§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ 29. "That a sum, not exceeding £99,580, 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, 1913, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland." [Note.—£110,000 has been voted on account.]
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee that I should open this Debate, but I will do so as briefly as possible, and I hope the Committee will not suppose that the brevity of my speech is any indication of my view as to the importance of the subject. The Scottish Board of Agriculture has been in existence only between three and four months. It was constituted to carry on the work formerly carried on throughout Scotland by the English Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the work of the Congested Districts Board, and to deal with the Small Landholders Act. I propose to speak first about the new work undertaken by the Board, and then to refer briefly to the policy which the Board has adopted in regard to the old work as far as it has had time to adopt a policy. I am glad to inform the Committee that the applications for small holdings have been not only numerous but satisfactory. Up to 13th July, 2,344 men have applied for new holdings, and S16 for enlargements, making a total of 3,160. The Commissioners and Sub-Commissioners have visited nine counties, namely, Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, Inverness, Peebles, Argyll, Renfrew, Ayr, and Dumfries, and 1062 their report is that five-sixths of the applicants are, as they put it, intelligent and industrious men. I think that is entirely satisfactory. They have interviewed about 700 applicants, so that they have taken a very fair average. It is quite true that a large number of applications have come from the Highland than from the Lowland counties. That is, I think, what one would have expected. The Highland counties are accustomed to the crofter tenure, while many of the Lowlanders who may be suitable have other occupations which prevent their making speedy application. But there is no doubt that interest in the subject is rapidly spreading through Scotland. While the number of the applications and the fact that so large a proportion of them are satisfactory is most encouraging, it makes those who are responsible think of the funds at their disposal. The majority of the Committee will probably agree with me that in apportioning the funds at the disposal of the Board of Agriculture we must not forget this important new duty of putting the small holders on the land of Scotland. As I said, in reply to a question the other day, I regard that as having a primary claim on the funds. The Board of Agriculture has other demands upon its funds. It has to carry on the work which the English Board has done. It has to carry on the work of agricultural education, but the funds for that will largely come from the same source as when it was in the hands of the Education Department.
As to the old work of the Board, the new Board believes that by the closer touch with Scottish agriculture and the greater local knowledge which they will possess as compared with the English Board, they may be able to extend its useful activities. They have been considering carefully the question of improving livestock. Last year a Grant was given to the whole country by 1063 the Development Commission for light-horse breeding. The English Board is still administering that, but, of course, the duty will fall into the hands of the Scottish Board of Agriculture. They attach a good deal of importance to the breeding of Highland ponies, which are most useful for the small landholders. They also propose to deal with the breed of Shetland ponies. There is one subject of importance to all farmers, and that is the question of poultry, and for that they are hoping to get a Grant from the Development Commissioners. Then they feel that the breeding of pigs is a matter on which Scotland is not so advanced as England and Ireland, and they hope it may be possible to find money for that purpose. I am afraid, therefore, the demands for money are likely to be very extensive. There is also the question of the special education of the small landholders. I hope that that matter will appeal to the Development Commissioners. Then there is the question of research into various methods of agriculture, and, finally, there is a question which causes a great deal of interest among right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, that of forestry.
I want to say exactly what we have done in that matter and how it stands. I have recently appointed an Advisory Committee to advise the Board of Agriculture on all matters connected with forestry, and I think it would be extremely improper if I were to try and sketch out a policy before this Advisory Committee has had an opportunity of expressing any opinion on the subject. I know it has been suggested we ought already to have made application to the Development Commissioners. Of course, those Commissioners are perfectly aware that if England gets a Grant for this purpose Scotland will want one also. But it is suggested we should have made formal application to the Development Commissioners and should have started a staff. That is, I think, an unreasonable view to take. As we have appointed gentlemen well acquainted with the needs of forestry, and who have taken an interest in the subject for many years, to advise us on the subject, it is only right that we should await their opinion. It is plain that if we are to have a satisfactory development of forestry in Scotland, if we are to have a demonstration area, the money cannot be procured out of the £200,000 a year which is granted for the purposes of agriculture. It is right I 1064 should say that definitely. I do not mean to convey the idea that nothing is to come out of that sum, but hon. Members must understand if there is to be any large development of forestry, and if an adequate demonstration area is to be provided, then money must be found from some other source. I have every hope and expectation that the Development Commissioners will deal as generously with Scotland as with England. We have very great claims upon them in this respect, because there is a great deal of land in Scotland suitable for forestry. Our claims are probably stronger than even those of England.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
Is it the view of the right hon. Gentleman that none of this money should be devoted to the promotion of a demonstration area?
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I think it must appear to my hon. Friend that the cost of the demonstration area would represent a very large sum, probably half a year's income, and it would be impossible to get any such Grant out of the Agricultural Fund without neglecting what I cannot help regarding as a primary duty, the provision of small holdings. I wish to say nothing disparaging of sylvi-culture, but it is a matter which it takes a great many years to develop, whereas this work of small holdings is work we can do immediately; it is work crying to be done, and it is work that Parliament has placed on us the duty of carrying out. As time is short, and as I think I should be dealing unfairly with Members of the Committee who wish to speak, if I were to enter into a discussion of other matters, I will content myself with having explained what our view is about the new work falling upon the Board of Agriculture, and the way in which we are setting about to fulfil the general duties inherited by that Board from one authority or another.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Board have yet had time to deal with any of the applications for small holdings either in the way of granting them or refusing them?
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
That I cannot tell you. I would not like to say that any of the cases have been finally settled.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
Of course any cases that have been settled would have been by voluntary arrangement.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I have no intention of moving anything at the end of my observations, but I wish to enter a protest against the manner in which the Secretary for Scotland is carrying on the Board of Agriculture in Scotland. In whatever I say in regard to small holdings, or otherwise, I do not wish hon. Members to think that I am against the principle of small holdings. I merely wish to discuss the action of the Board of Agriculture itself. We have to remember that this Board was originally set up, thanks to various memorials from hon. Members opposite, memorials which I believe the hon. Member for Forfarshire signed with more success perhaps than the last one, although, I confess, it does seem strange to me that a solicitor should sign papers without knowing what is in them.
§ Mr. FALCONER
I did not say I had signed any paper without knowing what was in it. I said I thoroughly understood what was in it, but I had changed my mind. The Noble Lord would do well not to make such insinuations. I am not ashamed of having changed my mind. This occurred in 1909, and since then circumstances have altered. Scottish Home Rule is much nearer, and my opinions have changed.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I really think we have had enough explanation. The hon. Member has made his position perfectly clear, and I will ask the Noble Lord to confine himself strictly to the Vote.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I wish to make no reflection on the hon. Member. I quite understand that he signed the memorial without invitation. With regard to the £200,000 set apart for 1066 the purpose of constituting this Board, I presume one of the first charges will be for salaries. A comparatively large staff has been appointed, and possibly more may be required, but, apparently, their whole energies have been confined to carrying out the Radical propaganda of small holdings in Scotland. There ought surely to be on that staff men who are experts not only in small holdings, but on agriculture generally, on technical matters, as well as the creation of small holdings, and on questions such as forestry. I know perfectly well there are certain experts of that sort upon the Board, and surely the whole of their energies ought not to be taken up on merely an administrative part of their work, so far as the Small Holdings Act is concerned. A few of the experts on the Board should be sufficient to carry on the work of the small holdings, and the others ought to be engaged in preparing for the other duties which this Board has to undertake. A properly run Department would have been departmentalised, with experts for each subject that came within the jurisdiction of the Board. Apparently that has not been done. The whole of the money has been spent in one direction, possibly in a direction where most votes are to be obtained. They have not even issued a single leaflet from the Board dealing with anything except small holdings, and I think it was a little humiliating, so far as the Scottish Board is concerned, that the hon. Member for Orkney should have asked the Secretary for Scotland if he would mind begging a few leaflets from the English Board for circulation in Scotland. No doubt they are very valuable leaflets, but if they are equally good for Scotland it seems absurd we should have gone to the expense of setting up a special Board of Agriculture for Scotland.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
Some one, at any rate, suggested that some of the English leaflets might be sent round. Now I come to the staff of the Board. We find that forty-six men have been appointed whose salaries exceed £8,000 a year. I wish to ask some question with regard to these appointments. Many of the gentlemen are personal friends of my own, and I am casting no reflection of any 1067 sort upon them. It is merely a matter of administration and public economy that I desire to raise. First we see that Mr. Thomas Wilson, a sub-Commissioner for small holdings —a class on a scale rising from £500 to £700—enters the employment of the Board at £700. Why does he come in at £700 when another and, I presume, an equally good man—Mr. A. Macintosh— enters at £550, although he is on the same scale. It seems rather curious. Then I would like to know why the superintendent of poultry is to start at a salary of £500, although the Board apparently considers £350 is enough for the starting point of that class. There are, too, a lot of clerks. I would like to know how many of these gentlemen were Civil servants before they entered the service of the Board, and how many were not. I know nothing about these matters. I come next to the case of a man named Nash. He starts at 14s. a week and can rise to 18s. I hope he is not the only Tory appointed by the Board. These are a few of the questions I would like to ask. Then we come to Mr. McTavish's appointment. He is entrusted, I believe, with the position of custodian of the rolls, and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, this gentleman was only an ordinary clerk and that he was not in the least responsible for the appointment, it seems to me that an important appointment such as the custodian of the rolls should be made by the Secretary for Scotland. I should like to know what salary the custodian of the rolls has and if he gives his whole time to his work. If. as I understand, he is a well-known legal gentleman who is particularly fitted for this work, then I do not really see, unless he gives the whole of his time to the Scottish Office, why he should be paid a salary amounting to £200 a year, and I want to know if this money would not be better employed as payment to a clerk instead of paying more money into a lawyer's office. I want to say a word now with regard to afforestation in Scotland. There have been three elections and in them the one cry from the Radical party in Scotland was with regard to afforestation, but they have not done a single thing for it since. Hon. Members go up into the country and talk a great deal about every acre of land bringing in one pound, but they come down here and do absolutely nothing for afforestation. They 1068 talked a lot about afforestation three years ago, but the Secretary for Scotland has done nothing in all that period. I have correspondence here between the Royal Arboricultural Society and the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor. May I have the right hon. Gentleman's attention for a moment?
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I am very glad, for I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman why, when his predecessor informed the Royal Arboriculcultural Society that there should be a separate Department under the Bill setting up the Board of Agriculture for Scotland to deal with afforestation, he has not kept the promise of his predecessor. I can show the right hon. Gentleman in writing from his own office that that promise was made. Now we are told when it comes to the question of the Department there is not enough money, and we find the other day when the unfulfilled hopes were exposed at last that Sir Robert Wright used words to this effect, that he was very sorry, but he did not think there was any use asking his Department for money for afforestation, because they wanted to spend most of the money on small holdings.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I cannot put my hands on the actual words at the moment. The Member for Ross and Cromarty gets up and says they have only enough money for small holdings, but how can you have small holdings in barren places where there is no game unless you have afforestation?
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
Yes, but under the new regime you do not have them. The old days were very different from what they are now. I do not suppose the hon. Gentleman wants the crofters to go back to what he calls the old days. What we want to see is afforestation carried out in districts suitable for it, where you must have, in addition to small holdings, something to keep a man alive. A small holder is not a landholder in one sense. He has to work, and if you do not give him subsidiary employment you will go on dribbling out small sums but you will not do any good.
The Noble Lord has a complaint to make, because he asserts that the Liberal party proposed three years ago to do a great deal for afforestation and that they have not yet carried out what was promised at that time. I would remind the Noble Lord that but for the fact that he and the party to which he belongs delayed for a considerable period the Bill which set up the Board of Agriculture, which in part proposed to deal with the question of afforestation, but for that delay the Noble Lord's wishes would be carried out.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman mean that the Department of Afforestation is abandoned?
One of the problems with which the Scottish Board of Agriculture have to deal is that of afforestation for Scotland. I do not propose to follow the Noble Lord in his indictment against the administration of the Scottish Board of Agriculture. I do, however, wish to say one or two words in regard to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Scotland. I think it is a very gratifying fact that the number of applications for small holdings in Scotland have been as large as the right hon. Gentleman indicated, and I for one welcome his declaration that the primary claim upon the funds at the disposal of the Scottish Board are those coming from small holders proposed to be set up upon the land. I quite agree that a certain proportion of this money should be set aside for afforestation, but I do urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that the sum, being a small one, his first duty and primary object must be to create as many new holdings as possible within a short space of time, and that what I may call this subsidiary occupation for the small holders must eventually be connected with and come after that which is the primary obligation upon the Board. The right hon. Gentleman referred to Grants which he proposed to apply from the Development Commission in order to improve the breed of livestock and various other purposes, such as poultry. I noticed the right hon. Gentleman said nothing about bees, and I hope he has not forgotten the bee industry. It is a very important industry in Scotland. It is a very great and excellent industry as a subsidiary industry to occupy the time and attention of the small holders, and I do urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that in applying for a Grant for the other 1070 purposes to which he has alluded he should not allow the bee industry to escape his attention.
There is only one further point on which I desire to touch. I desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is satisfied in his own mind that the present staff of the Scottish Board of Agriculture is adequate to deal with the applications not only now coming in, but which must come in in increasing numbers in the near future. I am not myself satisfied that the present staff can cope with the applications as rapidly as they ought to be able to do. I am not going to-night to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman any method which he might adopt in order to bring about a more satisfactory state of affairs in this connection, but I am inclined to think that the Scottish Board, sitting as they must do in Edinburgh, dealing with these very numerous applications are not sufficiently in touch with the country districts from which applications come, and cannot in the conditions under which they work have the knowledge they ought to have of the land that is required in the various districts from which applications come and the various questions appertaining to the problem. I do hope the right hon. Gentleman will take these two points into consideration, and that he will direct inquiry very closely into the rapidity with which these applications are dealt and see whether the present staff are able, as I do not think they are able, adequately to cope with the applications coming in.
§ Captain GILMOUR
I believe this discussion will produce at least one result in Scotland, and that is that it will make perfectly clear to those who are interested in agriculture and the general pursuit of the farming industry in that country that so far as their interests are concerned the Board of Agriculture which has been set up in Scotland is not in any sense applying itself towards those interests, and so far as one can judge from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Scotland, and indeed the remarks that have fallen from other hon. Gentlemen, do not intend to pay much attention to those interests. I think that is altogether a lamentable position, and I venture to say at no time in the history of agriculture in Scotland has that industry been placed in a more disadvantageous position in so far as it has anything to do with a Government Department than at the present time. It is true that hon. Members who supported the 1071 Small Holdings Act made no secret of the fact that their main object was to set up small holdings, and to say that the whole of the agricultural industries in Scotland is to be subjected to treatment such as is meted out at the present moment can but offer small prospect of improvement of the land of Scotland.
§ Captain GILMOUR
I think it is very evident from the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has made to-day when he confined the great bulk of his remarks to what the Board were going to do to set up small holdings and that the bulk of the money placed at the disposal of the Board of Agriculture was to be set aside for small holdings. What is to happen to agriculture in Scotland if the greater amount of the £200,000 is to be devoted for that purpose? And under what pretext and under what pretence does he profess that this Board of Agriculture is to deal with anything else but small holdings, and if he is honest about the matter why does he not say that it is a provision for small holdings and nothing else? Really I cannot imagine anything more absurd, when we are told that so far as the industry of the horse breeding in Scotland is concerned, it is to be dealt with by this Grant. Where is the money to come from? We are going to get a very small amount. My Noble Friend the Member for West Perthshire (the Marquess of Tullibardine) has already pointed out that it is quite evident that forestry is to get practically nothing from the Board of Agriculture, and he based that assertion on the statement made by Sir Robert Wright in the "British Agriculturist" of 13th June, in which he wrote:—He warned the council that the resources of the Board would be very severely taxed to meet the demand necessary for the establishment of small holdings in Scotland, and therefore they need not expect much financial support from the Hoard's only Grant.So far as forestry is concerned, it is clear that unless a very considerable Grant is received from the Commissioners, nothing can be accomplished. The pretext of delay which is put forward is altogether unsound. It is a matter which has been under consideration so long that it is merely a pretext, because the right hon. Gentleman cannot, or will not, procure the necessary funds. I cannot go into many of the points which have been raised by 1072 the right hon. Gentleman, but it appears to me to be a disastrous policy, in so far that you have set up a Board of Agriculture which in staff is inadequate to deal with all the interests it has to cope with. You have squandered the greater part of the money in large salaries to those who hold office, and however excellent they may be, I venture to say there are many of them upon whose appointments agriculturists in Scotland look with a certain amount of suspicion. Be that as it may, it will remain for the right hon. Gentleman and his Department to prove to the agriculturists of Scotland during the next few months that they are going to do something for agriculture and not for a political propaganda. What is the policy which the Board of Agriculture in Scotland, represented by Sir Robert Wright, propose to adopt with regard to the position of the agricultural colleges in Scotland? It is far too big a subject to go into now in any detail, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make some statement as to the policy he intends to pursue. At present, so far as I can judge, the official Board of Agriculture has fallen foul of two, at least, of the important agricultural colleges in Scotland, and it is very desirable, if the work of these colleges is to be carried on satisfactorily, that we should know, and they should know, exactly where we are. I have yet to be convinced that the agricultural interests of Scotland have any hope of suitable attention being given to them, either in regard to stock raising or stock breeding, because I am convinced that under the present regime the whole energies of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Department and those under him, are devoted to the propagation of small holdings which, however excellent in themselves, are not by any means the most important of the greater part of the agricultural interests of Scotland.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I have listened with interest to the statement which has been made by the Secretary for Scotland with regard to the working of the Small Landholders Act. I feel proud that my county should have applied for more than 46,000 acres of land. I am astonished at the remark made by the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire, who seems to think that above all else afforestation is a thing that ought to be supported with part of the Grant with which we are now dealing.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I think it is much more in the interests of Scotland that we should have men on the land instead of trees. We have had a land agitation in Scotland for twenty-six years, and during that time the people have been demanding small holdings. The Noble Lord the Member for West Perthshire has admitted that there has been an agitation for afforestation for three years only. In regard to this small sum of £200,000, as Sir Robert Wright has pointed out, we shall find our resources taxed. If that is so, it is a sign of the efficient legislative power of the present Government. We knew there was a demand for small holdings in Scotland, and the Government made a Grant of £200,000. It is admitted that it is essential to have more men on the land in Scotland, and the only way to achieve that is to have more small holdings. The sum of £200,000 for small holdings is small enough, and I hope the day will come when we shall have as much as £500,000 for this purpose.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I quite agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Kincar-dineshire. We hear a good deal of talk about an Empire, but what is the good of it if you have not got the men to fight for you? It has always been proved that the men who can do that are those who are born and bred on the small holdings in Scotland. It is far too early in the day for hon. Members opposite to stand up and suggest that the first claim upon this small Grant of £200,000 should be for afforestation.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
That may be important to agriculturists in Scotland, but at the present time there is really no demand for afforestation in Scotland. I know there are some who have advocated it in foul and fair weather, but if you consult the constituencies in Scotland you will find that there is little interest taken in afforestation. I agree with what the previous speaker said with regard to the importance of light-horse breeding, and I regret that there is not a single representative of light-horse breeding on the Commission representing the counties of Scotland North of Nairn, where some of our finest horse breeders live, and where the finest horses are produced. I think it is a shame that such fine judges of light-horse breeding as those who live in 1074 those counties should not be represented upon the Commission. I will conclude by congratulating the Secretary for Scotland on being able to give us such a satisfactory statement so early in the working of the Act.
§ Mr. HARRY HOPE
I think it is quite unreasonable to expect in the three months which the Agricultural Board has been in existence that any very great amount of work could be done in that time. We on these benches, as well as hon. Members opposite, desire to congratulate the Secretary for Scotland on the fact that so many applications have been made for small holdings. On this side of the House we have always been in favour of facilities being granted for small holdings. When we think of that melancholy emigration which has been going on from Scotland for many years, naturally we desire to associate ourselves with any policy which will tend to keep the men on the land. Personally I take no exception to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the primary object of the expenditure of this money is to enable small holders to be put on the land in Scotland. I consider he is right in making that statement, but that is not all the case. I think, however, that my hon. Friend was well justified in making out a very strong case for money being spent on afforestation. It is not enough simply to provide a man with land, because he requires facilities for working, and experience is necessary for success. I think the small holder can make a living out of his land, and he will do it all the readier if my right hon. Friend adopts some of the suggestions which have been made. We want to see technical instruction in agriculture carried on in all its branches. We know that the small holder can only succeed if he develops his business and adopts all possible improvements. As regards the poultry industry, if the small holder breeds the most simple kind of poultry and grades his produce in a manner similar to foreign competitors, and thereby obtains the best possible price in our own markets, he will have a better chance of succeeding. In other branches of industry we know that small holders can make increased profits if he profits by what science can teach. We all know that science has aided agriculture to develop enormously in all foreign countries, and also in our Colonies, and we desire to see that same good work done here at home. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, if he is in the same place next year, will make a report for the whole year of the work of 1075 his Department, and I trust he will be able to tell us that, not only have many small holdings been created and men put on the land, but also that he has carried on an organisation to enable them and others in the industry to make the most profit and to profit by the good work that has been done elsewhere.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
With regard to small holdings there is no doubt whatever that a good beginning has been made in Scotland. When you look at this Vote, I think you will see that this sum of £185,000 is a very peculiar Grant. I notice that the Grant-in-Aid will not be subject to the control of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, nor will the unexpended balance be surrendered at the close of the year. Notwithstanding what my hon. Friend said, I think that while the small holdings are the principal thing afforestation is a great help and ought not to be neglected. I think the Noble Lord was somewhat wrong in saying nothing had been done, because a Commission was appointed and went through Europe, or, at all events, through Germany. I had the pleasure of speaking to one of them on his return, and he said it was a great experience for him and an eye-opener to see the splendid condition in which the Germans kept their forests and developed them. He was perfectly certain it would be a great help to Scotland if we could start the same thing. I have no doubt whatever that when the end of the year comes, or, at all events, when the first six months are over, they will see they will not require all this sum for small holdings, and they will be able to devote part of it to afforestation. Something further has been done. My right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland must know a Committee has been appointed to arrange for selecting places where afforestation should be carried out. I have no doubt that in a very short time they will make their Report, and I should like in the coming year to see a beginning made in this most important branch of industry.
The hon. Member for Renfrewshire (Captain Gilmour) said the new Agricultural Board, which had given to it the command of the agricultural colleges, was rather running foul of some of the colleges. I believe that is so. I must say my right hon. Friend's predecessor led me and 1076 others to understand these colleges would not be under the power of the Agricultural Board. It appears, however, they are, and I think it is somewhat unfortunate, because these colleges have made great efforts and have done a very great deal, and I think it would be a very great pity if the good work they are doing is interfered with by a new broom which comes in and tries to sweep clean. I am perfectly certain the members of this Agricultural Board do not know so much about some of these subjects as the men in the agricultural colleges do. I hope my right hon. Friend will see these men on the Agricultural Board do not run roughshod over these agricultural colleges, but that he will put a restraint on them somehow or other and make them more sympathetic with what has already been done and with what will be done if they move in harmony with the colleges instead of pulling a different way. I hope something will be done out of this Grant for afforestation during the current year. I believe there will be at least £20,000 or £30,000 they will not be able to spend on small holdings during the first year, and, if that be so, some part of it at any rate ought to be spent on afforestation.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I would join with those who have expressed themselves pleased at the number of applications which have been made for small holdings under the Act. I yield to no Member of the House in my keenness in the matter of small holdings, but I think the antagonism which my right hon. Friend suggested between small holdings and the spending of a little money on the promotion of afforestry in Scotland does not exist at all. There is no antagonism between the two. The one is ancillary to the other. I feel bound to express considerable disappointment at the absence of any encouragement of those, and there are a considerable number of us, who are very keen about afforestation in Scotland. The question of afforestation is one of the most important questions that concerns Scotland. It is not foreign from the question of small holdings; it is not foreign from the supreme question of the land; in fact, it is the problem of the land; it is the problem of the right use of the land; it is the problem of the repopulation of the depopulated glens of Scotland. It is the problem of giving to Scotland a new sort of wealth, a large and increasing and unfailing wealth. According to the Report of the Coast Erosion Commission, there 1077 are 6,000,000 acres in Scotland suitable for afforestation.
I daresay those people may be right who suggest that the figure is a little exaggerated, but take it at 5,000,000, or even at a little less than 5,000,000 acres, and you have a quarter of the total surface of Scotland; a quarter of the total area of Scotland; not barren rocks, not the mountain tops, but land actually suitable for afforestation. What is that land used for now? It is used for deer forests; it is used for sporting purposes. It may be used for poor grazing. It is useless to suggest that land is all suitable for small holdings. Some of it may be, but the vast proportion which is suitable for afforestation could not be used for small holdings. It is let now for a mere nominal rent, in many cases for 2s. 6d. an acre, and some of it perhaps for 7s. 6d. per acre. An hon. Friend says much of it is let for less than 2s. 6d. per acre, but I take land which may be let up to 7s. 6d. per acre. That land could be used much more profitably than it is used at present by using it for the purposes of afforestation. Afforestation would create, in the first place, a new sort of wealth for Scotland. In the second place, it would repopulate Scotland. I have only got to go through the Report of the Departmental Committee which was appointed by the Scotch Office last year for confirmation of what I say. There I find it is said:—Land which was afforested would give ten times as much employment as sheep farming, and that figure may be trebled if we add the attendant industries.With a proper scheme of afforestation we could more than double the population of rural Scotland. We could not only check the decline in the population of rural Scotland, but we could commence a steady and growing increase. In the last place, afforestation would powerfully promote small holdings. Small holdings in many parts of Scotland are not economic. They succeed best in many of the fishing districts where there is an ancillary industry. In afforestry you would have a subsidiary industry. They would work in the forests during the winter and on their small holdings in the summer, and you could make small holdings possible and profitable over a large area where at present even with the Grant they are not profitable. You would increase small holdings to an enormous extent. What, then, has been done in vie wof these great possibilities? Two things have been accomplished as the result of great pressure and agitation. In the first place, 1078 there are the Development Commissioners. These Development Commissioners have power to expend money in promoting afforestation. In the second place, you have got the Scotch Board of Agriculture, a Board with a Grant of £200,000 a year, chiefly and primarily, I admit, for the purpose of promoting small holdings, but still definitely and precisely, in so many words in the Act which established that Board, for the purpose also of promoting afforestation. I claim a small portion, a subsidiary portion—a very few thousands would satisfy us—for the promotion of afforestation. The Development Commissioners last year presented a report on the subject. They stated to the Scotch Office what their requirements were. They were three. They will not recommend a Grant from their funds until a detailed scheme for the expenditure of the money is framed and approved. My right hon. Friend had a Departmental Committee to do that very thing, and that Departmental Committee has reported and framed its scheme, and given a detailed estimate of the scheme which is wanted, and which is demanded by the Development Commissioners. What is the reply? The reply is to appoint an Advisory Committee. I have just been reading this Report, and I can give my right hon. Friend the details of the scheme. In the first, place, it recommends a demonstration area of from 4,000 to 10,000 acres.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I will give my right hon. Friend the precise proposal. The precise proposal as a preliminary to this demonstration area, is that he should appoint Commissioners to make a flying survey of Scotland for afforestation purposes. Of course, that is the first preliminary; that is in the Report. There is a full and precise report of the Preliminary steps which would be taken. They would not involve much expenditure; they would only involve the expenditure of a few thousand pounds which could be supplemented by a Grant from the Development Commissioners. Why cannot we get something done on the lines suggested by the Development Commissioners, and on the lines of the scheme framed by the Departmental Committee appointed by the right hon. Gentleman's own office? We do not want to go on having Advisory Committees appointed year after year; we have been doing that for thirty or forty 1079 years. I could name half-a-dozen Commissions which have sat and reported on this subject during the past generation. We have got the machinery created; we have got the Board of Agriculture; we have got the Development Commissioners; we have got a statement by the Development Commissioners of their requirements, and we have got the precise recommendations from his own Departmental Committee, and yet we do not seem to be able to make any move forward. Why cannot we do a little? Why cannot we get a demonstration area on a small scale in Scotland? The right hon. Gentleman said the other day a demonstration area was impossible under present circumstances. I understood him to say that in reply to a question by the hon. Member for Leith Burghs (Mr. Munro-Ferguson).
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
The Inver-leaver Forest is far too small for a proper demonstration area. There are only 300 acres planted.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
Surely it is capable of being used as a demonstration area.
It being a quarter-past Eight of the Clock, and leave having been given to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 10, further proceeding was postponed, without Question put.