§ Motion made, and Question proposed. "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
Mr. W. M. WATSON
I wish to ask the Lord Advocate a question on this Clause. The small burghs will receive their portion of the grants through the county councils. What guarantee have we that the burghs will be able to raise directly with the county councils any point with regard to that money? These burghs have no direct representation on the county councils. Can the Lord Advocate give us some assurance that there will be a direct touch between the burghs, which are to receive the grants, and the county councils, which are to pay them?
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Major Elliot)
This Clause provides for the payment to the small burghs of their portion of the General Exchequer Grants. That is not within the discretion of the county councils; that is a statutory obligation. A small burgh can calculate for itself the money which it ought to receive. This matter is not left to the whim of the county council, and if there were any dispute between a small burgh and the county council the central department and, indeed, the Exchequer itself would come in, since this is not a grant by the county to the small burgh but by the Exchequer to the small burgh.
My point is that the burghs will have difficulty in raising the matter with the county councils in case of a dispute arising. If these burghs had direct representation on the county councils, the matter could be raised directly with the county council. Otherwise, a burgh will have to correspond with a county council as if the county council were a department in itself.
§ Major ELLIOT
I do not quite grasp the point of the hon. Member as to the burghs having no direct representation. They are represented there.
But surely the hon. and gallant Member knows that there has been a grouping of burghs for representation on the county councils. In our county, for example, three or four burghs are grouped together to send one representative to the county council. That is my point.
§ Major ELLIOT
That is all very well with regard to the major services, but I understood the hon. Member was discussing the point of the minor services, those which are specifically reserved to the small burghs.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
The point is simply this, that there are some small burghs in Scotland which will have only indirect representation on the county councils, and my hon. Friend is asking about the control which these small burghs will have over the apportionment of their grants from the county council.
§ Major ELLIOT
Let me point out that the apportionment of the grants to the small burghs is not governed by anything which a county council may do. The county councils are to act as the agent of the Exchequer in transmitting sums from the Exchequer to the small burghs. The amount of the apportionment is laid down by Statute, and the manner in which it is to be transmitted is laid down by Statute, and, therefore, if any dispute arose it is not with the county council that the small burgh would have to correspond. If it had a genuine grievance it would appeal directly to the authorities responsible for interpreting the Statute, and the county council would be called to account for default in agency in transmitting sums which are not its own property, but which are handed to it by the Exchequer for the purpose of handing on to the small burghs. Therefore a small burgh is not affected one way or the other by its representation on the county council. The small burgh is protected by Statute and the Exchequer.
§ Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.