HC Deb 05 November 1959 vol 612 cc1271-309

Order for Second Reading read.

6.43 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I do not propose this evening to enter upon a long and detailed history of the office of Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. But a few words about the historical significance of the office may be of interest to some hon. Members, particularly perhaps to those who are not Scottish—if any such are in the Chamber—and I also hope it will set this Bill against its proper background.

The office of Lord High Commissioner is a traditional symbol of the relationship between the Crown and the Church of Scotland. It dates from the sixteenth century; and its continuance was specifically secured by the Treaty of Union of 1707. In the seventeenth century the office was the subject of bitter and violent controversy between the Church and Crown, as the Sovereigns of the period tried to assert control over Church affairs in Scotland. The year 1688, however, brought that controversy to an end.

Since that time the history of the Lord High Commissioner's office has been relatively tranquil. The General Assembly has met annually since 1694; and at each of its meetings during those 265 years the Sovereign has been represented by a Commissioner, who has conveyed His Majesty's regret at His being unable to attend in person and an assurance both of His good will to the Assembly and of His intention to uphold the Presbyterian form of Church Government. The Commissioner has never been, by virtue of his office, a member of the Assembly, and has not intervened in its discussions. He has occupied a seat of dignity, but not of authority, in relation to the Fathers and Brethren. Today, by his attendance at the General Assembly, the Lord High Commissioner symbolises Her Majesty's deep and continuing interest in the deliberations of the Church of Scotland. In attending, as it were, beyond the bar of the House, he also symbolises the independence of the Church in its own affairs, an independence that is recognised both in Her Majesty's Accession Oath and in the Church of Scotland Act, 1921.

The Lord High Commissioner's duties are not confined, of course, to the Assembly Hall. He is the Queen's personal representative during the Assembly. As such he occupies the Palace of Holyroodhouse and there, as Her representative, receives and offers hospitality to a number of guests. These guests include many ministers and office-bearers of the Church of Scotland, but many are drawn from other and wider fields. They come from all walks of life in Scotland: from industry and commerce; from Government, central and local; from the arts; from trades and professions. Visitors from countries overseas in which the Church has a special interest are also invited and made particularly welcome. I am certain the House will agree that the hospitality thus extended by the Lord High Commissioner is deeply appreciated by very many Scottish people. While he is in residence, Holyroodhouse in a very real sense provides a focus of Scottish life. It becomes a meeting-place where representatives of the Church and of the whole nation can be brought together, to their mutual benefit.

The money to meet the Commissioner's expenses in carrying out these duties comes, not from the annual Votes, but from the Consolidated Fund. In consequence of this—since the House must maintain control over expenditure from that Fund—any change in the maximum amount of the expenses can be achieved only by Act of Parliament. Hence the present Bill. As the House will observe, it is a short and single Measure and I think the case for it is clear.

In 1948 the allowance made to the Lord High Commissioner to meet his expenses, which for over a century had stood at £2,000 and had for long been inadequate, was increased to—and here I quote: such amount not exceeding £4,000 as the Secretary of State may, with the concurrence of the Treasury … determine". Costs—we have to face it—have increased over the last eleven years, and this maximum has proved quite inadequate. In each year since 1954 it has been necessary to issue the full amount, and latterly even this has proved to be insufficient. Excesses of several hundred pounds have had to be met from other sources.

I am sure the House will agree that it is entirely unacceptable that private individuals should have to be called upon for help to enable the dignity and the efficiency of this high office to be maintained. It would also be plainly undesirable if in future financial considerations of this kind should have to be taken into account when appointments to the post are under consideration.

I should emphasise—because there is a little doubt about it—that the allowance is in no sense a salary: the eminent persons who serve as Lords High Commissioner derive no personal remuneration. The allowance is designed, so far as possible, to meet their out-of-pocket expenses.

These are incurred in a number of ways. The Lord High Commissioner must take up residence with a small suite at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, for the ten days while the Assembly is sitting. This involves the cost of putting the rooms in order, of heating and lighting, and of staff wages. He requires an office with a small staff headed by the Purse Bearer to arrange his programme, manage his establishment and deal with his correspondence. He must have transport for the round of visits which he and his lady pay. Lastly, and this forms by far the largest single item of the Commissioner's expenses, he must meet the cost of the entertaining of which I have already spoken.

I am satisfied that since 1948 each Lord High Commissioner has made every effort to ensure that his duties are carried out without extravagance, and with the maximum economy compatible with the dignity of the office.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

Before he leaves the point of salary, could the right hon. Gentleman say whether or not the amount which is given—this is apart from the terminology—figures in the individual's Income Tax return when he receives it?

Mr. Maclay

That is a question which I cannot answer here, certainly not without notice, because it raises a number of very big problems which, I confess, had not occurred to me. I should think not, however, because it is in no way salary. I am not a sufficiently rapid expert in Income Tax law to know what happens in these cases, but I should not imagine that it would figure in the Income Tax return because the money is given to meet out-of-pocket expenditure. However, I shall have to take advice on that.

It has proved impossible to keep below £4,000 the necessary and traditional expenses of the office. An increase in this maximum has thus become unavoidable.

In proposing that the maximum allowance should be increased to £7,500 the Government do not intend that there should be any relaxation in the strict standards of economy at present practised. The full allowance—I ask the House to note this—will not necessarily be paid each year, but the sum to be granted will be determined in the light of needs. Flexibility is essential—for example, to allow for occasions when additional expenditure has to be incurred for some special reason. As it happens, in 1960 the Lord High Commissioner will have to go into residence twice, instead of once as in normal years. There will be in 1960 an additional meeting of the Assembly in the autumn as part of the celebration of the Quater-centenary of the Scottish Reformation. This, I understand, will be attended by many representatives of overseas Churches, whom the Commissioner will particularly wish to receive. By fixing a maximum of £7,500 we shall leave flexibility and room for such additional expenses.

I feel sure that the House will recognise the need for this Measure, and will readily give it a Second Reading.

6.51 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

The Secretary of State for Scotland has, I think, made it clear that the purpose of the Bill is not to broaden the type of expenditure by the Lord High Commissioner. I believe that most of the money is needed for providing hospitality. I think the right hon. Gentleman has made it clear that it is no part of his purpose that the hospitality should be enlarged as a result of the Bill but that the Bill is required, as he put it, to take account of the change in the value of money since the figure of £4,000 was determined by the 1948 Act.

However, I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman can tell us how he reached a decision about the amount of money which is required for this purpose. He said in the course of his remarks that there would be no relaxation in the strict standards of economy. For him to say that rather implies that he has some authority to ensure that there are strict standards of economy in the administration of the money. Perhaps he has—I do not know—but I should be glad if he would tell us.

I really do not know to whom the money goes. I know that it is made available for the purposes of the Lord High Commissioner, but I am also aware that there is a person known as the Purse Bearer who plays an important part in these matters. From that designation, one would gain the impression that the Purse Bearer was the fellow who carried the purse, and I would have thought that the Purse Bearer might be the man who handled the money and paid the accounts on behalf of the Lord High Commissioner. Perhaps the Secretary of State can help us there.

Although the money is made available for the purposes of the Lord High Commissioner, does the Secretary of State determine whether to make available the whole of the authorised amount or some part of it? Does he allocate this amount of money to the Lord High Commissioner and does the Lord High Commissioner at the end of the day give him an account of the way in which he has spent the money or a certain part of it and hand the balance back? I have not the foggiest idea, and I should like to know.

As it has been made clear to us that there is no element of salary in the money and that the Lord High Commissioner cannot profit by one penny from the provisions of the existing legislation or from this Measure when it becomes an Act, and as the Secretary of State talks about enforcing strict standards of economy, one inevitably has the impression that there is a person in whose keeping there is to be put a certain amount of money to carry through a certain purpose and that, in the carrying through of that certain purpose, some note is taken of the economy with which the money is administered. Can the Secretary of State tell us whether there is any system of accounting, and, if so, by whom it is done? Can he tell us whether at any time he or his predecessors have made available a sum of money which has been found to be in excess of that required for the purpose for which it has been made available and that a balance has been returned?

I have asked these few questions because, as the Secretary of State knows, there are people in Scotland who ask questions about these things, and the Lord High Commissioner's function today is not what it was when the office was instituted. It is said nowadays, with a great deal of truth, that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland could be held and could do its business even if no Lord High Commissioner were present—in other words, that he is not an essential or integral part of the General Assembly. It is felt that he is appointed annually these days to carry on a tradition which would appear to be wanted by the Church of Scotland and by the people of Scotland. That is to say, we understand that there is a desire in the Church of Scotland and among the people of Scotland that there should be no break in the tradition of the Lord High Commissioner attending on the occasion of the General Assembly.

We have the impression that the Lord High Commissioner's principal duties during the period of the General Assembly are visiting certain institutions within a reasonable distance of Edinburgh, giving subscriptions to a number of deserving charities—these, I believe, are made out of the allowance—and providing hospitality not only for the people who attend the General Assembly but for a number of favoured people who have no known connection, or do not necessarily have any connection at all, with the General Assembly, people who are invited to lunches and dinners in the course of the Lord High Commissioner's residence in Holyrood-house.

Therefore, I should be grateful, and I think that some people outside the House would be grateful, if the right hon. Gentleman could give me an answer to some of the questions which I have asked.

6.59 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

I listened to the Secretary of State's explanation of the Bill with interest, but at the end of it I found myself wondering why it was that the figure of £7,500 was fixed. How did the Government arrive at that figure? It does not seem to me to represent increased costs if one makes a comparison with other increased costs and prices since 1948. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us why this figure happens to have been chosen. Why is it £7,500 and not £10,000, or £6,000.

I do not want to say much about the Bill, but there are one or two things which I find rather puzzling. The right hon. Gentleman said that for every year since 1954 the expenses in connection with this office had been several hundred pounds more than £4,000. I presume that means that they were less than £1,000 more, but nevertheless more than £4,000, and once again I am bound to ask why the right hon. Gentleman should ask for the amount to be raised to £7,500. Is it simply because there are to be two Assemblies next year? How long will the second Assembly in Edinburgh last? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can tell us something about that.

I have no objection to the present procedure. When the amount was last raised I opposed the Bill because I thought that that was an inopportune moment to raise the sum allowed for meeting the expenses of the Lord High Commissioner. This office seems to be liked by the people of Scotland and appreciated by the Church, and therefore I have no objection to it. I had no objection to it when I opposed the increase in the 1948 Bill. I objected to the timing, as I do now.

It is a curious comment on the mentality of a Government which has suffered a terrific defeat in Scotland that this should be its first peculiarly Scottish Measure. One would have thought that the Government would have had more ideas about Scotland's needs. The Government have been undoubtedly severely kicked in the pants by the people of Scotland and yet this is their first purely Scottish Measure. Is this the way the right hon. Gentleman is to tackle the needs of Scotland, fiddling about with matters like this? Surely the civil servants could have provided him with something better from the pigeon-holes at St. Andrew's House. Why do we get this Bill first? Even today I am left wondering about the timing of these proposals.

Why should the Lord High Commissioner have to prepare Holyroodhouse Palace for himself? Could that not be done by the Ministry of Works, or whoever is responsible for the Palace? I cannot see why that preparation should necessitate expenditure by the Lord High Commissioner.

I have no objection to hospitality in connection with the Church. If the Church ministers, their wives and their elders enjoyed most of the hospitality, I would have no complaint, but the fact is that the churchmen in Scotland do not enjoy the biggest part of the hospitality. So far as I know, the nearest that the average minister gets to enjoying it is attending one garden party. Much of the money is spent in other connections for entertainment of a quite different kind.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the Lord High Commissioner had to entertain representatives of the Government, local authorities, trade, industry, the arts and other aspects of Scottish life. That might be true, but that does not have much to do with the Church. I may be wrong about that, but from what I have seen in Edinburgh I do not think that many churchmen happen to meet those people—they do not do so in the very nature of the functions.

I think that a great deal of the hospitality in Edinburgh is enjoyed by a limited circle of people. In Edinburgh we have a group of people who seem to be present at most functions of this sort and who seem to enjoy most of the hospitality which is going. I would call them a group almost of social scroungers. The right hon. Gentleman frowns, but these people are present at most of these ceremonies and seem to enjoy them.

If we are to give more money for hospitality. I should like the hospitality to be spread more widely. I wonder how many of my 55,000 constituents go to Holyroodhouse Palace. I wonder how many of them have ever enjoyed hospitality there I am sure that their number is very few and that even fewer have got beyond a garden party—and only a few have gone to a garden party. I appreciate that the representatives of local authorities change from time to time and that hospitality is given to the representatives of deserving organisations, such as the W.V.S., but there are many social scroungers who seem to enjoy themselves on all these occasions, at social functions of the Lord High Commissioner and others.

Many people feel as I do about this hospitality. Apart from that, if the money is for the benefit of the Church, well and good. If it is going to the ministers, the elders and their wives, well and good. They do a jolly good job of work and deserve to be treated hospitably when they go to Edinburgh. But perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can indicate why the amount was fixed at the figure of £7,500.

7.8 p.m.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Emrys Hughes.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)


Mr. Speaker

Does the hon. Gentleman rise to move his Amendment?

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I wish to have your guidance, Mr. Speaker. Is the Amendment in order?

Mr. Speaker

The Amendment is in order should the hon. Member desire to move it.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I do not intend to move my Amendment, which asks the House to decline to give a Second Reading to a Bill to increase the allowances payable to Her Majesty's High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland until such time as increased payments have been made in the allowances to old-age pensioners and the unemployed. I understand that at a later stage I shall be able to make the points which I have made in the Amendment as it is set down on the Order Paper.

However, I feel that certain things need to be said. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) has taken the same attitude of interrogation which he adopted in 1948 when we had a remarkable debate, as I have good reason to remember. On that occasion we were in a very small minority, and I found myself assailed by Mr. John McGovern, Mrs. Jean Mann, Lord Boothby, the then Lord Advocate and the chairman of the Scottish group of the Labour Party at that time, a very formidable combination.

I remember especially the remark of the chairman of the Scottish Labour Party, because there was a Labour Government at the time. He said that some day the hon. Member for South Ayrshire would wander into the Chamber and accidentally vote for the Labour Government. I remember, too, that because we ventured to say a few words of criticism he said we had some sinister purpose, which was to strangle the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. We were doing nothing of the kind.

As the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East said, when we venture to make some criticism we are not acting with any sort of hostility to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. All that we are doing is to draw attention to certain anachronisms and peculiarities of this Office. The right hon. Gentleman has tried to clear up some curious conceptions of what the Lord High Commissioner does.

I share the regret that this piece of legislation for Scotland has been put in the shop window. Indeed, I am rather surprised to see the Secretary of State for Scotland in his place at all. When a severe electoral defeat has been inflicted on the Government the figurehead usually either resigns or goes to another place. But here we have the same genial, amiable right hon. Gentleman who is going to pursue his customary futility, and here is his first example of pettifogging, futile, small, irrelevant legislation for Scotland. This is likely to be typical of the right hon. Gentleman.

I had one moment of elation when I saw the election results and the formation of the new Government. I saw that the right hon. Gentleman had arrived in Downing Street and I saw there a different face. I thought that at last we were going to have a change. But here we have the right hon. Gentleman, and, alas, he is likely to be with us for five years. If the right hon. Gentleman wanted some small piece of legislation to bring along as his first offering to the House of Commons I could suggest many that would be more appreciated than this one. There was a mining disaster in Scotland and the Fife County Council wished to grant £5,000 towards the fund. This was a generous action which had popular support. The right hon. Gentleman refused to sanction the expenditure of £5,000 by the Fifeshire County Council. His explanation was that he did not have the necessary legal power to do so.

I can understand that. If the right hon. Gentleman had come along and brought in as his first act of legislation a Bill to amend the Local Government Act of Scotland, to allow Fifeshire County Council to grant £5,000, it would have been a most sensible act. That would have been more sensible than arranging to increase the allowance of the Lord High Commissioner by £3,500. It shows how completely out of tune the right hon. Gentleman is with the mood of the people of Scotland.

It is true that this institution dates far back into history. We do not often get an opportunity to discuss these ancient institutions. As a matter of fact, this is an institution with which we do not want to bother. We do not regard it as important. We have never had a Motion to abolish it because we do not think it is a relevant or important institution. However, when we receive an offer to look at it we like to see what it is.

I want to stress the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East. This institution is not part of the General Assembly. It was established back in the distant past in the quarrel between the Church, the State and the King. The King thought it necessary to discipline the Church and the Lord High Commissioner was sent to Scotland, not to encourage religion but to ensure that the Church did not go too far to the Left wing. That is an historical fact. The next thing may be to appoint a Lord High Commissioner to the conference of the Labour Party so that it does not go too far to the Left.

We could abolish this institution without in any way injuring the Church of Scotland or impeding its progress. The Lord High Commissioner is not an integral part of the Church of Scotland. The office is an anachronism and an irrelevancy, and must sooner or later die. When institutions require contributions from the Exchequer to keep them alive and when they cannot pay for their own entertainment, should the Secretary of State for Scotland come along to the House of Commons and ask for an extra dole? When institutions have served the historical purpose for which they were set up they might as well fade away.

In 1924 Tom Johnston, one of our greatest Scottish historians, who at one time took an interest in the General Assembly of Scotland, thought it should have been abolished. When he wrote criticising the appointment of Mr. James Brown he said: The old Whigs who abolished the Keeper of the Green Wax in the Exchequer of Ireland and the Deputy Maintainer of the Cheese Barrel in the Lieutenancy of the Great Hundreds might have swept away this '£2,000 High Commissioner—Your Grace business' when they were at it. Sooner or later that must come to pass.

I want to make a suggestion that might win the approval of the Church of Scotland and might enable this to be done painlessly. I am a great believer that the Assembly of the Church of Scotland should become a dynamic and important religious institution. I am a friend and supporter of the great personality who in recent years has helped to make it that. I am a great friend of the Very Reverend Sir George Macleod. Not long ago I took part in what might be called a religious ceremony in Glasgow and walked alongside the ex-Moderator of the Church of Scotland in a procession in favour of banning the H-bomb. The fact that a pacifist like the Very Reverend Sir George Macleod is taking such a part in the work of the Assembly is a good sign that new impulses are at work. I want to encourage the Church Assembly to go forward on its great mission, but I do not want it to be encumbered with this Lord High Commissioner business. I want the office taken completely out of politics. I do not want the Secretary of State to have to raise money from the House of Commons every decade.

Up to now the job has been largely a question of political patronage. It has had strong criticisms from the Church. In fact, in an article in the Scotsman there was a reference by the Rev. Archibald Fleming to the Lord High Commissionership. He said: The formal inauguration of the office in 1580 was not auspicious. It fell to that shifty and infamous lawyer, Sir James Balfour of Pittendreich, the most corrupt man of his age, to be its holder. I do not wish to comment upon that reference; during these later years the Lord High Commissionership has become a respectable office. But I do not want it to be a political appointment. I do not want to see a Labour man appointed under a Labour Government and a Tory appointed when the Conservatives are in power.

I hope that the Secretary of State will consider my suggestion that instead of our appointing the Lord High Commissioner, and wasting our time in doing so, the office be merged with that of the Moderator of the Church of Scotland. That may be a strange idea, but I believe it is the best way to solve the problem. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, the duties of the Lord High Commissioner are purely ceremonial. All he has to do is to read to the General Assembly the Message from the Queen, and then report to the Queen. All that could be done quite as effectively by the Moderator without our having anything to do with it. The Moderator would be the spokesman of the Church and politics would not enter into the matter.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

My hon. Friend will be aware of the history of the Church of Scotland. Would he have the Church of Scotland accept a Moderator who was virtually appointed by the Queen?

Mr. Hughes

I am acquainted with a little of the history of the Church of Scotland. My idea is that the Church elects the Moderator and that he should automatically become the Lord High Commissioner.

Mr. Ross indicated dissent.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

The history of the matter is that on occasion the Lord High Commissioner closed down the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on orders from the Crown before it could transact any business. As far as I know, those powers have not been abrogated.

Mr. Ross

Yes, they have.

Mr. Hughes

I still cannot see anything against my suggestion. The Moderator is elected annually, and I suggest that the duties of the Lord High Commissioner should automatically pass to him and that the Crown should have no power to interfere with what goes on in the Church of Scotland.

My predecessor, Mr. James Brown, was the first Labour Lord High Commissioner, and everybody agrees that he held office with great dignity and that his wife performed her duties with great dignity. There is a story that when she was approached by a reporter—it was such a novelty for a Socialist to be appointed to this office that many Press representatives arrived at the little mining village of Annbank—and asked, "What are you going to wear when you go to Holyrood?", she half opened the door and said, "And are you going to ask that question of the Queen?" She behaved with very great dignity.

It was Mr. Ramsay MacDonald's appointment of Mr. Brown that first drew attention to the history of the office. This appointment was the most revolutionary thing that Mr. MacDonald did, although I do not think that he was aware of it at the time. After that Conservative Governments came back to power, and then another Labour Government, when Lord Mathers became Lord High Commissioner. Patronage came to be exercised on a purely political basis.

Since 1951 we have had a long procession of marquesses, dukes and lords, with the exception of Mr. Walter Elliott. I want to know whether this is in line with a democratic age. When the name of Hamilton is mentioned I always associate it with my hon. Friend who represents that constituency, but in the select circles of the Church it brings to mind the Duke of Hamilton, although he has nothing to do with it. Yet the anachronism of this procession of lords, viscounts and earls carries on. It is completely out of keeping with the modern age. It would be a good thing if, instead of the Lord High Commissioner being nominated by a party organisation, politicians washed their hands of the appointment.

I turn now to the question of expenses. In 1948 we had a considerable discussion about them. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East was very insistent. He thought that the Bill was wrongly timed because on the Saturday previously he had sat in at a Labour Party meeting in Edinburgh and listened to Sir Stafford Cripps making a speech asking for economy, austerity and a wage freeze. Then, the next week, there came along this little legislative morsel. Then we started talking about the expenses. I remember Mrs. Jean Mann saying that she had been to a garden party. She said that there was nothing but austerity in the cup of weak tea which was dished out to ministers of the Church if they could get near the marquee. The very humble disciples of the Lord were usually thrust aside by the magistrates and pushed into the background in the struggle for cups of tea. What sort of dignified proceeding is this?

This so outraged Sir Robert Boothby—as he then was—that he said that the Government were asking not for too much but for too little. He thought that it was a scandal that these ministers of the Church should be offered only cups of tea. He suggested that the allowance should be increased from £4,000 to £10,000, the idea being that, in order to restore the dignity of the struggle for cups of tea and ease the pressure round the marquee, whisky and soda should also be dispensed. What is this figure? Apparently, the Government have not decided on this figure of £7,500 either on Mrs. Mann's estimate or Lord Boothby's estimate, but it looks as if they had Lord Boothby's estimate in mind. We would get rid of all these things if the House of Commons did not have anything to do with it at all.

I say that, after a certain date, we should hand over the whole proceedings to be decided by the Church itself, that we should be prepared to put Holyrood House at the disposal of the Church of Scotland and that, with that, our responsibilities should end. We do not want this matter to come up every decade because the price of whisky rises every so often. The proceedings on this Bill would provide an appropriate time, and I hope that I shall be able to submit an Amendment which the Government will accept and which will virtually end the office of Lord High Commissioner

We have ended superfluous offices before. We have no viceroys of India. They no longer exist, because they have no function. Various governors-general have no duties to perform at all. Therefore, my suggestion is that we should say a very courteous, dignified and respectful goodbye to the Lord High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland, and so relieve future Secretaries of State for Scotland of the duty of asking the House of Commons for more money.

7.32 p.m.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has delivered his usual stimulating and challenging speech on this topic, and I am sure that he will forgive me if I do not follow him into an estimation of the sort of ecclesiastical pattern that will be developed from the hierarchy in the Scottish Church.

I want to confine myself solely to the money which Parliament is voting tonight. The Secretary of State seems to have no knowledge whatsoever of one aspect of that sum. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Fraser) appeared to vie with him in that lack of knowledge, because my hon. Friend suggested that he had not the foggiest idea what happens to the money. Then he went on to suggest that there should be some system of accounting for its disposal. Surely, something ought to be said by this House about a sum of money which we, through the Bill, are disposing of, and when on both Front Benches neither of the hon. Members who are concerned with this matter have much idea of what has happened.

Mr. Fraser

Surely I have no more responsibility for the Bill than has my hon. Friend. Why should I have more knowledge than he has?

Mr. Rankin

I am not really suggesting, and I am sorry if it appeared that I was suggesting, that my hon. Friend had any responsibility in the matter. I am depending on the fact that he is the spokesman for the Opposition side. Of course, his attitude on this question is reinforced by the fact that the Secretary of State for Scotland, who has the responsibility and should be able to tell us about the money, evidently has not full knowledge of what happened to it.

Mr. Maclay

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will permit me to point out that my duties do not include those of a Commissioner of Inland Revenue.

Mr. Rankin

I was coming to that point. I do not mind in the least that the Secretary of State has anticipated it, because this money, as the Bill makes clear, is to be given to an individual, and its amount is not important. So far as I am concerned personally, it could be £20,000 or £30,000. I am in no way challenging either directly or indirectly the amount. During the past week there was in Room D of this House a gentleman from the Department to which the Secretary of State has referred—the Commissioners of Inland Revenue. Last year, I was one of many hon. Members who went to see him. He made it clear to me that not one single penny of the money that came to me from any source whatsoever should be excluded from the return which, like every other hon. Member of this House, I must make to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue.

We in the House are in the position of paying out a certain sum of money to an individual, and when I asked what seemed to me to be a fair question to ask at the time, the Secretary of State did not know the answer. I felt that my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton was supplementing the point that I raised when he suggested that there should be a system of accounting. Obviously, there is no system of accounting at all; because, if there was, the Scottish Office, which has the primary responsibility in this matter, must know whether or not tax is payable, and, if it is payable, whether tax is paid and to what extent it is paid. I think that there is nothing unfair in that type of question.

There is no element of grudge in my mind about the amount, but is there some way whereby one particular citizen of the United Kingdom can get round the Inland Revenue Commissioners? If there is a way, I hope that the Secretary of State, for the benefit of us all in this House tonight, will tell us how, when money goes to an individual, he can get round the Commissioners of Inland Revenue. People will be very interested in that. Is that what is happening? I do not know.

If it appears to be somewhat niggardly that we should adopt that attitude to this particular citizen who is the representative of the Queen, who is clear of Income Tax and pays none, is it to be argued that, because he is the representative of Her Majesty, automatically he pays no Income Tax on the sum which is given to him? If that may appear, as I have suggested, to be a grudging attitude, how can we get round it?

I suggest that the way to get round it is simply to allow the Lord High Commissioner to incur what he looks upon as necessary expenses for his ceremonial affairs, and to send the bill to the office of the Secretary of State for Scotland. [Interruption.] Why not? After all, the present way is a roundabout method. The Secretary of State for Scotland or, in effect, the Treasury, give for this three or four weeks, or will give, £7,500—

Mr. Willis

It is ten days.

Mr. Rankin

It is ten days, that is £750 per day which will be given for each of ten days. Will accounts be rendered? If only £6,000 is consumed in the ten days, does the £1,500 go back? I do not know whether the Secretary of State is listening to me—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

May I intervene?

Mr. Rankin

I have not the slightest objection to any interruption my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) may make at any time, and so I readily give way.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I think that my hon. Friend is asking the Secretary of State a conundrum which the right hon. Gentleman is not in a position to answer. The conundrum should be directed to the representative of the Treasury who is sitting on the Government Front Bench. We have at the Treasury a special Minister who should know all the answers to the questions and I suggest that the expert on these intricate problems is not the Secretary of State for Scotland but the Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

Mr. Rankin

There is nothing in life like co-operative action. When my hon. Friend—my very close hon. Friend—the Member for South Ayrshire delivers a speech of his own, it is always an excellent effort. When I deliver a speech of my own I hope that at least it has some merit. But when the two of us get together to deliver one speech, then perhaps the result will be something very difficult to measure. I do not mind the intervention of my hon. Friend into the comments which I would have made.

As a matter of fact, the Secretary of State did appear either to be taking it easy or perhaps consulting with the Solicitor-General for Scotland, because of the position of his headpiece, and I wondered whether things would become more desperate or more easy as a result of that conversation. But if there is a Treasury representative present, I hope that he is listening to what is being said, and I hope that when the Secretary of State replies to the debate, he will have something to say about these things.

Will hon. Members please take it with all sincerity that there is absolutely no element of grudge in my mind or any attempt to impose a sort of inquisition? I think that every hon. Member will agree that that is the general attitude of the House, but I think that when the House votes money, which it does regularly, at least it is the business of the Minister responsible to the House to be fully informed about his action and what may derive from it. Because of that, I have raised the point which I am putting before the House tonight.

We are told that all this is for a social occasion and that it has nothing whatever to do with tradition. It has been said that it has nothing to do with the Church as such, or with the Assembly as such, but, of course, it has a great deal to do with the hospitality and the ceremonials associated with the traditions of the Assembly fortnight, and with the business that goes on. I often wonder, in view of the fact that only one group seems to cling round most of these functions, why, if they have to go on—as I hope they will go on—their area cannot be spread.

I was a member of the Church of Scotland and I still am a member. I served the Church as a manager for many years of my life and I never on one single occasion had any opportunity or any invitation to attend one of these social functions. What I am saying about myself is true of the great mass of those who belong to the Church of which I was a member. These invitations always seemed to go to that separate little clique which dominates many churches in Scotland today except in those areas where the congregation consists solely of the working class. These were the people who went to Edinburgh and participated in all these functions towards the continuance of which this money is being voted tonight, or at least is before us for consideration.

I should like to see more working people going to these gatherings. The first and only invitation which I ever received was when I became a Member of Parliament. That is when I moved from the relatively low social level of being a teacher and reached what is recognised, or accepted, as the higher social level of being a Member of Parliament. Then I qualified at once for an invitation. That is not a Christian attitude and this is a Christian organisation about which we are talking. Some one mentioned alcohol—whisky. I forget who mentioned it—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Lord Boothby.

Mr. Rankin

Who is he? Am I to understand that whisky is associated with these gatherings? The British Women's Temperance Organisation is one of the strongest forces in the Christian Church in Scotland and I am certain that if we tonight were regarded by these women as voting £7,500 towards the consumption of whisky at gatherings associated with the Assembly our name, in their eyes, would be mud. Will the Secretary of State tell us if that is in any way what we are doing, because, of course, it raises other considerations. All over the country I see that "Beer is best". Why, then, should we devote some of this money to whisky?

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Do not look at me. I did not propose it.

Mr. Rankin

In other parts of the country I am told that "Guinness is good for you." Why give it to whisky? Somebody mentioned whisky, and I thought that it was the hon. Member for South Ayrshire who, of course, is a notorious hater of what is regarded as Scotland's national beverage.

I said that I thought these social occasions might be enlarged. Why in the name of the wee man, as they say in the street, should they be confined to Edinburgh? What harm has Glasgow done? If these are social occasions where a certain group, a certain section of society, is entertained at the expense of this House, which is the guardian of the moneys of the country—I have no objection in the least to that—why should they be confined to Edinburgh? Why should not Glasgow be considered?

Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)

Or Dundee?

Mr. Rankin

Or Dundee, or Kilmarnock? Why this concentration of expenditure in one particular part of Scotland? We talk about the most favoured nation. Which city in Scotland enjoys being the most favoured city? Everything seems to go to Edinburgh.

Mr. Ede


Mr. Rankin

If there is a surplus why should it not go to Aberdeen?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) will bear in mind that this is a debate, not a conversation with hon. Members on the bench behind him.

Mr. Rankin

I hope, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that that very gentle reprimand was directed to those who were creating the conversation and not to the victim of it. However, I shall not encourage it, because I am now drawing to a rapid conclusion. I trust hon. Members will think seriously of the last point I have made. Glasgow is the greatest city in Scotland.

Mr. Willis

It is not the capital city.

Mr. Rankin

No, but it has the capital, on which Edinburgh lives luxuriously. Once again, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I did not start that. I feel that Glasgow is entitled at least to one day out of the ten of the social celebrations that take place as part of the Assembly. I hope I have not put too many questions to the Secretary of State, and I hope that when he replies to the debate he will have something of importance to say.

7.54 p.m.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

I wondered just exactly where my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) would finish when he said that we want the Assembly to travel and he wanted it to go to Glasgow. That is what he said.

Mr. Rankin

No, no.

Mr. Ross

I am very glad to hear my hon. Friend say that, because a long time ago it was said that where the Assembly sits is not decided by this House and not decided by any Lord High Commissioner, but by the Church of Scotland.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is correct in pointing out that where the Assembly meets is not decided by this House; it is not decided in this debate and, therefore, discussion on that point would be out of order in this debate.

Mr. Rankin

On a point of order. I think that I made it clear at the very beginning of my speech that I was divorcing this sum altogether from the Assembly and in the latter part of my speech I was dealing with the social occasions which seem to crowd upon the Assembly. It was the social functions that I thought should be spread more widely.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not appreciate that as a point of order, but I think that the debate can be resumed.

Mr. Ross

Even on that question, surely it is obvious that the social occasions are related to the Assembly, because the whole of the duties of the Lord High Commissioner are related to the Assembly of the Church of Scotland and it would be much more likely that those social occasions would be related to the actual place where he is carrying out his duties.

I hope that we shall get a reply to some of the very pertinent questions which have been asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Govan. We are entitled to have a reply, if not from the Secretary of State for Scotland, from the representative of the Treasury, because presumably he has read the Bill. His name is on it.

Mr. Rankin

He is blushing.

Mr. Willis

We should adjourn the House until the Financial Secretary knows.

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman's name is on the Bill. It says: Presented by Mr. Secretary Maclay, supported by Sir Edward Boyle …

Mr. Rankin

That is the first time that the Financial Secretary knew it.

Mr. Ross

The position is much more interesting than some of my hon. Friends have seemed to suggest, because this is an annual allowance, not paid, but payable. The person who decides what will be payable for each year and who, therefore, should be in a position to account to the House, is the Secretary of State for Scotland, with the concurrence of the Treasury, whose representative has been here, but who, to my mind, has not been participating helpfully in the debate to get us out of the difficulties which have been troubling us.

So far as I understand the Bill, at present £4,000 is not paid, but "a sum not exceeding" that amount can be paid. In other words, any sum may be payable up to, say, £3,952 16s. 7½d. Now we are raising the ceiling to £7,500, but that does not mean that in any one year £7,500 will be paid. From the point of view of Parliamentary accountancy it is right that we should be considering whether or not we should pay anything at all or give any additional sum. That is equally relevant under this Bill.

I do not think that anyone should give us lectures about hard words which we might say about the Lord High Com- missioner. They are nothing to the hard words that have been said about Lord High Commissioners in the Church of Scotland in the past. At one time this was the most hated office in the Church of Scotland. It is interesting to know that next year will be the four hundredth year of the meetings of the General Assembly. I believe that the first General Assembly was held in the year before Mary Queen of Scots landed in Scotland in 1560. One of the reasons why we so carefully separate the Lord High Commissioner and anything pertaining thereto and the Assembly of the Church of Scotland is that the Assembly is the home of democracy in Scotland. It was in the Assemblies of the Church of Scotland that the feelings of Scotland, not only religious but on social events, were voiced. It was democracy only in the Assembly of Scotland.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Govan has left the Chamber. I was surprised when he told us that he never received an invitation to the Assembly. I was surprised because he told us that he had been a manager. That word troubles me, because we have not got managers, but elders in the Church of Scotland, and the annual representation in attendance at the Assembly is a quarter of the ministers of the Church of Scotland with elders from their congregation, from their session. That goes in rotation, so that within four years every church in Scotland has its ministers and elected elders present. If my hon. Friend has been an elder he must have been unfortunate in not having been chosen by the session in any particular year to go to the Assembly.

I think that the Assembly in its first year, 400 years ago, had about 42 people. This year the number will be nearly 1,800, and when we think of the number of people attending—the elders who are, of course, laymen and not clergymen and the ministers—we shall appreciate just exactly how representative it is of the whole of Scotland.

I am surprised that my hon. Friend did not realise that the Assembly had travelled throughout Scotland in the past. In fact, one of the most important Assemblies ever to meet was that which met in Glasgow in 1638. My right hon. Friend, in an interjection, reminded my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) that at one time the High Commissioner ordered the Assembly to disband, but what he did not say was that the Assembly refused to disband in 1638 in Glasgow and continued to sit.

Within the office of Lord High Commissioner there is four centuries of violent history of the relationship between the democratic Church of Scotland and the State, concerning the man appointed by the King to control, to direct and, indeed, to suppress, if necessary, the Assemblies of the Church of Scotland.

When my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire suggests that the Moderator could himself be representative of both Church and of State, I think he will appreciate right away that the whole objection of the Church of Scotland to the office and powers of the Lord High Commissioner throughout the years is that to give him any power at all is to deny the protests which have been made by the Church throughout the centuries.

There have been these centuries of struggle—at times it has been skirmishes and at other times very serious—as to whether the Lord High Commissioner had the right to assemble the Assembly and whether he had the right to close it. For many years, when they could not make up their minds about it, neither side would give in. Both the Lord High Commissioner and the Moderator and the Assembly of the Church of Scotland used to announce the date of the next Assembly, having carefully agreed it beforehand. All that was settled in 1928. The Assembly of the Church of Scotland can sit and decide its sittings and the length of its sittings without reference to the Lord High Commissioner. As a matter of fact, the Lord High Commissioner is voteless, without opinion, and without power, and even the seat in which he sits when the Assembly is meeting is technically outside the House.

I think that it was last year, or the year before, when we had a Lord High Commissioner who came down from his seat and spoke, because he was an elder and elected to be a representative; he spoke not as Lord High Commissioner, but as an elder of the Church of Scotland. Here is a once-great office which because of the considerable contention in relation to the Church of Scotland is today, as my hon. Friend said, something which has no power at all. I wonder whether my hon. Friend would suggest that we in the House should stop the practice of shutting the door when we see Black Rod come from another place. I suppose that that may be regarded as childish, too, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend, who is one of the oldest Members of the House and who appreciates the symbolism of history that is represented in that action, would think it far better to keep that symbol and to be able to assure people what lies behind it.

Mr. Ede

I should be very sorry to see it disappear. It always reminds us how plucky we were before we had any Scottish Members here.

Mr. Ross

Exactly. But if there had been Scottish Members here, probably it would never have happened.

We still have a Lord High Commissioner and in his powerless person we still have represented the whole history of the struggle and the victory of the democratic Church in Scotland. I sincerely hope that we shall appreciate today that it is as well to retain it. The Queen is still represented. I think that it is regarded in Scotland as a worthwhile office from the point of view that it survives with its pageantry as a courtesy gesture. It survives and I think that it is highly valued. It is a national recognition of religion and of the fact that the Church enjoys that for which it had to fight for a long time—complete spiritual freedom.

Nevertheless, the £7,500 has still to be justified. The Assembly meets for ten days. It has to do a great deal of entertaining to spend £750 a day. I think that that takes some justifying. I want the Lord High Commissioner to continue with his hospitality. I think that there is not a person in the whole of Scotland who would question the garden party, because that is the one to which the whole of the Assembly goes, ministers and elders from the Shetlands right down to Whithorn on the Border. It is the most democratic garden party held in these islands. There are some other garden parties which we could probably abolish and which would be no great loss to the people of the country, but this is the democratic Assembly.

My hon. Friend is probably right in his other comment. There is a clique, always there. I think that it is this which gets people down when they ask for justification for the continuation of this hospitality. I hope that the criticisms that have been made tonight will be such as to ensure that the hospitality will be much more widely spread and in a different way.

I was glad that last year we had the presence at the Assembly, on the invitation of the Lord High Commissioner, of the Home Secretary. Unfortunately, it did not do him very much good. That was the time when he listened to a wonderful debate on Nyasaland. Was it not right to have the Lord High Commissioner appointed to sit there and hear exactly what the Church of Scotland thought about this burning issue last year, but to sit there powerless and voteless from the point of view of his office? I was glad of the hospitality which we provided for the Home Secretary to improve his education and to learn how the people of Scotland felt on a colonial question which was so near to their hearts, and I hope that it will continue. Dr. Banda has already participated in this hospitality. I am sure that he will participate in it again, but we want it to be soon.

One of the important features about the Assembly is that more than a hundred people attend from overseas, which is an excellent thing. The present Moderator is from the South African Church. I hope that no one will think for a moment that we are in any way criticising the Church of Scotland, but we are concerned to see reflected in the hospitality, for which Parliament is so generously providing money, more democratic hospitality, more widely-spread hospitality. We want to feel that there is less of the self-contained little group which is always hanging around the coat-tails of whoever happens to be the Lord High Commissioner.

Our criticism may be valid. We want the Secretary of State, or the powerful aide he has with him from the Treasury, to tell us the answer to these questions. Is £750 a day justified in relation to this hospitality? Above all, they should tell us why we have the Bill at this moment. The Secretary of State for Scotland and his predecessor were in power, ruling us benignly for eight years. They told us that we had never had it so good, but apparently the Lord High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland had never had it so bad. Why is it that the Bill has not been introduced until now? They must have known what was the cost of the garden parties and the dinners and the other entertainment provided in the running of Holyrood for these few days.

Mr. Willis

In opening the debate the right hon. Gentleman said that the expenses have been more than £4,000 since 1954.

Mr. Ross

That is another dereliction of duty. The Bill is no doubt partly to meet the expenses of next year. If the Secretary of State discovered that the Bill was necessary, why was it not introduced before the House rose for the Summer Recess? Would it have been a little inconvenient for him to demonstrate to the people of Scotland that the quotation "never had it so good" not only did not apply to Scotland, but, also, did not apply to the Lord High Commissioner? I was about to refer to him as our Tory Secretary of State, but I always forget that he is not a Tory; he is a Liberal-National-Unionist. We are entitled to an explanation why this is the first Bill of this Parliament about Scotland. It was not even mentioned in the Gracious Speech.

Mr. Willis

Nor was it mentioned in the Tory Party election manifesto.

Mr. Ross

Or in the National-Liberal-Unionist programme. Why have we this Bill at all? Why have we it so quickly? I am sure that the Bill must have been on the stocks for a while. If the need is so urgent, why did the Government wait all those years in the last Parliament during the time the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State? Has he been battling with the Treasury and have the Treasury been refusing him these extra pounds? Or have the Treasury been objecting to the kind of hospitality which was given, claiming that it was wrong to take the Home Secretary there to educate him in Colonial affairs?

Is there a secret guarantee behind the Bill that the list of the Lord High Commissioner's guests must be approved by the Treasury? These are important issues. These questions naturally arise to us when we try to find out why, if the need has been so urgent since 1954, we have had to wait until after the General Election for the introduction of the Bill, as the first Bill about Scotland. Moreover, it was done very quietly. We have had the Gracious Speech. I emphasise that here we are dealing with a representative of the Queen, because the Lord High Commissioner is a representative of the Queen. One would have thought that a matter of such importance, lying so near to the Gracious Speech itself, would have been worthy of mention. Did the Secretary of State hope to slide the Bill through quietly?

Possibly he did not even know about it. Probably this is the work of the Solicitor-General for Scotland. It is wonderful to have such an array of talent here tonight. The other night we were dealing with the important matter of the Secretary of State's refusal to allow a county council to give £1,000 to a colliery disaster fund. On that occasion the Secretary of State was not present. The matter hinged on legal interpretation, but the Solicitor-General for Scotland was not present. Are we to have a word from the Solicitor-General for Scotland tonight? Will he again wax eloquent on the subject of the Church of Scotland? Will he mention feu duty? He ought to be thoroughly ashamed of himself for that episode, and I hope that he will address himself to the subject tonight in order to tell us exactly how he justifies the introduction of the Bill at this time, when obviously there were ample opportunities in past years to introduce it.

Secondly, why has it been introduced without being properly heralded in the Gracious Speech? Thirdly, will he justify to us the figure of £7,500? Fourthly, will he tell us how the Secretary of State decides what is the right amount in any year and what happens to the petty cash, if there is any petty cash? Lastly, will he comment on our view that although we do not object to the hospitality, we feel that it should be much more widely spread in relation to the people attending, either by virtue of their offices as elected representatives of the presbytery or as guests of the Lord High Commissioner.

8.18 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I have two disqualifications for speaking in the debate. First, I am a Privy Councillor and I therefore understand that I ought never to speak in the House at all. Please bear me out, Mr. Speaker, in view of that statement, that I have waited until everyone on my side of the House has spoken who wishes to speak, and I am therefore entitled to intervene now, even if I am a Privy Councillor. Secondly, I am an Englishman.

Mr. Willis

That is not a disqualification.

Mr. Ede

It usually is in Scottish debates. Perhaps my hon. Friend hopes that I shall support him. All I say is that presumably part of this money will be paid by Englishmen.

Mr. Ross


Mr. Ede

Does not my hon. Friend think that occasionally some Englishmen buy whisky and contribute to the whisky tax? I wonder whether more tax is paid south of the Border than north.

I am an English Nonconformist. This whole matter arose because the kings of Scotland wanted an episcopal form of Church government and the Church of Scotland, as reformed, wanted to be Presbyterian. All the early disputes between the Crown and the General Assembly were on that issue and the great Assembly of 1638, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) referred, was engaged mainly in trying to wipe out the efforts of Charles I to give an episcopal form of Church government to Scotland.

It all arose from the presence in Scotland in the latter part of the sixteenth century of a great theologian and scholar named Andrew Melville, who was one of that great group of scholars who proved that even Aristotle could be fallible. He was one of that great group, with Galileo, who brought to an end the period of the Dark Ages in which everyone had to accept that everything that Aristotle had ever said must be true. Although he had a very tempestuous life, he played his part in ensuring that the free inquiring mind should not be inhibited by the assumptions which had prevailed for nineteen hundred years that anything which Aristotle said could not be questioned.

Melville had a conversation with James the Sixth of Scotland, before to our misfortune he became James the First of England. It is recorded that he caught the king by the sleeve, calling him "but God's sillie vassal", and said: Sir, as divers times before, so now again I must tell you, there are two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland; there is Christ Jesus and His kingdom the Kirk, whose subject King James the Sixth is, and of whose kingdom not a king, nor a head, nor a lord, but a member. This was the dispute between the Divine right of kings and the Divine right of presbytery. My views on that are best expressed by the words of John Milton when he wrote that great address to the English Parliament, not the British Parliament, Areopagitica, in which he dealt with the efforts of Presbyterians in England to censor books which he, John Milton, had written. He said: … Bishops and Presbyters are the same to us both name and thing. That is my attitude towards both today.

I want to go back to the spirit of Andrew Melville and not the spirit which this unfortunate controversy caused in Scotland for a great many years. There was a great minister of Prestonpans, who told James the Sixth when he sat in the General Assembly and took part in the debates: Yee sit not here as Imperator, but as a Christian". That was a sound democratic principle to which I adhere.

From 1580 when the General Assembly was inhibited from having contact with the Crown, because the Crown at that time was worn by a Roman Catholic, Mary Queen of Scots, through the centuries there was this constant conflict between the Crown and the Church of Scotland. It all centred round the question whether there should be an episcopal or a presbyterian system of Government. Fortunately for us in this country, we had two Scottish kings in succession after we had five Welsh monarchs, the Tudors. While we will take a lot from the Welsh, even when they have migrated to Scotland, we find it very difficult to accept the Scottish attitude on a great many of these matters.

I think of John Milton's great friend, Oliver Cromwell, and the message that he sent to the Kirk of Scotland: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken". I have never listened to a Scottish debate in the House without wishing that Mr. Speaker should be obliged to admonish both sides with that motto before the debate has proceeded very far.

I wish to read a short extract from an English history book entitled, Some English Dictators, by Milton Waldman: Like the Tudors James assumed monarchy to be for all intents and purposes synonymous with divinity. Only unlike them, he made the mistake of trying to prove it. Where they, with clairvoyant understanding of the English character, had been content to accept power as a fact, James, exaggeratedly Scottish, insisted on exploring its theory: the system which they had imposed as a pragmatic necessity justified by results he endeavoured, through incessant instruction of the least metaphysically minded race on earth in the philosophy of Divine Right, to attract to it an article of faith grounded upon dialectic. No Englishman will put up with that. I implore my hon. Friends representing Scottish constituencies when taking part in debates in the House to realise that one of the enduring qualities of the Englishman is that he does not wish to be impressed in these matters by mere dialectic. It was a good thing for both countries that, while in England we used Parliament to resist the Divine right of kings—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will, as soon as may be, bring his argument to the Bill under discussion.

Mr. Ede

I admit that the argument so far has been somewhat lengthy, but it has been directed towards this point, that we are asked now to provide money to perpetuate an office whose origin was in the desire of the Crown in Scotland to prove and to practise the Divine right of kings. It was fortunate for us that when we were quarrelling with the king as a Parliament, in Scotland the Kirk was quarrelling with the king on exactly the same points, and that at battles such as Marston Moor and Naseby in this country we had the support of an army raised by a Scottish Church against a Scottish king.

I hope that in the modern democratic world we shall be able to preserve between the militant section of the Church of Scotland and democracy in this country the happy union that was shown last year in the General Assembly. But I am not at all certain that the presence of the Lord High Commissioner is any help in bringing that about, for he is a perpetual reminder to the Church of Scotland of that part of its history during which it was engaged in a long and bitter controversy with the Crown.

I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) does not intend to divide the House on this issue tonight. If he had. I would gladly have gone into the Lobby with him, for I object to contributing to a collection to enable a presbyterian Church with which I disagree to carry on with a function that seems to me now to be completely useless.

8.30 p.m.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland (Mr. William Grant)

I hope that the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will pardon me if I do not follow him into some of the realms of old-time controversy with which he has been dealing. Nevertheless, I should say that the office of Lord High Commissioner is an old and honourable one, and I believe that it is the wish of the vast majority of the people of Scotland and of the Church that that office should continue; further more, that it should be carried on in a manner consistent with the dignity that the office has so long held. That, I am afraid, means money; and that is why we are here tonight—

Mr. Rankin

Is dignity always associated with money?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) referred to the timing of this Bill. I was not sure whether he was complaining that we were too early or too late, but the simple fact is that since 1954 the expenditure has been running at over the £4,000 limit. Despite efforts to economise, it has not been possible to keep it within that limit, and we now have to face the fact that unless there is a major change in the traditional hospitality at Holyrood, and in the necessary expenses that are incurred there, we must increase the Lord High Commissioner's allowance. It is obviously undesirable, from a public point of view, that the office should, in effect, as has happened sometimes, be subsidised from private sources or, alternatively, that the Lord High Commissioner should have to dip into his own pocket for what is 100 per cent. a public duty.

A number of questions have been asked, and I shall try, as far as I can, to deal with them. The first was why we have chosen £7,500. Well, £10,000 might have been as good a figure—or £7,000—but what we have—

Mr. Ross

Will the Solicitor-General for Scotland answer my question? He has talked about it, but he has not answered it. Why is this the first Scottish business after the new Parliament meets, and why was it not introduced in the last Session of the last Parliament?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

In the last Parliament we were very busy on Scottish Bills. In fact, there was one that we failed to get through because there was not time to do so. We got it through the other place, but there was no time even for that Measure. At the moment, we have to face the fact that next year there will be two Assemblies in Scotland. That means additional expense. Even though the second Assembly will possibly be for only a matter of two or three days it involves opening up Holyrood.

As someone raised the point, I should make it clear that the cost of opening up Holyrood for the Lord High Commissioner to go into residence is not an expenditure that could be charged to Ministry of Works Vote—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] It has to come out of the £4,000, or whatever it may be. It is as the representative of the Queen that the Lord High Commissioner is there, and I understand that it would not be proper to use the Ministry of Works Vote—

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Referring to the timing of the Bill, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say why, during the General Election, his party said that the first Bill to be brought in would be a local employment Bill and why it did not tell the Scottish people that, in fact, the first Scottish Bill to be brought in would be one to increase the allowance of the Lord High Commissioner to £7,500?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

We said that the first major Bill to be brought in would be one to deal with local employment, and that is, in fact, so. This is not a major Bill. No matter how strongly one may feel about it, or what particular repercussions it may have, it is not a major Bill, and in a manifesto it is not practice to give every minor Bill that may come along in the following Session. As regards timing, it is a question of getting the Bill through in time for arrangements to be made for the quartercentenary Assembly next year. That is the reason for the timing now.

Mr. Willis

If the Government knew since 1954 that the expenses were running at more than £4,000, then they had five years to introduce this Bill.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

They had indeed, but it was hoped that economies might have been possible which would have brought the expenses down. That has not proved possible.

Mr. Rankin

Why not?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

If the hon. Gentleman does not like it, I am sorry, but the reason is perfectly good and extremely valid.

So much for the timing. As to the amount, that, no doubt, is a matter of opinion, but it did seem to us that £7,500 was just about right because it would give a margin of flexibility. It will also be a help next year when we have two Assemblies, but £7,500 is the maximum. It is the Secretary of State who decides each year in consultation with the Treasury how much should be paid out. What happens is that there are discussions each year between the Secretary of State's officials and the Purse Bearer, who acts on behalf of the Lord High Commissioner, as to the level of the expenditure which is to be allowed. In the light of those discussions the amount is fixed for payment to the Lord High Commissioner, and, of course, in recent years, as I say, he has not had enough to cover the total expenditure incurred.

Mr. Willis

For what has the Treasury control?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

It has to be satisfied. It discusses the matter in considerable detail. It goes through the expenditure of the previous year pretty carefully, and in the light of that fixes the sum for the current year. That is the practice which has been followed, as I say, in recent years. There has never been the possibility of a surplus because the £4,000 has not been enough to cover outgoings.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give the House an assurance that if the sum is not spent there is a rebate, and that the balance is returned to the Treasury? Is there a rebate afterwards to the Exchequer?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

Oh, yes, because we always decide the following year's grant in the light of what has been spent in the previous year. That is to say, there is always a check on the expenditure. If there is a surplus it will be carried forward to the next year—

Mr. Thomson

Money carried forward?

Mr. Ross

The right hon. and learned Gentleman does not know.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

—but the idea is to get the amount fixed. There is no suggestion and no possibility under the Bill of the Lord High Commissioner himself putting into his pocket for private use any surplus left over at the end of the accounting period.

Mr. Thomson

There is no sort of suggestion that the Lord High Commissioner is personally benefiting from this, but we are voting money and we have a right to scrutinise it. I always understood that it was a principle of a Parliamentary grant of money that the money should be spent within the year and that it should not be carried over from year to year. How is it that in this case money can be carried over to the next year and used for that year's expenditure?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I think it is possible as this comes from the Consolidated Fund. This is not an annual Vote.

Mr. Rankin

Does that mean that they can do anything they like with it?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

No, certainly not. Nor does the Bill in any place suggest that. It lays down what procedure has to be gone through. The Secretary of State has to approve. He decides the amount, in consultation with the Treasury, and does so after very careful investigations of the level of expenditure and the fairness of the sum which he thinks should be allowed.

Certain points were raised about whether the hospitality was too limited, and about the type of people who are asked. Numbers cannot, of course, be unlimited. For example, about 3,000 people go to the garden party and there is a big reception on the Friday evening to which large numbers of people also go. Speaking from my own experience, the number of different walks of life represented at these occasions at Holy-rood is extremely large. They include people from overseas and people of all races and colours. One cannot, of course, lay down to the Lord High Commissioner that he must ask "X" and not ask "Y", but I believe that the Lord High Commissioner on the whole exercises a wide discretion in asking guests from every walk of life in Scotland and from overseas; and it is only right that he should be reimbursed for the expenditure to which he is put.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) raised a question about Income Tax. If I am not misquoting him, I think he suggested that I should tell him how to get round the Commissioners of Inland Revenue. On the point he made about whether the allowance is taxable. I cannot from my own point of view see any provision under which it can be brought into tax under statute.

Mr. Rankin

The hon. and learned Gentleman has condensed what I said into a rather unkindly statement, but I am certain that he did not mean it to have that effect. All I pointed out was that the Bill states that a certain amount of money shall be given to a person, to an individual, and that money is given with the sanction of Parliament. I do not know whether it is expenses, an allowance, remuneration, or whatever one might like to call it, but it is money given to an individual. The hon. and learned Gentleman may not have been in the House at the time, but I instanced the fact that during the last week an individual from the Inland Revenue has been in the Palace of Westminster advising Members about their returns. I have been under his scrutiny concerning all I have, even down to my trouser pocket buttons. If they had carried the image of the Queen on them they might have been accounted as part of my income. Everything has to go on paper. Why not in this case? That is all.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

The point is that what is taxable is income, and if a man is reimbursed for expenses he has had to pay out of his pocket in performing his public duty that reimbursement that, as far as I can see, cannot be regarded as income. It is a reimbursement, an allowance for expenses to which he has been actually put, and, broadly, in a case like that, the payment is not subject to tax. Quite apart from that, the matter is one between the Lord High Commissioner and the Commissioners of Inland Revenue. It is not a matter with which I can deal in more detail tonight.

Mr. Ross

We have been told by the Solicitor-General that the Secretary of State scrutinises this very carefully. Is there no Minister in attendance as well? I understand that the Solicitor-General attends the Assembly. I remember being denied the presence in this House of the Solicitor-General. Would he not know about the legal trouble which might arise over tax?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. The House must remember that this is a Second Reading debate and not the Committee stage.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I have already dealt fully with the point made by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. It is true that I attend at Holy-rood. I do so not as a person in the employ of the Lord High Commissioner but because in the Commission which the Solicitor-General for Scotland receives from the Queen he is instructed to attend the General Assembly on her behalf. That is how I come into it or go out of it, as the case may be. Accordingly I have no jurisdiction to deal with the Income Tax question nor do I deal with the accounts. The Secretary of State for Scotland deals with those and they are dealt with carefully each year.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman leaves accounts, could he give a rough break-up of the expenditure? What proportion of it is due to opening Holyrood Palace, what proportion goes on the general public occasions, such as the garden party, and what proportion goes on the more private occasions, the luncheons and dinners to the Scottish Establishment?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I cannot split that up as the hon. Gentleman would wish, but, broadly speaking, half the money is spent on entertainment. A considerable part of that goes on the garden party and also on the big reception held on the Friday night. I cannot give the amount spent on opening up Holyrood, but there are staff wages, carriages, motors and other items to be taken into account.

This is a necessary Measure because if the office is to be maintained, as I believe almost every Scotsman would like to have it maintained—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman give me an assurance that my suggestion, which I thought was constructive, will be taken into consideration? For example, will he before the Committee stage endeavour to sound the Moderator or the leaders of the Church of Scotland to see if they will consider my proposal to take this matter completely out of politics? His work would then be much easier.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

The hon. Gentleman is referring to the suggestion that the Moderator should be the Lord High Commissioner. That would involve considerable constitutional difficulties, and it is a matter which the Church of Scotland would have to decide for itself. If the Government adopted the hon. Gentleman's suggestion we would be doing exactly what he wants us not to do, that is, taking religion into politics. As I say, this is a necessary and desirable Bill, and I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).