Motion made and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £121,181, 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, 1914, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board -of Agriculture for Scotland." [Note.—£110,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. HARRY HOPE rose——
The SECRETARY for SCOTAND (Mr. McKinnon Wood)
I think, perhaps, I need not apologise upon this occasion for offering a few preliminary observations.
§ Earl WINTERTON
On a point of Order. May I ask when my hon. Friend the Member for Bute is called upon and is willing to speak, has the Secretary for Scotland any right to intervene?
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I am quite willing to give way to the hon. Member if he desires, but I think I need not explain why it is desirable on this particular Vote that I should make a few preliminary observations. There are two reasons. We are dealing with a Vote connected with a new institution—a new Board which came into being on the 1st April last year, and which was constituted for two very important objects. One of these was that we might have a Scottish Board of Agriculture acting closely with that great body of Scottish farmers whose known enterprise has earned for them a name all over the world; and the second reason was that we should have a body to deal with the new Small Landholders Act. I think the House will appreciate that a new and important departure in legislation is made by the Small Landholders Act, and even if it was put in charge of a large Department with large staffs there still would be 1248 considerable labour and difficulty on the commencement of so large a piece of work. Naturally there has been criticism and some impatience. I do not complain of that in the least; it indicates keenness to see the Act put into operation with which I entirely sympathise and share. It was perhaps natural that sufficient allowance should not be made for the preliminary work which had to be done by the Board and the large difficulties inherent in the beginning of a new unfamiliar system. There is a great deal to do. The Board during the past year, instead of being slack has been considerably overworked. The first thing it had to do was to create a staff; it had to decide what officials were necessary, and it had to obtain the assent of the Treasury to its proposals. And, in the second place, it had to constitute the machinery necessary for dealing with business complicated by an enormous mass of detail, and, in the third place—and I attach great importance to this—it had to settle the number with which it could proceed in a businesslike way to deal with the applicants and with the acquisition of land in regard to which they were bound by the conditions prescribed by the Act. I clearly recognise that my colleagues from Scotland in this House who had to do with the passing of the Act, who know the conditions well and are most anxious for rapid progress, have very fairly appreciated the conditions of the Board. They have urged two things. First, it was necessary to increase the powers of the Board to deal with applications which amounted to a very large number, and, secondly, they suggested that the time had come when they ought to have more money—frequently a. popular and in this case a very necessary matter.
I have made application to the Treasury for an increase in the staff of the Board, and I am glad to say the Treasury has consented to enlarge the Land Department. There will be one additional Sub-Commissioner and four assistant Sub-Commissioners, so instead of having three officials to interview applicants and to look for suitable land, there will be eight. Of course, the House knows what their duties will be. They will have to interview applicants, to discover and to inspect suitable land, and to deal with all matters connected with the new circumstances, and, in addition to that, the Treasury have sanctioned an additional clerical staff to the number of eleven necessary to supplement the work of these new officers. But, 1249 of course, the matter of the greatest importance and, I think, of the greatest difficulty at the beginning of this work, has been obtaining suitable land. I think hon. Members generally appreciate that; it is not always appreciated outside. I have received two or three letters—I am merely giving extreme cases of lack of appreciation of the difficuties under the Act—in which the writers seem to be under the impression that the Board is neglecting its duty. Half a dozen applicants asking for a farm at the present time want to know why the present occupier is not dispossessed and the applicants established in his place. I regret to say that in some cases these letters are accompanied by expressions of violence. If the Board were to administer the Act in the spirit of some of those writers useful progress could not be made.
Speaking of Scotland as a whole, certainly of great parts of Scotland, the Board has not to deal with vast tracts of vacant land ready for cultivation or unused as in a new country; but for the most part we have to deal with land covered with occupiers already cultivating it, and the immediate removal of whom is not in many eases possible. In the Act the Board are instructed to ascertain what land is falling or about to fall out of lease where the present tenant is not an offerer, and preferably to acquire such land when other wise suitable for the constitution of new holdings. A great deal of land is expressly excluded by the Act. All farms tinder 150 acres or £80 rental are excluded. These are not to be divided. As my colleagues from Scotland know, in many parts of the country there are a very large number of farms to which that condition applies. These are not cases in which I think anybody would advocate robbing Peter to pay Paul. There are a very large number of small holdings in Scotland at the present moment. It has been estimated that there are over 50,000 smaller than those of which I have been speaking, but practically the -kind of farm we are considering when we speak about small holdings. Another condition in the Act is that land subject to leases in force at Whit Sunday, 1911, or in crofting counties at Whit Sunday, 1906, cannot be disturbed. Particular kinds of land are excluded, such as home farms, pleasure grounds, woodland, and grass farms held for the purpose of businesses not primarily agricultural or pastoral.
1250 In some places it cannot be denied that there is not enough suitable land for suitable applicants. There are undoubtedly cases in which migration to another part of Scotland by some of the applicants is the only remedy for the congestion. Another thing which sometimes causes difficulty is that applicants are frequently only willing to take land in a particular small district, and sometimes they demand a particular portion of a farm. Speaking generally, the entry of a new tenant can only be arranged at the term days, Martinmas and Whit Sunday, but the Board have sometimes found that a farm which they knew was becoming vacant at the next term and in regard to which they had actually entered into negotiation for the purpose of creating mill holdings, had been let in advance. That, of course, causes new difficulties in dealing with the matter, and involves expense and compensation to the tenant. These are partly initial difficulties; they are reasons why rapid progress in the first year was not possible; but as time goes on and the Board have an opportunity of acquiring a more complete knowledge in advance of the land available, these difficulties will diminish. The Board are taking steps to acquaint themselves wherever there is a demand for small holdings with the land which will become available. I hope that they will be able to bring into use for small holders land which is not at present cultivated or being used to the best advantage. During the past century large areas under arable cultivation steadily passed into permanent pasture, and a great change took place. I hope we may be able to place many small holders on land of this description. This process will largely increase the number of men maintained upon the soil. As regards deer forests, there are two cases in which owners have offered to negotiate for settlement, and there are several other cases in which negotiations are going on. But, of course, when you are dealing only with a piece of land in the middle of a deer forest, difficult questions of compensation arise, which may make the taking of a small part of a deer forest an extremely costly business. I think that all will admit that there have been serious difficulties in the beginning of the work, and it was really inevitable that progress during the first year should be slow, or at least should appear slow. In future these difficulties will be less, and progress will be more steady and more rapid. I can assure the 1251 House that it is from no lack of keen interest in the development of small holdings and from no slackness in working that delays have arisen.
One unavoidable cause of delay is that in most cases it has been necessary to apply to the Land Court to fix rents, to decide the terms of compensation, or in many cases to give compulsory powers. The procedure of the Land Court must necessarily take a little time. There is the hearing of the case, then the Court or some of its members have to inspect the land, and, finally, a decision has to be arrived at. These three stages cannot possibly be avoided. There is another stage which I confess that I personally regret, namely, the arbitration stage. Where a landlord claims more than £300, instead of being decided by the Land Court, the case goes to an arbitrator. I am afraid that that will be a fruitful cause of delay and expense. However, it is a matter which cannot be avoided. This is not the time to discuss the Land Court, but I may point out in connection with this subject that, apart from the constitution of new holdings, the Court has to deal with the fixing of rents for existing crofters, and with a class created under the Act—the statutory small tenants—both as regards fair rents and increased security of tenure. This is a most valuable and important part of their work. I must acknowledge the readiness of the Court to assist the establishment of new small holdings by dealing with those cases with all the dispatch possible under the procedure of the Act. As to the work that has been done, I must refer the Committee to the figures on page 15 of the Report of the Board. It is there stated that by the end of the year, the Board having been at work nine months, subject to the decision of the Land Court, arrangements had been made to provide for 500 applicants. By the end of the nine months the Board had opened negotiation with proprietors for providing land for 1,000 persons. For various reasons a number of these negotiations had to be abandoned, but I am glad to say in many cases it is not a final abandonment; it is simply a deferment. The information will be useful in future, and will, in many cases, lead to settlement.
Since the date of the Report, a great deal of work has been done. There are many hundreds of cases in various stages of development. Detached figures give 1252 very untrustworthy information in regard to these matters, because there are many stages, and a matter in which a great deal of work has been done, although not complete, may be very near completion. Considering the facts that I have stated, and the difficulties inseparable from the beginning of a new work of such complexity, I submit that the account I have given represents a large amount of work on the part of the Board and its officials. It is reasonable to expect that as time goes on, as both the applicants and landowners and their agents, become familiar with the conditions and working of the Act, a great deal more will be accomplished with the same amount of labour, and naturally, still more with the increased staff which I have obtained. The principles upon which we have to proceed will be more generally understood by all parties. I hope that the friction and opposition which cause delay at the beginning of a new procedure will be diminished. The Board will acquire far greater knowledge of the land available and the need for it. I do not know that we have a right to be surprised that an Act which was very strongly opposed during its passage should not have been very ardently welcomed at first.
§ 4.0 P.M.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
Yes, but the principle of it was not amended. We have had to meet a good deal of unavoidable opposition and delay—at least that we could not avoid. I hope as time goes on that friction will give place to a willingness to work. I am the more hopeful of this because we find that in the crofter districts where the owners and agents are familiar with the crofting practice, that there have been a number of proprietors who already had offered land. I am really hopeful that that spirit will extend throughout Scotland. We are not only anxious—that is, the Board of Agriculture and myself—to find land for small holders but we are equally anxious to assist them to cultivate it successfully; to give them opportunities by practical instruction and demonstration to learn the best methods of cultivation, and also to assist them, for instance, to keep up the quality of the stock, to encourage the breeding of poultry and everything which will make the small holding profitable. Two, questions naturally arise in this connection, that is co-operation and credit banks. I know very well the 1253 importance of the subject of co-operation,-and recognise that co-operation in the purchase of seeds, foodstuffs, and manure, and in the sale of all kinds of farm produce, are most important in the case of small holders. We cannot, of course, expect this to grow to any large extent till we have the small holdings. Our first attention naturally was to them. I do not know that there has been a very great disposition to co-operation in Scotland in the past, but progress is being made. There is a society in Scotland to which the Development Commissioners make an annual Grant—the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society—for the express purpose of promoting co-operation and to assist in the formation of co-operative societies. The Board is the medium through which this Grant is given and is responsible to the Development Commissioners for the proper application of the money. In the past few years no less than ninety-six cooperative societies have been formed in Scotland, chiefly amongst small holders, and new ones are being formed every year. The House may be certain that the work of the co-operative societies will proceed step by step with the establishment of the small holdings so far as the Board are concerned.
§ Mr. BARNES
Does the right hon. Gentleman refer to societies in the agricultural areas alone or to ninety-six societies altogether in Scotland?
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
Purely to the agricultural areas and to the small societies. I am not speaking about the great co-operative societies of Scotland. In regard to credit banks to assist small holders, the Board is at present in communication with certain of the Scottish banks to see if they can secure better credit facilities for co-operative societies and small holders, and the society I have already referred to, the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, and another society recently formed to promote small holdings, are both proposing to try to provide credit banks for the assistance of small holders. Another matter in which the Board is very deeply interested is the encouragement of agricultural education and research, not only in the education given in the three important colleges, 1254 which have been doing excellent work for some years, but the education of the smaller cultivators, which they are anxious to promote by various methods. There are, for example, local co-operative societies dealing with questions like that of dairying, the making of butter and cheese, the keeping of poultry, bee keeping, and so on. There is the very useful method of encouraging model small holdings so as to show examples of successful working. This has been tried in different parts of Scotland, and I think it is worth developing.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
In the North of Scotland. The Aberdeen College of Agriculture has several colleges, and so have other colleges in other parts of Scotland. The Board are anxious also to provide new institutions wherein extensive practical training may be given to those who will not go to agricultural colleges, and perhaps cannot afford to go there—I refer to the daughters and sons of small holders. We have put a scheme before the Development Commissioners for this purpose which I hope they will be prepared to assist, but I have not yet received any answer. The work begun by the Congested Districts Board is being carried on, the breeding of various animals is being extended and attention given to the breeding of both heavy and light horses, cattle and pigs—the latter rather neglected by small holders in some parts of Scotland—poultry keeping, vegetable growing, and things of that sort. On the whole, dealing with small holders, the Board has stated its conclusion in the Report in these words:—The number of practicable proposals which are at present before the Board leads them to the belief that the number of small holdings which can be created will be determined by the resources of the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund." (Page XIV.)When the time arrives—and I believe it will be in the near future—the Government will consider a matter which for some time past I have been giving my best consideration to, and will be able to deal with it, I believe, satisfactorily. We have at present £206,000 per year. That, of course, is not all for purposes of small holdings. Out of that money we have to spend an amount on the general purposes of agriculture, many of which benefit the small holder as well as other farmers, though some of it is for the special benefit of the small holders. With regard to the small holdings themselves we have had to 1255 provide compensation to landowners in many cases, and in many cases compensation to tenants. We have found the expenses of the application to the Land Courts for an arbitrator, we have also to assist the small landowners by loans, we have erected necessary buildings and fences, and we have provided money for water supply, etc. So far as our loans are concerned I have heard no complaint of the terms. We lend money for fifty years at 4 per cent., which includes the interest, the repayment of capital, and the insurance on the buildings.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
It is a Sinking Fund over a period of fifty years. It will be seen, therefore, that while a part of our outgoings are not recoverable, there is a considerable portion of it which is by way of loan and which will be gradually repaid by annual instalments. I hope as time goes on and the work overtaxes our present resources, that means will be found to meet the case, though I am not in a position to go into details of the plan I am considering, to which of course the assent of the Treasury will be necessary.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
If I gave the figure it would be a most misleading figure, because with regard to a large proportion of these 500 small holdings, we have not got the decision of the Court. None of the money can be spent though the money is practically ear-marked, subject to the consent of the Court. The money must be found, as we are pledged to these small holdings. I do not think it would be useful if I entered into other departments of the Board's activities. Other matters are set out in the Report which deals with that great subject of agricultural education and research. I may mention two things which are not in the Report. We are preparing to set up what has been much desired, a seed-testing station, and we have been doing the work of inspecting nurseries so that we may give the certificates which are demanded in relation to plants which are -exported to the Colonies and abroad.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I think in Edinburgh. With regard to forestry, the House will remember that about a year ago I set up an Advisory Committee of gentlemen interested in forestry. They have since then been considering a site for a demonstration college, but at present they have not reported to me. Obviously there is very much useful labour before the new Board. The sketch I have given does not pretend to be either adequate or complete. I have naturally had to deal with the circumstances which affected the new Board, and I have made no attempt to anticipate criticism. Other topics are dealt with in the Report, and no doubt will be raised in the Debate. My principal object——
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any further information about the School of Forestry?
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
The Advisory Committee have been looking into the matter, and have examined a good many sites, but they have not come to a final decision or made any Report to me on the subject. It would not do for me to anticipate their Report. My principal object has been to deal with the special circumstances of the first year's work of the Board. It is the beginning of a great task, which, I hope, will be extended for the benefit of rural Scotland. To accomplish it will require much hard work, some patience and judgment, and goodwill.
§ Mr. GRETTON
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Chairman. Is it in accordance with the ancient usage of this House for a Minister to read the whole of his speech?
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
It is quite in accordance with the practice of this House, so far as I have been able to observe it, for a Member to refresh his memory with notes. There has been no departure from that practice in the case of the Secretary for Scotland.
§ Mr. HARRY HOPE
I think there will be general agreement that there are large opportunities for useful work being done by the Board of Agriculture in Scotland, and also that its activities may be many sided. The right hon. Gentleman has 1257 made an important statement with regard to new small holdings, but I think his object in doing so must have been to ward off opposition from some of his own supporters who have been led to indulge in rash political promises as to the creation of new small holdings. Questions like this, which are very difficult to settle, ought to be settled first of all free from any political partisanship, and also without having any reference to any rash political promises which may have been made. We all recognise that the Board of Agriculture may do good work in doing something to check the lamentable amount of emigration which is going on; also that it may do a good deal to enable and encourage our cultivators of land to increase the productivity of the soil, thereby bringing more prosperity to our rural districts, and also producing a, larger amount of produce for a great mass of consumers. As we see from this Report, there are about 3,370 applications for new small holdings. Of that large number 2,760 come from the crofting counties and 1,300 come from the Outer Hebrides, while 650 come from Lewis. We see in Lewis a very extraordinary condition of affairs exists. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, the case there is that there is not as much land as would give all that those 650 people desire. I have been there and seen the condition of life in which those people live, and I cannot help thinking that it is caused by so much subdivision between the crofter and his subtenant. That state of affairs is bad, and I only hope that nothing will be done by the Board to make the condition of the people there less economic than they are at present. No doubt there is a good deal of land from which peat has been taken. A great deal of that land might be utilised and given to the new applicants, and when all those applications come to be considered, something in that way might be wisely done. On this great problem of satisfying new holders with land, I would urge the House not to do anything to drive our Board of Agriculture from doing that, which, in its wisdom, it may think the best course to adopt. I think we have got good officials at the head of the Agriculture Board, and I hope no political pressure will be brought to hear upon them or false promises or false hopes held out. The Board of Agriculture should be left with a free hand to act in their good judgment to do what is best. I have no doubt some expert Commissioners are needed. I always thought that a Commissioner for small holdings having charge of 1258 forestry, was perhaps overloaded with work. I do not know whether so many as five are needed, but with some additional Sub-Commissioners I have not the least doubt that the work in the way of investigating the claims could be done without any panic being raised by politicians in favour of cutting up the whole of Scotland into small holdings.
The activities of the Board of Agriculture are many sided. I think there is no aspect of the work they do of more importance than that with regard to education and research. We have got three agricultural colleges in Scotland at present, but I do not think we will have the best possible results until each of them has got an experimental farm in which the students and others can see practical work being done, and upon which they can test what they themselves believe to be best. I would like to see each of those three colleges possessed of experimental farms. Besides the work carried on in those colleges we have county lecturers and itinerant instructors. No doubt those men can do good work and can bring expert knowledge to men in remote country districts, where at present they have no idea of things except such as their fathers and grandfathers had. I do not think, however, that that form of instruction is all that is required. When we look at what is done in other countries and see what is done in Ireland, and what the Irish peasantry have got done for them by institutes and farming schools, we then can see what a great future may be in front of agricultural education in Scotland if the State do what they have done in the case of the Irish Board of Agriculture. The President of the English Board realises this fact, and I believe he has announced that £320,000 is coming from the Development Commissioners for the setting up of farm schools and agricultural institutes in all parts of England, which will do an immense amount towards teaching young men and women expert knowledge in dairy and poultry and other matters. Not only will those men and women be more expert, but when they go out into service they will find that they are skilled workmen and workwomen, and their wages will be higher, and the general productivity of our soil will be increased, and benefit will come to all parties in the community.
I desire to say a word about forestry. The right hon. Gentleman did not tell us what his Advisory Committee say as to where the experimental area should be.
1259 The Development Commissioners a year ago in their Report said that the main requirement of forestry was a demonstration area. I think that is recognised by all, and the question is, where should it be? We know that in Edinburgh there has been a lectureship for forestry as far hack as 1888, and since then the Court of Edinburgh University desires to raise that lectureship to a professorship, and I understand that at the present time they are appying to the Carnegie Trust for something like £5,000 to endow the Chair. Besides that, the East of Scotland Agricultural College has a course of lectures by practical men in forestry. I think when we have that good work going on it would be wise to have this demonstration area accessible, and not in a remote part of the country, so that men studying and learning this valuable course in Edinburgh, where laboratories have been set up, can go out and see the demonstration area and work with further benefit. I only hope that when the Advisory Committee's Report is published that that conclusion will be arrived at. The central part of Scotland in Perthshire is very accessible to Edinburgh, and I have no doubt a good site could be obtained there. There is a very serious disease in Scotland for the last few years which affects potatoes, and which is called the "Black Scab" disease. As a result the American Government have put an embargo on Scottish potatoes. In some years when potatoes are cheap they go to America in large quantities, so that the effect if the embargo is not removed is likely to be very injurious. The disease only exists to a very small extent in ten counties at present, and, in fact, only in four counties is it found in anything like recognisable quantity at all, namely, in small gardens in the counties of Perth, Fife, Clackmannan, and Kinross. I think there will be a serious responsibility resting upon our new Board of Agriculture if it does nothing to check this disease in its initial stage. Now is the time to stop the disease from getting hold of the country. The Board have done something, and I do not complain at all that they have not. Last year they issued an Order by which they made this disease notifiable either to the Board or the local authority. The local authority have power to appoint inspectors, but, as we all know, people in the country have a great dread of inspectors and do not care to do anything derogatory to the work of their own farms.
1260 There is naturally great fear of official control, and therefore this disease, although it exists to a small extent, undoubtedly is concealed. There is no doubt about it.
I want to see the disease not concealed but rather stamped out-, and the suggestion I would make to the right hon. Gentleman is this: Maintain your Order, enforce notification and draw the attention of the local authorities to the duty which rests upon them of appointing inspectors. If they fail to do so, then I would ask that the Board appoint inspectors, and send them into the districts. When the disease is found the potatoes should be taken possession of and pay the small holder compensation for them. If they are diseased and rubbishy stuff, very little compensation will have to be paid, and, therefore, little money is involved. In addition to that, maintain the Order that the small holder cannot grow potatoes on that piece of ground for three years after the disease has been discovered. But, while you maintain that, I would say give the man compensation for any loss he may be put to owing to that prevention. The money involved by that would be small, because he probably could grow cabbages and other things. The expenditure on these two points would not be very much, while the practical result would be that instead of concealment you would get a ready willingness on the part of our small holders to come forward and admit the disease, so that it would be stamped out, and a scourge of a most serious character got rid of. You would have success in that way, and without compensation I fear you will never succeed. I urge again, in conclusion, that the work to be done by this Board is great, and I have no doubt it is growing. Let us do nothing in this House to hamper the action of our officials. Personally, I have confidence in them; I think they are men who will carry out the objects of the Act. Do not let us hold the drag over them of Parliamentary criticism, and do not let us hold them up to public derision, simply because a few of us in ignorance may have made some rash political promises.
§ Sir JOHN DEWAR
I had intended to say a good many hard things about the Board of Agriculture, but I am hound to say that the statement that has just been made by the right hon. Gentleman has to some extent satisfied me. The delay in giving effect to the Small Landholders 1261 Act has had a most irritating effect all over the North of Scotland, and on behalf or my Constituency I have the strongest protest to make against the action of the Board of Agriculture in this respect. The Board should not have been taken by surprise by the number of applications which have come in, because many of them have been before the Congested Districts Board and the Crofters Commission for a considerable time. The men in those districts have a passionate desire to get back to the holdings from which their forefathers have been evicted. In the past the staff provided to deal with those applications has been notoriously inadequate, and the Report which has just been issued proves that. It points out that three small holders' Commissioners have been appointed, one to deal with the South of Scotland, where 600 applications are waiting to be dealt with, and two for the North of Scotland, where there are about 5,000 applications. Having regard to the difficulty of getting to some of those places and dealing with those applications there should have been from the first not two, but at least five—the number which is now proposed. It seems that applications are still coming in at a greater rate than they are being dealt with. There were 3,000 during the first six months and 5,000 at the end of the year. I would like to know how many cases there are now as compared with the number which was before the Board at the beginning of last year. I do not think the excuse that there is not enough money is a good one, because, as yet, apparently the Board has not spent dm money they have got, or, at least, we have no figures showing that they have spent anything like £200,000. The number which the Board expect to settle is abut 500 cases, and a great many of those are extensions, and not new holdings. With regard to extensions, in many cases no expenditure of capital is needed. In the list of applications it appears that some 400 of the applicants themselves possess capital ranging from £200 to £1,000 each.
I complain that more has not been done in the way of settling people on the land although I agree that the Secretary for Scotland has given a fair defence of the delay, but no defence whatever in regard to dealing with the applications. I am constantly having letters saying that applications were made a year ago, and still no reply has been received from the Board of Agriculture. This morning I had a 1262 letter stating that more than a year ago an application was made for the extension of a holding and up to the present nothing has been heard of it. This is very cruel, because those men who have made these applications have been anticipating for years that they would get those extensions, and they have delayed carrying out other arrangements in view of that expectation. No doubt many of these men will be found to be ineligible, but I think the applicants should be told at the earliest possible moment so that they will be able to make other arrangements. My correspondent says that he will emigrate to Canada if he cannot get the extension he applied for. I think the Board ought to reply at once and let the applicants know what they are to expect in order that they may make other arrangements accordingly. The promise to appoint more Commissioners meets this case very well, and when they get to work we shall probably not have so much reason to complain. We have got an excellent Board of Agriculture, but they have not been sufficiently backed up by getting the support of Sub-Commissioners; and this support in the future will enable them to carry out the object they have in view, and the small holders, who for generations have been looking forward to getting access to the land of their forefathers, we hope will be able to achieve their object within a reasonable time. I wish to ask the Secretary for Scotland a question about the lecturers in the county of Perth. So far as I know there has not been any of these lectures in my own district, and the people there who are ready to take advantage of them have not had the opportunity of doing so.
§ Sir GEORGE YOUNGER
I think the Secretary for Scotland acted wisely to-day in opening this Debate with his very interesting statement. The situation is a perfectly new one, and it is desirable that he should anticipate the complaints of the last few weeks, and I think he has dealt with them most adequately. I have not dwelt upon those complaints because I am not opposed to small holdings where they can be established with a reasonable chance of success, but at the same time it is impossible for the Board, if they wish to be successful, to proceed in anything but a careful manner. The delay arises largely from the absurdity of the Act in denying to any landowner who is ready to make a voluntary agreement that compensation in the case of holdings 1263 becoming derelict which is given in the case of compulsion by the Land Court. A more senseless provision in any Act of Parliament it is difficult to conceive. While I agree with the hon. Member for Inverness (Sir John Dewar) that it, is necessary to have these extra Commissioners, I am sure it would expedite matters still more if we had an amendment of the Act in the sense that encouragement should be given, and not discouragement, to all landowners who are prepared by voluntary arrangements to hand over land for this purpose. I think there ought to be general agreement on this. I know of no argument why this should not be done, and I am sure it would very largely tend to expedite the work of the Agricultural Commissioners.
There are one or two questions I wish to ask relating to matters which have been brought under my notice with regard to the procedure of the Board of Agriculture. The first matter is the preparation of the register of small holdings. As everyone knows, the Act provides that there is to be a register of small holdings, but I am not aware what steps have been taken, if any, to check the returns sent by these people in the schedules which have been submitted. If there is one thing more certain than another, it is that no register of small holdings can be considered to be in the least accurate or of any value unless the entries are checked by the landlords who own those small holdings. In the course of the Land Court proceedings it has been shown more than once that erroneous statements are often made, and I remember one case in Arran where it was said on one holding there were only forty-one sheep, whereas it was proved in the Dip Returns that there were 141.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and forty Members being found present—
§ Sir GEORGE YOUNGER
Similar inaccuracies have occurred in statements made in regard to the acreage. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman may be able to tell us before the Debate closes whether the register has been kept. If the information is not accurate, the fact that a man is put on the register does not count for anything whatever or make him a landholder or a statutory tenant, but it is desirable that we 1264 should have accuracy, because proceedings may happen at a later date and this register may be quoted as if it were accurate, and, therefore, to be of any value, I think both sides should make a statement and the landlords should be able to check the tenant's statement. The Secretary for Scotland should see that an opportunity is given for securing that these statements are checked. This register must not, however, be confused with the Smallholders Register which is kept by the Sheriff Clerk. I should like to press upon the right hon. Gentleman the desirability of bringing in a measure to deal with Faiars Court prices That is a matter cognate to the whole of this discussion and there would be no difficulty in obtaining a general agreement. We have a Scotch Committee set up, and I think it might be utilised for this purpose in order to see if we can agree upon some measure to deal with this question. While I am speaking of that subject I do not hesitate to express my own opinion that the most simple way out of the difficulty, perhaps, is to summon the grower of the grain and not the buyer at all. Under these circumstances, you would get a perfectly accurate return. A man would be under an obligation to make a declaration before a justice of the peace, you would have no double return, and people would be very much more satisfied with the correctness of the return. I join with my hon. Friend who preceded me in hoping that the Board may have a successful career, and in believing that they are an excellent. Board. I am glad to say that, but I am not so sure that I can say the same thing about the Land Court. I am certain that this Board is taking the very greatest care, and doing the very best possible work, and they ought not to be unfairly pressed or harassed in the performance of that work.
I want to ask one or two questions about the Congested Districts Board, and the last Report we have received from that body. I have to begin by making a complaint I have made before about the manner in which its accounts are presented. The final account is found on page 28 of the Report. The whole of the income and expenditure of the Board during the period of its existence is lumped together and various details are given with regard to certain schemes. I am afraid one cannot say that the schemes of the Board have been attended with any very great or real success. It is hopelessly 1265 impossible to separate capital charges and capital receipts from income and expenditure in the account which is given to us. Two or three years ago it was, promised that we should have a more accurate and clear statement, but I suppose the Board do not think it necessary to take that trouble, and we are just as much in the dark as ever as to the outcome of the various schemes in Vatersay and the other places for which the Board is responsible. They were forced very often to experiment in various districts with schemes they could not expect or hope would be any great success, and they are not altogether to blame for the failure of many of these transactions to show not only a profit, but to avoid a very heavy and serious loss. The situation with which they have had to deal has been a difficult one. You have only got to read the Report to see how difficult it has been, particularly, for example, in the Island of Lewis. It has been said already by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland that the only way to deal with the situation there is by migration of the inhabitants from the Island of Lewis to some place on the main land.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us a little information about the position at Vatersay. What is the state of the case there with regard to arrears? How are the tenants progressing on that island? And do the Board consider that the formation of small holdings has been a wise or an unwise proceeding? I should also like to ask whether there are not difficulties with regard to Seafield, and what those difficulties are. I saw a statement that the tenants there were complaining that they had not been properly treated by the Board of Agriculture, by which I suppose they meant the Congested Districts Board. A good many have been coaxed into taking these holdings, and various promises have been made to them, but they are very dissatisfied with the buildings erected and the old buildings allotted to them. If the right hon. Gentleman could give the Committee any information about them I think it would be desirable to have it. I believe that the Congested Districts Board have dealt as well as they possibly could with an extremely difficult proposition. Many of their experiments, however, have been very costly and disappointing, and I hope, in future, that we shall avoid dabbling in some of those transactions, of which I know the Lord Advocate has got about as poor an opinion as I have myself.
§ Mr. JAMES HOGGE
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
Like the rest of the speakers since the-right hon. Gentleman made his introductory remarks, I desire to congratulate-him on arriving now at the conclusion that the Board of Agriculture requires waking up. If the right hon. Gentleman had given us the same information as he has given us to-day in answer to questions which he-has been asked from time to time, we should have more confidence in the promise-that the administration of that Board was going to be tighter than it has been during the past year. I do not blame the Secretary for Scotland personally on that account, because he, himself, has recognised in a public utterance that it is impossible for one man to adequately control and observe all that is going on in the-large number of Boards of which he has control. I have, for that reason, no sympathy at all with those Motions which are down on the Paper to reduce the right hon. Gentleman's salary. On the contrary, I think that it ought to be increased. The Secretary for Scotland ought to be raised in status to the same position as other Members of the Cabinet, and his salary should at least be doubled if the post is to occupy the importance it ought to occupy in the Cabinet. Of course, one is labouring under a disadvantage in making these remarks, because one is making them to Members who agree with him. The Distil party, who are interested apparently in Scottish affairs, the Welsh party, which is represented by their latest addition to this House, and who are apparently also interested in Scottish affairs, and the vast body of English Members, who are continually demanding that Scotsmen should remain in this Chamber, are absent on the only occasion on which they might get information about questions that affect Scotland very much. If we wanted an argument in favour of Scotsmen being allowed to look after their own affairs in their own way, I think the other Members of this House, the Irishmen, the Welshmen, and the Englishmen, ought to be compulsorily brought into the Galleries, left and right, in order to see the exact position of affairs in Scotland.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I should have thought that they had gone for something stronger. I am going to a Division in 1267 order that those Members who do not take part in the Debate may, at any rate, be compelled to vote. There are a great many disappointing features about this Report. It can be judged from two points, of view—first of all, by the number of applications which have been made to the Board for small holdings, and, secondly, by what has been achieved by the Board. On page five in the first Report we get the number of applications for small holdings, and, as has been hinted at already, there is a curious circumstance with regard to those applications. Practically all the applications are confined to the crafting counties of Scotland or to the Northern and Western counties of Scotland, and there are no applications at all worth considering from Lowland Scotland. I was not in the House when the Small Holdings Act was carried through, but I was in the country, and I have a very distinct recollection that at least in three 'General Elections definite promises of small holdings were held out to the Liberal electors if they would support Liberal candidates at the poll. I am certain that a number of men who represent Lowland counties in this House would not be here to-day were it not for the promises that were made in connection with the proposed small holdings legislation, and it must be a matter of supreme importance to them, and of even more importance to the electors themselves, that these small holdings should be provided without undue delay. If you look at the Table, you will find, for example, that there have only been applications for six from the county of Berwick. Anyone who knows anything about Berwick must know that there is some reason to explain that inadequate application. There are none at all from Clackmannan.
§ Mr. HOGGE
There are only six from Haddington, seven from Banff, seven from Linlithgow, five from Kinross, three from Nairn, the unlucky number of thirteen from the Deputy-Chairman's own constituency (Peebles), thirty-one from Roxburgh, and eleven from Selkirk. I should like to ask how far this Report is justified by what has been done. I asked the Secretary 1268 for Scotland, in a question in this House, to tell us what had been actually achieved by this Board, and we have this startling result, that the Board, the wisdom of which has been lauded this afternoon, and which is agreed on both sides of the House cannot be bettered, have inside the year created twenty-eight new holdings and provided for six enlargements.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to remind him of the terms of the question? He was asked if he would give the number of new small holdings created in the crafting counties as distinct from the number of schemes of land settlement in respect of which the Board of Agriculture had applied to the Land Courts since the coming into force of the Small Landholders Act, passed last year. His reply was that there had been twenty-eight new holdings and six enlargements in the crofting counties, and in the rest of Scotland six new holdings by agreement without the Board going to the Land Courts for the money. I have no information as to holdings voluntarily created outside the Act.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I understood the question to relate to how many holdings had been established under the Act, and I answered it in that sense.
§ Mr. HOGGE
If there had been other small holdings formed outside the Act where is the information concerning them? The Report contains no record of a single holding having been so formed. If there is any such record I shall be glad to have it pointed out to me. But, in reply to a question put in this House, we are informed that there have been twenty-eight new holdings and six enlargements in the crofting counties and six in the rest of Scotland. If there have been any set up by agreement I would ask the right hon. Gentleman how ninny have been so formed?
§ Mr. HOGGE
The right hon. Gentleman might have given us that information in his interesting preliminary statement. But taking his own figures as to the working of this Board—the result of its activity has been that while there have been created over 150 holdings by agree- 1269 ment, only twenty-eight new holdings and six enlargements had been established in the crofting counties and six in the rest of Scotland. The remainder have been got without the action of the Board.
§ Mr. HOGGE
If it done by agreement it was not necessary for the Board to help at all. If you have a landlord agreeable to have a small holder on his holding, whether the Board is in existence or not. It only happens that the Board the moment, but if there is willingness on both sides there is no reason at all for the Act.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
The hon. Gentleman will remember the reason why very few agreements are made, and that is that if a holding becomes derelict no compensation is payable to the landlord.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I admit that if you are going to create holdings in Scotland and these holdings happen, for reasons over which the owner of the land has no control, to be unsuccessful, the owner of the land surely ought to be compensated for any loss arising under those circumstances. If the Act can be amended in that direction later on the hon. Baronet will rind such a proposal will receive support on this side of the House. I am not caviling, however, at the action of the Secretary for Scotland. I think I have already made it plain that the right hon. Gentleman, in his position, cannot be expected to make this Board the active body which it might be if it were supervised, as is the case in England, by a separate Minister, and I hope that that admission on my part will be borne in mind even in connection with any other criticisms I may make before I sit down. I am sorry that this should be the case, but it is the result of circumstances over which no Scottish Member has any control. What is the reason for this disparity between the expectations created by this Act being passed and the realization which is found in the 150 small holdings? I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he has 1270 observed that one of the most widely circulated newspapers in Scotland, the "People's Journal," a paper which goes into every cottage practically in the North and East and the central parts of Scotland, has been conducting not an official inquiry, but an inquiry into the administration of the Act throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, with the help of special Commissioners, who themselves have knowledge of the conditions that obtain in Scotland and of the aspirations of the Scottish ploughmen throughout the agricultural classes of Scotland. What does one find? One finds, as a matter of fact, that there is still prevailing an enormous amount of ignorance in regard to the Act, and that ignorance is due to the fact that proper means have not yet been taken in Scotland to acquaint the people who want to make use of the Act with the conditions that obtain under it. Let hon. Members bear in mind what took place in Scotland in connection with the Insurance Act. They will remember that, in order to make that Act effective, some seventeen lecturers were appointed, and an amount approaching £2,000 was spent by the Insurance Commissioners in holding 900 meetings, in order to explain the provisions of the Act. But in spite of that educational effort the ignorance prevailing with regard to that Act has not been altogether removed. In connection with this particular Act no such steps were taken; no such means were employed by the Board of Agriculture, even although the members of that Board were quite cognisant that legislation was going to ensue and were occupied in helping the Bill through the House.
I asked the Secretary for Scotland the other day whether or not certain leaflets were out of print. One recalls the fact that the Board of Agriculture has printed and distributed four special leaflets dealing with the operations of the Board of Agriculture in Scotland. They are presumed to have distributed them all over Scotland among people wanting the information. The right hon. Gentleman informed me one day last week that it was practically true that two of these leaflets were out of print, but that there would be a supply available within a few days or weeks. I know, as a matter of fact, that four months ago application was made to the Board of Agriculture in Scotland for copies of the four leaflets, and the applicant was then informed that they were out of print. It has, therefore, 1271 taken the Board of Agriculture four months to deal with this matter, and even now they have not got the two leaflets reprinted—leaflets which give a large amount of information to the people of Scotland with regard to this Act. I put it to the House whether or not the administration of this Act is in the hands one would wish it to be if it takes four months to reprint two of the leaflets which embody 50 per cent. of the entire information prepared for distribution in Scotland with regard to the Act!
Then there has been in connection with the administration of the Act a tremendous amount of delay in replying to applicants for land. I have myself seen from 1,500 to 2,000 letters—and I shall be very glad if the Secretary for Scotland can find leisure to look over them. In these letters there are complaints from the applicants for small holdings of the enormous delay in regard to their applications. I have one or two here, and it might perhaps be interesting if I read a few of them. The first letter complains that it is about a year since the writer applied to the Board of Agriculture, and, inside of five months, he has heard absolutely nothing from them. The next letter is from a man who applied fifteen months ago, and who has since had a call from a Sub-Commissioner, but who has not yet heard anything in black and white from the Commissioners. The third letter is from a man in one of the Western Islands of Scotland who sent in his application and has heard nothing for twelve months. The next letter is from a different part of Scotland and the writer says that, although local inquiry has been made, he bas received no information as to his application. One could go on with these letters, but I do not propose to weary the Committee. They afford, however, an illustration of how things are done. I have here, for instance, a packet of letters passing between an applicant and the Board of Agriculture. I have had some experience personally in writing to an official Department of the Government, and I understand the weariness of the flesh in awaiting replies from that Department. But here I have a series of letters, starting on the 9th December, 1912, in which the applicant raises a question similar to that raised just now by the hon. Member for Inverness-shire, and in which he makes a definite application to the Board on a matter that concerns him very intimately. The correspondence goes on until the 9th 1272 May, 1913, and then the Board gives the man this gratuitous advice:—It would seem advisable for you not to delay making your own arrangements for the coining year.Therefore it will be seen that this Board, in which the Secretary for Scotland reposes so much confidence in regard to the administration of this Act, takes not less than six months to deal with a matter which it ought to be able to deal with at once. With the addition of staff promised this afternoon it may be found to be easier to avoid such delays in the future.
But there is another reason why the realisations have not been such as might have been expected, and it is to be found in the fact that there have been no object lessons in small holdings attempted anywhere in Scotland, so far as I know. Those of us who represent Scottish constituencies and have an intimate knowledge of the kind of man we have to deal with—and I suppose most of us, whether we represent burghs or county constituencies, have addressed political meetings in the country from time to time—are aware how in a village, for example, the ploughman, the man who works on the laud, ranges himself alongside the dyke, yards away from the man who wishes to address him, and displays as little interest as he can in the subject under discussion, in order that he may conceal any knowledge he thinks ought not to be assumed to be in his possession from his attitude. This is especially true about the agricultural labourer. He will not put a pen to paper; he will write nothing down. That is characteristic of the Scottish race, and one of the great difficulties with regard to getting applications in connection with this Act has been that natural reluctance on the part of the average Scottish agriculturist to put down in black and white exactly what he desires. If this Board had gone about its work in a different way, if it had taken the trouble to provide in various parts of Scotland an object lesson of what could be clone in the way of small holdings, I am perfectly certain there would not have been that absolute—because it is absolute, and not comparative—that absolute failure of the small holdings movement in the Lowland counties of Scotland. If you compare the experience this House has within its own knowledge of the administration of the English Act dealing with small holdings, you will remember that that Act was largely inoperative until you could get experiments in small holdings and more Commissioners. I 1273 remember the operation of that Act in Yorkshire. I happened to be associated with one of the hon. Members for Hull in a society in Yorkshire which had for its object the creation of a co-operative society for getting men on to the holdings before the application for the land was actually made. Those men were exactly like the average Scotsman. They do not believe in the possibility of a successful isolated experiment in small holdings. They would be willing to try it in groups. The work that wants doing in a great many parts of Scotland is the grouping together of men who are willing to take small holdings, and to take their place upon the land. The attitude of the Board is expressed in a sentence in their Report with regard to the Lowlands of Scotland. They say:—It appeared to the Board that their efforts should first be directed to meeting the demand in those districts where it is most urgent.I state quite freely that that is an absolute failure to understand the real demand there is for holdings in Scotland. It is an attempt to put off dealing with the problem in the border counties of Scotland, because of the obvious response from those counties in Scotland which have had experience of the Crofters Act behind them for a great number of years. I maintain that, because in the Lowland counties there was not the same apparent response for holdings, there was the greater necessity that the Board of Agriculture should, at any rate, have taken means to place before the average agriculturist in the Lowland counties what was in the Act, what were the potentialities of the Act, and how to go about in order to get his application dealt with. So much with regard to the point dealing with administration. We ought to bear in mind what this problem is with regard to Scotland. We are confronted over and over again with figures, which are a warning to hon. Members who represent Scotland, as to the effect which the non-success of this Act and the delay in putting it into operation is having upon the people of the country. I suppose it must be true, because the figures prove it, that there is a larger exodus from Scotland to-day, and of the people of Scotland from these shores, than there has been within the memory of any man now in this Committee. On the other hand, you find that that it is perfectly possible for people who are not Scotsmen to get possession of land in Scotland for purposes which are entirely different from the purposes which this Act 1274 is seeking to provide. I read in the "Times" the other day a column of names of men who have already got their shootings in Scotland for the "glorious twelfth" and the succeeding weeks. There is no difficulty in getting that kind of land in Scotland, but there is an enormous difficulty in getting the kind of land that is wanted for the small holder. In fact it is pathetic, when one thinks of the condition of Scotland to day, that so small progress is being made under this particular Act. The shores of Cromarty Firth are in the hands of Lea and Perrin's sauce, Ben Wyvis is in the hands of Shoolbred's furniture, the land of the McKenzies and the Mathiesons is owned by Baron Schroder, Skye is owned by Nixey's black lead, Loch Ness is rented by Bass' beer, and Inverary Castle is owned by Beecham's pills. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] There is no reason why these places should not be rented by those people, but there is this point about it, that if so much land in Scotland which previously was able to rear men, can now be devoted to that kind of purpose, it is the duty of every Scottish Member to see that any Board that controls the administration of this Act shall see that the people who want land get that land upon which to live. That is the point of these observations. You cannot land on Rhum without knowing that it is the one local veto area in Scotland, with regard to land in any case. With regard to large parts of Scotland we surely ought to put every kind of possible pressure upon the Board of Agriculture in order that they may provide, what they ought to have provided inside the time at their disposal, more of these holdings for the people who want them. What is required in order to achieve this result? The Secretary for Scotland has told us that nothing can be clone unless we have more money. Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman does not agree with that?
§ Mr. HOGGE
That is my point. All we want is more money. How are we to get more money? It does not interest me at all to agree with the right hon. Gentleman upon the fact that we want more money for Scotland. I cannot get it from the Treasury, and no private Member from Scotland can get it from the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman can get it from the 1275 Treasury. He can get his own way in the Cabinet. We have that on record. He got his own way upon the occasion of the discussion on the Scottish Temperance Bill. He threatened to resign from the Cabinet unless he got his way, and the Cabinet gave in. Let him threaten to resign again unless they will give us money for the operations of the Board of Agriculture, and then the right hon. Gentleman will have performed a service for Scotland for which we shall bear him in grateful recollection. The second point which is necessary to bear in mind with regard to this matter, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some information about it when he replies, is that it is perfectly obvious that until we get more money from the Treasury we will need to be careful of the money of those men who are applying for the holdings. There, again, you come up against a proposition which is bound to affect the whole development of small holdings in Scotland. I presume that by this time the right hon. Gentleman is aware that these holdings, desired by a great many agriculturists in Scotland, are not possible on account of the fact that the men lack the capital necessary to stock these particular holdings.
If you look at the figures of the Report itself, you will find that a very small number of the people who applied up to the end of December—I am not taking into account those who applied since—had a very large capital. I think in the right hon. Gentleman's Report he states that only 417 of the applicants were possessed of £200 or more, that 509 had from £100 to £200, and that 744 had from £50 to £100. I take it that we are agreed that only the 417, who have £200 and over, are men whose ability to stock the small holding is above suspicion, and that the 509 who have between £100 and £200 represent a class of men in Scotland who have sufficient security in the holding that they might get, along with the capital they possess, to be fit subjects to whom a loan could be given by either a credit bank or the State itself, if the State were so disposed. The figures given in the Report show that 50 per cent. of the applicants, according to the position taken up by the Board of Agriculture, are financially unsuitable, and would not be able to stock their holdings. Obviously, if we are going to make any progress in this particular direction, it is absolutely necessary 1276 that the right hon. Gentleman should also press the Board of Agriculture to establish a land bank. They have the power to do it. They have been in existence for fifteen months, and, so far as I know, they have done nothing at any rate that can be reported with regard to such a scheme. I have dealt with the third remedy, which I think is absolutely essential to the running of small holdings, namely, the establishment of experimental holdings. I do not think the erection of a seed-testing station in connection with a university or an area dealing with forestry, or any other experiment attached to a university college, however important in themselves and useful for their particular purposes, are what is required for the practical demonstration of how to best do the things among the men who are actually on the land. After all, ploughmen cannot come from the border counties of Scotland in order to see purely university technical experiments. What you want is a practical illustration of what can be done in those districts where it is required on account of the number of small holders that exist. I am perfectly certain that if this Board is to secure the confidence of the men who have applied for holdings, they must, have more efficient methods of dealing with the mass of applicants. I do not understand whether the right hon. Gentleman stated that the clerical staff was to be increased by eleven or to eleven.
§ Mr. HOGGE
If the clerical staff is to be increased by eleven, that is an obvious admission now that the staff was absolutely insufficient to deal with the mass of correspondence that might naturally have been anticipated by any reasonable group of men attempting to deal with this problem. I think that this Act still requires to be advertised. Walking through the streets of London just now, one is struck by the number of large posters inviting people to spend their holidays in Scotland. [HON MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We have no objection to as many people coming to Scotland as can come. These posters are illustrated with scenery and events in that scenery which the average Scotsman is not accustomed to see. I always think, when I look at these posters inviting people to come and enjoy the scenery of Scotland, that they might take with them the Report of the hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Sir J. Dewar) upon the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. There they would find an entirely different story 1277 as to the real economic, industrial, and social conditions of those parts of Scotland to which people are invited to come by these railway posters. I am perfectly certain that the Board of Agriculture will require to take a page out of that kind of book and see to it that the Act is actually made known to the people in Scotland, because it would not he difficult to produce sufficient evidence to prove that in large districts of Scotland there are people to whom the information has not been conveyed, and it has not been made plain enough where they may apply, and they are ignorant of the conditions of the Act. I would appeal, therefore, to the right hon. Gentleman, without going into any other specific cases, to bear in mind that it is not enough to state, by way of preface, that so many Commissioners and so many Sub-Commissioners are going to be appointed and that the clerical staff is going to be increased by eleven, and that such-and-such things are going to be done. Those things ought to be being done all the time and all along. It is not sufficient, after the expiry of fifteen months' trial, to say that so far the administration of the Act has been a failure. It is the duty of the Scottish Secretary, more than any other duty that I know in Scotland, to put hi back into the administration of this Act and to see, what is a most obvious and a most regrettable fact in Scotland at the moment, that the very people you want to keep in Scotland, and to keep on the land in Scotland, cultivating that land and fitting into the social developments which are going on, are the people who are leaving it in thousands every day from the Clyde.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I quite agree with the hen. Member (Sir G. Younger) that the Secretary for Scotland was well advised in making a statement at the beginning of the Debate, because I am sure that statement was welcomed in every part of the House. We have all felt, from the Report of the Board of Agriculture, that the time has come when a very decided step forward should be taken, and a larger view should be taken of the requirements of Scotland in regard to the administration of the Small Landholders Act. When that, Act was passing through this House it was naturally regarded as to some extent an experiment. Machinery was provided for making a start, and no sooner was the Act promulgated than it became perfectly evident that the applications under it have been of a very satisfactory 1278 and gratifying character. They have been overwhelmed by applications from every direction. That being the case, it is incumbent upon the Secretary for Scotland, to take a much wider view of the situation than could be done before the Act came into operation. We have now a certainty that there is a very large number of Scotsmen thoroughly suited, even equipped with capital, to take up holdings under that Act. We have land, and we have machinery, and what we want to do now is to increase that machinery, make it more effective, and enlarge it so that we may be able more rapidly to cope with the very large number of applications which are now before the Board. When the Board made its Report the number of applications, was no less than 5,352. I understand that as the result of about a year's work we may be expected to have about 500 holdings created. Five hundred holdings a year means no less a period of time than ten years to satisfy the existing applications for land. There is not the slightest doubt that, as soon as there is a real chance of getting land under this Act, the number of applications will be enormous. I do not say that merely from my own experience. The Board tells us:—The present evidence in regard to holdings cannot, in the opinion of the Board, be reckoned as a reliable indication. Since 1886 the full privileges of fixity of tenure and fair rent have been well understood, and the people, understanding their opportunities from experience, immediately press their claims upon the Board. There is reason to believe that when the benefits conferred by the Act are, through experience, fully understood in the Southern counties, there will be au increasing and steady demand.That I believe to be the actual fact. As soon as men have seen, and are satisfied that it will be possible to get a holding within a reasonable time, you will have a. very large number of applications from men who are thoroughly fitted to undertake small holdings—men who have saved money and have capital to stock them. Naturally, under the present condition of things, there is a long time to wait. They see that they cannot get holdings. In the same Report they say:—The number of practical proposals which are a present before the Board leads us to believe that the limit to the number of small holdings which can be created will be determined by the resources of the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund.There it is already apparent that the, Board see a limit to their resources. The right hon. Gentleman has perhaps wisely not given us the exact limit to the extension of the fund which will be proposed because he wants to know our views. It is essential that we should have a substantial 1279 amount for the finance of the Act. In regard to that it is surely, to us who know something of the rural districts, a very sad fact that you have an enormous emigration from these rural districts. You have the very men we want to see settled on the land emigrating. It is established by this Report that these men are ready, willing, and desirous to stay in Scotland. They are men who would benefit Scotland in every way and they are men to whom all our Colonies are sending inducements to go out there. We all know that land in Scotland is as good as the land anywhere else. It is the finest part of the whole world. All we need now is large machinery and a reasonable prospect of putting land in the way of these men. I have never ceased, from the time I entered this House, to draw attention to the growing depopulation of the rural districts of Scotland. It has been enormous, and it has been deplorable in the Southern districts. In those districts where agriculturists mostly flourish the depopulation is greatest, and there is the greatest need of small holdings. It is often suggested that these men will not succeed and will not be able to equip their holdings. Where the soil is poor, these men, as is proved by fifty-five years experience under the Crofters Acts, have succeeded in rebuilding almost the whole of their houses. That is shown in the Report of the Crofters' Commission. I should like to say with what gratification I heard the statement of the Secretary for Scotland that he did intend to increase the machinery and make it more active and more efficient, so that these applications may be coped with more speedily. We all know that it takes time, and that does not mean that you must put off all these matters till the Greek kalends. It means that we must increase our machinery and be ready to deal with the applications. I could give instances in my own experience where men have been put off and have felt very sore, but I do not want to go into detail, because we all understand it. This Report does great credit to the Board of Agriculture. Considering the time at their disposal, they have done a great deal and they have shown great assiduity and great skill. This is a difficult thing to start, but when it has been once started successfully we are in a position to come to the House and ask for a larger sum. We can spend it well and we can spend it truly for the benefit of our country. What is it to spend half a 1280 million for this purpose? It is only a fifth of the cost of a "Dreadnought," and surely the security of the country is worth it!
§ Mr. MUNRO
I was born and brought up in the Highlands of Scotland, and I am connected with the Highlands by political ties. I desire to approach the subject really from the point of view of the North of Scotland. In discussing the success or failure of the Board of Agriculture it is necessary to bear in mind more than one consideration or one will arrive at a wrong conclusion. In the first place, it is necessary to remember that too sanguine and glowing expectations were entertained in certain quarters with regard to the immediate and the complete success of the working of this Act of Parliament, and certain persons who entertained those anticipations have undoubtedly found that it was impossible to create a new heaven and earth by Act of Parliament, and certiainly not within fifteen months' time. Accordingly one must make due allowance for the feeling, which was very widely entertained. Further, I agree with the Secretary for Scotland that in launching a large administrative scheme of this sort, you are bound to be faced with very great initial difficulties. As regards this particular scheme, there are many inherent difficulties of which it is impossible to get rid. Let me remind the Committee how that matter stands. In the case of every application presented, it will be the duty of the Board to consider the character of the applicant, his financial capacity, his experience, the sort of holding he desires, where he desires the holding to be, and whether there is land available; and, if not, whether it is worth while in the circumstances to break a lease and pay compensation; and, if so, how much? I think reflection on these matters will be sufficient to convince any man that there will be great difficulty in working this scheme at the outset, and indeed unavoidable delay even when it is placed upon a, sound and proper footing.
I desire also to say that I entirely agree with what has been stated with regard to the present Board. I am not here to question the capacity of the Board of Agriculture as constituted. On the contrary, I desire to confirm what has been said as to their entire sincerity of purpose, and to acknowledge that under very difficult circumstances they have no doubt endeavoured to do their best. But I am bound to add, speaking from the point of view of 1281 the North of Scotland, that the work of the Board so far is not satisfactory to the people in that part of the country, and not only is it not satisfactory, but a very wide, general, and profound feeling of dissatisfaction at the present moment prevails regarding it. It is no use blinking the fact—it is worse than idle to shut one's eyes to it. A great many sympathetic speeches have been made with respect to the work of the Board. I have listened to them with interest, but I think the Committee would go very far wrong if it did not recognise what has been pointed out forcibly by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) that in the North of Scotland the work of the Board up to date is not satisfactory, and it is public property that it is not satisfactory. In regard to that matter I turn to the Report of the Board, and what do I find? I do not think that I am putting it too strongly—I shall deal with the question of the increased staff and the possibilities of the future later on—when I say that it discloses two things. It discloses that as regards the work of the Board of Agriculture in connection with the formation of small holdings and the enlargement of existing holdings the Act of Parliament has been really inoperative in the Lowlands of Scotland in respect of a lack of applications, and that it has been inoperative in the North of Scotland by reason of a glut of applications.
If you look at the figures, you find that there have been 3,370 applications for new holdings, and 1,982 applications for the enlargement of holdings. That is the way in which the matter of applications stands. How have these applications been gratified? I read in the Report that some 500 applications are to be dealt with—I hope in a satisfactory way—or have been dealt with, by the end of the year. What does that mean? It means that 4,800 applications, namely, the balance of the total which I have referred to, are not in the position of having any definite arrangement made with regard to any one of them at the present moment. That is surely a very serious state of matters. If you take the other test as to what has been accomplished, and come from the region of negotiation to the region of fact you find that the Secretary for Scotland now tells us that 150 tenants have been put in, and are now settled on small holdings. That is to say, during the period of more than fifteen months 150 out of over 5,000 applicants have been settled upon the holdings they desired to settle upon. All I can say is that, even if that rate of speed were 1282 doubled, there are so many applications in the first year of the working of the Act, many of the applicants would probably not live to see the day when they would be settled upon holdings; and, accordingly, it is not surprising that frank recognition has been given by the Secretary for Scotland of the eminently unsatisfactory position of that matter at the present time. I am glad that he proposes to take certain measures in order to mitigate the undoubted hardship which now exists.
There is another point with respect to which I invite the Secretary for Scotland to say a word. It appears from a perusal of the Report that numerous applications have been already made to the Land Court by the Board of Agriculture for the purpose of accomplishing compulsory settlements where voluntary agreements were impossible. It is suggested, if not, indeed, definitely stated, that applications have been made to the Land Court for that purpose. I turn to the Report of the Land Court and find, on page 21, this statement:We have only received one application from the Board for a compulsory order before the end of the year.That only applies to nineteen holdings in all. I do not know whether that means that the Board of Agriculture has, by means of voluntary arrangements so succeeded that it has not been necessary to apply to the Land Court. I think there is a discrepancy here which requires to he cleared up. That relates to the past, and with the past we cannot interfere now. The practical question is as to how in future the Board shall be managed more successfully, and more for the benefit of the people of Scotland, than it has been in the past. If there is one thing which has been made more clear than another, it is that the Board requires further resources to be placed at its disposal, and that now. I understand the Secretary for Scotland to say that he proposes at some date in the future, which he did not indicate, but which he said would not be very far off, to apply to the Treasury for further funds. I venture respectfully to say that the Report of the Board discloses that money is required now, and certainly it will be with the increased staff which he has promised, and, therefore, a larger number of applications would be dealt with than in the past. That money is urgently required. On page 7 the Board report in these terms:—The work of the past month has disclosed a demand for land settlement far in excess of the present resources of the fund.1283 If that does not mean that more money is required now, I really do not know what it means. That is one of the most useful and illuminating passages in the Report, which is couched in terms of amiable complaisancy, but which has been very much altered after what has been said by my right hon. Friend to-day. So far as money is concerned, one would like to know from the Secretary for Scotland whether he proposes to go to the Treasury and ask more money, and to do it at an early date. I think it must be obvious to him that with the large increase in staff he is now going to have, and with 4,800 applications in arrear and not dealt with in any way, and with applications coming in week by week and month by month, one of the first things he will find himself confronted with is the urgent need of more funds. The right hon. Gentleman has been Financial Secretary to the Treasury and he knows every lock and key of the Department. I would urge him in the most respectful way to wend his path to the Treasury at an early date, and ask whether they do not consider that, if we can spend £3,000,000 on a loan to the Soudan, we may ask an additional £100,000 for the people of Scotland?
I hope I am not unduly pessimistic, but even with the increased staff there may be difficulties. With regard to that we shall be in a better position to judge next year. In conclusion, I venture to put it to the Secretary for Scotland that, this is a very urgent, matter on which many of us feel very strongly. I entirely agree with the hon. Member (Mr. Molteno) as to the bearing of this important question upon emigration. It is not a question which admits of any delay, for while you fail to settle the people on their native land, they are settling themselves on Colonial soil, and while the cottages are emptying, the ships which carry these people to the Colonies are becoming full. One is bound to remember these things when dealing with a question which is connected with emigration, as this undoubtedly is. I venture to hope that it will be recognised this is not a Scottish problem only, but an English problem as well, because these men are of the very class we have given to the country freely for the Army and the Navy, and it would indeed be lamentable if, when these men are required in time of strain and stress, you should find they are no longer in existence, because of the niggardliness of the English Exchequer.
1284 I hope the Secretary for Scotland will approach the Treasury and press this upon their attention. If he does so, I think I can assure him that he will have the backing of every Member who sits here from Scotland.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Major HOPE
I think there has not been very great progress made in the way of providing small holdings throughout Scotland. I believe we all regret that, although we do not agree that the methods of the Board of Agriculture and the Land Court are entirely judicious, or likely, if continued on present lines, to ultimately prove a great success in promoting the formation of small holdings. It is absolutely useless dumping down men on the land if some steps are not taken to give them a fair chance of making a decent livelihood. The establishment of land banks and machinery for co-operation and combination amongst small holders is absolutely essential in order to give them this chance. The Secretary for Scotland stated to-day that something was going to be done in the direction of co-operation, and the establishment of land banks. He said his first object must be to create holdings, and then establish machinery for co-operation. It appears to me that it is during the first year of the small holder's occupancy that he will find it most difficult to keep his head above water. That is the time when he most requires the assistance of co-operative arrangements and land banks. It was interesting to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that money can be advanced at the rate of 4 per cent., which would extinguish capital and interest in fifty years. I think he said also that this included the insurance of buildings. I am sure we are glad to have this admission, because it means that, if land is purchased and small holders are put in and pay 4 per cent. on the purchase price, they would in fifty years become the owners of their holdings. I am sure we are glad to have the admission that it is to be so easily done. It is shown in the Report that at present there is little demand for small holdings in the South of Scotland. The Secretary for Scotland suggested that there should be some settlements formed as rapidly as possible as a sort of advertisement and to foster this demand. The Member for East Edinburgh goes still further and suggests that public money should be spent in providing lecturers to go round to advertise the advantage of small holdings. 1285 I should like to remind the Secretary for Scotland that at the present moment we have a little advertisement for small holdings at Muiriston, where there is a settlement, and I submit that unless some more consideration is given to the tenants, it will not be likely to encourage new applicants to come forward.
At Muiriston there are five allotments of between ten and fifteen acres, which were constituted about two years ago from land reclaimed by the work of the unemployed under distress committees. These allotments are within half a mile of a railway station. Owing to the work of the unemployed, trenching and covering the land with large quantities of town manure from Edinburgh, the land is fairly good for market garden purposes, though not absolutely first class. One of these five tenants a few months ago did a moonlight flitting, and left the land covered with a tropical growth of weeds, and in such a state that money will have to be provided for a new tenant to induce him to cultivate the land. I visited that settlement a month ago at the invitation of one of the tenants, and of the remaining four, one man is losing money, but cannot give up his holding because he has erected glass houses and planted fruit bushes, and he cannot get compensation. The other three are struggling along, but they find the rent, £4 10s. an acre, far too high to enable them to make a decent living. These four tenants may not be absolutely select first-class men of experience and energy, but I think we may take them as being up to the usual average of small holders. I do not think that the fault entirely lies with any of them. I commend this settlement to the careful investigations of the Board of Agriculture as likely to give them useful experience, and information for future guidance in the constitution of small holdings, but I really rose to put forward the claim of the Lowlands that as they cannot in the meantime participate in this income of £206,000 a year of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland in the matter of small holdings they should participate in it in another form for the promotion of agriculture. The hon. Member for Bute has already referred to the outbreak of wart disuse in potatoes. The Board of Agriculture Report states that this outbreak is chiefly confined to small allotments and cottage gardens. If this disease is not stamped out it may spread over the potato crop of 1286 the whole of the South of Scotland. Even now not only is the export of potatoes from Scotland to the United States stopped, but it is largely hampered to South Africa, Malta, Jersey, and Guernsey. Again I quote from the Report.
The Board of Agriculture have taken steps to stamp out this disease, but I do not think that their regulations are stringent enough. The power to deal with the disease is delegated to local authorities but no money is provided for compensation. No part of a crop in which diseased tubers are found should be sold, but the whole crop should be destroyed and the ground should not be used again for planting potatoes of any kind for some years. Naturally local authorities will hesitate to inflict loss and damage on small holders, and rightly, too, where they cannot compensate. If a comparatively small share of this £206,000 a year were handed over for this purpose and administered by the Board of Agriculture it would stamp out this disease. It is really a national object that this wart disease should be prevented from spreading further. I also suggest that the Board of Agriculture for Scotland might further consider the paying, out of the £206,000, of the half of the compensation for the slaughter of tuberculous cattle under the Tuberculosis Order, 1913, which now falls on the local authorities. At present the English Board of Agriculture pay half and the other half falls on the local authorities. The Treasury refuse to assist further. No doubt it is within the knowledge of the Secretary for Scotland that a memorial from a Committee, representing all the local authorities in Scotland, on the 6th June stated that pending a further decision from the President of the Board of Agriculture the majority of Scottish local authorities are taking no steps to carry out this Order. The stamping out of tuberculosis amongst cattle is equally a national object, and there is a very strong argument in favour of doing something, because under the present Order there is a direct incentive to local authorities to save money by being as lax as they can in administering tuberculosis Orders. The principle that the central funds should pay all compensation for enforced slaughter has been recognised in the pleuro-pneu-monia, swine fever, and foot-and-mouth disease Orders. The only exception being in the comparatively minor case of the glanders or farcy Order, where the burden has fallen upon the local authorities.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I cannot find any item in relation to this question. It is a matter for the Board of Agriculture.
§ Major HOPE
I was only submitting in reference to small holdings that portions of the grant to which we would have been entitled should be diverted to these two objects which would benefit agriculture. I only hope, in conclusion, that something will be done to give the Lowlands of Scotland some advantage from this large sum of £206,000. I do not agree with this proposal for spending more money in advertising and trying to foster a demand for small holdings, and I think the money would be better spent in providing for the present applicants satisfactorily.
Mr. CATHCART WASON
I regret exceedingly to find myself in almost total disagreement with my very excellent Friend and colleague the Member for Wick Burghs (Mr. Munro). I claim to be as well acquainted with the crofting district as any man in this House, and personally I do not have these very violent denunciations, or any denunciations at all, of the Board of Agriculture in my very large Constituency. The only complaint I have had at all in reference to the Board of Agriculture was because they did not do something which they could not possibly do, namely, break existing leases. You know perfectly well, Sir, as you were the author of the Bill, and you tried to get it through, but could not. Apart from that the Board of Agriculture appear to have managed operations exceedingly well. It is all very well for my hon. Friend to talk about land reform and to blame the Board of Agriculture. The Board of Agriculture are not to blame but this House, and the Members of this House who passed the Act as it stood are to blame. They refused point-blank to listen to any of the representations which we made as regards the difference between the Highlands and Islands and the rest of Scotland. Every word we then advanced in argument has been brought out clearly in this Report. There were 5,300 applications for land and enlargements; 5,000 of those are in the crofting districts, where the conditions are entirely dissimilar from what they are in the South. In the crofting districts the crofter or his father or grandfather has done everything to the land and the landlord has done practically nothing. These are the men who want more land and an enlargement of their holdings. These are the men who are 1288 anxious to get back on to the land. In the South the position is absolutely different. Of the 5,300 applications there were 108 from Lanarkshire and less than a 100 from all the rest of the Lowlands of Scotland put together. My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh has made a number of very serious charges against the Land Court and the Board of Agriculture and the whole Department in this matter. He spoke with great knowledge of the condition of the Lowlands, but I claim to speak both on behalf of the Lowlands and the crofting district in this matter, and the conditions which prevail in the South of Scotland are entirely different. With all the facts of the case the Scottish peasant or ploughman is not the ignorant creature who refuses to put his name to anything. We have heard of the old Highland lady who denies what she said, but does not deny what she wrote.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and forty Members being found present—
Mr. CATHCART WASON
There was no need for the hon. Member to move a count or seek to achieve something in the nature of a snap Division, because everybody knows that a Scotch Debate is not interesting to English or Irish Members. They are never expected to turn up. I was alluding to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh in regard to the Lowlands of Scotland, and I understood that he referred to the reluctance of the Lowland farmer to sign his name to an application. What more could the Board of Agriculture do in respect of giving information on this subject than they have already done? I had myself great hope of getting something out of this Act in the Lowlands of Scotland, and I only had to apply to the Chairman of the Board and a Commissioner was sent down almost immediately. He took a motor drive of two days round the country, and saw a whole lot of people who might possibly apply for land. It is not want of capital which stands in the way; I do not know what it is, unless it be an inherent obstinacy or dislike on the part of the Lowland Scotsman to go out of his ordinary way. He has not been accustomed to small holdings, like the crofter, and that is one of the inherent difficulties of the whole position. In comparison with the average crofter the ploughman in the Lowlands is in receipt 1289 of a good wage, and he is not so badly off. With us the average farmer is labouring under very severe conditions indeed. After he has made up his account at the end of the year, if he has allowed any sum of money in respect of his labour and ordinary services, and if he has allowed anything for the services of his wife as dairymaid, there is nothing but absolute bankruptcy staring him in the face. I submit that there could be nothing more fatal than for the Board of Agriculture to start on a scheme in the Lowlands of Scotland, and it would be a disastrous failure.
It has been pointed out that millions are spent in the Soudan and that millions are spent on "Dreadnoughts," but those millions are being spent for definite purposes in the interests of the country. When my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Munro) is made Prime Minister in a Scottish Home Rule Parliament, as I hope he may be some day, would he propose to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in that Parliament to come down with a loan of £3,000,000 and pay the interest on that loan in order to subsidise land settlement and pay the people to go on to the land In the Lowlands of Scotland there are numbers of people, I believe, who are ready and willing to go on to the land, but it will take time and patience. Whatever else you can do you cannot rush a Scotsman. The Scotsman may on occasion do a thing foolishly, but if he does, it is because he has not thought over the matter very carefully. Therefore, I do entreat my right hon. Friend the Secretary for. Scotland not to be led by the pathetic observations of my hon. Friend for Wick Burghs (Mr. Munro) into going to the Treasury with a demand for more money at the present time. The old joke that a Scotsman can keep the Sabbath and everything else he gets his hands on, is quite out of place in this instance. That is not what it means at all. The Scotsman may be what is called "near," but he has an inherent conviction that it is wasteful and sinful to spend money fruitlessly and uselessly, and nothing would bring more discredit upon the Board of Agriculture than to start upon this scheme. My right hon. Friend, if he were to make a raid on the Treasury, would have to prove his case up to the hilt. Reference has been made to what the English Board of Agriculture are doing. They are not spending millions or even hundreds of thousands of pounds, but something like 40,000 a year on small holdings and allotments. My 1290 hon. Friend seems to doubt that statement, but it is the Return which has been given to me by the President of the Board of Agriculture in this country. They have actually got 38,000 small holdings at an annual expenditure of something like £40,000.
The only reproach I have to make against the Act is, as I have said, its non-inclusion of leaseholders, and that, of course, the Board of Agriculture cannot help. I was a little surprised at the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, who stated that sonic persons did not receive any answer to their letters. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] "Hear, hear"—I do not understand that. If the Board of Agriculture or the Fishery Board or any other Board of Scotland, or even the Post Office here, are written to by any of my Constituents, and they do not get a reply, I hear of the fact very shortly afterwards, but directly the matter to which any letter may refer is represented to the Department which may be concerned, I am sure every Member will agree with me when I say that any representation is always received with the utmost courtesy and attention. Why some constituents have not received replies to their letters is that their Members have not taken upon themselves to answer, and I think that is their fault and not so much the fault of the Board of Agriculture. The whole question is exceedingly difficult, and I for one, while deprecating any undue haste on the part of the Board of Agriculture, would like to emphasise the fact already urged on this point by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, namely, that this question of the laud settlement in the country and the question of rural depopulation are together one of the most grave national problems we have to deal with.
We cannot have a healthy and safe country while we have vast numbers of our rural population in a state of discontent. Certain figures were alluded to by several of my hon. Friends in regard to the number of emigrants leaving the shores of Scotland for other countries. It is largely due, in my opinion, to the meretricious sort of advertisements we see in the papers lauding the Colonies. The Board of Agriculture cannot compete with countries which offer a free farm, a free passage, and large wages. Emigration agents who are paid so much per head for every emigrant sent out are not too particular what they say. I think that it is a discredit to the Colonial Governments, every one of them, 1291 that they should allow emigration agents to issue statements which on the face of them are often practically nonsense. The emigrant who goes to any of those Colonies goes to a very hard life, for which only those who are the strongest are fitted, and when they get to the other side we do not hear any more of them. I sincerely trust that the outcome of the Debate will be to assure the Secretary for Scotland that the vast majority of his colleagues in this House are very well satisfied with the operation of the Act and the manner in which the Board of Agriculture has conducted its work. It is not nearly fifteen months, but a little over twelve months, since the Act came into operation, and let Scottish Members take on their own shoulders—it has nothing to do with the Secretary for Scotland—the whole blame of any defects there may be in connection with its operation, and not try to throw it upon the administrators on the Board in Edinburgh.
§ Mr. MORTON
I do not agree with the speech which my hon. Friend has just made, and all I can say is that none of the Northern counties will endorse in any shape or form what he has said. My own recollection of Orkney and Shetland is that they have made more applications and got more money than any other part of the North of Scotland. What I cannot understand is that anybody should talk of settling the land question without money. Many of us want money quite as much as the Irish party, for Ireland has got hundreds of millions for the purpose of settling the land question—millions which I voted for, because I wanted the question to be settled. That is an additional reason why we in Scotland should have money in order to settle the land question in that country. I do not know whether the Government realise, the gravity of the land question in Scotland. In my opinion it is both serious and urgent, and I am glad that at last the Government realise its gravity and urgency by putting this Vote down first for discussion. Hitherto, from one cause or another, we have had no such opportunity for discussion. I wish to speak more particularly about Sutherland-shire. The information which I have got from Sutherland-shire is that up to this very date not one holding has been cut out or any old holding enlarged. This is an extract from a letter I have received:—
Now we are getting nothing done by the Board of Agriculture — not a new holding cut out or an old 1292 holding enlarged—and to tell these applicants that they have no capital is a mockery. Instead of facilitating the settlement of the people on the land, the Board of Agriculture seem bent on finding all the obstacles they can.Of course, it may be said that there is no land. I want to make quite clear that there is plenty of land. The matter is felt very strongly in Sutherlandshire, where, during three or four elections, it has been the main question. They are not satisfied with the working, or, shall I say, the non-working, of the Board of Agriculture, because I suppose they have not done anything. It is said that instead of setting to work under the Land Act they seem to have put every obstacle in the way of carrying it out. I know some people say that there is no land in Sutherlandshire. I know better than that. I want to show the Committee where the land is, so that the Board of Agriculture may find out in time where Sutherlandshire is, for I am not quite sure whether they know where it is. The Royal Commission reported in 1895 that there were in Sutherland 395,892 acres of land fit for holdings. I want to know why we cannot have that 395,000 acres of land which the Royal Commission has shown to be available in the county of Sutherland for small holdings, as soon as it can be got possession of. With regard to the Land Act, it is a bad Act, and we knew it was at the time it was passed, but we gave way to the Lords, who did too much in the making of the Act, because we thought, as there was great need to be doing something, we might get something out of the Act, and consequently allowed it to go through. What we have to think about is administration. I really do not think that anybody is satisfied with the working of the Agricultural Board. I realise that does not apply to the Land Court, in which Lord Kennedy has done very good work indeed. We are, however, in this difficulty, that matters must commence with the Board of Agriculture, and you cannot get to the Land Court until you have got past them. It may be said that there is no proof that the Board are not going as fast as they ought or not recognising their duty. I have been sending applicants from crofters and others, some of them wanting new and some enlarged holdings. They all say they sent in applications more than a year ago and nothing whatever has been done. That applies to dozens of cases all over the county. I 1293 have sent a number of letters to the Secretary for Scotland in regard to these matters, and he took copies of the letters I received. Here is an answer I got the other day from him, and which is really an answer from the Board of Agriculture. It is dated 17th June:—
Dear Sir,—I am asked by Mr. McKinnon Wood to thank you for your letter of June 16th and enclosure referring to the application of Mr. John Campbell, of Durness, for a small holding, and to say that he regrets that he does not see his way to do anything in the matter.There is another case which I brought before the House, of the enlargement of holdings, where the land happened to belong to another landlord from the one under whom they held. When we were discussing the Act in Committee an Amendment was passed. What did the Board of Agriculture do? They trumped up a case, and said that by an Amendment of the Act, unless they got the land from the same landlord, they could have no land at all. My complaint against the Board of Agriculture in this matter is, instead of going to the Lord Advocate and finding out what was done in Committee of this House, and leaving it to the landlord to raise an objection and find the matter out, the Board did it themselves. All we have been enabled to do in that case is to secure that the matter shall be taken to the Land Court to be settled. That may take twelve months, and in the meantime the land may be let to somebody else, and they may never get it. I do not wish to make any personal complaint against anybody. I do not wish to make a personal complaint against the Secretary for Scotland, but I do say he ought to put his foot down and say that things should be done properly, and instead of they being his master, he should be the master. There is no other way of managing these extraordinary Boards, and until something of that sort is done we are not likely to get any reforms. We must have more money to settle the land question. The matter is urgent and serious enough, and something must be done to prevent this emigration and depopulation going on. I do hope the Secretary for Scotland will recognise the serious nature of the land question in Scotland, and do something more even than he has promised to-day to get the matter settled. I am glad to know that he is appointing five more Commissioners, and if twenty more are required we ought to have them.
From reports and letters which appear in the newspapers, I am pleased to note 1294 they have taken up this question, and give particulars which, I trust, the Secretary for Scotland will read, so that he may understand the land question. As far as the North of Scotland is concerned, some effort must be made to settle the land question, unless you want the country to be ruined. The matter is a serious one, and I am sure the Members for the Island counties feel, like myself, that it is our duty to do something for our constituents. Unless we get something more satisfactory still to-day than I have heard, I shall be bound to vote with my hon. Friends, so as to let them know in a practical way what we mean. I told the House before, and I say now, I do not think the Government are treating the people of Scotland fairly in this matter and other matters. It is too much taken for granted that because Scotland is the most orderly and law-abiding part of the United Kingdom that you can do as you like with it. I wish to assure the Secretary for Scotland that we have taken off our gloves in this matter and that the Members for Scotland insist upon everything being properly administered, because it is not so much a matter of politics as of administration. Let the Government bear in mind they depend for their existence as a Government on the Scottish Members, and that if they do not do their duty to the people of Scotland, and act fairly and, honestly towards that country, they may find that the Scottish Members will band together, as the Irish and Labour Members, and insist on their demands being looked after properly for the benefit of the whole of the Scottish people. I do assure the Committee that our constituents are in earnest on the land question, and that we shall, in the best possible way we can do, insist on Scotland being treated in a fair, honourable, and honest manner by the Government of the day.
§ Captain GILMOUR
I have listened with considerable interest to the discussion so far as it has gone, and with the exception of the statement made by the Secretary for Scotland I have not noticed that any Member who has spoken to-day has dealt with the question of the Board of Agriculture except from the one point of view, namely, as to the settlement of small holdings. I wish to remind the House that, after all, the Board of Agriculture is constituted for other purposes as well as that of small holdings. I do not wish it to be understood for a single moment that I am antagonistic to the 1295 principle of setting up small holdings in Scotland, or that I would do anything to put obstacles in the way of the propagation of those small holdings. But I do think that it is time that in the interests of agriculture, as a whole, in Scotland we should take stock of the situation. My own opinion has always been that, whether this Scottish Board of Agriculture has, as far as it has gone, done what it could to the best of its ability, or whether it will ever under any circumstances be able to fulfil all the hopes and aspirations of agriculturists in Scotland. I have always been of the belief that we made a great mistake in losing the knowledge and experience of the Board of Agriculture in England. I have always thought if we had a Department in Scotland, with a representative sitting here answering for that Department in this House, that not only would the agriculturists of Scotland have been brought closely into touch with those who had to administer agricultural matters, but that we would have had all that added advantage of being able to utilise the knowledge that had been compiled through a long period, and which has now got to be freshly built up by a meagre staff handicapped by the fact that they have not at their disposal a sufficient amount of funds. I confess, having listened to this Debate, my hopes for the general agricultural interests of the country have received no encouragement. With regard to small holdings, what is the policy of the Board to be on the general question of the acceptance of candidates? Are they setting up before themselves any particular standard as to the amount of capital which applicants should have before they are given small holdings? Although we may desire to see men settled upon the land in greater numbers, we ought to be very careful indeed that the men have sufficient working capital to make their venture a success, and if there are not sufficient applicants with the necessary funds, it then becomes a problem whether sufficient funds can be found in other ways. I would urge upon the Secretary for Scotland and the Board that if they are going to make a success, as we would hope they might do, of the settlement of these small holders, they must. be most careful to see that the men they settle on the land have sufficient capital to give them a fair opportunity.
1296 The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the necessity for co-operation. I am glad that he referred to a body which has been working in Scotland on this very subject—the Agricultural Co-operative Society_ He said that very little had really been done in that direction. There are a number of Members on the other side who are well aware of the work which this society has been doing. For the last five or six years, at any rate, it has been laying the foundations of a movement which, if it is assisted, as I hope it may be, by the Government of the day, from whichever party it is drawn, will be able to do infinitely more than almost any other movement for the small holders and the small agriculturists throughout the country. We have received assistance from the Development Commission, and I trust that the relations between the Scottish Board of Agriculture and this voluntary body will continue to be of a. very happy nature. I am sure, if that is so, it will be of benefit to the country. Mention was made of the necessity of having some object lessons in small holdings. I am not at all averse to that. I confess that I have seen object lessons in small holdings in Scotland, some of them good, but a great many of them very bad indeed. I think it very desirable that we should have in selected areas under the supervision of the Board of Agriculture, not only object lessons in small holdings, but, rather, upon the lines of what we find in Canada, object lessons in general farming in connection with the education of the people throughout various districts in Scotland. In reference to forestry, it has been claimed by one university or another that the demonstration area should be in close proximity to that university. For myself, I. would say that if this demonstration area is to be of the utility which we would desire to see, it must depend not so much upon being in the vicinity of any particular university, as upon being chosen in that part of the country where there is most likelihood of a really practical area being selected. It appears to me that each and every one of the universities in Scotland can include in its curriculum the necessary education of the class-room on forestry matters; but when it comes to the more practical work of the field, if it is to be of real value, those who are receiving the education must inevitably, in my opinion, leave the classes for a considerable period and go to that 1297 area where they will receive instruction from a practical forester on the spot. The Report is not yet submitted, and this is all conjecture. I would urge upon the secretary for Scotland if, when the Report is submitted, he has to come to a decision as to the suitability of one area as against another, he should keep before him what I believe to be the most important consideration to which I have just referred.
The right hon. Gentleman also stated that the Board of Agriculture were doing something to assist horse breeding, both light and heavy. I am glad to recognise the good work which the Board have done, particularly in the matter of light horse breeding, and to congratulate them upon the result of their representations, not only in encouraging farmers to breed horses, but in inducing the Army buyers to purchase directly from the farmers. That is of the utmost importance. In view of the fact that for a considerable number of years practically no horses have been bought in Scotland by the Army, it is very encouraging to know that within the last few weeks, as a result of the representations of the Board, assisted by private representations, purchases have actually been made. I wish to emphasise the point that it is not only the duty of the Board of Agriculture to secure as far as possible the settlement of people upon small holdings, but it is as much, if not more, their duty, to take an active and close interest in the propagation of all agricultural matters. We welcome the setting up such institutions as seed-testing stations. I should hope to see in the future experiments in breeding, feeding, and the like, and if it were possible—although this probably comes under the English Board—one would welcome some such testing station for diseases in stock as has been established in England. In conclusion, while no one interested in agriculture in Scotland would say for a single moment that he was entirely satisfied either with the powers of the Board or with the work that they have done, yet no one can help realising that they have undertaken a very large and important task and have been handicapped by lack of funds. From whatever part of Scotland we may come, and whatever interest may be nearest our hearts, we will all do whatever we can to assist them in the work which lies before them, in the hope that they will not disappoint us, but will realise that, however much they may have done in the initial stages, there is still a great deal more to do.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. AINSWORTH
It must be very pleasing to all those interested in the subject under discussion, that during this Debate, although there has been criticism which, of course, the Department expects, and which ought to make the future working of the Board better and easier, we have had from every quarter of the House a practically unanimous opinion that something must be done to deal with the emigration of the industrial and agricultural classes from Scotland. The only means we have at present for dealing with the problem is the machinery provided by the Government and agreed to by the House of Commons, when they passed the Small Landholders Act. The work which we have before us is that of making that Act, as far as possible, a success. I believe that the principal reason why the Act has perhaps been a little slow in getting into work is that the Board of Agriculture have naturally and wisely determined that their first experiment shall be a success. It is an old saying that nothing succeeds like success. There are always persons prepared to complain, but if the first experiment is a success. we know that it will spread. The people who are doubtful and lukewarm will then come round to the view that this machinery is the one means we have of dealing with the problem and will give it their support. I wish in every way that I can to support it. I do not know what other Scottish Members feel, but whenever I read the numbers of able-bodied men and women who are leaving the Clyde every week for the Colonies, it seems to me deplorable. One of my hon. Friends said that it was a question, not only for Scotland, but for the United Kingdom. I consider it a question, not only for the United Kingdom, but for the Empire at large. What are you going to do if you cannot keep the race going, and have people about your hearthstones, at home in the Highlands—how, I say, are you going to assist, not only in the development of that country or the United Kingdom, but of the Empire oversea? I do think our Debate to-day has brought clearly before us the fact that the only machinery that we have at present fitted to deal with this matter is the machinery of the Small Landholders Act (Scotland). I sincerely hope that all my hon. Friends here—I think this Debate has shown their willingness—will join in helping to make the Act and its working a success. At the same time I perfectly agree that the faults 1299 of the Act should be shown, and that we should assist in having these faults amended. I hope the House will not be alarmed if I give a quotation from the poet Burns, for I shall guard myself by giving it in prose. In one of his letters, the poet says:—I believe that wherever I see the smoke of a cottage there is room for all the virtues in this life.That is perfectly true. Those who know how the population of Scotland is brought up, know that though it may be extremely poorly, though the children may be barefooted, all these children get a thoroughly good education; they are brought up healthily, and sound physically, morally, and mentally. Nobody wants to see the growth of such a population checked as it has unfortunately been checked in past years. We have had the Crofters Act, which undoubtedly has done an enormous amount of good, and to a certain extent has enabled us to keep our population. I sincerely trust that with the aid of the Small Landholders Act we shall be able to carry on the same work, and by so doing have the reasonable satisfaction of knowing that we are doing a good work, not only for our own country, but for the Empire. I should like to mention two or three points which I should like to bring to the attention of the Secretary for Scotland in the hope that he may be able to give some sort of a satisfactory reply. I spent some time a few weeks ago in my Constituency, in those parts where the Act, was beginning to be put into force, and I heard a great deal on both sides of the question. I came across a number of instances in which proprietors and large farmers were helping to start the Act. So far as the farmers are concerned. I think they are beginning to see that there can be no greater loss or damage to them than by the decrease and emigration of the population. So far as the landowners go, now that they are not so much alarmed about the Act as they were, they cannot help seeing that they may possibly get as good a rent from a considerable number of small holders as they did before. I want the Secretary for Scotland and the Board of Agriculture to bear in mind some of the points that I have mentioned, and will mention. As I have said, there is the delay in bringing the Act into force. I understand the policy has been in the first instance to create a, new home wherever it could be done, rather than devote time and money to the enlargement of holdings. That is perfectly right. Now, how- 1300 ever, that the Board have made a start, I want them to consider the enlargement of existing holdings as much as they do the creation of new ones. Where we have an existing holding and have a family there, even if it is impossible that that household should be at the first an economic household, let them consider that it may be as well to have them permanently etstablished in the place. I came across several instances in my tour where owners of buildings, which were not in a particularly good state of repair, were prepared, if the Board would only find them some of the money or offer facilities, to do the repairs themselves. I sincerely hope the Board will be able to deal with questions of that kind.
As to the question of water supply and sanitation. I think I am quite right in saying that one of the duties of the old Congested Districts Board was to assist localities in the improvement of their water supply and sanitation. In fact, all consideration that could be accounted considerations of health. I find that under the Congested Districts Act (Scotland), Commissioners of the Board are appointed for the purpose of administering sums available for the improvement of the congested districts. What greater improvement can you have than the health of the congested districts? I sincerely hope the Board will devote themselves to this matter wherever they create a new district and encourage a new population. If they have not sufficient power to do the things that I mention and that seem so desirable, I hope they will come back as soon as possible to Parliament, who no doubt will give them the extra powers needed to deal with a satisfactory water supply, and so on. Some hon. Gentlemen have asked how are we going to get any more money? They suggest that more is needed to efficiently carry out the work of the Board under the Act. I can tell the Board of Agriculture, and I think I have the support of the House of Commons in so doing, that if they can make their work valuable enough, they have only to come to this House and ask for any additional powers necessary or any additional money required, and I am certain this House will be prepared to let them have it. I trust this Vote will be agreed to without a Division. An hon. Member spoke of taking the matter to a Division. In his speech he was careful to say that he did not consider the Secretary for Scotland sufficiently well paid, and yet he is endeavouring to carry out his policy by deducting £100 from that salary. I 1301 hope we shall all associate ourselves with the hon. Member for the Northern Burghs, arid support the chiefs in this matter in the hope that they will proceed on the lines they have taken. I trust they will have no hesitation in asking for more money whenever they want it, so that before long we may have the satisfaction of seeing the best results effected through the operation of the Act, not only in relation to Scotland, but in relation to the Empire.
§ Mr. BARNES
I was not present when my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh moved the reduction. I suppose being one of those who are supposed to be "agin" the Government I should vote with him, but I do not feel disposed to do so. I have heard some of the criticism today of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland. I think some of it is well founded as, for instance, when I heard the Member for Inverness complain that some of his constituents had not received replies to their letters until a very long time after those letters had been sent. I have also heard complaints From other hon. Members. I have to take, of course, what I know of Scottish agricultural matters largely at second-hand, but I am inclined to think that there has been some legitimate cause of irritation during the last few months. On the whole, however, I do not think it is quite fair to the right hon. Gentleman to come here to-day after a Department has been in operation for only nine months, having regard to the legal and no doubt other obstacles that have lain in his path, and having regard to all the circumstances, to put a matter of this sort to the vote. I rise to refer to only one point that has been mentioned by several speakers. I want to dwell upon that point for a few minutes, because I think it is a very important one, and has at all events an indirect bearing upon the problem with which we were familiar some four or five years ago, and that we shall be familiar with once more before many years go over our heads. I refer to the problem of unemployment. I want also to refer to the question of afforestation, because I think it has a, bearing even upon getting people settled on the land in small holdings. I believe that there are some parts of Scotland where, if you had afforestation and small holdings running together, you might very likely place a good many people in employment, whereas neither small holdings nor afforestation would of themselves be sufficient to achieve that object. I want to complain about the 1302 inaction, I will not say of the Secretary for Scotland, but of somebody, and I want to fix the blame on somebody. I do not know who is to blame. It is possible we shall get to know. But what I have in my mind is that this question of afforestation is no new one. It has been before this House on many occasions, and I think pretty well everybody, not only in this House but outside of it, who has gone into these matters agrees that this is one of the most important matters that could engage the attention of the Board of Agriculture. I remember when I was on the other side of the House a Report being submitted by a Commission that had been set up, I think in 1906, to inquire into the most suitable areas available for afforestation in connection with unemployment and various other matters. That Commission reported four or five years ago and told the House that there were so many million acres of land—I forget now the number, but a great many—
§ Mr. BARNES
My hon. Friend says six millions available, or, at all events, suitable for afforestation. Following that Report, nothing was done. Later, having regard to the importance of this particular matter, a Departmental Committee was appointed, I believe by the Scottish office, to inquire into the question of afforestation, not generally speaking, not applying to the whole of the Kingdom or the three Kingdoms, but to Scotland alone. That Committee reported. I want to compare the proceedings of that Committee with the one that was set up some eight or nine years ago, so far as time is concerned. I am now speaking from memory, but I believe I am right in saying that that Departmental Committee set up in 1911. It reported in the same year and made certain recommendations, and I should like to know what is actually being done to bring this question of afforestation out of the region of mere talk and abstraction down to a really practical proposition dealing with some of these vital problems that concern the every-day life of the people. That Committee reported in 1911. Then we had an Advisory Committee. I believe that followed from the Report of the Departmental Committee. One Committee follows another, but we seem to get no forrarder. One of the recommendations of that Committee was that we should have an Advisory Committee to 1303 advise upon the proper and the most suitable demonstration area, and to advise as to a school of instruction, and one or two other things; and I hope the Committee to which reference has been made in the Report of the Board of Agriculture, and which was appointed at the end of July, eleven months ago, will advise that we should cease talking and get to business. We want to know what has been done in the last eleven months.
I believe the right hon. Gentleman opposite was quite right in regard to the proper area for that work. So far as I understand, he expressed the opinion that the area should not be one next to the school of instruction, but one where the land and all the circumstances were such as would produce the best results, having regard to the problem. I take it that the first step is not to purchase land and plant new trees and employ a few people on the planting of them, and then wait a generation before we can get anything in the way of timber. Of course, that would be one one part of the problem; but another part, and a more important one as it as a going concern so that as speedily as seems to me, would be to buy up a forest possible we could set people to work in cutting down what I may call the ripe trees and employing in the vicinity of the afforestation area labour in the subsidiary industries, and also giving employment to those people on some estates or farms where they do not at present eke out a complete living. I ask the Secretary for Scotland to tell us what has been done in regard to this matter. I think it is time, having regard to all the Committees and Commissions that have sat, and the immense discussion that has gone on in the last few years, and having regard also to the fact that we shall find the unemployment surgeon round our doors soon, and shall be confronted with the need of doing something, that we should get some explanation or justification, if there is such, for the inaction of this Committee which has been eleven months at work and has as yet done nothing. I understand from the Secretary for Scotland that he made application for more money, and I am glad to know that he has got more money for the staffing of his office. I am sure the Development Commissioners would take a generous view of any application for the development of this matter. Some years ago when the Development Commission was started, it was generally under 1304 stood that it would apply money for the purpose of the economic development of the country. Here is something that would contribute more than anything else that I know of to the economic development of Scotland. I should like to know what the Committee has done, or if it has done anything, and when we are likely to have any real practical results.
§ Mr. FALCONER
I rise, not for the purpose of discussing the work of the Board of Agriculture generally, but for the purpose of saying a word with regard to the small holdings problem in the Lowlands. I hold very strong opinions upon this question. I think so far as Scotland is concerned, the development of small holdings and the populations of the country districts is a matter, not of choice, but of absolute necessity if Scotland is to continue in the future as she has done in the past to depend very largely upon a race brought up within her own shores. It is quite obvious to anyone who takes note of the change which is going on in the rural districts that people are leaving them, and that the same class of people are not being maintained there. I myself have been much struck by two things in my own experience. One thing that strikes me in the Lowland counties with which I am best acquainted on the East Coast of Scotland is the number of people going abroad in order to find land, and the second thing that strikes me, and it is emphasised by reading the Report of the Board of Agriculture, is the comparatively small number of applications made to the Board of Agriculture for land in the Lowland counties. I know of my own knowledge there are many men eminently suited in these counties, and that there is any amount of land eminently suited near to the market, having ideal conditions as regards soil and climate, and I have made it my business to ascertain by inquiries what is the reason for the people not having taken advantage of the Small Landholders Act and applying for holdings, and I find almost invariably that it is this: The ordinary Lowland ploughman and grieve who in a position to take a small holding and has a little money left or ready by him will not make an application for a small holding unless he knows definitely that he will get it. That, I believe, is the real difficulty with regard to the Lowlands. No doubt in the Highlands you have a different set of conditions, but, in the Lowlands the main source of difficulty which 1305 the Board of Agriculture have got to meet is the difficulty that those men will not apply for holdings in the existing situation unless they know definitely that they will get them. I am bound to say that is an attitude I would adopt. These men, who may be employed as ploughmen on a farm or who may be managers, are in good situations; they have their families, and they are prudent, thrifty men. Such a man sees an advertisement, and sees that the Board of Agriculture are setting about the creation of small holdings, but he will not apply unless he is prepared to give up his situation, and he will not give up his situation, which is usually a yearly one, unless he well knows he will get a holding and unless he knows in what quarter it is situated, so as to judge of its suitability both in regard to situation and rent.
My reason for rising was to put that view before the Secretary for Scotland. If he is going to get these people to settle on the land here instead of going abroad, he must say, "I am prepared to find a holding for you and to find it by a definite date," otherwise he will not get the men. What is necessary for that is simply that he should have a staff capable of dealing with all suitable applications he receives, and also he should have money to provide the holdings. When one considers the importance to the country of securing those people on the land, when you consider that at the present moment you have many suitable applicants, and that if you do not take advantage of that and keep them now, you never will get another chance of keeping them, I say it is the clear duty of the Government and the Board of Agriculture to get the staff necessary to deal with suitable applications whenever they receive them, and also to get money to provide for the buildings and equipments. It may be said that that is a large order. I do not think so. When you consider the value to the country of the people going out of it, the amount expended in their upbringing and education, and the capital and the energy that is lost to the country, and when you consider that there is not a single agricultural county that is not urgently in need of some men to do agricultural work, then I say it would pay the country to raise the necessary money, if it goes to a million instead of half a million, in order to say to those suitable to stay upon the land, "We will find you a place within a definite period." If you have the land and the money available 1306 and the staff, any business man would say, "Let us take advantage of this opportunity at any cost as regards organisation," and any cost as regards providing the necessary capital would pay to carry that out, and if you do not do it now you will lose your opportunity. I press that most earnestly. I know the number of people leaving the country; I know the loss we are suffering, which we will never be able to make good hereafter if we lose the opportunity now.
In the farming industry at the last Whitsuntide term, when engagements were renewed, there was such a dearth of suitable men to carry on the farming business that wages jumped up to an extent to which they never jumped in my memory before. What does that mean? It means that, if this is to go on continually it will be impossible to get the men required for the cultivation of the land. The only cure that I see is that we should have these small holdings, from which we will get the best men for agriculture or for any other work in the country. I agree it is a very difficult problem in the Lowlands. People that were plentiful are gradually disappearing. In my own district small holdings have gradually died out for want of capital on the part of the landlords to provide the necessary buildings, and where there used to be many small holdings you have now the large farms instead, and people who have gone out of the small holdings—the ploughman and the ploughman's son—have no way of getting small holdings. If you set up examples, you will get a nucleus which will gradually spread and people will come forward and take these small holdings, and there will be a denser population and different classes of people will not be looking to the attractions of the Colonies. I think it is not the attraction of the Colonies that leads people to what is very often a desolate and solitary life, especially for the wife and children; it is eminently undesirable that they should be far removed from doctors and churches and education, and isolated from social enjoyments, which all those people like as much as anybody else. There is no attraction in Canada, Australia or New Zealand to be compared to the attraction, so far as home is concerned, to be found in our own country, with all its advantages.
I think the Board of Agriculture if they had the staff and sufficient money to grapple with this problem would have 1307 little difficulty in persuading the people to remain in this country. The difficulty is that the people know applications have already been sent in, that it will take ten or twelve years to satisfy, and under those circumstances what is the use of advising people to come forward and make applications when the Board is already choked up with work which it will take them ten or twelve years to overcome. If they have the necessary staff and money and are able to point to the advantage of climate and soil and social surroundings, I do not think the commission agents from Canada will be listened to with much patience by the ordinary Scotsman who wants to live in his own land, and make a home for himself in the place in which he was brought up. 1 urge the Secretary for Scotland to go on in the direction of increasing his staff, and I can assure him that so far as I am concerned, and I believe so far as Scottish Members are concerned, he will find us at his back in demanding that whatever money is necessary for this object shall be provided. It is money which will come back again and this is an eminently suitable case for finding the money at once, if necessary by loan, in order to enable the work to go forward. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to insist with all the strength of which he is capable, and in the interests of the country he represents, upon the Treasury not being allowed to stand in the way of any money which the situation demands. I do not complain that the Board of Agriculture have not gone rashly about their work in regard to the problem, because it is a very difficult one. To settle one small holding takes a great deal of time and requires careful consideration. Therefore I am not complaining that they have not accomplished much, but now that they have settled down to their work and now that the Secretary for Scotland is able to support them with men and money the Board of Agriculture are upon their trial for the future, and we shall look for much greater results than we have had in the past. I think they will find not only the Members for Scotland, but the whole body of public opinion in Scotland at their back in attempting to do something to stop emigration from Scotland which threatens to be so disastrous.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I wish to say a few words with regard to the administration of the Land Act of 1911. I agree with the hon. Member for Wick Burghs (Mr. 1308 Munro) that there is a great deal of dissatisfaotion in the North of Scotland with reference to the operation of the Land Act, and I would make this observation in regard to it. The Land Act is clearly divisible into two distinct parts: first of all, the Land Court, and, secondly, the Board of Agriculture. I know the Land Court Vote is coming on and I will only say that while the Land Court has admittedly been a ground for great satisfaction throughout the whole of Scotland there may be a very good reason for that in the fact that it is carrying on a settled policy of land legislation in Scotland, a policy which has been settled, fixed, admired, and loved by the people in the North of Scotland for twenty-five years, and it is administered under a very capable, earnest, and competent president. With regard to the Board of Agriculture the case is entirely different. That is a new Board in Scotland. It has no fixed policy and no past traditions to rely upon or to base its future policy upon. It has got to fix and frame its own policy, and it is handicapped in a tremendous way by the fact that it has only a limited amount of money to spend.
I can quite imagine that in 1911 when we passed the Act for Scotland we never realised the magnitude of the problem we had to face. I am perfectly certain that even the most enthusiastic of us in this House did not realise the enormous magnitude of the problem, and I can sympathise with the Secretary for Scotland and the Board of Agriculture who found themselves faced with that problem the magnitude of which none of us realised. I join in the earnest appeal which has been made by the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Falconer) and I trust that appeal will be listened to by the Secretary for Scotland. That well known Radical paper, "The People's Journal," which has done a great deal to advertise the Act and make it popular in Scotland, has concentrated the opinion of the people of Scotland upon this question, and has made it clear that we have not at the present time sufficient money from the Treasury to make the Act a success. Why do I say we require more money? I have myself preached the land problem doctrine both inside Parliament and out of it, and we all held out promises to the ploughman and grieves that they would be able to occupy the land and that we should find depopulation and emigration in Scotland ceasing. As a matter of fact, these men are not 1309 encouraged by the Act to remain upon the land. There is not sufficient money to do it. They can get a Grant for certain things at a low rate of interest, but the first thing we want is to get some method of being able to give a Grant to the in-coming landholder to enable him to stock his holdings.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Lyell)
To do what the hon. Member is now suggesting would require legislation, and that is not in order.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Then I will deal with another aspect of the question. In the North of Scotland we have an enormous number of applications for small holdings because we have been accustomed to crofter legislation in the North of Scotland, and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, if he really wishes the Land Act to be a national Act all over Scotland, that he ought to advertise the Act as much as possible by sending competent speakers and authorities upon the subject to make it clear. I heard it stated in this Debate that people are attracted from their homes to the Colonies by the advertisements of the emigration agents. I do not know why they should not, be attracted by word of mouth and by an explanation of this Act to remain in their native land. There is one other aspect of the case. You cannot get people to remain on the land in the North of Scotland even if you provide them with the land, unless you also provide them with railway and pier facilities, so that they may be able to get their agricultural produce as quickly as possible to the market. You can only do that by railway facilities, by river and sea facilities, and also by piers. On the west coast of Ross-shire I know of two or three instances of the necessity of having such a pier. I have mentioned one to the right hon. Gentleman, where there is a community of 1,000 souls on the West Coast of Scotland, and they have not now got a respectable pier by means of which they can get their groceries into their homes and their agricultural produce away to the Southern districts. I know another district which is in exactly the same position. I would ask my right hon. Friend to remember that while the first and main proposition connected with the Land Act in Scotland is the provision of small holdings, the Board of Agriculture should not forget that there are other things required in the North of Scotland, such as piers and roads, and 1310 these require to be attended to. You cannot expect people to take up holdings unless you provide them with facilities to cultivate the land easily and at a profit. From my experience of the right hon. Gentleman I feel sure that the observations which have been made by Highland Members and others will be listened to, and I earnestly hope that he will be able to persuade the Treasury to allow a decent Grant in order to make the Land Act a, success in Scotland.
§ Sir A. WILLIAMSON
I should not be doing my duty to my Constituents if I did not express their views as to the way the Land Act has been administered by the Board of Agriculture. They sent in a number of applications for extension of holdings, and for new small holdings, and not one single holding has been created under the Board of Agriculture, nor has there been any extension of holdings in the counties which I have the honour to represent, so far as I know. No doubt the Secretary for Scotland can put good reasons before us to explain that delay, but it is very difficult indeed amongst the people who apply for these small holdings to avoid a feeling of disappointment. I happen to know several cases of men who are balancing at the present time their future lives as to the career they are going to follow. The question is, Are they going to secure small holdings, which they have enough money to equip, or are they going abroad to the Colonies I am afraid that owing to the delay a very large number of them have decided to go abroad, but if they have not, and there is a reasonable prospect of getting small holdings within a reasonable length of time, they may stay at home and help to repopulate the district. These people feel that the delay and the uncertainty are so great that in many cases they have gone away. I believe I am correct in saying that in the first three months of this year 1,500 people emigrated from my Constituency alone, the population of which is something like 40,000. That is a very heavy percentage when we remember that these are mostly people well fitted for an agricultural life and to develop the resources of our own country. It seems a great pity that any further delay should take place if it is avoidable.
If the Secretary for Scotland could do anything to speed up the machine, he would be doing a national service for which we should owe him gratitude. Beyond that, there is the question of the men's ability 1311 to stock these farms or small holdings, and, behind that, lies the question of the wages which the farmers pay to the men. The question of wages has a great deal to do with the ability of working men to become small farmers. Perhaps we, in this country, have not advanced in the direction of remunerating our agricultural labourers so rapidly as in the case of other classes of labourers. That has a good deal of bearing on the question whether working men can take advantage of a career upon the land which is held out to them. No doubt we have provided certain machinery for offering a career on the soil. A ploughman may become a small holder if he can stock the holding, and he might in time be able to take a larger holding, and become a pretty well-to-do farmer. That opportunity exists abroad. On my own property in America, a number of ploughmen who went out, were, because the wages were good, able in about two years to save enough to be able to stock a small farm with the aid of credit. One hundred pounds has been scoffed at this afternoon, but it is not a very small sum. If you have £100 you can get as much as is worth £100, and that is credit. I hope, therefore, the Secretary for Scotland has in mind the importance not only of supplying small holdings, but also of enabling men of ability to take advantage of them. Speed up the machinery as fast as you can, because, meantime, you are disappointing people able and willing to take small holdings.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
After listening to a great number of speeches from the other side, of which the tone has been precisely similar with arguments almost identical, I rise in order to present a somewhat different aspect of the case. I observe that the hon. Member who has just spoken, like the rest of his colleagues, as soon as he has delivered his speech, removes himself from the Chamber, without troubling to listen to any remarks that may be made in reply. Another hon. Member who spoke just before him, has also, according to the modern method, quitted the Chamber. I wish to point out an aspect of this matter, which is rather different from that put forward with such monotony by hon. Gentlemen opposite. We are all content with the Small Landholders Act, and we are endeavouring to make the Act, and hoping that it will, operate as well as possible. Personally, I do not hesitate to say that I think the Act was based to a large extent upon 1312 false economic principles, but, as it has been passed by this House, I am quite ready to give all the assistance and support I can to the Secretary for Scotland in carrying it out. What have we heard from the last two or three Members who have spoken, and especially from the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Falconer) and the hon. Member for Ross (Mr. Macpherson), who left the House the moment he had delivered his speech? Because, forsooth, the Act does not carry out all the lavish promises that these hon. Members made at election times it is wrong, and the administration is wrong. We all know what their promises were during those election times. Catch-penny promises and delusive baits were held out to these agricultural labourers by such hon. Members as the hon. Member for Ross, and now, because they have been proved to be delusive promises, he objects to the administration, and thinks the Act ought to be altogether different. The hon. Member for Forfarshire said: "You are not giving near enough money; establish these poor people on comfortable farms, and give them money to stock them. If you do not do so, it is quite impossible for them to succeed."
§ Sir H. CRAIK
Perhaps the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow will confirm my recollection of what the hon. Member said. Are there no dwellers in towns? Are there no artizans in the towns? Are they to be taxed, and is the revenue of the country to be increased, that this special class, not a very numerous class, may be established on comfortable farms at the public expense? That is not in the Act. The Act, I believe and trust, is being administered in its spirit and in its letter. If the moment an Act has been passed, Parliament is to be told because it does not carry out lavish promises made in the heat of an election by hon. Members opposite, that it must double and treble the expenditure and not count the cost, it may be all very well for candidates in search of electioneering promises, but it is not administration, it is not statesmanship, it is not sound economy, and in the end it will prove disastrous. These hon. Members said, "Spend lavishly, amply, ungrudgingly, and all the rest of the community to carry it out. What a tremendous pity it is that you do not carry this out in such an extravagant way that you will prevent all emigration to the 1313 Colonies?" I, for one, with the greatest wish to benefit my fellow-countrymen, and with the deepest sympathy for them, say that for many of them the Colonies are the best place to which they can go. There are openings and chances in life for them and prospects of prosperity in Canada, which there are not in the congested districts of Scotland, and never will be, whatever expenditure the State may be prepared to incur. Hon. Members say that there are discomforts and difficulties in Canada. Yes, but what are the prospects, and what is the value of the energies you call out by the difficulties they have to meet there? Take one of these crofters, whom you place on a farm only that he may in the long run come to financial disaster, and plant him in Canada or Australia, with all the prospects of Canada and Australia before him, and see what he will be in ten years' time compared with the man you settle on some wretched crofting, which will hardly pay, with a burden of debt hanging round him. I doubted the advantages of many of the provisions of this Act. I knew, and many of us said so beforehand, that it would not carry out all the prospects you held before those whom you were, as I think, deluding with your promises; but if the passing of a Small Holdings Act of this kind is to be constantly made the pretext for asking for more and more from the taxpayer, in order to support by artificial means one small class of the community, then I say you give fair warning of what we are to expect by the multiplication of these Small Holdings Acts. I have spoken freely about, this question, and I am perfectly ready to take the responsibility.
I wish to refer to another less controversial point that has arisen, and it is with regard to the School of Forestry. I must take issue with the hon. Member for Buteshire (Mr. Harry Hope) in thinking that the only place where the practical part of the School of Forestry can be established is in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh. I do not think so, and the Committee appointed to report did not take that view. They held, as most of those who have studied the question hold, that the Dee side was the best place for the practical branch of that School of Forestry. I agree that the practical part of the school must necessarily be placed where the trees may be best grown, and where the climate and other conditions are most favourable to the experiment, but you must remember that it must he carried 1314 on in conjunction with, and must be organised alongside of, the theoretical school, which is to lay down the principles which you are to illustrate by the experiment. I contend that in the University of Aberdeen you have got the best union of these two conditions. You have, in the first place, a thoroughly well organised school, which is advancing year after year, which is being enriched by the lavish generosity of the Chancellor of the University, Lord Strathcona, and which has attracted students from all parts of the world. You have close to that theoretical school what is, by general agreement, the very best part of Scotland for the establishment of the experimental branch of the School of Forestry. It is for these reasons that I, in opposition to my hon. Friend, the Member for Buteshire, have to advance, and advance with great confidence and with the utmost strength, the claim of the University of Aberdeen. I trust that the Secretary for Scotland will keep a perfectly open mind on the question, will follow the advice of his own Committee, and will not prejudge, by any Departmental action, the selection of any other school until the claims of Aberdeen have been fully heard.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir W. BEALE
I do not altogether agree with what the hon. Member has said about the exaggeration of the probable effect of this Act. I think it is very likely due to the state of the public mind that so many Members have felt it their duty to their constituents to urge that the Secretary for Scotland should speed up this matter and get more money for the purpose. I do not altogether agree that it is done for electioneering purposes. All I can say is that, as far as I know, we looked at this matter from a purely business point of view. I do not think I have ever held out any promise to any of my Lowland Constituents that they would gain any benefit from the Act, unless it could be applied and worked in an economical manner. Undoubtedly it must take time for this legislation to be thoroughly understood, so that it may be worked to the best advantage. It is true that in the Highlands, where there is a great demand for an extension of the number of holdings, the country is very much more ripe for the Act than they are in the Lowlands. At the same time, I am convinced the Act will gain ground in the Lowlands, although not, perhaps, to such a great extent as in the Highlands. I do not think any immediate gain would be obtained merely 1315 by trying to secure a big sum of money for the working of the Act. It is not so very necessary to have an agitation to induce people to make claims for holdings. I think such speeding up would do harm rather than good. There are certain legitimate reasons for reluctance on the part of landlords, and there are certain reasons for reluctance on the part of people who might become small holders, but the objections of both may be removed by experience and time. I rather agree with the hon. Member for Burghs it is a pity that the question of the possibility of landlords who suffer under the Act not being compensated was lost sight of. I think that such cases as those suggested by the hon. Member for Midlothian ought to have been anticipated. I do not think it would have been difficult to find a reasonable way of removing that difficulty. In a case where the land is returned to a landlord greatly deteriorated there should be some way of arranging compensation. Probably it would be better to rearrange the whole original scheme. I have always held, however, that when there is a danger of injustice there is always a remedy which can be found, if only patience is exercised.
At the time when the Act was passed I had some personal experience with certain farms which might become small holdings, and that experience tended to show how the Act might benefit the landlord. The latter is very glad always to keep a good tenant. He often finds it difficult to get rid of a bad tenant, and I have seen cases in which I am quite sure, if it had been desired to get rid of a tenant, it might have been possible for the landlord to have done so without causing that local disturbance which sometimes follows on the removal of a tenant whose family has been upon the land for sonic time. The landlord might be induced to say that he would give facilities for the creation of small holdings. I doubt if the real difficulty of getting land altogether accounts for the emigration of the best men from some parts of the Lowlands. There are other reasons why they will not stop on the land. I am not quite so sure as the last speaker that it is better for them to emigrate. I quite understand the hon. Gentleman's picture of how a strong man would gain by going out, to Canada and working hard there, but I am not so sure that, under the present system of emigra 1316 tion, such men stand to gain as much as they might obtain if they stopped on the land here under proper conditions. Quite apart from emigration there is the temptation of the towns. Further, you do not find that farmers are anxious to give their children an agricultural education. They want facilities for them to be near a school where they can gain bursaries, so that they may rise in the world. They are, in fact, too ambitious for the land; therefore I do not think that the removal of the mere difficulty of getting a holding would be a very large factor in keeping desirable people on the land.
I agree with very much that fell from the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Captain Gilmour) that we should not lose sight of the other powers which the Board of Agriculture have. I believe one of the difficulties in connection with small holdings is in regard to distribution. What is required is co-operation in distributing the produce of the land. I see in the Report of the Board of Agriculture something is said on this point, but not more than a little talk about facilitating this work being done by the Scottish Chamber of Commerce. A great deal more attention might be paid to that question. Then, again, you might give a little more discretion to those inspectors who, on sanitary grounds, quite unnecessarily hamper the creation of small holdings, because there are cases in which the landlord of such holdings finds it does not pay to comply with the letter of the Departmental regulations. Some discretion, therefore, might be given in that direction. Every effort should be made to push this matter along. It requires time, however; it is not well to rush it. So far as the landlords are concerned the Act undoubtedly offers great benefits. It also tends to check the emigration of people who, it is desirable, should be retained in this country.
Let me say one word about forestry, a subject to which I have given special attention, having been a member of the Royal Commission inquiring into the question. If you can utilise forestry for this purpose you will undoubtedly do good. The Report states, I believe, that by means of it you can have ten men employed where only one man now is working. Therefore forestry should be encouraged as much as possible. But I am not sure as to the desirability of pushing on with the school of experimental forestry. I do not think there was a very 1317 strong case made out for this. Undoubtedly, however, if you could find the large sum of money necessary for a great national scheme of forestry it would be well, and that is the direction in which the Board of Agriculture should work, for by that means much more could be done to retain the population on the land than by any system of small holdings.
§ Mr. ANNAN BRYCE
I agree it is to be regretted that extravagant expectations were raised by the passing of the Small Landholders Act. There is a great deal of force in what has been said as to the prophecies indulged in at the time the Bill was passed. But the criticism of the hon. Member for the Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities (Sir H. Craik) would have been very much more effective had it not been the case that only a fortnight since the Leader of his party in the House of Lords (Lord Lansdowne) adumbrated a scheme such as this as likely to be undertaken—a scheme involving an enormously greater sum of public money to be spent on similar purposes to those for which this Act was passed. Under these circumstances it is surely rather hard that the hon. Member should have complained of hon. Gentlemen on this side asking that the money which is necessary to make this Act a success should be found by the State. Undoubtedly, extreme exasperation does exist, rightly or wrongly, in the North of Scotland with regard to the slowness with which the initial stages of the business have been undertaken. After making allowance for all the difficulties of organisation it does appear that a great deal more might have been done in the time than has actually been accomplished. We were all very glad to hear of the promise of additional assistance. The hon. Member for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities descended from the Imperial frame in which he disported himself in the earlier part of his speech to a more parochial atmosphere in the latter part, when he claimed for the university he represents that there should be established in its neighbourhood a demonstration forest by which the teachings of the university might be practically demonstrated.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I did not claim it should be established in the neighbourhood of the Aberdeen University because it is near Aberdeen, but I did suggest that the best territory for such a scheme happens to be on the Deeside, which is no doubt near to it.
§ Mr. BRYCE
I misunderstood my hon. Friend and I apologise. But in connection with that somewhat parochial view I may perhaps be allowed to put my parochial view. We consider in Inverness-shire that Inverness is the best place for such a forest, and arrangements are being made by which the teaching of forestry shall be undertaken in that centre. I hope, therefore, when the day comes to consider where these demonstration areas shall be established the claims of Inverness-shire will have due consideration.
§ Mr. BARNES
Is there to be any reply from the Secretary for Scotland?
It being a Quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.
The CLERK-ASSISTANT (Mr. Arthur W. Nicholson)
I have to inform the House of the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker from the remainder of this day's Sitting.