HL Deb 23 March 1885 vol 296 cc208-12

who had the following Question on the Paper:— To ask Her Majesty's Government, Whether it is intended to introduce a Bill on the subject of establishing a new department for the administration of Scottish business; and, if so, whether the superintendence of the Scottish national schools will be included in its functions, in rising to ask it, said, their Lordships would be separating in a few days for the Easter Holidays; and, therefore, he thought it was not premature to make an inquiry of Her Majesty's Government as to the Business for the remainder of the Session. At all events, he thought it was perfectly legitimate on his part to ask for some information in answer to the Question he had placed on the Paper. Their Lordships would no doubt recollect what passed on this subject last year. A Bill was introduced last Session into this House; it passed through various stages, in the course of which it received several Amendments, and it stood for third reading on the 10th July. The House assembled on that day, expecting to go on with the Bill; and it seemed that after another half-hour's talk the Bill might have passed this House and been sent down to the House of Commons; but it so happened that, two days before, a division had been taken on the subject of Parliamentary Reform, and a decision had been come to which was evidently not acceptable to Her Majesty's Government. In consequence of that decision the Government decided to throw over all their other legislation, and this measure, among others, was sacrificed; and in that connection he must say there was more alacrity shown in giving it up than seemed to him to be necessary, because, as he had said, another half-an-hour would have sufficed to send it from this House down to the House of Commons; and if it were not considered desirable to pass the Bill in those circumstances, at all events they would have had the credit of passing it in this House. However, as it nearly passed this House, he thought it very desirable that a Bill of the same character should be introduced this Session; and in regard to the second part of his Question, whether, in the event of such Bill being introduced, the subject of education would be included in the functions of the new Department, he begged to intimate that, unless that was done, they had really better leave the subject alone. It seemed to him to be quite ridiculous to propose the formation of a great Department for Scotland at all, unless they introduced that very important subject; and, for his part, he did not care for a Bill at all unless that were done. He believed the desirability of including education had been gene- rally and heartily approved of in Scotland; and in proof of that assertion he would remind their Lordships that at the great representative meeting of Liberals and Conservatives which was held in Edinburgh last year, on the subject of appointing a Scottish Minister, though it was not proposed that the matter of education should be there discussed, yet, if there was any one subject that came out more distinctly than another, it was the desire of the people of Scotland that the education of Scotland should be managed by a purely Scottish Board. He might say, further, that it seemed to him to be of great importance that the Privy Council should have nothing whatever to do with it. He thought it was contrary to the historical characteristics of education in Scotland that it should be managed from London; and he was perfectly certain that the whole subject would be much better managed if it could be entirely separated from all control of the Privy Council in London.


said, that before the Question was answered, he wished to make a suggestion to those who, like himself, had taken a considerable interest in this matter. It had always been a subject of great regret to Scotsmen that in the last two Sessions of Parliament there should have been abortive attempts made to deal with this question; and he considered that the time had now arrived when they had a right to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intended to create a Scottish Minister who should really, in all respects, have control over all Scottish affairs, and should be, in every sense of the word, a strong Representative of the country, and able to deal with all its interests. He, therefore, hoped that their two last failures to deal with the matter, together with the great difficulty there was at the present time of getting any legislation through the House of Commons, would really induce the Government seriously to take the matter into their consideration, because he hardly thought that the two Bills which they had produced on the subject had borne very great evidence of such treatment of the subject. His object in rising now, however, was simply to suggest that, unless the Government had made up their minds to place under the charge of this new Scottish Minister all Scottish Administrative Departments, and especially all matters relating to education, which was a question of vital importance in Scotland, he should strongly advise them to abandon any attempt to deal with the question now in a dying Parliament. Of course, he might be told that there were differences of opinion in Scotland, as to whether education at all, or in part, or wholly, should be placed under this new Minister. He did not propose to offer at this time any argument on the point; but he should like to say that he had found very little differences of opinion on the subject amongst the general public, and all the arguments he had heard against placing education under this new Minister seemed to him to come entirely from professional sources, and to savour a great deal of red tape and Departmental jealousy. In his opinion, if the new Office was worth creating at all, it was worth while to place under it one of the most important matters affecting Scotland. Unless that was done, and unless a thoroughly representative Scottish Minister was appointed, it would be better to postpone any attempt to deal with the question until after a General Election, when the whole question could be submitted to the opinion of the people of Scotland.


said, that while he concurred generally with his noble Friends, he would venture to express the hope that if Her Majesty's Government were not at present in a position to announce that they intended to insert a provision in the Bill placing education under the new Minister they would be able to do so later on, when the measure was before the House. His noble Friend (the Earl of Minto) had given full expression, not only to the feeling of interest, but also, he might say, to the anxiety which existed in Scotland as to the intentions of the Government on this question. As to the general question of the introduction of some measure, the anxiety on that point had been set at rest by the general assurances of Her Majesty's Government.


in reply, said, he was happy, on behalf of the Government, to be able to answer the first part of the Question of the noble Earl (the Earl of Minto) in the affirmative, and to state that it was the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill providing for a Secretary for Scotland after the Easter Recess. It would be introduced into their Lordships' House. As to the question whether education should be given in charge to the new Minister, that was a matter which the Government thought had better be discussed when the Bill was before their Lordships. The Government did not think it would be convenient to enter into a discussion of the matter now, or even to state whether such a provision would, or would not, be inserted in the Bill. It was neither usual, nor was it convenient, to state before a Bill was produced what it would contain, and the Government did not think this was an occasion for departing from a salutary rule.


gave Notice that if the Bill did not contain the provision as to education, he would bring forward an Amendment, as he had done before, that education should be included in the jurisdiction of the new Department.


asked, whether the Bill would be introduced in this House, or in the House of Commons?


I believe, as I have already said, it will be introduced in your Lordships' House.