§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £9,819, be granted to His 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 1903, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of His Majesty's Secretary for Scotland and Subordinate Office, Expenses under the Inebriates Acts, 1879 to 1900, and Expenses under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1899, including a Grant in Aid of the Congested Districts (Scotland) Fund."
§ (2.50.) MR. JOHN DEWAR (Inverness-shire)
desired to offer a few criticisms in 1131 regard to the operations of the Congested Districts Board in Scotland during the past year. He realised the difficulty of the problem the Congested Districts Board had to solve, and was, of course, aware that the Board were most anxious to relieve the condition of grinding poverty in which the people of the Western Highlands lived. But what he had to complain of was that so little was done, and so little real progress was being made in relieving the congestion of the Western Highlands. There was a want of enterprise and a want of courage on the part of the Board in dealing with this pressing problem. As a ground for this opinion, he would point out that, notwithstanding the urgency of the case, and the condition, almost of starvation, in which many of the crofters and cottars on the western coast of Scotland were, the Board had not spent the very modest sum placed at their disposal by the Government. They had no less than £70,000 in hand unused, and last year, even including £11,000 of loans, the Board did not spend within £10,000 of their income. Now this surely pointed to some want of initiative and enterprise, and, indeed, want of information on the part of the Board. He believed that if they had fully realised the pressing necessities of the case, they would have spent the entire sum at their disposal, and would have come to the Government for more. In this they would have the hearty support of every Member on either side of the House who knew the condition of affairs in the highlands of Scotland. He could not help thinking that perhaps this want of enterprise on the part of the Board was due to the fact that they did not realise that the important thing for them to do was to give these landless cottars, as well as crofters, with patches of land too small for them, a chance of improving their own condition by securing for them land to till and occupy. These crofters did not ask a gift of the land; they did not wish to become paupers; they were willing to pay full value for the land; they were simply "begging leave to toil"; and surely the best and the most statesmanlike thing to do was to give these independent citizens an opportunity to improve their own condition, rather than to make them special grants to eke out a miserable existence without any prospect of permanent social improvement. He was led to make this 1132 observation from what the Lord Advocate said in his, on the whole, very sympathetic speech last year. He said that, in view of the resources and opportunities of the Board, on this side we unduly magnified the importance of settling the people on the land. He did not think that could be unduly magnified, but in their judgment of the Board, keeping in view the Board's resources and opportunities, he thought they were justified in saying that the Board had not fully used their resources, nor had they taken full advantage of their opportunities in those directions. He did not think the importance of settling the people on the land could be unduly magnified. He wanted to show that it was really the only way whereby they might hope to bring permanent improvement to the condition of these people. He thought this fact was impressing itself on the Board, for he could not help noticing how very much larger a place the question of holdings on various estates occupied in this report than it did in any of the three previous reports. There was much work being excellently done by the Board, and they should get every credit for that work, which he knew the crofters appreciated. So far as it concerned the improvement of stock and agriculture, he had no criticism to offer. From what he had been able to see, this work had been, on the whole, wisely and judiciously done. Of course, mistakes had been made, but he believed this part of the Board's work would give good results. In regard to public works, there was also much good being done, particularly in making roads and footpaths in places where no such civilising agencies existed before, and they were sure to have the very best effect, as was also the erection of suitable and convenient piers and boat slips, but he did not know that he could be quite so congratulatory on the way in which these works had been carried out.
Last year he pointed out one instance of carelessness and neglect, and, while he did not desire to dwell on this unnecessarily, he felt that more efficiency would attend the execution of these public works if the organisation of the Congested Districts Board was on a more efficient footing. He could not help thinking that the Board was too large. The members were scattered all over Great 1133 Britain, and it was impossible for them to meet as often as was necessary, or, indeed, for them all to meet together at all. It was certainly impossible for them to meet in the congested districts. One effect of the present constitution of the Congested Districts Board was that the work was largely thrown upon the Chairman. He certainly did not complain of that so long as the present Secretary for Scotland was Chairman, as under him the work did not suffer, but he could quite well imagine circumstances when the result might be very unsatisfactory. It seemed to him that a smaller body, who could visit the districts and give more personal attention to the cases, would be much more efficient than the present system of inspectors, inspections, and reports. Indeed, he would suggest that such a body at present existed, and was available, and had many claims to recommend it for the work—he meant the Crofters' Commission. The Crofters' Commission always had been a most efficient body; it had secured the respect and confidence of both crofters and landlords; it had an intimate knowledge, gained by personal visitation, of the whole crofting counties; and, now that its work was so very much less onerous than it was, he thought they might very well undertake the duties at present discharged by the Congested Districts Board. The visit of Lord Balfour of Burleigh, the Chairman of the Board, to the Western Highlands had had an excellent effect. In the Report of this year there was a reference to one of the most glaring cases of mismanagement in that branch of the board's operations dealing with public works. He referred to the pier at Petersport, in Benbecula. This pier was completed in 1896 at a cost of £3,000, but, up to now, it had never been used by any steamer, because the approach to the pier was dangerous, as the rocks at the entrance to the harbour had never been properly marked by buoys or beacons. He spoke on this subject from personal experience of the place, and it seemed to him to be a case of gross mismanagement and neglect that £3,000 was spent six years ago, and that this expenditure had yielded absolutely no return to the district, because the work had not been completed by the expenditure of an 1134 additional sum of £300. He believed it would be a very good pier, and, when this improvement was carried out, it would be of great service to the district. But it was a great pity the Board should have delayed this additional work so long.
Now, coming to deal with the condition of some of those crofters in the Western Highlands, and the absolute necessity of the Board meeting their demand for land, that they might till in order to live, if there was any difference of opinion between the two sides of the House—and he did not see why there should be any difference—it was that Members on the opposite side looked for a satisfactory and permanent remedy for the congestion and discontent in the settlement of the people on the land; while on the other side this was apparently considered of minor importance. Everybody was anxious to stop the rush to the towns. Here were a people who were anxious to remain on the land, a Board appointed to see thorn properly settled—and yet so little had been done. The Board was apparently awakening to the necessity of action, but it had not yet done enough, nor fully realised the importance of the subject. Last year the Committee discussed the condition of the crofters on the island of Barra. They were living under perfectly disgraceful conditions, and had been refused land even on which to build decent dwellings. They had used every means to induce the management of the estate to listen to their most reasonable request. They had even tried to get the County Council to put the provisions of the Allotments Act in force, before the Congested Districts Board came to their assistance; and, in the Report of this year, there was an account of the settlement of some land the Congested Districts Board had been able to buy for at least some of the people, He should, however, like some further information from the Lord Advocate as to the conditions of that purchase. In the account presented details were not given, and it would be interesting to know what price was paid for that land, and bow it compared with the price which the Government were asking from the crofters. From the reports that were current, he rather 1135 thought that the Congested Districts Board had not made a very good bargain. He was informed—and perhaps the Lord Advocate would be able to confirm this report or deny it—that the price which had been paid for that land was twenty-eight years purchase of the gross rental, and, as the rates were about 10s. per £, this represented an unheard-of return to the proprietrix—a price at which no man, as a purchaser or a tenant, however willing, could make a living, and he should be glad to know how much the Board had dropped between that price and the price they were receiving from the crofters, and why the Board should have paid a price like this for land at positively the most western point of the Hebrides. He knew it would be out of order to discuss the question of new legislation, but it seemed to him that there was something wrong with the law of the land if it compelled the nation to give twenty-eight years purchase of the gross rental of land which it acquired for a public purpose. But, apart altogether from the price, he did not think that the quality of the land bought was the best, or the most suitable. No doubt, with the powers he possessed, the Secretary for Scotland did the best he could. He had no power to compel the proprietrix to sell, and the purchase was complicated by the fact that a farmer tenant would not surrender his lease unless he got a chance of buying part of the property himself. Under these circumstances, and dealing with a sharp Edinburgh lawyer, even the Secretary for Scotland was at some disadvantage. He visited the land and saw the place for himself, and it seemed to him from casual observation that the farmer had secured the best of the bargain. He had got the land at the sea shore, the most fertile and the best land; and the crofters had been sent, as usual, to the rocks. Now it might be quite out of order for him to make the observation, but he thought that the head of a great Government Department, representing the State, in dealing with a question of this kind, in buying land for a public purpose, should be empowered to say what part of the land he wanted for the maintenance and sustenance of the inhabitants, and that 1136 he should have power to take it on paying a fair price for it. He did not believe that any satisfactory settlement of the agitation in the crofter counties would take place until he did receive that power. However, in the meantime, he should like the Lord Advocate to give details of the transaction, showing what price had been paid for this land, and what relation the price to be received from the crofters bore to the cost. This land was bought under the disadvantageous circumstances which he had mentioned, but the difficulty of buying land from an unwilling seller should surely waken the Congested Districts Board to the advantage of buying all the suitable land that was offered in the market. But this had not, by any means, always been done. Notwithstanding the representations and the pressure brought to bear on the Board, both by the crofters themselves and by their representatives, the Board allowed an estate which was offered in the open market in Uist last year to slip through their fingers. He referred to the estate of Vallay. Great delay took place in getting a report on the land, and, although the estate was for a considerable time in the market, the Board took no steps to secure it. They, indeed, had a report from someone who said it was not suitable for crofter settlements—a manifestly absurd statement in the view of anyone who knew the place. But, additional agitation and pressure being brought to bear on them, the Board got a second report from another reporter, who, he understood, recommended that, under certain conditions, it might be made available for crofter settlements, but, in the meantime, the estate had been bought by an outsider, and it was lost to the crofters in consequence. He was informed that there was land in the neighbourhood available on the estate of a landlord who was, in every respect, a sympathetic and good landlord, and, if the Board turned their attention in this direction, he believed they would be able to make up, to some extent, for the disappointment which ensued last year at the settlement on the Vallay estate slipping out of their hands.
The present condition of the crofters in South Uist demanded the immediate and most serious attention of the Board, 1137 especially on one estate, where there was a great deal of congestion and poverty and discomfort. He referred especially to the South Uist part of Lady Gordon Cathcart's property. The people in that district were living in the very greatest poverty and destitution. In one particular district there were 341 crofters, and there were no fewer than 100 cottars living with their families and sharing the miserable returns with the crofters. About fifty were receiving parochial relief. They had, up to now, added a little to their income by the kelp industry, but that had ceased, and they were face to face with a very serious condition of affairs. A steady constitutional agitation had been going on in this district for over twenty years, asking that additional land might be allotted to enable them to get a decent subsistence. It had been going on at the same time and in the same way as the Barra agitation. Their applications had been ignored by the proprietrix and her agents, although, he was informed, there was land in the district which might be made available. On the passing of the Allotments Act, which gave the County-Council power to take land compulsorily for allotments, these crofters and cottars, through the Parish Council, made application to the County Council under the Act. He did not say that the Allotments Act was meant for a case of this kind, or that it was the best solution of the difficulty for them; but, if the provisions of that Act had been put into operation, it would, at least, have awakened the management of the estate to the necessities of the situation. Nothing was done, however, and these poor people were realising that "hope deferred maketh the heart sick." He could not understand the unwillingness of some landlords to let land to crofters for small holdings; he could not understand the management of an estate which permitted such a condition of affairs to continue; and he did not believe that such a condition of affairs would be permitted to exist on any estate which was under public observation and more subject to public opinion. Something, however must, be done. The Congested Districts Board had been petitioned again and again by these people, and he had done it also on 1138 their behalf, but nothing had been done to meet their request. Perhaps nothing could be done as the law at present stood. If that was so, he should like to hoar from the Lord Advocate how he proposed to relieve the crofters and cottars from a position which had become intolerable, and for which they were in no sense to blame. Lord Balfour had been good enough to write him a letter on the subject, which was printed as an Appendix to the Report. He had had many communications from crofters and cottars in regard to this letter, and they one and all spoke with dismay of the reference in the last paragraph of the letter which seemed to indicate that, before anything could be done for South Uist, they must wait until they saw whether the experiment in Barra was to be a success or a failure. He did not believe that they could wait until the experiment at Barra had been proved to be a success. He believed that affairs were so bad in the districts he had mentioned that something must be done immediately. Poverty was rapidly increasing, and now that the earnings from the kelp industry, which formerly averaged about £5 a family, were cut off, it was easy to see that things would become rapidly worse. The rates at present were 10s. 7d. in the £1, and, estimating that there were 440 families in the district, the withdrawal of £2,000 would be a very serious matter indeed. But why should this Board, with the resources at their disposal, limit the experiment to Barra? The South Uist people were just as necessitous, just as badly off, and just as deserving of relief as the others. Even if both were included in the experiment it would be a small affair.
A bolder policy in regard to this question might very well be adopted, and when they learned of the large sums which were being expended in Ireland for exactly similar purposes, under exactly similar conditions, with almost exactly the same type of population and with such excellent results, one was inclined to think the excessive caution of the Board was surely a mistake. They had the benefit of the experiments in Ireland; let them adopt a bolder policy in the Western Highlands. He had been told that about two and a half millions would 1139 buy up all the land necessary to settle this question in the whole Highlands of Scotland and, if this was all that was involved, the Board might, with advantage, broaden their view in regard to their duty. He had said that he believed the providing of suitable holdings was the only way of permanently improving the condition of these cottars and crofters and in proof of this, he should like to draw the Lord Advocate's attention to the fact that of all the pauperism in this district, no less than 90 per cent. was from the landless class—the cottar and the farm labourer class—and that only 10 per cent. was from the class that had the opportunity of making a living on the land. He had no doubt whatever that pauperism would at once decrease if the native population were given the opportunity to till the land which was available for them. He thought it was a most instructive study to compare the different conditions of affairs upon similar and adjoining properties in the Highlands of Scotland. On the one property, there was a contented and a comparatively prosperous people; on the other, there was poverty and discontent and destitution. There were many intelligently and sympathetically managed estates in the Highlands. Indeed, the good landlords were in an enormous majority. Take, for instance, the estates in Inverness-shire of Sir Arthur Orde, Lord Dunmore, MacLeod of MacLeod and many others. These landlords were ready at all times to consider reasonable applications for crofter settlements and the result was seen in such a letter as that of Lord Dunmore, quoted in the Report of the Congested Districts Board. Now, what caused the difference in the condition of affairs there and on the adjoining properties? It was similar land, with a similar climate, and the social conditions were the same. Nor could it be due to a difference in the inhabitants themselves, as they were all of the same type. It must be due to the difference in the management of the estate. Could nothing be done to save the tenants from bad landlords and bad factors? He believed that the Congested Districts Board had not the power necessary to deal with such landlords and with such managers. The Board in their Report suggested that they required additional powers. He heartily 1140 agreed. He most sincerely hoped that the additional powers they desired would be powers to protect crofters and cottars on badly managed estates.
As an instance of the sort of thing that went on in those places which were far away from effective public opinion, he would tell the Committee what happened this year at Barra. For several years, the crofters at Castlebay, Barra, rented from the farmer on the farm at Vatersay, on a neighbouring island, some potato patches, and the crofters had regularly got from the Congested Districts Board a supply of seed to plant there. This year they received the seed as usual, but, on going to prepare the land, the farmer, without any rhyme or reason, refused them permission to plant their seed, or put a spade in the ground. He did not know what happened to the seed, but it seemed to him an extraordinary condition of affairs and one that demanded immediate attention, if not from the Congested Districts Board, then from the Government, that a great Department of the State, having provided seed for the crofters to plant, being satisfied that they ought to assist to this extent, should be frustrated in their efforts to help those crofters by the caprice of an unreasonable farmer. He would like to hear from the Lord Advocate what the Board proposed to do in this case. It was evident that there could be no fair play given to these crofters who were so under the control of the landlords and the factors and the larger tenants, until the strong arm of the law intervened to protect them. He had offered these observations in no unfriendly spirit. All he wanted to do was to impress upon the Congested Districts Board and upon the Committee the absolute necessity of doing something, and at once, to give the crofters of the Western Highlands a chance to live in their own land. They were a people worth preserving; physically and morally, they were a fine race. We were introducing pauper and criminal aliens by the hundreds and thousands into London and the other ports, and we were permitting, perhaps, the finest peasantry in the world to be starved and evicted and exiled from the Scottish Highlands. He thought that the 1141 appointment of a new member to the Crofters' Commission was a subject relevant to the present discussion. That new member was Mr. Forsyth, against whom, personally, there was not a word to say. That gentleman was a most excellent member, but he wanted to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the Crofters' Commission was a body which arbitrated between the crofters and the landlords. That Commission now consisted of a lawyer, the Chairman, Mr. Sheriff Brand, a factor, while Mr. Forsyth was a landlord. The crofters were, therefore, not represented. He thought it was a pity that the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland had not taken the opportunity of appointing on the Commission a representative of the crofters. There were plenty of intelligent men amongst them who could have represented the interests of their class.
§ (3.26.) MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
said the hon. Member for Inverness-shireseemed to draw some distinction between the opinions of Members on either side of the House in regard to the settlement of the people on the land; but he was sure that all the Members representing the crofting districts were practically of one mind in regard to that matter. Those of them who witnessed the manner in which the crofters struggled to obtain a living could not help feeling an intense admiration for them. He agreed with the hon. Member that the Congested Districts Board ought to have the absolute power of purchasing land anywhere. He knew that there were many bankrupt estates on which the people had not a single soul to look after them, and it would be impossible to relieve them unless the Congested Districts Board had power to buy up the land and divide it amongst the crofters. The Allotments Act had been a dead letter in Scotland. He knew of one case in which the people had applied to the County Council for allotments and were made perfect fools of. They were offered land on the top of a hill or in the wet bottom of a valley. He should like to draw attention to the condition of the people in the Island of Muckle Rooe in Shetland, separated from another island by a small arm 1142 of the sea, and on a stormy day there was no means of communication between the two. In that island there was no church or churchyard, and no doctor, and the expenditure of a few hundred pounds for the erection of a bridge would enable the inhabitants to take their cattle to market and bury their dead. In the Island of Swona further south, an earthquake wave, two and a half years ago, tilted up their little harbour and the poor people could not get their fish to market except in the very calmest weather. The Congested Districts Board ought to have power in their own hands to get rid of the red-tapeism which was strangling their best efforts to ameliorate the condition of a large number of people who were absolutely barred from earning their living. The Congested Districts Board had come forward and expressed their willingness to do this work, but they were unable, through the officialism and red tapeism, to take this matter in hand. Although the money was there for the purpose, they could not come forward and say the work should now be done, owing to the difficulties put before them. In a case of that kind he really thought something should be done to enable the Congested Districts Board to undertake the work.
Another point he desired to draw attention to was the position in which the crofters found themselves owing to a recent interpretation of the law relating to crofts. Up to a few years ago the Crofters Act had worked fairly well, but some years ago an action was brought against a man for carrying on an industry other than agriculture upon his croft, which was decided against him. The result was that no crofter could carry on any other industry besides agriculture on his croft; they could not trade with each other; and it was only with the forbearance of their landlords that these men could live at all. They were precluded from carrying on a little carpenter's shop; they could not keep a little grocery store on which the whole turnover would not be more than £100 a year; they could not even carry on a little blacksmith's business. What the Government had done was to say the landlords had not done their duty in the past, and they had taken the place of 1143 the landlords, and he submitted that they should look into the facts and deal with these matters, A crofter ought to be allowed to carry on his ordinary agricultural avocation and those other occupations which were so mixed up with his agricultural pursuit that it was difficult to say where the one ended and the other began.
§ SIR JOHN LENG (Dundee)
asked would the hon. Gentleman state at whose instance this action was taken.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said the action was heard at the Court of Sessions, and was taken by a Mr. Gilmore against a Mr. Peterson; but he did not wish to go into the merits of that case. He was speaking of what had arisen in consequence of the decision. It was now by law in the power of the landlord to prevent a crofter's child knitting a stocking and selling it off' the croft. The Scotch Members of the House were a very small body, and being quiet, retiring men, were not able to bring the grievances of their constituents forward as other hon. Members did. In the Highlands and islands of Scotland there was one very great grievance, with reference to the power of the Parish Councils to dismiss the parish doctor without any notice whatever. This was a grievance which existed nowhere but in Scotland, and Scotchmen were not accustomed to take a back seat unless good reason could be shown for their doing so.
Order, order! This subject should come under the Vote for the Local Government Board, and not under this Vote.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said in that case he would take a full opportunity on that occasion to bring this matter forward.
§ (3.40.) DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
said he had not the honour to represent a crofter constituency, but some of his constituents were practically living under the same conditions as crofters, and therefore it might happen, when some such legislation as had been advocated by Sir George Trevelyan was at some 1144 future time brought forward, that he might be able to join with his hon. friend in the proposals he had made today. Nothing in the way of legislation had been more gratifying than the absolute success of the Crofters Act, and anybody visiting the Highlands now and seeing what they were now as compared with what they were a few years ago must be struck with the difference. He was glad to pay his tribute of respect to the crofter for his desire to stay upon his croft, because the great endeavour on all sides of the House at the present time was to keep the rural population on the land instead of allowing it to congest the towns; and the extension of crofts was a very beneficial way of carrying that policy out. He could not go so far as his hon. friend had gone with regard to the work of the Congested Districts Board, but the Board had undoubtedly done good work. The great drawback, so far as the crofters were concerned, at present was that they could not get enough land to keep them going. Anyone who knew anything about agriculture would know that no one could get a living out of a farm of less than 30 acres, and the trouble was that the crofters had not enough land to go on with, and consequently had to spend a good deal of time in idleness. The crofters were a fine, energetic people, and anybody who visited the districts would be surprised at what they did get out of these small patches of soil. He thought the Congested Districts. Board should have power to put on the screw and compel owners to sell some of the sheep farms, so that these crofts might be extended. Of course, there were difficulties in the way; one difficulty lay in the valuation of the sheep, and another lay in the tenants themselves. They would not migrate; they would not go from one part to another. If a man had a small farm on one island and was offered a larger and a better farm on another, he frequently would not go to it. That was a very great difficulty. The Congested Districts Board were doing good work; they were suggesting the growing of new crops, such as turnips, for instance, which was a crop which he had never seen grown in these districts; they also suggested going in for small cultivation and the keeping of 1145 pigs and poultry, which in the hands of small occupiers were known to bring in a good deal of money. He was glad to see that the crofters had taken up so cordially the new method of spraying potatoes. The result of the use of the spray had been that it was not only a germicide, destroying all the spores of the disease, but it also fertilised the land and produced better and heavier crops. He agreed that the Congested Districts Board should have the wider scope for which they asked in one section of the report for spending their money. Of course, it might be said that under the new Acts and regulations local authorities had power to do all that was required. That was so, no doubt, but local authorities usually had funds; these people were so poor that it was necessary to supplement the local funds with a good grant. He certainly thought the crofters were men who deserved better treatment than they received.
§ MR. ALEXANDER CROSS (Glasgow, Camlachie)
expressed his sympathy with the speeches which had been made with regard to the condition of the crofters, but; said the immediate object of his rising was to call attention to the condition of the tenants in the great cities, whose position required the attention of the Government just as much as did that of the crofters. There was a system in Scotland in the great cities on which the tenancy was regulated which was old and eminently unsuited to the present requirements. In February of each year the landlord called upon the tenant and presented him with what was called a missive, which had to be signed and returned, which missive when returned amounted to a letting to the tenant for another twelve months from the following May.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
said this Vote had only to do with the administration of the law, and if it would require new legislation to alter it, the hon. Member would not be in order in proposing it.
§ (3.55.) MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)
called attention to the accounts of the Congested Districts Board. He admitted that the form 1146 in which the account was presented by the Congested Districts Board was that which was approved by the Government, but complained that it was impossible to obtain from accounts in that form a proper view of the work the Commissioners were doing. For instance, the Committee would like to know how much money had been lent out to the crofters, how much had to be repaid, and how much had been repaid up to the present time. There was no material in the account to show how the business was progressing. The Committee ought to know the way matters were going on. So far as he could see, greater power should be given to the Board and more money should be spent. He thought £5,000 was far too limited an amount. Nobody would suggest that so far as the crofters were concerned there was not an opportunity given of spending all the money on crofters' holdings. The number of these holdings had been slightly increased, but after all, only a small number of crofters benefited, and if any progress was to be made in this matter £10,000 a year should he spent. There was always a willingness on the part of landlords in the Highlands to spend money on roads. A road benefited the users to a certain extent, but its main advantage was that it developed the property, so that landlords would go in for as much expenditure on roads as was desired. The same remark applied to piers and lighthouses. But there was one point in connection with lighthouses to which he wished to call attention. There was an item of £750 a year for the upkeep of lighthouses. The maintenance of lighthouses was not within the purview of the functions for which the Congested Districts Board was established. While it might be quite proper for the Board to make a grant to aid the building of a lighthouse, it would be a very different thing to undertake the maintenance of it, and this £750 a year for a purpose which was not within the duty of the Board was a sum which ought not to be paid It would be well if such an amount were given quite separately, but it ought not to be included in the Vote of the Commissioners. He admitted that otherwise the Board had done much useful work, but they had not done as much as they ought to have done 1147 in the way of increasing the holdings, and they would never be able satisfactorily to discharge that duty until they had compulsory powers. At present the Commissioners could get these estates only when men were willing to sell, and at the price they asked. With ordinary compulsory powers they would be able to secure land by paying only the fair and reasonable price, and he did not see why such powers should not be given for the purpose of extending crofters, holdings, where necessary, as were possessed by railway companies, because the obtaining of land to enable people to live was certainly as important as the, Obtaining of land for a railway.
§ (4.7.) MR. HARMSWORTH (Caithnessshire)
desired to associate himself with the remarks which had been made as to the good work done by the Congested Districts Board. As the representative of a poor agricultural constituency, he felt bound to say that the work was of a most admirable quality, but the powers of the Board were limited. Without pointing out all the directions in which those powers might be extended, he would certainly support the suggestion as to the desirability of the Board possessing compulsory powers for the extension of the holdings of crofters. One of the things which struck him most forcibly when he first visited his constituency was the small amount of land upon which families had to subsist, and he was not at all surprised to find that the chief desire of the people was that their holdings should be extended. This was a question of more than local interest. The census returns for several decades past indicated a rapid depopulation of the Highlands. That depopulation was due to various causes—amongst others to the extension of deer forests in the Highlands—but it was primarily due to the fact that people desirous of living on the land were not able to get the land to live upon. In his own constituency the decrease of population between 1890 and 1900 was no less than 10 per cent., and he thought they had every reason to ask the Lord Advocate for a clear statement as to how he intended to deal with this matter.
§ MR. BIGNOLD (Wick Burghs)
thought the Committee were under an obligation 1148 to the hon. Member for Caithness shire for having mentioned the subject of deer, because it could do no harm, and might do much good, if Members familiarised themselves with the conditions under which land was held in the Highlands at the present time. He represented a district in which there were deer forests. When he went to that part of the country twenty-seven years ago, he found bankrupt farmers and shepherds living in houses not equal to cattle kraals, and sheep which had to be deported to Dumfries and elsewhere every year to save their lives. Now, owing to the deer forests, the condition of affairs there was that for a stretch of sixteen miles there was not a single poor family or bad house, and the population had increased by 20 per cent. They had had a Select Committee of twenty-one Members, including the best agricultural intelligence in the House, and the finding of that Committee was unanimously to the effect that deer forests in Scotland were a distinct advantage, and so far from decreasing the number of inhabitants they had raised the amount of temporary employment to a considerable extent, as well as sustained the amount of permanent employment. Subsequently a Royal Commission confirmed that Report, but the House was not satisfied with that, and in 1891 a second Royal Commission confirmed the Report of the Committee and also the finding of the first Royal Commission. The second Commission reported that there were 1,700,000 acres of land in Scotland capable of supporting crofters, but he would remind the Committee that in Yorkshire there were 3,400,000 acres of land capable of giving suitable employment to those engaged in agriculture. But there happened to be in both cases the same obstacle in the way, and that was that the land happened to be private property. He could not understand why they could not address themselves to the deer forest question upon the lines of the greatest good to the greatest number. If forests were no more than a luxury of the rich and injury to the community he should discourage deer forests by every means in his power, but if they were a benefit to the community then he saw no reason why there should be special legislation against them.
Every Scotch Member was acquainted with the fact that these high grounds could 1149 be used practically only for two purposes—deer forests and sheep farming. It required four acres of fine land to support one sheep, and eight to ten acres of rough land for each sheep. Applying those figures to the deer forests, if they removed every deer and substituted sheep, they would only get 650,000 sheep. Sheep were not converted into mutton under three years, therefore the change suggested would only add about 230,000 sheep annually to the food supply of this country. How many sheep were there today in Great Britain? Why, something between 31,000,000 and 32,000,000. Consequently, the difference was so homeopathic, so to speak, that it was practically of little use. It should be remembered that by assigning the hillside to sheep they would be losing the possibility of employment by planting. Wherever they had these deer forests they provided employment for the people. Putting all these things together, whether on the ground of planting, or food, or bringing rich people from the south to the north, deer forests were beneficial. He hoped the Committee would not imagine that he found no fault with the present condition of the deer forests, for he should not be content until he found the crofters more firmly established on the land, and more land coming into the possession of the crofters. That could not happen so long as they had those large sheep farms. If they passed an enactment by which all land less than 500 feet above the level of the sea should be devoted to crofter's holdings they would at once get a large tract of land in the lowlands suitable for crofters. With regard to deer forests, the Committee reported that there had been but a single case of eviction for the creation of a forest during the thirty years antecedent to 1873, and it would be a black day for Scotland when they legislated the red stag out of existence.
§ MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said he had never heard a more contradictory speech than that to which they had just listened. He was afraid the hon. Member knew precious little about doer forests in the Highlands of Scotland. The hon. Member forgot to tell the Committee that prior to twenty-five years ago large numbers of crofters and cottars lived on much of the land now reserved for deer. The crofters and cottars had been cleared off to make room for sheep farms, and 1150 in the course of time these sheep farms were converted into deer forests. The hon. Member had stated that not a single person had been evicted from the deer forests for the last twenty years. What he desired was that crofters should be put again on the lands which were at one time in the occupation of the people who were evicted to make room for large sheep farms. Who wanted the land on the heights? Let the deer go there, and let the lowlands be appropriated to the uses of the people. Only a few days ago he asked a question in the House about Strathconon, which was owned by the First Lord of the Treasury and sold by him prior to the passing of the Crofters Act. At that place a large sheep farm was about to be converted into a deer forest, although up to this 500 human beings lived on that land as crofters and cottars. Where were those crofters today? They had been driven out of that beautiful Strathconon where they ought to have still been getting their living. They had been told that no crofters had been evicted for a good many years. Of course not, because there were none left to evict. They wanted those people put back upon the land.
§ MR. BIGNOLD
said the thing was practically impossible, for he could say, living as he did under the shadow of Strathconon, that there had not been a house on the north side of the estate for fifty years.
§ (4.26.) MR. WEIR
said his contention was that these people were cleared out to create sheep farms before the hon. Member bought his estate. They wished to keep the Highlands populated with a strong, sturdy, and steady race. They were told by the hon. Member that the deer forests brought rich men from the south. But where did the money go? It went into the pockets of the landlords, who spent it in London, or Paris, or even at Monte Carlo, where in the season they were to be found in pretty large numbers. That money did not benefit the people of the Highlands. It benefited the railway companies, the hotel keepers, the livery stable keepers, and a few ghillies, but the people generally 1151 would be a precious sight better without these rich men from the south. He was sorry to find the hon. Member for the Northern Burghs making such a hash of things today. He wished the hon. Member would read the Napier Commission Report and the Report of the Highlands and Islands Commission, 1892. He would find that the latter reported that there were nearly 2,000,000 acres of land which might be applied to crofting. The Commission was a greater authority on the subject than the hon. Member for the Northern Burgbs. How much of that land has been given to the crofters? Why does not the Secretary for Scotland see to the matter? When questions in regard to the Highlands were brought forward in this House—where the Secretary for Scotland ought to be—they were frequently told that there was no official information. The Secretary for Scotland was at the head of too many Boards, and he evidently forgot that he was responsible for the conduct of these Boards. He had no doubt that the Lord Advocate was a clever lawyer, but he knew little about the Highlands of Scotland. In India Lord Curzon visits districts and personally inquires into the condition of the people. Why is not the Secretary for Scotland up and doing, and why does he not go through the Highland crofting counties and inquire into the conditions under which the people live. He was glad that since the Crofters Act was passed the crofters' houses had been vastly improved. If there was an ecclesiastical function in Edinburgh, they would find the Secretary for Scotland there, but the material welfare of the people ought to be considered as well as their spiritual welfare. The Secretary for Scotland too often took his information, in regard to the Highlands, from landlords and factors, and landlords' agents and lawyers in Edinburgh. These were not the sources from which he ought to draw his information; it ought to be obtained by personal inquiry. If legislation were required to rectify the matters to which he had referred, the Secretary for Scotland ought to introduce legislation. It was his business to see to matters affecting the Highlands. He begged to move that the salary of the Secretary of Scotland be reduced by £100.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £100."—(Mr. Weir.)
§ MR. BIGNOLD
said he had read the Report of the Napier Commission. He thought the crofting area should be extended, and that more crofters ought to be put on the ground.
§ MR. LEVESON-GOWER (Sutherlandshire)
called attention to the regulation which required that the sanction of the Board of Trade should be obtained for the erection of piers and harbours, and said that cases might arise where localities would be prevented from getting the accommodation needed in this way, by sanction being refused. He instanced the case of Droman Bay, where a landing-stage was desired by the people, but the Board of Trade refused to give their sanction to its being constructed, because, in their opinion, the pier would not give absolute safety. The consequence was that the fishermen would go on using the bay without having a pier. He could not see why they should not be allowed to have a small landing-stage erected. He suggested that the Congested Districts Board should have the power to carry out a small matter of this kind on its own responsibility. He should like to know from the Lord Advocate whether it was possible to have the matter attended to in this way.
§ (4.44.) THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. A. GRAHAM MURRAY,) Buteshire
said he had never had to complain in the past, and he did not complain on the present occasion of the general spirit of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Inverness-shire on the work of the Congested Districts Board, and on the work of his noble friend the Secretary for Scotland, in relation to the Highlands. The hon. Member might feel assured that the noble Lord was perfectly alive first of all to the inherent and real difficulties of the crofters; and, secondly, that his noble friend had the best intentions in the matter. If he had been passing a panegyric on the work of the Congested Districts Board, as shown in their Report, he certainly could not have found a more hearty word of encouragement than the speech of the hon. Member 1153 when he described what he saw of their operations both in respect of agriculture and the furtherance of the breeding of stock. The hon. Member was also complimentary as to the good work done in the matter of material works, although he tempered his praise there by saying that he thought in some instances the work had not on the whole been very well carried out. When he came to the particulars he did not think there was really so much to complain of—he meant so far as the Congested Districts Board was concerned. The hon. Member specially instanced the case of the pier at Petersport. In regard to that case, the Report of the Board stated:—On 30th October, 1894, the County Council of Inverness applied to the Secretary for Scotland for a grant towards the construction of this pier, which they proposed to erect according to plan and specification prepared by the promoters' Engineer on a site selected by the promoters. The pier was completed in 1896, but soon after complaints were made that the pier and its approaches were dangerous to steamers. The Secretary for Scotland obtained from the Admiralty a detailed report on the pier, in which certain details were recommended as necessary to render the pier serviceable. The Board made a grant of £300 to the County Council to provide such moorings, buoys, fender piling, etc., as—we are advised—would make it safe for steamers of 180 feet length and 12 feet draught to approach and leave the pier by day, and to remain alongside it at neap-tide from 2 hours flood to 4 hours ebb.Now, really, he asked the Committee what more the Congested Districts Board could have done. This was not a scheme of their own, but a scheme of the County Council of Inverness. The County Council came to the Board and said—"Here we have a scheme which we consider to be a good one; will you give us a grant? "The Board said," Certainly, we will give you a grant." The pier was crected, and after that complaints were made that it was not safe. Then the Congested Districts Board was asked to help again. The Board got a special Report from the Admiralty which said that the pier was not safe at present, but if such and such a thing were done it would make it safe. Then the Congested Districts Board said to the County Council if they did that a grant would be given. He really did not see 1154 what more could have been done. If there was any blame in the matter it rested on the shoulders of the engineer who originally advised the County Council of Inverness and the local promoters. He did not think that if this specific case was looked at fairly there was any just ground for criticism of the Congested Districts Board. But, of course, the greatest portion of the hon. Gentleman's speech was on a matter in which he was truly interested. It was not so much that the hon. Gentleman did not approve of all that the Congested Districts Board had done. He believed the hon. Gentleman approved very highly of what the Board had done, but what he thought was that the Board might have done more for what lie considered was the main object of their existence. The hon. Gentleman had quoted a sentence from the remarks he had made when this Vote came before the Committee last year, in which he had stated that he thought hon. Members on the other side of the House unduly magnified that portion of the work of the Congested Districts Board in trying to put the people on the land at all. He did not remember the exact words that he used, but what he wanted to make plain was that he was very far from representing, as the attitude of the Government, that they did not think that the business of giving facilities for men who had not got land at present to get land, was not one of the most important objects for which the Board was created. But what had been the one idea of his noble friend the Secretary for Scotland in this matter was that, in the first place, he had always kept in view that recommendation of the Deer Forest Commissioners, who said that though there was a great deal of land suitable for settlement, it was only suitable for such persons as had the capacity and the means to make good use of that land when they got it. And there was the further recommendation that in a matter of this sort they must go gradually, and must not be in too much of a hurry. If ever there was a case in which the saying festina lente was applicable it was a case of this sort. The hon. Member had admitted quite frankly that if the report of the Congested Districts Board for this year was compared with that of last year, it would be found how very much this question of migration bulked in the former. No doubt there were a great many matters of detail, to 1155 some of which he might refer later on. But the hon. Member pointed to a balance of £71,000. If, however, he would turn to the account, he would find that that balance of £71,000 was not all, in one sense, available. He meant it could not have been spent, because if the hon. Member turned to Appendix 8, he would find that the amount of grants which had been actually voted by the Congested Districts Board for various works amounted in total to £66,191 6s. 1d. Of that sum at 31st March, only £39,04119s. 3d. had been paid. That meant that there was a balance of £27,149, 6s. 10d., which was money they could not spend but which was promised, and if they took £27,149,6s. 10. from the balance of £71,000 they got practically a balance of £44,850. He was sure the hon. Member for Inverness-shire would not press him to give names, but he could tell him that at this very moment there was another land transaction which they were in great hopes was going to come to a satisfactory conclusion. If it did go through, it meant an expenditure of £40,000, so that, honestly speaking, the Board were not very far from the end of their tether at this moment. They were not in a position of having accumulated a very large sum with which they had done nothing. When they came to the particulars, of course, he thought everybody would admit that there had been a most satisfactory partial solution of the problem in Barra. The experiment had turned out, on the whole, most successfully. The hon. Member had asked a question about the number of years purchase paid for the land in Barra by the crofters and to the landlords. So far the crofters were concerned it appeared from the Report that the purchase price, in the very first case mentioned, was £67,107, and the annual payment for fifty years required to repay the price was £2,107.
§ MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
said he was not in a position to say precisely what number of years purchase was paid to the landlord in the case of Barra, because he did not know. As a matter they could 1156 not arrive at the number of years purchase, for this reason. The ground that had been taken was ground on a sheep farm. Hon. Members would know, even if they had only the modified experience of the hon. Member for Inverness, that first, they had to break the lease if they wanted to get immediate possession of the land; and second, they had that dreadful question of taking over the sheep stock to take into consideration. It would be absolutely impossible to saddle the crofters with the sheep stock in the same way in which they saddled an incoming tenant who was taking the sheep stock over at a valuation, or the landlord who was taking over his outgoing tenant's sheep stock. In either of these cases the price paid represented much above the real value of the sheep stock. Part of the way in which some of the money of the Congested Districts Board had been expended was really in dropping a certain amount of money, which represented the difference between the value of the stock so handed over to the crofter—the real market price—and the price they had to pay under the sheep stock valuation. As he understood it, the view of the hon. Member was that there was to be twenty-eight years purchase to the landlord by the Congested Districts Board. He would be perfectly frank with the Committee, and say that he did not, as a matter of fact, know the actual amount paid to the landlord; but he quite understood now that what the hon. Member referred to was what was paid to the landlord for the naked land. He really would put it to the hon. Member whether it would be a good thing, even if he knew, that he should state the amount to the Committee. If the hon. Member himself wanted to know, he would, of course, be very glad to tell him. More than that, if the Committee insisted on knowing, he did not know that he should have any right to withhold the information; but he was perfectly certain that in that matter the Committee had the real object of the Congested Districts Board and their operation at heart, and there was no more unfortunate thing, than to let the price out in a settlement of that sort; because it became practically the minimum price in any other settlement afterwards.
§ MR. CALDWELL
asked if the price was not mentioned in the conveyance, and if the conveyance had not to be registered.
§ MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
said that it was a very different style of advertisement to have to search out a conveyance in a register, and to give out the price in the House of Commons. He could not imagine the hon. Member; if he had any experience of the business of buying and selling land, not knowing that what he said was true. He should have thought, for instance, that the hon. Member for Mid. Lanark knew well enough, that as regarded any persons who had to buy compulsorily, the last thing in the world they wished was that the price should be circulated. He could not give the Committe the price at present. After all, it was money spent by a public body, and there was nothing in the world that that Board wanted to conceal or was ashamed of. He hoped, however, that before the demand was put in such a way that it could not be refused, hon. Members would think once, twice and thrice as to whether they were really doing the Congested Districts Board any good, or whether they would be only helping people in various places to open their mouths too wide.
The hon. Member next spoke about South Uist. He need not enter fully into the facts of the matter, because a great deal was disclosed in the letter which had been printed at length, and in the letter written by his noble friend to the hon. Member himself. The hon. Member seemed to be inclined to be rather apprehensive, because of the concluding paragraph in that letter, which indicated, as he thought, that it would be a mistake to attempt the experiment in South Uist, so soon after the work 1158 which had been done in the neighbouring island of Barra. He did not think his hon. friend need be too apprehensive, because he did not think that they would have to wait for thirty or forty years to see whether the work turned out to be successful, although they might have to wait a few years. The hon. Member should remember, in view of what he had told him about the amount of money at the disposal of the Congested Districts Board, and the fact that they had other large transactions in hand, and they could not, of course, distribute all their favours at once and in one exact proportion. But the hon. Member should be in good spirits. His own constituency was a wide one, and contained many congested districts; and there was, therefore, a good chance of some of the other transactions being in that constituency. There was another matter which he wished to deal with very lightly, but, merely, by way of comparison. There was he thought a little too much in South Uist of threats. Now, if there was a bad way of helping the operations of the Congested Districts Board it was by threatening to break the law. Those remarks, he hoped, the hon. Member would understand had no reference to him. On the contrary, the hon. Member had always been of great service to his noble friend; and he was very glad to give public testimony to the fact that the hon. Gentleman had tried to persuade the people to take an exactly opposite course. But in spite of that, sometimes other people had not been quite so successful. He would take a very good instance of what might be done by passing to the next item to which the hon. Member referred. The hon. Member asked him to tell him what was being done in reference to potato patches in South Uist. Nothing could be done this year, but as the hon. Member knew, there again the people at one time were threatening to take the land forcibly, and they only desisted on getting a telegram which was sent personally by his noble friend persuading them to desist, and assuring them that was the best way to succeed. He was glad to say the people took his noble friend's advice, and they sent a telegram saying that in consequence of that personal telegram from the Secretary 1159 for Scotland, they had given up the idea of forcibly taking the land. Since then; through negotiations with the proprietor, he was in a position to state that they hoped to be able, by certain powers the proprietor had, to provide those people with potato patches next year. That would be done in time for them to put in their potatoes after they came back from fishing at the end of the year, and there was no further reason for putting their threats into force.
Then as to the hon. Gentleman's general view, the hon. Gentleman really put his Question in order to call attention to a matter they had often argued before, namely, the fact that the Congested Districts Board did not have compulsory powers. He did not think that it at all followed that if they had compulsory powers they would get land any cheaper. The hon. Member seemed to think that land should be bought at less than twenty-eight years purchase; but the complaint had often been heard in this House and elsewhere that when a body had compulsory powers they had to pay through the nose. It might be possible, of course, by some form of clause to exclude a compulsory allowance altogether, but Parliament had never done it yet in the case of taking private property. The only case was where there was an investment with a security, and where it was proposed to give a better security, and there, of course, there was no particular reason for a compulsory allowance. Obviously, the whole consideration on which compulsory allowances were based on the purchase of land depended on other considerations. The hon. Member went on to say that he thought an improvement might be made in the constitution of the Board; and he not obscurely indicated that he thought it would be a good plan if they were to transfer the work of the Congested Districts Board to the Crofters' Commission. He would like the hon. Member to consider what that really meant. What was the Crofters' Commission? He was not saying anything against its personnel. The chairman was a lawyer. He thought it would be difficult to get a better chairman; and it would be agreed that the chairman should be 1160 a lawyer. He thought it would not be possible, seeing the large powers of the Commission, and the amount of interpretation that was required, to run the Crofters' Commission without a lawyer. The other two gentlemen were what he might call call crack agriculturists.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that there is a Vote for the Crofters' Commission.
§ MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
said he was not going to discuss the Crofters' Commission. If the hon. Member had been called to order, he would not have followed him; but the hon. Member suggested that the work of the Congested Districts Board would be better done by the Crofters' Commission.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was going into the details of the Crofters' Commission.
§ MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
said he only wished to point out that the members of the Crofters' Commission were necessarily, so to speak, paid servants. The Congested Districts Board was a body for which his noble friend was directly responsible; and if the hon. Gentleman were as long in the House as some of them, he would remember the objections which were constantly brought against the number of Scottish Boards, without any Parliamentary heads, and, therefore, a law unto themselves to a great extent. That was greatly altered by the doing away of the Board of Supervision, and the creation of the Local Government Board, with the Secretary for Scotland, as its Parliamentary head. By that means hon. Members got the power of criticism they were now now exercising. If they had the Crofters' Commission, however, they would be almost a law unto themselves; and he could not see how their policy could be very well controlled. At present, it was a perfectly different thing, as they were merely a judicial body with no policy to control; but he thought hon. Members would see that probably if the powers of 1161 the Congested Districts Board were transferred to a body of that sort, they would have less Parliamentary control than at present. He understood that the hon. Gentleman was not objecting at all to the personnel of the Congested Districts Board. At present the modus operandi was to get a local report from a local reporter, which was sent to the Board to be decided. The work could only be done in that way, or by appointing a highly paid secretary, who would not confine himself to secretarial work, but would be really an inspector also. If the latter course were taken, the secretary, or whatever he might be called, would dominate the whole concern, and, there again, he could not help thinking that there would be, in the long run, far less of that control which the Committee wanted than under the present system. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland had complained that the work of the Congested Districts Board was a great deal trammelled by red tapeism and officialism. He should have bought no Board had less red tapeism about it than this. When the hon. Gentleman came to particulars, his complaint was that the Congested Districts Board would not erect certain works unless maintenance was provided. The particular instance the hon. Gentleman had taken, the case of these two small islands which wanted a bridge, might be a hard case in itself, and very likely was, but in this matter, there was a general principle which could not be avoided.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said he made no remark with regard to the erection of any bridge. He complained of the case of a small bay, the entrance to which had been blocked by an earthquake wave. It was not a thing that was likely to occur again, and he thought: that was a case where the work of clearing the bay might be undertaken with-out the question of maintenance arising.
§ MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
said if the particular thing which had happened was of a kind which would probably never recur, the Board might take measures to put the matter right. If it was clearly a case of that kind, he would 1162 be very glad to forward any recommendations the hon. Gentleman would make upon the subject. But, generally speaking, it was impossible for the Congested Districts Board to put up any works, unless maintenance was provided by the locality. The other complaint of the hon. Member had reference to the decision as to what might and what might not be done by the crofter. In his opinion the hon. Gentleman had read that decision a great deal further than it was intended to go. He himself did not look at the decision as relating to the crofter at, all. It related more to the law of landlord and tenant. It had long been settled in the law of Scotland, and he believed in the law of England also, that a holding could not be converted. A man could not take a farm and turn it into a distillery or put up a factory upon it. The matter of which the hon. Member complained was put into a sentence in the decision. The judgment said "he was not entitled to turn his croft into a fish-curing station." That, of course, was absolutely converting the holding, and that was held not to be legal, but to draw from that the terrible conclusions which the hon. Member had drawn, that the Act would prevent a crofter's daughter knitting a stocking, and selling it off the croft, was really carrying that decision a good deal further than it was ever intended to go. The hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire had drawn attention to no special point, but had appeared to advocate the extension of crofter holdings in other parts of Scotland. The hon. Member for Mid Lanark had called attention to the form of the Congested Districts Board's accounts, admitting that they were in the form approved by the Treasury, and that there was nothing, therefore, to complain of. With regard to giving the particulars asked for by the hon. Member, he wonld call the hon. Gentleman's attention to the appendices, and particularly to appendix 8, which did give a great deal of the information asked for, which was a general review of what engagements the Congested Districts Board was under, and how the money was being paid. He thought the same kind of information as the hon. Gentleman required was given on page xv of the report, Roman numerals; there under the heading "Works" was stated 1163 further the general grants made during the three years. He could only say that with his noble friend the Secretary for Scotland, he would consider the suggestion that had been made by the hon. Member. He quite saw what the hon. Member wanted. Though the accounts were in the proper form approved of the Treasury, the hon. Member thought there should be more information given as to the precise way in which the money was coming in and how it was spent. In fact, an account showing the general progress of business so to speak. He would certainly bring the matter to the notice of the Congested Districts Board and see what could be done. The hon. Member for Caithness had confined his remarks to the compulsory powers which he had already dealt with. Then came the hon. Members for Wick Burghs and Ross-shire. Then the quiet afternoon was suddenly enlivened by the tumult of a great controversy which was so admirably dealt with on both sides that he did not feel inclined to risk his skin by embarking in the discussion upon deer forests. But the hon. Member for Ross-shire went on to say one or two other things. In particular he had ventilated the old grievance of the Lord Advocate standing at the Box, instead of the Secretary for Scotland. He was afraid he was getting a little case hardened with regard to this grievance although the hon. Member had invented a few new epithets on this occasion. When he listened to the hon. Member he was forcibly reminded of the musician in the American Far West who were a placard over his head which said, "Do not shoot the musician he is trying to do his best." Had the hon. Member been in the House earlier in the evening, however, he would have heard the hon. Member for Inverness-shire compliment the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland upon the satisfaction which his visit to the West had given. He had now, he believed, dealt with all the points which had been drawn to his attention, except that of the hon. Member for Sutherlandshire who spoke of the pauperising tendency of the interference of the Board of Trade. It was impossible to dispense with the interference of the Board of Trade, because of the powers which had been given to it 1164 in the interests of trade all round the coast, and it was impossible to make harbours without consulting them. But if the hon. Member thought there was a place where some latitude should be given and where a harbour should be made he would bring the hon. Member's views before the Board if he would state them on paper.
§ (5.26.) MR. THOMAS SHAW (Hawick Burghs)
joined in complaining of the secrecy observed by the Congested Districts Board with regard to its transactions, and he protested against the doctrine set up by the right hon. Gentleman. It was the duty of the Committee to ascertain, and ascertain in a public fashion, what were the terms and conditions on which land was bought in Scotland with public money. A suggestion had been made that the portion of land referred to had been bought at twenty-eight years purchase of the gross rental. He could hardly credit that suggestion, because the land in this unfortunate part of Scotland was taxed at no less than 10s. in the £. The result would be that the landlord would have secured out of public funds from the Congested Districts Board an amount equivalent to fifty-six years purchase at the net rental for the croft. The hon. Member for Inverness-shire had very properly brought this matter forward, and the Committee was indebted to him for so doing. The very fact that such a rumour existed and that it should be met by the excuse for the continuance of secrecy in these transactions was unfortunate. It was very desirable that in any further report issued by the Congested Districts Board there should be a complete and perfectly honest statement of the whole facts of the position. Then there was the question of what the Board was doing with its money. Year after year it came before Parliament and confessed that it was only spending a certain portion of its income. That income amounted to £35,000 a year, and yet notwithstanding the short period of its existence it had actually in pocket £71,000. These figures showed that it was moving very slowly indeed, and the Highland population were entitled to ask to have infused into the action of the Board a little more energy, especially in the direction without which all its efforts would be in vain, viz., 1165 that of acquiring for a reasonable price more land for the people. When he contrasted the operations of the Crofters' Commission, its business aptitude, its visitation of the localities, and its complete knowledge of the population, with those of the Congested Districts Board—a Board not resident together, which apparently acted together only by minute, whose place of meeting was as convenient in London as anywhere else, it seemed to him that the Board might very well make its exit from public life, and transer its functions, assets, and duties to the Crofters Commission. The Lord Advocate appeared to think it a good thing that it appointed a man to visit the spot. It would be a much better thing if it visited the spot itself. A curious confirmation of the view that the Crofters' Commission would be a proper body to which to transfer these duties was supplied by the fact that the Congested Districts Board had itself again and again made remits for the guidance of the Crofters' Commission asking that body to visit the locality and furnish a report. Only last year an elaborate report was furnished by the Crofters' Commission for the information of the Congested Districts Board, in order that the latter might apply its mind to that upon which the former body had reported. The process was very circuitous, and any suggestions of "red tape" were perfectly justified. South Uist afforded an instance of how the Board dealt with a a matter. The poverty of the population was appalling, the kelp industry had gone, and the rates were 10s. 7d. in the £. The hon. Member for Inverness-shire had approached the Board and suggested that that was a case in which activity might be shown and something done to enable these people to appease the land hunger which was natural in their breast, and which, if appeased, would produce a means of independent existence. In reply, the Secretary for Scotland had written a most admirable letter, but one in which he seemed to commit himself to a proposition of serious importance to the whole of the West Highlands. The noble lord said they were making an experiment in Barra—which he looked upon as an enormous business, though it was nothing of the sort, being merely an investment of £5,000 in land—and they must wait until they saw how that experiment turned out before they did anything for South Uist. It was out of the question that they 1166 should vote £35,000 a year to a Board which, having to face a situation so crucial, would not actively address themselves to it on its own merits without considering the result of a somewhat unfortunate speculation in another quarter of Scotland.
He could pay every possible compliment to the Board with regard to the minor departments of their administration, but all that work went for nothing in the face of the big question of how to get these people on to the land. There were various remedies to be suggested. He quite admitted that the Board was trammelled by the conditions of its appointment, but the Lord Advocate would not deny that even before its creation, it was stated as strongly as possible that the Board would be of no substantial value to Scotland unless it had compulsory powers to acquire land. But what compulsory powers were required? When the Crofters Act was passed in 1886, power was given to carve out of adjacent land additions to the holdings of existing crofters. That power was subject to considerable restrictions, and the Crofters Commission had not proceeded a couple of years before they discovered that the conditions in the Act of 1886 were rendered absolutely nugatory by the proviso that land should not be deemed available for the purposes of the Act unless it lay contiguous or near to land already in the occupancy of the crofter. There were also other conditions, so that it was impossible to get more land for the crofters. When it was found that the condition as to deer forests prevented land being secured, a Commission was appointed to meet the argument that there was no such land in Scotland. The Commission discovered that there were nearly 2,000,000 acres of land available for additions to crofts. After that, the case for taking compulsorily land which proved to be suitable and available for this purpose became absolutely conclusive, and yet the Government formed this Board, set it up with all its machinery, without giving it this elementary power. There was something absolutely pitiable in the state of the crofter in view of this long-delayed alleviation of his lot. He had profited immensely by the Crofters Act of 1886; he had transformed large parts of Scotland from wilderness into gardens. Now when they found other places where these splendid effects were not being 1167 produced, they wished to enable them to be produced by removing the restriction to which he had referred. What was required? First and foremost, compulsory power to deal with territory—deer forests and the like—and to declare that these deer forest owners or the tenants should be dispossessed. He knew of no better purpose to which the accumulated funds in the hands of the Congested Districts Board could be applied than that of paying existing tenants for any loss of interest in their holdings or the deer forest owners for any damage to their forest, so that they could cut and carve that part of Scotland in such a way that it would be possible to make from a congested district a contented land-owning class of the best kind. This question had been raised in rather an acute form by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland. He had referred to the decision in the case of a crofter's holding. He would tell the Committee what was the situation of the crofter under that decision. It was that the crofter might cultivate his land, and he might build a sty, a barn, or the like upon it, but if any of his children were found fishing in the sea he and they, under the law, would be liable to lose their status as crofters if they put up a fisherman's hut. If a blacksmith, having been a crofter, put up a smithy upon his holding he was a crofter no longer. If a little merchant put an annex to a grocer's shop he was a grocer and a crofter no longer. He should like to know what would become of all their little Highland villages under this law. These people must help each other by following such small industries as fishing and that of blacksmiths, and why should they be lowered in their status by a legal decision of this kind. He accepted the decision, and he supposed it was law, but why did the Government not alter it? It seemed to him to be a very simple case for introducing a little measure which would remove this absurdity.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
I must remind the hon. Member that it will not be in order to discuss fresh legislation.
§ MR. THOMAS SHAW
said he would not pursue that matter further. Among 1168 the conditions for transferring land there was one in regard to the man to whom the land was to be transferred under the Congested Districts Board, and who was on the way to become a peasant proprietor, to the effect that his heir was to be selected for him by the Congested Districts Board, and if they did not like the man suggested as heir they would have another. Those were the kind of red tape restrictions in the administration of this Board. There was only one remedy. He saw great difficulty in enabling whole districts to combine as was suggested in the report. The great secret of this difficulty was to carve up broad territories of suitable land and so provide that there would be a migration not of people in joint ownership but of individuals who would be able on their own little crofts to work out their livelihood. He could conceive of no greater ambition than that of alleviating the lot of these people whose character was of the best. These men had served the State well by land and by sea, and they had rendered the country the highest service that could be measured. During the recent war they had always been found at the forefront, and why they should be left in this state of chronic misery simply because this strong Government would not apply the spur to the Commission, he could not understand. That was a deplorable state of things, and he hoped that in future they would have a fuller report every year of every transaction in regard to purchase of land.
§ (5.50.) MR. WILLIAM ALLAN (Gateshead)
said he should like to say a word for his native country. He had heard this debate in connection with what had been said of the condition of the dwellers in the West Highlands. He knew the Highlands pretty well, for he had travelled many miles on the West Coast and in the Midlands, and he had seen the misery of these people. He had seen them living on shell fish gathered from the beach, and had witnessed their poverty. He was surprised to see a Scotsman representing the Government, who ought to be proud of his country, standing up in such a weak fashion and defending the poverty-stricken position of these people. The whole of this 1169 debate appeared to turn on one point. The Congested Districts Board were voted every year money for the amelioration of the condition of these poor in the West of Scotland, and the question which the Lord Advocate had got to answer was, "Why was that money not spent for this purpose?" Could the right hon. Gentleman point to one single case in which the Congested Districts Board had rightly and fairly relieved the condition of the people in the West Highlands? In certain parts of Scotland the people cried out for a bit more land, and why did they not give it to them.
When they saw the miserable condition of these poor people, who were the descendants of the men who in the past had fought our battles in the Highland regiments, no wonder they could not get Highlanders to join their regiments. The other day, on the Thames Embankment, he saw a man in the kilt, and his heart leapt out to him. He cried, "Whaur are ye frae?" The man looked at him in astonishment, and said, "Wot d'ye sye, sir?" A second "Whaur are ye frae," eliciting no answer, he asked, "Where are you from?" "Oh," said the man, "I am from Wapping." He replied, "Then what do you want with a kilt on? Such were the men we were getting now, because we did not do our duty by the poor Highlanders, and stood by while they were forced to go to the Glasgow slums for work. Why did they allow those poor people to live in that miserable condition? Money was voted to alter this, and why did the Government not do it? Simply because there were no compulsory powers. He thought the old couplet—Remember this is freedem's token,Good laws are based on bad laws broken—was appropriate in this connection. He had seen the hut of a widow, four yards by five, the rent of which was £1 a year, and the hut had been built by her husband. He considered that it was absolute tyranny to take £1 a year for a hut like that. He called upon the Lord Advocate to tell the Committee why he allowed his countrymen in the West Highlands of Scotland to live a life of starvation untold, when he had got the money to alleviate their condition.
§ MR. WEIR
said that he wished to protest most strongly against the Congested Districts Board having such large sums of money unexpended. Last year the unexpended balance was £61,000 and this year the amount was £71,700, and he wished to know why that money had not been expended. The Lord Advocate had told them that there was some project in view to spend £40,000, but they had been told every year almost that such projects were in view. They ought to spend the money and get rid of it for the purposes for which it was intended, namely to extend the holdings of crofters and to encourage the migration of crofters and cottars from the congested areas. It was very hard that this large sum of money should be lying idle. The amount had been increased by £10,000 since last year, and this, in face of the fact that many of the people were in a state of starvation. The line fishing industry had been ruined, and although the Government promised to do so much, they had done precious little. It was no settlement of this question simply to make the crofters leaseholders. There was a good deal of sham about the Congested Districts Board, and it was not doing the work which it was intended to do. It was the duty of the Government to realise what the people needed and to legislate accordingly, and they ought to take such steps as would give the people no excuse for taking the law into their own hands. In past years there had been no legislation on the land question until the law was broken. It was not creditable to any Government that such a course should be encouraged. This Government encouraged that sort of thing by their laxity and by holding this large sum of money in their possession instead of spending it in a way which would prevent discontent. His complaint was that although the Act was passed to assist the migration of crofters and cottars, the money voted by Parliament had been applied to other purposes. The sooner the composition of the Congested Districts Board was altered the better it would be for the people of the Highlands. It would be infinitely better if this matter were left in the hands of the Crofter Commission. They had visited the districts to see the state of things for 1171 themselves and they knew what was required. He sincerely trusted the Lord Advocate would consult the Secretary for Scotland and endeavour to get this money disposed of for the purposes for which it was intended.
§ (6.15.) MR. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
said there seemed to him to be good reasons for pressing the right hon. Gentleman to give some explanation why this £71,000 voted by Parliament remained unexpended. The right hon. Gentleman did not seem to give any adequate reason for spending this very large sum of money, and he resented voting so large a sum year by year unless something was going to be done with it. They had this large sum of money on the one hand, and a considerable population of poor people anxious to be settled on the land upon the other hand. Apparently they had got every facility for improving the condition of these poor people, and yet nothing was done. It was a great pity that there should be this outcry against the deer forests, but it was due simply to the fact that little or nothing had been done for these poor crofters. He thought this outcry against sport and against deer forests would soon subside if this large sum of money was devoted to extending the holdings of these poor people. There were many thousand acres of land in Scotland which might very well be used for the purpose of settling crofters upon it. He could not help thinking that this money should be utilised for the purpose of settling crofters on the land; and unless they got a better answer from the Lord Advocate than they had yet received, he felt inclined to vote against this Vote.
§ MR. CAMERON (Durham, Houghton-le-Spring)
said he had often felt in the House as if he had not the courage to stand up and speak when he ought to have spoken. On this occasion, however, he could not restrain himself, because he was a Highlander. The first twenty years of his life he had spent in the Highlands, and he ought to know the Highlanders, seeing that his father was a Cameron, and his mother a MacGregor, and perhaps he was the only Member in the House who spoke the 1172 Gaelic tongue. He honoured and respected the Lord Advocate highly, because he was industrious, energetic, and fair; but his Lordship belonged to a party, and was a representative of the class in the Highlands which had been the cause of all the misery of the Highland people. That might appear a very strong expression but they must remember that after the battle of Culloden the economic condition of the Highlands was entirely changed, Instead of the old patriarchal government of the clans by the chiefs, who governed their clansmen as a father governed his children, there was introduced the Feudal system. That, he considered, was the most disastrous thing that had ever happened to the Highlands. He admitted that there had been overcrowding in some parts, and that emigration was necessary, but he denied that there was a moral right to evict the peasants at the will of the landlord, because the latter wanted deer forests and grouse preserves. It was perfectly clear that the reason for that was that the landlord found it more profitable to have deer forests and grouse preserves than to have sheep farms or crofts. The landlords could easily collect the rents of the deer forests and grouse moors from the new class of sportsmen who came into the Highlands, while sheep farmers and crofters were sometimes burdensome to him. He was as on of a minister of the Gospel who had been practically evicted and all his people had been sent to Canada, while he himself came to England. It was sometimes said that it was a good thing that the Highlanders had been sent out of the Highlands. To a certain extent that was true. He had met one of them in Canada who said to him—I thank God I was driven away from my native Highlands by a certain Lord for breaking the game laws.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
said that hon. Gentleman must connect his remarks with the Vote before the Committee.
§ MR. CAMERON
said he wished to show why there were congested districts, and the necessity for a Congested Districts Board. This man he referred to had been a companion of his own; he knew his history; and he could not help contrasting his present condition with that when he 1173 resided in a cot in the Highlands. His friend said—I now have a farm of my own of 200 acres. I could not get that in the old country. I worked it out of the forest, and my holding is now worth £2,000. I have no landlord, for the land is my own, and we have no game laws.
§ MR. CAMERON
said he respected the ruling of the Deputy Chairman, but he hoped that he might have a little latitude, for he felt very strongly on this question. He knew how poor the people were in these congested districts. The houses in which they lived were so wretched that many hon. Gentlemen in the House would not keep their dogs in them. They consisted of a little "but and ben," with a wooden division which separated the occupants from the cattle, with miserable furnishing. The income of these poor people was miserably small, and it was strange how they endured the life they were compelled to live. He often thought that the Highlanders had lost their old spirit, and he wished that they had a force behind them in this House, and that every Scotsman in the House would combine to do them some justice. Why did they not bring their grievances oftener before the House as the Irish Members did? He was amazed when he thought of what these Highlanders were in the past and what they were now. He remembered perfectly well that fifty years ago they were a line peasantry, honest, religious, speaking their own Gaelic tongue, loving their mountains and their lakes, and having a passion for their native glens. It seemed to him strange that they could not keep that splendid population amongst their own mountains. They had heard that the Highland regiments were not now composed of Highlanders, and it was asked why it was that the Highlanders did not now enlist. That question had been raised by the Duke of Argyll at a meeting lately, and he had got up and said, perhaps too warmly—There are no Highlanders now, because you have driven them away, and the few that are left are not looked after; you prefer large deer forests to men, and the few that are left are allowed to starve.He felt that England and the great British Empire should consider these 1174 people. Who had been so famous in the army, who had done such gallant deeds to maintain the Empire when India was in rebellion, as the Highlanders? Where there was a desperate retreat to cover, or a forlorn hope to lead, the Highlanders were called upon, and they responded with heroic alacrity. Now they had been evicted from their homes, or neglected and allowed to starve. As a Highlander he could tell of the sorrowful condition and the poverty of the people in the congested districts. If good landlords could be guaranteed their might be prosperity; but if that could not be guaranteed, then the next best thing would be for the State to buy out the landlords and establish the people on the land. There should be compulsory purchase; and in time there would be once again in the Highlands a great and hardy population, providing the army with soldiers of the same stamp as had won such glory in the Peninsula, in India, and in the Crimea.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said that in some parts of the Highlands the humblest operations could not be carried on, such as blacksmithing and carpentering. He knew of a croft where carpentering had been carried on for sixty years by three generations of the same family. The crofter was threatened by the landlord with an interdict if he did not shut up the carpenter's shop which his father and grandfather had carried on before him. The Lord Advocate had said that the landlords had only exercised their rights at Common Law; but the Legislature had altered the Common Law before now, and possibly it might be induced to do so again.
§ (6.28.) MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said they had all listened with interest and sympathy to the touching and impassioned speech made by the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring. He was sure many of them would agree with the hon. Gentleman in thinking that it was a great misfortune that in the early part of last century, and even before that time, the law allowed the landlord to exercise their powers of evicting tyrannically and with disastrous results. If it was too late to remedy what had been done then, at any rate they ought to 1175 make the best they could of the remedial legislation passed in our own day. He repeated the request put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Hawick Burghs that fuller information should be given to the Committee in regard to what the Congested' Districts Board had done in the way of purchase of estates, with a view of selling them to crofters in fair-sized holdings. The figures contained in the Report did not enable them to understand the prices which were being paid for the estates. There was an interesting letter in the Report which referred to the experiment made in the island of Barra. Until they had the figures they could not say whether this experiment had been conducted on proper lines; they did not know whether the rents charged were right, or whether the purchases were proper purchases. This report did not show. He thought the Lord Advocate should give further particulars, and that, without asking them to wait for the next report, a supplementary Paper might be issued.
§ MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
said he really did not think the last request of the right hon. Gentleman was one which demanded the consideration which had been asked for it. He had promised he would give consideration to the request for the publication of all the accounts and particulars, but the promise could only be made with a view to the account included in the Vote in another year. Although the debate began at a very low level it had risen to the heights of rhetoric and fervour. The hon. Member spoke of the circumstances under which his own family had parted from the land, but that departure had not been due to the deer forests. He felt bound to put in one little protest against too much rhetoric in this matter, because after all, although it was very easy to say things in praise of the Highlander, who was beloved of every one, that did not solve the question of living in what was a very poor country. The right hon. Gentleman had said that if legislation had been passed early in the last century these farms would never have been cleared, and that there would have been a happy population upon land which had long since not known a house 1176 upon it. Was the right hon. Gentleman sure of that? If he was not he had no right to make such a statement. One place spoken about was Lewis. That was the one place where there had been no restrictions and no evictions for deer forests, where the proprietor had been too kind. The proprietor there had never prevented the endless sub-division, squatting and building on small holdings in utter disregard of economic conditions. Therefore, with all the admiration for Highlanders, and with all that view of a nation's pride which came so easily to any one who was making a speech, it might be taken for granted that it would not have been better for the economic condition of Scotland to have prevented the emigration which took place early in the century. The question into which the Committee was inquiring today was whether the Congested Districts Board had done its work properly. The hon. Member for Gateshead had rather poetically inquired why the Highlanders had been allowed to starve while the Board had so much money in its pockets. Had the hon. Member read the Congested Districts Board Report? If he had not he was about as much entitled to express an opinion as he (Mr. Graham Murray) would be to express an opinion upon the merits of watertube boilers. The £71,000 to which he had referred was really not £71,000, because £36,000 had already been disposed of, and what was left was not more than would actually meet the purchases now in contemplation. He had never known a commission in whose pockets money burnt so furiously. The national characteristic of Scotland seemed to have been entirely forgotten. He reminded the Committee that there were various other aspects of the Vote for the Secretary for Scotland which hon. Members were anxious to discuss, and he therefore hoped a division would now be taken.
§ (6.41.) Question put.1177
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 110; Noes, 190. (Division List No. 241.)1179
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Humphreys Owen, Arthur C.||Pease, Alfred E. (Cleveland)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Asher, Alexander||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Atherley Jones, L.||Joyce, Michael||Price, Robert John|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Kinloch, Sir John George Smyth||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Labouchere, Henry||Reddy, M.|
|Boland, John||Leamy, Edmund||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington||Redmond, William (Clate)|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Leng, Sir John||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries)|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Lough, Thomas||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Burt, Thomas||Lundon, W.||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Caldwell, James||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Roche, John|
|Cameron, Robert||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick, B.)|
|Channing, Francis Allston||M'Govern, T.||Sheebau, Daniel Daniel|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||M'Kean, John||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Craig, Robert Hunter||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Sullivan, Donal|
|Crean, Eugene||Mansfield, Horace Rendall||Tennant, Harold John|
|Cremer, William Randal||Markham, Althur Basil||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Crombie, John William||Moooney, John J.||Thomas, J A (Glam'rgan, Gower|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Morley, Rt. Hn. John (Montrose||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Delany, William||Moss, Samuel||Wallace, Robert|
|Dillon, John||Murnaghan, George||Walton, John Lawson (Leeds, S)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Murphy, John||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan|
|Doogan, P. C.||Nannetti, Joseph P.||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Dunn, Sir William||Nicol, Donald Ninian||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Edwards, Frank||Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway. N.)||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Fenwick, Charles||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Ffrench, Peter||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipp'rary Mid||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Young, Samuel|
|Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)|
|Gilhooly, James||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Weir and Mr. John Dewar.|
|Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick)||O'Dowd, John|
|Harmsworth, R. (Leicester)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||O'Malley, William|
|Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.||O'Mara, James|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex F.||Butcher, John George||Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A (Glasgow||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas|
|Aird, Sir John||Cautley, Henry Strother||Fardell, Sir. T. George|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Finch, George H.|
|Arrol, Sir William||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc.||Fisher, William Hayes|
|Austin, Sir John||Chamberlayne, T. (S'thampton)||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Chapman, Edward||Flannery, Sir Fortescue|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Charrington, Spencer||Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Balcarres, Lord||Clive, Captain Percy A.||Flower, Ernest|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon A. J. (Manchr'r||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Gardner, Ernest|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W (Leeds||Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Goschen, Hon. George Joachim|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge||Goulding, Edward Alfred|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir Mich'l Hicks||Crossley, Sir Savile||Gretton, John|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Groves, James Grimble|
|Bignold, Arthur||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Hamilton, Rt Hn L'rd G (Midd'x|
|Bigwood, James||Dickson, Charles Scott||Hanbury, Rt. Hon Rbt. William|
|Bill, Charles||Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-||Harris, Frederick Leverton|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Dorington, Sir John Edward||Haslam, Sir Alfred S.|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.|
|Brookfield, Colonel Montagu||Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Helder, Augustus|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Henderson, Alexander|
|Hoare, Sir Samuel||Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford)||Smith, James Parker (Lanarks)|
|Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside||Mount, William Arthur||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Hornby, Sir William Henry||Muntz, Philip A.||Spear, John Ward|
|Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Murray, Rt Hn A Graham (Bute)||Spencer, Sir E. (W. Bromwich)|
|Hozier, Hn. James Henry Cecil||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Stanley, Edward Jas. (Somerset|
|Hudson, George Bickersteth||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.)||Myers, William Henry||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart|
|Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Johnston, William (Belfast)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Stock, James Henry|
|Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Parker, Gilbert||Talbot, Rt Hn J G (Oxf'd Univ.|
|Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H.||Parkes, Ebenezer||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop)||Pease, Herbt. Pike (Darlington||Thornton, Percy M.|
|King, Sir Henry Seymour||Peel, Hn. Wm. Robt. Wellesley||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Lawson, John Grant||Percy, Earl||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S||Pierpoint, Robert||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Pilkington, Lieut-Col. Richard||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney|
|Long, Rt Hn Walter (Bristol, S.)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Plummer, Walter R.||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-u'r-Lyne|
|Lowe, Francis William||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)||Pretyman, Ernest George||Williams, Rt Hn J Powell-(Burn|
|Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Pryce Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Purvis, Robert||Wills, Sir Frederick|
|Macdona, John Cumming||Randles, John S.||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)|
|Maconochie, A. W.||Rattigan, Sir William Henry||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath|
|M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinb'rgh W||Renwick, George||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire||Richards, Henry Charles||Worsley-Taylor, Henry Wilson|
|Majendie, James A. H.||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Manners, Lord Cecil||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.||Ropner, Colonel Robert||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Maxwell, Rt Hn Sir H E (Wigt'n||Round, James||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Russell, T. W.||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-|
|Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander|
|More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire||Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Morgan, David J (W'lth'mstow||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)|
|Morrell, Gaorge Herbert||Smith, H C (N'rth'mb. Tyneside|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ (6.55.) CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Forfar)
called attention to the fact that the report of the Congested Districts Board of Ireland gave most or all of the details asked for by the hon. Member for Mid Lanark, and suggested that the accounts of the Congested Districts Board for Scotland should be dealt with in the same way.
§ MR. CALDWELL
called attention to the position of private Bill procedure in Scotland, and expressed the opinion that there should be some report with regard to what was going on in Scotland at the present time, because the Committee really had very little knowledge of what was going on. He found under the Provisional Order procedure, the burghs of Scotland were all obtaining any number of Provisional Orders. Under the Scotch Burgh Police Act, every burgh seemed to have a new set of clauses for itself, according to the trend of opinion in that particular burgh. He wished to know what provision was made to insure that there should be some uniformity in these matters. It should not be in the power 1180 of individual local authorities to come forward with Provisional Orders making any alterations they pleased in such an Act as the Burgh Police Act. He would suggest that a Joint Committee should be appointed with a view of considering whether uniformity could not be arrived at.
MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire, Partick)
agreed with the hon. Member for Mid Lanark. In Scotland they had a good many petty offences already, and he did not think any useful purpose was served by allowing every local authority to have its own police laws. Ten years ago a general police law was passed, and now it was found that that Bill was not adequate. A Bill had been introduced by an hon. Gentleman opposite to amend it—but although he supported the Bill he did not think an amending Bill would be sufficient. He thought a Committee should go over the entire ground again, and try to make a better Police Act. No doubt, there were different matters considered in different districts, but he thought there was far too much in the way of allowing every burgh to be a 1181 law unto itself. There was too much independent action by these small burghs, and it was time the Lord Advocate looked into the matter.
§ MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
said he was glad that this subject had been raised by both hon. Members, because a difficulty was confronting the Scottish Office at the present moment, in regard to which they would almost in any case have had to beg the assistance of the House. The Scottish Office, of course, did not want to be put into constant friction with promoters. They must necessarily, both on their own account and as the medium of communication with other great Departments, make more or less frequent use of the pruning knife upon the Bills promoted, but they did not wish to come into conflict more than was absolutely necessary. In order to avoid that, it was necessary that the House should come to some idea of its own as to how far every burgh should be a law unto itself. This was particularly brought to their notice at the present moment by the promotion of two Orders for Govan and Leith, which certainly proposed a perfectly startling innovation upon the general law. He was clearly of opinion that those Bills should not be allowed to go on until the House had had an opportunity of settling the question of how far a burgh should be able to depart from the general law. He would give the Committee one illustration to show what he meant. Members would recollect the discussions upstairs on the Public Health Bill, and how keenly the Milk Clauses were contested. He did not say which was right or which was wrong, but there certainly were two very divergent sets of opinion. But now these burghs came in and tabled a perfectly new Milk Clause, settling in the way they wished it settled a matter which Parliament had settled before. He contended that it was not fair to throw on the Scottish Office this work of telling the promoters that they must not proceed with their Clause; they ought to have the support of Parliament in the matter, because, after all, it was one in which Parliament had given a decision. In the same way reference had been made to the startling number of police offences. He recommended hon. Members to read the Report of the Prison Commission of Scotland 1182 this year. It disclosed a most startling increase in the number of commitments to prison, duo in no serious sense to serious crimes, but almost entirely to these police offences. He would give one illustration. The Glasgow police in the year 1901 made strong efforts to check the use of obscene language in the streets, and apprehended 12,000 for this offence alone. He did not wish to enter into a discussion as to whether the Glasgow authorities were right or wrong on this particular matter. The term "obscene language" covered language which was not ordinarily called obscene; it included profane language as well. The general law made it an offence to use obscene or profane language, to the annoyance of any other person—an obviously proper provision—but the Glasgow people in their private Bill put out the words "to the annoyance of any other person." Whether that was right or wrong, one could easily see how much easier it was in the circumstances to get 12,000 convictions, because practically, if a policeman in the street heard a man use a word beginning with "d" he could take him before the magistrates, though the man need not have annoyed any one but himself. That was a very good illustration of how necessary it was to watch and scrutinise these small things in private Bills, because otherwise they might lead to an enormous number of Convictions for small offences. Another illustration of the effects of the existing variation in the law was the fact that as many children were convicted in Scotland last year as there were in England, although the population of the two countries was as one to six. That was very startling, and showed that police offences were treated in a perfectly different way. All these police offences were the creation of the Police Bills be ginning with the year 1862. He was not sure that it was a good thing that each place should decide on these matters for itself; it seemed rather a matter upon which the decision of Parliament as a whole should be taken. He agreed with pleasure to the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the possibility of laying down rules to decide how far the public law ought to be departed from in particular cases. In the old days that was done to a great extent by the Police Committee, but that could not be done 1183 under the present procedure. Accordingly, something in the way of a general guide was required to help the Office, and to strengthen their hands in resisting the sometimes exceedingly extravagant demands made in the Bills. As the Committee had been reminded, there was at present before Parliament a Bill for amending the Burgh Police Act. It was obviously out of the question that that Bill should be passed this season, but his Department had given an undertaking that during the autumn they would go carefully through the Bill with representatives of the authorities concerned and clear out of the way most of the debateable matters. The way would then be prepared for a Committee of the House to take the matter up, and when the Measure was reintroduced next year, every facility would be granted to give it a Second Reading.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said he remembered an occasion when an hon. Member occupied a considerable portion of the time of the House in analysing and bringing under their notice the extraordinary changes in the general law of the land proposed in private Bills initiated by local people. He also recalled a Scotch Bill, with which they had subsequently to deal upstairs, which, if passed, would have made the well-known city with which it dealt an intolerable place for any human being to live in, and the Committee actually knocked out upwards of 100 clauses and offences. What was done then—and he was glad the Lord Advocate was disposed to follow the example—was to appoint a Committee to deal with the whole case, to report to the House any deviation from the general police and sanitary law proposed by the Bill, and to state their reasons for sanctioning, or refusing to sanction, the proposals. The procedure was now accompanied by a report from the Home Office so far as police matters were concerned, and by a report from the Local Government Board so far as sanitary matters were concerned, and it was really the settled practice of Committees of the House that where the Home Office or the Local Government Board objected to a clause that clause should not be inserted. It was intolerable that there should be two codes of 1184 criminal law in one country. It was a monstrous thing that a man, going to Scotland, should find that if he did a certain thing in Edinburgh he would not be punished, while if he did the same thing in Leith he would be guilty of a criminal offence. If there was a criminal law at all, it should, at all events, be applied over a large area. He quite admitted that there should be a classification of burghs, and he suggested that some code should be established under the supervision of the Scottish Office under which clauses departing from the general law would not be allowed except on the line of model clauses accepted by the Department. The same principle should apply to sanitary legislation. The procedure at the Scottish Office would break down if it were allowed to be made the instrument of widely extending local legislation to carry out the individual fads of individual men. Parliament was the only authority to settle any interference with the criminal law of the land, and new criminal offences ought not to be created unless they had directly or indirectly the sanction of the. House.
§ (7.14.) MR. TENNANT
asked what was proposed to be done, pending the sitting of the Committee promised by the right hon. Gentleman, with the Provisional Order Bills at present lying on the Table of the House. The curious thing in the present state of the law was that a certain thing might be done in Leith which could not be done in Edinburgh. One might bet in the streets of Leith, but not in the streets of Edinburgh, and the result was that the whole betting fraternity had crossed the line of demarcation and gone to Leith. The practice of betting in the streets was not only a nuisance to the passer by, but injurious to the morality of the community. He asked the Lord Advocate to state what he would do, pending the sitting of the Committee, with the Bills now on the Table. He did not wish to put an obstacle in the way of the Committee sitting on this particular Bill, but he considered it would be a wise thing to allow such portion of it as was unobjectionable to go through it in the ordinary way.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said everyone would be quite agreed in the matter of 1185 betting, but after all, that was only one very small point. It was obvious that they could not pass a Provisional Order with one clause in it. It should be understood that these Bills might be laid before the Committee, and that they would not be proceeded with unless the Committee reported that they were in a fit state to be proceeded with.
§ MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
did not think that the matter of betting could be quite so pressing as the hon. Member had represented, because Clause 393 of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, provided for the prosecution and punishment of persons guilty of that offence. Of course he was quite willing to accept what the hon. Member had said with regard to what was occurring. Probably Edinburgh was in possession of a still more drastic clause than that in the general Act to which he had referred; still it was not as if there was no restriction on betting at all. He was bound to say that at this period of the session it would be very doubtful whether, if they had an inquiry by a Committee, there would afterwards be time to pass the Bill. He was of opinion that it would be very much better not to proceed with these Bills in view of the promise which had been given to look through the Bill amending the General Police Act, with the view to allowing it to be introduced early next session. He should hope that they might have that Bill passed in the early part of next session.
MR. PARKER SMITH
said he was extremely glad that the Lord Advocate had taken the opportunity of bringing under the notice of the House the exaggerated number of petty offences which had been created by Statute in the last few years. The result was that, in proportion to the population, an enormously larger number of persons were sent to prison in Scotland than in England. The right hon. Gentleman opposite was very innocent if he thought criminal offences were the same in all the burghs of Scotland. Such an offence as spitting in the street was unpleasant, but he did not think a man should be sent to prison for a week for committing it. In the Bill of one burgh a clause was inserted by which if a man tore up a piece of paper and threw it on the ground, he was liable to be sent to prison for a week. That clause he had 1186 had struck out, but it was for such trivial offences as those that a large number of persons were every year sent to prison in Scotland.
§ Question put and agreed to.