§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE EARL OF DAL HOUSIE,
in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, there had been for some time past considerable dissatisfaction in Scotland with the manner in which Scotch Business was conducted, the complaint being that Scotch affairs had not received the attention which they merited. This feeling had gained strength very considerably during recent years. The late Government had been aware of its existence, and, in 1878, had introduced a Bill intended to deal with it. That Bill proposed to constitute an Under Secretary of State for the conduct of Scotch Business. That Bill was not favourably received, and was afterwards withdrawn. He believed the coldness with which it was received in Scotland was due to the idea that it would in some way diminish the dignity of the Office of Lord Advocate. The fact that the late Government had introduced such a Bill showed that they admitted the necessity for some legislation of that kind; and but for the Amendment which he saw on the Paper, he should have 1461 hoped that, having introduced a Bill of their own, they would have refrained from opposing the second reading of this measure. This Bill certainly went further than the Bill of the late Government, inasmuch as the President of the Local Government Board that it was proposed to constitute, would be a considerably more important personage than an Under Secretary of State; and it was just because this Bill went further than the Bill of the late Government that it had been received with general consent and approval in Scotland. He did not say it went as far as the people of Scotland would like, because, as their Lordships were aware, the complaint of the Scotch people was that they had not any direct representation in the Cabinet. The Members of the Cabinet were naturally anxious to push forward those Bills which affected the Departments of which they had charge; and as there was no Cabinet Minister directly connected with Scotland excepting the Home Secretary, it was felt that Scotch affairs were not sufficiently regarded, and that Scotch Bills were generally left out in the cold. The desire was that Scotch affairs should be placed in the charge of the Lord Privy Seal, or in some way or other placed under the charge of a Cabinet Minister. That desire Her Majesty's Government had found it impossible to comply with. This Bill proposed to create a Local Government Board, the President of which should be a person altogether above the rank of an Under Secretary of State, intending to meet, as far as possible, the wishes of the Scotch people. The Scotch people were a practical people, and although this Bill might not be all they would like, they were prepared to accept it so far as it went. They regarded it as an acknowledgment that what they had claimed from the Government had not been altogether unreasonable; and they hoped that the passing of this measure would lead to considerable improvement in the management of their affairs. The majority of Scotch Members in the House of Commons had given their support and approval to the Bill; and Petitions in favour of it had been forwarded from the Royal Burghs of Scotland, he thought from all the Chambers of Commerce, as well as from a very important Body, the Faculty of Advocates, who had opposed the Bill of the late Government. 1462 All those important Bodies recognized the fact that this Bill, if it was not sufficient to meet all the demands which they thought Scotland had a right to make, at least was a measure that was worth having, and was, moreover, a stop in the right direction. They expected from it that Scotland would have additional representation in Her Majesty's Government, and that, consequently, more attention might be expected to be given to Scotch Business; and they also approved of the Bill because it brought under one head all the local boards and local authorities which existed in Edinburgh. It would be the duty of the President of the proposed Local Government Board to supervise those authorities; and this arrangement it was expected would be of great convenience to the Scotch Members, inasmuch as they would always have one central responsible authority to whom they could go on matters affecting Scotch Business. Their Lordships would remember that, for a short time, the Business of Scotland had been entrusted to his noble Friend (the Earl of Rosebery); and it was generally acknowledged in Scotland that never in late years had the Business of Scotland been so satisfactorily attended to as it was under the charge of his noble Friend. Those who were acquainted with the people of Scotland would understand that they would not rest satisfied whilst the Officer of State in charge of their affairs held the subordinate position of an Under Secretary. It was that feeling that had wrecked the Bill of the late Government, and he thought their Lordships would see that such a Bill as this was necessary. It would place Scotch affairs under the charge of an independent Minister or a separate Department, instead of leaving it to a subordinate Department. That some such Bill was necessary was not open to doubt. The question that their Lordships had to decide was, whether the measure now before the House was or was not deserving of a fair trial. The scope of the Bill was in one respect thoroughly simple. It constituted a Local Government Board, the Lord President of which would relieve the Home Secretary of Government administration in Scotland. He would have certain ex officio Colleagues; but he believed the real responsibility would fall upon the President of 1463 the Board. It was proposed that the entire functions of the Secretary of State should be transferred from the Home Office to the President of the new Board. The functions of the Lord Advocate would not be touched in anyway by this Bill. They would be precisely the same after this Bill passed as they were at this moment. The President of the Board, he apprehended, would be a Scotchman—though the Bill did not say so—or, at least, someone who was well acquainted with Scotch Business. Unlike the Lord Advocate, he would not necessarily be a lawyer, and the Government would have the great advantage of having a larger field to select the President from. The only restriction that was placed upon the selection of the President of the Local Government Board was that he must be either a Member of their Lordships' House or a person capable of election to the House of Commons. His duties were laid down very distinctly in Clause 5 of the Bill. That clause transferred all the powers and duties vested in the Secretary of State or the Privy Council or the Local Government Board in England, so far as such powers were applicable to Scotland, to the President of the Board, and the 6th clause reserved all the functions of the Lord Advocate. It had been thought advisable, in view of the objections made in the House of Commons to the effect that the new Office would diminish the dignity and authority of the Lord Advocate, that such a clause should be inserted, so that there might be no doubt about the matter. This was a Bill of decentralization, and he should have hoped that on that account it would meet with the approval of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury). He remembered that in the autumn of last year the noble Marquess delivered a speech in Scotland, in which he dwelt with great force and eloquence upon the evils of centralization. This was a measure of decentralization, transferring Scotch Business from the Home Office and giving it to a new Department, so as to meet the just and legitimate desire of the Scotch people for a separate and independent Minister, not under the Home Secretary, to administer Scotch local affairs. This desire was simply prompted by a practical and sensible consideration on the part of the people of Scotland that their interests 1464 had hitherto suffered from the want of a separate and independent Minister. On this ground, and especially on the ground that the Bill had been favourably received by the great majority of the Scotch Members of Parliament, and also by the great majority of public representative Bodies in Scotland, he asked their Lordships to read the Bill a second time.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a—(The Earl of Dalhousie.)
in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, said, it must not be supposed that he was prepared to contend that the existing state of matters in regard to the conduct of Scotch Business was in all respects satisfactory. No doubt, a great deal could be said as to the neglect of Scotch Business in Parliament; but a great deal could be said about the neglect of general Business in Parliament, and as to Parliament not having got through as much Business and legislation in the interests of the country as it ought to have done. He did not think that in the matter of legislation, at any rate during the last few years, Scotland had been in a worse position than any other part of the Empire. But, even if it had been so, he did not think the mere appointment of a Government functionary would help in getting Bills through either House of Parliament. He did not wish to be understood as assuming that no improvement could be introduced into the Administrative Departments in Scotland. He believed there were some wise reforms that might be made; but he thought they should be made with the full knowledge and consent of Parliament, and not, as seemed now to be proposed, by a Local Government Board, or, as it appeared to him, by a comparatively irresponsible Officer. He did not deny that a certain amount of enthusiasm had been evoked in Scotland in favour of this measure; but he believed that, to a large extent, the enthusiasm that had been exhibited for it had been a fictitious enthusiasm, and that in all respects in which it was not fictitious it had been excited by the hope that the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Rosebery) would be restored to the Government by means of the Bill. He believed the desire to see the noble Earl again 1465 in the Government had had a very large share indeed in the amount of popularity that had been evinced on behalf of the Bill in Scotland. He thought anyone who know the circumstances of Scotland would know that he was not going beyond the actual facts of the case in making that statement. He would base his opposition to the Bill mainly upon two grounds; but before he stated them he would like to note one point which, in his opinion, and in the opinion of others, was relied upon as one of the arguments in favour of the Bill. The Bill proposed to confer a salary of £2,000 a-year upon somebody; and, as their Lordships might be aware from the discussions which had taken place in the other House, that salary was to be got by taking the salary of the Lord Privy Seal. The Lord Privy Seal was very often an Englishman, and he assumed that the President of the Local Government Board for Scotland would more often be a Scotsman than an Englishman. It would, therefore, be gratifying to feel that the sum of £2,000 a-year was destined for a Scotsman rather than an Englishman. That was a point that might be urged by some in favour of the Bill; but he thought he would be able to show that this advantage which would ensue from the passing of the Bill would not outweigh all its disadvantages. One of his grounds of opposition to the Bill had been already adverted to in the House—namely, the late period of the Session at which the proposal came before their Lordships; and the other was that the Bill upon its merits was not one that their Lordships could accept. With reference to the first objection, he would point out that if they passed the second reading of the Bill to-day it would be almost impossible for their Lordships to put in any Amendments on the Bill without having to suspend the Standing Order of the House, or run the risk of losing the Bill through the efflux of time. It was ostentatiously announced that the Session was to close with the last day of this week; and, even if the Bill were read a second time to-day, and reported on Thursday, their Lordships could easily see that there would not be time for a proper consideration of the Amendments which their Lordships might put on the Paper. He ventured to think that the fact that their Lord- 1466 ships rejected the Bill on the ground that it was too late in the Session to consider it would be perfectly satisfactory. He thought their Lordships had shown a great deal of forbearance this year in the way in which they had dealt with Government legislation. Their Lordships had passed many Bills of great importance on the recommendation of the Government, because they had passed the other House. At the same time, he thought their Lordships had some reason to complain of the way in which they had been treated with regard to Bills which passed that House. Several Bills had been introduced into and passed their Lordships House, such as the Contempts of Court Bill, the Pawnbrokers Bill, the Stolen Goods Bill, and the Criminal Code (Indictable Offences Procedure) Bill. Whatever might be the merits of these Bills, he thought, as they had passed this House, it would be at least courteous to their Lordships that some of them should have had a judgment expressed upon them by the other House, be the judgment favourable or unfavourable. It seemed to him to be reducing the House entirely to the position of a debating society if they were asked to pass a large number of Bills towards the end of the Session, and the Bills which this House had passed earlier in the Session were not even submitted to the serious judgment of the other House. He should be surprised if any one of the Bills he had mentioned became law this Session. But he would turn to the Bill now before their Lordships. What was this Bill? He ventured to say it was either a complete sham, or it was the commencement of a wholly new line of policy in regard to the government of Scotland. Either it was a great deal more than it pretended to be, or it was very much less; and there was this peculiarity about it—that there had never been two similar accounts given of it by any of those who had spoken in its favour. Sometimes it seemed to be the intention of its advocates to minimize it. They sometimes called it a Bill for the purpose of appointing an official to look after Scotch legislation in Parliament. That seemed to be the description given of it by the Member of the Government in introducing it in the other House. That was the view that seemed to be taken of it by the Lord 1467 President of the Council; but, on the other hand, the noble Earl who had just moved the second reading gave it a wider significance. He said it was going to be the commencement of a new Department, which was to have the sole management of the Scotch Business, and supervise the whole of the Administrative Departments which were now in existence in Edinburgh. He (Lord Balfour) did not know which of those accounts was true; but he thought their Lordships would see at once that both of them could not be true. If, on the one hand, the President of this Local Government Board was merely to supervise Scotch legislation in Parliament, what was the use of putting under the new Board all these 53 different Acts of Parliament which were set forth in the Schedule? If, on the other hand, it was to establish a wholly independent Scottish Office, surely that was a matter on which the deliberate judgment of Parliament and of their Lordships' House was required—a judgment which it was quite impossible for them to give at the time at their disposal. The Bill was only printed this morning. Yesterday they were told by the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack that they might follow the proceedings of the other House through the medium of the newspapers. He put aside whether that was a course consistent with the dignity of their Lordships; and he would say that, so far as endeavouring to understand the Bill was concerned, that was a course which he had tried to follow, but could not. He found that the Amendments proposed on the Bill in the other House extended to over five pages. The discussions on the Bill were on several occasions carried on very early in the morning, and they were not very fully reported; and he was wholly unable to find out what alterations had been made in the Bill until he got it in his hands this morning. He thought the account given of the Bill by the noble Earl (the Earl of Dalhousie) to-night was really the true one; it did give power for the complete re-organization of the Government of Scotland; and if he was right in that conjecture, then the name of the Bill was wholly misleading. It was more than a Bill to appoint a Local Government Board for Scotland. It was a Bill practically to constitute a new Home Office for Scotland, and to some 1468 extent a new Privy Council besides. In an article in a daily Edinburgh newspaper there occurred this passage:—It would bring all the existing Scotch Boards into common dependence on a supreme Department.So that this was to be a supreme Department over all the Boards of Scotland. As to whether it was necessary to have a supreme Department in Scotland, there might be a great deal to be said both on one side and on the other. He thought such a Department should be constituted on the authority and responsibility of Parliament, and not on the authority of the Treasury and the Local Government Board, and its President appointed under the Bill. If the Bill passed, and if the Local Government Board was appointed, the President of the new Board and the Treasury would have full power to appoint any officers they chose, and apportion any salaries they liked; and they would have the power, without the further concurrence of Parliament, of organizing the new "supreme Department of Scotland." He thought that was a position in which Parliament should not allow itself to be placed. He forbore to express any opinion as to whether it was desirable to appoint such a Department for Scotland or not just now; but if it was to be done, it should be done on a complete scheme laid before Parliament, and on the responsibility of Parliament. He thought, on the merits of the case, it was not desirable to appoint such a Department for Scotland. He thought they should not lightly depart from what had hitherto been the policy of Parliament—namely, to unite the Government of England and Scotland as far as possible, and not to separate them. The noble Earl (the Earl of Dalhousie) made an eloquent appeal to the patriotism and national feeling of his countrymen. There was no one in Scotland who was more proud of belonging to the Scottish nation than he (Lord Balfour) was; but he was not quite certain whether it was always good policy to emphasize the difference between Scotland and England. They had a different system of law and a different form of Church government in Scotland, and both of them he valued extremely; but, so far as he knew, there was no one just now wishing to interfere with their system of law or with their form of Church govern- 1469 ment. Therefore, he did not think it was necessary to form a Department such as this for the purpose of either protecting the Church or the Court of Session. What would be the effect of forming a Department such as this, and giving it the powers which the Bill proposed to give? It was proposed to transfer to the Local Government Board all authority over mines, factories, and workshops, pollution of rivers, contagious diseases, granting of licences, vivisection, control of reformatories and prisons. Surely it was more desirable that all these things should be governed as a uniform whole from the Home Office, and not run the risk of there being separate regulations for one class of things in Scotland and another class of things in England. Certain powers were proposed to be transferred to the new Board which were now exercised by the Privy Council; and he thought there was some mistake in transferring to the Board the powers exorcised by the Privy Council under the Public Health Act. As he understood the Schedule, it was proposed to transfer a great deal of the power which was now exercised by the Board of Supervision; but he did not think it was the intention of the promoters of the Bill to transfer to the new Board the administration now exercised by the Board of Supervision. Further, a curious feature of the Bill was that there was no staff provided in the Bill, except such as might be given by the discretion of the Treasury, or, as he understood from the discussion which took place in the other House, such as might be carved out of some of the existing Boards. He understood there was an honourable undertaking that there should be a Permanent Under Secretary in the new Department. He should like to have a distinct answer to this question—Was the Office of the Board to be in London or Edinburgh; were the Permanent Under Secretary and his records to be transferred to and from Scotland every year when Parliament met and when it rose; if not, how was the Business of the Office to be carried on during six months of the year? What an invidious duty it was to cast upon the President of the Board—namely, that of cutting and carving a staff for himself out of the existing Boards without any indication from Parliament as to which was to be in- 1470 creased, and which was to be diminished. He did not think the President would get much out of the staff of the Lord Advocate. He held in his hand an estimate for the current year of the expenses of the Lord Advocate's Office in London, and he found that the whole expenses of that Office were £380 a-year. Of that the Lord Advocate was made to pay £60 a-year as house rent at the Home Office; and he (Lord Balfour) believed the Lord Advocate only got a back attic in the Home Office. Expenses of the Legal Secretary of the Lord Advocate while in London, £160 a-year; expenses of a clerk to the Lord Advocate while in London, £160 a-year—making a total of £380. Their Lordships would, therefore, see that there was not much picking to be got there for the new Local Government Board; and he did not believe that there was much to be got from any of the other existing Offices. Again, he should like to know whether it was the intention of the Government to amalgamate any of the existing Boards in Scotland? If it was not the intention of the Government to do so, he did not see how they were to be supervised by such a Department as that. If it was the intention to amalgamate any of the existing Boards, then it was imperatively necessary that a complete scheme should be presented to the judgment of Parliament. In conclusion, he thought it would be a matter of great rashness to pass this Bill at this time of the Session. He did not pretend to say that the existing state of things was satisfactory, and he was glad to think that the Government had recognized the fact that some change was necessary. But before he could consent to the passing of such a Bill as this, it would have to be carefully examined by a Select Committee, so that Parliament might be enabled to understand what was really intended. At the present moment, no one—not even the Government themselves—knew what the Bill really aimed at. For these reasons he moved that the Bill be read a second time this day three months.
§ Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day three months.")—(The Lord Balfour.)
§ THE EARL OF ABERDEEN
said, the noble Lord who had just spoken had 1471 made an attack on the Bill, not warranted either by the object of the measure itself, or by the remarks of the noble Earl (the Earl of Dalhousie) in moving the second reading. The noble Lord alluded to the probability or expectation that the President of the new Board would be an irresponsible Officer.
I meant irresponsible as to the particular alterations to be made—not generally irresponsible.
§ THE EARL OF ABERDEEN
said, he accepted the explanation. Further on, the noble Lord said that the Bill was either a great deal more than it appeared to be, or a great deal less. The essential part of the Bill was that of transferring certain functions which were now entirely performed by the Home Secretary to the new Department. It was well known that the work in the Home Office was enormous, and it was stated by the Home Secretary in the other House that the effect of this Bill would be to lighten the labour of the Home Office. He could not understand why there should be such serious apprehension on the part of the noble Lord that this Bill had any revolutionary tendency. On the contrary, he (the Earl of Aberdeen) believed it would afford an opportunity for a healthy development of local feeling and sentiment with respect to the Government of Scotland. They had heard a great deal about the danger of centralization, and he thought this Bill had an opposite tendency. In the creation of a new Department it was impossible that every detail of the scheme could be specified in an Act of Parliament. He sincerely hoped their Lordships would give the Bill a second reading. It was true that it was introduced at a late period of the Session; but that was not through any fault of Her Majesty's Government, who had lost no opportunity of pressing it forward.
THE EARL OF GALLOWAY
said, it seemed to him that this Bill was neither "fish, nor fowl, nor good red herring." He understood that the Government had, for a considerable time, thought it necessary to appoint a Minister for Scotland; and the noble Earl (the Earl of Dalhousie) surprised him by saying that they found it was a proposition which it was impossible to comply with. After reading the speech of the Home Secretary in introducing the Bill, it struck him that there was no occasion for the 1472 measure at all. It was found that a Cabinet Minister was not exactly the thing that was wanted, and that an Under Secretary of State for the Home Department would be too little; but the noble Earl, in moving the second reading, was not successful in explaining why it was that a middle course had been thought necessary. He hoped their Lordships would not assent to the second reading. It seemed to him that the Bill, if passed into law, would create a great deal of confusion. They did not know exactly what the functions of the President of the Local Government Board were to be; and he thought it was going back almost to the time of the Union to propose now to have a separate Secretary of State for Scotland. He did not see how it was possible to appoint a President of a Local Government Board for Scotland without interfering with the functions of the Lord Advocate. At that late period of the Session, he thought it would be very unwise to pass a Bill of this sort, which promised to lead to confusion rather than to anything else.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
said, there was a distinguished Peer in the House who had held the Office of Lord Advocate—he referred to one of the Lords of Appeal, Lord Watson. He should like to appeal to the noble and learned Lord whether a measure of this kind was necessary. He believed it to be unnecessary. Perhaps the whole history of the measure was contained in the very few lines which gave the Local Government Board power to appoint such Secretaries and officers as they might think fit.
§ THE EARL OF REDESDALE (CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES)
complained of the late period of the Session at which the Bill had come before their Lordships. They were very imperfectly informed as to its objects. It was extremely dangerous to pass Bills of this kind in that way. If this Bill were passed, they did not know whether they would not have a Local Government Bill for Ireland next Session.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I venture to say a few words as to the history of this Bill which we are asked to pass at this period of the Session, because I want to show on what kind of authority it comes before your Lordships. Let me first say, however, that there are 53 Statutes of almost every kind enumerated in the Schedule. 1473 They relate to the Board of Supervision, the Lunacy Board, the Fishery Board, the Prison Board, and a large variety of other matters; and you are asked, by a stroke of the pen, to convey the control of these matters from the existing Boards to a new Department. Now, what consideration has the House of Commons given to this measure, of such an important and sweeping character? The second reading of the Bill was proposed on the 4th of August—on a Saturday. A certain inspiration seemed then to have come over them, and moved them to legislation in this direction. The Committee was taken last Thursday, the 16th of August, after midnight. The Report and third reading were taken together on Saturday morning, after the reporters had left. That is the consideration the House of Commons has given to this important measure. I think I saw it stated that the arrangement for a separate Office for Scotland was abolished in the memorable year of 1745. Therefore, we are now being asked to reverse a policy which has been pursued for 150 years. I am not saying whether that policy is right or wrong. I am simply dealing with the circumstances under which we are asked to alter it at a period of the Session when, physically, we have not the time even to read the Acts which are incorporated in the Bill. I do not wish to say a word as to the policy of the Bill. I adhere very much to what I said at Edinburgh about the dangers of centralization, and the necessity of strengthening local government, in the speech which has been referred to by the noble Earl (the Earl of Aberdeen); and if, at any other period of the Session, the noble Earl will introduce a Bill somewhat fuller in its details, and somewhat more ample and explicit in its provisions, I shall be glad to give it my best consideration. I have no prejudice whatever against the principle of the Bill, and I shall be glad if, at the proper time, your Lordships will give it all the consideration and respectful attention it deserves; but it is not to the interest of the country—it is not respectful to Scotland—that such a Bill should be passed at so late a period of the Session.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, I did not come down to the House intending to take any part in the discussion of this measure. It has been my 1474 fate that, both by those who have been good enough to discuss the Bill in the House of Commons and by those who have been good enough to discuss it outside, my name has been brought somewhat prominently before the public in connection with the measure. I should have thought that that was a sufficiently good reason for me to abstain from discussing it on the present occasion. It will not be necessary for me to refer to any of the personal aspersions which have been made upon me in the House of Commons. As regard these flowers of rhetoric, they betray sufficiently by their flavour and their fragrance the soil from which they spring. But to pass from that aspect of the matter, I do think there is something to be said as regards the discussion which the Bill has received this evening. My noble Friend who moved its rejection in a spirit of admirable temper, perfect calmness, and mastery of the subject, raised, as I understand, two main objections to the Bill. He said, in the first place, that it came too late in the Session; and, in the second place, that it would not be efficient for the purposes it was meant to effect. As regards the contention that it came too late, he has been ably supported by the noble Marquess, who, I think, will forgive me for saying that he is generally of opinion that Bills promoted by Her Majesty's Government come before the House at unpropitious moments. What is the history of this cry of Bills coming too late in the Session? We hear so much of it that it is worth a little examination. It means simply this, that your Lordships have the faculty of seeing and knowing the discussions on every Bill as they take place in the House of Commons. Your Lordships have the power of making up your minds by the discussions in the public Press, by speeches outside the walls of Parliament, and by every possible means of information which any statesman could desire who brings his mind to bear on the subject. It is quite true—I take the noble Marquess's view as correct—I know no more than he has told; but I am quite willing to accept it—it is quite true that the Bill was not read a second time till the 4th of August; but it is equally true that it was in print and before the public for a considerable time before that. During the whole of the last Recess a considerable part of every speech de- 1475 livered in Scotland, including the memorable speech of the noble Marquess himself, was devoted to the consideration of subjects analogous to this; and when, as the outcome of this discussion on every platform in Scotland, and in every newspaper in Scotland, the other House of Parliament passes a small Bill of six clauses, and it comes up to your Lordships' House in the last week in August, the noble Marquess sinks back in his chair with an air of exhaustion, and says—"What intellect can rise to the consideration of this measure? It is too great an effort. Let us repair to the country; and, affirming the principle of this Bill, let us meditate in calmness over any measure that may be promoted for the next Session of Parliament." Now, my Lords, really is this a statesmanlike, is it a serious, view to take of a Bill of this length, which has been discussed and amply considered in every part of the United Kingdom? I do not think that this House is prepared to abdicate its functions—for it is nothing else—because this is nearly the last week of August. If we are to measure our Sessions by the time of the year, we must have a calendar prepared by the Leader of the House, upon which, just before grouse shooting or partridge shooting begins, it is stated—" Consideration of Bills ends in the House of Lords;" and I shall be more satisfied when things are put on that clear footing than now, when Bills which consist of six clauses are said to be too lengthy to be considered at this period of the Session. The noble Marquess raised a bugbear by referring to the powers which are to be vested in this new Board. He referred to the poor laws, prisons, vaccination, and a variety of other subjects; but, as a matter of fact, the whole of these compendious Schedules are practically contained in three lines of the Bill, which provide that all powers or duties vested in or imposed upon any of the Secretaries of State, or the Privy Council, or the English Local Government Board, shall, so far as they refer to Scotland, be transferred to the new Board. Therefore, as far as the enumeration in the Schedule goes, it is merely supplementary to, and explanatory of, the perfectly well-known lines of the clause. I cannot think that this is a perfectly fair issue to take on a Bill of this description. The noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill went 1476 beyond this, and he saw in the measure a conspiracy for annulling those time honoured institutions, the Boards of Edinburgh. The noble Lord must be well aware that the President of the Local Government Board, if he ever exists, will have no power to do anything of the kind without the authority of Parliament; and, therefore, should he bring in a measure—if he ever exists, which seems in the highest degree problematical—to deal with these Statutory Boards, it will be perfectly competent for the noble Lord to take action on that measure, instead of taking action on this measure, which has a totally different object and result. I noted with very great pleasure the declaration of the noble Marquess as to the principle of this Bill. I took a solemn note of that declaration.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I am quite certain that that declaration of the noble Marquess will be noted in that country North of the Tweed which is most interested in the present Bill, and which is enthusiastic for it. It is quite clear, looking at the present aspect of this House, that there is no enthusiasm for or against the Bill. It is quite true that at this time of the Session you can hardly expect a very large attendance either to support or throw out a Bill of this nature. But, my Lords, you are making a great mistake if you gauge the feeling of the people of Scotland by the appearance of this House. Every great Municipality in Scotland, including the Municipality which conferred its franchise on the noble Marquess, and which he rewarded by delivering a most admirable speech, has petitioned Parliament in favour of this Bill. I do not believe there are six Members returned by Scotch constituencies who are hostile to this Bill. The opposition in the House of Commons was conducted almost entirely by that volatile entity which is called the Fourth Party, and which is not supposed to have any special connection with the affairs of Scot- 1477 land. If your Lordships think fit to reject this Bill to-night—and I am far from saying that the Bill is perfect—I can only say that those who support it must appeal from the judgment of this House to those people whom it chiefly affects. It is in the interests of Scotland that it should be passed; it is the desire of Scotland that it should be passed; and I venture to say that the expression of opinion in Scotland as to the fate of this measure—if your Lordships think fit to reject it—and the expression of opinion not as to the measure itself, but as to the principle which it represents, will convince your Lordships that you made a great mistake in gauging public opinion in Scotland if you think it is hostile to this Bill.
§ On Question, "That ('now') stand part of the Motion? "Their Lordships divided:— Contents 31; Not-Contents 46: Majority 15.1478
|Selborne, E. (L. Chancellor.)||Carlingford, L.|
|Grafton, D.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)|
|Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)|
|Derby, E.||Lyttelton, L.|
|Granville, E.||Methuen, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Monson, L. [Teller.]|
|Morley, E.||Ramsay, L. [E. Dalhousie.)|
|Sydney, E.||Reay, L.|
|Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)||Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)|
|Sherbrooke, V.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)|
|Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) [Teller.]||Thurlow, L.|
|Buckingham and Chandos, D.||Harrington, E.|
|Manchester, D.||Milltown, E.|
|Northumberland, D.||Redesdale, E.|
|Richmond, D.||Romney, L.|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Tankerville, E.|
|Salisbury, M.||Melville, V.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Ardilaun, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Ashford, L. (V. Bury)|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Bagot, L.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L. [Teller.]|
|Feversham, E.||Bateman, L.|
|Colchester, L.||Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)|
|Colville of Culross, L.|
|De L'Isle and Dudley, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Denman, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Forbes, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Gerard, L.||Tollemache, L.|
|Haldon, L.||Ventry, L.|
|Harlech, L.||Watson, L.|
|Hopetoun, L. (E. Hopetoun.) [Teller.]||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Lyveden, L.||Westbury, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative; Bill to be read 2a this day three months.