§ 3.31 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Woodburn)
I beg to move,That,—I think, Mr. Speaker, that it would be for the convenience of hon. Members if I were allowed to make a general statement covering this proposed new Standing Order on Scottish Public Bills and the proposed new Standing Order on Scottish Estimates. After a general discussion I could, if need be, answer any points which arise.
"That this Order be a Standing Order of the House.
- (1) If, after any Public Bill has been printed, whether introduced in this House or brought from the House of Lords, Mr. Speaker is of opinion that its provisions relate exclusively to Scotland, he shall give a certificate to that effect.
- (2) On the order for the Second Reading of any such Bill being read, a Motion, to be decided without amendment or debate, may be made by a Minister of the Crown, "That the Bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills," provided that if the Motion shall have been thereupon objected to by not less than ten Members, it shall pass in the negative.
- (3) A Bill so referred to the Standing Committee shall be considered in relation to the principle of the Bill, and shall be reported as having been so considered to the House and shall be ordered to be read a Second time upon a future day.
- (4) When the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of any such Bill has been read, a Motion to be decided without amendment or debate may be made by a Minister of the Crown, "That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills." Provided that this paragraph shall not apply in the case of any Bill to the Second Reading of which notice of an amendment has been given by not less than six Members.
- (5) If such a Motion shall have been agreed to, the Bill shall be deemed to have been read a Second time, and shall be committed to the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills, and shall proceed through its remaining stages according to the ordinary practice of this House.
The relationships of Scotland and England and their rivalries go back to our earliest history, and the period of this history was one of troubles, a considerable amount of violence and certainly a great strain on the energies of both countries. That period came to an end finally in 1707 in the Act of Union, which united 401 these two countries and brought comradeShip and friendship instead of mutual enmity and mutual destruction. From that time forward the history of these countries has been the history of the United Kingdom and, looking back on those times, one can, I think, see that the Union of 1707, which united England and Scotland, has played a very great part in the history of the world.
The United Kingdom could not have played the part in modern history which it has played had it been disunited and disrupted, as it was prior to that date. The enmities, hatreds and rivalries which existed prior to that day, and many of the circumstances surrounding the Act of Union, left behind in some minds an uneasiness, at least, that the dominant partner was not giving fair play to the smaller partner in the Union. That uneasiness has persisted from 1707 until today. It is possible, of course, to argue that Scotland suffers injustice here and there and it is possible, on the other side, to argue that instead of injustice a considerable advantage accrues to Scotland as a result of the Union.
It is not our purpose to argue that today: for the purpose of our discussion today it is sufficient to state as a fact that uneasiness exists. It has long been said that justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done, and it is arising from the last part of that statement that perhaps most uneasiness exists, leaving a certain dissatisfaction as to whether justice is actually done. In recent times there has been uneasiness that there has been a certain drift to the South of the Border of the controls over Scottish life and development. That uneasiness has developed in waves of varying intensity from time to time, mostly resulting eventually in some action to put the matter right.
In the field of legislation, however, although various proposals have been made over the last 20 to 30 years, these proposals have failed somehow to be capable of fulfilment within the United Kingdom Constitution. Mr. Tom Johnston, for example, in the Gilmour Report, put forward proposals in a minority report of his own. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), in a letter to a former Secretary of State for Scotland, put forward proposals en his part. I took a hand in this situation before the beginning of the war 402 and since then the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Leonard) has put forward proposals towards this end. The hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) has several times raised the earlier proposals and brought them to the notice of the House. Several proposals were made for a further inquiry into this matter and right hon. Gentlemen opposite put down a Motion on the Order Paper bringing forward a practical proposition to refer the Estimates to the Scottish Grand Committee.
When I was appointed Secretary of State for Scotland I found that this matter had reached a considerable degree of intensity and I got down to the job, as soon as possible, of seeing whether anything could be done. As a result of the Government's consideration of proposals put before them, they issued Cmd. Paper 7308 at the beginning of this year, laying their conclusions before the House and proposing the two Standing Orders which are before us today as methods by which some satisfaction could be given. The Standing Orders we have before us, therefore, make two propositions. The first is that the Second Reading of Scottish Bills should, at the will of the House, he referred for Debate to the Scottish Grand Committee. The second proposition, which underlines the proposition put down by right hon. Gentlemen, is that a certain number of days should be set aside in Scottish Grand Committee and, again at the will of the House, for the discussion of Scottish Estimates.
To deal first with the Standing Order on public Bills relating exclusively to Scotland, provision is made that a certificate may be issued by the Speaker certifying that the provisions of the Bill relate exclusively to Scotland. In such a case the Government may propose that the Second Reading Debate on such a Bill should be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee. In earlier times, of course, this proposition would have aroused a certain amount of apprehension, if it were entirely within the power of the Government to refer the Debate to the Scottish Grand Committee because, of course, the Opposition and the House itself have rights in this matter. Provision is, therefore, made in the proposed Standing Order that this will only take place, if there is general agreement that the Bill should be so referred to the Scottish Grand Committee.
403 If the Bill goes to the Scottish Grand Committee, as we presume, that Committee will then debate the principle of the Bill in the same manner as it would ordinarily be debated in the House itself. When that Debate has taken place, the Scottish Grand Committee will report back to the House and the Bill shall be ordered to be read a Second time upon a future day. When the Order of the Day for Second Reading of the Bill has been read in the House, a Motion, to be decided without Amendment or Debate, may be made by a Minister bf the Crown, "That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills." If this Motion is agreed,the Bill shall be deemed to have been read a Second time, and shall be committed to the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills, and shall proceed through its remaining stages according to the ordinary practice of the House.If the process goes smoothly, that is how it will work.
If, however, there is any objection to the process, the objection can be expressed at several stages. In the first place, it will be possible, if not fewer than 10 Members object, for the Government Motion to refer the Bill to the Scottish Grand Committee for Second Reading to be frustrated. In that case the Bill will fall back to the normal process of the House. That will not necessarily mean that the Bill will come on immediately. Clearly, it will have to take its place in the programme in the way in which it would otherwise have had to do if the Motion had not been moved.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Does that mean that 10 Conservative Members, say, by assuming the part of Mr. Molotov and saying "No," would be able to obstruct this proposal?
§ Mr. Woodburn
The hon. Member should recognise that the Constitution does not divide Members of this House into Conservative Members, Labour Members, or Communist Members. They are all Members of the House of Commons. We are all here as Members of the House of Commons with constitutional rights, and there can be no distinction in a Standing Order between a Member with one label attached to him and another kind of Member. It does mean that 10 Members of the House, if they desire, and consider that a Bill should be retained on 404 the Floor of the House for discussion here, can prevent that Bill from being sent to the Scottish Grand Committee for Second Reading Debate. The purpose of that provision is to retain within the House of Commons the power to keep a Bill on the Floor of the House. One of the reasons for that is that previous proposals of this kind broke down because it was recognised that Scottish Members would resent it very much if any Government deliberately took their Bills off the Floor of the House when the Scottish Members regarded them as being of such importance that they ought to be taken on the Floor. This is an improvement which the Government are proposing for the convenience of Scottish Members. If Scottish Members decide that they are not going to discuss a Bill on Second Reading in the Scottish Grand Committee, and if that causes delay of a Bill, that will be the responsibility of Scottish Members, and a responsibility they will be prepared to accept.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
Would my right hon. Friend make this clear? He is giving the impression at the moment that it is 10 Scottish Members who can object. As I read it, it can be any 10 Members of the House, and 10 English Members. Does he not think that the number is far too small?
§ Mr. Woodburn
As I have explained, the Constitution does not divide Members into Scottish or English Members. Members of this House are Members of the United Kingdom Parliament. I quite agree that 10 Members of the House of Commons can exercise this right. The question of how many should be able to exercise the right has been considered. We think that 10 would be a sufficient number—sufficient to prevent any frivolous objection. We think that if 10 Members objected to this procedure there would be justification for treating the Bill in the normal way. It would be safe to say if 10 Members objected to this procedure that there was not general agreement that the Bill should go for Second Reading Debate to the Scottish Grand Committee.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Could not the difficulty be got over by making it 10 Scottish Members?
§ Mr. Woodburn
The hon. and learned Member should recognise that we cannot in a Standing Order distinguish between 405 varieties of Members. The Constitution does not do so. Members of the House of Commons, whether Scottish or otherwise, have rights under the Constitution, and no Standing Order could possibly take those rights away. The requirement that there must be 10 Members will save frivolous prevention of the use of these powers, and will give Members themselves the right to decide that the Government shall not use these powers for important Bills and take them from the Floor of the House. It is recognised that Scottish Members would resent it very much if any important Bill were forced off the Floor, if they thought it of such importance that it should be taken on the Floor.
The next stage at which hon. Members can object, is when the Bill comes back from the Second Reading Debate to the House of Commons and it is ordered to be read a Second time. A Motion to refer the Bill to the Scottish Grand Committee for its Committee stage could, of course, be defeated, if necessary, if hon. Members took the serious step of trying to defeat the Second Reading of the Bill; in which case the House could, if it desired, actually have a Vote on the Second Reading in the House itself. Normally, however, and unless there is any serious objection, a Bill, once it leave the House of Commons, and until it comes back on the Report stage, will be the property of the Scottish Grand Committee; and to that extent this procedure gives Scottish Members almost entire control over the discussion of the Bill.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
Suppose a Bill were defeated in the Committee, would it ever come back to the House?
§ Mr. Woodburn
It cannot be defeated in Committee, because it will have been referred for Debate to the Committee, and must be reported back to the House. The vote would take place in the House itself. I should like hon. Members to keep in mind that the only sort of Bill the House would allow to be put through this system would be a Bill about which there was fairly general agreement—Bills which were not contentious, or not contentious enough to divide upon. This proposed procedure is a convenience and facility, and not necessarily an interference with the rights of the House itself.
I come to the second proposed Standing Order. It deals with the question of the 406 Scottish Estimates, and provides that a Motion may be made by a Minister of the Crown at the commencement of public Business, to be decided without Amendment or Debate, to the effect that the Committee of Supply be discharged from considering the Estimates, or any part of the Estimates, for which the Secretary of State for Scotland is responsible. If this Motion is carried the Estimates are then referred to the Scottish Grand Committee, and the whole Estimates, or part of the Estimates, may be debated there. This arrangement is made very flexible. It is possible at any time for the House itself to recover these Estimates, and, if necessary, to have a Debate in Committee of Supply in the normal way. The Estimates are entirely under the control of the House, and yet they are arranged in such a way that they can be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee for discussion in six days in a Session.
It may, of course, be said that that is too short a period to allow, but, in considering the possibilities of the timetable of the Scottish Grand Committee, we had evidence that showed that six days would be as many as would normally be practicable to allocate to this purpose, as the Scottish Grand Committee is having all this other Business allocated to it. The proposal would give a considerable addition of time for the discussion of Scottish affairs. As the White Paper pointed out, these proposals were put forward on the understanding that the two days in the House itself, which are normally allocated to Scottish Business, would be reserved for that purpose, for otherwise there would be a loss and not a gain. These six days are in addition to the two days in the House itself, and are not in substitution for those two days.
§ Mr. Woodburn
That will be a matter, I imagine, for the Scottish Grand Committee. I imagine that generally they wilt be six mornings. I have no doubt that it is within the power of the Scottish Grand Committee itself, if on some special occassion it should want to sit longer than a morning, so to arrange. This is not a matter which is covered in these Standing Orders. It would be covered by the Standing Orders of the Scottish Grand Committee. The Estimates are dealt with in 407 that way. The Estimates come back to the House, and in coming back to the House they are reviewed and voted upon in the normal way in Committee of Supply.
This proposal accords very closely with the proposal made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) in his Motion. There are certain adaptations in it. It is a Standing Order. We hope it will meet with acceptance. I would stress the flexibility of these arrangements, which may or may not be used, according to the wishes of the House itself and of hon. Members. Technically, the Motion for the reference of Estimates to the Scottish Grand Committee is put down by a Minister of the Crown; but, clearly, the Government itself does not set out to allocate days for the discussion of Estimates, unless the Opposition or particular hon. Members wish to have such a discussion. In practice the initiative for securing the use of these powers will come from the usual channels which arrange these days when desired. Technically, the two Parliamentary days are at the disposal of the Opposition for the time being, who can use them for any purpose they desire. But I have no doubt that the Scottish element in any Opposition in this House will be able to ensure that at least that Scottish custom is not lost under these proposals.
I make no claim that these proposals are in any way a revolution, or that they create some new Parliament, or anything of that kind. They are for the simple and clear purpose of giving Scotland more time to discuss its affairs, and more control over its affairs. Obviously, because of historical associations, there is a clear distinction in the treatment of Scotland in these matters. Moreover, the laws of Scotland are very largely different, in construction and history, from the laws of England. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) will be able to speak on this more accurately than I, but I should think it is a physical impracticability to assimilate the laws of Scotland and England over all the past period. Therefore, from time to time it is necessary that there should be separate legislation for Scotland and England. It is not necessary merely because people want separate legis- 408 lation, particularly if it is to say the same thing; but legislation adapted to English law cannot at the same time fit into the construction of Scottish law, and in all those cases there must clearly be separate legislation. On occasion, for the convenience of the programme of the House, attempts have been made to get over that difficulty—as in the last Local Government Bill. But I think hon. Members will agree that that is not a satisfactory expedient, even from the point of view of saving time.
One or two advantages arise from these proposals which may help us in that regard. Where a Bill will be on the same lines in both countries and where it is unnecessary to have two Debates in the House itself on the principles of the Bill, the Scottish Grand Committee might decide to debate the principles. There may be Bills of a technical nature which can be speedily disposed of by the House, and then dealt with in the Scottish Grand Committee. There may be other Bills of different types which are also suitable for that purpose. However, I think it is agreed on all sides of the House that there are Scottish Bills of such standing and importance that the proper place to discuss them is on the Floor of the House of Commons. The advantage of this proposal over all previous attempts is that it leaves the procedure flexible, it leaves it in the control of the House itself and in the control of hon. Members. I commend these proposals to the House in the hope that they will be given a trial, and that Scotland and the House of Commons will secure mutual advantage from their working.
§ 4.4 P.m.
§ Mr. J. S. C. Reid (Glasgow, Hillhead)
We all agree now that changes in the procedure of this House are necessary in order that there may be further opportunities for the discussion of Scottish Business, and that these new Standing Orders go a very long way at least to meet the situation. We on this side of the House proposed a large part of these Orders originally. We proposed them in the form of Sessional Orders, because in our view any departure of this kind must necessarily be of an experimental nature, and we thought that it might be easier to frame a Standing Order at the end of an experimental period, when it had become 409 clear whether or not we had got just the right arrangement. But even in the present form I think the Secretary of State agrees that these proposals are experimental, and, therefore, I do not think it would be very useful to go minutely into the details of the various proposals. We shall have to see as we go along just how each part of the proposal is working, and it may well be that before we reach finality, changes may have to be made in one or other, or both, of the new Standing Orders. I can assure the Secretary of State that we shall do our best to make these new arrangements work in our common interest, which is the welfare of our native land.
It is perhaps useful to spend a few moments in considering just why these changes are necessary. In a moment I will say something about the more remote historical retrospect of the Secretary of State. The real reason which has made these changes necessary now—at least, in my view—is the growing interference of the Government in spheres in which they previously did not interfere. I shall not argue—and I apprehend it would be out of Order so to do—whether that tendency is good or bad. No doubt there is a difference of opinion between the two sides of the House on whether that has already gone too far. But taking things as they stand, in our view it is clear that that growing interference of Government has meant that there are now a great many more topics needing discussion than there were, even 10 years ago. I should hope that all Scottish Members would agree that when the Government interfere in any new sphere, that interference ought to carry with it adequate opportunities in this House to discuss the way in which it is working.
Because of the great expansion of the sphere of Government these changes have become necessary—indeed, I would say urgently necessary. The changes cannot be achieved by any allocation of extra time in this House in present circumstances, because—as the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends know as well as we on this side—this House is already being overworked. It is physically impossible for the House to deal with any more, so that we have to find an alternative, at least until the day comes when the functions of this House revert to some more reasonable hours and periods of sitting. We now have to take things as we 410 find them, and we must have opportunities upstairs in Committee which many people would no doubt prefer, had it been possible, as opportunities in the House itself.
Obviously, this will impose a very large additional burden on the already extensive work which falls upon the shoulders of every one of us; but we are prepared to shoulder our part of that burden, as no doubt are hon. Members opposite. With reference to the intervention of the hon. Member for Newton (Sir R. Young), I would ask the Secretary of State to give an undertaking that he will not propose Sittings of the Scottish Grand Committee on Estimates beyond one o'clock.
§ Mr. Woodburn indicated assent.
§ Mr. Reid
Not only the arrangements of the Officers of the House, but the arrangements of hon. Members—in particular the need for Scottish Members to be available in this House throughout its Sittings—in my view preclude any use of this new procedure at any other time than in the forenoon. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will make it quite clear that he will not support any extension of these proceedings beyond one o'clock, either on Bills or on Estimates.
The Secretary of State did go into some historical retrospect; but I have no intention of going back to 1707; nor have I any intention of debating the general merits or demerits of the Union of the two Kingdoms. Our views on that subject are very well known. We believe that the Union of the United Kingdom is of great economic benefit to both Scotland and England.
§ Mr. Reid
On the political side, we believe that the integrity of the Union of our two countries is the foundation stone of international co-operation and of co-operation in the Commonwealth and Empire. If we removed that foundation stone our chances of that co-operation which we all agree is necessary to achieve peace in the present disturbed period of world history would be very seriously impaired. Therefore, on the two grounds, that it would be foolish economically to divide the United Kingdom and that it might be disastrous politically, we support the United Kingdom. But, of course, we 411 all recognise—this is not a party matter-that there are separate Scottish interests which require our vigilance and our discussion; and it is in order that we may be able to maintain those Scottish interests that we support these opportunities for further discussion.
Before the war, the tendency to give opportunities for separate Scottish legislation had been growing for some time, and had achieved very considerable dimensions. We were getting our own Bills in most cases—I do not say in all, but certainly in most cases, where it was appropriate—and we must continue to get our own Bills. I would say that that is necessary wherever differences of law, or of tradition, or of economic conditions make it desirable. Where there are no such differences, then, of course, a United Kingdom Bill is perfectly appropriate. But where there are such differences it is most unsatisfactory to have a long Scottish application Clause, which is never properly debated, particularly if a Bill goes to a Standing Committee, which is now limited to 50 Members. I would remind the Secretary of State that one result of this Government reducing the number of Members on a Standing Committee has been to increase the necessity for separate Scottish legislation, because it is quite impossible for Scotland to be adequately represented on a Standing Committee which includes only 50 Members. In the old days, when the number was 70, the possibility was much greater.
We take no exception to this new procedure of Second Reading discussions taking place in the Scottish Grand Committee, provided it is used in a reasonable way. Without attempting to lay down any hard and fast rules, I would agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is not an appropriate method of dealing with controversial Bills. I am not sure that it will work at all well unless the Second Reading Debate is likely to be concluded within, say, two morning Sittings. I am certain that if we send to the Scottish Grand Committee Bills which require three or four, or more, Sittings to dispose of Second Reading discussions—and I am sure the Secretary of State has not in mind any intention of moving the Closure—then I think we shall find that we have clogged up the new instrument.
412 In regard to the Estimates, the House will know that there were always 20 Supply days and that a large number of them were taken up with topics equally germane to all parts of the United Kingdom. These were neither English nor Scottish Supply days. On the other hand, a number of Supply days were devoted to the English Departments, and the practice had grown up of devoting two Supply days to Scottish affairs. I can say, on behalf of my hon. Friends, it is our contention that there should still be two Scottish Supply days taken on the Floor of the House for discussing the affairs of Scotland; we shall certainly not breach that tradition. There is a further element which makes these new proposals desirable. It will be remembered that there were opportunities before the war for Private Members' Business, and that it was by no means uncommon for a Scottish Member to be successful in the Ballot, either for a Bill or a Motion.
Therefore, there were opportunities for discussing Scottish affairs on Bills introduced by Private Members, or on Private Members' Motions. These opportunities have now gone. Furthermore, it will be within the recollection of those who were in the House before the war that there was no competition in those days for Adjournment Debates. It was easy to get the Adjournment, at comparatively short notice, at almost any time in the Session, with the result that there was also that chance of raising questions in regard to Scottish administration, if any Members felt it was necessary. It is very much more difficult to do that now. We are now in the position that it is much more difficult to discuss Scottish affairs than before the war and that there are considerably fewer opportunities for doing so.
It is in these circumstances that we initiated this matter at the beginning of the current Session by putting down a Motion on the Order Paper. The right hon. Gentleman has adopted our proposals and he has added to them in regard to the Second Reading of Bills being taken upstairs. His proposal is even more experimental, but we hope that these proposals together, will considerably increase the opportunities of useful discussion on matters affecting Scotland. It is unnecessary at this stage to discuss the details of these proposals, although some of my hon. Friends may have concrete points to raise. On the footing that the right 413 hon. Gentleman will not preclude any Amendment, should it become necessary, I think we can safely accept and use these proposals during the remainder of the Session, although, as I have indicated, it may be necessary to make changes during the following Session. I feel sure that if these reforms are properly introduced they will prove valuable to the affairs of Scotland.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Westwood (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)
I welcome, with pleasure, the proposals submitted to the House, and I do so from the point of view of one who has had a fairly long experience in the administration of Scottish affairs. I do not propose to take up the time of the House in discussing the first Motion on the Order Paper, except to say that I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) that it is experimental, although I think it will turn out to be of advantage to Scotland. I propose to concentrate on the second proposed Standing Order. I hope my right hon. Friend will give no guarantee that we are to end our discussions at 1 p.m., otherwise we shall have the equivalent of only two days for discussing Scottish Estimates. I always understood that a day was a day, and not just two hours. It should be possible for us to adjourn at 1 p.m., and then to meet again at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. to continue our discussions.
Few people, both inside and outside this House, seem to realise the amount of devolution which has taken place, and the number of Scottish problems which now need to be discussed. If we are to have an efficient administration, then the administrators must be open to criticism. Criticism keeps the administration up to the highest standards. When I first came to the House, we had only one day to discuss all these intricate Scottish problems, and it was largely the result of the efforts of the Labour Members at that time that we were able to impress on the Government of the day the need to give us two days for discussing Scottish Estimates. Although there may have been some efforts made by the Opposition in this case, I am very pleased that this additional time to discuss the problems of administration in Scotland has come from a Labour Government.
414 What have we to discuss during these six days? I would point out that one Minister is responsible for all the executive work of Scotland, and that in these six days he will have to do the work of at least three English Ministers. We may decide on one day to consider the problems of health. This subject covers a wider field in these days, and involves the new Health Scheme, hospital administration and other matters which did not concern our predecessors. The Minister responsible for all these matters is the Secretary of State for Scotland, whereas in England the Minister of Health is responsible. In addition, the Secretary of State for Scotland is concerned with all the problems connected with town and country planning, for which one Minister is responsible in the case of England. All the problems concerning local authorities and their work may well take up one of these Supply days, and again the Secretary of State for Scotland is the Minister who will have to reply.
In the case of education, the Secretary of State for Scotland is again responsible, whereas in England the Minister of Education devotes his whole time to these matters. There are now problems to be discussed today, because there is a new spirit abroad and we are hot satisfied with some of the old conditions. There are the questions of school accommodation, staffing of schools, feeding of schoolchildren, all requiring time for consideration. I wish to emphasise that in each of these cases there is a separate Minister responsible in England, whereas in the case of Scotland they all come under the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Secretary of State for Scotland is also responsible for agriculture and fishing—one of our greatest industries. He is the great Pooh-Bah in all these matters.
After these new Standing Orders have been passed it will not be humanly possible for one man effectively to carry out all the work involved. There are also the problems of the Home Department, such as the care of homeless children, administration of the police and the fire service, and all the multiciplicity of sub-the problems of the Home Department, There, again, it is the Secretary of State for Scotland who is responsible. I welcome these proposals as being a step in the right direction, but I am convinced that no one person can effectively carry 415 out all the work involved. If I had remained longer in office, I would have had proposals ready for increasing the number of senior Ministers for Scotland. We ought to have a Minister of Health and Education, and two senior Ministers instead of one. I should be out of Order if I went into this subject any further, so I will conclude by saying again that one man cannot be made the Pooh-Bah of Scotland and effectively carry through its administration.
§ 4.37 P.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
I welcome our old friend the former Secretary of State for Scotland back on his feet again, and I am pleased to see that he has lost none of his vitality and friendly qualities which made him so popular when he was the head of our Scottish administration. I wish to deal with the first of these Standing Orders. Without wishing to throw a spanner into the works in this mutual admiration society, I must say, quite candidly, that I cannot agree with the Secretary of State for Scotland, nor with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hi ahead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) in regard to these proposals. To my mind they are futile and meaningless. What does this first Standing Order mean, and what does it propose to do? It means that England, through its representatives in this House, is entirely cut off from the affairs of Scotland so far as criticism, constructive or otherwise, is concerned. I consider that to be wrong, because England is tied to Scotland geographically, socially, commercially and politically. We are all part and parcel of the same United Kingdom, and we cannot sever the one from the other by means of a Standing Order of this character.
If this nonsensical system is adopted, as no doubt it will be by the obedient hordes of English Members who will he summoned from the lobbies and the Smoke Room when the vote is taken, then Scotland, through her representatives in this House, can say what she likes, can do what she likes and can vote how she likes on any Measure which relates to England and Wales, but England and Wales, through their elected representatives, are denied a similar right in regard to a Scottish Measure, whether it affects them or not.
§ Sir T. Moore
The hon. Member should let me continue the argument before he says, "Nonsense." I have neither English nor Welsh blood in my veins—I will not say thank goodness—so I can speak objectively in this matter. I think the Government's proposals are both unjust and contrary to our constitutional practice. Further, so little do they mean good or benefit for Scotland that 10 Members and, on occasions, even six Members, of any nationality or none, may render them abortive. The Secretary of State slid quietly over that fact, and tried to point out that we were all Members of Parliament, whether Scottish, Irish, English or anything else—
§ Mr. Woodburn
When the hon. and gallant Member talks about 10 Members stopping us, does he not remember the motto on the Scottish coat of arms, "Nemo me impune lacessit"?
§ Sir T. Moore
If I may develop my argument, I think I can convince the right hon. Gentleman that something more drastic than is now proposed is required to meet the situation. I have come to the regrettable conclusion that this Motion was introduced for one purpose and one purpose only—to throw a meaningless sop to the Scottish Nationalists, to whom this Socialist Government have promised so much and given so little.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Does not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman realise that the real object of the Motion is to give England Home Rule?
§ Sir T. Moore
We are not discussing the rights or wrongs of the English position at the moment; we are discussing this Motion and I repeat, it is a sop to the Scottish Nationalists, to whom this Government have promised so much and have given so little. It is a deliberate attempt to blind those decent and patriotic Scots who are genuinely and properly convinced that Scotland needs more say in her own affairs, particularly in her purely domestic affairs, and that there should be a greater devolution in the conduct of those affairs. If the Government really want to clear their conscience against this charge, and do something to justify the pathetic faith which Scottish Labour put in them at the last Election, there is, I suggest, a proposal that they should adopt instead of this Motion. I have put this suggestion 417 forward once or twice before but the Government, in their blindness, failed to take note of it. I will repeat it now although, naturally, I will leave the details to be filled in by the Government. It has been said on several occasions that it would be in the interests of Scotland—and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hillhead has stressed it today—that there should be more intimate contact, in a purely Scottish atmosphere, between those who frame the laws, those who have to carry them out and those who have to obey them.
We know the case of the Scottish Nationalists very well. It is that there should be some form of Government or Parliament sitting in Edinburgh. There is a great deal to be said for that, and for those intimate daily contacts between those who initiate and frame legislation and those who have to obey that legislation when it is passed. But, rightly or wrongly, both sides in this House have decided that the creation of a purely Scottish Parliament might, in the end, be to the detriment of Scottish interests; that it might possibly lead to the development of alienation between England and Scotland. There is, however, another method by which the same purpose could be achieved, and that is by setting up a Scottish Council, to sit in Edinburgh, which would consist of the Lord Provosts of cities, the provosts of large burghs, the convenors of counties, recognised trade union leaders, recognised leaders of the professions and of the churches—all duly elected by their own representatives. That would be a truly representative Scottish body, a cross-section of the best informed leadership in Scotland.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
What functions would that body perform and what authority would it have?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
The hon. Member has asked that question, but I cannot allow the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) to reply, as it is outside the scope of the Motion.
§ Sir T. Moore
I am sure you would not have me run away front that question, Sir. I can answer it in a few words.
§ Sir T. Moore
I must resist the very kindly and courteous defence you put up for me, Sir; I do not want it. I have been challenged to say what functions I would attach to the organisation which I have suggested should be set up. If I am not allowed to answer, the Scottish newspapers will say, tomorrow, that I had no answer. I am sure you would not like me to suffer that indignity.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
No matter what the newspapers may say in Scotland tomorrow about the hon. and gallant Member's speech, it would be wrong for me to permit him to continue a digression which, in itself, was out of Order.
§ Sir T. Moore
I shall not continue the digression, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was merely about to answer the question which had been put to me.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If the hon. and gallant Member attempts to answer it he will be going outside the scope of the Motion. I really ought to have called him to Order before the question was asked.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I am sorry if I challenged the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) to elaborate something which was out of Order.
§ Sir T. Moore
I accept the hon. Member's apology. This Motion implies that the Second Readings of Scottish Bills shall not take place on the Floor of this House but shall, in certain circumstances, be committed to the Scottish Grand Committee. I say that instead of that process taking place a council such as I have mentioned should initiate all legislation affecting Scotland, of which the principles should afterwards be debated on the Floor of this House, by all Members of Parliament in the ordinary way. As I have said, we are intimately connected with England and Wales geographically, socially, educationally and in many other ways, and we ought not to be divorced from that connection, as we shall be, by the acceptance of this Motion. I think I have answered the question which had been put to me by the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. MacMillan).
Judging by the attitude you have taken up, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I do not think it would be profitable to refer to one or two points with which I intended to deal, but there is little doubt that if the course 419 I have suggested were adopted, it would give Members of the House of Commons, who represent English and Welsh and Irish constituencies, the feeling that they were taking their proper and fair part in assisting and helping a nation which has done more than any other to make this Britain of ours truly great—perhaps I should have said this once great Britain. I am reminded of the free vote in the House recently, when the Government ran away on the issue of capital punishment. The Government must govern. They must determine what is the best way to run Scottish affairs. The proposals outlined in this Motion are nonsensical, because they can be rendered abortive by 10 Members or even six, whether English, Welsh or Irish. That is not government, and I suggest, with all humility, that the Government should accept the proposal I have put forward as being truly democratic, that they should truly govern and put Scotland's interests on the same level—no higher but no lower—than those of the United Kingdom as a whole.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
It is rather disappointing to find in the early stages of this Debate, on a matter which depends for its proper working upon a great deal of unity among Scottish Members, such a cleavage of opinion between hon. and right hon. Members opposite. The right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) welcomed the Government's proposals, not as creating a revolution in Scottish affairs or in the procedure of this House, but as something worth while and which, if properly handled, will, I am sure, be of advantage to Scotland as a Parliamentary instrument. I take the same line. For many years I have had the desire to see Scotland have more responsibility for her own affairs. I have wanted to see the authoritative stamp of Scotland put upon the things for which she was responsible. This Motion does not bring that about to as great an extent as I would wish but, nevertheless, I accept the Government's proposals as being of use for the time being and as a step in the right direction.
I hope it will be found that what is being done now will work out to the considerable satisfaction of Scottish Members who have to take part in Parliamentary affairs. 420 These proposals will enable us the more faithfully and effectively to exercise our functions as representatives of Scottish constituencies. Contrary to what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), I think they will be accepted readily by the majority of Scottish Members in this House. It is interesting to note that this step is being taken at a time when we have a crowded legislative programme. It shows that attention is being paid to the call that has come from Scotland. I look upon these proposals as going as far as we can go at the moment without the considerable amount of contentious legislation which would be required to take us further along the road that many of us wish to travel.
I will say very little about the second part of the proposals relating to the discussion of Estimates, which was dealt with so well by my right hon. Friend. The point I want to deal with relates to the handling of the Second Reading of Bills in the Scottish Grand Committee. My concern is to know how that is to be done. Under what rules are we to work when matters are referred for Second Reading discussion? No decision, I observe, will be arrived at, because it is obvious from the statement of the Secretary of State that we will not take a vote on the Second Readings in Scottish Grand Committee. As hon. Members know, when we discuss a Bill on Second Reading in the House, with the Mace on the Table, there is a considerable difference in the Rules under which we work compared with those which apply when we go into Committee of the Whole House, or deal with a matter in Committee upstairs. I think that there will require to be some guidance given to Members, and more especially to those who have the responsibility of presiding over the Scottish Grand Committee when it deals with Bills on Second Reading.
I am sure that some of us had the impression in the earlier stages of these proposals that the actual Second Reading would be dealt with in the Scottish Grand Committee and a vote on the Second Reading would be taken in that Committee. It has become obvious that that is not to be the case. I can quite understand that where there is controversy the Bill will not go to the Scottish Grand Committee. Therefore, a considerable amount of unanimity will be required in 421 order that we may use this opportunity which is provided for us by this new adaptation of the Rules and Standing Orders.
So far as the second proposition dealing with Estimates is concerned, I think that it would work under the Committee Rules in the ordinary way. What this provides us with is normally an extra 15 hours of discussion on Scottish matters—six Sittings. The usual Sittings in Committee are two-and-a-half hours from 10.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Six meetings will provide us with 15 hours of extra discussion, because we shall have the two days in the Chamber itself in Committee of the Whole House, which we shall still claim when dealing with Scottish Estimates.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
The right hon. Member speaks with great authority on these matters. Does he mean that he would only support sitting until 1 p.m. and would not support the suggestion of his right hon. Friend?
§ Mr. Mathers
I had not finished what I was saying about that. It seems to me that if we wish to use more than the normal time, and if we wish to find more than 15 hours to deal with these matters, we shall require to use the opportunity that is provided in Committee rules of sitting later in the day, and providing ourselves with opportunities while the House is also in Session. We should require to have this double sitting on the same days as we had the six Sittings, because the provision is for six days to be added to our opportunities of discussing the Estimates. I hope that there will be some adaptation of the Standing Orders for dealing with matters in the Scottish Grand Committee, especially in relation to the Second Readings, and that we shall get some guidance on that particular point.
This is not a tremendously big thing we are doing but it is something in keeping with Scottish desires, and I believe that if we apply ourselves to using our opportunities properly we can make worthy use of those opportunities. Therefore, I cordially support the proposition put forward by the Secretary of State.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth)
I would like to take a middle line between what I would call the happy optimism of the right hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) and the almost despairing note which I 422 detected in the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore). The only thing that matters in this case is: Are these proposals to be for the good of Scotland or are they not? If we can say "Yes," then we must support them. I think that they are a step in the right direction, although they are not much more. The first of the two proposals I would describe in the language of our country as fushionless. I do not think that there is much to it, because I am quite sure that everything will be objected to by ten Members, and we shall have the Bill on the Floor of the House anyway.
The second proposal I believe to be of very considerable value. It raises, however, the difficult position which Scottish Members will find themselves in, that they will want to be upstairs discussing the Estimates for Scotland when, at the same time, it may be very essential for them to be downstairs discussing something else. That is what we are always up against. It is of the utmost importance that we should have as many Scottish Members as possible on as many Bills and Committees as possible, because we want Scotland to be represented. It would be fatal for us to give the impression outside that we deal with Scottish matters only in a parochial way, when we are Members of a United Kingdom Parliament and should have our say on all United Kingdom matters. That is a very big point that crops up sometimes when we are discussing Scottish Business upstairs in the mornings, and it will be definitely so with afternoon sittings when there is something else going on in the House.
The question of Scottish nationalism is always at the back of our minds, because in our constituencies we know that to be a very live force—and more so in some constituencies than in others. Unfortunately, when we stand up for the Scottish nation we seem to be accused of belonging to the Scottish Nationalist Party, which is an entirely different thing. It should be realised that when we stand up for the Scottish nation we are prepared to accept what is good in Scottish nationalism, but not what is bad. I hope that this will be regarded as an experiment, because I believe that we shall see, in a short time, how it works—whether it affects Scottish affairs favourably, and whether it will be worth while, or whether 423 we shall require something else. We must keep an open mind on the matter.
The Secretary of State made an interesting reference to the instrument called the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England of 1707. As the Secretary of State was allowed to mention it, I would like to say that, first of all, that I do not think that the Treaty of Union in all its details did much good to either country, but the fact that there was a Union did immense good to both countries. Large parts of the Treaty of Union have never been carried out. I could land the Secretary of State in difficulties by asking him, by what right does the Royal Standard of Scotland fly over Dover House, and by what right does the First Lord of the Admiralty sail His Majesty's ships, on the ensigns of which are superimposed St. George's Cross and not St. Andrew's Cross?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I could ask the hon. and gallant Member if what he is saying now has any relevance to the Motion?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Yes, but knowing the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I feared that he was going to.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I was going to say that I could ask him, but I would not dream of doing so.
I wish to support the proposals, but I hope that they will be regarded as experimental. We shall keep on open mind as to whether they are beneficial or whether further steps are required. The right hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Westwood) hit the nail on the head when he said that the Secretary of State had an impossible job for one man to do. He was near to getting out of Order on that point and as I see that you are looking in my direction, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will close by asking that we give this a trial and do our best to make it work. If there are obvious signs that something further is required, I hope that the Government will give us an opportunity of examining the matter again.
§ 4.57 P.m.
§ Mr. McLean Watson (Dunfermline Burghs)
I can understand that the 424 Motion before the House will be welcomed by the other side, with the exception of the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore). I think that the Secretary of State will agree with me when I say that when these proposals were tabled they got a very chilly reception in Scotland. The national newspapers were very disappointed with the proposals in the White Paper on Scottish affairs. Even to pretend that the proposals before us go very far to meet what the Scottish people think they ought to have in the way of self-government, is expecting too much from them. I agree with those hon. Members who said that we had the right to give the matter a trial. It will certainly give us an opportunity of discussing Scottish affairs at greater length at Westminster in the Scottish Grand Committee. At the same time, we should not delude ourselves into the belief that a very big step is being taken towards giving us what the Scottish people want. I dare not say what the Scottish people want because the Chair has already tabooed any discussion on that matter.
We are met this afternoon for the purpose of discussing Amendments to the Standing Orders and we have to confine our remarks within the terms of those Amendments. I should be a great deal happier and more content with these proposals if Mr. Speaker had the power to say that a certain Scottish Bill, without any sanction from this House, would be submitted to the Scottish Grand Committee. I say that for two reasons. First, it would ensure that Second Reading Debates in Scottish Grand Committee could be taken freely and easily; and, secondly, that even contentious Bills could be discussed in Scottish Grand Committee. The Secretary of State has told us that if we are to get a Bill before the Scottish Grand Committee for Second Reading it must be a non-contentious Bill, because it lies within the power of 10 Members of this House to prevent a Bill going to that Committee for Second Reading. I do not like that. I should have preferred Mr. Speaker to have the power to certify that a Scottish Bill should go to the Committee for Second Reading whether contentious or not.
I wonder what would happen if a Bill like the Agriculture Bill, which we discussed recently in Standing Committee, came up for Second Reading in this 425 House. Would that be regarded as a non-contentious Bill? If it were to be so regarded I cannot understand why we needed so many meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee to consider it. It was opposed very strenuously by the Opposition side of the House, and I am certain that even a matter of that kind would have been regarded as a contentious Measure and would have been opposed by 10 Members of this House when the Second Reading was formally proposed on the Floor of the House.
I do not like the proposal in this Standing Order and I would prefer the power to certify a Bill to be given to Mr. Speaker. Unless we are going to have the opportunity of discussing all Scottish Bills on Second Reading in Scottish Grand Committee I do not see that there is going to be a great deal in the proposals before us, because after a Bill has had its Second Reading on the Floor of the House it goes to the Scottish Grand Committee. We already have the privilege of taking the Committee stage of Scottish Bills in the Scottish Grand Committee, and unless we are also to be assured that there is to be an opportunity of discussing Scottish Bills, whether contentious or not, on Second Reading in the Scottish Grand Committee, I do not see any particular advantage from the first of the changes to the Standing Orders.
The second change with regard to the Scottish Estimates will be an improvement. We shall have an opportunity of meeting on six days for the discussion of the Scottish Estimates, but I am afraid that the Secretary of State will have to hold his hand with regard to promising that these days are only to be two and a half hours in the forenoon, because it is possible that we may require a great deal more time to examine the Scottish Estimates. As a matter of fact, the complaint has always been—and it has been voiced over and over again in Scotland—about the inadequacy of the time at Westminster for the discussion of these Estimates. In the past we have had two days for discussing the Estimates, and in that time we have had to cover health, housing, agriculture, fisheries, education, the Home Department and everything which is under the control of my right hon. Friend. Unless we are guaranteed adequate time in the Scottish Grand Committee to discuss these Estimates we are not going to have 426 a much greater opportunity for examining Scottish affairs.
I hope it will turn out better than I expect, but I must confess that what is proposed here falls far short of what the Scottish people have made up their minds that they must have. However, we will join in trying to make this scheme a success, and we will see how far we can go. We will see how much further we can progress in discussing Scottish Estimates in detail. Certainly we require greater opportunities of discussing Scottish affairs and especially the Estimates which deal with health, housing, agriculture and all those other things which fall on the shoulders of the Secretary of State. So far as I can see, what is envisaged in the Amendment to the Standing Orders of the House does not afford sufficient time.
I hope before long that we shall be discussing Scottish affairs on a very much wider basis. I have been in this House when Scottish Home Rule Bills were discussed in Private Members' time. I am not prepared to say at the moment that we should use Private Members' time for that purpose. With the House of Commons being worked as it is at the moment we cannot afford to give Wednesdays and Fridays to Private Members. There is too much in the national plight at the moment to afford that.
§ Mr. Watson
I can remember discussions in this House on Scottish Home Rule on more than one occasion and at least on one occasion the proposals were talked out. I hope it may not be long before we discuss Scottish Home Rule again, but in the meantime we have to carry out what the Secretary of State has proposed this afternoon. We will see how we get on in Scottish Grand Committee. It may have the effect of tying down the movement in favour of Scottish nationalism and for the wider discussion of Scottish affairs. If it does, well and good, but, if not, the time may not be far distant when we shall have to come back once again to the House of Commons to discuss the proper handling of Scottish affairs.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
Most of the criticism directed against these two proposals has so far been to the effect that they do not go far enough. The 427 right hon. and learned Member for Hill-head (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) took a statesmanlike view of this. It was he who, in the first place, suggested the second Motion that the Estimates should be taken upstairs. There is a very great deal to be said for that, for it is desirable that we should have the maximum time possible to probe the Estimates. The right hon. and learned Gentleman then went on to say, "Let us see how we get on with the first Motion. Let us see how the reference of Second Readings to the Standing Committee on Scottish affairs goes." It was also argued that this was a step in the right direction, but that it was not going far enough. However, the right hon. and learned Gentleman left the position open on that. He has not said it is a step in the right direction. It may or it may not be, but he says that we should give it a trial and see how it works.
I am going to submit some arguments this afternoon which will tend to show that this is not really a step in the right direction. First, it is noteworthy that we are here talking about the submission of Bills to the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills, but let us be clear that it is not purely and simply a Scottish Committee. It has English Members on it. Is that a step in the right direction? In the matter of the Estimates, will the English Members be able to contribute very much? Are they going to suggest, for example, that the Estimates should be reduced—that expenditure in Scotland should be reduced. On the matter of Second Readings, is it appropriate that the English Members should be sitting on that Committee at all? When Second Readings are taken on the Floor of the House, how many English Members are present? The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) is a regular attender, but what other English Members are normally present? Now we are to have a Committee considering Second Readings of Scottish Bills on which there are English Members. We want to be quite clear what we are doing.
I submit that all we are doing is leaving the Floor of the House clear for other things. In other words, it is not Scotland that is benefiting, but the Lord President of the Council. By sending Scottish Bills upstairs he is getting more time for other Business. Scottish Bills 428 have to be discussed somewhere. They are not going to be discussed either less or more by sending them upstairs. At the moment they are taken on the Floor of the House. In future they will go upstairs, where there will be far fewer members of the public able to be present. The Press representatives present will be fewer. True the Scottish Press will attend, and the Debates will no doubt be reported in Scotland. Presumably these Debates will come on at a time when other Business is being discussed, especially if the right hon. Gentleman is going to tell us that the time for discussion will not only be in the mornings but at a time when other Business is being discussed in the House. Very likely in those conditions the representatives of the English newspapers will make no reference at all to Scottish affairs.
§ Mr. Macpherson
There is when a Scottish Bill is taken on the Floor of the House and it is the only Business in the House of Commons. That will probably disappear. I would prefer the time for discussion to be during the morning and not in the afternoon. It is wrong that Scottish Members should be taken away from their United Kingdom and Imperial duties. Of course, it may be that it will be possible to arrange purely English, Welsh or Irish Business on the Floor of the House at the same time as the discussion of Scottish Business is going on in the Committee upstairs, but I doubt very much if that will be so. The right hon. Gentleman will admit that such an arrangement will result in Scottish Members being taken away from their other duties.
As for the proposal that only non-contentious Bills should be discussed upstairs, I think there is not much point in that. It only means that they have to come down here to be discussed all over again on the Floor of the House. If the Bills were contentious, an Amendment would be put down, and the Bill would then come down to be discussed on the Floor of the House. The Secretary of State shakes his head. If I have misunderstood the order, I hope that he will explain clearly how it is intended to work. If when we discuss a Bill upstairs, we find it is contentious and, when it comes downstairs to the Floor of the House an Amendment is put down, 429 or six Members show that they are against the Bill, surely then the Bill has to be discussed on the Floor of the House and a Division has to be taken? Or are we to understand that the Division would be taken in the House without any discussion at all.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I think that the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the point about contention. Under the rule, a Bill will go from the Floor of the House only because it is generally agreed among Scots Members—other Members will not interfere—that it should go from the Floor of the House in order that the principle should be debated elsewhere. From that point of view, the Bill is not contentious, but that does not mean that there might not be many points in the Bill—for example, the -Agriculture (Scotland) Bill—that are contentious and that can be discussed in the Committee in the usual way.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
Would the right hon. Gentleman explain paragraph 4 of the first Order, which raises the question of six Members putting down an Amendment?
§ Mr. Macpherson
I am glad to hear that the Lord Advocate will cover that point. I am bound to say that I did not find that what the Secretary of State had to say on the matter in his original speech was quite clear.
If we are to take a step we should be clear that it is a step in the right direction. The step we are now taking will be irrevocable in the direction of separating Scottish affairs from English affairs. Is that fully realised and is it intended? This House has a right to know what the intentions of the party opposite are in this matter. Do the Government agree with the demand made by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen behind them? I refer particularly to the right hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers), who said that the present proposal did not go far enough. Do the Government agree officially, or is what they want that this should be a final step? If that is what they want, they certainly will not get it. They cannot get a step taken, however timorous and shaky it may be, without its leading somewhere.
430 If the Government carry this Motion today, they should do so in the full consciousness that they are taking a step in the direction of the separation of the discussion of Scottish affairs from English affairs. They must be quite convinced that this step is intended and that it is desired. Personally, I think that the step is objectionable because it does nothing to give Scotland any more control of her own affairs. We are really only setting up yet another advisory committee, this time a Scottish—or rather partly Scottish—advisory committee to the House of Commons on Scottish Bills. Secondly, I think the proposal will raise a lot of wholly irrelevant controversy. There is certain to be acrimonious discussion whether Bills should be taken upstairs or not. I hope hon. Members realise that. It will raise controversy which will be used against hon. Members in all their constituencies about whether particular Bills should have been taken upstairs or not, and it will be wholly irrelevant and obnoxious. This is a timorous and shaky step. It is not a step in the right direction. It would be better for us to stop where we are and then, at the appropriate moment, to take a longer and more decisive step in the right direction.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
I want to ask the House to consider one of the points made by the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson), regarding where this step is to lead. I am completely amazed at the very small infant that has been born. I do not think that the tremendous effort that must have been put out before this concession was granted is fully appreciated. This is a break in the tradition of unity between Scotland and England in the form of administration. The Scottish Nationalist section are bitterly disappointed at the smallness of it and at the alleged meanness of it, but the people in Whitehall see, like the hon. Member for Dumfries, the beginning of something new that will lead in an entirely different direction from anything which has happened in the past.
There are many snags in the way of putting this proposal into operation and we shall come across them in due course. No doubt we shall adapt ourselves and overcome them. I was amazed, listening to my right hon. Friend the Member for 431 Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Westwood) to find that he has become a convert since he demitted office, to the view that one man is totally incapable of carrying all the duties involved in the office of Secretary of State for Scotland. That fact has been patent to Scottish people for a century or more and they have objected. Almost invariably—with rare exceptions—some prominent Scotsman has been lifted out of the ruck and placed in that privileged position, and he has started to assume that he was possessed of the virtues, abilities and the competence to carry out all the duties placed on the office. It has taken a long time for it to penetrate into the thick skulls of Whitehall that that is not possible. Out of that penetration, is born this very small infant.
§ Mr. Scollan
It is not big enough to be called that. It is like another famous infant of which it was said: "It is so small that I think we shall keep it."
When we come to discuss Estimates, the question is bound to arise how we are to separate Scottish Estimates from English Estimates and the effect they have on the Budget of the United Kingdom. We may get into a difficulty, but it must be straightened out. One thing this proposal will do; it will give us an opportunity of concentrating upon the economic evils that have afflicted Scotland, admittedly the same, though in a lesser degree, as those which have affected England. The Union has always enabled the Chancellor of the Exchequer to throw a heavy burden of sacrifice north of the Border. There is no virtue in nationalism for the sake of nationalism. For the reasons I have given, Scottish people throughout those economic conflicts have kept on asking for something to be done. We see now what is being done.
I am under no illusion that it will bring very great changes to begin with, but I realise the importance and the significance of the fact that at last a step has been taken, however small. I sincerely hope that in the taking of that step the Scottish representatives here will not forget—this is a very important matter—that, whether the Scottish Nationalists like it or not, the people of our constituencies elected us to 432 this place for all the business of the United Kingdom, and not for the business of Scotland alone. I, for one, would deplore any project brought forward by the present Government and proposed by the Lord President of the Council, who is very astute—we have to watch every little thing he gives us to see where it is going to take us—to set up a Scottish Committee and then to say to us: "There's your place, on the Scottish Committee. Leave the rest of the business to us." If that is the idea in anybody's head, the sooner those people are disillusioned the better.
All Scottish Members in this House were elected to take part in all the business of this House and they intend to assert that right. I have sometimes had the impression recently that certain very important people in this House think that we are here only for Scottish business. We are here to get on with the affairs of the nation, and it is not very satisfactory to think of Scottish affairs being relegated to the background. This is a very small measure that the Scottish Secretary has brought forward, but he has produced something, and I wish it well. I am convinced that it will not be enough and that it will lead to bigger things. It will strengthen the demand for purely Scottish affairs to be dealt with by the people in Scotland in some way, while national affairs concerning Scotland and England are dealt with as usual in this House.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) made, as usual, a very competent speech, but I am bound to say that I did not find myself very much in agreement with him. I think it is the first time in the history of this Parliament that that has happened. Like other parties, we have independent minds and we think it right that our views should be expressed. I believe I express the majority view of my Friends—there are five of us—when I say that we welcome the proposals which the Secretary of State for Scotland has made. I could not do anything else. I was one of those who 12 years ago, made detailed proposals to a predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman on these very lines. I proposed two things, and the matter received a great deal of public notice at the time and was followed by much 433 discussion in the Press and elsewhere. One was that the authority and range of the Scottish Grand Committee should be considerably extended. The second, a corollary of the first, was that it was necessary to establish in Scotland what I then called a political general assembly, a gathering of the clans, once a year in Edinburgh. I understand that it would be out of Order to discuss that proposal now, and so I leave it.
I welcome the present proposal to extend the range and authority of the Scottish Grand Committee. The right hon. Gentleman has given me more or less what I then asked for. The case for doing so is simple. Even in 1937, this House was becoming overloaded with business, with the result that none of the business received adequate attention. Scottish business suffered most of all. At that time we got only two days in the year on Estimates—we got a good many extra days as well—and the result was as it is now. Year after year one important Scottish Estimate after another was never discussed. I remember that for several years education was not discussed in this House. The same is happening now. There is not time. Therefore business in the House was being disadvantaged—and our Business in particular. I took the view then, and I take it now, that the chief complaint of the Scottish people is that Parliament does not allocate enough time for the examination of Scottish affairs. I believe profoundly that that is the chief complaint. There are other complaints. I know that some people would go much further and ask for other things. However, I feel that if we can satisfy this complaint we shall have gone a very long way.
The Secretary of State is to be congratulated on having got this much. The hon. Member for Western Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) recognised that this is an achievement on the part of the Secretary of State which we must not belittle. I know how difficult it was to get anything like this through before the war, and the Secretary of State has done very well in getting this change through the various channels and past the obstructions which our Constitution provides. Therefore what we are proposing is a good idea, and we must see how it goes.
I hope that the Secretary of State will generously interpret this matter of the con- 434 troversial Bills and Bills relating exclusively to Scotland. What is the definition of "exclusively"? It must be very difficult to say when a Bill relates exclusively to Scotland. I can imagine that it will be very difficult to produce something under that definition if we treat it with complete stiffness. It is still more difficult to define "controversial" or "non-controversial." The hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Mr. Watson) raised a good point and I agree largely with what he said. If the Secretary of State is going to confine our discussions to matters on which we are all entirely agreed, we are turning the Scottish Grand Committee into a nursery or a circle for babes, and that is not what we are there for. The Scottish Grand Committee is bound always to take a controversial view of matters. I cannot imagine that it is possible for Scotsmen to sit down together—even those in the same party, as we have seen this afternoon—without having slightly different views. Those views ought not to be smothered but should be expressed. Sometimes there may be a division on party lines but very often there may be a division on non-party lines. I am a little troubled by the suggestion that only non-controversial Measures will be put up. I do not know whether the Lord Advocate can define a little more clearly what he means. What does he mean by "non-controversial"? Surely it cannot mean a Bill upon which there will be division of opinion? If that is so, I cannot agree with it—
§ Mr. Woodburn
Perhaps I may clear this up right away. After the Second Reading Debate in this House a large number of important Bills are passed without a Division, and that will apply to quite a number of Scottish Bills. That type of Bill would come under the definition.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. That is probably true. We can conceive a large number of Bills which would not lead to a Division in the House—
§ Mr. Stewart
—on principle, but I am not happy about leaving it even there. Why should the Scottish Grand Committee be prevented from discussing a 435 Bill upon which there is a division of opinion on the principle? What is the reason for that? I understand the sort of House of Commons official difficulties which might arise about the 10 hon. Members but I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at this again and try not to confine us too much but to give us a chance to deal even with controversial Measures. It will be well worth while. As to the actual Sittings, I cannot understand the argument that this is not an advantage. At present we get two days, which is 13 hours, and under the new method we shall get at least 15 hours with a possible additional 15 hours. This is a clear advantage to us.
I was unfortunately not present, owing to a rather important Committee upstairs which was attended by many of us, to hear the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) has told me that he does not follow the right hon. Gentleman's explanation of paragraph (4) any more than I understand it. It is therefore not entirely because I was not here and did not hear the right hon. Gentleman's speech. It would be a considerable help if the Lord Advocate would explain what is intended.
I offer this proposal a welcome. I agree with everybody else that it is not a great or very revolutionary step and that we do not know where it may lead us, but if it gives us more time to discuss our own affairs, it is a good proposal. As to delegation, I should like to see that in operation in England, Scotland and Wales. That is the right way to look upon this problem—not as a Scottish problem but as a problem affecting the general government and administration of the whole of Great Britain. If this proposal takes us a step in that direction I shall have no objection to it, though I am not a Scottish Home Ruler. I thank the right hon. Gentleman and, while the proposal is not a revolutionary thing, I think that it is worth while.
§ 5.37 P.m.
§ Mr. Leonard (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
I have one small fear to express. I am sure the Secretary of State will appreciate that I fully realise that he has done something of advantage to us in getting this matter to this stage. When the hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Mr. Watson) was speaking, the right hon. Gentleman 436 seemed to indicate dissent from the assertion that there was not a happy Press in Scotland for these proposals. I have paid some attention to the Press and I think we are now being given some kinder remarks, although a little hesitancy is always displayed with regard to the efficacy of these proposals. I agree with the hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs that Mr. Speaker's certificate should be sufficient to allow the progress of any Bill to the Scottish Grand Committee. Mr. Speaker has no interests and is quite impartial, and I believe that such a certificate from a person in that position who has considered the Bill and thinks it fit to receive such a certificate, should be sufficient to enable the Bill to go to the Scottish Grand Committee.
I am rather perturbed at the possibility of a Bill's progress being interrupted because of the objection of 10 hon. Members who might think that the Bill infringes on some geographical or other interest of theirs While that is a fact, I feel that there is a possibility that the Secretary of State, in giving guidance to the Parliamentary draftsman, might have the Bill framed so as to escape the possibility of objection by 10 hon. Members. I fear that more than anything else. What is conceived to be desirable in Scotland, may be whittled down in order to avoid the possibility of that objection. I would rather have a Bill which is a necessary Bill for Scotland debated on the Floor of the House than have it whittled down in order to escape the objection of 10 hon. Members to its being debated in Committee I hope I may be able to lose that fear.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Spence (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Central)
I should be glad if the Lord Advocate would answer two questions when he winds up. The first relates to the point about Procedure which was raised by the right hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers). Here we have a Committee which will take Second Readings. That is contrary to all Procedure on the Floor of the House and it requires to be thought about from that angle. My next point is whether for a Second Reading in Committee we shall get a similar allowance of time to that given for a Second Reading in the House. A normal Second Reading occupies about six hours. Are we to have three mornings, or two and a 437 half mornings, in order to deal with a similar Bill in Committee? The opening and closing speeches usually occupy half an hour at each end and when such a period as that is taken out of a Sitting of two and a half hours, it will leave very little time for normal discussion. I welcome this as an experiment which ought to be tried, but I would in no circumstances recommend that we should sit in the afternoons. That would be entirely wrong because it would prevent our doing our proper job on the Floor of the House.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
When the Secretary of State opened his speech he said that his proposals followed a considerable amount of discussion in Scotland in which feelings on the matter ran very high. It would be idle of me to suggest that he has produced something which will allay any fears there may be in Scotland of neglect or lack of control of Scottish affairs by Scotsmen because, fundamentally, what is resented in Scotland by the loud-voiced minority with whom I have very little sympathy is the fact that Scottish affairs are not merely discussed, but, much more important, that decisions are taken by an overwhelmingly English majority in this House irrespective of what may be the feeling and ideas of Scottish hon. Members.
On the face of it, the proposal to take Second Readings in the Scottish Grand Committee does not mean very much. After all, when a Second Reading is taken in this House, the House is really converted into a Scottish Grand Committee for that day, and English, Welsh and Irish hon. Members decide that it is a day for a holiday. Look at the attendance today. I agree with the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) that we are here clearing the way for more Government Business in the House while something else is being discussed by the Scottish Grand Committee. There may, however, be one saving grace. Will this mean that Bills for which otherwise the Government cannot find time in the House, will, if acceptable to both sides, be taken by the Scottish Grand Committee and become law? If that were to be the case, I am sure most of us, judging by the past months, if not years, of agitation, would welcome a non-controversial Bill on shop tenure being 438 dealt with by the Scottish Grand Committee. If this new proposal will cover such legislation, then we certainly will welcome it.
On the question of the extra six days for the Estimates, in the parlance of Hollywood, the Secretary of State has got something there, but I want them to be six real days. I have only been in this House a short time but I have heard from the other side, Front Benches and back benches, great complaints about the lack of time in which to discuss Scottish affairs and the neglect of Scottish affairs shown by us. Yet today no fewer than three hon. Members opposite have asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to make sure that, when we get these six extra days, we shall only take forenoons. I expected that, having this concession granted, we would have all-night sittings of the Scottish Grand Committee to meet the Conservative objections.
§ Mr. Ross
Anyone who likes to look up the attendances of the past will see those who were absent. I appreciate the need for these extra days. There is a need for more of what the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) called Government interference. The word "interference" has some stigma attached to it, which is probably why he used it, but to my mind this is not a case of interference being an evil. This Government have realised that Scotland's woeful position has been caused by neglect and by lack of interference in the past, and now we must have time to see that the powers we have given to the Secretary of State are being properly wielded. I think every Scottish Member will take full advantage of the extra six days.
In the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) to which, as his sole constituent in this House, I listened with much dismay and disappointment, he seemed to feel that these offers would mean depriving English Members of their inalienable rights. That is complete nonsense. English Members have never shown themselves tremendously interested in Scottish affairs, otherwise there might have been more of them here today. Quite apart from that, if 10 English Members are so very interested, they can prevent this course being 439 pursued of Second Readings going to the Scottish Grand Committee.
§ Mr. Ross
They are not so easily roused as some pseudo Scotsmen. The hon. and gallant Member's argument that English Members will have no say can be destroyed by anyone who likes to consult the composition of the Scottish Grand Committee, in the proceedings of which English Members play their part, are always helpful, and can hold up the end for their own country. On the whole, I cannot share the feelings of futility of the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs, who does not seem satisfied with the step for all sorts of conflicting reasons. He, to my knowledge, for the past 25 years in representing Ayr Burghs, has not done much to voice the feelings of Scotland or to gain a greater measure of Scottish control by the Scottish people, and his synthetic indignation is something to which I, as a Scotsman, object coming from my own representative, who happens to be an Irishman. If the Secretary of State assures us that this is not his final effort to grapple with this real problem, but is only a first step, then I feel sure that his proposals will have the support of the majority of the Scottish Members and the Scottish people.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has attacked my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore). I happen to have listened to my hon. and gallant Friend for a good many years, during which I have often thought that he set an example, followed by many Scottish Members, of missing few, if any, opportunities of putting forward the Scottish point of view. As he is absent, I felt that as one Member who prefers justice to a political point, I might put that forward.
I rise, not because the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) complimented me on being more industrious than my fellow Englishman, but because of the speech of an hon. Member opposite which contained an excellent point. He pointed out that each of us is elected to the House of Commons as a Member for the United Kingdom, not as a Member for 440 England, Wales or Scotland. With regard to the Estimates, it has struck me that for many years now there has not been adequate discussion of Scottish affairs. I say that as an impartial onlooker, and it is inevitable that this must be so. The whole of the work of the House of Commons has grown and, with it, the work which ought to be done in examining Scottish Bills. Certain Scottish affairs are taken upstairs, which relieves the work to some extent, but there can be little or no doubt that the Estimates themselves are one part of the work of the House of Commons where there is the closest connection between the Member, as the representative of a constituency, and the Government of the day.
If there are two days of wide discussion on Scottish Estimates, hon. Members are apt to run away from that detailed discussion which is often most useful in its result. That has led up to this excellent new Order on Estimates. Without in any way wishing to offend anyone I would like to say that wherever this arose, it must have been in the minds of exceedingly ingenious people with a great knowledge of Parliamentary affairs. Having watched the Committee and the hon. Members here, I think it could only have been thought of by someone with that outlook of knowledge and progressiveness which always applies to Tory Scottish Members. Therefore, I conclude that they are responsible. I notice it is not denied.
However, I would point out a real danger. Six days can be spent on the Scottish Estimates in the Scottish Grand Committee, and then they will be referred back to a Committee of the House of Commons which, if I read the Order aright, can then have a further say on them. In other words, it is essential, if money is being collected by one Budget over the whole country, and the spending of that money is apportioned between different parts of the country, that on the Committee stage the whole House of Commons should be able to say something about it.
§ Mr. Woodburn indicated assent.
§ Mr. Williams
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. It is right that some Englishman should point that out because, unless it was referred back, there might be a difficult controversy between those who have to pay the tax and those who spend it. If I may reverse that, supposing 441 an English committee, able to deal only with the raising of money, put a heavy tax on whisky and none at all on beer, I fancy there would be considerable trouble. I give that as an illustration to show how necessary it is that there should be this safeguard.
I have made two or three points on this question because these are not matters affecting only one part of the United Kingdom. Those who have taken part in engineering this particular devolution of work from the whole House to the Scottish Grand Committee have done something valuable for Parliament as a whole because it has enabled us—provided we keep the restrictions which are fair—to devolve certain pieces of work to those people who are the direct representative of those affected, and who must, or should know more than the ordinary Member of Parliament about these matters. As an English Member, I am glad to say that, because I believe it sets an example. We might, for instance, be able to devolve certain forms of expenditure to particular committees in other ways.
I apologise to the Scottish Members for having intervened today, not that I owe them any apology for inconvenience, but because I have that diffidence which is natural to all those who come from the West of England. I hope that what I have said will remain in the minds of all hon. Members because this could be used as a precedent to lighten the burdens of Parliament on hon. Members, and put them on the people who are more representative of, and interested in, local affairs. Nothing would be more appropriate than if that could be done for the West Country, in the same way as it is being done for Scotland.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)
At this stage in the Debate most of the points of substance have been touched upon, and I do not propose to retread any of the ground already covered. Before coming to the one point I want to put to my right hon. Friend, I would like to say to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) that he should not worry too much about the fact that English papers might not give a great deal of publicity to Scottish affairs under this new arrangement, because they do not give that publicity at present. An outstanding example was 442 given last Thursday morning. On the previous Wednesday night there had been a soul-stirring conflict at Hampden Park to decide who should possess the Scottish Football Cup for the following season. In spite of the fact that nearly a quarter of a million people of Scotland witnessed that titanic struggle, there was not a single newspaper in this House of Commons or anywhere else on Thursday morning which was aware that that game had taken place the night before. There was a Scottish event which received no publicity whatever in England, yet it was one of great importance. We do not treat the English in that shabby fashion. We gave a great deal of prominence to the English Cup Final in our Press.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I cannot permit the hon. Member to pursue that argument further. He must keep to the Motion.
§ Mr. Rankin
I do not want the hon. Member for Dumfries to worry about matters of publicity.
I hope my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will not pay too much attention to two matters that have been forced continuously upon his notice tonight. He is urged to try to define what is meant by a Measure which is "exclusively Scottish," and also to try to define what is meant by a "non-contentious Measure." I hope he will be very careful in replying to both points, because the more we seek to define what any particular phrase or word may mean, the more we will restrict and narrow the activities of the Committee. We will only hamper ourselves in the long run. I suggest that my right hon. Friend should make no attempt whatever to try to define, and thereby restrict, the meaning of those two terms. I want to see this Committee as flexible as possible. Here we have something which can be used to express Scottish needs and Scottish desires. If we use this Committee as it can be used, I believe we shall have taken an irrevocable step today. I can see in this effort the first move towards the establishment of a Scottish Parliament to deal with Scottish affairs.
§ 6.4 p.m.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
I do not wish to take up very long, because the hour is getting late, and there is other Scottish business. I hope I shall meet with approval from both sides of the Chamber 443 when I say that anything which my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) says in regard to Parliamentary procedure is worthy of close attention and consideration by every hon. Member, on whichever side of the House he sits, because my hon. Friend has had 30 years' experience specialising in Parliamentary procedure. Anything to which he gives his blessing, or disapproval, must be a matter of serious moment to us all. This afternoon he has given a more or less unqualified blessing to these proposals. I venture to say this with considerable trepidation, but I, with my more limited experience and perhaps more shallow reasoning, cannot go as far as my hon. Friend has done in giving his blessing to either or both of these Motions. On the other hand, I am sorry that I cannot go as far as my hon. Friend and next-door neighbour, politically, the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) in more or less wholly condemning the Motions. This time I must take refuge in a via. media—
§ Mr. C. Williams
I deliberately refrained from discussion of the first Motion and only spoke on the second Motion.
I can assure both my hon. Friends, perhaps more particularly the Member for Dumfries who, not having been in the House for so long is perhaps not so able to protect his own interests as the hon. Member for Torquay, that I in no way wish to do either of them the slightest injustice in regard to this or any other subject. I have to take refuge in a sort of via media on this occasion. May I assure the representatives of the Scottish Office on the Treasury Bench that my seeking refuge in a via media does not mean a via media of indifference. I can assure the House that I shall watch the future working of these Orders, if they are agreed to, with the greatest interest, and shall be ready to point out what I think, if they turn out so, is a, danger of their doing us an injury.
I was amazed to hear the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) saying that he did not think there was anything very novel or constituting a radical departure in the proposals to send a Bill to 444 Standing Committee for Second Reading. I should view this proposal as a very radical departure. After all, Standing Committees, so far as my memory serves, were only set up to relieve congestion in this Chamber under the auspices of the Liberal Government in 1906, just 20 years after the introduction of the Guillotine, borrowed from the French Chamber. We are making a radical departure in agreeing to certain Bills of a non-contentious character being taken on Second Reading by the Scottish Grand Committee. I must enter a caveat, although no doubt the hon. Member for Kilmarnock would not agree that it is a caveat and would hail my remark with delight, that having taken these Second Readings there is no reason why we should not send any Bill to a Standing Committee for Second Reading, and so we may be inserting the thin end of the wedge, or setting up a precedent which may be quoted, or acted on, in future by any Administration, of whatever political complexion. I am glad to have the silent approval of my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay on that.
When he replies, I hope the Lord Advocate will pay due heed to what was said by the right hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers). He dealt with the Motion which is concerned with sending Bills to Scottish Grand Committee on Second Reading. He said, very properly, that this novel departure would place the occupant of the Chair in considerable difficulties, certainly at the outset. He has occupied the Chair in Scottish Grand Committee with the approval of both sides. Perhaps the Lord Advocate is not in a position to say much on that this afternoon, and perhaps no one could, as we can only find out these things by experience, but I was glad that the right hon. Gentleman pointed that out to the representatives on the Government Front Bench. I sincerely hope that there will be no attempt by this, or any succeeding Government, to suggest that we should sit in the afternoons when Second Readings are down for discussion. That would be wholly unsuitable and hon. Members on both sides of the House would perforce be in danger of dereliction of duty by their enforced absence from the Chamber when United Kingdom and Imperial matters, if we are ever to discuss Imperial matters in the future, are to be discussed.
445 In the Second Motion, dealing with consideration of Scottish Estimates by the Scottish Grand Committee, we are also making a considerable departure from previous practice and, indeed, of principle. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) reminding the House of a suggestion he made a number of years ago on this point. I must not deal with the other question that he raised years ago which, as he said, would he out of Order, but it was only the question of the Scottish Estimates being considered by the Scottish Grand Committee that led to that controversy in the Press of Scotland of which he reminded us this afternoon. A Standing Committee is not a Committee of Supply and, just as will be the case in regard to Second Readings of Bills, the Scottish Grand Committee on Estimates will be incapable of coming to any decision, because if they did so—and I think this an even graver matter than the question of Second Readings of Bills—we should be dealing with financial matters, and the Standing Committee could not constitutionally come to any decision. That matter must be reserved exclusively for the Committee of Supply, which has sole responsibility for raising moneys which are to be devoted to various Departments of the State.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Westwood), whom I was delighted to hear once again, endeavoured to make great play with the fact that the Secretary of State for Scotland was considerably overburdened and that he had to combine the duty of overseeing very many Departments in his own person, whereas in England those Departments had individual Ministers. Of course, we on this side of the House are well aware of that. I, for one, repeatedly pointed out, when we were debating many of the Bills introduced by this Government in the Scottish Grand Committee, that that was the case. We put down Amendments to try to spare the occupant of the Scottish Office from being more over-burdened in the future than he has been in the past, but we did that without avail. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have made a new discovery this afternoon. I would point out that if this proposal about the 15 hours or so is agreed to, whoever is in charge of the Department will, at all events, have more time at his disposal to consider these matters along with his colleagues than was the case 446 under the old system when we had only two days in Committee of Supply on the Floor of the House.
I think that the hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Mr. Watson) alluded to the fact that in the past the Scottish Department had not been discussed in the old Committee of Supply in the careful way that he would have wished to see. The hon. Gentleman will remember that in the days between the wars he and his colleagues were almost always in opposition. Indeed, hon. Gentlemen opposite have never tired of pointing that out. It is the duty of those on the Opposition side of the House to say what Votes shall be taken for discussion. If enough Votes were not discussed in those days, the responsibility must lie solely upon the shoulders of the hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs and his colleagues who were not up and doing in the way they should have been.
I think it was the hon. Gentleman or one of his hon. Friends—certainly these sentiments were expressed by more than one of his colleagues—who said that this was a way of relieving congestion in the House. So it is, but I point out to the hon. Gentleman that just as he and his colleagues may have been guilty of not being vigilant enough in opposition in putting down a sufficient number of Scottish Votes for consideration in Supply, so in this present Parliament, now that they are on the Government side of the House, they have been responsible for deliberately cluttering up the legislative programme with a great deal of legislation which should have received more consideration, and which would have received more detailed consideration if the Measures had not been pushed through in the first two years of the life of this Parliament. Things are not quite so bad in this Session, but they are bad enough.
The responsibility for not having enough discussion of Scottish Supply in the past must be laid at the door of those who have slavishly supported the present Socialist administration. I am afraid that I cannot either welcome these proposals or wholeheartedly condemn them. I am more inclined to damn with faint praise. I do not think that these proposals will produce very much. They are another experiment in Socialist administration. I do not think they are likely to be such dangerous experiments as many others, and certainly 447 nothing like so dangerous as the suspension of the death penalty.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
When the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) was speaking, I interjected that this proposal was an orphan of the storm. There has been a storm for two or three years, not promoted, as said by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), by a lot of wild-mouthed men in Scotland. A resolution has twice been carried by the 'Scottish Labour Party urging that the time had arrived when we should demand a President of the Board of Trade and a Minister of Labour to deal entirely with Scottish affairs, and to sit on the Front Bench alongside the Secretary of State for Scotland but independent of him. I am the individual who moved the resolution. The idea was that we should be in a position to ask those Ministers Questions relating to Scotland.
When we put Questions about unemployment and other matters to the Secretary of State for Scotland, he can say, "That is a question for the Minister of Labour." He rides off on that. The same applies to Questions to the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Supply. Scotland is fed up with this. At the last two meetings of the Scottish Labour Party, at Perth and Dundee, it was decided, against the influences which were at work, to pass the Resolution. The influences at work were not ordinary influences, but the Labour Party approved the resolution. That agitation emanated from the A.E.U., my union, which is not entirely a Scottish organisation. We were able to convince the union that it was essential in the interests of Scotland, my native land, to have this arrangement.
Scotland never gets a square deal here. I speak with over 25 years' experience on the Floor of the British House of Commons. It is because of that bitter experience that we carried on the agitation with the result that the Scottish Labour group have had before them Ministers, including the Lord President of the Council, the former President of the Board of Trade, who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Minister of Labour. They have all been before the Scottish group at different times to try to allay our anxiety about what is to happen to 448 Scotland unless we get this consideration. The present Government have saved the situation up to date. We have not had the unemployment that we had after the first world war. I give all honour for that to the present Government. They have no more faithful supporter. I voted against them only once, and that was on the means test—and I would do that again—and now we have wiped that out.
This proposal is an orphan of the storm because it will not touch the fringe of the difficulty. I see in this the hand of an artful dodger—and he is not a Tory. I went to the Prime Minister and told him what was going on in Scotland. No one has greater respect for the Lord President of the Council than I have. I am looking after the interests of Scotland irrespective of any individual. During the last dust-up which I had with the Lord President when I was putting this proposition to him, he said, "But you know, Davie, Scotland has not got Home Rule yet." The same thing applied when another Minister, whose name I will not mention, came before the Scottish group. No one in the Scottish group has ever suggested Home Rule for Scotland in present conditions. They have suggested that a Bill should be introduced in favour of Home Rule for Scotland, but that was before we were in power. What does it matter to us who is in control unless we get what we have agitated for in the last 25 or 30 years? Now that we are in a position to do something, along comes the latest edition of the Secretary of State for Scotland and introduces this proposal, supported by the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council.
This will not affect the situation in Scotland one iota. We must have three or four Ministers on the Front Bench to whom we can put Scottish Questions across the Floor of the House. Fancy the advantage which the English have over us. The English come here and can attack the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Supply, or the President of the Board of Trade—but we cannot. We have to go cap in hand for information. I have to negotiate not simply for Scottish engineers and for my own constituency, but for engineers all over Britain. I know from experience what that means and how essential it is that we should have those Ministers. I was in duty bound to rise and say what I have said.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ The Lord Advocate (Mr. John Wheatley)
We have listened for three hours to an interesting and, I might say, exhaustive discussion on this subject and a variety of others. The Debate has been particularly in relation to this subject which one hopes will have a beneficial result upon our legislative machinery. I fully agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) that the proposals are of an experimental nature and that experience may indicate that further improvements can be achieved. It is the wish of every hon. Member to make a success of this new procedure. We can only make a success of it if we are determined to use it to the fullest advantage in the interests of Scotland and not to allow any irresponsible feelings to enter into the consideration of the extent to which the new machinery can be used.
I think the measure of the success of this proposal is the acceptance which it has received on both sides of the House. It is perfectly true that one or two hon. Members on both sides of the House have expressed doubts as to the efficiency and the efficacy of the proposals, but I think the balanced view is that, while we cannot estimate the exact future of the new machinery, we realise that an opportunity is being afforded for a much fuller discussion of Scottish affairs in Parliament than hitherto existed. We are not discussing the broader subject of Scottish nationalism. We are discussing whether the proposed alterations in the Standing Orders are desirable and are beneficial in the interests of Scotland. In all the speeches to which I have listened, despite the fact that the reception varied from speaker to speaker, despite the fact that it was suggested, on the one hand, that we were not going far enough, I did not hear one constructive suggestion as to what further step we might have taken within our constitutional procedure. I feel it must be accepted, therefore, that we have gone as far as we possibly could within our present framework.
In the past, this question has been posed from time to time. Numerous people have applied their minds to it and numerous suggestions have been made. Difficulties, real or imaginary, have been reared from time to time, but let us appreciate that today, for 450 being taken, and let us give due credit for the fact that that step is being taken. We on this side do not wish to claim credit on a party basis: rather, we feel that Scottish Members are alive to their responsibility and appreciate that efforts have been made to do this in the interests of Scotland. I would, therefore, prefer to have here, not for the sake of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, but in the interests of fairness and justice, more appreciation in some quarters of the fact that something is being done rather than a vague criticism of the fact that insufficient is being done without any specification as to what further might have been done. There is a great tendency in these days to draw attention to what is not being done and to ignore the very many benefits which are accruing and the many things which are being done.
In answering the various points which have been raised, it seems to me that the simplest and perhaps the most effective method would be to go over the proposed Amendments and to deal bit by bit with the various difficulties which have been postulated. In the first instance, when the Public Bill has been printed, whether it has been introduced in this House or in another place, Mr. Speaker will determine whether it is a Bill which relates exclusively to Scotland. It is not a matter for the discretion of the Secretary of State for Scotland or any other Government Minister. It is a matter for the determination of Mr. Speaker who will, in the first instance, determine whether or not the Bill falls within the category which might competently be taken through this procedure. Of course, Mr. Speaker, that is not the last word because—if I may remind hon. Members of this—there is the provision that 10 Members of the House can oppose it if they feel the Bill should not be dealt with by this procedure. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Leonard) wondered whether there might be a tendency for those responsible for the legislation to whittle down the contents of a Bill to ensure that it had purely a Scottish application and related exclusively to Scotland. I do not think such a fear need exist in the mind of hon. Members, because manifestly it would not be in the interests of the Secretary of 451 State for Scotland or any other responsible Minister to whittle down beneficial provisions in a Bill merely to get it past Mr. Speaker when any 10 Members of the House could rise and object to it. I feel, while it was a good point to raise, there is no real foundation for fear.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Do I gather that the Lord Advocate is determined to stick to the word "exclusively"? Would he not, for example, between now and the next stage, think of inserting "mainly" or "substantially," or some word like that?
§ The Lord Advocate
I can tell the hon. Member this: whatever difficulty may exist in the interpretation of the word "exclusively," much greater difficulties would exist in interpreting the words "mainly" or "largely," or anything else of that nature, because in those cases one definitely gets into the area of speculation. Further to that point, I think it is obvious that once we get a non-Scottish interest introduced into a Bill, it would be very difficulty, on principle, to justify taking that Bill from the Floor of the House to the Scottish Grand Committee for Second Reading, thus depriving the English Members, who are not Members of the Scottish Grand Committee but who may have an interest in the Bill, from the right of participating in the Second Reading Debate.
On the Second Reading, there must be a Motion made by a Minister of the Crown referring the Bill to the Standing Committee for Scottish Bills. In the first instance, therefore, the initiative lies with the Government, because the Motion can only be made at the instance of a Minister of the Crown. The Opposition, or Government supporters for that matter, have the right to reserve the discussion on the Second Reading to the Floor of the House by 10 Members rising and opposing the proposal. It was suggested that the 10 Members should be exclusively Scottish Members. I think that idea was dealt with fully by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland when he pointed out that we really cannot classify Members in that respect and, moreover, although it may be peculiarly or exclusively a Scottish Bill, there are some people who may feel the principle involved to be one worthy of Debate on the Floor of the House.
452 That was one of the difficulties which previously arose when this matter was being discussed—the reconciliation between the desire to have Scottish Bills more thoroughly debated in a Scottish Committee and the right of Members to discuss important Measures on the Floor of the House, as distinct from a Committee room. We must, therefore, reserve to Members of the House certain rights in these matters and, by reserving the right to any 10 Members to rise in their places and negative the proposal, I think we have effected a practical compromise between the desire to go to the Scottish Grand Committee, where competent, and the desire to remain on the Floor of the House of Commons.
Next, I come to the reference of the Bill to the Standing Committee for a Second Reading. The first point which was raised was whether the Scottish Grand Committee should be composed solely of Scottish Members or whether it should be, as at the present time, a combination of the Scottish Members and additional English Members. May I say, on that point, that it would be quite impossible, in my opinion, to depart from the existing rule, which enables English Members—or I should say non-Scottish Members—to be added to the Scottish Grand Committee? In the first instance, it is necessary—although perhaps not so necessary as in the Committee stages—to ensure that the balance which exists in the House is preserved in the Grand Committee, because it is conceivable that we might have a different balance of parties among Scottish Members than that in the House as a whole. While that does not matter so much to a Scottish Grand Committee which is listening to a Second Reading Debate and not participating in a Division, I think we should preserve the general character of that Committee.
Secondly, the present system enables English Members with specialised knowledge to be co-opted to the Committee, and thirdly—and this is the most important of all—it is a recognition of the fact that we are still a United Kingdom Assembly and that English Members have, the right to participate in these Debates on Scottish affairs, just as Scottish Members are not hesitant on occasions to participate in affairs which affect the United Kingdom, England and Wales, or even Northern Ireland. I think the composition must remain as it is at the present time.
453 The next point which arises is whether the rules governing Committee work would apply during a Second Reading discussion or whether the rules which govern Second Reading discussion, when it is on the Floor of the House, should apply. While I am not in a position to give a hard and fast answer, I think hon. Members would recognise that, in effect, this was a Second Reading Debate and that it would follow the rules which apply during a Second Reading Debate. If hon. Members are sufficiently responsible to recognise what we are trying to do, I think they will be equally responsible in observing the rules of Debate. There is a further provision, in that the Chairman of the Committee could utilise that well-established "Nelson eye" principle, as seems to be the privilege of many chairmen of committees on occasions.
Thereafter, when a Bill has been so referred, it will be brought back to the Floor of the House, and when we have the Order of the Day for the Second Reading we shall either get it passed without discussion and without Division or six hon. Members may rise and object. If six hon. Members rise and object, then another Second Reading is required on the Floor of the House. It may well be that, arising out of the discussion in the Scottish Grand Committee, points will emerge on which hon. Members may possibly wish to divide, although when the Bill was sent to that Committee it appeared to be one on which no Division would take place. There is, therefore, reserved to Members this right of having a further Debate—which would in these circumstances be a real Second Reading Debate—and a Division, which they could not have in Scottish Grand Committee. If that objection is not taken on the Order of the Day for the Second Reading, and the Bill has been so read and a Motion made by a Government Minister that it should be committed to the Standing Committee for Scottish Bills, it shall be deemed to be a Second Reading of the Bill without Division. I trust that that is a sufficient explanation to remove doubt.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Will the Lord Advocate explain why it is six Members in this case and 10 Members in the other case?
§ The Lord Advocate
We have to take arbitrary figures in both cases, but in the first case, where there has been no dis- 454 cussion on the Bill, we feel that 10 is a fairly good safeguard against irresponsible action. We trust that there never would be irresponsible action, but as a safeguard we must have a certain number, otherwise we could have one or two instead of 10. When the Bill comes back from the Scottish Committee, having been debated in what is in effect, a Second Reading Debate, it may well appear, as a result of that Debate, that further discussion and, if need be, a Division should take place. Therefore, the same number is not required, and the same safeguard is not required. There may appear at that stage to be a greater justification for discussion on the Floor of the House, and, perhaps, for a Division. I do not think there is any question of principle involved in fixing the number, but we think that the safeguard is sufficient in the second case.
The question has arisen: For how long should the sittings take place? That question relates not only to consideration of the Estimates but generally to the work of the Scottish Grand Committee. It is a question to which at this stage no definite answer one way or the other can be given. Manifestly, the question whether or not the Committee ought to sit in the afternoons is one which can be determined only in the light of the prevailing circumstances. There may arise circumstances in which the whole Committee may feel it to be in the interests of Scotland to sit in the afternoon as well as in the morning, and, possibly, all night. We must reserve to ourselves the right to determine that question in the light of the circumstances. We ought not to pre-arrange what the hours of the Sittings should be.
§ Mr. Spence
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean that, when the Scottish Grand Committee is debating a Bill on Second Reading, the Committee will sit in the afternoon if, after the two and a half hours of the morning Sitting, the Debate is not concluded?
§ The Lord Advocate
That is just the type of question to which one cannot give a definite answer. It may all depend upon the nature of the Bill. It may depend upon the time-table in that week. It may all depend on what is going on in the House. There will be a variety of circumstances which may affect determination of the question whether or not it is desirable for the Committee to adjourn at 455 the end of a morning Sitting until the next day or only until the afternoon. Hon. Members must be content with the explanation, that we shall allow the Committee to determine the manner in which it is to carry out its work. I hope that the points which gave rise to difficulty have been satisfactorily answered.
I turn now to consider another aspect of the matter, the type of Bill which may be put through this procedure. Hon. Members will appreciate that there is nothing contained in the proposals to indicate the type of Bill. That, in the first instance, will be a matter to be settled at the discretion of the Government, because the Government will determine in respect of which Bills the Motion will be made. What we have envisaged is, that Bills of a technical nature applying only to Scotland, and which are non-controversial in a party sense, will be referred to the Committee. From my short experience here, I would say that no matter relating to Scotland will ever be non-controversial, because we are a thrawn race of people. However, when party differences arise, questions of principle are often involved, questions on which all Members of the House might wish to express an opinion. Bills which are controversial in that sense would manifestly be Bills which would not dovetail into the procedure. The sort of Bills we have in mind to refer to the Committee are Bills which are the Scottish counterparts of English Bills—Bills containing for Scotland provisions similar to those in Bills for England. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hill-head shares my dislike of long Scottish application clauses, and the experiment recently tried of referring to the Scottish Grand Committee part of a Bill concerning the United Kingdom. We hope that by means of the new procedure we shall be able to surmount both those difficulties.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Is there not a possibility that such a Bill may not pass Mr. Speaker, in the sense that it may not be regarded as the counterpart of an English Measure, or an exclusively Scottish Measure?
§ The Lord Advocate
We cannot really go into all the possibilities. I think that we can be quite sure that Mr. Speaker will be able to make up his mind which Bills are exclusively Scottish and which 456 are not. There may be Bills of a purely Scottish interest for which time could not be found immediately in the House in the existing programme, and which, if they fulfil the other conditions, could be brought forward by being put through this procedure.
I should like to draw attention to the probable advantages that we think will accrue from this procedure. Considerably more time will be given to the discussion of the principles of Bills, and that is a good thing in the interests of Scotland. Secondly, the procedure will leave to the House as a whole more time for the discussion of Measures of United Kingdom interest. It was suggested that the prime mover behind this scheme was my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, and that the scheme was designed, not to assist Scotland, but to improve the position of England and Wales. Let me here and now repudiate that suggestion most emphatically. The inspiration for the proposals came from Scotland, which were worked out in Scotland by Scottish Ministers. Whatever the credit or discredit for these proposals may be, it falls on Scottish Members on both sides of the House and on Scottish Ministers. However, as a result of clearing the decks in the House, and of expediting Parliamentary Business on the Floor of the House, Scottish Measures waiting in the queue for disposal on the Floor of the House will come forward more quickly, and to that extent Scotland will also benefit.
Further, we shall find it unnecessary to debate on the Floor of the House Bills for Scotland and England that have to have separate readings. If the general principles are the same I think the interests of everyone will be satisfied if one general discussion takes place on the Floor of the House and the particular discussion of matters particularly affecting Scotland takes place in the Scottish Grand Committee. Finally—and this is, perhaps, not without interest and appeal to hon. Members on both sides—by spreading the discussion of Scottish legislation over a greater number of days we shall make it easier for the Press and the wireless to keep abreast of Scottish affairs in Parliament; and it may be that there will be fuller representation in the columns of the Press and the programmes on the wireless of Scottish affairs.
457 The proposal with regard to the Estimates seemed to receive even more general approval than the other proposal. In answer to the critics, I would say shortly that by giving six more days for the discussion of Scottish Estimates we are improving the existing position. Whether they be days of two and a half hours or longer is a matter which can be determined only when the discussions on the Estimates come to take place. Even if it is found that the days are days of two and a half hours each, the allowance of an additional 15 hours certainly should meet with the approval of those who wish to discuss the Estimates in more meticulous detail than is possible at the present time.
For these reasons we commend the new proposals to the House, confident that a milestone has been reached in our Scottish affairs. We wish that milestone to be a milestone on the road of progress, and not a milestone on the road of reaction. The success of the proposals depends upon the co-operation and good will of all Members of the House, but particularly on the co-operation and good will of Scottish Members of the House. We are satisfied that we shall get that co-operation, and that we shall get the results for Scotland that we all so earnestly desire.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ That this Order be a Standing Order of the House."
That a Motion may be made by a Minister of the Crown at the commencement of Public Business, to be decided without amendment or debate, to the effect that the Committee of Supply be discharged from considering the Estimates or any part of the Estimates for which the Secretary of State for Scotland is responsible, and that such Estimates or part of such Estimates be referred to the Standing. Committee on Scottish Bills for consideration on not more than six days in any Session; and if such Motion be agreed to, the Standing Committee shall consider the Estimates referred to them and shall from time to time report only that they have considered the said Estimates or any of them, which shall again stand referred to the Committee of Supply after such report has been brought up.
§ That this Order be a Standing Order of the House."—[Mr. Woodburn.]
§ Standing Order No. 47 read; and amended in line 20 by inserting after "bills," the words "or other business" and by inserting after "and," the words "referred or"; and in line 25 by inserting after "bill" the words "or other business"—[Mr. Woodburn.]