HC Deb 17 November 1925 vol 188 cc279-301

I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."

I desire to find out from the Secretary for Scotland what exactly is intended by the change in to-day's business. The understanding was that we should take the Bill, which has just been discussed, and also the next two or three Bills on the Paper, and endeavour to reach the Sheriff Courts and Legal Officers (Scotland) Bill, on which a great many Members will agree there would have been more controversy than on any other of the Measures which were to come before the House. My right hon. Friend must be aware that deputations have come from Scotland resting on this assurance, and up to a moment ago we have had no notice of the change. The whole programme has therefore been upset, and we are entitled to move the Adjournment of the House at this stage in order to make a respectful protest against what is now proposed.


No disrespect is intended to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) or the House of Commons, but the House of Commons is aware that our programme is in rather a congested state for this short Session if, as we hope, we are to get away before Christmas. The Opposition have indicated that they desire to discuss many important questions which it is quite right should be discussed in the House of Commons. It is impossible for us to pass into law all the Orders on this Paper and give time to discuss the various questions in which Members are interested. Yesterday we hoped to finish the Criminal Justice Bill. We did not do so, and we must make up that time to-night. Though we very much hoped to be able to get these Bills. I do not think that it would be possible, and we should be only beating the air to have a Second Reading to-night and then find that we could not finish these Measures. We have to come to some arrangement to take those Bills that are agreed to and wanted by all sides. For that reason I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not press his Motion, and that he will understand that no disrespect is intended to Scottish Members or to any section of the House.


I do not blame the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury for disrespect, I do not think that any is intended, but I want to register our protest against the group of Scottish Bills set down for to-day being broken up in the way in which the Government propose. Not only is it inconvenient to Scottish Members, but, as has been pointed out by my right hon. Friend, there are some of these Bills in which our fellow countrymen are as deeply interested as we are ourselves, and a number of them have come down for the purpose of hearing the discussion and supplying any information that is necessary. A journey from Scotland costs a considerable amount of money, and before business is put down in the way in which our business has been set out on the Order Paper to-day, all these things should be taken into account. I think that the Government, in proposing to re-arrange the business in the manner in which they suggest, are disposing of Scottish business in a manner that means inconvenience to hon. Members, and to the persons who are here who are very much interested in these Measures, and I quite agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh, that it is necessary to move the adjournment in order to register our protest against a change of that character being made.


I support the Motion. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that it is absurd to try to bring a charge of disrespect to the House of Commons against the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury. Everybody knows that he is the soul of courtesy; but though no deliberate discourtesy was intended, the Government handling of Scottish business and Scottish Measures undoubtedly has been disrespectful and inconsiderate of Scottish interests. It would be out of order to go into all these questions—War Pensions administration, Rosyth and Summer Time, in which they introduced a compromise flouting the opinion of Scottish farmers—but in one case after another they have shown a lack of care of Scottish interests. Not only have Scottish Members come here to discuss this group of Bills, but deputations have come all the way from Scotland to be present at these discussions and it is very disrespectful, to my mind, or inconsiderate, at any rate, to abandon this business when so much trouble has been taken by large numbers of people to be present. There is another point which is more germane to the Motion. If these Bills are abandoned at this stage we will now pass to the consideration of the Criminal Justice Bill. There is a great number of people interested in the Criminal Justice Bill, and as they have no idea of this arrangement they will not be here and in their interest also I say that we ought to pass this Motion.


I wish to support the Motion of the right hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham). I am more than surprised at the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury asking us to accept this particular point of view. On a former occasion the Scottish Members here had occasion to oppose the party opposite, and the House sat until six o'clock in the morning, and this was bitterly resented by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, who said that we had broken our bargain and done something wrong, and at six o'clock in the morning he made a bitter attack on the Scottish Members. Now he comes along with his suggestion to the Scottish Members, and he asks a majority of Scottish Members who are here and interested in the question to go back on an arrangement which was entered into before the House adjourned last August. As the hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) has pointed out, a great number of people have come from Scotland on deputations in connection with these measures. We have met some of them, and they are seeking to influence us from their particular point of view, and then along comes the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury without having the courtesy to inform the Scottish Members of either party—I cannot speak for the party on my left, but none of the party with which I am associated were consulted, and, judging from the speech of the hon. Member for Caithness, none of the Liberal Members were consulted either—makes this change.

8.0 P.M.

If the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and the Secretary for Scotland are to get business through the House they must learn that we are individual Members of the House just as much as they are, and that business can only proceed in accordance with the amount of goodwill on both sides. We have no quarrel with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury. His great desire is to get everything through, but the business of the Secretary for Scotland is to safeguard Scottish interests, and he does that by helping the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, who is acting rightly from his point of view, to brush Scottish business out of the way. That is not good business for the Secretary for Scotland nor dignified for the country which he represents in this House. I only hope that he will rise in his place and dissociate himself from the action of sidetracking certain Scottish Bills. It is said that unless this was done we could not get certain work carried through. Who wants that work carried through? The Opposition is not claiming half the Bills which appear to-day and nobody would break their hearts if they disappeared. If there were Bills to be passed we could have met months ago and could have passed them all. But now the Secretary for Scotland is adopting the old-fashioned tactics that I learned at school, that when you quarrel with a person the first thing to do is to blame him for doing the wrong and never to blame yourself. That is what he is trying to do. I see that the hon. and learned Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr. MacRobert) is present, On this subject he is generally well informed. There is a Bill with which he is concerned in the list. It deals with an important section of the people of Scotland. I refer to the Sheriff Courts Bill. I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman has come here prepared to speak on the subject. The Government action is a discourtesy, therefore, not only to the Opposition, but even to Unionist Members. On the subject of the Sheriff Courts Bill, I have been approached. It is one of the few things about which I do not know very much, and I have come here purposely to listen to the hon. and learned Member for East Renfrewshire. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury will have something to say about the Government's action. Whatever may be said for or against him, I am sure that he will be the first to admit that, so far as the Members with whom I am most closely associated are concerned, we have never yet broken a bargain made with him. Now he is starting to break bargains. If that game is to be played the Government will get the worst of it, because the Opposition have less need to keep a bargain than the Government.

We are meeting for only five weeks. Why should we not have a harmonious five weeks? Why should we start with the breaking of a bargain by the Govern- ment? The Secretary for Scotland is present. What has he to say in defence of this action? Are we to have no word from him? He is responsible for these Bills. He, with others, in the last Session approached us to get our opinions upon them. Now that we have come here with our opinions, we are to be sidetracked in this way, and we are told that the Bills are not to be proceeded with any further. Has the Secretary for Scotland got any sense of Scottish patriotism? I have read speeches made by him recently, and he has always prided himself on his native Scotland. Surely his pride of nationality will cause him to revolt at this insult, the latest of many insults to Scotland. There have been the closing of Rosyth and other things, one after another, affecting Scotland. This is one of the culminating insults to Scotland.

Before we came here to-night we were told by our Whips that these Scottish Bills were to be discussed, and we have come prepared to discuss them. I have consulted certain of my constituents who are affected. There are in London men who have journeyed all the way from Glasgow and Edinburgh to put their views before us. The results of their travelling are now to be set at bought. It is no laughing matter; it is a serious business. The Home Secretary is present, and he is responsible for a Bill dealing with criminal justice, an English. Measure. Members who thought that we were to deal with Scottish Bills, are not present to deal with the Criminal Justice Bill. The arrangement is not fair to them. Without any desire to be insulting, I say that we might expect the Home Secretary to be stupidly honest on an occasion like this. I hope that the Motion for the Adjournment will be accepted, and that the Secretary for Scotland will rise and say that he, at least, cannot associate himself with this side-tracking policy of the Government.


I am sure that Members from Scotland will realise that this question of what business can be taken is one which is really for the management and convenience of the House. As I understand it the Opposition have asked for a considerable period of time to discuss matters which appear to them very urgent, and if some of these demands are met it is obviously beating the air to proceed with more than a limited number of Measures at the present stage. I would express the hope that, probably through the ordinary channels, we might be able to come to 6ome measure pf agreement as to what we can do. I say, frankly, that I have not; put these Measures on the Paper without an earnest desire to see them passed. Indeed, as regards my own personal views, I have very strong feelings as to the necessity of these Measures for the proper administration of various matters in Scotland. That is quite true. But at the same time I must accept and be governed by the practical facts with which we are faced. I suggest to hon. Gentlemen opposite that if we could come to any kind of agreement by which, for instance, that very important matter dealing with Sheriff Courts could be taken, if we could be assured that there would be a limited discussion on the Floor of the House with the fullest time to discuss the problem in Committee, then there might be, through the usual channels, an opportunity of securing this legislation in spite of the congested state of business.


The explanation of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and of the Secretary for Scotland leaves us in a greater dilemma than ever. I cannot understand the attitude of the Secretary for Scotland when he suggests that, if through the usual channels we could come to some agreement in connection with these Bills, a further arrangement might be made for the taking of these Bills later on. We have already come to an agreement on the Education (Scotland) Bill. A deputation met the Secretary for Scotland, and the Bill before the House is the Bill which was agreed to by those representatives. I would be surprised if the Unionist Members for Scotland were to allow the Education Bill to be thrown overboard. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury certainly suggested that the Bill had not to be taken to-night, and even that it will not be taken this Session. Yet it is a most important Bill from the educational and administrative point of view. Of the 35 Unionist Members for Scotland every one has a mandate from his constituents or his education authority to support the Bill.


I must contradict the hon. Member. I have no such mandate.


The right hon. Gentleman does not represent a Scottish county constituency.


May I make another exception?


Exceptions prove the rule. I defy any other Scottish Unionist to get up and say that he has no mandate. I am a member of the executive of the education authorities, and that executive has unanimously agreed that this Bill ought to pass. We have agreement as between the Labour party and the representatives of the Government, and I understand that the Liberal party also are prepared to support the Bill. It is the one question on which there is unanimity in the Liberal party. I admit that the Secretary for Scotland is placed in rather a peculiar position. He has a large number of duties to fulfil, but for the life of me I cannot understand why he should seek to go against the demands of his Education Department. That Department is anxious for the Bill to go through. Moreover, I have yet to learn that the Scottish Universities have decided against the Bill. In any case, is the Secretary for Scotland to allow Scottish business to be dominated by one Tory Member of the House? If so, there is something to be said on this side. I shall not be a party to the domination of education for Scotland by criminal justice for England. Education is of far more value to Scotland than the Criminal Justice Bill to England. It may be true that a Criminal Justice Bill is required for England, on the ground that there are so many criminals. I sincerely hope that even the good people from England who are present will support me in getting justice for Scotland, and that, if necessary, the Motion will be carried to a Division.


I am very anxious to find some solution of the difficulty. I am sure that hon. Members opposite realise that I am as anxious as they are for some of these Measures. Would it be possible to proceed with the Sheriff Courts Bill with an undertaking that it will be completed by 10 o'clock, and then on a subsequent date find some opportunity of taking the Education Bill, which, I am afraid, has disappeared at this moment? If we could come to some kind of agreement like that, and proceed now on that understanding, other business might be taken.


If I may, with the permission of the House, intervene again, I should like to reply at once to the suggestion which the Secretary for Scotland has made. Briefly, the position is that there are four Bills on the Paper, two of which are non-controversial, while as regards one other there will be some controversy, and as regards the Sheriff Courts Bill, there is undoubtedly a considerable difference of opinion among Members as to one feature of that Measure. Accordingly I should mislead the House if I suggested that the discussion of that Bill could be disposed of by 10 o'clock. There might be a possibility of getting it through in the whole time up to 11 o'clock, but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury has made it plain that he intends to get the Criminal Justice Bill to-night and, that being so, it is perfectly clear that the Scottish programme is hopelessly and completely upset. May I remind the House of our position in this matter? We do not make any charge of want of courtesy or anything of that kind, but we say we have been badly treated in this matter. This programme was arranged before the House separated for the Summer Recess, and accordingly associations interested in these Measures made special arrangements and many Scottish Members also made special arrangements to be present to-day. Without any notice at all until this moment, the programme is suddenly changed, and I think from every point of view—while I, personally, always do my best to find accommodation in these matters—we have an unanswerable case, and I am afraid we must adhere to the Motion.


What is the position of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland? He tells us he will give us an hour or two to discuss Scottish business if by a certain hour we consent to a proposition with which many of us do not agree. Otherwise we shall not get any Scottish business discussed at all. That is a threat to the House of Commons. It comes on the top of the ignoring by the Government of many requests from Scotland, and particularly a request by the majority of Scottish Members that a certain action by the Ministry of Pensions should be postponed until after discussion. The majority of Scottish Members placed that request respectfully before the Government, but they were simply brushed aside and no time was provided. That is an illustration. Rosyth is another illustration, and the right hon. Gentleman must be perfectly well aware, and I as an Englishman cannot be unconscious of the fact, that in Scotland there is a very deep and growing feeling of resentment at the way in which Scottish business is being treated. Now the right hon. Gentleman says that if we give him a highly contentious Measure in an hour and a half we may get some time afterwards, and he will consider later what can be done for Scottish Bills. He knows more about Scotland than I do, as he is a Scotsman, and he must be aware that this sort of thing is creating a demand among Scottish people for the power to manage their own affairs in their own country. Why does the right hon. Gentleman want this time? We are only going to be here for five weeks, and Scottish interests are to be sacrificed in order that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may take a week or ten days on a highly contentious and totally pernicious Finance Bill. So far as we are concerned, we cannot undertake to abide by any compromise of the kind suggested, or to abate one jot of the demand that such little time as is occasionally given to Scottish affairs shall not be further curtailed.


I remember before the Recess having the very happy opportunity of congratulating the Secretary for Scotland on securing reasonable time for dealing with Scottish Measures. An agreement was come to then and the discussion was carried on amicably. Now I come down to the House and I find to-day that the programme with regard to Scottish Measures has been entirely upset. I do not think that the Government realise that this sort of thing is not regarded in any small or petty spirit in Scotland. It is regarded as the climax to a whole series of neglects of Scottish interests. There are big Imperial interests which come before Scottish interests, but I cannot see that an English Bill dealing with criminal jurisdiction is one of these. It is my wish, and it certainly is the wish of my constituents, that I should do what I can to strengthen the hands of the Secretary for Scotland, from his own side, in maintaining that proper consideration should be given to Scottish Measures and Scottish business.


When called upon to speak I think I heard an hon. Member remark that the Scottish Members should be given Home Rule, and if ever there was an occasion in this House when it was evident that our country ought to have Home Rule, that occasion is tonight. I make an appeal to the Secretary for Scotland. I recognise that, not only is he a Member for a Scottish constituency, but also a Member of the Government. I take it, however, that as Secretary for Scotland, he is supposed to have regard to the interests of Scotland, and I do not think from what he has said that the right hon. Gentleman Himself feels that his own country is being treated fairly in this connection by the Government of which he is a member. The Bills in question only deal with a few of the problems which the Scottish people have to face. The Prime Minister not so long ago was appalled by the terrible housing conditions in Scotland. Yet here is the Secretary for Scotland, in connection with this very moderate programme, prepared to sacrifice the interests of his country. I suggest that if he said to the Government that these other Measures such as the Tithes Bill, the Rating and Valuation Bill, and the Criminal Justice Bill were of less importance than the Scottish Bills, and that he himself was prepared to take a strong line and leave his office rather than sacrifice the interests of his country, he would have the united support of all Members from Scotland with the possible exception of one of the Members for the Scottish Universities. I am astounded at the way things are going. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that it now comes to this, practically, that the Scottish Members may go back to Scotland and say there is no Scottish business, and that Scottish interests are not to be regarded in this House during this Autumn Session? Has Scotland reached such a poor state among the nations of the world that there is to be no legislation making provision for Scottish needs during all these months? I wonder what the Secretary for Scotland is thinking about, and what this own constituency and his own Conservative party in Scotland will think about this, because the way in which Scotland is being treated here to-night is an insult to the Scottish people.

We recognise that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury has a very nice courteous and kindly manner, and is willing to meet us in small things so far as he can. But there is a big matter of principle involved in this question and the only compromise for the Secretary for Scotland to offer is to give us an assurance that he will bring in a Measure at the earliest possible date to confer responsible Government upon Scotland. Let him give us a promise to give us a Bill setting up a Scottish Parliament, and then I am confident that my colleagues from Scotland would be willing to accept it, but I cannot see that any compromise less than such an assurance is of any use in the circumstances, and I appeal to the Scottish Secretary, even at this late hour, to repent, to remember what he owes to his own country and to those of his own party who sent him into the House of Commons, and to make it plain that he is not prepared to give up these measures. I am sure we should all agree to sacrifice the Criminal Justice Bill, and I do not think there are so many criminals in England who will get off because that Measure is not being put upon the Statute Book. I do not think that even any of the English Members will be the least bit concerned, unless, it may be, a few members of my own profession, the legal profession, who may possibly expect to make a little more money under the Criminal Justice Bill if it comes into operation. I do not believe there are any of the ordinary lay Members of the House who are very much concerned about this Criminal Justice Bill, and I am quite confident that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury does not want to do any injustice to Scotland, and that rather than do so he will let the Criminal Justice Bill for England go.


I want to join with my colleagues in protesting against this further injustice to Scotland. Two hon. Members opposite, when the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) rose, said, "Give them Home Rule." It is a pity that those hon. Members were not in the House about a year and a-half ago, for they might then have assisted us by their votes to get a form of Home Rule for Scotland, but we generally find that, while in a Scottish Debate English Members seem so anxious for Scotland to have Home Rule, when we request it, it is the English Members who prevent us getting it. We do not want to come to England to get these Measures passed. We can pass them much more effectively, more rapidly, and with a great deal less expense through a Scottish House of Commons.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

That would involve legislation, and cannot be discussed now.


I was referring to an interruption which made it appear that Scottish Members ought not to be here, and they would not be here if they could get that particular piece of legislation. I hope they will give us it at an early date, because I remember that the Prime Minister received a deputation from us on this question, and offered to give us a reply, which is not forthcoming.


We must accept the fact that the hon. Member and some of his colleagues are here, and must make the best of it.


Unfortunately, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury is not making the best of it, but the worst of it, and it is against this worst that we are now protesting. I express surprise at the attitude of the Secretary for Scotland—and of the Under-Secretary, too, with all his pride of race in Lanarkshire—with his splendid country acquisitions in the kingdom of Fife, going round delivering speeches to the Scottish Conservatives, opening bazaars and building sites during the Recess, telling the people what a glorious place Scotland is, and how wonderful the Scottish people are. but in this House we are told that we are less even than the Englishmen whom we chased out of Scotland. Really, the only grudge which I have against my forefathers, I think. is that they did not work half-an-hour longer at Bannockburn. We might not then have required to come down here.

I want to suggest to the Secretary for Scotland that it is about time that he asserted the right of the Scottish people to have their share of time in this House. He complains of the lack of time, as does the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, but that point was met by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), when he said: "You have been absent from this House and from conducting legislative affairs for over three months; you come back here and on the second day you grumble that you have not time to carry through the Measures that in August last you thought you would get through." I suggest that, if there are any Bills to be scrapped, let them be highly contentious Bills that we fear are coming in later on, and let us get on with the Measures that are at least largely agreed upon and that will take very little time. This Motion for the Adjournment has taken a large part of the time that could have been taken up by the Education Bill for Scotland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members say, "Hear, hear," and that we are wasting time. Yes, and I will waste more time if Scotland is not going to have these Measures discussed and passed in this Session. I will make it as nearly impossible to pass legislation as one Member may, and I will obstruct the business that is coming after this is withdrawn. One Member can obstruct a lot and can force closures to be moved upon him, and I am prepared even singly to carry out my protest by obstructing all the later business that is coming on unless a reasonable position is adopted, not by the Secretary for Scotland, because I believe he wishes these Bills to go through, but by others in the Cabinet.

Scottish affairs have to get their fair share of the time of this Autumn Session, or we shall know the reason why. We are going to have discussed in this House, during the five weeks that we are expected to sit, questions on which Scottish people are feeling very keenly. We are not coming from Scotland merely to de bate questions which are going to affect the interests of English people only. We are here to deal with Scottish business as well, and those things that Scotland is resenting, the actions of the Government, these pinpricks that are being applied to the Scottish people, are going to be discussed in this House during these five weeks. The Secretary for Scotland asked for a compromise, but what is it? It is to get through the Sheriffs Bill, and the Education Bill may come on some time later, but there is no guarantee that it will come on again. When the Bill was called out by the Clerk, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury said "Tomorrow," but if it were called out again to-morrow, he would again say "Tomorrow," and so on to the end of the Session. If we are going to agree to a certain method of procedure in order to facilitate business in this Autumn Session, what guarantees shall we get from the Government that this Education Bill is going to be bought in and passed in the five weeks? If there is going to be agreement, we want our side to have its share of the agreement as well as giving certain concessions to the Government. Unless we are going to receive this, I for one am going to oppose everything that is brought in by the Government, and force them on every occasion to closure me, even if it means making speeches for two or three hours a night.


As one interested in several of the Bills an the Order Paper to-night, I feel compelled to join in the protest which has been made by so many Members. We have for long past been told by the various Departments that the Bills referred to are of great importance, and that it is essential that they should be on the Statute Book in a very short time. We have looked forward for many years for a, satisfactory solution of the difficulties in connection with sheriff courts' staffs. We have also found that in the educational world there are difficulties connected with the administration of the Act of 1918, and we have looked forward to having those problems dealt with satisfactorily. At very great inconvenience there have come down from Scotland many who are interested in those two Measures, and while we attribute no intentional discourtesy to any Member of the Government, we cannot but feel that Scotland has been very badly treated, and many individuals have been put not only to great inconvenience, but to very considerable expense, and also to very great disappointment with regard to the various Measures in which they have been interested.

I should like to emphasise what has been referred to by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean), and that is that we have already spent, in discussing this Motion, about as much time as would have put two of these Measures through the Second Reading. The Secretary for Scotland knows quite well, I understand, that to a very large extent the Bills on the Order Paper are not opposed Measures, but have been very largely arrived at by compromise or agreement. I really believe an hour would have sufficed to-night, and all the difficulties connected with any one of them could be amicably settled in Committee. If the Secretary for Scotland had gone straight ahead, I believe before 11 o'clock the Government would have got the whole batch of Bills through. The Scottish Members individually have no great interest in some of the Measures before the House, but they have an interest in the Measures affecting Scotland particularly. Not only so, but they have. the time to attend in Committee to discuss the Measures in a satisfactory manner.

I think Scottish Members to-night are thoroughly justified in the attitude they have taken up. I am very glad the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Ford), speaking as a supporter of the Government, has raised his voice against the treatment that has been meted out to us to-night, and I am perfectly certain that if the other Scottish Members who support the Government were present or were at liberty to speak for the interests of Scotland, they, too, would join in the protest made by the hon. Member for North Edinburgh. I do trust that even now the Secretary for Scotland will be able to make some re-arrangement of the business so that these Measures may be brought in. It would be no great hardship to sit an extra day to get these Bills through. There is a very great feeling in Scotland with regard to the treatment they have received. It may be exaggerated feeling, but it is there. I would appeal, also, on the ground of justice. There is this Education Bill, which, I am sure, would have gone through in less than an hour. We are assured that many children are put at a disadvantage and that education authorities are hindered in their work for the want of this Bill. Then, again, some members of the sheriff courts staffs have been put off for years and years. I understand the first Committee which recommended something for their benefit was away back in the seventies, and still nothing is done. I think this Motion should be carried, and I hope it will have the support, not only of all Scottish Members on this side, but many Scottish Members on the other side, and that every member of the great neighbouring country of England will be as generous as it is just.


Perhaps I may make one more effort to try to solve this problem. I am very anxious that we should reach some kind of agreement. Would it be possible, if we proceeded now with a discussion of the Sheriff Courts Bill till eleven o'clock, that I should have some undertaking from hon. Members opposite, in accordance with an arrangement which was discussed, as I understand, yesterday, that the Criminal Justice Bill might be on a subsequent day allowed to go through in a short period? [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] I am only speaking here as Secretary for Scotland for the time being, but I have also been a member of the Whips' Room in this House for many years, and I am well aware of the difficulty of these negotiations. I understand that a practical agreement had been come to on this subject last night with those in a representative position in the Opposition, and I should have hoped that, in accordance with a suggestion I now make, we might not only have let this Scottish Bill go to Grand Committee, but to have given those from Scotland who are interested particularly in this matter, the opportunity of hearing the discussion, and through the ordinary channels I might have been able to secure at a subsequent date the Education Bill.


Will the right hon. Gentleman explain the agreement for getting through the Scottish Education Bill? What guarantee is there that there will be the necessary time for getting that through?


That, I think, can be done through the ordinary channels. I have no doubt that we might be able to come to an agreement about the Education Bill, because, as everybody knows, it is practically a non-contentious Measure, and would go upstairs. But if the undertaking could be given now that the Criminal Justice Bill would be given to the Government in a comparatively short time—not much more than an hour —on a subsequent date, we might then have time to discuss this Scottish business.


By leave of the House, I want to say, in reply to the appeal that has been made by the right hon. Gentleman, that we could not on this matter pledge English Members to a limited time for a discussion of the Criminal Justice Bill.


The time which has apparently been wasted just now will not really be wasted if it impresses upon the Government that a different attitude towards Scottish questions is absolutely necessary if business is to go normally in this House. I have great sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland. He has a very difficult task. I am sure that the result of our action to-night will be to strengthen his hands in claiming something more like justice for Scottish affairs. It is not a mere question of the Scottish Members being anxious to advertise themselves. They are a very modest body of men, and what is done is done from a real sense of duty. As a matter of fact the whole of the Scottish people are becoming deeply incensed at the way in which Scottish questions are treated in this House. They are accusing Scottish Members of being spineless and strangely lacking in that individual vigour that is supposed to be characteristic of our race because we put up with the state of affairs which exist in this House. We do not want to have any unfair allocation of time, but we must assert ourselves on these occasions and claim more justice for Scotland.

The Government has paid considerable attention to Scotland during the Recess. As far as one can see, the Government Departments pay special attention to Scotland when Parliament is not sitting. Apparently, it is going to be difficult for us in this short Session to concentrate attention upon any of these Departments. And to-night we have an example where the very small amount of time allotted to very important Scottish Measures has been broken into, because of a desire to get through a Bill in a particular time, which might very well be taken later in the Session. I welcome very much the speech of the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Ford). If more Government supporters had a little of the independence that he has shown it would be an advantage not only to Scotland, but to the Government. As a matter of fact, I should like to suggest to the Conservative Members who represent Scottish constituencies that they would do a great service to the Government by supporting the protest we are making to-night, because there is nothing that is doing the Conservative Government so much harm in Scotland as their attitude to Scottish questions in recent times. There has been a very great feeling of resentment, and as one who has is not without some small amount of sympathy with certain Conservative Members in Scotland, I throw out the suggestion that as a means of increasing the prestige of the Conservative party in Scotland its Scottish, representatives should show a little more of the national spirit and not be overwhelmed by the preponderance of English Members. Let us have a little more Scottish independence, whether we are Conservative, Labour, or whatever we are. The Government would then realise that it does not do to flout Scottish opinion and to treat Scottish Members in this way. We are perfectly justified in this protest. I think the result will be that these Measures will not be swept away out of existence. Time should be allotted during the rest of the Session, not only for a discussion of these Bills, but for a discussion of the important Scottish questions which have arisen as the result of Government action during the Recess.


The Secretary for Scotland says that he is anxious to get the business through. We all know that he is anxious. That suggests to me that there is something sinister behind this movement. We know from the statement made by prominent Members of the Government that they are particularly anxious to economise, and we gather that one of the subjects that they intend to economise upon is education. I do not want to say anything against the English Members at all. Scotsmen are sufficiently big and tolerant not to make any point on that score, but they can be told about these matters. I take it for granted, however, that the Secretary for Scotland is as particularly anxious as he has said to get this legislation through. The unfortunate thing is that his boss—who is not here—has left instructions what he has to do. The right hon. Gentleman cannot say that he will give us the time at all, unless he accepts the suggestion that I am going to make. I am quite sure it can be carried out, and then we can have a harmonious House of Commons.

We are divided into English and Scottish. The Members for Scotland do not think of their holidays. The English Members are particularly anxious to get away for the Christmas holidays. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I want to offer the suggestion that, if the House will agree to sit during the Christmas holidays and to leave the Scottish Members to deal with the Scottish business, things will go through, and we will be in time enough for the New Year. Speaking seriously, I want to say that if the Scottish Secretary is anxious to get some of his Bills through we are anxious to get them all. He has admitted that the Scottish Education Bill, as it has now been decided, is not a controversial Measure; if there is to be any controversial discussion upon it must come from the other side. Certainly we are anxious, and I think English Members will agree that we are entitled to be anxious, to preserve so far as we possibly can, the educational facilities of the Scottish people. That is all we ask of the right hon. Gentleman. We think it is necessary. We are advised by people in Scotland particularly connected with the educational movement. They want us to get on; then the Front Bench come along without any intimation of their intention, and break an agreement that has been entered into between the Scottish Members on all sides so far as Scotland is concerned. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury comes along, I say, and he says this business is wiped off the board and something new is going to come on. That may be necessary for England. I am not objecting to English legislation being passed, but I do say that after an arrangement has been come to on the part of the Scottish Members to come here to do Scottish business that that arrangement should be carried through. It is no use talking about mak- ing an agreement if the Government are not prepared to carry out the undertaking that they have given.

It has been suggested that some other arrangement has been come to between our folk and the Government as to the time that was to be taken with this business to-night. I understand that is not quite accurate, that no such arrangement was come to so far as our side is concerned. I can assure my right hon. Friend that had an arrangement been come to by which certain Scottish Measures were to be dropped we should have had information from our Whips, but we did not get that information, and must conclude that they quite honestly believed that the business on the Order Paper was to be taken right through. I do not know that it is necessary to make any appeal to the Scottish Secretary. I agree with all that has been said about his willingness to play the game fairly, and to give us facilities for a fair discussion, and I recognise that he has not the power, that he is acting as he is advised by powers higher than himself. There is no use in our appealing to him, and we can only make it perfectly plain to the Government that if the Secretary for Scotland is to be insulted in this manner by his own colleagues they need not expect that we are going to allow any business to get through this House, if we can hinder it. We are entitled to take the very strongest possible line against this waste of Scottish time.

I put it to the representatives of the Government that it would be wise for them to be a little more accommodating in this matter. At the present time Scotland is, in many ways, in a very much worse position than any other part of the British Isles. In the richest part of Scotland we are threatened with the very worst form of capitalist failure. On the north side of the Forth, Rosytha Dockyard is being taken away; and on the south side of the Forth the great shale industry is being destroyed. That means that something like 100,000 people will be affected in that small area of Scotland alone. Instead of having less time, we ought to have more time, on account of the seriousness of many of our problems. I hope the other Members of the Government will take notice that this objection is not against the Secretary for Scotland, but against those in the Cabinet who are preventing him from having the necessary time to enable Scottish business to be discussed.

9.0 P.M.


I am exceedingly sorry that there should have been all this trouble, some of which, perhaps, is due to the Home Secretary. It was not the Whips who made any arrangements last night; it was myself personally who saw one or two hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench, who admittedly were not speaking for the hon. Members behind, and I do not want to found on it anything in the nature of a bargain. Let it be said that I was mistaken. I am sorry there should have been this trouble. I do not want to suggest there was any bargain at all. I suggest, therefore, that the Motion for the Adjournment should be withdrawn, and that the House should continue with Scottish Measures for the rest of the evening. I hope that will meet the views of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland. I suggest that perhaps the best Bill to be taken would be the Sheriff Courts Bill.


What about the Education Bill?


The Education Bill has been technically called by the Chair and was put down for tomorrow.


Will you take it tomorrow?


We are taking the Locarno Pact to-morrow.


Can you give us a distinct pledge as to the particular day upon which you are prepared to take the Scottish Education Bill?


No, I cannot.


Well, then, there is no compromise.


There is no compromise at all. I am not asking for a compromise. I am simply saying to you, on behalf of the Government, that they withdraw all suggestion of taking anything else but Scottish business this evening, and I ask nothing in return. If hon. Members are going to debate the Motion that the House should adjourn, I cannot help it, but it takes more time away from the Scottish Measures, and I am offering for them the whole of the rest of the time till 11 o'clock. It is for hon. Members to decide whether they are going on with an aimless Debate on the Adjournment, or will withdraw the Motion and get on with Scottish Bills.


In view of the statement which the Home Secretary has made, it is perfectly plain that I have no other course than to withdraw the Motion, which I gladly do, and acknowledge the offer he has made.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.