§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. MAXTON
On a point of Order. Before the right hon. Gentleman begins will he let us know, with reference to this Bill, whether this is to be a genuine Debate or whether after—
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
In moving the Second Reading of this Bill, which is designed to reorganise the Scottish offices and in particular the Board system, I should like to say I hope,. and I think I have some justification in expressing that hope, that this Bill will be considered to be of an entirely non-party nature and will receive the careful consideration of hon. Members in all parts of the House, looking at it as a Bill designed materially to improve the machinery of administration and to bring into line with modern requirements the administration of Scottish affairs. 465 The House, and particularly all hon. Members and right hon. Members from Scotland, is, I think, well aware that in the past the administration in Scotland has been conducted by a system of Boards. It may well have been that at one period in the history of Scotland, and more particularly, perhaps,, that regrettable period when there was no direct Secretary for Scotland, the Board system may have had material advantages. As time has passed and as the ordinary development of the government of our country has progressed, I think it is true to say that those who have been brought into contact with the administration in Scotland, either those responsible for the administration, occupying the position of Secretary for Scotland, or those who are intimately concerned with the work of these Boards, realise that there has been a growing feeling, both inside from the administrative side and outside from the public point of view, that, however good in many respects much of that work has been, this system no longer really serves the purpose.
This Bill is, therefore, designed in the main to alter what is known as the Board system and to set up in its place a system of Departments, following upon the lines both of the Education Department which we already have in Scotland and of those other great Departments of State which exist here in England such as the Department of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health. Let me say at once that, in making this proposal, there is, of course, not the slightest foundation for any idea that these Departments or their activities or their work are going to be transferred, in any measure more than at present, from Scotland to Whitehall. Let me disabuse the minds of any hon. Members in this House—which I hardly imagine can be necessary—but certainly of anyone outside who may think that in this Measure there lies the germ or seed of some bureaucratic idea of transferring and bringing to London those Departments which are at present closely in touch with the Scottish people and Scottish opinion.
On the other hand, is it not true to say that the Board system has been found to be less effective in securing responsibility for official action and advice than the system of having one 466 responsible civil servant at the head. which is followed in our own Scottish Office at Dover House, and, indeed, in the other great Departments of the State. Everyone must have been struck by some words which fell from the light hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) in the discussion on the last Measure—I am within the recollection of the House in saying that he suggested that there was great advantage in seeing that in any Service of the State, those who held that service had stability of appointment, and, if I am not wrong in thinking so, that there was great advantage in a service which was built up of people appointed on a pure test of their fitness and not from any outside considerations. Many of the appointments which have been made in Scotland have, of course, been excellent. I am not here to decry them or to say Scotland has not been well served, but it is clear that any idea of a system of patronage appointments is, in the broad aspect of it, contrary to the real efficiency of a continuous State service. That was the view of the Royal Commission which investigated this problem and which, I think, reported in 1914. Further, I would like to say that in this great business of administration, the work is apparently sometimes performed by men who bring to it no special knowledge. This is what the Royal Commission said on that point in their Report:The system affords no room for that type of selected and trained permanent administrative official which is represented by the administrative class.The arrangement by which boards in Scotland take the place of the Higher Divisions in London offices appears to the Commission to be unsatisfactory, and theyrecommend that the Scottish Departments be no longer deprived of the advantages which would come from employing officers of the administrative class.The Commissioners add:The local sympathy and knowledge which it may be contended is provided by the existing system might, we believe, continue to he secured, partly by the natural tendency of Scottish officials to seek service in Scottish offices and partly by the creation in suitable cases of unpaid advisory boards.I should like at this stage to say a word or two upon that aspect of the problem, 467 that of Advisory Boards. Under the existing system of boards of administration, we do have in the Board of Health in Edinburgh a number of advisory committees. They are composed of unpaid and outside people skilled in certain interests which come up for discussion before the board. There is nothing in this Measure which would in any way-lessen either the necessity or the opportunity for continuing such boards. If you take the Board of Agriculture as an instance, that Board undoubtedly has had and has to-day an advisory agricultural committee; but, in my judgment, the real advisory and the most useful advisory committee dealing with questions of agriculture are those bodies and those who speak for the bodies which are eminently and intimately concerned with the industries for which they speak. If you take agriculture, is it not true to say that, even though you may have an advisory committee on agricultural affairs convened to assist the Department of Agriculture or the Board of Agriculture, in fact, that body is less capable of speaking with real knowledge upon those problems than the definite representatives sent from the Farm Servants' Union, the Farmers' Union, the Highland Agricultural Society, or from the Chamber of Agriculture? I am not one of those who rule out in any sense, nor does this Bill, the establishment or continuance of such advisory body as that agricultural body, but the real live pressure on questions of importance upon which the Department may have to come to conclusions, is much more likely cogently to be presented to them, and is accessible either to the head of the Department or the Minister concerned. from the direct representatives of any one of those active bodies participating in these matters.
However suited this system may have been for the conditions which I have already described it has, from the point of view of those of us who have had to work these things, become increasingly apparent that the advantage of having a responsible head of the Department, with officers and sub-officers working under him and giving direct advice to the Minister, is much more likely to lead to decisions and rapid decisions than a system under which questions are debated by 468 members of a board round the table, the matters subsequently divided and discussed by committees of that board, and, as sometimes happened no doubt, divisions of opinion arising between members of the board. Let me put it in this way: I would infinitely prefer to see the head of the Ministry of Agriculture in Scotland a really eminent and highly trained civil servant placed there because of his training and knowledge of the Civil Service, operating as the head of that Department, responsible for the work of the Department and in direct communication with the Minister who is responsible as spokesman for that Department in the House. That he will have under him other officers skilled in one or other branch of the industries which concern agricultural affairs in Scotland, and that he will call those officers into consultation, there is no doubt. I am constrained to say that that kind of machine has by experience proved to be the better machine. The Board system is one which has existed in other countries beside our own. It existed in the case of Ireland, and certainly in the North of Ireland, where I went to make inquiries some time ago, it was found that it was infinitely preferable to have a system of Departments. Be that as it may, I submit that there will be material advantage in having a recognised service where the head and those under him in those Departments are recruited from the general Civil Service and are not in any sense subject to any outside or political pressure or appointment.
There is another point which has weighed with me. In the past one of the difficulties of administration to anyone who occupies my post here in London, subject to the duties of Parliament and kept in London, was at one time the difficulty of close and constant contact. With an office such as we have at Dover House, efficiently staffed as it is with civil servants of a most excellent class, it has in the past not been possible so much as I desired to see an interchange between those who are working at Dover House and those who are working in the Departments in Scotland. The officials at Dover House are assiduous and careful in dealing with the problems which affect our country, but if we find in Scotland eminently satisfactory men trained and brought into close contact with affairs in 469 Scotland, would it not be of material advantage to the whole conduct of our affairs that we should have a system of interchange between the services? I can imagine the opportunities which it will hold out to those men who occupy posts in Scotland, that they should feel that there is a stepping-stone from the Department in Scotland to the Head Office in London, and vice versa. From my own point of view and such experience as I have had in that Office, that is a point which I commend to the attention of my colleagues.
Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 provides for the organisation into a Department of officers serving on or under the corresponding Board, and under the proviso to the sub-clause such officers are ensured against any reduction of emoluments or interference with tenure of office and superannuation privileges. In considering the assimilation arrangements and grading of posts in the Departments, regard will be had to the recommendation of the Royal Commission that where a higher post is decided to be of an administrative character it shall be filled either from Class I examination or by promotion. It is impossible to say at present how soon and to what extent the introduction of the administrative class will be found necessary or expedient, but it is safe to say that the bias will certainly be at the outset in favour of assigning for the administrative posts those officers in the Departments who have shown themselves competent to perform the duties of such posts. I want to make that point quite clear. Such officers have potentially under this Bill prospects of advancement which have not hitherto been open generally to the staff employed by the Board.
The second Section of the Bill is that relating to the reorganisation of the Register House Department. As my hon. Friends from Scotland will know, there has been considerable discussion as to what was the proper method of reorganising the staff. In 1919 the post of the Deputy Clerk Register fell vacant, and it was then decided that the post should not be filled, but that legislation should be obtained constituting a new office of Registrar-General, the functions of which office were previously discharged by the Deputy Clerk Register, and making separate entities of the Sasines, Records and Deeds Office, over which in 470 a greater or less degree the Deputy Clerk Register had jurisdiction. We have very carefully considered the whole of this problem, and the conclusion reached is that, for reasons similar to those which pointed to reorganisation of the other Board, the proposals of 1923 and 1924 should be changed in favour of a system of centralised responsibility. We therefore propose to make one head of the Register Office. To effect the object in view, namely, the close concentration under one head of the responsibility for the administration of the sasines and records and deeds, it is necessary to transfer to such a head the functions not only of the Deputy Clerk Registrar, which included those of the Keeper of the Records, but also those of the Keeper of Sasines and Records and Deeds. The Bill accordingly provides for the appointment of a Keeper of the Register and Records of Scotland, to whom these functions will be transferred. I hope that the centralising of this authority will lead to efficiency and it may well lead to economies and will be generally acceptable to Scotland.
Thirdly, the Bill contains miscellaneous provisions of a minor or consequential character. With regard to Clause 10, it should be stated, in conjunction with the explanation in the White Paper on the Financial Resolution, that the Clause gives effect to a recommendation made by a Committee some years ago, and endorsed in the recent Report of the Royal Commission on the Court of Session, that steps should be taken to remedy the position under which officers in the Extractor's Department appointed personally by the Extractor are without security of tenure and arc ineligible for pension. It is desirable in the interests of the staff to put the small matter right in advance of any general legislation following the Commission's Report. Clause 11 has the effect of eliminating the requirement that the Board of Trustees in the National Galleries should contain three members of elected local authorities. The requirement was inserted by Amendment in the 1906 Bill, but I do not think it can be said that it has served any really useful purpose. The field of selection of membership of this Board, with its highly specialised function, is at the best a small one, and the limitation imposed 471 by the requirement may only make the composition of a strong and expert Board more difficult.
I feel that this Bill is a step in the direction of the reorganisation and the greater efficiency of our work in Scotland, and, if I did not think so, I should not be here to submit it to the House. While there may be criticisms of it, and while I am quite prepared to discuss, either on the Floor of the House or in Committee, any points which hon. Members may raise, I think this is a Measure of which it can be truly said that it is entirely non-controversial. It is not a party Measure in any sense. We have endeavoured in the machinery of improvement to safeguard the position of those who have served the State faithfully and well, and I would like to say on this occasion, which is an opportune occasion, that it is not in any sense in detriment of the value of the services which the present occupants of these offices have rendered that I am making this proposition. Rather is it because this machinery makes it possible for them to render the fullest service that this proposal is made. On the other hand, I think it will be found that those who go into the Service, whether they enter as first-class civil servants or as second-class civil servants will have ample opportunity to rise, but so long as we have a general system in the Civil Service in this country where you have examinations and certain qualifications, which give us the first-class civil servants, and second-class civil servants, I am bound to say I think Scotland would be unwise if she refused to take an opportunity such as is held out on this occasion of staffing her departments in Scotland with those who are best fitted from an educational point of view to render service to her. With these words I commend the Bill to the House, and I shall be happy to listen to any criticisms which hon. Members may have to offer.
Mr. WILLIAM ADAMSON
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
The Secretary of State expressed the hope that the discussion on this Measure would be of a non-party character. The right hon. Gentleman did his best to assure the House that the Bill was not 472 introduced by him in any party sense. While that may be true, I do not think he can get the Second Reading, or any of the further stages of this Bill without controversy, because it contains a considerable amount of highly controversial matter. Already the Bill is attracting considerable attention in Scotland, and up to now it has no'; been very favourably received by the: Press. I believe, had more time been given for consideration of the Bill before it came up in the House, the Secretary of State would have found a considerable amount of dissatisfaction with its provisions. Not only are some of the important newspapers in Scotland subjecting it to criticism but individual criticisms are being expressed regarding these proposals, and such criticisms, I assure the right hon. Gentleman, are not confined to those who agree with the Labour party. They are making themselves apparent even in the ranks of the right hon. Gentleman's own supporters. I read a letter in one of our newspapers the other day from a supporter of the right hon. Gentleman, in which the writer said that he wanted to ventilate a grievance against the Government which he found shared by many who, like himself, had worked for and supported the present Administration, the reason for the grievance being the continually and exasperatingly shabby treatment of Scotland by the" powers that be in London —meaning the Government.An ungrateful and short-sighted policy" (the writer vent on to say) "which is doing untold harm to the Unionist cause in Scotland.I do not know that Members on these benches would object seriously to the Bill if all it was doing was untold harm to the Unionist cause in Scotland. If we had no other objection to the Bill than that, we would be rather inclined to take a different view from that expressed in my Amendment. The writer went on to state that this Bill provided for the reorganisation of Scottish public offices with a view to economy at Scotland's expense.Why" he asks !"should it always be the case that Scotland is fixed upon for experiments,meaning experiments such as are contained in the proposals just moved by the right hon. Gentleman? 473It is really very galling"(says the writer further)"to patriotic Scottish Unionists, this continual flouting of Scottish national sentiment.I fear the desire of the right hon. Gentleman to make this a non-controversial Measure is not going to be realised, not even inside the ranks of his own party. The principle of the Bill is to transfer the powers of the Scottish Board of Health, the Scottish Board of Agriculture, and the Scottish Prison Commissioners to Departments of Health, Agriculture, and Prisons respectively. The right hon. Gentleman tells us his chief reason for such a proposal is that it is made on the ground of efficiency. I was awaiting the addition to the precious word "efficiency" of the word "economy." because as a general rule when we have proposals of this kind, these two words go hand in hand. The right hon. Gentleman also told us that it was the opinion of the Royal Commission on the Civil Service, which sat in the years 1912-1914, that such a change as he outlines in this Bill should be made. I also understand that the Civil Service staffs have pressed this change upon successive Governments for a number of years. I think the claim that the Royal Commission on the Civil Service recommended these proposals can only be made in regard to part of the Bill. I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that in Clause 3 provision is made for the Fishery Board remaining in existence, notwithstanding the fact that the Royal Commission on Civil Service and the Scottish Departmental Committee on the North Sea Fishing Industry recommended that the time had come when the form of the Fishery Board should be assimilated to that of other public bodies. So that while the right hon. Gentleman makes his proposal come in line with the recommendations of the Royal Commission, so far as public health, agriculture, and the prison commissioners are concerned, he does not make the same proposals with regard to the Fishery Board and I should like an explanation from him as to why he makes this distinction.
I should like whoever replies for the Government, to explain why this distinction is made between the Fishery Board and the other bodies. If the proposal is right, if it will lead to efficiencv and if it will be, as some of the 474 right hon. Gentleman's supporters seem to think, productive of economy, surely it will be as right in the case of the Fishery Board as in the cases of the Board of Agriculture, the Board of Health, or the Prison Commissioners. The right hon. Gentleman said that those who were experienced in administration of Government Departments were coming more and more to the view that the provisions made in this Bill represented the right method of procedure. I do not profess to nave had the same experience in administration. I had a much lesser period of time in the Office which my right hon. Friend fills, but I want to say, quite frankly, that like him I found the officials and civil servants at Dover House an excellent body. I never ask to be associated with a more excellent body of men than I found there, and I want to say also that I found the men who constituted our Board of Health, our Board of Agriculture, and our Prison Commissioners in Scotland as excellent a body of men, and in many respects as efficient a body of men, as one could wish to be associated with.
Frankly, we on these benches arc strongly of the opinion that we have to look for some other reason than the reasons that have been adduced by the Secretary of State for Scotland for the introduction of such a Measure as that which we are now discussing. We think that the introduction of this Bill is part and parcel of the policy of the present Government. We believe that that policy is to subordinate Scottish administration to Whitehall to a far greater extent than has ever been the case, and to remove from Scotland practically the last vestige of independent Government and nationhood, and to have its centre in London. If that be the policy of His Majesty's Government, I want to say quite frankly to my right hon. Friend, and in quite a friendly spirit, that His Majesty's Government are in for a lively time. Within the past 2$ years we have had a number of indications that this is the policy. Within the period of time since the present Government came into office, we have had removed from Scotland the Scottish Divisional Office of the Ministry of Pensions, notwithstanding that it was admitted by everyone who had any experience of that particular divisional office that it was more efficiently and economically worked than any of the 475 other offices under the Ministry of Pensions. Not only have we had our experience so far as the divisional office of the Ministry of Pensions is concerned, but within that period of time the Royal Dockyard at Rosyth, the only dockyard that Scotland has had since the union of these Kingdoms, has been reduced to a "care and maintenance" basis, notwithstanding that it is admitted by every competent naval authority in the country to be the best equipped dockyard in the country and the safest dockyard, not only in this country, but in any part of the world. This dockyard has been closed in order to enable the Government—at least, so we believe—to keep open less efficiently equipped dockyards in England. Now this Bill provides for the removal of the Scottish Board of Health, the Scottish Board of Agriculture, and the Prison Commission.
Evidently, as I have already said, it is the policy of the Government to remove the last vestige of nationhood as far as Scotland is concerned, but in attempting to carry out a policy of that kind, a Government is bound to cover its intentions and to provide some other reason for carrying out such a policy. We have always been told, when these things were being done, just as we have been told to-night, that they are done in the interests of efficiency and economy. Whenever the occasion suits them, they begin to play with these two blessed words, which have become a sort of cant in the frequency with which they are used, and, like most cant expressions, they are associated with a considerable amount of hypocrisy. If efficiency and economy are the objects that the Government have in view, we in Scotland would like to see a fair distribution of the efforts at economy. We do not see why Scotland should always be fixed upon as the part of the Kingdom in which to try experiments of this kind. Why should these efforts at economy not be more evenly distributed in the other parts of the country? One could almost forgive the Government if their efforts at economy were successful in any degree, but when one compares the actual results with the promises made by the Government when Measures of this kind are being brought forward, one finds that those results are very disappointing indeed. They usually end in an economy 476 being effected in one Department in order to make it possible for another Department to waste more money, and when the total bill brought in by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the end of the financial year is examined, it is found that no economy has been effected at all.
I would very humbly suggest to the Secretary of State for Scotland that there are other things which enter into a question such as we are discussing to-night than the mere matters of efficiency and economy, that there are other things which enter into the making up of nations and men which are of as vital importance as the two things which the Secretary of State for Scotland is bringing before us and is always trotting out before us in asking us to agree to changes which we believe arc not in the interests of the country to which we belong. These other things that are quite as important are the traditions, the history, and the sentiment of a nation, and the patriotic Scot, whether he is a Labour man or a Unionist, is not going to stand calmly by and see this continual flouting of his national sentiment, either by this Government or by any other Government. The Secretary of State for Scotland, in his speech, tried to draw the difference between a trained civil servant and the type of man whom we have had filling positions on these important Boards in our country, and he pointed out that, in his opinion, the trained civil servant was superior to the type of man. whom we have been accustomed in the past to put on these Boards. At the same time, he had to confess that, while he was making a proposal of this kind, he did not intend to do away with the Advisory Committees. He went en to say that on these Advisory Committees he had found that ho got men of experience, and he instanced the case of Agriculture and named some of the parties he had found on these Advisory Committees, who were men of experience and who had been capable of rendering very valuable service both to him and to his Department.
I would like to remind the right hon. Gentleman, in conclusion, that the men whom we have been in the habit of appointing to positions on the Boards that are dealt with in this Bill are men of that very type. They received their appointments because they had had practical experience of the affairs that had to 477 be handled by the particular Department to which they were appointed, and in that way we have had many excellent servants giving their time to administering the affairs of Scotland. I hope that, before we have finished with the discussion of this Bill, the Secretary of State for Scotland will have a little more doubt than he had in Ins mind on rising to move the Second Reading of the Bill as to the wisdom of introducing this Measure. I hope that, before we are done with the discussion, he may see his way to withdraw this Bill. In the event of his doing that, I can assure him that we will not oppose its withdrawal, but if he goes on with the discussion of it, I fear that he will find that there are a number of us who will give our opposition to all its stages.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I propose to ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland a few questions, and may I begin by asking this one, which I think will be of interest to the House? Does he mean to press for the Second Reading of this Bill to-night?
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am glad to have the assurance of my right hon. Friend that he is not proposing to attempt to get a Second Reading of this Bill to-night. I listened to this Debate with very great interest indeed, and I must say that I have been impressed by the contrast between the two speeches which have been delivered. The speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland was severely practical, if I may say so, and dealt with the Bill with a comprehensiveness and lucidity which I greatly admired. My right hon. Friend the late Secretary for Scotland, the Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson) was, as usual, very eloquent and very genial, but I think, if I may say so with the greatest possible respect, he dealt more with nationhood and nationality than with the problems with which we are more immediately connected. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] I quite agree. I yield to nobody in my desire to uphold and maintain the Scottish nationality, and I, as much as anybody, would like to see the young men of Scotland associated with the Scottish Office in every possible way, and, as I understand it, the introduction 478 of this Bill will not in any way prevent them from continuing to be associated with that Office. While I am dealing with that particular point, may I ask my right hon. Friend, in the course of his reply, to make it plain to us whether in future the officers of these various Departments will be appointed by open competition and whether the competition will be open to young men of the United Kingdom? He agrees. It will not, therefore, necessarily follow that all the officers in the various Departments now to be formed will be Scotsmen. I have so much confidence, patriotic as I am, in the ability of the young men of Scotland that I feel that if they so desire to become members of these Scottish Departments in open competition, they have still the brains and ability to satisfy their wishes. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) asked me whether there is a limitation of civil servants in Civil Service examinations in Scotland. Of course there is not. These Civil Service examinations are open to the young men of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, I presume. My point is that in future these Departments will not be limited to Scotland only for their recruits but will have the whole of the open competition to select from. But I made the observation, and I make it again with justifiable pride, that I hope and believe that most of the competitors will be natives of Scotland and that they will choose their sphere of labour in the Civil Service in a Scottish Department.
There is another point which I think is worthy of notice. I think the House was full of it in the discussion earlier in the day. Many of us are very sorry that some of our old friends, with whom we had business connections for many years in this House, will no longer be employed in any of these offices. We are anxious to have them looked after. Are we right in assuming that under the appropriate Clause proper provision is made for the officers and servants of the Departments which have either been abolished or amalgamated? if there is an assurance upon that point, it will make our position from the personal point of view very much easier. I never had a great love for the board system. For many years we have been accustomed to boards in Scotland, and when I was 479 Chief Secretary for Ireland I also had a great many boards, something like 20 or 30. I never thought them very admirable bodies for efficient and economic work. I am not at all sure that the proposal which is put forward by the Secretary of State for Scotland to-night is not a sound one. I believe myself that an efficient head of a Department, with great responsibility, is a much more effective person than the chairman of a board. When you get a board you have all sorts of difficulties and complications; all sorts of different ways of looking at things. At any rate, that has been my experience of dealing with boards, and if you really want to get efficiency and economy you cannot always rely upon it from a board. But there is a very great chance indeed, if you are careful in the selection of the head of a Department, that you will get efficiency in that head, and efficiency and economy right through that Department. What is the proposal with which my right hon. Friend comes forward to-day? desires to abolish all the boards in Scotland except the Fishery Board? My right hon. Friend the Member for West Fife made rather a point of the fact that the Fishery Board would not be abolished. I do not know personally what the explanation of that is, if it be not the fact that there is a gentleman at the head of this Board who, from my experience, is a very efficient civil servant.
I understand that some arrangement is being come to in connection with the Fishery Board, that it is to continue in existence but that the Chairman of the Board, instead of having what is called a quinquennial appointment, will now receive the appointment common to heads of Departments in other branches of the Civil Service. I am not at all sure that that is not a good idea, and I have no such criticism to offer in that respect as has my right hon. Friend the Member for West Fife. In Scotland we have had the greatest Department in the State administered for many long years, not by a Board but by a Department. Education in Scotland is ofA noble age, which penury can ne'er repress.There is nothing that touches the hearts and homes of Scotland so much as educa- 480 tion. We have taken a very legitimate pride in our education, and if we may have had on many occasions to doubt the desirability of certain actions of the Board as enforced by the so-called code and regulation, there is no doubt that, looking at that Department from a completely unbiased point of view. it has been a Department which has been run with great success throughout the whole of its career. The Department has always been called "My Lords," but during the whole time that I have been associated with public life and deeply interested in Scottish education I have never seen any of these "Lords." They do not exist. It was run very efficiently by one single individual in England and by another individual in Scotland.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
While I think that the hon. Gentleman might quite properly accuse the Government of diddling Scotland in many respects, I do not think he is justified in saying that any Government has diddled Scotland in regard to education. I believe that education has a proud place in our administration. My argument, when I began, was that if we could get Departments as substitutes for the Boards that are now being abolished of the same efficiency as the Board of Education, then I think we are justified in making the change. It has been said, and said in the public Press, that this Bill is the acme of bureaucracy, and, with a great amount of truth, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Fife said that it was part and parcel of the Government policy. But what are the facts? You have tried certain boards in Scotland. They have done, in many y oases, very good work indeed, but the time has come, in my judgment, when there ought not to be sanctity attached to the name "board," but when you ought to copy all the most efficient methods of administration in other parts of the country and in other countries. The most efficient method of administration has been found to be the department, with an efficient and responsible head directly responsible to the Secretary of State. It is very difficult for the Secretary of State to defend the actions of a board. I must say that I often felt a great deal of pity 481 for any Secretary of State for Scotland who had to defend on many occasions the actions of the Board of Agriculture, I have made no secret about that. I have said on the public platform and in this House that I have not been satisfied with the administration of the Board of Agriculture. I do not know what the reason for that may be. There are men upon that Board of great ability, of charm of manner, and with a real genuine anxiety to perform the work with which they are entrusted. But I have always been alarmed against the appointment to public Departments by methods other than by the competitive test. I think the competitive test is the right test. It is a test which is entirely outside the realm of political patronage and influence, and the poor man's son will always get a chance with the richest man's son. Therefore, I am very strongly of the view that the abolition of appointment by patronage is a very wise thing in the Civil Service. If you create a Department of this kind you make it possible under open competition for any Scottish lad to attain the highest rank in that Department which he selects to enter.
But while I am discussing the Board of Agriculture at this moment, may I just ask one or two questions about it? My colleagues and myself—I see two of them here (laughter.) I do not think any party can congratulate itself upon the number on its benches at the moment, but I am proud to think that two of my colleagues here are Highland men like myself who are deeply interested in this particular Bill which I am discussing at the present moment. I refer to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) and to the hon. Member for Caithness or Erribol (Sir A. Sinclair). I am going to put one or two questions with regard to the Board of Agriculture to my right hon. Friend. What does he propose to do? Is the new-Department going to be starved for lack of means, or is he going to continue his land settlement scheme? Is he going to have Small Holdings Commissioners? What is he going to do? That is one of the most important things. He knows as well as I do that almost all the Scottish Members, whether they be Members for city constituencies or rural constituencies, are deeply interested in the 482 rural problem. We are very anxious to know what proposal my right hon. Friend is going to make in that respect. I do not know whether that has been considered, but I listened very attentively to an answer given the other day, and in one island off the West Coast I understood my right hon. Friend to say that there were still 700 applicants waiting to settle upon the land. I sincerely hope, as the result of the transference of the administration of settlement from the Board to a Department, that there will not be any decrease in settlement upon the land of ex-service men or men who are otherwise competent to take up the position in rural parts of the country. My right hon. Friend said that he hoped this Bill would be non-controversial. I think that in the speech which I have delivered I have tried to take on behalf? of myself and my party a broad-minded view of the position. I think that all Members from Scotland are very anxious indeed to have an efficient Scottish Office. I gathered from the speech just delivered from the front Opposition Bench that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues wish to maintain the status quo. They do not wish any change of any sort or kind.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
My hon. Friend from Ayrshire says that they are Conservatives. It used to be said of the Scottish Radical of old days that he was the most Conservative of men, and I am interested to hear that the present view of the Labour party, in their attitude towards Scotland, is that they are true Conservatives.
§ It being a Quarter past Fight of the Clock, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 4.