§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That a sum, not exceeding £41,553, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1916, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, including certain Grants-in-Aid. [NOTE.—£25,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I desire to call attention to what I conceive to be a very great injustice to Scotland, if not an illegality. The Vote for these services last year totalled a sum of £244,100. It has been reduced this year to a sum of £66,558, or a total reduction of £177,000 upon a figure of £244,000. Roughly, we may say it has been reduced by three-quarters. Scotland has been specially selected for this treatment. All the other portions of the United Kingdom have had increased Grants for the Civil Service Estimates. Scotland alone has been subjected to this enormous reduction, and Scotland is further differentiated by the fact that she has a statutory right to £200,000 for the purpose of this Vote. That statutory right is secured by the Small Holdings Act, 1911, and I shall argue that it is illegal by administrative act to prevent Scotland receiving the sum which has been assigned to her by an Act of this Parliament. What has happened in regard to the other parts of the United Kingdom? How have they been treated? Has there been any corresponding reduction? At a time like this we are all prepared to make sacrifices if they are required, but there should be equality of sacrifice. The whole sacrifice should not be placed upon one portion of the United Kingdom while the other portions make no sacrifice but receive increased sums. That is a position which I hope to make perfectly clear and establish absolutely. The English Board of Agriculture has been asked to sacrifice £2,379 out of a total of £344,000, while it 282 has no statutory right to any portion of that sum. I know it is said that outside the Estimates a difference is being made in regard to England and Ireland, and that England is not to receive any money for small holdings. We have ascertained by question and answer that that suggestion is not correct. While money will not be forthcoming this year for the purchase of land for the purpose of small holdings, there will be no curtailment whatever in England in regard to the creation of small holdings by lease. As in Scotland all small holdings are created under lease, it is perfectly clear that there is no curtailment in England on similar principles to what is now proposed in Scotland, because the greater part of this reduction must fall upon that portion of the Vote which is utilised for the purpose of providing small holdings in Scotland.
In regard to England the total Civil Service Estimates are not reduced but are increased this year. What is the position in regard to Ireland? Ireland will receive this year for her Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction a sum less by £19,860 than the amount she received last year—£189,000. In addition, Ireland receives for her Congested Districts Board £169,000, and in connection with the Land Act she receives no less than £785,000, which is itself an increase of £65,000 upon the sum provided last year. So that in regard to the one item of the Land Commission she receives an increased sum equal practically within £1,000 to the total sum to be received this year for the whole purposes of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland. Scotland, out of this reduced sum of £65,000, has to provide for the whole purposes of agriculture, and the case is even worse than that, because out of the £65,000 there is provided by Statute £15,000 for the Congested Districts Board, and when we recollect that the old Crofters Commission had an annual Grant of £30,000 we have to reduce the sum of £65,000 by £45,000, leaving a paltry £20,000 for all the purposes of the Board of Agriculture in Scotland. These purposes are land reform, small holdings, the provision of loans for smallholders, agriculture education, afforestation, congested districts, Crofters Commission duties, and all the other various activities which will be found detailed in the very excellent Report of the Board which is before us now. I consider that this sum is entirely inadequate to the purposes of Scotland, whereas 283 Ireland receives for similar purposes no less than £1,124,000 this year for purposes for which Scotland is to receive £65,000, or a sum no less than seventeen times as great as Scotland is to receive. I do not grudge the sum payable to Ireland. I have no doubt it will be expended to the advantage of Ireland and the United Kingdom, particularly at a time like this when the question of food supply and agriculture was never more important than it is today. All I ask is that we should not at a time like this deny to agriculture in Scotland the necessary funds for maintaining normal agriculture produce.
The total Estimates for the United Kingdom have been increased by no less than £1,000,000 this year upon last year, so that Scotland has not only been robbed of £177,000, but that money has been given, with increased Grants in addition, to other portions of the United Kingdom. That is an injustice to Scotland which ought not to exist and should not have been permitted by the Secretary of State. I know he will tell us that we have a very considerable Board of Agriculture (Scotland) Fund, so considerable that it is said by the Treasury—not by the Secretary for Scotland, because I understand he has protested against it—that as you have money in hand you ought to ask for no further money until you have expended what you have. What is the position in regard to the establishment of a new Board of this kind? It is perfectly clear that it has to accumulate such a sum for the purpose of capital expenditure in starting its new ventures. No less than £200,000 was given to the Board of Agriculture for Ireland as a capital sum with which to start. In addition to that it has accumulated a very considerable sum out of savings from the initial years of its existence when its schemes were not in full working and it was not able to expend all the money which was voted. These sums are so considerable that they amounted at the end of March last to a surplus in hand of £150,000. On the same principle the Treasury should have said to the Board of Agriculture for Ireland, "You have large sums of money in hand. We are not going to vote you this large sum that you are getting to-day." Instead of that they have enormously increased the Grants to Ireland for purposes similar to those which we have to provide for Scotland out of this very limited sum. 284 4.0 P.M.
I should like to point out that when the sum of £200,000 was granted by the Act of 1911 it was intended and was known that the whole of that sum would not be expended in the first or the second year by the Board. If the intention had not been that, it would have stated in the Act that any balance should be surrendered. It was intended that the sum should accumulate for the capital purposes of the Board for starting farm schools, agricultural colleges, veterinary colleges, and for various other purposes. It was intended that the fund accumulated should be so used and it was secured by Statute that it should be so. If the Treasury is to apply this rule about sums in hand, then the rule ought to be fairly applied all round. The Irish Board has so large a sum in hand, which is invested with the Bank of Ireland, that it received last year a sum of just about £6,000 in interest, showing that it had at least £200,000 in hand in the Bank of Ireland for the purposes of the Board. If we are to have fair treatment, then it ought to be borne in mind what are the circumstances in regard to the Department of Agriculture for Ireland, Personally, I think that all these moneys in hand should be available for the purposes of the respective Boards, and it could be perfectly well used. There are many admirable uses for all these funds. When it is said that the Scottish Board has this large sum in hand it is quite forgotten that £86,000 was transferred from the Congested Districts Board, and that helps to swell the balance. It is forgotten at the same time that there were liabilities on the other side of the account, not matured yet, amounting to £60,000. Therefore, of the balance in hand the Congested Districts Board accounts for £86,000, and when the commitments of the Board itself for schemes already in hand are taken into account, have £200,000 of that balance already ear-marked.
Take the question of small holdings. Is the provision of small holdings up to date? Have we had a considerable creation of small holdings? The Act was passed in 1911. It is now 1915—four years since the Act was passed. During those four years have we had a great creation of small holdings? Is the supply equal to the demand? Has there been any substantial satisfaction of that demand? There has been nothing of the kind. I think the figures which I can presently put before the Committee will demonstrate absolutely 285 that there has been no substantial satisfaction of the demand of the small holders. I am not going to blame the Secretary for Scotland nor the Board. I think the machinery with which they have to work is such that it can only work very slowly. It can only work very unevenly and with great difficulty. So much was this recognised that last year we passed a Bill in this House which I am sorry to say is not an Act to-day, because it did not pass through the other House. That was a Bill to remedy the anomalies and difficulties of the original Act. Therefore I admit at once that we cannot blame the Board or the Secretary for Scotland for the slow progress which has been made. It has been due to the machinery.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
My hon. Friend reminds me that the Bill did not quite get through this House owing to certain difficulties. It got through the Second Reading and through the Committee Stage, but it did not become law. Grit was put into the machinery which has obstructed the fair progress of this Act and defeated the legitimate aspirations of Scotland in regard to small holdings. I would briefly point out what is the position in regard to small holdings. In the first year the number of applications for small holdings was 5,382, and in the second year it amounted to 8,132. This year the applications have mounted up to no less than 9,330. I am glad to think that some small progress has been made. In the Report of the Board of Agriculture it is stated that applicants to the extent of 673 have now been placed upon the land by this Act, an increase of 400 upon the year before; so that during the year under review this number of small holdings have been provided out of over 9,000 applicants. Hon. Members can easily calculate how many years it is going to take to provide the present applicants for small holdings with that which they have a right to demand under the Act. This number of applicants does not at all express in figures the total demand in Scotland for small holdings, because the Commissioners have pointed out that the moment a scheme is a real and practical one the applicants come forward in very large numbers. They point out, therefore, that the figures must not be taken as expressing the demand in Scotland for small holdings. While they may be subject to some limitations in regard to suitability, 286 they must not be taken as representing, the demand in Scotland for small holdings. While there are over 9,000 applicants, the demand is much greater than is represented by the figures. The Board say:—So many indications have Come to the Board's notice that they cannot regard the application on their lists as a true criterion of the full extent of the demands for small holdings throughout the country, particularly outside the Highland area.I will give hon. Members an example. In my own Constituency I have had applications, and they illustrate what occurs in every other constituency, and it shows the difficulty we Members have to contend with. Some 109 applications have been made from my Constituency, and there are now placed upon small holdings fourteen of the applicants. There is an intention to provide two more, so that out of 109 applicants fourteen only have been provided with small holdings and two more are to be provided. Sixteen, or not quite one in six, is, I think, in the highest degree unsatisfactory. That there should be only one in six of the existing applicants dealt with is very unsatisfactory, especially in view of the further applications that are likely to be made. To do the Board justice, they are hoping to provide for 823 more applicants under their new scheme, but owing to delays it is very improbable if anything like 823 will be provided in the following year. Even if that number were provided it would mean that we should have 1,400 out of the 9,000 applied for. That state of affairs discloses the fact that this Act, as far as its administration is concerned, is a failure as regards meeting the insistent demands of Scotland for small holdings.
With regard to the Fund, I will say no more except that last year the Board drew attention to the fact that while the fund in hand was considerable still it was earmarked to a very great extent, and that they could not expect the full demands on the fund to come into the account in the earlier stages of the scheme; only at a later stage would these demands come fully into account. They report that their activities in regard to small holdings were and must be limited by the amount of money at their disposal. We have, therefore, every indication that every penny that we can accumulate or lay our hands upon for small holdings will be necessary if we are to supply the demand for small holdings in Scotland. Schemes have been discussed for a loan for this purpose as soon as the machinery is in proper order. 287 I think a fund very much larger than we can see any sight of to-day will be needed to supply the demand for small holdings which exist in Scotland. I should like to draw the attention of the Secretary for Scotland to another point. Last year the Board advanced certain sums for the purpose of improving the housing of small landholders. This is one of the most beneficent operations of the Board, and I think it will be commended by the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury). They do not ask for public money. All they ask for is the convenience of loans at a fair rate of interest, so that no charge falls eventually upon the public funds. I hope the hon. Member (Sir F. Banbury) will support us in this as against schemes where large sums of public money are granted and no returns are made at all. No more beneficent work could be carried on. When the Crofters Act was passed, £170,000 was expended in Skye in improvements of dwellings. I hope the Secretary for Scotland will support the extension of this beneficent work as far as possible.
Any curtailment of the Grant to the Board will materially reduce the activities of the Board. The number of applicants this year has nearly doubled, and I hope the Secretary for Scotland will realise the danger of stopping this very excellent work by cutting off the funds that are essential for its maintenance. There is a feature in regard to the cutting down of our estimate to which I must draw attention. It has been done entirely without the knowledge of the representatives of Scotland. We understand that the Secretary for Scotland has also protested. It does seem to me that we are getting into a strange condition of things when we are to be dealt with here as children who need not be consulted in regard to the interests of their constituents or of the country they represent. Already an illustration bas been given in which we have Welsh representatives telling us here that their rights through the Welsh Act have been tampered with by a Bill passed through the other House, in regard to which they were not consulted, and the first they heard of it was when the Bill was introduced. Now we have Scotland not consulted when its statutory rights are tampered with by the administration of a Department. I think that is a thing that we should resist, in practice as well as in principle. No Department ought to have the right to tamper with the statutory 288 rights of this House in regard to what is laid down by Statute. We are entitled to a sum of £200,000 by the Act. It is said that the precise language stipulates that a sum not exceeding £185,000 should be granted each year. I would remind hon. Members that in using the language "not exceeding" it really means in practice that we pay the amount stipulated. It was intended to secure for Scotland an annual payment of £200,000. Yesterday we passed a Clause providing for the salary of the new Minister of Munitions, and how was that Clause worded? This is what the Clause says:—There shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament to the Minister of Munitions an annual salary not exceeding £5,000.That is always the language used, and the intention is to pay that salary. No Treasury clerk ought to be allowed to exorcise the right to repeal the wording of an Act. The intention in the case of the Minister of Munitions is that a sum of £5,000 will be paid annually, and nothing less. I am told by my hon. Friend (Sir G. Younger) that there was a promise made to Scotland that this sum of £200,000 should be provided annually, and it was intended to be provided by that Act, and it is only quibbling to say that the language of the Act is "not exceeding."
It is perfectly clear, looking into the circumstances of the War, that when the War comes to an end Ave shall have not a diminishing but an increasing demand for land settlement in Scotland. I think that it is very cruel, when Scotland has responded in such a way as she has done to the call of duty in sending out numbers, greater in proportion than any other portion of the United Kingdom, in defence of the liberties of the country, that while those men are away they should be deprived of their rights by a Treasury Department. I hope that that will be resented, and that it will not be permitted by the representatives of Scotland. It is very important that the machinery for the provision of small holdings should not only be kept in existence but should be kept actively in existence, so that when the demand comes it may be met and the people shall not be kept waiting for a long period unemployed and receiving State aid, but that they may be placed on the land at once. Anyone examining the report of the Board of Agriculture will realise that that Board has made a most excellent and most admirable start, and 289 has opened up activities in many directions. Anyone who knows what goes on in France, Denmark, Sweden, and many other parts of the world in the direction of agricultural development must feel that it is of the utmost importance to Scotland and the United Kingdom that agriculture in Scotland should be developed actively on the lines which have been followed so well by the Board of Agriculture. It would be nothing less than a calamity if those activities are to cease by reason of the deficiency of the small sum of £200,000, just about one-tenth of the daily expenditure of this War, for a purpose which is vital to our country, that is to help to place upon the soil of the country men who are ready to make use of it to the utmost of their power. I want to protest against what seems to be an outrage against Scotland, that we should be robbed in this way behind our backs, without our knowledge or consent. I hope that it will not be permitted that such advantage should be taken of us. It is true that the Administration under which this work has been taking place has disappeared and has been replaced by a new Administration. But the Secretary for Scotland, I understand, has made a protest against what is now proposed, and I would ask him now to make that protest effective.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I am very glad that the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire has raised this point which we have already discussed privately with the Scottish Secretary. Before I add a few arguments to those which he has put so succinctly, I would like to thank the Secretary for Scotland for getting us, what we have not had in recent years, an opportune occasion for discussing the Scottish Estimates. It is rather remarkable that we are discussing these on the eleventh allotted day, and in the middle of the week, before the other Members of this House have gone. It is unfortunate that this Debate is taking place in the absence of the English, Irish, and Welsh Members, because the point that is being emphasised at the moment is that Scotland has been deprived of money which all these other nationalities have secured; that is to say, that Scotland is the only country of the four in the United Kingdom that has been asked and may be compelled to exercise what is described as a war economy at its expense alone. I do not think that that is right. I very much hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland 290 will not press to have this Vote disposed of to-day. I am extremely keen on that point, and I hope that the Vote may be put down on some other occasion. As my right hon. Friend knows, Scottish Members have already approached him with regard to this Grant. We know from that interview with the Secretary for Scotland that he himself is as much against Scotland being deprived of its money as any other Scottish Member who sits in the House at the present moment, so that we are absolutely united on that point.
When we saw my right hon. Friend, we agreed that we should see the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and put those arguments before him. In the interval we have had the crisis, which has created the Coalition Government, and one of the alterations which are within the knowledge of every Member of the House is that we have a different Chancellor of the Exchequer whom we have not yet been able to see, to put our arguments before him, and before whom we are entitled to put our case before being deprived of the money to which we consider we are entitled. Therefore I hope that those of us who feel keenly on this subject will emphasise this point, that we do not desire this Vote to be disposed of before we have had that particular opportunity of emphasising our case before the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope that this will appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs, because, though we may differ on many points, I think that he will agree with us on this side of the House that Scotland is entitled to her fair share, and that, until we have had an opportunity of stating our case to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, this matter should not be taken out of the control of the House. As I do not desire to repeat any of the arguments which have been so well put by my hon. Friend who opened the Debate, I will not discuss any other question with regard to the Land Court, but will refer to another subject relative to the Board of Agriculture which I think ought to be discussed. I refer to a question which is extremely serious at the moment, not only to Scotland, but to the whole United Kingdom—that is, the future meat and milk supply of the people of this country. This applies to the whole United Kingdom.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
That is all a relative matter. He certainly cannot travel all round the United Kingdom, but he may use this as an illustration.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I do not intend to deal with that point at all. What I said was that the case in Scotland was urgent, and that the result of what was happening in Scotland will be detrimental, not only to Scotland, but to the whole United Kingdom. That was the obvious meaning of the remark which I made, and I hope that it will now sink in. It is certain that there has been a large amount of slaughtering of cows which are pregnant, and the result of that has been that we are faced with two results. We are depleting the large herds of cattle in Scotland by the desire on the part of men who have reared cattle to take advantage of the high prices which now obtain in the meat market, and, on the other hand, we are harming for the future the raising of herds of the kind. My right hon. Friend (Sir John Dewar) shakes his head with regard to my remarks as to the slaughter of pregnant cows having a very detrimental effect upon the herds in Scotland. I have a quotation from the report of a veterinary surgeon in one of the largest of our Scottish cities, and if my right hon. Friend has not seen this before, which he may have done, I hope that he will take notice of the statements in this report. This veterinary surgeon, reporting on six days, says this:—The number of cows found after slaughter to be previously in calf were recorded dining the week ended 29th January, 1915. In the six days no less than 129 cows were found to be pregnant. In some cases the calves were removed alive after the dams had been slaughtered, and it was not an uncommon occurrence for the cow to give birth in the surface pens of the slaughter-house to a healthy calf. While no statistics are available for comparison"—this authority says—I have no hesitation in asserting that a much larger number of pregnant cows have been slaughtered this season.I would rather not give the name of the city at the moment. I have given the quotation. It is from a veterinary surgeon in one of the largest cities in Scotland. It is a very significant fact that in six days in January as many as 130 cows in calf slaughtered for the purpose of supplying meat to the community. [An HON. MEMBER: "What was the total number slaughtered?"] I cannot at the moment say the total number. My right hon. Friend asks how many, but my right hon. Friend knows 292 that no statistics are kept of the number of the cows that are slaughtered in calf or of the weeks and months in which they are slaughtered. I want to suggest incidentally to the Scottish Secretary that here, at any rate, is one thing which the Scottish Board of Agriculture might do with great advantage to agriculture in Scotland—that is, have those statistics kept so that we can make a comparison from year to year as to whether the practice of killing cows in calf is increasing or decreasing. That is a practical suggestion which I hope my right hon. Friend will bear in mind.
If I may be allowed to argue my case outside of Scotland, let us look at what is happening elsewhere. We know that the herds of cattle in the North of France have been driven off by the Germans, and that so many cattle have been destroyed in that country that France, which used to have a prejudice against foreign meat, is now competing for that foreign meat in the open markets of the world. Belgium has also been deprived of its herds of cattle and the Germans to-day are sending German cattle to browse in Belgian fields. There is a great amount of slaughter going on in Denmark and in Austria-Hungary, and it is quite obvious that all over Europe, on account of the conditions in which we find ourselves, there is a slaughter of cattle which is detrimental to the future interests of the meat supply of this country. It is also true that the supplies from abroad, from our own Colonies, from New Zealand, and from Australia, are not so available for this country if there is a demand from so many other European nations. If this slaughter is allowed to continue in Scotland by the officers of the Board of Agriculture, it is perfectly obvious that the shortage of meat will not stop with the stoppage of the War, and that when we reach peace the price of meat to consumers in Scotland will be considerably raised, first, on account of the fact that so many cows in calf are being slaughtered, and, secondly, that at the close of the War the demand from Scotland, which is 40 per cent. of the meat supply in Scotland, will be competed with by the demand from other nations of Europe. I want to know whether my right hon. Friend in the course of his reply on this Debate can give us any information with regard to what was done in regard to the slaughter of animals, and how it is proposed to deal with this question? Can my right hon. Friend tell 293 us during the period which is covered by the Board of Agriculture's Report what was done in Scotland in the way of putting a stop to the slaughter to which I have referred? Can he give us any report from the officers of the Board of Agriculture as to what has been done?
The other point which I wish to put has reference to the milk supply. My right hon. Friend will agree, and I suppose everybody who knows agricultural matters will agree—I do not pretend to know a very great deal about them, but I have been able to get hold of these facts—that from the point of view of the supply of milk it is a disadvantage to kill cows under eight years of age. Some of the agricultural Members will correct me if I am wrong in that statement. This is what I understand the position to be: If you kill a cow under eight years of age it is a distinct loss to the milk supply of the country. The price of milk in Scotland has not risen, and I suggest that the recent increase of price obtained for meat is the reason why this is so. If the milk supply of the country is thereby affected, the result may be very detrimental from the public health point of view. My right hon. Friend knows the value of milk as a diet for infants and children, and if, by this slaughter, we are going to diminish in future the supply of milk required in our large cities, then we are going to be faced by another grave problem. I do not want to pile up arguments which have been so well put by my hon. Friend opposite. He knows my views on those points, and I think my right hon. Friend knows the views of all Scottish Members on this question. I hope my right hon. Friend will agree to the suggestion that I have made, namely, that until we have seen the new Chancellor of the Exchequer—we have not had an opportunity of seeing him yet—he will not press for this Vote to be taken to-day, and that we shall have an opportunity, therefore, of raising the whole question at a later time in the House of Commons. There are very many other interesting points in the Report of the Board for this year, which are extremely important to Scotsmen, but I do not wish to dwell upon them, but content myself with having called attention to those two matters.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I only intervene for a few minutes in the interest of economy. I have listened with great interest to the two speeches which have been made, and I do not for a moment 294 wish to contradict the statement made by the two hon. Members as to the object for which they desire the money, and as to whether it is a good object or not, I do not argue. But if every other part of the United Kingdom were to come down and say, "We think there are certain objects which are good and which will require money," difficult circumstances would arise.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Very likely; the money has been voted for Scotland, but it has to be found, and I really do hope that the Committee will realise that at the present moment we are at war, and that however good any particular object may be, it is out of accord with all existing objects associated with the War at the present moment. Our chief object is to find the money and continue the War, and until the War is over I suggest that neither Scotchmen, Irishmen, Welshmen, nor Englishmen should ask for any grant of money whatever, except it be necessary to carry on the War.
§ Sir JOHN DEWAR
I have very few observations to make and I dare say they will prove of a friendly character. I would, however, point out that public opinion in Scotland is not at all satisfied with what the Board of Agriculture are doing. In regard to the point raised by the hon. Member who has just sat down, and to the action of the Treasury, I notice from the Report that after the expenditure last year of £80,000 there is apparently a capital balance in hand of £398,000, and though there may really be something to be said for the Treasury there is this to be stated in regard to Scotland, that if we do not get it this year care should be taken to preserve it for Scotland. Our capital expenditure on taking new holdings will be large in future, and if we had a guarantee that when this expenditure does arise that our claim to this money will be recognised and met, then in the meantime the Treasury may be allowed to delay payment.
The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) made a great deal of the point of slaughtering cows in calf. The question of the slaughter of these cows, I believe, is no more serious to-day than at ordinary times. It is a serious thing to kill cows in calf, and also to kill young cows 295 which are not in calf. There are many herds of the best milch cows in the world which are brought to Edinburgh from the North of England and from Ireland, and those young cows after giving one year's milk are sold by the owner. This is a most wasteful method of carrying on this part of the business of the country, but I cannot very well see how you can prevent it. You cannot prevent a man who owns a cow making the very best of it for himself. It will, I hope, right itself. At present the price of store cattle is high, and I believe it would ultimately pay the milk sellers to see that cows are not killed in this way, so that the milk supply may be increased. The Board of Agriculture has certain duties to perform, and a very large proportion of the Grant was to be devoted entirely for the congested districts in the seven crofting counties. The sum of £35,000 a year was formerly granted to those counties, and, besides, there was handed over a capital sum of £86,000, and property which cost £252,000—far too much, I agree, but that was the amount, and it was actually handed over to the Board of Agriculture. This amounts to over £300,000 capital that ought to be spent exclusively in the crofting counties. But the crofting counties have not got anything like £35,000 a year out of that sum, and my point is that the crofting counties of Scotland are not getting a fair share of this Grant.
There has been, of course, expenditure in the case of small holdings in those districts, but I submit that the sum does not come to £35,000, which they were to get. I think rather a bad bargain was made for the crofting counties when the Bill was passed. I want to draw the attention of the Secretary for Scotland to the condition of things in the Western Hebrides. In reply to a question to-day the right hon. Gentleman said that the subject was under consideration. He will do his best. I must impress upon him, however, the necessity of something being done very soon. The mail boat service of the Western Hebrides has been reduced from a daily service to something like two days a week, and the postal service, instead of being daily, is only two days a week. This is due to the fact that the contract for mails is in the hands practically of one firm, who say to the Post Office that trade has so much fallen off that they cannot afford to continue the service. The people of the islands 296 very seriously doubt this statement. I should very much like the Secretary for Scotland to take the question up, and see that a better service is given than is at present available. I know that the Post Office always says, when I raise this question, that it is not part of their duty to provide for a passenger service, or for a boat service. I dare say it is not, but it is the duty of the Secretary for Scotland as representing the Board of Agriculture.
§ The CHAIRMAN
This question does not arise on the Vote now under discussion. The Vote has reference to money to be devoted to the Scottish Board of Agriculture, and we must really dispose of that first.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
No doubt, Sir, it is very desirable, indeed, to keep to strict order; but I would point out that this is a very important matter, and it is one in which the Board of Agriculture, in those particular districts, can, I believe,, give subsidies, if they like, for this particular purpose. Therefore, I submit that it would be in order to say a word or two about it.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the point really comes within the administrative powers of the Minister for Scotland, acting for the Board of Agriculture, then so far the hon. Member may proceed.
§ Sir J. DEWAR
You will find, Sir, on page 20 of the Report, that there have been sums granted out of this Vote for this very purpose.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for mentioning that fact. I cannot profess to be acquainted with all these matters, and if the hon. Member had commenced his observations by stating that fact I should have not have intervened.
§ Mr. MORTON
On the point of Order. With regard to the question of Scottish communications, we have actually been advised that we should invite the Board of Agriculture to assist, and the people from the particular district affected have been told to apply.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have already said that in so far as it relates to the administration of the Secretary for Scotland in his capacity as head of the Board of Agriculture it is in order, but not in so far as it relates to the Post Office.
§ Sir J. DEWAR
It all comes out of Grants from the Congested Districts Board. I suggest to the Secretary for Scotland that the question is one which he ought to consider. People in the Western Hebrides have enlisted very largely, and from some of the islands practically every man is in the Navy or the Army. The people who remain feel the isolation at present very much, and the absence of information of every kind. I think it is a pity that at this crisis they should be deprived of two-thirds of their postal communication. The Secretary for Scotland stated to-day that he would give the matter sympathetic consideration, and I trust he will do so. There is one other interesting observation in this Report which I think a note should be made of, and that is as to the laudable efforts of the Board of Agriculture to improve the shooting and sporting on the Island of Barra. I see they have gone so far as to appoint a gamekeeper, and that they have introduced some grouse. I am very doubtful about the success of the introduction of the grouse, but I am in favour of the Board doing all it can to get as large a rental as possible out of the place. In Skye the Congested Districts Board developed the shooting rental with great profit and advantage to the crofters as well as to the shooting tenants. Let me refer also to the question of agricultural research. That is a very important matter and the Board have been doing something about it. I know of one experiment in which they have been trying to improve the breed of cattle in the Western Hebrides in order that they might mature more quickly than the Western Hebrides cattle and at the same time stand the severe climate of those parts. Apparently their efforts in regard to research have come to a stop. The Development Commissioners granted to a Committee in Edinburgh, consisting of members of the College of Agriculture and of the university, a thousand pounds for research, and the Board of Agriculture practically, I believe, promised another £500, and with those two Grants the Committee was prepared to engage the services of one of the best known scientists on this subject. The Board of Agriculture delayed making the Grant of £500 and the Committee has not been able to secure the services of the scientist. I would ask the Secretary for Scotland to try to induce the Board to make this Grant, so that progress may be made in this direction. I do not know any subject which would 298 better repay the money spent upon it than intelligent and scientific research into these questions.
With regard to forestry, one need not pretend that the people of Scotland are satisfied with what has been done by the Board. I agree with the statement that we should at present spend as little money as possible, but there has been a proposal before the Board for a long time with regard to the purchase of a demonstration area. For various reasons that has been delayed. I notice from this Report differences of opinion have cropped up as to where the administration area should be. One party wishes it in a particular place and another section of the Committee want it in a more accessible place. I am with the desire to have it in an accessible place. The Committee has been offered a large area on a long lease, but it is supposed to be inadvisable to take the area on those terms. Personally, I cannot understand the objection to the long lease. The lease may be made as long as you like. If you had a lease of a hundred or a hundred and fifty years the trees would be exhausted long before the period expired. There have been areas which were refused because there were no trees upon them. On the other hand, the Committee was offered an area on a long lease with grown timber, and if the term was made a hundred years the trees would be exhausted and the students would have the benefit of the experience. I cannot understand why a long lease should be less advantageous for this purpose than purchasing outright, so long as the lease is long enough. What we want to get is an area where experiments can be made in planting and also in the treatment of trees. You are offered in an accessible district two areas that carry out those purposes, and for the life of me I cannot understand why progress has not been made on the subject. While I do not want seriously to criticise at this stage the operations of the Board, I cannot say that on all the points I am anything like satisfied with what the Board have done, and particularly I think a little more activity might have been exercised in the Forestry Department.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I am sure no one wants on this occasion to meticulously criticise the Report, and there is a great deal which one might say on ordinary occasions which one does not want to say now. With regard to the question of the money Grant, it is no good arguing for a 299 single moment that that was not an absolute Grant, or that the sum in question is not an absolute sum. I myself remember very well when the then Master of Elibank, in one of his southern tours with the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, succeeded in getting the right hon. Gentleman to double the Grant of £100,000, he asked me particularly to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having made such a generous contribution to agricultural interests in Scotland. It is clear that it was never intended to depart from the question of amount in the way in which under present circumstances the Treasury have done. I am bound to say I look with a certain amount of suspicion on any Department being able or having the right to interfere with a Grant which is embodied in an Act of Parliament. I do not think that is a precedent which we can allow to pass without protest, and I do strongly protest and make clear that I for my part, and I am sure hon. Members here who think with me, are perfectly determined to see that this shall not be a precedent in the future so far as Scotland is concerned. At the same time I agree with the hon. Baronet who has just spoken that this is not the time to press the Treasury to send money to Scotland which is perhaps unnecessary at the moment. I think there is a very strong case for their holding it up, I do not say altogether, and I do not say any more than postponing it. If you are going to be dishonest it would go a very long way, but if you are going to pay honest compensation the sum of £200,000 would not go a very long way, but we shall certainly need that money to be made up when times are better. I should not press the matter unduly now, but I do want to protest against it being supposed that this is to be regarded as a precedent for dealing with a question of this kind, and I shall content myself with having made that protest. With regard to the question of the slaughter of cattle, I do not know whether the Board of Agriculture has legally power to prevent the slaughter of in-calf cows.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
It may be that there has been an emergency Statute passed which gives the power, and if that is so it is certainly about time for the Board to deal with the matter and exercise those powers. So far as the question of forestry 300 is concerned, I agree with the hon. Baronet that it is time that the various opposing parties in this matter should settle their difference and do something. It is all very fine to say that in one case there is an area with a long lease and that in another you can buy an estate in a suitable neighbourhood with certain trees in various stages of age and condition. I do not know which is the better plan, but one plan or other ought to be settled upon, and the thing ought not to be hung up. The people are getting impatient about it, and personally I have had representations made to me on the subject and suggesting that something ought to be done to remedy the deadlock. With regard to the expenditure of money on small holdings, I am not at all sure that this is an economic time to do so, and that the suspension of that work for the moment is not desirable. The Board of Agriculture, in its Report dealing with this matter, say:—In their Second Report the Board referred to the serious effect of the rise in the cost of building, upon the initial expense of providing dwelling-houses and steadings for which the small holders assume liability. Since the outbreak of war the price of labour and materials has further increased and the Board were considering whether it would be possible to take special steps to meet the emergency.5.0 P.M.
There is also a reference to fencing. That is a very serious consideration. We know that the expense of building has gone up enormously, and, whatever may be the advantage of small holdings, and however large the number of applications may be at the moment, you really ought to take into consideration whether this is an economic time to establish them, and also to provide equipment at a sum very much more costly than usual. The men in those holdings would be burdened with the interest on the large expenditure which the Board would have to make on that equipment and fencing, and I do not think myself the Board ought to be encouraged to go too far in this matter until we get into more normal times. I must make one complaint. I made it very often before, and I want to keep it alive. My complaint is as to the manner in which the accounts are presented to us. Four years ago or more the late Lord Advocate agreed with me about the position of these accounts. They are so muddled, and in so ludricous a form that no man can make out what rent we are getting or anything else. The only thing you do see in regard to one of the estates is a steady accumulation of arrears of rent. It was promised, four 301 years ago, that these accounts should be presented in an intelligible form. The Board of Agriculture now has a very large staff. Its work is not perhaps quite so heavy as it was in the last year or so, but the cost of its administration is going up by leaps and bounds, and surely it could afford, out of its ample resources, the fee of a chartered accountant, to put the accounts in proper form. To bring in all the charges, including taxes, and apparently carry them on as if they were capital expenditure, and to credit on the other side the full repayment of capital and the payment of rent, is to leave the accounts in a position of hopeless muddle, and to render it impossible for anybody to ascertain the exact position of the estates.
I wish to say a word upon the responsibility of the Board for the devolopment of industries in the Highland and Islands, with special reference to the kelp industry. A question was asked, some time ago, by the hon. Member for the Tradeston Division of Glasgow (Mr. Dundas White) in reference to the kelp industry in South Uist, and an answer was given which is hardly regarded by the people concerned as very satisfactory. The kelp industry in Scotland was at one time a very important one, especially in the Western Islands, but of late years it languished, and practically died out, owing to foreign competition and other causes—I believe largely owing to foreign competition. It has really survived to any great extent only in the Islands of Benbecula, South Uist, and Barra, all of which belong to Lady Cathcart. These islands are quite the largest kelp producing districts in Scotland. Lady Cathcart has all along taken great interest in this industry. It is her own industry. The question to which I referred, and the answer also, would lead one to believe that a royalty is charged for the crofter to gather on the sea shore the weed from which the kelp is made, and that that royalty goes to the estate. That is not the case at all. I was in the district, and as I happen to know Lady Cathcart I wrote and asked what the particulars were with regard to the industry. I received from her factor some very interesting letters, which I have in my hand. They are very voluminous, but very interesting.
The letters all go to show that Lady Cathcart wished to do something to help the crofters there, who can hardly live on their holdings, and who are much more attached to their crofts than to anything 302 else, and are very difficult to move. I am not told that they are lazy, but the difficulty has been to get them to do the work necessary to make the industry a really large and profitable one. Lady Cathcart has the industry in her own hands. It has been run by her factor, and so far as it goes it is very profitable to those engaged in it—not to Lady Cathcart herself. She sets aside land for drying the kelp and all that kind of thing, and gives the crofters every possible interest she can in the work which they perform. She gives them the whole of the proceeds, which are carefully calculated, according to the work that each person does, and receives herself, out of a total income of £3,500, £104 for certain charges of one kind or another which she met, the whole of the remainder going to the crofters themselves and those who are interested in this particular industry. Some 880 or 900 tons are turned out in the year, but I am told that there is no reason why the output should not be doubled or trebled if the people could be persuaded to take up the matter more energetically. I know that the Board of Agriculture have taken some interest in this matter, and I am bringing it up now in order to make it perfectly clear what is the position of Lady Cathcart in regard to it. I understand that £20,000 worth of this kelp has been cast up on the shore of South Uist within the last few months, but nothing has been done in regard to it. We are getting into a very difficult position in regard to the supply of artificial manures, and therefore it is essential, if we are to make up for the loss of German importation upon which we have been depending in this matter as in so many others, to develop this industry as far as possible. It is necessary in order to help our farmers, who use an exceptionally large amount of potash on their land, and are dependent upon it for their crops. I would ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland—I hope he will not object to my calling him my right hon. Friend now—to be kind enough to tell us what the Board of Agriculture have really done in the matter, whether they have been able to arrange for any further expenditure, and whether there is any prospect of their being able to help us in connection with our artificial manure industry by developing this industry as far as possible.
In that connection I hope my right hon. Friend wall take the trouble to inquire as to the accuracy of the advice given in a 303 circular issued by the Board of Agriculture—Leaflet No. 28, dated April, 1915—in which the Board give a very interesting account of the kelp industry and the manner in which it ought to be conducted. I am informed that the advice given as to the manner in which the industry should be conducted is disastrous. In one case the people are told to spread out on sandbanks about 2 feet high and 9 inches broad the particular weed from which the kelp is made. I am told that it is practically fatal to put it on sand. Obviously if you put it on sand you get a good deal of the sand amongst the weed. It is equally obvious that if you burn the sand the sand will remain and add enormously to the weight of the product, to the cost of carriage, and so forth. A little later on the leaflet says that it is necessary to rake the weed with a hoe. Chemical manufacturers who buy this stuff say that it is disastrous to touch it with a hoe. I am informed that these two directions are of such importance that it is most desirable that the Board of Agriculture should inquire whether the circular ought not to be amended or modified. A better time will arise in the future to criticise certain of the accounts and other statements issued by the Board. In the meantime I only hope that the Department will find it possible to use a considerable portion of the surplus which it has to its credit, not only in developing these industries which are so material to the Western Islands and so necessary for our agriculture development, but also to improve the postal service, about which I have had so much correspondence. I think it is a real scandal that for the sake of a few thousand pounds these unfortunate people, who have sent out more recruits than any other district, should be for a whole week without the opportunity of hearing anything about them. The right hon. Gentleman has been successful in the past in getting money from the Treasury; I hope he will be equally successful in this case. I am sure the postal authorities themselves will have no objection to restoring the service if the Treasury can be moved in the matter.
§ Mr. EUGENE WASON
We are unanimous as to the necessity of making some protest against the amount which is to be given to the Board of Agriculture this year. Scottish Members are often taunted with not looking properly after Scottish business, and it is said to be owing to our 304 lack of push and go that we always have to take a back seat in these financial matters. I feel sure that the reduction which we in Scotland have to suffer this year in regard to the Board of Agriculture is not to be a precedent for the future. We are all agreed upon that. We have to forego the money this year because of the state of war in which we find ourselves; but in future years we shall receive the full amount which everyone agrees we are entitled to under the Act of Parliament. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) pleaded that this Vote should not be taken until we had had a chance of seeing the new Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject. My right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland will remember that when the Scottish Liberal unofficial Members went to him we were endeavouring to arrange for a meeting with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that the only reason why the meeting did not take place was that we thought it advisable not to go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer until the Report of the Board of Agriculture had been issued. We should like very much to put our case before the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. While we are willing to make any sacrifice during the time of war, we are all agreed that it is not right that the whole sacrifice should fall upon Scotland, but that whatever reduction is made in regard to the Board of Agriculture in Scotland ought to be equally applicable, other things being equal, to England, Wales, and Ireland. I do not often find myself in disagreement with the hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Sir J. Dewar), but I do disagree entirely with him on the question of taking leaseholds for the purposes of afforestation. On page lxxiii. of the Report of the Board of Agriculture it is stated, in reference to the 5,000 acres offered in Perthshire—This was carefully considered by the Advisory Committee on Forestry, who reported to the Board that there were both financial mid physical objections to the scheme, and they strongly urged the view, in which the Board concurred, that for the purpose of a demonstration area ownership is more advantageous to the State than any scheme of leasing.That seems clear. The Advisory Committee, I think, realised that the majority of Scotsmen prefer freehold to leasing. I remember, Mr. Whitley, a story of a man who went to arrange a ninety-nine years' lease. The Scot said to him, "Ninety-nine years, wouldn't you like to make it 100 at once?" Fortunately in Scotland we have never had a system of leasing similar to that in England. I do not think the 305 Scottish people would have stood it. When we have a leasing, it is generally a feu charter. I hope most sincerely that the right hon. Gentleman will not take this Vote this afternoon, but will give the Scottish Members a chance to see the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, so that we may urge that the lessened amount which we receive this year from the Board of Agriculture is not to be taken as a precedent for the future, and that whatever sacrifice we are called upon to make in Scotland shall be equally borne by Ireland, England, and Wales.
§ Mr. HARRY HOPE
I desire to join in the protest against lessening the sum of money to which we are entitled for Scottish agriculture. We know, of course, that we live in exceptional times. Though we may not be able to get this year what we desire, I trust that this year will be made no precedent by the Treasury for another year's action. The Board of Agriculture in Scotland have, I think, the opportunity of doing real good service for Scottish agrivulture. The Department has not been started for many years. If they get this money, to which they are entitled, they will be able to prove, I think, that that money has been well spent, and it will be of much service in the country districts of Scotland. Agriculture, indeed, is being recognised as being of paramount importance at a time when our overseas supplies of meat and grain stuffs are liable to reduction. The point which was raised by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh is undoubtedly one of consequence. This slaughter of in-calf cows and of young calves is important. It is not right that these pregnant cows should be so ruthlessly slaughtered.
Certainly, cows of the shorthorn breed of cattle ought to be kept for breeding purposes. There are other breeds which are called beef breeds, but the same limits are applicable. Certainly, as regards shorthorns and some others of the beef breeds of cattle, and the slaughter of young calves, it ought, and could with profit, be stopped. I am not quite sure whether or not the Board of Agriculture has the power to take any steps in this matter. I rather think there was an emergency Bill passed that provides them with an opportunity for taking action. If they have the power, these two points are points which they at the present time might well take into consideration. There is one matter in which I think the Board may be of service. The exportation of 306 feeding stuffs and grain offals was stopped at a time when the English Board allowed those articles to go out of the country. Our Scottish Board did a service in Scotland in acting in advance of what the English Board did, and it is to be regretted that the English Board did not follow the example.
There are many opportunities which the Board can take of helping agriculture at the present time. The hon. Member for Ayr Burghs has raised the question of potash. We all know that potash is of the most intense of artificial manures in successful agriculture, and that our supplies in the past have come almost entirely from Germany. We would like to see the Board devoting its energy to see how potash can be increased, and how in coming years the supply of potash may be available, for I fear that much injury will be done to farming in Scotland if this matter is not attended to. There is one matter which is disappointing, and that is that the Board has not been able to get us any redress in the matter of the exportation of potatoes from Scotland to America. America still maintains its embargo upon Scottish potatoes. There is absolutely no justification for this from a disease point of view. Undoubtedly we have in gardens, and in some small plots, what is called the black-scab disease, but potatoes as grown in field culture in Scotland are entirely free from this disease. I only hope, therefore, that the energies of the Board and of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of agriculture will be devoted to trying to get this unfair embargo taken off our Scottish trade. We are suffering very severely from this embargo, and there is absolutely no need from the disease point of view for it. The trade absorbs a large amount of labour.
As regards education, I think that the object of our colleges ought not to be so much to qualify young men to become professors and experts, so that then they may leave us and go to other countries and the Colonies. We do not want that in agricultural education. What we require in such education as will enable small holders, and other such-like people, to be more efficient and have a greater knowledge of the subject they are going to make their life's work, so that they may be able to raise a better class of stocks and devote more energy and skill to their business as animal farmers, so as really to bring profit to themselves and to their country. In order to achieve this purpose we want 307 short courses, say of two or three months, such as have been established in Ireland, where young men can go and learn, not perhaps everything as regards agriculture from a technical point of view, but something on the scientific side which would enable them to improve their agriculture from a practical point of view. I know well that some of these courses for similar people in Ireland have been quite beneficial and exceedingly helpful towards proficiency.
We are going to have a serious shortage of labour in harvesting this year's crops. I think it is a matter of importance from a national point of view that anything that can be done should be done to enable the crops to be harvested in good order and at the proper time. In this connection the Labour Exchanges may do good work. I have no doubt they will be used. But I think if the Board of Agriculture would consult the county councils, and so get in touch with local requirements in every district, the Board would be able to place the requirements of the districts before the Labour Exchanges in a much better way than the individual farmer can do. You will not get individual farmers in large numbers to avail themselves of the Labour Exchanges; but if our Board of Agriculture would call in the assistance of the county councils, say, having got the knowledge of the requirements in each county and district, they might be able to get the necessary assistance from the Labour Exchanges, which would be of great assistance at a very critical time.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
I feel that this is not a propitious time for a Debate upon Scottish Estimates. We do not want more money. We always need it. We always deserve it. We very seldom get it. I would not have intervened if it had not been for what I look upon as a most disastrous statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness-shire. I am sorry that he is not in his place at the moment, because I should have liked to clear his mind and enlighten him upon what afforestation is. He could not himself have read the Report of the Board of Agriculture. He seemed to think there was a dispute among the Committee as to leasing or freehold. There is no such thing. The Advisory Committee was unanimous in recommending purchase. In that they were only following the advice and recommendations of the Royal Commission, and following the opinion of the Departmental 308 Committee. The Advisory Committee advised the purchase of an estate. Who turned it down? Why, that irresponsible body—that in a weak and unfortunate moment this House created—the Development Commission. That body is responsible to nobody. You cannot challenge their action. One or two of these gentlemen turned down the unanimous advice of the Advisory Committee to the Board of Agriculture, and even more, of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland as well! They turned it down, forsooth, because they thought they would get land from the Duke of Athol for 150 years. If they had considered it for a moment they would have known that, though a man might take a lease of his land and house for ninety-nine years—he knows he will not live for the ninety-nine years, so that by the time the ninety-nine years is up the house is not worth very much—the life of a nation is practically unlimited.
Particularly in regard to afforestation this question arises. You plant trees that mature after forty, fifty, sixty, or eighty years. When you are coming to the end of the eighty years, and towards the termination of the lease, nobody would be such a fool as to plant a tree to mature in eighty years, because when it had matured it would pass to the landlord. When you come within forty or fifty years of the termination of the lease the property is a dead letter to you. Let me say this: if they had got that estate which the Advisory Committee advised they would have got it practically for the same money, and then would have been able to place upon the land trees, buildings, etc., for £100,000. Yet the Development Commission suggested that the Treasury should advance £150,000 for this wretched lease. The whole trouble lies with this body of irresponsible persons, the Development Commissioners, and we will never be happy and right in this country until we get rid of that Board, and also the Road Board. When you charge them, nobody on that Bench can defend them; they are outside our purview altogether. We all did it with our eyes open; it was very unfortunate. I can quite understand Scottish Members and Scottish people being disappointed. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought in his great Budget this is what he said about afforestation:This brings me straight to the question of afforestation. There is a very general agreement that some steps should be taken in the direction, I will not say of 309 afforesting, but of re-afforesting the waste lands of this country. Here, again, we are far behind every other civilised country in the world. In Germany, for instance, out of a total area of 133,000,000 acres, 34,000,000, or nearly 26 per cent., are wooded; in France, out of 130,000,000 acres, 17 per cent.; and even n a small and densely populated country such as Belgium, 1,260,000 acres are wooded, or 17 per cent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th April, 1909, col. 491, Vol. IV.]When we come to Great Britain it is a wretched 4 per cent. That was six years ago. Since then England has got a grant, Ireland two grants, and Scotland not a penny. That comes of the action of this Development Commission. My right hon. Friend has done all he can, and the Board of Agriculture have done all they can, but they have been blocked in this particular way. These are not the times, as I have said, for asking for money; but the object of the creation of the Board of Agriculture was to foster agriculture and forestry. It has not been their fault; but I hope at a more propitious time, when there will be money to spare from shells and other things, which blow away in one day what would give us three or four forests, we may be able to get some consideration and establish firmly by a freehold property—we care not where it is so long as it is suitable for the purpose—and encourage and develop that industry, which will make us independent to a large extent of other nations. Even Australia, New Zealand, and America are all alarmed at the wastage of timber. Australia and New Zealand have an annual Grant for afforestation, and even America is considering the very same subject at this moment. Let me finish by saying that if the advice of the Advisory Committee had been taken and that estate with the timber on it purchased in December, 1913, the rise in price and the value of the timber would have more than half paid for the whole purchase. Germany has proclaimed timber contraband and we have got to look forward to a time when we shall be able to grow a great deal more timber and be independent of other nations.
§ Mr. AINSWORTH
I should like to say a word on what may be called our annual day. Our enemies have been talking gaily of what they were going to do on "The Day," but I cannot impress too much on the Committee that this is "The Day" for Scotland. The discussion, so far, has brought one point strongly before the Committee—a point on which all Scottish Members are agreed—and that is that we should make every possible use of the 310 powers conferred by the Act of Parliament and give additional powers and money, if wanted, to the Board of Agriculture for Scotland. Let me remind the Committee how much the West Highlands, which, as we all know, are in some ways the poorest part of His Majesty's Dominions, are interested in this question. There have been three pieces of legislation relating especially to the West Highlands of Scotland—first, the Crofters Act, then the Congested Districts Board Act, and, lastly, the Small Landholders Act. I would like to emphasise the point referred to by the hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Sir J. Dewar) that the wants of the Highlands of Scotland are specially provided for by the Crofters Act and the Congested Districts Board Act, and as the funds voted by Act of Parliament for such purposes are now in the hands of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, it follows, ipso facto, that the Board of Agriculture at the present moment is responsible for spending on behalf of the Highlands of Scotland those sums specially voted by Parliament for the wants of the Highlands of Scotland. The argument has been made that at the present day, when money is so much wanted, you should not insist too much upon the objects for which money has been voted; but I beg to remind the Committee that the Crofter Commission and the Congested Districts Board have ceased to exist, and their annual Grants and the money they have accumulated have passed into the hands of the Board of Agriculture, and, therefore, it surely follows that the Board of Agriculture of to-day must carry out the objects for which those grants of public money in the first instance were made.
I want to say one word as to the financial position of the Highlands of Scotland, which is the crux of the question. It is a fact that the rateable value of the Highlands of Scotland is not sufficient to pay for the daily demands of the Local Government Acts of the United Kingdom. We may pass here with a great deal of pride and delight Acts for sanitation, education and water supply, and subjects of that kind, which may go down perfectly well in a town in England or in the industrial part of Scotland. That is a very small part of Scotland, the bulk of Scotland being agricultural or on the borders of the sea, and the two industries which keep Scotland alive are connected with either the land or the sea. Having arrived at that point, I think everyone 311 here will agree with me that it is not at all surprising that in a great many of the Highland counties the rateable value of the country is insufficient to provide for the elementary machinery of local government, as you understand it in the rest of the United Kingdom, and I think it has been the crux of the question for every Secretary for Scotland to know how he was to provide for that part of the United Kingdom in the North and West of Scotland, where you would not have sufficient income obtainable from the rateable value. It was to meet that that the Acts to which I have referred were passed, and I think the Committee will agree that, as the Board of Agriculture is in possession of sums of money which were granted for the purposes of those Acts, the Board of Agriculture is bound to carry out in all those parts of the country where assistance is wanted the provisions of those Acts, and to give the pecuniary assistance which was intended to be given by those Acts.
I should like to call the attention of the Committee to a parallel case. What is being done to-day by the Board of Agriculture in Ireland? We all know that that is one of the most active and progressive Boards in the United Kingdom. Although it contains representatives of every opinion in Ireland—political, religious and otherwise—you never hear, I have been told by persons connected with the Board, any political or religious question, or outside question of any kind, brought up on that Board. They have representatives of every county, and they meet for agricultural purposes. They are doing a great work, and people who know what they are doing will tell you that, not only are they making a steady, continual and annual increase in the agricultural prosperity of Ireland—imports and exports—but they are doing it in such a way that, unless we are careful in England, Scotland, and Wales, we may awake to find that we are left behind. I should like to see in Scotland a Board of Agriculture something after the Irish plan. We all know what Scotland has done. We most sincerely ask the Committee today to give every good wish and every promise of assistance to the Board of Agriculture for Scotland to enable it to promote in every way they can the agricultural advancement and prosperity of Scotland, and I would beg the Board to remember that, with the money which 312 they have acquired through the Crofters Act and the Congested Districts Board Act, they are responsible for no part of Scotland more than the Highlands. I hope we shall hear from my right hon. Friend that that will be made in future one of the great points of the policy of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, and that we shall see a real expenditure in these extremely poor districts. Every part of Scotland now, owing to a redefinition of the words "congested districts," comes under the Acts, and all these powers for this important work the Board of Agriculture is able and ought to be able to carry out. I sincerely trust we shall have a promise to do so, and the Government may be assured that whenever any further powers or money are required they will have the assistance of the whole Members for Scotland.
§ Mr. MORTON
I think the Scottish Members are right in strongly protesting against this attempt to take away the Grant for small holdings, which we understood was secured by Act of Parliament, and I cannot understand how that can be continued unless you repeal the Act. Probably the Secretary for Scotland will be able to explain that to us. We are making no attack on the right hon. Gentleman; on the contrary, we are inclined to help him to get only justice done to the Scottish people, and everyone knows—we have been told at any rate—that they have a large balance of some £400,000 at the Board of Agriculture. More than half of that expenditure is earmarked. With regard to the balance, we have no business to have a large one. The statement shows that the schemes for small holdings have left a balance, whereas it would have been much better if things had been in the other direction. We want more money in order to do justice to the Highland counties. We have been rather handicapped during the last ten months on account of the War, but undoubtedly the Scottish Members have acted loyally and staunchly towards the Government, and I trust the Scottish people will not be punished on account of their loyalty, but that we shall have justice done on all sides. I wish to say something about the Liberal Members of Parliament not being consulted in this matter. I think it would have been much wiser if we had had an opportunity of meeting together and consulting as to what we might think our proper claim—
§ [ROYAL ASSENT.—Message to attend the Lords Commissioners. The House went, and having returned,
§ Mr. SPEAKER reported the Royal Assent to—
- 1. Ministry of Munitions Act, 1915.
- 2. Frimley and Farnborough District Water Act, 1915.
- 3. Blyth Harbour Act, 1915.
- 4. Doncaster Corporation Act, 1915.
- 5. Great Eastern Railway Act, 1915.
- 6. Bury and District Joint Water Board Act, 1915.
- 7. Salop County Council (Shirehall and Guildhall) Act, 1915.]
§ Supply again considered in Committee.
§ [Sir GEORGE YOUNGER in the Chair.]
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MORTON (resuming)
We do not want to make the land question a party affair in Scotland, although we may not be able to carry out the necessary reforms without doing so. My experience with regard to Sutherland is that we have got very little under the Act of 1911. Almost all the schemes we send up are thrown out, and nothing is done. They always urge that they have got no money to spend. That proves to demonstration that instead of taking away Grants from the Board of Agriculture, which were to be used for the purpose of small holdings, we ought to have further Grants to enable us properly to settle the land question in Scotland. It is an important question in many ways, especially in the Highland counties. We have heard something to-day about economy. There are a hundred ways in which the Estimates might be cut down and money saved which is extravagantly and uselessly spent. The Government ought not to begin with Scotland. We are naturally economical, and we are able to carry on a system of Government on much less expensive terms than either England or Ireland, or than any other part of the world. With regard to the question of finding land, which, of course, was the great object of the Act of 1911, I will read a few extracts from a letter which I have received from Sutherland, proving the difficulty under which they labour at the present moment, and the necessity of more money instead of less to carry out 314 the object of the Act of 1911. They say this:—… From the congestion of our community, as fully explained already to you and to the Board of Agriculture, and also from the number of our men serving in the Army and Navy in their country's defence …I might mention I am told that there is a higher percentage of recruits according to population from Sutherland than from any other county in Scotland.Besides, we understood it to be the policy of the Liberal Party to give the land to the people,"—With regard to that word "give," they are quite willing to pay a small rent with security of tenure—whereas this has not been done in this case …This applies directly to the Board of Agriculture, and I hope that the Secretary for Scotland will try and help us with regard to these Boards.We wish to know (1) why the Board of Agriculture made no inquiry into the merits of our application for the farms in question: (2) why they replied that it was 'necessary and advisable to refuse our application'; (3) whether the Board took any steps at all, and what these steps were, to consider our application, and the reason for their neglect; (4) whether they are aware that a widow, whose two only sons, 5th Seaforth Territorials, volunteered at the very beginning of the War for active service and are now in the trenches, has been evicted from the house she had on this farm (this certainly would not have been done if we had got the farm as an extension of our holding); (5) whether it is an encouragement to our men, absent on land and sea, to fight for their country when the only land available for them on their return, and which they confidently expected to share in, is disposed of in their absence; (6) is their absence from their homes taken advantage of now in 1915, as their forefathers' absence was a century ago in Sutherlandshire, to deprive them of what they felt they were justly entitled to?I could read extracts of a similar sort from thousands of letters which I have received during the last two years. I am not blaming the Secretary for Scotland, although I do blame the Board for not giving us more attention. We all know that the real difficulty is the want of money, and that can only be met by giving us Grants and not taking them away. There is plenty of land. Sometimes we are told we cannot get land, but we know that in Sutherland we have over 380,000 acres earmarked by a Royal Commission as being fit and useful for an extension of crofts, for new crofts, and for small holdings. We know that the land is there right enough, if the Board of Agriculture would only get it for us at a fair rent. I quite agree that the authorities should do something with regard to afforestation. I am afraid that it would not be wise to deal with it on leasehold terms, because, as a matter of fact, when land is taken on leasehold you find that the moment it becomes valuable the landlord steps in 315 and takes it away. It will not do for the Treasury to say we do not want the money, because the Board of Agriculture will tell them, if they ask them, that they do want it and that they ought to have it.
I quite agree that you should allow us to postpone this Vote to-day and take it up after we have seen the new Chancellor of the Exchequer. The postponement will not hurt anybody, because, if the Government have not got any more time to spare, it simply means that they will guillotine these matters, and so get the Vote how and when they please. It might be a wise and proper thing to allow us to have a chat with the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, so that we could put our views before him. We hope that he will not ignore the position of Scotland in this matter, nor the determination of the people of Scotland to get it settled as speedily as possible. I am anxious to benefit the people of Scotland, especially the crofters, and I am aware, if you would only deal with them as they wish with regard to the extension of their holdings, you would get rid of the difficulty mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) with regard to cattle and sheep. The more land you give the crofters and small holders to work the greater supply you will get and the less in future will you have to depend upon foreign countries for the supply of meat. We know that for the purpose of creating a deer forest in Scotland they turned out 40,000 sheep. I give that as an example.
It is not enough for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to promise to give us a double allowance next year. He may promise faithfully enough, but he may not be there to fulfil his promise. It is very much like people saying they will pay you to-morrow. The day probably never comes. I say with a knowledge of the Estimates that there are undoubtedly hundreds of ways of reducing extravagant and unnecessary expenditure without taking anything away from the crofters of Scotland. If you want to practice economy, commence by cutting down the Estimates by millions, as you might very well do without any loss of efficiency to the government of this country, but do not take any money away from the crofters of Scotland. I have no doubt that the Scottish people will get over it if you do, but they will not think that they have been fairly treated, either financially or in any other way.
§ Mr. CATHCART WASON
I hope that it will not be taken amiss by them if I venture to offer my hearty congratulations to my two right hon. Friends who have come through the storm and stress of the last political crisis and still adorn the Front Bench. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Inverness told us that there was some dissatisfaction in Scotland, where they were not altogether satisfied with the operations and the conduct of the Board of Agriculture. That is only true to a certain extent. The Scottish people are not satisfied, but I am sure that it is not with the Board of Agriculture they are dissatisfied; they are dissatisfied very largely with the Members of this House, and in particular with the Liberal party, for, after talking so much about land reform having done so very little. Like the hon. Member who has just spoken I have many complaints from my Constituents with regard to the action of the Board of Agriculture. But when one comes to verify the cases, it is found that it is not the Board of Agriculture that is to blame, but that the fault rests with this House and with the Liberal party for having forced such a Bill through the House, and for having tied the Board up in every possible way. We have, in fact, given the Board of Agriculture an Act of Parliament to deal with such as was never passed in any assembly of English-speaking people.
I was surprised to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. E. Wason) speak so forcibly upon the love of Scotsmen for freeholds. He said they did not want leaseholds. I wish he had remembered that when we were passing our Bill through the House of Commons. It is a matter of common knowledge that, with one exception, every crofter Member was exceedingly dissatisfied with the Bill as introduced by Lord Pentland (then Mr. Sinclair), and the overwhelming majority simply had not a word to say, except by way of protest. What the Board of Agriculture finds is this. That they are unable to obtain the extension which my hon. Friend desires, except at costly and ruinous rates, and now we have this position, that the Treasury are taking the money—that is to say, it is not paying the Grants which otherwise it would have paid had we been able to carry out this Act in an efficient manner. The Board of Agriculture has not been able to do that, but it is not the fault of the Board. It is our fault. When the Board have taken estates over, what has been its position. 317 My hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Falconer) talked I am afraid to say how many pages of the OFFICIAL RRPORT over the injustices of the Lindean Arbitration case. That was a case where the owners of the land actually got far more than the freehold of the land. The valuation put on these estates show that it is absolutely impossible for the Board of Agriculture to go on with the work. When many of us tried to allow the Board to make other arrangements which they might have done, and which constituted the only possible means of salvation, some Members of the Liberal party used all the influence they could with the Secretary for Scotland to prevent that being allowed.
We are now in this position. We have a Coalition Government. I feel satisfied myself that that Government will do very good work indeed for the country, and it is my devout hope also that this land question, as affecting Scotland, will also be settled outside the area of partisanship. Day by day we find that it is absolutely impossible to settle this great land question from a party point of view. We want to sink our wretched little differences, and pass such an Act as will bring Scottish people back to the land. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen spoke very forcibly about the desirability of acquiring freeholds for afforestry, and I wish my right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan had realised that when we wanted to apply that principle to the rest of Scotland, and had given us his support. Had he had time at his disposal my hon. Friend would, I am sure, have enlarged upon this point of not taking leaseholds. So far as I understand afforestry—and I have probably planted far more trees than any man in this House—you must have your forest going on continually. Once you get it fairly well started you can quite well begin cutting down at fifteen or twenty years, and then go on replanting. That shows, therefore, the absolute folly of taking leaseholds. Nothing will help small holdings so much, and give people employment at the same time, as this question of afforestry. In a forest area, and near it, you can have a large number of people employed.
There is one other point I wish to touch upon which was very forcibly raised by my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge). It is with regard to killing cattle. Since the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Munro-Ferguson) and myself, with others, introduced a Bill to 318 give absolute power to prevent the destruction of immature cattle what has happened, and what is happening now? Large quantities of calves are being killed simply in order to increase the supply of milk. That is a wasteful and scandalous way of carrying on the business of this country. Although it was impossible to get our Bill through on account of prejudices which prevailed at that time, the position is now quite different, and I think under the Act which we have passed it is quite within the power of the Scottish Secretary to bring before the National Emergency Committee the desirability of taking power to prohibit absolutely the destruction not only of immature animals, but also the killing of lambs and calves. In the present state of affairs there is no doubt there will be a very great scarcity of food. The prices of store stock are very high, although I do not know that they are high in comparison with those of fat stock. The price of meat is going up every day by leaps and bounds, and it is exceedingly difficult for a person in a modest way of life to obtain good beef or mutton at reasonable prices. I think, if the Secretary for Scotland were to bring his influence to bear in that direction, he might do a very great deal to secure an additional food supply and possibly prevent much of the waste that is now going on.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
The obvious feature in the Estimate now submitted to us, which must attract attention any way, and which must attract the chief share of attention in this discussion, is the disappearance of the Grant to the Board of Agriculture. The Treasury have discovered that the Board of Agriculture has at its disposal an unspent balance—not ear-marked, but a balance which is quite free and available for whatever further development the Board of Agriculture may desire—amounting to nearly £400,000, and, as the annual Grant is £200,000, it is quite apparent that the balance is sufficient to carry the Board of Agriculture over the year with which we are now concerned. I can see no reason whatever to quarrel with the action of the Treasury in this matter at a time like this, when there is urgent need of husbanding our resources. When there is such urgent need for expenditure in other more important and more vital directions, I do not see how we can claim to have this annual Grant given to us in Scotland, while we have lying at the bank an unexpended and non-earmarked balance of 319 about £400,000. Although we cordially approve of and consent to the action of the Treasury in this matter, so far as this year is concerned, we must look with some concern to the Department itself and ask how it comes about that it has this enormous unexpended free balance lying at its disposal.
The Scottish Smallholders Act has been in operation about four years, and, for the purposes of that Act, there was given to the Board an annual sum of about £200,000. This sum was given for the development of agriculture in Scotland, and for all pursuits cognate to agriculture. It was not given to one limited department of agriculture. It was not given merely for the creation of a certain number of small holdings. It was given for all the purposes of agriculture, and that is quite specifically laid down in the Act. The general duty of the Board is to promote the interests of agriculture, afforestry, and other rural industries in Scotland. That was the specific duty which was laid down in the Clause which says it shall be the duty of the Board to promote, aid and develop instruction in agriculture, afforestry, and other rural industries. Whenever we have appealed to the Board of Agriculture or to its representative in this House since the passing of this Act for the expenditure of money out of this Grant on purposes laid down in the Act, we have always been told that it is impossible to grant any money except for small holdings—that the main purpose of the Act was the creation of small holdings, and that the other purposes specified in the Act must be allowed to go by the board. Does the Secretary for Scotland wish to interrupt me on that point?
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I am very glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to interrupt me. I think, therefore, I may take it he assents to the statement. If he does not, I will quote from reports which he himself has published. In the first annual report, he said that the work of the past year had disclosed a demand for land settlement—that is, the creation of small holdings—far in excess of the present resources of the fund. We saw that balance accumulating, and on various occasions I have appealed to the right hon. Gentleman for some expenditure on the work of afforestation, which is a specific purpose laid 320 down in the Act and for which this money was granted. I have made appeals for money to be expended on that, and I have always been told, in reply, that the money was urgently required for the creation of small holdings and that, until that demand had been met, no money could be granted for afforestation. The right hon. Gentleman not only made that statement in the House, but he also made it outside. There is another body which has some interest in the work of afforestation, and that is the Development Commission. At an early stage the Development Commissioners were asked for a Grant for the purpose of developing afforestation in Scotland. They naturally thought, and as I hold took the view very properly, that afforestation was one of the purposes laid down in this Act—one of the purposes for which the Grant of £200,000 has been allocated—and they held further that the head of the Department had no right to go to the Development Commissioners until he had made some beginning and had shown some willingness, out of the money placed at his disposal for that purpose, to proceed with the work of starting and encouraging the development of afforestation in Scotland. That was the line the Development Commissioners took. What was the right hon. Gentleman's reply? He made the same reply that he made in this House. He said, "This money is urgently required for the work of small holdings. It is not sufficient for that purpose; therefore we cannot fulfil the duty laid upon us by Parliament with regard to the development of afforestation." As a result of his representations the Development Commissioners accepted his view, and there will be found, I think it was in the Third Report of the Development Commissioners, a paragraph as follows:—As a matter of general principle the Development Commissioners were of opinion that the demands of Scottish agriculture and forestry should be met from the Scottish Fund as far as possible before recourse was had to the Development Fund, but recognising that the primary object of the Scottish Fund is the encouragement of small holdings, they have agreed that expenditure for that purpose may properly be regarded as having priority over the other purposes to which the fund can be applied.The Secretary for Scotland has continually represented in this House that the money that he had available was totally insufficient for the purpose of proceeding with the development of small holdings, and the impression which was created in this House, both by his words here and by the language of the various Reports issued by his Department, was that this balance which he was accumulating year 321 after year—lying, I suppose, in the bank on deposit receipt—was not a free balance and was not a balance which could be expended by the Board of Agriculture in any way that it desired, but was a balance earmarked not merely for small holdings in general, but for small holding schemes which had already been initiated. If I take the Second Annual Report, I find a reference there to this very aspect of the question. That Report referred to the large balance which was then accumulating in respect to the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund. The Report says:—The greater portion of the expenditure involved in a scheme undertaken by the Board will not mature until the year following the inauguration of the scheme, and a large balance will necessarily remain on the fund during the first two or three years of the Board's work, although a very considerable proportion of it will be earmarked to works in progress.By those words, and by the general attitude of the Secretary for Scotland during the last two or three years, we have been led to believe that this large balance was, for the most part, earmarked for expenditure which had already been initiated, but which had not matured in connection with works already in progress. If that had been true the Treasury would certainly not have been justified in stopping our Grant this year. To have stopped this Grant this year in such circumstances would have been to put a stop to all fresh development in Scotland. We could only have gone on completing works of development already undertaken. It now appears, on the representation of the Secretary for Scotland himself, that that impression, created by his own remarks and by the Reports which he issued, that this balance was an earmarked balance is not correct, but that it is a free balance, that it is now at the disposal of the Board for expenditure on all the ordinary purposes of the Act, and that he can draw upon it for initiating new expenditure and new schemes. That being so, the action of the Treasury is certainly justified. No Department has a right to accumulate free balances in this way. If Scotland has lost the greater part of this £200,000 a year it is entirely due to the failure of the right hon. Gentleman during the last few years to expend the money for the purposes for which it was granted. I see that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that this is a very amusing matter. I can assure him that he will not find it an amusing matter in Scotland. He is in the position, and will be regarded in Scotland as being in the position of the unprofitable servant who buried his talent in a napkin, and 322 who, if it had not been for the circumstances of the time, would have been cast out into the outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. Our preoccupation at the present time is necessarily not with the development of afforestation in Scotland. Our preoccpation is with the great life and death struggle which the nation has undertaken. The right hon. Gentleman owes his position of being a Member of a Coalition Cabinet to that fact, and not to his being a worthy servant of the interests of Scotland, or to his having served the interests of Scotland well in the administrative work connected with the great Act which was passed for the development of Scottish industries and improving agriculture in Scotland.
References have already been made by hon. Friends of mine to the lamentable position in which we now stand in regard to afforestation in Scotland. I know that nothing can be done, under the present circumstances, to secure the development which is necessary in the purely local and national interests of Scotland at the present time in regard to afforestation, but there are various interests connected with the War and conditions arising out of the War at which we ought to look, and to which the attention of the right hon. Gentleman ought to be turned. Afforestation in Scotland is desirable for two reasons; first, because it is the only means known to me whereby real agricultural development can be secured in a vast area of Scotland, amounting to something between one-fourth or one-fifth of the total area of the country. Afforestation is an important matter in England and in Ireland, but it is relatively small in those countries compared with the area. It may be said that in Scotland there is one-fourth or one-fifth of the total area of the country which can be used for the purposes of afforestation to more advantage and profit than it is now being used—I refer to land which is now waste land or used for poor agriculture. If afforestation were carried out properly we could have upon that land something like ten times the present population. Afforestation is important for the second reason that the widespread development of small holdings, which the right hon. Gentleman has so much at heart, cannot be secured without a corresponding development in regard to afforestation. Over vast areas in Scotland small holdings are not economic unless the small holder has some auxiliary 323 industry. That is at present provided by fishing along the coasts, but in the interior there is no widespread auxiliary industry. Afforestation would provide that auxiliary industry, and would rear whole colonies of small holders, as it has done in other countries where it has been adopted. Afforestation means the repopulation and recolonisation of many of the counties of Scotland.
I agree that we cannot get that work done during the War because we cannot spare the funds to do it, but I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to look at the part which a useful prevision could play with regard to the settlement of the difficult problem which will arise at the end of the War. We will have thousands and thousands of soldiers returning to this country. We will have one of the greatest labour problems that has ever been presented to this country—a labour problem far greater than that which was presented by unemployment at the beginning of the War. Mark another feature about these men who will return! Many of them are town dwellers and have been reared in towns, but during the years—I am afraid it must be years—during the months and years of their devoted service they will have been living an outdoor life and will have acquired other habits and instincts, and in many cases will not want to return to the crowded places, but will desire an open-air life, if they can get it with comfort and a fair living. They will desire to settle on the land, and if there is an opportunity for their absorption in the work of afforestation at the end of the War, then the Department which is responsible for the work of afforestation ought to see that it has some means of expanding at that time and absorbing that labour. We sometimes hear loose talk about afforestation being a solution for the ordinary chronic unemployment question. I have no belief in that. Afforestation is a skilled industry; it cannot be supported by the absorption of the casually unemployed, but it presents a career, a life, an industry, to the men who embark upon it. Is the Department for Agriculture in Scotland taking any steps to see, not that it has created great forests during the War, but that it is creating the machinery which may then be called in to carry on the work of afforestation and to absorb a great deal of that surplus labour which will then be thrown upon our hands? Is it creating the 324 skilled staff—the skeleton? If it has created a skilled staff and has a number of men trained in the work of afforestation, understanding how it can be carried on—and it cannot be carried on casually by any men suddenly called in for the purpose—then that machine will be of the greatest value to the country during the crisis which will arise at the end of the War. I earnestly press upon the right hon. Gentleman, and such of his colleagues as are present, the necessity for doing something in that direction. I would urge upon him the appointment of a Departmental or other Committee to consider what are the best means of utilising the resources at the disposal of the Board of Agriculture for the purpose of absorbing that labour which will be available, we hope, at a very early time.
§ Mr. COWAN
I hope the Secretary for Scotland may see his way to accept the very reasonable suggestion made by my hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) of postponing the taking of this Vote in order that we may have an opportunity of laying our views before the new Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not altogether agree with one or two of my hon. Friends who have suggested that this sum might reasonably be withheld in the circumstances of the present War, because, after all, the sum which it is proposed to withdraw amounts only to £177,547—less than a tenth of the amount which we are daily spending upon the War. We all realise that the War is our first charge, and our first duty is to contribute everything we possibly can to the successful conduct and conclusion of the War. At the same time Scotland has been largely depopulated, owing to circumstances which are fresh in all our memories, and the establishment of small holdings in the rural constituencies of Scotland is a very pressing matter and must long remain so. I think if the idle balance of nearly £400,000 could be utilised, as I think it might, temporarily for the purposes of the War, the case for withholding the additional £177,000 would be less strong, and I suggest to my right hon. Friend, as the head of the Board of Agriculture, that the balance might be employed temporarily by investing in War Stock. If that £400,000 were invested in War Loan I think Scotland would be making a very reasonable contribution towards the expenses of the War from that specific source, and that we might be allowed to receive our £177,547 without being regarded as having done anything 325 to hamper the resources of the Government in carrying on this tremendous conflict. I am in entire agreement with everything that my hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) has said and with much that my hon. Friend (Mr. MacCallum Scott) has said, and with a great deal which has been said by other Members, including the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Younger). I accept everything said on those benches in a true coalition spirit, and to-day, at any rate, we have all been able to display that spirit and there has been no acerbity of any kind whatever, but I do not think, speaking at this late stage of the Debate, much remains to be said, and I confine myself to pressing the particular suggestion that we should be allowed to receive this sum of £177,000, and that my right hon. Friend should use his great influence with the new Chancellor of the Exchequer to induce him to allow us to have this money, and that we on our part should acquiesce in the suggestion that the balance at present in the hands of the Scottish Board of Agriculture should provide temporarily for the purposes of the War by investment in War Stock.
The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. McKinnon Wood)
We have had a number of speeches which have raised questions of considerable business importance—of increased importance in our present circumstances—all of which call for notice, and in regard to which I am glad to be able to assure the Committee that the Board of Agriculture has had them under its most serious consideration. My hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) and my hon. Friend (Mr. Harry Hope), whose experience in agriculture is well known to the House, have raised the question of the slaughter of cattle. That has been engaging my consideration for some time past. We have had a certain amount of evidence brought before us as to the killing of cows in calf, which is certainly most unfortunate at present. One of the difficulties in the way of the English Board of Agriculture, as well as the Scottish Board, has been that there are no statistics, and account has not been kept of what has happened in that way during past years. But statistics are now being collected, and I hope within a few days to have them tabulated, to consider the information for Scotland and to place it before the President of the English Board of Agriculture. The two Boards have been in consultation on the subject, and I think, when we have the information, 326 there is no reason to doubt that we shall be in agreement as to action on the subject. I shall certainly bear in mind the point raised by the hon. Member (Mr. H. Hope), with which I am in entire agreement.
My hon. Friend (Sir J. Dewar) raised one or two points of very great interest. He has an idea that there is an enormous sum of money belonging to the crofting counties, in which he is interested. I regret to say I could not follow him in his calculation. He seemed to think there was a sum of £300,000. I do not know how he arrived at it, but I can assure him, as I have assured him before, that he has no reason to fear that the crofting counties of Scotland will not get their full share of the money which is spent by the Board of Agriculture. They have always had their full share, and they will doubtless continue to receive it in the future. It is in these very counties that the demand for small holdings is at present the largest.
My hon. Friend also raised a question of some importance on which I do not think I am in entire agreement with him. I am most entirely in agreement with him as to his object. I have received many representations from the Western Isles about the diminution of postal and shipping facilities. The two things go together. Undoubtedly it must be a great inconvenience to the people in these islands that they are not able to receive letters with the usual frequency, and it must also interfere with business. But when he suggests that we ought to use the money of the Board of Agriculture for the purpose of providing postal facilities, I must entirely differ from my hon. Friend. I am sure the Scottish Members generally would not support me if I proposed to use the money in that way, and I should like to point out a fact which I do not think is within his knowledge, or which he has probably known and forgotten, as to the history of the past which shows that there is no claim upon us to spend the money in that way, but there is a reasonable demand upon the Post Office to give proper facilities for the Western Isles. Some years ago—about 1891—a sum of money was given to the Scottish Office for the purpose of improving the service in the West of Scotland and in Shetland; but in 1898 the policy of the Government was deliberately changed. Up to that time we had a sum of about £10,000 a year, and what we did with it was to give it to the Post Office 327 for the purpose of improving the postal facilities to the Western Islands and the Northern Islands. But really that was a very cumbrous proceeding, and the Government decided in 1898 that the money should not take that course in future. But this sum appears now upon the Post Office Vote. Under these circumstances I am very sorry to hear my hon. Friend supporting the view that the Post Office is entitled to wash its hands of the responsibility and to place it on the Agricultural Fund for Scotland. I thought that was a very heretical opinion.
§ Sir J. DEWAR
I meant the fund which was handed over from the Congested Districts Board to the Board of Agriculture.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I do not admit that capital sum of £300,000. I do not at all follow how my hon. Friend arrives at it.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I will not answer that contentious question. It is not bringing in revenue which will enable us to support a sufficient postal service to the Western Isles. I will commit myself as far as that. I put it to my hon. Friend that we are not justified in taking that responsibility. They have already had Scottish money for the purpose, and I think I shall certainly have the support of Scottish Members in that view. I doubt very much if I have any legal right to spend this money. I am not able to find anything which gives me a legal right to spend money intended for agriculture in relieving the funds of the Post Office. Surely it is a well-established principle that every service in the Post Office cannot be profitable, and that services must be maintained which are not profitable in the general interest. I am certainly not going to be a party to any departure from that well recognised principle.
My hon. Friend also expressed the opinion that a lease for a forestry demonstration area would be satisfactory. I do not propose to enter into that question at any length, because I think his point of view has been disposed of already. Surely it is perfectly obvious that when you are dealing with a crop which requires many 328 long years to mature, the last years of any lease, however long, must be of diminishing value. Surely that is obvious. As representing agriculture in Scotland, I entirely accepted the advice of the Advisory Committee on Forestry, and they expressed the opinion that the only satisfactory way of having an administration area for forestry was to have a freehold area and not a leasehold. My hon. Friend the Member for Buteshire raised another point. He spoke on a subject which has been very much in our minds, namely, the question of the shortage of agricultural labour. I refer to that point for a very practical purpose. A few days ago I had a conference with representatives of the various educational institutes in Scotland, which represent the teachers. I had heard from a number of teachers that they were very anxious to serve the State in some way during the holidays, which, of course, would coincide with the period of harvest, or could be made to coincide with that period. One of them wrote that the difficulty was that the farmers would not employ people like teachers, because they said they were of a class they could not order about. I ventured to make a suggestion that as many of the teachers are the sons of farmers, and numbers of them have come from small farms in Scotland and are not ignorant or without skill in agricultural labour, that the practical thing for them to do was to make an arrangement with the farmers of their acquaintance. As the hon. Member pointed out, it is a very difficult thing to do it through any central organisation. Farmers are not in the habit of going to Labour Exchanges. I do not think you could get them to go to Labour Exchanges very readily. I do not think they would come to the Scottish Office. However, I think a fair amount of good could be done, and it would be something worth doing, if the teachers would get into touch with the farmers whom they know in the various neighbourhoods of Scotland. We might get valuable assistance for the ingathering of the harvest in that way.
The hon. Member now in the Chair (Sir G. Younger) raised the question of the kelp industry, in regard to which I entirely agree with him.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
He will not wish to do, because I shall represent his 329 views with such absolute fairness and accuracy. The Board of Agriculture has been for some months past doing all it can to encourage the kelp industry. There was an inquiry by Dr. Scott, of St. Andrews, made some time ago, into the question of the kelp industry, in connection with an inquiry into other home industries, and as soon as the War broke out an inquiry was made into this matter by the Board of Agriculture, who have had a conference with a number of authorities interested. They have been in conference with the county councils of Argyll, Inverness, Sutherland, Caithness, Orkney and Shetland, and have discussed with them the possibility of increasing the production of kelp. They did more than that. They made Grants to the Scottish Organisation Society for experiments, which were carried out in Caithness. They also appointed a certain number of instructors, who were sent to the Western Islands and the Northern Islands to try to increase the production. I was interested to hear what the hon. Baronet said in regard to the estate he referred to. We have tried to encourage the production of kelp. On one estate we offered a Grant of £500 for the erection of a retort and sheds, but I am sorry to say that in that case we were not able to come to an agreement on terms. The terms on that estate were different from the terms that the Board of Agriculture has approved, and we have not been able to do anything on that particular estate. With regard to the leaflet, I will certainly consider the point raised by my hon. Friend. I cannot pretend to be such an expert in kelp production as to say whether the particular methods in that leaflet are perfect. I will, however, ask the Board what their authority was in putting forward those recommendations.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. MacCallum Scott) was in a more combative mood than my other colleagues. He differed from them in one respect; he alone was willing to give away the money, and he wanted to give it away with both hands fervently. Not only did he want to give away the £175,000, but he wanted to give away the balance which we have in hand.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I must interrupt my right hon. Friend on this point, because I think his statement amounts to a very complete and wholesale misrepresentation. The point I made was this: he has accumulated out of the funds which were given to him to spend for certain purposes laid down in the Act, a balance 330 of £400,000. That is practically a free balance, not earmarked, but available for expenditure in the working of the Act, and in view of that circumstance I said I could not resist the action of the Treasury in saying, "You have this balance to spend, and we cannot grant you the ordinary Grant this year."
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
My hon. Friend does not help himself, because in the first place the facts upon which he bases his statement are quite inaccurate.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I am in the recollection of my hon. Friends, and they will recollect that I told them that part of that money was earmarked. The argument of my hon. Friend shows a perfectly hopeless misunderstanding of the way in which small holdings must be dealt with. You cannot start and say, "We will make so many small holdings between the beginning and the end of a year, and we will spend so much money on them. Next year we will make so many more and spend so much more money on them." You are going on with a continuing process. You are laying yourselves open to liabilities constantly. Some of that money will have come due at once; some will not come due for months; and some will not come due for a year or two. The whole argument of my hon. Friend is un sound. Because we happen to have that money, it does not at all prove—
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to what He said to the deputation at the Scottish Office. As a matter of fact he told us that out of this balance of £400,000 only from £130,000 to £150,000 was earmarked.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
The hon. Member corrects himself. His statement was that it was all free balance; now he says it was from £130,000 to £150,000.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
Between £120,000 and £130,000 was earmarked then. Since then further money has been earmarked. It is a continuing process. We are always working at it. Every week I am approving schemes; every week the Board of Agriculture are taking up new schemes. It is not a thing you can deal with and finish all your obligations at the end of a financial year. What is the grievance of my hon. Friend? It is that I will not spend money on forestry. He said that if I went to Scotland I should be scouted because I have not spent the money on forestry. I am prepared to go to any meeting in Scotland and defend myself on that point, and I shall get the verdict, and not my hon. Friend. I did not take up the position, as stated by my hon. Friend, that all other purposes except small holdings must go by the board. I have never made such a foolish statement as that. We are spending very considerable sums of money on agricultural education, agricultural research, the improvement of breeding in a great variety of ways, and the encouragement of better culture of small holdings. I never made any such wild statement as that all the money must go to small holdings. What I said was a perfectly definite thing. I said if you want to spend a very large sum of money running into six figures in capital expenditure on a forestry area, I cannot afford to take the money away from small holdings and other purposes of agriculture. That is what I said; that is what I have said consistently: that and nothing more. Surely that is right. If the Development Commission can find money for forestry in England and Ireland, why should not we ask for it in Scotland? If I had to raise that question in Scotland between my hon. Friend and myself, I should not have any difficulty in obtaining the judgment of my Constituents and my fellow countrymen. The hon. Member found fault with me that I had pressed the Development Commission to give us this capital sum for forestry. Really he gave the answer himself. I convinced the Development Commission that I need this money for other purposes, and that, if it was fair to give money to England and Ireland, they should give us this capital sum for a development area.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
The hon. Member knows perfectly well what happened. A proposal was brought forward for the purchase of a freehold forest site, but, for reasons which it is not for me to discuss, the Development Commissioners said they did not like that scheme and that they would rather put forward another scheme. They were prepared to spend a considerable sum of money—about £150,000. So that really the fault which the hon. Member for Bridgeton accuses me of is no fault at all, because I actually could have got the money, but it was on a leasehold scheme, which was thought unsatisfactory. Still the principle of getting the money from the Development Commissioners is admitted, and I am prepared to answer for that fault anywhere.
I now come to the last point of this Debate, and that is the question of the Grant. It would be better that I should say as little as possible on that subject. I am quite prepared, however, to accept the suggestions of my hon. Friends. I think it is only fair that they should have an opportunity of going to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and putting their views before him, and I agree with the point made by the present Deputy-Chairman (Sir G. Younger) that it was not a legal question so much, but it was a question which affected the future, and that it is absolutely necessary that the Board of Agriculture and myself, as representing it here, or whoever it may be that occupies this position, should know exactly where they stand about the Grants for future years. Under the circumstances, I think the request is an eminently reasonable one and one that I am bound to fall in with. I shall therefore conclude by making an appropriate Motion. There is only one other thing I want to say. I think we must deal quite fairly with the Treasury, I do not think the hon. Member for Dumfries was justified in saying that harsher measures have been meted out to Scotland than to England. The contrary is the case. I am afraid that that is not an argument we shall be able to press on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because as a matter of fact the Exchequer is not going to give any money for small holdings in England this year, whereas in Scotland we have our balances and can proceed with our work. I am not saying—I must guard myself—that the case of England and the case of Scotland are at all analogous. The difference is enormous, and though it may be that we have not a legal 333 claim because the words are "any sum not exceeding £185,000," and though we may not be able to make out any statutory right, still I think that what was put by the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir George Younger) was a very strong argument. It was a sort of Parliamentary understanding that we were to get this money, and possibly we may be able to arrange the matter with the Treasury. I think that I am betraying no secret when I say that I ventured to suggest that this Grant should be made in the ordinary way and that the money should be lent back to the Treasury. In the circumstances the question of interest is a matter of no importance. That would, of course, help to safeguard the position and keep our rights intact. Therefore, in the circumstances, I venture to propose that the consideration of this Vote should be postponed.
§ Mr. COWAN
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how the £400,000 that has been accumulated from the annual Grants under the Small Holdings Act is at present invested, or is it invested at all or lying in bank, and, if it is not invested, could it not be invested in War Loan or Treasury Bills?
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I cannot without notice say how it is invested at the moment. Of course it has accumulated, because when you start a business like this you cannot at once apply all the Grant, and the expenditure under the fund is very small at first, but grows gradually. I will take that point into consideration. I am advised that the proper course is to withdraw the Motion.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
There is one small matter as to which I would like to hear a word. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that I proposed that this Grant, or the greater part of it, should be expended on the development of forestry.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Sir G. Younger)
The hon. Member is on very dangerous ground. If he objects the Vote cannot be withdrawn.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
Do I understand that the making of a short statement will place an obstacle in the way of the adoption of the procedure which has been suggested.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Certainly. On the point of Order, if the hon. Member makes any objection it will have that effect.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I was not going to make any objection to the course which has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member does not do so there can be no discussion. The question is whether he agrees or does not agree.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.