HC Deb 16 August 1916 vol 85 cc1963-6

This Act shall apply to Scotland, subject to the following modifications:

  1. (a) The Board of Agriculture for Scotland shall be substituted for the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, "arbiter" shall be substituted for "arbitrator," "the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1908," shall be substituted for "the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1908," the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund shall be substituted for the Small Holdings Account, "easements" mean servitudes, and "small holding" means a small holding as defined in Section thirty-three of the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act, 1911:
  2. (b) Paragraph (b) of Section four and Sections six and eight of this Act shall not apply:
  3. (c) Section one shall be read and con-trued as if two thousand acres were substituted for six thousand acres, provided that the two thousand acres so acquired shall, to the extent of three-fourths thereof, consist of land suitable to be sultivated as arable land.

Amendments made: In paragraph (a) leave out the words "'easements' mean servitudes," and insert instead thereof the words "'easement' moans servitude."

In paragraph (b) leave out the words "six and seven," and insert instead thereof the words "seven and nine."— [Mr. Munro, for Mr. Tennant.]


I beg to move, in paragraph (c), to leave out the words "Section one shall be read and construed as if two thousand acres were substituted for six thousand acres, provided that the two thouand acres so acquired shall, to the extent of three-fourths thereof," and insert instead thereof the words "The total area of the land for the time being acquired by the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, for the purpose of Section one of this Act, shall not at any time exceed two thousand acres, of which three-fourths shall."


Will that shut out my Amendment to leave out the word "two" and to insert instead thereof the word "seven"?




Very well, then I shall be allowed to go on with my Amendment first.


No, the Government take precedence of the hon. Member.


I do not think the House ought to agree to this Amendment. I have not heard it very clearly, but if it involves, as I imagine it does involve, from what I did hear from the Chair, a ruling out of the possibility of Scotland having a larger acreage than was proposed in the original draft of this Bill, then we Scotsmen cannot accept this Amendment without a protest. The question involved is one of the amount of land which ought to be given to the three separate countries. We have stated that in England it will be 4,500 acres, and it has been agreed that 2,000 acres shall be given to Wales and the county of Monmouthshire. The whole acreage of Wales is so very much less than the acreage of Scotland that it is perfectly obvious that 2,000 acres are inadequate for Scotland as compared with Wales. It is also perfectly obvious, if you consider the nature of the soil in the two countries, that the conditions under which the 2,000 acres in Wales can be used are totally different from the conditions that apply to Scotland. When we were discussing this matter in Committee, the suggestion was made that if in Scotland the land were to be limited to 2,000 acres then three-quarters of it should be arable land. That argument was used because we felt, if we were to be limited to 2,000 acres, that the best use to which that land could be put would be to have market gardens in the vicinity of our large towns. The House will at once see what an enormous convenience that would be to the disabled soldiers in our large cities. You do not want to have to move them long distances from the towns to settle them on the land if it is only a very small acreage. They could largely live in the cities and devote their time to working on the land using it for the purposes of market gardens. That is a very different problem from the one we Scotsmen thought was going to arise out of the suggestion.

We have in Scotland large areas of land which are uninhabited, or which carry very few men to the acre. We have millions of those acres. The further north you go the more sparse the population becomes, and the more room there is to plant men upon the land. If you are going in far an experiment of this sort, surely it ought to be of such a nature as to command some success. It is perfectly obvious from what hon. Members know about Scotland that 2,000 acres beyond Inverness would be perfectly hopeless to make the experiment in all respects successful. It is therefore obvious, if we are to be limited to 2,000 acres, that the land should be adjacent our large towns. The Scottish Members are divided about this very important subject. My hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Morton), who was not quite sure whether he could move his Amendment, represents one of the Highland constituencies. The problem in the Highlands of Scotland is largely a crofting problem. It is not the same problem as that which exists in the Lowlands of Scotland, where' we have large farms and probably some of the best tilled farms in the world. My hon. Friend questions that statement, but he must know that it was from that portion of the country between Berwick and the Tweed and Edinburgh from which the Scottish farmers exported to England and laid the foundation of England's approaching greatness to Scotland in agriculture. The problems are different, and the Members from Scotland are divided. I am a City representative, and while I have every desire that the Highlands of Scotland should be re-populated and, so far as possible, that in its initial stages this experiment should be devoted to householders, yet as a town-bred man, if the acreage is to be limited to 2,000 I want to see some use made of the nation's money. This is going to cost some millions of money, and I do not think we are entitled, even in a time of war when we are doing all sorts of emergency things, to spend the nation's money in an experiment which begins without any chance of success. In Scotland apparently we have more generous landlords than they have in other parts of the United Kingdom. As a matter of fact, up to the present moment the only offers of land that have been made for this purpose have been made by landlords in Scotland, and landlords elsewhere have yet got to make any offer. I do not want, however, to occupy too much time, because I know there are many Members who wish to join in the discussion, and I certainly desire to give my hon. Friend behind me, who all the years he has been in this House has devoted himself to the interests of the crofters in the Highlands of Scotland, an opportunity of saying something in favour of his Amendment. It looked as if the Amendment were going to fall to the ground, and I felt it my duty to give this opportunity to my old and trusted colleague.


I am sorry that anything technical should shut me out from having an opportunity of moving my Amendment, as I should have preferred to have had a straight question before the House as to whether we are treating Scotland fairly in the proportion it is proposed to give her. My hon. Friend knows enough about the Highlands of Scotland to know that the question of arable land there is different from some parts of the Lowlands of Scotland. If you pass the Bill as it now stands, with the provision that three-fourths shall consist of land suitable for the cultivation of arable land, it will practically shut out all the north-east counties from the benefits of the Act.

It being a quarter-past eight of the clock, and leave having been given to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put.