§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £10,495, 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, 1905, 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."
§ * MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
, on a point of order, said that, on the previous night, he gave notice of his intention to move a reduction of Item A, and it appeared in due course in the Blue Papers that morning, but it was not to be found on the Orders of the Day. He did not know why that was so, but he asked whether he was not entitled to raise his Motion before the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland spoke.
* THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member will have an opportunity of doing so later on, and I will take care that no other hon. Member moves a reduction of any item lower than the one which the hon. Member wishes to discuss.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I understand it is a printer's error. The hon. Member will not be injuriously affected thereby.
§ * MR. CATHCART WASON
said he wished particularly to refer to the Report of the Secretary for Scotland on the 552 work of the Congested Districts Board. He spoke from his own knowledge of the admirable manner in which that Board had conducted its business in the far North, and he desired to note with cordial approval the fact that the Secretary for Scotland had intimated that he was prepared to consider the question of an extension of the powers of the Board, especially in regard to loans. One of their principal troubles in the North was in connection with the herring fleets, which went out to sea and were often becalmed and unable to get back with their catches. Now, it was desirable to provide the fleets with some means of transport, and if money could be advanced to enable the provision of motor power, it would be an enormous advantage. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would take that matter into his consideration. He also hoped that steps would be taken to establish a training ship off that part of the coast of Scotland. He was quite prepared to oppose any unfair criticism in regard to the work of the Board, because most admirable work had been done, particularly in Orkney and Shetland, in providing piers, and in carrying out other undertakings of which the people could not otherwise have had the advantage. He could not agree with the hon. Member for East Lanarkshire that the Congested Districts Board should confine its operations to buying land. That was only a small part of its work. Its main object should be to make the lives of the people pleasant and comfortable, and to encourage trade and commerce. The Board had also done good work in the direction of supplying poor districts with seed, and he wished to take that opportunity of tendering his personal thanks to the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessor for having rather strained the letter of the law in supplying a very poor district with seed at a time when it was in great need of it. There were many other ways in which the Board had assisted the poorer districts in the North of Scotland, and, speaking for Members representing congested districts in the North, he would say that the last thing they would like would be to take advantage of the liberality, industry, and intelligence which the Board had brought to bear upon Scottish affairs. They would not 553 encourage any attempt to get at the Board, or to obtain money from it on unfair pretences.
He did not wish to unduly occupy the time of the Committee, but there was one matter of somewhat personal significance to which he must refer. A considerable number of years ago there was a road very much wanted in a certain district in Orkney. At that time an election was proceeding and the proprietor of that part of the island informed the people that if they would vote for a certain individual (for his humble self in fact) he would do his utmost to facilitate the construction of the road. Well he (the speaker) had the good fortune to be returned to that House, partly by the votes of those people, but nothing whatever was done to construct the road, although he himself did his best by pointing out the necessity for it to the Congested Districts Board. The people in the constituency naturally observed, "It's all right for you, you are in Parliament, but we have not got our road." Later the matter cropped up in the Orkney County Council, and then there was the mysterious disappearance of a certain letter addressed to the Congested Districts Board. Time went on and another election occurred in that particular district. Again the proprietor of that small village gave a pledge to the people that if they would vote in a certain direction (this time against himself instead of for him) they would get the road. Well, he was elected, and still no road had been made, with the result that the residents of this little hamlet, numbering probably eighty or ninety souls, were absolutely cut off from the rest of the world and could only get supplies or send away the products of their industry by carrying them on their backs. He was not blaming the Congested Districts Board for this, but he did think that the people had been very badly treated, and he hoped the Board would do its utmost to enforce the completion of a bargain which was distinctly entered into between the proprietor of the district and the public. A great injustice had been undoubtedly done, and for purely selfish and unjust reasons the Congested Districts Board had been utilised and its name bandied about in a most offensive manner in connection 554 with the matter, while the people had not got the road, and it did not seem as if they were likely to get it. Public feeling had been so aroused that the Congested Districts Board had sent an officer to report upon some other road which had been brought to public notice for the first time. He had felt it his duty to bring before the notice of the Board the undesirability of sending down an officer who was, and had been, a partisan of the landlord and the proprietor of the island. He hoped the representations he had made would have due effect, and that the right hon. Gentleman would secure an independent report from the island.
Another matter to which he desired to call attention had reference to a process carried out by certain Norwegians who had been driven from their own country by Act of Parliament and the pressure of public opinion. These men had come down and settled in Shetland. Their practice was to send out a boat, armed with an enormous harpoon, and then, when they captured a whale, to drag it into the shore, cut off two or three inches of blubber, tow the carcase out to sea, and leave it. The result was that the bodies floated back to the shore, and there remained. Not only did the carcases pollute the atmosphere, but they had destroyed the mussel-beds, and reduced the poor fishing folk to the verge of despair. A gentleman had been sent down to report on the matter, and doubtless his report would carry due weight. He had no desire to criticise that report; what he wished to refer to was a letter sent by this official to one of the promoters of this process, in which the promoter was assured that he would doubtless have to face a certain amount of jealous and ignorant opposition, but that he had no reason to fear opposition at headquarters. This was a most improper remark for a gentleman to make who had been sent to report. He did not mind what was said about himself, but he deeply resented any reflection on his constituents, and it was a most improper action on the part of this official to attempt to prejudge the case as he had done in the letter referred to. The process was not of the slightest advantage 555 to the country, and it was probably destroying the balance of power in nature. He remembered that years ago there was an agitation for the destruction of certain vermin, and the result was a frightful plague of mice which ruined many farmers. Something of the same sort must happen in this instance. In any case it was a serious matter, and ought to be impartially dealt with.
There was one other matter he wished to mention. In the time of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, the proprietor of a certain island entered into an arrangement with the Woods and Forests Department, who had jurisdiction over certain fishing, and an agreement for sale or lease was prepared. In that lease it was distinctly stated that the right of the public to fish should be arranged for by regulations approved by the Secretary for Scotland. The noble Lord who then occupied that office gave an assurance that before the regulations were finally settled the inhabitants should have an opportunity of perusing them, and making any comments they thought necessary. The people had enjoyed the privilege of the foreshore fishing from time immemorial, and all they asked was that the privilege should not be taken away simply to enable a certain individual to turn his property into a huge sporting estate. The promise to which he had referred was given three years ago, but no regulations had yet appeared. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would use every endeavour to see that that pledge was carried out.
DR. FARQUHABSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
said that although his constituency was on the fringe of the Highlands, he joined with his hon. friend in deprecating any attack upon the emoluments of the Secretary for Scotland who had helped the Congested Districts Board to do admirable work in developing the resources of the Highlands. In previous years the complaint had been that this Board never spent all the money at its disposal, but it had now spent all its money and had incurred various liabilities, which would probably prevent it currying on effectively its system of land purchase. He hardly thought there was any necessity for bringing compulsion to bear upon landlords in the Highlands, 556 because as a rule they were only too willing to sell their land and get rid of the great expense of maintaining it. If the representatives of the Congested Districts Board would come up to Aberdeenshire and cast a friendly eye on some property he had there, he would give them a most friendly reception, and they might negotiate for the purchase of some land there which he had considerable difficulty with at the present moment. In Aberdeenshire they had not much land which was suitable pasture for cattle or sheep, but they were an enterprising patient people who were fully entitled to some recognition from the State. The crofters deserved all they got, for they had suffered for a long period, and had not been well treated in the past, but under the Crofters Act they had developed themselves in a most extraordinary way. They had become, according to one report, "entirely new men," and their condition was quite as good as the Irish peasant who had bought his own land. It had been shown that when these crofters got the opportunity they ceased to be lazy, and they could not expect a man to be industrious if he had nothing to be industrious upon. In the North of Scotland they were looking with envious eyes upon what was being done in the Highlands for the people there. That improvement had been brought about by the agitation of hon. Members representing the Highlands. No great reform had ever been accomplished without continual pressure upon Parliament by bringing before the House and the Minister responsible the grievances of the constituencies. This had been done in a continuous and persistent way by hon. Members representing the Highlands, and he admired their action. He was glad to notice that the Bill which had been introduced by the Secretary for Scotland gave larger powers to the Congested Districts Board. They wanted powers to deal with technical education and to go in for agricultural education and better sanitation.
* THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! The hon. Member is not entitled to discuss Bills on this Vote, and legislation cannot be debated now.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON
said the great difficulty was to make people realise that 557 the great aim of the Congested Districts Board was not to give them assistance for a time, but to teach them how they could best help themselves. He thought Lady Gordon Cathcart was entitled to have brought before the notice of the House the excellent work she had done in trying to develop the resources of the Highlands. She had written a letter which anticipated the action of the Congested Districts Board, she had placed on record the good work she had done, and she complained of the want of sympathy shown by those she was trying to aid. He thought she was a little disappointed that her excellent work had not been more successful in developing the resources of the Highlands, and she laid stress upon some very important points. To begin with, she had done some excellent work in trying to develop fishing in those parts. Those poor people could not live by agricultural land alone, and it was impossible to live on a farm of less than thirty acres and keep a family; the only chance they had of obtaining a livelihood was by doing a little farming and something else. All he was anxious about was that Lady Gordon Cathcart should have full credit for what she had done. She had established harbours, built boats and hotels, and brought forward many good propositions. He thought the men in these districts should be enabled to do one of two things. They should either become small farmers with thirty, forty, or fifty acres to cultivate and live upon, or they should become crofters who, in addition to having a portion of land to cultivate, should be able to carry on the occupation of fishing. What was of importance was that a little money should be given to provide good centres from which they could carry on the fishing industry with some probability that they would do so with advantage. Lady Gordon Cathcart had laid down conditions that boys at the public schools were to be taught trades, and that the girls wore to be taught domestic economy—cooking and a variety of subjects which would make them good housewives. Finally, it was a portion of the scheme that the surplus population should be settled on land more suitable for cultivation and in districts where employment could be found. 558 There had been a good deal of talk lately about the physical condition of school children of the poorer classes, and the desirability of providing food for them. He asked the Secretary for Scotland whether it came within the purview of the new arrangement to be made under the Scotch Education Bill to provide meals once or twice a day for children who required food in order to fit them for the performance of their school work.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. A. GRAHAM MURRAY,) Buteshire
was understood to say that the Question was not in order in connection with the Vote now before the Committee.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON
said he would not pursue the question farther. He found that he was treading on delicate ground.
§ * MR. WEIR
said he had the fullest sympathy with the people of the township referred to by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland. The hon. Member's constituents appeared to be suffering from dead whales. The constituency he himself represented suffered from live deer. He could only hope that steps would be taken to remedy the grievance his hon. friend complained of. What did the hon. Member know about Ross and Cromarty? His constituents sent him to Parliament because they had confidence in him, and in attending to their interests he did not proceed by agitation as the bon. Member for Aberdeenshire had suggested. It might be better if he could agitate, but he was afraid he was weak in that respect. His hon. friend said that no compulsion was necessary in regard to the acquisition of land for the people. He would deal with that question at a later stage. His hon. friend had spoken in high terms of Lady Gordon Cathcart. If she possessed all the good qualities with which the hon. Member credited her, he wished there were half-a-dozen ladies of her sort in certain congested parts of the counties he represented. He moved that Item A be reduced by £100. The Vote included salaries from that of the Secretary for Scotland down to that of the humblest 559 charwoman. He admired the Secretary for Scotland for having thrown up a post worth £5,000 to take one at £2,000. Of course the right hon. Gentleman had the honour and glory of being Secretary for Scotland. That was something, and to a rich man what was the loss of £3,000 a year? If he had his way, the Secretary for Scotland would have £5,000 still. There was plenty of work in Scotland for him.
He had a bone, however, to pick with the right hon. Gentleman, in fact more than one. Some time ago he asked for a Deer Forest Return, and the right hon. Gentleman stated that it would be somewhat troublesome to prepare, or that he did not see any occasion for such a Return. He saw very great occasion for such a Return. The predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to grant a Return a few years ago. It was the most inaccurate document he ever held in his hand. He called the attention of the Secretary for Scotland to the fact that it was inaccurate. It was referred to Mr. Dundas, the Crown Agent, in Edinburgh. The errors were pointed out to that gentleman who, he supposed, was instructed to prepare another Return. That Return was duly prepared by Mr. Dundas. He was a lawyer and it might be expected that he would be careful and accurate. The previous Return was bad, but this one was no better. It was a grossly inaccurate document. It was because of these gross inaccuracies that he asked the right hon. Gentleman to arrange for another Return. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to give a pledge to-day that he would grant a Return of the deer forest acreage. If the right hon. Gentleman did not accede to that request he would find it necessary to divide the Committee on the Question, much as he disliked causing Members to trot through the Lobbies. The extension of the deer forest area was simply alarming. When he brought the fact before the First Lord of the Treasury some time ago, the right hon. Gentleman replied that he had no official information as to the state of matters. What more information did he need? The representatives of Highland constituencies were informed from time to time that large grazing farms were 560 being added to the deer forest area. In 1883 the deer forest area was 1,711,802 acres, and in 1898 it had increased to 2,287,296 acres. That was an increase of 33 per cent, in fifteen years. Reference had been made to the document prepared by Lord Balfour of Burleigh, entitled, "The Social Condition of the Island of Lewis." He would always feel grateful to the noble Lord for visiting the island and giving that most valuable report. What the Committee should realise was that even in the Island of Lewis the Deer Forest Commission scheduled fifteen places suitable for new holdings, consisting of.1 1,618 acres old arable and 34,516 acres pasture, and for the extension of holding 665 acres old arable and 65,025 acres pasture.
* THE CHAIRMAN
As long as the hon. Gentleman sticks to that point he is in order, but not otherwise.
§ * MR. WEIR
said that there was a greater need now than ever for an accurate Return of the area of the Highlands under deer. The last Return was grossly inaccurate. He would suggest also that if the right hon. Gentleman made up his mind to grant that Return he should employ competent men, not lawyers who knew absolutely nothing about the matter, to prepare it. What a farce it was to ask landlords and their factors to supply that information. The right hon. Gentleman ought to employ competent assessors to go round and find out the actual acreage under deer forests. Another matter to which he wished to draw attention came partly under the Board of Trade and partly under the Scotch Office. Some time ago the head of the Scotch Office informed him that in consequence of the heavy charges which were made for conveying fish and agricultural produce from the Highlands to the great centres of population, he would use his influence with the railway companies to try and bring about a better state of things. He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman must desire to increase trade in the Highlands and enable the people to get their produce 561 to market. Had he made any effort in that direction? The railway companies made some concession to the steamship company which ran vessels between Stornoway and Mallaig; but that was not enough, and indeed the charges had been increased to the senders of fish and agricultural produce, the result being disastrous to traders. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would try and secure lower transit rates for the produce of these northern parts to the great centres of population. Then there was the question of the Moray Forth. Would not the Secretary for Scotland approach the Foreign Office with a view to get the signatories of the North Sea Fisheries Convention——
* THE CHAIRMAN
That matter does not arise on this Vote. If the hon. Member will look at Class IV., Vote 6, Item F, he will see that there is a Vote for the North Sea Investigation.
§ * MR. WEIR
said that that was a scientific investigation, which was a totally different thing. It referred to the Hydrographical Conference which, amongst other things, dealt with the temperature of the water off the coasts of Scotland, Norway, and elsewhere. But the right hon. Gentleman had the power to go to the Foreign Office, and endeavour to bring about some arrangement with Foreign Governments to get rid of the marauding foreign trawlers in the Moray Firth.
* THE CHAIRMAN
That cannot be raised on this Vote. If there is any question of an arrangement with Foreign Powers it must be raised on the Foreign Office Vote.
§ * MR. WEIR
said that surely the Scottish Office had the power to bring under the notice of the Foreign Office some means of getting rid of the foreign trawlers in the Moray Firth. At any rate, he asked the right hon. Gentleman to do something in the matter. It lay with the Scottish Office to take the initiative. He now came to the question of the consulting engineer to the Scottish Office whose salary was on this Vote. That gentleman was a retired Army officer with an Army pension of 562 £450 a year and his full salary was subject to a reduction of 10 per cent, in that respect. He had been now a great many years consulting engineer to the Scottish Office and should retire at the age of sixty-five. Colonel Gore-Booth must surely have passed the retiring age or must be nearing it. The other night a Member of the House said that Colonel Gore-Booth was an extremely amiable and pleasant gentleman; but that was not enough. What was wanted was efficiency. He contended that the gentleman had not done his work satisfactorily. There was the question of the road between Gravir and Cromore in the Island of Lewis. The local surveyor, who knew every inch of the ground, sketched out a plan for an economical road. Colonel Gore-Booth, or his deputy, came down and inspected the district, and said there must be a road according to his plan, with the result that the road would cost a large additional sum of money. The people of the neighbourhood were told that they must provide that extra money. The Secretary for Scotland knew that that was one of the poorest districts in the Island of Lewis and that it was utterly impossible for the people to provide the money. They offered to give so much labour free to make the load. Colonel Gore-Booth would not budge. This case was most unsatisfactory. Several thousands of the population had had to pay road rates for years and had not a single inch of road. He only wished the right hon. Gentleman would follow the example of Lord Balfour of Burleigh. The summer days were coming on, and the right hon. Gentleman would enjoy a run down to the interesting island of Lewis, where he could see for himself the state of affairs. The right hon. Gentleman would learn far more by one hour's inspection on the spot than in twenty years from the reports of gentlemen who sat in their arm-chairs in Edinburgh. Some heed should be given to the opinion of local men. He asked the right hon. Gentleman again to submit this matter to Colonel Gore-Booth. He found that a sum of 100 guineas was paid to Colonel Gore-Booth as travelling expenses. He himself drove through his constituency in a carriage and 563 pair, but it did not cost him anything approaching that amount. He hoped the Secretary for Scotland would look into the various matters he had mentioned, and that a Return of an adequate character with reference to deer forests in Scotland would be prepared.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £100."'—(Mr. War.)
§ MR. ASHER (Elgin Burghs)
said he wished to refer to the practice which had recently been established of capturing whales off the coasts of Orkney and Shetland. The matter was certainly very peculiar, and its history very instructive. The practice of hunting whales off the coast of Norway was found to be highly destructive to ordinary fishing, and the consequence was that the Norwegian Government passed an Act prohibiting its subjects from capturing whales during the fishing season. The result was that the Norwegian fishermen migrated to Orkney and Shetland and pursued their calling there; and precisely the same mischief that was caused off the coast of Norway was now being caused oft the coasts of Orkney and Shetland. His hon. friend for Orkney and Shetland referred to the matter chiefly from the point of view of the nuisance which was caused on the coast after the blubber had been removed from the whales. His point was that the fishermen from the East coast of Scotland who migrated to Orkney and Shetland for the herring season found the practice to he most destructive. It was quite impossible for whale hunting and herring fishing to be carried on simultaneously in the same waters. He had been the medium of transmitting to the Secretary for Scotland a petition signed by about 500 of the chief fishermen and fish curers on the East coast of Scotland, asking for the right hon. Gentleman's intervention; and he desired to express his acknowledgment of the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman in immediately taking the matter in hand. He understood that the right hon. Gentleman was making inquiries on the subject; and he would be indebted to him if he would state what progress had been made and what the prospects 564 were. He would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to take two steps. The persons who were prosecuting whale hunting found it necessary to have stations on shore, and they had applied to the Board of Trade for permission to erect them. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman to get his Department to intervene and to exercise the power which they no doubt possessed to prevent that permission being granted until the matter had been fully investigated. He did not ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept the statements in the petition with regard to the extremely injurious effect of whale fishing; but he hoped the matter would be kept open until it was thoroughly investigated. No doubt whale fishing was important to the persons engaged in it: but it could not be compared in importance with the great herring and white fishing industries off the coast of Orkney and Shetland. If the right hon. Gentleman intervened the result would be that the applications for permission to erect stations would be suspended; and his conviction was that if they were suspended until a proper inquiry was held they would ultimately be refused altogether. He would further suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that having regard to the great importance of the matter he should appoint a Departmental. Committee for the purpose of ascertaining whether whale hunting was not absolutely inconsistent with the successful prosecution of the herring and white fishing industries off the coast of Orkney and Shetland. That Commission might consist of a representative of the Scottish Office, a representative of the Hoard of Trade, and probably a member of the Local Government Board or the Scottish Fishery Board. If they were sent down as a special Commission to investigate the matter on the spot they would get accurate information, and the Scottish Office would then he in a position to deal with the matter in an authoritative manner. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman it was a very important matter; and that a prima facie case existed in favour of the facts set forth in the petition. The Scottish fishermen were satisfied that their, interests were being interferred with and the result was that they were actively agitating in. support of the steps he had mentioned.
§ * CAPTAIN ELLICE (St. Andrews Burghs)
said ho wished to associate himself with what his hon. friend had just said on the subject of whale hunting. He understood from the fishermen on the East coast of Fife that this question of whale fishing very seriously affected their interests, while they were away at the summer herring fishing in the Shetlands. He knew that some of the fishermen from his own constituency had been poisoned by the masses of putrid blubber floating about in the harbours there. One point had not been mentioned as yet in the debate, namely, that the whales, in some instances, acted as sheep dogs do in herding sheep, and kept the herrings close shoaled. The fishermen were able to locate the herrings, and the catch was improved.
§ * MR. HARMSWORTH (Caithnessshire)
desired in as few words as possible to support his hon. friend. It was in his opinion a matter of national importance that there should be a bona fide statement showing the growth of the deer forest acreage in the North of Scotland. He himself believed that the deplorable state of the Highlands of Scotland was mainly due to so much of the country being given over to deer forests. He also entirely agreed with all that had been said with regard to the effect of whaling upon the herring fisheries, and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to refuse permission for the establishment of the stations in the Shetlands.
§ MR. URE (Linlithgowshire)
called attention to the want of accommodation in the Courts of Scotland. There had been a good deal of delay in the Scottish Office in the matter of enlarging the Courts, a question which had been before the country for a century. The Scottish Office obtained plans of the proposed enlargements as far back as 1881, but since that date nothing whatever had been done. The ground which was to be used for the purpose was still vacant but nothing had been done by the right hon. Gentleman or his predecessors to secure the funds necessary for the work. It was not so much the Judges or barristers practising in the Courts who were inconvenienced but the litigants and the 566 general public. There was no complaint as to the condition of the Appeal Courts and those Courts where criminal eases were tried, but the condition of the Courts where the ordinary business of the country was conducted, the Courts of First Instance, was deplorable. The accommodation for the Bar was limited as was also that of the official reporters, while the accommodation for the general public, solicitors, litigants, and others was cribbed, cabined, and confined to a degree not creditable to Scotland as a progressive country. Since 1868 a great change had come over the administration of justice in Scotland, and many more people frequented the Courts than formerly. They suffered considerably from the want of suitable accommodation for witnesses, and very often there was extreme difficulty in finding a witness although no complaint could be made of the attempts of the attendants to find them. All these things urgently called for reform, and all that was required was money.
* THE CHAIRMAN
pointed out that the subject the hon. Gentleman appeared to be raising was that of buildings and that would not be in order on this Vote.
§ * MR. MACONOCHIE (Aberdeenshire, E.)
said, with reference to the complaint which had been made as to the whales off the coast of Scotland, the advantage of these whales to Norway was that they drove the shoals of herrings into the fiords and enabled the Norwegian fishermen to secure their catches at the lowest cost. Scottish fishermen would like to see these whales destroyed because they did harm to the shoals in the open sea by driving them about and separating the fish and preventing Scottish fishermen getting decent catches. The fishermen on the East coast of Scotland complained that after the Norwegians had filched all the blubber from a whale they towed the carcase out to sea, and left it—a danger to the nets and boats of all those who fished those waters. There was no doubt that the district referred to by the hon. Member for Ross-shire was a poor one, and the hon. Member in pressing his case would have strengthened his argument if he had given a few descriptions of what 567 existed in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. But the only way to improve these parts would be to offer some practical suggestion either with regard to the fleet or the improvement of the fishermen.
§ * MR. AINSWORTH (Argyllshire)
said there were special reasons why the information in the suggested Deer-forest Return should be up-to-date. Sheep valuations had recently brought about a great extension of deer forests, and the same question was having a damaging effect, not only on agriculture, but also on population. He knew a case in which a few months ago several thousands of acres of land, eminently suited for sheep but unsuited for deer, were put under deer owing to the difficulty caused by this question of valuation. The matter being so important, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give all the information at his disposal, and if possible lot the Return include not only the acreage under deer, but also the annual value as sheep-farm and deer-forest. Another matter in which the Highlands were deeply interested was the carriage of fish. In view of the fact that some of the railways were assisted by Government money advanced at low rates of interest, he thought the authorities were entitled to see that the public were granted the most favourable rates possible.
§ * MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
said he had no control whatever over the question of railway rates That was a matter with which the Board of Trade had to deal. The question of whales was interesting from a natural history point of view, and it was also novel. He would not discuss whether it was an industry or a process, but it was certainly something in which a considerable amount of capital was involved. Quite recently plant to the value of £6,000 or £8,000 had been landed, and a pier applied for. Such an application would obviously not be made unless the promoters were confident they could secure a good return from the craft. The particular kind of whale concerned was new as an article of pursuit, as it was not the small whole that had often been caught by the 568 inhabitants of the hon. Member's constituency. He was fully aware of the apprehension which had been aroused and of the inconvenience caused by the manner in which the craft, was prosecuted, and from the point of view of what could legally be done the matter could be looked at in three aspects. First, there was the question of public health as affected by these carcases being left off the shore in a more or less disagreeable condition; secondly, there was the fisheries question; and thirdly, there was the question of how far the Board of Trade should veto the carrying on of the industry by refusing the use of the foreshore and preventing the construction of the proposed pier. As far as the public health was concerned, the business as carried on was an intolerable nuisance, and steps had been taken to bring that to an end by placing the process in the category of offensive trades and instructing the local medical officers to enforce the law. As a matter of fact, the companies had expressed their preparedness to erect plant which would consume the whole carcase, and that, if done, would get over the public health objection. As far as the Board of Trade were concerned, all that could be doen was to ask them to hold their hand until a little more was known about the subject, and whatever influence he had would be used in that, direction. There remained then the fishing aspect of the question. The fact that when they began to deal with the habits of fish they went beyond the limits of exact knowledge was well illustrated by the divergent views expressed by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire and the hon. Member for St. Andrews, one of whom contended that the whale acted as a sort of pursuer, scattering the fish right and left, while the other held that the whale fulfilled the part of a sheep-dog, driving the fish into a compact body and enabling the fishermen to get a full catch. Both of those views were interesting, but they could not both be correct. The question was complicated by the consideration that the Government could not prevent Norwegian subjects killing whales in any way they chose so long as they did it beyond the territorial limit. Probably the only method would be by indirect compulsion. Beyond all doubt 569 a very real interest was taken in the matter in Scotland, and it was only right that the people should be satisfied as far as possible. He was, therefore, prepared to assent to the suggestion that an inquiry should be instituted. Without pledging himself as to the exact form of the inquiry, he would undertake to have an investigation made, so that they might, as far as possible, see how the matter stood, and he would be prepared to act upon the results of that inquiry, if necessary.
He did not intend to go into the question of deer forests at length. The contention that the deplorable state of the Highlands was mainly due to the deer forests was an utterly unsound proposition which could never stand the test of actual inquiry. He agreed, however, that the unfortunate practice which had grown up in connection with sheep valuation had much to do with the change from sheep farms to doer forest. There appeared to be a little misapprehension about the Return. A Return was granted from year to year with regard to deer forests, of which the hon. Member for Ross-shire complained as being inaccurate. Nobody contended that it was precisely accurate in regard to acreage. The only way in which the Return could be prepared was by taking such information as the assessors could give, and the assessors derived their knowledge from the factors who sent in returns. The hon. Member had pressed for an absolutely accurate Return. An actual survey would be necessary for such a purpose, and the expense would be altogether incommensurate with the value of the Return. He was perfectly willing to give the old Return based upon the best class of evidence one could get through the assessors, but he was not agreeable to grant a Return under which he would be bound to give an acreage column guaranteed to be absolutely correct. He did not know whether that would satisfy the hon. Member for Ross-shire, or whether lie would insist upon going to a division. The idea of having an accurate survey laying down the exact acreage under deer forests could not be justified.
§ * MR. WEIR
said it was all very well for hon. Members who had no deer forests in 570 their constituencies to shout out "Hear, hear." Let the deer live and flourish, but they ought to be sent up to their proper place on the hills, and they should not be allowed to live upon land which might be otherwise occupied by human beings. There was plenty of room for the deer, but what he objected to was that human beings should be cleared out and fertile land set aside for deer forests which had been scheduled as suitable for the people and yet was not devoted to the purpose. The result was that the country had to suffer. The right hon. Gentleman said there was only a small amount of suitable land, but he would remind him that there were tens of thousands of acres in his own constituency.
§ * MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
I did not say anything about there being only a small amount of land available. What I said was that as far as the employment of the people is concerned there are more people employed on the land under deer forests than when the land is devoted to sheep farming.
§ * MR. WEIR
said that the right hon. Gentleman could get the survey asked for from the Board of Agriculture, who had all the information if the right hon. Gentleman would only take the trouble to secure it. The Secretary for Scotland had stated that he was willing to grant the Return, but not on the lines he had asked for. They never could get all they wanted at once and they had to go stage by stage. He was willing to accept the Return as promised, but if it turned out to be inaccurate, as it was last time, he should continue to try and get an accurate Return of the deer forest acreage. On those conditions he would accept the Return and leave himself free if necessary to renew his efforts to obtain an accurate Return. He begged leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the value of the first Report issued under his auspices by the Congested Districts Board. The work 571 of the Board Lad very often been complained of in the past, and its efforts had been very disappointing. Scotch Members had often contended that the work of the Congested Districts Board would not be effective until it was given compulsory powers. It would be noticed in the Report that the Board itself asked for additional powers. He had always attached great importance to the work of the Congested Districts Board in dealing with land, and he was glad to see that during the past year it had for the first time been able to acquire land upon a considerable scale. The hon. Member for Shetland had praised the work of the Board in other respects and the Board could now supply everything, including lights, roads, landing-places, fences, telegraphs, seed potatoes, stallions, bees, hens, and cocks. The land question was not the same in the North as in the West of Scotland, and he would like to ask the right lion. Gentleman to consider whether it would not be possible to combine the powers of the Congested Districts Board and the Crofters Commission with respect to the management of the land. He thought if that were done it would be a much more efficient authority. The work of the Congested Districts Board with respect to the purchase and utilisation of land had been much criticised in the past. The Crofters Commission had had to deal with much greater difficulties and they had met with a success which nobody disputed. The Crofters Act was based upon a foundation which might be a little difficult to justify in law. However much one might be inclined to doubt it as a permanent arrangement, it had been a great success in the Highlands, and the Crofters Commission had done its work in a manner which had commanded the confidence of everybody, whether landlord or tenant. He should, therefore, like to see the work of the Congested Districts Board as regards land put under the Crofters Commission. So long as these two bodies were working separately the work not only overlapped to some extent, but it overlapped with a considerable number of other bodies who controlled the matters he had just enumerated. If they gave to the Crofters Commission the power possessed by the Congested Districts Board 572 for acquiring land they would have a body which would meet any difficulties that might arise in future as to land in the Highlands with the greatest possible effect. It would be extremely desirable to have the administration put as soon as possible on a permanent footing. Another reason why it would be desirable to have one authority was that small holdings could only succeed when they were worked co-operatively in sending to market. Small holders could not compete with large ones unless they adopted the co-operative system. It would be more easy for one authority to effectively grapple with co-operation than was possible under a dual arrangement. The success of this system under the Irish Congested Districts Board had been so marked that it was hoped much greater prosperity might be brought to small holders in the Highlands by more efficient provision for co-operation than existed at present. He asked the Secretary for Scotland to consider whether, if he could not have one land authority in the Highlands, he could not have a clear definition of the functions and spheres of such bodies as the Crofters Commission, the Congested Districts Board, and the other local authorities concerned? He was satisfied that there were portions of deer forests which might be made available for occupation and it was for that reason that lie thought compulsory powers were most required.
§ * MR. JOHN DEWAR (Inverness)
said he was afraid that Highland questions were treated rather lightly in this House. He could assure the Committee that there was a great deal of congestion, poverty, and distress in many parts of the Highlands and it was because he did not believe that the Congested Districts Board was properly doing the work it was created to do that he asked the Committee to reduce the amount of this Vote by £100. The Report presented the other day had a strong family resemblance to previous Reports. There was not very much new, and very little had been done in respect of most of the objects for which the Board was created. He heartily congratulated the Secretary for Scotland on the large purchase of land that had been made in Skye, at a 573 cost of £95,000. He did not think the Board could have discovered any land better suited for an experiment in regard to the settlement of crofters. He hoped they would select as manager of this new venture a man who was in sympathy with the crofter movement, and that the crofts would be of sufficient size to employ a man and his family and give them a decent living. He supported the suggestion of the hon. Member for the Leith Burghs that the co-operative movement among the crofters should be encouraged. The Board seemed to take the view that before they purchased laud they must accumulate the money necessary to pay for it. He desired to point out that they had power to borrow on the value of the land, and it would be very disappointing if they had to wait years before another purchase was made by the Board. He should like to point nut what had been done in Ireland. During the thirteen years since 1901 the Irish Congested Districts Board, with a revenue of under £100,000, had spent £1,500,000. They had bought nearly £500,000 worth of land, and "had spent money freely in other directions. They had, of course, borrowed money for the purpose, but if the Irish Board could do that, the Scotch Board ought at least to follow in its footsteps. He was pleased that there were indications that the landlords of Scotland were now more disposed to have crofters on the land than they used to be. He thought that the landlords had had their eyes opened to the fact that there were some advantages in having men rather than deer or sheep on the farms. In his own constituency there were one or two proprietors doing admirable work in cutting up large sheep farms. Mr. Macdonald, in Skye, was cutting up a large sheep farm and converting it into crofters' holdings. Mr. Macdonald was a distinguished officer in a company of Scouts, and he saw that if we were to have the very best class of soldiers we must make provision for their getting a settlement on the land.
The Congested Districts Board this year was not issuing any seed. He quite approved of the policy of not giving the crofters the impression that it was the business of the Board to supply them with seed, but he believed this was about one of the worst seasons that would have been 574 chosen to stop supplying seed. The harvest last year was a very bad one, and in the West of Scotland there would be very little suitable seed available. Clause 3 of the Report indicated that the Congested Districts Board, except in exceptional circumstances, refused to grant a supply of seed. Ho knew, as a matter of fact, that the Board had refused or neglected to supply potato seed to tenants on their own property and that the land was consequently unproductive. He did not intend to deal so much with what was in the Report, as with what was not in it. He wished to contrast the work which had been done by the Scotch and that done by the Irish Congested Districts Board, The position of the population in the two districts was not dissimilar. The people were of the same race, and lived under the same social conditions; and he was bound to say that there was more poverty and distress in some parts of Inverness-shire than in many parts of Ireland. The Irish Congested Districts Board acted with some judgment in regard to their work. The Irish Report was full of what had been done for the improvement of the social condition of the people among other things they organised parish committees to assist and keep them, but it had never occurred, seemingly, to the Scotch Board to do that. The Irish Board through those parish committees gave grants to build byres and outhouses; but nothing of the kind had been done by the Scotch Board It seemed to him that the Scotch Board in most cases waited until they were asked to relieve some particular case, that they refused as long as ever they could to do anything, and at length when they did consent to do something they did as little as possible.
He wanted to illustrate that by one or two facts that had come to his own knowledge. A very great deal was being done in Ireland to improve the fishing industry; but in reading the Report of the Congested Districts Board he found that the Scotch fishing industry was scarcely once mentioned. Now, Scotsmen were born fishermen, and the waters of the West of Scotland were teeming with fish. The Irish knew nothing about fishing, and the Irish Congested Districts Board had positively employed Scottish fishermen to 575 teach their fellow-countrymen how to fish. The result was that the Irish Congested Districts Board had now developed a most flourishing fishing industry. He had, over and over again, asked the Scotch Congested Districts Board to do something in this respect and to provide improved boats for the poor Scottish fishermen on the West Coast. Now-a-days, very much larger boats were needed than formerly; but the Scotch Board had done nothing in the matter. Again, he had asked the Board to provide curing stations where the fishermen might cure the fish caught by the smaller boats they at present possessed; but he was told that the Scotch Board had lifted up their hands in horror, and said that that was Socialism. Of course it was Socialism; but it was Socialism of the best kind, and was attended with the best results. The Irishmen had to be taught how to fish by Scotch crews, and the Irish Board had appointed Mr. Duthie, a Scotchman, to manage the business, and that gentleman had developed the Irish fisheries on their West Coast to the great satisfaction of the people. The Irish Board had now 180 instructors in fishing and eighty-four of these instructors were Scotch. They were not afraid of Socialism. The Irish Board had 148 boats which they lent out to fishermen and had also twenty-three fish-curing stations. To begin with, these had to be owned by the Irish Board, but it was only to enable the Irishmen to stand on their feet. And what was the result? On the Donegal and Galway coast alone the Irish Board had spent in boats and gear £18,000, and of that sum £7,700 had been repaid by the fishermen, while £3,000 had been deducted from the earnings of the crews, for their instruction. The Irish crews so instructed had earned £21,000; and the value of the fish caught last year in the area controlled by the Irish Board was over £50,000. It could be seen, therefore, what a very valuable assistance had been given to the development of the Irish fisheries by the Irish Congested Districts Board. On the fish-curing stations the Irish Board had, since 1901, spent over £38,000. Well, it did irritate Scotch Members when they found all this being done by the Irish Board, and when they were told by the Scotch Board that that was a 576 Socialistic movement. A long time ago he lodged an application with the Scotch Congested Districts Board for a grant to enable a crew to buy a proper modern boat for £150. The crew had considerable resources of their own, and they were strongly recommended by the principal men in the island; hut from that day to this he had never heard anything about his application. There must be something wrong with a Department carried on in that way. What had the Irish Board, with its Socialism, done? Last year they chartered and subsidised steamers to assist the fishermen; had actually arranged contracts between the fishermen and the fish salesmen; they subsidised Scotch boats to exploit new fishing-grounds; had purchased fish where necessary from the fishermen, cured the fish and sold it and had actually endeavoured in one case to induce the Irish buyers to buy Irish fish. That indicated what might be done by the Scotch Congested Districts Board. Compared with what the Irish Board had done, the Scotch Board had done nothing, at any rate about fishing.
He knew that the Secretary for Scotland would say that the Fishery Board for Scotland advanced some money to West Coast fishermen which had been lost. But that was the Board's own fault. They provided the wrong boats and expended the money in the wrong way. The Irish Board had provided lucrative employment for a great many of the inhabitants of the congested districts in Ireland and had relieved their distressful condition very effectually. He knew of a small island off the West Coast of Scotland, called Eriskay, the inhabitants of which were entirely fishermen. On that coast the fishing had been very poor for the past two years and the fishermen had lost a great deal of money as well as their nets. The local priest, knowing that the mackerel and herring fishing was just coming on, applied to the Scotch Board for assistance for these fishermen to obtain new nets; and he himself had supported that application. He would like to ask at this point, Why should the local priest or local merchant or Member of Parliament have to apply to the Board? It was the duty of the Board to find out 577 these cases and apply a remedy. He had to-day received the following letter in regard to this case which he should like to read—The Congested Districts Board are to give mackerel nets only to a few boats. I sent a list of fourteen boats from Eriskay. Only three boats get nets, and of twenty-two in Uist only five get nets, and instead of giving six nets to a boat these few selected get for each boat nine pieces and all the rest none. Now, I think this is iniquitous, as the poor people were so full of expectation, now blasted completely away. Several came in their extremity to me to write to you strongly on the point. This winter was behind in supplying wreck drift ware for their land; but a good supply came lately, to which they gave their attention. Now with the wet weather they cannot get along with their tillage, which predicts a late and poor harvest; add to that no chance of fishing (what they look forward to) mackerel, and it makes the life of our unfortunate crofter fishermen a very gloomy one indeed. Can anything be done to explain the condition to the Government? In regard to herring nets for the Eriskay fishermen, will the authorities not listen to plain facts? This morning an Eriskay boat: came into the Loch with four crans of herrings, ' the first for the season. They report good appearance, but that boat and others from Eriskay with fifteen to twenty nets in all when: they ought to have at least forty. How is it possible to make headway? They have the boats, the experience and the will, I can assure you, but lack nets as I explained to you. If any accident happens, and they lose some nets they will be stranded. Now would be the time to encourage them, and not when they are totally stranded. I can recommend the Eriskay fishermen for pluck as sailors and fishermen; given the material they can fish aside anyone, and yet the Government for the Irish Vote will supply the Irish with boats, gear, and instructors, and leave the unfortunate Eriskay fishermen to their fate; and a net or two to each man (five in a boat) would be a great help. Will this be denied them when the season promises good? It shows what they can do when a native is the first to land herrings this season.That was a genuine case which had been neglected by the Congested Districts Board. He made the suggestion that this question chould be tackled seriously and on a large sclae. Let the Congested Districts Board appoint some one to give a report as to how best to meet this difficulty. There was a large population which could be relieved easily and effectually by the advance of a compartively small sum, and if it could be done it would have the best effect. He wished to know how the persons who were given nets were selected, when all were equally deserving and necessitous. He hoped that the Congested Districts 578 Board would carry out its work after the manner of the Irish Board. To show the scope of the work of the Irish Board, he might mention that it assisted at Foxford a factory, a Donegal tweed industry, creameries, herring barrel making, sale of thread and looms, boat building, and basket making. Altogether, the Irish Board had carried on its work in a way which the Scottish Board might well copy. It might be said that the Irish Board had more money than the Scottish Board: if they had larger resources they had very much larger, although not more acute, poverty to deal with. He did not ask the Scottish Board to spend more money. He believed the money at its disposal was ample to carry out all he asked. There must be something wrong in a Board which made so many mistakes, and he would like to know what it was. He had not any great faith in an unpaid Board; and he thought the work would be done better by a paid Board. He had over and over suggested that the Congested Districts Board should be abolished. He had no objection to the members of the Board; they were as good as could be got; but it was the inherent defects of the system which made the work of the Board inefficient. He would suggest that the work of the Board should be taken over by the Crofter Commission, which had given great satisfaction in its work. Indeed, when the Congested Districts Board wanted a report in reference to any part of the country, they usually asked the Crofter Commission to make it for them. Last year the Secretary for Scotland, who was then Lord-Advocate, stated that if the work were transferred to the Crofter Commission it would be removed from the control of Parliament; but he could not understand how, as the salaries and expenses of the Commission would have to be discussed on the Estimates. Many of the members of the Crofter Commission were members of the Congested Districts Board; and, therefore, it was not so much the Board as the system that would be changed. Something ought to be done, and would have to be done, if they were to get value for their money and if congestion was to be relieved.
MR. LEVESOX-GOWER (Sutherland)
said he wished to refer to the question, of the supply of seed. If ever seed were to be supplied it ought to be supplied this year, which was one of the worst years ever known in the Highlands. He observed that three parishes in Sutherland had been scheduled, whereas three parishes on the West Coast had been left out which were in a very bad way indeed. He saw with great pleasure that the Congested Districts Board was taking up the question of home industries. That would be a great advantage. Tire difficulty in the Highlands was that the crofts were too small, and that the crofters could not be got to remove even a small distance to larger crofts. As regarded co-operation, be quite understood the difficulty as far as selling farm produce and harvesting were concerned. He could not, however, understand any difficulty, for instance, in cooperating to have one shepherd to tend all the sheep in a township. Would not such co-operation be encouraged if the Congested Districts Board offered a prize for the best co-operative shepherding in townships in the Highlands. That might have a good effect. They had heard a good deal about the Irish Board, and very unfavourable comparisons were drawn of the Scottish Board in comparison with it. He agreed to a great extent with the hon. Member for Inverness: but yet he thought the hon. Gentleman was too hard on the Scottish Board. He wished to suggest the desirability of making a railway to the West Coast and connecting the Minch with the railway on the East Coast. If a light railway were not possible, a steam tramway might be established, which would greatly benefit the fishing industry. Although lie sympathised to a great extent with what had been said by the hon. Member for Inverness in reference to (he Congested Districts Board, he could not vote with him as the Board only had been in existence six years.
§ * MR. AINSWORTH
said with regard to the question of land purchase, the small holders for whose benefit these schemes of land purchase were entered into and the 580 money paid had no desire to become the actual owners of their holdings. What they desired to do was to go on generation after generation with the feeling that though there was a superior landlord over them, they could continue to improve their holding and could not be removed. They had no desire to become the actual owners of the land as was the case in Ireland. The idea that they desired to transfer the holding to themselves must be put aside altogether. What they desired to do was to go on as at present under a superior landlord, and wherever there was a portion of territory occupied by small holders it was desirable, and would be to the benefit of those smallholders, that that territory should pass into the hands of the State, and that the tenants should in future be tenants of the State. If the Congested Districts Board had not been able to do as much as was hoped for in that direction, it must be borne in mind that they had only an income of £15,000 a year, to which a grant of £20,000 was subsequently added; and when they considered that the only body to which the Highlands and Islands could look for assistance was the Congested Districts Board, it was absurd to suppose that they could do much more than they had done with an income of only £35,100 a year. He hoped that before long they would see the Board in a much stronger position, and the money at their disposal applied as far as possible for public improvements and that their powers for the purchase and acquisition of land would be through the issue of Land-stock in a manner similar to that which had been so successful in Ireland. Wherever there was a congested district occupied by small holders, they should become tenants of the Board instead of tenants of individuals. If arrangements of this kind could be made, the Board would have much greater power to carry out improvements which hitherto they had not been able to perform, such as roads, lights, harbours, and piers, upon which the prosperity of the Highlands depended. This House, which was accustomed to deal with large counties in England, could hardly understand how poor the Highlands were. He hoped that in future, whenever assistance was asked for from the Board for such purposes as he had 581 indicated, the Board would be willing to make a grant without requiring any contribution from the county.
§ * MR.MACONOCHIE
said the Congested Districts Board had done yeoman service in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, but he thought more might be done in the direction of trying to help in a commercial way the inhabitants of these districts. Some new manufacture might be introduced to help the fishermen and crofters. One great difficulty these men laboured under was the heavy cost of the transit of their fish. He remembered some years ago visiting the Island of St. Kilda, and on that occasion there were probably some three or four tons of halibut, lying on the beach for want of transit. When they considered that the transit rates formally of the different kinds of fish caught on the West Coast of Scotland came to nearly 50 per cent, of the total proceeds realised in the market, bethought the Congested Districts Board ought to direct its attention to a cheaper method of transit, which would benefit these districts materially. There was he heard, a big development in the peat industry. In the Island of Lewis and along the West Coast of Scotland they had large bodies of peat, and if it could be dealt with he felt sure it would be a benefit to the people. In 1874 he went to Stornaway and opened quite a new business, which brought many hundreds of thousands of pounds into the district. With regard to the question of the crofters and the cutting up of deer forests, he thought those landlords who had acted in a most liberal manner ought to be encouraged. When Lady Gordon Cathcart came into the possession of the Island of Barra there were only 8,000 acres divided among the crofters. She spent money on harbours and piers, and made roads also cut up another 4,000 acres amongst her crofter tenants making a total of 12,000 acres, and it was only justice to acknowledge what she had done. As to the deer forests, no tenants had been displaced in his memory, but he should be glad if anything could be done to keep the tenants on the soil. He did not look on the Congested Districts Board with any disfavour, but he felt sure that the time would come when the land question of Scotland would have to be dealt with, 582 not by tinkering the present laws, but as a whole, and he felt sure that something in the nature of Lord Ashbourne's Act would eventually have to be applied to Scotland.
§ * MR. WEIR
said that much had been heard about the angelic manner in which Lady Gordon Cathcart managed her affairs, and he only wished there were more of the angelic order in the Highlands. Reference bad been made to the peat industry, but what was the use of such suggestions if the people could not get the peat? If the Congested Districts Board could secure the control of the peat lands it would be a practical step, as it was essential that they should catch their hare before they could cook it. The want of seed had also been mentioned. Again and again he had called the attention of the Congested Districts Board to the need for seed in the Island of Lewis he had done so at the request of a parish council in the island—and, as the people were not of a begging or cadging order, it must be taken that that request would not have been made without grave cause. But the Board merely stated that they would not give any more seed this year to districts which had been supplied before. The fact was, the Board would not take the trouble to ascertain whether or not real distress was prevailing. Who could be surprised at the manner in which these matters were managed, when it was remembered that the gentleman in charge merely received a small annual sum from the Board, and was, in fact, a servant of the Exchequer and Audit Department? If the work of the Congested Districts Board was to be properly attended to, it was necessary that a man should be appointed who could give his whole time to the business. In the early days of the Board it was said there was not sufficient work for such an appointment, but although that plea would not now hold good, the old system still went on, and would probably continue to the end of the chapter. For six years this torture and misery, muddling and mismanagement had gone on, he hoped the seventh year would open up a brighter era. It was a great disadvantage that the members of the Board were unpaid; if they drew salaries they could be told either to do their work properly or to clear out, but no such effective treatment could be meted out under existing circumstances. The question of 583 the cheap transit of fish seemed never to have occurred to the Board. On the West Coast one man had control of the steamers, and he imposed just what rates he chose. Why did not the Board make some efforts in that matter?
There were many areas in his constituency which were terribly congested, but were not classed as congested districts. He would take only one—that of Loch Carron. In that district there were many fine deer forests which fetched high rents, but there was also a tremendous amount of congestion. These high rents, however, prevented the district being classed as congested. The Board drew a hard and fast line, and declared that if the valuation exceeded £1 per head of the population the district could not be described as a congested area. They ought to relax their rules, and throw a little common sense into the business. A fisherman must get his living partly out of the sea and partly out of the land for he could not go to sea during stormy weather. A quarter of an acre of land was not sufficient for him, and he ought at least to have enough land to keep a cow. He was aware that in many districts the poor children got no milk at all, and these people ought to have sufficient land to enable the crofter or the crofter fisherman to keep a cow, in order that he might have butter and cheese and milk for his children. At the present time in some places they had to go miles for milk, and if the farmer had a grudge against any particular persons he would not let them have any milk at all. The hon. Member opposite had referred to goats, and he should like to find out whether goats were likely to thrive in those parts of the congested districts. He wished to point out that while the Congested Districts Board had no power to construct railways they could construct roads and arrange for the running of motor-cars, thus providing transport facilities which would be an undoubted advantage to many parts of the Western Highlands. He advised them to make experiments with motor-cars with a view of opening up the Highland districts.
The Report which had been presented to the House was a very full one but it was full of very stale matter. It 584 contained a good deal of what had happened from the first day that the Congested Districts Board was formed. A history of that kind was not wanted every year, and all they required was an account of what had been done during the past twelve months. He was glad to notice that the Report showed that the Congested Districts Board had displayed a little more energy this year, and the slightest advance in that respect was most acceptable. He deeply regretted that more had not been done for the people living in the Island of Lewis. What had been done there? Why only one small farm, providing for some thirty-two crofters, had been purchased, but more ought to be done in a district where there was such awful congestion. There was urgent necessity for the provision of more land for crofters' holdings in the Island of Lewis, where there was, at the present time, one farm six miles square right in the midst of all this congestion. That was a state of things which ought not to be allowed to exist. They had been told that the Highland landlords were ready to sell their land, but he denied it, and he should be only too pleased if the Congested Districts Board would personally interview the Highland landlords. Some time ago a circular was sent out to the landlords and when he was told that negotiations were pending he had always awaited the result. It was very unsatisfactory to find so many cases where they heard no more about the negotiations. In his own constituency he knew that the landlords had not responded to the circular letter sent out by the Congested Districts Board, and he wished to know if the Board had followed that circular up. The constituency of his hon. friend the Member for Argyllshire was practically in the same position as his own constituency. What right had those who drew up the Report to cast a slur on Members of this House by saying that they stood in the way of the Government passing the Bill to amend the Congested District Act? Members representing the Highlands never stood in the way of the Bill being advanced. His fear was that it would be allowed to slide for another year just as it had been allowed to slide for the last three years.
§ MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
said there was nothing in the Report casting a slur on the Members of this House.
§ * MR. WEIR
said the statement to which he referred might be in the appendix, but there was certainly a statement somewhere in the document to the effect that hon. Members had not allowed the Bill to go through. He urged the right hon. Gentleman to go ahead with the Bill. His tear was that this would not be done.
§ * MR. WEIR
said he should not have touched on this matter but for the reference to it in the Report. He had no doubt the Secretary for Scotland would tike the hint and push matters forward. As to marine works not a penny had been expended in his constituency, and he thought the Congested Districts Board might take this matter into consideration and set aside a sum of money for the purpose. For the year 1903–4 the sum of £2,700 was put down for the Gravir and Cromore Road, but not a penny of that money had been parted with. The Report stated that the amount had been cancelled. What did that mean? He was sure the right hon. Gentleman had no desire to mislead the Committee, but this item had been very much muddled. The amount for "miscellaneous works" was £2,818, and of that sum the large county of Ross only received £167. He should like to know whether any steps had been taken to finish the road which had been in hand so long between Carloway and Stornowav. That road would provide a means of communication from the western to the eastern side of the Island of Lewis which would be of much service for the conveyance of fish caught on the Western Coast. The road was made for two-thirds of the distance, and he did not understand why it was not completed. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would see that something was done without further delay. As to the purchase of land in Skye by the Congested Districts Board from the trustees of the late George Alexander Baird, he found that the approval of the Court of Chancery had 586 not yet been obtained. Was this matter likely to hang in the Courts for months, or perhaps years? It had taken six years to get a small farm of 254 acres, in the Island of Lewis, where the people were living under the most awful conditions. In regard to the twenty-nine quarter-acre feus which had been secured, near Stornoway, he was told every year that the houses would soon be constructed but not one of them had yet been built. What was the cause of this delay? A good deal of land had been secured in Invernessshire. On what terms were the people to get these holdings? If they were to be on lease the same trouble would arise which had been felt in days gone by. The tenant at the end of the lease would run the risk of being thrust out of his home after spending his all on the holding. The lease system was a bad one. There were, no doubt, some good landlords, but there were also bad ones. One bad landlord could do no end of mischief in a countryside. The present landlord might be a very good man but his successor might be a tyrant.
Then they had the old story of the bees and poultry. The people wanted some instruction in bee-keeping; it was not enough to send them a bee-hive. And it was the same in regard to poultry-keeping. He would be delighted if large supplies of eggs and chickens and honey could be obtained from the Highland crofters; but the Congested Districts Board would never do any good until they realised the fact that the crofters needed instruction. That was what was done in Ireland. He would be glad if the Board would continue to make grants for roads, because the new Education Fund would swallow up the money from the Equivalent Grant which had hitherto been devoted to the construction and maintenance of foot path and foot-bridges. The people were too poor to provide roads and pathways for themselves. He was thinking of the poor children who had to go over rough moors to school; and unless the pathways were maintained, the children, especially in winter, would not be able to attend school. The Board in their Report said that they had not added any parish to the congested area within the year. They ought to be ashamed of themselves, and of the hard-and-fast 587 rules that they had made. He could not understand the rules as to the repayment of the price for seed potatoes. The people had paid for the seeds they had got before, and why could not the Board continue to supply this seed in these bad times? The people showed they were quite willing and anxious to make repayment. There was a paragraph about fishermen's dwellings, but he insisted that unless the cottages were provided with more than a quarter-acre lot the scheme would not be a success. In regard to loans for the purchase of boats, the Report stated that it was a question whether the advances should be made by the Government or by private persons. He knew a gentleman in the Island of Lewis, Mr. E. Mackenzie, shipbuilder, who had nobly come to the front and built boats for the fishermen, and fitted them out. That gentleman was getting his money back, but he could not extend these facilities, as he is not a millionaire. The advances should be made by the Congested Districts Board, and he was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland was prepared to approach the Treasury and ask for an advance of money to the fishermen for better and larger boats. The fishermen were decent, honest, genuine, hardworking fellows, and were anxious to pay their debts. They were not schemers or swindlers. He hoped the Secretary for Scotland would not regard for a moment the remarks of men who knew absolutely nothing about the conditions of these people. They might want those fishermen some day; and the Congested Districts Board ought to realise the importance of the, fishing industry. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would do something to reform the Congested Districts Board. He would support the suggestion of his hon. friends that the work of the Board should be handed over to the Crofter Commission, which had done such excellent work and which had proved a godsend to the people.
§ COLONEL DENNY (Kilmarnock Burghs)
said that in districts where poverty existed there was a keen desire on the part of the younger members of the community to improve their position and in many cases to learn trades. A society of which he was cognisant encouraged 588 boys to leave their homes in the High lands and become apprentices to firms in the South. The firms could not give them higher wages than were given to other apprentices, and the society subsidised the boys to a small extent by making up the difference between their wages and the cost of living. It was quite evident that a very fine class of workmen could be drawn from those districts; and, in that way, not only would the industry of tire country be improved but a great deal would be done to remove congestion and poverty in the Highlands. If the Secretary for Scotland could make known that the Congested Districts Board would advance the small amount necessary to supplement the wages paid to those apprentices until they received wages large enough to support themselves, he would be doing a great deal to help the smarter lads in the Highlands; and, at the same time, would materially assist the labour market. He knew from his own experience that such a scheme would be largely utilised and he would suggest to the Secretary for Scotland that it should be adopted.
§ * MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
said that the discussion was now a considerable time in progress. It was commenced by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, who asked in particular some question about a road. He would make inquiries into the matter; but the hon. Gentleman could not expect him to sort of honour cheques, according to his own account of the story, of some local gentlemen who first voted for and then against the hon. Gentleman. That change was probably due to the hon. Gentleman himself rather than to the unfortunate landed proprietor; and was one of the disadvantages of sitting alternately on both sides of the House. The matter of the sea-fishing regulations had not been lost sight of, and he was prepared to carry out the pledge of his predecessor, Lord Balfour of Burleigh. The matter was actually in the hands of the Department of Woods and Forests, and was complicated by the legal question which was now raised as to whether the Crown had in Orkney and Shetland the same rights with reference to salmonidae in Orkney and Shetland as they had in other parts of Scotland. That depended on whether 589 the law had a different application, and whether the old Scottish statutes were or were not held to include the question. He believed that a test question was to be raised, and it was quite obvious that until the question was settled it would be quite impossible for the Crown to make arrangements, when, as a matter of fact, they might not have the necessary authority. He acknowledged with great pleasure the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, because he gave very generous, though he was was sorry to say somewhat tardy, recognition on the part of others of the noble efforts of Lady Gordon Cathcart. He was glad the spirit with which that lady had been actuated had at last been freely acknowledged.
He had the pleasure of listening for a considerable period to his hon. friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty. The hon. Member was in a scriptural vein and complained that he had to wait as long for his improvements as Jacob waited for a wife, and he said that the landlords were like Pharaoh and hardened their hearts. He had seen the hon. Gentleman before in this rôle of a grumbling Moses, and he was not very much disturbed thereby. He was, however, somewhat astonished at the speech of the hon. Member for Inverness-shire. On other occasions in past years he acknowledged that the hon. Member took a sober and sane view of the operations of the Congested Districts Board; but on this occasion his speech was marked by querulousness and unreasonableness that was quite foreign to his ordinary speeches in the House. The hon. Gentleman summed up the situation after reading the Report of the Board that he found little new and very little done. That was an assertion which he would leave anyone who had read the Report to deal with. It was perfectly certain that during the last two months, apart from anything else, they had bought land to the value of £100,000. That was a thing which hon. Members opposite had been asking for for years, and he quite understood, without claiming any credit for himself, that the action of the Board in that respect had the support and approval of hon. Members opposite. He was not going to take any credit to himself which he did not 590 deserve. He had not inaugurated a new policy or changed what his noble predecessor did before. It was only owing to the prudent disposition of Lord Balfour of Burleigh and the way in which he managed the finances of the Board during its early years in order to effect those purchases. Year after year hon. Members opposite used to point to the large balances at the credit of the Board and he himself had often to express an opinion how exceedingly unreasonable those criticisms were. If he might say so without offence, hon. Members opposite were like children who wanted to see a plant growing before their very eyes. The full measure of the prudence displayed by Lord Balfour of Burleigh had only been really shown in its true proportions this year. What were the facts? He would pass over the purchase of Glen-dale Estate, but hon. Members would know very well that probably there was no part of Scotland in which they could have acted better in putting the lands in the control of the occupants and allaying passions which in the past had given trouble to many. It was well known to Members that this was the head of the unfortunate agitation which occurred many years ago, and he was very glad to be able to make that purchase. The other purchase was much more important, viz., the Kilmuir Estate. According to competent authorities that was one of the very best estates for the purpose of crofter settlement that could have been acquired, and it was not because it was in Inverness and not in Ross that it was acquired, but because it was such a good estate. He thought it was rather ungrateful that the hon. Member for Inverness had told the Committee the talc of woe he did.
§ * MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
said that the hon. Gentleman wanted the Board to spend all their money on land purchase and give him everything else he wanted as well. As a matter of fact negotiations for the purchase of the estate were undertaken some years ago during the tenure of office of his noble friend. They had not then sufficient money to purchase the whole estate and the proprietor quite rightly declined to sell a portion of it 591 Now owing to their larger resources they had been able to buy the whole estate en bloc when it came into the market and to make what he believed to be a very good bargain. But that sort of thing could not have been done if Lord Balfour had listened to and dealt with the complaints made year after year that the Congested Districts Board had done nothing but sit with its hands in its pockets, because there would never have been a balance to make a really good bargain when opportunity arose.
§ * MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
I will come to that in a moment. Continuing, the right hon. Gentleman said on the general policy he might say he had at last redeemed the Congested Districts Board from the opprobrium which had always fallen upon it before for having every desire to burke land purchase. He had not changed the policy of Lord Balfour, who would, had he remained in office three months longer, have carried though the purchase which had taken place. But so far as the Congested Districts Board was concerned in doing good for the people, he held that land purchase, though a great object, was not the main object of the Board, and for carrying into the country the means and capacity of' improvement and self-help more would be done in the long run by other things than by land purchase. Land purchase would never do more than touch the fringe of the question, and there could be no better illustration of this than the state of the Island of Lewis, which was the most congested spot in the Western Highlands. If all the land was taken away and given to the inhabitants to-morrow Lewis would be just as congested on the day after as it was to-day. Until sub-squatting was absolutely prohibited congestion would never be got rid of With regard to the interpolation of the hon. Member for Inverness-shire it was no part of his (Mr. Graham Murray's) business to detract from any praise the hon. Member had given to the Irish Congested Districts Board, but when the hon. Member came to establish his illustration he signally failed. One must judge people by their 592 resources, and the Congested Districts Board of Ireland had twice the income of the Scottish Board, besides which it had two enormous funds, which Scotland had not, on which to borrow. It had an unlimited fund so far as land purchase was concerned, and for other purposes it had a fund on which to borrow of £1,500,000. What was the use of comparing the actual output so to speak of the work of those two bodies whose resources showed so great a disparity? In the catalogue of the various thing? which the Irish Congested Districts Board did, with which the hon. Gentleman favoured the Committee, there were many things actually outside the power of the Scottish Board. The hon. Member had made a great point of what the Irish Congested Districts Board had done for the Irish fisheries, which was about as bad an illustration as the hon. Gentleman could take. Until a few years ago the knowledge of the proper methods of fishing was in a very unsatisfactory state, and the operations of the Irish Congested Districts Board was of an educational character, and the hon. Member reached the height of absurdity when he suggested that the methods of the Irish Congested Districts Board should be copied in that matter. The hon. Member for Invernessshire surely could not have read page 24 of the Report with regard to this.
§ And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee Report Progress; to sit again this evening