HC Deb 05 March 1928 vol 214 cc859-933

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [28th February], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."

Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


The whole language of this Bill gives me the feeling that an attempt is being made to take away any little individuality so far as Scotland is concerned, and I feel strongly that there is something quite unfair about the Bill. We are told in the Financial Memorandum on the first page of the Bill that the primary object is efficiency and that they think it will lead to economy and that it will have some advantages in regard to strengthening the staff. This would seem to reflect very seriously on the staff who have already been engaged in this class of work, and I resent that very much, because it reflects in two ways. It reflects, first of all, upon those who were responsible for having an inefficient staff, and it reflects, secondly, upon the country inasmuch as it would seem to imply that that was the best staff it could get. I see in it, therefore, something of an insult so far as that staff is concerned. When we take the Bill itself, we find the proof of what I have been saying, that the whole underlying idea is to wipe out any Scottish individuality that is left so far as government is concerned.

There is much more than sentiment behind the arguments that can be used against this Bill, because, after all, when you read that on the appointed day the Scottish Board of Health and so on shall cease to exist, that is a pretty big order to start with, in the first few lines of the Bill. Why should any office in Scotland cease to exist unless it can first be shown that it is useless and inefficient, and why have these points not been dealt with, to give reasonable men a reason for bringing in such a Bill? The Clause goes on to bring into being other offices, and this seems to be very illogical, because, if I were of the opinion of those who drafted this Bill, what I would say would be, Why have the Departments in Scotland at all? Why not just have a chief office in London for everything connected with Scotland? That would be the logical outcome of what is called the Financial Memorandum. It is no good trying to disguise the fact that the Bill seeks to change, not only the names, but the character of these Departments, and it would be far more honest to have said outright that this was the first step towards denuding Scotland of any of these powers which she used to have.

This transfer of powers and duties is going to lead to that position that we shall cease to have any local offices at all, that the whole thing will be taken right over here to England, and, as usual, this change is being helped by Scotsmen. That is my individual quarrel with the present Secretary of State for Scotland. I am not saying that he is selling the pass, but it looks as if this work is against the interests of his own country. It says that these departments shall act under the control and direction of one of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State. but it does not say that this is to be the Secretary of State for Scotland. It does not follow that there is going to be any even sentimental control. I had thought that all Scotsmen had a deep and definite sentiment in regard to their own country, but I am discovering that in the right hon. Gentleman we have a Scotsman no doubt, but I hope he is not going to play the renegade part that some previous Scotsmen have played in letting go these rights that we still possess. Why should any Secretary of State for Scotland bring in a Bill like this without protest? I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not protest. What we must have in this Bill is that the Secretary of State who is to control these offices shall be the Secretary of State for Scotland. I hold very strongly as an individual—my opinion never varies from this—that you can only get things done properly by those who know how to do them. Those who have the greatest knowledge of a subject are always the masters compared with those who have less knowledge, and if the right hon. Gentleman who now occupies the position of Secretary of State for Scotland has not got the knowledge, he should at least try to protect the position for those who may come after him and who will have the knowledge.

When we come to Sub-section (2) of Clause 1, is the word "efficiency" referred to in the Financial Memorandum covering up the words of the Sub-section which refer to the persons to be employed being attached to the Department? Is it to cover up the fact that there is going to be a change or a topsy-turvy business so far as the employés of these Departments in Scotland are concerned? Is the word "efficiency" in the Memorandum used to cover up anything of that sort? Then we come to Subsection (3), which says that "His Majesty may, by Order in Council," do certain things to give full effect to the transfer of these powers and duties. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to us whether the whole of the individuality of these Scottish offices has to disappear to that extent, and can he give any reason whatever or show us that there is any sense of justice in asking that in this transfer the whole thing should be made just as insulting as possible? To me, as an individual Scot, the language of that Sub-section is absolutely insulting. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to sell us right out, he should do it. It does not require a Bill with all these Clauses in it. He could have done it in a Bill of one Clause, and sold us right out, telling us that he had no more use for these offices, without using all this rigmarole.

Clause 2 of the Bill speaks about vacancies in these offices not being filled hereafter. Does it mean that the whole system that has previously existed has to be scrapped? Does it mean that everything relative to the organisation even of these offices has to be transferred altogether to London? Has the man who is to control these things to be in London? Is it to be a man who does not know the people or the organisation, and is this detached individual to have the power to do all these things? If so, it will be a very ugly business. Again, why is it necessary to put in Clause 3, which says that the limitation of office in the Fishery Board to the term of five years is not to apply to the Chairman? Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any inside information that has seemed to make it necessary to ask for this Clause? So we go on, right up to Clause 11, which deals with the National Galleries of Scotland. Are all these matters to be determined by this chief in London? Does it mean that the National Galleries of Scotland in the City of Edinburgh are to be controlled right away from Scotland and their direction transferred to England?

5.0 p.m.

May I point out this with regard to Clause 11? We are told that art is truth, but there is something in art as in nationalities. We are all human beings, but we all differ. It is quite easy to distinguish, when you visit galleries in various countries, the differences in points of view. I do not want to have any man who is not a Scot, who is not familiar with Scottish history, Scottish poetry and Scottish art to have anything to do with, or have any power in regard to, the trusteeship of the National Gallery of Scotland. I have tried to show that the whole tendency of this Bill is to rob us of all that is left of Scottish Departments. As a Scottish people, we demand the right to retain our individuality in our national offices. We demand that all these offices shall remain in Scotland and not be transferred to England. We demand that the Secretary of State for Scotland shall withdraw this Bill until he has consulted those in Scotland who really understand the subject, because the proposals were never discussed at any election in Scotland and the Scottish people have never been consulted about them. In a national matter that becomes a serious thing. I can understand the necessity of doing something without consulting the people when it is a question of some epidemic and something must immediately be done, but here is something that has been going on from the beginnings of Scottish civilisation, and yet not a single notice was even posted in Scotland to say that these proposals were being brought forward, and not a single society in Scotland was notified that these changes were suggested.

It was never mentioned by the Government in any electoral address when they went to the country, and the Secretary of State never gave the slightest adumbration of them in any of his speeches; I have been over them to find out, and there is not the slightest suggestion anywhere that he was going to make this great change. Will the Secretary of State tell us his reason for bringing in this Bill without consulting the Scottish people? He says that the primary object is efficiency. Have not the offices mentioned in the Bill been efficient? If not, who was responsible for the inefficiency? It is claimed that the Bill is going to be conducive to economy. In what way?


It would ill beseem me as a Scottish Member if I were not to express, what I am sure we are all feeling—all we Scottish Unionist Members—namely, the great loss which we have sustained in the death of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd). All hon. Members will agree that we have lost by his death a man of singularly vigorous, fresh and attractive mind, whose contributions to debate were invariably useful and effective, and whose zeal on behalf of his constituency, in the difficult economic situation which sometimes existed there, and on behalf of the people of Scotland, has been an example to all who seek to enter this honourable House as Scottish Members. I think that we may regard it as one of the most severe blows that the body of private Scottish Unionist Members and, indeed, of Scottish Members as a whole, has sustained.

I rise with anxiety to discuss this Bill, because after the most careful thought which I can give I find myself in complete opposition to the Secretary of State for Scotland with regard to it. I am, therefore, anxious to analyse and discuss the main principles of the Bill a little more fully than would be necessary if I found myself in agreement. My right hon. Friend commended the Bill to the House both last Session and this on these simple grounds—that the system of Boards is inefficient, that it has been abandoned in England and Northern Ireland, and that the system of Departments—which, in a word, is that at the top of each there should be a permanent civil servant responsible to the Cabinet Minister—is a more efficient, and, therefore, a preferable system. That is the proposition, and I confess that the more I consider it the more superficial and unsubstantial I find it to be, and the less suitable for Scottish administration.

The first point is that the Board system is inefficient and has been abandoned in England. Has it? What about the Board of Admiralty, the Army Council, the Air Council, and the Board of Inland Revenue? Are they inefficient? Have they been abandoned? Is there any question of abandoning any of these Boards? The Board system shows no sign of abandonment. I agree that certain Boards have been abandoned, but the fact of the matter is that the Boards which survive are the Boards which carry on the Departments of Government in which efficiency is the most essential. What would the Unionist Members of this House say if either the Board of Admiralty or the Board of Inland Revenue were to be abandoned? Therefore, it seems to me that the first proposition, that the Board system is inefficient, cannot be substantiated. The next point is that it has been abandoned in Northern Ireland. I fail to see the relevance of that. Northern Ireland, with its new Parliament, is a very small area, and there is a very small population to have a Parliament and Cabinet of its own. The circumstances in Northern Ireland are totally different from those in Scotland, and one could well understand that Boards might be superfluous. Cabinet Ministers in such a small area might well be almost their own civil servants, because the area of affairs and business is so restricted. The proposition, therefore, that the Board system has been abandoned in England is not true, and the proposition that it has been abandoned in Ireland is not relevant.

Let us come to the actual Boards which it is proposed to abandon—the Prison Commissioners, the Board of Health, and the Board of Agriculture. Are they inefficient? With regard to the Prison Commissioners. I have nothing to add to what the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) said the other day, namely, that the cost per prisoner in Scotland is less than it is in England. The Board of Health raises a larger question. That was instituted in 1919, and is the successor of the Local Government Board and the old Board of Supervision. My right hon. Friend was then the Unionist Chief Whip of Scotland, but did he ever suggest that a Department of Health should be set up? Nobody ever suggested then that the Board system for the purposes of health administration was a bad one. In fact, nobody, so far as I know, in this House or in Scotland has ever suggested that the administration of health and of other things for which the Board of Health is responsible is less efficient in Scotland than it is in England. I have some little knowledge of this matter. I have lived in Edinburgh all my life, except during my Oxford days and the war time. It so happens that I know intimately many of the heads of this Department. The present head is an old personal friend of mine. Among the friends of my younger days there were few I valued more than Sir James Palten MacDougall, head of the Local Government Board. My father was Secretary and Chairman for 3l years of the predecessors of the present Board of Health. I am not going to talk about anything that happened so long ago as 31 years, but I mention these facts to show that, living more or less in the milieu of the Office in Edinburgh, I never heard it suggested that it was inefficient. Nor do I recollect it ever being a matter of rumour in Scotland. Neither in the Parliament of 1922 nor in this Parliament has there been a single question raised as to the administrative efficiency of the Board of Health. There were questions of policy—that is another matter—but administrative efficiency, no. I do not think I am telling tales out of school, or saying something which is not true, when I say that the Scottish Board of Health was called into close consultation with the English Ministry upon a topic so important as the Rural Housing Bill, and contributed greatly to the success of what is undoubtedly a well-framed Measure; and in earlier days the administration of the Poor Law under the older board was an example of a very distinct type to administrators south of the Tweed. Therefore I venture to say that neither in this House nor in Scotland has the administrative efficiency of that board or its predecessors ever been called into question. Having reread carefully the speeches of my right hon. Friend this year and last year, I say that I can see no signs of there ever having been any administrative inefficiency at all.

I turn to the Board of Agriculture. I think it is necessary to speak with frankness about the Board of Agriculture. As all will admit, the Board of Agriculture in Scotland is an unpopular body, and it is unpopular for reasons which I think it is essential to my argument to state. The Board of Agriculture was constituted in 1911. Its main function was to be the development of land settlement in Scotland. It was given an Act to administer which everybody who knew about land in Scotland regarded as a hopeless Act, so far as the system of tenure was concerned. I have said again and again that the economic results for the holders in a great majority of cases are excellent, and I leave that side alone now, but the Liberal Land Act of 1911, which the Board of Agriculture was called into existence to administer, was based upon the crofter system and introduced into lowland agriculture the fatuous system of dual ownership. What has been the result? The result has been that every landowner in Scotland hates the Board of Agriculture, not on its merits, but because it is administering an Act which everyone who knows about land tenure knows introduced a system not acceptable to the lowlands. Smallholders hate the Board of Agriculture because it is the vehicle which is administering a crofting Act. [Interruption.] As my hon. Friend the Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) is here, we will have to say a word about that in a moment. The unpopularity of the Board of Agriculture is not due to its being a board but to the fact that it has been the vehicle for bringing into Southern Scotland, the lowlands of Scotland, a crofting system from which, thank Heaven, we were previously exempt. I do not myself think, and I do not think there is any evidence to show, that the Board of Agriculture is inefficient. The best test of that is that in spite of the difficulties of the Act which it had to administer, so far as I can ascertain the proportion of successes and the average cost of the work in Scotland compare very favourably with similar work done by county councils in England, and of course sweeps out of existence and absolutely demolishes the attempt that was made in England to do through the Ministry a similar work in land settlement to that which was done by the Board in Scotland.

I challenge my right hon. Friend to tell the House frankly that he thinks the Board of Agriculture is inefficient as a Board. I suggest that its unpopularity, which I recognise, which I deplore, and which I confess, so far as certain aspects of land settlement are conerned, is justifiable, is not due to the Board being a Board, but due to the fact that it has to administer an Act introducing exceptional conditions for smallholders. The smallholder is put into a holding which he can never buy, and in some cases he is forced to buy wooden houses with a life of 15 years on instalments which will last for 50 years. That makes the work of the Board very unpopular with the holder, and also with the landowning classes, because their land, instead of being bought out and out, as it should be, is hired upon the most ridiculous system, with the chance of its being flung back on their hands with perfectly illusory compensation for farm buildings, and so on. In a word, the Act has been the father and mother of most embittering litigation, and it is no wonder that the Liberal Land Act of 1911, which, against all common sense views of land tenure, introduced into the best agricultural land in Scotland, and for smallholders, the system of dual ownership, should have brought about the unpopularity of the Board. But I challenge my right hon. Friend to substantiate to this House the proposition that as a Board it is at all inefficient, or, to say, presuming it were inefficient, that its inefficiency was due to it being a Board.

The next point which has been made is that if these Boards are abolished we shall have in Scotland first-rate civil servants at the head of departments. My right hon. Friend is apparently only waiting for the opportunity of putting first-class civil servants into these places in Scotland. What about the Scottish Office? Why has there never been a first-rate civil servant in it? Why is it that time after time outside Scotsmen, who were not members of the Civil Service, have been appointed either directly or indirectly as Permanent Under-Secretaries for Scotland? I will give this further example. There is in Scotland an office called the King's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer. It is the office of the direct representative of the Treasury north of the Tweed. What did my right hon. Friend, who says his only zeal is to put first-class civil servants into Scottish offices, do only two years ago? He had an opportunity then. The place was vacant. He did not pick a first-rate civil servant; he got an outside Scotsman.


What is an outside Scotsman?


I mean one outside the Civil Service. I am trying to be as brief as I can. He got a Scotsman who was not a member of the Civil Service. It was a most admirable selection. The administrative capacity of the gentleman had been proved in the War; his intellectual capacity is undoubted. But he did not go to the Civil Service at all, and my belief is that if these Boards were changed into departments my right hon. Friend would not get civil servants to fill them. He would still have to get representative Scotsmen, but in place of three or four representative Scotsmen in each department he would have only one—that would be the best we could hope for.

It is remarkable that although the Scottish Office has been in existence since 1885, it has never attracted to it first-class civil servants who have previously been in English offices. I think I am right in saying that, and if not never, certainly very seldom. Why should not the Scottish Office attract, as my right hon. Friend hopes his new Department will attract, first-class civil servants? I think the answer is plain, and it is that the technique of Scottish administration, owing to the differences of Scottish standards and Scottish law and Scottish conditions, is such that a civil servant who has been in the Civil Service from the time he left the university and has been dealing with English affairs is incapable of, and is not desirous of, turning over to Scottish affairs. That is very natural. Even if we pass this Bill, which I do not believe will be passed, I do not think my right hon. Friend will get his first-class civil servant. When I interjected a question about that the other day, his answer was, "There are lots of Scotsmen in the great Departments in London, and we will get some of them." I think what I have said is an answer to that, and I would recall what I said a moment ago, that when my right hon. Friend had an opportunity of getting a first-class civil servant and putting him into a Scottish Department, he did not take it. I think that throws a somewhat sinister light both upon the possibility of getting those first-class civil servants and of my right hon. Friend appointing them if he can.

What I have attempted to put before the House is that the Board system is continued in England, in the Admiralty, in the War Office, in the Air Ministry and the Inland Revenue. The fact that it is not adopted in Northern Ireland is perfectly reasonable and easily explainable. Those conditions do not apply to Scotland. Next, I have shown that our Scottish Boards have a record of good administration; and next, that I do not believe that there are the first-class civil servants available, or that interchangeability between English offices and Scottish Departments is practicable. These are the only reasons upon which the Bill has been commended to the House—I do not think there is much left of it by now—but, in my judgment, they are not the only reasons which ought to be before a Secretary of State for Scotland or this House in making the changes proposed. Before we approve of this Bill we must try to visualise the conditions of Scottish administration. My right hon. Friend when dealing with this Bill seemed to treat himself as if he were the equivalent of an ordinary English Cabinet Minister, responsible for only one Department; but that is not his position. The Secretary of State for Scotland is really either a Scottish Cabinet, or, if you like to put it a little lower, he is a Scottish Prime Minister with a Cabinet consisting of his Law Officers and his Under-Secretary of State. That seems to me to be much nearer his real position. I quite understand the case of Northern Ireland, a small country with separate Departments and a Cabinet Minister for each, but that is not the position of the Secretary of State for Scotland, who has to control the activities of a number of Departments. That being so, there appears to me to be real administrative value in having these Departments not under individual civil servants, who perhaps know little about Scotland, but under a body of representative Scotsmen who can convey to the Secretary of State, who is much occupied in London, a kind of general Scottish view upon topics.

That seems to me to be true of the Board of Health, and surely it is still more true of the Board of Agriculture. Is it conceivable that a first-class civil servant would be more agreeable to and more trusted by landlords, farmers, smallholders and others than would be a well-selected Board of Agriculture? I do not believe it. I do not believe that you can run the Navy through a first-class civil servant any more than you can run Scottish agriculture. I should like to see my right hon. Friend proposing that the Board of Agriculture should be shut off, and a first-class civil servant asked to take its place. Such a proposition would not hold water for a moment. The particular position of the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is more like a Cabinet than a single Cabinet Minister, seems to give an importance to these Boards which would not exist if he were an English Cabinet Minister administering one Department. Another point which ought to have been in the mind of the Secretary of State for Scotland is that the present system unquestionably gives to Scotland a certain degree of administrative Home Rule. I am not one of those who believe in a separate Scottish Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] Those cries from above the Gangway convince me that I am right. I am certain that it is a mistake to diminish those aspects of administrative individuality which Scotland still possesses.

I feel confident that the right hon. Gentleman does not fully realise the extent to which these Boards touch various aspects of Scottish life. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is conscious of this fact. The truth of the matter is, that the men who are drawn from independent positions in civil life do touch an infinity of aspects in Scottish life which you never can get by putting at the head of a Department an entirely de-nationalised bureaucrat. I know the central Department will remain in Edinburgh, but there is all the difference in the world between drawing people from the rough-and-tumble of Scottish life and putting at the head of Departments people who have been civil servants from their youth upwards. I do not believe that you will do Scotland any good by that policy, and I am satisfied that you will be taking one more step towards bringing above the horizon the question of Scottish Home Rule. By this Bill you will be taking an unwise step. If it can be shown that the Boards in Scotland are inefficient then we should willingly consent to a change, but on this question the Secretary of State for Scotland seems to me to be like a dentist playing about with his infernal machine upon a piece of perfectly sound tooth when he is only a hair's breadth away from the nerve.

I am going to oppose this Bill at every stage, because I am satisfied that by passing it you will be taking a step which is unjustified and unwise, and it will be of no use to you at all. I do not think the Secretary of State for Scotland could have selected a less suitable time for bringing in this Measure which proposes here and now to abolish the Board of Agriculture. At this very moment a Department is considering the best way of adopting land settlement in Scotland. This committee may make representations, the nature of which may have a very serious effect on the kind of central Department which you set up under this Bill. It seems to me perfectly childish to set up a committee to deal with land settlement which has to deal with the question whether it is in future to be done by the counties or the central office, and propose the abolition of your boards before you have got the Report of that committee.

I said at the outset of my remarks that there are no signs whatever of administrative inefficiency in Scotland, and we have ample and ready means of proving that fact to all those who are interested in Scottish affairs. The Secretary of State for Scotland has an Under-Secretary to assist him. If at the present time you have administrative difficulties to be got over, friction, and all that sort of thing, surely my right hon. Friend would need the assistance of his Under-Secretary all the time? Can there be any better test of the administrative case with which Scotland is governed just now than the fact that it has been possible to dispense with the services of the Under-Secretary in order to let him take over duties in connection with the Marketing Board and go overseas for a long trip? Could you have better proof that all is well with Scottish government? Does it not follow that it would be very unwise to give up this system in the hope that you may get another Department run by a first-class civil servant in face of the fact that my right hon. Friend, with all his zeal for the appointment of a first-class civil servant, has not been able during the last 24 months to find a suitable person? Before I decided upon the course I ought to take in regard to this Bill, I thought it over very carefully. This is not an ordinary party question. The question with which we have to deal now is what is best for Scotland. I may be wrong, but, as far as I am concerned, I have made up my mind, and I am satisfied that this is a Bill which cannot be supported by anyone who cares for the welfare of Scotland without far more consideration than has been given to it up to the present. I think it is an unwise step. On those grounds alone, I propose to vote against the Bill.


The hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton), by his eloquence and grasp of the subjects with which he deals, always commands the respectful attention of the House. We have all listened to his interesting and courageous speech with pleasure, not only for the opinions he has expressed, but also for the frank and courageous endeavour he has made to lift this controversy out of the rut of party politics. Although a supporter of the Government, the hon. Member has spoken boldly against the Bill, and he has set an example which Scottish Members of all parties should attempt to follow. After all, the improvement of the machinery of government is equally in the interests of all parties in this House. I think all of us should have some constructive contribution to make to this problem. There are lines of thought emerging in the course of this Debate which raise a hope that we shall get genuine constructive co-operation from men connected with all parties when we come to tackle this great question.

Upon matters touching political controversy I have always held that the principles to which I am attached are more sound than those held by the supporters of the Government or by hon. Members above the Gangway, but although I yield to nobody in my devotion to Scotland, I fully realise that hon. Members opposite and hon. Members above the Gangway are just as keen and patriotic Scotsmen as I am, and we all ought to try to work out a Measure which will be of real benefit to Scotland and improve the administrative machinery of Scotland to the advantage of whatever party happens to be in power. We should all try to do what is in the interests of the people of Scotland as a whole. The Members of all parties wish to see the administration in Scotland as efficient as possible, and consonant with the traditions of our country. We want to see the establishment of machinery adapted to work out effectively and smoothly the policy we wish to see carried out when our own party is in power.

It seems to me that this question can be approached from two standpoints—(1) efficiency and economy; (2) national sentiment. The hon. Member for Perth dealt with both those points, but I think it is of great importance that they should not be confused. Very often in discussing the efficiency of the machinery of government, people mix it up with all kinds of sentimental considerations which produce a bewildering confusion of thought. I do not think the Secretary of State far Scotland would be willing to press the point of economy very far in relation to this Bill. As far as it goes, it is praiseworthy. Hon. Members opposite and right hon. Gentlemen in charge of great spending Departments are too apt to think that efficiency and economy are contending factors. As a matter of fact, they are nearly synonymous. Without economy you cannot have true efficiency. If you have too many officials and an exaggerated paraphernalia of government, you get not only a waste of money but a waste of time and labour as well.

As far as they go, the economies in this Bill are praiseworthy, but I am surprised to find that a great many hon. Members have attempted to defend the existing system of administration in Scotland on the ground of efficiency. Hon. Members opposite have referred to small holdings, but I would point out that in the past they have not been very active critics of the Board of Agriculture, and in their criticisms they have not distinguished between the personnel and the system. If the Secretary of State for Scotland wishes to draw up a case against the existing system, he could not do better than draw upon the speeches of some of those hon. Members who, during this Debate, have been amongst the most passionate defenders of the existing system.

It is mainly from the standpoint of efficiency that I wish to address myself to these proposals. Of course, the present Boards have done admirable work in many directions. The hon. Member for Perth referred to the Board of Agriculture, and its general care of the interests of agriculture. In matters affecting scientific research and so on, and in its general dealings with agricultural bodies and farmers throughout the country, its work has been admirable, but in many other respects it has wholly failed. In all the more active and creative responsibilities which have been entrusted to it, the case which has been made out against it time after time, in Debate after Debate in the House of Commons, has been proved up to the hilt. Of course, when I say this, I must repeat what I have said in criticising the Board on every occasion, namely, that the primary responsibility is that of the Secretary of State, who is the ministerial head of the Department. The primary responsibility is his and that of the Government to which he belongs; if their policy is not a progressive, constructive policy, the Board of Agriculture cannot be blamed because it has not produced the fruits of such a policy.

Even, however, allowing for that, instance after instance, transaction after transaction, has been exposed in this House in which there have been real failures on the part of the administration. Many of the officials are themselves most efficient, and are most able and skilful men. Those in the lower ranks and what are commonly called the technical officers of the Board are men who are zealously devoting themselves to their tasks in the country, but they find themselves up against this system, and they cannot make progress because under the present system they do not get enough scope for their initiative; while, as regards those in the higher ranks, I do not believe that there will be found, either on the Board itself or in any Department of the Board, anyone who, having attempted to work this system, believes that it is not capable of radical improvement.


May I ask the hon. Baronet whether, when he speaks of "this system," he means the Board system, or the legislation which the Board has to operate?


I mean the Board system, and I am coming to explain why. There is, however, one thing which, in response to the hon. Member's interruption, I should like to make clear. When we talk about the Board system, let us be quite clear as to the sort of system about which we are talking. We are talking about the system of executive boards, not about the system of advisory boards. We are talking about executive boards running departments of public administration. There was another thing that the hon. Member for Perth mixed up. He dragged in the Admiralty, the Air Force and the War Office, but they are not run by boards at all. I was for two years in the War Office, and I can assure my hon. Friend that it is not run by a board at all. The Army, the Navy and the Air Force are run by boards, but the series of problems which arise in dealing with these armed forces are totally different from those which arise in dealing with the problem of public administration, and in those cases, so far as the administration itself is concerned, it is run absolutely as a Department, on the same lines as any other great Department of State. Let us be quite clear, therefore, what we are talking about. In criticising the board system, I am criticising the system of the executive board as opposed to the system of departmental administration.

What do we find to be the vices of the Board of Agriculture at the present time? Firstly, there is very great delay; it takes weeks to get things through. For instance, a great scheme of land settlement has to pass through as many as 20 hands before it is finally approved, every man traversing the ground which has been traversed by the 19, 18, 17, or whatever the number may be, who preceded him. There is the extravagance, there is the multiplication of officials, and there is the fact, which the hon. Member for Perth himself admitted, that this system fails at the present time to command the confidence of either the crofters, the smalholders or the landlords. Why is that? The hon. Member for Perth proffered an explanation. He said that it was due to the fact that the Act of 1911 was framed on wrong lines. He believed that it was the introduction of dual ownership, and that it would have been much better on the lines of purchase. As a matter of fact, he is deceiving himself absolutely.


May I explain? The alternative that I had in my mind, although, perhaps, in seeking to be brief, I did not make it quite clear, was the English system, which does not involve dual ownership. I was not considering any necessary purchase by the holder, but was merely pointing out that everyone concerned with land all over Scotland hates this dual ownership, and, therefore, hates the body which introduced it.


The hon. Member did mention purchase, but let me deal—


I am sorry to interrupt, but I only mentioned purchase in the sense in which land is purchased by county councils in England, and then let out at fully equipped rents to tenants of an ordinary character.


Then the hon. Member is in favour of nationalisation; he wishes to see the land taken over by the county councils or by the State.


The hon. Baronet is clearly trying—

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)

We cannot discuss the whole question of land ownership or tenure on this Bill.


What I am saying is absolutely germane to my argument, because the hon. Member, in the course of his speech, said that the Board of Agriculture had failed, not because of any lack of efficiency, but because it was trying to work a wrong system of tenure.


The hon. Member said that it was unpopular, because of certain Acts which it had to administer, but we cannot go into the merits of those Acts.


I am saying that its unpopularity is not due to the merits of the Acts which it has to administer, and which, as a matter of fact, have given great satisfaction. The system which the hon. Member said the Lowlands objected to having fastened upon them was, in his own words, the crofter system. That is the Highland system, and it is precisely in the Highlands that you will find that the Board of Agriculture is most unpopular, and where complaints of its administration are most rife. In the Highlands you will find the most glaring instances of its failure, such as the case which on more than one occasion I brought before the House last Session. It is exactly there that it has failed most, and to suggest that that failure is due to any weakness in the Acts is to go far wide of the mark.

I say, therefore, that it is an undoubted fact that all over Scotland there is this strong feeling that this system ought to be changed. It is not due, as I said just now, to any lack of confidence in the personnel, but to a firm belief that the personnel is trying to work a system which is out of date and clumsy, and it would be as unfair to blame them for the inefficiency of the system as it would be to blame a skilled workman who was trying to make the most of a cumbrous and out-of-date plant. In the case of land settlement there are, as I have said, infinite delays. It takes a year and more to get a great scheme of land settlement through, and it passes through about a score of hands. The applicants themselves, very often, have given up hope and emigrated before the scheme comes to fruition. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), who spoke on this subject last week, said that there was a Small Holdings Commissioner on the Board, but he did not realise that, although there was a Small Holdings Commissioner from 1911 to 1919, he was abolished in 1919, and there is at the present time no official to control land settlement, on which, as I know, the hon. Member—


May I ask whether it is not the case that, although there may no longer be a Commissioner for land settlement, there is a member of the Board of Agriculture whose special duty it is to deal with small holdings?


I have no doubt that the Secretary of State will reply on that, but I think I am right in saying that matters relating to small holdings have to come before the Board as a whole, and that there is now no member of the Board in the position of a Chief Commissioner of Small Holdings who can, as would have been possible if things had been left as they were under the Act of 1911, take decisions on fairly large questions of policy and see that they are carried out. Instead of that, these matters come before the Board, and there is delay while they are considered by the Board; and, in nine cases out of 10, they have also to go to the Scottish Office and to the Treasury before any action can be taken.


Then there is something wrong with the system.


I do not know whether the hon. Member was in the House at the time, but I have already referred to the primary responsibility of the Secretary of State. When the Secretary of State comes forward with proposals for reforms, I feel at liberty to reject or to suggest amendments to those proposals, but, having taken up a certain amount of the time of this House in criticising time after time the administration of the Board in various respects, I do not feel that I can with consistency adopt the position that the present system is perfectly admirable, and that we ought to refuse the request of the right hon. Gentleman when he comes before us and says, "There is something in your criticisms after all, and some improvement is needed in the machinery which I have to administer." When he says that, I do not think we ought to throw the Bill back in his face and say, "Not at all; we refuse the powers which you are seeking to improve the machinery in Scotland." Great as is my admiration for the personnel of these Boards, and warmly as I welcome the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman, in introducing the Bill, that it did not mean that the personnel employed under these Boards were going to lose their jobs, but that the machinery was going to be improved, I believe that a reinforcement of specialised administrative skill is necessary, and will be helpful to public administration in Scotland, and that the public demands that the existing system should be reformed.

I am convinced that, if wisely carried out, this plan of substituting a departmental organisation for a Board is justifiable on grounds of economy and efficiency. These Higher Division civil servants have won their places in the Service by sheer intellectual tests against the keenest competition, and their whole life in the Service is an arduous apprenticeship in the business of public administration. I do not believe that there is a better way of choosing a man who is familiar with and trained in the art and science of public administration and all the complexities of public business, than by taking a man who has, first of all, won his position in the Service in the face of this keen competition, and who, secondly, has gone through this arduous training. Before, however, the Secretary of State seeks our approval on these grounds, before he asks us to give a Second Reading to this Bill and to furnish him with this brand-new instrument, I think we are entitled to ask from him more information than he has given us with regard to the purpose for which this Bill is adapted.

6.0 p.m.

Many hon. Members in opposing this Measure have referred to its inadequacy in view of the great needs of Scotland. That is obvious, but it is irrelevant. We are not responsible for the Measures the Government bring before the House. The initiative lies with the Government, and when they bring forward this Bill, all we have to do is to apply our minds to its merits. If it was a good Bill in itself, though small, it would be absurd to throw it out and have nothing to do with it, merely because we wanted a Bill dealing with a different subject. We have only to apply our minds to its merits, but in doing so we are entitled to ask what the right hon. Gentleman has in his mind. Has he in mind, for example, any great policy for regenerating agriculture and reviving the rural life of Scotland, and, if so, is the organisation he intends to introduce under this Bill the one best adapted for the purpose? Any alteration in machinery is, obviously, related to the plans of the Government, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman should give us some idea what the plans are that he has in mind. Take, for example, the new Department of Agriculture. We know that the Government are going to introduce a Measure for agricultural credits. Closely allied to the question of credits is the question of marketing, because a system of credits should be based upon a properly organised system of co-operative marketing. Is that going to be tackled? We know the Ministry of Agriculture in England is tackling the question of marketing. They have a grant of £40,000 from the British Empire Marketing Board. Will there be a division of this new organisation which will be devoted to the question of marketing and co-operation?

Another essential feature of any forward agricultural and rural policy is afforestation. We need to develop afforestation. It is a vital question. This is an opportunity for getting back into the Board of Agriculture what it had in 1911, the responsibility for an afforestation policy. At present it has gone to the Forestry Commission and there is no Minister here whom we can cross-examine and hold responsible for a forestry policy. It is a great weakness that there is no effective co-ordination and co-operation between the Departments responsible in Scotland for agriculture and for afforestation. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman arrange to bring within the ambit of this Bill a Forestry Department, making it into a forestry division of the new Department of Agriculture and thus co-ordinating the policy of afforestation and the policy of agriculture? There are other important points. There is land settlement. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to have a land settlement division of this new Department, with a chief with real effective powers who will be able to get things done without constantly referring to the Scottish Office in London. It is very important to be able to bring into council experts on all these important branches of agriculture. Surely the right hon. Gentleman could arrange for a council of the heads of these Departments, the marketing head, the forestry head, the credits head, and the Land Settlement head to come together and discuss, under his chairmanship, the plans the Government are forming on a broad comprehensive scale. It seems to me this is an essential element, and the new plan of organisation will be weak unless there is that link in the chain to provide for that need.

More decentralisation is needed. These technical officers, these commissioners in different districts should have more power to go ahead with schemes of land settlement and to get things done in their own way. If there is a scheme of land settlement in a particular area, not only does the local sub-commissioner of small holdings have to go over it, but the architect goes down with his staff, and the surveyor goes down with his staff, and there are three or four different officials all going to the area with their staffs, reporting direct to headquarters, which all means delay and expense. If you gave the man on the spot, the district sub-commissioner, greater power, all that delay and expense would be eliminated. Is that allowed for in the new organisation? It would give us great confidence if we knew it was the intention that these officials should be in frequent conference in drawing up the main lines of Scottish policy in Edinburgh and not in London. Consequently, though I am favourably inclined to give the Bill a Second Reading on grounds of efficiency and economy, I think we are entitled to have more information as to the principal features of this new organisation.

May I now say a few words from the standpoint of national sentiment. The Government in the last few years have undoubtedly derogated considerably in certain directions from the autonomy of Scottish administration. There was the Pensions Ministry, which was taken South of the Border. There was Rosyth, that fine up-to-date dockyard, which was scrapped, though a lot of out-of-date dockyards on the South Coast of England were retained. Even in a thing like summer-time, the Government yielded to the demands of the English farmers to be exempt for their seed-time and rejected the demands of the Scottish farmers to be exempted from its operation during their harvest time. All these instances have given us a feeling that we have to be vigilant when there is any question that might considerably affect the present measure of autonomy which Scotland enjoys in her public administration. It seems to me ludicrous to suggest, as some hon. Members have done, that the present system is in that regard satisfactory. It is very far from that. These Boards are held out to us as a bulwark against English domination. They are very far from that. They are the creatures of Whitehall. The Board of Agriculture cannot do anything. It cannot move hand or foot without getting the sanction of officials in Whitehall.

It is very remarkable and significant, and I commend it to all my Scottish colleagues, that the Department of Education, which is a Department and not a board, is much freer from interference and control from Whitehall than any other Scottish Department. The Department of Education gets its money voted and, provided it keeps within the limits of the Vote, it can carry on absolutely free of interference from any Treasury official or anyone else. Year after year we have tried to get the salaries of the staffs of the Scottish Colleges of Agriculture increased, but they can do nothing without consulting the Treasury at every stage. If you look into the present situation not only do you find these boards are no protection for Scottish nationality, and they can give us no security from interference from Whitehall, but that the Department is actually the freest departmental organisation. I believe a departmental organisation under the direction of a skilled civil servant, who knows the ropes, who has been trained at the Treasury and knows his way about, will give Scotland far greater administrative autonomy than she enjoys at present.

The only satisfactory solution of this great problem is, of course, some measure of Home Rule. That is a solution which the hon. Gentleman rejects, but in the meantime, if we have an opportunity of actually strengthening the autonomy of local administration in Scotland, we should be foolish to reject it. But there should be added to these new Departments advisory councils. You have in the Fishery Board an organisation of that kind. You should have an advisory Board of men who are known to be representative of the different interest in Scottish public life, who have the confidence of the Scottish people and who would be at hand constantly to consult on broad questions of policy. That would make these new organisations responsive far more than the present organisation to the demands of public opinion in Scotland and such councils were in fact recommended by the Royal Commission that reported just before the War. Will the Secretary of State give an undertaking that he will have, first of all, these technical councils available to assist the heads of Departments, so as to make sure that the technical point of view is not by any means overlooked and that the interests of the producer in agriculture, the smallholder, and the farmer are care fully borne in mind, and all these great questions such as marketing, credits, afforestation, and land settlement are considered together comprehensively? Will he give us a further assurance that we shall have these advisory councils, which will make the administration responsive to Scottish public opinion?

This Measure, it seems to me, provides us with an opportunity for insisting upon a vital principle in Scottish administration, efficiency and economy on the one hand, and greater responsiveness to public opinion and a greater measure of national autonomy in our public administration on the other. If the right hon. Gentleman can make it clear that he and his colleagues mean to work this Measure so as to increase and not to derogate from the measure of autonomy we enjoy in our Scottish administration, and will consider amendment on the lines I have suggested, we might hammer this out into a useful and beneficial Measure for the people of Scotland.


I rise to support the Bill. The present position is that in regard to public health, agriculture, and prison control, the Board system is adopted and in one other branch, namely, education, the Department system is in operation. This Bill proposes to unify that system, and to put those four branches into a Departmental system. Can we not say that the Government are taking a wise step in following the example of education and putting those other three branches under that system? Consider the question of Scottish education for one minute. Is education in Scotland not held up as an example for other bodies to follow, and are we not all proud of the manner in which the educational affairs of Scotland are carried out? Opponents opposite are saying that the Secretary of State for Scotland is proposing a retrograde step, but we say he is following the system which has been so successful in regard to education and is following the proceeding which is adopted in England in all Departments of State. Do we not see that accumulated experience is with the Secretary of State in making these changes?

Considerable criticism was raised on the benches opposite last week, when this Bill was before the House, as regards the Board of Agriculture. We all know that the Board of Agriculture was brought into existence by the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act, 1911. I was a Member of this House at that time, and I had the pleasure of moving the rejection of that Bill on Second Reading. The Board of Agriculture which was created by that Measure was, unfortunately, staffed by the Liberal Government which was then in power by men who had been their own subordinates. I make absolutely no criticism of the personnel of the past. Most of them were personal friends of mine, and those who are living are still personal friends of mine. But this system whereby it is possible for any Government to appoint its own supporters to high positions of office, is a bad system, and that is what happens when you have patronage in operation. I cannot understand hon. Members opposite at this time of day championing this system of patronage. To my mind, the only valid opposition which could be raised to this Bill would be if it was going to result in Anglicising the administration of Scotland. But there is one Clause in the Bill which definitely and completely specifies that the administration of all these branches of activity will be carried on in accordance with Scottish public opinion, and in Scotland. When I see such a provision in the Bill I cannot help feeling that no valid opposition can be brought against it. There are one or two suggestions which, I think, might be made. I have no doubt that if the Forestry Commission were also brought into the ambit of the Department of Agriculture we should secure a co-ordination of work which would be of immense assistance. We all know that small holdings, if they are to be successful, should be carried on, not perhaps, in conjunction with forestry work, but in association with forestry work. Therefore, I think that it would improve this Measure if there was co-ordination between the forestry work and the work of the Department of Agriculture.

Having said that, I have said all that I desire to say. I am only too pleased to support this Bill, because I think it is a definite step towards keeping the administration of Scottish affairs in Scotland and under Scottish public opinion. We are taking progressive action in abolishing patronage by removing from political parties the power to nominate officials and bringing in a system which has been successful in all the Departments of State in England, and which, as regards the one Department in Scotland where it does operate, namely, education, has been fruitful of good in the past.


I entirely agree with the sentiment that has been expressed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Forfar (Sir H. Hope), that is, I think he gives away entirely why this Bill has been brought forward. He said that those positions were occupied at the moment by nominees of the Tory Governments, and the Liberal Government particularly. The Liberal Members see that there is no hope of ever again being in power—


We shall be. Do not make that mistake.


—and that, therefore, none of their friends will ever get any of these jobs. The Tory party, who are in power at the moment by a forgery, fear the Labour party coming into power, and that the Labour party will act as they have acted by putting their friends into positions such as these. They want to deprive Labour of that opportunity. Thus the Secretary of State for Scotland has shed himself entirely of all the Scottish sentiment that he ever possessed. [Interruption.] Well, such as he has. He has evidently lost it through being connected so much with England. So much is this the case that he now suggests that the individuals who should be in control of affairs in Scotland should possess the hall-mark of either Cambridge or Oxford University. As Scotsmen we yield to none as far as intelligence is concerned, for our intelligence and ability have been recognised the world over. But here at last there sits on the throne in Scotland, so to speak, an individual who is prepared to sell his native land, for what purpose I cannot say at the moment, because he is a "Sir." I do not know what is behind it, but that there is something there can be no doubt, because: If self the wavering balance shake, It's rarely right adjusted. I cannot for the life of me understand why the Secretary of State for Scotland should have gone out of his way to use his influence in this manner, because it is evident from this Bill that he has influence with the Cabinet. He has led us time and again to believe that he had no influence with the Cabinet, so much so that we have raised the question on the Floor of the House of Commons and urged that he ought to exert his independence in the Cabinet and let them know that he represented Scotland. No longer can he plead that he has no influence, because he has got this thing put into the Gracious Speech as though it was something of outstanding importance as far as the life of Scotland is concerned. It will not matter two pins whether this Bill passes or not as far as the life of the working folk of Scotland is concerned, because we shall still have awful conditions existing among tens of thousands of people in Scotland. We are up against it just now owing to bad housing, owing to under-employment, owing to unemployment and owing to wages; so much so that the condition of Scotland is materially worse than that prevailing in England. Yet in his wisdom the Secretary of State for Scotland does not appear to see that this state of affairs is worse than the idea of the re-organisation of the offices of, say, the Scottish Board of Health. Why should he wish to have in charge individuals who have the stamp of Oxford or Cambridge on them? Have these individuals proven to the world at large, and to the British Empire in particular, that people with that stamp upon them are superior to my fellow-countrymen who have not that stamp upon them? Is there any evidence to show that? Certainly not. There is no evidence to show it. The evidence is, that most of those who go to Cambridge and Oxford go in stirks and come out asses. Do they require to go to England to get instructed? Is not the evidence all the other way? That we have flooded England with doctors, for instance. We do not require any assistance from them in this way at all. Apart from it all, how can it be possible? If the Secretary of State for Scotland is a Scotsman, as he says he is, he must believe that we Scotsmen have a distinct literature, that we have a distinct speech, and that we have distinct characteristics which are not to the disadvantage of the British Empire, but which have been beneficial to the British Empire. The present Secretary of State for Scotland, instead of helping to develop these characteristics in Scotland, is using his present position to try and crush all those distinct characteristics of ours.

Then we come to the Board of Agriculture. This is a serious state of affairs as far as agriculture is concerned in Scotland. The Scottish farmer is recognised as the best farmer in the world. The Scottish farm servant is welcomed all over the world. Scotsmen have come into England to farm parts that were going derelict, and have made them blossom like a garden. With all that experience which is peculiar to our country, with climatic conditions and soil which are quite different from those of England, the Secretary of State for Scotland has the audacity to insult my fellow countrymen by bringing Englishmen, men who have no knowledge whatever of the climatic conditions of our country and no knowledge of the soil, men who are not as willing as my fellow-countrymen, to administrate our affairs. Let anyone go to Oxford and Cambridge and see how the men are trained. They are trained how to be lazy. They are trained in the art of idleness. They learn the art not of how to work but how to avoid it. These men are to be charged with the administration of my country.

Lieut.-Colonel McINNES SHAW

Your country?


Yes, my country. Not an Orangeman's country.

Lieut.-Colonel SHAW

Not yet!


No, and never will be. The Secretary of State for Scotland is insulting my fellow-countrymen. We have been able to conduct our affairs in a satisfactory manner. We have been able to give to the British Empire some of the finest administrators that the British Empire has ever had, and yet, with all that evidence before us, the Secretary of State for Scotland brings in this Bill. It is so bad that his own party, the Tories cannot see their way to stand behind him on this occasion, because his Bill is an insult to the intelligence of our fellow-countrymen. I hope the House will stand by Scotland on this occasion and go into the Lobby with us to vote against this Bill.


I wish to associate myself with the words which fell from the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton) at the beginning of his speech. Despite the political antagonisms in this House, this Assembly is the finest human Assembly in the world. Apart from our politics, every Member of the House, and certainly the Scottish Members, regret the suddenness of the call which came to the late hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd) from Him who determines when we shall pass away. Speaking on behalf of my colleagues, our deepest sympathy goes out to the widow and family of the late hon. Member.

Next, I desire to deal with a few of the claims made by the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair). In the speech in which he was defending this change and attacking the Board system in Scotland, he made a definite statement that there was a national demand for a change of the present system. As a Member of this House I, at least, have no evidence of that national demand. In making his claim that there was a national demand the hon. and gallant Member did not submit the name of one public authority, body or organisation in Scotland that has passed a resolution and submitted it to hon. Members of this House, demanding that this change should take place. All the resolutions that I have received have been hostile to the change proposed by this Bill. It was also suggested by the hon. and gallant Member that anyone opposing this Bill was a defender of the present system. Not necessarily. There is no perfect system in this world that I know of. I do not think there ever will be a perfect system.


There is a perfect man: the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George).


No. There are no perfect individuals. They have all passed the border-line. We know the evils of the present system and we can criticise them, but we do not know what evils may come upon us as a result of the changes proposed by this Bill. While I am hostile to the proposals in the Bill, it does not follow that I am here to defend the present system of boards. There is plenty of room for criticism, but I think there is more reason for criticising the instructions given to these boards than there is to criticise the boards themselves. It has been suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland that what we want in Scotland is a greater responsiveness to public opinion. Is there any evidence that the departmental system would give us that greater responsiveness? There is no such evidence that that would take place, and the facts are against the hon. and gallant Member.

The hon. Member for Forfar (Sir H. Hope) specially mentioned the Education Department. Surely, the hon. Member must have forgotten that because we had an Education Department in which the head of that Department gave advice to the Secretary of State for Scotland, we have a system in connection with the granting of certificates in connection with the Scottish Education Department at the present time which is, shall I say, hostile to the whole of public opinion in Scotland. There was not a single body associated with education in Scotland but was hostile to the change that was made, and I am satisfied that if we had had a Board of Education in Scotland with three, four or five individuals to whom we could have appealed, instead of merely appealing to the head of the Department, who in turn gave his advice to the Secretary of State, we should not have had the intermediate certificate or a certificate equivalent to it abolished as far as Scotland was concerned. The whole of the education authorities in Scotland to-day are demanding the restoration of some form of intermediate certificate. The whole of educational opinion is in favour of an alteration from the system that has been forced upon us by the departmental system. It has been pointed out with pride that as far as education is concerned in Scotland we are far ahead of England, but that is no argument in favour of the departmental system. At one time we had a Board of Education in Scotland and we prided ourselves upon the fact that we were 100 years ahead of England, but since we have had a departmental system we are only 50 years ahead. We have lost in the race. I am not arguing that that is entirely because of the departmental system, but I am seeking to prove that the departmental system has not given us the advantages which are being argued as inevitably applying to the departmental system. There is no guarantee that in the change which is proposed from the board system to the departmental system we shall have safeguards for Scottish sentiment.

There is something even more serious in this Bill. It may have been a misunderstanding or a mistake, but I have been carefully through the Bill and I find that in 15 cases in the Bill the words "Secretaries of State" or "Secretary of State" are mentioned, and there is not a single instance where it states that the Secretary of State for Scotland is to have these Departments under his particular control. I may be suspicious. I am always suspicious of the present Government, which happens to have Members who believe more in the system of Mussolini Government than in the system of democratic Government. Consequently, I am entitled to be suspicious when no reference is made in the Bill that the Departments of State for Health and the Department of State for Agriculture and various other Departments, shall necessarily come under the Secretary of State for Scotland. Is it in the mind of the Government that it will only be a question of time until we have no Secretary of State for Scotland, and that all these Departments will merely become sub-Departments of the English departmental system? It may have been a mistake, and if the word "Scotland" had only been omitted once, one might have said that it was a mistake, but as the words "Secretary of State" or "Secretaries of State" occur in the Bill 15 times, I submit that the Government must have been leaving a loophole for some future occasion to provide that the Department of Health in Scotland shall come under the Minister of Health in England and that the Department of Education in Scotland shall come under the Department of State for Education in England. There is no guarantee that we are to have reserved for Scotland under the control of a Scottish Minister, the Secretary of State for Scotland, these various Departments which will be set up by this Bill.

Rather a strange argument was submitted by the Secretary of State in moving the Second Reading of the Bill as the reason for changing from Board to Department. He said: 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 adviser 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February; col. 264, Vol. 214.] Are we to understand from the Secretary of State for Scotland that it is too serious a business for him to make up his own mind? That is what he suggests. If a majority or minority report causes him far too much trouble to make up his own mind, he prefers to have one adviser, one individual responsible for giving him advice. My experience, particularly in connection with education administration, is that the right hon. Gentleman is always ready to accept the advice of his advisers and never to have a mind of his own. The fact that a man cannot make up his mind is not an argument in favour of changing the system. Surely the arguments are in favour of having more than one individual to advise him. I know that when individuals are in a state of single blessedness they are oft-times advised to enter into the state of matrimony because they are told that two heads are better than one. Certainly I have experienced the fact that two heads are better than one, and I suggest that three heads or four heads in connection with advice regarding education or agriculture are far better than one individual to advise. Consequently, I am in favour of the board system as against the Departmental system. The Secretary of State also said: 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 mind 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. Although reference is made to the fact that some of the Departments are to remain in Scotland, there is no definite statement that they must be under the Secretary of State for Scotland, and that leaves me in the same state of mind as I was when the Bill was first introduced; that there is no guarantee that we are going to retain in Scotland these Departments of State to deal with Scottish problems. My chief complaint against the introduction of this Bill is that it takes up the time of the House when there are great problems affecting Scotland which should be debated, problems which are of real interest to the people of Scotland. We have pleaded with the Secretary of State to introduce legislation dealing with juvenile betting, and I am glad that the hon. Member for Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan) is introducing the Bill on that subject. The Education Department in Scotland is anxious to see such a Bill on the Statute Book. This question has been debated in Scotland and approved by the Scottish people but, although we have a Department of State dealing with education, we have not had anything in the way of legislation on this matter so far.

There are also great problems affecting land tenure and agriculture which ought to be dealt with, yet we are asked to spend the time of the House debating a Bill which, when all is said and done, will not give us any real advantage so far as Scotland is concerned, which will, in fact, mean many disadvantages and will not guarantee that the Departments, which to-day are doing their work in Scotland, will be retained in Scotland or that the head of these Departments will always be the Secretary of State for Scotland. For these reasons I shall vote against the Second Reading of the Bill and hope that the lead given by the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton) will be followed by other hon. Members from the Government side and that the Bill will be rejected so that we can get on with real work for Scotland.


I should like, in the first place, to associate myself with other hon. Members who have paid tribute to the memory of the late hon. Member for Linlithgowshire (Mr. Kidd). I think it is undoubtedly the case that every member of the House irrespective of party, and more especially Scottish Members, feel his passing as a great personal loss. Like my colleagues, I rise to oppose this Bill. Apart from its national implications, it raises the general question of boards as against heads of Departments. Narrow considerations of administration are not a sufficient test as to which is the better method, because it might be argued, with a great deal of force, that under an autocracy government is simpler and easier than under a democracy, but that would still leave a great deal to be said. There is no doubt that this Bill is an attempt, in the name of efficiency, and with a timid suggestion of economy, to approximate the Scottish system of government to the English system. That is one reason why we, as Scotsmen, would tend to be against it in any event; but consideration of the Bill adds good reasons to what might otherwise be regarded as mere prejudice. No one will deny that there is a difference between Scotsmen and Englishmen. We try to believe that we are a modest people. Sometimes it is difficult to justify that claim, but, at the same time, we have to express on occasions like this what we believe are some of the differences between the two peoples.

One of the differences, to my mind, is that we are a more democratic people in Scotland. The whole history and customs of Scotland show that. The hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Westwood) has referred to education. It is agreed that in the far back days an English boy of poor parentage was limited to a very elementary form of education, or to no education at all. In Scotland, however, at the same period, a lad o' pairts was able, although he came from a poor and humble home, to acquire the very highest education that Scotland could give. There has always been a great deal of democracy in education in Scotland. I share the fear of my hon. Friend that in these later days we have not either the democratic character in the education or the preeminence we had in former days. There is a more general system of education, but I am not sure that the higher steps of the ladder are so easy for a poor boy as used to be the case in the old days.

It is the same thing in regard to religion. Englishmen have been content to be ruled and dominated by Archbishops and Bishops; by a hierachy ruling from above. It is, I think, agreed that the Presbyterian system of religion is, perhaps, the most democratic form of Church government in the world, and that is the form of religion which has developed from the national character.

For these reasons, and many others, we are justified in saying that Scotland is, on the whole, a more democratic country than England. One of the points we make therefore, against this Bill, is that the Board system is a more democratic form of administration than the one-man system. A great part of the functions of the Scottish Boards is to deal with local authorities. I do not know that this point has been emphasised so much as it might have been, that members of these Boards are not simply secretaries and bureaucrats: they are people who in many cases have had outside technical and other training, some of them having been actually members of local authorities, and they have to deal with local authorities. It will be agreed that Scottish local authorities are not quite so docile as they are in England. They do not take administrative instructions from Government Departments always in a meek spirit. They instinctively dislike domination, even when it has a good intention. They protest and send deputations. They require to be humoured and to be shown a certain amount of deference, then they will generally accept the instruction after being assured by verbal explanations as to the wisdom of it.

Such negotiations with local governing bodies are a very important element in the administration in Scotland, and it seems to me that that is a function much more suitable for a board than for a Civil Service head of a department. A board is more impressive than a secretary, and it has more human points of contact. Then again, the instructions from a board composed of individuals who have an intimate knowledge of Scottish local government are more likely to be framed in such a way as to be suitable for local authorities and to be appropriate to our habits and customs. I was surprised when the Secretary of State seemed to suggest that to have a majority and minority decision of a board made an ultimate decision on his part more difficult. Personally I should always be glad to see two sides of a case presented if I had to make up my mind on a subject rather than to have the final verdict of some person who had come to a decision on grounds with which I was not familiar; therefore, even in the occasional case of a difference of opinion in the board, the Secretary of State is, in my opinion, in a much better position than being merely told the opinion of a single individual as to what is right. It is quite true, as the Secretary of State said, that the board system, with men who come in from the outside, does involve patronage, but it must be remembered that the nominations are made by the Secretary of State for Scotland and it is not likely that he will nominate for these positions individuals who would be likely to damage the efficiency of his own Departments, and to do that for political reasons. It must be admitted that, on the whole, the men who have been appointed to these posts in the past have been able men. Above all they have been Scotsmen who knew Scotland, and were not Englishmen or Anglicised Scotsmen who had forgotten or who had never known, the local government system or the customs and habits of their own country. The Secretary of State made a great deal of the fact that the offices are to be in Edinburgh. That is not nearly so important as the question of who is to be in the offices; that is the really important point. The heads of these departments will doubtless be first division clerks from the Scottish office, or it may even be from one of the English Departments.

7.0 p.m.

A number of the civil servants in Scotland have been led to approve of this Bill because they think it will help promotion for them, but my fear is that the higher posts will be filled from England. The best we can hope is that they will be filled from Dover House, and the worst is that they will be filled from an English Department of State. It is not because these people are likely to be Englishmen that we object to them. Scotsmen are not afraid of the association or competition of Englishmen in this or in any other matter. But we object to them because of their probable ignorance of Scottish local government, which is the point on which we lay emphasis. It is most important that those who are to administer these central Departments in Scotland should have an intimate knowledge of Scottish local government, which in many respects is quite different from that in England.

I am specially interested in the Scottish Board of Health. I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman, in making his speech on this occasion and also on the last occasion, put a great deal of emphasis on the Report of the Royal Commission, which, he said, condemned the Board system in Scotland. Now the Royal Commission was dealing with an entirely different kind of Board. Its references were almost entirely to the Local Government Board. The decision of its members was largely arrived at because of the evidence of Sir George McCrae, who was the Vice-President of the Local Government Board, and it was on his evidence very largely that they made up their minds to condemn the Board system and to recommend the system arranged for in this Bill. I would like to read one portion of the evidence given by Sir George McCrae, which shows that the Board system which the Royal Commission condemned was an entirely different system from the one practised now. Sir George McCrae was asked how his Board worked, and his reply was: What really happens is that there is no constituted meeting unless for some very important and specific purpose. A file on an important question is sent up from the secretary; it goes first to the medical member, and he writes a minute on it, then it goes to the legal member, and he writes a minute on it, and then it comes to me; and if there is any divergence of opinion they come in to my room and talk it over. There is very seldom a formal meeting. But when there is divergence of opinion between the three of you on some matter of great importance. what happens?—Then it comes up to London. Does it never happen that you have a constituted meeting, to use your own expression, of the Board?—Rarely, unless the Secretary for Scotland is up in Scotland and there is some very important question that we want to decide. The normal condition of business is that we have no Board meeting. Whereas the Board of Health—as now constituted—meets at least once weekly, and sometimes oftener, in a regular way, it is conducted and has minutes kept of its proceedings. It is under the Chairmanship of the Under-Secretary of State, and we find a very different Board altogether from the old Local Government Board. Therefore, I say that the condemnation of the Royal Commission was a condemnation of a quite different system from the present, and a good deal of it is, therefore, irrelevant criticism to the present discussion. We have in that Board the head of the National Health Insurance of Scotland, a representative of the legal department, and of the Pensions and Medical Departments. It might be said that the National Health Insurance, when it started, was new to everybody, and that there was no one who was familiar with the subject at all. Therefore, it was not at all surprising that a non-civil servant should be made the head of the Department. I agree that, in regard to this Department, which is very technical, there is something to be said for the person who is the head of it being one who is very familiar with the technical side of it. I think it is quite possible, however, to get among the ranks of our Insurance Committees in Scotland or otherwise men who are not civil servants and who have a familiar knowledge of the whole working of national health insurance in Scotland. In regard to the legal Department, that has also been filled up from outside in the past, and there is no difficulty in getting abundant material for filling that post from the outside in future. Of pensions, the same might be said.

As to the medical department, in which I am particularly interested, the appointment to the head of that department is likely to be vacant in a very few weeks. Who is going to be appointed to succeed the very distinguished present head of the department? There are men junior to him in that department who are suitable to be appointed, and who are familiar with Scottish Local Government. Is one of those to be appointed, or are we to have appointed to that important position in Scotland, requiring a very intimate knowledge of Scottish local authorities, an official from the English Ministry of Health? We must wait and see, but I am very suspicious that some change of that kind is likely to take place. I would remind the House that the heads of the Scottish medical department and the junior medical officials have been in the past men who have been medical officers of health in important towns in Scotland. The House will, I think, agree that a man who has had experience of the work of a medical officer of health in some of our large towns in Scotland is the proper type of man to be at the head of our national medical department. It is quite true that the composition of a Board at times may be such that it does not work so smoothly as it should, but we are in all systems of administration ultimately dependent on the human factor, and the fact that at any one time a Board may not work so smoothly as it ought to is no argument against the Board system in itself. But the Board system as we have it in the Board of Health gives you men who have had experience of outside business or administration and of local government, and in a sense they act as buffers between the public and the bureaucracy. It is a very remarkable thing that this elevation of bureaucracy has come from the party which has always reviled bureaucracy.

One of my main objections to this Bill is that it takes away some of the last traces of Scottish individuality and sentiment from the administration of our country. It is really a triumph for bureaucracy at the expense of our national sentiment. It may give better book-keeping, but I believe it will mean the loss of real efficiency, especially in regard to the central government's relations with local bodies, and it will not work so smoothly as the present system does. It is the latest act of a Government which has consistently treated Scotland as a province of England, and not a favoured one at that. The qualities that have given Scotsmen their distinction, not only at home but also abroad, have undoubtedly been partly produced at least by the system of education, local government, and central administration which the country has had for past centuries. Anything which affects these things affects the continuance of Scottish independence and individuality, and is therefore a disservice done not only to Scotland but to the world. On these grounds I must vote against this Bill.


My feeling with regard to this Bill is one of sympathy for the Secretary of State for Scotland in his desire to have efficiency and economy and to minimise patronage as much as possible. Anyone who has had a little experience of the problem attached to patronage has no desire to have that thrust upon him if he can avoid it. With regard to efficiency, the desire of every Member is to have efficiency in every Department of the State where it can be brought about, while the desire for economy is paramount with every Department and on all sides of the House. We join, therefore, with the Secretary of State in being desirous of these things. We are not, however, at all certain that his proposals will bring about that condition which he thinks will arise if this Bill becomes an Act.

With regard to efficiency and economy, the proposals he makes for having all the Departments under one head are proposals which I have not the least doubt will produce good results. To anyone who has had any connection with the administration of Scottish affairs and has visited Edinburgh and seen the condition of things that obtains there with regard to the various Departments, it is not surprising if the cost is more than it ought to be. If you take the health administration of a little State like Scotland, you find, in that capital city of ours, that it is divided into three buildings in three different parts of that city, one in George Street, one in Princes Street, and another in a street whose name I forget. If you want to deal with the Board of Agriculture, you go to another Department. If you want to raise a matter affecting education you go to another, and so on. If Members could see the conditions under which the staff works, they would be more surprised still, and would recognise that the conditions which obtain lead neither to efficiency nor to economy. They would find offices dimly lighted, with bad air, and conditions that make for bad health and inefficiency on the part of the staff. They would find offices run so meanly that in the winter time, when they ought to be kept properly heated, either by central heating or by a generous supply of coal, coal is measured out to them as if doctors were measuring out possets of medicine. A little bit of coal in a bucket is given to enable the staff to carry on and do their work. It is not in this way that we are going to make for efficiency, and certainly it does not make for economy.

If the Minister or his Government will introduce any proposals for providing the buildings, which are clamantly necessary, so that we may have the Scottish Departments under one roof, then there will be whole-hearted support from this side of the Chamber for such proposals. It will be easy then for us to get the personal touch that the Minister desires to have with the heads of the Departments. As far as that is concerned we on this side will give him our best wishes in the interests of efficiency and economy. It seems to be suggested in the Bill, and in the speeches made from the other side, that there is difficulty in getting advice from the heads of the Departments. My experience in office was unfortunately a very brief one, but it was sufficient to teach me that it was easy, apart from the difficulties that I have enumerated, to get into touch with the head of any Department. Suppose that it was a medical problem, relating to health administration in any part of the country, and I wanted advice. To whom did I apply? The head of the Department. You can call it by any other name, but the rose still smells as sweet. It was to the head of the Department that I went, so as to get his advice and experience to help me. His advice was freely tendered and as freely accepted, and was very generally acted upon, because one knew that there was ability and experience behind it.

If it was a matter in connection with pensions or health insurance, there was the proper Department to go to and the proper advice to be got. In dealing with the gentleman, Sir James Leishman, who is the head of that Department, one immediately felt that here was a man who knew his work and did it without fear or favour and was prepared to express an opinion hostile to the opinion of the Secretary or Under-Secretary, who was prepared to put his best advice and experience at one's service and to leave the head of the Department to accept or reject or modify it as he thought fit. There was complete independence on the part of the head of the Department, and complete independence and ability on the part of the person who had to supply the Minister with advice. So it might be said of all. Then, again, one had the benefit, every Friday morning, of a Board of Health meeting, at which were present the heads of the various Departments, Sir James Leishman, Mr. Macpherson, the Chairman, Sir Leslie Mackenzie, and a woman member, who was not the least valuable member of that Board—a woman of experience and of very high intelligence indeed, whose ability to sit at that Board was equal to that of the best of the male members.

On those Friday mornings either the Secretary of State or his Under-Secretary was present and took the chair and deliberated on the problems for discussion. We had the benefit of all the experience of these men. Then, finally, the Minister had to assume responsibility. It was he who came to a conclusion even if, as did happen on some occasions, the whole of the Board was against the Minister. The Minister assumed the responsibility for his own individual action. If my experience and that of the Secretary of State have been similar, then the changes proposed in the Bill cannot be beneficial. Unfortunately, we are 400 miles away from the real seat of Government of Scotland, so that we cannot get that individual touch with the head of a Department that can be obtained in the English Departments of State. That is a thing that cannot be undone, and it does detract in some way, perhaps, from the benefit of the advice that we can get. Inquiries by telephone or telegram are not like being able to converse with a man face to face.

With regard to the proposals of the Bill, the little things about the register and so forth, as far as I am concerned the Government can have them if they will lead to greater efficiency and economy. But I think it will have been noted that the Secretary of State, in dealing with this particular proposal, made no plea for economy. He said that the proposals would put these three offices into one, but he did not say even indirectly that there would be economy if the three Departments were joined. He gave no indication as to what the salary is to be in these particular cases. It may be that the salary will be as great for the one as for the three combined, and that there will not be much economy. It might follow, as on other occasions where the plea for economy has been made, that the change will lead to subordinates and more subordinates being appointed. We are not unfamiliar in this House with such happenings in the creation of Departments.

I have also had some experience as a member of a board of guardians and a county council, in coming before the Board of Health, or, as it was in the old days, the Local Government Board. I am bound to confess than in my later experience I found meeting the Board of Health better than meeting the old Local Government Board. We thrashed out our difficulties much better than we could merely with a Secretary of State, who had other work to do and was looking at his watch and wondering when our loquacity would come to an end. A Board of Health can suffer us much more easily than a Secretary of State or even a Lord Advocate. In that and in every other way it was beneficial for us to meet the Board of Health in discussing the health administration of local authorities. For that reason—it is a very strong reason with me—I think we should not depart from the Board of Health and create new departments, so that it would be necessary to see each of those departments. One visit should do. There has been for some time a movement for bringing about unity among local authorities. We believe that economy and efficiency can be developed in a way that is not possible under the present system.

Take the County of Lanark, for instance. There we have two or three authorities carrying on medical administration, each jealous of its own province, each running its own hospitals, and all carrying on in a way that I think is not beneficial. Here the Board of Health comes along. With its officials it can meet the members of those conflicting authorities and talk with them, and various men are at the Minister's elbow to jog him and advise him in his attempt to bring these people to a right understanding. It seems to me that by the Bill you are going to give that up and to put nothing in its place. As a Scotsman desiring the best administration that our country can get, I think that the degrees of our own universities should be considered as good qualification as those of Cambridge or Oxford Universities. I feel sure that if the proposals of the Bill were left to a free vote of the House, to be decided on the score of efficiency and ability of administration in Scotland, the House would reject by a large majority the crude, immature and ill-defined proposal of the Bill. I am against the proposed change.


I have not a great deal of experience of the actual administration in Scotland, but being a Scottish Member and coming from a county which contains about one-third of the Scottish population, I would naturally expect that if there were any desire for a great change, such as that which is suggested by the Government, there would be some indication of the desire from that county. We have a considerable number of different authorities in the County of Lanark, in Glasgow and the Middle Ward. I have yet to learn that a single one of these authorities has indicated any desire for this change. I am surprised that there has been no evidence to-night of any willingness on the part of the Government's supporters to speak in favour of this proposal. It seems to me that if the Bill becomes an Act it will be a case of England imposing its will on the Scottish people. It may be that the Scottish people are not very interested in the matter, but, I think that is due to the fact that they are not at all satisfied even with the present system of government. I do not want it to be assumed for a moment that I am in complete sympathy with the board system, but I frankly confess that, in other circumstances, a great deal might be said for the arguments which the Secretary of State advanced last week. I have no preconceived opinions on this matter; I am willing to take an Anglo-Scot if he can score goals. I have no objection to the Anglicised Scot coming from England to look after our affairs, if he is a better man and has more humanity about him than the others.

I have no particular desire to defend the present system, but I do not think the proposed change will be an advantage. I do not think the English departmental system is a good system in this sense—that I do not think the people of England are satisfied that they are getting value for their money. I do not argue that the board system could not be improved; but I have yet to learn that the board system as it is being conducted in Scotland, is any less capable of doing the work than the departmental system is in England. I entirely disagree with any line of policy which means changing our institutions solely in order to suit the convenience of an individual, no matter who he may be. It seems to me that the Secretary of State for Scotland is troubled with mental or moral cowardice. He wants somebody to decide what he ought to do, while he is to draw the salary, and to have the status, and to occupy a position in the Cabinet as the representative of Scotland. There is nothing to prevent the Secretary of State from having his way under the present system, and I do not know any reason against this proposal more strong than that put forward by the right hon. Gentleman himself, namely, that he requires somebody to tell him what he ought to do when any difficulty arises. I wonder what is behind the minds of the Tory Members from Scotland in regard to this Bill. They go down to Scotland at week-ends and deliver speeches, and they are anxious to impress the general public with the awful things that will happen when a Socialist bureaucracy comes into being. Here we have proposed a Tory bureaucracy. There is one thing however which will distinguish a Socialist bureaucracy from a Tory bureaucracy. When the time comes and the people of this country make a change, that change will be for the better; when they instal in office, with power, a Socialist Government, then, whoever is at the head of the Scottish Department will have a mind of his own and will be quite willing to say what he thinks ought to be done.

To me the most disagreeable feature in connection with this Bill is that we should have a representative Scotsman desiring this change on the ground that he wants somebody to be placed in Edinburgh who will tell him what to do when any difficult question arises. But will this proposed Under-Secretary be in Edinburgh; and if he is to be a civil servant of the class which dominates the Departments in England, is he to be treated exactly as they are treated? Is he to be paid the same salary? If so, it will add considerably to the expenditure on Scottish administration. It does not seem to me that there will be much economy unless perhaps in the sense that good government is always economical—and there may be something to be said from that point of view—although you have to pay a higher price for it. But I am suspicious of what is behind this proposal. We have seen various manæuvres on the part of the present Government, not so much to bring Departments under one head as to make one or two individuals autocrats in a particular Department. If the Scottish Members on the other side are unwilling to express their views, that is probably due to the fact that there is no demand from the Scottish people for this change. We have no complaint against the various boards. I have met the Board of Health and have nothing but pleasant recollections of the meeting. I regard every member of that board as well qualified. They are always courteous and willing to hear one, and they always produce arguments for any decision which they give. It would be a mistake to imagine that they ever gave any evidence of division of opinion in front of any deputation which attended on them, whether that deputation was from a municipality or a little parish council. They generally acted as one, in my experience. I do not think there can be any improvement, and I am sure no member of the Government would have a word to say against the calibre and ability of those at present in control of these various Departments.

We have no assurance that any of these men will get the new position which is indicated in the Bill. I do not know whether the new official will be an Oxford or Cambridge man. I do not care whether he is from Oxford or Cambridge. My experience of Oxford and Cambridge graduates is that they are as good as Glasgow or Edinburgh graduates. There is not much difference between them but I do not think we are going to gain anything by the change. I do not think there is going to be any improvement. I hope, therefore, that Tory members from Scotland will find their tongues when the Bill goes into Committee. I do not suppose we can do more here than voice our protest. I know it would be a waste of time and words to ask the Government to withdraw the Bill because they have their minds made up to use their majority in order to pass this Second Reading whether the Scottish people desire it or not. There is clear evidence of the will of the Scottish people in the silence of the Government's own supporters from Scotland. My only hope is that when the Bill goes to Committee the Tory Members from Scotland, or some of them at least, will have sufficient courage to stand up against the right hon. Gentleman in regard to these proposals. I am as anxious as anyone to see efficiency and economy and all the virtues associated with those words put into practice, but, after a considerable experience in the administration of our affairs, I do not see much evidence of efficiency or economy. I make no reflection on those responsible for administrative work. They are carrying out the policy of the Government and are not responsible for the shortcomings of the Government. I do not expect a great deal from this proposed change other than that it will be one more effort to Anglicise Scotland, and to make it a mere province of England—for what purpose I do not understand. I hope, therefore, if any Tory Members from Scotland are in favour of the Bill, they will have the courage to say so, because I would like to hear their views, and if they have not the courage to express their views, then I hope they will support us in the Lobby against the Bill.


I hope the Secretary of State for Scotland will follow the same course with regard to the Bill this Session as that which he took last year. The right hon. Gentleman introduced a similar Bill last year, but did not carry it beyond the Second Reading stage. I hope after to-night's discussion we shall have heard the last of the present Bill for this Session. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman felt last year that there was such a volume of opposition in Scotland to the proposed change that it would not be safe for him to proceed.

The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. William Watson) indicated dissent.


The Lord Advocate seems to dissent from the suggestion which I was making, but shortly before the presentation of the Bill for Second Reading this Session, the right hon. Gentleman, in a letter to the hon. Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. F. C. Thomson), said that evidently there was a large measure of misapprehension in Scotland regarding the terms of the Bill. The hon. Member for South Aberdeen had written drawing his attention to a resolution he had had sent on from the Pharmaceutical Society, protesting against the Bill, and those of us who are in close touch with public opinion in Scotland have had many other indications of the large number of people who are in opposition to the proposed Measure. On the occasion when it was discussed last week, my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) brought before the notice of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the House a number of protests that he had received. I have a number here. Here is one, in addition to that mentioned by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, that has been sent on to me and, I expect, to every Scottish Member of Parliament, protesting against the Measure on behalf of the Scottish Association of Insurance Committees. Here is a statement that I have had passed on to me from one who is in very close touch with agricultural opinion in Scotland, a statement made within the past two weeks: The feeling appears to be that under the new arrangement the ruling power will be centred in London and that the people who will have the power will have no knowledge whatever of Scottish agricultural affairs, which are entirely different from those in England. He goes on further to state: It is possible that Scottish farmers are opposed to Home Rule, but they are Home Rulers in this respect. Another one, very representative of Scottish agricultural opinion, says: Agricultural interests in this country will never be properly attended to until the heads of the Ministry of Agriculture are men who have a thorough personal knowledge of practical agriculture. That shows, I think, definitely that, so far as agricultural opinion is concerned, it is entirely opposed to this Measure. There is, in addition, a very large number of our fellow-countrymen who, like myself, are keen Home Rulers and who are opposed to this Measure, root and branch, because of the manner in which it endangers the prospects of our country getting Home Rule. I do not think the Secretary of State for Scotland need be surprised, but it appeared to me, from the terms of the letter written to his colleague the hon. Member for Aberdeen, that he was surprised that there was still such a large volume of opinion against the Bill in Scotland. He seemed to think they were under a great misapprehension, but I do not think that he need feel very much surprised at the opposition of such a large section of our people to this Bill.

The Measure seeks to abolish a system of organisation with which our people have been familiar for a very long time, and, while it is not a perfect machine—and nobody confesses more readily than I do that it has its limitations—it is one that has had the confidence of a considerable section of the Scottish people. They believe that, with all its defects, it is superior to the English system which the Secretary of State for Scotland seeks to establish by this Bill. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will state definitely that the Scottish boards have conducted the business of Scotland with less efficiency than the English Departments have conducted the business of England. Will he say that the work of our Scottish board system will not bear favourable comparison with the work done by the equivalent English Departments? If he proposes such a radical change, I think he is entitled to claim that the work of the Scottish boards has been inferior to that of the equivalent departments in England. The right hon. Gentleman, in his introductory speech, stated that this matter had been investigated by a Royal Commission, and he proceeded to quote from the Report of that Commission, but I think he was a little unfortunate in his quotations. He quoted part of the Report, which says: The system affords no room for that type of selected and trained permanent administrative official which is represented by the administrative class."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1928; col. 263. Vol. 214.] That in a sentence raises the whole issue that divides the representatives on these benches from the Secretary of State for Scotland and those who are associated with him in the Government. It shows clearly and specifically that the right hon. Gentleman seeks to set up an administrative class that will not be open to a large section of the Scottish people, an administrative class that will be drawn either from Oxford or Cambridge or Glasgow or Edinburgh. It shows that the sons of men who cannot afford to have them educated in one or other of our universities will be excluded entirely from the administrative class, notwithstanding that their knowledge and their experience of these particular Departments may be far superior to the knowledge and experience of the men who have been trained either in Oxford or Cambridge or Glasgow or Edinburgh. The quotation from the Civil Service Commission's Report which the right hon. Gentleman read goes on to state: 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. In the one breath that Commission advocated the abolition of the present board system, and in the next breath they said that whatever loss was sustained might be made up by establishing boards in another form. What is the difference in principle between a paid board and an unpaid board? The principle is the same. You have a board instead of one head to advise the Secretary of State for Scotland, and whether that board consists of paid or unpaid men, he is getting the advantage of the advice of a number of men as against that of one man. In his speech and in the letter to which I have already referred, the right hon. Gentleman says that the real issue raised by this Bill is whether it would be better for the Secretary of State to have one adviser or a number of advisers in the form of a board, and, as I have already said, I think the right hon. Gentleman was unfortunate in his quotations from the Report of the Civil Service Commission, because he quoted a part which recommends the continuance of the board system, although in a different form. Evidently they realise that, even supposing the Secretary of State is successful in establishing the form of administration provided for in this Bill, he will still require an advisory board, men of experience and knowledge in the various Departments under his charge to advise him, notwithstanding that he is to have the single adviser of whom he speaks.

8.0 p.m.

The real issue that is raised by a Measure of this kind is whether the people of Scotland should have a democratic or a bureaucratic form of administration. As has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham), we on these benches have often been twitted by the members of the party to which the Secretary of State for Scotland belongs that we are in favour of setting up a bureaucracy because we are in favour of nationalising national services. It is rather strange that our critics should follow our deplorable example; we find to-day that they are ready to copy what they have often described as a bad form of government, and they are proposing in this Bill to set it up. While we are in favour of nationalisation, we are not in favour of setting up a bureaucracy. We have never proposed that our national services should be run on ordinary Civil Service lines. We believe, when the people of this country are wise enough to have that form of government, that our national services should be run by the men who have practical experience and knowledge of the particular service in which they are to be engaged. I should like to ask the business Members of the House, of whom, unfortunately, there are not many present, why we should have a different form of administration in national affairs from that which exists in the big corporations, or the banks, or the railway companies, or the big industrial companies?

Imagine either the Secretary of State for Scotland or myself suggesting to any business man that these big businesses should be run by the general manager and the secretary without a board of directors! Imagine what the answer would be! But that is exactly what the Secretary of State proposes should happen in our national administration. He proposes to abolish what really are the boards of directors of the Scottish Departments, and to depend entirely on single advisers. He seeks to introduce into national affairs a system that would be ruled out of court immediately by his colleagues, if it were introduced into any of our big corporations or big industrial companies. The advice of half-a-dozen men is superior to the advice of one. I do not care how highly trained he may be or whether he has been trained in a university. The advice of half-a-dozen men of practical experience is superior in every instance to the advice of one. I have had some experience of these boards, and were I to be asked to-morrow to walk into the office that the Secretary of State fills, I would, with the experience I have had, infinitely prefer to have the present system than the system which he proposes. The little experience that I have had proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that the one system is superior to the other.

Therefore, I shall oppose the Bill, not only on the Second Reading, but in all its stages. It was very surprising to hear the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) speak so favourably of the Bill. It was an object lesson to find that there was common agreement between the Liberal party on the one side and the Tory party on the other. The two parties from 1845 at least have used the present system. It is true that the names of the Board have changed, but from 1845 until now we have had the Board system in operation, and both the Liberal and the Tory Governments have been staffing these Boards largely with their own supporters. Whether it be the Board of Supervision or the Local Government Board, or the present Board of Health, or the Board of Agriculture or any of the other Boards, during the whole time that they have been in existence, these parties have been staffing them largely from men who were their own supporters. One of the Members who took part in the discussion to-night from the Government side, seemed to have as his principal objection to the Scottish Board of Agriculture the fact that it had been largely staffed by the Liberal party. I would remind him that his own party has had a considerable share in it. As a matter of fact, he reminded the Secretary of State for Scotland that during his term of office he has been as busy carrying that out as any of those who have preceded him. If the Secretary of State is so anxious to have civil servants in place of the men who at present fill the positions, he has had an opportunity since he came into office. The office of King's Remembrancer was vacant, and the Secretary of State followed the excellent example of the Liberal party and, instead of appointing a civil servant, appointed a good Tory lawyer.


On the contrary, it was a Treasury appointment.


This is a serious matter. Do you mean to say you let the Treasury do it for you?


I understood that the appointment was the appointment of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour)



If I am wrong, I apologise.


I was only endeavouring to correct the right hon. Gentleman.


That is not the only time that appointments have been made according to party; the Tory party was just as guilty as the Liberal party. What has caused the change? What is the reason that both the Liberal party and the Tory party are now so thoroughly in favour of changing the system? My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) suggested that it was possibly because there was a danger of somebody else coming into office and of their having the opportunity of filling these offices. Suppose the Labour party came into office to-morrow, they would not follow the example either of the Liberal party or of the Tory party in filling these posts in the shameless way that they have been filled by successive Governments. I hope the House will defeat the Bill on Second Reading; whether they do so or not it will get our opposition on Second Reading and at every other stage.


I associate myself with the opposition of my hon. Friends to this change. One of my reasons in so doing is that I am satisfied with the work of the Scottish Board of Health. In thinking the matter over, I am almost inclined to say that they have been gingered up and are beginning to try and do something.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being present—


The only justification for this change is that the representatives we have on the Government benches have been unfit for the task, and, because they feel they are scarcely strong enough for the job, they adopt the refuge of weak men by wanting to make an alteration.

I would appeal to English Members on this question. There is a feeling abroad that Scotland is only the northern part of England. I hope anyone holding that view will discard it. Scotland is a nation, and has always been a nation, and the people of Scotland take pride in their nationality and attainments. The system of government which has grown up there has for the time being been accepted. I do not agree with some of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson). I know quite well that office in Scotland has been the appanage of certain people and certain families. I know that, and the state the country has got into has been brought about by inefficient men getting work, or, rather, salaries for work which they were wholly unable to do. Just now we have a trained body of men trying to do their best under great difficulties, and we have so-called Scottish representatives suggesting that these trained men should be put aside and a new system substituted. We have been told about the awful things that have happened under a dictatorship. I do not know what we shall get by this change, unless we are going to get something in the shape of a clerical dictatorship. It is true that the Secretary of State tells us that he will be here to take the responsibility. I would fain hope that his attendance in the time to come will be much better than it has been in times past, because there is plenty of room for improvement. But it is regrettable that these changes should take place at a period when the needs of the country are so urgent.

One of the bodies to be abolished is the Scottish Board of Agriculture. If ever there was a time when we needed to make a new effort to grow more foodstuffs in this island, it is now. Instead of helping in that direction the proposed change is likely to make it more difficult. We have been the workshop of the world, to a great extent, and we are dependent upon other countries for the food we eat, but we have more than a million people unemployed, and it should be possible for more employment to be provided on the land in the production of the foodstuffs which we require. In order to bring that change about we should need to have a progressive authority, with great powers, and not a single individual hampered and harassed by officials who are not favourable to that policy. I will tell my colleagues the impression I have gained. I do not believe that the officials who speak for Scotland here are doing for us all they might do. Governments have been unfortunate in the selection they have made. There are a number of men who, instead of fighting for the country they represent, have become the servants of somebody else.

A short time ago, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer looked in. I suggest that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the power behind the throne in this movement. The Government are going to save something, and at the expense of the poorest part of Britain. Instead of helping us, you are going to practise your economies at the expense of the poorest part of this country. The House will come to a decision at some time to-night, but the interruption which my speech suffered just now shows how much interest Members generally take in this Measure. The fate of Scotland, so far as these Boards are concerned, will be settled one way or another to-night, and the Members who will support the Government have not taken the trouble to come in either to listen to or take part in the Debate. I have seen no evidence of feeling in favour of this change on the Scottish side of the Border. The people interested in Scotland have never been consulted, and this Government, which is responsible for a lot of blunders, is now trying to add another to the list.

I hope the House will give a verdict in support of the position we take up. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife made some reference to the Liberal party. I do not share his views on that point. As far as I can see, the Liberal party does not exist in this House when Scottish business is under discussion. One Member was here a short time ago. [Interruption.] Perhaps the number has increased by 50 per cent. But the truth is that it has been a question of "turns about" in the management of Scottish business. The parties have filled these offices with their own friends or their own supporters. I am a Socialist in politics, in addition to being a Labour Member, and I am going to tell Members of the House this, that I do not agree with the right hon. Member for West Fife. If ever it was our good fortune, or bad fortune, to get into office, no permanent official should let me down, I can tell you that. If I had the power I would take good care that those who sat on the Treasury Bench would have more sympathy with my opinions. You cannot keep back the flowing tide. It may be at the next election or it may be two or three elections off, but it will inevitably happen that our party will come into power in this country and then we shall apply the same policy to our opponents as has been applied to us in the past. This Measure has been very badly thought out and there is no justification whatever for the changes proposed in this Bill.


Before proceeding to answer the general criticisms which have been made in this Debate, I should like to associate myself with the references which have been made to the undoubted loss which this House, and particularly Scottish Members, has sustained by the death of Mr. Kidd. We have heard much in this Debate about Scottish sentiment, but I confess that to me a great deal of it seems to be a complete misuse of the term. This Bill contains a very simple principle which has been recognised by many speakers, but which has been forgotten by others. The sole question is what is the most efficient machine for the purpose of governing this section of what is already national government and national administration. Of course, it is right to consider the form of that machine, and we have to consider the relation of Scotland as an integral part contained within our united nation and administration. That really has nothing whatever to do with the argument of Scottish Home Rule. I can understand the alarm of some hon. Members opposite with regard to Scottish Home Rule, because the more efficient we make the present system the more likelihood is there of the cry for Scottish Home Rule becoming less gentle than it is at the present time. I can understand hon. Members opposing any alteration inconsistent with Scottish Home Rule, but that is quite a different argument, and I do not propose to spend any time at all in considering the question on that basis. I agree with the hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinlcair) with regard to the proper position of Scottish sentiment, but beyond that a great deal has been said which, in my opinion, is a misuse of the phrase "Scottish sentiment," which has a far broader signification than some hon. Members seem to think. We have our Scottish sentiments in regard to the development of the Empire.

Let me now come to the hard facts. Let me, as a preliminary, deal with the criticism that we have not put forward the case of any member of a board who is inefficient. Of course, it is not possible for any Minister to get up in this House and do anything of that kind, but the House is entitled to ask the Minister to say what is his experience in regard to the administrative machine. As regards the existing machinery of the Department affected in the earlier part of this Bill, we have the fourth Report of the Royal Commission on the Civil Service, published in 1914.


Which Royal Commission does the Lord Advocate allude to?


I referred to the fourth Report of the Royal Commission on the Civil Service which was published in 1914. The hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness said that economy and efficiency were synonymous terms. I suggest that economy in its more natural and wider sense includes efficiency, and therefore they are not absolutely synonymous. Really, what we have to aim at is the greatest efficiency, and I think Scotland is entitled to have her national administration as efficient as possible. We have had many suggestions that we are not devoting sufficient time to Scottish affairs, but I think if we can get more efficient machinery that will help us. To that extent, I think, the House ought to welcome this Bill as a subject for discussion when it has that very important object in view.

What does this Measure propose to do? After this Measure has been passed, as well as before it is passed, we are all agreed that the ultimate responsibility must rest with my right hon. Friend who will be the Secretary of State. The Bill makes no change in that respect. Perhaps I ought to deal with a misunderstanding which I know has been explained before in this House on Scottish Bills and upon other Measures. There is no such person known to legislation as the Secretary of State for Scotland. He is only a Secretary of State similar to others who are only Secretaries of State, and it is only by the direction of the Prime Minister for the time being that certain affairs are allocated to a particular Secretary of State. If hon. Members will look up the Act of 1926, they will find that it provides for an additional Secretary of State, but you will not find the term "Secretary of State for Scotland" mentioned from beginning to end. When you are talking of a Bill which deals with Scotland and which uses the term "Secretary of State," it means the Secretary of State who is quite properly called the Secretary of State for Scotland. Some alarm has been expressed with regard to the use of this term in the Bill, and I have explained the reason why it was so worded.

The administrative machine under the control of the Secretary of State is one which has its executive duties, and also its advisory or consultative duties. In those two respects the Bill does not change the physical situation except to this extent, that quite obviously it would be much more convenient, and therefore more efficient, to be able to bring up in one person the whole responsibility for Government and discuss these matters with the Secretary of State instead of bringing up the whole Board. If you bring up the Chairman, he can only report to you the view of his own Board. All of that is consistent with the experience that one has had, and, if there is any change, it will be to the good as regards the physical situation. Then comes the question as to the actual working of the machine in Edinburgh. In the first place, under Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 of the Bill, the existing members of the various Boards are retained in the Departments, and will find their place under the changed form of administration. They will not have the same responsibility wihich they had, along with the Chairman, as members of the Board; they will be subordinate to the permanent head of the Department, but they will be there—


There will still be a head of the Department?


These experts will still be retained in the Department, but they will only be acting in a subordinate or advisory position. They will not have the responsibility that they had before, for the responsibility for the Department will be in the permanent head of the Department responsible to my right hon. Friend in London; but the knowledge of these officials, and their accessibility to my right hon. Friend, will remain just the same in the future as at present.


Is there any change in regard to the official responsible to the Secretary of State in London? Just now the Lord Advocate said that he had to be brought from Scotland, but I assume that the official responsible to the Secretary of State will now be in London.


No. The person who usually comes up at present is the Chairman, who reports what the decision of the Board is. You do not get the whole of the persons responsible, but only the Chairman, unless, indeed, the whole Board is brought up. That is one of the awkward things which constantly create real trouble, and that, undoubtedly, is a very substantial point, though it can probably only be really appreciated by those who have had the opportunity of observing the difficulties of its actual working. I myself, as well as my right hon. Friend, can speak from experience of such difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb), who thoroughly supported the change, had some anxiety with regard to the availability, if I may use the word, of the expert knowledge of the technical members of the Department, but I do not think he need have any fear at all on that score. To take another point, the upper members of the bureaucracy, or whatever it may be called—the higher officials in the Department, who will be the equivalent of the members of the Board—will be appointed or settled by the Secretary of State for Scotland, although they are members of the Civil Service—


Is there a Secretary of State for Scotland?


One usually identifies him by that title, although, as I have said, for the purposes of legislation he is nothing more than a Secretary of State. Those appointments will be in the hands and control of the Secretary of State, just as the appointments to the present Board are. I know of at least one member of a board at the present moment who is not only an Englishman, but a graduate of Oxford and Cambridge as well. I do not know why he should be so objected to—


We do not object if he is the best.


The hon. Member certainly does not, but there are some hon. Members who are not quite as clear as they might be on that point.


We do not want that to be the stamp—we do not want them appointed merely because they came from there.


Might I suggest that the point is their knowledge of Scottish local government, and not their education?


Is the man fit for the job? That is the point.


The power of appointment will be just the same as it is now. The House will remember that, when this Bill was debated last year, there was a very excellent speech, if I may say so, in support of the Bill by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson), who spoke with considerable knowledge of the practical working of the Department and of the Boards: and it will be remembered that he gave utterance to some sentiments with regard to the capacity and success of Scotsmen in getting into the Civil Service and holding prominent positions in it, which he had no reason to doubt they would continue to do in the future. At the present moment there is no first-class Civil Service position open to a Scotsman in Scotland. This Bill will make that possible. There are, and I say it with pride, any number of Scotsmen in the Civil Service in the English Departments in Whitehall, and there is no doubt that those Scotsmen would be very glad to go into a Scottish Department rather than an English one if they could. Are we to prevent them from having that opportunity? I have no doubt that they will continue to fill the English Departments as well. There will be no difficulty whatever, unless there should be a retrograde Secretary of State, very unlike my right hon. Friend. The ordinary Secretary of State will be very ready to see that he gets Scotsmen, and not others, to fill these posts.

With reference to the point suggested by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Dr. Shiels), as to whether these men will have the same capacity for administration as the existing individual members of the Board in their particular Department, I would say that there can be no doubt whatever about that. Very few hon. Members, if I may say so with respect, seem to realise how essential it is, in administering a Government Department, to have, above all other things, administrative knowledge. It is not a knowledge of this locality or that, but administrative capacity, that is the most important thing. One of the greatest difficulties of these appointed members of the Board, so far as they have anything to do with administration, is their lack of administrative experience. They have a knowledge of their own particular subjects, and are very good at that, but that will be retained in the Department in its new form. The thing that is wanting, however, is administrative knowledge, the power of taking a concentrated opinion, as an administrator, of all the expert knowledge that is available. That is the vital thing, and it is one of the reasons why I say quite frankly that these boards are not as efficient as a Department would be. It is in order that we may get the best administrative capacity into our Scottish administration that we propose the provisions in the earlier Clauses of this Bill. Everyone will agree, if they are satisfied that that is the important thing, as I feel sure most hon. Members will admit, that it is right that we should make the change. Again, I would repeat what has been said by several hon. Members, namely, that this is not a party question; it is a question of what is the best machinery, and we ought all to approach it in that aspect.

I now want to deal with one or two of the criticisms that have been made. An analogy was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) and repeated by the ex-Secretary for Scotland, of a board of directors. A board of directors are responsible to the shareholders. Who ever heard of boards of directors appointing boards to manage departments? The people they appoint are managers of their departments. They have their experts, but it is the manager of the department who is responsible for the people under him. That analogy leads to the opposite conclusion. The right hon. Gentleman suggested another analogy and asked, "Why do you not do like the Broadcasting and the Electricity Commissioners? I seem to have a recollection of hon. Members opposite complaining because these Commissioners were not responsible to Parliament. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to suggest that we should have these Scottish Departments on the same basis as Commissions not responsible to Parliament? He does not, and therefore that, again, we may lay aside. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) seemed to think that there was some point based on the comparative cost of administration by the Scottish and the English Prison Commissioners, and suggested that the English Commissioners were a Department. They are not. They are a board as well, and there is no point in that at all. They are both boards.

I think most of the argument of the hon. Member for Perthshire (Mr. Skelton) was effectively answered by the hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness. I should say a word in reference to the Departmental Committee on Landholders Tenure appointed by my right hon. Friend. That does not touch this Bill in the slightest degree. The purpose of that Committee is to consider the policy of landholding from a social and economic point of view. If they recommend a policy that is accepted by the Government, either the Board or the Department, whichever it is, will carry it out. It does not, as far as I can understand it, touch on the present subject of Debate at all. The hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness quite seriously demanded further information in regard to possible developments of policy in this, that, and the other direction. That, again, really is not relevant to this Bill. If there is a change of policy, that will be carried out by the machine in whichever form it is. Whether there is an alteration of policy or not does not seem to me to affect the merits or demerits of the Bill.


The machine should be devised to carry it out.


Again, the machine is there. Take marketing. It is the easiest thing to have a sub-department in the Department of Agriculture. Similarly with regard to afforestation. The Forestry Commission is common to both ends of the island, and it would not be within the scope of the Bill to have any change in that, but, with regard to land settlement, the Bill does not say whether there ought to be a change or not. All I am pointing out is that it does not seem to be relevant to the point we are considering at present. As to advisory councils, they are in existence at present. There is one at the Board of Health and one at the Board of Agriculture. My right hon. Friend said last year that he was not a bit against advisory councils. If they were not in existence it might be a question whether you might not get better advice, say, in the case of the Board of Agriculture, from the Highland Agricultural Society and similar bodies rather than have a special advisory council. My right hon. Friend is in no wise adverse in principle to advisory councils, and they will be equally available under the departmental system as under the existing system.


Of course, the position is that if you destroy the existing structure where a board exists, you will need your advisory councils to be more closely associated with the work of administration than they are now, in the same sort of way as they are in the Fishery Board, where you have an advisory board closely associated with the work of the Department.


I think that is rather a misunderstanding. Certainly at the beginning, and I hope in succession, the existing members of the Board of Health will remain in the office. In form, their appointment will be different, but they will be there, and their expert knowledge will be continuously available. There is no change in that aspect of it, and the advisory councils will carry on just the same as they are doing at present. If the hon. Baronet was referring to conferences within the Departments, that is another point. Departmental conferences are a matter of common routine, and are very useful, and will of course take place as they do at present. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. Adamson) said something about protests. We know the Convention of Royal Burghs is in favour of this proposal, and we have had singularly few protests. There is one other point on the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Is it really suggested that if that were the sole reason, we should keep these boards alive to enable his party when it comes into power to have their share of the spoils?


I said the very opposite. I said we would not follow the bad example of our political opponents.


Then I gather that is a reason in favour of the Bill and not against it. Generally speaking, the other Clauses have not been criticised much. A reference was made to the only report I have received that is at all against the Measure, and that seemed to me to support the Bill almost entirely. The only thing that they seem to quarrel about is as to what we are going to call the head man in the Register House. They say, first, quite clearly, that the Register should be the head of the Register House and should control its arrangements, and second, that the various Registers should be subject to the control of the Keeper of the Record and responsible to him. If that means anything to me, it means one head with all the groups under him responsible to him. I do not wish to detain the House, but the rest of the points come to very little. The other proposals were dealt with by my right hon. Friend, and there is only one thing that I want to say a word about and no more, because the question has been so often fought out. The hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) seemed to suggest that the expenditure of the Register House in Scotland is very much less than that in England. If I may say so in a word, he has really mistaken his figures altogether, because the figure which he took out of the Estimates included both the register side and the record side of the Register Office. Hon. Members will see at once that the side which earns the big fee is the register side, and that the record side earns very little indeed. When the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire takes the English figures, he takes only the record figures, which are not comparable figures at all, and the comparison he suggests is not a fair one at all. Therefore, I would ask hon. Members to approach this Measure free altogether from any party question or from any Scottish home rule question, or from any feeling or consideration of Scottish sentiment other than whether it is going to be for the better government of Scotland or not. With that in view, I have endeavoured to persuade, as I hope I have been able to do in some measure, hon. Members that experience has shown that it is a wise step, and therefore an essential step for us to take in order to get more efficient administration under my right hon. Friend in Scotland.

9.0 p.m.


I usually listen with the very greatest interest and care to what the Lord Advocate says on any subject that comes before this House, and I am deeply impressed by the contribution he makes. Quite frankly, I am sorry that has not been his effect upon me to-night. From the moment that this Bill first saw the light of day, I asked myself the why and the wherefore of it. I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland on the previous day's proceedings. I refreshed my mind over the week-end on the journey up to Scotland. As a matter of fact, when the right hon. Gentleman was sound asleep in the next compartment to mine, I was busily reading his speech, and I envied him the sound sleep which he was quite audibly enjoying. I was burning the electricity of the London Scottish and Midland Railway and trying to understand what possible excuse there was for introducing a Bill like this at the present time. I have listened to-night to the Lord Advocate, because I admit that, while they are inseparable, they are not of very great advantage to Scotland, though sometimes they play to one another fairly well, and what one misses the other picks up. But to-night the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not helped his right hon. Friend in any way.

Can anyone tell me where they have got the mandate for this Bill? Can anyone tell me where is the public excitement about this Measure in Scotland? Does any Member for Scotland sitting in any part of this House recollect ever mentioning this matter during the general election in 1924? Does anyone recollect being asked a question about this in any Scottish constituency? I certainly never heard about it in the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow, and my constituents are as alert on these matters as the constituents of Carlisle. And when there is no mandate in public opinion, the right hon. and learned Gentleman falls back on the experience of his right hon. Friend and the Commission that reported away back in 1914 as the reason for it. There has been a war since then. It is 14 years since this Royal Commission reported. The Government in order to find an excuse for introducing this Bill to-day to while away Government time, turned round to the Secretary of State for Scotland and said "Look here, we are having a hard time this Session following up with nothing, can you make your contribution towards the total of nothing?" And the right hon. Gentleman, with that willingness to aid his English oppressors that he has always displayed, rushes in with this Measure, which bears the hallmark of being prepared somewhere in the Scottish Office by one or two civil servants who believe that their promotion has been unduly retarded by the presence of one or two people brought in from outside. What did the Royal Commission say—if I can find it? I think I have before me the appropriate copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT containing the quotations given by the Secretary of State last Tuesday. He said: 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1928; col. 263, Vol. 214.] That seems to me rather a tardy Report on the part of the Royal Commission to justify the right hon. Gentleman in bringing forward this Measure, which proposes to create something like a revolution in the whole system of our Scottish work. There is one thing I am interested in very much, and that is the contention that has been made by the right hon. Gentleman and by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that young men who have had no commercial experience, no experience in the general world of affairs, who have had a strictly academic and literary education—whether it be in a Scottish university or an English university matters not—that that type of young men passing competitive examinations of a very stringent kind at the age of about 22, coming into a Government office and working in a more or less responsible position in that Government office, is at the age of 40 or thereabouts the most capable sort of individual that can be found for responsible administrative, executive, and business decisions. That is a very intesting and very important point. It is very important to hon. Members sitting on these benches, because time and time again we are told that it is only men of affairs, men who have been out in the hurly-burly of commerce and industry, who are really capable of taking control of great interests and of making responsible decisions on big affairs; and now we are told that the best way of selecting men for high responsible administrative and executive positions is by competitive examination on literary subjects at the age of 22.

It is very interesting, at this stage in the history of education, when the educationists have all thrown overboard competitive examinations as a method of testing intelligence and capacity, that the Conservative Government should have taken it up. It is typical of Conservatism to arrive about 20 years behind the van. The right hon. Gentleman has arrived when the funeral has gone away. He will remember that old Scottish story. The Conservative Government have arrived at this point in education, that they lift the competitive examination up on to a pedestal and say, "This is the one way of choosing men, 20 years after the best educationists have thrown it aside and have said, 'It is absolutely no use as a method for picking out one man from another, so far as practical capacity in the ordinary affairs of life is concerned.'" That is the burden of the speeches made by the two right hon. Gentlemen in support of this Bill, that you must take this intellectual type for responsible work in a Government Department rather than go into the general field and bring in and recruit men who have acquired experience in other walks of life.

Leaving out the question that perhaps in the past, I do not know, Conservative Governments and Liberal Governments did use these opportunities and commissionerships as pieces of patronage which they could hand out to their friends on appropriate occasions, and that perhaps there were convenient offices by which they could buy off inconvenient Members of their parties—apart from that, as I look at a board as distinct from a simple administrative head of a Department, it is a collection of six or more men who have gained experience in a variety of fields other than Government offices. Take agriculture, presumably, we have a man who has had practical knowledge in agricultural work; another man who has some knowledge of agricultural education, and along with him is a man who has primarily a business and commercial experience, and with him there is somebody whose experience has been in office administration. That is a conception of a board; that you get four or five men of equal status, but of different experience, who are sitting together and pooling their common knowledge and common experience, and giving a result that is sound from every point of view, sound technically, administratively and agriculturally. That is the conception of the board which I see to-night, and that is a wiser and more intelligent conception than that of the right hon. Gentleman, whatever his difficulties may have been in regard to any particular board. It is a better way of achieving the most efficient results than merely having some civil servant, who has been recruited by competitive examination and promoted according to seniority in his particular Department.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman does not seriously mean to go ahead with this Bill. It has been all to the good that the Bill has been trotted out, as it were, and that Scottish Members have had an opportunity of passing their comment on it; and no doubt it has received a certain amount of publicity in the Scottish Press. I suggest that that having been done, they ought to let the Scottish public think over these propositions, because I am sure that until this week the Scottish public has given absolutely no consideration to these proposals. I would like to be told by the Solicitor-General, if he replies, why the Government are trying this particular proposal on the dog. In squashing my right hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley), and my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), who referred to the Prison Commissioners, we were told that it was no argument to say that the prisons in Scotland are run cheaper than the prisons in England, because the English prisons are run by Commisioners. Why abolish the Scottish Prison Commissioners, when you are going to retain the English ones?


What about the Welsh Board of Health?


If Commissioners are such a clumsy method of carrying out the work in Scotland, then the method must be more clumsy still in England, where you are working with a population ten times as great. I know a little about prison Commissioners, and I should be very doubtful whether you have in any branch of the Civil Service in Scotland two more capable and more enthusiastic workers in a most difficult and somewhat sordid part of public service than Dr. Devon and Lord Polwarth. These gentlemen are not of a type chosen for this particular work from a competitive service examination. One of them is a medical man interested in the medical side of crime, and interested in crime as it is affected by the problems of health, housing and sanitation. On the other hand, Lord Polwarth is a man who was primarily a social and religious worker, and in trying to follow out the Biblical injunction that you should visit those in prison, he became interested in this class of work and the type of person who came under his notice. Finally, a Government, I do not know what Government it was or when it happened, appointed Lord Polworth and Dr. Devon as Prison Commissioners, and they have devoted the rest of their lives, wholeheartedly, to the welfare of prisoners in Scotland. I do not believe that by any other device you could get the human note introduced into this branch of public work so well as it is done by these two men.

There is one point of the Bill for which I have a great measure of support. I gather, although it has not been definitely stated, that in the Scottish Office there have been no Civil Service clerks of the first division, and the right hon. Gentleman seems to want some. There is nothing to prevent the right hon. Gentleman having them under the board system. I am sure my hon. Friends will agree with me that if the Scottish Office is not staffed with a sufficiently trained body of clerks, they will support him very strongly in any improvements or additions which he desires in that respect. That is an entirely different proposition to asking us to try an experiment which the Cabinet is not prepared to try on England. What about the Forestry Commissions? There you have a branch of public work which is carried on by a body of Commissioners recruited from those who have knowledge of and an interest in forestry matters. You are not proposing to abolish them under the British Cabinet; why abolish our Scottish Board of Agriculture?

The right hon. Gentleman says that he wants to have more persons whom he can consult. I might remind him of this, that the Secretary of State for Scotland differs from every other Cabinet Minister. The Minister of Health for England deals with nothing but health, the Home office deals with home affairs and matters affecting prisons and aliens; the Minister of Pensions deals with nothing but pensions, and the Minister of War deals with the Army. The Secretary of State for India deals with India; but the Secretary of State for Scotland has to deal with every one of these things in so far as Scotland is affected. He has to answer on prisons, on health, on agriculture; he has to deal with the whole lot, and in the nature of things his job cannot be so simple, he must consult more people than any Minister in England. If he tells us that the job is too big for him we will readily agree and sympathise and endeavour to relieve him of it at the earliest possible moment, but he must not attempt to make us believe that the difficulties which are inherent in his job arise from boards or no boards. On those occasions when I have gone to the Scottish Office he always seemed to have one very responsible adviser who was always very near his elbow advising him on every single matter of his Department. When these boards have come to their decisions there is the responsible administrative head who always advises the right hon. Gentleman how to proceed, and who gathers up the Board of Agriculture ideas, education ideas, prison questions, and all the rest of it, and who hands the answers over to the right hon. Gentleman, and when he gets the answers, as the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) reminds me, they are invariably in the negative.

I have listened with the greatest care to the Debate. I am not moved by Scottish sentiment to any considerable extent in discussing this Bill, although my Scottish sentiments are as strong as those of any hon. Member in the House. I do not think that Scottish sentiment is going to find adequate expression under the present system or will be seriously interfered with by the present Bill. On the other hand, I do not think the Lord Advocate is right in describing Scottish Home Rule sentiment as a languishing flower. The bloom of Scottish Home Rule may not be seen at Carlisle—that may not be a fruitful soil for Scottish Home Rule to fertilise and grow. While Scottish Home Rule has never been a matter which has aroused intense interest amongst Scottish politicians, it has always taken an important secondary place in the mind of most Scotsmen, and I have seen more evidence of active enthusiasm for Scottish independence during the last three or four years than ever before. If it gets abroad in Scotland that Scottish Ministers in this House are deliberately using their powers to reduce the status of Scotland within the Empire then, indeed, a strong movement will develop which will demand Scottish independence, and Scotland, once it makes up its mind, is just as capable of asserting her independence as Ireland or any part of the British Empire. I am not saying this in any sense as a threat. Threats are not necessary; but I urge the right hon. Gentleman not to proceed any further with this Measure. It is not worth it. Perhaps a better suggestion still is to leave it to a free vote of Scottish Members. Let the Government take the Whips off and then, if it is voted on by Scotsmen pure and simple, I am certain the Bill will be rejected.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 161; Noes, 66.

Division No. 23.] AYES. [9.23 p.m.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Goff, Sir Park Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Albery, Irving James Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l) Greene, W. P. Crawford Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby) Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Philipson, Mabel
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Grotrian, H. Brent Plicher. G.
Apsley, Lord Gunston, Captain D. W. Power, Sir John Cecil
Astor, Maj, Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Preston, William
Atkinson, C. Hamilton, Sir George Price, Major C. W. M.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Hanbury, C. Ramsden, E.
Bainlel, Lord Harrison, G. J. C. Rawson, Sir Cooper
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Hartington, Marquess of Remer, J. R.
Bennett, A. J. Harvey, G. (Lambeth. Kennington) Rice, Sir Frederick
Berry, Sir George Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)
Betterton, Henry B. Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.
Blundell, F. N. Henderson, Sir Vivian (Bootle) Salmon, Major I.
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Henn,Sir Sydney H. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W. Honnessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Sandeman, N. Stewart
Briscoe, Richard George Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Sanderson, Sir Frank
Brittain, Sir Harry Hills, Major John Waller Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Hilton, Cecil Savery, S. S.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks,Newb'y) Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Shaw, Lt.-Col. A.D. Mcl.(Renfrew,W.)
Buckingham, Sir H. Holt, Capt. H. P. Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k. Nun.) Slaney, Major P. Kenyon
Bullock Captain M. Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar) Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities) Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Casseis. J. D. Honkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Smithers, Waldron
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Hunter Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Avlmer Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Sprot, Sir Alexander
Churchman, Sir Arthur C. King, Commodore Henry Douglas Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Clarry, Reoinald George Lamb, J. O Streatfeild, Captain S. R.
Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George Lister, Cunliffe-. Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Conway, Sir W. Martin Lonn, Major Eric Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Cooper, A. Duff Looker, Herbert William Templeton, W. P.
Cope, Major William Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Couper, J. B. Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Tinne. J. A.
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.) Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart) Wallace, Captain D. E.
Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe) McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus Ward, Lt.-Col A L (Kingston-on-Hull)
Crookshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro) McLean, Major A. Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Davidson, Major-General Sir John H. Macmillan, Captain H. Warrender, Sir Victor
Davies, Dr. Vernon MacRobert, Alexander M. Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Dawson, Sir Philip Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham) Watts, Dr. T.
Dlxey, A. C. Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Wayland, Sir William A.
Edmondson, Major A. J. Margesson, Captain D Wells, S. R.
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.) Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Everard, W. Lindsay Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Fanshawe, Captain G. D. Moore, Sir Newton J. Windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel George
Forrest, W. Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Foster, Sir Harry S. Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph Withers, John James
Fraser, Captain Ian Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Nicholson, O. (Westminster)
Gaibraith, J. F. W. Oakley, T. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Gates, Percy Pennefather, Sir John Captain Viscount Curzon and Mr. Penny.
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Lawrence, Susan
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Glllett, George M. Lowth, T.
Ammon, Charles George Gosling, Harry Lunn, William
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Baker, Walter Greenall, T. Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)
Barr, J. Griffiths. T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Maxton, James
Bromfield, William Grundy, T. W. Murnin. H.
Bromley, J. Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll) Oliver, George Harold
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Hardie, George D. Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Buchanan, G. Hayday, Arthur Potts, John S.
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W.Bromwich)
Charleton, H. C. Hirst, G. H. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Clowes, S. Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Cove, W. G. John, William (Rhondda, West) Skelton, A. N.
Dalton, Hugh Kelfy, W. T. Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Kennedy, T. Smillie, Robert
Duncan, C. Kirkwood, D. Snell, Harry
Stamford, T. W. Tinker, John Joseph Westwood, J.
Stephen, Campbell Townend, A. E. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Stewart, J. (St. Rollox) Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P. Wright, W.
Sullivan, J Viant, S. P.
Sutton. J. E. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermilne) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow) Wellock, Wilfred Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Hayes.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.