HC Deb 10 April 1919 vol 114 cc2393-6

(1) This Act may be cited as the Scottish Board of Health Act, 1919, and shall come into operation upon such day or days as may be appointed by Order in Council and different days may be appointed for different purposes and provisions of this Act

Provided that the latest day for the transfer of powers to the Minister under Sub-section (1) of Section four shall not be later than one year from the passing of this Act.

Amendment made: In Sub-section (1), leave out the word "Minister" ["powers to the Minister"], and insert instead thereof the word "Board."—[Mr. Munro.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the third time.


There are certain points I should like to have quite clear before we part with the Bill. I should have preferred an opportunity of discussing these points with my right hon. Friend. I do not complain, as I said before, that I had not that opportunity in Committee. That is my own fault, but I do think we are entitied to it on Report. This Bill sets up a Board of Health in Scotland, and Scottish Members who are interested in the administration of this Board are not very clear in their minds as to the relationship of the Board to the Scottish Office in London. The great difficulty in the administration of Scottish affairs has always been the circumlocution by which the institutions in Scotland have to get decisions through the Scottish Office. This Board which is to be created, and which will presumably sit in Edinburgh, may, or may not, be an effective Board for the purposes of this Bill just as, or as not, the Secretary for Scotland chooses to make it. It is not my desire at this time of the night, in view of the fact that the Committee desires, presumably, that there should be no more discussion, to make a speech on the subject, but I want to get from my right hon. Friend. some kind of assurance that the decisions of this Board will be rendered effective, that the Board when it has come to its decisions will not require to submit them to the permanent officials at Dover House, but will get directly the consent of my right hon. Friend, so that, whatever decisions they do come to, will be immediately promulgated in Scotland. I think, after all, even Scottish Members who objected to a discussion on the Report stage of this Bill will agree that we have not improved matters by creating a new Board. We have made Dover House even more congested than in the past. Scottish Members know how real that congestion has been. After the discussion which took place in Committee, which I could not even read, as it is not printed in any form, and so I have not had the advantage of seeing what the arguments were, I should like my right hon. Friend to say what his action is going to be as Secretary for Scotland with regard to the Board.

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir J. HOPE

I am very glad to be able to support the hon. Member in his proposal. This subject has already been debated on the Scottish Grand Committee, but I should like to join the hon. Member in again asking the Secretary for Scotland to give a complete assurance that this Board of Health shall be completely independent and under the control of the Under-Secretary for Health, and that everything will not be referred to Dover House for approval. I hope the Secretary for Soot-land will be able to give us that assurance, because I quite agree the Scottish people demand that this Board of Health shall be entirely independent, as far as possible, of all control from London except Parliamentary control as administered by the right hon. Gentleman himself or the Under-Secretary for Health, who will have a seat in Parliament.


My hon. Friend has put a question, which, if I may say so, he is fully entitled to put, and which I shall endeavour to answer to the best of my ability and as briefly as I can. The con- stitution of the Board, as my hon. Friend knows, is that the Secretary for Scotland is to be President of the Board, and it was also agreed in the Grand Committee that a new Parliamentary Secretary should be appointed, and that he should devote his energies entirely to health questions. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary will be Vice-President of the Board, and a very strong desire was expressed on the part of many members in the Scottish Grand Committee that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary should spend as much of his time as possible in Edinburgh, in direct contact with the Board. Of course, he cannot permanently be there. because he is to be a Member of this House, but it is hoped by many of my hon. Friends—and I do not differ from their view—that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary should take personal direction of the Board in Edinburgh as often as his Parliamentary duties enable him to go there.

With regard to the questions which came up to London and which came to the Secretary for Scotland through his permanent officials, I would like to assure my hon. Friend that these, so far as the Local Government Board is concerned, have been very limited in number, and I have no reason to believe that in future they will be greater in number. So far as I can recollect, during my tenure of office there have only been three types of question sent up to London from the Local Government Board in Scotland. First, those involving large questions of policy, and my hon. Friend will agree that it is right that those questions should come to London and should be determined personally by the Secretary for Scotland, who is answerable to this House on these questions of policy. Secondly, there are questions which have a Parliamentary bearing, and regarding which discussion in this House might naturally arise. Again, my hon. Friend will agree that such questions ought to be dealt with personally by the Secretary for Scotland, and they have been so dealt with in the past. The only other questions that have come up to London have been questions of finance, with regard to which the Treasury has definite control. There, again, my hon. Friend will agree that such questions could not be dealt with in Edinburgh, but must come to London for decision. I can assure my hon. Friend that in the decision of these questions there has been no avoidable delay, or I think I might say material delay, and I am sure my hon. Friend would not desire to deprive the Secretary for Scotland of advice on these important questions from the permanent officials who are in the Scottish Office. I can assure my hon. Friend that so far as I can compass it, decisions on these questions in the future will be taken with the greatest possible rapidity, and that no avoidable delay will occur in settling them. I hope my hon. Friend and my hon. and gallant Friend, whom I am very anxious to meet in these matters, will be satisfied with the explanation that I have given.