§ A Clause (Special provisions as to service franchise occupiers,)—(The Lord Advocate,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)
I hoped in rising to have received from the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate some sign which would have rendered my remarks on this clause unnecessary, and I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has made no such sign. I am afraid that I must say a few words more in continuation of the discussion of Friday last. I wish to point out how large is the proportion of service franchise voters compared with the other voters of all kinds. In my own constituency, for example, out of 5,842 voters there are no fewer than 2,127 service voters, against 3,715 voters of all other kinds. The effect of the clause will be to give power to the employer to fine the employés for being on the register of voters for the County Council. There appears to me to be no adequate reason for placing an additional column on the Roll when no such additional column on the roll is required for Parliamentary voters. With regard to the second part of the clause, I consider it most objectionable. Let me take the case of ordinary farm servants. Large holdings are common in Scotland; there are farms of 500 to 700 acres producing a rent of from £750 to £1,000 a year, upon which probably some 12 or 14 farm servants are employed, who will become voters under this Act. They will get the vote because they dwell in certain houses; but such houses are as much part of the farm as the stables and farm buildings, and it is impossible to separate them from the farm. They cost nothing to the farmer or occupier of the holding, but they have been built entirely by the capital of the landlord, and if relief is given in respect of them it should be given to those by whose capital they are maintained. An endeavour to separate them into separate holdings will prove a ridiculous, impossible, and useless task. In practical working, the clause will either be a sham, or if it is put in 418 force it will be used to gratify spite and create quarrels between the employer and the employé. I shall therefore oppose the clause with all my power, and shall certainly press the opposition to a Division.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. P. B. ROBERTSON,) Bute
It is only right that I should say a word upon this clause. I confess that I do not see that it merits the hostility which the right hon. Gentleman has manifested towards it. The Government have borne in mind what was said in the course of the Debates on the Second Reading concerning this point. Much that was said was very much to the purpose, and indicated a view not very different from the view we had ourselves. Then hon. Members were all agreed that the service franchise voters should, like all other voters, feel the rise and fall of rates; that they should have an interest in economy, and be brought into direct contact with the question of economy, in order that their conduct might be influenced thereby. On the other hand, it was pointed out by some hon. Members on the Opposition side that the service voters did pay rates indirectly to their masters. The Government examined the question, and found that there was a great deal to be said to sustain that allegation. They took it for granted that these men were paying rates because they had without question been put upon the Parliamentary roll. Take the case of the miners. In that case the rates undoubtedly enter into the computation as to what the miner shall receive in the shape of wages. The service covers a wide range of service, and a considerable number of miners are included. Then we say, "If you have an arrangement with your master by which you are not liable for rates, and there is a lump sum which covers the rates, there is no question about the matter; but if the master is paying your rates and you are paying nothing, directly or indirectly, then we shall have a right of relief against you." Can anything be fairer than that? You have there a recognition of the rates being indirectly paid, and when that is so the voter will never be asked for a farthing. Henceforward it may be necessary to say in the hiring that the wages shall cover the house and rates. The service men will all vote, and will not pay, except in those cases where they 419 are let off the rates and another person pays them. I think that, in the circumstances, the Government have made a suitable arrangement of the matter.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I rise to answer the somewhat mild remarks of the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite. Many of us on this side of the House have no objection, in fact we rather approve of the first half of the clause, which provides that the amount of rates paid by a service franchise house shall be entered in the rate book. But we object to the second half as an unnecessary interference between employers and employed—between the relations of the man who rents a main block of buildings and the man who occupies a single cottage in the block. If there is any meaning at all in the last half of the clause it is that the Government still adhere to the principle that the personal payment of rates, or the liability in certain circumstances to personal payment, is in some sense a guarantee that a man is a good citizen and fit to vote. This clause does not carry out that principle fully; but it does so in a manner which gives no. guarantee from a public point of view. But it gives the master a hold over the man, without giving the slightest guarantee that the man is a solvent ratepayer. On this side of the House we object to the recognition of the principle altogether. There is a large and increasing number of us who object to the principle of ratepaying being a qualification for the franchise. The clause as it stands will considerably weight the Bill; it will give a good deal of trouble; and it is an unnecessary interference with the private relations of the employer and the employed. I think the Government will do well to leave the matter alone.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 164; Noes, 129.—(Div. List, No. 206.)
§ Question proposed, "That this Clause be added to the Bill."
§ * MR. D. CRAWFORD (Lanarkshire, N.)
I beg to move an Amendment to the clause by leaving out all the words after the word "entry," in line 9. It has been the distinction between Scotland and England for a very long time that in England the fact that a man was rated to the poor was regarded as a necessary qualification for the Parliamentary franchise, whereas in Scotland 420 that was not so. There was a considerable conflict of opinion in Scotland when the last Reform Act was passed. By the old definition of a dwelling-house in the Act of 1868 as the foundation of household suffrage, the word dwelling-house was defined as premises in respect of which a man was rated to the poor. That provision was repealed in 1884, and all reference to the rating was taken out. Many Members of the House are aware that it was largely due to the efforts of Scotch Members and other people acquainted with the affairs of Scotland, that the service franchise was admitted into that measure at all. It was pointed out that if that were not done a large part of the very best citizens of Scotland would be deprived of the right of voting. The principle having been to the fullest extent given effect to by the Act of 1854, it is attempted in this clause to go back upon it and to say that a man shall not enjoy the right to vote for a member of the Council unless his employers report that he has paid his rates for the house he occupied. That is a double mistake, because, in the first place, it refers to the necessity of paying rates, which is foreign to the Scotch system; and, secondly, because it puts it into the power of the master to insist upon that payment. And there is not the slightest doubt that the exercise of that influence by the employers at elections would have a most disturbing, and, I may say, a most corrupting effect upon the result of the elections. Upon this ground I move to leave out all the words after line 9.
§ Amendment proposed to the proposed new Clause, to leave out all the words after line 9.—(Mr. Donald Crawford.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I must say that I could not follow the hon. and learned Gentleman in his argument. The first nine lines of the clause would be absolutely useless without the following part of it; and I would suggest to the hon. and learned Gentleman that this is a very difficult way of raising a question which has been already decided.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause added.421
§ * MR. JOHN WILSON (Govan)
The clause which stands in my name is one to do away with an anomaly which exists between some of the large boroughs of Scotland and what are called Royal boroughs. The borough of the division which I have the honour to represent contains 55,000 inhabitants, but it has not the privileges of a Royal borough some of which do not contain a tenth part of the population. The only point on which such large boroughs are in touch with the County Authorities is in the levying of small rates. I am glad to state that this matter has been arranged, with the concurrence of the hon. Member for South Lanark, who, all through this Bill, has acted as guardian of the interests of the county, and you may assume, therefore, that on the part of the County Authorities there are no objection to this clause being added to the Bill. I am sure I may appeal to the sense of fairness and justice of the Lord Advocate, and ask him to add this clause to the Bill.
§ New Clause (Royal Burghs,)—(Mr. John Wilson)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ * MR. HOZIER
I hope the Government will see their way to accepting this clause of my hon. Friend, and I am fully authorized to say that the County Authorities of Lanarkshire see no objection to the proposal which is contained in it.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I rise at once for the purpose of saying that the Government cannot accept this Amendment. The question was mooted in an earlier part of the Bill, and I then announced that I opposed any change in the status of the Royal burghs, and to that position I must adhere. I resisted the proposals which came from the side of Glasgow as I now resist this proposal; and I cannot say that I see any substantial reasons, on the merits of this proposal, which would induce us to confer on police boroughs of the size referred to a status which they do not possess.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I confess that my sympathies are with the view taken by 422 the Lord Advocate, and perfectly appreciate his position as to the way in which this proposal would affect Glasgow and some of the big burghs grouped around it; but, being free from the right hon. Gentleman's responsibilities, I cannot but agree with my hon. Friend who has moved the new clause; and I would even go further than he has done, for he has very modestly put it that a police burgh shall be a burgh having not less than 30,000 population. I cannot see why there should not be some self-governing limit laid down, so that every community above that limit should have self-governing powers.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ * MR. HOZIER
I beg to move the new clause which stands in my name, the reason for which is that the Act can be more efficiently carried out in larger areas than the burghs.
§ New Clause (Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act)—(Mr. Hozier)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
This is undoubtedly an important subject; but I would suggest to my hon. Friend that the clause he proposes is not the most convenient way of raising the question. The question is, whether the Acts of Parliament relating to the health of cattle can best be enforced in districts of the existing size or not; and on this subject there are great differences of opinion. On the one hand, the smaller Local Authorities are very jealous of their existing privileges; and, on the other hand, there is a growing opinion that the areas are too small for the efficient working of the Acts. However, be that as it may, this is not a question of local government, but of the law relating to the health of cattle, and ought not to be brought up incidentally on a question touching the municipal privileges of burghs, but should rather be dealt with on a review of the best methods of carrying out those Acts. Therefore, seeing that agricultural questions are at the present time coming forward for discussion, I would suggest that my hon. Friend should reserve this proposal for some occasion on which it can be more deliberately and more appropriately considered.
§ * MR. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)
I agree in thinking it desirable that such a Committee as has been suggested should be appointed, as there is a strong feeling that the powers of the Local Authorities in the smaller burghs are not sufficient; but I think there is much force in what the Lord Advocate has said, and I hardly think the clause can be practically dealt with in this Bill. For instance, it contains no provision with regard to the expenses that would necessarily be incurred by the Joint Committee, and unless some such provision were made there would be difficulty in carrying out the clause. I hope the new Minister of Agriculture will take the question up, as it is one of great importance to agriculturists.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)
I am in some doubt as to the way in which I should give my vote; but I think there is some reason in what the Lord Advocate has said; and I would point out that the Bill already deals with this question in regard to burghs of a certain size, many of which would be glad to be thrown into the counties, but would be sorry to have the interference of the counties in these matters, unless the counties bore their fair share of the expense.
§ * MR. HOZIER
In view of the appointment of a Minister of Agriculture, and after what has been said by the Lord Advocate and others, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. J. C. BOLTON (Stirling)
I have now to move the clause which stands on the Paper in my name. I understand that the last payment of the grant in aid will take place in November next, and that the first payment from the share of the Probate Duty and licenses coming to Scotland will not occur until after the termination of the year ending March 31, 1891. I am not sure whether the Secretary for Scotland should not be the person indicated as charged with the duty here imposed instead of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue; but I hope the clause will not be refused by the Lord Advocate on that ground.
§ New Clause (Local Taxation, Licenses, and Probate Duty Payments,)—(Mr. Bolton,)—brought up, and read the first time.424
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that, as it seems to me, there is no need for this clause. I ought, perhaps, first of all to remind the hon. Member that I undertook on a previous occasion that the question of the provision of the necessary funds should be considered, and that is now being done; and whatever course may be taken with regard to the local distribution of the money, the difficulty which has occurred in England will not occur in Scotland, where it fortunately happens that the bulk of the License Duties are payable in May, so that about that time the authorities would be in a position to make the required payments. The County Councils' financial year begins on the 15th May, and consequently they would be in funds in due time.
* MR. J. B. BALFOUR (Clackmannan)
Can the right hon. Gentleman state what proportion of the money comes in in May?
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I cannot give the precise amount; but the proportion of the License Duties paid in Scotland in May is very large—so large that there can be no deficit in regard to these funds.
§ MR. J. MACDONALD CAMERON (Wick)
I can confirm what the Lord Advocate has stated—namely, that the bulk of the License Duties are paid in May; and the hon. Member for Stirlingshire may, therefore, be satisfied that the County Councils will have sufficient funds to meet all requirements.
§ MR. J. C. BOLTON
The explanation of the Lord Advocate is quite satisfactory as far as it goes; but I would point out that there is nothing in the Bill requiring the payment of the money. Take the Probate Duty: I do not see how a division is to be made until the total amount to be divided is known; and the same remark may apply to the License Duties. I think there ought to be some provision in the Bill authorizing the payment. If the Lord Advocate includes some such provision I shall be satisfied.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON,) Leeds, N.
That question was carefully considered, and it was deemed unnecessary to insert 425 any provision in regard to it in this Bill. The Treasury will have power to make payment in round sums from time to time, and I believe the money will be given earlier than if this clause were passed. Payments may be made in June, November, January, and February.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
The new clause which I am about to propose is one of the new clauses brought forward on behalf of Lanark and Renfrew with a view to preserving their status quo. I quite understand it is the intention of the Government that nothing shall be done in this Bill which will, in the slightest degree, prejudice the consideration of the question of the extension of the boundaries of the City of Glasgow, which will be brought on again next Session. The Lord Advocate has already consented to a clause which deals automatically with the representation of these particular districts, and I think it desirable that the financial arrangements should be dealt with as proposed in my new clause. I desire that this boundary question shall not be prejudged in any way; but simply to secure that the money applicable to the territory in dispute shall remain in the control of the Secretary for Scotland until the whole question has been decided by Parliament.
§ New Clause (Payments to Lanark and Renfrew,)—(Mr. Caldwell)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
It is hardly necessary for me to say that I cannot accept this Amendment. The proposal of the hon. Member would tie up until some future period—until, in fact, the settlement of the dispute as to the boundaries of Glasgow—a considerable sum of money. I may, however, say, for the information of hon. Members opposite, that we propose to accept a general saving clause—not naming Glasgow or any other place—providing that nothing in the Bill shall prejudice any application made in any part of the country for any extension of boundaries, 426 nor shall it prejudice the answer made to such application.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN
I think the last object of Glasgow would be to deprive any neighbouring county of the advantages of self-government. I think the course suggested by the Lord Advocate is reasonable and sufficient to meet the demands of the Glasgow Corporation.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ * MR. CUNINGHAME GRAHAM (Lanark, N.W.)
In rising to propose the clause which stands in my name, I do not intend to go into the whole question of the payment of Municipal Councillors, because it involves the same principle as the payment of Members of this House. But I wish to say a few words on this subject, and to explain that my reason for bringing this clause forward is that I desire to provide for the expenses of those who will take part in the County Government of the future. I presume that the Government have introduced this Bill in deference to a popular wish, and in order to place County Administration on a more popular basis; and it seems to me it would be impossible to secure real popular representation unless some small salary were provided to meet the expenses which would be incurred by such working men as may happen to be elected in the County Councils. The proposition contained in my clause is that a day's salary shall be granted, together with travelling expenses. I think that that is a moderate proposal. It would not place a large burden on the rates, while it would meet a popular want. I am not often fond of precedent; but in this House it is sometimes necessary to have precedents, in order, I suppose, to strengthen the back sinews of the knees of the weaker brethren. There is a precedent in regard to this clause. The Lord Advocate will correct me if I am not right in stating that for a considerable time in Scotland men who are required to serve on juries have been allowed to claim their expenses for the day.
§ * MR. CUNINGHAME GRAHAM
Then we have this precedent—that men required to serve in Civil cases are allowed to claim their day's expenses.
§ * MR. CUNINGHAME GRAHAM
That, then, I quote as a precedent in favour of my proposition. I know it is considered by Members of this House that the payment of members of Municipal Authorities for their services involves a principle which is not generally acceptable. But there are certain instances I will bring shortly before the attention of hon. Members which I think may weigh in some degree with the Members of the Committee. We have two or three Members sent specially to this House to represent the Trades Unions, and their maintenance here costs an undue and unfair tax upon members of their particular trade. Now, I wish to interest the working classes in the Municipal Administration of Scotland, but I do not think it right, if working men are found willing to take their part in this work, that the trades to which they belong should be called upon to support them. In the London County Council there is a working class representative who was elected by the citizens of Battersea—I mean Mr. John Burns—who has had to be paid by his fellow working men, although it is admitted that he has proved one of the most useful members of the Council, and has rendered very valuable service. I presume it is hoped that in Scotland working men will find seats on the County Councils; and in order that no difficulty shall be placed in the way of the attainment of that end, I venture to move the clause which stands in my name.
§ New Clause (Payment of travelling expenses of members of County Councils,)—(Mr. Cuninghame Graham,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I admit that the hon. Member has advanced his argument with great moderation and clearness; but the Government cannot entertain his proposal, neither do I think that the precedents he has quoted are in any way germane to the present proposal. I hope the Committee will not be drawn into the discussion of subjects of this kind. The question of whether we should give remuneration to persons for the discharge of public duties is a general one which cannot be 428 raised now, and it ought not to be decided on without mature consideration.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I agree with the Lord Advocate in so far as the actual payment for attendance in the discharge of public duties is concerned, but I think that there is something in the question of travelling expenses. This point was considered last year when the House was engaged in the discussion of the English Bill; but we have from the first declined to be bound by that precedent. It may happen that suitable persons for election on the County Councils may live a considerable distance from the county town, and it therefore seems to me desirable that their necessary travelling expenses should be paid. I do not see how that practice could be abused to any large extent, while it would undoubtedly have the effect of enlarging the choice of the electorate, and not in the least degree prejudice the larger question which, I quite agree with the Lord Advocate, we could hardly touch on this occasion—namely, the general question whether for public services rendered direct remuneration should be given. If my hon. Friend will eliminate from his clause the proposal to pay a day's wages, and confine his proposal to the payment of reasonable and necessary travelling expenses, I shall be ready to support him.
§ * MR. C. GRAHAM
I will certainly modify my proposal, and beg therefore to ask leave to withdraw my clause in order to submit the modified proposal.
§ Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
Members attending County Council meetings or attending Committee meetings, or performing duties in connection with the Council, shall he entitled to claim reasonable travelling expenses,"—(Mr. Cuninghame Graham),—read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ DR. CLARK
Are we to understand that the Government are as much opposed to the payment of travelling expenses as of salary, and are not prepared to compromise the question? This point would not, of course, arise in connection with burgh administration; but when a man has to travel 50, 60, or 429 80 miles—partly by rail, partly by steamer, and partly by road—I think, unless you make some provision for the payment of expenses, you will seriously limit the choice of many districts in their representatives. If you intend that the County Councils shall be composed of the best men in the county, irrespective of social position, the only way to secure that will be to pay their travelling expenses; because a charge of, say, £1 per journey would prove a serious tax upon the smaller class of farmers who may be expected to act as the representatives of rural districts, especially in the Highlands. I hope that the Lord Advocate will look at this matter altogether apart from the general question of the payment of Members, for unless some such concession as this is made we shall have the rural districts represented solely by urban residents. I hope the Government, therefore, will reconsider their decision, and at any rate make provision for long and costly journeys.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
I, too, hope that the Government will give way. Take the case of the burghs I represent. They will have to send representatives to the County Councils, and as they will have to travel a considerable distance to the county town, and unfortunately the burghs are served by a monopolist railway which charges heavy fares, the travelling expenses will be a severe tax on the representatives selected. The smaller burghs will, no doubt, be insufficiently represented on the County Councils unless the Government acquiesce in this moderate proposal.
§ DR. McDONALD (Ross and Cromarty)
Unless the Government give way on this point we in the Highlands will be practically unrepresented on the County Councils. In my county, representatives, if chosen, will have to travel by sea and land, by boat, by railway, and by coach, and sometimes on foot, a distance of 100 or 120 miles. How can it be expected a poor man will go that distance and pay his own expenses, when the Government are giving so little work to the County Councils? The result will, in fact, be that the outlying districts will be unrepresented. The representative of the Island of Lewis will have to spend a couple of days in travelling in order to attend the County 430 Council meetings, and is it to be expected anyone will do that unless the out of pocket expenses are paid? I think the Government will be doing a serious injustice to the people of the West Highlands, where distances are so great and locomotion so difficult and so expensive, if they reject this Amendment.
§ MR J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I thoroughly sympathize with the object of the clause; but I do not see how any means of paying the travelling expenses of County Councillors can be adopted without recognizing a principle which Parliament has not yet sanctioned. I should be glad to find it possible to devise some way of preventing cases of unusual hardship; but any such means must be carefully safeguarded from forming a precedent in the matter.
§ * MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen)
In the case of the county I represent, it will be necessary for some of the members of the County Council to travel 50 or 60 miles. I think the proposal embodied in the Amendment is a very reasonable one. The Lord Advocate says it introduces a new principle; but he must remember that we are introducing into Scotland for the first time Municipal Government in the counties. Scotch counties are exceptionally situated; in some districts the population is very sparse; and I am quite satisfied that the people of Scotland would be willing to pay reasonable travelling expenses for those who attend the meetings of the County Council. I admit that the question of also allowing a day's wages would be fraught with considerable difficulty, but that has now been withdrawn; and I hope the Government will take a wider view of the clause as it has been modified, for I believe the principle involved will prove as acceptable in the Lowlands as in the Highlands.
§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
I may point out that the principle has already been adopted in some of the Scotch burghs, as the Glasgow Corporation maintain two or three carriages to take the baillies from their houses to their municipal duties. I believe also that in the junketting the Town Councils take when inspecting waterworks and lighthouses, in addition to reasonable travelling expenses, substantial refreshments are provided.
§ MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH (Invernessshire)
I have listened to the re- 431 marks of the Lord Advocate with considerable interest. I would ask the Government to specially consider the case of the county I represent, and also the County of Ross. I am sure they wish the crofters to be represented on the County Councils; but it will not be possible unless their travelling expenses are paid.
§ * MR. ASQUITH (Fife, East)
I trust that the Committee will not be satisfied with the somewhat vague assurances given by the Lord Advocate. On this occasion the right hon. Gentleman has failed to grapple with the practical difficulty laid before him, so afraid is he lest the House should furtively recognise a principle which may have a wider application in the future. I am not at all afraid of wider applications of the principle contained in the Amendment; and, whether or not the clause is accepted, I hope the principle will be heard of again on a much larger scale. For the purposes of this discussion it is sufficient that we should confine our attention to the special difficulties peculiar to local circumstances in Scotland. These can be dealt with on their own merits without regard to the wider application of the principle. It has been pointed out by one of my hon. Friends that you are establishing an entirely new kind of representative body, altogether differing from the Councils which exist in boroughs—a body which will represent a very wide area, between extreme portions of which and the centre there are often imperfectly developed means of communication. Now, if a body of that kind is to be really representative and to perform its duties to the satisfaction of the constituencies and of public opinion, the Government must make some provision for the practical difficulties which are peculiar not only to the Highlands, but more or less to the whole of Scotland. Otherwise these County Councils will not be representative in the best sense of the word, because either a large number of people will be artificially excluded from sitting upon them, or their management will fall into the hands of cliques and committees. I certainly think this moderate proposal will commend itself to the vast majority of Scotch Members, and I therefore trust that the Government will reconsider their decision.
In the Highlands some County Councillors will have to travel very long distances to attend the meetings of the Council. Some, indeed, will have to be away from home for days. Surely it is not reasonable to ask men to do this for nothing.
§ MR. A. SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)
I desire to support what has been advanced in favour of this Amendment. The improved system of Local Government provided by this measure will practically be of no avail unless this Amendment is carried. Owing to the great distances which County Councillors will have to travel the people will be entirely excluded from representation. I hope the Government will see their way to accede to the Amendment, because its acceptance is of vital importance to many parts of Scotland.
§ MR. MACDONALD CAMERON
I beg to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend. It seems to me the Lord Advocate desires to give way, if he can; but he does not like the wide application of this principle. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree to the principle being applicable to the crofter counties? [Opposition Cries of "No!"] I am speaking in the interes of the Highland counties. If you can get the wider issue I should be glad to support you; but if you cannot, let us have the narrow issue.
§ * MR. LYELL (Orkney and Shetland)
As the Representative of an Island constituency, I am happy to support all that has been urged in favour of some remuneration being given to members of County Councils attending meetings. Under the provisions of the Supplementary Bill a very considerable quorum is required. Unless some remuneration is given the result may often be that a quorum will not be obtained, and that those who do attend the meetings will have to go away, leaving the business of the county undone. Gentlemen will not willingly undertake a long journey unless they feel reasonably certain that a quorum will attend, and that satisfactory business will be done. I hope the Lord Advocate will see his way to accede to the Amendment.
§ MR. R. T. REID (&c.) Dumfries,
I desire to say a few words with regard to the insidious proposal which comes from my hon. Friend 433 (Mr. Macdonald Cameron) who is a Highland Member. One is disposed to be conciliatory to the Highlanders, but I do not think we ought to allow the Lowlanders to be thrown over for the purpose of giving special advantage to the Highlanders. What is good for the Highlands is good for the Lowlands. It must be remembered that there is a large number of counties in the Lowlands where long distances will have to be travelled. This is so in Dumfries, for instance. There are many parts of that county in which there is no adequate railway communication, and in which considerable distances have to be covered by road. Under these circumstances it is that I hope there will be no attempt to separate the Highlands and Lowlands; but that we shall all stand shoulder to shoulder, for the purpose of seeing whether we cannot get this advantage at the hands of the Government.
§ MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, East)
I join with my hon. Colleagues in pressing the desirability of the Government assenting to this Amendment. The Lord Advocate seems to fear that the principle advocated will spread to other regions than those in question, but the proposition is simply to pay the travelling expenses of members of County Councils going to and from meetings. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is alarmed lest such a concession would lead in the direction of the principle of the payment of members for their services. The two things are totally different. In the one case the proposal is to pay members for the services which they render to the community; but surely it is a totally different matter to make a payment that shall make it possible for members to render services to the community. That is all that is proposed by this Amendment.
§ MR. CALDWELL
I have nothing to add to the arguments on the general question; but I must point out that in any case special provision should be made for the Highland counties. Parliament has admitted that there is exceptional distress in the Highlands. Surely there would be nothing inconsistent in accepting this Amendment so far as the Highlands are concerned. It must be borne in mind that there is hardly a single railway in the Highland 434 counties, and that therefore County Councillors will be put to much greater expense and trouble in attending meeting of the Council than their fellows in the Lowlands.
§ * MR. BARCLAY
If the proposal is somewhat novel the circumstances are also novel. The case of Town Councils cannot possibly be regarded as a precedent. In the first place Town Councillors live in the burgh, and certain of their expenses are paid out of the Commonhood. It is of very great importance that all the outlying districts of counties should be represented on the Council; but this will not be possible unless some such an Amendment as this is adopted.
§ MR. M'LAGAN (Linlithgow)
I would suggest that all those who have to travel beyond a certain distance should be entitled to have their expenses paid—say 20 miles.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 105; Noes 188.—(Div. List, No. 207.)
§ MR. MACDONALD CAMERON
I beg to move to report Progress, not for the purpose of delaying the discussion of the Bill, but simply for the purpose of directing the attention of the Lord Advocate to the votes of Scotch Members in the Division just taken. It appears from calculations private Members have made that 42 Scotch Members voted for the clause and only 10 against it. I shall certainly bring the subject up again on Report, and I trust that between now and then the Lord Advocate will consider whether he cannot concede the point we have contended for for the Highland counties if he cannot for the whole of Scotland.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (&c.) Leith,
The importance of the question which is raised by the clauses I have placed on the Table is so great, and it is so thoroughly understood in the country, that my remarks need bear no proportion to the length of the clauses. There is no question upon which the people of Scotland have given their opinion with greater clearness than upon the subject of taking up land, if necessary by com- 435 pulsion, for the public good. In my clauses I believe will be found the kernel of land law reform—namely, that the authorities created by this Bill should have the power where necessary to check careless or mischievous use of land, and to secure the full development of industry and agriculture. I quite recognize it may be held that the owners of property should be left in peaceable enjoyment of their rights, and free from vexatious interference, and that it would not be wise, perhaps, at the outset, that our local Councils should plunge into great schemes of land speculation without any supervision whatever. I look more to the cultivation of the soil by a system of individualism, than by a system of co-operation; but I believe the County Authorities may be trusted in most cases to use such rights as I propose should be conferred upon them with discretion. I believe that legislation of this character will give a stimulus to careless or incompetent landlords to recognize the duties and responsibilities which attach to the ownership of land. There is the question of feus for building and industrial purposes, and I could give many instances in which such feus have been refused by landowners in fishing villages and localities where such facilities are necessary for the due development of local industry. If this question were dealt with in this Bill, it would lead to some system of cheap registration of title. Taking an existing rent at half-a-crown a year, a feu for permanent tenure might be obtained for £5; such a reform is possible. Then as regards gardens and small holdings, these have not been developed as they ought to have been under the present land system. It is impossible for an extensive system of small holdings to be created where the cultivation of land is carried on under landlord and tenant, because the expenditure upon permanent buildings and other improvements is so great, that it becomes almost impossible for the landlord to equip a large number of small holdings; but there is no doubt that anything that would increase the number of small holdings would be a benefit to agriculture and an improvement of our social system. At present there is not a sufficient admixture of small holdings in Scotland. I may refer to the Highlands and show that something more extended is possible, 436 and has been done there for the creation of small holdings, and therefore the Government might well accept my clause. Under the Crofters Act there was introduced a system of compulsory leases in the Highlands, and that means that by the Land Court land may be taken at a compulsory rent from the nominal Owners, the right to the occupation of which had been previously refused. If this system were carried out without restriction, it would lead to the abolition of private proprietorship in land. With restrictions it has been shown to be unworkable, and the difficulties have been proved to exist, and hence the passing of the Crofters Act. It is evident that some safer plan, some other alternative must be discovered, for meeting this Highland land difficulty, or a Land Act must be introduced next Session, and that I think is not an object Her Majesty's present advisers have in view. The result of compulsory leasing means possibly the loss of capital value. Under a system of expropriation the capital value of the land is reserved; therefore, having accepted this principle of leasing in the Highlands, I cannot see why Her Majesty's Government should not appreciate from their point of view the principle contained in expropriation. I have spoken of the difficulties of feuing, and in regard to this there are special considerations in the Highlands. I do not agree always with some of the representations made of the enormous extent of land available for cultivation and lying waste in the Highlands, but I do know cases where land is lying waste and where it is desirable in the interest of the community to check scandals of this character by reserved powers, which would not come into operation unless the proprietor declined to avail himself of the opportunity of doing the right thing, and in that case there would be the remedy securely safeguarded. It would form a far-reaching security for the rights of property and for rights not less important, the rights of the people I would ask the Government to think twice before they reject my proposal, because if the question is approached by them in the same spirit as that in which they dealt with the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, in regard to rights of way, I warn them they are fostering bad times for land- 437 owners whose interests they imagine they are securing.
§ Another New Clause (County Council to have power to take land,)—(Mr. Munro Ferguson,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
The hon. Gentleman has introduced a very large and important subject in this clause by which he proposes to impose a still further duty on County Councils. I desire at the outset to say that I approach the consideration of this question in a completely friendly spirit, and the observations I shall have to make will show the Committee we are prepared to deal with the matter in a practical way. But, in the first place, I desire to limit our proposition to that which I think is attainable, and not entering upon the wide programme of the hon. Member for Leith. He proposes that the County Councils shall deal with cases where there is a desire for land for building purposes or for the development of any lawful trade or industry, or for allotments or small holdings. Now, as regards buildings, I cannot say that I think it is possible the Committee would authorize County Councils to acquire land for what is really a speculative purpose; and, in the second place, I greatly doubt whether, in limiting the power to the developing of any lawful trade or industry, you are not entering the region of speculation, and assigning an anomalous and heterogeneous duty to the County Council. Then I take the question of small holdings, and I do not think the Committee will be disposed to take up that question in this incidental way, a question that has engaged the attention of Parliament, and is now the subject of consideration by a Committee upstairs. Accordingly, I think these are considerations that the limits of our present business forbid us to enter upon. But there remains the question of allotments, and that seems to me to stand on a more satisfactory footing. The Committee will remember that when some two years ago the subject of allotments was dealt with for England, there was apparently a concurrence of opinion among Scotch Members that it was not such a matter of 438 urgency for Scotland that it could not stand over for another opportunity, when the subject of Scotland should be before the House; but, at the same time, there was no disposition to declare that the subject of allotments had not a direct interest for the Scotch people, and it was thought that when the opportunity presented itself, it might be considered desirable to confer some such powers in this respect on Local Authorities as exist in England. Now, we have County Councils and District Committees to be equipped for dealing with affairs in which the district is interested, and so the Government consider that the opportunity may with advantage be taken of conferring upon County Councils or District Committees power of applying to the Secretary for Scotland for Provisional Orders for allotments. Presumably, the hon. Member for Leith has framed his clause with the desire of raising the subject, and hardly expected that it would be accepted as practically a working out of the principle. He does nothing more than say, in general terms, that land should be put into the hands of the County Council. He does not lay down the way in which the Council shall deal with it, as Paliament did in the English Act, where there are provisions for securing that the land shall reach the right hands, and for regulating the use of the land; in short, the matter was carried out in detail, both as to acquiring possession and disposing of the land. Accordingly, I do not think that this clause can very well be accepted; but I will undertake to bring in on Report a clause that shall represent the substance of what I have referred to. The matter must be worked out in detail how the land is to be applied, how the money is to be provided, on what parts of the county the rates shall fall, with just regard to the interests of those who are and those who are not concerned. With the general question of acquiring land for building and industrial purposes, I cannot undertake to deal in this necessarily incidental manner; but the question of allotments is better known and lies within a smaller compass, and to that extent I hope to meet the wishes of the hon. Member.
MR. MUNEO FERGUSON
Only one word on the subject of building. But, first, I am sure I may express the 439 general feeling of satisfaction with which we on this side have heard the Lord Advocate's statement. The only subject to which I will refer is that of feuing for buildings. Fishing villages will be under the jurisdiction of County Councils, and in those villages there are often the greatest difficulties in obtaining sites for dwelling houses and even land for the drying of nets. I could give a number of instances in which such powers as I propose to confer on County Councils would be exercised very appropriately by this authority, and the Lord Advocate will observe that I am ready to provide that the power should be safeguarded in every way.
§ * MR. BARCLAY
I must express my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for his promise to deal with the subject of allotments. But I would press upon him to entertain the question, of the Council acquiring land for building. I can assure him that such a power is very necessary around the coasts of Scotland. In one of the villages in the constituency I have the honour to represent, the overcrowding from the want of house accommodation prevails to a scandalous extent. The plots of land the fishermen require are very small, and the landlord's agents will not trouble themselves to give such small feus. It would be a great advantage if the Councils were authorized to obtain a few acres of land for the purpose, and it is hardly possible that it could do harm to anyone. I think if the Government insist on Provisional Orders being obtained, the expense would add materially to the cost of the land. Only an acre, or a couple of acres, would probably be required in a village, and the cost of a Provisional Order, however economically it were gone about, would, I suppose, be £100; and that in regard to small pieces of ground would amount to a prohibitive price. What possible risk or harm to landlords would there be if a couple of acres of their land were taken under the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act? They would get an ample price, and there would be every possible safeguard for amenities of residence, where there should happen to be such. The question of allotments is no doubt important, but not so important as obtaining land for building purposes in villages. I can understand 440 the objection to County Councils embarking in speculative buildings near towns; but this we propose in an entirely different matter, and within proper limits and restrictions. I do not see the necessity of a Provisional Order. I cannot see that such an authority given to County Councils would interfere with landlords' rights to any appreciable extent. If the Government would undertake the matter boldly, I am sure it might be worked out with advantage to all concerned.
§ MR. R. T. REID
I agree that these clauses might very well be improved, and I say so with the more reason because I myself drew up the clauses, following, so far as I could, the Allotments Act of 1887. The Lord Advocate, however, will not deny that our demand is not an extreme one, and I believe the power is amply safeguarded. So much for the form, and now for the substance. The Lord Advocate is prepared to give land for the purpose of allotments. Now, I will undertake to say that, although in some parts of Scotland allotments are no doubt wanted, the governing reason why the people are so anxious that the Councils should get land in this way is for domestic buildings and for lawful trade purposes. I will give the Committee particulars of the tenure upon which houses are built in a small town in Dumfriesshire that will rather astonish those who think that the system of feudal servitude has died out. In the town of Thornhill, with some 1,200 or 1,300 inhabitants, and between 200 and 300 houses, all the land in and near the town is owned by the Duke of Buccleuch, and every house in that town has been built and is held now upon one year's tenure of the land; and it is within the power of the Duke of Buccleuch, according to the terms of agreement upon which buildings have been erected for 40 years past—and no other land could be got for building—to take possession of every house at six months' notice on condition of paying half the value of the house. It is only fair to the Duke to say that the power is not used, but it exists. More than that, it is necessary before a transfer of any house can be made for a humble petition to be presented to the Duke for his sanction, which he may refuse if he thinks proper. Whenever a bequest is made 441 on the death of an occupier, a petition has to be presented to the Duke praying him to allow the terms of the will to be carried out, and sometimes, in fact repeatedly, this permission has been refused when the Duke has thought that another relative of the deceased is more in need, or more deserving, than the person to whom the bequest is made; and in utter disregard of the bequest the house is handed over to whom the Duke thinks proper. There are conditions against sub-letting, and the taking lodgers, who may be poachers or persons obnoxious to the Duke of Buccleuch. There are about 20 crofts in the neighbourhood; the demand for them is enormous, but not one more can be obtained. No new houses are allowed. Although a railway passes the town, and it is one of the most beautiful parts of Dumfriesshire, no house has been allowed to be built for 40 years. I say advisedly that is a condition of feudal servitude. No other language is apt to describe it, and the feeling in Dumfriesshire on the subject is intense. I should be ashamed of my countrymen if it were not intense. It is not because the Duke of Buccleuch abuses his right, for in point of fact except as to his dealing with bequests as I have mentioned, the late Duke of Buccleuch was known to be an admirable landlord, and was very much respected. But here are people living under circumstances that this House ought never to suffer people to live under, dependent on the breath of one man, because he is the owner of the land. In other places in Dumfriesshire, the same state of things exist, and no one can deny my statement. Now I think the Lord Advocate can understand why Scotch burghs object to be hide-bound in this way. It is no use merely offering us allotments; that is the smallest part of our demand, though, of course, we shall act on the maxim of taking thankfully what is offered and asking for more. But I want the Lord Advocate and the Committee to appreciate the importance and gravity of the subject. We are now establishing County Councils to protect the rights and interests of localities, and it is obvious that people in such places as Thornhill will look to the County Council as the authority to interfere on their behalf, and to put reasonable facilities in their way for meeting their 442 pressing requirements for land at a reasonable tenure. While grateful to the Lord Advocate for his concession as regards allotments, I hope my hon. Friend will press his Motion to a division.
§ * MR. DONALD CRAWFORD
There is no doubt that the most important part of the clause my hon. Friend has proposed is the part relating to building. I do not at all depreciate the concession the Lord Advocate has made about allotments. I dare say allotments may be very useful in some parts of Scotland. The demand generally for allotments is not great, but I should like to see it increase. But, meantime, this is only an example of what we have too often had repeated in the course of this Bill. We are offered a particular thing, not because we want it, but because the English people have it. That is the only reason why allotments have been singled out from the powers mentioned in the clause and granted. If the Government wanted to give Scotland what is most useful and yet were disposed to narrow the concession to the utmost limit, they would have singled out and granted the building powers. My hon. and learned Friend has given a striking illustration from Dumfries showing the necessity of such a provision as this, and I should like to mention an instance from the County of Lanark, the small town of Motherwell—not very small either, some 18,000 or 20,000 inhabitants—and a rising town. A great part of the land around the town belongs to two landowners. In the direction in which the town is extending and the best part of the town the land is the property of the Duke of Hamilton. Land is given for feuing on condition that houses of a certain value and appearance are erected in order to furnish security for the feu duties, and that is quite usual and proper; but there is one condition added. This is a coal and mineral district, and the Duke reserves the right to withdraw coal under the foundations of the house, and if the house is demolished or damaged thereby the builder of the house is to have no recompense or compensation. This is the only condition upon which land can be got in that part of the country, and, as may be supposed, this condition excites the utmost indignation among the townspeople; and I think 443 the Committee will agree it is a condition wholly inconsistent with the duty of a landlord. I believe we have a remedy in this Amendment in giving the Council power to acquire land compulsorily when it is necessary, and according to the scope of the Bill it would come within the jurisdiction of the County Council. It is because of instances such as have been given that there is this earnest and growing desire that Local Authorities should have the power of acquiring land compulsorily.
§ * MR. ESSLEMONT
There are hundreds of fishing villages around our coasts under similar difficulties; and I have frequently brought such under the notice of the Secretary for Scotland. There are hundreds of cases in my county where fishermen have built their own houses, and pay large sums comparatively for the feu, and yet have no security of tenure, the landlords can take possession at a year's notice. On the merest scraps of land, they have been obliged to erect houses that are in a shameful unsanitary state. Now, I submit that to ask individual fishermen to come for Provisional Orders is out of the question; but I hope the Lord Advocate will, on consideration, see that the County Council could exercise authority in this matter, meeting all requirements, without great expense. I should be the last to advise, and I never have suggested that land should betaken without every reasonable compensation to the owners. I am willing that they should get five times as much as they would get under ordinary circumstances of sale. I express my gratitude to the Lord Advocate for the concession he has made, but still I ask him cannot he give his serious attention to those cases which are very numerous, more especially in connection with the fishing industry, with a view to seeing that a man may have the means of getting a reasonable tenure of his dwelling without great expense. These houses cost from £50 or £80 to £150, not large sums but large to the people who build them, and they are deprived of the credit the property ought to give them because the house, in the absence of feu terms of tenure, is practically the property of the landlord.
MR. COOHEANE-BAILLIE (St. Pancras,) North
We have heard two instances of what may be con- 444 sidered an unjust system of tenure, and whether the Lord Advocate can see his way to a clause dealing with such cases as those of Thornhill and elsewhere I do not know. But I would ask him not to go beyond that and give powers to the County Council for the acquisition of land for the development of a district, because you will at once have the danger of the authorities plunging into wild land speculations, and that is by no means an essential or desirable policy for County Councils to embark upon. On that point I hope the Lord Advocate will not give way, but if he thinks fit to meet such instances of peculiar tenure as that at Thornhill and the difficulties of the fishing villages I see no objection.
§ MR. DUFF (Banffshire)
The Committee will have observed that there has been no opposition to the clause of the hon. Member for Leith from Scotch Members, and I am glad that the hon. Member for St. Pancras (Mr. Cochrane-Baillie) has only partially opposed it. I quite concur in the remarks of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen as to the case of fishing villages on the east coast. In my own constituency there are numerous instances in which fishermen have built their houses upon land upon which they have no sort of tenure. This matter was dealt with in the Report of the Fishery Board for 1884, and a suggestion was made for giving feus by a cheap and easy process. I asked the late Lord Advocate to give effect to the recommendation and he replied that the matter might be dealt with in the coming Local Government Bill. I would ask the present Lord Advocate to say that he will consider the question in connection with his proposed new clause.
MR. J. P. B. ROBEETSON
I would remind the Committee of the specific question before us. The case of the hon. Member for Banff and others is not a case where it is desired to obtain land for purposes for which they cannot get land, but a case in which persons already in possession desire a better title. This is, it must be observed, a distinct question, and I cannot see that it is possible to deal with it in the Bill. I greatly doubt whether, while empowering County Councils to acquire land for allotments, the Committee will agree at the same time to give the Councils power to ob- 445 tain titles for those which already have land. While I have very great sympathy with these persons in the position of those whose cases have been cited, my point is this, they have either a legal right in the property they hold or they have not. If they have, as I should suppose and hope they have by agreement between owner and occupier, certain rights of property, what do you want the County Council to do? Do you want the County Council to turn men who are not proprietors into proprietors? How can you do it except by furnishing them with a title? Now, that seems to me an entirely different chapter of legislation. I do not prejudge the question as regards people for whom I have a great deal of sympathy in their peculiarly difficult position; but we are here with a Local Government Bill, and is it reasonable that we should analyse the land tenure of Scotland as the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries has? He cited the instance of Thornhill as a tenure of land that ought not to be tolerated, and as a scandal.
§ MR. E. T. REID
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to say, I instanced that as evidence of the evils that result from the inability to get land. It is an instance showing why we should comply with the popular desire, that people require land and cannot get it.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
Yes, but the whole of this shows that it is a question of land tenure which cannot, I think, be dealt with in this hap-hazard way. I trust the Committee will exercise due reserve and caution on a subject that has incidentally come across our view; and in considering a Local Government Bill, will not be too rash to pronounce upon the subject. I will only say that we, in dealing with allotments, enter upon a subject to which Parliament has recently devoted attention; but we cannot touch those other matters that require most careful consideration, and do not naturally arise upon this Bill.
§ * MR. ESSLEMONT
One word of explanation. May I ask the Lord Advocate to give attention to the subject of those people who have not the land he speaks of, and cannot get it? We want some machinery in the Bill by which the County Councils can get land 446 at a fair price. What is contended is, that these people have no tenure; that the land belongs to the landlord. What we want is an expeditious and reasonable way by which the authority can obtain the land, in order that they may get a title for possession.
§ MR. FINLAY (&c.) Inverness,
I am sure the Committee is sensible of the fair way in which the proposal has been made, and all must agree that the clause deals with a subject of great necessity. Of course any argument that goes to show that the County Council should be vested with powers to build, would also go to show that they should also be vested with powers to acquire land on which houses are built in order to give a good title. I hope the Government will go as far as practicable in this direction. At the same time we must be sensible of the difficulties and complexities of the subject. One other word I desire to say. I think there are many other proposals of public utility, not mentioned in the clause of the hon. Member for Leith. There are many proposals for which it would be right the County Councils should take or hold land. If anything can be done in this direction I should be glad to see general words inserted in the Bill which would empower the County Councils to acquire land for purposes of general utility, and I hope that the Government will go as far as possible in the matter.
MR. ASHEE (&c. Elgin,
I hope the Lord Advocate on further consideration may see his way not to lose the present opportunity of doing something to remedy this great grievance in some parts of Scotland. Over a great part of the East Coast an immense number of fishermen at the present moment occupy houses on the most unsatisfactory tenure. They have built their houses upon sites to which they have no title whatever. Now, I think that that fact by itself shows that there is something grievously wrong, either that they are not able to get land for the purpose from the landlords, or it shows that the expense of completing a title is so great as to deter people from the expense of getting a proper title, and they prefer the risk of building with no title at all. The Lord Advocate has an opportunity of going a long way towards putting the matter right. I quite appreciate the objection to giving the authorities 447 power of going into building speculations; but with, the exercise of very little ingenuity checks and restrictions might prevent any danger of that kind. If the County Council had power to take land for building purposes, they could acquire a title at much less expense than the individual fisherman could. If the Council took, say, an acre of land, and divided it into small parts for cottages, it would be a comparatively simple matter between the Council and the individual fishermen. If power were given to the County Council to obtain from the landlord on fair terms land, including the sites of existing houses, that would enable them to give a good title to those who had built houses or who might build them hereafter. I have myself known instances of fishermen, after 25 years' occupation of the houses they had built, being suddenly required by the landlord to pay 50 per cent, more for the rent of the land on which the houses were built, and they had no alternative; but to pay it, or leave their houses. I quite understand that this is a matter not to be dealt with summarily; but I would ask the Lord Advocate whether, in drafting his clause in reference to allotments, he could not take this into consideration.
§ SIR J. KINLOCH (Perth, East)
Most of the Members who have spoken have dwelt upon the necessities of inhabitants of growing burghs and of fishermen in their villages. I should like to put in a word for agricultural labourers, on whose behalf I think the County Councils should have power to acquire land for the erection of small holdings. There is a rising demand for these small holdings, and what I desire is that the County Councils should have power to acquire large farms and to divide them into small holdings for the encouragement of ploughmen and agricultural labourers.
§ MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
But supposing the County Councils have the power and divide these large farms; how is the capital to be supplied to equip and cultivate the farms and provide dwellings on each? Is all this outlay to be provided from the rates? If the Lord Advocate gives way too much to hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House there will be a strong feeling excited in Scotland against the Government and also 448 against the Bill. I, therefore, hope that the Government will remain firm.
§ MR. S. WILLIAMSON (&c) Kilmarnock,
I hope the right hon. Gentleman, in carrying out his good intentions in the promised clause, will have regard to the question of buildings. I will not add anything to what has been said in reference to fishing villages, though it is a subject in which I take a deep interest. I would back up the appeal of the hon. and learned Member for Inverness in favour of giving the Councils power to take land for purposes of public utility. There are in East Fife many rising towns chafing under these hide-bound conditions, to which the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries referred. There was an instance not long since in which the only landowner in the town refused to grant a site for a Town Hall. Why should the opinion of one man be able to oppose the wishes and necessities of an entire community? I trust the Government will give consideration to the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member, with a view to allowing County Councils to take land for purposes of public utility, subject to the approval of the Secretary for Scotland.
§ MR. THORBURN (Peebles and Selkirk)
I join in the appeal, and though we are very grateful for the concession as regards allotments, that is of less importance than the building question. The conditions of farm labour in Scotland differ from those in England, and do not allow the labourers so much time for allotment cultivation. Still there is a limited demand, and it will encourage the cultivation of gardens, an object much to be desired. The provision as to allotments will meet a limited demand; but there is a great grievance in the fact that the extension of industries in burghs is impeded by the refusal of landowners to grant feus. It would be for the advantage of the public if the County Council were empowered to acquire land for purposes of public utility, as suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Inverness; and I hope that on the Report the Lord Advocate will introduce some provision of the kind.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I shall be grateful to the Government for conceding the powers to the Council in regard to allotments, providing they 449 give us something agreeable to the feelings of Scotchmen on this matter. I hope the Lord Advocate knows what he means when he speaks about allotments. I have been very much exercised in my mind to know what an allotment is. We do not know the word in Scotland, and I think, when we find out what it means, we shall say we do not want it. What we want in Scotland is houses with gardens attached. For the great majority of the working men one acre of land with a house on it would be enough. In England I find people are forbidden to build on allotments. I say, then, that if allotments are restricted to what they are in England they will not satisfy our demand. If, however, you can give the County Councils power to take land in the neighbourhood of populous places in Scotland, and to establish allotments of not more than one acre and with houses built on them, it will be an enormous boon; and we shall not only have half a loaf, but, for practical purposes, three parts of a loaf. Building feus are very important things indeed, but I want to go a little beyond them, and have feus of land suitable for garden cultivation and on which houses can be built. I hope the Government will see their way to bring up the clause before the supplemental part of the Bill goes through Committee, because it may be a very difficult thing to adjust the proposal to Scotch habits and Scotch wishes.
§ Dr. McDONALD
I hope in framing the clause the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate will not adopt the limitations proposed by my hon. Friend. We find in the North of Scotland that the limitations introduced into the Crofters Bill have ruined the whole system, and the Act has not succeeded in consequence. I hope the Secretary for Scotland will take very good care that the County Councils are not allowed to be so stupid as to ask for land which it is not proper they should ask for.
The Committee proceeded to a Division.
The Tellers being come to the Table, Dr. Clark, Member for Caithness, informed the Chairman that Five Members in the Aye Lobby had not been counted. The Chairman asked if there were any Members who claimed to record their Vote?
450 Whereupon Mr. Spencer Balfour, Mr. Thomas Ellis, Mr. William Sinclair, and Mr. Patrick Joseph O'Brien, came to the Table, and claimed to record their Votes. The Chairman inquired of each Member whether he had been in the House and had heard the Question put, and they severally stated that they had been in the House and had heard the Question put, and that they desired to record their Votes to the Ayes.
The Chairman directed the Tellers to add their Votes to the Ayes.
The Tellers reported the numbers accordingly; Ayes 99, Noes 128.—(Div. List, No. 208).
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I beg to move that the 23rd Clause be put forward until after the consideration of the Local Government (Scotland) Supplementary Provisions Bill.
§ Motion made, "That the 23rd Clause be postponed until after the consideration of the Local Government (Scotland) Supplementary Provisions Bill."
§ Question put, and agreed to.