– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th November 1949.
The question which I raise tonight, and which I have good fortune in raising so early in the evening, is that of devolution. I shall give my definition of that in a moment, but I should like to say this to start with: the purpose of my raising it tonight is to press for what we on these benches have been urging for some time—and that is, a full inquiry, more especially in the light of the various proposals which have been made for devolution. It is not my purpose to argue the merits of any particular form of devolution. While, as I have said, we on these benches have always pressed for this inquiry, I should like to make it quite plain that in my remarks tonight I shall speak for myself alone and not for any party or for any section or for any body outside this House. Even if time permitted the Rules of Order would not allow me to go into the merits of the various proposals for devolution, since some, at any rate. I think, would require legislation.
The definition that I would put upon this word "devolution" which is a word familiar to us in Scotland, but, perhaps, not so familiar elsewhere, is the conferment of powers, whether legislative or functional, whether absolute or conditioned, by a body which already possesses those powers on a body which either already exists or is set up with the particular object of exercising those powers. It might be one body or it might be more bodies upon which those powers were devolved. It may be said that some degree of devolution already exists at St. Andrew's House in Scotland, but the House should know well that St. Andrew's House is, in fact, simply a department of government which was transferred from an old site in Whitehall, and does not represent devolution in the real sense.
The reason why I put down as a subject of Debate devolution in general, and not simply devolution for Scotland, was that devolution is a general problem that is facing any Government today. It arises, on the one hand, through the increasing penetration of government into the daily lives of the people, whether it is their upbringing or their households or their business or their leisure, and through the administrative complications that follow from that; and, on the other hand, it arises from the wide differences of character, outlook, and development between different localities in the Kingdoms. The problem, of course, becomes a good deal more acute when a separate national sentiment is involved. It becomes still more acute where a separate language is involved, in a country which largely speaks a separate language. It becomes most acute of all—to my mind, though possibly others in the House may disagree on this—where there is a separate law involved, as in Scotland.
As the problem is general I did ask the Lord President to reply to the Debate. He was afraid he would not have time, but I am very glad to see him in his place here so that, at any rate, we may make our views known to him, and I hope that, in the course of the Debate, we may either goad him or inspire him to make some contribution to the Debate. As it is, the Secretary of State for Scotland, I understand, is to reply to the Debate; and I would say at once that some of the things I may say may not please the Secretary of State; but they are not in any way intended to be personal, because I intend to be objective and not objectionable. At least, I hope he will not be betrayed into one of those explosions in which he indulged a short time ago. If he were to do so we should simply conclude it was the result of his being over-tired in consequence of the nature of his office, which, I have always maintained, it is quite impossible for one man to fulfil satisfactorily.
What is the present situation? It is plain that the steps that the Secretary of State has taken to extend the discussion of Scottish Business in the House, and consultation with certain interests in Scotland, have not, in fact, satisfied the Scottish people. I give the Secretary of State full credit for trying, but it is clear that he was not on the right lines; for this reason, that the changes which he has made have procured for Scotsmen no additional power of decision in their own affairs, but only the opportunity of being consulted by the right hon. Gentleman, or of discussing matters with him.
The Scottish Grand Committee in itself is becoming more and more of a bottleneck, and the difficulty is that it is serving a bottle some 400 miles away. If I may parody words used in another connection I would say, "Some bottle, some neck." It is far too unwieldy for a Standing Committee. It is almost twice the size of any other Standing Committee, and the more it is given to do, the less can Members representing Scottish constituencies devote themselves to their duties in connection with business which affects Great Britain as a whole.
I sometimes feel that the right hon. Gentleman is a little resentful at the rise of Scottish sentiment. He has really no cause to be resentful. It is in no way personal. It is quite a natural phenomenon. In a very interesting broadcast on Sunday night Mr. Robert Birley pointed out, in the course of his remarks, that it was quite possible for a person to be conscious of belonging to Scotland, or Wales, and at the same time be a loyal Briton, and, for that matter, a good European. There is, in fact, a delicate balance, and there has been for the last 200 years, between this business of being a good Scot and a good Briton—and I take it the same applies to Wales—but that balance over the past 40 years has, in fact, been unduly weighted on one side.
And these are the factors which have weighted it. In the first place, there have been two wars—wars which demanded a collective loyalty to Britain which certainly tended, for the time being, to obscure the nearer loyalty of national sentiment. Secondly, there was the ill-fated Irish question, which, undoubtedly, caused quite a number of people to fear any manifestation of national sentiment.
Third, there has been the tremendous increase in the functions of government. I looked up the number of State Departments for English affairs before the 1914 war, and I found that, excluding the Departments for Scotland, Ireland, and India, there were at that time 13. There are now 25. Of their functions the Secretary of State covers only three of the Departments and a bit, and a few outcrops of sporadic responsibility. The fourth factor has been nationalisation. While the real power has been centralised in England an attempt has been made to appease national sentiment by calling subordinate area or divisional boards by a national name. That attempt has completely failed, because its effect is to make people in Scotland—and, I have no doubt, in Wales—too conscious of the fact that the power has really been removed, and that only the shadow has been substituted.
The rise of national sentiment, therefore, is nothing but a natural reaction. It has corrected the balance which has been upset by those four factors and it cannot be disregarded. The fact is that, very largely because of the enormous increase in governmental functions, Scotland, at any rate, is less independent than she was in 1914, at a time when there was a party in power which was pledged to Home Rule.
That cannot be mentioned during this Debate. It is quite out of Order.
I was not going to follow that up; I was mentioning it by way of illustration.
Can the hon. Gentleman explain how Scotland was more independent in 1914?
I thought that I had made clear that it was because of these four factors and the enormous increase in governmental functions, the power of which is centralised in England.
That growing national sentiment is the main reason that I wish to bring forward in order to urge that there should be a full inquiry. When a nation is convinced, as Scotland seems to be at the present time—and I am told Wales is also—that it can run its own affairs better than they are run at present—and I do not think that this is a party matter at all—there is only one thing to do, and that is to reexamine the whole structure of government. The question has to be considered: What are the affairs which it is in the interest of the country to run for itself and by itself and what are the powers which it should have either conjointly with England and the other members of the Commonwealth, or which should devolve on it absolutely? Members of the House will be aware that at the present time a covenant is being signed by people in Scotland who pledge themselves, and I quote from the covenant:
In all loyalty to the Crown and within the framework of the United Kingdom to do everything in their power to secure for Scotland a Parliament with legislative authority in Scottish affairs.
The question of a Parliament for Scotland, which involves legislation, should not be mentioned at all in an Adjournment Debate.
It is difficult to mention the fact that this covenant had been signed, without giving the purport of it. I shall not pursue this matter except to say—believing as I do that the matter must first be fully examined—that I have not signed that covenant. I take it that it would not be in Order for me to pursue that matter further, except to say that the number of signatures which will be obtained through that covenant will put it beyond doubt that there is a very strong feeling on this matter.
I said at the beginning of my speech that devolution might involve matters needing legislation, but it might also involve matters that do not need legislation, and I am attempting to make out a case for an inquiry into devolution as a whole.
It would have been happier if the title of this Adjournment Debate had been "The administration of Scottish Affairs at Westminster." That would have been quite in Order. Devolution, of course, is a difficult title. I am bound to say that if anything is suggested which may involve legislation, I must rise in my place and object, because it is not in Order to do that on an Adjournment Debate.
As I have already indicated my purpose in raising this matter is to press for an inquiry into the whole matter, and not to argue the merits on incomplete results.
The matter of an inquiry which will involve legislation would be out of Order on an Adjournment Debate.
With the greatest respect, Mr. Speaker, it is often difficult, to tell what will come out of an inquiry when one goes into these matters. All I will say about the covenant is that it does bring to the surface the fact that there is a very considerable amount of support for some change. That is precisely why an inquiry should be set up to make certain that whatever change is made is the right change, and a change which accords best with the interests of the country and the Commonwealth at the present time.
It seems to me that the worst thing that could possibly happen at the present time is that this whole question should become involved in the next Election. The reason I say that is because it would only be one of very many questions, and even in the countries concerned the verdict that came out of the Election would not be a verdict on that particular matter and, therefore, could not be regarded as having any bearing, or very little hearing, on the issue. I am impressed by the fact that, so far, neither major party has got out any policy on this matter. I am not at all certain that parties will be anxious to do so before the General Election, the reason being that there must be some concern that no sooner has one party put out what it proposes to do, than it may be outbidden by another party. That illustrates most strongly the fact that we are going in a certain direction of which, I think, the House should take due note.
In concluding, I would appeal most strongly—I see that the Lord President has not managed to stay to the end of this Debate—to the Prime Minister himself, through the right hon. Gentleman, to set up some machinery, whatever it may be, to deal with this matter. It may be a Royal Commission or a conference arranged by you, Mr. Speaker, to sift the evidence, to examine proposals and to make suggestions on this vexed and vital question. We are moving in a certain direction, and I have no doubt that the great body of the people of the countries concerned support that movement and are moving in the direction of having some direct control of their own affairs.
Will the hon. Gentleman answer this question: Is he aware that a conference representative of both Houses—none other than the Speaker's Conference in 1919 and 1920—decided unanimously that a large measure of devolution respecting Scotland, Wales and England was absolutely necessary and urgent?
I am sure that the House is grateful to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) for raising this subject in such a reasonable manner. As he stated it, it seems a very simple proposition, but, of course, it is not so simple as it appears. There is and there has been for nearly 1,000 years, a general atmosphere in Scotland—a resentment against any suggestion that any other person or country should impose its will upon the Scots. Our short motto is, "Wha' daur meddle wi' me." This attitude of mind leads to a watchfulness and, in some cases, to suspicion of purposes and motives of any non-Scottish administrative decisions; and while in most cases this may be quite unjustified, its existence has to be recognised.
Arising out of this feeling, I think that it is true to say that if asked: "Do Scots prefer to make their own decisions?" the answer, undoubtedly, would be "Yes." Such questions are quite unrealistic and have no reference to the practical application of such a sentiment. The answers which they automatically provoke are quite valueless. The hon. Gentleman's proposition that we should have some inquiry into these problems appears at first sight to be reasonable, but we have all to ask ourselves whether such an inquiry would be necessary and desirable, and, if so, whether this would be the time to have such an inquiry. On the first point, there is no evidence today that, to elicit information, such an inquiry is necessary, and the hon. Gentleman has produced no evidence of that kind.
The right hon. Gentleman has been asked previously to produce evidence showing, for example, the contribution of Scotland to the economy of the country, but he has not seen his way clear to have these figures brought out.
If the hon. Gentleman will cast his mind back to the White Paper, he will remember that the Government gave the reason for that: these figures were not available. No willingness or effort on my part can produce figures which are not available, and it seems rather futile to go on insisting on having figures which are not available.
Members of Parliament have direct access to all the information in regard to the economic and administrative affairs of the nation which is available under present circumstances. So far as many doctrinaires are concerned, there is of course plenty of misunderstanding and misconception on this point, but there is also every indication that this particular section of the public simply refuses to look at any facts which do not conform to or support their own preconceptions. So far as administrative devolution is concerned, the Government have made it their special task to see that the work of overhauling the administrative machine is carried on continuously and effectively. Much in the way of decentralisation has already been accomplished, and I agree at once that on this point there might be some differences of opinion as to what that degree should be, and that is a matter which can be worked out in a practical way when practical questions are raised.
Special attention is given from day to day to the possibility of devolving executive responsibility in a way which would conduce to greater efficiency. Any question of Parliamentary devolution, however, raises fundamental constitutional issues of the most far-reaching character, and whatever may be the arguments for and against a general inquiry into some such question at some future date, the present economic and international situation makes it imperative that all our effort should be concentrated on the vitally urgent task of restoring our national economy.
So far as the economic situation is concerned, our very survival depends upon the position which Britain holds in the opinion of the world. This depends first and foremost on its ability to maintain its moral leadership in the eyes of world democracy. It would be the height of unwisdom at such a time to suggest that the unity of Britain was even questioned by separatism or divisions within our own country. It is true, of course, that these demands are at the moment presented in the most harmless language—almost as innocuous as the approach of the hon. Member for Dumfries—but when one realises that the Communist Party is one of the parties which places itself behind this demand it will be seen that this tactic is entirely in accordance with their customary strategy. But just like Communist Trojan-horse tactics in other spheres, there are other elements behind the present agitation which have a somewhat different idea from the harmless ones which are put into the shop window.
It is interesting to note the Press reaction to some of these elements after the recent convention. The "Edinburgh Evening Dispatch," which normally supports this campaign, wrote:
Necessarily the war is waged by a heterogeneous army, all inspired by patriotism undefiled, but not all commanding in equal degree the confidence of their countrymen. Some of the most ardent campaigners make them feel as Wellington felt when he surveyed certain raw recruits. If they do not scare the enemy they certainly scare the more moderate Scots.
That was the reaction of a newspaper which favours this particular agitation. On the same evening the "Edinburgh Evening News" said:
Their lachrymations were more than amply sustained by as heterogenous an assortment of patriots, partisans, and band-waggoners as ever crowded under the one umbrella. It was surprising enough to find Montrose and Marxists fellow-travelling together.
The main political parties of the country, so far as one can judge, seem not to be involved in this agitation. The chairman of the recent meeting, however, is ubiquitous. He has been linked in turn with the Labour, Liberal and Conservative Parties. Among the main propagandists it is interesting to find the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, who before the war in a debate with the present chairman denounced the whole movement. He declared:
Scottish Nationalism, with its pinchbeck heroics, its political posturings, and its sham sentiment is just a will-o'-the-wisp.
We have heard that about exports, too—that they were a will-o'-the-wisp.
I do not see the connection. He went on:
There is, I think, no doubt that Scottish Nationalism in its present form is a charlatan movement. It prefers political quackery to conservative effort. It is disruptive and destructive.
Among the other sectional leaders, one declared recently that Finland, a small State on the border of Russia, enjoyed
freedom and security which Scotland did not have on the border of England. Another of the personalities asserted that it was only through Communism that Scotland would get back her independence, not through Westminster. He was not in favour of any devolution: he wanted complete disjunction from England. He appealed to the working class to ally themselves on the side of the Soviet Union which had shown that it meant peace. Even the leader of this movement during a very critical point in our affairs made a speech which suggested that the only way Scotland would get justice would be if somebody threw a bomb on Downing Street. I saw another speech of his recently in which on three occasions he mentioned the word "bomb."
Now, in these emotional movements that is very dangerous talk, and we have already had experience of bombs being in existence in this movement on two separate occasions in Scotland. For a leader of a responsible movement to indulge in this type of talk is extremely dangerous indeed, even though he phrases it in language which does not make him the prime instigator. We shall be wise, therefore, to take note of the irresponsible elements who control this movement, and not to allow perfectly reasonable and creditable sentiments, such as the hon. Gentleman has put forward tonight, to be misused for the ultimate purpose of sonic of those people concerned. While, therefore, it might be easy for the average Scot to say he wanted to control his own affairs, his answer would be very different if he realised that this might do much to disrupt the economic life of Scotland and England. If the extremists in this movement had their way, we might find ourselves being blocked so far as the free intercourse of trade exists between the two countries.
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not want to do any particular groups or individuals any injustice, but he is in fact grouping together two bodies which are entirely different: one is Scottish Convention and the other is the Scottish Nationalist Party.
So far I have been referring to the chairman of Scottish Convention, so there can be no mistake about that. The people that I am mentioning were all present at this meeting which has been publicised over Scotland, at which a great many innocent people attended probably not knowing with what they were associating.
Did the chairman of Scottish Convention refer to the use of bombs?
Not there, naturally. When you have a lot of innocents present you do not mention those sorts of things.
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to those present at the Convention meeting in critical times, but many of those at the Convention have opinions in this matter somewhat similar to his own.
That may be so. The point I am making is that the people I am describing were at that Convention; everyone I have been describing is a leader of a particular section of that Convention, and when the Press refer to these heterogeneous elements I am merely pointing out to innocent people the danger of being wrapped up in a movement which may take them along roads over which they have no desire to travel. In the present world situation, it is essential that this country should speak in the councils of the nations with one voice, and that Parliament should give no encouragement to the suggestion that there is any intention on the part of Scotland to do other than stand together with England and Wales in one of the greatest democratic partnerships the world has ever seen.
On a point of Order. It seems to me that almost the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech is completely wide of the mark and is bordering on the subjects which you, Mr. Speaker, forbade me to mention.
Since the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned Wales in connection with the statement he is making, I must tell him that Wales will take strong exception to the way in which he is handling this matter.
Is it in Order for the right hon. Gentleman to refer to the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates in this way? As I understand it, he is a legal luminary, and the Ruling of this House is that legal gentlemen must be treated with respect. Is it in Order to cast reflections on the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, who has been linked up with bombs?
That is a matter which does not seem to involve legislation, and therefore it is not out of Order.
I was quoting the words used by the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates before the war, and I am sure he will not object to that in any way. Even to suggest to the world that our British Parliament is considering such a matter would be used by the less scrupulous propagandists connected with these movements to undermine faith in the unity of Britain among the other democracies of the world.
There are 20 million Scots abroad, many of whom left a Scotland of hardship and trouble, and it is difficult for them to appreciate at their true value misrepresentations which might come from propaganda in favour of disunity. For these reasons, I would conclude that it is not only unnecessary that there should be such an inquiry at this time, but also that it is highly undesirable. So far as Scotland is concerned, the question of a general inquiry has already been carefully considered, and the Government's conclusions, together with the reasons, were set out in the White Paper which I presented to Parliament in 1948. Nothing has happened since that White Paper was published to lead to different conclusions..
In the circumstances, between the wars a good many Scots people would have considered this a matter of some urgency, for in addition to the general feeling which existed then that it was preferable to have Scottish decisions made in Scotland, there were also problems of desperate poverty and unemployment, where Scotsmen had to stand idle seeing a greater and greater decline of their industries, while in the Midlands and London they saw new light industries springing up and attracting from Scotland some of the best of her craftsmen. It was natural that most of us should feel that something ought to be done, and the minds of Scotsmen turned to the very question which has been postulated tonight.
Actually, of course, these economic matters were outside the field of government in those days, even if they had been minded to interfere. There was not then, and there is not now, any power to direct industry to any district, or, indeed, to decide its allocation. Between the wars, industrialists were free to follow the attraction of the big centres of population and the proximity to markets. No devolution of legislative authority, in itself, could have remedied these industrial difficulties. It would have been more difficult to attract or press English firms to Scotland under these conditions. However, the urgency which was given to such thoughts by the situation in those days has disappeared. The face of Scotland is now vastly changed. There is no part of the British Isles where more hope, enterprise and industrial development is taking place than in Scotland.
The recent Scottish Industries Exhibition in Glasgow scintillated with the brightness of the faith which today lights up our industries. While it is true that the Government even now do not direct industry, steps have been taken to build factories in the former distressed areas and elsewhere, and further developments are prevented in the suburbs of London and in other over-developed places. Factories to provide up to 150,000 jobs are already under way, and I think that there are over 100,000 already working in these factories. Places like Dundee and Lanarkshire, which felt threatened by the blight of decay are now centres of activity developing new skills and providing prosperity for their regions.
Scotland, as a whole, is guided by a comprehensive plan of developing its industries and its agriculture. New coalfields are being opened up to replace the old, and an orderly transfer of labour is taking place from West to East. We have a 50 years' plan for forestry which, with the new developments in agriculture, is already re-populating our rural districts, while a great variety of new industries all over Scotland are providing an opportunity for the craftsmanship and industry which our country can provide. The fear, therefore, which inspired inquiries before the war into self-government arose because of the drifting away from Scotland of industry and prosperity. The fear today in many industries would be the very opposite.
It would not have been possible for Scotland by itself to have effected this new balance to its industrial life. The United Kingdom Board of Trade and the Government planning authorities have been able to use their influence to induce industry, against its desires in some cases, to go to these development areas. Scotland, and I am sure Wales also, has welcomed these new industries from England and America, and in all cases these new enterprises have declared their satisfaction with the conscientious and skilful work they have obtained from the workers of Scotland. It follows, therefore, that changed conditions have for the time being removed considerations of political administration from the sphere of urgent necessity to one of academic and doctrinaire agitation.
It is significant that in the recent development of Scotland there have been no general demand from responsible sources in industry, commerce, the trade union or other economic fields to interfere with the integration and co-operation of the economic life of the United Kingdom. The urgent problems before the country today are not those of unemployment and industrial decay, but the international problem of our balance of payments and restoring peace and co-operation throughout the world.
It was suggested that Scotland has the equivalent of only three and a half Ministers. This is typical of the lack of information on how their country is governed on the part of responsible Scotsmen. If the hon. Member makes inquiries, he will acquaint himself of the actual facts. Scotland controls its own affairs in health, agriculture, education and home affairs.
If that is the only exception, then all I can say is that it does not amount to very much. Scotland controls its town and country planning, and in the Scottish Economic Conferences we have an overall supervision of the planning of Scottish economy and of our social life. At this moment there is no country in the world which has such opportunities and such information available for its comprehensive planning as our little country of Scotland.
That is quite true. The hon. Member will admit that the geographical area of Russia makes it less easy for them to do such things. Scotland is now planned economically and agriculturally. There is not one section of our economic life which is not under guidance. We have completed a survey of the whole of Scotland which will be going to the local authorities there, and two years from now they will be in a position to put forward planning proposals for their own areas. In addition, we have had an agricultural survey which is already far ahead of that of most countries and in a short time we shall have a soil survey which will give us better knowledge of our soil than has been available to any other Government.
That is possible because our country is small and compact and because in Scotland we have the advantage that most Departments are under one Minister. While it may appear to be disadvantageous that there are not many Ministers in Scotland, it is advantageous inasmuch as there is no difficulty, under one Minister, in resolving any conflict of opinion there may be in the Departments.
Take agriculture and forestry. In Scotland, we have had the opportunity of combining our agriculture and forestry and it has been developing for some months, indeed years. Certainly, during my period of office there has been no greater harmony than there has been between these two Departments, which were formerly considered to be in conflict.
We are planting great areas of Sutherlandshire, where afforestation and agriculture will be developed, and we are planning to ensure that the Highlands are reopened to occupation by cattle. There seems to be some confusion about the question of summering cattle on deer forests and keeping them there in winter. Everybody is agreed that we could feed far more cattle in summer in Scotland, but the essential problem is how we are to breed many cattle and keep them economically in the winter in the Highlands. There has been a good deal in the Press about Lord Lovat's experiment; I am sure we shall all welcome any success he may have, but it must be remembered that he has great parklands and that he has no difficulty in wintering his cattle. At Fort William we are experimenting in turning cattle out on to the hills, as they are turned out on ranches, and trying to keep them there winter and summer.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this sort of thing has been going on for years, long before this Government came into office?
Yes, but not at Fort William. It is only possible there because the climate is not one which brings snow and ice with the same regularity as it does in other parts of the Highlands.
This is all very interesting, but what has it got to do with devolution?
We are dealing with the question of whether Scotland governs itself successfully or not; I am sure I could not make a speech in accordance with the hon. Gentleman's ideas of devolution; but I do say that Scotland has better control of her own affairs than was suggested by the hon. Member for Dumfries, who tried to denigrate the power Scotland has and her great influence. The hon. Gentleman made the amazing statement that Scotland is less independent now than she was in 1914. Does he not realise that since 1914 Scotland's powers have been enormously increased? As a result of the Gilmour Report, the whole of Scottish administration was shifted from London to Edinburgh.
That seems to be nothing at all to the hon. Gentleman. What he said was nonsense, and was the sort of misrepresentation that brings discredit on any movement which is standing for any further measure of devolution. It is an argument that can be demolished so easily.
Why not use the good old Scottish term "rin doon," instead of the appalling word "denigrate"?
I quite agree. Unfortunately, I have been hearing that word so often lately that it was the first one that came to my mind. I agree that an English word is at all times better than a Latin word and that Scottish is purer English than English itself.
As I have already said, the problem of today is the international problem of our balance of payments. Scotland's wellbeing is bound up, in any solution of this problem, with that of the rest of the United Kingdom. During the last four years we have been fully occupied in dealing with questions of great urgency and importance to us all. It is more than ever necessary that we should concentrate the mind and energy of the people on the solution of these questions, on the success of which our very existence depends. In that connection we find that it is necessary to build up unity in Europe with both political and economic co-operation and, at the same time, there is ever closer combination of the policies of the Commonwealth and ourselves. Moreover, our well-being is closely linked with the American continent, which supplies us with much of our food and raw materials.
Scotland is a relatively small country, but its interest and thoughts extend far and wide. Its sons and daughters are good citizens of many countries in the world. In England, America, Australia and New Zealand they do good work in their new sphere and never lose their love for their "ain countrie." They are no little Scotlanders, but have the breadth and generosity of world citizens. The overwhelming majority of Scots are proud of the part they have played in the British nation, and the combination of Scotland and England has probably accomplished more towards the civilisation of the world than any other comparable development in history. This agitation that Scotland should shrink into her shell is as insignificant as it is noisy. The Scots can look after themselves, but at the same time they are willing and able to march in company with the great spirit of the democratic world.
This Debate on devolution seems to be expanding rapidly into something of a world wide Debate, and it is a pity that it is getting so far afield. I must compliment the Minister on being able to reply to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) in a speech which was evidently prepared before the Debate opened. While there are many parts of it with which it is possible to agree, I thought it was rather unworthy of the right hon. Gentleman to say that those in Scotland who have a genuine desire to see a further extension of devolution for their country, were throwing bombs in order to scare the people of Scotland.
After all, those who consider that there should be an extension of devolution by the Government are only in line with the ideas which some right hon. Gentlemen and most Scottish members of the Labour Party put forward before to this Parliament. Even though we have had a Labour Government, and many reforms have been made in Scotland which one can claim on behalf of the Government as genuine and conferring lasting benefits, it does not mean that the last word has been said about an extension of devolution, either for Scotland or even for Wales. Even though he may be like the ostrich and attempt to bury his head in the sand, there is a considerable opinion in Scotland which believes that there should be a further extension of devolution in that country, which would enable it to grapple with many of its own affairs.
It would be very interesting if the hon. Gentleman would digress a little and give us some instances, because it has been extremely difficult for us to get people to come off the astral plane and get down to earth to tell us what they mean.
I could, but I do not want to be pulled up before I go very far. I could say this—there is a general belief in Scotland that there is no economic crisis there, and that it can be attributed more to England than to Scotland. These people believe that some of the proposals for solving the economic crisis in Scotland could be more adequately met if we had some form of national rule. At the same time, I could remind the right hon. Gentleman that many hon. Members who today are condemning this movement previously put their names to Motions on the subject in this House. One former Secretary of State had as a strong point before he got into office this idea of some form of Home Rule. I do not, however, intend to go further into that, which is exactly what the Secretary of State asked me to do.
Undoubtedly there is this growing opinion. In all seriousness I would say to the Secretary of State that he is not going to damp down the national feeling that is evolving in Scotland by speeches of the kind that he has made tonight. Indeed, he is going to kindle the flame which is burning there. Measures have been taken to deal with many of the problems and injustices of the past. I do not say this as a narrow nationalist, because one of my great difficulties is knowing exactly what is my real nationality. With an Irish father and a Scottish mother, I become a sort of Welshman. I have no narrow feelings on the subject. I am prepared to accept both the co-operation and the citizenship of all these nations, and to combine with the best of them and work for the best that we can get out of life.
Whether it comes from the Duke of Montrose or from the members of some form of party in Scotland advocating constitutional methods to solve our problems, I certainly am prepared to work with them. A large number of the people who are in this movement are sincere people as anxious for the welfare of Scotland as is the right hon. Gentleman. When the issue is raised in this House of having some form of extension of Home Rule, the argument cannot be met by making our blood boil with some of the things that have been said by certain individuals. We cannot meet the arguments put forward with the kind of remarks made in the latter part of the speech by my right hon. Friend.
Does not the hon. Gentleman believe that when a movement is sponsored by certain people the credentials of the people who are leading the various sections should be examined in a public Debate when their point of view is being put forward? The mere fact that some sincere people are attached to the movement does not necessarily mean that all sincere people are attached to it, and that the credentials of people who express these things should not be brought to the notice of the House of Commons.
Yes, but if a movement has people who believe in unconstitutional methods of dealing with events, the whole movement is not to be condemned because of that. There were some in the Labour Party—until they were recently expelled—who believed that, but we did not condemn the whole Labour movement because of them. We have no right to condemn this genuine movement which springs from a desire on the part of a large section of the Scottish people by attributing to it some unworthy motives or because of pronouncements that have been made by individuals in the past. If we are to condemn every movement urging Scottish devolution because of these things, then every church in the country will be included in the number.
All I am saying tonight is that in my estimation this is a genuine movement, and it has to be welcomed in Scotland in so far as it is turning Scottish people along constitutional lines for some agreed solution of the country's difficulties. Let us welcome the suggestions that are being made by these people, and at the same time let the Government consider whether they are going to advance along the road to meet the needs of what I believe represents a large amount of Scottish public opinion.
After the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland I should not be surprised if, when he arrives at Waverley Station next Friday, the Duke of Montrose is waiting for him with a claymore. We have listened to a speech of absolute blood curdling irrelevancies. It was like something written by some script writer who had taken part in the writing of "Whisky Galore." To introduce irrelevancies into this discussion, such as the youths who were suspected of having bombs, and to associate it with the Duke of Montrose—
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that I merely introduced people suspected of these things? The statement I have made was made by assumed responsible leaders of the movement and there was no question of people having suspected bombs. They were convicted of having bombs.
My objection is that the Secretary of State, in order to confuse the House, is introducing what in American terms is known as an amalgam. Because some unfortunate, extreme section of youths had on some occasion or another been convicted of having bombs does not mean that all the responsible people who are taking part in this convention—leaders of public opinion in Scotland—should be lumped together, and for some obscure reason or another associated with the gentleman who was discovered carrying some kind of bomb. I suggest that the Secretary of State is dragging in these irrelevancies because he has a weak case.
I admit that he produced a very impressive catalogue of what has been done in Scotland under this administration. It is a good record which we can defend without any of these irrelevancies. He talked about the Highlands of Scotland, and he introduced everything which could be said about Scotland in recent years with the exception of artificial insemination of cattle. I was waiting for that to come along. There was an extraordinary omission in his speech. He catalogued our achievements, which are infinitely better than those of any Tory Government or Government composed of people like the Dukes of Montrose.
I want to go back to the point which the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) made about the machinery of government in Scotland. Instead of the romantic case produced by the Secretary of State, let the Lord Advocate say whether it is not a fact that our administrative machinery for delivering the goods to the people could be improved if we had a measure of devolution such as was suggested by the hon. Member for Dumfries.
If the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) urged a measure of devolution, I am afraid that I did not catch it.
The speech of the hon. Member for Dumfries spoke for itself. I have enough liabilities with the Secretary of State for Scotland without taking over the hon. Member for Dumfries.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) suggests that it would be a good thing if we adopted a measure of devolution such as was advocated by the hon. Member for Dumfries. The hon. Member has accepted and has homologated that suggestion. Would he tell us what the suggestion is that he has adopted, accepted, and homologated?
At that spot in his speech, the hon. Member for Dumfries came into conflict with higher authority and it was at that point that I tried to get some guidance as to when we could advocate devolution and when we could advocate Scottish nationalism. The Secretary of State claimed that as the result of the concessions which had been made in constitutional arrangements the Scottish Standing Committee was working satisfactorily and that we had no need to complain, but we have already found a very serious defect in those arrangements, particularly respecting the cuts in capital expenditure, a matter of essential interest to Scotland. In the Debate upon the economies, nobody from Scotland was fortunate enough to catch the eye of Mr. Speaker, except the right hon. Member who represents the Scottish Universities (Sir John Anderson). He spoke for the Tory Party, but so far as I am aware he has never been seen in the Scottish Grand Committee in his life.
The economy cuts vitally affect housing, education, agriculture and mining, but we have not had an opportunity of getting them discussed by our committee, which was supposed to be a substitute for a Scottish Parliament. Hon. Members on all sides will agree that if the machinery which has been produced will not allow us to discuss such questions and to ask how they affect Scotland, there must be something very wrong. In that case the constitutional machinery that we have is no alternative to devolution. I have tried all sorts of ways to find out how Scottish Members can discuss the economy cut. I asked the Chairman of the Scottish Standing Committee. He referred me to the Table. I have had a Ruling from the Table that we have to wait until the next Scottish Estimates—when probably the cuts will have become an accomplished fact. The constitutional machinery which the Secretary of State has so eulogised does not allow us to discuss those cuts. That position is not good enough and will inevitably mean questions being raised in Scotland with regard to the matter.
I would like the Lord Advocate to come down to earth and to practical things. I would like to ask him how we can, as Members from Scotland of all parties, discuss the economy cuts in agriculture, education and the other ramifications of social life in Scotland. I noticed that the Secretary of State made a panoramic survey of our accomplishments, but he omitted to mention the one question in which Scottish people are interested—housing. When I come on to that question you look at me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, with something like irritation, but I would like to remind you that one never gets anything in this House unless one is prepared to make himself a thundering nuisance. That is the only way by which the Irish got Home Rule. I wish that all Scottish Members would adopt the same attitude as Parnell and his Irish Party did, because we could make the question of Scottish housing the most important in this House, and English M.P.s would be very glad to get rid of us.
It is no good telling us that, in the present state of affairs, the Government are delivering houses to the people. They are not. We are suffering from the fact that we have no Ministry of Labour reporting on Scotland. The other day I asked a Question of the Minister of Labour about building labour supply in Scotland. He said he was quite satisfied with it—a most ignorant answer. No Scottish Member would say he was satisfied with the building labour position in his constituency. I have here a speech made by the Minister responsible for housing in Scotland. The Minister of Labour, who is a Londoner, does not know anything about Scotland, except from his Department. The speech in question was delivered at Clydebank by that Minister and I will read a quotation from the "Scotsman." He said:
I am more than a little concerned, I am alarmed, at the rather low rate of completion during the last month or two and the rather alarming drop in the number of building operatives employed in house construction.
He is alarmed at the alarming drop, but the Minister of Labour was perfectly satisfied.
Would the hon. Member give me the occasion when I made that speech?
I am referring to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, in his speech at Clydebank, as reported in the "Scotsman," and not to the Secretary of State. The Joint Under-Secretary in question is here, and if he wishes to contradict the report he can do so.
Perhaps the hon. Member will read on a little further.
It was a long speech, and it is a two column report. I will not weary the House by reading it all. The Joint Under-Secretary said that he was more than a little concerned; he was alarmed. If he denies that, I will withdraw it entirely. He cannot, and he ought not to deny it—and he does not deny it.
If this is the truth about housing in Scotland, our greatest social problem, if we cannot even discuss it and if we find constitutional barriers whenever we want to ask exactly what is being done about housing in Scotland, it is time we had an overhaul of the constitutional machinery. As far as housing is concerned, I am prepared to accept a measure of devolution in which Scotsmen will have an opportunity to decide in Scotland about the housing conditions there. It is an alarming problem. It is a problem which at the present rate will be with us for 20 years. We are entirely justified in raising this on every possible occasion as long as our people are living in such shocking conditions.
I will put forward my idea of devolution. I believe that we could have devolution in housing, education, agriculture and innumerable other aspects of our social life. For nearly 20 years I was a member of a Scottish county council, and I can conceive of a large variety of subjects which could be dealt with effectively if we had a measure of devolution. If we had even the Scottish Grand Committee sitting in Scotland I do not believe that the Government would be allowed to blunder along in the way they are doing with the housing programme. I put down a very modest Motion on the Order, Paper asking that the Scottish Grand Committee should have power to meet in Scotland. If it met in Scotland the Scottish people could keep an eye on it. If we had that Scottish Grand Committee as a sort of miniature Parliament, its powers would rapidly grow and inevitably the spirit of Scottish nationalism—I am not a Scottish nationalist; I am a mongrel, a humanitarian—would then crystallise itself into something practical in the way of administrative machinery.
It is entirely wrong to be complacent and to pretend that with the enormous problems which confront us we can blunder along with the present constitutional machinery. I believe that the English would be very glad indeed to get rid of us. The Secretary of State and the Government should treat this matter more seriously. Giving the Scottish Grand Committee power to sit in Scotland would be a first step towards finding our way to a better solution of all these problems.
The Debate has been of interest, but it has been, and is being, conducted under considerable difficulties. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) found the difficulty of discussing devolution without mentioning any steps towards devolution very great indeed. As practically all the steps which could be taken towards devolution would require legislation of some kind or other, the argument is necessarily very seriously truncated.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has delivered a very vigorous speech from which it would be difficult for anyone to conclude that he was a supporter of the Government. It is he who maintains the Government with his vote in Parliament. It is he who maintains the Secretary of State in his refusal to give facts and figures for which Scottish hon. Members have pressed. When we are debating economic affairs, it is he who maintains the exact position of which he has just been complaining. He has no right to talk on these matters in those terms if he seriously believes that he should make himself a nuisance and that all Scottish Members should make themselves a nuisance to the Secretary of State for Scotland.
I can tell him that the worst possible way of making himself a nuisance to the Secretary of State for Scotland is to follow the Secretary of State into the Division Lobby whenever the Division bells ring. That is not the way in which the Irish succeeded in their movement. The hon. Member says that he is not a Nationalist and that he is not in favour of the movement. All one can say is that he delivered a speech which certainly seemed as if it were a preliminary to a movement very close to that which the Irish Members initiated and carried through in this House, except in the one essential thing of voting against the Government. The Irish Members voted against the Government all the time. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire votes for the Government all the time.
The difficulty in which we are is a difficulty with which, as the Secretary of State rightly said, all countries are concerned at the present time. It is the difficulty of nationhood and the difficulty of co-operating with other units in a closer or less close co-operation. Nobody can deny—I do not think anybody does deny—that Scotland is a nation, but it is a nation which by its own choice has agreed to work with the great nation south of the Border. It is also true to say that of late years it has felt a certain irksomeness in this association, and although the Secretary of State gave many examples of the extent to which Scotland was planned by the Government nowadays, the gravamen of the charge is that the increasing control, which of recent years has been more and more centralised in Whitehall, inevitably produces a sense that power is moving from Scotland to England.
The right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) will surely agree that the planning for Scotland is centred in St. Andrew's House and not in Whitehall.
Let us take the word "planning." There is the Town and Country Planning Act. Let us consider whether that Act is entirely centred in St. Andrew's House. Surely the Secretary of State will not claim that it is.
As far as planning is concerned, but where does the Commission sit? The synthetic landlord which we have made to cover the whole of Scotland sits in Westminster.
He sits in Scotland as well. We have an office in Scotland dealing with this. The Commission in Whitehall deals only with that part of the Central Land Board's activities which are connected with the Treasury, the financial side and not the planning side.
Yes, but when we make an absentee landlord and set him down in Whitehall, it is rather evading the difficulty to say that he is concerned only with the financial side of the case. Of course, the landlord is concerned with the receipt of his rent, but I never heard of an absentee landlord being held up to admiration because it was said that he did not really interfere in the running of the estate but merely sat some hundreds of miles away, to use an eloquent phrase employed by an hon. Member opposite in a recent Debate, "raking in the shekels." That has been the accusation against absentee landlords in the past.
Surely the analogy is false. In one case the landlord himself determines the rent in accordance with the circumstances obtaining at that time. In the case of the Central Land Board it is determined in very specific terms by an Act of Parliament and by regulations issued under the Act.
The naiveté and optimism of the hon. Gentleman are almost impossible to swallow. If he says that these sums are determined by Act of Parliament, let him go to the Central Land Board or any of its offices with any project for development and see whether he can get a statement out of them according to any Act of Parliament as to what sum they will exact from him.
I am afraid that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has not followed the discussions in the House on this matter. That is precisely what the trouble has been about. The Act is too rigorous about this.
The lion. Member reminds me of a famous occasion on which somebody in another country was complaining that goods were being very badly delivered at the harbour, and the man in charge said, "Oh, you have not been reading the newspapers." I am not talking about Debates in this House, but about the experience of anyone who has tried to handle the development of a property. Everyone knows that. It is not true that it is so rigid and flexible that everybody can bring out a ready reckoner and run down the columns and say: "Such and such is the proposition and such and such will be the charges." Everybody knows that. The exactions which the Central Land Board will make from anyone who tries to develop a property are more like soldiers playing "housey" than reasonable administration. I know of dozens of cases of people who have brought forward propositions and have found it impossible to obtain any serious consideration of what the financial charges would be.
Could the right hon. and gallant Gentleman bring us back to the devolution question and say whether these difficulties are applicable only to Scotland and not to England?
I do not know whether the hon. Member was listening to the Debate, but surely the argument on devolution was that there was too much control in England of Scotland and that there should be less control in England of Scotland. I was discussing one aspect where, in the Central Land Board, there is too much control in England of Scotland and every hon. Member on both sides of the House has had experience of it.
Yes, but is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman suggesting that if that Central Land Board, operating the same Act of Parliament, were sitting in Scotland, things would be any better?
In my view and that of my hon. and right hon. Friends it was a bad Act—
—and its vices are inherent in the Act. I do not wish to find myself at loggerheads with you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I do not know whether the hon. Member is acquainted with what the old lady said, namely, that when the administration of Scotland moved out of Scotland into England it was a bad thing for, when they were in Scotland, "We cd aye pebble them weel if they were no' good bairns." The fact is that if the Central Land Board were in Scotland it would not do all the things it does now. However, I must not be led away—
That is precisely the opposite of what the former leader of the Scottish Conservative Party said in this House in the Debate on the Town and Country Planning Bill. He said that even if we had it in Scotland, the final decision would still be in London.
If I remember rightly I spoke in that Debate myself—
We said that it was a bad Bill, but I cannot go into the question of the repeal of that Act now, for it would be out of Order. We pressed strongly in the case of all these boards and bodies that responsible boards and bodies should be set up in Scotland. Who voted them down? The hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) and the hon. Member for South Ayrshire voted them down. Those are the people who voted against our attempts at devolution.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has referred to me. He started off by saying that on every occasion I always vote with the Government and follow the Secretary of State into the Lobby. The Secretary of State will be obliged to know that, but does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman forget that only a week ago, when the question of the death penalty in Scotland came before the Scottish Grand Committee, I voted against the Government and it was he who followed the Secretary of State into the Lobby?
—that the economic evils of Scotland would be cured by hanging a few more people, then he is very wide of our Debate this evening. This Debate is not a consideration of whether there should be capital punishment or not. The hon. Member has many bees in his bonnet which buzz round with terrific vehemence and from time to time escape, as one did in the Scottish Grand Committee. However, it was cribbed, cabined and confined and it did not go far.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree at least that they are useful bees.
There are bees and bees. Female bees are useful creatures—they collect honey. Male bees are drones—they do nothing of the sort. They swagger about, they consume honey, and they do nothing whatever except maintain the comfort of the queen to the extent of 20,000 or 30,000 of them. No, the hon. Member has chosen a bad example in the case of bees.
The difficulty with which we are faced is that we are trying to reconcile the co-operation of a nation with the life of a nation. That is a problem with which we shall always have difficulty in dealing. We say, first, that the increasing pressure of government in our affairs, which is the definite policy of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, will lead inevitably to an increase of the pressure of centralised government upon our affairs. We ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider whether the fact that 40 per cent. of the national income is now gathered and spent by the Government—which is to say that 40 per cent. of the economic power of this country flows across the desks of some 20 men in Whitehall—is not the real cause of this increasing feeling. I agree with the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) that it is an increasing feeling and that somehow or other, the pressure of distant government ought to be moderated in the case of Scotland. I say that it is due to increasing legislative control of all the activities of the citizens and that, if it continues, methods of lifting this close control from the citizen must be found. As a preliminary to that, certainly we ought to have more facts and figures than we now have. The Secretary of State said that they are simply not available. But they ought to be made available.
May I remind the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that the reason given was that the Treasury are trying to conduct financial negotiations all over the world and that the pressure on Civil Service staffs today is enormous. Also, it was not thought desirable at that time, nor is it now, that those staffs should be diverted from that highly important work to make figures available which, when they were made available before, nobody accepted because each person refused to accept anything which did not coincide with his own preconceived desire.
As the poet Housman has said:
To think that two and two are four
And neither five nor three
The heart of man has long been sore
And long 'tis like to be.
Since two and two make four—
We are not discussing Lysenko's genetics or Soviet arithmetic we are discussing bourgeois Western arithmetic where, when one adds two and two together, they make four and one does not put them side by side and make 22. No doubt there are other parts of the world where that is considered a bourgeois way of going about it, but let us for the moment, since we are in a bourgeois assembly, keep to ordinary bourgeois arithmetic.
Is it not true that two and two under given conditions make one in bourgeois mathematics?
The hon. Member is obviously thinking of some other bourgeois mathematics than the mathematics taught us in school. I keep to the simple old-fashioned arithmetic taught me in school where two and two make four, and I believe that will be supported by a majority vote of the Members of this House.
The difficulty we are in is simply this, that it is very difficult for us Scots people to discuss even the elementary questions of our own administration without, as you can see, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as a representative Englishman, being led away into many fascinating by-ways of abstract philosophy, which make it very difficult for administration to be carried on. Therefore, Scotland has always been a country where at the end of the day a good deal of authority rested in the centre. We have, naturally, a centralised set of institutions, as the Lord Advocate will very well know. The system of justice in Scotland is centralised to an extent quite different from that in England. For all that, it is centralised in Scotland. To use a very famous old Parliamentary phrase, we feel that centralisation in England has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished.
The request of my hon. Friend for more facts and figures cannot be dismissed so completely as it was dismissed by the Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman says, rightly, that the Treasury are engaged in great and important negotiations all over the world. So they are; but this Island of ours—Great Britain, the United Kingdom—is the foundation, the base from which all these activities proceed. If one partner in the United Kingdom desires an inquiry into facts and figures, those facts and figures ought to be made available, and I do not believe people will be satisfied until that is done. Whether or not they will be satisfied after that is a different matter.
I do not myself believe that plain figures can be denied, but we cannot discuss that until we at any rate obtain the plain facts and figures. According to the Secretary of State a few minutes ago, these facts and figures could not be given. Those dealing with the economic cuts have been quoted, but, there again, we on this side have pressed—before, during and after the Debate—for a White Paper covering both England and Scotland. The refusal of that request was supported in the Division Lobby by the massed battalions opposite. Hon. Members on the other side cannot have it both ways. They cannot so refuse figures and then support a demand that figures should be given. It is not from that side of the House that the demand for further figures has come.
The difficulty of suggesting any form of alteration in our affairs without suggesting measures which would inevitably require legislation is exemplified by the fact that tonight it has not been possible to put forward any such proposals; clearly, it would be out of Order to discuss them tonight. At the same time, as has been said by at least one hon. Member tonight, we certainly are not at the end of the reformation of Scottish administration; we ought to continue to consider and to examine ways in which the yoke can be better moulded to the shoulders, where the shoe can be eased from pinching where it pinches. These are all matters which certainly should receive our continual and urgent attention.
I do not think this is the moment when we can go deeply into these matters, but we can go more deeply into them than we have been able to go tonight and we ought to do so. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries has done a service to the House and to the country in raising this matter, even under the limited conditions in which we have had to discuss it, but at the end—
Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, as a former Secretary of State for Scotland, tell the House of the particular Departments of administration in Scotland where the need for devolution is now showing itself but did not show itself when he was Secretary of State?
A very simple example is the case of all nationalised boards. These things did not exist before; they do exist now. The same machine that was adequate to deal with the administration of Scotland when many of the great industries had not been nationalised is, it seems to me, inadequate to deal with it when a great many of them have been nationalised. I do not think the hon. Member will deny that.
That is entirely different from what I had in mind. I was thinking of the usual administrative Departments which had actually functioned. I cannot for a moment visualise a Ministry for Mines in Scotland while the Treasury would look after the whole of the financial interests, nor a Ministry for Railways under similar conditions. Obviously, that would be absurd.
The hon. Member will not deny that the Secretary of State has great powers, duties and responsibilities in connection with both these things which he did not have before and, in the case of electricity, has a direct responsibility which he never had before. I cannot have made my argument clear. I was arguing that the increasing weight of administrative responsibility which falls on the Secretary of State by the very reason of the increased regulation of the affairs of Scotland, which the Secretary of State was bringing forward proudly to the House, did mean that the machine which was adequate to deal with the position before was either overstaffed then—which, as a former Secretary of State for Scotland, I do not think is true—or is understaffed now; in some way or other, it is not fully adequate to deal with this position. I am sure that the ordinary Scotsman- and Scotswoman feels there is great justice in that contention.
As to the general contention of the Secretary of State that it was most desirable that this great and fruitful partnership of England and Scotland should continue, that the co-operation which we have achieved within this Island should not be broken up, I and I think all my hon. and right hon. Friends are heartily in agreement with the danger to the world just now by the successive splintering of forces and the break-up into smaller and smaller and less and less viable units of former great economic syntheses. That we should deliberately bring such destruction upon ourselves is an aim which only a very few, and those only of the most extreme, would desire.
Neither does that mean that the last word has been said on the administration of Scotland or that our present machinery or information are adequate. All these things are inadequate, and about them all we should know more. But we should shun as a mortal peril the fragmentation which some people desire of this great and fruitful international co-operation—for the co-operation of Scotland and England is an international co-operation. That fragmentation would be a great disaster. What is more, it would make a great mockery of all that we are preaching to the rest of the world when we are arguing that Western Europe should co-operate and come together. When we are facing Benelux, when we are trying to extend these things still further, that we should then tear up the bonds and the channels of communications which exist between our two countries, that we should establish a Customs frontier—as, I agree, some advocates of that movement have suggested—and all the barriers going with it between Scotland and England, would not be progress but reaction of the blackest nature.
Therefore, we on this side do not feel that a fully adequate answer has been made. With many of the things the Secretary of State has said we would be in full agreement, and I support him in the general attitude that the co-operation between the two countries should be fostered and not injured but as for saying, as he said, to use a popular phrase, that everything in the garden is lovely, I do not think that squares with the mood of Scotland today. Therefore, I say that we are not at the end of this Debate and discussion. It will have to be carried a great deal further yet before the people of Scotland are fully satisfied that they have a 20th century administrative garment fit for the conditions of modern life.
I agree with the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) that this is a matter which cannot be settled in a very short time. It will undoubtedly occupy the minds of people concerned with government for many years to come. We are very much indebted to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) for giving us the opportunity of discussing this question tonight. There is no doubt that it is a matter which we must discuss and of which we must take heed.
I think the growth of feeling concerning devolution is the result of two or three factors. We have had a century of Liberalism which led to the development of nationalities and placed on these nationalist aspirations considerable powers in Europe. At the same time, we have had the fact in Scotland of enormous poverty and distress between the two wars. It is very easy to work up feeling against the present governmental set-up when there is poverty and distress, rather than getting down to tackling the problem fundamentally, by which I mean that it is easy to attribute, the failure to the Government rather than to the system.
I think there is a third reason and that is a reason we have to face sooner or later. All over the world today there is a tendency to centralise. With increased centralisation, no matter whether it is as a result of nationalisation in our country, or the result of the growth of monopoly, or the result of international planning, there is the feeling that we are creating something in which the people will be very little interested and that unless we tackle this matter we shall destroy the springs of democracy. People are not so interested in things that happen a long way off as they are in things that happen on their own doorstep. I speak, as the right hon. and gallant Member reminded me yesterday morning, as an Englishman, although, I would remind him, as an Englishman who won a Scottish constituency and did not have to scuttle to the safety of the universities—
We will continue this discussion after the next Election.
As an Englishman who has spent the whole of his civilian life in Scotland and who represents a Scottish constituency, I have naturally taken a great interest in this problem. In my constituency the problem seems to branch into two streams. First is the stream of thought which suggests that we do not get a fair deal in Scotland. I think that stream of thought is justified by what took place when the Tories formed the Government. There is no doubt that Scotland did not get a fair deal between the two wars. There is no doubt, for instance, that between the two wars, instead of getting 25,000 houses a year, which we would have had if we had had the same number as England, we got 16,000—
Will my hon. Friend complete the story and say that when the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) was at the Department of Health, he decreased the housing subsidy and that resulted in a further decrease in the number of houses?
Will the hon. Member carry it still further and point out that there was no unemployment in the key trades of Scotland and the reason why there was a decrease in Scotland was that the trade unions forced the Scottish plasterers and bricklayers to leave the country?
That is quite a new argument. The fact is, as committees which have reported on the situation have shown, that between the two wars we lost 150,000 houses in Scotland, which would have gone a long way towards solving the problem today. We also had immense unemployment, even in Edinburgh and Leith. In Leith we had almost the worst unemployment incidence in the whole country. In the West of Scotland we had a similar picture. Anyone who visited the mining villages knows that many of them were completely unemployed—not a decent suit in the village and homes with only a chair and table and only one bed in which they had to take turns at sleeping.
Naturally, today we have this constant arguing about whether we are getting a fair deal. I find that most of my constituents are concerned about this and they ask, "Do you think we are getting what we should get?" I think we are. In every matter I have tried to investigate I have found that not only are we getting a fair share, but in most cases we are getting more than a fair share. That is a tribute to this Government. It is a tribute to this Government, for instance, that for the first time for 200 years people are not leaving the Highlands. That is a great tribute to this Government. There is a hope in Scotland now and a spirit which looks to the future with confidence. If we give the facts to people who ask for the information, most of them are satisfied.
We cannot ignore the fact that there is also the national sentiment which has a sense, or feeling, of frustration. How can we settle this matter? The hon. Member for Dumfries asked for an inquiry. I am not certain that an inquiry is the right method. It seems to me to presuppose that we want to know whether we are going to be better off or worse off. If we are to be worse off, are we to ask for still greater devolution and greater division? That does not seem a suitable ground on which to approach the problem. I should have thought that the approach to the problem of devolution should have been on a wider basis. Either it is right in the interests of government, in the interests of encouragement of democracy, a vital, vigorous democracy, or it is not right. Surely we shall not support the parsimonious attitude that if it happens to suit our book and we are a pound or two better off, we want to devolve still further, but if we are a pound or two worse off, we do not want to devolve.
The right approach is—is it necessary? I think it is necessary. This House of Commons is overworked at present. There are many problems of Government arising, and it is a fact that the House cannot really perform properly all the tasks which it is called upon to perform. During the lifetime of this Government we have given certain powers to the Scottish Grand Committee. That was a step in the right direction, but I have not yet been able to discover what exactly are the powers. We have the right to talk about Scottish Estimates for six meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee but what can we do if we wish to do something arising out of those discussions? That is the problem.
My hon. Friend has the power, if he is not satisfied with a Scottish Estimate, to put down a Motion on the Order Paper of the House to deal with it in the usual way, as with any other Estimate.
I ask that because when we have finished discussing the Scottish Estimates, the Question put is that we report to the House that we have discussed the Estimates. I do not know exactly what that means. We simply say to the House that we have talked about the Estimates; we do not say that we have approved them.
That Motion says, in effect, that the Committee is satisfied. Clearly if any Member is not satisfied, his course of action is to put down a Motion of censure or some other Motion on the Order Paper of the House.
Is the Scottish Grand Committee given the power to vote on these Estimates?
The point is that all members of the Scottish Grand Committee may not be dissatisfied but individual members may be. Those individual members have the right of Members of the House to dissent by putting down a Motion.
They can do that without the Scottish Grand Committee discussing the Estimate for six forenoons.
In that case they would not have had the same opportunity for discussing the Estimates before putting down a Motion.
This is all very interesting. Does this mean that the Scottish Grand Committee has not the power to disapprove and can only approve, and that if any members of the Committee disapprove the Grand Committee as such cannot disapprove and a Motion would have to be put down in the House of Commons?
Certainly that is what it means. In such circumstances any Member who wishes to dissent must put down a Motion.
That is the point I wish to raise. What we have actually done does not seem to me to have been more than say to Scottish Members, "You can talk about the Scottish Estimates."
Can we carry this matter a little further? If the hon. Member or a number of hon. Members during the discussions of the Scottish Grand Committee indicated their dissatisfaction about a Scottish Estimate, we of the Opposition would be very pleased indeed to put down a Motion on the Floor of the House of Commons, carry it to a Division and then look round for the support of those hon. Members in the Division Lobby, which is of course the only place that counts.
That argument of the right hon. and gallant Member is rather clever but it has nothing to do with the point I am making, which is what exactly these discussions of the Scottish Estimates for 2½ hours in the morning actually mean? In point of fact, they do not give us any more power; they give us a greater opportunity to discuss the facts.
That is what Parliament is. Parliament is a machine for discussing the facts. That is how Parliament obtains its power. I would give as an example the tuberculosis position in Scotland. The examination of that matter has been forwarded by the attention given to it in the Scottish Grand Committee.
Is it not the case that when a Bill is remitted to the Scottish Grand Committee for discussion there, that Committee can take certain decisions but those decisions can only operate if this House agrees with them. The Scottish Grand Committee can make all the decisions it cares to make in the Committee room but it cannot do anything in the matter of changing anything that has been done outside the Scottish Grand Committee to the detriment of Scotland.
I am not denying the fact that this is an improvement. Of course it is, and I accept it as such. All I am trying to find out is what we can do next. I feel sure that my right hon. Friend will agree with me in that. Therefore, I was trying to find out exactly what we had done. It seems to me that we must do something more. Like my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), I put my name to a Notice of Motion on the Order Paper proposing that this Committee should meet in Edinburgh. That would not be giving it more powers but it would give its Members the opportunity to conduct their parleying in Edinburgh. This was recommended by a former Secretary of State, and I still think that it is something which could be done.
I could go further in suggesting what I think should be done along the lines of devolving powers upon Scottish Members and probably in the creation of newer organisations, but that would be out of Order. It seems to me that not only have we to tackle this from the point of view of the legislative duties of the House of Commons, but also we have to tackle it from the point of view of the administration of Scotland. One of the complaints is that we have cluttered up Scotland with consultative committees. I think that consultative committees, if managed and run properly, and with a certain vigour by members who are informed, can become quite powerful organisations. We tend to underestimate the value of consultative committees, and we underestimate the position to which the consultative committee can win if it is run in the right way, and if the people on the committee know where they want to go.
But this is not sufficient; something more has to be done. What the exact answer to that is, I am not so sure about as I am about the legislative duties; but I think something more has to be done, and that we have to apply our minds to this matter. If we do not apply our minds to this matter, then all our talk about wanting to create industrial democracy and that sort of thing is beside the point. A live and vigorous democracy can only find its expression close to itself. How much interest do we find in the proceedings of the United Nations—a most important organisation—because it is so far away? Therefore, we must give greater powers to the people to organise in Scotland and find a method of devolving powers upon the people there.
I support the plea of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson). I have no doubt that the verdict of Scotland tomorrow upon the response of the Secretary of State to this reasonable request will be that it has been very disappointing. I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman can hold the view that he does, which I understand is that all this agitation has no foundation. That was the impression he gave—that those who were seeking some change and making a complaint were of no consequence. He said there was no criterion presented to him. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman must know that this is a matter of the keenest discussion in all parts of Scotland at the present time. The hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) admitted it. He said that it is a matter that must be discussed and taken heed of. He said his constituents were constantly asking questions about it.
We all know that this problem of Scottish Government is the subject of meetings, discussion, articles in the newspapers every day. We know too that some of the great Scottish newspapers, the "Daily Record," the "Daily Express" and the "Scotsman" take very strong views upon this. To pretend that there is not this quite serious agitation in Scotland and that these are not, in fact, matters of the greatest concern to Scotland, is simply to deny plain facts.
Is not it a fact that the editorial policy of two of the newspapers to which the hon. Member refers is controlled from London and not from Scotland at all?
It is not true that the editorial policy of the "Scotsman" is conducted in London.
I mentioned three of them, the "Daily Record," the "Daily Express" and the "Scotsman."
I said with regard to two of the newspapers mentioned by the hon. Member that the editorial policy is controlled from London.
Even that is not true. To the best of my knowledge—and I have gone into this matter—the local Scottish editors of the "Daily Record" and the Scottish "Daily Express" have a very wide measure of freedom. That is my belief.
I am merely making the case in contradiction of what the Secretary of State for Scotland said, that this matter cannot be set aside and ignored as something discussed by a few people. It really is a problem that everybody in Scotland is at least considering. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he will simply run into trouble if he continues to pursue his present course. Even if it were in Order, I am not here to defend those who want Scottish Home Rule—of course not. According to the current issue of the organ of the Scottish Nationalist Party they want complete Home Rule in the same sense as the Dominions have it. That is to say, they want complete control of defence, foreign affairs and all the rest of it. I regard that as utterly absurd. I believe that there are very few people in Scotland—a mere handful, and they are mostly cranks—who hold any such views.
What most people want in Scotland is something quite different. I think that I have the whole House with me when I say that they feel that there is something wrong with the mechanics of government as it affects Scotland. They feel that somehow or other there is too much control from Westminster and, as has been said so often tonight, that more than ever since these many industries have been nationalised, they want to know the facts. Some say, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, that there is no ground for that feeling, but as the hon. Member for North Edinburgh admits, his constituents are still asking him whether they are getting a fair deal. Why does the Secretary of State decline to grant to the people of Scotland the opportunity of knowing the answers in the form of facts?
I have not the least fear that an inquiry would do any harm, still less that it would prove the case for Scottish Home Rule, but I feel that the widespread demands from Scotland from most reputable sources ought not to be ignored.
The hon. Gentleman talks about centralised control from London in terms of the nationalised industries, but surely he will admit that it applies in the case of private monopolies just as much as in the case of nationalised industries.
Exclude those and it makes no difference. I am merely making the case that there is throughout Scotland a querulous mood. I keep to that, I stand by it, and every hon. Member knows it quite well. The people are not satisfied. They are more dissatisfied now than ever before, and they want to know the facts. The right hon. Gentleman is correct when he says that he had this suggestion before him some time ago and that he turned it down on the ground that at that time it would have involved a great deal of work for the various civil servants who were very busy. I recognise that point. It may well be that at that time—I remember it well—the action of the right hon. Gentleman was right, but he must admit that since then the demand for the inquiry has greatly extended. The demand is much keener. I am sure that the Secretary of State is wrong if he does not agree. We cannot for ever refuse to our people the elementary right to know the facts. It is not unreasonable for them to ask.
All the facts; all the elementary facts. This request was made long before the right hon. Gentleman was in the House. In the time of Sir Godfrey Collins people were asking the same question.
The hon. Gentleman should not ask questions, because he puts his foot in it so easily.
That question was asked in the time of Sir Godfrey Collins, and he answered it. He had an inquiry and he gave the facts. It is true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that many people did not believe them, but that does not matter. They were the facts, and because a handful of cranks do not believe them is no reason why we should turn down the wisdom and necessity of giving the facts to the people. Is the right hon. Gentleman to be controlled in his policy by a handful of irresponsible people in Scotland? Surely not. I ask him to pay regard to the interests and desires of the great majority of sensible people. That report, to which I have referred, was presented to the House, and though I should ask for more, the purpose of this Debate is only to ask for that.
I recognise all the difficulties, but I feel that the Secretary of State ought to grant what we desire. Of course, great advances have been made and great improvements have taken place in our Scottish government, and nobody is more pleased about that than I am. There was the Gilmour Committee and the subsequent efforts, for which the right hon. Gentleman himself is entitled to take credit, all of which have tended to improve administration in Scotland. However, in spite of all this, it still remains the fact that our people are not satisfied, and I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that, so long as they are not satisfied, it is the duty of the Minister responsible for Scottish affairs to satisfy them by producing the facts.
I have listened to the complaint made from the opposite side of the House about the change that has taken place in Scottish administration through the nationalised industries. I wonder just how much truth there is in that plea. So far as I know, before the mines were nationalised, there were national agreements and a national organisation. It is just as true to say that the miners in Scotland were as much controlled by the British coalowners as today they are controlled by the National Coal Board. There is no difference. The miners of Scotland had as little say, or as much say, in the management of their affairs under the old system as they have under the new. They are not any worse off under the Coal Board than they were under the British coalowners—not one particle worse off.
We also had Scottish railways managed by Scotsmen or by boards of directors in Scotland. Were not our railways owned by railway companies which did not give Scotland any more control over the railways than it has at the moment?
I hope the hon. Member will not stop there. Let him take the cases of gas and electricity. He must not stop there.
As a matter of fact, gas and electricity are only now being mentioned when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite refers to nationalised industries, but we were thinking mainly of coal and the railways.
If the hon. Gentleman reads my speech, he will see that I spoke for a considerable time about gas and electricity.
At any rate, in the two industries to which I have referred, the Scottish miners and the Scottish railwaymen have as much say under the new set-up as they had under the old. I am not going into the questions of gas and electricity, and I will not follow the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, because I want to refer to something else.
My hon. Friend makes reference to the railways. Does he recollect that, when there was a proposition made by Sir Eric Geddes in the original plans for the railway amalgamations, the Scottish railwaymen and the Scottish public campaigned strongly against the idea that there should be a railways group in Scotland alone and insisted upon the longitudinal grouping to link them up with the main lines from London?
These facts are well-known, and I do not intend to go into them. As far as these two industries were concerned, neither the railwaymen nor the miners were any worse off, with regard to control in Scotland, than they are under the new set-up.
I wanted to say something with regard to another aspect of this question. This House has tried to get rid of some of its duties by devolution. There are two systems in operation at the moment. We have the private legislation procedure whereby Private Bills come before commissions in Scotland. That is one method whereby we seek to relieve this House of certain duties. Then we have the Scottish Grand Committee system, which is also designed to relieve this House of certain duties.
I wish, in particular, to address some remarks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. I have held very strong views on this question of devolution for many years, and, as far as I am concerned, I am not going to surrender them. I was not at the Scottish Convention, but, so far as Scottish affairs are concerned, I take second place to nobody. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not consider that this extension of opportunity to discuss Scottish Estimates and ever Second Readings of Scottish Bills in the Scottish Grand Committee is the last word so far as that matter is concerned. I hope that we are going to feel that even in a Scottish Grand Committee we have some power to do something. I agree with the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) that merely talking about Scottish Estimates or Scottish Bills in the Scottish Grand Committee is not enough.
If my hon. Friend wishes to vote against the Scottish Estimates, he can do so because that power does exist.
That is not the power I want. My right hon. Friend Knows that throughout Scotland there is a very strong and growing feeling in favour of more power being given to the representatives of Scotland, either here or elsewhere, to deal with problems affecting our country. If this discussion has helped to direct attention in Scotland to the fact that we are as much alive to the problems that affect our country as are the people of Scotland themselves, then it will not have been in vain.
I would also remind the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) that he has a good deal of responsibility for the frustration which our local authorities feel with regard to local government administration. The Local Government Act of 1929 made some very big changes in the local government system of Scotland, and it is in consequence of the changes made by that particular Act of Parliament that Scottish local authorities are today feeling that frustration about which they complain so bitterly.
I am not surprised that these local authorities took advantage of the Convention in Edinburgh in order to show their sympathy with that particular movement, because, from the local government point of view, I believe they feel that they, as well as the Scottish Members in this House, ought to be entrusted with far greater powers than they have at the moment. I think that by one means or another a greater opportunity should be given to Scottish Members to express Scottish feelings and to see that Measures which would greatly change the position of affairs in Scotland are passed into law.
I am alarmed at my temerity in intervening in this Debate. I do so entirely as an individual private Member, and although I am entirely a Scotsman without a drop of English blood in my veins, I should like to put the possible reactions, as I see them, which might result in the minds of some English people amongst whom I live, to some of the things which have been said or suggested here this evening. I believe that those reactions can have possibly rather serious results if what has been said is either misread or exaggerated.
The hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Mr. Watson) regarded one aspect of the matter rather more from the Parliamentary point of view and from the point of view of the reaction of local government to certain difficulties. But, of course, we can all assure him—and I am perfectly sure that he is aware of it—that there is hardly a single local governing authority, either north or south of the Border at the present time which is not subject to the same feeling of frustration.
The feeling of frustration is not confined to north of the Border at all. It is, I think, very largely the result of the actions, not only of the present Parliament but of past Parliaments as well, which have concentrated to themselves too much power. The whole tendency has been to concentrate so much in the centre, as regards not only Scottish affairs but English affairs as well. This has made the position of local government as a whole one of extreme difficulty and great delicacy, and is bound to create among those who wish to devote their lives to work in local government considerable doubt as to whether they are, in fact, fulfilling important functions.
Would the hon. Gentleman define "frustration" as he has used the word?
I can think of many words, Parliamentary and unparliamentary, to describe it, but I think most hon. Members will realise what "frustration" means. It means that one wishes to do a job of work but feels one cannot do it. That, putting it shortly, is the sense in which I used the word.
Having, as most Scotsmen have, many friends and an abundance of relatives north of the Border, although I would not claim to know as much about this matter as those hon. Members who represent Scottish Divisions, I cannot help feeling that there is great truth in the suggestion that there is a demand for a greater amount of Scottish representation of feeling, sentiment and desire. In the broadest sense, that is perfectly true. How far that feeling grows as a result of agitation, how far it is natural and how far it is practical, I think are questions which must be very carefully sifted.
Speaking as one who lives south of the Border among Englishmen, I would like to make this very clear. I have been associated with industrialists and manufacturers who wish to forge new links and strengthen existing links between Scottish and English firms. Those of us who work in the south as manufacturers realise that we have in Scotland something which unfortunately is lacking south of the Border. In Scotland we have tremendous skill in many fields, in manufacturing for instance. It may be found in England, but I think it is exercised with greater enthusiasm north of the Border than it is in the south.
I think it is the most enlivening experience that one can have to go north of the Border and go round a factory in Scotland where one finds immensely keen work going on, with people learning their jobs and others exercising the skill which has been passed down to them from generations, to a degree which is not always found south of the Border. It is a tremendous experiment. Personally, I get a tremendous kick out of it. But those of us who are English manufacturers, who wish to forge these links, who wish to work with Scottish manufacturers, might, unless we knew our country north of the Border very well—and every Englishman does not—get a little bit alarmed and doubtful if it were put into our minds that some strong nationalist feeling, if one calls it that, was being worked up in Scotland. It would become almost embarrassing for these English manufacturers to make it known that there were these links between English and Scottish firms—embarrassing, for instance, to set up enterprises in Scotland under English control, if we are to be as narrow in our view as all that. That is not nonsense by any means.
Would the hon. Gentleman find it equally embarrassing to set up enterprises in Canada or America?
Indeed, yes. I can assure hon. Members who have not had experience of trying to set up enterprises in countries overseas—even where they are British Dominions—that sometimes it can be extremely embarrassing. One has to make it perfectly clear that one is not robbing those already there of something which they could do equally well themselves. To take an example of an extreme nature, it is sometimes equally embarrassing if an American firm wishes to set up an enterprise in this country. It is embarrassing in the United States if they have to persuade their own people that what they intend to do in this country will not affect their workpeople and their enterprises in their own country.
Let us be frank about it. There will be these problems; but they will arise only if we try to draw a specific hard line as between one part of the United Kingdom and another. These difficulties only arise, and the fears resulting from them only arise, if we try to make too much of a division between England and Scotland.
This talk about English and American people coming to erect industries in Scotland is very interesting, but could the hon. Member or anyone else tell me why it is that Scotland is the only country in the world which has not developed its docks in relation to its capacity for shipbulding? That is far more important than any question of Englishmen or Americans coming into the country.
If I had time, I would turn to the question of docks, and I could tell the hon. Member quite a lot about that subject, too. If he looks at his atlas, however, and sees things in relation to geography, he will find the answer. But let us keep to the point about manufacturing, which is the point with which I want to deal. I am not saying for one moment that those of us who are Scotsmen and that Scottish firms are wrong or that Scottish industry is wrong in pushing itself forward as essentially as Scottish industry. That is grand; that is magnificent.
I think these exhibitions and fairs, the Scottish Council and enterprises like the Engineering Centre in Glasgow are doing magnificent work in that direction. But it is a very interesting example that in the Engineering Centre in Glasgow some 50 per cent. of the firms exhibiting are English firms. That is quite right and proper and it all helps to forge these links and to strengthen the links which already exist as between Scottish and English enterprises. I think it is right and sound common sense, and I believe it is a great help and, above all, a real encouragement to Scottish enterprises and Scottish people. But let us be quite frank about this aspect of the matter; let us take it almost reductio ad absurdum; let us assume that Scottish industries and enterprises had been segregated from the English. I do not think that is possible, but let us assume that somehow it has been done. What a tremendous loss that would be to my own fellow-countrymen in Scotland.
Take one example. There is a tremendous shortage in Scotland of certain types of lighter engineering skill which has not been developed north of the Border because our natural resources and such reasons led to the development of heavier lines of industry. That skill has been imported, to a great degree, from the south. There are many firms, which we all know, which have imported skilled personnel to train people north of the Border, and have brought them up from the south. Is that not of value? If we attempted to segregate as far as some would suggest, or would appear to suggest, should we be doing our own country any good? I believe we should be doing it immense harm.
Do not let us do or say anything that would put that sort of suggestion into people's minds. These industrialists are not philanthropists, of course. I do not suggest they are. However, they are prepared to help in the development of Scottish industry side by side with that of industry south of the Border. Things can be done and are done—let us take care not to do them—which put ideas, thoughts, doubts into their minds that do not help the situation. Loving Scotland as I do—and I am prepared to do anything for Scotland, just as I am prepared to do anything for my own constituency in England—I do beg every hon. Member in this House who speaks on these matters not to give any excuse to those who would say "Go a little bit steady. We have been through that when the Clyde got a bad name."
Rightly or wrongly it got a bad name at one time, and it stuck too long, and people said things would never get any better. We have seen the effect of that sort of thing. People said, "It is of no good to go to the Clyde. There is a whole smear of trouble there which will last a lifetime, and we shall never get anything done there." How unwise, how unjust that was. We have lived that down. All along Clydeside now we produce things better than we find them produced south of the Border. All that sort of talk is now just nonsense. For heaven's sake do not let us start any sort of fears that would stop that help going to Scotland which is long overdue.
The hon. Gentleman ought to be the first ambassador of Scotland to England.
Having listened to the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) I am a little afraid that he has missed the whole point in raising his own particular fears with regard to the effect an agitation for Scottish Home Rule would have on industrialists, and on their bringing enterprise into Scotland. Let me remind him that though Scottish enterprise in these last few years has had to go to England for very highly skilled personnel to take on the technical operations necessary, there was a period in the history of Scotland when growing English industries went to Scotland and brought down the superior skilled craftsmen with technical ability to rear those industries in England.
I would remind the hon. Member—and he can remind his friends about this—that the Industrial Revolution took place in Scotland. Actually, mechanical engineering had its birth there and its earliest developments. However—and this is the point in history that we must always emphasise for the benefit of the Sassenachs who do not know—during the period of, and because of, the Act of Union the centralised government was in England and the natural trend was the attraction of England from Scotland—and from Ireland and every other possession—of the development of all kinds of industry. That was a natural thing. We cannot go back in history and say that "So and so" was to blame for that. That was the set-up at that particular period. Had the Government centre been in Edinburgh the same thing would have happened in reverse, drawing people to the north. So we get to the stage where people in Scotland who know Scottish history as well as English history have always the feeling at the back of their minds that the Act of Union was in some way responsible for hampering the initiative and the development of Scottish industries.
That is one of the things which we cannot get rid of in Scotland. I am an unrepentant Home Ruler of many years standing. When I joined the old Scottish Home Rule Association, the majority of the people in favour of Scottish Home Rule and who agitated for it were drawn from the working class. Now things have taken a complete turn. Since the advent of a Labour Government at Westminster a new kind of people are now agitating for Scottish Home Rule, drawn from the upper class. What is the reason for this particular change?
When I joined the Scottish Home Rule Association practically the whole of Scotland was a depressed area. We had thousands of unemployed and every Saturday morning, year in and year out, one could go to the Clydeside and see a great passenger liner leaving for Canada or America with people who could not get a living in Scotland. We had the Salvation Army—much to its credit—and other charity organisations collecting funds, and we had Scottish landlords always prepared to give the crofter every encouragement to get out of the country. They shipped them abroad every Saturday morning.
The people in Scotland of the working class believe that the reason for that was due to the centralised Government in London, and to the fact that every industry was encouraged to move to the south rather than to stay in the north. I can remember when in the County of Renfrew there were bleaching factories of all descriptions, where one could see thousands of articles being bleached out in the old-fashioned manner. The relics of those old factories can still be seen. I can remember when every little village and parts of the City of Glasgow had their cotton mills, the great Lancashire cotton trade being then only in a stage of development. All those mills were closed down not entirely because of the centralised Government in London, but because of amalgamations which were in the nature of developments of capitalist companies who bought them up in order to centralise production and gave many of the little concerns shares in that centralised production.
I can remember working in the Arrol Johnson motor works at Paisley when they were one of the pioneers of the motor trade. They moved to Dumfries and ultimately closed down when the centralisation of the whole motorcar industry took place. I could go over innumerable cases of that sort in my lifetime. The people said that was entirely due to the centralised Government in the south and the only thing to do was to have Scottish Home Rule in order to develop their own industries. That was the idea at that time. Then along came the amalgamation of the railways. The Glasgow and South Western Railway, the Caledonian Railway and the North British Railways were all operating their own boats on the Clyde and their own railway carriages in competition with one another, but after the amalgamation, the first thing that happened was that the up-to-date, new carriages on the Caledonian and South Western Railways were hawked off to the south, and up came the old English horse boxes which nobody in England would travel in, and people said, "Here is the result of a centralised Government in the south."
I had something to do with this. Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the Scottish railways could, if they had liked, have had a railway system of their own apart from England, but that they definitely asked to be associated with English companies?
Yes, that is perfectly true, but I am talking about the effects, what happened after they were amalgamated.
I want to develop my own case in my own way. I am pointing out that there was a difference.
Now, the people who are identified with the Scottish independence movement today are an entirely different class of people from those who were identified with the Scottish Home Rule Movement at that time, of whom I was one. What is the reason? Why do we find the Duke of Montrose, in a very theatrical manner, signing the covenant? Why did he not identify himself with the movement in those days, when it was composed of people who were concerned about the economic necessities which compelled people to leave the country? Why did these people not then identify themselves with the movement?
There has been a development in Scotland, and a large section of people are identifying themselves with the Scottish independence and nationalist movement because, although up to the moment none of them has openly said so, it is evident from their speeches, and when one sees the type of people they are, that they are only concerned because we have a Socialist Government; they want to find a chance of breaking away, thinking that if they can do so the Scottish people will rally behind them, and that they will get away from some of the things they do not like about this Government. When looking at these people, people like myself, who sincerely believe that a case can be made for Scottish Home Rule, feel that our faith is weakened in going forward if we have to identify ourselves with them.
Let us consider the case on its merits. What is the trouble, and what should we do? I am very pleased to see the Leader of the House here, because I think he was largely responsible for giving the Scottish Grand Committee six days in which to consider the Scottish Estimates. I put it to him, and to the House generally, that the weakness of the present set-up—and I am not blaming anybody for it; it has lasted a very long time—for administration in Scotland is that it robs the Scottish people of the initiative. I do not care how good the Secretary of State for Scotland is. Bring down the Apostle Paul and give him the job and all he could do would be to administer what he has been told to do. Even if there were six Under-Secretaries it would make no difference; they would only have to carry out what they were told. The initiative is taken away.
Let me take up the question of the Scottish Estimates. We are not consulted, on the six days that the Scottish Grand Committee meets to consider the Estimates, as to the items on which we are to spend the money. We are not allowed to have any initiative in putting anything new in the Estimates. The Secretary of State tells us, quite rightly, that we have the right to disagree with the Estimates the Government have put forward. We have that right, not as a Committee, but as Members of Parliament, who can put down a Motion against an Estimate. For example, perhaps I see something in the Estimates with which I disagree. I can raise the matter in Scottish Grand Committee, and if I can get my colleagues to agree with my point of view, the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), according to the party system, will oppose it. He dare not fall in behind us because his prestige would be lowered in the eyes of the Conservatives in Scotland.
Suppose that by some miracle common sense prevailed with him and he and his colleagues fell in behind Scollan, a Motion could then be put down upon which we could all agree. But do not forget that the party in office has a party discipline, which makes any idea of such a thing happening utterly impossible. It means it is only lip service to say that this can be done. The Scottish people ought to have the right, not only to be consulted and to be on consultative committees to advise the Secretary of State, but to examine the needs of Scotland within the framework of the United Kingdom. I do not believe in this proposal for separation. We are living in an age when the tendency is to keep together and not to separate. Is it logical that the people of Argyllshire should be able to elect their council, which can sit down and consider what is the best thing to do for the county and levy a rate to do it, but the people of Scotland have no one to say what is best for the country as a whole? Obviously the thing is all wrong. I have no complaint about the present Secretary of State. He is as good as the best we have had.
It is the system that is all wrong. I ask the Leader of the House to give the matter careful consideration, because he is the kingpin and will also be the kingpin after the next Election. I am pinning my faith on him to get out of his London complex and to do something for Scotland.
We have learned with astonishment that the National Liberal Party and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) can unashamedly come forward and castigate the present Secretary of State and this party for that about which during the past 50 years, when they were in power, they did nothing. It seems rather odd that at a time when the Scottish Convention is signing up all sorts, along with the Duke of Montrose, with one section of the Church of Scotland in rebellion and certain misguided members of the T.U.C. and also of other trade unions helping, that the National Liberals should suddenly discover again the urgency of doing something about further devolution for Scotland. It is one of the final tactical moves of the party before its complete dissolution at the next Election.
Speaking for myself, in 1935 I put proposals to the then Secretary of State on much the same lines as those which have been brought forward tonight.
The hon. Member had less success with the representations which he made to the Government, of which he was such a strong supporter and would be still if they were in power, than we have had in making our representations to the present Government. It is agreed by all Scottish Members of each party in this House that in recent years we have gone a considerable way further than was ever done before in strengthening the powers of Scottish Members of Parliament. The White Paper proposals on the Scottish Grand Committee were accepted by all of us, and have resulted in greater legislative power being given to that Committee than ever before.
No. They have more powers of discussion, but not of legislation.
They have power to take Second Readings of Scottish Bills.
That cannot be applied to Estimates and Supply, which are functions of all Parliaments from time immemorial. The English in this matter are in exactly the same position as we are. They have to come to the House of Commons and debate their Estimates. In that direction Scotland is not in any worse position. I am merely trying to illustrate the point that on Supply we are not at any disadvantage compared with other sections of this House. We in Scotland ask for twice as much for certain purposes as they do in England, and they cannot get it any more than we can. Their supply only comes from this House sitting as a Committee of Supply, in just the same way as we in Scotland get our finances.
After listening to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) and the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities talking a great deal, I came to the conclusion that there was little of substance in their remarks. One would imagine that all this desire for devolution had, in fact, started since 1945, but I can remember the time when Mr. Tom Johnston in this House appealed to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman when he was Secretary of State for Scotland and to his predecessors and successors in office, as well as to the Liberals—
The hon. Gentleman says that I stated that all this has arisen since 1945. In my speech I said that this idea had been growing over the past 40 years.
It may have been growing over the past 40 years, but like the awareness of the hon. Gentleman it only seems to have come to light during the last two or three years. I know that the National Liberal Party will very soon disappear. I know something of their past, and their prospects for the future are very poor. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart) did, I know, make proposals in the past—so did Tom Johnston—to the party of which the hon. Member was a supporter, but they were turned down in this House. Tom Johnston said time and time again that it was an impossible situation for the Secretary of State to be attempting to carry out all the many functions of his office with full efficiency. What reply did he get? He made no progress.
The same case was put up by the hon. Member opposite for certain administrative devolutionary changes. How far did he get until a year and a half ago? He got nowhere with his own party and friends when they were in office. He did not obtain the six days discussion of Estimates and the Second Reading discussion of Bills by the Scottish Grand Committee or the Scottish Economic Conference, for what it is worth—I have not yet completely made my mind up on that—in the days when the hon. Member's party—excluding himself if he wishes, and I can well understand him wishing to be excluded—was not fighting for devolution.
The nationalisation aspect has been overdone. There had been nationalisation of other institutions—the Bank of England and the Post Office—long before the days of the Socialist Government. The nationalisation case was argued out by hon. Members, as was Prestwick. They are considerably more silent now about Prestwick than they were 2½ years ago because they know that while it was a mere landing strip before the war it is today a great airport and has developed under Socialism and under nationalised civil aviation, as it would never have done in private hands.
These changes that have come about in regard to the Scottish Grand Committee, the improvements which the hon. Member for East Fife, if he cares to make the claim, has asked for but which did not come when his friends were in power have come, for what they are worth, in the last three years.
The hon. Member recollects that the initiative for these very proposals of which he is speaking came from the Opposition here. It was we who put a proposition on the Order Paper.
Far from it. My hon. Friend the Member for Western Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) has said what is perfectly true: the whole inspiration came from the old Scottish I.L.P. movement, the champions of Scottish Home Rule, who I will not say were completely wrong in the circumstances to which their claims were applicable and whose proposals could have been worked without danger to Scotland. All that work was done in opposition to people like the hon. Members opposite. Only a year or two before the war Tom Johnston, who is at times a great favourite with hon. Members opposite, when it suits them, on points on which he differs from the Labour Party, used the argument for the devolution to the Scottish Grand Committee of greater powers and advocated additional Under-Secretaries. I do not believe that the latter proposal will make any difference or be of any particular advantage under the present set-up. I am not advocating that for one moment. I have seen him just as frustrated as hon. Members pretend for tactical purposes they are now. They are the people who frustrated him. We made no progress in their days of power.
The hon. Member is making a point about the taking of Second Readings upstairs, but all that does is to clear the House for English Business.
I do not know exactly what the hon. Member wants. He agreed that the scheme should be put into operation and he did not, to my knowledge, criticise it.
The hon. Member did not effectually criticise it, by which I mean go into the Lobby against it.
I had the agreement of every party in this House to the White Paper as it was presented to the House—
—including the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher).
He only made the qualification that he reserved to himself the right to ask for something more.
I do not want to go any further into the question of unanimity or lack of unanimity. It can be said that virtually every party, shall I say 600, or whatever it is, out of the total of hon. Members of this House did agree to try the scheme of giving to the Scottish Grand Committee Second Readings, six days' Estimates and the Scottish Economic Conference. We all agreed to that. None of us has come to any conclusion about it. It has been working only a few Parliamentary months. Certainly it has cleared this House for further discussions and given more time to our English and Welsh colleagues—and our Scottish colleagues, too, if they like to take part in Debates on the Floor of the House rather than in the Scottish Grand Committee.
So far as I am concerned—I do not know how many of my hon. Friends I speak for, but I speak for some—this experiment which is going on, is not the final decision or set-up. We agreed that we would observe this experiment and how it worked and if it worked satisfactorily improve it from time to time as we went; and, if we did not agree finally, to scrap any idea of any pressure from Members on this side for further devolution. If the experiment was not sufficient we did not bind ourselves to press for further reforms, and I do not see why we should be in any way accused of so doing by Members of the National Liberal Party. I would suggest that if they are so keen about governing Scotland, they might send a candidate from their party to my own constituency which they have abandoned completely without hope of representation by their party. Let them come to the outposts and fight and do something, and not scuttle to soft places like Dumfries and East Fife—
They go to all the comfortable places but they are not willing to come to the outposts and fight. I want three candidates in my Division so that I shall be quite sure of winning the seat—it is a purely tactical move on my part. But it would also test the sincerity of their party if they came out to fight for the things in which they believe and if they think we are not doing enough to give devolution to Scotland. I would probably beat them to it.
We are observing an experiment, but we have not come to a conclusion. No party in this House has yet come to a conclusion but every party is bound to accept the experiment. Give it a chance for a few years to see how it works out, and make concrete suggestions for further administrative devolution and improvement of the scheme as it is working on the White Paper basis. Hon. Members opposite have made no specific suggestions as to how that can be done. It is no use hon. Members opposite saying, all of a sudden, a few months before an Election that they have become vitally and urgently conscious of the failure of this experiment or saying that it is due to nationalisation. We had nationalisation before this experiment. They have not offered a single suggestion.
The hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities talked about nationalisation; he talked about bees—all sorts of bees. He talked about everything, but did not make any suggestions as to what he would do in the matter. Hon. Members opposite went to the edge of the risk of Scottish devolution and Home Rule, and they did not always distinguish between one thing and the other.
If the hon. Member had listened at the beginning to Mr. Speaker's Ruling, he would have realised that it was impossible to make any suggestions which would lead to legislation.
The right hon. Gentleman did not make any suggestion in respect of administrative devolution, not a single suggestion of any kind—not a whisper of a suggestion did he offer to the House. There was nothing but criticism of the nationalised industries. If they propose to undo the effects of nationalisation, that would involve legislation as well. Nor did the hon. Member for Dumfries offer any suggestion. The Scottish people told us to nationalise these industries and we have carried out our instructions upon this as upon other things. They have not reproached us on these points. Hon. Members opposite can only attack us, not because we have not carried out our pledges to Scotland, but because, unlike them, we have carried out those pledges of nationalisation and of administration with a certain amount of legislative devolution as well. They cannot point to any specific thing which we have not done and which they have advocated during the past three years—certainly since they agreed to stand by this scheme and to observe its working.
The very thing we are advocating tonight is what we have been advocating all along.
The hon. Member is not advocating any specific thing. He is just talking, and if he is not talking through his hat, he is talking through nothing at all. He has not put forward any proposal of any kind, nor has the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Scottish Universities.
After all, one does not keep a dog and bark oneself. If one asks for a committee of inquiry to be set up, what is the good of making a lot of suggestions first?
What does the hon. Member want to inquire into? He accepted this scheme and he is pledged to give it a trial and so is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Scottish Universities. I do not think there is any difference among the parties about that. It was decided to give the scheme a genuine trial and I suggest that it has worked as well as could be expected. In any case, I do not know what spectacular results we could have expected from it. I think myself that it is as much a concession to English and Welsh Members as it is to Scottish Members. It has helped all hon. Members, and the scheme is all the better for that. It has worked well so far. In time, let us go further. I believe that in the light of our present economic circumstances we should have a considerably greater measure of devolution—I mean legislative devolution as well as any other kind, but I cannot discuss that. I challenge hon. Members to say what they mean. They should propose something, put something definite before us and not merely put forward the idea of a committee of inquiry without making some suggestion about what should happen.
My first inclination on intervening to address the House during a Debate on Scottish affairs is to offer an apology. More by accident than by design I came into the Chamber at the start of this Debate and I have remained throughout, and my original feeling of apology has gradually waned. The Debate has made it clear that the issues at stake are not merely Scottish but that they affect every part of the country. Perhaps I might venture a personal explanation of my wish to take part in a Scottish Debate. Although I am Welsh, I have a little Scottish blood in my veins which some of my hon. Friends suggest is a good mixture. My wife is English with a dash of Irish, so our daughter might be referred to as the Union Jack. That personal anecdote merely illustrates the manner in which all the four nationalities of the United Kingdom have become mingled until we are rapidly reaching a stage where we shall almost forget our national origin.
Again, when I listen to a Debate of this kind, although I appreciate and sometimes admire it, and, indeed, occasionally become rather frightened by the aggressive patriotism of some hon. Members for Scottish constituencies, I bear in mind the fact that, wherever we go in England, very largely in Wales, indeed all over the world, we find Scotsmen. A large part of the population of the Dominion of Canada is of Scots origin and there is a fairly large instalment of Scottish blood in American veins. So we could go on, illustrating the fact that nationality, as it used to be understood, is not entirely relevant to a discussion of Government and of the functions of Government and administration.
When I think of the historical background of Scotland in relation to England, I try not to forget the historical background of Wales in relation to England. Although I am Welsh, I represent an English constituency, and some of the hon. Members for Scottish constituencies are actually Welshman. There are two, to my own knowledge, although only one has contributed to the Debate. Is it not also a fact that we have Scottish Members representing English constituencies all over England? In reality, between the four countries, we are reaching such a commingling which might be termed internationalism.
The political background of the development of Scotland is peculiar to itself. We had a Scottish Parliament and we had a Welsh Parliament, but, whereas Wales was conquered and absorbed, Scotland was incorporated by the Act of Union. That is the difference, and from that difference arises the whole history of Scottish administration in relation to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Let us take the case of Ireland. Why is it that we have a different set-up in Northern Ireland from that either in Wales or in Scotland? If there is justification for a Northern Ireland Parliament, geographically, nationally, and even culturally, there is quite as much justification for a Scottish Parliament, but it does not work out that way, and that is all there is to it. Politics and political developments in Ireland took an entirely different course fom political development either in Wales or Scotland in relation to the Paliament of the United Kingdom.
Therefore, as realists, we must now approach the problem of administration, the problems arising from modern economics and from modern political developments, and we must face all these facts from the point of vew of what is best, not only for a part, but for the whole. Let us take the economic development of Scotland in relation to England. We had the Scots pouring across the Border into all the industries of England, and we have a fairly good mixture of English in Scotland itself. The more this development goes on, and as it goes on, the more difficult it will become to recognise a Scotsman when we meet one or even to recognise a Welshman when we meet one.
If that is not agreed to, the only conclusion I can reach is that when a Welshman or an Englishman migrates into Scotland he acquires by some peculiar chemical process the characteristics of a Scotsman or that those characteristics become more evident in the generation which follows from the marriage of the Englishman to a Scottish lass, and so it goes on. At any rate, I suggest that this question of administration and devolution, and all the rest of the terms that have been used, is not a peculiarly Scottish problem. It applies to the whole-face of British politics—indeed, it applies to the whole face of world politics—as to what it is proper and wise to retain or to take into centralised control, and what it is wise to give to a more provincialised arm or feature or characteristic of government. In other words, it is a question of what is the best marriage between local government, national government and national administration.
That is a problem that is not peculiar to Scotland. It applies to Wales and it applies to England itself, because, let there be no doubt about it, in some quarters in England we have the same feeling that there is too much centralisation here and too much centralisation there. It is a question, therefore, of finding the best means of effecting a marriage between national government, national administration and local government administration. I feel convinced that we are on the verge of making fundamental changes in local government in this country because in many respects, the old set-up is failing to meet the needs of the time. Even our Conservative opponents have from time to time realised that fact and have made certain changes in the administrative setup, that is, in the power of various councils. They have considered what powers were to be given to them, what existing powers were to be enlarged, and what powers were to be taken completely to the centre. That is a continuous problem that has to be dealt with in the evolution of the governmental system itself, both in the centre and in the localities.
That being so, I as a Welshman representing an English constituency suggest that what we have been discussing tonight is not a peculiarly Scottish problem, but one which affects all parts of the country and relates to the question of what is the proper set-up for modern legislation and modern administration. I think that the more we discuss these matters, the more we shall get away from the entirely nationalistic approach and the closer we shall get to the effective administrative problem in relation to the national legislature itself
It is perhaps rather paradoxical, and yet quite characteristic, that during one of our longest Adjournment Debates, for a period of over four hours, Scottish Members, seasoned with a little Welsh rarebit at the end, should have discussed the alleged lack of opportunity of self-expression for Scottish Members.
If we are going to tackle this problem seriously, as I think most responsible people in Scotland want to tackle the problem, we must get down to the problem with well-defined and clear-cut ideas. We do not want to indulge in vague expressions, in woolly thinking or in large generalities. We must know exactly what we want and where we are going. I think most Members will agree with that. Accordingly, no purpose is served if Members come here and say that there is a growing opinion in Scotland for "this," without defining what "this" is. It is no use saying that the problems of Scotland require greater investigation, if they do not desiderate what these problems are. There is no use coming here and saying, "Let us have a Royal Commission or a Select Committee," without setting forth what, in their view, would be in general the terms of reference and the types of subjects which would be dealt with by that Royal Commission or Select Committee.
This question of devolution is a matter which is capable of various interpretations. One merely requires to have regard to the policies of the various national parties in Scotland to realise the great extremes to which this matter can go. Accordingly, we cannot come forward with a serious proposal to the Government to set up a Royal Commission or a Select Committee, or any other form of inquiry, unless we have definitely in our minds the subject matter which will form the basis of that inquiry, the limits and the objects of that inquiry, with a view to ascertaining what will follow at the inquiry. Merely to have an inquiry in vacuo takes us nowhere. It was suggested in the Debate that we required an inquiry of this nature. That is quite a common cry among a certain section—I think a small section—of the people of Scotland. But once again we find there a lack of specification. It is said "We want to know the facts," and if one poses the simple question "What facts?" it is very difficult to find out.
I know that the rules of this Debate circumscribed the statements of certain Members in the sense that they could not indicate what they wanted where legislation would be required. But the Debate ranged over a very wide field, and although the actual legislative action which might be required to follow out a certain policy would have been out of Order, there is nothing that I know of which would have precluded hon. Members from discussing the principles of the problems which confronted Scotland and which they wish to have investigated. We had none of them. We were asked to give the answers in an inquiry of this nature, but, if I may respectfully say so, we could not find from anybody the answers to what. Surely we were entitled to know what is at the back of the minds of the people asking for such an inquiry—what it is they wish to inquire into.
I did state right at the beginning of the Debate that the object of the inquiry was to look into the facts in relation to the various proposals that have been made for devolution. The Lord Advocate is not unaware of these proposals by official bodies. It is no use saying that it is in vacuo.
The number of proposals which have been made are legion, but we are entitled to know which of these is referred to. Is it to inquire into every proposal which has been put forward in Scotland?—and not for the last four years, not for the last 49 years, for there were movements of this nature in the days of Walter Scott. I do not want to go any further into that.
I do not want to go any further into that because the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) is such an acknowledged expert on this subject that, if I went too deeply into it, he might trip me up. I mean, of course, not the subject of devolution, but the subject of Walter Scott.
Surely we are entitled to know for which problem the Royal Commission or the Select Committee is desired. If we go beyond that and assume—which I deny—that there was sufficient specification as to what was required, we come to the two questions posed by my right hon. Friend—first, is there a justification for this demand, and secondly, if there is a justification, is the time opportune? Again, with one or two exceptions, hon. Members did not address their minds to these two problems. The justification for such an inquiry, if we knew what the inquiry was into, would be that the facts are not now available which would be made available under a Royal Commission or a Select Committee or some fact-finding inquiry.
Let us examine the situation to ascertain whether these facts are not now available because, if they are available at the present time, surely there is no justification for setting up an intermediary in order to collect these facts and hand them over to us. If these facts are at present ascertainable, surely it is our duty to make those facts known to ourselves without going through all the procedures, all the solemnity, all the expense and all the window dressing of a Royal Commission or Select Committee.
What is the position? Roughly speaking, I think the inquiry into facts, as far as I could gather, was in relation, first, to the economic facts of the country and, secondly, the financial relationship vis-à-vis England. Let us take these in turn. It is said that we require such an inquiry because the present information is deficient. I hope I am not doing the hon. Member an injustice; I think that was the word he used and it was certainly the sense of the word he used. But he did not say in what sense the information was deficient. It is not good enough—and I say this not in any sense of severe criticism but with a full sense of responsibility—to say we require a fact-finding committee or some form of inquiry because the economic facts are deficient without pointing out definitely in what respect they are deficient.
We have the White Paper on Industry. But what has happened? We have had it for the last three years. It has been improved every year. We are going to have the Census of Production and Distribution, and it is our intention to have a booklet explaining in detail the administration of Scotland, the work of the Departments and the extent to which we have devolution in Scotland. All that information is already available for those who wish to look. The booklet is coming out shortly. We appreciate—and it has been manifested in the course of the Debate tonight—that it is perhaps desirable to do this for some people in order to get their ideas orientated properly. The result is that the statistical information in the White Paper gives all the information necessary in relation to the Scottish Departments.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman not agree that there is one set of information which all Scottish Members want and all Scotland wants and which the Government have denied us; and that is a statement of the details of the cuts that are proposed in the administration of Scotland?
The hon. Gentleman should not be so precipitate, because I still have 25 minutes, and I intend to deal with a number of these problems. Accordingly, we feel that this information is already available. The people who are most clamant, particularly outside this Chamber, for this fact-finding inquiry of one sort or another are, in my opinion, people who never take the trouble to examine those papers in order to ascertain the facts. If we ascertain the facts through a committee or commission, as my right hon. Friend said, it does not necessarily mean we are going to get general acceptance of the facts, because some people merely take the findings of such a commission or committee to use them for their own particular purposes and for their own particular policies. I think the case quoted by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) bears that out, because after the inquiry made in 1935 by Sir Godfrey Collins nothing was done by responsible people, and the only people who tried to make anything out of it were a few people who were members of small splinter parties, who merely tried to make some political advantage out of it.
Sir Godfrey Collins reported the facts as he saw them and they turned out just as he said, and there was no sense in doing anything about it.
Obviously, because dissident people refused to be satisfied, and they always refuse to be satisfied unless they are given everything which they require. However, my point is that if information is available for them, and they have only to take the trouble to get it, then there is no justification for a Royal Commission or a Select Committee or other form of inquiry.
However, we are prepared to go further than we have done. The White Paper is an innovation during the lifetime of this Administration. More information is being given to the people of this country as a result of this Government's administration and actions—and I say this with all sincerity—than has ever been given in the history of our Parliamentary life. If the information is there, what is the case for having a committee to serve it up on a plate to the people who will not take the trouble to go into it themselves? That is the case so far as statistical information is concerned on the economic side.
How much further, then, would they want us to go? Once we go beyond that we get into the realm of real difficulty, because if we try to compare the amount of economic wealth created in Scotland with the amount of economic wealth created in England, we get into so many complications that no Royal Commission or any inquiry could ever eradicate them.
Let us take a simple example—the building of the "Queen Mary" at Clydebank. Should we be entitled to take credit for all the wealth resulting from the creation of the "Queen Mary" because it was assembled at Clydebank when many of the component parts that went to make up the ship may have come from south of the Border? I use that merely as an illustration, but the same case runs throughout the whole of industry in Scotland, because the whole economy of Scotland is so dovetailed into the economy of England that in almost any walk of life there is this constant flow to and from each country of materials, that are being utilised in the creation of ultimate wealth, that cannot be properly assigned to one country or the other. If we are to have a true investigation into the whole economic relationship of the two countries to see to what extent Scotland is independent of England or England is independent of Scotland, it will be necessary to carry on the examination to that very level, and that is obviously outwith the competence of any committee or any commission.
That leaves the question of the financial relationship. There, again, no one, I am sure, with any experience would minimise the tremendous task of sorting out the amount of money spent by the Treasury directly or indirectly in Scotland. If we were to try to balance the amount of taxation reaped in Scotland, which would require to be both direct and indirect taxation, and compare that with the amount of money sent by the Treasury into Scotland we should require to go into every ramification of Scottish industrial and social life in order to get a true picture. The extent of such an inquiry is almost beyond comprehension. It is no use to take a rough figure for this purpose because it would not be accurate and would be more than misleading.
It is no use the hon. Member for East Fife shaking his head, because that is a fact, which, I think, any reasonable person will acknowledge. If the hon. Gentleman demurs, I am willing to give way for a couple of minutes to let him indicate how a financial balance could be struck otherwise than along the lines I have suggested.
It was once done by Sir Godfrey Collins in the case of Scotland, and has been done in the case of Northern Ireland. Why cannot it be done again?
It cannot be done for Scotland in a manner conclusive, accurate or reliable. Anything Sir Godfrey Collins did was only on a broad, general basis, and a lot of assumptions have been made, rightly or wrongly, which have defeated the reliability of the conclusions reached.
If we are to do this we shall not do it in a haphazard manner, a general manner, or in a manner inconclusive. It will have to be done in such a way as to give a proper reflection of the financial and fiscal relationship between the two countries. The amount of manpower which would have to be devoted to that is simply enormous. We have to make up our minds about this question. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have to make up their minds about this question. This would undoubtedly involve a great deal of manpower at the present time.
We come to the question of whether or not it is opportune. Already we have complaints from the other side that there are far too many people in the Civil Service, too many bureaucrats, and too many people doing unproductive work. There are people who say that cuts of £250 million are only a bagatelle; they should be double or treble. What is going to happen if we are to find the necessary manpower to work out these problems at the present time? It is not only the personnel involved in carrying out the investigation, it is the repercussions which such an inquiry would have in every Government Department and every industry in the country under private enterprise. If we were to go into this question properly it would mean that we should have to go into the books and accounts of private enterprise, as much as we should into the books and accounts of nationalised industry and Government Departments. That is perfectly true if we are to get a reliable result from such an inquiry, and anything short of a reliable result is not worth while. That seems to me to be the answer to the two main points which have formed the subject matter of our consideration tonight. In the course of the Debate, I am afraid that we have strayed a little from those two points.
I want to deal with one or two points that here emerged in the course of the Debate. The right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities took refuge, if I may say so, in saying that since Mr. Speaker's Ruling precluded him from saying what he would like to have done through legislation, he would not commit himself to a full statement of what he would suggest. Well, he was perfectly in Order in doing that, and I am not criticising him for keeping within the bounds of Order, but I rather thought that in his peroration—he will correct me if I am wrong—he indicated quite clearly that he was not in favour of any form of legislative separation. That being so, what did his argument really come to? It was not an argument against devolution, and I hope my hon. Friends will appreciate it. It was an argument against the nationalised industries. I therefore trust that none of my hon. Friends will be led up the garden path, or even into the Division Lobby behind the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.
The argument of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was that the increased pressure of centralised government created a condition in which some form of devolution was required, but the gravamen of his charge was that we had too much nationalisation of industry. I am quite sure that his solution is, not any form of devolution but less nationalisation. I trust I am not doing him any injustice when I make that statement. At least we ought to know where we stand, and I think that is where he stands—that the question is whether we should or should not have nationalisation. In my opinion devolution is merely being used as a smokescreen by the Conservative Party in Scotland in order to make an attack against the nationalised industries.
Perhaps this would not be the proper time and place to debate the nationalised industries in Scotland now, but I think it will suffice if I make one or two observations. As a result of the nationalisation of basic industries in Scotland, and as a result of the much-maligned planning, part of which is wrapped up in the Town and Country Planning Act which received such criticism from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, there is in Scottish industry today an upsurge which we have never had in the lifetime of anyone in this House tonight. As has been said—and I will not repeat it, but will merely make reference to it—it was the economic distress during the period when, apart from the Post Office, we had no nationalised industries in Scotland which gave rise to this clamant demand for some form of Scottish devolution in the hope that some solution would be found therein, because no solution could be found under the system then being operated throughout the whole of Britain at that time.
It is said that as a result of nationalisation we created a problem, and the railways have been mentioned in that connection. It is rather interesting to recollect that in the early 'twenties the then Minister of Transport, Sir Eric Geddes, proposed to have separate railways for Scotland and England, to have a lateral system of railways instead of a longitudinal system. There was a congregation of opinion from every interest in Scotland—industry, commerce, banking, and the trade unions on the workers' side—so that a large body of representative opinion sent strong pressure down to the Minister of Transport saying "This will never do; this will be the end of economic life in Scotland. You have got to have a longtitudinal service stretching up between Scotland and England." Eventually that pressure was brought to bear successfully, and the railway lines were established as we know them today. Now, there was a definite body of opinion in Scotland, from responsible and representative people, decrying any form of separation for the railways in Scotland. We have, in point of fact, more self-government in regard to the railways in Scotland today than under private enterprise.
The next point with which I wish to deal is the most extraordinary statement made by the hon. Member for Dumfries that Scotland was more independent in 1914 than today. I am quite sure that he did not think about that statement before he made it. We had no Secretary of State for Scotland in 1914. We had a Secretary, but not a Secretary of State, and he did not sit in the Cabinet. We had only one Under-Secretary, whereas we now have two. [Interruption.] Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to say something?
I am not suggesting that it was not. I am dealing with the statement made by the hon. Member for Dumfries that there was more independence in 1914 than today, which is just nonsense. In 1939, after the movement which had started several years before, St. Andrew's House was created in Edinburgh. There was nothing of that nature in 1914, all the Scottish Departments being centralised in London.
Then there are the changes effected by the White Paper. We ought not to minimise the importance of another aspect of the White Paper, which was mentioned only in passing by my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan), who did so with not too much grace, and that is the Economic Conference, which will have tremendous influence in Scottish industrial life and has shown very effective signs of being a successful organisation. As my right hon. Friend has pointed out, we had the consent of all parties when we introduced the White Paper. We said that we would keep our eyes open to see whether other changes were necessary or desirable. The White Paper was introduced after the industries that have been nationalised had been taken over, or were in the course of being taken over. Accordingly, there was no doubt in the minds of the people who were parties to that agreement as to what would be the position under the White Paper.
Has any evidence been adduced from any quarter tonight to show that there has been a sufficient change or circumstances since the introduction of the White Paper to merit it being scrapped and something else being put in its place? One of the objections put forward is that we have not been able to discuss the cuts in Scotland. The fact is that my right hon. Friend has announced the cuts in Scotland.
It is open to the hon. Member, and to any other Member, to take advantage of the Adjournment to raise any question he wants—after all, we have been discussing this matter for four hours on the Adjournment. If Members really want information, there is Parliamentary procedure by which they can get the information, either in the form of Questions or by raising the matter on the Adjournment.
I want to point out that we have added time for the Estimates. We have now eight days, six in the Scottish Grand Committee and two on the Floor of the House. During the discussion of the Estimates we have the same right in the Scottish Grand Committee and the same right on the Floor of the House as in any other Estimates Debate. There is no use in saying that we cannot do this, that or the other thing; that we cannot put down a Motion of censure; or that we cannot disclose our displeasure in any effective way against a Minister. The same rules apply in relation to our Estimates Debates as operate in the case of any other Estimates Debates. Accordingly, no injustice is being suffered. We have now eight days against a previous two, and moreover we have put through more legislation in the Scottish Grand Committee, in volume, width and range of subject than in the course of our history.
And as my hon. Friend says, in quality, because we have put through some very good legislation.
My recollection is that during the last two years hon. Gentlemen opposite have not divided on any purely Scottish Measure. If we have been putting through bad legislation it has been acquiesced in by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggest that we have had no Divisions in the Scottish Grand Committee?
The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows quite well what I was talking about—the general principles of Bills. Of course, we have had Divisions. We have had them from our own side, let alone from hon. Gentlemen opposite. There have been eight days on the Estimates. These extra six days on Estimates in the Scottish Grand Committee have resulted in hon. Members exhausting all that there was to speak about. Those who were present at the last of the Debates in the Committee will recollect that there was a great deal of difficulty in keeping the Debate going. We have exhausted—
That may be so. In fairness I might say that the Committee were so satisfied with the state of things that discussion had more or less dropped out of the arena of politics. After the experience of that last day in the Committee, it is doubtful whether anyone will come forward to suggest that we need more days for the discussion of the Estimates.
It was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) that the Scottish Grand Committee should sit in Edinburgh. I do not intend to answer that, because I rather feel that that might involve legislation, and I would be out of Order in dealing with it. I will say this at the risk of incurring the displeasure of the Chair, that this was tried out in an unofficial manner by Mr. Tom Johnston when he was Secretary of State, and it was a complete flop. It was more difficult to get Scottish Members to come to Edinburgh than apparently it is to get them to come to London. There is no doubt that it would suit my hon. Friend the Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) and myself to have the meetings in Edinburgh, but I must not develop that further. My hon. Friend the Member for Western Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) said that as a result of party discipline we were able to do certain things. Listening to his speech and some of those made by other hon. Members, it was rather difficult to know where party discipline started, and where it ended.
To sum up, my submission is that no case has been made for any advance on the White Paper proposals; that there has been no intervening change to justify any advance, but we will keep our eyes open and if any advance is justified we are willing to go along that line towards meeting legitimate demands. No case has been made for a public inquiry and no answer has been given to the point that the time is not propitious or opportune for it. In those circumstances I do not think the suggestion was justified.