HC Deb 28 May 1903 vol 123 cc200-3
*MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)

said he desired to call the attention of the House to the increasing extension of deer forests in the Highlands of Scotland. As the leases of the sheep farms ran out instead of the land being placed at the disposal of the people for cultivation and grazing these farms were being turned into deer forests. What had the Congested Districts Board done to place these lands at the disposal of the people? There was abundance of land to be obtained, as was clearly shown by the Reports of the Royal Com missions. Was it the intention of the Government to act on those Reports and place at the disposal of the people some of those lands? Compulsory powers ought to be given to the Congested Districts Board, and until they were obtained there would be no satisfactory settlement of the Highland Land Question. Perhaps there was more congestion in the Island of Lewis than in any other part of the Highlands of Scotland. He was sorry to detain hon. Members, but if the Scottish Office did its part it would be unnecessary for him to do so. The Government ought to take some action and look into these matters and not ignore the subject simply because it was a Highland question. During the late war the Highlands sent large numbers of soldiers to South Africa. Surely the Highland people were entitled to better treatment. If he could get a promise that the question would be dealt with on the lines of the Irish Land Bill he would be satisfied. Not long ago he asked the Secretary for Scotland by a Question in this House if the Scottish Office would arrange for an exhibition of home-spun tweeds, and was told in reply that if he would make all the necessary arrangements himself and take the initiative something might be done. He should like to know what the officials of the Scottish Office and the Congested Districts Board were paid for. Arrangements ought to be made for providing hospital accommodation in the Island of Lewis for the reception of cases of typhus and typhoid, the miserable homes of the patients being unsuitable for their proper treatment and isolation. He complained that it was difficult to find the officials at the Local Government Board Offices in Edinburgh when making a personal call relative to such matters. His experience was to find the office doors locked. In regard to sanitary matters it was necessary that something should be done to remedy the shockingly insanitary condition of the dwellings. The law in many parts of the congested area was absolutely ignored. He suggested that an inspector should be sent down to insist upon the houses being kept in a sanitary state. Referring to the question of vaccination, he said the supply of lymph for Scotland was most unsatisfactory. Human lymph, which was prohibited in England, was constantly used in Scotland notwithstanding its condemnation by the Royal Commission on Vaccination. He called attention to the practice of appointing medical officers of health who had not obtained the public health diploma, and suggested that those who received such appointments should hold the diploma, as that fact would afford some guarantee that they understood the work they had to perform.


I am afraid that at this hour of the evening it is hardly possible to enter into the details of the matters to which the hon. Member has referred. I think it is perhaps the less necessary to do so when one remembers that a great many of the questions the hon. Member has touched upon were really matters which were discussed just this month last year, so that there has not been much room for a reversal of the policy which was then stated by my hon. and learned friend the Lord Advocate. The hon. Gentleman has referred to an important fact, namely, the visit of the Secretary for Scotland to the West High-lands. I am sure that is likely to result in benefit both in the administration of the law and in promoting the interest which the hon. Member has at heart. I would remind him, however, that in regard to the providing of land in connection with the administration of the Congested Districts Board, as has been more than once pointed out land is only valuable to those who are able to make use of it. I think that the policy of the Government in regard to that matter has been one in which the old Scotch proverb becomes true, "The more haste the less speed." The desire of those who are entrusted with the administration of the law is that as much progress should be made in the matter as is consistent with the effective securing of the purpose in view. The hon. Member is aware that some property has been acquired, and the Government are in hope that further progress will be made in that direction, but I doubt exceedingly whether the giving to the Congested Districts Board compulsory powers would do much to promote the object to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. With regard to the Local Government Board, I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has been so unfortunate when visiting the offices in Edinburgh. I have been more lucky when I have been there.


They knew you were coming.


As to the provision of hospitals I, am aware that that matter is receiving the attention of the Local Government Board, and they are doing a great deal to secure that the provision of hospitals all over the country should be carried on more rapidly than hitherto. The securing of medical officers of health with the public health diploma is not a matter in regard to which the Local Government Board can possibly do much, because so much depends on the pecuniary inducements offered to medical men in the different localities, and these are often not such as to provide much temptation to them to obtain the diploma. The only other matter referred to by the hon. Gentleman was with regard to the provision of vaccine lymph. I would ask him to allow me to refer him to what the Secretary for Scotland said a few weeks ago in Edinburgh, at a meeting where the matter was considered. The Secretary for Scotland explained what was being done in this matter, and showed that the question was one which was receiving attention, and which really had been put on a footing which left nothing to be desired in that respect. With regard to the question of land, the policy of the Government remains as it has been, to carry out the settlement of the people on the land as rapidly as the means at their disposal will allow.