HC Deb 15 June 1892 vol 5 cc1209-11

Resolutions [14th June] reported. [See page 1059–76]

Resolutions 1 to 8 agreed to. 9. "That a sum, not exceeding £7,500, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March,1893, for expenditure connected with the Colonisation of certain Crofters and Cottars of the Western Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

(5.40.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)

I am not going to take a Division, but I desire, with my colleagues who represent Highland constituencies, to make a final protest against the allocation of this sum to such a purpose. This is a new policy adopted by the Government and sprung upon us yesterday, and we emphatically protest against it. We wish to point out that there is no natural congestion of population in the Highlands. You have in your towns the working classes crowding together in a manner to engender disease and cause premature death; but in the Highlands there should be no congestion at all, and there is actually less population in the districts affected by this grant than there was fifty years ago. Such congestion as there is is caused artificially; it does not naturally arise out of growth of population—it is caused by clearing away the people from thousands of acres of land to make room for deer forests. The only way to remove the difficulty is to restore the people to the land from which they were ousted to make room for deer. When the Crofter Commission reported three millions of acres of land had been so converted into deer forests, and since then, in ten years, another half million acres have been added. What we want, and what the people want, is home colonisation, that they may go back to the land from which they and their forefathers were driven. Against this system of sending the people to Manitoba, to British Columbia, and other places, I, as representing the people, protest; and, as a Member of this House, I object to public money being used for such a purpose. There may be some reason for clearing your large towns and sending away people so that they may have a chance of comfortable life elsewhere; but with millions of acres of splendid land going back to a state of nature, and where formerly crofters found support, I protest against employing public money to send away these people, whom we want at home.

(5.42.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.

I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman's observations to pass without a word in reply. The hon. Member is entirely wrong in his facts as to the extension of deer forests in recent years. No crofter has been turned out of his holding for the extension of deer forests; the hon. Member opposes the Vote under an entire misapprehension of the facts.

(5.42.) DR. MCDONALD (Ross and Cromarty)

I join in the protest of my hon. Friend. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that crofters have not been turned out of their holdings in recent years; but they have been turned out in the past, and now we want to turn them in again; to give them back the deer forests from which they were evicted in the past. Lewis is a congested district — that I acknowledge; but half of the land of Lewis is under deer forests, and we demand that the people shall be allowed to return to this good land now relapsed into a state of nature, but which they and their fathers brought into a state of cultivation. In this matter we shall continue to raise our protest. I see there is a Land Company going to give land to the crofters in Vancouver Island or elsewhere. We shall narrowly watch the project. I hope it may not turn out that emigrants will be exploited in the manner of which we have had experience by being compelled to pay eight times the value of the land received. I quite agree with my hon. Friend a wrong and stupid policy is being pursued. We who know the people and the land assert without fear of contradiction that the money would be ten times more usefully spent in re-settling the crofters on the land which has been turned into deer forests.

Resolution agreed to.