I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is a short and simple Bill. Its purpose is to make it financially possible for the Lord High Commissioner, the King's representative to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, adequately to carry out the duties of his office. Legislation is required for this purpose because an Act of 1832 virtually fixed the annual allowance for expenses made to the Lord High Commissioner at £2,000. It has proved impossible in recent years, in spite of a reduction in the scale of ceremonial and hospitality which was customary before the war, for any Commissioner to discharge his responsibilities efficiently and with dignity with only that sum at his disposal; and various unsatisfactory expedients have been adopted to meet the deficits incurred each year.
The Government have decided that proper provision should be made in future to meet the expenses which a Commissioner incurs during his period of office. This Bill proposes that a sum not exceeding £4,000 should be made available annually. This figure is a maximum: the the intention is that, as stated in the Bill, the Secretary of State, with the agreement of the Treasury, will decide each year, having regard to the circumstances prevailing at the time, what sum within that limit is to be paid from the Consolidated Fund in order to meet the actual expenses incurred by the Commissioner.
I feel very sorry that by some misunderstanding the amount spent for this purpose has been represented as a salary. It is in no way a salary and I should particularly like to express my regrets to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) who has carried through this duty for the last two years with such dignity, that he should have been subjected to so many unfair comments. This payment, let me reiterate, is not a salary and is in no way personal remuneration to the holder of the post who indeed almost invariably has been called upon to be out of pocket at the end of the day. The money is to meet the expenses of carrying through a public duty which has for nearly 400 years been a part of the history of Scotland.
It is not easy for those unacquainted with the turbulent history of this country to appreciate the significance of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in the life of the nation, and yet the part which it played has had a profound effect on the development of Britain as a whole and in the progress of democratic liberty throughout the world. In the struggles against tyranny after the Reformation, the stand of the Church in Scotland showed a determination and heroism in the face of persecution and cruelty of which the struggle by Pastor Niemoller against the tyranny of Germany provides a modern example.
The Reformation in Scotland took rather a different turn from what happened in most other countries. In other countries the new Church normally shared in the spoils of victory. In Scotland, the nobility rejected the demands of the Church which included claims for the education of the people and, strange as it may seem now, money to relieve the unemployed. Buckle sums this position up in his "History of Civilisation in England" in these words—
The Presbyterian Clergy, neglected by the nobles and unendowed by the State, had only a miserable pittance whereupon to live, and they necessarily threw themselves into the arms of the people, where alone they could find support and sympathy.
Since the power of the Church lay with the people, the Church commenced the education of the people and organised them into the Presbyterian form of Government. They preached equality, and against the King's claim of Divine Right the Church placed the equality of all men in the sight of God. Ministers and elders were elected, and their representatives came together annually in the General Assembly. There they entered into a struggle with the King himself, who wished to build a Church on the basis of episcopacy, and indeed the origin of the Lord High Commissioner was in the King's claim to dominate and dictate to the Assembly. It could be said, I think,
with truth that in those General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland we had the first example of a Parliament elected by popular representation.
By educating the people to give them power, the Scottish Church laid the foundations of an educational system which took Scotland in popular education to the forefront of all nations, and in her struggle with tyranny the Presbyterian Church of those days formed the backbone of the struggle which led to the victory of Cromwell and the people, against the extravagant claims of the Crown. In such a struggle, many cruel things were done on both sides, and the history of the period is one of turbulence, violence and cruelty. The discipline enforced by the struggle led the Church itself to exercise a tyrannical dictatorship over the people, which endured till it was broken effectively by the public scorn of Robert Burns. From the end of the 18th century, there has been a steady development of tolerance, and today the many Churches of Scotland work in a harmony unknown to former times.
Looking back on these struggles, even an outside observer like Buckle, could write:
But one thing they achieved, which should make us honour their memory and repute them benefactors of their species. At a most hazardous moment, they kept alive the spirit of national liberty. … This is their real glory. … They were the guardians of Scotch freedom and they stood to their post. Where danger was, they were foremost. … they stirred up the minds of men, woke them from their lethargy, formed them to habits of discussion, and excited that inquisitive and democratic spirit which is the only effectual guarantee the people can ever possess against the tyranny of those who are set over them.
As it happens, I myself, in a minor rôle, took part in the last great struggle of the Churches, at a time when Parliament for some years was torn by the conflict which arose in the case of the Free Church of Scotland against the new United Free Church. The next and final union of the great Churches took place in 1929, and at the same time the conflicting claims of the King and the Church to control the meetings of the General Assembly were quietly resolved in favour of the Church. Dr. Hay Fleming, dealing with the part played by the Lord High Commissioner, wrote on this point:
The Auld Kirk of Scotland, however, was loath to part with this piece of pageantry, which was one of the few remaining visible symbols of the past and in harmony with the revived spirit of patriotic nationalism in the country. Old precedent had already been broken by the choice in 1924 of Mr. James Brown, a Labour M.P. and highly respected elder of the Church, as Lord High Commissioner for the year, and it was generally felt that this office in the future, shorn of pretension and privileges, and perhaps ultimately of martial parade, might safely be retained as a link with centuries of history and an expression of friendly feeling between Court and Religious Powers.
Since 1928 the Lord High Commissioner has been no longer a symbol of a Royal claim to the Power of the State over the Church, but a dignified and courteous recognition of the Churches in Scotland by the State. The State in the person of the Lord High Commissioner attends the Assemblies and offers modest hospitality to this great Conference.
During this one period of the year men come to the capital of Scotland from towns, villages and lonely glens and even from missions overseas to take part in this great religious Parliament. For nearly 400 years the State has recognised in its various ways, the importance of this Assembly. The attendance of the Lord High Commissioner dates from the 16th century and the continuation of the ceremonies was secured by the Act of Union in 1707. Up till 1832 the expenses of the Commission were met from the hereditary revenues of the Crown in Scotland. These at that time were surrendered to the British Treasury and by the Act of 1832, which transferred the charge for the Commissioner's expenses to the Consolidated Fund and fixed the amount at £2,000.
I had expected that this short Bill for such a purpose would have been uncontroversial, but some hon. Members have placed Amendments on the Order Paper for its rejection. The first Amendment, in the name of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and others, appears to me to be framed under a complete misapprehension. It refers to the Bill as "increasing the grant to the Lord High Commissioner." The sum mentioned is not a grant to the Lord High Commissioner and is in no way personal to him. There is, let me repeat, no element of salary in the allowance. The second point in the Motion which is quite mistaken is the implication that this Bill is intended to increase expenditure. There is no such purpose in the Bill and therefore the proposals are in no way in conflict with the Government's appeal for austerity.
The purpose of this Bill is that the State should be empowered itself to meet all the costs of a public duty which for some time have exceeded the.£2,000 set as the upper limit. It has remained at that figure ever since, despite the changes in the value of money. Even before the war this sum did not cover all the Lord High Commissioner's outgoings. Deficits were met either by the generosity of private citizens or by the occupant of the office himself. During the war the scale of entertainment was greatly reduced, but even the greatest degree of austerity cannot bring the cost within the £2,000.
Some at least, I understand, of the hon. Members who have their names to the Motion to reject this Bill can themselves testify to the modest and austere character of the entertainment and one of them I think, can compare the present austerity with the more lavish entertainment offered and enjoyed by him in earlier times. With even this restricted entertainment and expenditure it is estimated that to carry out the necessary duties in a manner befitting a representative of the nation a sum much greater than £2,000 is required. In view of the confusion caused by this having been described as a salary I had better, I think, mention the type of expenditure which is included.
The Lord High Commissioner is expected to take up residence with a small suite who are entirely honorary at the Palace of Holyrood during the period of the General Assembly. Since Holyrood is unoccupied most of the year, expense has to be incurred putting the rooms in order and in heating and lighting them during his stay. He must pay the wages of the staff, mostly temporarily, employed at the Palace during the period. Expenditure is also incurred by the Purse-Bearer and his department who have considerable organising duties long beforehand in the issuing of invitations, settling the Commissioner's programme, managing his establishment and dealing with his correspondence. The Commissioner is expected also to make donations to a number of charities and small honoraria are paid to several ceremonial officers in attendance at the functions held during the Assembly week. The largest item of expenditure, however, which accounts for nearly half of the total consists of the costs of the catering for the hospitality which the Commissioner customarily extends to members of the Assembly and other representatives of public bodies in Scotland.
I would remind hon. Members who have been members of conferences that they have always been very glad, when they went to some town, to accept the hospitality of the lord mayor of the town, which cost money to the ratepayers of that town, just as this will cost money to the taxpayers. It has always been regarded as an important part of his duties that as His Majesty's Representative, the Lord High Commissioner should entertain those who come to the Capital for the Assembly, and that prominent figures in the public life of Scotland should be invited to meet them. For example, at a garden party last year, several thousand persons were received, and these included people from all walks of life who were playing a part in the life of Scotland. During the period of the Assembly the Commissioner contrived to meet almost as many people as before the war. Let me repeat, since the idea that this payment is made as a salary has been spread so sedulously recently, that the allowance paid to the Lord High Commissioner is not a salary, nor is there even an element of salary in it.
If the hon. Member's conscience is bothering him, he can make his point later. It is paid to cover the necessary expenses of the office and will be fixed each year at a level equal to and not more than sufficient for the purpose. The sum of £4,000 is a maximum. Sixty years ago the sum provided was defined as being
not remuneration for active duties but an allowance for the purpose of discharging with dignity the hereditary rights of an Office of Honour.
That is still the position. No one has proposed that the State should deliberately break this tradition of nearly 400 years duration and in Scotland those of all religions and of no religion would regard an attack upon this peculiarly Scottish institution with considerable resentment. The motto on the arms of Scotland indicate the attitude of the Scots on a matter of this kind—Nemo me impune lacessit— or as was translated in Scotland "Wha daur meddle wi' me."
The result of the Motions, if they were carried, would be quite indefensible even to the Members who have proposed them. They would place the Government in the position that they were not free to recommend the person most suited to carry out the duties and declare either that the selection of the person to be Lord High Commissioner is to be made from wealthy persons who themselves can afford to incur personal expenses in carrying out the duties or that the State should accept the generosity of private persons to meet the deficits. Certainly no Labour Government could accept such alternatives and any Government must take the view that when a State duty is to be performed the State must also provide the means of carrying out that duty with honour and dignity. In 1924 the Labour Prime Minister of that day broke all tradition and appointed James Brown, the first M.P. and commoner and a miner to be Lord High Commissioner. He was also a leader and upholder of the Scottish Church. He and his good lady carried out the duties with dignity and credit and the people of Scotland gave them the honour due to their honourable position. Under this Government once again a right hon. Member of this House has been appointed to undertake these duties.
The Bill is not, however, being brought forward because of any particular occupant of the post, but I think it would be right for me to pay tribute to the way in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Linlithgow has carried through these duties in the last two years. His appointment for a third time has been welcomed by the Church and is a great tribute to him, and I want once again to express my regret that this unfortunate campaign has brought his name into it. Most of us, and most of our constituents, never hesitate to extend warm hospitality to any guests who come to our table, and when a representative is appointed to extend hospitality on the part of the State it would not be fitting that we should ask him to do this in any less generous manner than any of us would do in our own personal capacity. We in our homes would never allow our own difficult circumstances to dim our sense of hospitality.
It is true that these are difficult times in the world, but this amount was fixed before 1832. The costs of hospitality have risen out of all proportion and the value of money has fallen greatly since that time, and no one in the country could manage on the wages or salaries of 1832 to meet the expenses of today. I am sure the House will never agree that the State should be mean in a matter of this kind, and I trust that those who have put down their names against this proposal, whether by misunderstanding or because they are unacquainted with Scottish life and traditions, will see their way to support this Measure. The Churches in Scotland are an important part of the life and character of the people. It is right that the State should make possible the exercise of the duties of the Lord High Commissioner in a manner befitting the dignity of our nation. I hope the House will disregard these unfortunate tales and stories spreading about the House and outside in the Press on this matter, which is a subject of dignity for the nation. The nation must do its duty to whom it appoints, and in moving the Second Reading of this Bill I commend it to the House.
Whatever may be their views on this particular matter, everyone will be relieved that this Bill has at last been brought forward, so that the matter may be settled one way or another. The Secretary of State for Scotland has given us, with great warmth, his statement on behalf of the Government, and he made it perfectly clear to everyone exactly how the Government stand. I would like, from this side of the House, to say a word or two on the same subject, because I feel that the more evidence of unanimity we can give on this matter the less will the good name of our country be liable to be disgraced.
As the right hon. Gentleman has said, the office is a very ancient one, and of the highest possible honour. It is given personally by the Sovereign and the occupant upholds its dignities and duties as if he were the Sovereign himself for the time being. It is also true, as the right hon. Gentleman says, that the type of duty has changed very much with the years. The General Assembly today is a very different body from what it was in days gone by. It is now not only highly respected but respectable. It may not be in the general knowledge of the House that there were days in the General Assembly when the ministers actually took over command of the armed forces and told them what they should or should not do. It was their plan that the great General Leslie, who was a trained soldier and knew it was wrong, was ordered by the Assembly to carry out, the same plan with which the Israelites defeated the Amalekites some considerable number of years ago. The plan was adopted and they attacked as did the Israelites, but with the entirely opposite result, for they were heavily defeated. That was one of the biggest disasters the General Assembly sustained. They have since given up their military activities with more benefit to their sacred calling.
The General Assembly, and the Lord High Commissioner by his presence, does emphasise that very great link which there is between the Throne and the Church of Scotland. It is within the knowledge of the House that the second oath taken by the King on ascending the Throne binds him to maintain Presbyterian Church government in Scotland; to the Commissioner he gives his credentials and through him binds himself anew each year to the Church of Scotland in this way. This is a link which I think is invaluable not only to the Church but to the country as a whole, as putting in their proper place the spiritual values without which civilisation will certainly come to an end. The value of this link between the people and their Church on the one hand, and the Throne on the other, cannot be overestimated. It is a priceless heritage, and one which must be preserved and, indeed, must be strengthened.
I am not, of course, claiming for the Church of Scotland anything that I would not claim for other Churches, or branches of the Church I would say—because, after all, there is only one Church, and that is the Church of Christ; the branches of the Church are really methods of what they consider to be the best way of carrying out Divine Orders.
It is against a background as ancient as this, and as important, that we have to consider tonight this simple question of the emoluments to be provided for the expenses of the Lord High Commissioner. I may say—and the Secretary of State emphasised it several times —that there is no question at all of salary or wages in this matter. It is purely a matter of expenses necessary for keeping up a high and dignified office. I always think that it is a great pity that this should ever be made into a political appointment. The long and distinguished list of Scotsmen who have held this office have never allowed party politics to come into it.
I agree with the Secretary of State, and I am sure we all do, that the present holder of this office is certainly not the least of this distinguished line of Scotsmen who have received the greatest possible respect in Scotland for the way in which they have carried out this office. It is the worst possible bad luck that he should be involved in any way in these unfortunate discussions which need never have arisen. I want to confirm that whatever hospitality is given by the Lord High Commissioner is done on the most modest and simple lines. There is no extravagance or ostentation. We have a meeting of ministers and elders and their wives, very often from all over Scotland, from the furthest islands. There is no other place where they can meet for a little social inter- course, which everybody will agree is desirable in the human organisation, except in the spacious grounds and rooms of the Palace of Holyrood House. What is more suitable than that the Lord High Commissioner should issue invitations to this end without giving any signs of ostentation?
I agree that the times are not suitable for adding to expenditure; everybody will agree to that. But this addition for necessary expenses—controlled, after all, by the Secretary of State and not by the Lord High Commissioner—is such a small drop in the ocean compared with the expenditure of our country today, that to cut this out when it is proved to be necessary is rather like the man who is advised to reduce his expenses because his income is shrinking and, instead of cutting out his racing stable, he sacks his garden boy. That is the sort of equivalent in the value of money in trying to chip off this little bit when other things require too much attention.
I hope most sincerely that there will not be any rancour in this matter among hon. Members who have seen fit to put down these Motions. I hope that perhaps they will see that this is not an unreasonable request, that it represents something very great and sincere in the life of Scotland, and that, after they have heard what we have to say, they will reconsider the matter and not press their Motions to a Division, so that we may have the greatest possible degree of unanimity that this House can attain.
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I would like to ask whether you can help me. It may appear to be almost blasphemous for me to enter into this purely Scottish matter, since I am a Welshman; but in view of the fact that this is further recognition of the nationhood of Scotland, may I be advised as to whether my people in Wales will be expected to contribute towards this increased expenditure?
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add, "upon this day six months."
We have listened to a most interesting and, if I may say so, a somewhat impassioned speech by the Secretary of State, but I must say that we were aware of much of the information contained in it, particularly that part concerning the importance of the General Assembly and its historical development in Scotland. I would point out, however—and it is rather an interesting point which my right hon. Friend made himself—that the strength of the Church was precisely at the moment when it was poorest. My right hon. Friend quoted Buckle to tell us how poor the ministers were, and then went on to tell us of the magnificent achievements of the Church at that time.
I want to make it quite clear that, in opposing this Bill, we are not opposing the Church. Our opposition has nothing to do with the meetings of the General Assembly in Edinburgh, nor whether it should carry on its democratic discussions or not. This has nothing to do with that; and from conversations I have had with ministers of the Church, I find that they are the last to wish to be associated with a Bill which is against the policy of the Government at the present time. Secondly, this has nothing whatever to do with the traditions of Scotland. We are not seeking to break those traditions in opposing this Bill. For my own part, I cherish the links with the past, and perhaps I might say that I have good reason so to do because I happen to be in a trade devoted to preserving those links. But I always thought that the Socialist movement placed its emphasis on rather different links with the past from those favoured by people with other political beliefs. I thought, in connection with various gatherings and that sort of thing, that this emphasis would be placed in a rather different manner by a Socialist Government. We do not wish merely to follow what the Tories have done in the past; nor do we necessarily want to carry on with the traditions which the Tories and the Liberals have left us. We want to mould these ceremonial occasions more into keeping with our own outlook.
I would like to say that I apologise for, and that I regret sincerely, the unfortunate fact that incidents in connection with this Measure should have involved my right hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) in this controversy. I have never been guilty of talking about the Lord High Commissioner's salary or of making any personal attack on my right hon. Friend. In fact, he has carried out these duties in the last two years with great dignity, in my opinion, and I would be the last to say anything critical about that. I am quite confident, however, that without the sum allotted in the Bill he could still carry out these duties with dignity. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland shakes his head, but the argument in favour of this Bill is not the long historical speech that we have heard tonight from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State; it is the argument stated in "The Scotsman" last week—that it is necessary in order to maintain the dignity and the traditions of hospitality associated with their function and I would like that to have been emphasised rather more.
I am not one who associates dignity with expenditure. If dignity is dependent upon expenditure, make this Bill cover £10,000 or £20,000 expenditure, and then we can have a really dignified affair in Edinburgh; but, of course, that is not so. I am quite confident, that if £2,000 were spent, the proceedings could be just as dignified as they will be if more is spent. I should have thought that the idea of increased expenditure of this kind at this moment was quite alien—or should be quite alien—to our movement.
With regard to traditional hospitality, this country, this year, depends for its standard of life upon Marshall aid and upon charity. Many of us have spent the last year making speeches at the weekends, at all sorts of gatherings, trying to impress people with the seriousness of the economic position. More recently we have spent our time explaining the Government's White Paper on Personal Incomes. The Saturday after this Bill was laid before the House, I sat on the platform in the Central Hall in Edinburgh listening to what was probably one of the most serious speeches ever made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, telling the people of this country that it was impossible for them to get any more at the present time and trying to persuade them of that. Precisely at that moment the Government come along with a Bill nominally authorising this expenditure. That is what the people are concerned about, and it is very difficult to persuade them of the seriousness of our situation if we do not act as though it is serious.
On the question of traditional hospitality, I suggest that if a family is dependent on charity for its life, it is expected to cut down its scale of hospitality. I suggest that we cannot afford, in our present economic conditions, a scale of hospitality which has grown up in more luxurious days. Conditions are different now. It is for those reasons that I think this Bill is ill-timed. We were told in the House, in answer to a Question, that this question of the amount not being sufficient was recognised in 1931. If that is so, why should we wait until we are faced with the biggest economic crisis this country has ever known, before introducing such a Bill, and then expect people to take us seriously? Of course, people do not take us seriously.
I do not want to speak for too long, but I should like to register a protest because we have to discuss this Bill at this time of night. It is most regrettable that three Scottish matters, all of which are serious and exceedingly important to Scotland—one dealing with the manner of conducting Scottish Business, a second dealing with Scottish agriculture, and now this Bill—should be discussed on one day, with the result that we commenced this Bill at twenty minutes past ten o'clock. That is most unreasonable.
For the reasons I have given, I think that this Bill is most inopportune. I am fortified in my opposition to the Bill by the fact that in Edinburgh, at least, it is so unpopular that the borough Labour Party passed a unanimous resolution against the Bill, which I understand was forwarded from the Division represented by my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate.
I beg to second the Amendment.
I have no pleasure in opposing this Bill. I rather regret that I find it necessary to do so. I also regret the rather indignant speech, very garbled in its history, made by my right hon. Friend. He indicated that the King's Commissioner had always been associated with the Reformed Church of Scotland. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that in the 120 years between 1560 and 1688, when the great revolution took place, when James II had to run for it, every one of the Stuart kings was opposed to the Church of Scotland. James VI of Scotland, later James I of England, was the author of the Five Articles of Perth which sought to suppress Presbytery in Scotland. Charles I attempted to suppress Presbytery in Scotland, and he was responsible for the signing of the National Covenant. Charles II hated the Scottish Presbyterians because they compelled him, as a condition of supporting his claim to the Crown, to agree to the National Covenant. And James II tried to impose Roman Catholicism on Scotland.
Therefore, it would be an advantage if in future the right hon. Gentleman sought better sources of historical information. It is not true as he suggested, that the King's Commissioner has always been linked with the Reformed Church of Scotland. As a matter of fact, the first Commissioner was sent by the monarch of that time not to honour the Church of Scotland but to watch the Church of Scotland and to prevent it from acting contrary to his Episcopalian conceptions. That can be found in many history books, with any of which I could supply my right hon. Friend.
My main ground for opposing this proposal is economy. The difference between £2,000 and £4,000 is not of much consequence, but we have to think of the psychological effect on thousands of people in Scotland. They argue, with reason or without it, along these lines, "Why should we be asked by the Government to economise in all directions when they come forward with a proposal such as this to double the allowance to the Lord High Commissioner?" I know something of the Church of Scotland, and without hesitation I say that it will not matter very much to that Church if the pageantry associated with the Lord High Commissioner is cut out altogether. I am glad to say that Scottish Presbyterianism is founded on a much more definite rock than is indicated by that sort of thing. I am also sure that the great mass of the workers who are called upon to make so many sacrifices at the present time would appreciate any indication that there was an attempt being made to reduce national expenditure, especially when the expenditure is in the direction of ostentation, however small. We cannot exhort the people to economy unless we take note of these things. They are taking note of them and it is necessary that we should pay attention to them.
I regret having to oppose this Bill, because I have a great respect for tradition and also for the personality of the Lord High Commissioner; consequently I would deplore having to do anything that would in any way seem to oppose what they are associated with, but there are fundamental objections that cannot be avoided. The average person is undoubtedly prone to say—"Why should we economise in this direction or in that and then provide for this particular office something that is quite unnecessary?" We have to remember that the Church of Scotland, although it is very important in Scotland, is not the whole ecclesiastical set-up in that country. There are many other Christians apart from those associated with the Church of Scotland. All things considered, the Secretary of State for Scotland would have been wiser to leave this matter alone.
It appears to me that an exaggerated and, if I may say so, a dishonest attitude is being adopted towards this proposition tonight. It would have been understandable, although one might not have supported it, if there had been a proposal to abolish the office entirely. But if it is accepted that the office should continue, then one is inclined to ask, "Why should we deny to a respected Member of this House, who has been appointed to carry out the functions of the office, a reasonable amount of expenses?"
The mover of the Amendment mentioned that it was very difficult to defend this among the people. But, looking to custom and the desires of the community, I find it more difficult in these hard times to defend on the platform the increase of our own salaries to £1,000. Hon Members who can defend that, should have no difficulty in defending this. There are, as the Secretary of State said, certain traditions in every country, and the people pay homage and respect to them and expect them to be carried out with a measure of decency. One can go back to the time when a miners' leader, Mr. James Brown, was appointed to this office. The miners, who-may be called the tough people in industry and have been called the vanguard of the Labour and Socialist movement, came for miles to see Mr. Brown off on his first expedition to Edinburgh. There was general rejoicing that at last a certain amount of tradition had been broken which, in so far as it concerned the claims of persons having wealth and position to posts 'of this kind, and that here was one of the lowly sons of Scotland chosen to carry out the task.
The sum that is now proposed is a maximum. The £4,000 might not be spent. The sum of £2,000 applied in 1832, and now 116 years later we find that the same sum is being paid. A sum of £2,000 today would have had a value of about 200 in 1832, so that in effect we are propering, in the values of that time, to provide a maximum of £400 to carry out these functions. Do not let us have any humbug about this. Those who are associated with Labour councils know that when the Provost and the committees give entertainments of any kind, a dance or a reception to people coming to the city, Labour members vie with one another to see that a decent sort of show is put on. When those of us who are associated with various organisations have gone to a town to hold a conference, and have been invited by the Lord Mayor or the Lord Provost to a fine luncheon or dinner and evening's entertainment, and they have done us grand, we have had very nice things to say about them. If we are able to partake of all the benefits of this hospitality there is no need to come here to apologise for something we think is necessary and an act of justice.
I am not afraid to justify this increase. I am not afraid, and never have been, to justify on public platforms the increase in my own salary. I do not think it is necessary to base ourselves on the lowest economic level in this country. I have sympathy with the people of this country and want to raise their standards of living. If, then, I defend their aspirations, and if I defend the right of the £2,000 a year civil servant to get his annual increments, why should I be apologetic about getting my own salary while I am performing, as' I try to do as a Member of this House, a useful service for the community? Indeed, people have not a mean approach to this matter.
I shall not go over the history of the past. History is the story of a process of change which is continuous, a process of change and betterment—at least, it ought to be. If in the process we reach the stage at which those performing public service are able to fulfil their functions with a proper decency, so much the better. I do not think this particular function is performed with lavishness. Let me give an example of how a public service is performed with a regard to comportment. I will give this example as of special interest to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). At the worst period of the war a man came to me and said, "The Russian armies are being battered by the Germans, and in the workshops of this country they are appealing for support for the Penny a Week campaign for the Red Cross aid to Russia. Yet Madame Maisky is spending 1,500 guineas on a mink coat here in London." I said to him, "It may be necessary for Madame Maisky to meet the ordinary people of her class in London in a mink coat, and maybe she requires it."
Does the hon. Member for West Fife say that is untrue? I could get a copy of the invoice. Perhaps it was necessary for Madame Maisky to have a 1,500 guinea mink coat in which to meet the wives of other ambassadors. That is not impossible. I have no antagonism to it, if she felt it necessary. But do not let us have any humbug, by trying to make the people of this country believe that there is excess only in this country and not in others.
I think the hon. Member is able to follow the proposal in the Bill. The proposal is not for the Lord High Commissioner; it is to allow the Lord High Commissioner to perform properly what is regarded as a social func- tion in this country. I believe that members of the working class community are generous in their approach to these things. I say further that although there are sectarian differences among the religious communities, they would all be united in standing by a proposal of this kind. I do not think I am putting it wrongly to say that an attack on this is an insidious attack on some religious institution, upon which hon. Members have not the courage to make an open attack. In those circumstances hon. Members would do well to take a reasonable and intelligent view and say they are prepared to allow this office to be performed by a Member of their own House, who can perform it with dignity and win the respect of his fellow men. If he can do that, he brings, not only to the life of this country but also to the Government, a certain respect amongst people sometimes not attracted to political views. When they see tolerance and decency extended in this way, it has an effect upon them. I have no difficulty in this House in saying I support the Measure. I believe it would be the general wish of the working class that it should be done. I shall have no difficulty in defending on any platform in any quarter my vote in the House tonight.
I want to try to keep the Debate on relevant lines. We are being asked to increase the allowance from £2,000 to a ceiling of £4,000 and, as the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) has pointed out, the point here is whether that amount should cover the expenses. Probably I am the only member of the House, apart from the Lord High Commissioner, who has continually attended these functions. I did not go as a member of the Church of Scotland, which I have been for many years, but in my capacity as a magistrate. Here is what happens. There are 195 burgh and 33 county councils in Scotland. To every one of them invitations are sent, and, let me assure you, Major Milner, promptly accepted by Labour members all over Scotland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Including Cumnock."] Including Cumnock. And it was from South Ayrshire we had our former Lord High Commissioner, Mr. James Brown. This is a great event in Scotland, looked forward to from one end of the year to another by thousands of very good citizens. There are about 6,000 teas. If you have travelled from Glasgow to Edinburgh, or from Caithness to Edinburgh, or from Cumnock to Edinburgh, you should at least have a cup of tea, or even have dinner at night. When I compare what happens at Holyrood with the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, I am rather ashamed of our hospitality in Scotland. It is by no means on such a scale as Buckingham Palace. And no wonder. How can it be if the sum meted out to poor old Scotland is the same as was considered sufficient in 1832? It is a disgrace that even now we are limited to only £4,000. If I could get £4 million out of the English Treasury for Scotland, I would take it.
I want to point out to those hon. Members who are supporting this Amendment that it is quite wrong to phrase their meaning in the words, "which is given to the Lord High Commissioner." It is not given to him. I used to meet and to look with fear and trembling upon the Purse-bearer to the Lord High Commissioner. I used to wonder whether he had as big a job with running his purse as I had with running my home. Now I learn of the supplying of 6,000 teas, of the dinners, the waitresses, the workmen, the charwomen, the officials, the clerks employed to send out the invitations, the very notepaper on which the invitations are sent out; surely these are not the same in cost as they were in 1832. None of these people are getting the wages which would have been paid in 1832, and the very stamps put on the invitations are costing twice the amount they cost in 1832.
It is not a case of giving something extra to the High Commissioner, but of doing what every Scotsman should be proud of doing—paying his way. It is just trying to pay for something that delights the heart of man, that finishes in the precincts of Holyrood, that brings back to Holyrood all our history—and, may I say, with the acceptance of most of the people in Scotland, the Royal family are represented there. People often feel that Scotland is neglected; that England gets all the pageantry and processions and that Scotland is left in the cold. We feel that this brings back something to us when 10,000 people gather on the last night, 10,000 of the common working people, and join in community singing which it is a treat to hear.
We are told about the White Paper austerity. But we are only asking for austerity. There is nothing but austerity in the cup of weak tea that is dished out, if one can get anywhere near the marquee for ministers of the church. The humble disciples of the Lord are not very humble at that time, and they are usually throwing magistrates into the background in the scramble for cups of tea. I go back to the 1938 standard, before the White Paper was introduced, and I say that this £2,000 is a very meagre amount to make up the difference between 1832 and 106 years later. I, like the hon. Member for Shettleston, would feel no compunction about drawing that extra salary. I thought, before I came here, that the amount given in the 1930's would be sure to square my London hotel bills. I got a great surprise. I am sure that my banker will agree with me that my bank book has not improved since I came here. I am surprised that all those Members who agree with me in this, and who uphold these increases, do not appear to think that these functions which we cherish so much in Scotland should actually just pay their way. That is what we are asking and no more.
I trust that for this occasion I may have the permission of the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan) to address this House.
In that case I cannot help feeling that we have been making a little bit of a mountain out of a mole hill. Great interest has been displayed tonight, the House is crowded, much eloquence has been shown, passionate speeches have been made, and all about a couple of thousand pounds a year. I do not think that there is as much in it as all that. We in Scotland are inclined to forget that we are now the rich part of the United Kingdom. As a matter of fact, if we chose to clear out and leave England to her own devices, not that we should want to do that, we can be very well self-supporting. Since the war we are the rich end of the Kingdom, and I listened with sympathy to the hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann) when she was saying that the great wealth of pageantry is in London, but the real wealth is in Scotland. If we give the impression that we are reluctant to give another £2,000 to the Lord High Commissioner we shall not give a very good impression to the rest of the world.
The only part of the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland which upset me was that which dealt with historical analogies. He did not seem to me to be on the right ticket there. He said that the Reformation took a rather peculiar turn in Scotland. He noted with approval the victory of Cromwell and the influence of John Knox. Actually these things were equally disastrous for Scotland, and if the right hon. Gentleman had based his argument in support of this Bill mainly upon the Reformation in Scotland, the victory of Cromwell, and the influence of John Knox I should have felt obliged to divide against this Measure.
Is the hon. Gentleman challenging the fact that the churches established education for the ordinary people in Scotland at an earlier period than in any other country in the world?
I am not altogether denying that fact. I am merely stating that I think that Calvinism in Scotland as represented by John Knox was on the whole a pernicious influence, and only when the right hon. Gentleman moved from that, I began to warm to him and swing round wholeheartedly in favour of this Bill. It was only after Scotland was emancipated from the more dire effects and rigid austerities of the Reformation that that great uprush took place and Scottish education achieved the ascendency in the world for which it is noted, and in which undoubtedly the Church played a part.
We come to the figure. What are we asking for—£2,000? What is the Budget figure? Is it £3,500,000,000? I believe it is something of that order. Yet tonight we are having a great Debate, with great oratory and passionate feelings aroused as to whether we are going to give the leaders and the representatives of the Church from various parts of Scotland tea and buns, or only buns. That really is the point of the whole matter. I suggest that we ought to recapture a sense of proportion. These grisly teas described by the hon. Member for Coatbridge fill me with apprehension and alarm. I did not know they were as bad as that. If that is the best the Lord High Commissioner can do, I should like to see this allowance increased to at least £10,000. I feel very strongly about my own constituents coming all the way from some remote village in Aberdeenshire to Holyrood House and being treated to this melancholy cup of tea, with the possibility of a bun.
What do those Members who support the Amendment want? Do they want the Lord High Commissioner to come out with a mobile soup kitchen, dishing out the soup in ladles to the ministers and elders? If that is the case, the whole thing had better come to an end. It would be a great pity if it did come to an end, because, as the hon. Member for Coat-bridge truly said, this is a great chance for many people in Scotland to get together in congenial social intercourse, even if it is over a cup of tepid tea. On other occasions they would not meet in such numbers, at any rate; many people look forward to this event from one year to another, and all accept the invitation with alacrity, They would soon stop accepting the invitation if hon. Members who oppose the Bill had their way. I would like to recall the House to some sense of proportion. If we grudge £2,000 in order to enable the Lord High Commissioner to entertain his guests for 10 days in the year reasonably well, and no more than reasonably well, and with far more austerity than appeals to my personal taste, we might as well shut up shop.
I do not want to enter on a discussion on the history of the Church, because I am a horrible example of what the brethren produce. I am glad that the Amendment that the Bill be read a Second time this day six months was the Amendment to be called, because at least it has the ring of honesty about it. The Amendment which has not been called proposes:
That, in view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's appeal for austerity and the Prime Minister's statement on Personal Incomes, Costs and Prices, this House is of the opinion that it is unwise to proceed with a Bill increasing the grant to the Lord High Commissioner.
That, in my view, is a piece of humbug. For the first time in my association with the Socialist movement, and as a Member of this House, I find a Member representing a Scottish constituency raking the bottom of the bucket, with English Members, getting them to attend the House and vote against the increase to this allowance. I say that with regret, but I think it should be said.
I also say, again without intending offence—and I refer to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) —that we have seen a display of what happens when people agree not to oppose a Measure, and some others "get off the handle" and look for an excuse to do the very opposite. This should be said, and I want it placed on record, that the overwhelming majority of Labour Members from Scotland do not oppose this Measure. I say nothing against those Members who oppose it honestly and openly, but it never was part of the policy of the Labour Party in Scotland to bring to an end the activities of the Church Assembly. I may say to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire that if he was honest in this matter, the Amendment in his name should propose to abolish this State association with the Assembly altogether.
I think that I am stating what is accepted as the position of the majority of the Labour Members from Scotland. Why should all the ignominy associated with the campaign which has taken place in a certain quarter fall on the head of the High Commissioner? It was deliberately fostered in the columns of "Forward." By some mysterious means, the High Commissioner, if he could not meet the expenses of this office, should do other things. It was suggested that he should pawn his shirt to help pay his expenses, and that, I think, was neither funny nor in good taste. As this Socialist movement grows, it must accept its responsibilities. I was for 13 years a member of the Glasgow local authority and was its senior magistrate. When the Socialist movement took control of Glasgow, had it been composed of such people as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire there would have been agitation to cease the traditional service of the kirking of the magistrate—a cermony which goes back to the days when Glasgow was created a burgh. It is sheer humbug and dishonesty to put an Amendment on the Order Paper, supposedly in the interests of the High Commissioner, and then to make statements such as have been made.
In my view, and I am not alone in this, the idea is to strangle the holding of the Assembly altogether. I say this with regret. Some day the hon. Member for South Ayrshire will walk into this House and support the Government by mistake. If the hon. Member for South Ayrshire is blessed with a sufficiently long membership of this House, he may succeed in convincing every other body how wrong they have been for years, and how he is here to bring salvation to them. Some hon. Members may think that this is uncalled for; but if I take a decision, I am entitled to honour that decision. If I state my objections, and they are overruled, I am equally entitled to accept that ruling unless I seek to hold political views and have nothing but a stomachful of obsessions.
I appeal to my colleagues from Scotland. There are those who were disturbed by the Chancellor's appeal, and my hon. Friend who spoke first was disturbed because he was present at the meeting in Edinburgh and said openly that he could not, after attending the meeting, justify this proposal. My hon. Friend the other Member for Edinburgh was in the same boat; and I would appeal to both hon. Members—you have made your protest, do not force this Amendment to a Division. No matter what they do, their actions will be misconstrued outside this House and more harm will be done to the wider aspect of the Labour movement than could be done by 10 years of propaganda. I appeal to my colleagues who represent English divisions and who are mere Englishmen in this Scottish quarrel, not to be misled by specious pleas for economy. The English Members would be well advised, if I may say so, to leave this as a private affair and to leave it, if it goes to a Division, to the vote of those who represent Scottish constituencies, because I am satisfied that the overwhelming majority—[Interruption.] It has been said that the Government have put us off, but I am simply asking, if a demonstration were needed, that as the overwhelming mass of Scottish members are in favour of this proposal, English Members should take a holiday and refrain from voting.
I do not want the level of the Debate to sink to the level of the speech we have just heard. After all, this is not the first occasion on which a Labour Member has opposed a recommendation of the Government. I can remember an occasion quite recently in the Scottish Grand Committee when the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay) himself was one of a minority of two. However, I do not want to bring this discussion down to the level of some of the superficial arguments around which it has ranged, from Mme. Maisky's fur coat to the historical, or shall I say hysterical, introduction of this Debate by the Secretary of State for Scotland.
I believe that the point of view I hold is the minority point of view in this House, but I believe that if it were put fairly and squarely to the Labour movement in Scotland, the movement would agree with what the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) had to say about the only local Labour Party to express an opinion on the matter, a party which has been unanimous in its recommendation against this legislation proposed by the Government. I believe that is what is annoying hon. Members opposite, They know that the rank and file of the Labour movement are asking, not about the Reformation that took place in the Middle Ages, but about the reformation that has gone on in the point of view of hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate. I suggest that this question is being asked: Have the Labour Members for Scotland lost their old fire and enthusiasm that made the movement and raised it to power in Scotland? Have they now adapted themselves to their environment and are they now expressing a reactionary point of view—a point of view of which they ought to be thoroughly ashamed and which has been reflected in the superficial rubbish referred to in this Debate?
This Bill was printed without anyone knowing anything about it. There was no demand for it in Scotland; there was no demand by any organisation; and it appeared, as it were, "out of the blue." At the time, we were told that this Bill was necessary because of the increased expenditure incurred by the Lord High Commissioner. The Secretary of State, in his opening speech, worked himself up into a fury of indignation about some campaign in which, he said, we had misrepresented the whole issue by referring to the "salary" of the Lord High Commissioner. I do not know where he ever heard the word "salary." I have never used that word. In my Motion on the Order Paper I use the word "grant." We have heard of emoluments and expenses, and I maintain that the argument of the Secretary of State in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, when he spoke about the way in which we had misrepresented the issue by referring to a "salary," was without foundation. He cannot point to one occasion on which I have spoken or written about a "salary." I suggest that he was creating a fictitious case against himself and then attempting to demolish it, simply because he had not a stronger case to put forward himself.
My point of view is shared, not only by the Edinburgh Labour Party, but by a very respected former Member of this House, the Rev. James Barr. I wrote and asked him—a well respected member of the religious community in Scotland—what should be my attitude to this Bill, and he replied:
I think you should proceed with your Motion. Had I still been in the House I would certainly have supported such a Motion. This runs counter to the promises so lavishly made at the time of the union, that it was all a matter of courtesy and could be departed from at any time.
I am expressing the point of view of the Rev. James Barr, and if hon. Members choose to call that humbug and hypocrisy, let it be so called. But I believe it to be the point of view of those who have taken a little trouble to study this question, and have gone into the history of it a little more carefully than the Secretary of State.
What is all this talk about the Reformation, as if the Lord High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland were an integral part of the Reformation, or had anything to do with it? The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire accuses me of wanting to abolish the Church Assembly of the Church of Scotland. I am prepared to give way if he can tell me when I have ever produced such an argument.
Mr. Emrys HuÃÂ£hes:
I still do not know when I am supposed to have said that I wanted to abolish the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The hon. Member says, "Well, you really believe it, although I cannot produce any evidence." The use of that sort of superficiality is the reason we are losing by-elections in Scotland; the mentality of the Socialist movement is being degraded by such superficiality.
I should not have taken up so much time had I not been attacked, but I would point out that this is not the first occasion on which the Labour Party has questioned the expenditure of the Lord High Commissioner for the General Assembly. This has been the traditional attitude of Labour Party critics of the Conservative Government throughout the last 30 years. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the former Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. Tom Johnston, and I believe that if the Conservative Party had introduced a Bill increasing by 100 per cent. the salary of the Lord High Commissioner—[HON. MEMBERS: "Salary?"]—the grant to the Lord High Commissioner, it would have been denounced on every Labour platform in the country. I do not believe that the Labour Party in office should take up a different attitude and fail to produce the reforms which they previously advocated.
It was from Tom Johnston that I heard for the first time any reference to the office of Lord High Commissioner, when he wrote an article on the subject in "Forward." If I am a hypocrite and dishonest, I suppose the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire would hardly go so far as to say that about Mr. Tom Johnston. I have here what Mr. Tom Johnston wrote in 1924 about the Lord High Commissioner. It is a most interesting article, and in it he refers to the habit of Labour Members being photographed in knee-breeches and the various paraphernalia of royal levees. This is what he wrote:
I will not harrow the feelings of my readers with a list of pacifists who go to levees in knickerbockers and with swords, but will come at once to the sad case of a Scotsman, James Brown, M.P., who, after a long, honourable and dignified career as a representative of Ayrshire colliers, is now to dress himself up in kneebreeches, silk stockings, paste buckles on his shoes and a cocked hat with feathers. And heaven save us! he is to carry a sword, and be called 'Your Grace' and ride in a State coach with, outriders and postillions and trumpeters and who knows what other useless trash. And thus attired
and guarded he will procession up the 'royal mile' through the streets of Edinburgh to auld Holyrood, where he will sleep there for fourteen glorious nights in a great State bed.
When such an authority on Scottish history writes in this way so disrespectfully of the office of Lord High Commissioner, it can be readily understood why some of us are opposed to allowances being increased for this office. He goes on to say this:
And he has a purse-bearer and his wife has ladies-in-waiting. And if he does as his predecessors have done, he'll hold levees and supply free whisky and champagne to the clergymen and elders of the Kirk of Scotland. James Brown, a life-long temperance advocate, will, I have no doubt, struggle hard against that last, and if he wins there and supplies only non-intoxicants and thereby breaks the traditions of centuries, he might just as easily have broken the other silly traditions too, and gone in his Sunday clothes, and opened the Genera] Assembly without the waste of public money and the flummery and guzzling.
If that is a picture of the Lord High Commissioner as seen through the eyes of an ex-Secretary of State for Scotland, we should look a little closer at this question before we decide to give a 100 per cent. increased grant for this office.
I am merely quoting a view on the office of Lord High Commissioner by one who is the greatest authority on Scottish history. He goes on to say:
There are, I know, people who say: 'Oh, these "Galoshans" businesses do not matter. Why worry about them? Let's get on with the serious business.' Alas, these 'Galoshans' are but the outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual dry rot, and a Party which tamely accepts the medieval circus and participates in useless, costly, and stupid mummeries, is a Party that is not in the way of serious business.
Mr. Emrys HuÃÂ£hes:
That is news to me, but I am sure that Tom Johnston would not endorse that recantation on his behalf by a hon. Member who knows a little less about him than I do. The article concluded:—
The old Whigs who abolished the Keeper of the Green Wax in the Exchequer of Ireland, the Warden of the Royal Fire-Irons, and the Deputy Maintainer of the Cheese Barrel in the lieutenancy of the Great Hundreds, might have swept away this £2,000 High-CommissionerYour-Grace business when they were at it.
In view of that, I think we are justified in saying that there is a point of view in Scotland which asks that the Lord High Commissionership should be put in perspective, and should not be made the subject of a 100 per cent. increase at a time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer is talking about austerity and the need for frugality, and so on. Yesterday, when Conservative Members were talking about the T.U.C., I asked why if the Government wanted the T.U.C. to freeze wages, they did not show an example by adopting a commonsense policy of saying that they would freeze the emoluments of the Lord High Commissioner for Scotland.
There has been so much irrelevancy in this Debate that we have never got down to the question of what the Lord High Commissioner is supposed to do. The ideas have varied from the assumption that he is to preside over some convivial gathering to the belief that he is associated with some sort of religious symbolism.
Mr. Emrys HuÃÂ£hes:
Yes, in case the Church became too Left wing or too Right wing. I rather think that the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) suspected that the idea was that the Lord High Commissioner should be there to keep a watching eye in case the Church of Scotland became affiliated to the Communist Party. Nothing of the kind. The Church of Scotland throughout the ages has taken a poor view of the Lord High Commissioner.
Mr. Emrys HuÃÂ£hes:
I do not understand the relevance of that, but I can assure him that they are not so daft as to have signed a letter supporting a policy enunciated by Sir Oswald Mosley, as the hon. Member did on one occasion.
Mr. Emrys HuÃÂ£hes:
I am not prepared to accept what I think is the degenerate point of view of the Labour Party in Scotland, who, forgetting what they have said in the past, are becoming respectable and adapting themselves to their environment. One hen. Member referred to cups of tea. In "The Scotsman" we read that there were 5,300 guests at Holyrood. If we work it out on the basis of half a crown a head, that Holyrood tea party cost £600—and that is the most expensive function. If that is the sort of entertainment, why does not £2,000 cover it? Why do we need to spend £4,000, at a time when we are asking the workers to accept reduced incomes?
The story of this institution is entirely different from the picture given by the Secretary of State. I have here some reference to the office by the Rev. Archibald Fleming, D.D., who wrote about the first Lord High Commissioner:
The formal inauguration of the office in 1580 was not auspicious. It fell to that shifty and infamous lawyer, Sir James Balfour of Pittindreigh, the most corrupt man of his age to be its holder.
Through the centuries this office has been a sinecure, given to one of its members by the political party in power.
I am not asking that this office should be done away with, although I believe that, if I had the opportunity, I could give some very good, solid reasons why it should be. I do say, however, that this time, when we are asking the workers to make sacrifices, is not the time to adopt the traditions of the past—or to spend more national money c n them—and have to explain that attitude to the sceptical, intelligent audiences throughout Scotland. It is a degradation for Labour Members sent here from Scotland. We did not come here to follow the traditions of the past. Our programme was. "Let us face the future." Yesterday the Secretary of State told the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) that we must do away with traditions when they become no longer tenable. In the House yesterday, the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs referred to John Morley. I remember that it was said of John Morley, "He was often on the wrong side, but never on the side of wrong." Although I am on the wrong side in this Debate, I am not on the side of wrong, and I could justify my arguments in the country and before the Labour Party.
I think the House received good advice earlier in this Debate from the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), when he asked us to preserve our sense of proportion. I think it would have been advisable if the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) had followed that advice. After all, how often in this Chamber have we seen tens of millions of pounds passed on a nod? Yet here we have been debating for an hour and 45 minutes a matter of an increase of possibly £2,000. I really think that, although it is right for the House to pay attention to the very smallest item of expenditure, the time we have spent on this matter has been completely out of proportion.
The hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis), who moved this Amendment, based his case to a certain extent on Government policy. In fact, he was really speaking to the other Amendment on the Order Paper—that in the name of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, which has not been called—which says:
That, in view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's appeal for austerity and the Prime Minister's statement on Personal Incomes, Costs and Prices, this House is of the opinion that it is unwise to proceed with a Bill increasing the grant to the Lord High Commissioner.
The hon. Member for North Edinburgh was basing his case on the Chancellor's plea for austerity, and on the Prime Minister's statement on Personal Incomes, Costs and Prices. I was so glad to hear the Secretary of State say so straightforwardly and plainly that this matter is not a question of personal income at all. The Bill is merely to provide, as he said, the unavoidable expenses of fulfilling in the most austere possible manner the
duties of a very high office, probably the highest office which any Scot can be called upon to occupy. I agree that the Bill is very much concerned with costs and prices, but not in the sense that the Prime Minister used those words in his statement. The Bill has been necessitated by the increase in costs and prices over the last years. Like the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), I find it difficult to reconcile the attitude of the hon. Member who moved the Amendment and other hon. Gentlemen who supported him with the attitude of this House towards increasing our own emoluments. After all, when we did that, we knew perfectly well that our country was facing very difficult times and there was a very great danger of inflation.
This has been said by two or three hon. Members, and I have not interrupted before. I think it should be put in the right perspective. At that time the Government were not asking the workers to refrain from asking for increases, and since that time, the workers have received substantial increases, and so have the old age pensioners.
It seems to me that argument should apply also to this matter of the Lord High Commissioner. If we in this House find it necessary to increase our emoluments by 66⅔ per cent. over a period of eight years, how much more necessary is it for us to increase the money required to meet the necessary expenses of the Lord High Commissioner over a period of 116 years. I cannot reconcile the action of the hon. Gentlemen on these two different occasions. I suggest that the House has the right to expect a certain measure of consistency from hon. Members on matters such as this.
The money which Parliament grants to the Lord High Commissioner is all used in meeting the expenses of his office. It is, in fact, all used for public purposes and in what I believe to be the public interest. As the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann) said, Scotland has little enough of light and colour in these drab days. It has little or no pageantry, and what pageantry the Lord High Commissioner brings during his residence in Holyrood House is we]-corned, not only by the citizens of the capital of Scotland, but also by large numbers of people who come from all parts of the country to Edinburgh during the fortnight in which the Assembly is carrying on its business.
I feel that for many years past the sum we have given for the expenses of the Lord High Commissioner has been quite insufficient and that it should have been increased long ago. We have now reached a point where it is utterly impossible for him on his present allowance to carry out his duties with that dignity which the people of Scotland demand shall be upheld. Action is now essential and imperative. Let me remind the House that the Lord High Commissioner has represented the King at the Assembly since 1592. It is my belief that the Scottish people wish that His Majesty should continue to be represented. If I am right in that contention, then it is the duty at least of Scottish Members to do everything in their power to see that the necessary funds are passed for that purpose. I am glad indeed that that is the view of the Government. I believe that they have arrived at that view as the result of a proper and accurate assessment of the feelings of the Scottish people, and certainly it is a view which I and, my hon. and right hon. Friends intend to support in the Division Lobby tonight, if that is necessary. I hope, as the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay) suggested, it will not be necessary.
There is one thing which may perhaps have a little significance. It is that in connection with both these Amendments on the Paper—that is, the Amendment which has been called and the one which has not been called—the first-named hon. Member in each case, so far as I can discover from my researches, is not a Scotsman, and was not born in Scotland. That, I clearly recognise, is not their fault but their misfortune. But be that as it may, it leads me to question whether they are fully qualified to represent Scottish opinion on this important matter.
Surely the hon. and gallant Member will appreciate that, whether I am English or Scottish, I am returned to this House by Scotsmen to represent Scotsmen, and I can go back to the organisation which is responsible for returning me and obtain a unanimous vote upon this issue.
Mr. Emrys HuÃÂ£hes:
The hon. and gallant Member raised a point in regard to me. I represent a constituency in the House of Commons by a majority of votes. When Keir Hardie, the Scotsman, fought an election in Wales, the same reactionary argument was used against Keir Hardie, the Scottish Socialist in Wales.
I am expressing the opinion which I hold and which, I believe, can well be justified. I believe it is the wish of the great majority of Scotsmen and Scotswomen that this ancient office should continue, and should be supported by a proper and becoming dignity. Therefore, I and my hon. Friends support the Government in this matter.
May I endorse what was said by the hon. and gallant Member in relation to a remark by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). Let us, in this discussion, try to keep a proper sense of proportion; let us try to view this question on its merits, free from any personalities and from any other considerations. While I welcome, and on this side of the Table we welcome, the assurance given by the hon. and gallant Member, may I say that we do not accept and adopt one part of his argument, namely, that because certain of the hon. Members who oppose the Bill do not happen to be Scottish by birth, they necessarily do not speak with the authority of the people whom they represent. I trust I can satisfy the House that there are better reasons why their arguments should not be accepted. I do not intend to go into the history of this matter so far as the Church is concerned. It has been accepted by every hon. Member who has spoken, including, I think, the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), that this office is being preserved, will be preserved, and as far as I can gather should be preserved.
If the hon. Member does not agree with that, I think he is the only hon. Member who has spoken in the Debate who has made that assertion. Whether or not the hon. Member for South Ayrshire or anyone else thinks that it should be preserved, we must recognise that even if this Bill were rejected the office would remain and the sum of £2,000 would be allowed to the High Commissioner to meet his expenses. Therefore the only relevant question is whether or not the Bill is justified for the reasons advanced by my right hon. Friend.
May I remind hon. Members that the Bill only permits an increase up to the sum of £4,000 a year. The actual amount to be spent in any year is something which is at the discretion of the Secretary of State for Scotland, in consultation with the Treasury, and no doubt these people will have in view the current circumstances of any year in relation to the particular expenditure. But since the office exists and will continue to exist, whether this Bill goes through or not, I think there are two questions we must ask ourselves. The first is this: Is that office to be carried out with the dignity associated with it in the past? Secondly, if it is, having regard to its history, should the State pay for the expenses of that office, or should it be in part dependent on private individuals and private resources?
These are the two questions, and I think I am right in saying, in regard to the first, that as long as the office remains, it is the will of the large majority of the people of Scotland that it should be carried out with dignity but without extravagance. That has already been recognised in these difficult times. Although reference was made to the White Paper on Personal Incomes, I can find nothing in it which is in any way apposite to the present situation. I have read it through very carefully, but can find nothing relevant. As long as that office remains, then the will of the large majority of the people of Scotland should be carried out. People may have different views in regard to that. It has been said that the rank and file do not approve of this. It may very well be true that certain sections of the people in Scotland have expressed a view contrary to this Bill. I am satisfied that the reason for that, in the main, is the fact that the purpose of this Bill has been misrepresented to the people of Scotland. I think that the most current misrepresentation which certainly gives the matter relevance to the White Paper, was the description of these proposals as an "increase in salary" which appeared in the Press.
I think I am right in saying that it was the "Daily Express," but other people have given it prominence from the point of view of paying an increase in salary. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire challenged the Secretary of State to say when he had ever referred to it as salary. May I refer him to a Question he himself asked on 3rd February of this year, as reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT. He asked the Secretary of State:
What representations were made to him asking him to introduce legislation proposing an increase in the grant to the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The answer given by the Under-Secretary of State was, "None, Sir." The hon. Member for South Ayrshire then asked this supplementary question:
Is the Minister aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made certain representations about austerity? Have they reached the Scottish Office? If there have been no representations for an increase in the salary, why is it suggested?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1948; Vol. 77; c. 1629–30.]
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire asked what justification the Secretary of State for Scotland had for accusing him of having referred to this matter as an increase in salary. For the answer to that
question, I commend the hon. Gentleman to that quotation from the OFFICIAL REPORT of 3rd February.
Therefore, I feel—and the experience of many Members on this side of the House has been—that when the true situation has been explained to the people who are concerned in this matter, they have been inclined to take an entirely different view, because they thought, and perhaps quite legitimately, that the representation of this increase as an increase in salary was quite opposed to the purpose of the White Paper and they could not see the justification for it, when they themselves were asked not to promote claims for an increase in wages.
Mr. Emrys HuÃÂ£hes:
I am prepared to admit when I am wrong. I admit the Lord Advocate's point, that in the heat of a supplementary question I may have made reference to a salary, but I do not think I can be accused of using any elaborate argument misrepresenting this payment as a salary. If the "Daily Express" referred to it as such in the headline, it was not my fault. I certainly had no wish to misrepresent.
I do not want this matter to develop into anything personal, but my right hon. Friend was challenged, and that is why I quoted this instance. When we introduce personalities into these matters there is a danger that we get away from the real arguments. I regret that personalities have been brought in. Reference has been made to the right hon. Member for Linlinthgow (Mr. Mathers), and in the criticisms of this increase it has been made personal to him, whereas I feel that those who have put forward arguments against this proposed increase in the allowance would have served their cause much better by confining themselves to the merits or demerits of the case.
No, I shall not give way again. Putting the matter in its proper perspective, I feel it would be the wish of the people of Scotland that this office should be carried on with a certain degree of dignity commensurate with its nature. I think it would also be the wish of the people of Scotland that if it is necessary to pay for that office, the people responsible for the appointment should make the payment. This is an historical office. It may in the past have had representatives of a different nature from that of the present incumbent. It is an historical fact that, in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and the first quarter of the twentieth centuries, the holder of this high office was a peer, and in 1924, for the first time, a commoner, and a colleague of many hon. Members of this House—and also a predecessor of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire—was appointed. He was a miner, and the present holder of the office is an ex-railway clerk. I think that hon. Members on this side of the House—particularly those on this side—will welcome a procedure which enables a miner or a railway clerk to be the choice for this old office; an office held by peers and baronets who preceded them.
If we come to the question raised by the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis), which was that we did not necessarily want a break with tradition, but wanted to accept traditions different from those observed in the past, I must say that I agree with him in certain respects. But this is one of the different traditions we are bringing in. It is a tradition by which people in Scotland, the peer, the railway clerk, or the miner, can equally be eligible for the high office and financially able to carry it out. That, surely, is the essence of democracy. We are not putting a means test on those who aspire to the office of Lord High Commissioner.
It has also been suggested that, in view of the recent White Paper, there is something anomalous about this Bill. But the Lord High Commissioner had anticipated the Bill because since the war, there has been a reduction in the scale of entertainment and expenditure compared with the pre-war years, so that there has already been a degree of austerity introduced. There is a "freezing" and so I would say it is not contemplated that, by the introduction of this Measure, there will be more money spent by the Lord High Commissioner. It means that the persons properly responsible are going to pay the money. It was found that the —2,000 deemed to be adequate in 1832, when the hereditary revenues of the Crown were transferred to the Consolidated Fund, is quite inadequate with the changing values and rising prices existent in 1948. It was said by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire that in 1931 similar arguments were advanced—
It was 1931, and that date was mentioned by my hon. Friend, and yet nothing was done between 1931 and 1948. It was the hon. Member for North Edinburgh who made that remark. The position, however, was different, because the holder of the office was neither an ex-miner nor an ex-railway clerk during those years, and the incumbent of the office during that time was able personally to meet the additional expenditure. We think that that was an undesirable condition of affairs, and one which ought to be removed.
Let us get this matter in proper perspective. For the Measure, there is almost universal support in this House; there is only one dissentient voice which has been raised against the continuance of the office, and if we are to continue it, let us continue it according to proper standards. If we cannot carry out this office according to proper standards, then do not let us carry it out at all. If we are going to carry out our duty, let us pay for doing so. Let us not be dependent upon private individuals either to grant the necessary balance themselves when chosen as Lord High Commissioner or to seek relief from some other source. Let us not impose on the Secretary of State for Scotland the difficulty of saying, "I cannot select this desirable man because he is not personally in a position to meet the expenditure."
Let us make this a free choice available so that any member of the community can be admitted to the office, and let us get away from all the misrepresentation, false arguments and specious and defective arguments which cease to have validity when they are examined against the background against which we have to examine them. Let us recognise that we have a duty in this matter, that we are carrying out this duty and that we are doing nothing inconsistent with our duty either to this House or to the country; but doing something which I am quite sure will meet with the approval of all right-thinking people in Scotland.