§ 1. Motion made and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £8,095, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1901, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Her Majesty's Secretary for Scotland and Subordinate Offices, including a Grant in Aid of the Congested Districts (Scotland) Fund."
§ MR. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)
I rise to move a reduction of this Vote in connection with the sum devoted to the Congested Districts Board; and I have put down the notice of reduction in order to indicate that we who represent northern constituencies in Scotland have something like a Scottish grievance in connection with the action of the Congested Districts Board generally. In May last* this Committee sat to consider a proposal to vote a grant in aid to this very Board, and on that occasion I made some comments on the action of that Board which could scarcely be construed as in any degree favourable to it. However, it is right I should point out that there was no Report on the action of the Board in the hands of the members of the Committee at the time the Vote was brought under debate. The Lord Advocate, in his reply, accused me of making irresponsible charges, of speaking in ignorance, and of using wild and rash language. I make no complaint person ally with regard to that. So far as I am concerned, I pay no attention to it at all. But there was much more than a mere personal element in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, because, if the* See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxxiii., page 649.802 charges I made were irresponsible, if I spoke in ignorance, and if I used wild and rash language, it is perfectly obvious that the only inference to be drawn is that there was no foundation for those charges, and that they ought never to have been made. Now, this House has, and, indeed, ought to possess, great power over the public purse, and I cannot help thinking it is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs when you have a Government coming to the House and asking for money before it has produced any Report on the action of the Board by which that money is to be spent. It is obvious, if the Government will not publish Reports before Votes are taken, that it is impossible for Members who are asked to discuss the Vote to be thoroughly possessed of the facts which are in the possession of the Government. I certainly cannot understand why we should not have had the Report before the grant was asked for, seeing that the Lord Advocate had a copy of it in his hand and treated the Committee for about three-quarters of an hour to a lecture based on the very document which had been withheld from the members of the Committee. He said that the charges I made were irresponsible. By that I understood him to mean that they were of no significance, and were not founded on fact. What were the charges I made? In the first place I said that the money granted to the Congested Districts Board had been granted mainly for two purposes; one for the purchase of land to relieve the congested districts of Scotland, and the other for the promotion of migration. I added that the Government had not expended a single sovereign in the purcase of land for the purpose indicated, and neither had they migrated a single crofter. Were these charges irresponsible? Were they true or not? In February last the Lord Advocate said that £1,451 had been actually expended on migration; yet not a single crofter has been migrated, judging from the Report which has recently been placed in our hands. I see a good deal there about the spraying of potatoes, so perhaps the right hon. Gentleman, in speaking of migration, refers to the migration of microbes. I charge this Congested Districts Board, which has been in existence since 1897, and in possession of public funds for the purpose of procuring lands in order to relieve the congested districts, that they 803 have not purchased any land, and have not relieved any congestion in the northern districts. The Lord Advocate cited one specific instance with regard to the Strathnaver holdings, but that scheme appears to have been a total failure, for not a single crofter took advantage of it, and it has practically been abandoned. The words of the Report on this point are—From this document [resolutions passed at a meeting at Betty hill] it will be seen that the condition proposed by us which seemed to cause the greatest difficulty in the way of the success of our scheme, was that which had reference to taking the sheep stock at valuation.And again—It seemed difficult, therefore, in view of the disappointing response, to proceed further with the scheme as proposed, and it appeared as if the insufficiency of the number of suitable applicants would make it necessary for us to decline to purchase this portion of Syre.I should explain that there were only twelve applicants for eleven of the sixteen holdings, and of these several stated that they would not take any portion of the present stock, although it was offered to them at a price to be fixed by agreement instead of by valuation. The Board continue—In these circumstanes the Board regret that they do not feel justified in pro-seeding with the scheme, and cannot accept the offer which you [i.e., the applicant] has made. They may possibly even be obliged to relinquish the option of purchase of the farm in question, and abandon the attempt to make it available for small holdings, a result which the Board would deeply regret.I cannot help thinking it was scarcely generous on the part of the Lord Advocate to accuse me of making irresponsible charges, when he at the same moment held in his hand a copy of the Report from which I have just quoted. There has been a meeting of some members of the Congested Districts Board and a number of gentlemen representing the crofters of Sutherland-shire, in which this scheme was carefully gone over, and the very items I have pointed out are amongst those to which strong objection was taken by the crofter representatives. It has been pointed out that three-fourths of the population are not in a position to touch such holdings as were proposed by the Congested Districts Board. It has been shown too— and the Lord Advocate himself should have known it—that to ask the crofters 804 to take over sheep at a Highland valuation was a thing which no shrewd man or no man of common sense, who knew anything about the Highland valuation of sheep, would have anything to do with. There was also a proposition that these unfortunate crofters should take advantage of what was described by the Lord Advocate as being a very handsome condition —they were to pay so much in respect of the shootings over the lands. But the land had been cut up into innumerable small holdings, and if the shootings were to be cut up in the same way and given to a large number of small proprietors what value would have attached to them? Could the Lord Advocate have guaranteed that the value of the shootings would have continued for any length of time? A scheme containing such a condition-could not be applicable to small crofters who have the greatest difficulty in the world in keeping body and soul together. It is simply absurd and preposterous. I say, therefore, that the charges I made were not irresponsible but were well founded, as is borne out in this very Report. I may further point out that the Board actually desired to charge those crofters at the rate of 3s. l0½d. per yard for fencing. Anyone must know that that is too. high a figure for such fencing as is put up in these places. I know that when I have had any put up I have had it done at a lower price, and, therefore, when you are dealing with men of small means, or with no moans at all, I think one is. entitled to claim that they should not be subjected to such exceptional charges. Then I come to the Borve holdings, and I. will quote this paragraph from the Report—From Mr. Carmichael's report we learned for the first time that it was considered impracticable to cut the farm up into twenty-four distinct lots, and that it was now proposed to mark off twenty-four small blocks of land beside the houses, amounting in all to little more than eighty acres, and that the remainder of the farm should be held and worked in common.The Board finish up on this point by frankly stating that the only lot which was applied for was taken by the Free Church minister. I have no objection to this, but it is surely reducing the efforts; of this Board to an absurdity when you find that the only result of their attempt to reduce the congestion of the crofter districts in the Highlands is an assignment of a holding to a Free Church minister, 805 who certainly cannot be considered to be a crofter. Then the Board started apparently to get feus for fishermen. They got a plot of land of about seven acres near Stornoway. What was the result? The Report tells us that—At the expiry of the period fixed in the notice the only applicant was a fisherman from Garrabost, who appeared to be a suitable person for the purpose we had in view, but as he was the only applicant for any one of the twenty-nine feus proposed we had to express to him our regret that it was impossible for us to proceed further with the scheme.This, the third scheme of this Board, proved to be an absolute futility. Now I come to the Glendale holdings, with reference to which the Commissioners say—We entertained the application favourably, and were prepared to accede to it. But meantime it transpired that the proprietor had made other arrangements as to the said lands, and the application was withdrawn.Then comes the Bay Farm (Skye) scheme, as to which the Commissioners say —This scheme includes the formation of certain roads and the erection of a boundary fence. If carried out there is reason to hope that it may be attended with success.There you have from the Report of the Commissioners themselves the whole account of their endeavours to relieve the congested districts in the north of Scotland by the purchase of land, and I say again, as I said in May, that the main purpose for which this House voted a sum of money and entrusted the expenditure of it to the Commission has practically failed. They have done nothing in the direction it was intended they should go We know from the Lord Advocate that last year they spent over £2,000 in administrative expenses, a sum which, I suppose, goes in largo salaries to certain gentlemen or officials connected with the Board. But, so far as the main purposes of the Congested Districts Act are concerned, the work of the Commissioners has been futile, and the charges which I made, and which the Lord Advocate re-presented to be irresponsible, were charges which have unfortunately only too much substance. They have done something, of course. They have devoted some attention to bee-keeping, and we learn from their Report that they started with three hives, swarms, and outfits, which were sent to a certain man in the Highlands. I gather also that they sent 143 sittings of eggs to 806 various parts, and they have purchased a certain number of bulls, rams, and stallions in order to improve the breed of stock in the Highlands. I do not deny that all this is very desirable, but it was not the main object for which this money was voted by the House of Commons. Certain work has been done, or is promised to be done, in regard to piers and roads. No doubt that, too, is desirable, especially if the piers are put in places which are suitable; but from my experience in connection with the neighbourhood, while the Orkney Commissioners have erected piers at great expense in places where there is no very considerable traffic, they have absolutely refused to consider the question of erecting a pier at St. Margaret's Hope, where mail steamers call, and where one is very desirable indeed. Bearing in mind all the facts I have stated, I submit that this Committee is entitled to use its discretion as to continuing to vote money for a Board which does not devote it to the real purpose for which it was originally granted, however desirable may be the objects to which it is actually applied. There is another matter with which I must deal before I sit down. In the debate in 1899, the Lord Advocate took credit for a scheme which had been in embryo. It was a scheme of the Secretary for Scotland to devote a considerable sum of money for a specific purpose. That purpose was technical education, and the Lord Advocate, in the course of his speech, said he was glad to think that when hon. Members had in their hands copies of this Report which I now have in my hand they would perceive that the responsibility for the failure of that measure to pass had been put on the right shoulders—namely, the shoulders of myself and the hon. friends who sit beside me. I do not think, if I may be allowed to say so, it is proper to use a Government Report as a means for making an attack on any of the hon. Members of this House, but it is still worse when that attack is made by a member of the Government who has a Report in his hand which is not in the hands of the Members he is attacking. While seeking to say the least offensive thing I can, I must say that I never heard a smaller-minded thing said in this House than was said by the Lord Advocate; when he said he was glad to think that the responsibility for that 807 failure would be put on the right shoulders—meaning that this Report would go down to the constituencies, and that the constituencies would see who their friends were, I presume. There was an informal meeting held in the Lord Advocate's room last year, by invitation of the Secretary for Scotland, to consider this very scheme, and I should have thought myself that, being an informal meeting, no one would venture to mention it in this House. But it has been mentioned, and I feel perfectly free to say anything I know on the subject. You see in the Report that the Board endeavour to throw the responsibility for the "blocking" of the Bill on the Members for Northern constituencies.
§ *THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. A. GRAHAM MURRAY,) Buteshire
The hon. Member will pardon me. What I said about the "blocking" of the Bill surely referred to a public matter.
§ MR. HEDDERWICK
I accept what the Lord Advocate says. At the same time I am sure hon. Members sitting on this side will remember that the matter was specifically referred to, and also the fact that there had been a meeting.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
In my opinion it is very much to be deprecated that you should make allusions to what was done at a private meeting. I certainly should have transgressed had I made allusion to that. Personally I think it is a rule that ought not to be transgressed. There is not a word in my speech about that matter.
§ MR. HEDDERWICK
My recollection of the debate does not exactly tally with the statement the Lord Advocate has just made, but I will accept the statement. It is quite possible that my memory may be wrong and his accurate. I shall not make any further reference to what took place at the meeting.
§ MR. HEDDERWICK
I shall pass from that at once, but I think I am entitled to say this—and I do not think the Lord Advocate will dispute it for a moment — certainly for one I really approved of the scheme so far as I knew it, but I did not approve of the scheme 808 until I had ascertained that there were available funds in the hands of the Districts Board Commissioners—a balance of money which might be applied to some other purpose which the Secretary for Scotland might think desirable and in the interest of the crofters in the Highlands. The Report itself fortunately contains a copy of the Bill which was proposed by the Secretary for Scotland, and which was not passed. You will find that that Bill is in the most general terms possible. There is not a word about technical education in the whole Bill. I think it is simply to the effect that power should be given to the Secretary for Scotland to utilise the money for any purpose which he might think proper. I confess that my hon. friends who took the view they did take, and who refused to allow that Bill to proceed, may very well be justified, because no one could foresee what the purposes were in the mind of the Secretary for Scotland to which he intended to devote this money if the power had been given to him to do so. When you consider the large sums of money which the Commissioners have had in their hands so long, and which have not been applied to the purposes for which they were voted by the House, I confess my hon. colleagues will have an admirable case before the constituencies if it should be sought by the Lord Advocate to use this sentence which occurs in the Blue-book and which is an endeavour, in point of fact, to throw the responsibility on their shoulders for the failure. I do not know whether it is a failure or not, because the scheme never passed into being; and unless it was for technical education it is impossible for me to say what the purpose was. I deprecate the insertion in Reports issued as Government Reports of party attacks, and the more especially is that form of political warfare to be deprecated when those attacks are made by a Member of the House in the honourable position of Lord Advocate, who is himself the only person who has a copy of the Report he is reading in his hand. One might say a great deal more on this subject, but I feel myself that enough has been said. I wish to point out to members of the Committee that, in point of fact, while the administrative expenses have been going on in connection with this Congested Districts Board, there has been no expenditure by the Board upon the purposes 809 for which the money was voted by the House of Commons, although now three years or more have elapsed since the money was voted. Having regard to the fact that this Report, as I said before, is a futility as far as any practical performance is concerned, I beg to move a reduction of the Vote by £500.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item E (Congested Districts Board) be reduced by £500."—(Mr. Hedderwick.)
§ *MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said his hon. friend felt very strongly the observations made respecting him and his colleagues on that side of the House in connection with this matter. He was not going to refer to the interview which Members of the House had with the Secretary for Scotland. He considered that interview private, and had kept his mouth closed. The Lord Advocate would not deny what he stated to the House the last time the matter was discussed. The hon. and learned Gentleman said he was one of those who blocked the Bill. That statement was absolutely false and unfounded. The Lord Advocate had no right, in the position he occupied, to make statements which were inaccurate and without any foundation with regard to the attitude and conduct of Members. The Lord Advocate at that time entrenched himself behind a Report of which Members of the House had no knowledge whatever. It had not been issued. He thought that was a most unfair advantage to take of Members. In the Report they found on page 7—It was obviously inexpedient for us to enter upon any enterprise which we were not quite sure we should have the right to carry through in all its developments, and we were advised that the clauses of the Act did not cover certain of the objects which were pressed upon us by those who knew the necessities of the Highlands very thoroughly. Early in 1899 we urged that a short Bill should be prepared giving us power to apply a portion of our funds for purposes other than those set forth in the Act of 1897, when we were satisfied that the expenditure would be for the benefit of the inhabitants of the congested districts. A copy of this Bill will be found in the appendix. It was introduced in the House of Lords by the Secretary for Scotland and passed through the various stages there; but as it was opposed and 'blocked' by some of the Members for the constituencies which would in our opinion have most benefited by its pro- 810 visions, it had, in the state of public business, to be withdrawn at the end of July, 1899.The constituency he represented was the constituency that would receive the greatest benefit from any such scheme as this, and he was particularly careful to impress this on the Lord Advocate. He was careful to avoid interfering in any way with the progress of the Bill. He was anxious that it should become law, and that there should be in Stornoway, in the island of Lewis, a scheme carried out for the purpose of giving technical instruction. He was particularly careful not to do anything to hinder or hamper the Bill, and yet the Lord Advocate months afterwards got up in his place and made a charge against hon. Members with respect to the withdrawal of the measure. The statement was false and contemptible.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
What I did say—I am reading now from Hansard, which was revised by myself at the time; and as far as my recollection goes I know of no reason to question the accuracy of the report—what I said was—Hon. Members know that the Bill was blocked by hon. Members opposite belonging to those very portions of the country whose constituents would have been benefited, and the responsibility for that failure I am very glad to put upon their shoulders.The Member for Wick then said that he had not blocked the Bill, and the Member for Ross-shire said he had not blocked the Bill, and I accepted the disclaimer, but said that the hon. Member had been one of those who prevented it passing.
§ *MR. WEIR
again denied that he had done anything to hinder or hamper the progress of the Bill, and it was most ungenerous to allege that Members of the House blocked the measure. Probably it was thought that such a statement might catch votes. If it did catch a stray vote or two it was a most contemptible mode of securing them. With regard to the migration of crofters, he had asked several questions during the session, but had always been told to wait until the Report was published. On the 30th March he asked the Lord Advocate how many crofters had been migrated with the assistance of the Congested Districts Board, and the reply was that none had actually been migrated. And yet that was the very object for which 811 the Act of Parliament was passed There was an expenditure during the year of £8,000, of which £2,114 12s. 4d. went in administrative charges. The charges had diminished slightly since, but certainly it was not a satisfactory way to conduct the business to have such excessive charges for administration. If the directors of any commercial enterprise tolerated any such expenses, they would be cleared out very quickly, but because this was a Government Department, they were required to submit to them. The Committee had every right to object to this state of things, and he trusted the Amendment would be pressed to a division, as that was the only way in which a protest could be lodged against the conduct of the Board. There were a few matters in the Report to which he desired to refer. On page 7 there was this paragraph—A shipowner who is impressed with this difficulty offered us the free use of a ship for six months to try an experiment he suggested. This ship had previously been used as a tender to a training ship, and had every requisite on board for the purpose suggested. The proposal was that there should be a vessel with accommodation for about fifty boys, where for three months or the like period each lad should receive rudimentary instruction in sea life and its usages before being drafted into the regular training ship.There was no further information, and he should like to know whether that offer had been accepted, and if it had not, whether the Admiralty had been approached with a view to getting a training ship at Stornoway. Highland boys would not go to the lowlands of Scotland to these training ships. Then came the question of holdings, migration, and fishermen's dwellings. Reference had been made to some land in the Island of Lewis, for which it was arranged the tenants should pay £1 5s. per quarter-acre. It was monstrous that they should be expected to pay £5 per acre. Besides, what could be done with quarter-acre plots? If only, instead of coming to Parliament and talking on subjects they knew nothing about, the Lord Advocate, or the Secretary for Scotland, or some other responsible person, would visit these islands and find out how the people lived, they would have more sympathy for Highland crofters than they now evidenced. There were twenty-six of these plots, but he was not surprised to find there was only one applicant. It 812 was impossible for people to enter into such arrangements as were imposed; they would only saddle themselves with burdens they could not bear. Statements were often made in the House that the Highlanders had the means but would not pay. That was not true. The Highland crofters were honest and industrious, and they wore willing and anxious to pay 20s. in the £, and not 5s. or 10s., as the House was frequently led to believe. What were the Board going to do in the matter? Were they going to say there was no possible chance of getting any land in the Island of Lewis? Were they going to throw up the sponge and say they had exhausted every means for securing land? When the Bill was passing through the House he had urged there would be great difficulty in securing land, because there was no clause providing for compulsory acquisition. What was the Board going to do about the waste land in the Island of Lewis? Was it impossible to make any better arrangements with the landlord? The Committee were entitled to some information on this subject. Then there was a letter sent from the Landward Committee, Stornoway, as to conditions of feu of fishermen's dwellings. Mr. Macfarlane, clerk of the Stornoway Parish Council, acting on behalf of the people, wrote to the Congested Districts Board asking them for information as follows—'Each house to be used as a dwelling house for one family and for no other purpose.' Please say does this mean that the feuar will be prevented from keeping a lodger or lodgers? 'Keeping a shop or carrying on a trade on the feu.' Does this rule prevent the feuar from selling even bread or groceries in any part of his house? Or if the feuar fisherman should happen to be a tradesman, is he prohibited from working at his trade, should he be unable to follow the fishing V Is the feuar's wife or other female member of the family prohibited from conducting, say, a small dressmaking or millinery business?We would expect the Congested Districts. Board to be able to give a direct and straight answer to such questions; but what was their reply? On the 27th December, 1899, they said—For trading or business purposes the rate of feu duty would be substantially higher.The selling of a few sweets or loaves of bread would make it a trading or business place, and the feu duty would be substantially higher. That was a specimen. 813 of sympathy with the people! According to paragraph 2—If the house remains essentially a dwelling-house the Board do not think that the feuar's wife would be prohibited from carrying on such an occupation as dressmaking, nor do they think the feuar himself, while pursuing his occupation as a fisherman, would be pie-vented, in his spare time, from engaging in such mechanical or other industry as can be carried on in a dwelling-house.Was it likely any crofter would take a few on such a statement as that? The crofter wanted to know absolutely whether or not his wife or daughter would be permitted to carry on a dressmaking business, but the reply of Mr. R. Macgregor, the secretary to the Board, was that the Board "did not think" she would be prohibited from doing so. Then Mr. De Moleyns was sent up for the purpose of explaining to or teaching the people the potato-spraying process. That gentleman issued a report on the 12th August, 1899, as to the experiments, and he did not after-wards go near the places nor send any competent person until 21st October, when, upon arriving at Stornoway and visiting the various places in the island, he found all the potato lifting had been done. Surely instructions should have been issued by the secretary to the Board. This was how the money of the Congested Districts Board was squandered. He wished to know something about the construction of the Carlo way Road. They had carried on the work from two ends, and they had got stuck in a bog. If they drove along that road from Stomoway or Carloway, they would get to that bog, and no further. Was that a satisfactory condition of things I Was the right hon. Gentleman aware that £15,000 was granted by the Conservative Government in 1891 for that road? Was it for the purpose of catching votes in the 1892 election? he did not mind the Government getting votes, but they should not get them under false pretences. It was the duty of the Government engineer to see that proper plans were prepared, not to exceed £15,000, and if the road was likely to take £25,000 or £30,000, they had no business to start it. That was how matters wore managed for Scotland. The receipts of the Congested Districts Board amounted to £78,129 6s. 10d., and they had a balance in hand of £60,134 6s. 8d. There were many other items about which he hoped 814 the right hon. Gentleman would furnish them with the fullest information. The balance-sheet showed a balance in hand on the 1st of April, 1899, of £40,804. There was a sum of £15,000 from the Local Taxation (Scotland) Account, and £20,000 was the annual sum voted by Parliament in aid of the fund. Was that sum of money lying at the Bank of Scotland at interest? The miscellaneous receipts from agriculture were £1,403, and land and migration repayments of loans and interest £29 9s. (5d. As small loans in connection with land and migration the crofters had £1,310, and they had paid back their first instalments, which was very satisfactory indeed, and he hoped they should hear no more about crofters not paying their honest and just debts. On the other side of the account they found the administrative expenses amounting to £1,524.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present (Captain SINCLAIR, Forfarshire). House counted, and forty Members being found present,
§ *MR. WEIR (continuing)
said the Re port disclosed a most unsatisfactory method of keeping the accounts. What they wanted, what they were entitled to, and what he should continue to press for was a detailed statement in the Estimates of the amounts expended under the various sub-sections. They were entitled to have the respective amounts expended under those headings. The Congested Districts Board had as secretary a man who was a clerk in the Exchequer Office in Edinburgh, and he received £650 a year for his services as chief clerk in that office. The Secretary for Scotland had appointed him to do the secretarial work of the Congested Districts Board of Scotland, and he took out of the Congested Districts Board's funds £150 a year. The Board also took another £150 a year from the fund for the purpose of paying a man to do the work which this clerk was not able to do in the Exchequer Department. Was that a satisfactory method of conducting business? They took £300 a year for the purpose of paying a secretary, and the same man had to attend to his duties at the Exchequer Office. No wonder he was not acquainted with all the facts. Had it never entered the minds of the members of the Congested Districts Board that it would be 815 very much better to give this sum of£300 to one man, who could give his whole time to the work of the Board? There were plenty of competent men to be found in Edinburgh for £300 a year, which was the sum now paid for doing the work badly. He hoped the Board would give this point consideration. He wished also to express his regret at the callous indifference of the Board to carry out the provisions of the Act of Parliament for the purpose of removing crofters from the congested districts. Several years ago the light hon. Gentleman said the scheme was well in hand, but why did the Board not carry it out? Not a single crofter had been migrated. This was certainly not in accordance with the promise of the Secretary for Scotland. He hoped the matter would receive the attention of the Government.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
I should like to say two or three words upon this Vote. A few weeks ago, when we had this question before us, the Lord Advocate read an extract from the Report which we have now got in our hands. We are much indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for giving us the opportunity, now that we are in possession of that Report, to discuss the subject with greater knowledge. One cannot help observing that there appears to be a useless expenditure of money under this Vote. It is not very easy to inquire into the origin of this expenditure during the past year, which has been transferred from one account to another without going back to the year 1891. The object of this expenditure was mainly for the construction of piers, roads, and public works in the Highlands. That remained as a Vote upon our Estimates till a couple of years ago. During the time that the Liberal Government was in office they made certain arrangements which they had not time to carry out, and they were naturally pressed as to what they would do in regard to them. They were not able to propose anything directly in the way of carrying out that Report, and as a kind of solatium they brought forward the Congested Districts Board Bill of 1897, which is the Act under which this Board exercises its powers at the present moment. The Board got very wide powers under that Act, although not wide enough for the desires of the present Secretary for Scot- 816 land, and they have had a large sum of money voted by Parliament every year since that time. Although in this Estimate we are only voting £20,000, there is an additional sum of £15,000 per annum paid out of the Local Taxation Fund, so that its income out of the public exchequer amounts to no less than £35,000 per annum. My hon. friend has already called attention to the fact that the Report we hold in our hands gives a statement of accounts down to the 31st of March in the present year, and gives us information down to the end of the last financial year. We find that they had in hand a balance of £60,000, while their expenditure during that year amounted to no more than £20,000. I think the year before it was something less than that amount. The Board are at the present moment quite unable to spend anything like the money that is voted to them by Parliament for the purposes for which they were created. As the Committee knows, this sum is not returned in the Exchequer balance, but is kept by the Congested Districts Board and allowed to accumulate in their hands, so that we find that the Secretary for Scotland on the 31st of March last had a balance of £60,000 in his hands, and he asks for £35,000 more this year to spend i under the provisions of this Act of Parliament. Is it worth while that we should go on paying what is really the interest upon a million of money which is substantially in the hands of the Secretary for Scotland alone, to spend practically in almost any way he chooses in certain limited districts and counties in Scotland? I think the policy which permits such an expenditure of public money by the Secretary for Scotland is very questionable indeed, and it becomes still more questionable when we hear of the great want of success, to put it very mildly, of the effort which this Board has made to spend the money for the purposes provided for under the Act of 1897. I am not going into the details of this Report nor into the general purposes for j which the money could be spent. My hon. friend the Member for Wick has alluded to the question of migration, and he has said very truly that in this respect the efforts of the Board to spend money in new settlements have proved practically futile. I think that view is entirely borne out by the Report itself. If we go into the other subjects and con- 817 sider the purposes for which this money has been spent we find the same result; in fact, I think it would require a humorist to deal with this Report, and that is not one of the characteristics of Scotch Members, and I am sure it is not one of my characteristics. I must decline even an effort to deal adequately with the transactions of a body supplying bulls and stallions, which are described in almost equally humorous language upon some of the pages of the Report, and they have met with an extraordinary want of success in carrying out their schemes of advancing seed potatoes. I say that it is humorous reading, but it is also a very serious matter, for it is a very great waste of public money to go on year after year voting this sum of £20,000 for purposes for which this Board, with all the desire in the world to spend the money, could not contrive a way of doing so. I should like to say a word as to the constitution of the Board as a spending authority. I say that it is really not a Board at all, for it is really the Secretary for Scotland, and he alone, who has all the power upon this Board. If anyone will take the trouble to look at the Act of Parliament he will see that the Secretary for Scotland makes all the rules, to begin with, to regulate the proceedings and the meetings of the Board. He has passed the Act of Parliament, and he names all the unofficial members on the Board, who are in a minority. he appoints a secretary, and fixes his salary. We have no record of the meetings of this Board, and it seems physically impossible to hold many meetings, because the majority of the members hold official positions in various parts of Scotland. The Secretary for Scotland has distinct control over one branch of the expenditure; he is himself chairman of the Board, and he reports to the Secretary for Scotland, so that he draws up the Report of this Board, presents it to himself, and then to this House. It is clear to anyone who looks into the matter that substantially we are voting every year a sum of £35,000 for the Secretary for Scotland to spend as he likes, and I do not think that is a proper expenditure of public money. I wish to add my word of protest against this expenditure. I do not think that such a remark should have been made in a Report laid before Parliament, particularly in a Report signed by a Member of the other House. 818 Here is what appears on page 7 of that, Report. A Billwas introduced in the House of Lords by the Secretary for Scotland to extend the powers of the Congested Districts Board, and passed, through cue various stages there; but as it was opposed and 'blocked' by some of the Members for the constituencies which would, in our opinion, have most benefited by its provisions, it had, in the state of public business,, to be withdrawn at the end of July, 1899.I do not think such an observation; should have appeared in any Parliamentary Paper. I do not think that it lies. in the mouth of a Minister of the Crown to complain in a public document of the action of Members of this House in the discharge of their duty to their constituents, in full liberty and on their own responsibility. So far as my recollection goes I do not believe that any effort was made in this House last year to pass the Bill through the House of Commons. It never was put down to public discussion at a time when it could possibly come on. I go further and ask, if this Bill is of such great importance, if it was so absolutely necessary, in the opinion of the Congested Districts Board, that their powers should be enlarged, why was it not introduced this session? We have heard nothing of it since July, 1899, and I believe that unless we had been re reminded of it by the paragraph in the Report of the Congested Districts Board. the existence of the Bill would have passed, entirely out of the memory of the Scottish Members. I am prepared to move the reduction of the Vote by.£10,000, because I believe it is a waste of money. The Congested Districts Board, are not able to spend the whole of it during the currency of the financial year. Moreover, I consider that it is demoralising to the people amongst whom it is spent. Trying to stimulate industries in districts of the country where such industries are totally unsuitable leads to extravagance, and does little indeed to encourage the independence of the people or to develop a better system.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithnessshire)
said they had not the report of the Congested Districts Board in hand when the Scotch Estimates were last before the Committee.. They, however, had now got it, and they knew what that Board had done during the past year. He, for one, was not 819 astonished that nothing had been done. He never expected that much would be done, because the Board had no powers under the Act to compel Scotch landlords to assist in giving land on which to settle crofters. Out of £35,000, which was voted by Parliament last year, the Board had only spent £1,500 on the migration of crofters. The emigration to Canada had proved a failure, and therefore it was proposed that that money should be spent in migration; but the Board had spent more in management than in migration. Moreover, in the one case where they had spent money, instead of placing the migrated crofters under the Crofters Act, which they ought to have done, they had planted them as leaseholders who did not enjoy the benefits of the Crofters Act, and thus the crofters had ceased to be crofters. That was a very shameful thing for the Board to do. Two schemes had been brought before the crofters—one in Sutherland-shire and the other near Stornoway. The price asked for the Sutherlandshire land was simply preposterous. Why, land was offered within fifty miles of London at a quarter of the price asked for the poor land in Sutherlandshire. In fact, the crofters would be better off' by coming to Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, because they could get land there at half the price asked in Sutherlandshire. He was astonished at the Congested Districts Board bringing before the crofters of Stornoway a feuing scheme. The maximum size of the holding was a quarter of an acre. Of course, the thing was a farce and a dead failure. He expected that from the very beginning, and therefore was not disappointed. Until the Board got compulsory powers to acquire land no good would be done. He was inclined to vote for this grant of money ceasing altogether, because he did not see why it should be piled up and not spent for any useful purpose. He was not sure that it was not more baneful than stimulating at the present time. If the Board went to work on proper lines, some good might be done in Argyllshire and other parts of the west of Scotland.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
The hon. Member for Wick Burghs seems to complain bitterly of the language I used in a former debate. What I sought to contradict was the statement, which the hon. Member repeated to-day, that the 820 scheme of the Congested Districts Board for the Strathnaver holdings was a preposterous one. One of his reasons for saying that the scheme was preposterous was that the sheep were to be taken over at a valuation; but the hon. Member forgot for the moment that although that condition was originally made, it was withdrawn by a qualifying notice issued on 8th January, and the scheme, as it was submitted, did not contain that provision in it. The letters of gentlemen who lived in the neighbourhood —one a clergyman and the other the convener of the county council—characterised the scheme as it then stood as a scheme which was a very fair and generous one. Therefore the hon. Member will find it was a humble protest on my part against applying anything like the epithet "preposterous" to this scheme. Regarding the statements of the hon. Member in which he said the Board were persons who had other things to do and were not in earnest, I do not think the word "irresponsible" was an unparliamentary epithet. The members were, as I pointed out, chosen because they were persons engaged in other avocations, in order to got, so far as we could, those who, in Scotland, could bring the maximum of experience to deal with this difficult subject. I do not consider it was a fail-description of the efforts of these gentlemen who constituted this Board to say they were not in earnest. Another subject of grievance with the hon. Member was that the Report of the Congested Districts Board was in my hands and not in those of the Scotch Members. I explained on a former occasion that I was not responsible for fixing the particular date on which the Vote was to be brought forward. That had been arranged by the Leader of the House, who, as hon. Members know, is always exceedingly anxious to take hon. Members opposite along with him. The usual notice was given that the Scotch Estimates would be taken on that day, and no suggestion was made through the ordinary channels of communication that the Vote should not be taken then. So far I do not see what I could have done otherwise in the matter. Personally I think it is a great deal more fitting and convenient that the Vote should be taken after the Report is out, and certainly if I am spared to be in the same place in the year to come we will not have discussion 821 without the Report. But, at any rate, I have shown my view of the matter by putting this Vote down for discussion to-day. I can scarcely be held blameworthy when to a certain extent I quoted from the Report. The hon. Gentleman said that I read from the Report for three quarters of an hour; but, as a matter of fact, I only read two sentences of ten lines long each. It is natural that I should have justified the action of the Board by telling the Committee, as I did, precisely what the Board had been doing. I do not propose to go through, as I did on a former occasion, the detailed history of what the Congested Districts Board have been doing during the last year. I am content to let the Scottish people judge for themselves. On a perusal of the Report of the Board, which speaks for itself, it could not be said that the Board have been doing nothing, and have been a failure, because they have not been to any extent successful in migrating crofters. I am quite aware that this is a question which bulks very largely in the minds of some hon. Gentlemen opposite, who thought it was the one opportunity for usefulness above all others for the Congested Districts Board. They said that because, as a matter of fact, the Board have not been to any great extent successful in their migration schemes, therefore the Board are at fault. I deprecate that position altogether. So far as the policy of the Board is concerned, they do not propose to migrate crofters in any eleemosynary sense. They do not propose to do more than help those who. are in the position to help themselves. The hon. Member spoke a good deal about the Strathnaver case; but there have been successful operations in other cases, although the holdings have been small, no doubt. But the Strathnaver case cannot even now be said to be a failure, because the whole matter is even now open,. and, as a matter of fact, efforts are being made to induce crofters to settle there. Hon. Members must recollect that for any success in the direction of migration we must necessarily have time. I do not wish to say anything disrespectful of the people in the West Highlands, but anybody who knew them must be aware that they would be always glad to accept such benefits as Providence or anyone else may put before them, and that there will always be a strong desire to get a thing for nothing rather than pay anything for it. I have little doubt myself that, until 822 it is seen that the settled policy of the Board is not simply to give the land away, but to help those who will help themselves, the people will hang back for better terms. The Board has only been in existence for two years, which is a very short time for experiments of an undoubtedly difficult character to get into such a position as to have a practical chance of success. Although I should be very far from saying that there is anything to entitle one to hold out a sanguine hope of assured success, I think this is a matter in which the House may be fairly asked to exercise to a certain extent the virtue of a little patience. What I do claim for the Congested Districts Board, and what a perusal of the Report will show to any fair-minded person, is that they had really been assiduous in this matter, and have tried then best and are still trying their best. Hon. Members have commented somewhat severely on the statement in the Report as to the proceedings on last year's Bill. I confess I cannot see anything wrong in that statement, or that it bears anything, so far as I understand it, of the nature of what may be called a party character. What was said was that the Bill was opposed and "blocked" by some Members whose constituencies, in the opinion of the Board, would have been most benefited by its provisions. Here is what I myself said when the Scotch Estimates were last before the Committee—With the view to procuring that power—which the Board had not got—my noble friend introduced last year a Bill, which passed all its stages in the House of Lords, which would have allowed a sum of money to be used in this direction. Hon. Member.-! know that that Bill was blocked by hon. Members opposite belonging to those very portions of the country whose constituencies would have been benefited, and the responsibility for that failure I am very glad to put on their shoulders.I cannot see that there is anything unparliamentary in that. Of course I was glad to say, in my speech, that I was able to put the saddle on the right horse; but is there any reason why I should not say so? Certainly that class of statement has been made over and over again in Parliament. The hon. Member for the Wick Burghs is very wrong in putting the cap on himself. I never alluded to the hon. Member for the Wick Burghs as obstructing the Bill in any way. On 823 the contrary, I think the hon. Member for the Wick Burghs did his best to help the Government to pass the Bill and get it brought forward. The hon. Member for Ross-shire now is in rather a difficult position. The hon. Member now states that he did not block the Bill, and I accepted the statement at once, and willingly withdraw what I formerly said about the hon. Member. I was under the impression that the hon. Member for Ross-shire was one of those who "blocked" it and would not allow the Bill to pass. The Bill, as a matter of fact, was blocked, and on the 24th July there were five notices on the Paper "that it be read a second time this day three months." These five notices were all given by Members on the opposite benches, two of them representing crofter constituencies. I think that is ample justification of my statement that the Bill was absolutely blocked.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
It was "blocked" in the sense I used the word "blocking," and in the sense used by every newspaper in the country. If the hon. Member has a peculiar meaning for the word "blocking," he might perhaps explain it to the Committee. "Blocking" means putting down a notice "that the Bill be read a second time this day three months." The hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lanarkshire, who enjoys a position of great responsibility on the other side of the House, was consulted by me as to whether the Bill would be allowed to pass.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
That is the reason why the Bill was withdrawn. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that at that period of the session the Bill could not be passed if it was to be opposed. The Bill was introduced on the understanding that it should be passed without discussion, though I do not think that there was any promise given. That really ends what, after all, is not a very important incident. I would not have said so much about it had it not been that it bulked so largely in the 824 speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite this-afternoon. I come now to one or two small points of detail which were put by the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty. He asked, first of all, about the offer of a tender to the training ship mentioned in page 7 of the Report. But that offer could not be accepted, because the Congested Districts Board believed they would not be allowed to spend the money: voted by Parliament in that class of expenditure. That is just one of the points which the Bill introduced last year was wanted to meet. Then the hon. Member referred to the experiments made in potato spraying by Mr. W. T. de Moleyns, of the Irish Congested Districts Board, in Lewis, and complained that that gentleman went back to Lewis a second time. Of course the gentleman who had conducted them wanted naturally to see the result of that series of experiments On arriving at Stornoway, he found that the potatoes were spread about. I think it would be a matter of curiosity to see what the potatoes were like. The hon. Member asks, "Where was the secretary of the Congested District Board?" Does he really expect that the Congested Districts Board are to group en masse to seethe potatoes? What does the hon. Member mean by asking, "Where was. the secretary of the Congested Districts Board?"
§ *MR. WEIR
It is the secretary's, business to be in touch with the owners of these potatoes, and to ascertain from them the information that may be required. I think the secretary is not in touch with them. I should not be so insane as to expect all the Commissioners to go up there. I say there is a want of business management.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
I think the fact that it is an out-of-the-way district is a sufficient explanation of his not being at that particular place, and really it was only thought of in order to. find out the result of an experiment. The next observation was about roads. I think he overlooked what the Report says on page 77. He will find from that statement that they did see about roads. He spoke also about bees and poultry. There is no more to be said on these matters than is said in the Report, where they, are fully dealt with. It is. not altogether an easy, matter to take up 825 these two branches in a district. He ended his remarks with an attack upon the secretary, in which he said that the secretary's work was not properly per-formed. That is not at all the opinion of the Board, and it seems to me a little inconsistent with what the hon. Gentleman has stated. At one time he spoke of the great expense of the officials, and in that connection he referred to the fact that the partial time of the secretary is taken instead of his whole time. As a matter of fact, it is impossible that the work could be done more cheaply, and I am informed by the members of the Congested Districts Board that they consider the secretary has done his work exceedingly well. I pass now to the remarks of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, which really were upon quite a different platform from those of the hon. Member for Ross. His complaint is that there is great use-less expenditure of money under this Vote. Now, I rather think that what he means by that is that there is a useless amount of money voted under this Vote. He does not mean, I think, that too much money is spent. He means really that he does not think the Board are able to spend the money that they get. Of course, a great deal of his speech was taken up with criticisms of the position of the Secretary for Scotland upon this Board. Well, I quite agree that the Secretary for Scotland is entirely responsible for the policy of this Board, but I do not think that the criticism upon that head is really appropriate to the present, or, indeed, for any other occasion, on the Estimates. That was proper criticism to be made at the time the Bill became an Act. ft is all very well to speak in that way now, and that is very often the position of a Government Department, as, for example, the Education Department. The Secretary for Scotland, along, no doubt, with the Duke of Devonshire, is upon that Board, and discusses the policy of the Education Department, and I am not aware that anybody thinks that an undesirable arrangement. I would remind the hon. Member that one of the last legislative achievements of the Government to which he belonged was to do away—and mightily they boasted of it—with the old system of having Boards independent of the control of Parliament. Accordingly, they did away with the Board of Supervision, which had no Parliamentary Minister connected with 826 it, and they constituted the Local Government Board, with the Secretary for Scotland as its Parliamentary head. He is the president. It has a different name, but it is the same thing. He has got exactly the same Board. The Local Government Board have to do what the Secretary for Scotland tells them, and the Secretary for Scotland is amenable to the criticism of this House, just in the same way as any other Minister in any other Department. That is all I can say at the moment on that matter, for this is not the time to defend the arrangement, as it is entirely consistent with the Act of Parliament. In dealing with the question of expenditure the hon. Member referred to the change from the old Highlands and Islands Vote to another Vote. I would remind him that, although the Highlands and Islands Vote was an annual. Vote, it owed its origin to a particular province of the Treasury to spend a certain capital sum on the Highlands and Islands, so that realty, I think, there was, so to speak, a fresh departure when this Board was started. I want to deal with the question of how the money is spent. I do not know really whether the hon. Member goes the whole length of the hon. Member for Caithness in saying that there ought not to be money given to the Highlands at all. He must either do that or say, "Yes, money ought to be given to the Highlands, but you are not spending it in the proper way." ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members say "Hear, hear," but, as I understood, the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire scarcely associated himself with those remarks. He rather seemed to point out that the money was not only not spent, but not spendable. If that is his view, I do not think it is a view which commends itself to many of the Members who sit around him. I think that ends everything that was said in the debate except what was said by the hon. Member for Caithness. He said he thought this Congested Districts Board had been a failure because it had not compulsory powers in regard to land. I cannot help thinking that the real difficulty has not been the getting of land at all. The Board were quite able to get land, but the real difficulty was the getting of persons, even with all their assistance, who were in a position to give a fair guarantee that they would cultivate that land with a proper prospect of success. 827 It is all very well for the hon. Member to say that the price of these holdings in the Lews, on Matheson's estate, is far too great. That price, as it happens, is not fixed by the Congested Districts Board at all. It was fixed by the Court of Session, and the lowest price at which land might be got on that estate.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
I do not think I need pursue that point, seeing that he was referring to another case. It does not seem to me that the system broke down because the price was large, The hon. Member said also that the Congested Districts Board ought to have placed the crofters under the Crofters Act. That is an impossibility. You cannot place them, under the Crofters Act. Really we come back to where we started. The Congested Districts Board have certainly done nothing in the direction of conferring eleemosynary benefits on the crofters, and in that way pauperising them; but, on the other hand, if you are prepared to consider the question whether there has been a patient endeavour to do the best for the people, who, after all, in many cases are ignorant, and to promote schemes of utility upon a sound economic basis, then I think that anyone who reads the report with a fair mind will see that the Board have done their best.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
In his earlier remarks the right hon. Gentleman took consider-able exception to the adjective "preposterous" which an hon. friend behind me has used. I am rather disposed to take up the discredited word "preposterous," and to say that the conclusion I have come to is that this is not only a preposterous Report, but that the Congested Districts Board itself may be worthy of having that adjective applied to it. The right hon. Gentleman maintained that there was no ground for the criticisms passed on one passage in the Report, where the conduct of Members in the House is animadverted upon, where it is said that a most useful and beneficent Bill promoted by the Congested Districts Board had failed to become law because it was "blocked" by some of the Members for the constituencies which would now have been most benefited by its pro- 828 visions. What are we to understand by this word "blocked"? Let us remember that originally, a good many years ago, it had a technical meaning; anyone could block a Bill to prevent it being considered after a certain hour; but that is a thing of the past. What we now mean by blocking a Bill I do not exactly know. There is no technical meaning. In this case what Members undoubtedly did in this House was to put down the usual notice of opposition to the Bill, with a view of obtaining further information and further consideration on the subject, a thing which is done every day. But the question does not turn upon whether that was a right or a wrong thing for hon. Members to do. The point is that a public official in a public document actually alleges that the reason why something has not been done by his Department or Board is, as he thinks, the flagitious conduct of Members of the House of Commons. I think that is indecency. It would have been indecent if the Board had said that they would have introduced the Bill, but Her Majesty's Government did not approve of it, and if they had thus put the blame on the Government; but it is doubly indecent to put it upon Members of Parliament in the discharge of their duty, who are perfectly entitled to put down notice of opposition to any Bill without being held up in this way by a high public official. What was the reason that these notices were put down? Let the Committee observe that this Bill was a very singular Bill. It was drawn in the vaguest possible terms. It was a Bill of only two clauses. It sought for powers for the Congested Districts Board of Scot-land to apply a portion of the fund at their disposal, not exceeding one-fifth thereof, "in further providing for the practical instruction of, or for such other purposes as may appear to be of benefit to, the inhabitants of the said districts." What was felt by a great many members was that this fund was created, and the Board established, mainly for the purpose of improving the position of crofters by extending their holdings, or by migrating them from one place to another. The Board have practically done nothing in that way, but they have nibbled away at little schemes of alleged beneficence, and I dare say they are very philanthropic and nice little schemes in their way. But 829 they have been nibbling away at that kind of thing and have left unspent a large portion of the money at their disposal, and then they come to Parliament and say, "Please give us some further little schemes to spend this money on," some further means of evading the main purposes for which Parliament gave the money, and for which they exist. That was the view taken by Members, and they said, "If you want to instruct the unfortunate inhabitants of these districts in some of the things they would be better of being instructed in, get more money from Parliament, but leave to its original destination the money which was given for other purposes." It was for that reason, and because hon. Members wished for more information, that they are gibbeted in an official Report by the Secretary for Scotland. I now come to the question of the Board. I do not know whether the Board is, as a witness said of the Board of Admiralty, useful as a screen, but I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there was at one time within my Parliamentary experience very considerable jealousy in regard to the system of Boards which then largely governed Scotland. We have been desirous of getting a responsible Minister placed in charge of these public duties. Well, practically I suppose we may take it, after what the Lord Advocate has said, that the Secretary for Scotland is the Congested Districts Board. He told us that the Secretary for Scotland may do whatever he likes in the Local Government Board, and that the Board has no power without his sanction. We may assume that it is the same in regard to the Congested Districts Board. I think that is a satisfactory thing to know, at all events, and as the Lord Advocate is in this House the whipping boy for the Secretary for Scotland, he must expect us to visit on his devoted head the blame we attach to the doings of this wonderful Board. What has this wonderful Board been doing? The fact remains that although they have been in existence for two or three years, they have not migrated a single crofter, and they have done almost nothing in the way of extending holdings. I remember very vividly that some years ago a Committee sat upstairs considering the question of colonisation. We ransacked for places to which crofters could be advantageously 830 and profitably sent, and the conclusion we came to was that there were no such places, and that if we were to relieve the congestion in the districts in the north-west of Scotland it must be by migration within their own country to places where they could find a better means of livelihood. It was in accordance with that finding that this. Board was intended, no doubt tentatively at first, to move in that direction. The Lord Advocate says we must do it with patience, but there is a limit even to patience, and I think the principal criticism passed on this Report is that so little, in fact absolutely nothing, has been done for the very purpose for which the Board was called into existence. I must say that I do not know that I have spent a more entertaining ten minutes than those spent in reading the Report when it first came out, and the stories of the tricks the Board have played with seed potatoes and with divers animals in remote islands for breeding purposes. There are stories of potatoes from the bags of which when they were landed in the forlorn islands the labels had unfortunately been either torn away, or perhaps eaten by one of the prize animals carried in the same vessel—at all events, the labels were not forthcoming—with the result that all the potatoes were shovelled out to the inhabitants indiscriminately, and they very wisely refused to pay anything for them. Then we have the touching story of the three bees— [Cries of "Bee-hives"]—or, was it beehives?—it is quite immaterial—that the Board actually, with all this money at their disposal, placed in the careful hands of Mr. M'Intyre. My hon. friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire said our countrymen would not understand the humour and irony of these circumstances, but I do not agree with my hon. friend. I think they do understand irony, and they will see what someone said was—it is a strong word to use—the farce—but it nearly approached to a farce—of the proceedings of this Board. The whole thing was a ridiculus mus. Now that we have the three hives of bees, a few sittings of eggs, and a patient but ineffectual attempt to obtain the migration of crofters, I hope next year's Report will show some better, more active, and hopeful results. I do not think there is likely to be any very large benefit conferred upon that part of Scot- 831 land if their efforts are confined to the direction in which they have hitherto been exercised.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire expressed a pious wish that a humorist would appear in the debate, and he has found one on his own front bench. I scarcely think the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's speech will, after all, commend it to the public to which he is really speaking—the public of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman has indulged his capacity for humour so far that he has made some charges that are really, I think, somewhat grave when they come to be carefully weighed. He has spoken with disapprobation of the passage in the Report in which the Congested Districts, Board deplore the loss of the Bill of last year. I am not going to treat that matter again, or deal with the ethics of the question whether the statement should have gone into the Report, but I would remind the House that what they were anxious to do —an anxiety which I think ought to have been treated without levity—was to have some form of practical education which would allow these young Highland boys and girls to get fair wages when they go out into the world. That I should have thought a very desirable object, and all the right hon. Gentleman can find to say about it is that the Congested Districts Board, after nibbling away at little schemes, were trying to get further away, and evading the main purpose of the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman sticks to that, let him do so. Evading the main purpose of the Bill is a fairly grave charge to make against a Minister of the Crown and the Board, because it simply means,, of course, that their whole object is to defeat the purposes for which Parliament has entrusted them with the money As I said before, the true determination of this matter will depend not upon what the right hon. Gentleman or I say about it. I do not think the patient efforts of this Board, as they are detailed in the Report, will be nullified by witticisms— however congenial to the souls of a dull Committee—about three hives of bees, such as the right hon. Gentleman has given us in his speech.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Forfarshire)
No one is likely to retard anything of a 832 beneficial character which can be done for the people of the north-west of Scotland, but the right hon. Gentleman must remember the debates which took place on the introduction of the Bill constituting this Board. Nothing is more plain, from the Reports we have had, than that the Board has not succeeded in carrying out in any large degree the policy of land migration, which was held out as the chief work the Board was to do. The Lord Advocate has reminded us that this Board is a continuation of the old policy of having a Vote of money on the Estimates for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. That was followed by the Highlands and Islands Commission. The main recommendation of that Commission was that there should be an attempt made to carry out land migration and the extension of the crofters' holdings in the Highlands, and when the Bill constituting this Board was under consideration, grave complaints were made by Members on this side of the House that the Board would not succeed in carrying out those objects with the powers conferred by the Bill. It was urged that compulsory powers of purchase should be given to the Board, or it would not be able to effect its object. Compulsory powers were not given, and what has been the result? Land, migration has been found to be impossible under present conditions. There is a paragraph in the Report which I hoped the Lord Advocate would explain. He says further powers are required by the Board to carry out the purposes it has in view; but he gives us no details of those further powers. It is perfectly clear that the Board is now going to justify its existence by an entirely different policy from that of land migration or the extension of crofters' holdings. It may be right or it may be wrong, but I confess I look with a considerable amount of favour on the ideas which are enunciated and indicated in the Report, though I think there has been a lamentable failure to carry those ideas into execution. It is all very well to tell us that we should be patient, and that if we object to this we ought to object to any money whatever being given to this purpose. It may be perfectly legitimate to say there should be money given, but surely before the money is voted there should be a policy. Surely Parliament should not have voted for this purpose the interest on more than £1,000,000, unless it had some scheme to 833 carry into effect. Perhaps the First Lord of the Treasury could throw some light upon this point, because it was in his Election programme that this very item occurred—that we were to have public works on the west coast of Scotland. As far as I know, that promise has been implemented only with one or two insignificant piers and boat-slips, which are described in this Report. However good the object may be, and however beneficent the purpose it is endeavouring to carry out, it is not the original purpose for which the Board was constituted, and it does not strike at the root of the difficulty with which you have to deal in the north-west of Scotland. We have the analogy of Ireland, where a Congested Districts Board is part of the policy of killing Home Rule by kindness. It seems to me that the Irish analogy should be more closely studied. There are conditions in the Highlands which depend upon the land question, and which depend upon something being done to carry out the recommendations of the Commission to which I have alluded. Even in this Report we see that proprietors have refused to give land. There is one point I should like the Lord Advocate to explain. He seemed to indicate in his remarks that it was impossible to place the crofters under the Crofters Act. There is a passage in this Report which seems to indicate that the Board endeavoured to do this in these new holdings. On page 10 there are these words—We propose that the lands to he assigned should be held by them under the Crofters Acts, but the proprietors objected, and ultimately it was arranged that a lease for thirty-one years should be granted to each tenant.One rather infers from that that it was impossible to create what are practically new crofters' holdings. I gathered from the Lord Advocate's remarks——
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
What I said was that it was impossible for anyone to give a person the legal status of a crofter as under the Act. Of course it is possible to allow the rent to be fixed by arbitration under the Crofters' Commission.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
All these difficulties would not necessarily have arisen if there had been in the hands of the Board far wider powers, which Members 834 on this side of the House sought to confer when the Board was originally constituted. Looking at the proceedings of this Board I entirely agree with my hon. friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire that this is a very extravagant method of proceeding to the end in view. There is a very large sum of money mounting up for the purposes of this Board entirely under the discretion of what is practically the Scotch Office, and it would have been far more sensible if, before the Board was constituted, there had been some effort to indicate the policy the Board was to carry out, and to lay that policy before the country. I am sure if it had been plainly seen by the House how very far short of such a policy the powers of this Board would land them, we should have made a stronger effort to confer adequate powers to deal with the main difficulties of the question in the Highlands of Scotland.
§ MR. CALDWELL
The Lord Advocate referred to the remarks in the Report about Members having blocked the Bill of last session. The object of putting the passage in the Report was to create a feeling in the minds of the crofter constituencies against their representatives in Parliament. That is the undoubted object, and what is complained of is that it amounts almost to a breach of the privileges of this House for an outside body of this kind to comment in their official Report upon the actions of Members of Parliament with a view to creating a prejudice against them in their constituencies. Such a breach is all the more unjustifiable from the fact that it is in a document signed by the Secretary for Scotland himself—a member of the other House and a member of the Government—who has no possible excuse for making a charge of that kind against any Member of the House, or attempting in any degree to prejudice a Member of this House in the eyes of his constituents. The Lord Advocate referred to an inquiry he made of me. My answer was this: These purposes may be beneficial in themselves, but what the Scotch Members object to is that they should be provided for out of money intended for the purpose of settling crofters upon their holdings, and that was the reason the notices of opposition to the Bill were put down. We know the Secretary for Scotland is not in sympathy with the policy of migration; the policy 835 of the Government is more emigration than migration. But this Government may not always be in power, and if they cannot find a way to apply the money to the purposes to which their own Act of Parliament directed it to be applied, very possibly there may be a future Government in power which will be able to do so. Why did you not extend your objects at first, instead of limiting them as you did? The other purposes are more of an educational kind, and when we come to the Education Votes I will refer the Lord Advocate to a sum of £80,000 that Scotland should have just now under your own Education Acts,
§ but of which she is deprived. You will there find ample material if you wish to give money for the purpose of doing these beneficent things for the crofters. All we. say is, the purposes may be eminently useful in themselves, but they are altogether outside the scope of the Act. We wish the Board to carry out their own Act of Parliament, and to devote their attention to that; then after that they may go to other purposes.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 67; Noes, 126. (Division List No. 183.)837
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Richardson, J. (Durham, S. E.)|
|Billson, Alfred||Flynn, James Christopher||Roberts, John H.(Denbighsh.)|
|Birrell, Augustine||Goddard, Daniel Ford||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Gurdon, Sir William Brampton||Sinclair, Capt John (Forfarsh.)|
|Bramsdon, Thomas Arthur||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||Souttar, Robinson|
|Brigg, John||Hemphill, Rt. Hn. Charles A.||Steadman, William Charles|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Kinloch, Sir John Geo. Smyth||Strachey, Edward|
|Caldwell, James||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'l'd)||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Cameron, Sir Charles (Glasgow)||Leng, Sir John||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Carvill, Patrick G. Hamilton||Lloyd-George, David||Tennant, Harold John|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Macaleese, Daniel||Wallace, Robert|
|Clark, Dr. G. B.||MacDonnell, Dr. M.A. (Q.C.)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley),|
|Colville, John||M'Crae, George||Wason, Eugene|
|Crombie, John William||M'Dermott, Patrick||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||M'Ewan, William||Weir, James Galloway|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Williams, John Carvell (Notts.|
|Davies, M. V. (Cardigan)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wilson, Charles Henry (Hull).|
|Donelan, Captain A.||O'Malley, William||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Doogan, P. C.||Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Philipps, John Wynford||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Dunn, Sir William||Pickard, Benjamin||Mr. Hedderwick and Mr. Buchanan.|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Atkinson, Right Hon. John||Cox, Irwin Edw. Bainbridge||Goldsworthy, Major-General|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Curzon, Viscount||Gordon, Hon. John Edward|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r)||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John E.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds)||Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Graham, Henry Robert|
|Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor)||Donkin, Richard Sim||Gunter, Colonel|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol)||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Halsey, Thomas Frederick|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. W. W. B.(Hants||Doxford, Sir William T.||Hamilton. Rt. Hn. Lord George|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir Wm. Hart||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert W.|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Elliot, Hn. A. Ralph Douglas||Heath, James|
|Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn)||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.||Heaton, John Henniker|
|Butcher, John George||Finch, George H.||Henderson, Alexander|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin)||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Edward H.||Fisher, William Hayes||Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H.|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||FitzGerald, Sir R. Penrose-||Kenyon, James|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Fitz Wygram, General Sir F.||Knowles, Lees|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East)||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Laurie, Lieut.-General|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Fletcher, Sir Henry||Lawrence, Sir E. Durn'g- (Corn.)|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Wor.)||Galloway, William Johnson||Lawrence, W. F. (Liverpool)|
|Charrington, Spencer||Gartit, William||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Gedge, Sydney||Lea, Sir Thomas (Londonderry)|
|Colomb, Sir J. Charles Ready||Gibbs, Hn. A.G. H. (C. of Lond.)||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Liverpool),|
|Courtney, Rt. Hn. Leonard H.||Gilliat, John Saunders||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Peel, Hon. W. R. Wellesley||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J G.(Ox'd Univ|
|Lowles, John||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur||Tomlinson, W. E. Murray|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Pretyman, Ernest George||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Maclure, Sir John William||Purvis, Robert||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|M'Arthur, Charles(Liverpool)||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|M'Killop, James||Renshaw, Charles Bine||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-under-L)|
|Martin, Richard Biddulph||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas Thomsan||Williams, Jos. Powell- (Birm.)|
|Milbank, Sir Powlett C. John||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Milward, Colonel Victor||Seton-Karr, Henry||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks)|
|Monk, Charles James||Sharpe, William Edward T.||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Moore, William (Antrim, N.)||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart-|
|Morgan, Hn. Fred. (Monm'thsh||Sidebottom, William (Derbysh||Wylie, Alexander|
|Morrell, George Herbert||Smith, J. Parker (Lanarks.)||Wyndham, George|
|Mount, William George||Spencer, Ernest||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute)||Stanley, Ed Jas. (Somerset)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Newdigate, Francis Alexander||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ *MR. WEIR
called attention to the dual offices hold by the Secretary to the Congested Districts Board. That gentleman was chief clerk in the Exchequer Office in Edinburgh, in which position he received a salary of £650, he received £150 a year for performing the duties of secretary to the Congested Districts Board, and there was a further sum of £150 a year which had to be paid to somebody to do the work which this gentleman was unable to do owing to his dual capacity. The hon. Member suggested that the two sums of £150 should be put together and used as a salary for a person who would give his whole time to the duties of secretary to the Board. This system of dual offices was a disgrace to a public Department, and it was time a protest was made. The Lord Advocate seemed to be under the impression that the Board was worked satisfactorily, but it had been clearly shown in the course of the evening that the secretary did his work in a most unsatisfactory manner. It was not easy to see how it could be otherwise while the secretary filled two or three, or, for aught the Committee knew, half a dozen offices. Members had a right to expect that the secretary should be acquainted with all that was going on in connection with the work of the Board, and when Mr. De Moleyns went up to the Island of Lewis it was the business of the secretary to have informed him what the state of matters was in connection with the potato spraying system there.
§ Another matter to which he desired to call attention was in connection with a paragraph under the heading "Harbours." The Report stated that Portness Harbour and Breakwater were completed. The amount paid on the Portness Breakwater to the 31st March was £4,481 16s., and on Portness Harbour, £1,050. But the work was not completed, and a good deal more money would have to be spent before that was the case. The breakwater was most unsatisfactory, and the sand silted up the harbour continually. The harbour was of a most dangerous character, and it was a well-known fact that there was no other district in the whole of the British Isles where there were so many widows and orphans in consequence of the unsatisfactory harbour. Let the Lord Advocate himself go and see the deplorable state of matters. It was impossible either in London or Edinburgh to get a grasp of the state of affairs in that remote spot. People in England have no idea of the conditions of life there. The harbour and breakwater were in a very dangerous condition, and many thousands of pounds would have to be expended before matters were put right. As a protest against the dual offices held by the Secretary to the Congested Districts Board, he begged to move that the Vote be reduced by a sum of £10.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That. Item E be reduced by £10."— (Mr. Weir.).
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 59; Noes, 120. (Division List No. 184.)839
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Caldwell, James|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Bramsdon, Thomas Arthur||Cameron, Sir Charles (Glasgow)|
|Billson, Alfred||Brigg, John||Carvill, Patrick George H.|
|Birrell, Augustine||Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Clark, Dr. G. B.|
|Colville, John||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'land)||Richardson, J. (Durham, S. E.)|
|Crombie, John William||Lewis, John Herbert||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||Macaleese, Daniel||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan||MacDonnell, Dr. M. A. (Qn's. C.)||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||M'Crae, George||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Doogan, P. C.||M'Dermott, Patrick||Souttar, Robinson|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||M'Ewan, William||Steadman, William Charles|
|Dunn, Sir William||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)||Wallace, Robert|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Malley, William||Williams, J. Carvell (Notts.)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Hedderwick, Thos. Charles H.||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||Pickard, Benjamin||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Mr. Weir and Mr. Wason.|
|Kinloch, Sir John Geo. Smyth||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Garfit, William||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Gedge, Sydney||Mount, William George|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (City of Lond.)||Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn Gerald W (Leeds)||Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Goldsworthy, Major-General||Peel, Hon. Wm. Robt Wellesley|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol)||Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. W. W. B. (Hants.)||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Bethell, Commander||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Graham, Henry Robert||Purvis, Robert|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn)||Gunter, Colonel||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Gurdon, Sir William Brampton||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Butcher, John George||Haldane, Richard Burdon||Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W.|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin)||Halsey, Thomas Frederick||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. Thomson|
|Carson, Rt. Hn. Sir E. H.||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord Geo.||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Hanbury, Rt Hon. R. Wm.||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Heath, James||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, E.)||Henderson, Alexander||Sidebottom, William (Derbysh)|
|Cecil, Lord H. (Greenwich)||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Smith, James Parker (Lanarks)|
|Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Kenyon, James||Spencer, Ernest|
|Chanington, Spencer||Knowles, Lees||Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Lawrence, Sir E. Durning-(Corn)||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Colston, C. E. H. Athole||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Un.)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Cox, Irwin Edwd. Bainbridge||Lea, Sir Thomas (Londonderry)||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Curzon, Viscount||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Swans'a)||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Liverpool)||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Donkin, Richard Sim||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-under-L.)|
|Doxford, Sir Wm. Theodore||Lowles, John||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Williams, J. Powell (Birm.)|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edwd.||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Maclure, Sir John William||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks)|
|Fisher, William Hayes||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|FitzGerald, Sir R. Penrose-||M'Killop, James||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Fitz Wygram, General Sir F.||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Wylie, Alexander|
|Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W.F.||Wyndham, George|
|Fletcher, Sir Henry||Monk, Charles James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Galloway, Wm. Johnson||Morgan, Hon. F. (Monm'thsh.|
Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ 2. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £10,649, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1901, for the Salaries and 840 expenses of the Fishery Board in Scotland and for Grants in Aid of Piers or Quays."
§ *MR. BUCHANAN
There have in years past been many discussions upon the policy of the Fishery Board for Scotland. For my part, I am somewhat weary of bringing forward the same grievances for redress, but I would venture on this occasion to 841 point out that matters generally affecting fisheries in Scotland are in a somewhat serious position. I have taken the trouble to look at the Returns, not merely for the present year, but for the last five years. The facts are well known to those engaged in fishery matters, but they are not fully appreciated by the general public, nor by many hon. Members of this House. The facts are shortly these. The supply of fish in Scotland is not substantially increasing from year to year, although the cost of fish to the consumer is increasing, notwithstanding the vast improvements in the catching power of the fishermen on the coast of Scotland. So that the problem we have before us is that whilst in the course of the past few years a great deal more capital has been put into the fishing industry, and vessels of larger tonnage and better material and equipments have been employed, and the fishermen have gone further out from the coast in the pursuit of their calling, yet they have not succeeded in increasing the supply of fish or in diminishing the cost of fish to the consumer. I will not trouble the Committee with more than a figure or two, but I will give from the Fishery Board Returns the amount of fish landed in the past three years. I will take a good and a bad year ten years ago and compare it with a good and a bad year within the last three years. The year 1889 was a comparatively small catch, and 5,500,000 were landed. In 1893 the amount was 6,250,000. Last year the total was 5,100,000, and the year before 6,500,000. Taking the average for the past four years, and the average amount landed in the four years ten years ago, you would find the amount almost the same. If you search the figures of the Scotch Fishery Board Reports you will also find that the price of fish during that period has gradually been increasing, and you have evidence over and over again that the fishermen have to go further afield to catch the fish, which they formerly caught near our own coast. When the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was introducing the Bill dealing with undersized fish, during the present session, he stated that our fishing-grounds were being ruthlessly destroyed year after year by trawlers. I do not think we ever had a stronger statement of the case from our point of view than was laid down in those words 842 during this session by the President of the Board of Trade. It is quite clear that there must be something wrong in such a state of affairs. Our legislative grievance is this. You pass certain Acts of Parliament and you do not put them into force. What I believe is a very real and serious grievance, both legislative and administrative, is the inefficient policing and illegal trawling. The results are of a much more serious character during the present year than we have ever seen before. We of course recognise that with the alteration of the character of this industry there must be a greater concentration year by year in the largest centres of the fishing industry, and that has been going on for some years, and is going on even now. Fishermen have been compelled, and have willingly adopted better combination, and have joined together to build larger vessels and have made use of better implements for catching their fish; but this year we have had the matter very forcibly brought before us by the fact that this migration of fishermen from small and ancient localities into the larger centres has not been simply a migration of families but of whole villages, and in my constituency we have not merely empty fishermen's houses, but one or two villages during the last year have been absolutely deserted by every human being who used to live there. This is a very serious matter, calling for the attention of the Government and the House, and if by any legislation this evil could be diminished very useful work would be done by this House and by the Government. I will not go back at length upon the arguments we have so often urged in former sessions during this Parliament, but one of our grievances is the continued non-effective enforcement of the law with regard to the closing of the Moray Firth. This is an old grievance which has gone on year after year, and the facts are well known to Members of this House, and more particularly to Scottish Members. The Lord Advocate himself took very immediate and effective steps against the British trawlers, but he has taken no effective steps—and the Government of which he is a member have never shown that they are prepared by negotiations with foreign Powers to take any effective steps—to bring this scandal to an end. Here you have in practically British waters, which are closed to British fisher 843 men, foreign fishermen going about catching fish and landing them at British ports, while English and Scotch fishermen are not allowed to do so. I say that the Government ought to have made some effort during the time they have been in office to get the Governments of foreign countries bordering on the North Sea to join together to secure by an international agreement an abatement of this serious scandal in the administration of fishery laws. My constituency in East Aberdeenshire has suffered very much in this respect. Aberdeen being the principal trawling port, the trawlers as they go in and out catch all the fish they can by trawling along the coast. The result is that practically all the fishing in inshore waters in Aberdeenshire has been put an end to. It is rather strange that this part of the coast has been less patrolled by the Government cruisers than any other part of the coast. What has been the policy of the Government with regard to the sea police? A couple of years ago they withdrew this item from the Estimates and put it down as a charge on the local taxation account. It was not a fixed sum of money, and in previous years the Imperial Exchequer was drawn upon according to our needs in this respect, and we looked forward to our needs being satisfied. But even with this increase in the cost we have not found that the sea police arrangements are administered better than they were before. Then there is another question which we have constantly brought before the present Government. They have made no effort during the five years they have been in office to render effective the Scotch Sea Fisheries Act of 1895. That was a Bill passed by the late Liberal Government, and it empowered the Fishery Board of Scotland to extend the territorial limits for fishery purposes in certain parts of Scotland. When that Bill was passing through the House of Lords, Lord Salisbury, by an Amendment drafted by his own hand, inserted into that clause words providing that it should not come into operation except by international agreement with the Powers bordering on the North Sea. Within a few weeks after this Amendment was inserted Lord Salisbury came into office as Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, and he has made no substantial effort from that day to this to render effectual this clause in the Scotch Fisheries Act. I 844 think we have, therefore, a grievance against the Government for having allowed five years to elapse without anything effectual being done in the matter. We know very well that the years of this Parliament are running out, and it is hardly likely that any effective legislation can be done by this Parliament during this session or the next session, which is the last. I think the fishermen and the fishing industry of this country are suffering under substantial grievances; and they are not confined to one class of fishermen alone, because the diminution in the catch and the increase in the price of fish is not confined to a certain class of fish, but we have the same irregularity in the returns of fish from year to year prevailing in the herring fishing industry, notwithstanding all the money that has been spent from year to year in investigating the habits of fish and! scientific investigations. We still know very little in regard to the migration of fish and why they appear on one part of the coast in one year and disappear the next. I only allude to that question in passing, because the herring industry is the most important of all the fishing industries in Scotland, and I wish to show that it has suffered also. What I urge upon, the Lord Advocate is that he should render effectual the laws now in operation. I urge this upon him very strongly on behalf, not only of the line fishermen, but also the trawlers and the herring fishermen, who also have their grievances, and I think some serious and substantial efforts should be made to get the various Powers in the North of Europe who are vitally interested like ourselves in the sea fisheries of the North Sea to come together, in order to see whether they cannot come to some substantial agreement as to the conditions under which fishing rights shall be exercised in particular areas. I do not believe for a moment that it would be difficult to get the various Powers to come to a decision in the matter if it was taken seriously in hand by a powerful Government like the British Government. We have been put off for the past few years by the Conference at Stockholm, which was got up by the King of Sweden for scientific purposes, and those who organised that Conference never intended that it should have any direct legislative effect, or that it should lead to legislative action. What we want is something very different. We 845 want the question taken up as a matter of urgency in the interests of the fishing communities in England and Scotland, and in the interests of all the nations bordering on the North Sea. I believe there is still time to do this, and I would urge upon the Government, whilst Lord Salisbury occupies the influential position in the diplomatic world in Europe which he does, that they should organise a movement for bringing together the various Powers interested in order to deal with these questions, and to come to an agreement by which each nation will respect the laws made, and under which the law will be carried out effectually by this and other countries. I beg to move that this Vote be reduced by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £10,549, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Buchanan.)
SIR THOMAS ESMONDS (Kerry, W.)
I hope that hon. Members from Scotland will not take it amiss if I join in this discussion, for I should like to put one or two questions to the Lord Advocate. The question of steam trawling which the hon. Member has raised is one which interests us very much in Ireland, and perhaps I may be able to glean some information which may be useful to my constituency in the matter. We have been trying for a long time to get Irish waters properly policed, and to have the ravages of the steam trawlers put an end to, and although we have not been able to get cruisers of our own, we have hopes that something will be done for us in the near future. I am anxious to know how many of these cruisers are at the disposal of the Fishery Board for Scotland, and also what assistance is given to the Scotch Fisheries Board by the Admiralty. In Ireland we have repeatedly asked the Admiralty to assist us in this matter, but the Admiralty have not done anything. Then I should like to ask for information with reference to the special brand which I believe exists for Scotch herrings. We have been trying for a long time to have a brand for Irish herrings, but we have not yet succeeded. I do not know whether this matter comes within the purview of the Scotch Office, but if it does, I should be indebted to the right hon. Gentleman if he would inform me 846 what the procedure was in Scotland by which this brand for Scotch herrings was obtained; and perhaps he will also tell us what was the effect of the establishment of the brand on the Scotch fisheries. We have an idea, that a similar brand in Ireland would be an assistance and an encouragement to Irish fisheries. I would also express the hope that the Government will seriously and generally deal with the question of foreign trawlers in territorial waters. We in Ireland have to complain very much of the depredations of steam trawlers, and I hope that the time has come when the Government will put a limit to their operations. I should be glad to add my voice, as the representative of an Irish constituency in which there is a large fishing interest, to the appeal which has been made to the Government to take up this question in a definite and determined manner and to endeavour to deal with it as soon as possible. I do not desire to stand longer between hon. Members from Scotland and their Minister, but I hope the points I have mentioned will be considered.
§ *MR. H. S. FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)
I hope the Scotch Members will also forgive me, as an English Member representing an important fishing constituency, for intervening in this debate. I think this is a question of importance to every part of the United Kingdom, and one which has been forcibly brought before us by a certain Bill which is now being considered by a Select Committee of the House. I cannot, of course, forecast the recommendations of that Committee, but one thing has come out very clearly in the evidence, and that is that Parliament has been making grants year after year to the Scotch Fisheries Board largely for the purpose of assisting the scientific investigation which it was resolved to undertake as a result of the recommendations of a Royal Commission some years ago, as to whether trawlers did or did not affect the supply of fish. These experiments have been conducted in the Moray Firth, and we have been told very clearly in the Committee to which I have referred, that the expenditure has been practically rendered futile— first of all, because the vessel employed is inadequate for the purpose, being described by officials of the Fisheries Board and other competent witnesses as being 847 utterly unsuited owing to its size; and secondly, we are told that very little reliance can be placed on the results of the experiments because of the action of foreign trawlers in the Firth.
If the hon. Gentleman is referring to evidence given before a Select Committee, he is not in order in doing so until the Committee has reported. If he is referring to evidence obtained in any other way he is of course in order.
*MR, H. S. FOSTER
I was referring to matters of public knowledge which have appeared in the Reports of the Scotch Fishery Board. An hon. Member opposite spoke of the state of things in the Moray Firth as being little short of a scandal, and as I understand, we have no power beyond the three-mile limit to prohibit foreign trawlers from fishing, but we can apparently prohibit our own fellow-subjects in any part of the world, as in the case of the Moray Firth and the Behring Sea. It is a matter of the very greatest importance to our fisheries that the Government should make some serious effort to arrive at an international agreement with the North Sea Powers for the protection of the fisheries. That was urged by a Committee of this House in 1893, and so far as I am aware, nothing has since been attempted in that direction. There is a theory that that would be very difficult until we have done something in the matter ourselves; but we have actually prohibited our own men from fishing in what are practically our own waters, though for certain purposes they are also the high seas. Up to the present we have got no sort of assistance from foreign countries, and I believe no serious endeavour to secure it has been made. It is surely nothing short of a scandal that Scotch trawlers should be prohibited from fishing in these waters, while we allow foreign trawlers to fish in them. That is a great hardship, and applies to all Her Majesty's subjects who might desire to fish in these waters. I hope the Lord Advocate will be able to give the Committee some assurance that it is the intention of the Government at an early date to invite the various Powers bordering on the North Sea to come into a conference in order to consider whether some steps should not be taken by international 848 agreement, I will not say to stop over fishing, because that can be regulated by supply and demand at any time, but to protect those areas from which Scotland draws the largest supply of her fish. That will be found to be the most effective remedy. At the present moment the. goose that lays the golden eggs is being killed. There has been an immense increase in the capital employed in the fishing industry and in the catching power of trawlers, not only in Scotland, but in other parts of the coast of the United Kingdom, and unless something is done to protect the fishing areas—and nothing effective can be done except by international agreement—the result will be that the price of fish will continue to rise, because the supply will continue to fall. I apologise for intervening between the Scotch Members and the Lord Advocate, but the question is one in which increasing interest is now being taken in every part of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
The Scotch Members ought to thank the hon. Baronet, and also the hon. Member opposite, for having taken up the cause we have so often urged in this House— namely, that increased attention should be given to the condition of the fishing industry in Scotland. One matter which was mentioned by the hon. Member opposite struck me very forcibly. He talked about the amount of capital that was now being embarked in the fishing industry. That is perfectly true, but the fishermen cannot take their capital out of that industry, because they cannot change their calling all at once. I have often wondered whether the Government are alive to the very serious condition of affairs all round our coasts. In my own constituency last winter men were literally starving, and, rightly or wrongly, they attributed their condition to the amount of trawling going on. I have only risen, to heartily support the motion of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire.
§ *MR. WASON (Clackmannan and Kinross)
I wish to ask a question with reference to the salmon fishery on the River Forth. A decision was given in the House of Peers by which salmon fishing is prohibited in a certain way— namely, by "took and haul "and "hang; nets," but nothing whatever was said about the universal practice of drift net 849 fishing, and I have been asked to ascertain from the right hon. Gentleman whether or not the decision prohibits that practice, and also whether stake-nets are prohibited.
§ MR. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)
I do not think it necessary to enter into the question of trawling, because I have frequently expressed the same views as were expressed by the Member for East Aberdeenshire to-night. I want especially to call the attention of the Lord Advocate to another matter raised by my hon. friend, and that is the migration of fishermen to the towns. This matter has been going on for many years, and it is a very slow but very serious social revolution. In my own constituency villages which twenty years ago were important fishing centres have not now a single boat. Finnon, which gave its name to the celebrated brand of haddocks, has at the present moment scarcely a fisherman, and the same thing is happening in other villages. I do not suggest that the Government can stop this migration, because I believe it is a movement which depends on questions of political economy beyond the limits of the Government, but I think that the Government should recognise it and not shut their eyes to it. I believe that the main cause of this migration is that the fishermen in the small harbours cannot now pursue their calling with success because these harbours will not accommodate the larger boats now required. Not only that, but the insurance companies refuse to insure boats in harbours which are not entirely safe. Recently a great disaster happened in a small fishing town, and not one of the boats which had been lost were insured. I myself reflected on the fishermen for not having done so, and was informed that the insurance companies would not insure a single boat from that harbour. It seems to me that the Scotch Fisheries Board does not recognise the state of things which exists. It is too ready to grant sums of money to small farmers on whom it should not be spent. I think we had a case in the constituency of my hon. friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire in which a large sum of money was spent on a harbour, and yet the fishermen left the harbour and came into Aberdeen. It does seem to me that this money, under such circumstances, was wasted, and that it 850 would be much better for the Fisheries. Board to spend money on the large harbours that could accommodate large boats, and that would be suitable for the requirements of modern fishing. But that is not the policy of the Board. Whenever a harbour is not altogether a fishing harbour—if merchandise is brought into' it—then it gets no grant. Stokehaven, which might be made one of the finest, harbours on the coast, has applied over and over again for a grant, but has been, refused because it is not purely a fishing, harbour, although if it got a grant it could have accommodated many villages in the vicinity. I think the Fishery Board might recognise the trend of. modern affairs better than it does.
§ *MR. WEIR
said he should like to ask: the Lord Advocate what steps had been taken under the North Sea Fisheries Convention to keep foreign trawlers out of the Moray Firth. Last year there were fifty-two foreign trawlers fishing in the Firth. Year after year the matter has been brought forward and, he regretted, to say that nothing had been done to bring about the cessation of such an unsatisfactory state of affairs, and instead of matters showing an improvement they were going from bad to worse. The answer given to him in the House sometime ago showed that twenty-three more foreign trawlers were engaged in the; Moray Firth last year than in the previous year. Was it not time that some energetic steps should be taken by the: Secretary for Scotland, and his colleagues in the Cabinet, to put a stop to such a state of matters? The Committee heard from another hon. Member representing a fishing constituency that whole villages and towns were being depopulated on, account of the trawlers carrying on their work within the three mile limit. He was not condemning the trawlers, but they should fish out at sea. Why did not Lord Salisbury take steps to remedy that grievance, and allow line fishermen a chance of getting a living? On the 3rd April last he had asked for information as to how many days foreign trawlers had been fishing in the Moray Firth, and he was informed that the details he had asked for could not be given without going over the logs of the cruisers, for the whole year. He thought that the Committee had better know where they were. Was it that the 851 commanders of the cruisers set the Secretary for Scotland at defiance, or was the reply merely an evasive answer to get rid of a troublesome question? If these commanders set the Secretary for Scotland at defiance, what had the Lord Advocate to say? If he were in the Transvaal he would have them shot straight away in the interests of discipline. One of these commanders was paid £100 a year by the Fishery Board for Scotland, and yet he set that Board at defiance. He hoped the Secretary for Scotland would show a little more backbone in such matters. British trawlers were excluded from the Moray Firth, while foreign trawlers fished in it. He did not want British trawlers in the Firth, but he thought all the trawlers ought to be cleared out. It was a gross injustice that foreign trawlers should be allowed to sweep the harbours of the Moray Firth and take the fish to English ports for sale. That ought to be stopped, and he sincerely trusted that the Lord Advocate would impress on the Secretary for Scotland the necessity of not allowing the matter to pass by from year to year. It had a serious effect indeed on the fishermen along the coast of Scotland. He had received a copy of a memorial within the last few days, which had been sent to the Secretary for Scotland from ten different associations in Scotland, urging the Government to send down one or two more cruisers to watch the coast around the Hebrides, which was a magnificent fishing ground. They were, told that captures were effected at times—of course they were; but the very fact that there were so many captures showed that the evil was an increasing one. Let the Secretary for Scotland approach the First Lord of the Admiralty on the matter. He himself had been successful in getting a cruiser out of the right hon. Gentleman for the coast of Scotland, and if a humble Member could do that why could not the Secretary for Scotland do it also? He asked what was the Lord Advocate about to allow such a state of things to continue? Let the trawlers fish outside if they liked, but they should be prevented from acting the part of sea robbers and stealing what belonged to the line fishermen. The fishing villages were being desolated because of the trawlers and because of the insufficient number of cruisers to look after them. It was true patriotism to prevent men who would fill the ranks of the Army and Navy from being swept away into the 852 large cities, because the Government could not get in the slums of large towns men like they could get in the Hebrides and along the coast of Scotland. In 1894 there were 11,217 registered fishing boats in Scotland, and in 1898 there were only 10,485, or a decrease of 732.
§ *MR. WEIR
said that no doubt the Lord Advocate would be able to furnish the hon. Member with the information he desired. What had become of those boats and their crews? Many of the men had gone into the towns, and did the best they could to get a living. But in England what was the result? The English fishing boats had increased in the same period by 320. He could only suppose that the fisheries round the coast of England were bettor looked after by the Admiralty cruisers. They did not remain in harbour at night. They were out at sea doing their work, and preventing the fishing beds being depleted by trawlers in the same way as they were on the coasts of Scotland. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to look into this Department, for which he was solely and absolutely responsible, and see that the cruisers did not remain in harbour during the night. Night was the time to go out and catch the trawlers, and send them to the bottom of the sea if necessary. Trawlers were the curse of the Lews, where people who used to get a comfortable living were now almost starving in consequence of their action. He appealed once more to the Lord Advocate to confer with the First Lord of the Treasury, and get more money for cruisers, and with the Admiralty to obtain an addition to the fleet of cruisers. He was sure that with a little careful management and negotiation much more could be done in that way than at present. He had found, as a humble Member of the House, that the First Lord of the Admiralty was "come-at-able" and conciliatory. He now came to the question of harbours and piers. There was a sum of £3,000 for grants-in-aid for the construction of piers and quays. It ought to be a very much larger sum, and he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would have it increased, because it was so badly wanted. Portmahomack harbour was silting up with sand, and so was Balintore; while 853 at Avoch, on the east coast of Ross-shire, fourteen or fifteen fishing boats had been smashed for want of shelter. On the west coast there was Portnagurran, Broad Bay, Island of Lewis. The Walpole Commission reported that a harbour was badly wanted there, and would cost £30,000. That Commission seemed to be dust thrown in the eyes of the Scotch Members to stave off' the evil day. No effort had been made to build the harbour at Portnagurran, where at present there was only a little boat-slip, which was of no earthly good in a storm. A harbour at Portnagurran would not only be of advantage to the fishing village there, but would form a splendid harbour of refuge for the whole north-west of Scotland. What he complained of was that nothing was done, and though any amount of money could be provided for the landlords, no effort was made to carry out the useful works recommended to the Government by the Commission which they themselves had appointed. There was great laxity in the administration of the Fishery Board for Scotland. Of course the right hon. Gentleman had told them that the Fishery Board was under the control of the Secretary for Scotland, who put the muzzle or the brake on; but would the Lord Advocate see what could be done to get these matters attended to? Other hon. Members could speak of the wants of their own constituencies; he spoke of a few of his own which were so sadly and grossly neglected. They were asked to vote £365 a year for a scientific superintendent, and £262 a year for an assistant inspector of sea fisheries, and it was stated in a footnote that these sums included an allowance for office rent. He supposed that they put that allowance in their pockets. Where were these offices? He did not believe they existed. But if they did exist, how was it that the office of the Fishery Board, in Edinburgh could not be used for these purposes? He had visited the Fishery Board Office, where there were a number of very elegant rooms which did not seem to be very much used. It was a dead and dreamy sort of place; some of the rooms might be utilised by these gentlemen instead of the taxpayers' money being taken for other offices. It was very painful to bring forward such matters year after year, and to find that no effort was made by the Scottish Office to remedy the evils that existed. The Secretary for 854 Scotland was paid £2,000 a year; but he would pay him £5,000 if the right hon. Gentleman would get the work thoroughly well done. He thought that Lord Salisbury might easily have arranged with the North Sea Powers to bring about a settlement of the Fisheries Convention. It was a pity that this country had not taken the initiative at the Hydrographical Conference. That had been done by Sweden, and Great Britain had been compelled to follow the lead of poor little Sweden. This matter of the Fisheries Convention had been going on for two and a half years, and it was time that the Papers were in the hands of the Members of the House.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said it was impossible not to feel deep sympathy with the hon. Gentleman opposite. He had informed the Committee that he had gone to the Fishery Board Office, and having expounded his views on Fisheries to the members of the Board, he found them dreamy.
said he never said anything of the kind. He had gone to the Fishery Board Office and found many elegant rooms, but they were empty, and he thought they might be put to a better use. He never said that the Fishery Commissioners were dreamy; it was the rooms that were dreamy. He hoped that the hon. Member would be more careful, and not misrepresent him.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that if the hon. Member found the rooms were empty, it was very clear that the Commissioners knew the hon. Member was coming. It was impossible not to sympathise with hon. Members opposite in their complaint as to the depletion of the fishing villages. The line fishermen were fine sailors, and better men could not be found along the coast; but he did not think that the remedy for the misfortunes of those into fishermen would be discovered in the direction indicated by the hon. Member, who suggested that the Lord Advocate should take command of a gunboat and go about sinking all the trawlers which came within the three-mile limit. But if the Lord Advocate did that they should lose his presence in the House.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said the hon. Gentleman might go as his first lieutenant. The Scottish Fishery Board was the only Department of the State which was occupied with scientific investigations in regard to fish and fisheries, and the total Vote only amounted to £18,000. It was true that £1,000 was paid in England towards the funds of the Marine Biological Institute; but he thought it was disgraceful and discreditable to this country that so small an amount should be paid in the United Kingdom, when they remembered that the United States had a permanent Fishery Commission for the same purposes, and for which it paid no less a sum than £97,000 a year. The reason he was so anxious for a scientific investigation into the life history of fish and their migrations was that at the present moment there existed the most profound ignorance in regard to all these matters. His belief was that it was a delusion that trawlers destroyed the line fisheries. Most fishermen believed that the eggs of large edible fish were laid upon the ground, and that when the trawl lay upon the ground it destroyed those eggs, and consequently the fish, but they now know that to be wrong. They now knew that the eggs lay upon the water, and that the trawl therefore did no harm. He believed the allegation against the trawlers was absolutely unfounded. It might be that the condition of the line fishermen was duo to causes which the Government could not help. It had been said that the number of line fishermen was decreasing, and many of them may have gone inland, or crossed the border and come to England, and given up the calling of a line fisherman for some other occupation, but oven now there was an enormous number of men still engaged in that occupation. With regard to the Moray Firth, he did not know whether any man could defend the action of those responsible for excluding English and Scotch fishermen from that part of the Moray Firth which was, and always must remain, open to the rest of the world. Whatever happened, this country could not undertake to police the high seas, and though we might exclude our own people we could not exclude foreigners from trawling in that part of the Moray Firth, which must always remain open to the fishing fleets of the world. He could never understand why that portion of the Moray Firth was 856 closed to British fishermen. With regard, to an international agreement, that was not an easy thing to enter into, but, assuming that it could be entered into, would it be wise? There was an enormous number of fishermen carrying on, their occupation round our coasts, and if such an agreement was come to the boats of all these men would be liable to be boarded, searched, and detained, not by our own gunboats, but the police boats of every foreign nation. He was not prepared to go that length, and, if the gunboats of all nations were given such power over all our fishermen who fish the North Sea, we should very soon repeal it. He did not believe that that was the remedy Some of the evils were, no doubt, somewhat exaggerated. He was convinced that the decrease was due to other causes than the depredations of the trawlers, and he hoped the Committee would consider very carefully any action they might take in the matter.
MR. SOUTTAE (Dumfriesshire)
said that, so far as he could see, whenever this Vote was discussed hon. Gentlemen immediately attacked the trawling industry. He did not believe in the breaking of the law by trawlers, but he did not think, these constant attacks were justified. The hon. Member for King's Lynn had, he thought, hit the nail on the head. If there had been anything wrong in the action taken with regard to the Moray Firth, it was the exclusion from that water of the British trawlers. The matter had been approached from a wrong standpoint by the hon. Member for Ross and. Cromarty, and Scotchmen, of all men, should not be the ones to take up such a position as they had with regard to it from an economic point of view. The fact of the matter was, the fishing industry was undergoing a great change. Trawling was as great an advance upon line fishing as the express train upon the stage coach, and it must inevitably take its place. The number of line fishermen had no. doubt diminished, but there was no harm in that; they had not disappeared, as the hon. Gentleman would have the Committee believe, they had simply taken to other occupations and moved into the towns. The population of Aberdeen, where the air was just as salubrious, was increasing, and its wealth was increasing by leaps and bounds, owing to the trawling industry, and these fishermen were to 857 be found there. Hon. Members speaking of the destruction of fish appeared to think that a day was coming when the supply would not be equal to the demand, but no such misapprehension need exist, for the fact had been abundantly proved that if all the world was to feed upon fish, and nothing else, there was abundance in the sea, and the supply would always exceed the demand.
§ MR. HEDDERWICK
said that, but for the remarks of the hon. Member for King's Lynn and the remarkable speech of the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire, he should not have intervened in the debate. The hon. Member for King's Lynn had rather missed the point, which was trawling within the three-mile limit, and had endeavoured to draw the attention of the Committee away from that point by suggesting that the whole matter should be settled by some great Commission. There would be no objection to a Commission which would set at rest much which was not at present known with regard to this subject; but the immediate point was not in connection with this great scientific problem; the immediate question revolved round the law which had been made by the House that no trawling should be allowed within a limit of three miles from the shore. If that law was broken it was as much the duty of the Government to arrest the offenders as it was their duty to arrest a housebreaker or a thief. The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty was therefore right when he complained and found fault with the Fishery Board. Day and night on the lonely shores of Scotland that law was continually being violated, and it was only fair to say that the efforts made for policing these waters were not adequate to cope with the violators of the law. The hon. Member for Dumfriesshire was, no doubt, animated by admirable desires when he deprecated the attacks made upon the trawlers, but what he (Mr. Hedderwick) wished to point out was that there was room for the line fishermen and the trawlers as well, if trawlers conformed to the law and did not trawl where they had no right to trawl—but where they did—to the great detriment of the line fishermen, who, as the Lord Advocate had pointed out, were most valuable men to the State. There were 10,000 men engaged in trawling, against 34,000 line fishermen, who had to earn their living under conditions 858 of great peril, and who by that very peril provided the Navy with the best men. The hon. Member was under an entire misapprehension if he supposed that all parts of the ocean were stocked with edible fish. If the hon. Member wont to one part of the ocean he might find no fish at all, whilst if he went to another he would find a breed of fish that he had never seen before. If the ocean was swarming with fish, how was it that English soles were not found on the coast' of Spain, for instance, or New York? English turbot was not found in all parts of the sea. Fish had their habitats and feeding grounds in particular places, and though they laid their spawn on the water the spawn came close to the shore and only gradually receded into the deeper water, but never into the deep parts of the ocean. Some fish bred in some parts and some in others, and those parts of the coast where they bred were invaluable as nurseries, and it was as much to the interest of the trawler as of the line fisherman that these nurseries should be kept inviolate. It was better for the trawler to fish in deep water, because there he would get the mature fish that were bred in the shallows. If, owing to the competition which existed, and the absence of protection, these nurseries were invaded and harried and scarified so that no fish could find time to rest or breed there, the result must inevitably be that our great fishery beds would be rendered sterile. The hon. Member for Dumfriesshire, he knew, had no desire to encourage the trawlers to break the law, and he would no doubt agree with the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty in his appeal to the Government that they should do something more than they had done up to the present to preserve these spawning beds and breeding grounds and the waters within the three-mile limit from the depredations of the trawlers.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
The debate to which we have listened has ranged over a great variety of subjects. I think we are much indebted to the hon. Gentleman who brought the subject of sea fisheries before the House, because it is one which really deserves to be much more widely discussed and known than it is at present. The opinions which have been expressed on one side and the other by various Members during the debate to-night seem to show that there is a considerable conflict of opinion 859 and diversity of view in regard to the question of the North Sea fisheries. The hon. Gentleman who brought forward the subject pointed out how, in his opinion, undoubtedly the exhaustion of the North Sea fisheries had been made clear. The fishermen now do go further in pursuit of their calling, and that in spite of enormously increased catching power. In spite of greater efficiency, fishermen have to go greater distances than ever in order practically to maintain, and no more than maintain, the present supply of fish. If those who are interested in the development of the country neglect the physical resources of the sea, which are so valuable a source of food supply to the country, we shall inevitably have to do what has been done in foreign countries— in the United States and other parts of the world—in the way of investigating the question of fish food supply. What has been done in other countries shows undoubtedly how far behind we have lagged in this matter. The real truth of the matter is that there has been considerable over-fishing in the seas in which we fish. Although there is no scientific investigation to support the theory, it is quite possible and probable that the supply of fish is inexhaustible, as only fish of a certain kind and ago come into the estuaries and bays and inlets of the country. I think, therefore, it is clear that the supply of fish in the North Sea is not necessarily recruited by fish coming in from other parts of the world. All these points remain very much matters of doubt and supposition, very much matters of hypothesis, and I do not think it is for any of us to dogmatist on the subject. My purpose in rising is to en force one consideration upon the attention of the Lord Advocate, which has a bearing on this matter. It would be of no service at present to enter into the controversy which has been raised to-night as to the closing or non-closing of the Moray Firth. In my opinion, for what it is worth, the closing of the Moray Firth is entirely justifiable not only on purely scientific grounds, but on economical and social grounds, and, if you like, on political grounds in the best sense of the word. The hon. Member for Dumfriesshire has pointed out how a transition is going on in the fishing industry as in other industries to which he referred, but it is surely proper statesmanship on the part of any Government to modify and reduce as 860 far as possible the inevitable friction and hardship involved in any great transition of the kind. More than that, I think that, going from present-day considerations to those of the future, it will be found that as a field for investigation the Moray Firth is very valuable to this country, and that it is possible, as I hope it may be later on, for co-operation between the North Sea Powers to advance further than they have at present in investigating the subject. It will be seen that we have done our duty in endeavouring to investigate questions which can only be investigated in a closed area. We shall have done our duty so far as lies in our power in having other areas closed so that scientific research may be valuably assisted in the future. Various suggestions and statements were made in the debate which I daresay it will be for the Lord Advocate to take notice of, and which he is far better qualified to deal with than I am. But be that as it may, I regret that this debate should assume an aspect of wrangling between different classes of fishermen in the country. There is room for both, and I wish to point out a consideration which should not be lost sight of in regard to the fisheries in Scotland. A very valuable part of the fisheries in Scotland, in common with other parts, is the herring fisheries. In considering the livelihood, circumstances, and conditions of the fishermen of Scotland, you must take into account that 70 per cent. of the catch and 50 per cent. of the value of the fish in Scotland are herrings, and, therefore, in so far as that proportion goes, and so far as that interest goes, they are entirely withdrawn from any controversy whatever between line fishermen and trawl fishermen, whose industry is confined to white, flat, or round fish, which must be distinguished entirely from the herring fisheries. As long as you have herring fisheries you must consider what their interest is and what the occupation of the fishermen is for the rest of the year. In regard to the Moray Firth, I wish to impress upon the Lord Advocate the inadequacy of the "Garland" as a ship for scientific investigation. No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman himself the inadequacy of the "Garland," for it has been pointed out by the Fishery Board and in the Committee Report of 1893. The investigations which the Fishery Board have conducted have been hampered and to 861 some extent rendered nugatory by the inefficiency of the "Garland" Practically that ship can do no very great work, except on the west coast, and everyone knows requires a sea-going ship, well equipped and of sufficient size, to do the work some of the trawlers do on the east coast of Scotland; and in order to bring the investigations up to date and make them useful for the purpose of comparison with the practical work done by vessels of much larger size, I would urge most respectfully the right hon. Gentleman that in order to carry out the wish expressed by the Fishery Board for Scotland it is very necessary to equip them with a better vessel than at present. It is obvious to everyone who reads the Fishery Board Report as to the size of the vessels sent out to follow the trawlers within the three-mile limit. I think there should be a cruiser able to do that work, but the Government should look to the further strengthening of the Hoot now engaged in co-operation with the ships of the Royal Navy in policing these waters. As a matter of fact the policing of these waters is a very serious cost to the country, and I think the system is more or less on its trial. Many critics have during this debate rather cast doubt on the advisability of a strong enforcement of the three-mile limit. The three-mile limit is not peculiar to this country; it is common to all the countries which have coasts on the North Sea; and I agree entirely with what was said by the hon. Member for the Wick Burghs, that that being the law we should have it enforced.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present (Major JAMESON, Clare, W.). House counted, and forty Members being found present.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (continuing)
The consideration I wish to enforce on the House is that the three-mile limit is a practical system, and, apart from any controversy between liners and trawlers, we must enforce that if only to give the system a trial. There are many critics who say that we get no gain by this— no gain in the fish food supply, no gain to the interest of the country in any respect. That is a matter of question, and one which we shall have to settle later on by investigation, but by all moans let us have efficient methods of policing. Early in the debate great doubt was thrown upon the possibility of 862 policing the North Sea as a whole. The hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn talked about policing the high seas. Let us talk about the North Sea and not go further a field at present There is every evidence to show, not from this country alone but from other countries, that there has been exhaustion there. I mention this to impress my own view in regard to international action in this matter. Whether justified or not, I believe there is a strong conviction in the minds of some hon. Members here and some people outside the House that the Government has not done all it could to advance the policy of international cooperation in this direction. We have never been able, so far as I am aware, to get any satisfactory assurance that the Government has really done anything practical in this matter. It may require time, I admit, to deal with the great difficulties of the situation, but as it is in the interest of foreign countries bordering on the North Sea not less than our own interest, surely that affords an opportunity for pressing the idea of protecting in some way the fisheries of the North Sea. I cannot avoid the conviction that the Government have not done as much as might have been done to press forward this question, whether as regards an extended limit on the closing of areas, or whatever the proper proposal is. The Government have not convinced a number of people interested in this question that they have really made any practical and earnest endeavour to obtain any measure of international co-operation. Everything that was made known to the House—and by that we are obliged to judge—in regard even to the earlier attempts at cooperation seemed to me to indicate very great supineness in the matter, and I regret it most truly, for I believe from the evidence that comes from all sides that it is only by such international co-operation that we can have any hope of preserving the valuable fishing grounds of the North Sea, by whatever means it may be desirable to protect them. In the first place, lot us do all we can in this country to inform ourselves in regard to the fisheries, of the country. The Fishery Board for Scotland has been instanced to-night as having done most valuable work in this direction. I would plead with the Lord Advocate and the Government to enable i that Board to do its work effectively, and for that purpose to equip it more effi- 863 ciently with the means of scientific investigation. The point I wish to urge upon him is the inefficiency of the present vessel for scientific investigation. Let us go further if you like, and endeavour to organise the fisheries of the other parts of the United Kingdom, so that it may be clearly shown that this country at any rate is doing what it can in this respect. The fact that hon. Members for Ireland and also for England have taken part in this debate seems to indicate that interest in this question is spreading. It is a very good thing that it should, because the fishing industry is a very valuable one, whether as regards the food supply of the country or occupation for the fishermen; but when you look beyond Scotland there is a lamentable want of organisation. Neither in England nor Ireland is there organisation comparable at all——
pointed out that the remarks of the hon. Member on this matter were not relevant to the Vote under consideration.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
I will certainly endeavour to keep within the limits. Earlier in the debate the whole question of the North Sea was brought up in connection with the Stockholm Conference, to which this Government sent a delegate last year. I was only trying to point out that if we wish to stand well in any international effort to preserve the fisheries of the North Sea, first of all we should do what we can at home. The £18,000 which is reckoned Scotch expenditure in connection with this work is for a service which ought to be borne by the whole of the United Kingdom. Everyone interested in the question recognises the valuable work done by the Fishery Board for Scotland. Let that work be extended, and carried on not only in Scotland, but in England and Ireland. Let the territorial limits be properly policed, not only off Scotland, but off England and Ireland. I venture to suggest that there should be a thorough inquiry into the condition of the fisheries of this country. In 1863 there was a very valuable Commission, of which Professor Huxley and Sir James Kerr were members. They, with great labour and pains, placed on record the results of perhaps the most valuable investigation that has taken place in this matter. 864 There was another Commission about 1888, which, I think, was confined to the investigation of the effect of beam-trawling in the North Sea. There was also a Commission in 1893, but the weakness of it was this—and I think the same thing will be found in connection with any other Committee assembled within these walls to investigate this question—that you cannot get proper evidence at this time of the year, when fishermen are employed elsewhere. I mention that point to enforce the desirability of having a further inquiry into the whole subject. Let the inquiry take what form it may, and whatever form the Government deem most desirable. Here we are in 1900, having had no real inquiry into the subject since 1863. If we are ever to enter into any international agreement on this matter we must first be thoroughly satisfied as to our own facts, and have an opinion based on those facts. We ought to have a distinct policy to advocate, and endeavour to carry it out with the help and co-operation of other nations. We are not doing so much as we ought to be doing in this matter; we are not doing as much as the magnitude and relative importance of this great interest of the country justify. I would urge most earnestly that everything possible should be done to create public interest in this question, and to convince the public that it really is important that these interests, very valuable in themselves and very important to the country as a whole, which are threatened with extinction, should receive consideration and investigation.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
agreed that these debates were almost the same every year; most of the speeches had been so similar to those delivered during the preceding four or five years that one might almost have had a phonograph and reeled off the old speeches instead of having a fresh debate. There were always the same complaints as to the neglect of the Fishery Board, the extension of the three-mile limit, the grievance about Moray Firth, the international agreement, and so forth, but nothing got any forwarder. There was one point which had advanced a little during the year, and that was that more Members had recognised the necessity for having a proper scientific inquiry into the condition of the fisheries. That was a very material point, as Members who asked for international 865 action were really a little premature, because no international agreement could be arrived at until there were the proper scientific data to go upon. So little was absolutely known in the matter; it was not known even to what extent trawling was doing harm. It was always assumed that trawling was doing harm, and several Members had gone back to that well-worn theme in the course of the evening, but the extent of the damage was unknown. A valuable contribution to the debate had been made by the hon. Member who called attention to other causes which were depleting the supply, and he commended that speech to the attention of the Lord Advocate and the Government. The question of the Moray Firth, again, was an old grievance, and he adverted to it merely to call attention to the ridiculous position in which the question now stood. It had been already pointed out that the only effect of the present law was to allow foreign trawlers to go there, while our own fishermen were prevented. The number of trawlers in the Moray Firth had been estimated at twenty-three, but according to the evidence supplied to him there were sometimes as many as fifty foreign trawlers there. Moray Firth was a fairly large piece of water, but still, fifty trawlers was a very large number for such an area, and it must be perfectly obvious that the presence of those trawlers entirely destroyed the value of any experiment in the closing of the Firth to our own fishermen. The Committee should remember it was proposed to close the Moray Firth not as a permanent measure, but for a certain time in order to enable the experiment to be tried, and to see whether the supply would increase if the spawning grounds were not disturbed by the operation of trawlers. But four or five years ago the foreign trawlers appeared, their numbers had continued to increase, and it was admitted on all hands that their presence entirely vitiated the experiment, and that it was not worth while continuing it. The experiment could not now be properly tried, and it was very doubtful whether, if the British trawler were allowed in, it would further vitiate the experiment. However, he did not wish to argue that question, but all were agreed that the value of the experiment was destroyed by the presence of the foreign trawlers, and there was also the rankling sense of injustice in the minds of the line fishermen when they saw the foreign 866 trawlers coming in and reaping this harvest. Surely such an absurd condition, which no one had denounced more warmly and clearly than the present Prime Minister some years ago, would not be allowed by the Government to continue indefinitely. The matter would have to be dealt with, either by the condition being withdrawn, or by prohibiting foreign trawlers going into the Firth. To make an international agreement such as that would involve, some consideration would have to be given to the foreign trawlers, or an arrangement would have to be made covering the whole of the North Sea. With regard to the general question, the only interest which had to be considered was that of the consumer—not only the consumer of the present, but also the consumer of the future. In these fisheries, particularly those of the North Sea, there was a large and important source of national wealth; it was alleged that that source of national wealth was being wasted by improvident methods of fishing, and certainly it was a matter for investigation. The remedy for some of the injuries suffered by the fishing industry was to be found in getting a proper knowledge of the practical effects of the present system; and, considering the great difficulties which must necessarily arise, that knowledge could not be acquired without some elaborate apparatus, without the expenditure of some years upon the task, and without the co-operation of the principal maritime Powers adjoining the North Sea. The Stockholm Conference seemed to offer an opportunity of having such a joint investigation, and perhaps the Lord Advocate would be able to tell the Committee what progress that Conference had made, and whether its investigations were being conducted on a sufficiently large scale. Several Members had observed that the Fishery Board, although it was prosecuting its inquiries, did not devote enough money or employ sufficient apparatus or observers to make the investigation complete; but he was confident the Committee would not grudge more money in order to enable the Board to prosecute its inquiries properly. He would not discuss the question of an international agreement or the extension of the three mile limit; the arguments for and against had been urged upon the Committee several times. It seemed to him that the knowledge of the facts 867 was preliminary to everything else, and until they had that knowledge it was not much use talking about an international agreement. He therefore joined very cordially in the suggestion of several hon. Members that the Government should take up the question as a whole, and seriously consider the advisability of initiating an investigation on the largest possible basis, and of trying to get the other Powers adjoining the North Sea to co-operate. If that was done they would be in a position to go forward, and he was certain that if the result of that investigation showed that any single class of fishermen were improperly suffering, or that any particular method of fishing was doing injury, there would be no difficulty in carrying remedial measures through the House. The interest of one particular class must not be permitted to stand in the way of a national benefit, and it was from that point of view that this question must be considered.
§ *MAJOR JAMESON (Clare, W.)
said it was to be regretted the Government had not taken some action with regard to steam trawling. Year after year the same battle was fought, but without redress, and it was somewhat disheartening to find Scotch Members putting down such very small reductions as £10 or £100. In such a case a reduction equivalent to the whole Vote should be moved, but Scotchmen were always economical, and they were economical even in the reductions they moved. Every Irish Member was in absolute accord with the complaints which had been made by the Scotch Members, as, year by year, the fishing industries on their coasts were going out of existence, and he spoke as the representative of a constituency in Ireland who suffered cruelly from the depredations of trawlers, and who had not sufficient boats and nets to carry on their trade. Right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench were always talking about the difficulty of getting sailors and naval reserves, but was not the extermination of the fishing industries the very worst way of obviating the difficulty? He earnestly hoped the Lord Advocate, as the mouthpiece of the Government, would point out to the Secretary for Scotland that this matter must be attended to, that it could not go on year after year as it had done, and 868 that the demands of the fishermen of Scotland must once and for all be dealt with. If the mover of the Amendment went to a division he should be most happy to support him.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
thorougly agreed with the remarks of the previous speaker, as the fishermen of Ireland were suffering tremendously from steam trawlers. Scotland very wisely some years ago prevented these trawlers coming within the three mile limit, but the result had been that a large number of those steam trawlers which had previously infested the Scotch coast now frequented the Irish coast, and were doing greater harm than in the case of Scotland. The reason they did greater harm on the Irish coasts was that the authorities had passed bye-laws prohibiting trawling within the three-mile limit, but they had no power to enforce those bye-laws against foreign trawlers. His reason for rising was to ask the Lord Advocate to be good enough to inform him in what way in Scotland they prevented the steam trawlers coming within the prescribed limits, whether they had gunboats, and, if so, how many?
§ DR. CLARK
said it was perfectly true these were old complaints, but they had to be repeated year after year, because nothing was done to remedy the matters, complained of. In this Vote there were three items for paying the salaries of naval officers who ought to see that the law was carried out, and they had to complain that, notwithstanding the fact that they were paying this money, the law was not carried out, and the policing was inefficient. The gunboats on the Danish coast did not look upon policing work as derogatory, and the result was that the law there was carried out, and if the trawlers, when they came to the Scotch coast, met with the same reception as on the Danish coast, there would be nothing to complain of. Another evil, and one which he had not heard alluded to, was that the herring fishery was being seriously affected by the trawlers. The trawlers caught the herrings by day, and day-trawled herrings could not be properly cured, with the result that the reputation of the finest brand of herrings was being entirely ruined. That was a question affecting the right hon. Gentle-man himself, because many of his own 869 constituents were engaged in fishing for herrings, and therefore he trusted the Fishery Board would take some stops in the matter.
§ SIR MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbrightshire)
desired to say a word in regard to the trawlers which were continually coming up from the south of England to many of the beds on the south-west of Scotland. Several hon. Members appeared to be of the opinion that these trawlers did no harm whatever, but when it was found the number of fish was seriously diminishing there must be some reason for it. It was admitted on all hands that during recent years there had been great improvements in the modes of catching fish, the manipulation of the nets, and so on. If that was the case, and yet at the same time the supply of fish was so enormously diminishing, some very substantial reason must exist, and it was a matter the Government should take into very serious consideration. He was quite at one with those who thought an inquiry should be set on foot. He would go further and say that not only ought a Departmental inquiry to be made, but a Commission should be established to consider all the many questions affecting the fisheries on the coasts and also the inland fisheries of the country. He was very anxious to hear from the Lord Advocate what measures were being adopted by the Government, what effect the recent important decision of the House of Lords was likely to have, and whether or not the number of gunboats on the coast of Scotland was to be increased.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, who initiated this debate, complained that he was tired of talking so often on these old subjects and of bringing up the old grievances, and that complaint was reiterated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen, who went so far as to say that he thought a phonograph might supply sufficient occupation for the evening and save us the trouble of debating the question. In one sense, I do not know that we have ever had so satisfactory a debate as that of to-night, because, although in other years hon. Members have joined in a common abuse of the Fishery Board, which has not been altogether absent on this occasion, it has never been made so clear that although they are all anxious to provide 870 some remedy they are really blaming the Fishery Board for precisely opposite reasons. We have really never had such a contrast between those who advocate the claims of the trawlers on the one hand and the claims of the line fishermen on the other, as we have had to-night. The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, however, began with making a quotation from a speech of the President of the Board of Trade, which, taken by itself, I think is capable of being grossly misunderstood. The hon. Member said he need not do anything more to show the serious condition the fisheries were in than to quote a sentence of my right hon. friend which he used in introducing the Bill at present before the House for dealing with sea fisheries—That our fishery grounds are being depleted year by year by the operation of the trawl.Hearing that sentence as the hon. Member used it to-night, I cannot help thinking the Committee would be led to understand that that would imply the unlawful navigation of trawlers in forbidden waters. What I want to point out is, that my right hon. friend used that sentence in regard to the well-known beds in the North Sea, not territorial waters at all, but on the other side, on the coasts of Norway and Germany. Whatever we may be able to do for the policing of the fisheries, it is obvious that none of our operations would have any effect on what was being done on those fishery beds. The complaints by the hon. Member really come back to the old and familiar complaints, ineffectiveness of sea-policing, and not having entered into an international agreement. The attack naturally developed in the course of the debate, but in rather a curious way, as is shown by the speeches of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, who opened the debate, and the hon. Member for the Lowestoft Division of Suffolk. Both hon. Members made use of the same phrase in reference to the Moray Firth. Both said that the position of the Moray Firth was a scandal; but what does that mean? The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire says it is a scandal because the foreign trawlers are not kept out. The hon. Member for Lowestoft says it is a scandal because the British trawlers are not let in. So that though they are unanimous in saying it is a scandal, when they came to apply the remedy it would be the opposite in the one 871 case to what it would be in the other. That was the beginning of the controversy, and as I have said it developed until, I think, we have never had such an outspoken debate by those who, on the one hand, favour the trawlers and those who do not. Hon. Members from Ireland who are indirectly interested in this question take the same line as the hon. Member for Lowestoft, and the hon. Member who addressed us to-night spoke in favour of the admission of foreign trawlers. With regard to the inefficiency of sea policing, I deny that there has been any inefficiency. I do not mean to say that we have arrived at such a state of perfection that the law is never broken. Consider what it means: we have not only to protect the Moray Firth, but the three-mile limit all round Scotland, and when you come to think of the difficulty of locating a trespass where you cannot go by boundaries as on dry land, but only by an imaginary line, and that you have not only to do this by daylight, but also at night, it is not difficult to realise that where there is a disposition to break the law, the law should be contravened. But speaking on the whole no one could read the Reports of the Fishery Board without coming to the conclusion that the policing of the sea has been active, strenuous, and effective. The particulars as to the policing will be found on the thirtieth and following pages of the Report of the Fishery Board of the general Report. I might incidentally, here, answer the question put to me by the hon. Member for West Kerry. The vessels that are engaged in this work are, first of all, three regular Fishery cruisers; that is to say vessels which are the property of, and are at the disposal of, the Fishery Board of Scotland. Those are helped by the "Jackal," which is constantly used in the service, and by the "Cockchafer" and "Redwing." So that the Fishery Board have the continual service of three ships of their own and three ships of the Admiralty, which are engaged in this service. As a consequence there have been seventeen prosecutions during the past year against trawlers. And the way those prosecutions were handled is sufficiently shown by the fact that in every one the authorities were successful in obtaining a conviction, a statement which in my opinion reflects great credit on the police boats and the various officials in Scotland who had the conduct 872 of the prosecutions. In addition to those there were a great many cases in which there were no prosecutions; but in order to show how much on the alert they were there is a table in the appendix which shows the number of various boats that were detained during the year until fishing delinquencies of one sort or another were entered into. That table shows a grand total of 646 boats which were detained pending inquiries. I honestly think when these particulars are looked into it really is not the case to say that the policy has not been effective and thorough. No doubt as long as the world lasts and the fishing industry goes on as it does, complaints will be made, and I expect them to be made, but I really do not think any complaint can be made against the Fishery Board on this matter. I may say that this fleet is shortly to be strengthened by another cruiser, which it is hoped will be ready by December next. There has been a change of policy in this matter, and instead of being dependent on the Admiralty as heretofore the Fishery Board now have their own cruisers. I might say incidentally that the complaint of the hon. Members for Ireland that the trawlers descended on the Irish coast is a back-handed compliment to the policing of the waters of Scotland, because it simply means that it is very much easier to trawl off Ireland, where the policing is non-effective, than off the coast of Scotland. With regard to the details asked for by the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty, who was exceedingly sarcastic as to the efficiency of the Secretary for Scotland in not having given the details asked for, which were a return of all trawlers seen on forbidden ground, I may say those details could not be given because it would necessitate going over the logs of the whole of the fishing boats.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
And I may say the hon. Gentleman has not the right to have given to him everything he asks for. The question is whether it would be right to put all the trouble and expense of time upon the officers not only of the Fishery Board, but of the Navy, of making a Return, the result of which 873 would not, so far as I can see, put the matter any further forward. I pass from that to what I think is the only other complaint of the hon. Member, and that is the neglect to push forward an international agreement. With regard to an international agreement, I think we are now furnished with greater knowledge and more scientific information and statistics than we enjoyed before. Her Majesty's Government have been very anxious to bring the powers together, but that is a question of very grave difficulty, and one which it is impossible for any Government to work out very rapidly. I confess that evidence is very rapidly accumulating of the decrease in the supply of fish. We have had a very halcyon speech from the hon. Member opposite, who assures us that if everybody was to eat nothing but fish it would not diminish the great supplies in the seas. That may be true, but yon might as well tell a man in the middle of a desert that there was more water in the world than he could drink. The question is, how are you to get the fish out of the sea? I cannot help coming to the conclusion that unfortunately there has been a very great diminution in the fish supply. Without going for a moment into the question as to how that is caused, that it is so is shown by the fact that in order to maintain the same catch of fish as formerly not only have the boats had to go a great deal further out to sea, but the catching power of the whole combined fleet is very much greater than it used to be. That there has been a diminution in the supply is shown by the consideration of the statistics; but if anyone doubts the statement, let him ask any fishermen on any part of the coast, and they will tell the same story in regard to the diminution of the supplies near at hand. Undoubtedly something must be done in the matter if the depopulation of the seas is to be arrested, and I am quite sure that Her Majesty's Government or any other Government will have the very greatest incentive to press forward so far as they can an international agreement and cooperation in this matter. Speaking for the Fishery Board, I am sure that it will never be urged against us that we have not continued to throw our whole weight into the scale in favour of such a measure as I have indicated. In regard to the criticism of the policy of this Fishery 874 Board I am bound to say, after all, that I do not think I have very much to meet. There are, perhaps, one or two points upon which I ought to say a word. Several hon. Members have drawn attention to the fact that there is an unfortunate depopulation going on in many of the smaller fishing villages. No doubt some hon. Members look upon that as another evidence of the deleterious effect of trawling. I do not wish to raise that controversy, but I would again call the attention of hon. Members to what appears in the Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland, a Report which I venture to say will repay perusal by anyone, and which I think reflects the greatest credit on the Department which has issued it. In that Report the Board call attention to two facts; first of all, that this year has been a year in which there has been an enormous increase in the results of trawling as against the results of line fishing. The figures have practically been inverted. Up to the present the total patch of line fishermen —who, of course, are a great deal more numerous than the other—has always been ahead of that of the trawlers, but this is no longer the case. And more than this, the average price obtained by the trawlers is very much larger than the average price obtained by the line fishermen. Then there is the fact which is clearly brought out now, that the small fisherman is more and more going to the wall; and accordingly you have at least one very obvious economic reason for this depopulation— namely, that it really no longer pays so well to fish in small places, where, firstly, the harbours are not of sufficient size or depth to accommodate the size of the boat so as to make it profitable; and secondly, there is no ready market for the fish when it is landed. The whole tendency of the fishing trade is to employ larger and larger boats, and consequently there has been latterly a tendency to centralisation, a tendency which the Fishery Board, like other people, very much deplore in the interests of the population, but which I must confess—as will be seen from a perusal of the Report—is the inevitable result of the way in which fishing is being carried on. This matter, I think, is very cognate to what was said about harbours. Of course it would be possible in one sense to keep these fishermen at home if there were harbours that would accommo- 875 date larger boats; but the Fishery Board say, and I think it is a sentiment which everyone must give assent to, that—It is somewhat unfortunate that the tendency to centralisation in the fishing industry is growing so rapidly. The village piers and harbours are also quite unsuitable for the large boats now in use for fishing—the depth of water being too little for entry at all states of the tide, and the shelter afforded from heavy weather quite inadequate. It is difficult to see what remedy is to be found for this state of matters, as it can hardly be expected that each little fishing community is to he provided with a deep-water harbour, and the market accommodation and railway facilities provided at the larger centres, where the revenue derived from the industry is so considerable.That seems a hard fact, which, however much we may regret it, we cannot get over. In regard to the harbours, I think that is really the answer to some of the complaints of the hon. Member for Ross. The amount of money which the Fishery Board has at its disposal for this purpose is limited to £3,000 this year, and that has to go, in one sense, all over Scotland. The hon. Member for Ross asks, "Why not have a harbour at Portnagurran?" A harbour there would cost £30,000, whereas the Fishery Board are only allowed £3,000 for the whole of Scotland. The hon. Member for Kincardineshire deprecated the spending: of money on the smaller harbours; but, after all, all the Fishery Board are able to do is to hold an even balance between the claims of the various portions of the coast, and it is obvious that it is only possible to make small harbours, and not large harbours of refuge like those asked for by the hon. Member for Ross. The only other topic on which I should say something is that of scientific investigation. It has been pointed out that the Fishery Board of Scotland has at least this feather in its cap, that it is really the only Government Department which is doing any work of this kind in the United Kingdom. Hon. Members will find from the Report that we have done very effective work in this direction, considering the limited means at our disposal. The hon. Member for Forfarshire said he would like the results compared with results elsewhere, but I do not see how that is possible while there are no Government Departments elsewhere doing the same work and although that may be a proper thing to do in the future, it cannot be done at present. The hon. 876 Member also spoke about the Moray Firth. Of course it is quite obvious, without going into the Moray Firth controversy, that for purposes of scientific investigation, what has happened there destroys the usefulness of that place as a spot where accurate scientific investigations can be carried on. Here again I can scarcely agree with the hon. Member for Aberdeen that the reason why Moray Firth was closed was on account of scientific investigations. I think it will be admitted that there was a general consensus of opinion among the fishing population that immature fish were caught in the Moray Firth through the operation of trawling. The hon. Member for Ross wanted to know where the office was. I think he will find the office at Aberdeen, but I do not suppose he has looked there. I think I have now dealt with all the matters of general importance, and the only thing that remains for me to do is to answer the point raised by the hon. Member for Clackmannan. The hon. Member for Clackmannan asked me what would be the result of a recent decision in the House of Lords. It is not usual on the estimates to deliver legal opinions, but I am perfectly willing to answer the hon. Member to the best of my ability. The case decided in the House of Lords the other day would, according to my humble judgment, strike at the hang nets or drift nets in the River Forth, and in point of fact there is no doubt that the decision of the House of Lords overturns the decision of the Court of Session some years ago, which held that these particular nets were according to law. As regards stake nets I do not think I can give the hon. Member any useful reply. They have always been, illegal in fresh water, but not illegal in the sea, and of course I do not know what particular stake nets he had in view. With regard to the questions of the hon. Baronet the Member for West Kerry, he asked what the cruisers cost. They were built some years ago, and I do not at this moment remember the figures, but I will furnish them to the hon. Member. Then, the hon. Baronet asked out of what funds they were built. The "Jackal" was an Admiralty vessel, and, with regard to the others, for two years a sum was put down on a general estimate sufficient to build a cruiser. A few years ago this amount was taken out of the Vote and £15,000 was given out of one of the local funds. 877 which did not appear on the Estimates, but appeared in the Local Taxation Account, and in return for that the sea policing has been taken over by the Fishery Board. Then the hon. Baronet asked me about the herring brand. The history of the herring brand is rather a curious one. It originally had its origin in the bounty system, but although it was given as a bounty it very rapidly came about that the brand was of immense value in selling the herrings, and consequently when the bounty was abolished all the fishing trade prayed that the brand might nevertheless be continued, as it was looked upon as a certificate of value. Accordingly it was continued, and a bargain was made with the treasurer by which fees are charged for the branding operation, and any balance there is goes to the Fishery Board. Then the hon. Baronet asked was there any good result? I have already shown him that in what I have already said, and if he will read Part 1 of the Report of the Scotch Fishery Board for this year he will find full particulars on the subject. As a matter of fact the price obtained for Scotch herrings during the past year has been greater than ever before, partly owing to the very good fishing and partly owing to the failure of the herring supply in other parts of the world. I think these are all the points that have been raised.
§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE
I only wish to thank the Lord Advocate for his courtesy in answering my questions and for the interesting information he has given, which will be of considerable value to fishermen in Ireland.
§ *MR. WEIR
said he complained that the money which ought to be spent on piers and harbours was being hoarded up. In his own constituency, where there were a great number of fishermen and many fishing villages, not a single penny had been expended. He referred the Lord Advocate to the pier at Avoch, on the east coast of Ross, which was destroyed by a gale some time ago, and he asked whether steps would be taken to bring the matter before the Fishery Board for Scotland in order that the pier might be put in a proper condition for boats. The right hon. Gentleman stated that large boats were now required, and he asked that the piers should be made suitable to receive them. 878 Were the fishing villages of Scotland to be allowed to perish because the piers and harbours would not be rendered suitable for large boats? A Committee appointed by a Conservative Government recommended that a harbour of refuge should be established at Portnagurran (Island of Lewis), and he hoped that the Scotch Office would obtain the money to carry out that valuable recommendation. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the fact that two of the Admiralty cruisers were not under the control of the Fishery Board for Scotland, and he should like to know why £100 a year was paid to the commander of one of these cruisers and £76 to the other. If the Scotch Fishery Board had no control over them, why should that money be paid? If they received the money from the Board the commanders should carry out the instructions of the Board; otherwise the whole thing was a fraud and a sham. The information he had asked for with reference to the number of days foreign trawlers fished in the Moray Firth could be obtained in a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes if the books had been properly kept, and yet he was informed that it would entail too much work. He was one of those who was most careful in his questions and most careful that they should be of a reasonable and not of an inquisitive character and merely intended to waste time. Surely when fair, honest, and reasonable questions of that kind were put they ought to be fairly and honestly answered.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
The best answer to the hon. Member when he states that no money was spent in his constituency is that since 1883 out of £3,000 a year his constituents have had nearly £14,000.
§ *MR. BUCHANAN
I moved a reduction of this Vote in the evening, and I must now take a division, because I gather from the Lord Advocate's speech that during the five years the Government have been in office no steps have been taken to secure an international agreement with reference to fisheries in the North Sea.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 40; Noes, 101. (Division List No. 185.)879
|Birrell, Augustine||Haldane, Richard Burdon||Scott, Charles Prestwich (Leigh)|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Hayne, Rt. Hon. C. Seale-||Souttar, Robinson|
|Brigg, John||Hedderwick, Thomas C. H.||Steadman, William Charles|
|Caldwell, James||Hogan, James Francis||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Cameron, Sir Charles (Glasgow)||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'land)||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Clark, Dr. G. B.||Macaleese, Daniel||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Colville, John||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Tennant, Harold John|
|Crombie, John William||M'Crae, George||Ure, Alexander|
|Dalziel, James Henry||M'Ghee, Richard||Wason, Eugene|
|Doogan, P. C.||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Weir, James Galloway|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Pearson, Sir Weetman D.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Mr. Buchanan and Captain Sinclair.|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh|
|Gurdon, Sir William Brampton||Richardson, J. (Durham, S.E.)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Goldsworthy, Major-General||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r)||Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Bethell, Commander||Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Purvis, Robert|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord George||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Bonsor, Henry Cosmo Orme||Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robert Wm.||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn)||Heath, James||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Henderson, Alexander||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshre)||Hutton, John (Yorks, N.R.)||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. T.|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Jackson, Rt. Hn. Wm. Lawies||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney|
|Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r.)||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Charrington, Spencer||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Keswick, William||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Knowles, Lees||Sidebottom, William (Derbysh.|
|Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Lawrence, Sir E. Durning-(Corn)||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverpool)||Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.|
|Digby, J. K. D. Wingfield-||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lowles, John||Strauss, Arthur|
|Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Hart||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf. Univ.)|
|Finch, George H.||Maclure, Sir John William||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||M'Arthur, Chas. (Liverpool)||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn W. F.||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose-||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)||Williams, Joseph Powell-(Birm)|
|FitzWygram, General Sir F.||Morgan, Hon. F. (Mon.)||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Fletcher, Sir Henry||Morrell, George Herbert||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Flower, Ernest||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Wylie, Alexander|
|Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)||Mount, William George||Wyndham, George|
|Garfit, William||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Gedge, Sydney||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.||Myers, William Henry|
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ 3. £3,221, to complete the sum for Lunacy Commission, Scotland.
§ 4. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,743, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1901, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of the Registrar General of Births, etc., in Scotland."880
§ *MR. WEIR
said he found from the Report of the Registrar General that a large proportion of the deaths in the Highlands had not been certified by the medical officers. That was a state of affairs which should not be allowed to continue. The returns should show the numbers of deaths which were certified and the number of deaths which were not certified. The Department appeared to be conducted on a very slovenly method, and he did not know what the Registrar General was about to allow such a state of affairs to continue. Surely it would 881 be easy to add a column giving the required information. He would ask for information with reference to the sum of £750 for appropriation in aid. On page 180 there was a sum of £350 for a senior clerk, and it was stated that the senior clerk was also interim keeper of the Register of Entails, and one of the second division clerks was clerk of entails. For recording in that register, not during the general Registry Office hours, the two clerks mentioned received last year fees amounting to £35 16s. 5d. and 15s. 8d. respectively. Why was the system adopted of allowing clerks to conduct public business after general office hours? The system did not prevail in England, and was an unsound principle. He hoped the Lord Advocate would be able to give information which would enable the Vote to be taken without a division.
§ SIR CHARLES CAMERON
I would wish to say a word in support of the first proposition of my hon. friend. The point he called attention to is a very important one, and is of pressing importance in the case of Scotland. Seven years ago I obtained a Select Committee to inquire into the certification of deaths, which was presided over by the President of the Local Government Board. It drew up a number of recommendations, not one of which has been given effect to. In some of the western parts of Scotland it was found that as many as 50 per cent. of the deaths were uncertified by medical men. That is a very flagrant scandal, and it would certainly do something to impress the public mind with the importance of the subject if such facts as that were stated in the Registrar General's Report. There is nothing easier than to give full information in the matter, and I trust that the Lord Advocate will bring his influence to bear on the Registrar General to have that very important and easily-procurable information included in his Report.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
With regard to the certification of deaths, I do not know that there is anything more to be said than was stated in the Report of the Committee to which the hon. Baronet referred.
§ SIR CHARLES CAMERON
What I ask is that we should in future have in the Report of the Registrar General a record of the number of deaths which were uncertified.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty has called attention to the fact that senior clerks in the Register of Entails were paid certain fees in addition to their salaries. I fail to see anything wrong in that The hon. Member knows that in the Register House are kept the Register of Sasines, the Register of Entails, and many others, and it is found convenient that the clerks should be allowed to be paid extra for extra work. This was done under the supervision of the Registrar of Entails, and the whole work of the Register House is under the supervision of the Registrar General.
§ *MR. WEIR
said he did not object to that. What he objected to was that a public Department should be kept open after office hours, with all the attendants hanging about, in order that these two clerks might carry on work for their own profit. It seemed to him that the fees should go into the Public Treasury. He thought it unjust that these clerks, who received a salary for their own work, should take the bread out of another's mouth by doing extra work and getting paid for it in the shape of fees. The system was a thoroughly unsound one, and he was amazed that the Lord Advocate supported it. As to the registration of deaths he thought it would be the simplest thing in the world to have another column in the table showing what deaths were certified, and what were not certified. The Lord Advocate's reply was not satisfactory, since he gave no promise that this state of matters would be altered. In his own constituency there were hundreds of deaths uncertified every year, which he considered a disgrace to any civilised country. As a protest he moved that the Vote be reduced by £50.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,693, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Weir.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 34; Noes, 102. (Division List No. 186.)883
|Birrell, Augustine||Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Clark, Dr. G. B.|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Colville, John|
|Brigg, John||Cameron, Sir Chas. (Glasgow)||Crombie, John William|
|Doogan, P. C.||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||M'Crae, George||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||M'Ghee, Richard||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Pearson, Sir Weetman D.||Wason, Eugene|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh|
|Hayne, Rt. Hn. Charles Seale-||Richardson, J. (Durham, S.E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Hedderwick, Thomas Chas. H.||Sinclair, Capt John (Forfarshire||Mr. Weir and Mr. Caldwell|
|Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland)||Souttar, Robinson|
|Macaleese, Daniel||Steadman, William Charles|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. Geo.'s)||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r)||Goschen, G. J. (Sussex)||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol)||Greene, Henry D.(Shrewsbury)||Purvis, Robert|
|Bethell, Commander||Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord Geo.||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robert Wm.||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Hanson Sir Reginald||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbys.)||Heath, James||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Henderson, Alexander||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc.||Hutton, John (Yorks., N.R.)||Sandon, Viscount|
|Charrington, Spencer||Jackson, Rt. Hn. Wm. Lawies||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)|
|Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Keswick, William||Sidebottom, Wm. (Derbysh.|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow||Knowles, Lees||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lawrence, Sir E. Durning- (Corn||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Lawson John Grant (Yorks.)||Smith, James P. (Lanarks.)|
|Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Liverp'l)||Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Strauss, Arthur|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Lowles, John||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Fellowes, Hn. Ailwyn Edward||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Ox'd Univ|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J (Manc'r)||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Finch, George H.||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W.F||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)||Ure, Alexander|
|FitzGerald, Sir R. Penrose||Morgan, Hn. F. (Monm'thsh.)||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|FitzWygram, General Sir F.||Morrell, George Herbert||Williams, J. Powell- (Birm.)|
|Flower, Ernest||Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptf'd)||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)||Mount, William George||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Gedge, Sydney||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Wylie, Alexander|
|Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute)||Wyndham, George|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||Myers, William Henry||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Nicholson, William Graham|
Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £8,508, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1901, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Local Government Board for Scotland, and for Expenses under the Vaccination Act, Infectious Disease Notification Act, Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1889, Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1894, Public Health (Scotland) Act, Poor Law (Scotland) Act, and Sale of Food and Drugs Acts, 1875 to 1899."
§ SIR CHARLES CAMERON
said that when the Vaccination Act for England 884 was passed two or three years ago he had asked the Lord Advocate whether it was the intention of the Government to extend the Act to Scotland. From the Report of the Local Government Board for Scotland he found that the proportion of calf lymph distributed to the public vaccinators in Scotland was small compared with infant lymph. Last year there were only 692 tubes of calf lymph for vaccination, against 2,000 tubes of infant lymph. He asked, had any steps been taken to assimilate the practice in Scotland with that in England, and why was it that calf's lymph had not been more extensively introduced into Scotland? His principal purpose, however, in rising was to draw attention to a matter connected with Quarrier's Orphan Homes at Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire. In these orphan homes there were upwards of 1,000 waifs and strays taken from the 885 streets and gathered from different parts of the country. The homes were supported by voluntary contributions, and conducted on a system organised by Mr. Quarrier, which had been so successful that a Departmental Committee reported that the results among the children had been infinitely more encouraging and satisfactory than amongst the children sent to industrial schools. Until comparatively recently, an agreement existed between the local authorities and Mr. Quarrier that the homes should be exempted from rates, on his undertaking at his own expense the education of the children and their treatment when sick. Some time ago an action was raised, the result of which was that it was declared to be illegal to exempt Mr. Quarrier's homes from the local rates. Mr. Quarrier then said that if he was going to pay the rates he would claim his privileges as a citizen, and demand from the educational authorities that free education for the children in his homes to which every child in Scotland was entitled, and also the privileges for the children given by the sanitation laws. He could not go into the educational part of the question on this Vote, but only the sanitary. At the time when this attitude was taken by Mr. Quarrier on the one hand, and the local authorities on the other, Mr. Quarrier insisted on getting his children educated at the public schools and treated in the public hospitals of the sanitary authority. The School Board refused to take the children in the public schools, but the sanitary authority received some of them into their hospitals. Since then things had become more acute. On the occasion of a recent epidemic of scarlet fever, a number of children in these homes were attacked, and Mr. Quarrier called upon the local authority to remove them and put them into the infectious diseases hospital. The local authority took one or two of the children and no more. Mr. Quarrier appealed to the Local Government Board, which, after some correspondence, suggested some means of getting out of the difficulty. He believed, however, that nothing had yet been done, and there was in the meantime this state of matters, that if an epidemic of scarlatina or measles broke out in the midst of this large number of children there was no machinery for removing the sick children to a place where they would cease to be a source of danger. It seemed to him that it was the duty of the Local Government Board to have regard to public health, 886 and to have nothing to do with the quarrel between Mr. Quarrier and the local authority. A child of Mr. Quarrier was entitled to all the attention given to any other sick child at the hands of the sanitary authority. It was not conducive to the public health that, in the case of an epidemic, any large body of children should be allowed to become a source of danger to the children of the village and of the entire country. It was the duty of the Local Government Board to amend things of that sort, and they should insist in that being done in a manner competent to them. If the right hon. Gentleman thought that a person in charge of such an institution should be compelled by law to provide accommodation for such cases, let there be legislation for that purpose, but in the meantime no such legislation existed. The law laid it clown that the sanitary authority of a district should be responsible for checking these infectious diseases, and the Local Government Board had already recognised their duty in the matter. He saw from their Report that in the case of Ayr, where no sufficient accommodation had been provided, they stepped in and insisted that it should be provided. The case had been taken to the Court of Session, where it was held that the Local Government Board was supreme in the matter, and could insist on the extension of the hospital for infectious diseases, and an hospital for that purpose was accordingly built at Ayr. In another case in connection with a combination hospital, it was laid down that accommodation must be afforded so long as there was any case requiring attention, and that when the accommodation was exhausted it was the duty of the Local Government Board to call on the local authority to provide accommodation. The accommodation at Bridge of Weir was exhausted, or threatened to be exhausted, and an appeal was made to the Local Government Board; but nothing had yet been done to increase it. These epidemics were constantly breaking out, and if another occurred it was sure to spread among the children in the homes, and they would become a source of danger to the children of the town and the surrounding districts. That was most unsatisfactory, and it was the duty of the Local Government Board, as the central authority, to insist that a state of things which constituted so grave a public danger should no longer obtain. The Local Government Board had in this 887 matter been negligent of its duties. It had failed to step in with a firm hand and exercise its powers for the public good, and had allowed matters to drift in a contrary direction. He moved the reduction of the Vote by £200.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £8,308 be granted for the said Service."—(Sir Charles Cameron.)
§ *MR. WEIR
said that the Local Government Board were responsible for looking after the public health in Scotland. He held in his hand the annual Report of the public health officer for Ross and Cromarty, who was a member of the Medical Council in London, and well qualified to deal with the subject of public health. The report was of such a character that he felt bound to direct attention to it. It stated that there were wells on the Island of Lewis totally unprotected, that there was no hospital for infectious diseases, except at Stornoway, and that the expense had prevented the local authorities from building isolation and other hospitals. In 1899 there wore four cases of diphtheria on the Island of Lewis, against three on the mainland; 189 cases of scarlatina against ninety-seven, and eighteen cases of typhoid against fifteen, whereas the proportion of population was only as three to seven. And yet the Local Government Board would not take any steps to bring about a better state of matters. It was marvellous how any person could escape contagion on the Island of Lewis. The Report mentioned one ease in which a mother was in bed with fever, while three children were lying on the floor covered only by the rags provided by the doctor. In a village with a population of little more than 300 there were forty-one cases of typhoid fever in six months. The ratepayers could do nothing, and it was a case for the Local Government Board to take action in order to put an end to such a terrible state of affairs. It went on year after year, and yet no action was taken to relieve the deplorable condition of the people on the Island of Lewis. 30,000 people were living in a congested area in most unsanitary dwellings, and no steps whatever were taken to improve their condition. Of course it would be a very serious state of things to turn these poor people out of their homes, but still the Local Government Board ought to attempt something in order to bring about a better condition 888 of affairs. The Island of Harris was in a similar condition, as were also some of the islands off the coast of Inverness. The neglect displayed by the Local Government Board was not confined to the islands of Lewis and Harris, but extended right through the islands of the Outer Hebrides. He should like to know why the inspectors of the Local Government Board were Army men who were pitchforked into these positions. What did they know about diseases like typhoid? Absolutely nothing. The medical officer of health described the dwellings in one of the districts of Ross as in a shocking condition, a standing danger to the public health, and an outrage against all laws of sanitation. In that district forty-one cases of typhoid occurred in an area of a few hundred yards. There were no skilled nurses, and not an hospital nearer than Stornoway, sixteen miles distant. It was absolutely impossible for the poor people to provide suitable isolation hospitals for such cases. The medical officer of health stated that during the prevalence of the fever the children were excluded from school, to their own loss as well as to the loss of the teachers, and that the men were not allowed to attend their annual drill. He would not weary the Committee by further describing the sad state of affairs which existed in that part of Scotland. He felt it was his duty as its representative to bring the matter before the Committee, in order to show the gross neglect and indifference displayed by the Local Government Board in attending to its duties, and in administering the laws passed by Parliament in the interests of the public health. He had visited the huts of the negroes in Africa, and he could say they were better than the crofters' cottages in some parts of the Highlands. And yet the Scottish Office declined to afford these poor people any assistance except on utterly impossible conditions. He considered it was the duty of the Local Government Board to look into these matters. The Vice-President received a salary of £1,200, and the legal and medical members £1,000 each, and there were besides a number of inspectors, chiefly Army men, one of whom was paid 7s. a day out of Army funds. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman to see that the Local Government Board paid some attention to the state of affairs described by the medical officer of health for Ross. He was a well known 889 and distinguished man, and a member of the General Medical Council, and his opinions were entitled to respect. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give him a satisfactory reply.
§ MR. JOHN WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
said that with reference to the Quarrier Homes which had been mentioned by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Bridgeton Division, every practical man knew the benefits they conferred, and that they enjoyed the confidence and support of the people of Scotland to a very great extent. He was glad to have an opportunity of supporting the hon. Baronet, and he would feel bound to vote with him unless a satisfactory reply were given by the Lord Advocate.
§ *MR. CAMERON CORBETT (Glasgow, Tradeston)
said he should also like to support the hon. Baronet and his hon. friend the Member for the Falkirk Burghs. There was a very strong feeling in the West of Scotland that a very grave injustice had been done to the institution mentioned by its being compelled to pay rates, while being deprived of the benefits derived from their expenditure, and he hoped the Lord Advocate would be able to give a satisfactory reply.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
The first question put to me by the hon. Baronet had reference to glycerinated lymph. My answer is that up to the present perhaps the advantages of glycerinated lymph in vaccination have scarcely been brought home so clearly to the people of Scotland as to the people of England, but I am glad to say that the demand for the lymph from the Local Government Board of Scotland is steadily increasing. The hon. Baronet may rest assured that the public demand for the lymph will go on growing, and we have made provision for that in the Estimates. With reference to the question of Quarrier's Homes, if I had known that it was to be raised, I would have brought down the correspondence. I must say in answer to the speech last delivered that the matter should not be confounded with the different question which will arise on the Education Vote, but I would not be in order in referring to that now. I can only deal at present with the question concerning infectious diseases. As a matter of fact, the Local Government Board have not been supine in this matter, nor have they refused the same benefits to the homes that other 890 people have. The Local Government Board under the powers conferred on them under Section 66 of the Public Health Act of 1897 called on the local authority to take the necessary action, and I think my hon. friend will agree with me that nothing more could have been done up to the present. The hon. Baronet says that nothing has happened since.
§ SIR CHARLES CAMERON
This is no new matter. When there were seven or eight cases of fever the local authorities were called on to remove them, and they refused. The Local Government Board were appealed to, and they stated that nothing further had been done in the matter.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
The hon. Baronet will remember the answer I gave to the question he himself put. The next stop that can be taken by the Local Government Board is to apply to the courts, and, so far as I know, that has not been done up to the present. I am sorry I am unable to give any further particulars, because I had no notice that this question would be raised on this Vote. But the hon. Baronet may be quite satisfied that the Local Government Board will mete out the same measure in this case as is meted out in all other cases. With regard to the questions of the hon. Member for Ross, he, as usual, used very strong and very general language with regard to the supineness, sluggishness, and general uselessness of the Local Government Board. The hon. Member has, however, scarcely reflected on the difficulty of providing for the accommodation to which he referred. It would be a very difficult, or rather; I should say an impossible, task. I must honestly confess I cannot under- stand what the hon. Member means when he reads extracts from the report of a medical officer of health to that effect, and it is perfectly impossible to throw on the ratepayers the cost of providing hospital accommodation such as a medical man might wish. The hon. Member seems to think that the Local Government Board have some fund at their command which would enable the Local Government Board to step in and provide hospital accommodation where the ratepayers were unable to supply it themselves. There is no such fund, and all the Local Government Board can do is to make the local authorities do their duty in such matters.
§ *MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
That does not help the argument of the hon. Member. The hon. Member also delivered some remarks on the personnel of the inspectors of the Local Government Board. He said they were mainly Army men, but I do not think that one of the present inspectors has ever been connected with the Army. The hon. Member referred in particular to one
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Debate arising, and it being after midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.892
§ gentleman, but he is no longer an inspector of the Local Government Board, and his successor is not an Army man. The suggestion that the inspectors should be medical men is not a suggestion that would be received with favour. The Local Government Board have to perform other duties besides medical duties, and the latter are at present looked after by the medical members of the Board.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 36; Noes, 103. (Division List No. 187.)891
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Goddard, Daniel Ford||Steadman, William Charles|
|Brigg, John||Gurdon, Sir William Brampton||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Hedderwick, Thomas Chas. H.||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Caldwell, James||Macaleese, Daniel||Tennant, Harold John|
|Channing, Francis Allston||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Ure, Alexander|
|Clark, Dr. G. B.||M'Crae, George||Wason, Eugene|
|Crombie, John William||M'Ghee, Richard||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Doogan, P. C.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Weir, James Galloway|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Pearson, Sir Weetman D.||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Richardson, J. (Durham, S.E.)||Sir Charles Cameron and Mr. Colville.|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. Geo.'s)||Murray, Rt. Hn A Graham (Bute|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Gosehen, George J. (Sussex)||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Graham, Henry Robert||Myers, William Henry|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol||Greene, H. D. (Shrewsbury)||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Bethell, Commander||Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord George||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robt. Wm.||O'Neill, Hn. Robert Torrens|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Hanson, Sir Reginald||Pease, Herbert P. (Darlington)|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Heath, James||Peel, Hn. Wm. Robt. Wellesley|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Henderson Alexander||Penn, John|
|Cavendish, V. C. W (Derbyshire||Hutton, John (Yorks, N.R.)||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Jackson, Rt. Hn. W. Lawies||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r)||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Purvis, Robert|
|Charrington, Spencer||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Keswick, William||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Knowles, Lees||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Charles T.|
|Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Lawrence, Sir E. Durning- (Corn||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Sandon, Viscount|
|Curzon, Viscount||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks)||Snarpe, William Edward T.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)|
|Dickenson, Robert Edmond||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Liverpool||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Sidebottom, William (Derby.)|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.||Lowles, John||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Man.)||Lloyd, Archie Kirkman||Smith, James P. (Lanarks.)|
|Finch, George H.||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Strauss, Arthur|
|Finlay, Sir R. Bannatyne||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Un.)|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Macdona, John Cumming||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Fitz Wygram, General Sir F.||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Flower, Ernest||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn W.F.||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)||Milward, Colonel Victor||Wylie, Alexander|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)||Wyndham, George|
|Gedge, Sydney||Morgan, Hn. Frederick (Mon.)|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.||Morrell, George Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Mount, William George|
|Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Mowbray, Sir Robt. Gray C.|
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next. Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.
§ Adjourned at ten minute after Twelve of the clock till Monday next.