HL Deb 16 July 1928 vol 71 cc1051-6

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords,

what is given Notice of, and therefore on this particular occasion we can do nothing except strike out this clause. The only proposal under the strict rules of the House is to eviscerate this Bill by taking out the clause and putting nothing in its place. I do not pretend to be an expert in the matter, but I understand that this clause is inserted on behalf of the owners of dogs, and it seems rather a pity that without due consideration, at the last moment, you should eviscerate the Bill without making any proposal to put something better in the place of the clause.


Can the noble Marquess suggest suitable words which would have the effect of preventing dogs from being vivisected?

On Question, Whether the Clause proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 33: Not-Contents, 5.

Canterbury, L. Abp. Plymouth, E. de Clifford, L.
Hailsham, L. (L. Chancellor.) Stanhope, E. Ernle, L.
Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.) Stradbroke, E. Fairfax of Cameron, L.
Gage, L. (V. Gage.)
Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Hampton, L.
Sutherland, D. Muir Mackenzie, L.
Ullswater, V. Parmoor, L.
Beauchamp, E. Younger of Leckie, V. Somerleyton, L.
Cranbrook, E. [Teller.] Southwark, L.
De La Warr, E. Askwith, L. Templemore, L.
Iddesleigh, E. [Teller.] Cushendun, L. Teynham, L.
Lucan, E. Darling, L. Thomson L.
Mar and Kellie, E. Dawson of Penn, L. Wraxall, L.
Westmeath, E. Banbury of Southam, L. [Teller.] Danesfort, L.
Strachie, L.
Bertie of Thame, V. [Teller.]

two Bills for the reorganisation of offices in Scotland have previously been before the House. In 1923 a Bill was introduced by Lord Novar (then Secretary for Scotland), which made no progress owing to the dissolution of Parliament. In the following year the Bill was reintroduced in practically the same form by Lord Muir Mackenzie on behalf of the Labour Government. It was passed with certain Amendments, but made no progress in the House of Commons before the dissolution of Parliament.

There are two changes of importance in the present Bill as compared with that of 1924. In the first place, while the 1924 Bill proposed a reduction in the size of the Scottish Board of Health, the present Bill gives effect in the case of that Department and of two others—the Board or Agriculture and the Prison Commission—to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Civil Service that the Board system of administration should be replaced by the departmental system now generally in force in the London Departments and also in the Scottish Office and the Scottish Education Department. Experience of the working of these Departments has led the Secretary of State for Scotland to the definite conclusion, coinciding with that of the Royal Commission, that in the interests of efficiency and the expedition of business the departmental system is, under modern conditions, much to be preferred. Similar views were expressed by noble Lords in the debate on the 1924 Bill. This is a peculiarly suitable time for the change, as it happens that in these three Departments there have recently been or will shortly be no fewer than six retirements of Board members representing two-thirds of the paid personnel of these Boards.

The second important change in this Bill relates to the organisation of the Register House Departments. The 1924 Bill as presented to the House proposed that the office of Deputy Clerk Register, which had been vacant since 1919, should cease to exist, that his powers should be vested in the Secretary for Scotland, and that each of the Register House departments should be in charge meantime of a Keeper responsible to the Secretary for Scotland—subject always to the jurisdiction of the Court of Session and the Treasury—but with power to the Secretary for Scotland to combine those offices under one head. Lord Dunedin took exception to some of these provisions, and certain Amendments (which he accepted, though not entirely meeting his views) were made, the most important of which was to vest the powers and ditties of the Deputy Clerk Register in the Keeper of the Records.

When the present Government came to review the position in 1925—keeping in view the opinions expressed in the House of Lords and elsewhere in favour of a unified control of the Register House—they reached the conclusion that a further modification of the proposals would be desirable. While it was clear that the resuscitation of the office of Deputy Clerk Register in its old form would be unsatisfactory and uneconomical, the Government was impressed by the need for unified control of these departments under a single head. The present Bill, therefore, constitutes a new office of Keeper of the Registers and Records of Scotland, to whom will be transferred not only the powers and duties of the Deputy Clerk Register, but those also of the Keeper of the Register of Sasines and of the Keeper of the Register of Deeds. This officer will be the working head of the three departments. The proposals involve no change in the position of the Court of Session or of the Secretary of State in relation to the work of the departments, and do not confer on the Keeper of the Registers and Records any power which has not been exercised by the several officers whose functions are transferred to him. The question is purely one of internal organisation and administration, and the Government believe that their proposals, which are welcomed by the Lord President of the Court of Session, will be conducive to efficiency and economy in the working of these departments.

Of the other clauses of the Bill, some are consequential on the two main features already described, and some repetitions, substantially, of clauses in the 1924 Bill, to which no exception was taken at the time. The only clauses not coming into one or other of these categories are Clauses 10 and 11. The object of Clause 10 is to bring the staff of the Principal Extractor of the Court, of Session into Civil Service conditions of employment as recommended by Commissions which have inquired into the Scottish legal departments; while Clause 11 is designed to remove a statutory qualification for membership of the Board of Trustees for the National Galleries of Scotland which has proved a source of difficulty in practice. Section 4 of the Act of 1906 requires that three of the seven members of the Board shall be members of elected local authorities in Scotland. That requirement has served no useful purpose and has at times led to difficulties in constituting the Board. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—[The Duke of Sutherland.]


My Lords, I have a clear recollection of what took place in 1924 when I had the honour of taking charge of a Bill for the reorganisation of certain Departments in Scotland. I recollect taking very great pains to arrive at an agreement with Lord Dunedin, who was and is the highest possible authority on matters of this kind, as upon many other matters. I certainly thought at the time that I had been successful in winning his approval; but there is no doubt that the matter was in controversy in Scotland then. I am not greatly surprised, although on seeing the Bill I was a little surprised, to find that the Bill has been founded apparently on different opinions from those which prevailed in 1924. Four years have passed and it is possible, no doubt, for persons of wisdom and consideration to alter their opinions. But that there is nothing to be said against the Bill and against the Second Reading of the Bill, no one will say who has read the debates in another place. If I were to follow the example that we have had this evening I might occupy your Lordships for the next three quarters of an hour or more in expatiating upon the technicalities of the Register House in Scotland and the practices that have been followed there for many years.

I have referred to the debates on the Third Reading in another place chiefly as showing that there are strong objections to this Bill. I do not propose to trouble your Lordships at any length. I only wish to say to the noble Duke that Clause 1 is surely very much more elaborate than that in the Bill I had to do with four years ago. I have only read it rapidly through but it seems to me to be over-elaborated. I should have thought, speaking rather offhand, that there was a great deal in that clause that might be covered by the Orders in Council mentioned in the clause. But I would not go so far as to say that of Orders in Council of the kind mentioned in another clause in the Bill, I forget which now. That clause contains a provision which I venture to call most objectionable, though I regret to say it is done now and then nowadays. It is a provision that an Order in Council—sometimes rules of court—may modify an Act of Parliament. That is a most objectionable thing, and I regret very much that it should be in this Bill. I do not think I need say anything more with regard to Clause 1, except that the noble Duke must not be surprised if I ask him one or two questions upon it in Committee, and for some further explanation of it.

There has been placed in my hands, and I imagine it has been placed in the hands of many of your Lordships, a representation from the Institution of Civil Servants, as I think it is called. It has regard to the position of technical assistants, and it seems to think that it is a bad thing for them to be put too precisely under the head of a Department. I have often heard objections of that kind made before and I know that those who understand administration recognise that there is force in that view. Supposing that the noble Duke has received that representation, I should be glad if he would be good enough to make some reference to it in Committee on the Bill. After those observations I am not going to move the rejection of the Bill. I know it would be of no use to do so, and I think it would put me in too difficult a position even in the kind consideration of your Lordships.


My Lords, I hope this Bill will receive a cordial acceptance at the hands of your Lordships. It has been a very long time on the carpet and it is very desirable that the Secretary for Scotland should be relieved to a certain extent from the responsibility he has in regard to certain matters mentioned in the Bill. Those of your Lordships who are familiar with the position will be glad that a change is at last to be made. I cordially support the Motion for Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read 2aand committed to a Committee of the Whole House.