HL Deb 24 July 1952 vol 178 cc268-70

3.53 p.m.


My Lords, by leave of the House I should like to make a statement which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister.

As the House is aware, the Government have been considering the scope of a Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs in the light of the Report of the Committee presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Catto, which investigated the economic and financial relations between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The Report of the Catto Committee has now been published and copies are available in the Printed Paper Office to-day. We are much indebted to Lord Catto and his colleagues for the comprehensive and thorough analysis they have made of the matters referred to them.

The Government accept the Committee's conclusion that a separate return for Scotland of Government revenue and expenditure can be prepared on lines which the Committee recommend and it is hoped to present such a return next year. The Government also agree with the Committee's view that, for reasons fully explained in the Report, it is impracticable to make a return of Scotland's share of the external trade of the United Kingdom or of Scotland's balance of payments. In these circumstances, the Government have recommended to the Queen, and Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to approve, the appointment of a Royal Commission. Its terms of reference are: To review with reference to the financial, economic, administrative and other considerations involved, the arrangements for exercising the functions of Her Majesty's Government in relation to Scotland and to report. The Earl of Balfour has agreed to act as Chairman of the Commission. I will circulate the names of the other members in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the list of names referred to:

The membership of the Commission is as follows:—

The Secretary of the Commission will be Mr. W. G. Pottinger,

and the Assistant Secretary Mr. A. T. F. Ogilvie,

both of the Scottish Home Department

3.56 p.m.


Are they all Scotsmen?


While thanking the noble Marquess for reading the statement which has been made by the Prime Minister, I should like to say that, while I dislike ever coming to a hasty conclusion, I think that this marks a definite step towards what we all hope will ultimately be a settlement of the longstanding grievances that have emanated from all parts of Scotland and percolated into both Houses of Parliament over a period of many years. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House has just referred to this Report as being a "comprehensive and thorough analysis"—I think that was the expression he used. That, of course, was only what could have been expected from a Committee whose chairman was so distinguished a member of your Lordships' House as Lord Catto.

Naturally I am unable to comment on the Report because it has reached my hands only within the last few seconds It would be foolish to try to make a comment on a Report which one had not had time to read. The Government, however, are evidently so convinced of the value of the Report—and I have no doubt that I shall be when I have time to read it—that they have taken the next step of appointing a Royal Commission. Again, I am sure that my colleagues and I on this side of the House who take an interest in Scottish affairs will also be glad that the Government have taken that step. I can only express the hope that while a Royal Commission is not a short by-pass to a solution of anything—these matters must take time—it will have the result of perhaps restraining some of the more impatient of my fellow Scots and inducing them to curb their impatience until the Royal Commission gets a fair opportunity to go into what is a very difficult problem. I am sure we all hope that they will ultimately succeed in finding a good solution.

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, whilst warmly welcoming the statement which the noble Marquess has made, and recognising that it is impossible to dictate to a Royal Commission how long it shall take over its labours, I also hope that the noble Marquess will request the Commission to be as expeditious as possible in considering the very wide matters before them. There is still a considerable amount of feeling in Scotland, and it would be unfortunate if some people should take the opportunity of spreading the impression that these matters are being shelved by the appointment of a Royal Commission. I need hardly say that I personally do not believe that for one moment.


No doubt the Commission will take note of what the noble Earl has just said. I can assure the noble Earl that there are some very good Scottish names among the members of the Commission, and no doubt they will be inspired by the same motive as the noble Earl himself has.