HC Deb 21 July 1931 vol 255 cc1417-60

Order read for Consideration of Lords Amendments.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered".—[Mr. T. Kennedy.]


I desire to enter a protest against taking this business of serious importance to Scotland at this hour. We have in this House of Commons naturally sometimes to sit up on public business. There are occasions when the action of the Government can be justified, but in this case we are being asked to take Amendments of material moment to the agricultural interests in Scotland at a late hour and with scant notice. Let me say this quite frankly to the House, that this list of Amendments has been on the paper for some time, but there was no warning given to the Opposition until to-day that they would be taken at this time. No single effort was made by the Scottish Office from the point of view of courtesy, or otherwise, to inform Scottish Members that they would be asked to take these Amendments at this time. This House has been occupied in the past few days with an internecine quarrel. The time of the House has been taken up, and abused, by discussions on matters which might well have been settled in private in Committee upstairs.

I emphatically protest against this treatment of Scottish affairs. This is a Bill upon which the Scottish Standing Committee was asked to consider matters of great importance. It occupied the Scottish Committee for a considerable time. It raised questions of importance to agriculture, and material matters from the legal standpoint. I observe that the Lord Advocate is not here. We have not the advantage or disadvantage of the right hon. Gentleman's presence. I think it is not only discourteous to the Opposition; it is far more discourteous to Scottish interests that we should be asked to take this matter at this time.


I think that the House will agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for the Pollok Division (Sir J. Gilmour) that on most occasions it is inadvisable to take issues of importance of this kind at this hour of the night. But one has to consider when one remembers this Scottish Bill that the issues have been thrashed out and that they are clear cut. We have discussed them as Scottish Members in Standing Committee upstairs on more than one occasion, and there is not a single Scottish Member who does not know what he has to decide to-night. Although there are many other occasions on which I would willingly join in the protest against Scottish business being taken at this hour of the night, on this occasion, when Scotland has been waiting for amendments to the Land Act which will be of great benefit to the people of Scotland, I welcome the desire which I see on the part of the Government to force this Measure through. Accordingly, much as I regret that discussion should take place at this hour of the night, I welcome it because, speaking on behalf of the party with which I am associated, we believe that this is a Measure which will be of great good to the people of Scotland.


I would like to point out to the Government that it is perfectly clear to us on this side of the House [Interruption] that these Amendments will go back to the Lords again. There is only one week in which they can come back here, and until the Recess is over, this matter cannot be dealt with. It appears that the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill and the Marketing Bill are regarded by the Government as of more importance than this Bill; therefore it will be put behind those Bills. There is not the slightest chance of this Bill becoming law before the recess. We might discuss this Bill thoroughly when we come back. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Boss and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) says that we have discussed this question fully before. I quite admit that, but I hope some of the other Members take an interest in Scottish matters, and they ought really to have a chance to see what the point is. It is quite clear, when we come to these matters, that English Members do not understand them. If they were explained they would see that we have very good grounds for objecting, and that, therefore, these points should be put to the other side.


I desire to associate myself with the protest of my right hon. Friend, the Member for the Pollok Division (Sir J. Gilmour), against this Measure being taken at this hour of the night. It is of very little use to tell the House that Scottish Members have had an opportunity of adequately discussing the whole of this Measure. Surely, English Members of Parliament are entitled to know something about this Bill, because the experience of this House is that, although Scottish Members may meet in Standing Committee upstairs to discuss all the Measures affecting Scotland, England has to foot the bill. I think that Members of this House representing English constituencies are entitled to know something of the contents of this Bill. I hope that English and Northern Irish Members will join in protest against Scottish Members carrying through the House of Commons a Measure in this way. Scottish Members have been bamboozling this House for generations. I submit that the time has come when the worm will turn. [Interruption.] I am in the capacity of the worm at this moment. We are tired in this House of the Scottish Standing Committee carrying Bills and of the English Members knowing nothing about the purposes or ultimate results of these Bills. I say that it is a monstrous thing at this hour of the night to force through a Bill of this kind. The English taxpayer will have to foot the Bill in any case.


The typical appeal of the Member for Central Aberdeenshire (Mr. R. W. Smith) has struck a chord in my heart. There is a very large principle at stake in this matter. I must protest against the passing of these great omnibus Bills through the House at a quarter to two in the morning. It may be that this is a very excellent measure, and I have no doubt that an argument can be made in favour of it, but really it is monstrous for Scottish Members to try to get this Bill through at this time. It is a principle of very great importance. I listened to the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson). I see he is speaking to an hon. Member beside him—


I was really drawing my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that this Bill destroys bracken.


Why should I be destroyed without discussion? We all know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman spent his evening, instead of defending his country's interests, in preparing this puerile joke. This is a matter of very great importance. Here is the Liberal party, or rather what was the Liberal party. They have come down in support of this extraordinary Measure, which is a conglomeration of ideas marshalled together by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and they are prepared to pass it through without the slightest discussion. The House of Commons has not been created to pass through the Measures of the Scottish Standing Committee. On the contrary, it is its duty to examine into them very closely. We know quite well that Scottish Members, who are not members of the Government, are quite willing to spend the largest sums of public money in public works which may be developed in Scotland. [Interruption.] An hon. Member says there is no money in this Bill. I agree that they will not sit there much longer, as they have betrayed their responsibilities. This debate has absolutely proved to us who are English Members that home rule for Scotland is urgent.


That question is certainly not before us now.


I was putting it in a rhetorical fashion because I was anxious to relieve you, Sir, from the onerous duty of sitting at a late hour and also to protest against the action of the Government. The Secretary of State for Scotland will not answer questions, and the Under-Secretary of State sits mute beside him. I will not say anything about the Lord Advocate. This is a matter which affects the public purse, and we all know that the public purse is filled by Englishmen and not by Scotsmen.


I want to put a question to you, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for North Paddington (Mr. Bracken) talks about wasting the public purse. Are we not wasting time discussing this matter? Has not this Bill been before the House and obtained its Third Reading? We are not discussing the Bill at all; we are discussing the Lords Amendments. Is it not time we put an end to this farce?


As I am almost the only English Member sitting for an English constituency—except one, who is a Liberal and did not attend very much—who sat through practically every word of the Scottish Committee upstairs, I think I might, perhaps, at any rate on this occasion, be able to tell English Members, especially the hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon), that they are absolutely right and justified in what they have said regarding this Bill. There is no doubt whatever that the Bill is one that is taking an unfair amount—


That may be true, but that is not the Question before the House. The Question is whether the House should consider the Lords Amendments.


I was using this point as an illustration as to why these Members should know exactly what there was in the Bill.


The hon. Member cannot introduce that as an illustration.


I will give other reasons, then, why we should not take these Amendments now. There are very complicated legal points and we have no person in the House at the present moment with any knowledge whatever of those legal complications. It is almost impossible to tell what is the particular meaning of any single one of those Amendments. Every single one of them, for practical purposes, is very complicated from a legal point of view. I must say that nothing amazed me more in the whole of my Parliamentary experience than the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson). He has always represented himself as a gallant fighting Liberal Member of Parliament; yet here he comes down and cowers at the feet of the Secretary of State for Scotland, and says to him, "I will do anything for you." Really, it is not a fitting thing that a so-called leader of the Liberal party, a man who is very highly esteemed in Scotland, should come down here at this time of night and make that sort of excuse. The very fact of his making that excuse shows that we ought not to deal with this Measure now. The right hon. Gentleman himself might give us some legal advice on this matter, but he has shown his incompetence. As my hon. friends on this side of the House have said, this is a horrible exhibition, and nothing gives me a stronger argument for voting against this Motion.

There are other reasons that I could give. It is a Bill that is complicated and affects a very large number of people. It has not had a great deal of discussion at times when attendance was easy. It has been discussed in a normal sort of way, but it has never had that sort of attention that the House of Commons should give to it. This is probably the largest number of Members that has been present at any discussion on the Bill. I do ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is always very reasonable when I approach him, that he should adjourn this matter. It would be very much in the interests of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman himself appealed again and again to us to help him to get his Bill forward, and I did the best that I possibly could. Surely, he might meet us now. It would be easy to take this Bill the first thing on Friday, and it could be discussed in the light of day instead of at these dismal hours. I apologise for taking up the time of the House, but, as I see that the Secretary for Scotland is thinking of getting up, I do appeal to him to accept this suggestion of ours and not force the Bill through.


I have not troubled the House much. [Interruption.] English Members have already taken

some part in this Debate. Ever since Scottish matters have been under discussion we have had an understanding that we who represent English constituencies would not interfere. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We had an understanding among ourselves. Of course, you do not keep honourable understandings. I happen to represent an English constituency with a Welsh name. I mean my own name. [Interruption.] It is not funny; it is an accident. I have a Scottish grandfather on my mother's side, so I have a right to say something about matters of this character. My. hon. Friends opposite are camouflaging the situation. This is not a question of the method of procedure of the House of Commons in dealing with a matter relating to Scotland. They are backing up the right of the House of Lords to say what we must do in the House of Commons

Question put, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered."

The House divided: Ayes, 156; Noes, 39.

Division No. 452.] AYES. [1.58 a.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.) McElwee, A.
Alpass, J. H. Grundy, Thomas W. McKinlay, A.
Ammon, Charles George Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.
Arnott, John Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) McShane, John James
Aske, Sir Robert Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Manning, E. L.
Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley) Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.) Mansfield, W.
Barr, James Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn) Marshall, Fred
Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland) Mathers, George
Benson, G. Hardie, David (Rutherglen) Matters, L. W.
Bowen, J. W. Hardie, G. D. (Springburn) Maxton, James
Broad, Francis Alfred Haycock, A. W. Messer, Fred
Brothers, M. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick) Millar, J. D.
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield) Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) Mills, J. E.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Hicks, Ernest George Milner, Major J.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire) Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth) Montague, Frederick
Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West) Hoffman, P. C. Morley, Ralph
Buchanan, G. Hollins, A. Mort, D. L.
Burgess, F. G. John, William (Rhondda, West) Murnin, Hugh
Calne, Hall, Derwent Johnston, Rt. Hon. Thomas Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.) Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)
Church, Major A. G. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Kelly, W. T. Owen, H. F. (Hereford)
Cripps, Sir Stafford Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas Paling, Wilfrid
Daggar, George Lang, Gordon Palmer, E. T.
Dalton, Hugh Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Davies, E. C. (Montgomery) Lathan, G. (Sheffield, Park) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Law, Albert (Bolton) Potts, John S.
Dudgeon, Major C. R. Lawrence, Susan Price, M. P.
Duncan, Charles Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge) Ramsay, T. B. Wilson
Ede, James Chuter Leach, W. Raynes, W. R.
Edmunds, J. E. Lees, J. Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Leonard, W. Romeril, H. G.
Elmley, Viscount Lewis, T. (Southampton) Rosbotham, D. S. T.
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Lloyd, C. Ellis Rowson, Guy
Gibbins, Joseph Logan, David Gilbert Sanders, W. S.
Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley) Longbottom, A. W. Sawyer, G. F.
Gill, T. H. Longden, F. Scott, James
Gossling, A. G. Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Scrymgeour, E.
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Lunn, William Scurr, John
Gray, Milner Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne) MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Sherwood, G. H.
Shield, George William Thurtle, Ernest Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Shiels, Dr. Drummond Tinker, John Joseph Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Shillaker, J. F. Townend, A. E. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Simmons, C. J. Vaughan, David Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe) Viant, S. P. Wilson, R J. (Jarrow)
Smith, Frank (Nuneaton) Wellock, Wilfred Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)
Smith, Rennie (Penistone) Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge) Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)
Smith, Tom (Pontefract) Westwood, Joseph Young, R. S, (Islington, North)
Smith, W. R. (Norwich) White, H. G.
Sorensen, R. Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Stephen, Campbell Whiteley, William (Blaydon) Mr. T. Henderson and Mr. Charleton.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford) Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Atholl, Duchess of Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Skelton, A. N.
Betterton, Sir Henry B. Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Smithers, Waldron
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W. Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Thomson, Sir F.
Bracken, B. Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Train, J.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Latham, H. P. (Scarboro' & Whitby) Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)
Butler, R. A. Llewellin, Major J. J. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
Campbell, E. T. Long, Major Hon. Eric Warrender, Sir Victor
Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.) Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Courtauld, Major J. S. Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)
Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West) Nall-Cain, A. R. N. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Dalkeith, Earl of Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Captain Margesson and Sir George Penny.

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendments considered accordingly.

  1. CLAUSE 8.—(Amendment of provisions as to resumption of holdings.) 3,757 words
  2. cc1435-45
  3. CLAUSE 14.—(Option to statutory small tenant to become landholder.) 3,974 words
  4. cc1445-6
  5. NEW CLAUSE A.—(Amendment of s. 11 of Act of 1911.) 231 words
  6. cc1446-7
  7. NEW CLAUSE B.—(Amendment of s. 32 (4) of Act of 1911.) 270 words
  8. c1447
  9. NEW CLAUSE C.—(Amendment of s. 32 (11) of Act of 1911.) 165 words
  10. cc1447-58
  11. NEW CLAUSE D.—(Amendment of s. 16 of principal Act.) 4,175 words
  12. cc1458-60
  13. FIRST SCHEDULE.—(PART I: Improvements to which Consent of Landlord is required. PART II: Improvements in respect of which Notice to Landlord is required. PART III: Improvements in respect of which Consent of or Notice to Landlord is not required.) 701 words