HC Deb 08 May 1928 vol 217 cc189-91

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £3,353,616, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1929, for Public Education in Scotland, and for the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, including a Grant-in-Aid." — [Note.—£2,750,000 has been voted on account.]


I desire to raise a question of some importance relative to the Estimates we are to discuss. I find, on going to the Vote Office and inquiring for reports of the different Departments, the latest we can get is dated 1926. The 1926 reports deal with the financial year 1925–26 and it is rather serious that we should be called upon to discuss Estimates for 1928–29 without a report on which to base our criticism. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will be prepared to give an explanation as to why there are no available reports for last year and an assurance that some attention will be given to the question in the future?


I wish to reinforce what the hon. Member has said. It is unfortunate, for two reasons, that we should have this Debate to-day. I had not realised that it was only a half-day, otherwise I should have resisted yesterday the Prime Minister's announcement that Scottish Estimates were to be taken. I understand that Private Business is put down for half-past seven, and I am sure Scottish Members did not realise that when they consented. It is extremely unfortunate that the whole of the Scottish Estimates should be put down for a half-day of Parliamentary time. I see that hon. Members above the Gangway are going to discuss three important questions—education, agricul- ture and the Board of Health. Anyone who has any knowledge of Scottish interests knows that these are three colossal subjects. We have often discussed one of them alone for a whole day. There is no guarantee that we are to have any other time to discuss anything. I, therefore, think the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised to consult the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury with a view to allotting another day for Scottish Estimates.

With regard to what the hon. Member above the Gangway has said, it is very unfortunate that there is not a single Report on any one of these three subjects at present in our hands. Last year we were discussing the Board of Health Report. It was one of the most interesting Reports I have ever seen published, but it was out of date. This year we have no Report at all. Education is one of the noblest subjects of which our native country has any cognisance, and we have not a single Report of any kind. For agriculture and afforestation there is not a Report in existence of later date than 18 months ago. I, therefore, reinforce as strongly as I can the hon. Member's appeal that we should have another day for a discussion of Scottish Estimates.

The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour)

Of course, the Government are not involved in this except in so far as we agreed to the request of the Opposition to put down Scottish Estimates for this day. It is in the power of the Opposition to ask for a day for the subjects they desire, and if they desire another day for Scottish Estimates, they can make that request. With regard to the interruption of business, that is a matter over which the Government have no control. In so far as the Reports are concerned, of course it is regrettable that we should have this Debate without them. I have been expediting their publication, and I am told they will be available earlier this year than on any previous occasion, but that they are not available at the present moment is certainly the fact. At the same time, the matter was in the hands of the Whips and their request for this day was granted.


In putting down Scottish Estimates for this day, Scottish Members have to avail themselves of the opportunities that are open to them, and the simple point before us is the responsibility of the Scottish Office in publishing these Reports in time for the Estimates to be discussed, as the other Estimates are discussed, within the time at our disposal. That responsibility is on the right hon. Gentleman, and he has not met it on this occasion.


I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

I would rather not have anything to do with the discussion to-day on Scottish Estimates if we are only to get a half-day. It never entered into my mind that that was all we were to get. Scottish education would be good for two days at any time. As for the Scottish Board of Health, we require several days. I notice that the Under-Secretary is not in his place. That itself might have moved us to report Progress. I do not think Scottish Members should sit under such an insult as to be offered half a day for the business that is before us.

Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

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