HL Deb 01 August 1887 vol 318 cc687-93

Order for the Day for the Second Reading, read.

THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (The Marquess of Lothian)

, in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said: My Lords, in asking your Lordships to read this Bill a second time I feel that I labour under a disadvantage, inasmuch as the measure refers entirely to the strengthening of the Office I have the honour to hold and the fact that that Office is to be strengthened means, to a certain extent, a cutting and carving of powers from another Office. On that ground I should have been glad if one of Her Majesty's Secretaries of State had undertaken the duty of moving the second reading of this Bill. This question will be in the recollection of your Lordships. It has been before your Lordships for several years. I do not propose to go back to the history of it; but perhaps I may be allowed to remind your Lordships that in 1883 a Bill called the Local Government Bill was introduced, but it was late in the Session when it came up to your Lordships, and it was felt that a measure of that importance should not be passed without sufficient discussion and consideration. The consequence was that your Lordships' House did not pass that Bill in 1883. Public feeling in Scotland was very; much roused on the subject, and the result was that in January of the following year a meeting was held in Edinburgh—perhaps the most representative meeting that ever was held in Scotland, embracing, as it did, not only every political section—I see the noble Earl (the Earl of Wemyss) smile—but it embraced, not only every political section, but every branch of society, and every portion of the Kingdom of Scotland. I see the noble Earl smiles dissent, but I think the only dissentient voice on that occasion came from the noble Earl himself. The result of that meeting was a deputation which shortly afterwards waited upon the Prime Minister, Mr. Gladstone, and which I had the honour to introduce. Mr. Gladstone then undertook that measures should be introduced to give effect to the wishes of the people of Scotland; and in 1884 my noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Rosebery), to whose courage, ability, and cordiality the measure owed so much, brought in a Bill for the creation of the Office of Secretary for Scotland. I wish to refer to that Bill, because some words were used on the second reading, both by the present Prime Minister and by the noble Earl (the Earl of Rosebery), that strengthen my hands in asking your Lordships to give a second reading to the Bill now before you. When that measure was before this House the present Prime Minister said the consideration that it was desirable to confer as much power upon the now Office as possible induced him to vote for the Amendment—that was, that the administration of law and justice should be placed in the hands of the Secretary for Scotland; and the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Rosebery) said it was quite certain that if this new Minister was to start his Office under discouraging conditions the Office would be a failure. The point to which the noble Earl was then referring was then very question of the administration of law and justice. In "another place," however, that Amendment was rejected. I am quite certain that my Predecessors in Office will bear out completely the contention of the noble Earl that it was almost impossible that the Office then constituted should not be a failure unless some additional powers were attached to it. I do not say it has been a failure, but that it may become so unless these additional powers are granted. There are two considerations that I will lay before your Lordships in asking you to give the Bill a second reading. The first is what I may call a sentimental consideration, and the other is a practical one. The sentimental consideration has a very direct bearing on the practical one. After the long period of most intimate union between England and Scotland, which has lasted now nearly 200 years, people are apt to forget how entirely distinctive and different the administration of Scotland is from that of England. There is almost no point of resemblance. There are different forms of religion and different social forms affecting every portion of Scotland. There is a different node of education—an entirely different code of education—and different systems of agriculture. There are also different systems affecting the laws of lunacy and parochial laws, the fishing laws, and almost every other department. In fact, I think the few Acts which are mentioned in the last clause of this Bill as exceptions to the operation of the Bill practically touch the whole of the laws which are similar with regard to both Scotland and England. To these differences between Scotland and England the people of Scotland are intensely and passionately attached—not, I rejoice to believe, because there is any feeling of not continuing cordially the union; but for that very reason the people of Scotland wish to continue the life-interests and sentiments that have made them what they are. I think it is most desirable, in the interests of the Empire, that everything should be done to keep up and foster this national spirit, which is the parent of that healthy rivalry and emulation which is the life-blood of a people. So much for the sentimental reason. I now come to the practical reason. The fact of the administration of law and justice not being in the hands of the Secretary for Scotland has put the Head of that Department in a very awkward position. I will not go into details; it would not be proper if I were to do so; but I think it is an open secret that last year, during the difficulty which arose in the Western Highlands, it would have been almost impossible even for my Predecessor, with his great ability, to satisfactorily settle the question of law and order in that part of the country if he had not been a Member of the Cabinet. That difficulty may arise again in the Western Highlands or elsewhere at any moment, although I hope it may not; and your Lordships will see how desirable and necessary it is that that control of law and order which was given to the Secretary for Scotland last year by an exceptional method should be permanently vested in him by Act of Parliament and by Statute. For that reason, if for no other, I should ask your Lordships to pass this Bill. There are other questions, and almost every day that I have passed at the Scottish Office has given me an experience showing that it is absolutely necessary for the proper administration of that Office that the powers referred to in this Bill should be transferred from the Home Office to that of the Secretary for Scotland. The provisions of the Bill are very simple and very drastic. They transfer these powers from the Home Office, and make the Secretary for Scotland, in fact, the Home Secretary for Scotland. Certain Acts have been excepted, because they refer generally to the United Kingdom. I will refer briefly to these exceptions. The first is the duty of advising Her Majesty upon the exercise of the prerogative of mercy, and I feel sure your Lordships will agree with the Government in considering it desirable that this duty should be exercised by one Officer of State only. The next exceptions are the Factory and Workshops Act, 1878, the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1872, and the Explosives Act, 1875. These are all applicable to the United Kingdom; and having regard to the due regulation of trade and uniformity of practice, Her Majesty's Government thought it desirable that these Acts should continue, as at present, to be administered by the Home Office. In connection with the Cruelty to Animals Act, there are questions relating to vivisection, with respect to which the law should be as uniform as possible in all parts of the United Kingdom; and with regard to the Reformatory and Industrial Schools Acts the Government at present has in contemplation a Bill dealing with these subjects. If that Bill were passed it could then be considered whether it was desirable that the subject should remain under the Home Secretary or should be transferred to the Secretary for Scotland, or whether, as regards Scotland, they should be transferred to the Secretary for Scotland. I have now gone through the principal points of the Bill for which I ask a second reading. I think I ought to refer for one moment to the position of the Lord Advocate. The position of the Lord Advocate will not be changed at all by this Bill. The position of the Lord Advocate was guaranteed under the Act of 1885, and any changes that may take place in consequence of the passing of this Act will amount to this—that the Lord Advocate will simply act in relation to the Secretary for Scotland as he did with reference to the Secretary of State for the Home Department under the Bill of 1885. I may add that the Lord Advocate has highly approved of this measure. One more: point I should like very briefly to refer to, and I do so with some diffidence, because, I think some difficulty might arise in reference to it. I should have liked, if; it were possible, to have added to this Bill a clause which should have provided that the Secretary for Scotland should be one of Her Majesty's Secretaries of State. I think that would have given satisfaction to the people of Scotland, who earnestly desire it, and it would also necessitate the Minister for Scotland being a Member of the Cabinet. By the passing of the Act in 1885, the position of Scottish legislation has been entirely altered. Before that time, when the Home Secretary was responsible for legislation regarding Scotland, he had the opportunity, as it was his duty, to bring before the Cabinet any legislation affecting Scotland. Now, if by any chance the Secretary for Scotland is not a Member of the Cabinet, there is no opportunity for him to bring directly before the Cabinet measures which he may think are for the advantage of Scotland: and in the immense pressure of other Business it is quite possible, and more than possible, that measures deeply affecting Scotland may be pressed out. But, on the other hand, I quite see that a clause of that sort, which would have necessitated the appointment of a Minister who should be a Member of the Cabinet, was not a clause which ought to be introduced into a Bill of this kind. It would have affected other Departments of the State besides Scotland. Therefore, whatever may be done in the future, I hope your Lordships and the people of Scotland will be satisfied with the Bill which I now ask to be read a second time. I feel that this measure will be satisfactory to the people of Scotland; and I cannot conclude without appealing to the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Rosebery), who has had so much to do with the legislation connected with this Department, and I feel sure I may rely upon his cordial support in bringing forward this measure, which, I venture to think, will be for the benefit of the people of Scotland and of the United Kingdom.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a—(The Marquess of Lothian.)


Before the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack puts the Motion, I should like to say I confess I read this Bill with Tory great approval, because it only carries out the Amendment which I had the I honour of bringing before your Lordships, and which met with your Lordships' approval, but did not find the same approval in "another place," and, therefore, was left out of the Bill when it passed through the House, But I never had any doubt—and I have frequently expressed that feeling—about this, that if the Secretary for Scotland once was brought into existence, he would, by the very force of circumstances, attract to himself all those other attributes which we wished to have been given to him by the Bill of that time, and which it is now found necessary to give to him. I do not enter upon that by way of vindicating my own foresight in the matter, because it was perfectly obvious that either the Secretary for Scotland should cease to exist altogether, or else by the very nature of things we should find the Government very soon bringing in the Bill which the noble Marquess has now laid on the Table. The Noble Marquess thinks that the Secretary for Scotland has suffered by not having these powers. I do not doubt that the Secretary for Scotland has so suffered; but if I might venture to say so, in my humble opinion, that Office has suffered much more by I another circumstance. It has suffered by the fact that in the 16 months that have followed the passing of the Act which created the Office there were no less than five incumbents of that Office. Five Secretaries for Scotland in less than 16 months would be enough to ruin any Office imbued with less vitality than the "Office which the noble Marquess now so efficiently fills. My only doubt as to this Bill is whether in the other House it may find that easy passage or those I facilities from the Government which I hope it may; but if the Government have it really at heart to force this Bill through, I do not doubt the people of Scotland will derive at the end of this Session a substantial benefit in the measure now before your Lordships.


said, he must congratulate the noble Marquess the Secretary for Scotland on the pro- duction of this Bill, and he hoped their Lordships would give it a second reading.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.