HC Deb 13 February 1894 vol 21 cc383-5
MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)

I beg to ask the Secretary for Scotland whether the statements made by Sir Colin Scott Moncrieff, Under Secretary for Scotland, before the Welsh Land Commission, represent the views of Her Majesty's Government with reference to the Highland crofter question?

[The following questions on the same subject also appeared on the Paper, and were answered at the same time.]

DR. MACGREGOR (Inverness-shire)

To ask the Secretary for Scotland if he authorised the evidence recently tendered to the Welsh Land Commission by the Under Secretary for Scotland, Sir Colin Scott Moncrieff (as reported in the daily Press), in reference to the laud question in the Highlands, and the working of the Crofters' Act there; if not, what steps will he take to counteract the effects of such statements; and does the Government intend to implement promises already made to amend the Crofters' Act in the coming Session?

MR. A. SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)

To ask the Secretary for Scotland whether his attention has been called to the newspaper reports of the evidence regarding the operation of the Crofters' Act, tendered to the Welsh Land Commission by the Under Secretary for Scotland on behalf of the Scotch Office; and whether these reports correctly represent the evidence given and the views held at the Scotch Office on the subject?


In reply to these questions, I may say that the reports in the public Press of Sir Colin Moncrieff's evidence before the Welsh Land Commission were very much condensed; and, to be rightly judged of, that evidence requires to be read in extenso. The figures and statistics regarding the operations of the Crofters' Commission since 1886 which Sir Colin put forward are, so far as I have been able to examine them, substantially correct. Among other matters he spoke of the increased readiness to pay their rents shown by crofters whose farms had been dealt with by the Commission. As regards the future policy of the Government, Sir Colin Moncrieff empowers me to say that he expressed no opinion, and made no statement. Sir Colin distinctly stated that the extension of the benefits of the Crofters' Act to crofting leaseholders was generally and strongly desired in the Highlands. It is the intention of the Government so to extend it. It is likewise the intention of the Government to carry out the policy of Parliament with regard to the enlargement of crofters' holdings, and for that purpose they appointed what is commonly called the Deer Forest Commission, which is making a complete and minute investigation embracing the whole of the crofting counties. There is one point on which it is extremely important that the Welsh Laud Commission should have full information; and that is the effect on the industry, energy, and self-reliance of the crofters, as shown in the improved cultivation of their farms and rebuilding of their houses, which has followed upon security of tenure and a fair rent. On this point, I have received most favourable accounts from most reliable quarters. On this matter, and generally on the whole question, Sheriff Brand, the Chairman of the Crofters' Commission, has been invited to give evidence before the Welsh Commission. I am glad to say that he has consented, and I have reason to believe that further evidence will be given from an unofficial quarter of high authority.


May I ask when the official evidence will he placed at the disposal of Members of this House?


I believe a volume is about to he issued: I will inquire.


Will the Crofters' Act he amended in the forthcoming Session?


I have every hope that the Crofters' Act will be extended to leaseholders next Session.