§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Colville)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is a Bill which deals, not with policy in the broad sense, but with the machinery by which policy is administered. The Bill reorganises the Scottish administrative machinery. Hon. Members know that when I use the word "machinery" in this context I mean the men and women who make up the Government Departments and whose business it is to carry out the instructions of the Government of the day. The House will agree with me in saying that we have in this country a Civil Service which is second to none in the world. It is very important that the Departments should get the best possible use out of that Service. Hon. Members are not, therefore, likely to under-estimate the importance of organisation. We are all, private Members or members of the Government, acutely aware of the growing complexity of public business and the increasing speed with which that business has to be conducted, and consequently the increasing strain which Government organisation has to bear. I believe that our Scottish organisation has taken this strain wonderfully well. It discharges infinitely larger tasks than ever before and does so with great efficiency. This efficiency, despite greater difficulties, has in my view not been gained at the expense of what I would call the human touch, for I think that hon. Members, with their experience of these affairs, will agree that our Scottish Government Departments are not the remote institutions that, according to popular conception, they once were. They are more in touch with pubilc opinion than they were in the past. But we want to extend and to strengthen this quality.
Some of the proposals which I shall outline are expressly designed for this purpose. Hon. Members know of the increased number of deputations, for example, which are now being received not only by myself and the Under-Secretary of State, but by the heads of the 1838 Scottish Departments. Many of these deputations, which come from local authorities and other interested bodies, are now received in Edinburgh. This is greatly to the convenience of these local authorities, though there are times perhaps when there may be a shade of disappointment that a deputation is not called to London, for the Metropolis still holds some attractions. But, broadly speaking, there is no doubt that 'the arrangements made to receive deputations in Edinburgh to a far greater extent than formerly have helped the Scottish Office organisation and have brought our Departments more into touch with public opinion in Scotland. I wish to encourage and extend that process.
There have been important adjustments in our Scottish organisation in the past, but the adjustments that I am about to outline are on a bigger scale than usual. Perhaps I should not be wrong in describing them as the most comprehensive reform of Government in Scotland since 1885. I believe that the circumstances of the day demand that these changes should be made, and I believe that they will prove to be worth while. The proposals are based on the Report of the Committee on Scottish Administration. That committee was appointed at the end of 1936 by my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Health, who was then Secretary of State for Scotland. He appointed the committee to inquire into and report on the organisation and duties of the Scottish administrative Departments under the Secretary of State for Scotland.
The committee was a very strong one. Its chairman was my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Pollok Division of Glasgow (Sir J. Gilmour), who himself had been in charge of the Scottish Office for many years and who brought an unequalled experience to the work of the committee. It included also the right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston), who has also had considerable experience of the Scottish Office, and a former Member of Parliament, Sir Robert Hamilton, who represented a Scottish constituency for many years and who has had administrative experience, not in the Scottish Office, but in another Government Department. Apart from these Parliamentary connections, a glance at the membership of the committee, which is set out on page 4 of the report, 1839 will show that every member had special qualifications to participate in the inquiry. The report was presented to Parliament in October, 1937, and I am glad to say that the committee were able to arrive at unanimous recommendations. I should like to take this opportunity again to thank my right hon. Friend and the members of the committee for the very great service which they have rendered in their work. In fact, I claim that anyone who wants to know how Scotland is governed will find a mine of information within this report, which I commend to them.
There were, I think, three main considerations underlying the inquiry to which this Committee addressed itself. In the first place, there was, and there still is, a desire on the part of many Scottish people to see Scottish administration brought as far as possible nearer home, although at present about 97 per cent. of the total staff under the control of the Secretary of State are already stationed in Scotland, not only in Edinburgh, but in Scotland as a whole. But it is clearly desirable to consider what further steps can be taken to ensure the closest possible contact between Scottish administration and Scottish public opinion, so the first consideration was that of bringing the administration nearer home in the fullest sense.
In the second place, it had long been recognised that the machinery of Scottish administration had grown up in a somewhat haphazard fashion. Perhaps I do not need to elaborate that to hon. Members who have had experience of Scottish administration. The relations of the Departments with each other and the distribution of duties between them called for review in the interests of efficiency. The third consideration was that the construction of the new Government building on the Calton Hill, Edinburgh, seemed to make the time opportune for such an inquiry. This building is expected to be ready in August of next year, and the Committee was expressly directed in the conduct of its inquiry to keep in viewthe prospective concentration of Departments in one building in Edinburgh.The recommendations of the Committee are summarised on pages 53 and 54 of the report, and they fall under two heads—those recommendations which require legislation and those which can be carried into effect by administrative 1840 action. The Government have already announced the general acceptance of the Committee's recommendations, and the Bill now before the House deals only with those recommendations which require legislation, but it will form the foundation upon which we shall build a new organisation. I propose, therefore, to explain to the House, not only what is done by the Bill directly, but some of the further and consequential steps which it will be possible to take as a result of passing this Bill into law. The three recommendations of the Committee which require legislation involve the transference of the functions of the Scottish Education Department, the Department of Health for Scotland, the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, the Fishery Board for Scotland, and the Prisons Department for Scotland, to the Secretary of State.
At present the Scottish Education Department is nominally a Committee of the Privy Council. It consists of the Lord President of the Council, as Chairman, and myself, the Secretary of State, as Vice-Chairman, and the ordinary members, I believe, are the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate. There were also four peers who were members of the Committee at one time, but when those peers died, their places were not filled. Hon. Members will agree that this was an organisation which required some overhauling. Although in point of fact the Department itself worked harmoniously and usefully, it was obviously out of date in its organisation. The Committee last met in 1913, and the Committee on Scottish Administration recorded the arrangement as anomalous and quite out of keeping with modern conditions. The other Departments concerned are separate legal entities and possess statutory powers distinct from those of the Secretary of State, though the Fishery Board is required to comply with any instructions which the Secretary of State may issue, and the Departments of Agriculture, Health, and Prisons are required to act under his direction and control.
The first Clause of the Bill gives effect to the Committee's recommendations on this point and makes several consequential provisions. It reflects the constitutional position, which I think the House will agree as being a proper one to reflect, that the ultimate responsibility to Parliament 1841 for all Departmental actions must lie with the Minister, and it paves the way for a Departmental reorganisation and for a redistribution of certain Departmental functions. To illustrate what I mean when I say that these Departments at present are separate legal entities, hon. Members will have noticed that when we have Bills passing through the House which have application to Scotland and England as well, as for instance the Cancer Bill yesterday, the opposite number in the Scottish application to the English Minister—in this case, the Minister of Health—may be not the Secretary of State but a Department, in this case the Department of Health for Scotland. That is the present position, and the Bill proposes, acting on the suggestion of the Committee, to alter it by transferring the responsibility to the Secretary of State.
It is intended in future that there shall be four main Scottish Departments. Three of these will be the Departments of Education, of Health, and of Agriculture respectively, and the fourth a new Scottish Home Department, which, broadly speaking, will take over the functions of the Scottish Office, the Fishery Board, and the Prisons Department. These four main Departments will be of equal status, and each Department will be in charge of a Secretary, who will be fully and directly responsible to the Secretary of State for the duties of his Department. The House will appreciate the change that is being made here. As far as possible, the day-to-day administration of all the Departments will be carried on in Edinburgh, but each Department will have representatives in London for any work which requires to be done in London on its behalf. I will return to that point later. The head of the Prisons Department, when it becomes a division of the new Scottish Home Department, will bear the special title of "Director of the Scottish Prison Service." It is also proposed to associate the Registrar-General more closely with the Department of Health and to make him an officer of that Department, while retaining the existing title of Registrar-General.
It is further intended that the Secretary of State himself shall have the assistance of a senior officer outside the Departmental organisation who will act as an adviser. This point is dealt with at some length in the report, in paragraphs 48 to 54. This officer of high rank will be 1842 available to offer advice on any question coming before the Secretary of State, and, as the Committee remarks, his counsel should be most valued and most valuable on questions where more than one Department is concerned or where the matter at issue falls outside the recognised province of any of the Departments. There is constant need for the coordination of Departmental action, and there is also constant need for action on matters which do not come within the recognised province of any Scottish Department, but which may concern Scotland in an important degree. This officer will retain the existing designation of Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. I may mention that that. is a point of detail on which I propose to diverge from the Committee's recommendation, but I am sure that hon. Member's will agree that it is necessary that there should be at the disposal of the Secretary of State a civil servant of high rank. He will not be over the heads of the other Departments, but he will be available to the Secretary of State for the services which I have outlined.
§ Mr. Colville
He will be attached to the Secretary of State. There are very many duties, as I have endeavoured to explain, which are not quite clearly of a Departmental character, but which affect the Secretary of State for Scotland. The hon. Member will be aware that the Scottish Secretary is expected to interest himself in an immense field, and he must have at his hand, for discussions and conferences in London, an officer of high rank who is able to assist him in these conferences. At the same time the Secretaries of the main Departments to which I have referred, the new Home Department, the Agriculture, Education, and Health Departments, will be the heads of those Departments properly and will have direct access to the Secretary of State.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
Will this selected official, whoever he or she may be, have any power to interfere with Departmental decisions or to advise with regard to Departmental decisions?
§ Mr. Colville
No. The officer will not have power to interfere, as the hon. Member has put it, with Departmental decisions.
§ Mr. Colville
If the hon. Member had even a short experience in the office which I happen to hold at the moment, he would soon find the need for having beside him an officer of high rank to take part in the conferences which are frequently taking place between the Departments in London on matters affecting Scottish affairs.
§ Mr. Buchanan
But as most of us have had no such experience, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what this officer is going to do? What will this gentleman do to justify his salary?
§ Mr. Colville
If the hon. Member will turn to the relevant paragraphs in the report, paragraphs 48 to 54, he will see set out at very considerable length the view that the Secretary of State, in his day-to-day work, must have the assistance of such a high civil servant. Paragraph 52, for example, says:We visualise that the normal station of the Permanent Secretary would he in London at the Minister's right hand. At the same time we contemplate that he would pay frequent visits to Scotland, especially when Parliament is not sitting. In a later part of our report we recommend that the Permanent Secretary should preside over important interdepartmental conferences. We think that periodical visits to Edinburgh will be valuable.There is no doubt about that. He will not be able to interfere in the sense that the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) suggested. This paragraph sets out his functions and it should reassure the hon. Member of the desirability of having an officer of this kind to assist the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Kennedy
I think I am right in assuming—for the report says so—that this Civil Servant will have no Departmental responsibilities.
§ Mr. Buchanan
Cannot the right hon. Gentleman say what he is going to do if he is to have nothing to do with the Departments? He will evidently just nose about and see what the Departments are doing. He will be a "Nosey Parker" and get a high salary for it.
§ Mr. Colville
The hon. Member has not given that degree of study to the subject which the members of the Committee gave to it.
§ Mr. Colville
The Secretary of State for Scotland is 400 miles distant from the Edinburgh Departments and he is bound to have conferences in London with other Departments. It is necessary that he should have with him to assist him in those conferences an official of high rank. I have dealt with the way in which the Departments in Edinburgh will be represented in London and there will be no question of encroaching upon the responsibilities of those Departments.
With what other Departments does the Secretary of State have conferences for which he wants the assistance of this new official?
§ Mr. Colville
The hon. Member surely has not followed what must take place from day to day. A great deal of my time is taken up in conferences with other Departments such as the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Labour and, at times, the Service Departments. All the time there are conferences between such Departments, at which the Scottish Office must be represented. It can frequently be represented by the Secretary of State himself, but there are many conferences which civil servants have to attend.
§ Mr. Stephen
The right hon. Gentleman says that this individual will not interfere with the decisions of the Department, but in their report the Committee point out thatit is by no means impossible that the different Departments may give to the Minister advice tending in inconsistent directions.This individual is presumably to be a person who will know better than the four Departments what to advise the Minister and he will override the Departments.
§ Mr. Colville
No, he will not override the Departments. I want to make that clear. Every Departmental head has direct access to the Secretary of State, who must be the one to judge.
§ Mr. Mathers
May we put it in this way, that this official will make up the Secretary of State's mind?
§ Mr. Colville
No, that is not necessary. He makes up his own mind, and he has 1845 made it up in this case by following this valuable recommendation of the Committee. Before I was interrupted I was explaining the organisation of the four Scottish Departments.
It is intended that there shall be some reallocation of duties between the four Departments. In general, the Departments of Education, Health, and Agriculture will carry out their existing functions. I have already indicated the scope of the new Scottish Home Department. Some detailed adjustments will however have to be made, as suggested by the Committee. For example, the Scottish Office now deals with rent restriction because the Rent Restrictions Acts put the responsibility upon the Secretary of State, whereas housing in Scotland is the statutory concern of that separate legal entity, the Department of Health. Rent restriction is closely bound up with housing and, it is suggested, ought to be dealt with by the Department of Health. This is an illustration of the anomalous arrangements which are inevitable under the existing system and which it will be possible to remedy, in accordance with the Committee's recommendations and in the light of experience, as soon as all Departmental functions have been vested in the Secretary of State. Incidentally, under this system, which is more flexible, overlapping and duplication of work will disappear.
The second Clause deals with the reorganisation of the General Board of Control. This matter is discussed in paragraphs 64–69 of the Committee's report. It was represented to the Committee by certain witnesses that the intimate relations between mental and physical health made it desirable to abolish the board altogether and to transfer its functions to the Department of Health. Hon. Members will, perhaps, recollect that that was also the conclusion reached by the Committee of Scottish Health Services in 1936. The Committee on Scottish Administration came to the conclusion, however, after careful consideration, that there were special reasons—in particular the necessity of having a separate body with independent and quasi-judicial functions to protect the interests of the insane—which made it desirable to retain the board. The Government accept this recommendation. At the same time they feel that the views expressed by the Com- 1846 mittee as to the need for strengthening the board's staff and associating it more closely with the Department of Health are wise.
The existing board is, therefore, being reconstituted. It will consist of a paid whole-time chairman, who will be an officer of the Department of Health holding the rank of assistant secretary; the two existing paid medical commissioners, a part-time paid legal commissioner, a representative of the Scottish Education Department, and two unpaid members representing the general public. This constitution makes certain changes from the present arrangement and brings the board more closely in touch with the Department of Health.
§ Mr. Westwood
On the question of continuing the Board of Control, was any evidence taken by the Committee from medical men for the purpose of enabling them to come to a decision on this point, in view of the fact that the Committee which inquired into the health services took evidence from all kinds of medical authorities and had in its own composition six medical men?
§ Mr. Colville
The Committee took the evidence of several medical men. They had the Scottish Division of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association before them in the person of Professor Henderson and Dr. McAlister. They also had the Board of Control for England and Wales and heard Sir Hubert Bond representing the medical interests, and also Dr. Thomson of the Board of Control for Scotland. The Committee gave careful thought to that aspect of the problem. The reason which led them to the conclusion which they presented in their report was that the interests of the insane made it necessary to have a separate body with independent quasi-judicial functions. I can assure the hon. Member who cited the Scottish Committee on Health Services that that was fully before the Government when they were weighing the considerations on which they had to decide whether to accept the recommendations of the Committee on Health Services or the more recent recommendations of the Committee on Scottish Administration.
On balance, the Government decided that the advice expressed as to the protection of the interests of the insane by a quasi-judicial body was good, and 1847 therefore they have adopted it in the form in which it appears in the Bill. The necessary provision is made in Clause 2. It is also intended that the functions of the Secretary of State relating to lunacy and mental deficiency should, when the new system becomes operative, be discharged through the Department of Health and not through the Scottish Office as at present. Before leaving this subject I should like to pay tribute to Sheriff Morton, the present unpaid chairman of the board. He was an unpaid member of the board under the chairmanship of Sir Arthur Rose, and on the latter's death he accepted the chairmanship in May, 1936, in the knowledge that measures of reorganisation were under consideration and that his tenure of office might be limited. I would like to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of his services.
Clause 3 appoints a Scottish Fisheries Advisory Council. Before dealing with this I would like to say a word about the Fishery Board itself, whose general functions are being transferred to the Secretary of State by Clause 1. As the report says, in paragraph 31, the Fishery Board is at present subject to Scottish Office control. We now want to change this system, with its duplication of work and consequent delay, and in its place to create an organisation which will deal with all aspects of fishery administration. The Committee held the view that such an office would be too small to pursue a wholly independent life, and recommended that it should be linked up with the Scottish Home Department. We propose to carry out this recommendation and to set up a Fisheries Division of the Home Department under a secretary of its own.
§ Mr. Colville
Yes, Sir. The present members of the board were appointed for five years from January, 1936, and all accepted office in the knowledge that legislation dealing with Scottish administration might affect the constitution of the board before the end of that period. The present board includes four trade representatives and after its abolition it will be essential to provide for close contact between the new Fisheries Division and the fishing industry in order that expert advice may be at the disposal of the 1848 Secretary of State. The Committee accordingly proposed the institution of a Scottish Fishery Advisory Council, and Clause 3 carries out this recommendation. The council is to consist of not more than 12 members appointed by the Secretary of State after consultation with the various sections of the fishing industry. Clause 4 gives effect to an incidental recommendation of the Committee. Under the existing law the field of recruitment for legal posts in the Scottish Department is restricted by the exclusion of members of the Bar, and it is proposed to remove this restriction.
It will be appreciated that any change of the kind which I have been outlining will inevitably involve extensive drafting Amendments in existing Statutes, and it is proposed in Clause 1 (4) that the Secretary of State may make Orders for this purpose, and Sub-section (5) provides that the Orders shall be laid before each House of Parliament for 21 days before they take effect. In an earlier Measure similar provision was made for the Secretary of State to make Orders, but there was no provision at that time for laying them before Parliament for 21 days, and that is a safeguard which we think it proper to introduce. Clause 6 provides for bringing the Act into operation in accordance with Orders to be made by the Secretary of State. It is hoped that the general scheme of reorganisation will be ready by August next year, when the new Calton Hill building is expected to be complete. But changes in organisation and the actual transference of the Departments to the new buildings will have to be made carefully and systematically, and it may be necessary to move step by step.
Let me now turn to the important question of the representation of the Scottish Departments in London, in connection with which the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) expressed anxiety about the chief of staff. We want to base our administration on Edinburgh, where close contact can be maintained with Scottish opinion. On the other hand it is essential to be able to express Scottish views effectively in London if Scotland is to play a proper part in the evolution of policy relating to Great Britain as a whole. The late Sir Godfrey Collins, when he opened the Edinburgh branch of the Scottish Office, in February, 1935, said: 1849Scottish interests must be effectively upheld in the multitude of committees, conferences, meetings and discussions, formal and informal, on every variety of subject, which commonly pave the way for the formation of Government policy or the drafting of legislation. This requires strong representation in Whitehall.The question cannot be solved always by visits of the heads of Departments and senior officers in London, although such visits will frequently continue to be necessary. A Departmental head cannot be held responsible for the efficient control of his Department if he is obliged to spend a large part of his time away from it. It is accordingly intended that Dover House, which now accommodates the Scottish Office in Whitehall, should become a centre for representative staffs from each of the four main Departments in Edinburgh, and steps have already been taken in this direction. The Departments of Education, Health and Agriculture already maintain representatives at Dover House for the purpose of keeping in constant touch with Ministers and the London Departments, and the new Home Department, when formed, will come under the same arrangement. The value of the work has already been proved and I have reason to believe that the presence of those officers in London has been of considerable help not only to the Secretary of State but also to Scottish Members of Parliament, who frequently make contact with them.
I see that the hon. Member for Gorbals smiles at my assertion that these members of the Scottish staffs are ever any help to a Member of Parliament, but if he has not had that experience there are others who have found that by going direct to the Scottish Office and seeing a fairly senior representative of an Edinburgh Department they can at first hand get valuable information which saves them a great deal of correspondence, and I hope that that system may be encouraged. The Department now known as the Scottish Office will form the nucleus of the new Scottish Home Department. As hon. Members are aware, a branch of the Scottish Office, under the name of the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland, was established at Edinburgh in 1935. This branch will be transferred to the new Calton Hill building, together with certain sections of the London staff. The Committee recognised in their report that in the case of the Scottish Home Department it would 1850 probably be necessary to make special arrangements for the performance of essential London work; but whatever plans may be made for this purpose I can assure the House that the Scottish Home Department will be based upon Edinburgh, in accordance with the Committee's recommendations.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Will that office of the Scottish Secretary in Edinburgh which is to be transferred remain as a separate unit or be included in the whole Department?
§ Mr. Colville
It will come into the general organisation. The Secretary of State will, of course, have his room and accommodation in the Calton Hill building, but there will not be a separate Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland.
§ Mr. Mathers
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Calton Hill building will be adequate for the purpose for which it was originally intended?
§ Mr. Buchanan
Is it the intention to increase the work of the Home Department so as to take in the work of the Home Office—to take in other work than the work it is now doing?
§ Mr. Colville
No, it is not intended to do that; and in answer to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) I am advised that the Calton Hill Building will be sufficient for the purposes for which it was designed. The Bill and the plans which I have outlined give effect, down to almost the last detail, to the recommendations of the Committee on Scottish Administration. As I said at the beginning, it deals only with machinery, not with policy. But as hon. Members know, on the efficiency and the humanity of that machine, under the direction of Parliament, depends much of the welfare of our 5,000,000 people in Scotland. I do not for a moment wish to shift the burden from Parliament, but the importance that the machine itself should be human and should be in close touch with public opinion in Scotland is immense. The realities behind it are the housing of the people, their health, their education, their assistance in times of need, schemes for developing industry and such means of livelihood as agriculture and fisheries, the supervision of local government and the hundred and one other tasks of the central government.
1851 The proposals I have outlined will bring this organisation more completely under ministerial and therefore under Parliamentary control. That is the central point which I should like hon. Members to have in mind. They will simplify it and make it clear and understandable to all. They will make it more efficient and more flexible and at the same time help to keep it moving with and responsive to Scottish public opinion. In moving the Second Reading I claim that the Bill embodies a big administrative change, the biggest change in Scotland for a number of years. I do not claim that it is a Bill which deals with policy in the broad sense but I claim that in the efficient running of our Scottish administration this Bill will be a great landmark.
§ 4.54 P.m.
§ Mr. T. Johnston
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:whilst welcoming the reorganisation of Scottish Offices, this House is of opinion that more far-reaching measures are required for the better administration of affairs in Scotland.As the Secretary of State for Scotland has just said, this is a purely administrative Bill, designed to give effect to most of the recommendations and suggestions of what is known as the Gilmour Committee, so-called because it was presided over by the right hon. Member for Pollok (Sir J. Gilmour). Our terms of reference as a committee were inadequate. For example, we could not possibly include the question of the ownership and control of the lands held by the Crown Lands Commissioners, or the land, and its utilisation, in the hands of the Forestry Commission, although it was obviously of the first importance that the Department of Agriculture for Scotland and the Forestry Commission, to say nothing of the Crown Lands Commissioners, should be under one head and have one common policy, and not, as we have seen in the past, occasionally in competition for the purchase of land or in competition for the utilisation of that land when it had been purchased. It is surely bad public policy to have two Government Departments if not actively competing in price at any rate with one as a reserved purchaser against the other, and it is bad public 1852 policy that one should be struggling to increase the number of sheep upon our Scottish hillsides while the other may be struggling to get the sheep off and to be growing timber.
Again, we could not possibly include any questions which affect the Ministry of Labour. Our terms of reference confined us to dealing with the offices under the control of the Secretary of State for Scotland. His office at many points touches health and education, and it runs tutelary classes, which, in my view, ought clearly to be under the control of our Education Department, and it has functions which clearly ought to be under the control of our Department of Health. Nor could we get in questions which affect the Ministry of Transport. Here, again, another Government Department might purchase land and be ordering materials, and its activities might impinge upon our local government system in many directions. I came across one humorous instance since the Committee's Report was published. It concerned the town of Girvan in Ayrshire. The Ministry of Transport had served a notice upon the County Council of Ayr, believing that by so doing they were legally serving a notice upon the town council of Girvan. The County Council of Ayr had, of course, no jurisdiction over the burgh of Girvan, but by the time Girvan heard about the notice its opportunities for making application for a public grant were past, and Girvan is naturally rather sore. This is a case in point where, if the Ministry of Transport had consulted the Scottish Office, they would have learned that the proper authority for roads inside the burgh of Girvan was the burgh of Girvan itself and not the county council. Therefore, I suggest that our terms of reference were unduly limited, and that the recommendations do not even now make an effective scheme for local government in Scotland.
Within the limits permitted we sought to devise machinery whereby the Secretary of State for Scotland could harmonise his array of Departments. We disagreed with one of the recommendations of a previous committee, the Scottish Health Services Committee, upon which my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood) took an active and interesting part. The committee recommended that the Board of Control should be absorbed into the Department of Health for Scotland. The grounds of the recommenda- 1853 tion were that mental ill-health was very closely allied to physical ill-health and that it was not proper that there should be two Government Departments dealing with ill-health. We had evidence in support of that view from a number of mental authorities, but we also had evidence from medical authorities in direct conflict with that view. For example, we had very strong evidence from the English Board of Control and its medical officers. In the end we came unanimously to our conclusion. In our unanimity we carried with us a gentleman, Professor Gray, who was a member of the Scottish Health Services Committee and signed their report. The weight of the new evidence convinced him, although with some reluctance, that he ought to abandon his previous attitude and sign our report and so make it unanimous.
§ Mr. Johnston
That is true, but he also signed our report. In this matter he agreed with us in his minority report. There is another aspect of this matter of mental ill-health. There is what is called the liberty of the subject. Very strong representations were made to us upon that point. If the Secretary of State and the Department of Health were to be the last word, subject to an appeal to the sheriff, as to when a man should be taken to a mental home compulsorily, or when he should be excluded from a mental home at his own request, the Secretary of State for Scotland would be placed in the midst of a very great deal of unnecessary political trouble. Members of Parliament would be, as they are to-day on some matters, subject to pressure, although they are not appropriate judges as to when a man is in ill-health or not. Nor, for that matter, are a man's relatives sometimes. I do not believe that a sheriff, however able he may be and learned in the law, is necessarily a qualified man to say when John Jones or Bill Smith should be allowed to get out of a mental home. Evidence was tendered to us by the Lord Advocate, who, if I recollect aright, gave very strong evidence, as to what had happened when persons were released under pressure from mental homes. There were questions of what had happened to young children, and so on. At any rate, we came unanimously to the conclusion that while the liberty 1854 of the subject could be preserved, so far as it was possible in the circumstances, by having this Board of Control, with a number of medical men upon it and with either a judge or a King's Counsel—I forget which—presiding, we had to consider what to do for the best, and we thought we should be well advised to keep clear of political pressure, as had been done in England for many years with considerable success.
We agreed with the Committee on the Scottish Health Services that so far as physical health was concerned the work of the Department of Health and of the Board of Control should be dovetailed, and that there should be officers from the one on the committee of the other. I gather that that recommendation has been accepted in its entirety by the Secretary of State for Scotland and that effect will be given to it. The right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors have had in recent years to represent the Department of Education for Scotland, which has grown up haphazard. It was supposed to be controlled by a Committee of the Privy Council, although that committee has not met since 1913. In the Department of Education for Scotland "My Lords" were in fact a distinguished civil servant. I think I am right in that statement. It has needed a very strong-minded Secretary of State for Scotland to alter an answer on an educational question put by a Member of this House when the answer was drafted in the Department for Education. That has disappeared. We did not suggest anything in our report to remedy the fantastic situation in which a Secretary of State for Scotland sits 400 miles away from the land he governs, like a Pooh-Bah in the town of Titipu, in his own person invested all the business of the State, administering and governing Departments which he never sees.
§ Mr. Johnston
The Secretary of State for Scotland requires a permanent undersecretary. That is essential, because not only has he four major Departments, but he has about 100 other sub-departments which he never sees, and I question whether he knows of their existence. The words used in the report were that there was a vast nebulous area of territory round about those four Departments. and 1855 that the Secretary of State for Scotland required continual advice, help and assistance of one kind or another. We also recommended that he should get an assistant Parliamentary Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman omitted to tell us why he did not accept that recommendation, and I wish he would tell us. It was a recommendation that the Government should appoint another Parliamentary Secretary to help the Secretary of State for Scotland to do his job. It is a physical impossibility for one man to do the job. I speak in the presence of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Pollok and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) when I say it is physically impossible for one man to be Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Health, Minister for Education and Minister for local government and of all the 130 sub-departments represented in that way. He cannot do it even with an assistant, even with the Lord Advocate, even with the Solicitor-General, or even by borrowing somebody from some other Department as they do in the House of Lords. Cannot the Secretary of State tell us why the Government turned down the recommendation?
§ Mr. Colville
The right hon. Gentleman has indicated that reference was made to this matter in the report, but it was not made as a specific recommendation. A note in the report actually said that it was not a specific recommendation. The committee drew attention to the matter and expressed the view that the Secretary of State was very hard-worked, and naturally I will not dissent from that view. I will say that the committee's view, expressed as an observation, has been carefully considered, but the creation of an additional Parliamentary Under-Secretary is not felt to be justified in the present circumstances. Further consideration of the matter is not precluded, after experience has been gained of the new arrangements contemplated. I make that statement and I can go no further to-day, but I draw attention to the fact that the committee did make that as an observation rather than as a specific recommendation, and that, none the less, I shall have regard to it.
§ Mr. Johnston
I would bet the last penny I possessed that that carefully 1856 phrased piece of nothingness was devised in His Majesty's Treasury. The Secretary of State for Scotland said that he would not dissent from the statement that he is rather a busy man. He is learning the language. We have a record by one of his predecessors, Lord Alness, at a time when there was far less work in the Scottish Office than there is now. Lord Alness said that in the course of one year he kept a record which showed that he had made 55 journeys between England and Scotland in one year. He received 200 deputations, he had his Cabinet and his Parliamentary work and he had to write 10,000 memoranda, although not in the course of one year, but in his period of office as Secretary of State for Scotland. The only thing he did not tell us was how he filled up his spare time. One thing about Lord Alness was that after this experience he came to the conclusion that there was only one cure for the situation and that was Home Rule for Scotland. I am debarred from discussing that matter here to-night, unfortunately. Incidentally, other Secretaries of State for Scotland have come to a similar conclusion.
§ Mr. Johnston
If the hon. Member with his legal knowledge would take up the cudgels on our behalf we should be obliged. I assure him that I spent some time battling to have regarded as proper and legal an Amendment which I put upon the Order Paper on that matter, but I had to take it off and we had to put down another Amendment of a much less precise and specific character. I hope it conveys the general sense of what we on this side mean when we say that the proposals of His Majesty's Government on this matter are inadequate. It is no use simply criticising and giving out no concrete suggestions. In 1930–31, I remember, we started a system whereby we invited Scottish Members of Parliament to come to the Scottish Office on a particular day of the week, and I am not sure that sometimes we did not invite the whole of the Liberal party. Sometimes we took Members by area, the West of Scotland on one day, the East of Scotland on another and the North of Scotland on another. We brought the heads of all the Departments of the Scottish Office. The Members of Parliament asked any 1857 questions they liked, and got all the information that it was possible to give them, and we thought that to some extent that was of benefit to the Scottish people.
Even that meagre contact has disappeared. Some of my hon. Friends and I took a deputation to the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor about a year ago, for the purpose of asking him to examine a detailed scheme for a better use of the Scottish Grand Committee, and the then Secretary of State and his two legal colleagues promised to give careful and sympathetic examination to the proposals. A year has elapsed, and we have not heard what the result of their inquiries has been. I am not at all surprised. I am certain that neither of the three gentlemen concerned has the time to make a detailed examination of any proposed alterations in machinery which would make the government of Scotland a little more democratic and a little less bureaucratic, and bureaucracy on a magnified scale is bound to grow in Scotland unless we can take steps quickly to bring the people of Scotland more into a position of control over their own affairs.
I am not going to disobey the Ruling of the Chair, and, accordingly, I shall not attempt in any way to discuss what might be called devolution, or Scottish Home Rule; I hope that on other occasions we shall have the privilege of doing that; but I would put this point to some of our English colleagues who are listening to me now. They are not many. Sometimes on Tuesdays, when Scottish Members are asking questions, there is on those benches a delusion of the kind which was fostered by Dr. Johnson when he said that the noblest prospect the Scotsman ever had was the sight of England from over the Border; but what are the facts? I took the trouble to go into the Library and consult the Census. The last Census, that of 1931, showed that in London, with a population of 4,390,000 persons, there were Scots-born people to the number of 54,673. That is a large number, but if you take the whole of Scotland at the same date, with a population of only slightly more, namely, 4,842,980, there were more than 168,000 English and Welsh-born people in Scotland at the date of that Census. If one cares to look at the previous Census, to see that this is not a misfit in some way, that it is not due, perhaps, to Admiralty work or something of that kind, one sees that in administra- 1858 tive London the Scots-born population at that date was 49,788, while in Glasgow alone—not in all Scotland—there were 41,601 persons of English birth; that is to say, there were almost as many English men, women and children in Glasgow as there were Scots-born people in London.
These are facts, and they have to be faced. What we desire is less bureaucracy and more democracy. We desire in Scotland a closer approximation of the governors to the governed. Things cannot go on as they are. It is impossible. Since I entered this House in 1922, I have asked over 100 questions, raised the matter on the Adjournment, gone on deputations, written letters, made speeches, and pestered successive Secretaries of State for Scotland, to get one area—an area which I know well—drained of flooding. It has taken me from 1922 to 1938 to get something done upon which everyone—Secretaries of State, officials, the Farmers' Union, the local authorities, and everyone else—is agreed, and which will bring thousands of acres of good land into cultivation. I agree that it is being done now, but it has taken 16 years to get a thing like that done. Every Department is the same.
I conclude by saying that I know, and the right hon. Gentleman knows, and half-a-dozen other Members in this House know, how Scottish legislation is promoted. The Secretary of State and his friends agree on a dozen courses of action that are proper. They convince their colleagues in the Cabinet, their draft Bills are taken before the Home Affairs Committee and polished up, and then the Secretary of State goes to the Chief Government Whip. The Chief Government Whip says, "You will only get Parliamentary time for this Bill if you will come back and assure me that the Opposition will agree to it. Otherwise I cannot afford the time." There are more days for Spain, more days for Trinidad, more days for Newfoundland, more days for China, more days for all the world, required year after year in this House, and there is less time for home affairs, so that the only Measures that are brought forward are Measures that are pretty nearly non-contentious, that are agreed to by all parties.
I hope I have kept faithfully within the Ruling of the Chair. I have not referred to Scottish Home Rule. But I say that 1859 it is up to the Secretary of State for Scotland, it is up to us, it is up to Members of all parties while there is yet time, and before a new Sinn Fein movement occurs on our northern frontier, it is even in the interests of English Members of this House, to make democracy efficient and to make it work. It is up to us to devolve the functions of this House and to see that the people who are governed have a closer share in the management of their own affairs. We have the present state of frustration, hopelessness, and almost paralysis that is growing upon all Scotland, and the only suggestion that can be made is for a sort of commissar to take away local government. We ask that that state of affairs shall be swept away and a new hope and new opportunities opened before the people of our land.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
The Secretary of State delivered a characteristically impressive speech in introducing this Bill. If he will allow me to say so, I think the speech was a great deal more than worthy of its theme, and a great deal more than worthy of the audience which listened to it. The Bill is a useful Bill, but it is only a little Bill. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) that it is quite incommensurate with what we know to be the clamant needs and requirements of Scotland. But on the whole, coupled with the centralisation of offices in Edinburgh, the plans for which we know are in hand, it will make for more efficient administration, and administration more directly under the vigilance and control of Scottish public opinion. I cannot get excited about it, and I do not think that anyone in Scotland is going to get excited about it. It will change things very little, but I agree that such changes as it will make will be changes in the right direction. Most of them, however, will be very small changes.
Both the Secretary of State and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling have referred, for example, to the reorganisation as it will affect the Scottish Education Department. The Secretary of State said that the organisation required overhauling, and both he and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling were very shocked at the 1860 fact that the Committee of the Privy Council which is supposed to direct and control the work of the Scottish Education Department had not met since 1913. It seemed to shock them very much, but it does not shock me at all. The public will find, and those who are acquainted with Scottish administration know perfectly well, that in fact the changes which are being made in the nominal control of the Scottish Education Department will not affect its working by one iota. Although it was nominally under the control of a Committee of the Privy Council, it was as completely and absolutely under the control of the Secretary of State for Scotland as any other Department in the Scottish Office.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
Yes; I am talking about the facts, not about theories. I am talking about the facts of the practical application of this Bill to Scotland, and how it will affect the people of Scotland, and I say that the overhauling which is alleged to be necessary will affect them not at all, and will not affect the relations between the Scottish Educational administration and the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State was just as much responsible to this House for each and every action of the Scottish Education Department as he was for the actions of any other Scottish Department, and this Bill will make no practical difference in that respect. Nor do I care much about symmetry. I like things that grow, and grow all kinds of different shapes, sizes, and colours. As the Secretary of State said, most Scottish Departments have grown in that kind of way, and I do not myself feel very enthusiastic about symmetry. Still I must confess that, cnce changes are being made, once a reorganisation takes place, then the logical case for reorganising the Scottish Education Department on the lines of the other three great Departments is irresistible, and this nominal change has to be made. I do not criticise the Secretary of State for making it; I think in the circumstances it was inevitable; but I say it is practically quite unimportant.
What I regret is the disappearance of the Fishery Board. I am afraid I may have said this before—it is the kind of platitude from which one must begin the discussion of a subject—but there is no country in Europe where fishing is so important to the economic life of the country 1861 as is the case with Scotland—with the possible exception of Norway. It is, therefore, vital, to my mind, that there should be an administrative organ which should devote itself to the affairs of this industry, and one in which the industry should feel confidence. The industry has had a very large measure of confidence in the Fishery Board in the past. There have, it is true, been difficulties in regard to its composition from time to time. There was the great difficulty of getting representative fishermen men of real ability who were sufficiently in touch with the industry to be real representatives. Such men were difficult to find, because if they were really in touch with the industry they wanted to remain in the industry and not to undertake the job of being members of the board in Edinburgh. But, at the same time, these difficulties were overcome, and, on the whole, the board did—and does to-day—command the confidence of the fishing industry. Under its present organisation, it was possible to draw into its service, as chairmen of the board, a succession of really remarkable men who have served the board, successive Secretaries of State, and Scotland well. I am afraid that under this new organisation it will not be quite so easy to get men of that calibre.
The Fishery Department is to be a branch of the Home Department. I am glad the Secretary of State has not made it a branch of the Department of Agriculture. If it is to be a branch of any of these four Departments, it is better that it should be a branch of the Home Department. I would also pay tribute to the Secretary of State for having retained the right of direct access for the head of this sub-department to himself. But, even so, the head of the new Department will not it seems to me, enjoy the status, even if he enjoys the same emoluments, of the present chairman of the Fishery Board, and I cannot think that he will easily get as good a man in the future. The members of the board itself work well together, they work as a team, and a purely advisory council can never fulfil the same functions as the board did. Presumably, it will have no executive functions at all, and I am afraid it will be difficult to get on to an advisory council men with the same qualifications and prepared to give the same amount of constant work to the problems of the fishing industry as those we have on the board at the present time. 1862 These men have executive power; they make their own agenda, they pursue branches of study—many of which, it is true, are indicated to them by the Secretary of State, but they make up their own minds and pursue the branches of study and lines of activity which they believe to be in the interests of the fishing industry; and I cannot help thinking that there will be a loss of power and influence and status to the new Department as compared with the old Fishery Board.
I agree broadly with what the Secretary of State proposes to do as regards the Board of Control. I agree both with what he said and with what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling said on that; but I am not sure whether he told us whether the chairman of the Board of Control is to be, as the Committee suggested, a civil servant.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I was called out for a few minutes during one part of his speech, and I missed that. I was going to enter a plea, if he had not said that, that the chairman should be a layman rather than a civil servant. I have a very clear recollection of the invaluable services which Sir Arthur Rose rendered in that capacity, and I cannot help thinking it would be a good thing if you could get a man of wide practical human interests, like Sir Arthur Rose, to be the head of a board which has the responsibility of deciding on the detention or release of mental defectives. It inspires confidence in ordinary people when the head of a board dealing with these vitally important functions is not a civil servant but an independent individual with these broad sympathies.
With regard to the liaison in London, I agree broadly with the proposals of the Secretary of State, and what is vitally important is that there should be flexibility. Anyone who has knowledge of Scottish administration knows that there are times, when an important Bill affecting Scotland is on the Floor of the House, when it is necessary to have a much larger number of officials from the Scottish Office here than it would be in normal times. I am glad to think that the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman will allow for the necessary flexibility.
1863 On the other hand, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling that it is a pity that the Crown Lands Commission and the Forestry Commission could not have been brought within the scope of the Measure. It seems to me particularly important that the work of forestry should be coordinated with the agricultural policy of the Government, and that the operations of the Forestry Commission in Scotland, at any rate, should be closely coordinated with those of the Department of Agriculture and be under the control of the Secretary of State. We have had instances in which the Forestry Commission, anxious to make the best of some estate which it has bought, in the interests of forestry, plants good wintering ground with trees. It does so because that is the best ground in which to plant the trees, not from any sinister motive or with the purpose of embarrassing the work of the Department of Agriculture. It takes the best ground for forestry, which is very likely the best wintering ground on the estate; and by taking that ground, it puts out of use altogether vast areas of hill grazing, which are useless without the necessary wintering. Therefore, I think there is a very strong case for breaking up the Forestry Commission, and handing over its duties in Scotland to a special Scottish Forestry Commission, co-ordinated with the Department of Agriculture and under the control of the Secretary of State.
I am left still a little puzzled by the explanation of the Secretary of State about the duties which will be discharged by the new Permanent Under-Secretary for Scotland. What is he going to do? I rather gathered, from what the Secretary of State said, that he was not going to advise the Secretary of State on any matter which fell wholly within the responsibility of any of the Departments. I would like to put that as a question. Is it quite clear that the new Permanent Under-Secretary for Scotland will not advise the Secretary of State on any matter which falls wholly within the responsibility of one of the major Departments? The new Permanent Under-Secretary is going to be a senior official, under the Secretary of State for Scotland, and the post will be one to which the heads of Departments may look for promotion. I cannot help wondering whether 1864 there will be enough for an official of this description to do. If he is only going to advise the Secretary of State on things which are outside his ordinary departmental duties, like his relations with the Travel Association or things of that kind, it does not seem to be work for which an officer of such experience and quality would strictly be necessary.
I understand from the report—and I ask the Secretary of State to correct me if he is not going to carry out the recommendations of the report in that respect—that the Permanent Under-Secretary will have the right to send for any files he wants. I wonder what files he will send for, and how he will choose what subjects he is going to interest himself in. Will it be that all files will come through him? I understand not; I understand that it will be only exceptional files, those which affect more than one Department or which do not concern any Department, or presumably the Secretary of State will have the right to refer files for advice to the Permanent Under-Secretary. I would like to ask, whether the Secretary of State will have the right to refer to him any files on which he would like his advice? It seems to me that either the Secretary of State will make a great deal of use of this new Permanent Under-Secretary, and the new Permanent Under-Secretary, being a man of great experience and senior to the heads of the Departments, will acquire more power in the Department, in which case he will become again that bottleneck which it has been the object of administrative reformers in the Scottish Office to remove; or, if he does not interfere, he will have very little to do to justify the emoluments that we shall have to vote for him.
The Secretary of State also said that there will be no Secretary of State's Department; but there will, after all, be himself and his own private office, and the Permanent Under-Secretary will be in the Secretary of State's Department with his staff. If he is going to have a considerable number of files to consider, he will have to have a certain staff. I do not know whether the Secretary of State has yet considered how much of a staff the Permanent Under-Secretary is to have. I should be obliged if the information could be given at the close of the Debate. What staff is the new Permanent Under-Secretary of State intended to have? Will 1865 he be, in fact, in control of Dover House? He will, of course, be the senior officer in Dover House, but will he have control over the liaison officers in Dover House?
It was said by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench that the Secretary of State is hard worked, that he has much more work than any man can do, and that, therefore, there ought to be another Under-Secretary of State. I do not at all wish summarily to dismiss the arguments in favour of another Under-Secretary of State. I agree that there are very weighty arguments in favour of such an appointment, but the fact remains that, if you appointed a second or even a third Under-Secretary of State, it would still be the Secretary of State who would have to bear the responsibility for everything that was done by each and by all of these Departments. The appointment of any number of Under-Secretaries of State would not avail at all to relieve him of that responsibility. It really is not so much a question of whether the Secretary of State is overworked, but whether the Under-Secretary of State is overworked. However much work the Under-Secretary of State does, the fact remains that the Secretary of State must keep his hands on everything going on in all these Departments, and he may at any time be called upon to answer in this House for anything and everything done by each of these Departments. In my short experience, deputations of important associations and local governing bodies and people of that kind were not very pleased if they could not get access to the Secretary of State, particularly on important questions of policy. Therefore, though I agree that there is a case which we should have to consider, as the Secretary of State said, after there has been some experience of the working of the new scheme for the appointment of a new Under-Secretary of State, I am not quite sure that it would have any very great effect in relieving the Secretary of State of the weight of his responsibilities and work.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling that this Bill is small and does not really meet the needs of Scotland, and that what is really demanded, in the interests of Scotland and Scottish public opinion, is a measure of Home Rule, 1866 which, as he said, we are not at liberty to discuss on this occasion. While I think that the Bill is inadequate, and while I think that nothing short of some measure of Home Rule is really what is required to improve the administration of Scotland, and while, therefore, I shall be bound to vote for the Amendment moved by the Opposition, nevertheless I agree that this is a useful little Measure. Although I have criticised it in detail, broadly speaking it is well designed, and I congratulate the Secretary of State upon introducing it.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Sir John Gilmour
I am indeed delighted to find that the work of a committee which was composed of representatives of all parties in Scotland has been accepted by His Majesty's Government, and we hope to see the proposals which we have made carried into effect before long. I appreciate the criticisms which have been made as to limitations and so on. One realises the fact, but anyone who, like myself, has watched the development of government in Scotland for something like 30 years, and who has been for a period responsible for the work of the machinery as it existed then, feels that this new machinery, if it is worked effectively, must be of enormous advantage to the welfare of Scotland and to a great variety of interests. We have all had our dreams of what we would like to see carried into effect and undoubtedly one thing has been the centralisation of offices in Edinburgh. Anyone who, like myself, has had to go round the Departments from time to time, has found immense personal and administrative difficulties because of the separation of those Departments.
We are now to have in the capital of Scotland a central office, with the controlling and administrative forces here in this Parliament and in the Scottish Office in Whitehall. The difficulties of getting information in the past have been great not only on the part of the Executive Minister here, but on the part of private Members, but above all—and this is a matter of importance—the difficulties of close administrative touch and consultation between the various Departments have also been very marked. Now you are going to have under one roof in the main, the whole of the administrative Departments, with small exceptions. As a Scotsman I am always glad to see 1867 economy where it can be achieved efficiently, but at the present moment, if you want to get answers and replies to questions for Members in this House you are dependent in the main upon the telegraph office, and you fail to get that close, intimate and immediate touch between some person here advising the Minister in Whitehall as to how he is to answer a question in a few hours or in a day's time. Now you are to have a private telephone available for purposes of consultation between those representatives of the Departments for liaison purposes here in London, and in effect you will be able to consult not only the immediate head of one Department but, if necessary, the head of another Department will be available.
In listening to the Debate to-day, I appreciate that those who are anxious about the position of the Secretary of State have put their finger upon the problem of his chief of staff. Anyone who has held the office of Secretary of State for Scotland will realise that it is inevitable that he should have someone available at short notice whom he can consult upon such matters as should be dealt with by a chief of staff. I entirely endorse what has been said, that the representatives of the heads of these four great Departments, whether it is agriculture or education or any other Department, should have direct access to the Secretary of State, but anyone who has knowledge of the past work in that office realises that there will inevitably be differences of opinion possibly upon matters of detail, and, in some cases, upon matters of great importance between one Department and another where their interests and their work may overlap. In these circumstances, therefore, it is not only right for the help of those who are heads of these Departments, but it is essential that whoever is Minister in Charge should have someone whom he can consult. That does not mean in any sense that the advice given by, say, the head of the Ministry of Agriculture shall be definitely overridden by this adviser, far from it. The responsibility inevitably and certainly must rest in the hands of the Secretary of State.
Mention has been made of the problem relating to the mental question. We felt very strongly that, whatever strength there was in the argument for the close 1868 affiliation of health and of mental defects, there was yet that one overriding question of the liberty of the subject. I have had the responsibility of dealing with these problems both in Scotland and in the wider area of this country, and I am quite clear in my own mind that, when it comes to a decision on this matter, it is inevitable that whoever is to give the final decision must have medical advice at his disposal. If we had accepted what I know to be the feeling of some local authorities in Scotland—the position that the Board of Control should be totally abolished and that the responsibility should be put upon the sheriff—it would have been an impossible position in which to put the sheriff, whether he was acting either in the Outer Islands or in a county in the South-West or wherever it might be, unless he could feel that he had a trained and efficient medical council to whom he could turn for final judgment on this matter. The sheriff no doubt has certain rights and privileges now, but behind all that, the individual and the general public have the knowledge that the Board of Control have a close and intimate knowledge and can act and investigate the cases, and it is essential that something of that nature should continue. I am sure that that is a position which even the sheriffs themselves would take up. I hope, therefore, that this proposal will be retained, because, while I realise that in the future fresh legislation on such problems as these may take place, I am looking at this matter from the point of view of the circumstances as we find them to-day and the necessity for the protection of the interests, not only of the individual mental cases, but of their relatives and friends.
I turn for a moment to what has caused some anxiety in the minds of those who are interested in the fishing industry. I have watched the administration of that Department and I am clear in my own mind—and I think that the Committee were clear—that it would have been a mistake, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) has said, to have linked up this Department with the Ministry of Agriculture. Not that that casts any reflection upon the Ministry of Agriculture. But I have felt, from the knowledge of the subject which I obtained from offices in Scotland and in England, that it would be desirable that this duty should be 1869 handed over to what we now call the Home Department. The Fishery Board has passed through various transitions, but the fact remains that the chairman of that board to-day is a civil servant. It is true that there are many Members of this House and of the public who have thought that they reached decisions on their own account, but the plain and patent fact remains that when it comes down to tin tacks, money and so on, the decision inevitably is in the hands of the Secretary of State. You have a board which is representative of the fishing industry in a variety of branches, and our feeling was that by retaining the chairman as a civil servant and adding an advisory council we should retain all the help and advice from the fishery interests.
If this scheme is worked as we hope it will be worked, it may even be found that we shall have a wider and more representative advisory board than we have at the present time. Frankly, the difficulty has been that there are differences of opinion between certain sections of the fishery interests. Those differences exist and I suppose it is inevitable that they should continue to exist, but it is also not clear that all these differing interests are at present represented upon the Fishery Board. If that is the case, the fishery interests may feel assured that by being placed under the Home Department and having a wise Advisory Board they will have the widest opportunity of having their different points put and considered.
I look forward to the working of this Measure with the feeling that many of the weaknesses from which we have suffered may be overcome. There is no doubt that the volume of work which falls upon the Secretary of State is very heavy, and I hope that in time we may see a second Under-Secretary appointed for Scottish work. The reason I say that is that the Secretary of State for Scotland must inevitably be here in Parliament. He must be able to attend the Cabinet if he is going to keep his side up when there are discussions upon problems, say, which affect the fishing interests. He must be able to meet those who are speaking for the fishery interests of England. He must be able to put the case of Scotland, whether it is on finance or any new legislation dealing with any of these problems. Therefore, with our centralised organisation in Scotland, we are going to make it much easier for the interests in Scotland, 1870 whether of local government, agriculture or fisheries, to have the right of access to the responsible officials of the Department.
It is equally certain that the Secretary of State cannot himself personally always be in the north, when things are going on here while Parliament is sitting. The position, therefore, demands that someone else with responsibility and knowledge should be available, and ought to be available, to go north at comparatively short notice and be able to attend conferences in Edinburgh. That is why I trust that the Government will accept the suggestion that we make. We realise that it was not perhaps definitely within the remit to us, but having heard all the evidence and having the intimate knowledge which some of us have through working in the Scottish Office, we felt that the time was ripe for the appointment of an additional Under-Secretary.
This Bill raises a very wide subject, and one feels that this new development may lead to fresh efficiency and the stimulating of a feeling in Scotland among all classes and ranks of people that this is really a Measure which will give greater efficiency in the Government of our country. I hope that it will be of great assistance to whoever holds the office of Secretary of State for Scotland. In these circumstances it is a great pleasure for me to support the Bill, and I hope the House will feel that, whatever its limitations may be, it is a matter on which we can agree and that we shall all wish the Bill to work smoothly and successfully.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
I feel a little diffident in entering into this Debate, which has been so far conducted by Ministers or ex-Ministers who have had experience in connection with administration in Scotland. I have only had the experience of going to Ministers and trying to get something out of them for my constituents. So far as I have been able to understand from a careful reading of the report of the committee and listening to the speeches to-day, I must confess that I cannot share the anticipations of the right hon. Gentleman that this Measure is going to lead to new efficiency in our Scottish administration. So far as I can gather from the discussion, the Bill will give formal legal sanction to what is pretty much in existence at the present time. It really confers legislative sanction 1871 on present practice in our Scottish administration. It may be that it does a bit more. It may be that there is dubiety as to whether an office boy really belongs to one Department or to another Department. Under this Measure it will be known whether that office boy is in the Home Office or in the Department of Education.
As regards the Measure conferring some new power upon the people of Scotland, it is absolute nonsense to suggest that it will introduce any great changes in our administration. My reason for intervening is to impress upon the Secretary of State that our difficulties in Scotland have not been due so much to the fact that the present administration has grown up and is somewhat unsymmetrical, but to the fact that the Government of our country is very largely conducted here. It is not the administration that is at fault so much as the fact that the real power is here, and that the wishes and the needs of the people of Scotland may be very largely thwarted by the fact that that power is in this Chamber and in the hands of a majority of people who represent English constituencies.
I do not want to transgress the Rulings, in view of the warning given to me by my hon. Friend above the Gangway, but I would press on the Secretary of State that he should set up either a Royal Commission or a Departmental Committee, with wide terms of reference, to consider the better government of Scotland and the necessary changes that should be made to provide for the improvement of our conditions. The various interests that are alarmed with regard to the circumstances of our people would be able to go to that committee, and the Secretary of State could be advised by that committee after it had considered the representations made to them by the various organisations in Scotland in regard to the better government of the country.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The hon. Member has gone about as far as I can allow him to go on that point.
§ Mr. Stephen
I have great respect for your Ruling, and I realise that this is an administrative Measure and a question of machinery rather than of policy. I do not want to transgress your Ruling, but 1872 I hope the Secretary of State, within the limit of that Ruling, will try to give me an answer to the proposal that I put to him before you called question what I was saying. The point has been raised whether the Fishery Board under the Home Office will be less effective than was the old board. I am inclined to prefer the Department, because hon. Members for Scottish constituencies have a greater control over a Ministry than they have over a board. The responsibility of a Minister for his Department is more direct than his responsibility for a board, because if a Department is not doing what it ought to do in regard to the interests of any particular industry with which it is concerned, we can come here and kick the Minister to our hearts' content, and get opinion going on the matter. There is possibly an advantage in the change in that respect. Many of the unemployed have been taken out of the purview of the Minister of Labour and put under the direction of the Unemployment Assistance Board. I think the unemployed had a far better chance when the Minister of Labour was directly responsible, and I think it will be all to the good if say the fishing industry is under the control of a Department.
When I listened to the right hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) making his plea for the old Fishery Board I thought of the state of the fishing industry in Scotland under the board. It is simply appalling; it is in a horrible mess. Whether the fact that the Fishery Board is under a sub-Department will make any difference, I do not know. The defects, however, are not so much in the machine as in the places where power really is. The great weaknesses have not been in the form of the machinery but in the Secretaries of State for Scotland, who have shown on so many occasions their comparative incapacity to stand up to their English colleagues in the Cabinet. I do not know whether it is their love of office, but they let their country down and do not get the things which ought to be obtained for Scotland. I do not know that the present occupant is much worse than some of his predecessors.
§ Mr. Stephen
I am not in the least bit enthused about this Ministerial adviser, this nosey-parker as the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) described him, 1873 which the Minister is to have. In a sense he has an individual like that at the present time. There have been occupants as Permanent Secretaries and Under-Secretaries, men like Sir John Lamb or Sir John Jeffrey and others, and presumably there is going to be the same office under the new machinery. But as I see it there is this difference. These Departments in the future are going to be more definitely Departments with effective heads than was the case when Sir John Lamb and Sir John Jeffrey were recognised as the heads. In the future that will not be the case, and I can see the head of a Department saying that he is the head of the Department and going to the Minister and saying, "You have listened to Mr. So-and-So. I told you that it was necessary we should take this line but instead of taking the advice of your responsible head you have taken other advice." The Secretary of State will say—if it is a question as to the boundary between the Education and the Home Department—"Do not get excited. The other Department has an interest in this and I have to take account of the view of the Department in the interests of good government."
I can see many difficulties arising, and if the new proposal is to be effective it will become effective only by this new Department becoming a separate supervising department; in spite of all the warnings given in the report of the Committee. The Minister would have been better advised, having decided upon this change in administration, to have had sufficient belief in himself, sufficient self-respect, to make up his mind that he was capable of taking a decision on the advice tendered him by the heads of the respective Departments without the interposition of some clever member of the Civil Service who is going to be there behind him as the real power behind the Throne. I want to see the Secretary of State for Scotland with such self-respect that he himself is going to be the government of Scotland, the head of the department, and not some civil servant such as is contemplated in this machinery. The fact that the present occupant of the office is willing to put into this Measure this individual shows that he has not the strength, he does not consider himself as having the ability, that he is not likely to be an individual who will be able to face the English 1874 members in the Cabinet and see that Scotland gets a square deal.
The needs of Scotland are greater to-day than ever before. The drift of industry to the South and the utter incapacity of the Scottish Office to deal with these matters, show that there is a very pressing need for a strong Secretary of State who will realise that we are reaching a position when definite steps must be taken on a more extensive scale than is proposed in the Bill. In fact, they are only office-boy alterations that are proposed in the administration of Scotland. That is practically all that the Bill amounts to, but I hope the Secretary of State will take heed and see to it that a committee is appointed which will go into the whole needs of Scotland and put before him and the country proposals which will enable us to deal comprehensively with the better government of Scotland.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Barr
This is one of a series of Measures which we welcome, a series of Measures which always excite new expectations, Measures which we cannot oppose as they may be of considerable benefit in the matter of machinery and administration, but Measures which do not really grapple with the greater problems of the government of Scotland and the administration in Scotland. I remember the first of these series of Measures when a new title was given to the Secretary for Scotland, as he was then known. He was raised to the status, which carried with it new emoluments, of Secretary of State for Scotland, and in the Press of Scotland high expectations were held out that this would solve all the impending problems in Scotland, and that there was no need to advocate any further schemes of devolution or dealing with the government of Scotland at all. These exectations were held and were put forward on various grounds, but really nothing happened. The next stage in this legislation was when Boards were replace by Departments; that was in the Reorganisation of Offices (Scotland) Bill, 1928, and again a rather rosy picture was drawn of its effect. It was said that it would promote efficiency, that certain economies would be obtained, and that it would give a new interest to the whole subject of administration in Scotland.
I do not deny that greater efficiency has come, or that some small economy 1875 may have been effected, but I must say that no new interest was created in the people of Scotland by the change from Boards to Departments. Many of them knew nothing about it. One thing it did, it concentrated greater power in the hands of the Secretary of State. It gave him great powers to appoint secretaries and officers and inspectors and servants of all grades. Here again we have a Measure which does not relieve the heavy burden which lies on the shoulders of the Secretary of State. It concentrates more powers in his hands. Indeed, the Secretary of State may now use the language used by King James VI in 1607, when he wrote here in London:This I must say for Scotland, and may truly vaunt it. Here I sit and govern it by the pen; I write, and it is done; and by a clerk of the Council I govern Scotland now—which my ancestors could not do by the sword.A Measure like this does not make history; it is not even pretended that it is put forward as a bold or great development in the administration in Scotland. A former Secretary of State for Scotland went down to Callander while he was in that office, and dealt with the suggestion which has been referred to to-day, that greater power might be given to the Scottish Grand Committee and that its meetings might occasionally be in Scotland. The answer which he made in his speech on that occasion was that he must have time left—time which could not be taken up with further meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee—to get in touch with opinion in Scotland and to make contacts with the people, and he used these words:It is a movement of the spirit, a movement of inspiration, we need in Scotland.That was said by the late Secretary of State for Scotland. We do not get a movement of the spirit in these proposals, however excellent they may be. Some hon. Members will recall the description which Thomas Carlyle, when the French Revolution was proceeding, gave of the Prime Minister of France. Carlyle said:And now nothing but a solid phlegmatic Monsieur de Vergennes sits there—Perhaps "solid phlegmatic" may not be applicable to the present Secretary of State—in dull matter of fact, like some dull public clerk; in him is no remedy, only clerk-like despatch of business according to routine.1876 With all respect, I think that in this regard we may say of the present Secretary of Statein him is no remedy";and of this Billonly clerk-like despatch of business according to routine.Certainly, we value the proposals as far as they bring the Secretary of State in closer touch with public opinion in Scotland. That was emphasized more than once by the right hon. Gentleman. He spoke of contact with local opinion, of moving along with Scottish public opinion, and of getting in close touch with the opinion of Scotland. That is all to the good. There has long been a demand for closer touch. I will not attempt to go beyond your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, by showing how strong that demand has been from all sides of the House, but I was very much struck by a memorandum issued in connection with the Speaker's Conference appointed on 4th April, 1919, to deal with the congestion of Business in the House. That memorandum was prepared by the Right Hon. Ronald McNeill, and it gained great force from the views that he held in regard to these questions of government. He said:It was quickly made evident that, so far as Scotland and Wales are concerned, at all events, no scheme would be acceptable which failed to satisfy the sentiment of nationality.Yet more interesting, in connection with the proposals that have been brought before the House in regard to the Scottish Standing Committee, was a memorandum prepared by Mr. Murray Macdonald—who represented Stirling Burghs, I think—in which he dealt wtih that very proposal. He dealt critically with it, for the proposal was, as is the present proposal, that the Members of Parliament representing Scotland should add this work in Scotland to their present duties in England. As he said, they were to do a double shift; and he made the argument that, as that work was bound to expand, it would be physically impossible for them to carry it out. I am all in favour of having such an experiment tried, but I believe that in the end it will only show the need of what, in the Amendment, is described asmore far-reaching measures.It has been said several times during the Debate that the present system cannot go on; it gets worse every year. 1877 Reference was made by my right hon. Friend, in moving the Amendment, to the fact that it is physically impossible for the Secretary of State fully to discharge the many onerous duties that are laid upon him; and my right hon. Friend referred to the experience of Mr. Munro, who was Secretary for Scotland, and who is better known now as Lord Alness. He made a pronouncement in the House on 16th April, 1920. I will not quote that part of it in which he showed how, in all parties, there had grown up the desire for what is known as Devolution or Scottish Home Rule; but he went on to consider the difficulties, and he showed how the opinion had grown on him that:The endeavour by the Minister to control a number of Boards "—now Departments—which are situated 400 miles from London, in addition to discharging the ordinary Parliamentary and Departmental duties which fall to his lot here, involves a task of difficulty which no one who has not had actual experience of it can comprehend."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April, 1920; col. 2069, Vol. 127.]It is by consulting the opinion of Scotland, by consulting the opinion of a country such as Scotland is—as will be now more fully done, but not, as the Amendment says, done to the full—that one finds that talisman and enchanter's wand for the rule of minorities or of countries that are in alliance and in cooperation, and incorporated with a country such as this. In 1927, when I was passing through Australia, in Granville, New South Wales, an Australian said to me:We need no argument in Australia to convince us not merely of the utility but of the absolute necessity and inevitability of every nation managing its own affairs.To that I would add only one tribute, which I dare say might be confirmed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The Very Reverend Dr. Morrow, Moderator of the Irish Presbyterian Church, speaking of what had taken place in that country, both in the North and South, said:It had to be admitted that the expectations of the most optimistic had been more than realised. One had only to take a motor run through the country to see the improvement everywhere that had taken place in Irish agriculture.During the War, much was made of the position of small nations. Mr. Asquith declared that the sword would not be 1878 sheathed until the rights of the smaller nationalities of Europe were placed on an unassailable foundation; and in the Statement of the War Aims of the Allies, on 10th January, 1917, it was said that they sought:the organisation of Europe on the basis of respect for nationalities, and on the right to full security of liberty and economic development possessed by all peoples small and great.They professed the faith of Goldsmith—States of native liberty possessed, Though very poor, may yet be very blest.As the War went on, those small nations and their rights fell on evil days, because of military exigencies, because of the departure from avowed principles, because of the jealousy of the Powers themselves, because of the desire to penalise the enemy and vivisect his country. In recent days, they have fallen into still more dire misfortunes, for the policy of the dictatorship States has been to bring—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is now going far beyond the question of the reorganisation of Scottish Offices.
§ Mr. Barr
I apologise, Sir. I simply wanted to make the point that there does not seem to be a glimmer of thought in these countries that it is by consulting the public opinion of the country and seeking to act in concert with it—as the Secretary of State said—that one finds a happy co-ordination of government. I close by saying that these things will not always be. In a settled world, dominated by law and right, the smallest peoples, whether existing by themselves or otherwise, will be able, as Mazzini said:to place their stone on the rising pyramid of human progress.Given a Measure such as this, given that further advancement that is foreshadowed in the Amendment, our country of Scotland will more worthily be able to place her stone—yea, I would say her many stones—on the rising pyramid of human advancement.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
The hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mr. Barr) gave us the benefit of his wide and almost unique reading when he reminded us of a quotation in which there occurred the words:The despatch of business"—
According to routine, if you like. He appeared to use that phrase to belittle the value of this Bill. But surely its chief purpose is just to expedite the despatch of business. No policy can be advanced or carried out without there being an efficient machine with which to do so. Hon. Members on all sides of the House recognise that the present machine is, I will not say chaotic, for that would be an exaggeration, but is certainly archaic, spread over a number of buildings scattered about Edinburgh and London, some of them being very uneconomic and inefficient places of business. It is a machine which has caused a great deal of unnecessary delay and duplication. Of course, this is a small Measure, but it is a very important small Measure, and I welcome it without any hesitation. I would like to join with those hon. Members who have offered compliments to the Secretary of State, to the right hon. Member for Pollok (Sir J. Gilmour) and others who took part in framing this Measure. It will be something worthy of Scotland to have this great new building on the Calton Hill and to see our offices assembled there and working according to the most modern methods. If my right hon. Friend could adopt a suggestion which has been made by myself and others, and add to that magnificient new edifice, an official residence for the Secretary of State for Scotland, that would make it a still more attractive proposal.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) experienced as we are all experiencing, a good deal of difficulty in speaking to his Amendment. I would like to say a good deal upon it, but I recognise the limits which you, Mr. Speaker, very properly, have laid down. I find myself drawn a good deal to the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment, but for reasons somewhat different from those expressed by him. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) said that there was a widespread feeling in Scotland in favour of Home Rule. I think that is a completely groundless suggestion. I cannot see more than a minute fraction of the Scottish people who are 1880 desirous of Home Rule, in the ordinary, accepted sense of the term, at the present time.
I am stating my own opinion. I take as an illustration of the truth of what I say the number of votes cast for those candidates in recent elections, who have stood for a Home Rule policy. On that basis, it is plain to any unprejudiced man that Scotland does not want a Parliament of its own with all the paraphernalia associated with such a body. On the contrary, Scottish opinion condemns as unnecessary and undesirable what is commonly known as Home Rule. But that is not to say that there is not a considerable demand in Scotland for what the Amendment callsmore far-reaching measures…for the better administration of affairs in Scotland.I think any Scottish Member would agree that that is so. We are all of one mind on that question. Therefore, I feel very much disposed to support the Amendment, while still being wholly in favour of the Bill. It is not possible for me on this occasion to develop any constructive arguments of my own on that point, but, since the question of the Scottish Grand Committee has been mentioned, it is perhaps permissible for me to comment upon it. I am much interested in the suggestion for giving more work to the Scottish Standing Committee. I myself put forward that proposal in a memorandum to the late Secretary of State, but I see difficulties in the way. One of the difficulties is that of time. All of us serve already on many committees and, with the best of good will on our part, we would find it exceedingly difficult to devote further attention to committee work. We all recognise that the Secretary of State and his junior Ministers are already overwhelmed with work. If they were required to attend further meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee it would be asking the impossible.
I am criticising my own proposal and I admit that I have now less confidence in advancing it to the House. But let us, at least, as has been suggested, have a more effective sounding-board for Scottish opinion than is now available. Let us, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling create something more democratic and less 1881 bureaucratic than the existing system. I would submit this proposal to my right hon. Friend, that he should give an opportunity once every year, say, for a week before this House meets, for all Scottish Members to gather in Edinburgh in the historic precincts of Parliament Square, to discuss Scottish affairs publicly in Scotland. That is not Home Rule, but that is giving Scotland what, I think, it urgently wants, namely, a chance to declare its needs, in public, in a properly organised assembly. Our complaint about the present state of affairs is that we have not sufficient opportunities of doing so in this House. Nobody is to blame, because this House, every day and every week, is adding to its responsibilities. I ask my right hon. Friend with the greatest friendliness seriously to consider that proposal. Perhaps it would be going too far to say that his predecessor was sympathetic towards it. At all events, he did not turn it down, but he left office before his mind had been made up upon it.
Reference has been made to the possibility of appointing an additional Under-Secretary. The Committee did not recommend that step, but they brought the proposal to notice and contented themselves with offering it as a suggestion for consideration. We can consider it with the greater freedom in this House because if another Under-Secretary were appointed, he would probably be in another place and therefore none of us is personally involved in the matter at all. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness rather pooh-poohed the suggestion on the grounds that it would not relieve the Secretary of State of any responsibility. I admit that was a fair point to make. But it would relieve the right hon. Gentleman of a vast amount of work and trouble. He has now, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling said, about as much as he can do.
That is true, but if the right hon. Gentleman had another assistant in his office, I am certain that Scottish business would be dealt with more effectively and more quickly. There are delays now which distress all of us. We do not blame anybody. The Scottish Office is not capable of doing better, but there are delays, and decisions are constantly being postponed. That is only because the staff 1882 and the organisation are not there. I am one of those who support strongly and with confidence a proposal that a further Under-Secretary of State should be appointed.
Something has been said about the Fishery Board. The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) said it was a good thing that the Fishery Board should become part of a large Department. I recognise the strength of his argument. Departments are up to date, and boards are somewhat old fashioned. That argument was put with great force by the Committee. But this Fishery Board is a little different from most boards. The fishing industry, as has often been said, is a vital industry in Scotland, and it lives round the Fishery Board. The Committee themselves found that the industry and the public placed the greatest confidence in the board and its officers and they say that the independence of the board is greatly valued. It is true they have one or two criticisms to make, but as I read the report, the bulk of the evidence was in favour of maintaining the Fishery Board. I propose at the appropriate stage to put down an Amendment to maintain the status of the present board. I am not saying now that I intend to press such an Amendment to a Division, because I am in two minds about it. I see the case for a change, but the right hon. Gentleman did not develop the argument on that point and the Lord Advocate when he speaks later may not have time to develop it. I propose to put down an Amendment in Committee in order to raise the issue, so that we may understand exactly what is meant by this change and what safeguards are to be provided for the interests of the fishing industry.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland suggested that the Forestry Commission should be included in one or other of these new Departments. I know that the activities of the Commission have caused a good deal of distress in the Highlands. I know that they have taken land which was thought by many to be unsuitable for forestry and which might, more appropriately, have been kept for sheep. I wonder whether we might have an answer upon this point. I was under the impression that the Department of Agriculture and the Forestry Commission cooperated closely and consulted with each other before any land was purchased by 1883 either body. My recollection was that the Forestry Commission did not purchase sheep land without first consulting the Department of Agriculture. If that is not so, it should be so, and I hope we may have an answer about it. I conclude by saying that the right hon. Gentleman has done a service to Scotland. The democracies are accused of failing to adopt the efficient modern and businesslike methods of the dictators. To-day we are answering that charge by developing, as best we can, modern methods and I wish this Bill and the organisation which it sets up every success.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
I welcome every opportunity in this House to raise questions affecting Scotland and the new arrangements proposed in this Bill will certainly attract the attention of the inhabitants of my native land to this House to-day. I find that in the year which is just about to close, three days have been devoted in this House to the discussion of Scottish affairs while foreign affairs have occupied about 20 days. If the new arrangement brings the Scottish Office into closer contact with the Scottish people, I shall welcome it wholeheartedly, even though the Secretary of State may require an additional Secretary, which means extra expense. I never quibble about paying a man who renders useful service, and if the appointment of an additional Secretary means that Scottish business will be attended to better than it has been attended to in the past, then it will be worth thousands a year, and Scotland will not grudge it.
If I am not out of order in doing so, I wish to draw attention to the fact that during this year I visited 32 places in the islands of Scotland, and out of the 32 found only 15 capable of approach. It was impossible to enter the other 17. The piers have gone to rack and ruin; in some cases it was only at the risk of his ship that the captain could enter and, even where he could enter, the passengers were only able to land at the risk of their lives. The Scottish Office have been aware of these facts since 1936. Attention has been drawn to them time and time again. I wish to mention the following nine places as those which most need attention: Bunessin, Coll, Struan, Elgoll, Soay, Leverburgh, Carnan, Kallin 1884 and Scotvin. Leverburgh was established by Lord Leverhulme, and if it were any other place in the British Empire, or even outside the British Empire, which individuals were in the habit of visiting questions regarding it would be raised in this House. I told the Secretary of State about it in July and he promised me that he would visit the places. I asked him not to go on a cruiser, as the rest of the Secretaries and Under-Secretaries had done.
§ Mr. Colville
I went in a cruiser and visited a certain number of places. I landed, with the aid of the cruiser's picket boat, at places which could not otherwise be reached and which were not formerly reached.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that statement, but I still have to get word of the slightest indication of anything being done because he has gone there. Has he made any move? Has he given these people any encouragement? When I think of the conditions in stormy weather, it is a disgrace that the Scottish Office should be doing nothing to assist that hardy, intelligent race, which is being driven out because of the conditions that exist.
§ Mr. Colville
The hon. Member will be aware of one project, the joining of Benbecula with South Uist by a bridge and roadway. The problem of access entered there largely because Benbecula has no port of any size whereas South Uist has a considerable port. That is a measure which will help the islands considerably.
§ Mr. Westwood
Does the question of transport come under any of the schemes of reorganisation that are proposed, or is it not a fact that bridges are provided by the Ministry of Transport?
§ Mr. Kirkwood
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the interest that he has taken in the matter, because the Highlands and Islands are deeply interested in this question. In fact, they are more alive to what may possibly happen as the result of the reorganisation of the Scottish Offices than the Lowlands are. The reason will have to wait for another time, but I ask the Secretary of State, when 1885 considering piers and slipways, to consult those who by experience know the right place, because time and again piers and slipways have been put down in ridiculous places. I hope we shall get this Measure through because everyone seems to be satisfied that it is going to be beneficial to Scotland. I remember one occasion when we sat in Westminster Hall discussing a great extension of Glasgow, which should have been done in Edinburgh, as I understand will be the case in future. Yoker was mentioned in connection with the taking over of the Rothesay Dock, and the chairman spelt it out and asked if he had got the name right. All Scotland realises perfectly well that Englishmen in general are not in a position to judge Scottish affairs and they have no right to be judging Scottish affairs. Look at the situation to-day. We are discussing something that is vital to Scotland, and Scotland is vital to the British Empire. The benches are empty. That is the respect that is paid to Scotland. There are seven regiments of the British Army in Palestine defending the interests of the British Empire, and five of them are Scottish regiments, and this is how we are treated. Millions are voted for Palestine and nothing for Scotland. We may get more attention paid to Scotland, if this Bill passes, than we have got in the past.
§ 7.7 P.m.
§ Mr. Leonard
I have listened with extreme interest to the explanation given by the Secretary of State with regard to the help to be given to the Permanent Secretary in determining points of difference that may arise between the four organisations to be covered in the Bill. The report lays down quite specifically that:It is of the essence of the scheme which we contemplate that nothing should be allowed to impair in any way the responsibilities devolving on the four secretaries for the administration of their respective offices.I have always been an advocate of being able to locate responsibility when matters of difficulty arise. When I turn to a later page, I have not the assurance that the paragraph that I have read gave me, because there I see the following assertions. First of all, it says:The whole purpose of the arrangement which we suggest is to detach the Permanent Secretary from the actual administration of the Departments and, if provisions such as we 1886 have indicated are made, we consider that there need be no danger of the emergence of a new controlling secretariat.An earlier passage on the same page says:We have indicated that minutes will not be addressed to him as a matter of routine by the heads of Department, but this will not preclude these officers from informally seeking his advice"—that is, seeking the advice, not of the Secretary of State, but of the Permanent Secretary—and it may be anticipated that when occasion arises they will readily avail themselves of the opportunity of doing so.Again, with reference to the Permanent Secretary, it states:He should be able to call for departmental files or, subject to the approval of the head of the department concerned, arrange for the preparation of memoranda by officers of the department regarding questions with which he is dealing.I am rather afraid that, by ringing the changes on this to me seemingly contradictory position, he will be able effectively to be a substitute for the Secretary of State himself and, because of that, I do not take kindly to the position with regard to the Permanent Secretary as laid down in the report and as explained by the Secretary of State. I am rather inclined to the view that the custom will grow that, as the four secretaries of the defined Departments gain familiarity with the Permanent Secretary, they will go to him as the easiest and perhaps the more intimate contact for guidance in their difficulties, and that in my opinion is not desirable.
We are informed that under the new scheme there is to be a secretary for what is now to be called the Home Department, there is to be one for education, one for health and one for agriculture. In previous years I have made endeavours to protect what I looked upon as what should be the status of the Secretary of State, and I directed to the proper authorities certain questions which disclosed that there is only one official of administrative rank up to the present. These four Departments are going to have functions of such importance that we are entitled to look upon them as being suitable material for the appointment of administrative as against executive grades. If they are appointed from administrative grades they can be taken from Scottish officials at present functioning there and, if that is not possible, they 1887 should be drawn from Scottish universities. Another question dealing with the personnel of the higher staffs of the Civil Service makes it clear that the administrative sections are taken in the main from Cambridge and Oxford. If I remember aright, there was only one taken from a Scottish University, or perhaps two.
Apparently the Home Department will include within its jurisdiction the Fishery Board and the Prisons Department, and the Secretary of State was quite right when he said that those Departments had in their teaching the well-being of 5,000,000 people, but I do not think that that covers all the interests of the people of Scotland. Why is it not possible to consider the most clamant and outstanding need, that industries should be protected and co-ordinated? You have a Trade Development Council which has prepared a report dealing with afforestation—a report which will be taken up and considered by a Scottish Department under the new scheme. But there will be no department capable of dealing with iron and steel. There will be a section of the machinery now in building to deal with agriculture, but there will be none to deal with shipbuilding. There will be a point to which you can direct fishery problems, but none to which you can direct problems dealing with, for instance, the textile industry, one of the most important things in Scotland, especially as we anticipate Highland industries coming to the fore. Then there are roads and electricity, but these have no point in Scotland to which you can direct your attention, and, in my ouinion, there are other factors in the well-being of Scotland which should have a specific Scottish point of administration to which to direct their problems.
§ Mr. Colville
Is the hon. Member suggesting that the Minister of Transport should hand over its duties in Scotland to the Scottish Office, and the Board of Trade the same, that there should be a Scottish Board of Trade, or is he suggesting some other point of contact in connection with these Departments in Scotland?
§ Mr. Leonard
I say definitely that I should have Departments with specific duties; that there should be in Scotland, 1888 for instance, a Department of Trade specifically looking after Scottish industry as such. If the right hon. Gentleman directs his attention to other countries, he will find there that the Ministries of Trade are fast becoming the most important offices in those countries, and if that be the case elsewhere, I am of the opinion that the Board of Trade in England has too wide interests to be able to bother about considering the difficulties of Scottish trade and commerce. Therefore, I am of the opinion that an effort should be made in the future to see that Scottish trade shall have a Department of a Scottish character to attend to these Scottish matters.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to support the Amendment, although we cannot discuss its wide ramifications. An administrative Bill of this kind cannot be considered as an abstraction but must be considered in the light of the conditions that exist in Scotland at the present time, as the previous speaker has said, not just in the light of the conditions in the agricultural or the fishing areas, or the health necessities of the people, but in the light of the full economic, social, and cultural life of the people. These have all to be taken into account when we are considering this administrative Measure, and the Secretary of State knows, as does everyone else, the deplorable conditions that exist in district after district in Scotland. The housing conditions, the mass unemployment, the malnutrition, the diseases among children—all of these things have to be taken into account when we are considering a Measure of this kind. The new building that is dealt with in the report is, we are told, built on the Calton Hill, but it is actually built on the site of the old Calton Gaol. The old Calton Gaol was the most depressing and deadening institution that ever existed in Scotland, and this new Government building is built on its site.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Will there be a change? That is the important thing. Will this new building continue the depressing, deadening character that the old building had? The mere fact that you have clean stone and that the rooms are to be used for other purposes does not mean that there will be a change of spirit and character, and I am very much concerned 1889 about it, because when you take these Departments into account—the Departments of Health, Agriculture, and so on—there is an enormous field of work for them, but will they have the necessary freedom to carry out that work? Reference has been made to the Permanent Secretary—the brake on the wheel. It is quite possible, and very probable, that this Permanent Secretary can be responsible for deadening everything in the new organisation in Scotland. You have these various Departments, the Health, Agriculture, Education, and Home Departments. What an enormous amount of work they have to do, and what an enormous expenditure of energy and of cash there must be, if they are to overtake the problems that confront them in carrying out their administrative duties; but when they undertake duties that will necessitate an expenditure of energy or money, they will have to come to the Secretary of State.
Will any Member in this House, or will the Secretary of State, or will the Under-Secretary get up and tell us that it is possible to visualise a situation in which, when the head of a Department wants to go on certain lines in advancing the work of his Department and the welfare of the Scottish people, this Permanent Secretary will advise that the Department should go farther? The Permanent Secretary on every occasion will advise caution and going slowly. As a matter of fact, with this Permanent Secretary, as has been pointed out already, the Secretary of State ceases to be a Secretary of State. I interjected, while the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) was speaking, that the right hon. Gentleman would be a Faust. He will be a Faust with a very evil counsellor continually at his ear, whispering "Go slow; you are going too fast." In no circumstances will you ever find this Permanent Secretary advising the Minister that the Departments are not going far enough or quickly enough, and I say that this substitution of a Permanent Secretary standing between, as he must stand between, the Minister and the heads of the Departments is very dangerous.
Take the report of the Committee. Here you have an effort made by a Committee that is anxious to advise on the administrative work of Scotland, but as the right hon. Member for West Stirling 1890 (Mr. Johnston) says in his note to the report, it is unfortunate that the terms of reference were not much wider and that they had not an opportunity of dealing with much bigger questions. But within the terms of reference, what do we get? We get an effort made to reorganise the Departments, and that is very good in itself, but the report says:The Minister, therefore, will normally be separated by 400 miles from his responsible advisers.After making that statement, the Committee do the fanciest piece of roller skating that I have ever witnessed, getting all around and about that question all the time, dodging the fact that the important thing, if this institution in Scotland is to be alert, active, and really progressive, is that it is not a Permanent Secretary here, holding back the Minister, that is wanted, but it is a Minister who can be as often as possible at that institution, in continual consultation with the heads of the Departments and by that means seeing to it that everything possible is done to develop these Departments and to encourage them in carrying out the great mass of work that must be allotted to each of them. I therefore suggest that in dealing with this Bill on Committee we should try to get Amendments, first to eliminate the Permanent Secretary and then to ensure that the Secretary of State shall be as often as possible in continual personal association and consultation with the heads of the Departments, his principal advisers.
The Committee goes on to talk about the new methods, the much easier methods, of communication, but it has to admit that even with the telephone and the various other methods of communication, there is nothing that can equal or compensate for the loss of personal association between the Minister and the heads of the Departments. Therefore, I would call attention to this as the essential factor, if this new administrative change is to be carried out effectively. I am sorry that we cannot discuss the ramifications of the Amendment, because I believe that at present there is a big opportunity for making a very big step towards Scottish Home Rule, a new step in the devolutionary process much bigger than this, but I am sure the administrative changes can only develop as you want them to develop if, instead of a Permanent Secretary who will be a brake on the wheel, we have the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1891 continual and close association with the heads of his Department.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Mathers
The Secretary of State, in introducing this Bill to-day, indicated that in his judgment it was a Bill which was part of a process of evolution. He also made the claim for it that it carried out big administrative changes. I want to say, with regard to his statement that it was part of a process of evolution, that the usual opinion with regard to evolution is that it is a purely natural process and a process that is very slow. In human affairs we should not require to depend entirely upon purely natural processes, but we should be able to assist and accelerate that evolution. With regard to his statement that big administrative changes will be effected by this Bill, I must say that, from my reading of the Bill, a Bill which covers six pages of text relating to the Measure itself and another six pages of a Schedule indicating what Acts of Parliament will be amended and set aside in certain respects, I do not see that this Bill will carry through any great administrative changes.
I am sure that the speech with which the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill to-day will read well, and that if anyone does not read between the lines it will make it appear as though this were a big step forward in administrative changes in Scotland. The discussion that has already taken place, even under the limited conditions laid down in the Debate, has followed the lines to a great extent of what the right hon. Gentleman experienced when he brought before the House his last Bill dealing with housing. It was introduced with an indication that it was of great importance and would make great changes, but before it had survived its Second Reading and Committee stages the criticisms levelled against it had made it look very small. The experience with regard to this Bill is of similar character. In reading this Bill I came to the opinion that the word "bureaucracy" is writ very large in its pages.
I almost feel inclined to apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for the crudeness of the interjection that I made when he was speaking about the Permanent Secretary. I made the suggestion that he would be one who would make up the mind of the Secretary of State. What I had in mind 1892 was that, having seen administration carried on and taken part in it in a small way, I know what happens when someone comes into a position such as that which will be occupied by the new Permanent Secretary. Such an official becomes to a great extent the keeper of the conscience of the person who is nominally in charge of the Department. This new Permanent Secretary will build himself more firmly into the administration than the Secretary of State could hope to do, because before very long he will be transferred to another place. [HON. MEMBERS: Oh!"] I am not entitled to make mention of the House of Lords in this House, but that is the place to which I am referring. The Permanent Secretary will be the person who will get built into the administration, who will set up and guide the traditions that will become in time binding upon future Secretaries of State. Secretaries of State change, but permanent officials continue, and they will make their presence felt in the conditions that will be created by the reorganisation under this Bill.
It was good news to hear, because of certain suggestions to the contrary, that that large and, as we hope, handsome building on the Calton site will house the whole of the Departments for which it was intended. When that building was contemplated I put a question to the First Commissioner of Works asking whether there would be provided a chamber in which Scottish Members of Parliament could meet as a Scottish Parliament to consider matters concerning the welfare of Scotland. I was told that that had not been contemplated, and I am afraid that before that change comes, as it eventually will, we shall require to have another building or to use a building which we have at present and which will serve the purpose. May I ask the Lord Advocate whether the name of the building on the Calton site has been decided? It is near a railway station, and I suggest that it might be called Waverley House. That would bring a great Scotsman once again into prominence and it would be an appropriate name for the building.
I have wondered why the Secretary of State did not have more confidence in the Scottish Members and did not take his opportunities more seriously and cause this Bill to go much further along the road of administrative efforts that will be beneficial to our country. He must have forgotten, if indeed he ever 1893 learned, that a Scotsman's middle name is "dependability." Surely he knows that, and when he is preparing for some of the Burns' orations that he will no doubt be delivering during January, I commend him to go and get chapter and verse for that statement in a poem that was written by Robert Burns to the Scottish Members of this House. I am sure the words will be familiar to him:Auld Scotland has raucle tongue;She's just a devil wi' a rung;An' if she promise auld or young to tak their part,Tho' by the neck she would be strung, She'll no desert.We all know the dependability and reliability of the Scot once he has made up his mind. I consider that is an appropriate quotation to make in the House at this time, because it was written when Robert Burns was able to describe the Government of his day asYon mixtie-maxtie, queer hotch-potch, the 'Coalition'.I support the Amendment that has been moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston), and I would have been willing to support the much stronger Amendment which he wished to have discussed. The Secretary of State has missed the opportunity in this Bill of doing much for Scotland that would have removed many of the disabilities from which we suffer. Why is it that in Aberdeen we sometimes find it impossible to have fish? Why is it that in Aberdeenshire we find it impossible to get the best beef that the county provides? Why is it that in the Lothians and the Border country we cannot have the best mutton, and that in Oban we cannot get the lobsters that are caught near there? It is because of the London market. I want to see the Scottish administration guiding these things into channels that will result in their consumption in Scotland.
It is not only products of that kind that the London market absorbs. When we look at that part of London which may to some extent be called the hub of the city—Trafalgar Square—what is the most prominent thing we see? Is it Nelson's Monument, or the National Gallery, or the Spire of St. Martin's Church, or the equestrian statute of Charles I? No, it is the advertisement of a certain product of Scotland that was born on a certain date and is still going strong. When we 1894 come to London and to this House we have to thole a thing like that. The Secretary of State might have taken the opportunity of this Bill to relieve us of some of these things. When we come to this House we find ourselves having to understand quite a number of dialects that are foreign to us. We find on occasion Members, in particular on the Government side, whose erudition causes them to interpret things to us in Latin and Greek. The position in which many of us want to be is such that we can have our deeper feelings and our illustrations expressed in the homely language of our own country. In listening to some of these contributions to the Debates in this House it is "whiles ill to bide." At home in Scotland we have to thole much more serious things than that.
There is nothing in this Bill to prevent our having to endure these disabilities. There is nothing that will stop the drift of industries south. There is nothing that will accelerate house building, that will provide more work, that will resist the ravages of deer over a great part of Scotland, or that will preserve the land of Scotland for the production of more food. There is nothing that meets the land hunger which is represented by thousands of unsatisfied applications for small-holdings.
§ Mr. Mathers
I pay all due deference to your Ruling, but I am afraid that what you have done is simply to puncture my peroration. I have nearly completed my list of things that this Bill does not do. The last item is one that is connected with my own constituency. I do not see the possibility in this Bill of assisting us to build the Forth Road Bridge. The right hon. Gentleman has already claimed some credit for work carried out by the Ministry of Transport, and here was an opportunity, if he is entitled to make such a claim, to provide himself with a great chance, Above all, there is nothing in this Bill to help us in the attack upon poverty. I think that the Bill, while it does take us one step along the road, a long road, towards greater freedom for the Scottish people, will not be looked upon by historians as a very big step along that road, and there is much that we still have to do before we shall 1895 have the freedom to look after our own affairs for which we are striving.
§ 7.45 P.m.
§ Mr. McLean Watson
I cannot hope to emulate the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) in eloquence and enthusiasm, nor can I quote poetry in the same way as my hon. Friend. He is an adept at that sort of thing, but I must confess that it is beyond me, and I must confine myself to prosaic and mundane affairs and to a short discussion of the matter that is under consideration. We have had an interesting discussion in which two ex-Secretaries of State for Scotland and one Under-Secretary of State have taken part, and they have given us the benefit of their experiences in the Scottish Office at various times. Some things have become very clear during this discussion. One is that those who are in charge of Scotland's affairs are very much overworked and that something must be done to speed up the machinery of government in Scotland. The first thing I want to do is to welcome this Measure, not so much for what is in it as for what has caused this Measure to be introduced. A new building is being erected on Calton Hill for the housing of all the Scottish Departments, and that is a desirable thing. Those of us who have had to go to the Departments in Edinburgh have never felt any pride in entering any of them. I think the most respectable is the Department of Agriculture. Of the others, none is impressive either from the outside or the inside. Whether it be the place in Princes Street, which has one single door as an entrance, or the place on the Grass Market, none of these places is suitable for the Government Departments in Scotland.
Every Scotsman or Scotswoman will welcome the erection of the new building on Calton Hill, whatever it may be called. There has been some little discussion in Scotland over the naming of it. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow has suggested a name which I had not heard before—Waverley House. I do not know whether it is because he served for a time in Waverley Station when associated with the railway. I have seen it suggested that it should be called Scotland House, or Edinburgh House—there are plenty of names. Perhaps the Lord Advocate will take us into his confidence to-night and tell us what the 1896 building is to be called. However, we are all pleased that it has been erected, because it is high time that the various Government Departments in Scotland were housed in one decent building in Scotland.
From both sides of the House I have heard speeches suggesting that great things will accrue from the passing of this Measure. Frankly, I cannot see that any great things will accrue. What we are discussing is a piece of machinery, a slight change from the machinery which has been governing Scotland up to the present time, and that is all. There is no proposal that new powers should be vested in those who are to administer affairs in Scotland, no provision for any additional expenditure for the development of Scotland. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) that greater powers ought to have been given to the Scottish Office than are contained in this Measure. As he rightly pointed out, there are functions performed in Scotland by the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Transport which properly should have been handed over to the Scottish Office. As my hon. Friend the Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Leonard) pointed out, there is a provision for Scottish fisheries to be kept under the control of the Scottish Office, and for agriculture being kept under its control; but there are other important industries in Scotland which might just as correctly have been placed under the administration of the Scottish Office. It is just because in some bygone day Scottish representatives recognised in fishing and in agriculture two industries which ought to be specifically mentioned as requiring the attention of the Scottish Office that some attention is given to them by the Scottish Office. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) referred to his sympathy with our Amendment, but did not say that he was prepared to support it in the Division Lobby.
§ Mr. Watson
I am glad to hear that the hon. Member has made up his mind to support the Amendment, because I agree with him that much more should have been done in a Measure which is supposed to deal with the more efficient government of Scotland. He said that more work ought to have been given to 1897 the Scottish Standing Committee and that at least once a year it should assemble in Edinburgh, if only for one week. He did not indicate what the Committee would be discussing during that' week. There is one matter of Scottish administration which has not been mentioned and to which I shall refer in passing, and that is the Committee which deals with private legislation procedure. Unless that was the subject to be discussed by the Scottish Standing Committee I do not know what subject they should discuss when assembled in Edinburgh.
I intended that the Committee should discuss all Scottish subjects which they thought relevant.
§ Mr. Watson
If the Committee were to discuss all Scottish subjects that were relevant they would require to sit in Edinburgh for much longer than one week. The Committee appointed under the Scottish private legislation procedure occupies a week in discussing one Provisional Order, one subject affecting one burgh or district in Scotland. The hon. Member for East Fife would have to be a little more explicit about what he regards as suitable work for the Scottish Standing Committee when meeting in Edinburgh before we could agree to such a proposal. I should like to see the Scottish Standing Committee meeting in Scotland not for a week but for two or three months to discuss purely Scottish affairs, and to discuss them in detail. As my right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling suggested on one occasion, even the Scottish Estimates could be discussed in some detail in the Scottish Standing Committee.
I do not intend to take up time in discussing the question of the Permanent Secretary. Personally, I have no great feeling against a Permanent Secretary being appointed. It may be a good thing to have a Permanent Secretary, provided that he does not usurp the position of the Secretary of State, because if there were any danger of that such an appointment would not be for the good of Scottish administration. But I have no particular objection to there being a Permanent Secretary, a man to whom the Secretary of State can turn for consultation and advice because I am prepared to admit that the Secretary of State cannot possibly of his initiative and industry acquaint himself with all those details of his office on which he needs to be informed, and a 1898 Permanent Secretary could be a useful part of the machinery of government in Scotland.
As I have said, I look upon this Bill as simply another piece of machinery. Scotland will not be very much affected by what we are discussing this afternoon. There will be no improvement in the Highlands and Islands, and we shall still be indebted to a body of private gentlemen, the Scottish Development Council, for looking after the industrial and commercial development of Scotland, indebted to those private individuals when steps ought to have been taken to ensure that the Scottish Office would play a very much larger part in dealing with the industrial and commercial status of Scotland. We welcome the Measure, but I look upon it as mere machinery, and why my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) expects that we shall have great developments because of a mere change in the governmental machinery is more than I can understand. Unless we find the Scottish Office able to wring more money from the Treasury, the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs will go many more times to the Western Isles before he sees much change there, and the crofters of the Highlands and Islands will still find themselves in the same position as they have been in for years and years, receiving an annual visit from the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary and usually getting promises of what will be done on their behalf, but left with little or no improvement in their position. We are not opposing the Bill, but we regard it as only a slight improvement on the methods which have been followed up to the present time.
§ 8.0 p.m.
I listened very attentively to the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I trust that all hon. Members who heard it will have taken note of the reasons he gave for bringing forward this piece of legislation. I would draw particular attention to his discursive statement of the chaotic conditions in Scottish administration up to the present moment. He told us that the Scottish Secretary was bound to be 400 miles away from Scotland, that the various Departments in the administrative machinery of Scotland had grown up haphazard but that they were nevertheless efficient—probably he meant with a haphazard efficiency. I talk as one who 1899 has had a fair share of the haphazard efficiency of the Scottish Office since I came to this House. The right hon. Gentleman also stated that the Scottish Departments, in their own haphazard way, had managed to fill the bill, but because reorganisation was demanded he was introducing a Measure that would meet the desires of the majority of the people.
This Measure is not one that meets the desires of the Scottish people. It is a Measure to try to stem the ever-growing volume of criticism against maladministration of Scottish affairs from this House of Commons. It is merely a sop thrown to that ever-growing opinion that something must be done to have Scottish affairs discussed adequately and efficiently and with real knowledge of the needs of the Scottish people. What does our Scottish Secretary suggest? That instead of the haphazard arrangement that we have had in the past, instead of officials being 400 miles away, four Departments should now be established in Edinburgh. The main recommendation of the Committee is that the functions of the Scottish Education Department, the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture and the Prisons Department, that is, the Home Department taking in the Fisheries, should be run by permanent, not elected, officials, with no responsibility but to the Secretary of State.
I would be glad if the Secretary of State accepted responsibility for those Departments, but he is not doing so, because, along with those things, he is also appointing a permanent official. My hon. Friend said that he had no objection to a permanent official being there to advise the Scottish Secretary because he believed that that official might be able to tell him what he did not know and advise him of things of which he was not aware; but Scottish local authorities, such as the county authorities in Scotland and other important Scottish bodies, do not want to meet permanent officials of the Government. They want to meet the man in charge of affairs. No permanent official will be able, or should be able, to satisfy those sections of the Scottish community who desire to consult the Scottish Office and its head with regard to their administrative duties.
1900 It is, therefore, very interesting to consider the flourish with which this Bill has been introduced. I read an article in the "Glasgow Daily Record" some time ago in which a correspondent spoke of this Bill as a great legislative step towards self-government for Scotland. He spent about 500 words in the article showing how the Government were at last dealing with this great problem of giving to the Scottish people a great democratic measure of self-government. He went on to say that the Conservative party had at last taken up this question and were pushing it far more quickly and efficiently than did the Labour Members, who had apparently dropped it. He must have been some correspondent, or else he must have been asleep or must have known nothing of the efforts of hon. Members on this side of the House to obtain a measure of self-government for Scotland; or he must have been completely ignorant of the organisations which we have set up in Scotland, because of the dissatisfaction of the Scottish people, to try to force the Scottish Office to give us a Measure that would at least give to Scottish Members of Parliament a reasonable amount of time in Scotland in the discussion of Scottish affairs.
In answer to a question of mine, the Secretary of State said that this Bill was not a question of self-government for Scotland or of giving to the Scottish people an administrative Measure that would enable them to deal with their own affairs. We have never asked that we should interfere with the affairs of other people. We have never asked for complete separation from the Imperial Parliament. We have never asked that we should ignore great national questions that concern the peoples of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales. We have asked only for some reasonable Measure to give us a better method of dealing with our own Scottish affairs, such as the conduct of our Fisheries and other Departments. That has been denied to us.
Let me examine the Bill as it is to-day. It is interesting. Scottish Members may feel rather ashamed that the Secretary of State for Scotland, after many years of Tory Government and many Tory Secretaries of State for Scotland, should make an admission that the affairs of Scotland had been so badly managed in the past that they are in a condition of chaos. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the 1901 Board of Education, over which he had no control, being looked upon only as a vice-president, was under a Council, the last meeting of which was held in 1913. He made many references to the disgraceful state of Scottish administration. When a Minister makes such an admission, after all the years of government of that party and after all their control of Scottish affairs, I am entitled to ask why their own Minister has had to admit failure. The reason he gave was that we were at last removing that state of affairs by bringing in a great piece of legislation. His exact words were that this was the greatest piece of legislation for dealing with Scottish legislation that had been brought in since 1885. Mark you, this is the greatest piece of administrative legislation for Scotland since that time; then, if we read at the bottom of the explanatory and Financial Memorandum we will see these words:It is anticipated that the extra provision in consequence of the Bill will not exceed £5,000 a year.So, after the Minister's admission of the completely chaotic condition of Scottish administration he says: "We are going to deal with all this with a great piece of legislation, but it will not amount to more than £5,000 a year."
That is the reason why this Bill means nothing to the Scottish people. The permanent official who is to be appointed as the Secretary of State's Faust is the man who will always be beside him to advise him on this question and on that; but how can he know more than the Secretary of State, the Under-Secretary of State, the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor-General? The appointment of this permanent official creates, as the Ministry of Labour has done, a buffer between the local authorities of Scotland and the organisations in Scotland who desire immediate and direct consultation with the Scottish Office. The right hon. Gentleman will be here, 400 miles away from Scotland, Scottish Members of Scotland will still have to assemble here, 400 miles away from Scotland, but the appointment of the Permanent Secretary is believed by some hon. Members to mean a great change in Scottish affairs.
Then we have the four Departments, who must consult the Secretary of State. It states here, regarding any recommendations they may make. 1902a provision in any Act, whereby the Department is required to submit a report to the Secretary of State and the report is required to be laid before or presented to Parliament, shall have effect as if it required the Secretary of State to cause the report to be prepared and to submit it to Parliament.So, instead of the Secretary of State, the Under-Secretary, or his staff as it exists to-day, submitting a report with regard to some of the items, we are to have a report made up in Edinburgh. It will be sent to the Secretary of State in London and, under the new machinery, the Secretary of State will consult his Permanent Secretary. After doing so, he will place the matter before the House of Commons and we shall discuss it as we have discussed such items before.
This Bill is a piece of bunk; it is a piece of window-dressing. It makes no change in the administrative machinery of Scotland but is brought in to meet the criticism of people who are demanding some measure of support for their ideas that any legislation on their behalf should be passed within their own area and with an understanding of their difficulties. I want to stress the point with regard to the missing out of the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Labour. I want also to say a word on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) who cannot be with us to-night. I desire to acquaint the House that my hon. Friend is detained in Edinburgh because of the illness of a very near relative. I think it is only fair to say that on his behalf, because he was very interested in this Measure as a representative of the Highlands of Scotland.
I want to know exactly what change the Bill will mean with regard to any schemes for the Highlands of Scotland. I received from the right hon. Gentleman himself a list of 16 or 17 committees, all dealing with Scottish affairs—Highland economic committees, Scottish Development Council committees, and so on—all in their own little way attempting to bring about some change in the conditions of the Scottish people. That is a chaotic condition of affairs. What is going to happen to those people in the Highlands and in the North of Scotland who will find it even more difficult to deal with permanent officials in Edinburgh, or a permanent official acting as a buffer between the Secretary of State and themselves, than to deal directly with the Department 1903 as it exists to-day? I regret that a complete sweep was not made of these small committees. We want a real change in the administrative machinery of Scotland—something that will give us, near to our own people, a reasonable amount of democracy in Scottish administration, with our Parliament easily accessible to the people of Scotland. We know that then Scottish representatives, who would not be 400 and 600 miles away, but near to their constituents, would not vote many times in the manner in which they vote to-day.
I want to stress the point with regard to the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Transport. In this House to-day you can get one set of figures with regard to Scottish unemployment from the Ministry of Labour; you can get figures from the Scottish Office with regard to Poor Law relief and people who have been swept aside from the Employment Exchanges; you can get figures with regard to the number of unemployed who are obtaining certain reliefs. You have to go from one Minister to another in order to get a fair idea of the dimensions of Scottish poverty, Scottish unemployment or Scottish housing difficulties. The same applies to transport problems, and nowhere is it more important that direct Scottish administrative action should be taken than in the Highlands of Scotland with regard to road transport, because the few people who are left in the Highlands of Scotland, due to the maladministration of this Government and previous Tory Governments, depend to a very large extent on good roads and decent accommodation in the Highlands for the tourist traffic that brings them their livelihood. But here again Scottish Members have to go separately to different Ministers and ask separate questions with regard to Scottish affairs.
If the Scottish Office were really in earnest in regard to bringing about decent Scottish administration, they would not stop at the door of the Treasury; they would not hesitate; they would not be turned away in order to retain their positions in the Cabinet. They would go to the Treasury here and say that, if a complete change, or a decent change, in Scottish administration is wanted, £5,000 a year is absolutely inadequate, and that, for the money which the Scottish people are paying to the national 1904 purse of Scotland, they ought to have more in return, they ought to have better administrative machinery. If the Scottish Secretary ever does that, he will have the whole-hearted support of Members on this side of the House who to-day merely look upon him as one who is trying to placate criticism that will not be met by this niggardly and futile Measure.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Westwood
The direct and immediate cause of the Bill we are now discussing is not an anxious desire on the part of the Government to reorganise the national administrative work of Scotland, but is directly due to the fact that the new building at Calton Hill is now nearing completion. While I have no enthusiasm for the Bill which has been introduced in the interests of Scottish administration, I am pleased that that building is nearing completion, for it will certainly make national administration in Scotland more effective and more easy. Anyone who has been connected with local administration will know the difficulties of getting in touch with the respective Departments in Edinburgh. It is not that there is any difficulty in getting into friendly contact with the permanent officials, because frankly, as an administrator, I have scores of times preferred to meet the permanent officials of the Civil Service in Scotland rather than meet their political heads, knowing that at all times I should get quite a fair deal from the Civil Service responsible for administration, when sometimes, if I had gone to the political heads, it might have been turned down at the very beginning. My experience of Scottish civil servants is that they are efficient, that they are able, that they know their job; and, if it were not for some of the political heads, Scotland would make further and greater progress, with a Civil Service such as we have at the present time. In trying, however, to meet those heads of Departments, one has had to go to almost all parts of Edinburgh. If one wanted to deal with the many problems connected with local administration, one had to go to the Grassmarket; for housing matters one had to go to George Street, for education matters to Queen Street, for health matters to Princes Street, and for agriculture to York Place; and, when people are giving voluntary service in local administration, it is just a bit too much strain to ask them sometimes to lose two or three 1905 days' work, as I have done in the earlier part of my career, in trying to give real administrative service in Scotland and to get in touch with these different administrative heads in these different buildings. All of this could have been done in a day or in half a day if all the Departments had been housed in one building, as they will be when once the Calton Hill building is completed. I do not welcome the Bill; there is nothing in it to get enthusiastic about—nothing that will really benefit Scottish administration; but I am pleased, as I have said, that at long last we are to have the administrative work of Scotland centred in one building, which will make things much easier both for national and for local administration.
The Bill provides for the appointment of a new permanent official, and during the Debate some doubts have been expressed as to the wisdom of such an appointment. In fact, the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) suggested that the new official was to be the go-slow adviser of the Government. Scotland has produced many geniuses—geniuses in literature, in art and in music, inventive genius, and genius in administration; but even Scotland will never be able to produce a genius that can advise this Government to go any slower than they have been going up to the present. I have no fears in that direction; it would be absolutely impossible to have more slowness in administration than the slowness that has been exhibited to the Scottish people during the last seven years.
§ Mr. Westwood
No; they have not even made a good job of going slow; they have got in the way of the oncoming tide. This Bill only regularises many of the things that are going on at present in Scotland. It does not revolutionise or improve administration in Scotland. Let me give a case in point. It is a matter which has been already referred to by the Secretary of State and by my hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson). Those alleged to be responsible for Scottish education have not met since 1913. They did very little between 1908 and 1913. The Education Act, 1908, gave us the foundation on which we are now building our Scottish educational system. That Act was improved by the 1918 1906 Education Act. Perhaps the fact that this body never met is the real reason why Scottish education has made such progress. If they had met they might have thrown something into the works. All that is being done now in connection with education in Scotland is to regularise what has been going on since 1913 at least.
The Bill merely proposes to continue, under a different head, if I may put it that way, the existing Departments in Scotland, including, unfortunately, the Board of Control. It does not make provision for Departments that could be of real value in dealing with Scotland's problems. For instance, unemployment in Scotland is greater than in any other part of the British Isles. The problem of trade is something that requires the greatest consideration, so far as Scotland is concerned. I do not want to see something set up merely because it would be a Scottish Department if it would create real difficulties in connection with British trade. But if it is possble to work the Department of Health in Scotland in conjunction with the Ministry of Health in England in connection with those things that affect the British people in common, and also to work the Department of Agriculture in Scotland in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture in England in the same way, why cannot the same thing be done in regard to trade? There are certain things that affect the British people in common, and they must be considered from a British standpoint. If I understand the scheme of administration, there are consultations between the head of the Department in Scotland and the head of the Department in England, and those things that are common to the British people can be adjusted and administered from the British point of view, while those things that can be best dealt with from the Scottish point of view are dealt with by the Department in Scotland. Surely there could have been a similar scheme devised for dealing with transport and for dealing with trade. We are merely stabilising Departments already in existence, but Scotland will not be satisfied until we get some other Department which can deal with purely Scottish problems. There is room in this Bill for a Scottish Department of Transport and a Scottish Department of Trade. That they are not provided for is one of the objections I have to the Bill.
1907 Also, the Bill continues the Board of Control. Special reference was made to this by the Secretary of State. He referred to a Departmental Committee on which I had the honour of serving for a few years. Surely, if we are going to deal with problems of administration we are entitled to take into consideration not only the evidence submitted to the Departmental Committee dealing with health services, but also the desires of the local authorities in Scotland. I have here a communication from the Secretary of the County Councils Association. He says:In the view of the Association, the General Board of Control for Scotland should not be continued as a separate body, but should be brought under the Scottish Office, in the same way as the Scottish Education Department is being brought under the Scottish Office by the Bill.He goes on to quote the Report of the Committee on Scottish Health Services. The Board of Control was set up in 1857. Surely Scotland and the world at large have made some progress in medical science and medical knowledge since 1857. Surely there is room for a different outlook in dealing with the mental diseases that unfortunately afflict so many of our people. That departmental committee did not take evidence merely from two medical men and the Departments directly involved. One has only to look at the Appendix in the Committee's Report, which gives a list of the medical men who gave evidence. They include no fewer than 70 of the greatest medical men in Scotland and England—the greatest physicians and the greatest surgeons. After we had listened for days to the evidence, we came to a unanimous conclusion, the only reservation being on the part of the representatives of the Civil Service, who naturally could not sign the report, because it was dealing with Departments with which they were connected. With that exception, there was a unanimous recommendation in favour of the abolition of the Board of Control, so that mental troubles and the work of dealing with mental troubles should be considered from an entirely different angle under the Department of Health.
Despite differences of opinion between the experts who deal with this problem, we were unanimously of opinion that the right way to deal with the problem would be to consider mental diseases as diseases, just as we consider physical diseases as 1908 diseases, to treat them as one particular problem, and, so far as national administration is concerned, to place the work under the control of the Department of Health. I am an unrepentant subscriber to that same point of view, despite the evidence which was taken by the Committee on Scottish Administration—which could not be so extended as that which we heard. I know it has been mentioned in the Debate that Professor Gray agreed to the report of that committee, but you have only to read the Note by him to appreciate the diffidence with which he signed, and to see all the qualifications and reservations that he has made. They appear on page 57 of the committee's report. Keeping all those facts in mind, I think the Bill might have been more comprehensive than it is. It could have dealt with the problems of Scotland more effectively than this miserable tinkering Bill we have before us.
Why should anyone who represents a Scottish constituency be thankful for a Bill of this kind? This is a farthing per head per year revolutionary Measure for the purpose of giving us these improvements in Scotland. I have done a little elementary arithmetic. I attended an elementary school and I left at 13 because I could not leave earlier. I have tried to divide the £5,000 a year, the financial provision in this wonderful Measure, by 4,800,000, which is said to be the population of Scotland, and it works out at a farthing per head per year. Government supporters seem to be quite well satisfied with the revolutionary proposals which incur the expenditure of a farthing per head per year for the purpose of giving us better administration in Scotland. This Bill will not do it. It is merely regularising things that are already being operated in Scotland. It will not enable Scotland to deal with its problems in the way they should be dealt with by Scottish people, and it does not give the improvements desired by the people of Scotland as far as national or local administration is concerned.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ The Lord Advocate (Mr. T. M. Cooper)
I take it that it is a fair summary of the last four and a-half hours' Debate to say that the only opposition that has been directed against this Bill has come from those whose sole complaint is that it is not a different Bill 1909 altogether. I think that that is a fair summary of the nature of the criticism that has been made, and I admire the agility with which one hon. Member after another has contrived to hover above the forbidden fruit of the topics which were ruled out by you, Mr. Speaker, as irrelevant to the discussion before this House. I cannot pursue these outside topics, and I do not propose to attempt to do so, but it occurred to me that, if Scotland has been the victim of the maladministration referred to so eloquently by certain hon. Members, and notably the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson), it is a little surprising to find, from the interesting figures supplied to us by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston), that _the people of England seem to be flocking to Scotland, and particularly to Glasgow, in increasing numbers and apparently finding within our maladministered borders a national home for refugee Englishmen.
I propose to devote the time at my disposal to a serious examination of the half-dozen points of difficulty which have emerged from this discussion and on certain of which some slight misconceptions prevail. I take the points in the order in which the topics have arisen in the course of the Debate. In the opening speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling, and in a number of subsequent speeches, including that of the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood), reference was made to the absence from the Bill of any provision for the absorption within the orbit of the Scottish Office of the functions in Scotland discharged by such ministries as the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Transport. If my memory serves me rightly these were the two Departments specially mentioned. [An HON. MEMBER: And the Forestry Commission."] There is a statutory provision, which, I believe, is strictly enforced—but the point has been noted—which requires the Forestry Commissioners, before they either acquire or sell land, to consult the appropriate agricultural Department. I believe that that is done, but I have not had an opportunity since the right hon. Gentleman spoke of verifying the point. However, I have noted it. There ought to be no room for the clashing and competition of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, and I 1910 hope that it is not the case. As regards the other two Departments—again my right hon. Friend notes the points that have been made—it is obvious to the House that I cannot express a view on such major topics here and now, but I suggest for the consideration of hon. Members that in dealing with the matter it is a little difficult to imagine a Ministry of Labour for Scotland and a Ministry of Labour for England by whatever name you call them, so long as labour and employers' organisations are organised on a basis which ignores these geographical limits. Hon. Members will see at a glance that there are many considerations which weigh on both sides of an argument of that kind.
Is the Lord Advocate aware that many employés' organisations have definite Scottish committees with powers?
§ The Lord Advocate
That may well be. I am not attempting to cover the ground more fully than merely to indicate that there is a major difficulty of organisation which would have to be faced before the suggestion which has been voiced could be made effective. Similarly with regard to the Ministry of Transport, I would only observe in passing, and I do not need to do more, that the organisation of our railways and indeed of our roads, is not on a basis which recognises a geographical division. The railways, as the House is aware, were reorganised in 1921 on a different basis altogether.
§ The Lord Advocate
Accordingly, from many standpoints, I leave the matter with the simple observation that there is a great deal to be said for the existing system as against the modification which was suggested by certain of the speeches which alluded to this matter. I cannot pursue that, and I pass on to three topics which bulk largely in the speeches of right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen. I take first the Board of Control, and in relation to that topic I am in a position of almost judicial detachment because the right hon. Gentlemen who opened for the Opposition supported the Gilmour Committee and the retention of the Board of Control, while his colleague who wound 1911 up the Debate for the Opposition supported the Health Services Committee and the abolition of the Board of Control. The position, therefore, is one which I might describe as Stirlingshire versus Stirling Burghs. As far as the attitude of the Government to the Committee is concerned, I would put it thus: This question has been anxiously examined by a very expert Committee, for whose deliberations and for the permanent records they provided of the history and development of our Scottish administration and institutions we are all very grateful indeed. It has been carefully examined by that body which entered upon the field with the Report of the Health Services Committee before them and which included in its numbers one member who was a member of both Committees.
Accordingly, the Gilmour Committee were in the position of an appellate tribunal reviewing with additional evidence a decision which had already been pronounced by another tribunal. As a result of that they reached a certain conclusion. Since the report of the Gilmour Committee the question has been examined afresh by my right hon. Friend, and while it is manifestly a question on which there are weighty considerations on both sides, my right hon. Friend has decided that the recommendation of the Gilmour Committee should be adopted. That is the view which has been embodied in the Bill, and on that the Government take their stand.
As far as I am personally concerned, I gave evidence before the Gilmour Committee on this subject, and I should like to say to the hon. Member who spoke last, who stressed very much the importance of this question in relation to the health of the mental defectives and the lunatics, that in practical administration one has to give the fullest possible weight not only to the liberty of the subject, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and the committee referred, but also to a consideration which is too often lost sight of, and that is the safety of the public. I mean the safety of those who, unfortunately, may fall a victim to the criminal or semi-criminal acts of those who are mentally defective or insane. Looking at the matter from the standpoint of the special experience that I have gained, I feel that the balance 1912 is in favour of adopting the course advocated by the Gilmour Committee, because this highly delicate and semi-judicial function seems to be more appropriate for a body such as the board of control than for a Government Department, or a Minister subject to special pressure and to other exceptional considerations which are not applicable in the case of the Board of Control.
As the House is probably aware, the substantive question of the statutory provisions relating to mental defectives and lunatics is being considered by a committee presided over by Lord Russell. They are at present actively engaged on that task, and I fully anticipate that as a result of the deliberations of that committee changes, possibly drastic changes, may be proposed in regard to the lunacy laws and the mental deficiency laws of Scotland, particularly in that portion of them which overlaps the field of criminal administration. With that possibility in view, I think the proposals of the Gilmour Committee regarding the Board of Control are particularly valuable, for it is very important that a body composed as they propose should be settled in the saddle before the time comes for examining and possibly legislating for alterations relating to the law affecting lunacy and mental defectives.
I now come to the question of the fisheries, and I should like to inform the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), who raised a question in regard to this point, that the status and salary of the secretary of the new fisheries division will be unaffected by the administrative proposals and the legislative proposals which my right hon. Friend outlined in introducing the Bill. One part of the report of the Gilmour Committee which I would stress, is that which points out that there is an optimum size for a Government Department. You may have a Government Department too big, and I think all of us have thought that that possibly has been the fault of some Departments which we could name, whereas others are too small, and that is the fault from which the Fishery Department has suffered. If you have a Government Department which is too small it may be incapable of gathering together the personnel and the experience which enable a Government Department to function efficiently.
1913 If I read the report aright, and if I judge from the expert advice which I have had the opportunity of studying, that is one of the main considerations which justifies the adoption of the proposals which the Gilmour Committee advanced in their report. When that consideration is looked at, alongside the other proposal to provide a Fisheries Advisory Council, I think the net result of the proposals now being embodied in the Bill will be to preserve all the advantages of the status quo, and at the same time to secure the prospect, I think the certainty, of increased efficiency and smoothness in administrative operations in the future.
Lastly, I come to the question of the Permanent Secretary, and I should like to stress what I think was not fully appreciated by certain hon. Members who addressed themselves to this problem. There are two considerations. First, there is and there has been since at least 1885 a Permanent Under-Secretary for Scotland. The hon. Member for Mary-hill (Mr. Davidson), if I understood his speech aright, indicated that, according to his conception, one of the provisions of the Bill was to introduce a permanent Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.
I stressed the Secretary of State's own words in regard to the chaotic condition of Scottish administration, and his assumption that bringing in this Bill will mean a wonderful change.
§ The Lord Advocate
I do not want to be drawn off by an argument across the Floor, but the hon. Member's reference to the chaotic state of Scottish administration or to any alleged admission by my right hon. Friend of the existence of such a chaotic state, must be due to some misapprehension. If the hon. Member is thinking of the fact that a theoretical Committee of the Privy Council presiding over Scottish education has not met since 1913, he has apparently failed to appreciate my right hon. Friend's real point, namely, that in form Scottish education was controlled by a Committee which never met, but in fact and in substance it was controlled by himself and his predecessors in office as Secretary of State for Scotland. I do not hesitate, in the presence of my right hon. Friend, to repudiate any admission on his part or on my part that the administration of Scotland either in that 1914 respect or in any other is in any way chaotic.
§ The Lord Advocate
What is haphazard about the existing state of Scottish administration are its accidental features, which arise from the historic growth and development of the system. If the hon. Member would take the Committee's report home to-night and read it he would find that in the development of our system we began with a system of boards, but they have all disappeared, except the Board of Control and the Fishery Board, and when this Bill has passed, the Fishery Board will have gone. What is haphazard about our system is its historical development. There is nothing haphazard about the system itself.
I am pleased to have the new definition of the Scottish Office of the word "haphazard." According to the dictionary it means "mixed up," and, therefore, I accept the Lord Advocate's statement that no Scottish Committees have grown up haphazardly. I should like to inform him that I have read the Gilmour Report—
The Lord Advocate has advised an hon. Member to read a particular report, and I think the hon. Member has a right to reply that he has read that report probably more fully than the Minister himself.
§ The Lord Advocate
I was dealing with the point that there has been since 1885 a Permanent Under-Secretary of State and that there is nothing in the Bill at all with regard to a Permanent Under-Secretary of State. That seems to be a point which some hon. Members have omitted. Whether the Bill is passed or not it will make no difference to what is purely a matter of internal domestic procedure. I should like to say, from my own experience during the last four years, how immeasurably valuable not only to the Scottish Minister but to the people of Scotland have been the services of the three gentlemen who during that time have held the position of Permanent Under-Secretary of State, and I think that view will be endorsed by all hon. Members who 1915 have come into contact with them. We are not dealing with the introduction of a new office, we are not dealing with a Bill which makes any provision on the subject at all. The question which the Gilmour Committee considered was what should be the precise position and functions of the Permanent Under-Secretary of State under the new regime which they contemplated will be set up.
On that question it is desirable, I think, to remember that there are certain vital and essential functions for Scotland which have to be performed somehow. For example, almost every day the viewpoint of Scotland as a whole has to be presented officially in London by someone capable of meeting on equal terms the heads of the great Departments in Whitehall. That is a point which anyone who has any inside knowledge of government will find no difficulty in appreciating. In the next place, the Secretary of State for Scotland, be he who he may, is entitled, in order that he may discharge his functions properly as the principal person responsible for Scottish affairs, to have at his right hand one of the most experienced and highly qualified civil servants the Civil Service can produce. Let me deal with the point put by the right hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) as to what will be the proper functions of the Permanent Under-Secretary of State as an adviser. Will he be entitled to be consulted upon matters affecting the Departments of Health and Agriculture and Education? I will answer in this way. The Secretary of State for Scotland, in my humble judgment, if he is worth his salt, as the present Secretary of State certainly is, will insist upon getting the best advice he can get from whatever source he cares to consult, and I cannot imagine any procedure or formula or rule under which any person in a Ministerial position would submit to be tied down as to the topics on which he may talk with his officials in his office.
According to my conception of the situation the Secretary of State for Scotland will be free to consult the Permanent Under-Secretary of State on all topics upon which the ripe judgment and experience of that official will be valuable. I think it will also be of immense advantage to any Secretary of State to have such an official at his side 1916 not only to guide and advise, but to free him to make those visits to Scotland upon which hon. Members lay considerable importance.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
This is rather important. The Lord Advocate seems to be presenting the Permanent Under-Secretary in a different guise from that presented by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State presented him as a new official, like the Permanent Under-Secretary contemplated in the Gilmour Report, but under the old name. The Lord Advocate is presenting him as an old official, the Permanent Under-Secretary, and I should like to ask him what will be the difference between the functions which will be exercised by the Permanent Under-Secretary of State under the new dispensation and those which were exercised under the old regime?
§ The Lord Advocate
The right hon. Gentleman, if I may say without offence, is wrong. I am not presenting the case differently from the Secretary of State. The vital distinction between the old regime and the new is that under the old regime, by which I mean the regime condemned by the Gilmour Committee, there was a tendency, I will put it no higher, for the Departments of Health, Agriculture and all the rest to be obliged to send all their papers through a bottleneck called the Permanent Under-Secretary of State, and they got jammed and held up. The vital difference between the old regime and the new is that that bottle-neck is abolished, and the heads of Departments can come into direct contact with the Secretary of State, but the Secretary of State, none the less, has at his right hand the Permanent Under-Secretary of State as chief of staff as adviser, who will also perform the further functions which I am in the process of indicating. The heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Education and Health will be under no obligation and will not in fact handle the ordinary administrative duties through the channel of the Permanent Under-Secretary of State. The Permanent Under-Secretary of State will be, so far as my information goes, something new according to Civil Service conceptions, as he will have no departmental functions in the ordinary sense of the term. He will have no Department for which he is answerable, he will have no duties such as those which 1917 are discharged by the heads of Departments in Whitehall. After drawing attention to the duties which he will not have to perform let me illustrate to the right hon. Gentleman the functions which under the new regime will fall to the Permanent Under-Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Stephen
Am I right in supposing that his functions will be pretty much the same as those of the Secretary to the Cabinet in relation to the Prime Minister?
§ The Lord Advocate
I have not the honour to be a Member of the Cabinet, and I do not know what are the functions of the Secretary to the Cabinet in relation to the Prime Minister. Therefore, the hon. Member must excuse me from answering his question.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Is this new Secretary, who is to act as a go-between between the Secretary of State for Scotland and the permanent officials, to perform the same functions as the individual who is nowadays appointed in the great industrial concerns—an individual who is above the managers and who is able to co-ordinate the different functions? I gather that the new Secretary will be above all the Departments, and will be able to act in a sort of judicial capacity, because he is above them, and that it is supposed that he will be better informed and more able than the average official at the Scottish Office.
§ The Lord Advocate
I think the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) is substantially right in the view he has stated, although he has a knowledge of industrial organisation which I do not claim to possess. I will give an illustration of the functions of the official under the new regime. Day by day an enormous amount of work necessarily has to be performed in co-ordinating and organising the work of the different Scottish Offices, so as to secure a single voice on Scottish topics. Very often that requires a very high degree of administrative skill and tact. The frequency with which that sort of thing arises would probably surprise hon. Members. I do not think sufficient importance has been attached to the consideration that, as was recalled in the Gilmour Committee's Report, there is a large number of functions and duties which give rise to problems of great intricacy and delicacy, and which do not come within the pro- 1918 vince of any of the existing Departments or perhaps any one of them. One example that occurs to me is the work which fell on the Scottish Office in connection with the Glasgow Exhibition last year; another is the work in connection with electricity distribution and hydroelectric development in Scotland; and a third is the work which will no doubt have to be done in connection with the recently-published report of the Hilleary Committee. Those are topics which spread far beyond the bounds of any one Department, and in some instances do not fall within the competence of any Department. I feel that there is here a field for the performance, by the best official that Scotland can get, of a very valuable and a very difficult service from which the country will derive the greatest possible benefit. I repeat that this is a matter of administration, and it is a matter on which my right hon. Friend proposes to act in a way which is well calculated to achieve the greatest advantage for Scotland.
There is already an official to do exactly that work. This is something new. Surely, a permanent official has done this work before. He is already established.
§ The Lord Advocate
I am afraid the hon. Member did not appreciate my argument when I explained the vital distinction between the old regime and the new regime. The Gilmour Committee's Report deals with that matter very clearly and at considerable length. Under the present regime, the Permanent Under-Secretary occupies quite a different position. He might become, if I may so put it, the bottleneck through which all the Departments have to operate. That bottle-neck is to be cut away. I am afraid I cannot make the matter clearer than that.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I do not quite understand one thing. There is an official through whom all important decisions pass to the Secretary of State, and of course that official is seized of all the facts. As I understand it, under the new regime, the different Departments will go directly to the Secretary of State, and consequently will by-pass the Permanent Under-Secretary. In what way will the Permanent Secretary be seized of the necessary facts to enable him to give adequate advice to the Secretary of State 1919 if he is asked to do so? Will he receive a collateral set of documents which will enable him to know all the facts, even though they do not pass through his hands?
§ The Lord Advocate
I am afraid I am not in a position to explain in detail every stage of office organisation for that is not within my province; but according to my conception, there will be no difficulty whatever in the purely secretarial branch of the Office in singling out those questions which are purely Departmental questions affecting one Department and passing through the departmental channels to the Secretary for decision, and those questions which are questions of policy requiring the check or assistance of the Permanent Under-Secretary of State. After all, my right hon. Friend and I are not laying down one of the laws of the Medes and Persians. This is an administrative topic which, as outlined to the House, has been criticised, and I am trying to reply to the criticisms. It is essentially an experiment, and I see no reason why it should not be varied in half a dozen different ways. As regards the project outlined by my right hon. Friend as being the principal administrative scheme of the Bill, I humbly submit that it is fully justified and should be tried out with every possible expectation of success. The hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) condemned the Bill because he said it is only a piece of machinery. I agree that it is a piece of machinery; it does not profess to be anything else; and the proper way in which to judge a Bill is to test it by reference to the purpose it seeks to achieve. It is a piece of machinery. A very apt quotation was given to the House by the hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mr. Barr) about theclerk-like dispatch of business according to routine.I suggest that if the administrative reforms which are based on the Bill enable
§ the business of Scotland to be carried out with a clerk-like dispatch according to routine, with the least possible friction and delay, the Bill will have gone a very long way, not to achieving the innumerable reforms which hon. Members sought to enumerate, until they were stopped, but to rendering a very real and useful service to the people of Scotland.
§ Mr. Leonard
May I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to reply to the point put forward by myself and some of my hon. Friends as regards the difficulty which will arise concerning Scottish interests in relation to Departments which are organically connected with England? I called attention to the report of the Scottish Development Council and submitted the difficulty that in regard to some matters there will be a Scottish Department to which suggestions and complaints could be directed, but in regard to other matters there will be no Scottish Department to which complaints can be brought. Has the hon. and learned Gentleman considered the possibility of machinery being created for the purpose of meeting that difficulty? Secondly, I wish to ask what is to be the status or grade of the permanent official envisaged in the Bill.
§ The Lord Advocate
As regards the hon. Member's first point, I, unfortunately, was absent when he addressed the House. My right hon. Friend and I will be only too glad to consider the matter more fully later, and I would like to read the report of what the hon. Member said upon it. As regards his second question, the permanent Under-Secretary has always held what is, I understand to be, substantially, highest grade, though I am not sure what it is termed.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 157; Noes, 99.1921
|Division No. 18.]||AYES.||[9.17 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Cary, R. A.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Beechman, N. A.||Channon, H.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (So'h Univ's)||Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Clarry, Sir Reginald|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Bull, B. B.||Colville, Rt. Hon. John|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Bullock, Capt. M.||Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)|
|Balniel, Lord||Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Cartland, J. R. H.||Cox, Trevor|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Critchley, A||Lathan, G.||Remer, J. R.|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Leech, Sir J. W.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Lees-Jones, J.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Levy, T.||Rowlands, G.|
|Denville, Alfred||Lipson, D. L.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Dower, Major A. V. G.||Little, Sir E. Graham-||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Drewe, C.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Salt, E. W.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Scott, Lord William|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||McKie, J. H.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Fleming, E. L.||Magnay, T.||Smith, Sir Louis (Hallam)|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Furness, S. N.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Markham, S. F.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Glucketein, L. H.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Goldie, N. B.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Moreing, A. C.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Munro, P.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Hannah, I. C.||Nall, Sir J.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Harbord, A.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Patrick, C. M.||Turton, R. H.|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Peake, O.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Peat, C. U.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Perkins, W. R. D.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Higgs, W. F.||Petherick, M.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J||Radford, E. A.||Whiteley, Major J. P.(Buckingham)|
|Hopkinson, A.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Ramsbotham, H.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Hunloke, H. P.||Ramsden, Sir E.||Young, A. S. L. (Patrick)|
|James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Lieut.-Colonel Kerr and Major|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Harvie Watt.|
|Knox, MaiorGeneral Sir A. W. F.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Price, M. P.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hardie, Agnes||Riley, B.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ritson, J.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Sandys, E. D.|
|Barr, J.||Hopkln, D.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Batey, J.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Sexton. T. M.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||John, W.||Shinwell, E.|
|Benson, G.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Bevan, A.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Buchanan, G.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Burke, W. A.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Stephen, C.|
|Cape, T.||Kirby, B. V.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirkwood, D.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Leach, W.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Cocks, F. S.||Leonard, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Collindridge, F.||Leslie, J. R.||Thurtle, E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Logan, D. G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Daggar, G.||Lunn, W.||Tomlinson. G.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McGhee, H. G.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Day, H.||Maclean, N.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Dobbie, W.||MacNeill Weir, L.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Marshall, F.||Westwood, J.|
|Ede, J. C.||Messer, F.||White, H. Graham|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Montague, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Oliver, G. H.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Paling, W.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Foot, D. M.||Parkinson, J. A.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Pearson, A.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Poole, C. C.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. Whiteley.|
Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.