§ As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.
§ 9.47 p.m.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
On a point of Order. I have spoken to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I desire to ask your guidance, Sir, with regard to this question. On this Bill I have received a communication from the town clerk depute of Glasgow on behalf of a Councillor Alexander Ritchie, who is the chairman of the corporation's Committee on Parliamentary Bills—
§ Mr. Elliot
Would it not be more convenient if the remarks which the hon. Member has to make were made on the Third Reading of the Bill?
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclean
Further to the point of Order. When we arrive at the Third Reading stage, any action that might be taken on the Report stage would fall to the ground, and it is just as well that the statement of my hon. Friend should be received by the House before we take the Third Reading, in order that we might come to a proper understanding.
§ Mr. Speaker
We have passed the Report stage of the Bill; and I was proceeding to put the Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ Mr. Maclean
If we are to have the Third Reading to-night, it will mean that we shall not know what attitude to adopt, because of something that has arisen since the Committee stage took place. It is all contained in the statement which my hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) is putting. Therefore, if this statement is only to be made on the Third Reading, it will mean that we must ask for the Third Reading to be deferred until some action is taken by the Secretary of State for Scotland. I, therefore, think that you should hear the statement read before you ask for the Third Reading.
§ 9.49 p.m.
May I finish my statement, Mr. Speaker, and leave it to your decision whether this is a definite point of Order or a point of privilege? I received this document from the Town Clerk Depute of Glasgow, and it refers to a very definite pledge by the Secretary of State for Scotland on the Committee stage of the Bill. I trust that the House will forgive me for reading that pledge. The right hon. Gentleman said:I should like to make it clear that the assurance was a general assurance. I certainly will consult the local authorities and their responsible committees on the Bill as amended.Then he goes on to say:In all these matters we shall not merely consult them, but shall draw their specific attention to any Amendments that have been made."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C), 1st July, 1937; col. 53.]I have received from the Glasgow Corporation a statement which shows clearly, as well as letters from the Secretary of State's own Department, that the Glasgow Corporation's representative did not receive the Bill as amended in Committee until 9th July, which was a Friday, and on that day there was also an indication in the "Glasgow Herald" and the local Press that the Report stage of the Bill would be taken on 12th July, which was, I understand, the original intention of the Government. That means that only Saturday and Sunday were left for this local authority, the biggest in Scotland, to consider the Bill as amended, and I want to know what action we can take on this side of the House in order to get some assurance that local authorities which received this pledge will be able to do something in the matter of the consideration of this Bill. May I be permitted, for the right hon. Gentleman's own benefit, to read a copy of a letter received from the Clerk to the Association of Councils of Counties of Cities, dated 6th July, which states that he has not received the copy of the Bill as amended? A letter from his own particular Department, dated 3rd July and signed by David Milne, to Mr. Robertson, who is the hon. Clerk of the Association of Councils of Counties of Cities, states:I accordingly enclose for the information of the Association of Councils of Counties of Cities in Scotland copies of the Committee proceedings. Copies of the Bill as amended in Committee are not yet available, but it is hoped that it will be possible to furnish 1193 copies of these by hand by Tuesday morning, 6th July.Now the Town Clerk of Glasgow receives a letter with regard to this Bill from Mr. Robertson, dated 8th July, in which he states that he encloses copy of the Bill. This Bill, in violation of the pledge of the Secretary of State for Scotland, only reached this authority on the 9th, which was a Friday, and only gave them Saturday and Sunday, and I am asking you, Sir, what steps can be taken, or whether the right hon. Gentleman can give any definite undertaking that he will see to it that any pledges given to local authorities in the future shall be kept.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is rather a difficult point of Order for me to decide, but the Bill, as I understand, was reported on 1st July, and in that case it would be printed the next day. I should have to verify that statement as to when it was printed, but it was certainly printed a day or two after it was reported, and in that case, of course, it would be available to the Glasgow Corporation, the hon. Member can take it, as long ago as 2nd or 3rd July.
§ 9.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclean
The definite point that arises here is that the Secretary of State for Scotland makes a definite pledge that he himself will call the attention of the local authorities which are concerned in this particular Bill to the amended Bill, but that has not been done. The Secretary of State for Scotland knows very well, as a Member representing a Glasgow constituency, that the Glasgow Town Council is closed down for this period, and consequently the Parliamentary Bills Committee could not be got together to consider it, even on the Saturday, when the Bill was received. I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to make a statement to the House—
I would like to move "That this House do now adjourn," in order to give the Secretary of State an opportunity of replying to us.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member cannot move "That this House do now adjourn." He can only move that the Debate be adjourned on the Motion for the 1194 Third Reading. That would give the opportunity for the Secretary of State to reply.
§ Mr. Speaker
There is no Debate to be adjourned until the Motion for the Third Reading is proposed.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
I beg to move, "That the Debate be adjourned."
I do that in order that the Secretary of State can give me a reply to the statement I have made.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am ready to put that Motion in order to allow the Secretary of State to make a statement, but it must not proceed beyond that.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
I gladly take the opportunity of making a statement on this matter—a statement which, of course, I was ready to make on Third Reading or at any time which was convenient to the House. I do not think that the pledge I gave to the Committee on this Bill has not been fully implemented. Scottish Members who were present will remember that there were numerous drafting Amendments, and I gave the assurance that they did not raise points of substance. Hon. Members opposite said that they wished to be sure that the local authorities had their attention called to these Amendments and that they would agree if they did not raise points of substance. I still maintain, and it has not been challenged, that the Amendments do not raise points of substance. The question is, did the local authorities have a reasonable time to assure themselves of that? It would, of course, be a very different matter if the Amendments raised great points of principle which the local authorities ought to consider. All we were discussing in Committee, and all we are discussing now, is the very narrow point whether the local authorities had adequate time to assure themselves that no sweeping changes were being made in the Bill by the large number of Amendments in Committee.
Let us see whether the local authorities did have an opportunity to reassure themselves on that point. The Committee proceedings were received by the 1195 Department on Saturday, 3rd July. Those proceedings, of course, gave not merely the changes made in the Bill, but the discussions upon those changes. They were issued to the clerks of the three associations on the same day. That is 10 days ago. Furthermore, the Bill as amended in Committee was received by the Department on Thursday, 8th July, and was issued to the clerks of the associations the same morning. Therefore, the representative associations of the local authorities have been in possession of the Committee proceedings of the Bill since 3rd July, and of the amended Bill since 8th July.
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that the amended Bill was sent to various corporations or to the clerks of the three associations:
§ Mr. Elliot
It was sent to the clerks of the three associations. It is the whole essence of the discussion that the Amendments are admittedly not Amendments of substance, and the point that had to be considered by the local authorities was whether by inadvertence any important change had been made in the Bill. On that point I submit that the respective organisations are fully competent to examine and decide. Nobody has suggested that any point of substance is concerned. No local authority has suggested that there has been any Amendment made contrary to the Bill as originally introduced and discussed in this House, and I suggest that the local authorities have had ample time to discover any change of substance if any had been made.
I come to the pledge that I gave. I said that I certainly would consult the local authorities and their responsible committees on the Bill as amended, and that we should draw their specific attention to any Amendments which had been made. The specific attention of the responsible people involved, that is to say, the clerks of the associations, was drawn to the changes which had been made. What was the proper course if, in fact, any of the local authorities felt that any change had been made upon which they wished further delay? The answer is simple—to inform me, the Secretary of State. Had any suggestion come from any authority on any point suggesting 1196 that a further delay should be made, I should have had no hesitation in delaying the Bill. I am sure that the hon. Member will grant that as a complete answer to the point he has raised. If anybody had any point to raise, the proper person with whom to raise it was myself.
May I suggest, then, to the right hon. Gentleman that, as I have received this information and have been asked by an important corporation to put forward this point, I will accept his assurance that the question will be delayed until the local authorities have had an opportunity of considering the change? May I point out that in one letter the clerk of the association of counties and cities definitely states that there is an important change. May I accept the right hon. Gentleman's assurance that he will delay the Bill?
§ Mr. Elliot
If there was any dispute about what the pledge was, the proper person with whom to raise it is the person who gave the pledge. I dispute that the proper course was to communicate with somebody else and not with me. I say that without hesitation, and I am sure that I shall be backed up by the House all the more because the local authority officers are anxious that this Bill should reach the Statute Book. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) said that it was difficult to get together the Glasgow Corporation. That may well be, but the people who are concerned in this matter are anxious drat the Bill should receive consideration by this House at the earliest moment, and they are entitled to have the Bill proceeded with. I do suggest that time has been given for the examination of this Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am putting the point to the House that time has been given for the examination of this Bill and that no local authority in Scotland has made a single representation to me or to the Scottish Office on this point. In view of that, I suggest that we are entitled to proceed with the Bill.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Johnston
I raised in Committee a protest against the multiplicity of new Amendments which were being imported into the Bill, Amendments of considerable complexity, which I found great difficulty in understanding. I received from 1197 the Solicitor-General for Scotland a definite assurance that there would be consultations and an admission that he was afraid that in their anxiety to have the two Bills—the English and the Scottish Bills—before the Committee and the House at substantially the same time, the Government did not have full opportunity of considering small points of drafting which they wished to have. That was the admission of the Solicitor-General. He went on to say that they themselves had some difficulties in the matter and they undertook, in order to satisfy all the interested parties, to consult with the local authorities and supply them with the Amendments which had been imported into the Bill in Committee. I am sure that on a Measure of this kind, on which there is really no divergence of political opinion between the Government and the Opposition, no one would accuse the Secretary of State or his office of trying by sharp practice to get a Bill amended in Committee hurriedly and behind the backs of the officials engaged in local government in Scotland. Nobody does suggest that.
As the Glasgow Corporation, the largest corporation in that country, has, for one, evidently some apprehensions on the matter, and complains that it got intimation of these Amendments only on the Friday, with a Press statement that the Bill would be taken on the Monday, and as it was impossible for it to consider the Amendments on the Saturday and Sunday, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman might well agree to postpone the Third Reading of the Bill for another two days. There will be no trouble and no delay, and it would remove any apprehensions which do exist, or which may exist, among certain local authorities, because they do the Government no good and are likely to raise the maximum amount of irritation where none need exist. In view of the Solicitor-General's own admission in Committee, in view of the specific pledges, and in view of the assertions made on behalf of the corporation of Glasgow, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised to accept the suggestion to adjourn the further consideration of the Third Reading to-night, because we could easily take the Bill some other night.
§ 10.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
I can speak again only by leave of the House. Let me put this 1198 point to the right hon. Gentleman. We are now on the Third Reading and no amendment can be made in the Bill. I am perfectly willing to give the most complete assurance that in another place ample time will be given for the consideration of this point, or any other point, which any of the local authorities may wish. I can do that with the more certainty since I was about to offer to the House a concession which, of course, could be made only in another place. I was going to recommend a concession upon a point to which the right hon. Gentleman himself and his friends attach considerable importance, and that is as to the qualifying date in the case of service with the Forces. That Amendment can be made only in another place. I suggest, since we are all agreed that it was certainly not my will to import anything into the Bill behind the backs of the local authorities, and since I had in good faith put the Bill down for to-night on the full understanding that it had been before the respective associations and no exception had been taken to it, that we should proceed with the Bill. As soon as I learned that the hon. Member for Mary-hill (Mr. Davidson) was raising his particular point I myself got into direct communication with Glasgow. I have been speaking on the telephone with them, and as far as I understand, from the conversations I have had with them, they do not have any objection to the Amendments.
I give the hon. Member the fullest assurance that I will, if he desires it, consult him and his hon. Friends as to a suitable date for the Bill to be taken in another place. I do, however, beg that we should get the Third Reading to-night, and send the Bill to another place, because it is most desirable that adequate time should be given there for its consideration. The Bill has to be printed and circulated there, and I suggest that its ample and full consideration will be better secured by passing it now and sending it to another place and having it examined there. As I say, I will consult with any hon. or right hon. Gentleman as to the time which he desires should elapse before the Bill is put down for its appropriate stages in another place.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
I understand from my hon. Friend that he will not oppose 1199 the proposal of the Secretary of State, having regard to the further pledges which the right hon. Gentleman has just made, but I think it is pertinent to draw the attention of the House to the growing prevalence of the practice of promising to make Amendments to Bills in another place contrary to the privilege of this House. Many Amendments which it might be sought to make in another place might touch upon the question of finance, and we should then find Mr. Speaker drawing our attention again to the fact that he is waiving the privilege of this House. Surely that point ought to be borne in mind by the Minister.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
I well recognise, Sir, that you are the champion of the rights and privileges of this House, and I should never dream of suggesting otherwise, but before we allow this Bill to proceed to a Third Reading it is necessary to rebut most emphatically some of the suggestions made by the Secretary of State. He said that it was not appropriate if a local authority had a grievance to approach the Member for the division, but that he himself was the proper person to be approached. That is certainly not the case. It is as much the proper procedure for a local authority to approach the Member as it is for them to approach the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Elliot
The hon. Member should not forget that I also am a Member for one of the divisions of Glasgow.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that he was not claiming priority of approach in his capacity as Member for one of the Glasgow Divisions, but in his capacity as Minister in charge of this Bill, and that is a false claim which must be rebutted. Moreover, the propriety of approaching the Member was strengthened by the very fact that the Minister had presented the local authorities with a fait accompli, contrary to the pledge which was given in the Committee. He pledged not only consultation with the bodies representing the local authorities but with the local authorities themselves. It was on the 9th of this month that they received a 1200 copy of the Bill embodying Amendments which he sought to make. Saturday and Sunday followed. How could they approach him in time to prevent this matter coming on on Monday? Therefore they took the proper course in writing to their Member and he has, with great propriety, sought to impede the progress of the Bill this evening.
I find that there were several important Amendments to the Bill, not trivial matters as has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. I sincerely hope that the events of this evening will be, if I may say so without any disrespect to the right hon. Gentleman, a lesson to him and other Ministers to treat with the strictest punctilio the promises they make in Committee to get these matters attended to.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Maclean
May I ask whether the Minister will carry out his pledge to the local authorities in the manner in which he gave it in column 50 of the Standing Committee Proceedings? He will find that he gave a pledge in the most definite manner. He said, referring to the Amendments:I think that most of them are drafting, but it is right that the local authorities' attention should be drawn to the matter, and it seems to me, speaking offhand, that the most convenient way would be to give them, not merely copies of the Bill as amended, but copies of the Amendments on the Paper, so that they could follow them one by one. I see no reason at all why that should not be done."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C), 1st July, 1937; col. 50.]From his statement to the House this evening, it is evident that that pledge has not been carried out with the definiteness with which he made it to the Committee. We are about to agree to the course which he has suggested, and I am asking him to carry out the pledge, in the interval between now and the Bill being considered in another place, by supplying to the local authorities copies of the Amendments so that they can follow them one by one, as he himself suggested in his speech. I wonder whether that is going to be done.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
I can speak again only with the leave of the House. I would remind the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) that I carried out my pledge to supply 1201 local authorities with copies of the Committee proceedings before I carried out my pledge to supply them with the copy of the amended Bill, because the Amendments were available on 3rd July. I will certainly see that local authorities get copies of the Amendments and of the discussion which took place upon those Amendments, that is to say, of the Proceedings of the Committee stage of the Bill. I hope, with that assurance that the pledge which I gave on the Committee stage, will be fulfilled in full measure, the hon. Member for Govan will be satisfied.
Having raised this question, I do not wish to impede the business of the House. I fully accept the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman, and I can add only that more consideration should be given to local authorities in regard to this matter. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish
I wish to draw attention to the second paragraph of Subsection (3) of Clause 12, which provides discrimination against voluntary service counting for service with a local authority. I realise that there were reasons for avoiding the creation of a precedent or the raising of claims on border-line cases, and also avoiding any addition, temporary or otherwise, to the burden of rates or taxes, but my object is to get from the Secretary of State for Scotland a definite statement as to why there was a deliberate exclusion of voluntary service. I realise that this Bill is a Scottish Bill, and that there is a provision of the same sort in the English Bill, but I want to make it as clear as I can that a very great and vital principle is involved in this discrimination, and that some day Parliament will have to face the question of allowing service under the Crown, no matter in what form, to count towards pension and superannuation. At present we all deplore the difficulty of recruiting for the armed forces of the Crown, in particular for the Army, and no one can say that this provision is an encouragement to recruiting.
Personally, I feel rather strongly that there are impulses or influences behind such a wrong and deplorable decision as 1202 the incorporation in the Bill of a discrimination against voluntary service. There may, of course, have been some pressure from local government employés to preserve their jobs against ex-service people, and one has to remember that during the period of the War we had conscription, that is to say, compulsory military service; but I never forget the large numbers of people who voluntarily served in the forces of the Crown and who, again voluntarily, extended their service after the Armistice. Those people, according to the Bill as it stands at present, are excluded from counting for pension their period of military service.
Of course, the question of cost may be a serious one, but I maintain that it is not one which should stand in our way. We are, if I may say so, incorporating the principle of voluntary service as a stigma and a handicap, and, that being so, I say that in some way or other the Secretary of State should use all his influence to have that removed. I noticed that in the Debate on the English Bill one of the reasons for allowing this provision to remain in that-Bill was the allegation that ex-service societies had, so to speak, accepted it, and had not brought any pressure or influence to bear to have any alteration made. But I feel that the matter goes deeper than that, and that no outside influences or outside associations should be the guardians of the conscience of this House. Certainly they are not the guardians of mine. I feel that we ought not to embody in a Bill a principle which discriminates against voluntary service—that we ought not to perpetuate, or even perpetrate, such an injustice.
I suggest that in some way or other the Secretary of State should try, either by extending the date or in some other way, to remove this difficulty. If that can be done, it will save from an injustice men who voluntarily extended their service at the end of the Great War—and one remembers how many fine officers and men had made themselves indispensable to their commanding officers in ships and so on, and who, therefore, could not be parted with. If the word "voluntary" is allowed to remain, it will incorporate in the Bill something which is bound to be a stigma on voluntary service, and to have the effect in the future of creating the precedent whereby military ser- 1203 vice in the Forces of the Crown cannot be added to a man's service in other directions in other Government Departments and count for superannuation. I beg the Secretary of State to do all that he possibly can to make the alteration which I suggest.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ Captain Ramsay
I am very glad that my hon. and gallant Friend has raised this point on the Scottish Bill as I raised the same point on the English Bill, and have put down a similar Amendment to this Bill. It was raised in Committee upstairs by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) and supported by all sides alike. The point is this: At the time of the Armistice, when a smaller Army was required to. finish the job, it was not the better men who were sent home, often the reverse. Officers commanding ships and battalions used their influence to persuade the best men to stay on, and the fact that their consent can be called voluntary is beside the point. This ruling amounts to not only discrimination against the man who serves his country with the Forces as against the man serving his country and in favour of the man who went back to the local authority, but in many cases against the better man and in favour of the man who was less urgently needed. The Secretary of State made a remark just now as to a concession that he was about to make in extending the date. I hope it is this particular date. It will be welcomed, I am sure, by hon. Members on all sides of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman has seen his way to extend the date, he will have done something but, if he still leaves in a date at which such discrimination shall take place, he will not have done enough or as much as we had hoped to see done. I, too, hope the day is not far distant when service in His Majesty's Forces, for however long it may happen to run, should not be counted as inferior for pension purposes to the service of a man who returns to the local authority.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Elliot
I think it is the opinion of the House as a whole that the purposes of the Bill are desirable. At a later date, when we have had an opportunity of examining the matter at length in another place, I am confident that it will appear 1204 that the terms of the pledge that I gave to the Committee were kept. It is, perhaps, necessary to say a word on the particular point raised by my hon. and gallant Friends the Members for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) and 'Peebles (Captain Ramsay). It is all the more necessary since to meet the point which they have raised may call down upon my head the condemnation of the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones), who gave the House the benefit of the very intense consideration which he had given to some of the constitutional problems affecting Scottish Members. It may be necessary to warn him that, if the concession to ex-service men which I hope to make in another place is made, it will be necessary for this House to waive Privilege when the Amendment comes down. I hope very much that we shall not be subject to being rated by the hon. Member for having made this concession, but I warn him now. It is my desire that this concession should be made and I believe that the point raised by Members from all sides of the House will have the effect of bringing about an Amendment in the English Bill also, so that in this as in some other cases we shall have given a lead to the great nation south of the Tweed.
I hope that we shall be able to extend the date to 31st December, 1920, and that covers to the full the emergency period which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Peebles had in mind. They raised larger questions into which it would not be proper for me to enter and into which I am sure they would not expect me to enter, but I am glad to be able to announce to the House that it is the intention of the Government to recommend in another place the insertion of an Amendment to extend the period during which service with the Forces should count from 11th November, 1918, as now in the Bill, to 31st December, 1920. I hope that we have done cur utmost to meet the Committee not merely in the pledges which we gave, but in the assurances and examination which we gave, and I hope it will prove a testimony of good faith for the other issues which were raised, which, I am sure, in another place, will prove the vindication and not the condemnation of the Government. 1205 Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time," put, and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.