprived of the presence of three hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench. It is a curious thing that one whole party should be absent, but if we are to have any efficiency in the conduct of these Standing Committees surely it must be with some management on the part of Whips of parties so that they secure the presence at the Standing Committees of at least one representative, one-third of their party, from Scotland in order to represent their point of view. Unless we are to have some efficient management on the part of representative hon. Members, such as the Whip of the party on that bench, I fail to see how we can conduct the business expeditiously for the nation at the present time. Our complaint from Scotland is that whereas Scottish Members come here from great distances and have made arrangements for going back to do their other business, and whereas we now have a completely accepted Bill, save for the three hon. and right hon. Gentlemen there, who have no chance of reversing anything that has been adopted, and can merely talk upon it and delay the House by talking, I suggest that we should not allow ourselves so to be impeded.

Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and negatived.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.

Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.

Further Amendment made: In Subsection (2), "leave out paragraph (a)."—[Mr. Munro.]