§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is practically the same Bill that was introduced in March last. I then explained to the House the, motives which actuated the Government in bringing forward the Measure and I expressed the hope, which I still entertain, that this Bill will be regarded by hon. 263 Members on every side of the House not as a matter of party controversy but one upon which we can all be reasonably expected to combine in evolving a system which will be an appreciable improvement on the present position. The history of government in Scotland is very familiar to Scottish Members. They will recall a period during which the affairs of Scotland were conducted by another Department of State in England. Then came the constitution of the Scottish Office, and in order to overcome the inherent difficulties of the new system of government there was established in Scotland the system which had been used in other parts of the Kingdom, known as the "Board system." The motive which led to placing the administration in Scotland in the hands of Boards, was the fact that communication at that time between Scotland and London was less easy than it is at present; that the responsibility to Parliament of the holder of the office which I have the honour to hold and the assertion of the right of Parliament to make the Minister answerable for government in Scotland, was not then so fully developed.
The history of administration by Boards is well known. The system has been used in England and has been abandoned. It was used in Northern Ireland, but it has been abandoned. For what reason? The reason is patent to anyone who is brought closely into contact with this problem. This question has been investigated by a Royal Commission which came to certain very definite conclusions. Let me repeat what I said on the last occasion: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.They recommend that the Scottish Departments be no longer deprived of the advantages which will 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 be 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.264 Whether the administration of Scotland it carried on by a board or department, the House should bear in mind that the responsibility rests, and must rest, with the Minister responsible for the board or department. So far as this House is concerned in any change from a system of administration by boards to an administration by departments, which is common to this country, and is indeed working in Scotland now in regard to one of the most important administrative subjects, education; the responsibility of the Minister remains the same and the opportunities for criticism by this House of the actions of the Minister remain the same. Therefore it comes down really to a practical question as to whether the system of boards is as efficient and as effective as the departmental system. I have long held the view, and it is corroborated by the fact that in England the same view is taken, that the most satisfactory method of administration in Scotland is the establishment and maintenance of a Civil Service which remains continuously and closely in touch with the work for which they are responsible and who are not liable to the fluctuation and changes of political policy.
Further, the position of the Minister in coming to decisions and taking responsibility for which he has to answer to Parliament and the country, is likely to be more efficiently safeguarded and, indeed, assisted, if he has at the head of a department a single advisor who, in his turn, takes responsibility for the advice which he tenders. In criticising the board system, I am not casting any reflection upon the good work which many of these boards have done in the past. Hon. Members can picture to themselves the position: questions coming before a board upon which there may be, legitimately, a difference of opinion and where a majority and minority report is submitted to the Minister. In such a case the Minister is unable to turn to the head advisor of the Department for advice, and he finds himself in the position of not having any responsible advice from the head of the department. He has to make up his mind on the majority and minority report of the Board. From that point of view it is wise that this should be avoided. One of the things which the Royal Commission emphasised was that patronage, if possible, should be abolished. 265 It is a difficult problem, but I think we are all agreed, no matter what party we belong to, that for these appointments patronage is undesirable. The great public service of civil servants, drawn from a class which reach and maintain their position by examination and merit, who are attached to one department or another, gain during the course of years an experience which is of enormous value to the State, to this House, and to the Minister who is responsible.
It is for that reason that I desire to see established in Scotland a system of departments. We have had experience of departmental work in Scotland. The Department of Education is not a Board of Education. I have no reason to suppose, from such evidence as I have been able to gather during my three years of administration, that there is any real criticism in Scotland that the system in the Education Department has not worked satisfactorily. The head of that Department resides in the capital of Scotland. He has, it is true, a second in command here in London. But I would emphasise at once that there appears to have been a kind of conception in the minds of some hon. Members and, indeed in the minds of some of the outside public, that this change which we propose to make is going to transfer the centre and activities of these offices from Scotland to Whitehall. On the contrary, there is no such suggestion. There never has been such a suggestion. Since I submitted the Bill last year there has been no such suggestion.
To prove that there was no intention or prospect of such a thing taking place, I have specifically inserted in the Bill a Clause which declares that the Departments shall remain in Scotland. Indeed if we achieve, as I conceive we shall, the placing at the head of these Departments of civil servants of the first class, drawn from the whole service, so that Scotland can have the best service possible without restriction of any kind except the restriction of efficiency and of examination, then we will have at the heads of the Departments men who will be capable of advising and conducting even some of the work which may, at the present moment, be carried on here at Dover House. The. ambition which I have formed is not only to have first class civil servants at the heads of these offices, similar to the first class civil servants 266 at the head of the offices here in England, but that we shall in course of time, when the clamant demands for economy shall have been overcome, centralise in Edinburgh under one roof all the Departments concerned with Scottish affairs.
Then I can visualise the linking up of Parliament and Dover House with a central office in Edinburgh, where the Minister responsible to Parliament and the Scottish Members can be in close and easy touch with the heads of every one of his Departments. The House will believe me when I say that with scattered Departments in Edinburgh now it is no light or easy task for the Minister to keep in touch with any work that is going on, and indeed to obtain from those Departments, with the rapidity that one often desires, answers to questions put to him either across the Floor of the House or by the large interests outside. This Bill, therefore, changes the Board system. It does not in any measure lessen the possibilities of contact between the outside interests in Scotland and the Departments. The opportunities of deputations to the Departments, of consultation with the heads of each section in those Departments, and of access to the Minister—all those things are entirely safeguarded. There will be the same channels for communication. But, above all, there will be one responsible official at the head of each Department, who will give responsible advice to the Minister in the policy that he pursues.
§ Mr. SKELTON
Does my right hon. Friend mean that the leading permanent civil servant at the head of the Department of Agriculture may quite well be an Englishman born and bred?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
In our offices in Scotland we have men who are not all of purely Scottish origin or descent. Let me be perfectly frank. This opening for the Civil service is a complementary thing. We have many Scotsmen at the head of the great English Departments, I am glad to say. Is it conceivable that that will not continue or, indeed, that these examinations shall not be held and the posts be staffed by Scotsmen? I have enough confidence in the ability and brains of the Scottish people to believe that these civil servants will be largely drawn from the Scottish race. But whether that be so or not, 267 what I am out for is efficiency. I want to get the best man for a post, and I want that man to be there so that he may be absolutely free of patronage of any kind. I want him to get there through the ordinary channels of the Civil Service. The system has proved itself to be of great advantage to the Departments in England. It has been of great advantage to education in Scotland.
Let me turn to some of the details of the Bill. The first part of the Bill, of course, deals with what I have been speaking of, namely, the abolition of the Board system. It will create a Department of Agriculture and a Department of Health. There comes the problem of what is known as the Fishery Board for Scotland. The reason why we do not propose to alter the nature of that body, beyond placing the chairman of it in the position of a civil servant with adequate Civil Service remuneration and position, is that in this case the Board differs from the other Boards, in that members of the Fishery Board are not paid and are drawn from various interests in an advisory capacity. That has proved to be a system that is workable and of value, and I do not propose to alter it. Then we come to other problems. We come to a matter which has concerned a great many people in Scotland, the Register House. This is by no means an easy problem. I have come to the conclusion that it would be well to establish a single head over that Department. At the present time there is no such single head.
There have been criticisms because it was thought, on the one hand, that the historical section has been neglected, and, on the other hand, that if we made a single head we should not do justice to the needs of Scotland. I have carefully studied the problem and have come to the conclusion that it is possible to combine these offices and at the same time get efficiency. The purport of the provisions of the Bill is the creation of a post of Keeper of the Registers and Records of Scotland. That post will absorb the post of the Deputy Clerk Register, which has not been filled since 1919, and that of the Keeper of Sasines and the Keeper of Deeds. Some words have been added in order specifically to provide for the payment of salary in respect of the new post. But that does not mean that there will be any increase in the total cost of 268 the Department concerned. It should also be realised that the changes effected by the Bill with regard to this Register House Department do not involve any departure from the present system of registration and recording. Some doubts were expressed upon that point after our last Debate, and I wish now particularly to draw attention to the matter. The existing powers and duties vested in or exercised by the Court of Session with regard to the Public Register Records and Rolls of Scotland are expressly safeguarded.
The last part of the Bill effects various minor changes. Legal sanction is given to the transfer, which has already been effected de facto, of the powers and duties of the Keeper of the Minute Book and Record of Edictal Citations to the Principal Extractor of the Court of Session. The object of Clause 10 is to put the staff of the Extractor's Department in the Court of Session on a Civil Service basis as regards method of appointment and tenure of office. That, I think, is only doing justice to the staff working in that department. There is a small Amendment which we desire to make to widen the field of selection for the members of the National Galleries Board of Trustees. I hope that hon. Members, in approaching the discussion of this subject, will realise that the sole motive is the motive of efficiency, that it leaves intact the same responsibility of the Minister to any Member in this House, but that it gives to him additional assistance, in that in future he may have available the best class of Civil Service advice. That this will greatly strengthen and improve and elevate the position of these Departments I have not the slightest doubt. I commend the Bill to the House with confidence that it will give an opportunity to many in the Civil Service who are at present in the Second Class to rise, as indeed they do rise and have risen, to the First Class of the Civil Service, and that, on the whole, it will be an improvement to our administration.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this clay six months."
On the last occasion, on 23rd March, 1927, I listened to the right hon. Gentleman expound this Bill, and I have 269 listened very patiently to his recitation to-day of the advantages which he expects will accrue from this Measure. For the life of me I cannot understand the urgency that the right hon. Gentleman apparently attaches to the Measure. There are great public questions requiring solution in Scotland, questions of health, of economic prosperity and of the happiness of our people. The right hon. Gentleman can find no time to bring in Measures to deal with those questions. He can find no time to bring in Measures to deal with the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Deer Forests. He comes forward persistently with this particular Measure, which is recorded, in the King's Speech as one of the major Measures of the Session. Although the right hon. Gentleman put the best face he could upon his case, he will not expect the Opposition to pass this Bill without considerable criticism, particularly in view of the fact that a large section of public opinion in Scotland—a section which has no political sympathy with those on this side of the House—is intensely amazed at some of the proposals in the Bill. The right bon. Gentleman said the chief reason for the Bill was efficiency, and I think he repeated that statement in the course of his speech. I would call his attention to what he said on 23rd March last. year when introducing a similar Bill: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 responsible civil servant at the head."— [OFFICIAT, REPORT, 23rd March, 1027; Cols. 465–466. Vol. 204.]Following that the right bon. Gentleman proceeded to give one illustration from his experience to justify that statement, the illustration being the Department of Education in Scotland. What is the fact about the Scottish Education Department. The right hon. Gentleman himself admitted that the permanent head of that Department is situated in Edinburgh. The right hon. Gentleman cannot possibly have direct personal access to the head of that Department in connection with the answering of questions put to him in this House. It is true that there is an assistant head of the Department in London, but still, the right hon. Gentleman cannot claim that he is in touch with that Department, and we await an 270 explanation and a justification for the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman in March of last year and to-day. As far as we can see, there is no closer contact between the right hon. Gentleman and the chairman of the Board of Agriculture than between the right hon. Gentleman and the permanent head of the Education Department in Edinburgh. They are both the same distance from London; they are both as difficult to reach, and they are both in the same position as regards giving advice to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
May I explain? The whole question is this: Do I get advice from the head of a Department giving that advice as the head of a Department, or has that official to go first to his board and then come to me and say that his board differ from him and that he can only speak as the Board? Thus, instead of getting advice from him, I have to form my own opinion, but the head of a Department like the Education Department which has an office here, is in touch with me—he is often here and he can give me advice as the head of the Department.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
That is another point altogether with which I propose to deal later. The question of whether the right hon. Gentleman gets more efficient or more direct advice—shall I say more positive advice—from the head of his Education Department than he does from the chairman of his Board of Agriculture does not arise at the moment. The point I am dealing with is, whether he has any closer touch with the Education Department than he has with the Board of Agriculture. I submit that on the right hon. Gentleman's own showing he has no closer touch with the Education Department than with the Board of Agriculture or the Board of Health. If I am correctly informed, the right hon. Gentleman had no consultation with the boards in Edinburgh prior to the publication of these proposals. I understand that the first the boards saw of this Bill was its publication in the "Scotsman" and the "Glasgow Herald." I think the right hon. Gentleman might have taken care to consult not, only his Civil Service advisers in London and elsewhere but also the people who were "on the job" and who knew some of the difficulties 271 of the work. He should have taken or at least considered their advice before coming to a conclusion on the matter. I draw his attention to the fact that the only body in Scotland which, with inside knowledge, feels itself free to make a public criticism of the details of the Bill are people on the legal side. Probably every Member of the House has received a copy of a report by a committee of the Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow. They are wholeheartedly opposed to the parts of the Bill which deal with their own business—with the Deputy Clerk Register and the keepers of the various registers and so forth. I am not going to discuss these points; I am not competent to do so; I merely point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the only body in Scotland which feels itself free to criticise the Bill has done so. The Board of Agriculture cannot speak because they are civil servants. The Prison Commissioners cannot speak; the Board of Health cannot speak. The only body which can make a public criticism, on public grounds, of the details of the Bill has already done so.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
If the Solicitor-General has not seen the document in question. I shall be pleased to let him have it. but I am more than surprised if they have not sent a copy to him. Apart from the reason of efficiency—which is at least dubious—we must see whether there are any other possible reasons for the introduction of this Bill. The whole tendency under this Government has been, rather strangely, towards centralising and bureancratiging administration. We are accused on public platforms of being in favour of running the industries of the country from Whitehall, and of conducting businesses through civil servants who, however qualified in a scholastic way, have no knowledge of business affairs. Now we find this Government, of all Governments, deliberately attempting to take away the detailed administration of public affairs in Scotland from bodies of presumably skilled men, who have been nominated because of their knowledge of those particular affairs. It is proposed that the direction of these affairs should be 272 handed over to men who, whatever other qualifications they may have, whatever examinations they may have passed in Oxford or Cambridge, have not proved their fitness to conduct these great, businesses upon which the lives and happiness of our people depend. We have seen the right hon. Gentleman's Government transferring the local administration of pensions in Scotland, and is there any hon. Member who will say that that change has been a public benefit to Scotland? There is not one. We see a gradual tendency, of which this Bill is, we believe, the latest symptom, towards the bureaucratisation and the concentration in Whitehall of the administration of Scottish affairs. The right hon. Gentleman points proudly to the fact that in his Bill there is a Clause, declaring thatthe offices of the said Departments shall be situated in Edinburgh,but while the offices may be, and, in fact are now situated in Edinburgh, where is the power going? Of course the power is going to London.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Of course, the responsibility is here now. If the Lord Advocate's interruption is to be believed, there is going to be no change and if there is going to be no change, why have the Bill? The hon. and learned Gentleman cannot have it both ways. The fact is that there is a change, and the proof that there is a change lies in the production of the Bill. Of course, the power—I do not say the supreme power because that will always rest with the right hon. Gentleman and the Cabinet—but a certain measure of power, a certain power of direction is being taken away from these nominated boards in Edinburgh and will be more or less canalised. Certain matters will be placed under the control of the permanent officials to whom the right hon. Gentleman has referred. I have said that there are other big problems which might have occupied the right hon. Gentleman's attention with profit to his native land. At Question Time to-day I asked him to give the House any justification or explanation of the fact, which he admits, that poverty is 15 per cent. greater in Scotland than in England. Surely that is a most remarkable fact and one deserving of the 273 right hon. Gentleman's immediate attention. But he has no explanation to offer, and instead of bringing in a Measure to deal with a problem like that, he produces this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman spoke this afternoon about an administrative class. I think he will find in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow that he used the phrase two or three times. He quoted from the Royal Commission of 1914 and employed this epithet "administrative class"—which takes us back to Platonic phrases. We are reminded of the phrases in Plato's "Republic" about the creating of classes. Here is an administrative class being justified and made permanent by the right hon. Gentleman. The present system has its defects. I do not think anybody disputes them. Nevertheless, it is open to the right hon. Gentleman or his successors in office, always to procure the advice of the most skilled men in any business in connection with Scottish affairs to-day. By the passing of this Bill however, the right hon. Gentleman is definitely, clearly and I think deliberately, taking steps to make permanent this administrative class which in the past we have had no reason to believe was any more efficient than the Advisory Boards with which we are familiar in Scotland.
There are three main Departments affected—the Board of Health, the Board of Agriculture and the Prison Commission. Let me very briefly see what changes will be effected in the Scottish Board of Agriculture. There is a maximum of three members on this Board, but one of these three must be designated as a Commissioner for Small Holdings. He must be a specialist in small holdings —that is his business, his duty, his job—but under this Bill he disappears, and he is replaced by a gentleman who may be an authority on the Greek classics, who may have been able to grind away at the special subjects which the examiners very foolishly sometimes set for students, but he has no necessary knowledge either of Scottish affairs, Scottish history, land problems, or small holdings. The one office upon which we have depended for an active attempt at the recolonisation of our country is being abolished under the terms of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman opposite shakes his head, but is it not the case that he is abolishing his 274 Board of Agriculture? Is it not the case that one member out of the three at present must be a Commissioner for Small Holdings, and that that Commissioner disappears and is replaced by a permanent civil servant, selected ultimately because of his knowledge of other subjects altogether, and because he is able to pass some scholastic examination at Oxford or Cambridge?
I will take the other Boards. At present on the Board of Health there is a maximum of six members, of whom two must be medical men and one an advocate or a law agent. The present Board of Health consists of the right hon. Gentleman himself, his Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Mr. Ewan Macpherson, who was a member of the Local Government Board so far back as 1904, and who has had considerable experience therefore in local administration; Sir James Leishman, of the Insurance Commission; Sir Leslie Mackenzie, than whom, I suppose, no man in public life in Scotland to-day knows more about public health; and Miss M. Ritson, of whom I know nothing. Here is a Board selected for its skill and for its knowledge of health in Scotland. The. right hon. Gentleman says he cannot always get a unanimous report or advice from it, but why should he? Why does he always want a unanimous report? Is it not his job to get both majority advice and minority advice, and to decide? But what he is proposing to do now is to hand over his decision to a permanent civil servant. He is going to take the advice of a permanent civil servant, who has at some stage in the business to make up his mind upon the conflicting advice which he will get from various quarters. The right hon. Gentleman is taking a very serious step indeed when he proposes to hand over the complicated and legally difficult administration of affairs in Scotland to one civil servant, who may be a Scotsman or who may not, who may have some knowledge of Scottish affairs or who may not. His sole qualification, so far as we know now, is that he has to pass a higher grade examination set by the Civil Service Commission.
Then we will take the Prison Commissioners for Scotland, who to-day at most consist of three. I think there have never been any more than two appointed, but I am not certain about that. In addition, 275 they have on the Board two Commissioners ex officio —the Sheriff of Perthshire and the Crown Agent in Edinburgh. They have all equal powers, and they manage all the prisons in Scotland, inspect them, and report to the Secretary of State. Is the Secretary of State prepared to get up to-day and say that any single member of the Prison Commission is inefficient or ineffective, or that they could possibly be replaced by one selected civil servant who had passed some higher grade examination? Here is Mr. Condie Sandeman, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates and Sheriff of Perth. Is he inefficient? I will await an answer to that. Is Sir John Prosser, the Crown Agent, inefficient? No answer. Is Lord Polwarth inefficient? No answer. Is Dr. James Devon inefficient? No answer. We get not even an accusation that the Prison Commissioners are inefficient, yet the right hon. Gentleman, without a scrap of evidence as to inefficiency, without a solitary argument either to-day or on the 23rd March, comes forward and proposes that this efficient body of capable, skilled men shall be swept away and substituted by one of the higher clerical class of civil servants. We have heard something, though not very much, about the great economies that are to be secured by this Bill.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Does the right hon. Gentleman say there is no mention of economies? I say it is in his Memorandum which he has printed and circulated.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
The average cost per head of prisoners in Scotland is £73 14s. 2d. and in England £85 18s. l0d. Under the Board system it is cheaper than under the system they propose to set up. Other hon. Members, with very much greater knowledge of Civil Service administration than I have, propose to take part in this Debate, but I am perfectly certain that neither in March nor to-day has the Secretary of State for Scotland produced a reasonable argument why this Measure should obtain precedence, be mentioned in the King's Speech, and be brought forward as a first class Measure in this House. I make 276 this suggestion, that the old system, with all its faults, is a system under which any Secretary of State for Scotland can nominate an advisory body of skilled men to advise him in running his business, and the alternative is the bureaucratic system, the Whitehall direction system, a system that inevitably will end in failure.
All the criticisms made of the proposals of the Labour party for nationalisation and public ownership are criticisms based largely upon the view that we propose to run the mines, the railways, and other large public Departments from Whitehall by civil servants. Never any such idea crossed our minds. We will, when our time comes, take advantage of all the skilled advice and assistance we can get, and the technical knowledge of representatives of the workmen, to run the boards upon which the nation will depend. We will not have this Whitehall business, and I submit that one reason, at any rate, for the introduction of this Bill is to scrap the boards which we already have, the skilled advice which we already possess, and make it more difficult for us, in the days to come, to run the national business effectively and efficiently.
§ Mr. BARR
I beg to second the Amendment.
This is a Bill to alter the machinery of government in certain Departments in Scotland. In essence, as has been explained, it is a change from a system of boards to a system of departments. It has been advocated on two main grounds, that of efficiency, with which my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) has so well dealt, and that of economy. As has been indicated, we have, in the Financial Memorandum accompanying the Bill, a good deal made of the subject of economy. It is quite true that the plea that is put forward on that ground is subdued. In regard to the change that is embodied in Clause 1, it simply says: "It is anticipated that some diminution of cost may be effected," and in his speech of last year the Secretary of State for Scotland put it, I think, as regards the whole Bill, in a very subdued tone by saying: "It might well lead to economies." There is the discontinuance of the Director of Chancery. The salary there, we are told, has been £1,700, and even there all that is 277 told us is that "It is anticipated that some saving will be effected." It is only when they come to the subject of the discontinuance of the Keeper of the Minutes and his clerk that they become eloquent on the great economy that is to be effected. It is to give permanence to economies that have already been effected, and so we come to this, that after this great policy of economy has been launched and this Bill has been brought forward as a first-class Measure in the. interests of efficiency and economy, after this great talk of the economy policy that is to save the British Empire, they are economising by the discontinuance of the Keeper of the Minutes and his clerk. I am not so sure that there will be this economy, after all. I did not gather from the speech of the Secretary of State so distinctly as I did on the last occasion, but it came out incidentally as he read part of the Report on Civil Servants, that it is proposed in some voluntary way still to have the advice of unpaid advisory boards and advisory committees. In regard to the Keeper of the Registers and Records in Clause 5, the various offices that are to be dispensed with entail something like £2,700, but the official who is being set up is a very important one indeed. He is not only to be the Keeper of the Registers and Records, but the Keeper of the General Register of Sasines, the Register of Hornings, the Register of Inhibitions and Adjudications, and so forth—offices all more or less referring to bankruptcy, I understand, and to the service of Diligence in connection with it, the Register of Entails, and so forth.
I am bound to say that the man who performs all these offices will need a very large salary. You will not, therefore, economise very much there. The troops of clerks who are to be attached to the Principal Extractor will tend to increase rather than diminish, and all I can see of economy in this Bill does not amount to more than £2,000 or £3,000 at the most, if anything at all. There is a very remarkable provision in Clause 10. It is explained in the Financial Memorandum that formerly they engaged an Engrosser at piece rates, and they have found it much better to have a typist, working, I suppose, on time rates. As far as I read the Press which support the right hon. Gentleman opposite, they 278 are all for piece work as the real solution of industrial troubles; yet here, when they have had experience of it, they are going to dispense with it, saying that it would be far better to go on time work with a good typist than on piece rates with an engrosser.
One of the arguments brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman was in regard to the Department of Education; it was an argument for changing the whole of these Boards into Departments. I happen to know a little from experience of education, for I was 11 years a member of the School Board, now known as the Education Authority, of Glasgow, and every year I noticed an increasing tendency to dovetail this system, and assimilate the system in Scotland with what was being done in England. This was increased in recent years, and we cannot get a Superannuation Bill passed until the corresponding Bill for England is passed. So I am not enamoured of the suggestion that interest will be heightened and bettered by turning all these Boards into Departments. It seems to me that what is proposed is a very easy way of assimilating Scottish customs and practice with those of England. The Secretary of State has told us that there would be one man at the head of the Department, that there would be no minority or majority, and that he would have his word from the man and so know where he was. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson), speaking as a supporter of the Measure last year, said:When you get a Board, you have all sorts of difficulties and complications; all sorts of different ways of looking at things." [OFFICIAL, REPORT, 23rd March, 1927. Col. 479, Vol. 204.]He went on to argue that we must centralise and unify. The fact is, that it is easier when you have only one man to get that man under your complete control. I was much interested in the interjection of the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton), Who brought out that an Englishman fresh from his scholastic honours, or with some experience in English offices, might be appointed to this position. I would not, in ordinary circumstances, take any narrow view. I believe in the great. offices being thrown open to competition, and to the very best ability that can be obtained. But I think that when we are dealing with 279 Scottish questions of this kind, we want men who know something, even by their upbringing, of the subjects with which they are to deal. I was astonished one day, when I was speaking with a Front Bench Member opposite—one who is not present just now—who was surprised when I told him that a feu duty had something to do with land and the building of houses. It was a revelation to him. I do not want to give his name, because I do not want to hinder his promotion. In face of that sort of thing, you are going to appoint an Englishman with no practical experience.
This Bill enhances the power of the Secretary of State for Scotland. In the first Clause he has great powers to appoint secretaries, officers, inspectors, clerks, servants and other persons. Not one of these can give his signature to any document until he has the authority of the right hon. Gentleman. When the Keeper of the Registers in Clause 5 goes on his holidays, or is absent for any reason, the right hon. Gentleman has to appoint a man to take his place. He appoints the Assistant Extractor and all his clerks, and after he has appointed them, he says, "All shall sweetly obey my will." With the ambition almost of a Stuart King, he says: "Here I sit and govern Scotland with my pen. I write, and it is done, and by the clerk of the Department I govern Scotland now, which others could not do by the sword."
I would call attention to what fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee in regard to the importance that is now attached to this Measure. A year ago it was brought before the House, one or two speeches were made, and it was counted then of so little importance that the Government made no effort to secure time for its passage into law. This year it figures in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. We can understand the straits to which the Government had come when they approached the right hon. Gentleman and said: "We must have some first-class Measure for Scotland in what is to be our last great appeal before the General Election." The right hon. Gentleman looked round and said: "I cannot really do anything with housing; I may have to reduce the subsidy by-and-by, but it would never do to 280 advertise that in the Gracious Speech. I can do nothing with the land question; the White Paper shows that our policy, as far as Scotland is concerned, is exhausted." When it came to the Prison Commissioners, he said: "I cannot tackle the subject of eliminating the causes of crime; I need to go into some Socialistic Measure before I can do anything in that connection. The best and only thing I can do is to change the Boards into Departments."
What we in Scotland want at the present time is not new machinery but new men, not new Departments but a new policy. I was much interested in the Financial Memorandum. It says that what is being done does not involve any change in the activities of the Department. I think it might equally have been said that it does not involve any change in the inactivities of the Government in regard to Scotland. So our time is to be taken up this year in the Scottish Grand Committee with a Measure which is at best a purely technical Bill dealing with pure procedure. In my own constituency, as the right hon. Gentleman and the Under-Secretary to the Board of Health know—and as individuals they have done their utmost—housing is at a standstill because we can get no further loan. Instead of dealing with this question of giving further powers so that housing can go on, we are given this change from Boards to Department. The Report of the Board of Agriculture on Land Settlement shows that they have been obliged to decline 10,288 applications for small holdings, and only 214 of these were ruled out as being unworthy: 5,396 have been examined carefully and favourably commended, and yet no new machinery has been set up for that.
Instead of something being done to make history, we have this Bill which is to secure that all the registering of sasines, inhibitions and adjudications, and all the registering of entails, shall be done with a new accuracy, and all the dusty deeds are to be put in their proper pigeon-holes and properly kept; but there is not a word about doing something bold and great for Scotland. The Secretary of State, in a, letter he wrote to one of the Members for Aberdeen, published last week, prided himself on the fact that no objection had 281 been taken to the latter part of this Bill. As a matter of fact, we have now the petition of the Faculty of Procurators. This Bill pays no regard at all to national sentiment in Scotland. It seems as if the right hon. Gentleman looked round, and seeing some traces of Scottish national sentiment, brought forward this Measure to flout that, sentiment. Some Members will remember a passage in Carlyle's "French Revolution." When the Revolution was going forward, the Prime Minister of France, Vergennes, took his seat, and Carlyle says:And now nothing but a solid phlegmatic M. de Vergennes sits there, in dull matter of fact, like some dull Public Clerk. In him is no remedy, only clerk-like despatch of business according to routine.That is what we say to-day of the Secretary of State for Scotland and his Bill. In him is no remedy, and of his Bill we can say that it is at best onlyclerk-like despatch of business according to routine.And forasmuch as I believe in the reality of Scottish sentiment, forasmuch as I believe the salvation of Scotland is to come neither through boards nor through Departments, but, by a national Scottish Parliament, I would scorn to vote for a paltry Measure of this kind as being of any value whatsoever. I would scorn to vote for a Measure which is really tinkering and trifling with what is, after all, the most urgent of the subjects we have in Scotland at the present time.
§ Mr. KIDD
I wonder whether I do an injustice to the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) and the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr) if I discover that their opposition to this Bill is contradictory of their attitude in regard to Home Rule for Scotland. The hon. Member for Motherwell finished up his speech—a very impassioned speech for a Bill which he regards as so trifling—by saying that he wanted neither a board nor a Department, but nothing less than a Parliament for Scotland. Let us assume for a moment that he had his Parliament in Scotland. Let us assume that the hon. Member for Dundee had dissolved the union between England and Scotland. Would he then interject a board between the Secretary of State and his work?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Since the hon. Member asks me that question, may I answer that it is based on a false premise? I have never desired to dissolve. the union between the two countries.
§ Mr. KIDD
Well, let us suppose there is a separate Parliament without dissolution. Would you, with a Secretary of State in Scotland, and under a Scottish Parliament, interject between that Secretary of State and his work anything in the nature of a board? If the hon. Member for Dundee and the hon. Member for Motherwell got Home Rule for Scotland, would they not pursue exactly the same policy that the Minister is now following? [HON. MEMBERS: "No! "] The Minister has told us the history of these boards in Scotland. I am quite prepared to admit that these boards represent a kind of compromise with the national spirit as represented particularly by the Mover and the Seconder of this Amendment, and that they also have some relation to the difficulty of access between London and Edinburgh. What the Secretary of State now wants to do is to get rid of this board, to systematise the administration of public affairs, so that the administration of public work shall be in the hands of the Civil Service. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee—I think it is he—seemed to discover some contradiction between that action of the Minister and the Minister's opposition to. nationalisation.
§ Mr. KIDD
Then it was the hon. Member for Motherwell. But surely there is all the difference in the world between committing the administration of national business into the hands of the Civil Service and committing the industries of this country into the hands of the Civil Service, seeing that those industries are in competition with other industries in the world. The hon. Member for Dundee, in speculating upon the results of this Bill, said that in all probability the Board of Agriculture would lose the Commissioner for Small Holdings. It has already lost the Commissioner for Small Holdings. Under the Act of 1911, the Board of Agriculture was allowed to have as one of its members a Commissioner for Small Holdings, but that was repealed by the Act of 1919.
§ Mr. KIDD
The fear entertained by the hon. Member for Dundee is a needless fear, because already that fear has been realised for eight or nine years. Again, the hon. Member for Dundee remarked upon the anxiety which had been occasioned in legal circles by the concentration of those Departments which have a bearing on law. He referred us to the memorandum of the Faculty of Procurators of Glasgow in proof of what he was saying, but with all respect to them, their case against the Bill could not be a more slender one. it is contained in Clause 4 of the Memorandum:IV. That long prior to 1868 the members of the Commissary Courts of Glasgow and certain other Courts in the County of Lanark have been united into the Petitioners' Faculty, and that your Petitioners' said Faculty was recognised and then privileges were allowed by the Commissaries of the said Courts, by the Sheriff of the County of Lanark and by the magistrates of the City of Glasgow and that their exclusive privileges of practising before every Court in Glasgow and certain other Courts in Lanark were recognised and confirmed by a Royal Charter in their favour … but the said exclusive privileges were superseded.The Faculty of Procurators seem to anticipate under this Bill, that the Commissary Court will be so affected as to diminish their exclusive privileges a little more. Observe what their exclusive privilege was:The sole right of practising in the Courts of Glasgow and certain Courts in the County of Lanark.I begin to suspect that Glasgow, has flourished not merely by the preaching of the word, but by observing the wholesome rule of "keeping their ain fish guts for their ain sea maws." It is a very excellent rule. [An HON. MEMBER: "Would you translate it?"] No, I will not translate it.
§ Mr. KIDD
Then it may be the sweeter to ours. I wish to point out that the case made by the Faculty of Procurators of Glasgow is really no case at all. They have a Charter. They are jealous of their rights under that old Charter. But most of those rights have gone, and in the rearrangement of the Commissary Courts it may be the last shred goes, 284 as already the substance of these exclusive privileges of theirs has gone. They have nothing substantial to fear under this Bill, and theirs is the only objection against the Bill from any legal body. If the whole of the profession in Scotland, the Society of Writers to the Signet, the Society of Solicitors in the Supreme Court, the Faculty of Advocates in Aberdeen and the Incorporated Law Society of Scotland, are silent, though everyone of them is intensely jealous of the privileges they enjoy, am I not entitled to argue that the legal profession of Scotland, almost in its entirety, approves of the action of the Secretary of State?
What does the Secretary of State propose to do? He wants to harmonise the administration of public work. He wants to have the administration of public work put into the hands of trained civil servants. Who has any right to object to that oeing done? In combining the different registries, he is undoubtedly making for economy as well as for efficiency. The secret of the multiplication of these offices goes back to the old days. Those were the days when patronage was rampant. Every man wanted a little sop and one is surprised to find that this doctrine of patronage and nepotism finds its champions today not among the bloated Tories who are my friends, but in this new aristocracy represented by the Socialist party. In opposing the Bill on that particular head, they stand as the champions of nepotism and patronage, although I should have thought the effort of the Secretary of State to systematise the administration of our public work, by concentrating it more and more in the hands of trained civil servants, would have been most warmly supported, not on the benches from which I address the House, but on the benches opposite.
As far as the question of legal offices is concerned, I am justified in what I have said by the fact that the overwhelming force of legal opinion in Scotland is entirely in favour of the action now being taken. The one exception is the Faculty of Procurators of Glasgow. I sympathise with the memorandum they have sent to us, I share their respect for these old charters which are jealously guarded, as they ought to be in Glasgow, but if one comes to analyse their case, one finds 285 nothing in it; their case really confirms the attitude of the bulk of the profession in taking no exception to the Bill. As to whether we do wisely in concentrating the whole administration of public business in the hands of civil servants, there may be two opinions. I have had some little experience of the Board of Health in Edinburgh, and I do not suppose that any country could have better service than it obtains from the various officials, medical, legal, enginneering and otherwise, supplied by that Board, but I still think there is a great deal to be said for our concentrating the administration of public service in the hands of the Civil Service.
We have passed the age of maintaining opportunities for indulging in a little patronage in order to throw a scrap here and a scrap there. Any system which cultivates patronage is directly contrary to economy. We are getting rid of that system of patronage. The Secretary of State proposes to get rid of it, and while it is all a speculation as to whether economy will follow from this Bill or not, one is justified in saying that the system he is establishing is one whereby he is avoiding patronage and that should make for economy. The present system has lasted its day and generation, and I think we ought to congratulate the Secretary of State on taking the line he has done. The hon. Member for Motherwell made great fun of this as a sample of a first-rate Measure. I wonder what he would call a first-rate Measure. There is nothing more important than putting right the machinery of Government. We want to get the machine right at the start, and I think the Secretary of State for Scotland has shown that he has a fine methodical brain by the way he has proceeded. The right hon. Gentleman has begun in the right way to get the machine in order, and, once that is done, I think local government will be established on a more satisfactory basis.
§ Mr. SIDNEY WEBB
I intervene in this Debate, because I think it will be worth while to bring out one feature of the proposed change which has not been dealt with. I do not deprecate the importance of some of the views put forward in opposition to this Bill, although they are views which I do not always share. I want to emphasise one criticism which has not been mentioned. I am not going to undervalue the importance of efficiency in administration. I do not 286 doubt the argument that the best way to get that efficiency is by employing a permanent civil service, and we must select the best qualified men to fill the higher positions. I can understand having a single administrative chief to whom we can look for responsible advice and guidance, but I have no sympathy whatever with anything which would diminish the responsibility of the Minister for an absolute decision on every point.
Therefore, if I say a word in favour of Boards, I must not be taken as saying a word in favour of the old-fashioned type of Boards or the kind advocated in some quarters of representative people who can advise the Minister and who act as a kind of screen. I have nothing to say in favour of Boards which are simply screens behind which the Minister can shelter himself when he wishes to avoid doing an unpopular thing that needs to be done. We do not want a Board that screens the Minister, but I ask the Government in carrying out this reform to consider very seriously the risk they may be running of providing no body upon which will be found various professional officers and civil servants who are there solely because of their professional qualifications. On the contrary, the Government should take care that in making these changes the expert advisers are not smothered and extinguished by the power of the single permanent head of a department—I refer particularly to medical experts, agricultural and educational experts and prison experts, whose advice and constant counsel are absolutely necessary for efficient administration. It is true that the Scottish Local Government Board was a Board, but not in the sense of a screen, or a representative body, or in the sense of being unpaid amateurs. It was a Board of civil servants, but there was a chief administrative officer, and there was a chief medical officer who was responsible. Besides those officers you had a legal member and an insurance member and other representatives. You had sitting on that Board a chairman who was the representative of the Minister, and a vice-chairman; they sat together with various professional officers, and they were able to see that whatever was necessary was done in accordance with the best expert knowledge, as well as with the best administrative knowledge.
287 That was a very good thing, and I think that some of the best deeds of the Local Government Board in the old days were due, not to, the perfect wisdom or genius of the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Under-Secretary—I am not sure that you could credit those deeds to the gentleman who was a member of the Board by virtue of his administrative knowledge—but to the sanitary expert who was always there, and who was able to see that whatever was done was done in the light of his expert sanitary advice. There was a general Board of Health in England at one time, and it had its vicissitudes. There was a distinguished sanitarian at the head of the English Board who had one or two clerks under him, but there came a time when it was felt that there should be a Ministry of Health, and that was in 1869. A Royal Commission was appointed, and it recommended the establishment of a Ministry of Health, but the Government of that day said, "We cannot multiply Ministries, and we will turn the Poor Law Board into the Local Government Board, and attach the old remnant of the Board of Health to the Local Government Board." At that time Sir John Lambert laid down, very rightly, that it was absolutely necessary for administrative efficiency that the Minister should be advised by a single permanent head. The result was that Sir John Lambert became the Permanent Secretary of the Local Government Board.
What happened? Sir John Simon, who had been previously carrying out the sanitary work, found that under that regime there was no place for a chief medical officer; he was relegated to the position of consultant, and they asked his advice whenever the Secretariat thought that expert advice was required. They did this without referring to the chief medical officer. Frequently unwise decisions were taken in the absence of the chief medical officer. That kind of thing went on under the English Local Government Board and a succession of chief medical officers was treated in the same way, and ending up with Sir Arthur Newsholme. Besides this, in the English Local Government Board there has been a succession of important engineers. There is no question of substituting a representative Board for civil servants, but there is more than one kind of civil servant. You have a permanent head, 288 and what is proposed may involve the exclusion, or at least. the subordination, of a number of professional civil servants, medical, educational, agricultural, prison experts and engineering experts. You want somehow or other to solve the problem of how to mitigate the bureaucratic view of your secretariat by the expert advice of your professional men. In the Scottish Local Government Board they did that. They managed to make their board consist of public officers and civil servants, with these professional experts sitting with the secretariat.
If the Secretary of State for Scotland forms his Department in the way he wishes, let him consider how he can ensure that he has sitting with him experts in all the things I have mentioned. It was the glory of the Scottish Local Government Board that they had that kind of procedure. The Scottish Local Government Board has passed away, and the Scottish Board of Health also seems destined to pass away. The right hon. Gentleman wants a permanent single adviser, and he wants the effective administration to be in the hands of civil servants, but they should not be of one kind. You must have more than one kind of civil servant, and you must arrange for them to come in at the right moment. In one Government Department in England—I will not mention its name—that kind of Board is very much needed. The Minister in the Department to which I have alluded has created a council of heads of departments, and they discuss in his presence every single proposal which the Office has to make. In that way the Minister, with his Under-Secretary and the permanent head, are able to afford an opportunity to the legal man, and the medical man, and all the various technical experts of the Department, so that they are able to see that nothing is proposed in any one part of the Department without their being able to advise upon it.
If this Board is to pass away, I venture to think that it ought to be replaced by such a council as I have mentioned. which the Minister would be able to meet, so that he would have the opportunity of getting expert criticism of any proposals that might be made. You do not merely want the civil service: you want a little more. I understand that the Fisheries Board is to remain, because it is felt that it is able to keep usefully in 289 touch with all the experts and interests concerned. Is it not possible to set up advisory councils in the other Departments which could be consulted if desired? Let me say, however, that no advisory council of non-civil servants can possibly replace the skilled advice of the professional civil servant at the formative moment when proposals are being considered. I should be sorry if my advocacy of advisory councils were taken to mean that such councils could be a substitute for the council of heads of departments. You want your council of heads of departments, as well as your single administrative head and an advisory council.
I venture to think that it would be a mistake to substitute simply and solely a permanent Civil Service departmental head for the various boards which now exist. The Bill seems to me to err, not because it gets rid of an antiquated machinery, and, least of all, because it, gets rid of a lot of titles and separate offices in the various legal Departments, but because, unless the Minister takes steps which experience has shown to be necessary, it is likely to subordinate in an altogether improper way these other kinds of civil servants—medical, insurance, engineering, educational, agricultural, prison—all of whom have a range of knowledge and experience which the ordinary administrative secretariat cannot possibly have. I make this criticism, not out of any hostility to the Bill, although I agree with some of the arguments which my Scottish friends have put forward so eloquently, but by way of suggesting that it is possible to avoid the mistake which has certainly been made in England, and which, by a happy accident, Scotland has avoided.
§ Mr. MACQU1STEN
I was rather surprised at the way in which the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr) denounced this Bill. In a sense, it is not a Bill of first-class importance, but some of the matters with which it deals go very deep down into Scottish administrative life. The hon. Member for Motherwell talked about what was going to happen to the Scottish Board of Agriculture, but, as far as I can see, not very much change will be made in it, and, indeed, if any change is going to be made in regard to that Department, 290 it must almost necessarily be a change for the better. If anyone wants an opinion with regard to the Scottish Board of Agriculture, he should go to the Highlands, where, if it were not for the innate politeness of the Highland people, the opinions he would hear would be almost unparliamentary.
With regard to the Prison Commission, the gentlemen named by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) were, as he says, all very competent, and I think that in the main they were unpaid. I do not think that very much change is going to be made in regard to that part of the administration. The really important part of these proposals is that which relates to the Registers. The hon. Member for Motherwell poured great scorn upon that Department, but, after all, the Register of Sasines deals with all the heritable property in Scotland, and is, perhaps, one of the most important Registers in the Kingdom. It has existed for hundreds of years, and is really one of the very best kept Registers. The question as to who should have charge of that Register is a very important one.
This Bill really carries out what was arranged with the Treasury in the time of the Coalition Government, namely, the dropping the office of Deputy Clerk Register. Clause 4 says that:The present vacancy in the office of Deputy Clerk Register shall not he supplied.One would almost think that it was a vacancy in the Church. I believe it was arranged, in the time of the Coalition Government, that the Deputy Clerk Register was to disappear altogether, so that, each part of the Register was to be left more or less without a unifying head. It is all to the credit of the present Secretary of State for Scotland that he has resurrected the Deputy Clerk Register, although, for the sake, perhaps, of saving the face, as they say in China, of his predecessors, that official is now to be called the Keeper of the Registers and Records of Scotland. Practically, he will be an official doing the same business as the Deputy Clerk Register. There is only this to be said that perhaps he has a little too much put upon him. A Memorandum has been issued by the Faculty of Procurators of Glasgow, a very capable and able body of legal practitioners, and they take the 291 view—a very sound view, which is shared by the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh —that the custody of the records and the searching of the records should not be entrusted to the same office which does the copying, because in that case a check upon the accuracy of the Registers would be lost, and the entire system under which the Register House has been conducted in the past would be departed from.
I am sorry to see that, typewriting is coming to be adopted in copying these documents, in place of the beautiful handwriting in which they used to be written. This copying by hand used to be done by piecework, and it was very lucrative. I remember getting one man, who was only receiving £60 a year in a law office, to do this work, and on piecework he was able to make as much as £300 a year at writing these documents in most beautiful handwriting. I am sorry to see that the place of that is being taken by the cruder system of typewriting, which I am sure will not produce such satisfactory results. It would be far better that the keeping and searching of the deeds should be entrusted to one office, and the copying to another, because then, naturally, the one checks the other. The new proposal is like a man passing judgment on his own doings, and it seems to me to be a more or less retrograde step.
I see, also, that a change is made in Clause 5 of the Bill. Under 42 & 43 Vict., cap. 44, the King appointed the Deputy Clerk Register, but I find that Clause 5 of this Bill provides that:It shall be lawful for the Secretary of State to appoint a Keeper of the Registers and Records of Scotland.Why is it changed from the King to the Secretary of State? Is it because it is thought to be a less clumsy method, or is it to diminish the dignity of the appointment, or is it that there is more patronage, or what is it? I do not suppose that there is a great deal in it, but it seems curious that such a change should be made. Again, Clause 7 provides that:It shall be lawful for the Secretary of State by order to direct that the office of Director of Chancery shall be discontinued, and to provide for the exercise and performance of any powers and duties of the said Director by the Keeper of the Registers 292 and Records of Scotland, the Principal Extractor of the Court of Session, the Sheriff Clerk of Chancery, or the sheriff clerks of counties in such manner as may seem expedient to him after consultation with the Lord President of the Court of Session.It seems to me rather unusual merely to say:after consultation with the Lord President of the Court of Session.I should have thought it ought to be:after consultation with and consent of the Lord President, of the Court of Session.Otherwise, there is nothing to ensure that the Secretary of State is to abide by any advice that the Lord President of the Court of Session gives, and I suggest, as a Committee point, that the word "consent" might be inserted.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Is the hon. and learned Member proposing that the Lord President of the Court of Session should be dominant over the Secretary of State for Scotland?
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
No; but I say that, if the Lord President is to be consulted, his consent ought to be taken in the matter of the disposal of offices. It seems to me that a mere consultation would be a kind of idle ceremony.
§ Mr. MAXTON
That means that the chairman of the legal trade union is to tell the Secretary of State for Scotland what he is to do.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
If he were accurately described as the chairman of a trade union, I should have thought that was a thing that was likely to commend the suggestion to the whole of the Opposition Benches, because I have seen the chairman of the Trades Union Council seeking to dictate to the King, to the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, to the Commons in Parliament assembled, and also to the people of this country. That, however, is a minor matter. Again, we find that the Deputy Clerk Register had a salary, fixed by Statute, of £1,200 a year, but we now find, in Clause 5 of this Bill, that he is to receive, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, such salary as the Treasury may fix. We are putting into the hands of the Treasury here in London the question of what, is to be the salary of this important office, and I rather think that that, again, is derogating a little from the right of Scotland. We ought, whatever 293 we are going to call the Deputy Clerk Register, to have adhered to the original provision. It strikes me that here we are giving in a little to the Treasury.
I suspect that this Bill is really directed to some extent to economising. I am quite ready to economise up to a point provided that in regard to our Scottish records it shows a profit. In England, the record system costs the nation £36,000 according to one method of computation, and £61,000 according to another, whereas the record system of Scotland shows an actual profit to the Treasury, whatever method of computation is adopted. They want to make more and, therefore, I would enter a caveat to the Secretary for Scotland that Scotland should get the benefit of whatever saving may occur in some way or other—in improved administration, for example—and it must not merely go to the Treasury. Then, again, in Section 10 there is another provision which provides that the appointment of an Assistant Extractor and of Clerks is to be vested in the Secretary of State. Formerly it was vested in the heads of Departments. That may be more in accordance with custom, but that, again, is giving more patronage in some of the ancient offices to the Secretary for Scotland. On the whole, although I quite agree that, it is not a Measure which strikes the popular imagination, I believe it is going to be for the efficiency of the conduct of Scottish affairs, and in some respects it is desirable. The Bill ought, therefore, to meet with the approval of Scottish Members.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just addressed the House made a statement which was not consistent with his usual power of reasoning. He seemed to have very strong objection to giving to the chairman of a trade union with approximately 200 members power which he would deny to the President of the Trade Union Congress having 6,000,000 members.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
If one were to judge their comparative values by their incomes, I admit that the Faculty for which the hon. Member speaks so eloquently are more valuable than miners, but I am 294 quite sure that if the country had to go through a crisis in which it had to choose for real values between that Faculty and the people represented by the Trade Union Congress, then the Faculty for the moment would be thrown overboard. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd) who spoke from the same bench accused the Members who sit on these benches as being the champions of patronage. If we are, we have been singularly free from any opportunities of displaying it. During the very brief opportunity we had, I do not think you will find much evidence of that love of placing our friends in permanent positions which is implied in the accusation, but it is remarkable that, just as we are approaching the time when it would be possible to prove champions of patronage, and when the power is obviously slipping from the hands of the hon. and learned Gentleman and his party, it is then you bring forward a Bill to prevent selection when selection might mean the selection of practical people, and you thus place these rich positions in the hands of the class who can afford to send their sons to Oxford and Cambridge.
One's attitude towards this Bill is determined to some extent by one's view on the function of government. If one believes that the function of government is merely to interfere in the details of prison administration, or agriculture or matters of public health, then it matters very little whether you run the Government by a Board or in the manner proposed in this Bill. These are details that might very well be left to Boards. The real function of a Government is to develop its country in such a way as to give to its people the greatest opportunities of rising to a decent standard of life. I submit that the principle of this Bill is opposed to all modern tendencies. The whole tendency, both in private capitalism and in national or civic administration, is in the direction of co-ordination. What would one think to-day of the railway company that would propose to abolish its board of directors and put all the power in the hands of departments, as is proposed here? That would be a reversal of modern policy, a step backward to the old times when the industries were run by irresponsible individuals. We have moved away from that to the modern method of placing it in the hands of a 295 board of directors selected because of their display of capacity. In future we may expect that agriculture in Scotland will be under the control of a Government clerk, a man who has demonstrated during 20 years of faithful Civil Service his capacity for working out costs and for doing the general work of administration. Under the system you have today, the Secretary of State for Scotland can select a capable farmer, a man who has displayed not a knowledge of clerical work but a knowledge of agriculture, and make that man his adviser in dealing with the national administration of agriculture.
Might I ask the Secretary for Scotland in what Clause of the Bill it is provided that these Departments which he is about to set up will be under the Secretary of State for Scotland? I notice that the first Clause says that these Departments will be set up: a Department of Health for Scotland, a Department of Agriculture for Scotland, and a Prisons Department for Scotland, acting under the control and direction of one of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State. I may be wrong, but there does not seem to me to be anything in these words to prevent the Department of Health being co-ordinated with the Ministry of Health in England, or the Prisons Department being put under the appropriate Department in England, or the Department of Agriculture being put under the Ministry of Agriculture. I may be entirely wrong, but one is more entitled to examine these Bills carefully, as we have spent this aftrenoon dealing with the blunders in former Bills dealing with Scotland. It may be that this is the ordinary form of words, but I should like to be assured by the right hon. Gentleman that when he puts words in a Bill providing that these Departments are to be under one of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, that that necessarily means the Secretary of State for Scotland.
I was saying that this Bill is contrary to all modern tendencies. Take the tendency in Government Departments. Quite recently we have been dealing in this House with broadcasting, with electricity and with cables. We have had to set up fresh schemes of administration to deal with these important proposals, but 296 the Government for which the right hon. Gentleman speaks to-night did not set up a chief of a Department. They appointed, instead, highly paid Commissioners to deal with these subjects. They set up Commissioners to deal with electricity; they set up a Board of Commissioners to deal with broadcasting and they did exactly the same with cables. Will he explain to the House why the system which has now been adopted by the Government in relation to these affairs, has been quite reversed in Scotland? However much he may make of the little sentiment in regard to Scottish administration and Scottish affairs, that sentiment still exists, and if anyone cares to look back to the time when the Board of Health was set up, he will find that it was a concession to Scottish sentiment and the wish that in future the powers of the Board would be extended, rather than that the Board should be abolished altogether and its existing limited powers transferred to Whitehall.
The only justification so far laid down for this attitude of the right hon. Gentleman towards Scotland is that he wants to get the very best men to administer Scottish affairs. That seems a confession that he feels that he cannot get the best men under the present system for the administration of Scottish affairs, that agriculture in Scotland cannot be trusted to the trained agriculturists of Scotland, that you must go to Oxford or Cambridge for them. I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman goes to Glasgow he will be able to justify that to the people of Scotland who still retain very strongly some of that national sentiment. His objection to a Board was that it gave him a majority report or decision, and the minority report. I could not help thinking that his objection to majority rule was not so much that it was a majority, but because the majority so seldom agreed with him. He found, with his reactionary mind, when he went to experienced and practical people dealing with public health and other questions, that they would very seldom accept the views of the right hon. Gentleman. He detests majorities of experts. He does not like them, and says they are not to be trusted. What he wants is the one-man group, and no doubt at the back of his mind was the idea that the one man was himself. He did not want any intrusion, by those people who understood 297 public health, or agriculture or other Departments. He did not want them to be coming to a decision by a majority which was contrary to the decision at which he would arrive with his limited knowledge of affairs over which he presided.
That is not good enough for Scotland. Scotland wants the best administration. Scotland wants to have its work done by experts, and that is the proper way to carry on any business. With all due respect to Parliament, to the right hon. Gentleman and everyone else, our safest line of policy is—and I am sure it is the one that will be adopted by the Socialist party—that, having made up your mind in favour of State administration of any Department, you then select, the men best fitted for running that particular Department. You do not go to look for men who have graduated at Oxford and spent 20 years at a desk to guide you in the running of agriculture or public health. You would go to the experienced agriculturists; you would go to the men who had devoted their lives to the study and administration of public health. But the right hon. Gentleman is opposed to all that. He wants to take the administration of Scotland into his hands and to ask the House to believe that he and he only is competent to run the country. It would not be in any way a lowering of his dignity or anything of that kind to admit that he does not know everything, and that there are experts in Scotland who know as much about agriculture as any man who has been trained at Oxford or Cambridge. He is pursuing a wrong course in getting back to the old one-man policy and the idea of having the details of important Departments settled in this House instead of setting this House free to face the bigger problems that confront the nation, and relegating it to boards of experts to carry out the policy on which we are already agreed.
§ Mr. J. BROWN
I intervene in the Debate for a few moments because I do not want to give a silent vote. I can only corroborate what has been already said regarding our fears of the proposed legislation. I am not quite sure where the hon. Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) stands regarding this Bill for he speaks with two voices and one does not know exactly how far he will 298 support these benches in resisting the Bill. If he were the thorough paced Scotsman he claims to be, he would be supporting those who are against the Bill. There was nothing whatever in the argument of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd). I was afraid to meddle in a Debate like this, but after I had listened to him I gained courage because I understood that, although I said nothing at all relevant to the Bill, I should be on common ground with the hon. Member. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb) also contributed to the Debate. He knows more about these things in his little finger than I do altogether, but he cannot argue a case like this with the vigour or the enthusiasm that a Scotsman ought to argue when he sees Scotland being Anglicised. We are being so much Anglicised that we shall soon not have a remnant of the old legislation on which we used to pride ourselves. I am going to touch on the three offices which are to be reorganised and made Departments. The Board of Fisheries is being left as it is, I presume, because it makes for economy.
The Memorandum claims that there will be both economy and efficiency. I am sure it will neither be economical nor efficient if this Bill goes through, because where is the economy to come from, and where are we to have more efficient administrators of our affairs in Scotland than the men who are at present at the head of those offices? There is a good deal in the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley). How would it be possible for a man, trained probably at the desk for a long time, however great his learning might be, to administer efficiently the Board of Agriculture? Surely the trained men are the men who ought to be at the head of these affairs. We have no guarantee that the head of the Department would know very much about agriculture. He would be selected probably because of his place in the examination lists, and I do not think that would conduce to a better state of agriculture. Judging from what we have got in the way of small holdings, I am afraid we should not be any worse off under the proposed new regime than we have been under the old. It is just possible that the Sub-Commissioners of Small Holdings and the rest of it have 299 been far too energetic and far too much in favour of extending the system of small holdings to meet the view of the Secretary of State. That I do not know, but I know there is a far better chance if we keep as a Board rather than as a Department. After all, the Board is the democratic thing, and surely if the members of the Board are to discuss the policy regarding either fisheries or agriculture or the Prison Commissioners or the Board of Health, we are more likely to get at the truth as to what ought to be done for Scotland than we are under the single head proposed to be set up in those various Departments.
I was saying just now there is to be no change in the Fishery Board. I rather think that is a mistake. There is to be a change. The chairman is not to exist as he exists at present, but it is to be a legal gentleman, and the Board is to remain there because they give their services gratuitously. I thought the chairman was in the same position, and he is a legal gentleman, too. [Interruption.] I understand the Sheriff Principal of Ayrshire is head of the Fishery Board. However, I stand corrected. In any case, I do not see why the Prison Commissioners and the Board of Health and the Board of Agriculture should not he left, just as the Board of Fisheries is being left. There is surely some chance of getting efficient administration and there will surely be a chance of the Secretary of State getting sounder advice from his Board than he would get from any head of any Department he might be able to set up. It may be said patronage will be abolished, and there will be no more nepotism if we get those Departments, but I am none too sure of that. The right hon. Gentleman could devise means of still keeping up patronage. I am not sure that they would abolish patronage by setting up these Departments. In any case, whether we abolish it or not, after all it is efficiency we want also, and we claim that under the present system, at any rate, we are more likely to get efficiency than we have been in the past. I know some members of the Board of Agriculture and of the Board of Health and of the Prison Commissioners, and I do not know that we should be more efficiently governed by any Department 300 that could be set up than we are by the present occupants of those offices.
I wanted to raise my voice against the anglicising of our national institutions. We shall soon not have a vestige left. I do not understand the point of view of Scotsmen who support this Bill. Has Scotland been inefficiently governed in the past? Have we not, without any offence to English, Irish or Welsh Members, been in the vanguard in many of the things which have made this Empire great? We have, and why we should now be tagged on to the tail of England I do not know. Although I talk about Home Rule for Scotland, I should only be voicing a good deal of the opinion of the citizens of Scotland. Sentiment rules a great deal. It is thought by the Sassenach that a Scotsman has no sentiment whatever. We are very sentimental concerning these things, but along with our sentimentality there is a hardheaded knowledge behind it all that we are better governed by the present system that we should be by the system that is proposed to be introduced. For these reasons I would oppose the Bill. I do not know whether our opposition gill meet with the success we deserve, but at least we will deserve success if we are not able to command it, and I trust many more Scottish Members will, like the hon. Member for Argyll, damn the Bill with faint praise, because after all no one can be expected to speak either eloquently or at any length on a Bill such as this. The right hon. Gentleman has no case, and he knows that he has no case. He knows he is going against the sentiment of the whole Scottish nation. He knows we want to retrieve what we have left of nationality. There is only one good thing in the Bill that I can see. If it passes there will be a bigger cry than ever for Scottish Home Rule, so that out of the evil that we see to-night good may probably come. Let us have Scottish Home Rule by all means, and I know many English Members would be prepared to see us away altogether, at least so they say. It is a tribute to Scottish worth. It is a tribute to the way we have been able to govern our country. The overplus of the governing ability in Scotland has come over the border in order to keep the Empire going, and in order that the British Empire, as governed by this Mother of Parliaments, is 301 governed in the right way. I hope every Scotsman will speak and vote against the Bill.
§ Ordered, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—[Mr. Scrymgeour.]
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.