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Local Government (Scotland) Bill Lords

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 7 May 1947

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Lords Message [1 st May] relating to the appointment of a Committee on the Local Government (Scotland) Bill [ Lords] considered.


"That a Select Committee of six Members be appointed to join with the Committe appointed by the Lords to consider the Local Government (Scotland) Bill [Lords]:
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records:
That Three be the Quorum."—[Mr. R. J. Taylor.]

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That Sir William Darling, Mr. Elliot, Mr. Gilzean, Mr. Janner, Mr. John Paton and Mr. Timmons be Members of the Committee."—[Mr. R. J. Taylor.]

11.35 a.m.

Why are English Members, and not more Scottish Members, appointed to this Com- mittee, which is to deal with purely Scottish affairs?

It is not unusual for English Members to serve on Committees dealing with Scottish matters, or for Scottish Members. to serve on Committees on Measures dealing with England. I, myself, in the first six months that I was a Member of the House, was appointed to serve on the Scottish Grand Committee. I recollect once rising to address that Committee, but my effort to assist my hon. Friends from beyond the Tweed was not received in the spirit in which I was prepared to tender it. This legislation, when passed, will be legislation of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. English Members have to take their responsibility for legislation that has to be administered in Scotland, just as Scottish Members have to take their responsibility for Measures that are concerned with England and Wales only. There are innumerable precedents—I have quoted myself as a horrible example—for English Members taking a friendly and sympathtic interest in affairs beyond the Border. I hope that while the United Kingdom Parliament endures that friendly reciprocity of interest will continue.

11.38 a.m.

It is because of my Scottish birth that I look so very much fresher than hon. Members from England and Wales, but I have been here all night. Earlier, in the discussion on the National Service Bill, I objected to the imposition of certain things on the Scottish people. I want to ask the House now, is it unreasonable to suggest that, on a Committee which is to deal with local government in Scotland, we are entitled to feel some resentment—not at the presence of English Members on the Committee—but at the fact that there are not more Scotsmen in the membership of the Committee? There is a very real feeling in Scotland today, as a result of some of the Measures passed here, that local government administration is being taken out of the hands of the local authorities and being vested in the Secretary of State. Surely, in a matter affecting Scottish local government, Members for Scottish Divisions should be consulted? I say that with some experience of local government. Not only are we putting people on the Committee who do not understand the conditions in Scotland, but people who have not been associated with local government of any kind. I submit that that is a point which might be considered by the House. I know that at this hour—I do not know whether to call it a late or an early hour—there is little chance of the Home Secretary giving way. He himself admitted that he was glad not to be called upon to accept responsibility for examining this Measure. Therefore, on behalf of the Scottish Members, irrespective of party, and on behalf of the local governments of Scotland, I lodge my protest against the appointment of a committee that does not understand the position in Scotland or the local government machinery of Scotland.

11.41 a.m.

May I also make an appeal to the Home Secretary not to press this Motion? I do so because this is a matter closely affecting Scotland. I would like to ask your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, before I say anything further as to whether this is exempted Business.

This is exempted Business and, therefore, the House is in Order in taking it. I should point out, however, that the House has already agreed to set up a Committee, and the only question now is as to whether objection is taken to any member of this proposed Committee. Members up to Mr. Paton have already been approved, so his selection and that of Mr. Timmons are the only questions now outstanding.

I have taken exception to that for this reason, that the Scottish Grand Committee is in Session now. The proposed Committee is to deal with local Scottish affairs in a way different from the way in which the Scottish Grand Committee deals with legislation affecting Scotland. The Home Secretary has said that Scottish Members are on English Committees, but not often on Committees which deal only with English local government. I suggest to the Home Secretary, in view of the fact that the Scottish Members are downstairs meeting in the Scottish Grand Committee now, and that one side of the Committee has already taken a decision to ask for an Adjournment because of the business here, that he should not proceed with the appointment of this committee.

11.44 a.m.

I ask the Home Secretary, on behalf of some of my hon. Friends in Scotland, not to force this Motion. This has been raised by a very representative Scotsman who holds a high position in the esteem of the party opposite, and I would ask if it would not be better if this should be done at some time when the Scottish Members can attend and express their views. I think we ought to proceed with great caution. May I warn hon. Gentlemen that they may be setting a precedent. I can remember an occasion when I had some small difference with a Whip, I will not say on which side, and, before I was much older, I found myself on the Scottish Committee.

The hon. Member should not challenge my Ruling. I have already said that I am not empowered to accept his Motion at the moment.

There is one thing which may bring this discussion to a close. The hon. Member under discussion is, in fact, a Scotsman.

Question put, and agreed to.

Message to the Lords to acquaint them with such of the said Orders as are necessary to be communicated to their Lordships.