§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £221,100, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the 1367 sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1915, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland." [Note.—£23,000 has been voted on account.]
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
There are only two points I desire to raise on this Vote, one concerns agricultural education and the other concerns afforestation. One of the most important duties which this Board took over was that of prosecuting schemes for agricultural education. The experience of other countries which have attempted and which have successfully carried out large schemes of land development, and of settling large numbers of small holders on the land, shows conclusively that in order that these schemes of settlement and development should be carried out with the fullest success, there should be a systematic and thorough attempt to give to small holders and small farmers and others engaged on the land the full advantages of scientific information and expert training regarding how to make the best use of the land. In the scheme of agricultural education which was taken over by the Board, and which was inherited from the Education Department, I think I may say that the education which was given in Scotland consisted of two kinds. First of all, there were the agricultural courses given by the three agricultural colleges at the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen—courses which were of a higher and advanced nature, which were designed for those who could afford to take some expensive courses, and designed also for the training of experts and teachers. That was supplemented by a general and more elementary education designed to reach people actually working on the land. This more general elementary education was administered from the colleges. The country was mapped out into three divisions, one attached to each college, and this education was conveyed by means of lecturers and instructors sent out from the colleges to deliver courses of lectures and to conduct demonstrations on various subjects connected with agriculture, and with the working of small holdings.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and forty Members being found present—
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I have described the two branches of the organisation for imparting agricultural education which existed in Scotland and were taken over by the Board of Agriculture—the higher one at the colleges, courses for the training of experts and teachers, and the other, more elementary, conveyed by means of lecturers and demonstrators sent out from the colleges to the counties to give demonstrations on such subjects as butter making, poultry keeping, beekeeping, rural household economy, and the farming industry in general. I do not want to touch now upon the various developments with regard to the university courses, or with regard to the education which was conveyed by means of lecturers and demonstrators in the counties. But I want to refer to what was described in the first Report of the Board of Agriculture as a most urgent and pressing need—namely, that there should be some system of agricultural education intermediate between the two which I have described—some course of agricultural instruction and training which would be of a more elaborate nature than that provided by the lecturers and demonstrators and which would be available for the sons and daughters of small holders and farmers, and even for small holders themselves who felt the need for further information and further training, but who were quite unable, for various reasons, to take the longer courses which were provided by the university.
In its first Report the Board indicated its belief that the provision of such a system of intermediate agricultural education was an urgent necessity, and I believe a scheme was prepared for the purpose of supplying this education. It has been looked forward to with great interest by many of those who are engaged in agriculture in Scotland, and who are expecting to benefit by it, but I regret to say that when I look at the second annual Report of the Board, the one which has been issued this year, no further progress seems to have been made with it. It is there stated that the Board of Agriculture has consulted with the Education Department, and has drawn up a scheme for the establishment of a system of intermediate agricultural education, and that this scheme has been submitted to the Development Commissioners by the Department. That is a point upon which I should like to ask for information and I invite the special attention of the 1369 Secretary of Scotland to it. This scheme for intermediate education was drawn up by the Board of Agriculture in consultation with the Department, and it is stated it was submitted to the Development Commissioners not by the Board of Agriculture, but by the Education Department. I shall be very glad if the right hon. Gentleman could explain what was the reason why the scheme was submitted to the Commissioners by the Department which was not responsible and not by the Board which was responsible for the matter. I have no doubt there is some good and sound reason for it, but on the surface it looks as if it requires axplanation. The main point I wish to raise is that, although two years have passed, nothing whatever seems to have been done in the matter beyond preparing the scheme and submitting it to the Development Commissioners. I want to know why the Development Commissioners have done nothing to meet the proposals of the Board in this matter. They have already done a considerable amount in this connection in England. In the Report of the Development Commissioners I find the strongest emphasis laid upon the necessity of having some such scheme of intermediate agricultural education. In their Report for the year ending 31st March, 1912, the Development Commissioners described the existing organisation in England for agricultural teaching and colleges and for research work, and proceeded to say:—But this system provides only for part of the work to be done. It would be obviously and grossly incomplete without a considerable extension of a simpler and more immediately practical type of agricultural education, and a considerable addition to the existing provision of help and advice of a less purely scientific kind.They recommended that in England farm institutes should be established for the training of small holders and those engaged in agriculture. Two years ago the Development Commissioners sanctioned a Grant of £325, spread over four years, to be expended in England.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I thank my right hon. Friend for that correction. The Development Commissioners sanctioned that expenditure in England for farms and intermediate education of the very kind which two years ago the Board of Agriculture in Scotland described as being urgently required in Scotland. If it was possible in England to obtain a Grant 1370 from the Development Commissioners two years ago for this very necessary provision, I want to know why a similar Grant has not been obtained, what efforts have been made to secure the Grant, and whether there is, as there seems to be, any obstacle in the way of getting this Grant for Scotland from the Development Commissioners. The other point I wish to raise concerns the long delay in making any progress with afforestation in Scotland. From the point of view of the economic interests of Scotland, of the development of the resources of Scotland, and of largely increasing the number of people who are settled on the soil in Scotland, there can be no subject more important than that of afforestation. It is an important subject in England and in Ireland also, but it is infinitely more important in Scotland than it is or ever can be in either England or Ireland. I need only give three figures to prove that conclusively. In Scotland we have 6,000,000 acres of land which could be more profitably used for afforestation than they are being used or can be used for any other purpose. In England, instead of 6,000,000 acres, there are only 2,500,000 acres; and in Ireland only 500,000 acres which can be so described. If you take these three figures, you find that they work out at the proportions of 34 per cent. of the soil of Scotland, 7 per cent. of the soil of England, and only 2 per cent. of the soil of Ireland.
These figures, which are based upon the reports of inquiries officially conducted, and which have never, so far as I know, been controverted, show that more than one-third of the total surface of the land in Scotland could be more profitably used for the purpose of afforestation than it is being used at present, or could be used for any other purpose. I am not referring to land which is suitable for small holdings or to arable land. I am referring to land which is at present devoted to sport or to poor grazing, or which is of a kind which might be classed as the very poorest tillage. It all lies below the 1,000 feet level. It does not consist of "barren hilltops," such as my Noble Friend the Member for West Perthshire (Marquess of Tullibardine) displayed when he took some innocent investigators into his Highland demense. It is land which, according to the best reports that are available, could be profitably used for afforestation. In addition to that, we have conclusive evidence from the experience of other countries that afforestation is one of the best and most effective means of settling 1371 a large population on the soil. It fits admirably into a scheme for increasing small holdings. There are many parts of Scotland in which small holdings cannot be profitably conducted without some auxiliary industry and in which no auxiliary industry is available at the present time. The industry of afforestation would supply exactly the kind of auxiliary industry which is wanted and which has been adapted most successfully in Germany to a large and extensive scheme of small holdings. The small holders work in the forests in the winter, when their labour is most required, and work on their own holdings in the spring and summer. I am not going to discuss the work of the Development Commissioners, but they hold the money which it is the duty of our Board of Agriculture to obtain for afforestation development. It is five years ago since the Development Commissioners were appointed. One of their chief duties, as laid down at the time of their appointment, was to encourage and promote the development of afforestation in this country. It is three years ago since the Board of Agriculture was appointed, and one of its duties was described in the Act creating it to be:—To promote the interests of agriculture, forestry, and other rural industries in Scotland.Both the Development Commissioners and the Board of Agriculture had the direct duty laid upon them of promoting forestry development in this country, yet during all the time since their appointment nothing of a practical nature has been done in Scotland. We see a very different picture when we look to England or to Ireland. In England, where the proportion of land which is suitable for afforestation is only seven per cent. of the total surface of the land, and in Ireland, where the total surface of the land suitable for afforestation is only two per cent., large grants have been obtained from the Development Commissioners for forestry development, and schemes of development are now in active operation, whereas in Scotland, where thirty-four per cent. of the land is suitable for afforestation and can be used better for that purpose than any other purpose, we have obtained practically nothing at all. [An HON. MEMBER: "Question!"] I do not think that can be questioned, we have obtained practically nothing from the Development Commissioners.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I understand that one of my Scottish colleagues questions whether a large proportion of the 6,000,000 acres of land in Scotland to which I have referred is better suited for afforestation than for any other purpose. I can only refer him to the Reports of the various Afforestation Committees which have been appointed to inquire into this matter and to the Royal Commission. The figures which I gave were contained in the Report of the Royal Commission, and the opinion which I expressed, that this land was better suited for afforestation than for any other purpose, was also contained in that Report. I do not profess to be an expert in these matters. I take my opinion from the experts, and an hon. Member who sits behind me, who is a member of the Advisory Committee in Scotland, will perhaps deal with that point when he comes to speak. I believe there is the amount of land I have described. We have as yet obtained no grants of money for this vital purpose in Scotland. I ask the Secretary for Scotland what steps have been taken by the Board, in pursuit of its duty, to secure the development of afforestation in Scotland? Has it pressed this matter upon the Development Commissioners; is it using its full influence with the Development Commissioners; and how is it, although an Advisory Committee consisting of experts, and having the advice of experts has been appointed in Scotland, and although this Committee recommended a considerable time ago a definite scheme, that nothing has been done to proceed with the scheme?
Finally, numerous complaints have been heard from Scottish Members as to the enormous sums which are being granted out of the funds of the Board of Agriculture for the purpose of paying compensation to landlords for the constitution on their lands of small holdings under the Act. I think the amounts which have been granted in the way of compensation can only be described as staggering. I do not want to use offensive terms, so I will limit myself to saying that this compensation seems to be more in the nature of a tribute or a ransom for the purpose of settling the people on the land than a matter of actual compensation for actual loss inflicted. We find that large sums of money—thousands of pounds—are being granted 1373 to landlords who, as the result of the constitution of small holdings on their land, are receiving now a larger income from their land than they were receiving before. They are, in fact, receiving compensation for receiving a larger income from their land. I, as a Scottish Member, cannot look with equanimity upon the funds which are at the disposal of the Board of Agriculture being expended in this way. These small holdings which are being created at such an enormous price in the matter of compensation are not economic. They will never earn dividends in any sense of the word upon the capital which is being sunk in creating them. This money is being absolutely thrown away; it is not securing any effective development of the resources of Scotland comparable to the amount of money which is being expended. If the funds of the Board are to be liable in the future to be simply transferred into the pockets of the landlords in this way, I think a much more effective way of increasing the number of small holdings would be to devote part of the money, at least, to the promotion of schemes of afforestation and schemes of small holdings in connection with them. Infinitely better would it be that the Board of Agriculture should purchase the land outright or should itself become the tenant, possibly the compulsory tenant, of the whole estate and establish in connection therewith a scheme of afforestation, and in connection with that a scheme of land settlement, than to throw the money away, as at present, in the form of doles to landlords.
I cordially agree with what the hon. Member has said about afforestation in Scotland, but at the end of his speech he went off on the old familiar tack of landlords and the whole subject of compensation. I suppose he was referring to excessive compensation in two particular cases. Both these landowners, so far from making more money out of the compensation, would only have been too thankful if the scheme of small holdings had never been proceeded with. The whole trouble about the compensation is because the Board of Agriculture refuses to take advice as to land which they could get cheaply. The whole of the energies of the Board of Agriculture have been in the main devoted to the constitution of small holdings. I quite agree, as we all do on this side of the House, that that is a most desirable object, the planting down of small holders on the land, always provided that they are suitable and that they 1374 are placed in a position where they have a reasonable chance of prospering and earning a decent living. But that is not the only object of the Board of Agriculture, and it seems to me that, owing no doubt to pressure—some of it, I think, political—which is put upon the Board of Agriculture to make a big show of creating new small holdings, the Board of Agriculture is apt to neglect their other duties. Afforestation is a case in point. But these are not the only duties of the Board of Agriculture. I notice that for all the other purposes of the Board of Agriculture, excluding small holdings—the improvement of live stock, agricultural education, and the protection of agricultural produce from agricultural disease and such like—the whole amount spent in the last year for which figures are available is £11,712 out of a total of £212,000, which is the total income of the Board. That seems to compare rather unfavourably with the £22,500 which was spent in the same year for the staff expenses, and the £38,000 which has been spent this year on the staff expenses.
Little effort and no money is being spent in the attempt to eradicate disease to which agricultural produce is subject. It may seem a small matter, but I should like to refer first of all to wart disease in potatoes. I referred to that last year, and it is a difficulty which particularly affects cottagers and agricultural labourers who augment their income by growing potatoes in their gardens. This disease has been spreading in Scotland. The Board of Agriculture report that there was a serious outbreak in Ayrshire during the last year. It is true, and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will say that more stringent Orders have recently been pronounced for dealing with this disease, but, on the other hand, no money has been provided to compensate those cottagers, on whom the burden of complying with the Order falls, for the tubers which have to be destroyed, or in cases where it is forbidden to replant the ground with potatoes. Consequently, of course, the Order, in common fairness, is not generally applied, and I suggest that a little money spent in providing compensation for those on whom the burden of this Order falls would enable the Order to be more stringently enforced and might eradicate the disease in Scottish potatoes. The Report of the Board states that there has been absolutely in the last year no change in the restrictions under which Scottish potatoes are allowed to be exported to the Colonies. There is a total 1375 embargo on the export of Scottish potatoes to America. I submit that it is worth while to do something to totally eradicate the disease amongst Scottish potatoes.
There is another disease which is affecting our Scottish produce, and that is the American gooseberry mildew. That is referred to in the Report, and I regret to say that the disease is gaining ground amongst gooseberry bushes, and also currant bushes. This, again, affects the cottagers, and all hon. Members, I am sure, want to assist them in every possible way. At the end of 1912 there were 324 cases in all. Last year there were 345 new outbreaks. I asked the Secretary for Scotland a question on the subject as to what steps were being taken to eradicate the disease and to inspect the fruit and to prevent diseased fruit infecting the other. He informed me that there was inspection in the early hours from time to time in Edinburgh Market, and that arrangements were being made to report the presence of diseased fruit, but it is not very satisfactory, and no effort is made, I imagine, to inspect fruit which is exposed in shops, and it cannot be. I should be the last to advocate a large increase of inspectors, but I gather that until recently there were only three agricultural inspectors under the Board. Now there are to be five. Their duties are many. They have to inspect potatoes and fruit bushes and to see that they are not getting American mildew, and they have visited some 700 butter and margarine manufactories and dealers. The inspecting staff of the Board of Agriculture is perhaps hardly sufficient to cope with these duties, but anyhow I suggest that some more serious steps should be taken in the interests of Scotch fruit-growers to deal with this American gooseberry mildew. There is another point in regard to that. I am told that the disease is also spread by the importation of diseased fruit from abroad. A good many gooseberries come in to Leith from Holland between May and July. I asked the Secretary for Scotland if he has taken any steps to prevent that. His reply was that he did not think there was any danger of fruit and vegetables spreading the disease and the efforts of the staff were therefore concentrated principally on the inspection of gardens. It is well known that diseased fruit comes in from Holland to Leith. Some of it is sent straight to dealers and not exposed on the market at all. The dealer gets his diseased fruit and puts it 1376 in baskets which are afterwards sent out to growers in the country on hire, and that is how the disease spreads. I suggest that the Secretary for Scotland might have regard to that point.
I return to what is really no doubt the main work of the Board of Agriculture, that is the constitution of small holdings. I do not think they can congratulate themselves very much on the progress which has been made during the past year. In December, 1913, there were only 195 small holdings constituted and only 116 of these, according to the Report of the Scottish Board of Agriculture, were actually occupied. No doubt the Secretary for Scotland and the hon. Member (Mr. Hogge) will give different reasons and will possibly refer to the difficulties of the 1911 Act, and we shall have the same speeches which were made upstairs on the Amending Bill. I may point out to hon. Members that even if the machinery is defective, there is still an opportunity for remedying some of the main defects if only the right hon. Gentleman will act upon the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Cathcart Wason). It would be possible to pass a short agreed Bill, which would become law this Session and would enormously speed up the creation of small holdings. But I do not think, as a matter of fact, the Board of Agriculture make the most of the existing powers under the Act. We are not allowed to criticise the Scottish Land Court, but I think I shall be m order in reading the Scottish Land Court's criticism of the methods of the Board of Agriculture. They state at page xxx. that:The preparation of such a large number of applications necessarily involves much labour, and not a few of the schemes show that they were prepared without sufficient consideration of details. …. We were much hampered in our work for the want of plans arising from this cause, and several large schemes which were ready for disposal at the end of the year had to be carried forward for want of receiving amended plans.The Scottish Land Court say that the Board of Agriculture do not give sufficient consideration to their schemes, and that when presented they have to be altered.
I only say that the Land Court and the Board of Agriculture blame each other. The Land Court in this case is blaming the Board of Agriculture. I am not prepared to apportion the exact amount of blame as between these two 1377 bodies, but I say that the Board of Agriculture do not make the best use of the existing powers under the Act at present. One reason is that they do not sufficiently foresee the difficulties of the schemes which they propose. They do not take local advice on the matter. It would be far better, I think, in many cases to take a less suitable farm than the one they choose, if they can get possession of it. But the Board of Agriculture will take no advice, and they go on bald-headed with their own particular schemes.
I will give another case in point, namely, the scheme for the formation of small holdings at Pentland Mains. It was stated that there were sixteen cottages, and that only eight farm labourers would be displaced. It was shown in evidence that other houses were occupied by dairymen and pig-feeders. Mr. Reid, one of the members of the Scottish Land Court, who heard the case, asked:—What about the dairyman?.… You are displacing him.The Commissioners objected to the displacing of eight farm servants and the dairyman. Then the sub-Commissioner for small holdings, when examined, said he did not consider there would be any displacement of labour. He was not aware that Mr. Prestsell employed seventeen farm servants. When asked if he could not get another farm, he replied that, as a matter of fact, they were offered other two farms on the estate, but that when he examined them he did not think they were so suitable for small holdings as the one proposed. Now comes the important point. Mr. Reid stated:—There is an instruction in the Act to look for land which the outgoing tenant does not desire to take. If you take what is most suitable to you, and do not look to what the tenant wants, you are ignoring that instruction.Later on Mr. Reid said:—We are beginning to think you are neglecting the nstruction.I will not quote further. I only wish to point out that the Land Court are discovering that many of these schemes for small holdings were brought before the Court without due consideration, and that if a little more trouble had been taken suitable ground for small holdings would have been found and more progress would have been made. I want to know how many of the 116 small holders actually in occupation in December last year had rents actually fixed. We know that in many cases the buildings were not completed, or, at any rate, not paid for. I think that 1378 practically the expense of the buildings has to be added to the rent of the small holding, and many of the small holders will find a rude awakening awaiting them when they discover how much they have to pay for the land, and in addition how much they have to pay for interest at 4 per cent. on the cost of the buildings. In the Report it is stated that the cost of steadings suitable for a small holding of 50 acres is about £650 to £750. At 4 per cent. that involves a charge of £26 to £30. I think it will be a rude awakening for the small holders when they find they have got to pay the interest on the cost of buildings. The policy which the Government encourage the Board of Agriculture to pursue is to get as many small holders as possible on the ground, but I consider that there is not enough care taken to get the most suitable people for the holdings. Last year we referred to the questions of co-operation and land banks. There has been practically little or no progress made in providing for the co-operative sale of produce and purchase of materials and feeding-stuffs, and there has been absolutely no sort of attempt made to provide some system of land banks. I appeal to the Secretary for Scotland to deal with these questions at the earliest possible moment. There is power under the Act of 1911 to provide for cooperation schemes and land banks.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
One feels considerable difficulty in these Debates because there are so many Boards for which apparently the Secretary for Scotland is responsible. In England we have the Board of Agriculture, the President is a Member of this House, and he is responsible. In England we have the Local Government Board, the President is in this House, and he is responsible. We have a Minister of Education in this House, and he is responsible. But my right hon. Friend is held to be in some way responsible for various Boards in Scotland, and we cannot really define what his responsibility is in regard to them. I cannot really in any serious sense attack him, for I feel that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred he is not responsible. I am going to give him a keelhauling in regard to one Board for which I think he is responsible, and that is the Development Commission. I think the House made a mistake when it appointed the Development Commissioners and the Road Board without having a Member here responsible to this House.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Lyell)
I must remind the hon. Member that it is not competent to discuss the Development Commission on this Vote. The hon. Member is quite entitled to criticise the Secretary for Scotland for not having made sufficient efforts to extract money from the Development Commission, but he cannot criticise the Development Commission for not providing sufficient money.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
It is true. It your ruling. I was first of all trying to show the Committee how difficult it was for my right hon. Friend to do what it is hardly possible that he can do. What is the position of this forestry business? It is either real or a sham. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced his great Social Reform Budget in 1909 he referred to the question of afforestation. In his speech he contrasted the small amount of forest land we had in this country as compared with the proportionate area in other countries, and he cited the case of Germany, where out of a total of 133,000,000 acres 34,000,000, or nearly 26 per cent., are wooded. In France 17 per cent. is wooded, and I know, as a matter of fact, that in Austria, which to a large extent, resembles part of Scotland, there is 30 per cent. of the land afforested, whereas in England the percentage is 4 per cent., and taking Scotland and England together it is 4.7 per cent. The Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested as a great thing for this country that we should have available land, particularly in Scotland—in England it does not so much matter; in England land is so much more fertile than in Scotland—where there are enormous districts of no good for anything else but afforestation. Oddly enough, in most places this afforestation could be used as an aid to the small holdings which we are particularly anxious to establish. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Royal Commission which inquired into this subject and recommended the acquiring of a very large amount of forest land in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. What happened? The Development Commissioners were appointed, and a Departmental Committee on afforestation was also appointed. The Departmental Committee went to the German and French forests, and had their minds enormously opened to the possibilities and capabilities of land for afforestation—land of little or no use for anything else. They made their Report in 1911. Then an Advisory Committee were appointed, and 1380 they were to set themselves to find out some proper places suitable for a demonstration area. They were to advise the Board of Agriculture as to how to proceed to get that area. They went to work and visited all parts, and finally made their report. In that report they recommended unanimously a certain area for purchase. There was a strong objection from Edinburgh, Edinburgh wants some things for itself, and forgets—
§ Mr. HENDERSON
It is true. It forgets that some of the biggest areas for afforestation are a long way north of Edinburgh, or north of Perth, in Sutherlandshire. We all know what the Chancellor said about the Duke of Sutherland's-property. The great bulk of that is suitable for afforestation. It is immaterial to me where the property is, but what I say is that five years have elapsed and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has carried through all his other schemes, but not one-single penny piece has been given to Scotland. England has got a Grant, Ireland has got two Grants, and Scotland has got nothing. What has the Board of Agriculture been doing since last December? Why have they not insisted on some scheme being put forward alternative to the scheme put forward by the Advisory Committee? There is no answer. The complaint I have got is that the men who are spending money are not here to answer for it, or that the men who should be spending money, and are not, are not here to answer for it. I hope that one of the things which the Government will do very soon—or, if they do not do it, that the next Government, if it is from the other side of the House, will do it—is to do away with any body of men who are not here responsible to us for what they do. I speak as a Member for the North of Scotland, for a county in which there is an enormous forest area. When the Departmental Committee went to Germany the first thing they discovered was that the whole of our afforestation arrangements were wrong, that there had never been any proper principle, and that there were only four estates upon which there has been any attempt to lay out on a scientific plan of proper afforestation. There is an enormous number of trees growing in Scotland which are arranged on the wrong principle. You want this education in order to correct this, and to save the 1381 enormous waste which otherwise would occur, owing to wrong exposure, to pests, and all sorts of things which destroy trees when they are growing.
I am not surprised that my right hon. Friend cannot press this thing. If is said that the allowance for small holdings is too small. Be that as it may, Scotland is a place for afforestation. Why cannot we get a scheme? It is a dereliction of duty that these Gentlemen who are empowered to grant money should have taken seven solid months to think out some sort of scheme. We do not know what it is. We heard rumours of a scheme from the Noble Marquess the Member for West Perthshire, but they are only rumours and we have learned nothing more. Why should we have all this delay? It is five years since a scheme was adumbrated in all earnestness and good faith by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Almost every other one of his other schemes has been carried out, but for Scotland not one penny piece has been given. I hope that as far as he can my right hon. Friend will remedy this, for remedied it must be if there is any justice at all.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
I do not rise to criticise the Board of Agriculture from any economical or political point of view, nor can I for one moment attempt to speak with the technical knowledge of my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian. But I rise to support the points put forward by the hon. Member who has just sat down and the hon. Member who spoke a short time ago. It is fortunate perhaps that, if the Land Court is sacrosanct and protected from criticism, the Board of Agriculture can claim no such exemption. I have nothing to say about the policy by which the whole scheme of agricultural education was taken out of the hands of the Education Department, in which I think it was more fittingly and with greater expediency placed, and handed over to this new Board of Agriculture. I am perfectly certain that the results of the educational administration, even in its higher sphere, of the Board of Agriculture have been disastrous, so far, and promise to be still more disastrous in the future. But it is chiefly to this question of Grants for afforestation and agricultural instruction that I wish to call attention. We have every reason in Scotland to complain of the total neglect of this subject for the last five years. I cannot exempt the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland any 1382 more than his subordinate Board of Agriculture from a large share of responsibility for the failure to satisfy our expectations. It is five years since the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his speech. He did not put the case in that speech one bit too strongly. We have had Grants for Ireland and England, and nothing at all has been done for Scotland.
The Departmental Committee presided over by Lord Lovat, of which Mr. Munro-Ferguson, Sir John Stirling Maxwell, and the hon. Member opposite were members, unanimously reported in favour of a certain course, which, if it had been followed yearly, and with energy and good will, would long since have led to Scotland getting that afforestation and that higher instruction in agriculture, which she claims and to which she has a right. But not only have the Board of Agriculture failed to press this problem and failed to carry into effect the recommendations of the Executive Committee, but I am inclined to say that the Board of Agriculture have exercised a sinister influence all through upon this matter. Why was it that before the Executive Committee reported at all, as ultimately they did unanimously, that a certain decision was come to and announced, that the centre in Scotland should be at Edinburgh. By what influence did that come about? I wish that answered. We know quite well that there is a member of the Development Board who is also a member of the Committee of Inquiry. That member happens to be a relative of the Lord Chancellor, who is closely connected with Edinburgh University. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I make that charge perfectly clearly and perfectly straight, and a suspicion has been caused that influence has been brought to bear by one who holds a position in connection with the University of Edinburgh.
We protested against that from the first on the part of the other universities of Scotland. Why has that sinister influence been exercised in favour of Edinburgh? When a recommendation was made with regard to a particular locality as to a suitable locality for afforestation, and that recommendation was made unanimously, how was it that one member of the executive committee who took no part in the recommendations at once, as I understand, communicated with the Scottish Office in favour of a scheme which diverged from that of his colleagues? Why has that led to constant delay and now to the emergence of a distinct 1383 proposal, that the central education, including, I presume, the afforestation area, should be in connection with Edinburgh University? I ask the question of the Secretary of State for Scotland. I am not blaming him individually in this matter, but I wish that he would clear away the doubt that has arisen. He has told us that he knew nothing whatever of the proposal. I can only say that the news has come to him last of the number of those who have a right to be and are interested in the matter. It is a matter of common rumour in Scotland, and very distinct evidence has been provided by certain officials of the Board of Agriculture who have given encouragement to the idea that this central school should be in Edinburgh to the detriment of the other universities. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I am not accusing him of knowing it, or of being concerned. I only say that it was the duty of officials under him, if they were in favour of it, to bring it more directly under his knowledge. In the "North British Agriculturist" quite lately an article appeared which very distinctly indicated this proposal, and which, reading between the lines, emanated to a large extent, I am inclined to say, from the Board of Agriculture. It says:—It is understood that the purpose of the Board of Agriculture, should the proposal he adopted, is to found a much larger central College in Scotland on the lines of the Welsh College in Cardigan. The idea would be that the students not only of Edinburgh, hut of Glasgow and Aberdeen, who wish to take up the higher ranges of research, would proceed to the Central Institution.And it adds—With a willing Government Department at their back, the governing body of this Central Institution need, we think, have no fear that they will be left in the lurch, or that Imperial funds will not be forthcoming for its support.I would ask any hon. Member who reads that article—
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I do not know, but it seems probable that the puffing forward of these proposals by the Board of Agriculture had been the subject of some communication of views between the writer of that article and the Board of Agriculture. On what grounds can the writer of that article speak of the "willing Government Department at their back." He begins by saying, "It is understood that a purpose of the Board of Agriculture is to found this central school." Large sums of money have been spent by other 1384 Universities, especially the University of Aberdeen through the lavish generosity of the late Chancellor of the University, Lord Strathcona. Is it the general object that Aberdeen and the South-West of Scotland are to be set aside, and that a new scheme which has not been put before Parliament, and is absolutely without the knowledge of the Minister responsible, is to be put forward by officials of the Board of Education without the views of Parliament being taken on the question? I know quite well the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland need not be irritated or regard the criticism offered, as it is evident sense, as irritation—
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I must correct my hon. Friend. It is not irritation but bewilderment. The hon. Gentleman is mixing up forestry, demonstration areas and Aberdeen and Edinburgh Universities, and I am lost in confusion. I cannot follow his observations, and I do not know what is the charge.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
The right hon. Gentleman ought not to be in a state of bewilderment, and should be properly informed by the Department of which he is the head. The subject of afforestation is an important branch of the Aberdeen University instruction, and there is a suitable area in Aberdeenshire; and the Aberdeen University is ready on its part to do everything possible in regard to afforestation, on which it has spent money largely and lavishly. But it is a very different thing if after spending this money they are to be told that another policy is being more or less insidiously pursued, and that there is now being put forward in the public press, under the apparent patronage of the Board of Agriculture, a scheme in favour of having at Edinburgh a central school which is to absorb gradually the higher agricultural education of Scotland.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
Is it the hon. Gentleman's complaint that instead of the demonstration area being at Aberdeen in connection with afforestation, it should be somewhere else? My idea of the demonstrative area is that it should serve the students from all the universities and schools of agriculture.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
A Departmental Committee recommended Aberdeenshire unanimously, with the exception of one member, who disagreed with his colleagues, and communicated his grounds to 1385 the Scottish Office for not voting. Of course, agricultural students muct spend a certain time in the afforestation area in connection with the universities, but we are told that there is to be a central college of agriculture in Edinburgh, and that there is to be some afforestation area that is now being absolutely bargained for, although we know nothing about it. If it is being bargained for because it is convenient to the central school, then I think we have very fair cause to complain, first of all, that the afforestation area has been changed in this way apparently for one University; and, secondly, because the policy is being fostered by the Board of Agriculture of putting the highest part of agricultural education in Scotland in one district, to the detriment of other schools of agriculture in the South and West of Scotland, and the school of agriculture in connection with the Aberdeen University, which has been at great pains, which has spent much money, and which has done admirable work hitherto in regard to agricultural education. All I ask is that the right hon. Gentleman will make himself thoroughly conversant with what is going on, so that he may be able to tell us whether or not this policy is being pursued, or is being even encouraged by any of the officials of the Board of Agriculture; also, whether he will undertake, before any decision is come to upon this important point, that it will be brought before the House so that Scottish Members may be able to express their views.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I think the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire put his linger on the spot when he suggested that the real difficulty we are labouring under is due to the fact that the Secretary for Scotland is president of so many different boards. While he is president of all these boards he, as a matter of fact, has only the same influence in the Cabinet as any other Minister; and I am not sure that it would not be a bad plan to adopt a Scottish expedient, and give to the Secretary for Scotland a cumulative vote in the Cabinet representing the various Scottish Boards which he controls, in order that we also may control the Cabinet. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made a complaint which I think is very unreasonable. His complaint is that certain happenings with regard to the institution of an area of education in afforestation should be made known to the Members from Scotland by the Secretary for Scotland before a decision is come to 1386 about it. Surely that is very unreasonable. Nothing is ever made known to the Scottish Members before it is carried into effect. My hon. Friend knows that there is happening just now in another Department of the Scottish Office something which is being done without the knowledge of Scottish Members.
§ Mr. HOGGE
The hon. Gentleman has not been listening to the questions I have been putting in Parliament in regard to the Scottish Office of Works, the whole internal arrangement of which are being altered without my hon. Friend venturing to put down a question to the Secretary for Scotland; and this afternoon he develops a great amount of indignation because, forsooth! the Secretary for Scotland has not given him all his information about afforestation before we come to a decision. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend will give information on this one point. It is quite true—and we all realise it on both sides of the House—that the Secretary for Scotland has far too much work to do. I do not know whether anything has been done with the suggestion that for the very Board we are considering this afternoon there should be some rearrangement of the Secretary for Scotland's duties. I understand that he is very willing that certain of his duties should be deputed to some other Member. Whether that can be done with this particular Board I do not know, but I understand the matter is being considered, and I should be very glad if my right hon. Friend will tell us what is actually being done. I want to go back to the subject-matter of the Report of the Board of Agriculture. The hon. Member for Midlothian travelled over a great deal of ground, including gooseberries, warts on potatoes, and the burdens on small holders. He suggested that not nearly enough is being done with regard to the inspection of diseases of potatoes and gooseberries, and other small fruits. That is a curious complaint to come from the other side. We are continually accused on this side of creating officials, but here again, on a day when we are considering the spending and saving of money we get a demand from our critics, who are continually on the platforms outside and also in this House, rubbing in the fact that we do nothing else but appoint officials. Do they want officials or do they want diseases in gooseberries? That really is the great question at issue in this particular Debate. If [...] 1387 want their gooseberries kept clean, and if they want officials to look after them, then they must stand in with the rest of us in the appointment of officials, and they must hold their tongues when they get on to the platforms—because undoubtedly in the constituencies we shall be told that we do nothing else but appoint officials—and the hon. Member for Midlothian may go about the villages of Midlothian, and point to the fact that he got officials to look after the gooseberries like a Member of ability and diligence.
A great deal of criticism is being urged to-day against the Board of Agriculture, which deals with the vexed question of small holdings. The hon. Member for Midlothian drew attention to the fact of the very few small holders actually in occupation at the present moment, and he pointed out that that was due to the fact that the Board of Agriculture was not going about its work in the proper way. The hon. Member probably has not read the Report which has been criticised. If he had looked at it he would have found that the most important part of it is to be found in pages 13 to 15. He would have discovered there the reasons which prevented the policy of small holdings from being established. I do not propose to go over them, because we discussed them very fully in connection with the Small Holdings (Amendment) Bill upstairs, and everybody knows them. They are set out in this Report, the main reasons why the Board of Agriculture has only been able to set up a small number of holdings. The reasons are set out in four separate Sub-sections, and they are substantial reasons which my right hon. Friend knows to be true, because he supported the amendment of the law with regard to those very points upstairs, and those are the reasons that there are so few small holdings set up in Scotland at the present moment. People of Scotland will want to know from us, as we are wanting to know from my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland this afternoon, what are the real reasons that these small holdings are not being set up. What are the real reasons clogging the machinery of the Scottish Board of Agriculture? They are indicated in the Report, and the real reason of the clogging of the machinery of the Board of Agriculture are the claims for compensation that are being made by landlords on whose land small holdings are going to be set up. One could speak for a considerable time and bring a considerable amount of evidence to prove 1388 the kind of compensation which should be declined, but I am not in the least sure that some of us have not reached the position that we would rather see the Board of Agriculture shut down altogether than spend these large sums of public money to attempt to set up a few small holdings. I see that the only Gentleman on the opposite side who agrees with that is not a Scotsman, and I am afraid he would find it very difficult to defend the position of his own colleagues in their own capital. There is the crux of the whole matter, and the onus of supporting the small number of holdings that have been set up does not lie upon us on this side, but upon hon. Members opposite. A great number of my colleagues desired to raise this same point which I have raised on account of the position I was in with regard to the Bill. I do not propose to elaborate it further this afternoon, except to indicate again that the voters in Scotland will look to-morrow for the explanation, not from us but from the other side, as to why it is the Board of Agriculture has only been allowed to do what it has done. The hon. Baronet opposite suggests that he is not responsible.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
On the contrary, what I have said publicly is that the hon. Member opposite adopted the method which stopped it, and deliberately broke an arrangement, and that is the cause of the whole business.
It seems to me that hon. Members are travelling outside the scope of the Vote and referring to legislation.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I do not propose to exceed the limits, but the hon. Baronet knows perfectly well I made no such arrangement, and, therefore, never broke it. He knows he is "talking through his hat" the moment he makes that suggestion. Another point which does not concern small holdings, and which I would like to raise, is as to what is being done with the supervisors who were taken over from the Congested Districts Board by the Board of Agriculture. As a matter of 1389 fact, those men are doing work which is very necessary to the carrying out of this particular part of the Board's work. The conditions under which they get their supplies, particularly in the West of Scotland, are so difficult as to make a considerable deduction from what they are paid in wages. They are, I believe, the only set of men who were taken over by the Board of Agriculture from the Congested Districts Board who have had no change at all made in their position. I believe they have petitioned my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland, and, if my information is correct, they have not so far received a reply. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to look into the matter now that his attention has been drawn to it, and that he will see whether or not he can do something for a class of men for whom, as I say, nothing has been done since the Board of Agriculture took over the work of the Congested Districts Board.
§ Captain MURRAY
I desire to refer to the question which was also raised by the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. J. M. Henderson). I should like to preface my remarks by saying that I was sorry that the hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Aberdeen (Sir H. Craik) allowed his zeal for the university which he represents to permit him to make an attack which I consider to be an unjustifiable attack on a member of the Development Commission who was not here to answer him, and who cannot, under any circumstances, answer the remarks which the hon. Gentleman has made. I pass from that and merely wish to ask the Secretary for Scotland whether he can give us information to-day as to the actual position in regard to the afforestation situation so far as Scotland is concerned. I am bound to say I do agree with the remarks which fell from the Member for West Aberdeen, and I do think that the five years which have elapsed since the Development Commission was set up have given ample time for some scheme to be brought forward and set on foot whereby Scotland would receive some of the funds of the Development Commission in respect of afforestation. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give the House some satisfactory reply, and be able to assure us that in a short space of time some scheme will be set on foot whereby Scotland will benefit from the funds of the Development Commission. With regard to the administration of the Scottish Small Landholders 1390 Act, I agree with everything that has been said by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. J. Hogge), and I think it lies with hon. Gentleman opposite, if they so desire, to assist in a manner which is open to them—the more rapid administration of the machinery of that Act. There is one criticism I wish to make with regard to the administration of the Act by the Board of Agriculture, a criticism which is in no sense carping criticism, but I think people upon whom devolve certain duties sometimes become so engrossed in the application of those duties that they do not see things in their proper perspective. The suggestion I have to make is one which I made a short time ago when it was ruled out of order. Today it is in order. Paragraph (c) on page 14 of the Report of the Board of Agriculture states:—While there is a keen demand for small holdings, there is often no suitable land available where the demand is greatest, and it occasionally happens that where suitable land is available there are not enough applicants in the immediate vicinity to use the whole farm. The Board are advised that it is competent to draw upon applicants from other parts of the country in such cases, but it is not always possible to make this arrangement, because applicants are not in some cases prepared to remove.The Board frequently make the complaint that they do not know what farms are going out of lease, and do not know what land is available for small holdings. Quite recently an extra sub-commissioner has been added to the Board in order to make it more easy for the Board to find out where the land is available. But I would repeat here a suggestion which I have frequently made, and that is that in each county or in each district—it does not matter much which—representative farmers should be employed by the Board in order to tell the Board and keep the Board in touch with the situation as it exists, and in order to let the Board know what farms are going out of lease so that the Board may the more readily be able to place its hand upon those farms which occasion requires. It is perfectly well known that every farmer of any standing in a particular area, knows what is going on with respect to particular farms, and knows months beforehand if a particular tenant is going to quit at a particular moment. I do hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will adopt this suggestion to a greater extent than it has been put into operation hitherto, and if he does I feel perfectly certain it will assist the Board in the administration of the Act and will lead to more small holdings being placed on the land. There is 1391 another point in this paragraph. It is stated:—The Board are advised that it is competent to draw upon applicants from other parts of the country in such cases, but it is not always possible to make this arrangement, because applicants are not in some cases prepared to remove.I have always been of opinion, so far as the county which I have the honour to represent is concerned, and I have said it everywhere, and I think we would all agree upon this, namely, that if small holdings are to be placed advantageously on the land they must be placed in twos or threes and not dotted here and there. I would suggest that the Board of Agriculture should issue what I may call educative propaganda upon this subject. Time after time I have found when I talked with a man who said he wanted a small holding in a particular spot, that after a few minutes' conversation and after pointing out the advantages of being placed upon a particular piece of land with other small holders, such a man has changed his views and has been perfectly prepared to remove from that particular spot. I do suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should see if something cannot be done to educate the small holder on that particular point.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
I agree with a great deal of what the hon. Member has just said, and especially on three points. As I understand, he suggests that care should be taken to put small holdings on farms that are falling out of lease. As far as I can gather, one of the complaints sometimes made against the Government plan hitherto adopted is that that method has not been followed as closely as it might have been. The result of that is, that you have claims by the landlord and by the tenants. I was told recently of the case of a farm where there were some six or seven years of the lease still to run, in which case, of course, the tenant would have a claim against the Board for compensation. That seems to me an absolute waste of money and must mean an increase of the rent to the small holder, or that it has got to be paid out of public money. While it is quite true that the Board have been advised—and I do not dispute that the advice is quite sound—that they are entitled to call in for small holdings in one part of the country persons who desire small holdings from another part, I do not think that that is what is intended. I think that small holdings in one district were intended to supply the people of that 1392 district, and it is not good administration to set up small holdings, say, in the East of Scotland, and go to the West of Scotland to get occupants for them.
I think that the hon Member for Kincardineshire was quite right also in saying that it is a misfortune that small holdings should be set up except in considerable numbers; because unless you get cooperation between small holders you will never be able to run the thing satisfactorily. Even large farmers desire cooperation so as to be able to carry out their undertaking more successfully as a commercial venture than would otherwise be possible. I do not think that that idea has in the past been sufficiently attended by the Board of Agriculture. But the strongest indictment of the Board of Agriculture that I have seen is contained in the Report of the Land Court. The Land Court Report is dated 28th April, 1914, and was presented to the Secretary for Scotland. It is a curious fact that the Board of Agriculture Report, although dated a month later, and also presented to the right hon. Gentleman, takes no notice whatever—I do not know whether it is official courtesy or not—of the very keen and candid criticism which the Land Court made of the Board of Agriculture. I think it is worth while for the Committee to look at what the Land Court say of the Board of Agriculture. The Committee must bear in mind that one of the great complaints is that the Land Court have too much work to do, and cannot get through it. This is what the Land Court say on page 30 of their Report:—Much of our time during the year has been devoted to the disposal of applications at the instance of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland.They give the figures, and then say:—The preparation of such a large number of applications necessarily involves much labour, and not a few of the schemes show that they were prepared without sufficient consideration of details. We receive an application for a compulsory order to constitute so many holdings. When the case is heard, the promoters present an amended scheme, the number of holdings being reduced or increased according to circumstances, and the boundaries as shown on the original plan materially altered. Further alterations are frequently suggested or required. … and every substantial alteration of this kind, or transformation of a scheme, necessitates the preparation of a new plan. We were much hampered in our work for the want of plans arising from this cause, and several large schemes which were ready for disposal at the end of last year, had to be carried forward for want of receiving amended plans.Dealing with the point to which the hon. Member opposite referred about the necessity of having large groups of holdings, they add:—Much time was also devoted to schemes involving only one or two new holdings or one or two enlarge- 1393 ments. These small schemes often raised as much opposition as schemes for a whole farm might raise, while the claims for damage alleged to be caused by these small schemes, if carried out, are often out of all proportion to their utility.I submit that that is a most serious charge by the Land Court against the administration of the Board of Agriculture. It is complained that the Land Court cannot get through their work, but the Land Court say to the Secretary for Scotland that one of the great reasons why they cannot get on with their work is that the Board of Agriculture do not do their work properly. That criticism was sent in to the right hon. Gentleman a month before the Board of Agriculture made their Report, but they take no notice of it at all. I assume, therefore, that we may take the statement to be correct; at any rate, the Board of Agriculture have nothing to say in answer to it. We shall be glad to hear if the right hon. Gentleman can supplement the deficient Report of the Board of Agriculture in that respect. If there is a defence, let us hear what it is. It seems to me that no complaint can be made if we accept the challenge of one Government Department to another, and ask to hear what is the defence. I do not desire to say anything with regard to some of the observations of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. J. Hogge). The hon. Member seemed to be much more anxious to make an electioneering speech than to speak on the Vote. I would say the same if the hon. Member were present. He has a capacity for making electioneering speeches when they are out of place. I think that some of his observations with regard to the attitude taken up by hon. Members on this side were altogether out of place, and I do not intend to reply to them.
§ Colonel GREIG
The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Scott Dickson) charged my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh with having a great capacity for making electioneering speeches. The hon. and learned Gentleman also is an adept in that matter; therefore, he is entitled to give an opinion on the point. Let me deal with one or two of the hon. and learned Member's observations in reference to this Report and the action of the Board of Agriculture vis-â-vis with the Land Court. He has assumed that by knocking the heads of these two Departments together he will distract attention from the root cause of the whole of the delay. In the first place, he says that the Land Court have criticised the action of the Board of 1394 Agriculture for the manner in which they have put forward these schemes. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh referred generally to some of the causes which appear in the Report as the reason for this delay. With the permission of the Committee, I will read one or two passages from the Report to which I do not think attention has been called. Here are the reasons why the Board of Agriculture have not been able to get on with their work. On page 13, the Report states:—Some of the main causes of delay are as follows: Absence of definite information as to the tenure of land; absence of power to conclude negotiations when landlords are unwilling to co-operate, but refrain from saying so in specific terms;.… the letting of farms dining the progress of negotiations. …. The absence of definite information as to the tenure of land results in a loss of time, which is contrary to the interests of the landlord, the applicants, and the Board. It frequently happens that attention is not drawn to a farm until it is offered to let, when it is practically impossible to conclude arrangements in time to permit of the holder taking entry at the expiry of the outgoing tenant's lease.A little further on they say:—The proprietors' agents have, in many cases, refused to supply information as to the terms on which certain farms were held, with the result that it was impossible to determine whether the farms in question were available in terms of Section 7 (16) of the Act. The Board informed the agents in such cases that application for a compulsory order for the sub-division of the land would be made to the Land Court, to whom the required information would have to be produced, and that in consequence of the proprietors' refusal the Board would feel justified in claiming for expenses.They point out that that leads to unnecessary correspondence and delay. They state further:—In many cases landlords have intimated that before they can state whether or not they will negotiate, a scheme must be submitted to them, and the question as to what constitutes a scheme has been a source of correspondence. …Lastly, they say:—Several farms which were about to be vacant were relet, in some cases on long leases, during the progress of negotiations.Anyone who reads that and the previous Report must come to the conclusion that without making any charge against landowners in general in Scotland that there are a certain section who, with all the paraphernalia of land agents and other advisers, are determined to make this Act a failure. First of all, they refuse to negotiate at all; then they put forward unheard-of claims for compensation; they refuse to accept the decisions of the Land Court as to value; they take the most expensive, intricate, and difficult method of arbitration; and they get decisions which take every penny of public money, which has been put into this matter. Then they come here, or, through the mouth of the hon. Baronet opposite, they tell us that 1395 they are in favour of small holdings being created. If I might quote Scripture, as the hon. Baronet is a Scotsman, "The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart."
§ Colonel GREIG
They are applicable to the action of the hon. Baronet and of his party on that side of the House. I cannot go into what is happening in regard to legislation, but on points which would make the present Act work smoothly and the work of the Board of Agriculture much easier they are doing their best to destroy it.
§ Colonel GREIG
Hon. Members are very fond of challenging my statements, but so far I am on the right side. The claims for compensation which are put forward, and which hamper the Board of Agriculture in its work are well known. There is the case to which reference has already been made, in which the landlord obtained from the tribunal which has been set up owing to the suggestion of hon. Members opposite a decision under which he got more rent by £23, and, for the mere fact that small holders were to be planted on the land, £4,600 compensation, simply because they venture to come between the wind and his nobility. If this sort of thing goes on, the Act will be absolutely useless, and the Board of Agriculture will not be able to carry out its work. I have risen to point to what I believe is at the root of it all. If hon. Members opposite are really in favour of the creation of small holdings in Scotland they will not raise objections like those just put forward by the hon. and learned Member opposite—that you are not to bring small land holders from another part of Scotland. There is not one word about that in the Act.
§ Colonel GREIG
The hon. and learned Member suggested that it was contrary to the policy of the Act.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
On the contrary, I said it was within the policy of the Act, but I supported the hon. Member for Kincardineshire in the suggestion that it would be better if it could be avoided.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Colonel GREIG
There is not a word in the Act against that being done and the sooner it is done the better. The other point I want to make is this: The real way to make the administration of this Act better is by not taking advantage of the complicated and difficult procedure which renders these claims to compensation so enormous. If I may quote scripture once more—this time a somewhat revised version—I would say that in Proverbs we find that it says, that "there are three things which are never satisfied, the grave, the earth which is not filled with water, and the fire that saith it is not enough." I would add a fourth unsatisfied thing—namely, the revised version—the particular section of landlords who demand more compensation than what they are entitled to under the Acts.
§ Mr. AINSWORTH
This Debate has taken a higher turn than it did when we were discussing the question last session. I am pleased to say that on the whole, hon. Members on both sides of the House acknowledge the fact that the Board of Agriculture has come to stay. I am rather amused at the criticisms which seem to divide themselves into two sets; the criticism of those on the Opposition side of the House who think that the Board is doing too much, and of hon. Members on this side of the House who think the Board is not doing so much as it ought to do. I should strongly recommend that the Committee should confine themselves to one of these aspects that we should agree upon, and that we should endeavour to make the Board of Agriculture for Scot land more efficient in its work than it has hitherto been. Something has been said, I think, about the Bill promoted by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh which is before the House, and which I heartily wish to see passed into law—at any rate, a great part of it—before the end of the Session, because it will meet the difficulties that have been so much urged by hon. Members on the other side, that the Board has not got—
There is too much desire to discuss that Bill. Hon. Members might spend the rest of the evening in that way, but it would not be in order.
§ Mr. AINSWORTH
I agree, Mr. Whitley, and I would only add that if we could expedite the proceedings of the Board of Agriculture in a way upon which 1397 we could all agree, it would be very desirable. The way that we could do that is by strongly urging upon hon. Members opposite and their Friends to help to promote the aim of the Board of Agriculture, whose great policy, as we all know, is the maintenance of the population of Scotland, and especially the agricultural population of Scotland, on its own land. That is a thing, I think, with which we all agree. Is there any hon. Gentleman in the House who does not feel that something is wrong, and that every reasonable inducement that Parliament can devise should be offered to men to get a reasonable and sensible living in their own country, instead of going to seek it over the seas? If we all agree upon that, I would suggest to hon. Members that the way to attain it, if necessary without further legislation, is this: to trust for a settlement of this question to the Board of Agriculture, and leave the Land Court alone unless it is absolutely wanted. What is to prevent the parties affected from coining to a conclusion without this delay that has been complained of? What is to prevent the Board of Agriculture and proprietors arriving at a reasonable and sensible scheme for the establishment of small holdings on the properties of the latter?
Take the case of any hon. Member here who happens to be a proprietor. Suppose he were approached by the Board of Agriculture with a scheme for creating small holdings on some portion of his land? What would he do? He himself would arrange, or would ask his agent, or factor, or solicitor, to meet the inspector or the representative of the Board, and being Scotsmen, and the members of the Board being Scotsmen, and most, if not all of those concerned, being Scotsmen, who know a great deal about land and farming and agriculture, would it not be reasonably possible, if there was an inclination to come to terms, not only on matters of the division of land, housing or so on that a reasonable scheme should be arrived at, and agreed upon without any reference to the Land Court? The whole difficulty might be better got over with a little more common sense and a little more knowledge of land and farming by the parties concerned, than by always flying to the Land Court to settle this, that, or the other point; or what is still worse, insisting upon arbitration for damages and compensation. All this is not only the cause of enormous delay, but probably 1398 ends in rendering any further proceedings impossible.
I want hon. Members here to remember that this is a question which really affects the population of Scotland. I know it is said: "Why cannot we fall back upon the procedure of the Land Clauses Act?" The two cases are not at all analogous. If a railway company comes to a man for land for business purposes, saying "We must acquire a portion of your land," that man is quite entitled to say: "If you want this land for business purposes, and for profit to yourselves as a company, I am entitled to get the best price for my land that an arbitrator might decide to award." But if the Board of Agriculture comes to a man and asks for land with a view, not only to increasing the cultivation of the land, but of enabling a much larger population to remain in Scotland, without having to go to Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, is that an occasion on which that man is entitled to say, "I must be compensated for every yard of land acquired"? No. We all know that these are cases where it is quite possible for the proprietor to give reasonable terms. I sincerely hope that we shall be able to agree, not only to grant the Vote, but to wish the Board of Agriculture well in the matters they have in hand—population, agriculture, forestry, and everything of that kind.
I should like to remind the House of one thing which I dare say is known to a good many Members. We have all heard of the Agricultural Authority in Ireland. In some ways it is constituted on better lines than our Board of Agriculture. Of course it will be open for us in the future, I hope, to constitute the Scottish Board of Agriculture on the same lines as the Irish Board of Agriculture, which has on it representatives drawn from every county in Ireland, with the addition of a certain proportion of members appointed directly by the Government. It is a most admirable Board. From what friend tell me you never hear religion or politics discussed by it, but the welfare of agriculture in Ireland. England and Scotland will have to take care what they are about or Irish agriculture will leave them behind altogether. I think that will be a very serious thing. It is a matter we ought to take into earnest consideration. We ought to do all we can to foster and extend the influence of the Scottish Board. I think we may all assure the right hon. Gentleman that in carrying out the good work he is with a view to the 1399 improvement and the extension of agriculture in Scotland, and for increasing the agricultural population of Scotland, if he wants either more men or more money, if he only comes to the House of Commons he will be supported.
§ Mr. WATSON
First of all, I should like to deal with some of the remarks of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite. I do not wish to say anything about his quotations from Scripture, except to suggest that they appeal to me as indicating a misspent attendance at service last Sunday. In regard to the rest of his remarks, given with some heat, I confess I was not surprised to hear that he again reiterated the taunt which is so often levelled at Members on this side of the House, that they represent only landlords, and not only landlords, but bad landlords, and no other landlords! He quite fairly said that there was a section of landlords who were against the Act, and would not do anything to help it. But, after all, landlords are human just like other people in the world. If you take any class of people you will certainly find a percentage that differs from the opinion of the rest of the community and will not give any help to forward any scheme of social reform. Whatever class you like to take that will be so, and the case is no more or no less true of landlords than of any other class. To suggest that we on this side are the parties who represent that bad section of landlords who obstruct the operation of the Act is absolutely untrue, and on behalf of my hon. Friends I deny that charge altogether. As to our action in regard to the Bill which has been recently through Committee, I would only say that the question of compensation, and the allegations of extravagant compensation, have been thrashed out upstairs.
The question of compensation was fixed by the Act, and the method by which it is arrived at was fixed by the Act. It was the awards under this method of which hon. Members opposite are complaining. We say quite plainly that some of their speeches, and also their proposals, show that their desire is not to give full and fair compensation to the landlords—or to the tenants—but to get the land for something less, because they say it is for the public good. It may be a debatable proposition as to whether you are entitled to take money out of people's pockets because you say you are doing it 1400 for the public good, and to pay those concerned less than they are fairly entitled to because it is a good object. It is a very different proposition to say that the landlords are being endowed or getting money into their pockets which they ought not to get. It is perfectly true that where the shoe pinches is that the amount of compensation for the class of scheme, or some of the schemes of hon. Gentlemen opposite, is proving a heavy expense, and it has been made clear, as we on this side of the House, at any rate, have said all along, that the amount of money applied for the purpose is totally inadequate. It is also making clear—or clearer—that another thing which has been suggested from our side all along is right and sound, and that is that purchase is rather the proper method than the method adopted by this Act.
There are two things—minor things they may be, but both important in their way—which I am sorry not to see mentioned in this Report. The first thing is one that concerns to some extent the constituency I have the honour to represent, and that is bee disease. Everyone regrets that nothing more has been done to deal with this horrible pest, known as the Isle of Wight disease. No mention is made of any steps legislative, administrative, or otherwise, to try and get rid of a disease that is having a serious effect upon the bee-keeping industry. I have instances of two districts in my own part of Scotland where great damage has been done. The other point is that there is no mention of any steps being taken in regard to the development and promotion of land banks which undoubtedly is a purpose contemplated by Section 4, Sub-section (5) of the Act of 1911, and also the promotion of co-operative credit societies. The latter may be covered by the general phrase on page 52 of the Report. There is a third point on the general question of small holdings, and the settling of these new holdings. It does seem to me that a good deal of congestion can be accounted for by the fact that the schemes for the settlement of the new holders as well as the Forestry Department of the Board are in the hands of the same official, and I am not surprised that we find in the Report that as many as 144 schemes are recommended to the Board by the Small Holdings Commissioners, and to find that things are behind because there may be many more schemes not sufficiently advanced to be recommended, but which are 1401 under consideration. That means a vast amount of work, and that accounts for the fact that the forestry scheme has not gone ahead as fast as we should like, and on that I have something to say.
With regard to afforestation I should like to associate myself entirely with remarks upon the delay of the demonstration area that fell from the lips of the hon. Member for the Richmond Division, and the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire. We find that after the demonstration area had been so strongly recommended by the Departmental Committee m their Report, December, 1911, and thereafter by the Advisory Committee appointed to the Board, who thoroughly went into this question as to where that area should be, and spent nearly two years in making up their minds, which was a quite proper and very necessary amount of time to spend upon it, and when they settled upon the estate of Ballogie in Aberdeenshire, and requested the Development Commissioners for the necessary loan to carry out that scheme, it is curious that we should be told, on page 53 of the Report, that:—The Committee's Report recommending the acquisition of this area was sent to the Development Commissioners in December, 1913, for consideration as to whether they will approve the project and advise the Treasury to grant the necessary fund, but in the meantime the Development Commissioners have been making nquiries as to whether a suitable area, nearer to the geographical centre of Scotland, cannot be obtained upon long leasehold term.I make this comment. What have the Development Commissioners to do with finding another area? They suggest an alternative of getting an estate on leasehold terms, I protest strongly against any such scheme, and I ask the Board to adhere to their first scheme of purchase. The Departmental Committee in December, 1911, said:—The area should be acquired by purchase. Its value for demonstrative purposes will steadily increase with the length of its record. A lease however long presents an eventual risk which in our judgment should not be run.I think it is clear in these days when objection is taken to long building leases that a long lease, even for 999 years, would be more expensive than purchase, and further if there was a lease suggested for 150 years in connection with the scheme suggested in Perthshire, it would be quite impracticable in the case of a crop from which you could not expect a return while it is growing for a period of between 60 and 100 years. You could hardly have any result before your lease had expired. There is another difficulty in setting a basis on which the lease is 1402 to come to an end. At the back of this I suppose there is the suggestion to find another area. It is suggested that Ballogie is not central enough. I should like to remind hon. Members that this demonstration area is not intended to be a place to which the students from the various agricultural centres are to go for a day's picnic. That is not intended. What is intended as we see, from the Report of the Forestry Committee, is that they should go there for school for a month or six weeks at a time with their own lecturers, and, therefore, the difference between distance from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and from Edinburgh to Perthshire in these circumstances is practically nothing. It is much more important to get a place as suitable as possible in quality and situation, and the Committee deal with this question of a central area on the first page of the Report of December, 1911. They say:—Our inquiries do not lead us to expect that it will be possible to find an area fulfilling all the above conditions. It will be especially difficult to find a suitable stocked area near the centre of Scotland. It may be necessary to choose between a forest ideally central, which will take fifty years to get into order, and a forest less central, but fit to be of service at once. If the Government finds itself in this dilemma, we advise, provided the less central forest is accessible by railway, that quality should be preferred to situation.The Advisory Committee which recommended Ballogie followed that advice precisely because they found it was the only suitable place, and they had great difficulty in even getting an available place apart from the quality of the place in Scotland. Accordingly, I hope that this, I will not say peccant paragraph, but sinister paragraph on Page 53 of the Report, which suggests that the Development Commissioners are looking about to-day, after it had been attempted by the Expert Committee, to find a suitable area on long leasehold terms, will not be acted upon by the Board. I do not know whether it has anything to do with it, but it may be explained that this Report recommending the Ballogie estate was approved by the Board of Agriculture, was forwarded to the Development Commissioners in December, 1913, but the other day there came out a Report by that clandestine Committee on Land in Scotland, and we find there that while they agree entirely and are impressed strongly with the idea that afforestation schemes and demonstration areas in particular should be gone on with as soon as possible, they suggest that the land should be taken for a long period of years for afforestation. I most highly 1403 disapprove, I must say, of this theory of compulsorily renting this land from the landowner. I think it should be purchased out and out. It is quite a different question as to what are fair terms upon which that purchase should be made. It is much open to debate, and I think there might be improvement in that respect. I quite agree in some instances when the State or local bodies purchase land they do so on terms which I certainly should not hesitate to describe as extortionate. I do not hesitate to admit that, and I think there is room for improvement, but I am speaking this moment of the difference between purchase and compulsorily long leases or short leases, and it seems to me a bad principle to compel the owner to give up his land and not allow him to do what he wants with it. Afforestation will entirely take up the use of it. I would like, in conclusion, to say that I heartily agree with what was said, I think, by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire about the advantage which afforestation can be made to have in connection with small holdings. The recommendation is that as far as the demonstration area is concerned there should be small holdings for those employed over that area only and over the country for experimental purposes, and in the case of these experimental strips I think the work can be very suitably bound up with small holdings.
§ Mr. FALCONER
I do not desire to travel over the ground already covered in the course of this Debate, or the other Debates. I desire to say a word in regard to land for small holdings. It is generally accepted that the creation of small holdings throughout Scotland is by far the most important duty placed upon the Board of Agriculture at the present time. For that means the preservation of the class of people to the land of Scotland upon whose character and physique everyone will agree the position of Scotland, not only at home but abroad, very largely depended in the past. I think it is now accepted that some method of restoring that class of people to the land is not a matter of choice, but has become a matter of absolute necessity if the Scotland of the future is to be like the Scotland of the past. It is from that standpoint that I regard the legislation and administration with regard to the land in Scotland. When you look at the men, especially the men required for our industrial enterprises, everyone who has to do with the management of 1404 industrial concerns knows that the gravest want at the present time is to find practical men, born, trained, and brought up in the country, who have got a thoroughly good education, and who go into business with that keen determination, which has characterised that class of Scotsman, to do better than other men. And for our agricultural positions, and this is not always realised, there is nothing more necessary at the present time than to have coming on the kind of men who might, by the practical experience gained on small holdings, be turned into first-class agriculturists. If you take farmers generally throughout Scotland, at any rate in the parts which I know best, it will be found that the men who are the best farmers either began as small holders or were the sons or grandsons of small holders. In the interests of the owners of great estates, there is nothing more important than the bringing on of that class of people who can cultivate the land which they occupy. I can remember perfectly well when it was the greatest object and desire of the landlord in the county which I represent and where I was born and brought up to have as many people on small holdings as they could, and there are many landlords still of that opinion. The real reason they could not do it was the difficulty of finding the money for the buildings and the permanent improvements. Now, the Board of Agriculture is prepared to spend money for those purposes.
With regard to this Act, passed as it was with the desire on both sides to settle this question which was so clamouring for a settlement, it is one of our great disappointments that the very class of people one expected to be most anxious to put the people on the land are those who have been referred to in the Report, which shows that one of the real difficulties has been the obstruction of one kind or another at the instance of the landlord from whom they have sought to take land for small holdings, and they have met with a refusal of information. When the Board goes to try to form a colony of small holdings on a farm they meet with all kinds of trouble over the scheme, and that class of difficulty which has been referred to in the Report shows that for some reason or other landlords have not supported the Board in Scotland, and have not done their best to try and get on the land the greatest number of small holders with the money at the disposal of the Board. Another real difficulty is the one which has been repeatedly referred to, namely, the 1405 claims that have been made for compensation at the instance of the landlord. I think it is necessary that it should be made perfectly clear what is the nature of this claim. Take the three cases which have been singled out for criticism—the Lindean case, the Heriotfield's case, and the South Uist case. If you examine these three cases you will find that £15,000 has been given to the landlords as compensation over and above whatever is necessary to place them in as good a position as regards their income before the land was taken for small holdings. They get the same return and in some cases a better return. Over and above that they are entirely relieved of any obligation for the renewal of the buildings upon the estates, and yet over and above that these awards in these three cases have given the landlords in all £15,000.
In one case there is a deduction made of £1,200 or £1,300, because to that extent the position of the landlord is made better than it was before. That money is paid, because the landlords have got a number of small holders in place of one large farmer on the farm. They are relieved of all the obligations with regard to buildings which they would have in the case of the large farmers. They have better security for their rent, because they have a larger number of tenants and, at any rate, in the part of the country which I know best, the rent of the small holder is more secure than the rent of the large farmer, because he has no labour bill to pay. In the bad days of agriculture twenty or thirty years ago in our district, while the rents of large farms went down 20 or 30 per cent., the rents of the small holders were maintained practically at the same level. Therefore this means that the landlord has the same return from his land, although he is relieved of the responsibility of renewing the buildings, and he has in addition better security for his rent, and yet these enormous awards of compensation are paid. And why? The real ground upon which they are supported is that the landlord does not like to have on his land people over whom he has no control, because he cannot turn them out. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] But that is the basis of the compensation. I should not be in order if I were to argue out the question of whether that should or should not be allowed, but I point this out as the real difficulty standing in the way of the Board of Agriculture in settling small holders on the land. Although I 1406 criticise these cases from a different point of view, I agree with what the Earl of Camperdown said, that a great public scandal was being perpetrated by the payment of these great claims for compensation in the carrying out of this policy.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
I do not see how the Secretary for Scotland has any jurisdiction over that matter. We can only debate things now that are within his jurisdiction under the existing law. This seems to be a complaint which arises out of the law as it stands, and therefore we must pass it over.
§ Mr. FALCONER
The great disappointment with regard to the Board of Agriculture, whose action we are now discussing, is that they have not created more small holdings.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member may make that simple statement, but he must not proceed to argue the case.
§ Mr. FALCONER
I do not intend to argue it. My point is that that is the real reason why the Board have failed to carry out what we all hoped would be the result of this Act and the duties and powers entrusted to them. That is the point I make, and that is what we must consider. I am not permitted to discuss the question of how that difficulty can be removed, but I think it is due to the Board of Agriculture, and to those who support the policy of this Act, to point out that that is the real reason, and, to my mind, the only grave reason, apart from the enlarging of the machinery of the Act and increasing its efficiency, which is stopping the creation of small holdings throughout Scotland. I know that they have difficulties, because the applications which have been made for small holdings have been largely in excess of what the machinery which was created was qualified to deal with. That is also a difficulty which also stands in the way. They have also had difficulties in getting the applications which they have made dealt with by the landlords, and I think it is only fair to say that. That is my judgment after carefully studying the question. This is partly due to the fact that there are provisions requiring that schemes should be formulated and discussed with the landlord in detail before they are submitted to the Land Court. I sympathise with the Board, because they have, in carrying out a great policy of this kind, to proceed to the discussion of every detail—first with 1407 the landlord and then before the Land Court, and then bring the amount of the scheme to suit the views of both. There is great room for a simplification of the machinery. While undoubtedly all that has to be said with regard to the machinery, the real difficulty which lies at the root of this small result accruing from the powers entrusted to the Board of Agriculture lies in the enormous claims for compensation which have to be met in order to enable small holdings to be created.
§ Captain GILMOUR
I must at once differ with the opening statement made by the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Falconer), who said that it would be agreed that by far the most important question which the Board of Agriculture had to deal with was small holdings. I am prepared to admit that the establishment of small holdings, particularly in groups, is an eminently desirable thing. I agree that if you can put more people upon the land and encourage more people than there are at the present time to take an active interest and gain a living on the land, and if you can do anything to add to more intensive cultivation of the land, you will be doing an excellent work. I agree with the statement that you will have in the country a class of man whom you could depend upon for service in the Army or Navy in time of difficulty, but I at once differ from a great number of hon. Members opposite, who seem to be entirely obsessed with this idea that the Board of Agriculture is constituted purely or primarily for the establishment of small holdings. In my judgment there are many other important matters which require to be dealt with in connection with agriculture. Everyone will admit that if agriculture is to be successful in Scotland—or, indeed, in any country—it cannot be by one method alone. I think it is misleading to the general public that a statement such as the hon. Member for Forfarshire has made should go without being challenged. The hon. Member also claimed that the landlords were unfair in the claims which they made, and that they were not, as a body, desirous of seeing the number of small holders increase upon their property.
§ Mr. FALCONER
I never said that What I said was that it was evident that the Board of Agriculture had to come in contact with landlords who were not in 1408 favour of that policy, but I always disclaim any reflection upon landlords as a body.
§ Captain GILMOUR
Then are we to understand the hon. Member goes so far as to say that in every case with which the Board of Agriculture has dealt to his knowledge since they have been in operation they have been met with a refusal by the landlords to do that which he thinks they ought to do.
§ Captain GILMOUR
I gather the hon. Member says that he has been led to that conclusion by reading the Report. He tells us it is unreasonable that such landlords as have done so should have taken that attitude, because their income is going to remain as great as ever it has been under this policy. I should want to be a little more satisfied upon that point before I could agree with any such statement. Even if the income were to remain the same, that is not the whole question. Surely compensation is due for depreciation in the selling value and in the capital value of the property. One knows full well that so far as experience has gone with other holdings in the past, that rents have been revised more than once, and if any landlord to-day be told that he is going to receive the same amount in rent that he has received in the past, or even an increased rent, he has no guarantee whatever that in several years' time, or less, a revision will not take place, and that his income will disappear. No one who has studied the history of small holdings in Scotland can deny that the reductions have been enormous in many cases, and have been very serious to a great number of landlords, because, after all, all of these landlords are not of independent means apart from their property. There is no use on this occasion labouring this point at greater length. All I can say is that I hope in their dealings with this question of setting up small holdings, the Board of Agriculture will more and more turn their faces towards the possibility of acquring land, or, indeed, whole farms at a time, and particularly of concentrating their efforts on securing them when leases fall in.
I think it is desirable at this time to review in some measure the work of the Board of Agriculture. I can only repeat, what I have said in this House before, that I thought it was a mistake to set up a separate Board in Scotland, but, that 1409 policy having been carried out, and that Board having been constituted, I am sure, if it is to be efficient and if it is to deal with the multifarious subjects with which any Board of Agriculture must deal, it must be considerably strengthened. I am at once bound to admit, if that is to be the case, that greater expense must be incurred. It is one of the greatest difficulties which we have in this House, that if we are going to be consistent, we must admit greater expense is necessary. I am bound to say, too, that I think a great part of the expenditure would have been rendered unnecessary if this Board had not been constituted in the way in which it has, and if the opportunity had been taken of using much of the information and the knowledge which was already possessed by the then British Board, which is now the English Board. Though I do not know that it is possible to go back upon that policy, I think the day may come when it will be found more to the advantage of agriculture as a whole that it should be a Department rather than a separate Board. I would ask hon. Members on the other side of the House whether, having paid so much attention as they have done to the question of small holdings, they are not neglecting to some extent some of the other interests of agriculture. Going up and down the country, I have from time to time received complaints from farmers that some of their representations and their correspondence have not received that early consideration and reply which they expected, and I am constantly being told that their position under this new Board in Scotland is a very disappointing one. I at once admit the great difficulty with which a new body—such as the present Board of Agriculture—is faced, but I hope that they will, so far as it is in their power, give attention to those other matters outside the question of small holdings, and that we shall see perhaps a greater co-operation than we have seen in the past between the agricultural interests and the Board.
May I say one word about the question of horse-breeding, in which I take a somewhat special interest? I am grateful to the Board for the work which they are doing in that direction, but I want to ask whether they are quite certain that the Highland pony stallions, which they are using or are proposing to use, in the Highland districts, are absolutely free from the taint of Clydesdale blood? One of the greatest difficulties in producing the right class of pony, more particularly for the 1410 small holder in the Highland district, lies in the fact that the breed has become intermixed with Clydesdale blood. I have been recently in some of the districts of the Highlands, and have talked with those who are constantly buying and selling this class of horse. I have always been told by everyone whom I have consulted that there is an increasing use of the Clydesdale and a consequent disappearance of the right class of pony. Those are difficulties which cannot be overcome in a day, but it is clear, if the Board are subsidising, as they are now, a hill pony, a Highland pony, and in some districts are subsidising the Clydesdale, that without some careful supervision and management and education of the small holders who own the ponies you are going to have a mixture of blood which will end in great disaster both to the hill pony and to the Clydesdale. This is a question which is deserving perhaps of rather close attention on the part of the Board, and I would ask them to give it due consideration.
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
Perhaps I may be allowed to make one or two observations on the question of afforestation, and more particularly with reference to its nearness to Edinburgh. I should be the last to say, whilst I sit for an Edinburgh constituency in this House, that I should put Edinburgh above every other consideration. After all, we have to consider what is for the general good of Scotland. We have every reason to complain of the lengthy time which the Board of Agriculture has taken to settle this question where they will have an estate in Scotland for the purposes of afforestation. Grants have been given from the Development Fund for, I think, six years, and at the end of this period we seem to be still as far off as ever from settling where this afforestation is going to take place. I find from the last Return of the Development Fund, up to 31st March, 1913, that the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries in England received Grants to the amount of £70,370, and the Department of Agriculture in Ireland £21,446, whilst Scotland received only £4,500. If Scotland had received eleven-eightieths, just as it does in other Grants, it would under this heading have received, not £4,500, but £9,676. It is a great misfortune, through the inability of the Board of Agriculture to come to any decision where it will buy or lease an estate for afforestation, that we should not be getting our fair proportion from the Development Fund. I am aware that when a 1411 deputation waited upon the Secretary for Scotland some time ago from the Edinburgh University they laid before him a scheme whereby the hon. Member for Perthshire (Marquess of Tullibardine) or the Duke of Atholl were to lease them an estate. I heard the whole statement made by that deputation, and I am perfectly certain this scheme would not bear examination from a financial point of view, and that no Treasury or Development Commissioners could possibly have entertained it. I think the Secretary for Scotland will bear me out when I say that when that deputation waited upon him I pointed out the defect of the scheme.
After that, of course, there came under the consideration of the Board this estate in Aberdeenshire, and I now understand that they are considering again the question of leasing property in Perthshire. It would be a disaster if they took any land on lease, because it works out in the long run that it is greatly to the advantage of the landlords, and not those who lease the property. Therefore, I strongly condemn any leasing of any kind. It should be purchased. I should like to point out that this purchase of land for afforestation, as well as the compensation you are paying to landlords under the Land Act, would be very materially lessened if the House had adopted years ago the rating of land values. If when you were entering into negotiations for the purchase of an estate for afforestation the landlord knew that if he declined a certain price he would be rated upon it, you would have less difficulty in coming to some arrangement with him. I should like some explanation of this long delay. It has certainly been unfortunate. If there were one thing more than another for which this Development Commission was most suited, it was the development of afforestation. We should, therefore, like some explanation which so far we have not been able to get. There is another matter I should like to refer to. I find in the Report that the Board of Agriculture has given £13,071, being half of the net maintenance of the three agricultural colleges in Scotland. I do not say that that Grant is too large, but I would like to point out the great disparity between that amount and the very small sum given to the two veterinary colleges. These two colleges receive £675 only, and I trust the Board will see the necessity for making large Grants in the future. With 1412 regard to the question of small holdings, I do not propose to say much, because it is a subject on which other Members have more right to speak. But, in my opinion, one matter for very serious consideration is to be found in the fact that at the end of all the legislation we have had—legislation to which we had been looking forward so hopefully—only 214 persons have been settled on new holdings.
§ Mr. PRICE
No, 214 have been settled upon new and enlarged holdings. That is an exceedingly disappointing result. It is deplorable that, notwithstanding the legislation that we have had, there are fewer small holdings in Scotland than years ago, because the number of farms which have been attached one to the other has completely destroyed the effect of the creation of new holdings. I do not know whether the Secretary for Scotland will agree to give a Return, but I should like to get information as to what has been the cost of the Crofters' Commission since it was established in 1881, and how that cost compares with the reductions which have been made in rents. I believe the cost of administering the Act of 1881 has been about equal to the reduction in rents and I should like to find out whether the same result has followed here. You asked the general taxpayers of the country to pay taxes for administering Acts from which they themselves only get an indirect benefit, and you are asking the people to tax themselves in order that you may establish small holdings. The result to me is very disappointing. A great many people suggest that this problem should be dealt with by land purchase. I trust that that idea will not be entertained. I know what was the effect of land purchase in Ireland. It resulted in an increase in the value of the land by from seven to eleven years' purchase. We think there is a very much better way of dealing with the matter, and if you rate the land at its true value, you need not trouble about land purchase.
§ Mr. ANNAN BRYCE
The Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Mr. MacCallum Scott), earlier in the evening, alluded to methods of intermediate education in connection with agricultural work. The Secretary for Scotland knows about one of these methods in which I am interested, and I hope that, in his reply, 1413 he will say something about the intentions of the Government with regard to that scheme. It is a scheme for the establishment of an agricultural institute near Inverness to give instruction of the kind which was described by the Member for Bridgeton to small holders and their dependents. The Secretary for Scotland received a deputation on the subject and showed himself very sympathetic. I believe he has been in negotiation with the Board of Agriculture with regard to that scheme, and I hope he may be able to say to-night, for the information of the Committee, whether it is likely he will be able to give, as suggested by the Member for Bridgeton, help to the Development Commissioners or otherwise, from the funds at the disposal of the Board of Agriculture, for the development of establishments of that description.
§ Mr. BARNES
I wish to draw attention to one or two points with regard to the failure of the Board of Agriculture to carry out certain provisions in the Act of 1911. I refer particularly to the powers of the Board in regard to lending money, and in regard to co-operation. I see, in the report of the Board of Agriculture, there is a long statement of what has been done up to date in respect of lending money. It is stated that in 1912 there were 200 applications for loans for building houses and so on, but, owing to the congestion of business during that year, nothing was done. I do not complain so much about that. It is quite possible that, owing to the confusion and friction consequent on the setting up of the Board, other matters had prior attention. But then the Report goes on to state that, during 1913, there have been a great many applications. There is also something with regard to limiting the areas from which applications come, applications which have received attention. I find that during 1913 the total amount expended in this way for loans was £5,159 10s. For my part I attach a great deal of importance to the provisions of the Act in that respect, more particularly as I have had some information given me during the past year in regard to the position of agricultural labourers in Scotland, and the pecuniary circumstances generally of the men whom it was intended should benefit by the Act.
The right hon. Gentleman will probably remember that upstairs I moved an Amendment on this matter, and I then quoted figures which had been given by a Scottish newspaper, dealing with the 1414 people who had made applications, and with the class of people who were expected to apply for small holdings. This Scottish newspaper had circularised a large number of people in Scotland with a view to finding out how it was that they had either not applied for small holdings, or, having applied for them, had not been able to get them, and invariably the answer given by these people was "lack of money." It is perfectly reasonable, because a man in Scotland working on a farm, even though he be in a position slightly better than that of an agricultural labourer, only gets a sufficient wage to cover his every-day needs, and, therefore, if you are going to set up small holdings on anything like a large scale, you must give a generous interpretation to the powers conferred by the Act of Parliament. There has been some geographical limit put on the area within which loans have been made during the last year. There is nothing in the Act to justify that. Sub-section (7) of Section 7 of the Act seems to me to give power to the authorities to lend money by way of assisting small holders, but, from what I can gather, the Board of Agriculture have only used the powers given them under Section 9, to lend money on the erection of buildings where small holdings have been set up. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see to it that, if possible, the greatest amount of power is taken under the Act in the future, so that more money may be lent.
The next point I want to call attention to—and here again the authorities have not done that which I should like to have seen them do—is they have not made use of the powers they possess under the existing Act to promote a system of co-operation amongst small holders. From what I can see, nothing whatever has been done in that direction, and, if anything has been accomplished, I should like to hear what it is from the Scottish Secretary, and I should like, if possible, to get some promise from him that more will be done in the future. I feel sure that in the principle and practice of co-operation is to be found the ultimate success of small holdings, and I am confirmed in that view by a visit I paid to Denmark last year, when my colleagues and I made special investigation into small agriculture in that country. I was reminded, when listening to a speech by an hon. Member opposite, of what we had seen in Denmark. The hon. Member opposite spoke of the need of grouping small holdings, and we visited 1415 several places where small holders had started in groups. I remember quite well one place where there was a group of ten small holders who were in a position to avail themselves of machinery they had acquired by pooling their capital. They had pumping apparatus for the use of all the holders, and they were able to carry on farming, I will not say as economically or as efficiently as a farmer on a large scale, but, at any rate, much more economically than if the ten small holders worked separately instead of being grouped together.
I should like to say a word or two on the line which has been taken by the hon. Baronet opposite and many of his colleagues. It is a line which has astonished me. We have heard recently a good deal of severe criticism with regard to officials in the Government service. The criticisms touching the Land Court were, I admit, very mild. So far as I remember the chief objection was that the Court had not announced the principles upon which its awards were based. But I was amused to hear the speech made by the hon. Member for Midlothian (Major Hope), who complained that the Scottish Board of Agriculture had not done all it might have done in the way of the inspection of fruit farms. He spoke of diseases affecting gooseberry bushes and potatoes, and so on, and he went so far as to suggest that the Board of Agriculture should set up some sort of inspection at the ports where fruit is imported from foreign countries. As he developed that argument, I could not help thinking of all I have heard from hon. Gentlemen opposite about this particular Government creating hordes of officials, because it seemed to me that if you are going to start the inspection of gooseberry bushes, fruit farms, and fruit imported from foreign countries, you are going to have a multiplication of Government officials beyond the dreams of anybody who sits on this side of the House, or, at any rate, of anybody whom I have ever heard discussing these matters. I would suggest to the hon. Member that if he desires to see that clean fruit is put upon the market, he should urge upon the Board of Agriculture, or some other authority, the necessity of seeing that the fruit farms of Scotland are carried on under much more cleanly conditions than they are at present.
It being a Quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business 1416 set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further proceeding was postponed without Question put.