§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £55,159, 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, 1919, 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. TENNANT
The occasion for the discussion of Scottish Estimates puts hope into the hearts of Scottish Members and wings to the feet of English Members. We may regard their absence with equanimity, and we may rejoice in our 1885 own splendid isolation. As one of the isolated Members, I would like to discuss for a few minutes some matters in relation to affairs in my own country, and particularly with regard to the question of forestry. There has been issued within the last few months an interesting Report by a Sub-committee of the Reconstruction Committee of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne (Mr. F. Acland) was Chairman, and from that Report we learn that if there was one thing, in connection with our unpreparedness for the War, in which we were more unprepared than in anything else, it was in regard to the provision of timber for our own needs and those of our Allies. The Report makes, in my judgment, the most significant statement that less than 8 per cent. of the pre-war consumption of timber was home grown. I may point out further that not only had we too little land under forests, but that land was so indifferently cultivated that the result was only a third of what it should have been.
From this I think the Committee will agree that the condition of forestry at the present time is very unsatisfactory. The imports of timber of all kinds during the year 1915–16 were of the value of £74,000,000 sterling, or £37,000,000 in excess of their pre-war value. They employed 7,000,000 tons of shipping, equivalent approximately to 14,000,000 tons dead-weight. If the Committee take these facts into consideration, they must admit that afforestry cannot remain in the position in which it stands to-day. The Committee recommend that 1,750,000 acres of land should be afforested, of which only 200,000 should be done at once. My mind goes back to previous recommendations of previous Committees and Commissions, as this is a question which I have followed with interest for some years. It may be in the mind of some hon. Members that a Departmental Committee reported in 1911, asking for a demonstration area which was to be only 4,000 acres in extent. That was generally agreed upon; the difficulty was as to the site. Thus, seven years ago it is clear, we wanted to get a demonstration area. An Advisory Committee was appointed by the Secretary for Scotland, and it recommended the purchase of an area in Aberdeen. Some difficulty arose, and another area was suggested, but that too was not deemed to be suitable. The object in view was that the State should acquire the land in perpetuity. The net 1886 result has been that not more than 100 acres have been planted in Scotland, and I think that must be admitted to be singularly unsatisfactory. It may be asked what would be the cost of the proposal made by the Committee over which my right hon. Friend the Member for Cam-borne presided. Really, I am amazed at the moderation of the-proposal. It was that 1,750,000 acres of land should be afforested out of 3,000,000 or 5,000,000 acres available, and the cost was put at £3,425,000 for the first ten years. Remember that is less than one-half of the amount we spend each day on the War which is now going on. I cannot help thinking it is not a large sum to ask for in respect of an admitted great national necessity. The whole cost would be £15,000,000 in forty years, by which time it is expected the scheme would prove self-supporting. May I remind the Committee that this figure represents less than one-half of the direct loss of £37,000,000 due to the fact we had to import timber in the year 1915–16? I pass now from cost to methods and the recommendations which the Committee make. They suggest a central authority, and paragraph No. 8 of their Report says:The first essential is a forest authority equipped with funds and powers to survey, purchase, lease, and plant land and generally to administer the areas acquired, with compulsory powers to be exercised when needed after due inquiry and the award of fair compensation. The care of forestry, now divided amongst several Departments, should be centralised in this body.It may be asked why the Committee should ask to set up a new authority when we already have a Board of Agriculture for England, besides the Woods and Forests Department, and also a Board of Agriculture for Scotland specially designed, if I may say so, in the original scheme of my Noble Friend Lord Pentland to undertake the administration of afforestry. It is, it is true, a Department which is not devoted to forestry alone, but it is a Department which has for one of its duties the administration of forestry questions. I ask why did the Committee make these recommendations? I think one can supply the answer, but at any rate an answer is supplied in the interesting memorandum of Lord Lovat at the end of the Report, which sets out the reasons why he recommends so strongly the creation of a new Department That is taken exception to by the representative of the Treasury (Mr. Bromley) in the memorandum 1887 which immediately precedes it. My answer, however, to the question is this: I am dead against a new Department, as we have too many already, but I think there is a great deal to be said for centralising the whole of the authorities into one body, instead of having one for Ireland, one for Scotland, and two for England. You could have centralisation with consequent co-ordination by that means, and you might then get some good results. At present you only have deplorable results from the existing authority. I do not want to go into old stories; I prefer to avoid recrimination; but what I want, if possible, to do is, in the classic language of the trenches, to "get a move on." I want to "go over the top." I do not want to go underneath, to sap and mine the Board of Agriculture against the Development Commission. We have had too much of that in the past. What is the present position? Will my right hon. Friend tell me what is going to be done with this Report of the Forestry Sub-committee over which my right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne presided? On the 1st of this month my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Wilts (Captain Sir C. Bathurst) asked the following question of the Prime Minister:Whether he has received from the forestry societies and other bodies resolutions advocating the immediate appointment of a forest authority in order to make the necessary preparation for after-war planting; and when a decision is likely to be announced on this matter?Dr. Addison, the Minister of Reconstruction, replied:The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative; in regard to the second part of the question, the whole matter is now receiving the consideration of the War Cabinet, and it is hoped that a decision may be reached at an early date."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st July, 1918, col. 1413.That answer means, of course, that this matter has been referred to the power station at Downing Street. Contact has been made; it sometimes evolves sparks, I understand. I can only hope that the result may be the generation of a current which will produce a little more light than heat. We have had enough of heat in the past. May I add this, the Government would do well to learn a lesson from the experience of the last four years. If they read this Report they will see we have literally been handicapped in the prosecution of the War by 1888 difficulties regarding the production of timber, and if they bear in mind the depletion of our home timber supplies, which is so rapidly going on—for no replanting is taking place—that is impossible in these days—and the exhaustion of foreign source of supply, they must realise how desirable it is to increase the productiveness of our own country. There is another important aspect of the question, and that is the provision of increased employment which would thereby be made. Remembering all these things, we must feel that this question is both urgent and clamant.
I pass next to the more purely agricultural aspects of the Vote under consideration. I propose to deal briefly with four points—finance, the Defence of the Realm Regulations, harvests, and the provision of land for discharged sailors and soldiers. With regard to the accounts, I wish to call the attention of the Committee to those which are headed "Agriculture (Scotland) Account." There we have a heap of figures not in tabular form, which I can best describe in the words of the poet Wordsworth:Confused, commingled,Each lost in each,In fleecy folds, voluminous, enwrapped.We do not desire anything so voluminous or enwrapped. I do ask that in future we may have something a little more simple and, at the same time, more tabulated I come now to the Defence of the Realm Regulations. It is pleasing to read what is printed on page 44 of the Report, with regard to the grazing of deer forests. We are told that, from the replies received to a circular issued, it was apparent that landowners, as a rule, were willing to allow their forests to be grazed by cattle; and, again, in reply to another appeal, that the landowners generally showed themselves anxious to assist the Board in their efforts to restock grazing land. I am glad to read that tribute to the landowners of Scotland generally. With regard to the Orders issued under the Defence of the Realm Act by my right hon. Friend, I only wish to refer to Regulation 2R, which authorises the occupier of grazing land and two persons to whom he may grant written permission to enter any woodland, moor or heath adjoining his holding in order to kill rabbits. I want a definition of the words "adjoining his holding." I have in my mind a case of a wood, 2, 3, or 4 miles in length, with farms below 1889 it. There may be six, eight, ten, or more farms contiguous, all sheltered by this wood, and having a moor on the other side. The occupier of a farm is permitted to authorise any two persons to enter this wood, moor or heath "adjoining his holding." Can he go along the whole wood for 2, 3, or 4 miles? Can the occupiers of all the farms bordering on that wood go out in a big shooting party and kill anything they like in that wood? What is meant by "adjoining"? I think it is necessary there should be some definition of the term. I should like to draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the point and to ask him whether some limitation is desirable—as I suggest it is? It is unnecessary to let them roam over the whole wood, which has no relation to the man's own particular holding, and I also suggest that a definition of the word "adjoining" is necessary. Then I come to Grouse Order No. 2. I do not object to authorising the killing of grouse between 6th and 12th August, if it is necessary, but I think it is unnecessary to extend the time from 10th December, the original statutory date after which we were not allowed to kill grouse, until 20th January, which is a very long time. It might be necessary if there were any grouse in Scotland, but, in the last two years, there has been an extraordinary diminution in the number of grouse, and it is very desirable that we should be able to cultivate the grouse as food for the people. I hope my right hon. Friend, when he comes to see what kind of grouse season it will be, will reconsider that Order. I do not know whether it applies to 1918 or 1917.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Then I hope he will consider whether there is a sufficient number of grouse to warrant this extension of the period of time for killing them. I come now to the question of the harvest. We had a debate in this House on July 1st, in which my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture made a very important statement, in the course of which he was exceedingly frank, both with the House and with the country, and he made many admissions. It is well known that the acreage under crop has enormously increased, and a great deal has been made of that fact, and the farmers have really 1890 made great sacrifices in order to produce more corn. It cannot pay them, as the Minister for Agriculture admitted, and the first year of ploughing up grazing land never can be a financial success. The Minister said that farmers have done sono doubt, on the pledge and the guarantee that they have the labour left to them. If they say that they are betrayed, I am bound to say that they have that amount of justification, that we did guarantee them the labour.Everything which is said about the ploughing up of the land in England and the guarantee of labour is equally applicable to Scotland. Exactly the same thing was done in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture went on to say:I cannot be expected to say with absolute confidence that we have provided the right number of men in order to save the harvest. I cannot say that.I want to ask my right hon. Friend if he can say that he is able to provide the right number of men to safeguard the harvest which is just about to ripen. The President of the Board of Agriculture added:You cannot expect that I should say that I am absolutely confident that we shall get the harvest in, but I do not think that we shall lose much of it;and he went on to say thatthe number of Grade A men among the whole number of men between the ages of nineteen and thirty-one was surprisingly small….and the result was that the choice was so limited that….it fell on the key-men of the industry.I have several letters from my own Constituents of a most heartrending kind. I am sure many of my hon. Friends in Scottish constituencies know this case as well as I do, and have an equal number in their letter bags of protests from farmers, who are really in a most deplorable condition, and do not know what to do. They write to one, and what can one do? We go to our right hon. Friends and ask them to intervene, and they reply that it is owing to the necessities of the case. But why did they not foresee that? I do complain of the great want of foresight. The Minister for Agriculture spoke throughout his speech on the 1st July of 30,000 men. That was the quota that he had to get. I want to know what is the quota for Scotland? Is it included in that, or is it over and above that figure of 30,000?
§ Mr. TENNANT
That means, then, that it is not 30,000 for the whole Army, but 35,500. I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for that information. My right hon. Friend may say that times have very much changed since 1916, but when I was at the Scottish Office we were able to bring some pressure to bear on the War Office, and we got a good many soldiers to help in the harvest. I forget how many thousands, but it was quite a large number, and I should like to know whether the War Office are going to give him any assistance now. They are taking these key-men for the Army, and I should like to know whether it is possible for them to give assistance by way of men who are at home in a wounded condition, we will say, or a condition in which they are not able to go back, and form part of the Army at the front, whether any soldiers of that description can be left to agriculture, or what kind of action my right hon. Friend contemplates in order to save the absolutely essential harvest which is just becoming ripe? I am sorry that we should find ourselves in this position, because, as I say, it does show an extraordinary want of foresight on the part of the Government. I do not blame my right hon. Friend, because he probably had as much to do with it as I had, which is nothing; but I do blame the Government as a whole, and particularly those who are in authority at the head of the Government. They ought to have been able to foresee that if they asked Parliament——
§ The CHAIRMAN
We cannot have an attack on the Government as a whole on this Vote, which is strictly relevant to the duties of the right hon. Gentleman as Minister of Agriculture.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I quite recognise that, and I perhaps ought to blame my right hon. Friend as a member of the Government and get him to bring pressure on the Cabinet. My right hon. Friend will admit, I know, that the farmers did proceed to break up the land on the understanding that they would have the labour, that the farmers have made great financial sacrifices in breaking up the land, and that if they had not broken up the 1892 land we should have had more meat and milk. But it was in order to get cereals as well that the land was broken up, and if you do not reap your harvest you will not get your meat or your milk or your bread either, so that it is really a condition of things when the last state of that man is worse than the first. I should like to ask what provision my right hon. Friend is able to announce that he is making in order to meet this very grave situation. Finally, I would draw the attention of the Committee to the question of land for discharged sailors and soldiers. I observe on pages 10 and 11 of the Report that two new estates have been purchased, the Shinness Farm and the Dounreay estate, besides Borgie Farm, for which I was responsible through the generosity of the Duke of Sutherland, and I shall be very glad if my right hon. Friend could report a little more progress than we are able to ascertain from the Report, which only goes up to the end of December last. Can he say what has been going on at Borgie Farm, or at either of these two estates, one of which, I believe, they have only just got possession of? At the bottom of page 11 I see it says that a certain amount of local labour was secured—about fifty men from a Labour Battalion—and that considerable progress has been made with the work. That may mean anything or nothing, and I should like to know what it does mean, and if my right hon. Friend would condescend to particulars we should be interested. I also understand that three sites have been obtained under the Small Holdings (Colonies) Act. One, I believe, is in Ayrshire, one in the kingdom of Fife, and one somewhere else.
§ Mr. TENNANT
That is very good progress, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend on having that to report. But if anyone reads the Report carefully, both in regard to the Dounreay estate or Borgie Farm, he will see these words:The Board will manage the farm until the men are available,and then again—The Board are retaining the farm in their own hands until such time as a sufficient number of discharged soldiers and sailors are available.What kind of applications does the right hon. Gentleman get for settlement on the land? Are there many, are they suitable, 1893 and does he anticipate a great increase in the number of applications? Are we generally to be led to believe that when you get demobilisation, not in thousands, but by hundreds of thousands and by millions, you will get an enormous number of applications from these splendid fellows, having spent the last three or four years in the most exciting of all occupations, constantly exposed to the greatest dangers, constantly interrupted in anything they are doing by shells bursting all round them, mixing with men every day and all day and all night—that these splendid fellows are going to settle in the lonely strath, miles from anybody, with no one to talk to, with very little to do even in large parts of the year? The operations of husbandry are very difficult to pursue in the winter when there are feet of snow on the ground, and I want to know whether it is likely that you are going to have a very large number of persons making applications for this extraordinarily lonely life after all the excitement through which they have just passed. I have some doubts about it myself. I would end with this, that if there should appear to be any widespread demand for land for cultivation by either discharged sailors or soldiers, after demobilisation, I should like the Government and the country to be able to say that while it was not much that we were able to do during their great trial, now that that trial is over we will remember the debt which we owe to them, and let us be able to say "We will discharge it generously."
§ Colonel STIRLING
I wish to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the proceedings of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland at Inverailort. In July, 1917, after some correspondence with the proprietrix, the Board of Agriculture took possession of a portion of the deer forest at Inverailort, and let it to a tenant, who is bound to stock the ground with breeding ewes. A great many people may think this is an excellent thing to do in the interests of food production. I would only ask them, before they deliver their final judgment on this point, to consider the facts. The winter of 1916–17 was one of the most unfavourable for sheep on hill farms. The lambing season of 1917 was perhaps the most distastrous one in the memory of living sheep farmers. By May, 1917, it was quite clear that there would be a very short crop of hill lambs in the country. 1894 It was seen by this time that lambs would be scarce and dear, and it was known that they were backward in condition. You could hardly find a worse time for stocking new ground with sheep. Certainly the sheep population of the country did not justify the stocking of new ground, and that doubtfully healthy ground under sheep. Ewes also were very dear. I need hardly mention that, because no sheep-farmer who knows his business would think of putting old ewes on unfenced ground. Now, the ground at Inverailort taken by the Board is fenced only upon one side, and at the present time it is quite impossible to do the fencing. Supposing the Board's tenant did the best possible thing under the circumstances, he would buy ewe hoggs in August, 1917; but if he did that, what would he be doing for the food supply of the country? Nothing in 1917; nothing in 1918. Next year, in the spring of 1919, he will get some lambs from his gimmers, or the survivors of them, and some of the wether lambs will go to the butcher in 1920. Is this going to be a very important contribution to our food supply in time of war? I sincerely hope not.
There is another point as to the food aspect of this question. Inverailort formerly was under sheep. It had the reputation of being very unhealthy for sheep, and, indeed, this is the cause which led to it being put under deer. If the Board of Agriculture had not interfered, the ground taken by them would have produced a certain amount of venison. They owner had made arrangements for having a considerable number of hinds killed and for their cold storage, giving a supply of meat at a very moderate price. I do not think it is unfair to expect the Board of Agriculture to answer one or two questions with regard to the land which was taken. What classes of sheep and what numbers of each class have they put on the ground? What was the total number of sheep wintered on the ground in 1917–18, and what were the losses by death? I will read very briefly an extract from the circular of the Board of Agriculture under which this action is apparently taken. The circular, which was dated 14th February, 1917, says:The Board are empowered under the Regulation (that is, I think, Defence of the Realm 2) to enter upon and take possession of any land Which, in their opinion, is not being so cultivated or grazed as to increase as far as practicable, 1895 the food supply of the country…. The Board will normally exercise these powers only upon a recommendation by an executive committee. As this is a power that would only be exercised in special cases, the executive committee should not submit a recommendation to the Board until they have offered every assistance and encouragement to the occupier or owner, and taken all possible steps to come to an agreement with him. Before making proposals to the Board, they should satisfy themselves that the scheme will result in an early and considerable increase in the food supplies.I think that these provisions are very moderate, and show an intention to proceed in a wise way; but I think we are entitled to ask if the Board have carried out their own instructions. Did the Board, as a matter of fact, receive any recommendation from the Executive Committee? If not, did they carry out the instructions in their own circular, and offer every assistance and encouragement, and take all possible steps to come to an agreement with her? Did they satisfy themselves that the scheme would result is a real and considerable increase in the food supply? I think we are entitled to explicit answers upon these questions.
There is another aspect of this question which bears very much on the first, part of what was said by my right hon. Friend opposite. No one, I think, could possibly wish to defend the occupation of large areas of land as deer forests, unless it cannot be shown that that land can be made useful in some other way. Now there is a purpose to which some of this land could be put. Some deer forests of Scotland contain a certain amount of land below the 1,500 ft. contour line capable of being afforested with a reasonable prospect of growing a crop of timber. This area is not very large compared with the total area of the deer forests. It is not very easy, in the absence of a survey, to give, an estimate, but I think a near estimate for our purpose may be arrived at in this way: Taking the whole extent of deer forests of Scotland at, say, 3,000,000 acres, I think about 10 per cent. could probably be afforested. It is a great mistake to suppose that all the land under the 1,500 ft. contour is capable of being planted. There are large stretches of deep peat bogs, wind-swept islands, and promontories, and tracts of Bare rock which could never be made to produce a crop of timber. But I think this 10 per cent. can be taken as a possible contribution. Now the Board's policy of giving 1896 leases for sheep-farming in deer forests must infringe considerably upon the area of land immediately available for afforestation. It is quite certain that these leases must include a considerable proportion of land below 1,500 ft.; otherwise it would not be possible to use these places for wintering sheep stock, and therefore it may be assumed that a considerable portion of these 300,000 acres may have been already leased. Last year the total amount so disposed of was stated to be 50,000 acres in deer forests, and I believe that this has since been added to.
I think it can be admitted that after the War a policy of afforestation will have to be followed, and the question of obtaining suitable land will arise at once. There are only two sources from which land for considerable afforestation can be obtained in Scotland. Those two sources are deer forest and sheep farms. Undoubtedly the former will be the line of least resistance. The price of sheep, as a rule, is likely to be maintained for some time. Sheep farmers' will, I think, be very reluctant to give up any considerable acreage for planting. I do not myself believe that will be a permanently insuperable obstacle. There are ways of improving wintering grounds by cutting bracken and by other processes which may enable the land to carry more sheep, but all this is a matter of time. In deer forests you would have your land immediately available. I know it may be said, "Oh, but these leases are purely a war measure." The lease granted at Inverailort is from 2nd July, 1917, till the end of the War and two years after, or from the same date for a period of three years, whichever of the two may be the shorter. Evidently the Board's draftsman must be something of an optimist. At any rate, the effective provision of that is now up to 2nd July, 1920. As I have shown, it will not be until 1919 that the Board's tenant gets any return at all. Is it reasonable to expect that he will not wish for an extension of his lease just at the time he is beginning to get some return from his capital outlay? I think he will. A kind of moral claim will have been established by the action of the Board in 1917. I know that the question of employment is considered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland as being one of the most important points, and I know he realises that much more employment can be given by land for afforestation than can be 1897 given by land for a sheep farm or deer forest. I would just ask this question: Seeing the importance of this, is it wise to mortgage the opportunity for the future by taking up areas of deer forest land which might be immediately available for afforestation? I hope that none of the criticisms I have made will be considered to be unfair. I should wish particularly to guard myself from the suspicion of making any imputations against my right hon. Friend. We all know the depth and reality of his interest in these problems, and we only wish he, perhaps, had more leisure to attend to them.
§ Mr. HARRY HOPE
I desire to deal with measures adopted by the Board of Agriculture in the matter of food production during the past year. I think the Board is to be commended, because of the comprehensive and thorough manner in which it has acted to sustain the large increase of acreage which we have secured. Besides that, we are bound to recognise the very general and loyal response which has been given by the agriculturists of Scotland to the appeal of the Board. Altogether, I understand, there have been 55,000 acres more under cereals and potatoes in 1917 than in 1916, and the Report tells us that only in twenty-one cases was compulsion adopted. That is a proof that the agriculturists of Scotland are ready to back up all the efforts which the Board are putting forward. Then, in this last year, for the harvest of 1918, they tell us they have secured about 300,000 more acres under cereals and green crop than in 1917. Although there is no expression of thanks recorded in this Report, yet I do think that these county agricultural committees—
§ Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present; House counted, and, forty Members being found present—
Mr. HOPE (resuming)
The fact that so many Englishmen are absent on an occasion of this sort is practical proof that they consider that Scotsmen are quite able to take charge of Scottish affairs. The Scottish Board, I was saying, have been able to arrange for 300,000 acres more under cereals and potatoes to what was cultivated in 1917. In the Report there is no expression of thanks to the county agricultural committees, who have worked for this great 1898 object; yet I am perfectly sure that the chairmen and the members of those county agricultural committees are entitled to a very warm expression of thanks for all the work they have done. In this Report, which I hold in my hand, there is, of course, a great mass of detailed information given as to what the Board have done to obtain these results. On page 34 they tell us that they have bought 162 tractors. I should like to ask the Secretary if the Board in this matter bore in mind the experience of the steam ploughs? The tractors which were loaned out to the Parliamentary Agricultural Committees in September of last year were all taken back. The Committee, I think, ought to know whether there has been any large financial loss over the transaction. What is the total amount of money which has been spent on these 162 tractors? We should like to know also whether the charge to the farmers was a fair and reasonable price on the acreage which they ploughed, and what, if any, is the net balance against the country?
Besides carrying on this extensive work the Department have, of course, concentrated their energy upon enabling farmers to get a sufficient and good supply of fertilisers. I understand that in Scotland we have two works which are only producing crystallised sulphate of ammonia. The difference between crystallised sulphate of ammonia and the other ammonia is that the crystallised ammonia is very much more soluble than is ordinary sulphate of ammonia. It is desirable to have sulphate of ammonia in its most soluble form. Now, however, with it being all taken over for war purposes, I hope the Department will secure the whole make of this crystallised sulphate of ammonia that Scottish requirements need. The Irish Board of Agriculture, I understand, conducts its operation in a very able and thorough manner, and Scottish Members should, I think, be alive to it. The Irish Board of Agriculture, a short time ago, were endeavouring to secure all they could of this valuable fertiliser. I hope we will see this fertiliser made in Scotland, and sufficient got for our own requirements. In regard to superphosphates, are they being secured in sufficient quantities? We are told that the A form of potash is about to be made. We all know that for many years we used to get our sulphate of potash from Germany. At that time agricultural scientists told us it was absolutely 1899 essential that potash should be utilised as a mixture for fertilising. We have done without potash for the first three years of the War, and now this Report tells us the Board are offering to give to farmers a supply of what is called blast-furnace flue dust as a potash fertiliser. I indeed hope that an investigation—not only an analysis, which can easily be obtained, but an investigation—will be undertaken as to whether this will in a practical way meet the requirements of the farmer.
On page 39 we are told that the necessary steps have been taken to secure a sufficient quantity of petrol for agricultural purposes. In addition to petrol I think the Board ought also to extend their supervision over the oil for other engines for essential work, and I hope that the Minister for Agriculture will so extend his care. I also would call his attention to the desirability of watching the supply of coal—that it should be ear-marked for essential operations. I will not keep the Committee longer, but will just refer briefly to one or two other points. On page 47 we are told that arrangements have been made for transport, and I would note how essential it is that proper steps should be taken to see that farmers get the necessary transport. Last year there were very great difficulties indeed, notwithstanding that the railway wagons were pooled. I do not know whether it is possible for the Government to take over all the privately-owned wagons. If that could be done it would enormously increase the number of wagons which can be got for agricultural purposes. In connection with transport there is one very important matter—the necessity of railway sacks. Last season all over Scotland there was great difficulty on the part of the farmers in getting railway sacks. I hope proper precautions are being taken under this head. Of course, our Northern agriculturists are to-day doing a great deal of work in co-operation with the Ministry of Food. On pages 47 and 48 of this Report we are told what the activities have been. I have had very many complaints brought to my notice of the fact that the Board have not consulted what one may call the responsible and agricultural people of Scotland before they consented to the prices which the Ministry of Food put before them.
For instance, the question of the production of forage is a matter of great importance 1900 throughout Scotland. There is a Forage Committee in Edinburgh, and although it is what you may call a judicial committee, and reported last year in favour of a certain price for hay and forage, what did the War Office do? In an autocratic manner they came down and disregarded all the facts and figures placed before them by this impartial tribunal, and paid no heed to their recommendations. The War Office set all their proposals on one side, and fixed their own price. I understand that the Board of Agriculture did not consult in this matter any of the responsible organisations in Scotland; they did not consult either the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture or the National Farmers' Union. I do think in these critical times it is well that our Board of Agriculture should hear the farmers' views first before prices are fixed. The Board ought to take every possible and reasonable step to ascertain the views of the producers through their authorised representatives. Only the other day I had several communications relating to strawberries, all complaining that the price had been fixed with the knowledge and consent of the Board of Agriculture at a ruinous figure. I think in regard to this question, the Board of Agriculture might have consulted the organised and representative bodies connected with the production.
In all farm operations labour is an essential part. On page 50 of this Report we are told that the Board has been consulted as to what number of men could be taken away from the land, and it has been agreed that 5,500 men may be taken from the land at this time. We know that many of these men are key-men to the industry. They have been taken, and my right hon. Friend opposite has very rightly raised this question in an authoritative manner. These key-men have been taken, and we are far more unable to replace those men from casual sources than we used to be in ordinary pre-war times when Scottish agriculture got a great amount of excellent labour from Ireland. The young Irishmen who came to Scotland were excellent workers, and they could very soon do the essential work on farms and take the place of the key-men. That source of casual labour is not now available, and therefore it is all the more necessary that these men should not be taken. Of course, we are bound to recognise that the military situation must be 1901 considered first. I am not complaining of this, but I think after those men are taken it will be absolutely essential that our Board of Agriculture should enter into very close consultation and have what you might call friendly consultation with the farmers' representative organisations, so that all the other forms and sources of casual labour, and all substituted labour whatever it may be, whether discharged soldiers or women, or any other source, should be, as it were, controlled in a way which is in conformity with the views of the organised agricultural union. Let us have an end put to these things being done without consultation with the farmers' representatives. If the Board will only take the farmers and their organisation a little more into their confidence they will find that the farmers will rally to the national cause and do everything they can in a way worthy of them and of our country.
§ Sir HENRY COWAN
I want to call attention to the comb-out of agricultural workers in Scotland. It is that the total number to be taken from agriculture has been fixed at 5,500, and it is obvious that this is a perfectly fair proportion as compared with the number to be taken in England. It does seem to me, however, that in taking this number no regard has been paid to any geographical distribution in Scotland, and there seems to be no system under which a given quota is to be provided by a particular county or agricultural district. The result in practice is that certain counties are being depleted of agricultural labour while other counties are said to be favoured. I am certain from information furnished to me by my Constituents that there has been too large a number of agricultural workers combed out from farms and small holdings in the part of the county which I represent. It would not be in order for me to criticise the operations of the Ministry of National Service, because they are not under the control of the Secretary for Scotland. However, the Board of Agriculture for Scotland is under the control of the right hon. Gentleman, and I understand that the Minister for National Service does not withdraw labour from agriculture if the Scottish Board of Agriculture certifies in favour of the exemption of particular workers, and it seems to me that these certificates have been granted by the Board of Agriculture for Scotland in a most arbitrary and un 1902 reasonable manner. There are many cases in my Constituency in which men who would be taken under the clean cut have been returned to their farms in consequence of the action of the Board of Agriculture, but, on the other hand, there are cases which seem quite as deserving where the men have been refused any assistance by the Scottish Board of Agriculture. I know many cases of men of twenty-seven, twenty-eight and twenty-nine, who have been taken while younger men have been left.
In this matter I find many anomalies and contradictions, and there seems to be no consistency in it whatever. Not only as between different districts and counties is the administration apparently unfair, but often it is unfair as between different parishes in the same district. You will find families who have given two, three, and four sons to the Army, and some in which two or three sons have given then-lives, and yet the remaining son in that family has been remorselessly taken. This might be necessary if men could not be got in any other way, but when you find on an adjoining farm three or four sons of military age who have apparently not even been asked to join the Army, and who have been exempted without making out any strong case to justify it, it seems to me that there is something gravely wrong. I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of National Service last week if his attention had been called to these anomalies in the administration of the Act in Scotland, and he replied that his attention had not been drawn to them. I think it is only right that I should take this opportunity of calling the attention of the Secretary for Scotland to these circumstances, and ask him at any rate to use his influence with the Board of Agriculture to see that the combing out of these men is conducted on lines which are fair as between districts and between families and individuals.
I desire to refer to the question of afforestation and to the Report of the Forestry Sub-committee. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman the, Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Tennant) said in regard to the pressing necessity for this question being dealt with. There can be no doubt as to that. I do not propose to add anything to what he has so well said on that subject, but I wish to say a word with regard to the machinery which the Sub-committee on afforestation 1903 desire to set up. This Committee consisted of thirteen gentlemen, of whom only three were Scotsmen, and I do not think that is a fair proportion considering that Scotland is much more seriously interested in this question of afforestation and forestry questions than England. I do not think I am wrong in saying that the proportion of land in Scotland suitable for sylviculture is quite three to one as compared with England, and yet you find a Committee set up dealing with the whole question of afforestation, and out of thirteen members only three represent Scotland, and out of those three two represent the landlord interest.
§ Sir H. COWAN
Yes, I agree; but the proportion is not quite fair. I should be sorry to suggest that either of those two gentlemen representing the landlord interest should not be members of the Committee, but I would like to see a few additional members representing Scotland and representing a different class of interest. The Committee recommends that a central authority should be set up to control forestry matters and afforestation throughout the United Kingdom. It proposes, therefore, to entirely separate and divorce forestry from agriculture. Representing, as I do, an agricultural constituency, I have formed a strong opinion that that divorce is not a proper one, that the connection between forestry and agriculture is so close that it is quite natural and proper that the Department which controls agriculture should also control forestry matters. Especially is that so when you take into account the number of small holdings which exist, and the effort that is made constantly to increase the number. The attention of the House has already been called by the previous speaker to the connection between small holdings and forestry from the point of view of employment. The cultivation of a small holding does not imply continuous employment and sufficient employment all the year round, and some subsidiary employment is almost necessary. That subsidiary employment could be considerably increased in many districts, and certainly in my own Constituency, by the close association of agriculture and forestry. It may be suggested that no considerable danger exists of the recommendations of this body 1904 being put into practice, but I do not think we can treat them so lightly, although I would like to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that Mr. Bromley, a representative of the Treasury, in a Minority Report says:I am not convinced of the necessity for creating an entirely new central department to control afforestation in the United Kingdom. Theoretically this might be the proper solution if forestry operations were now being started by the State ab initio. But there is already a forestry branch of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, while the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, which was constituted as recently as February, 1912, was specially charged with the promotion of forestry in Scotland as one of its most important duties. The Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland has also acquired experience in forestry operations. While there are, of course, some obvious advantages in the policy of concentration recommended in the body of the Report, such advantages do not appear to me sufficient to justify a reversal of the policy of decentralisation which at present obtains in regard to afforestation as a part of afforestation policy generally.I do not know whether it is suggested as a justification for this proposed change that the arrangement made in the Act of 1913 has failed. I do not think that that is a reasonable contention, if it is the contention of those who support this policy. For it must be remembered that the time which has elapsed since this arrangement was made and this authority was set up has been four years of war, during which all conditions have been abnormal and increasingly abnormal. I submit there has been no sufficient time to test the value of the machinery set up in 1913, and no adequate staff attached to the Department nor money available for its purposes. The Development Commissioners have, I think, provided all the money they could reasonably provide for this purpose. I have in my hand an answer to a question which appears on the Paper of the House to-day, and in the course of that answer I find the following:Since the reorganisation of their Forestry Department in October last, the Board have applied for and supported Grants from the Development Fund for forestry purposes amounting to £16,430, in addition to annual Grants of £80 for seventy years and £1,500 for five years. The Development Commissioners have recommended, or agreed to recommend, all these applications with the exception of a proposed Grant of £2,500 capital expenditure with a maintenance of £1,500 for five years for a school of practical forestry, in regard to which the Development Commissioners postponed consideration until the Government proposals for forestry administration had matured.1905 I quote that as satisfying me, at any rate, that since the reorganisation which the Secretary of Scotland carried through in October last the Development Commissioners and the Board have together adopted as enterprising a policy as was possible in the circumstances, and I submit that before the proposal of this Subcommittee should be seriously considered or entertained an opportunity should be given for the return of normal conditions in the period of peace and reconstruction. I protest against the separation of agriculture and forestry. It is inimical, in my view, to the interests of both and certainly inimical to the interests of an agricultural constituency like my own in Aberdeenshire, where there are large areas suitable for afforestation. As a Scottish Member, I protest against the setting-up of a special Committee in London to control afforestation in Scotland. On a former occasion the Secretary for Scotland poured ridicule on the suggestion, saying this Committee in London would be 400 miles away from the nearest Scottish tree. It is absurd. You have no analagous case. Of course you have the Scottish Education Authority in London, but all the Scottish Members are agreed that it ought not to be there.
§ Sir H. COWAN
I cannot go so far as that, but I think it ought to be in the capital of the country whose education it attempts to administer. I think we should do very badly to follow such an example. The Education Department has a sort of sub-authority in Edinburgh. I think Scottish afforestation should be managed by the Scottish Board of Agriculture in Edingurgh, and that by following the recommendations of this Sub-committee we should take a very retrograde step. We want decentralisation, not centralisation; Scottish affairs managed in Scotland and not from London. I hope the Scottish Members will support me in this view, and if it should be considered necessary to have one central authority, that authority should, be located in the country in which forestry is a most important matter and not in a country where it is a relatively unimportant matter. If there is to be one Board, I submit that Board should be in Edinburgh and not in London.
§ Mr. HOGGE
We have come round again in the course of our Parliamentary 1906 Session to the day on which we discuss Scottish Estimates, and we have on the Order Paper eleven separate Votes which presumably we have to get through inside seven hours. That means some forty minutes for each separate Vote, and we have already spent very much more than the forty minutes which are available for this Vote, which has not yet been sufficiently discussed, and upon which especially those Scottish Members who are not here are very desirous of delivering themselves. The speech we have just listened to has drawn attention to the fact that in agriculture in Scotland the comb-out has been very badly done. I am glad my hon. Friend drew the attention of what remains of the Committee to that fact, because in the Lobby of the House of Commons to-day there is a very large deputation of Scotsmen who are complaining of an exactly similar method. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland has seen them or not, but as a matter of fact the whole of the saw-milling industry is very likely to be considerably upset as a result of the action proposed by the National Service Department in the Windsor Hotel, Victoria Street, London, one of those places distant 400 miles from the nearest Scottish tree. And what we feel here who are compelled to remain in the House to discuss other and British affairs in which we are less interested than in our own is that the Secretary for Scotland does not pay nearly enough attention to the interference with Scotland of this or that extra Department which is in or around London.
The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Murray Macdonald)
The hon. Member must pay more attention to the Vote now before the Committee. He has carried the discussion far beyond it.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I quite agree, but you allowed my hon. Friend to refer to the comb out of agriculture, and I was referring to the comb out in sylviculture, and pointing out what was being done through the non-interference of the Secretary for Scotland with those outside authorities which are interfering with Scotland. But there is enough interest in the Report to keep strictly in order, and no one has put the point. I hope the Secretary for Scotland will take note of it, even if you rule him out of order in replying. The business of the Scottish Board of Agriculture comes up year after 1907 year and gets a certain amount of criticism. One leaves the House satisfied of having done a certain amount of duty in drawing attention to the derelictions of the Board of Agriculture and hoping there will be a change before the next Estimates come along, but nothing happens, and I think it is time to put an end to this continual annual review of Scottish Departments that just do pretty much as they like and have no relevance at all to Scottish opinions as expressed in this House. There are one or two points of detail I want to refer to before I take some of the bigger questions in the Vote. I notice in the Board of Agriculture Vote on page 106 that we have in the list of salaries, wages and allowances, types again of the kind of thing that we have continually to raise objection to in the House of Commons. I notice, for instance, there are messengers employed by the Board of Agriculture, three of whom are described in the notes at the bottom of the page as messengers who receive military pensions of 2s. 3d., 1s. 0½d., and 8½d. a day respectively. You will notice, if you look at the figures given, that these men are allowed 24s. a week, so that this munificent Government of ours is paying these men 24s. a week, and, presumably, they are glad to get it, which is a less wage than you pay a girl typist in any Government Department, and, indeed, a less wage probably than you pay girls who are not typists, and you pay them these wages because, forsooth, they are in receipt of military pensions. If there is one thing we are going to make perfectly certain of this year it is this: that the Government are not going to be allowed to pay a man less than a living wage because he is in receipt of a military pension. My right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland ought to make it his business to look into every one of the Departments under his care and ascertain how many of the people in his employment are in receipt of wages, which, as I have said, are not living wages (because 24s. a week will not keep anybody to-day in food, let alone any other necessaries), because they happen to have this pension. I hope that my right hon. Friend will make a point of going through these Estimates, and thus save us from raising the question with regard to particular individuals upon estimate after estimate. There are eight 1908 people altogether in the Board of Agriculture who axe in this position, and when he replies I hope that he will take some notice of the matter.
The addition of a man's pension to his wage brings up the reference in the Report of the Board of Agriculture to discharged and disabled men in Scotland and the question what the Board of Agriculture are doing for them. I have tried to piece this story together from the Sixth Report, but it is not a continuous story, being scattered throughout the volume, and it is very difficult to ascertain what is being done, and how far the schemes proposed have been advanced. When the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate (Mr. Tennant) was Secretary for Scotland, he entered into an iniquitous bargain with the Duke of Sutherland for an estate in the north of Scotland, called the Borgie Estate, which the present Prime Minister described as the lean, scraggy end of the huge joint of the Duke of Sutherland's estate. It was that particular estate that he and his Government took over from the Duke of Sutherland for this purpose. We protested very strongly at the time against that bargain. If I remember rightly, the Government were to spend some £20,000 in two years upon the estate, which is in so inaccessible a part of Scotland that in order to reach it you require to build a new railway, or otherwise you have to walk, for the purpose of bringing it into use for discharged soldiers. Presumably, the idea was to get them as far away as possible from the War. There is nothing said in the Report about what has been done, or whether there are any soldiers upon the estate now. I very much doubt whether you will ever get any discharged men upon the estate who can make any profitable use of the opportunity that is afforded them. As a matter of fact, the Borgie farm has been depreciating in value every year for the last 100 years. I believe its last valuation in the valuation rolls of Scotland showed a drop of over £305. The farm itself has been tenantless for long enough. The last tenant gave it up some fourteen or fifteen years ago, because he could make nothing of it. That was the estate which was heralded by the Press and the Government as a generous gift to the State by the Duke of Sutherland. Is there a single discharged man upon it, and, if so, how large a part of the farm is he working, 1909 and what is he doing? Has the State spent any of the £20,000 they promised to spend on this particular, farm in mating it habitable for any discharged soldier? There are other experiments of the same kind in Scotland about which I hope the Secretary for Scotland will tell us something. The hon. Member who spoke last (Sir H. Cowan) referred to the connection between agriculture and afforestry. The Board of Agriculture were to give discharged men training in afforestry. Have they trained a single discharged man in Scotland in afforestry? That is a very simple question, to which a very simple answer can be given. Have the Board of Agriculture set up any facilities at all throughout Scotland for this purpose? These are one or two questions with regard to the discharged men that might be worth answering.
With regard to the general policy of the Board of Agriculture, I suppose it is rather beating a dead horse to criticise it during the War. If one were to say, what is true, that they have never overtaken anything like a tithe of the applications that they have for land, or that the administration of the Small Holders Act has been largely futile, I suppose the reply would be, "Because we are at war, because money is not available, and because of this, that, and the other nothing has been done." Perhaps, therefore, it is not fair to accuse the present Secretary for Scotland of any lack of desire to see those things made really administratively effective. After all, one would like to know what progress has been made, how many more holdings have been created, and how many applications, real live applications—I do not mean applications which are dead because of the War—have been satisfied during the past year. Finally, perhaps the Secretary for Scotland will tell us what arrangements the Board of Agriculture are making in Scotland for discharged men who apply for Land when they return. We know that south of the Tweed, after nearly two years' work by these large Departments that get on with the War, that five discharged men are actually on the land to-day. If that is going to be the kind of thing that we are to expect north of the Tweed, it will be very unsatisfactory. I should be glad to know what arrangements the right hon. Gentleman has made with regard to the settlement on the land of men who are fit to go upon the land when they return. If we get answers to those questions and 1910 others that have been put, perhaps we can continue the discussion further on the Board of Agriculture Vote, but we have already exhausted the forty minutes which can be allowed to this one subject in this British Parliament which pretends to govern Scotland.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
The point which I desire to raise has to do with the immediate future under very pressing national necessities. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us something about the position of the agricultural labour in Scotland. We are told that 5,500 men, who have been described as holding the key of the industry—I think that was a phrase used by a present member of the Government—are to be taken. The taking of these men will not merely affect the ingathering of the harvest this year, but it will also affect the production of the harvest next year. No doubt I shall be told that we must take England and Scotland together. I agree; but the total number of men involved in both England and Scotland is only 35,000 or thereabouts. This is a great day when we are welcoming with all our hearts the alliance of the United States, and the remarkable official announcement has been made on the part of the United States that they have actually sent 1,000,000 men over to Europe, and that in a short time they are going to vastly increase that number. If that is true—and we know that it is perfectly true—why should it be necessary, for the sake of taking that very small number of men, to place agriculture in Scotland in the position in which it will be placed by taking them? Is there any sense of proportion in such a proposal? Is there any balancing of judgment in such a proposal? For the sake of getting a handful of men you are going to work immense mischief. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture for England (Mr. Prothero) has confessed—I have no doubt that it is equally true of Scotland—that the Government have pledged themselves, as deeply as any Government can pledge themselves, that if the farmers of England and Scotland do certain things which they desire them to do they shall have the labour for the ingathering of the harvest. He admitted that it was a breach of faith—I think he used that phrase—to the farmers of the two countries. Can my right hon. Friend tell us, on behalf of the Government, how he justifies incurring this real national danger to our food 1911 supply this harvest, and, what is not less important, endangering the next harvest, because if you break faith with the farmers you will not get them to repeat their efforts next year? Can he tell us what sense of proportion there is in a proposal of this kind?
§ Mr. MUNRO
I regret that the discussion upon the Scottish Estimates this year has come on unexpectedly and that a, number of my colleagues who otherwise would have been here are unable to be in attendance to-day. The discussion which we have had, however, has been characterised by good sense and good feeling, as is usual on these occasions. One of the main subjects which have been canvassed is that of forestry, and reference has been made to the Report of the Reconstruction Sub-committee, which contains certain recommendations as to the area to be planted and as to the authority which is to control forestry. I am sorry that I cannot offer any considered opinion to the House on this matter, for the very simple reason, as announced a few days ago, that the document is under the consideration of the War Cabinet. It would therefore be quite improper for me at this stage, when the Report is sub judice, to express any view with regard to the proposals either on the one side or the other. I can only say that both points of view which have been expressed in the House to-day, the one by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Tennant) and the other by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire (Sir H. Cowan), are being fully considered before a decision is reached. I think, however, it is perfectly right that I should tell the House in a few sentences what has been done in forestry under the auspices of the Board of Agriculture.
Certain criticisms have been made regarding their supineness in this matter, and, in view of those criticisms, I should like to tell the Committee exactly what is going on. I shall be perfectly frank in the matter. In the absence of Mr. Sutherland in France—Mr. Sutherland was in charge, as the Committee well know, of forestry in Scotland, and rendered very valuable services to it—I have entrusted the charge of that particular Department to Dr. Greig, another member of the Board. The Forestry Department of the Board, for the first time, has been divided into two sections. On the one hand, there is the scientific, statistical, 1912 and research section, which is under the charge of Dr. Borthwick, a very distinguished forestry expert. On the other hand, I have appointed Mr. Gordon, of the West of Scotland College, to be in charge of another and quite separate section, namely, the practical section, which has to do with the afforestation schemes. That division has already been carried out in India with very successful results, and, so far as one can judge—the thing was only arranged in October—it is working very well in Scotland, and a good deal of useful work, under most difficult conditions, has already been accomplished.
I will tell the Committee one or two of the schemes which are now in hand. There have been two forestry nurseries set up, one at Hairmyers in the West, and the other in Aberdeenshire. There has been a very important collection and purchase of seed. I am not sure that the Committee realises, any more than I did at first, how important that matter is. As a result of the collection of seed organised by the Board, practically the whole of the available seed in the country has been saved. Owing to the abnormal felling, the situation, apart from that supply of Scottish seed, would be of a most critical character. In answer to what the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) said, there has been a scheme arranged for the training of discharged soldiers in forestry. That scheme is in operation at the present moment, and sixteen discharged soldiers—my hon. Friend asked this pointed question, and I am giving him my answer—have already been placed on the woodlands, under proper auspices, with the most satisfactory results. That scheme for the training of discharged soldiers, in my judgment, requires as a complement a school of practical forestry, and in connection with both of these schemes I want to acknowledge the valuable assistance which I have received from the hon. and gallant Member for West Perthshire (Colonel Stirling), who has been extremely good in connection with the working out of the two schemes. I have sanctioned the carrying out of a school of practical forestry. The buildings are being erected. It is necessary as a corollary to the scheme to which I have just referred for training discharged soldiers. A site has been given by Colonel Fotheringham, of Murthley, and the erection of buildings is now progressing. I hope that the school will be open in October. 1913 The woods at Murthley, Dunkeld, and the neighbouring estates have been made available for the training of these men. In addition to these particular projects, there is one other to which I should like to refer. There is a very important scheme, on which I have sanctioned an expenditure of, I think, £5,000, in connection with the clearing and burning of felled areas in Scotland. This amounts to a very large extent, unfortunately, at the present time. The work is of very great importance and urgency as well, for unless these felled areas are immediately cleaned and burned, they are the subject of certain pests of a most destructive character. To meet that danger the Board have organised supplies of labour drawn from schoolboys, convalescent soldiers, women, and other sources, and considerable progress has already been made for the carrying out of that scheme.
§ Mr. MUNRO
On areas all over the country. It is not confined to one person's land. These areas have been cleared and burned in a large variety in different places. Schoolboys' camps have already been arranged for in this connection, and I hope they will go on this season just as successfully as last. Then a flying survey has been undertaken, in which a Scottish representative is to take part, starting operations early in this month, which will survey representative areas in different parts of Scotland. Lastly, in connection with forestry, a very large number of planting schemes are under consideration by the Board. Some 13,000 acres are at present under consideration, including the scheme at Craigmyle, to which reference has been made in this House before now, and in connection with which I should like to acknowledge the courtesy of Lord Shaw, who has co-operated in the matter.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I think the arrangements are very satisfactory, so far as my advice goes, but I do not think it would be right that before the arrangement is completed and while definite steps are being taken in conjunction with Lord Shaw that I should give the Committee the full details. If the Committee thinks otherwise, I will reconsider the matter and questions can be put down and I will state what has been done.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I will give my hon. Friend this answer; I will tell him so much, and perhaps he will be satisfied with it: It is a lease. The Board has taken a seventy-five years' lease of the land at an agreed rental value of 3s. per acre. All the costs of the planting are to be borne by the Board, and the Board undertakes the management. The ultimate proceeds will be shared between the Board and Lord Shaw, according to the proportion of the cost borne by each, plus 4 per cent at compound interest. That, in rough outline, is the scheme that is now being arranged. I should, however, like the Committee to understand that the document has not yet been signed. I think I have gone a considerable way to meet my hon. Friends.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
May I be allowed to suggest that this document ought not to be completed and the Exchequer bound to this action without this House having something to say to it? It may be all right or it may not.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I am the last person to withdraw from the consideration of the House or the Committee any important act of administration that they desire to discuss, but it is quite impossible, owing to the limitations of time, to submit every administrative act of this kind which the Board has to carry out to the consideration of the House.
§ Mr. MUNRO
Well, I have given my hon. Friend a very full answer upon that particular topic, and any criticism he desires to offer I shall he glad to consider. I am perfectly certain that if one were to come to this House with every one of the 1915 administrative schemes that are being carried out, the House would be the first to blame me for not getting on faster. There are a great; many other forestry schemes, but I need not detain the Committee by details. I have mentioned these facts in order to show the Committee that, so far as forestry is concerned, we have, if I may use the phrase used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Tennant), got a move on, and the moving forward is going on quite satisfactorily. If the Committee have any views to express upon these various matters, I shall be most happy to have them and consider them. I thought it right to rise at this stage, so that if any of my Scottish or English colleagues desired to offer any observation on what I have said in this connection, they might have an opportunity of doing so. Forestry was the first and the main topic touched upon. With regard to the financing of these schemes, perhaps I may add this: As my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen-shire (Sir H. Cowan) said, the amount of money which is flowing into the Board of Agriculture for the purpose of carrying out these various forestry schemes is now on a somewhat more liberal basis than it used to be. Since October the amount granted from the Development Fund for forestry purposes is over £14,000. In other words, all the recommendations which the Board have made received due effect. I do not profess to be satisfied with the progress that has been made. I do not desire to be satisfied with the progress made in any direction, because I always think it is possible to go one better; but I submit to the Committee that I have shown that this subject is not only receiving attention, but that a number of practical schemes are now in course of being carried out.
The next subject which was raised was that of the settlement of soldiers upon the land. I agree that that is a most important subject. But it is also a very difficult one. It is important, as we all agree, that any man who desires to settle upon the land when he comes back from the War should have an opportunity of doing so in this country. I am not sure that I entirely agreed with my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire when he said that men who have been accustomed to the horrors and excitement of war would not take kindly to country life, 1916 possibly in a remote part of Scotland, when they come back. I am not sure of that. My impression is otherwise; but I do not want to dogmatise on the subject. The difficulties are obvious. One difficulty is the uncertainty as to the number of men for whom one has to provide. Another difficulty is the system of long leases under which in Scotland we live. Those are two difficult topics, and one is giving them the best consideration one can. I want to give the Committee, in answer to several questions put to me, an account of the land which has already been secured in Scotland for this purpose. I will divide what I have to say on the matter into three parts. First, there is land which has been given to the Board of Agriculture; secondly, there is land which has been purchased by the Board under the Small Holdings (Colonies) Act; and, thirdly, there is land which is to be utilised under the Small Landholders Act. As regards the first, there are two estates to be mentioned—Borgie, in Sutherlandshire, which was presented by the Duke of Sutherland, the area of which is 10,000 acres. Secondly, there is an estate in Aberdeenshire, given to the nation by a very generous donor, Mr. Brown, a trawler owner, I believe, in Aberdeen. That is at Garriochside, in Aberdeenshire. It is suitable for small holdings and covers an area of 710 acres. I believe that that estate can be utilised very fruitfully in this direction. As regards the Small Holdings (Colonies) Act, the Board has succeeded in purchasing three separate farms, one in Ross-shire named Arabella, with an area of 650 acres, one in Dumfriesshire, named Locharwoods, with an area of 500 acres, and one a part of the Dysart estate, in. Fifeshire, with an area of 700 acres. All these estates consist of excellent arable land, capable of growing good crops and suitable, for small settlers. The Dysart estate in Fifeshire is particularly suitable, both on account of its character and of its proximity to good markets, for intensive cultivation and market gardening. These three estates have exhausted the powers which we possess under the original Small Holdings (Colonies) Act, under which we were limited to 2,000 acres. The Board, I may add, have been in communication with other would-be sellers, and when the new Bill, which is now in another place, reaches the Statute Book, they will be in a position to negotiate and secure 1917 new land for this purpose. With regard to the Small Landholders Act there is first of all the estate of Dounreay in Caithness, which is the property of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests. An arrangement has been made with them to settle soldiers and sailors under the tenure of the Small Landholders Act. The area comprised in that estate is 3,161 acres, and it is anticipated that at least forty holders can be settled on the property.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I understand it is quite suitable for small holdings and it has been purchased by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests with that in view. Then there is Shinness Farm, in Sutherlandshire, which covers 16,000 acres. That has been, by arrangement with the Duke of Sutherland, made available for the settlement of soldiers and sailors, also under the tenure of the Small Landholders Act. A large part of this farm, which is one of the best in the country, is now under pasture, and one of the advantages of that settlement would be to restore this land to arable farming, and that is the intention. The present position of these various properties is this: The difficulties both in connection with labour and material are very great, but considerable progress has been made in making roads, in erecting fences, and in erecting buildings for the settlers. My hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) asked whom we are going to settle at Borgie. Up to the present a limited number of persons, at least twelve and I rather think more, have specially asked to be settled at that particular place. With regard to Shinness, the Board entered into the question only in May, and operations have been begun for the necessary reconstruction and erection of the new buildings there. At Locharwoods the Board entered into possession of half the property recently and will obtain possession of the remaining half in November. The Board has also made an inspection of a large number of additional estates and will be in a position to secure them for the same purpose as soon as the other Bill becomes law. To sum up, with regard to the acreage which is available for the purpose of settling soldiers and sailors upon the land, it is somewhere between 33,000 and 34,000, and power has been taken under the new Bill, which I hope will soon be an Act, to get 20,000 acres more.
1918 With regard to arranging for settling these soldiers and sailors, one has done the best one could. I was asked by my Scottish colleagues some time ago, in a document which they presented to me, to do this. They said, "In the opinion of a conference which was composed of members of all three parties, Liberal, Conservative and Labour, the most hopeful line is that a preliminary private conference should be held between the Secretary for Scotland and the different interests affected." In conformity with that direction, I have made it my business during the last few months, on the occasion of various visits to Scotland, to meet in conference first of all representatives of all the large landowners in Scotland—there were more than fifty of them—then to meet the Highland and Agricultural Society, the Chamber of Agriculture, the National Farmers' Union, and the two small holders' societies. I do not know if any Member of the Committee can suggest any other interest which I could usefully meet. If so, I shall be most happy to endeavour to do so. As far as I can see, I have met all those persons who are interested either as tenants, proprietors or small holders in the land, and I have got a great deal of very useful information from these various sources. The whole subject of the settlement of soldiers and sailors upon the land is at this moment being considered by the War Cabinet. Therefore I am not in a position, any more than I am upon the question of forestry, to announce a definite and concrete policy on the subject, but the Committee may rest assured that this subject has been most carefully considered not only in Scotland, but also on this side of the Border, with a view to reaching the best possible solution of the difficulties which surround it.
The next topic of importance which was discussed was the question of the agricultural call-up, as it has been termed. There I quite recognise the difficulty and the delicacy of the question in its new aspect. We must all, however, recognise the paramount military necessity of the moment, to which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Prothero) referred the other evening in discussing the matter. My right hon. Friend (Mr. McKinnon Wood) asked me certain questions which I wish I could answer frankly in this House, but it is not possible to do so. The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke later the same night, and, as I understood his argument, it was 1919 simply this. The question which the Government had to consider was, Is it necessary in the national interest that these men should be called up from agriculture? And he added that while the Government had reached an affirmative conclusion on that matter it was quite impossible to give to the House the considerations pro and con by means of which they reached that conclusion. He said so quite frankly and the House accepted it. All one can properly say to the Committee—and I can speak of this from personal knowledge—is that all the considerations pro and con have been weighed, not once, but time and again, before a conclusion was reached upon the matter; and my right hon. Friend (Mr. Prothero), than whom there is no greater friend of agriculture, and I myself, in my humble capacity as Minister of Agriculture in Scotland, have been repeatedly heard in the War Cabinet before a decision was reached. It is a question of balancing risks. All I can say, echoing what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other night, is that in this matter the House either must trust the Government or cease to trust the Government.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I do not think that is a question which I am called upon to answer. If I had to answer it I should say the answer was most distinctly in the negative. Do not let it be supposed—I do not think my Scottish colleagues will be apt to suppose—that I, as responsible for agriculture, am unsympathetic towards the industry. I have endeavoured to show the greatest possible sympathy with farmers in the numerous troubles to which they have been subjected since the War broke out. They have shown the greatest patriotism again and again under the most irksome, disagreeable and uncertain conditions, and it is the uncertainty of the future which is probably one of the greatest difficulties with which they can fee confronted. After all, one has to maintain a certain sense of proportion in the matter, and to remember that while at home we have suffered very slight inconvenience—almost nominal inconvenience most of us—in connection with the War, those who are conducting it on the other side of the sea are suffering not only inconvenience but danger, to 1920 which none of us have been subjected, whether farmers or otherwise. And surely when one remembers that these men have given up comfort and safety and business, and even life itself, in order that they may defend the country, some of us at home who have not had to make this sacrifice, and who might otherwise be inclined to grumble, may very well hesitate to do so.
When I say that, I am not in the least suggesting that the agricultural difficulty is not a very real one. No one realises that more than I do. England and Scotland, however, are on the same footing. The 30,000 in England corresponds arithmetically with the 5,500 in Scotland. As 30,000 is the total of the male agricultural workers in England, 5,500 is the total of the male agricultural labour on the other side of the Border. Accordingly, having got the same treatment for agriculturists on the North side of the Border as on this, I am afraid we must do the best we can in a very difficult and trying situation. The problem has now resolved itself into one of substituted labour, and I was rather struck, when listening to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Wood), who spoke very strongly on this subject, with the difference between his speech and that of the hon. Member (Mr. Hope), a practical agriculturist, who, knowing, voicing, and realising the difficulties of agriculture, came here to-day, and said, "I make no complaint about the taking of these men. I recognise that it is in the national interest, but the problem of substitution is the one with which I am now concerned." I think that is a very fair statement of the case, and accordingly all our energies must now be bent to the task of securing, in so far as it can be secured, substituted labour to take the places of the men who have gone away. I am quite sure from what I have seen and know of farmers during the last eighteen months or more that they will submit without a murmur to any inconvenience or irksome arrangement, provided they are satisfied that it has been reached with a single eye to the national safety, and that it is reasonably adequate for that purpose. So long as I am responsible for agriculture in Scotland it will be my endeavour to secure, so far as it can be secured, that labour should be obtained for the purpose not only of securing this harvest, but for sowing the crops for next year.
My right hon. Friend (Mr. Tennant) referred to the accounts of the Board of 1921 Agriculture, and said they were stated in a somewhat confused way. I am sure they are stated in precisely the same way as they were stated when he stood where I do. I am told that there is no difference whatever in the statement of accounts during these last four or five years; but if an improvement can be effected, it will certainly be done. I am grateful to him for pointing out that there is difficulty in the matter. He also referred to two Orders under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, one about rabbits and one about grouse. With regard to the first of these he said the word "adjoining" was a word of somewhat vague character, and the Regulation might lend itself to abuse. I have said in public before now in Scotland that if it were shown that the Regulation was in any way abused, or that the word "adjoining" was wrongly construed, I would make it my business to put the matter right. So far as I am aware, no complaint of that character has been made in any quarter, and the Regulation has been reasonably interpreted and reasonably applied without any grievance in any part of Scotland so far as my information goes. As regards the date of grouse shooting, I am told that so far as one can foresee there may be a great many grouse in Scotland this year. I am not a sportsman like my right hon. Friend, and I can only speak on information, but I am told that it is probable. In considering whether or not to alter the date this year, as I did last year, I shall certainly bear in mind what he has said.
The hon. and gallant Member for West Perthshire made a speech in regard to Inverailort. I thank him for the moderation with which he stated the case. The Board, early in 1917, had certain applications made to them from persons who desired to restock farms in that particular deer forest, but as the proprietrix was not prepared to meet the Board by a definite arrangement—such is my information—the Board entered into possession of about one-tenth part of the deer forest under the Defence of the Realm Act. The case really does not differ in its broad aspects from quite a number of cases in which the Board has used its powers under that Act in order to make deer forests available for sheep grazing. The results of restocking cannot possibly appear in a single season, but I have promised to go carefully into the matter, in the light of the proprietrix's correspondence with me, after 31st July, when 1922 I shall have a return from the Board's tenant, dealing with the various matters included in the questions which the hon. and gallant Member put to me. I think I must ask him to accept that assurance for the time being. In regard to the points raised by the hon. Member for Buteshire, he said that the county agricultural committees in Scotland had done a great deal of work, and had not been thanked for it by the Board. I should be very sorry to find that is so. I think he will find on page 34 the thanks of the Board are tendered to these committees, but even if that were not so, I should desire myself, speaking on behalf of the Government, to tender to these committees our most hearty thanks for the most valuable services they have rendered in connection with the increased production of food in Scotland. In regard to ploughs, we have got every kind of plough which can be got in any quarter. The results of the working of the tractors have not yet come in, but the work has, I am told, been very satisfactory. In regard to fertilisers, I believe there is now new machinery in operation for a better allocation between the various parts of the two countries. My hon. Friend rather complained that the Board did not sufficiently often consult agricultural opinion in Scotland. The Board is very willing to do that, and, from my personal knowledge, it has done so very frequently.
With respect to the fixing of the prices of hay, wool, and strawberries, I may say that in regard to the price of hay the Board's Advisory Committee on hay consists, I am told, of a majority of producers. Of course, the Board cannot induce the War Office always to accept the price which their advisory Committee think is the proper price. In regard to the price of wool, it is very much in the same position. I think the Board supported the price for which the three agricultural societies contended, but the War Office did not find itself in a position to go as far as they desired. In regard to the twice of strawberries, I do not know that agricultural societies are very much concerned, but I am told the Board consulted the principal growers before assenting to the price which was fixed. The Member for East Aberdeen-shire referred to certain discrepancies in the matter of the calling up of men from agriculture. I am not aware of the discrepancy to which he referred in Aberdeenshire, 1923 but if he will give me particulars of the cases, I will have them inquired into.
The Member for East Edinburgh referred to the Board of Agriculture in somewhat critical terms. I am sorry he should have done that I am sure if he realised the unselfish and devoted way in which the Board is carrying on its work under most difficult conditions, with a depleted staff, and with more work than the Board of Agriculture in the past has ever had to carry on, he would rather sympathise than criticise. I cannot pay too high a tribute to the devoted services rendered by every member of the Board from the highest to the lowest, especially under the trying conditions and with a very small staff as compared with the time of peace. In regard to the payment of messengers which my hon. Friend raised, I will have that looked into; but I would point out that these messengers, whose wages he says are 24s., have already had a very considerable war bonus of something like 11s. added to their wages, so that their condition is not so bad as my hon. Friend says. I am sorry to detain the Committee so long, but several points of real magnitude and importance have been raised. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh has reminded us, we have eleven Votes to get, and, while not in the least seeking unduly to limit the discussion on them, I hope we shall get through the work we have to do at a reasonable hour.
Mr. DUNDAS WHITE
We have listened with great interest to what the Secretary for Scotland has said on these various points, but I think his observations give rise to other questions and there are some points which have not been dealt with. In speaking of the way in which the finance is presented in the Report of the Board my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire dealt with the way in which certain financial statements were made. The Secretary for Scotland has promised that he will consider this question further. I will put this same point to him on a higher scale, which I hope will receive consideration. The total estimate for the Board is very considerable. It exceeds £80,000, to which should be added another £5,000 for buildings, stationery, and so on, and it is growing. With the Estimates arranged as they are, I suggest that in future years the Report should be 1924 as far as possible co-ordinated with the Estimates in order that the Report and the Estimates may be read together. We have a general statement of accounts in the Estimates, but when we want to see the details of some of these things in the Board's Report we are quite unable to trace them and the figures are not given where they ought to be given. In the manifold activities which the Board is undertaking, where huge amounts are concerned, the general expenditure should be a subject of costing over the various Departments, and the Estimates and Reports should be so co-ordinated that we can trace that expenditure throughout and see what we are paying for the various work done in the same way as if it were private business. I am not suggesting that it should be done just like a private-business, but I suggest that this matter should be treated on more business lines and that there should be co-ordination.
The Report refers to the effect of increased prices on land settlement. We all know how much the difficulties of land settlement have been added to by the increase of prices in various ways. One increase in price has been the increase in the price of land. That has been found in England, and I believe it has been found in Scotland, but I do not find that referred to at all. The same paragraph deals with one case where a farm had become vacant and was apparently wanted for small holdings, and the landlord was entitled to a considerable amount from the outgoing tenant. The Board paid an amount in order to get the small holdings, and the Report says that the loss in crops and sheep stock was very considerable. In a case like that I think we ought to have more detailed information so that we might know where we are. I do not like these generalities. Why should not particulars of expenditure be given with a view to showing that in the circumstances it was the best thing to do. As regards the amount of land taken under the Small Holdings Colonies Act, my right hon. Friend said that the area which may be acquired for the purpose has been increased tenfold. I was rather surprised to hear him speak of purchasing that additional area, because my remembrance of that Bill is that the additional amount shall not be purchased, but shall be acquired by lease, perpetual or otherwise, which, of course, would include feus. In the case of Borgie Farm, this is a case which has been advertised far and wide 1925 throughout Scotland. Here again we only get generalities. It is common ground that no one has yet been settled on the farm, and I believe the Board are keeping the farm in their own hands until such a time as a sufficient number of discharged soldiers and sailors is available. It has been managed by one of the Board's officers for the past year, so the Report declares, with satisfactory results. I should like to know something further. Since this farm has been in the hands of the Board has the result been a profit or a loss? What is meant by "satisfactory results"? Here is a case which we have heard of again and again all over Scotland, and surely in a special note dealing with the present position we should get information not only in generalities, but what is the exact financial position.
I now come to a matter to which I hope I shall have the right hon. Gentleman's attention, because it is a matter of great importance so far as the Small Landholders Act is concerned There is a paragraph on page 12 which presents a difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman may perhaps be able to explain. It says:In the case of the Middlebank settlement in Perthshire, where eleven full-sized holdings were created by the Board in 1914, the estate was recently exposed for sale by public auction. The holders would have preferred to continue as tenants under the Small Landholders (Scotland) Acts, but, rather than risk the possibility of losing holdings with which they were fully satisfied, in almost every case they bought the subjects.The Report goes on to say that the fact that the holders were in a position to buy the subjects shows how well they had been going on. Here we have a case in which, according to the terms of the Report, small holdings were created in 1914, and the men were in possession of these small holdings under the small landholders' tenure. Were these men threatened with loss of their holdings by reason of the fact that the proprietorship was sold? I was under the impression that those who were settled under small landholders' tenure were entitled to continue that tenure, and that no transfer of the landlord's right could affect them. I would like to know how that matter stands, because if they had the small landowners' security of tenure they were under a misapprehension in thinking that they could have been turned out. If they had not security of tenure, then they have been led to purchase under a misapprehension as to their rights, and if this is so I can only say that when this 1926 House passed that Act we understood that we were giving security of tenure under the terms of the small-holding system created. It is a very important point and one which goes to the position of smallholders in Scotland.
In reference to the acquisition of these farms to which my right hon. Friend has referred, I would like to know something of the terms on which they were acquired. We have several pages devoted to those farms' and other properties that are being acquired. We hear what the rent has been in the past, but we do not hear on what terms they have been bought. It is very important that we should know. I hope that in future Reports we shall have satisfactory information on various points of this kind. The question of afforestation which was referred to is, we are all agreed, a very important matter, but if you are to start in a practical way you must first know on what terms you are doing it. I understand from my right hon. Friend that the plot to which he referred, which has been leased for afforestation, has been leased for a period of seventy-five years. I understand also, though possibly I may be wrong, that the profits during those seventy-five years are to be divided between the landlord and the Board of Agriculture. What is to happen at the end of the seventy-five years with the trees that have been planted at public expense but are not yet ripe for timber? Trees become ripe at different times. You may have some wind-swept, and you may have others damaged in various ways, and you are, or you ought to be, replanting all the time. At the end of the seventy-five years the guillotine falls. Is that a basis on which an individual or company would go in for afforestation? Not in the least. Yet in Scotland we have every possibility of the best system, because we have here the feuing system, and feus can and ought to be obtained in Scottish law practice everywhere. Why not feu property for afforestation? Why not take it on a feu which may be looked upon as a perpetual tenure at a rent arranged beforehand? I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that something of that sort should be done.
Until we get some satisfactory system of acquiring land for afforestation, afforestation is a vague scheme, and you cannot have it on anything like a business basis. I know that in many cases we may assist in the plantation of private lands. If so, let us do so with our eyes open. If we 1927 assist in increasing the value of private property, let us have a charge placed on that property, so that private individuals may not gain by public expense. This question of the terms upon which land should be acquired for afforestation is of first-rate importance. Closely connected with it is another matter—the burning of timber that has been blown down in order to prevent the multiplication of insect pests. I understand that the Board of Agriculture has granted something like £5,000 towards this very desirable end; but, if this public money is to be spent on private property, those who benefit by that expenditure ought at least to make a substantial contribution, or, if they are not in a position to make a substantial contribution, then a certain charge ought to be placed on that land under the Improvement of Lands Act, if you like, so that the public will be recouped for the expenditure of public money on the improvement of private property. I could wish that my right hon. Friend, when dealing with these various matters, had seen his way to give us some assurances on these points. I hope that my right hon. Friend will deal particularly with these latter points, and also with the point which I raised as to those small-holders who hold land under the Small-holders Act.
§ Mr. J. HENDERSON
I think it rather a misfortune that this Committee on Scottish Estimates was fixed for to-day. It was rather quickly arranged, with the result that several Members are in Scotland now who would very gladly have been here, but had made other arrangements, and thus have not been able to take part in this Debate as they generally do every year. I quite agree that the Board of Agriculture have had a great deal to do, and I do not pass any criticism on them in that respect. They have not only had to deal with the Act which created them—the Act of 1911—but on looking through the Report I find that they have also had to deal directly or indirectly with no fewer than ten Acts of Parliament. The Report touches all sorts of subjects, from horse-breeding down to the cure of asthmatic bees, and the Board seem to have started a stud farm—for horses, not for bees—and if the hon. Baronet the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger) were here he would like to read one part of the Report, in which they say that their premium stallions had been visiting Ayr, and were very successful. With regard to the 1928 original object for which the Board were founded—namely, the Small Holdings Act—I think that this is practically in abeyance. I do not wonder at it, seeing that the bulk of the large sums which they have spent on it has gone as compensation to landlords and tenants, and in the circumstances I quite see that they could not proceed with expenditure at that rate. With regard to the holdings which they are preparing for disabled soldiers and sailors', though they are doing their duty no doubt, I believe that the money is largely thrown away. I do not believe in soldiers and sailors going up to Borgie and settling there in any number. I maybe wrong, but I do not think so. Soldiers are accustomed to a gregarious life, and I do not think you will find them willing to go a considerable number of miles away from any town and settle down to the hard work of bringing land into good cultivation. In fact, I do not believe that small holdings anywhere will pay, unless they are within easy reach of some good town where their produce can be disposed of. I hope that I am wrong, but that is my view.
I rose principally to deal with the question of afforestation. I wish the Committee once for all to understand the history of that subject. Under the Act of 1911 the Board of Agriculture was formed for the express purpose, among other things, of dealing with forestry. They have had a short time, but they have done practically nothing. On the question of forestry there was a Departmental Committee appointed, and it went into the whole matter. Then there was a second Committee, which went even more thoroughly into the question, and the members of that Committee went abroad to see the forests of Germany and France. They studied the whole question from first to last, and came home and made a Report. Then there was an Advisory Committee. Each one of these three Committees reported dead against anything in the shape of leases, and if I am anxious when I see some glimmering of leases, that is my reason. If three Committees who have studied this subject have been dead against anything in the shape of leases, cannot the Committee see at once why leases are objected to? Anyone who knows anything about forestry knows that it requires certain periods for different trees to mature. Some trees mature in twenty years, some in thirty years, some in forty, fifty, and sixty years. The Douglas 1929 pine takes a little longer. In these circumstances, I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland, if he had a lease for seventy-five years, with fifty years gone, what would he plant? Would he plant thirty-year trees to inure for the benefit of the landowner?
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I know what that means. At all events, all the authorities have decided against anything in the shape of a lease. Of course, it depends on the terms of your lease, but, under any circumstances, I think I could show that the lease is not a profitable method of dealing with the question of forestry. The Government were evidently in earnest about this matter at the time when the Advisory Committee turned their attention to the finding of an administrative area for the purpose of afforestation. They wanted a forest of from 3,000 to 4,000 acres of timber. It was found that there were only four where they had followed the correct and scientific line of sylviculture—that is to say, where the trees were developed at certain ages. They actually had the offer of an estate where the trees were valued at almost the amount the landlord was prepared to accept. The sum he asked was £63,000, and the Advisory Committee at that time unanimously voted that acquisition of the property should be recommended. It was also recommended by the Board of Agriculture in Scotland, by the Secretary for Scotland, and by others; but what was the malign influence which prevented our obtaining that forest? We could have acquired it at practically the value of the timber, and it was an excellent bargain Who stood in the way—what was the malign influence? It was the Development Commissioners, a body that should never have been created. I voted for their appointment, and I regret my having done so to this day. You have got two bodies, the Roads Board and the Development Commissioners, both outside this House, who judge for themselves. Of course, we had the idea that it was better to have men who were outside political influence in dealing with these development matters, but I would point out that if political influence is a bad thing, private influence is a great deal worse. We have the fact that this advantageous bargain was turned 1930 down, and from that day to this we have had no suggestion of anything to take its place. Because the Development Commissioners, and one gentleman particularly, did not believe in buying but in leasing, this opportunity to buy the forest was turned down; and, immediately after it was turned down, a proposal came from the Development Commissioners involving the expenditure of £150,000 on leases. The Advisory Committee looked at the proposal, and the Board of Agriculture looked at it, and they turned it down as preposterous.
What makes me so suspicious about this matter is that I believe the very self-same gentlemen have something to do with this leasing. I am the last to suggest that my right hon. Friend should submit to the Committee every little arrangement that he has got, or every bargain he makes, but there are elements in this case which deserve consideration. It is a lease to begin with, and there are elements, I say, which ought to induce the right hon. Gentleman to let us know the full particulars. I will tell him what is in my mind. There is a guarantee of 3s. an acre rent. Is that going to be a first charge? If it is to be a first charge, the Government will never get back any of their money. If it is to be a first charge on the value of the trees when sold, the Government will never get any profit, because I think it is admitted that forests cannot be created as an economic paying proposition. I do not think they can, and I do not think they pretend to be an economic paying proposition. The fact is that nations have seen the necessity for having these forests for national purposes. Germany has not suffered during the War for want of timber because she has 40,000 square miles of timber. France has not suffered for want of timber, because she has 30,000 square miles. This country at the beginning of the War had only 4,000. Forests are required for climatic and other national purposes. Yet here and there we have only been leasing land, and forestry has been delayed and postponed for all these years. There is a popular delusion that when you get a piece of land for afforestation you have only to plant trees. To plant trees properly, on a systematic, economic, and prosperous basis, you have to study all sorts of questions in regard to it. To plant 2,000 or 3,000 acres of land does not afford any education in forestry; it is an education in planting. What is required is an area already full of trees 1931 of all ages, where students and apprentices can learn everything from planting right up to cutting.
The Ministry of Reconstruction has recommended a central authority to deal with afforestation, and if they can be kept clear of the Development Commissioners, and not subject to the whims of that body, it would be a very good thing. I see that there are on the proposed central authority some of the most eminent men in this country on the question of afforestation. None could be better, and that makes me all the better satisfied with this recommendation. You have afforestation in England and Ireland, but in Scotland, the country where it is most needed, you have not got it. Here you have an opportunity, and for goodness sake get rid of the men who have preconceived ideas about leasing instead of buying forests. Leasing is going to land you in greater losses than buying. I have not the slightest doubt about the patriotism of the Secretary for Scotland, and his absolute and straight honesty in these transactions, but I want him honestly to let the Committee see that there is to be no loss to the Exchequer on these leases. Has he made any estimate to show the value of the trees in a certain period; has he set himself to work that out? If you are going into afforestation you must revise your local rating on forest land. Men will not plant trees if you are going to tax the land during the period of growth. It is not fair; it is a bad enough risk as it is. Many men, especially in the four forests in Scotland to which I have referred, have lost a great deal of money; still they were patriotic enough to do it. You should help them by removing all rating during the time the trees are growing, and you could tax the profit that may be received at the time when the trees are cut and sold. I am very anxious that my right hon. Friend, or whoever may be in his position in the future, should understand that all those who are judges in this matter of forestry are dead against leasing in any shape. We should create forests here, just as they have done in other nations and in other colonies, where they have spent large sums of money for the purpose of forestry.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. C. PRICE
It is a very serious matter that we should have only one day in the whole year to discuss Scottish 1932 Estimates, and that these Estimates, involving all sorts of questions, should be brought forward on a day when many Members have made arrangements to be elsewhere. We have heard that we were to get two days for Scottish Estimates, but we have only had one, and I think that Scottish Members should insist upon getting more time for Scottish Estimates, instead of Members having to rise and endeavour to say all they have to say in five minutes, because they know that other Members are waiting to speak. I wish to call attention to two matters which will be within the recollection of the House. When first this question of forestry came up we were to have a grant of £185,000, and then when the War broke out we were asked to forego this Grant, and it was reduced to £10,000. We were very greatly concerned in acceding to this request made on behalf of the Government, and we are suffering from having had this Grant withdrawn. This has gone on for four years, and the Grant has only been £10,000. I am not quite clear whether it was intended that the Grant was to be £185,000 a year. I think it was. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, yes!"] Then I am supported in the view that it was intended. We have only had a £10,000 Grant in aid of this Department during this War, with the result that we have lost £175,000 per annum, which would have come to Scotland if the War had not taken place—a total loss of over £700,000. That is a very serious matter indeed. I should like to know what has been done in regard to the English Grant for similar purposes. I see the English Grant-in-Aid this year is £70,000, and last year it was £170,000. The English Board, apparently, are getting the Grant, while we in Scotland are only getting a reduced sum of £10,000. We were assured when the War began that we would not suffer, but I have very grave doubts whether we shall ever get the money now. While we were content to accept this £10,000 under the circumstances, I think we are entitled to ask from the Government some explanation as to why England has been treated differently in this matter. With regard to the question of afforestry, I had the pleasure of introducing a deputation to the last Secretary for Scotland, when Edinburgh University raised a question as to the estate proposed to be taken over. Personally, I was quite satisfied that it 1933 could not be accepted as a business proposal, and the Government came to the same conclusion. Another estate was suggested, and there was a feeling chat it was so far away from Edinburgh that the Edinburgh students would not be able to take advantage of it. I agree that we in Edinburgh should have a fair chance along with other places in these matters, but, at the same time, I was quite satisfied to support the purchase of the estate, because I thought the terms suggested constituted a good commercial proposition, vastly more so than those in regard to the estate of the Duke of Atholl. I entirely disagree with this idea of taking land on lease for afforestation; it is wrong in principle. We must have complete security of tenure, so that there may be no fear, at the end of the lease, of a valuable property falling into the pockets of a private owner. If the proposal regarding the Duke of Atholl's estate had been accepted the owner of that estate would, at the end of the lease, have become very wealthy indeed. I hope that any agreement in the future will be on the lines of purchase and not on leasehold lines.
I have one other question I wish to touch upon. I have received a good many letters with regard to the subject of fruit. We have been informed that it was under the advice of the Board of Agriculture in Scotland that the prices were fixed for strawberries and other fruit. I must say that the Order which has been issued has caused absolute consternation to fruit growers in Scotland, and I certainly cannot understand how the Board of Agriculture, in view of the common knowledge that the fruit season in Scotland is two or three weeks later than that in England—I say I cannot understand how this Order, which applies to both England and Scotland, was sanctioned by the Scottish Board, seeing that it deprives the great bulk of the fruit growers in Scotland of the advantages of selling their fruit for the same length of time as the English grower is allowed to. I think an extension of time should have been granted in the case of the Scottish growers, and that in this matter they should have been put on an equality with England. I am the last man to claim any privilege for Scotland, but I suggest it is only fair that in a matter of this sort Scottish growers should be put on an equality with English growers.
§ Sir W. BEALE
Although I am always reluctant to take up the time of the House, 1934 I do not think I ought to allow the Debate on afforestry to pass without saying a word, because I had the advantage of serving on one of the Commissions which have dealt with the question. I agree that hon. Members who have spoken have drawn very striking pictures of the way in which promoters of experimental afforestry schemes in Scotland have gone about their work. But I have come to the conclusion that the notions of the hon. Members are not necessarily correct as to the kind of arrangements that ought to be made The hon. Member for Aberdeen-shire said that it was admitted that afforestry could not be a paying undertaking. But that was not the conclusion come to by the Committee on which I sat. It may be the case at the present time: I admit that it cannot now be made a paying undertaking. But, having gone carefully into the figures, the Committee of which I was a member came to the conclusion that at that time it would be possible to work it on a 3 per cent. basis on the money laid out. But, of course, you cannot apply the conditions which then obtained to the present time. On the other hand, it must be remembered that the value of timber has risen enormously, and, therefore, I am not at all willing to admit that forestry, properly undertaken on the scale and in the manner which the Committee recommend, could not now be made a paying undertaking. Of course, it cannot be done under present conditions or by such bodies as have hitherto been set up, admirable though they may have been for the purpose of teaching afforestry and for carrying on research work. It might, however, be done by a national scheme with a very much larger expenditure of money than can posibly be contemplated for some years to come.
I take it that the life of conifers is somewhere about seventy years; there are hardwood trees which take longer; the beech tree, if I recollect aright, requires from 120 to 130 years to mature. But you have to make your calculations from the beginning; you may get some return after the end of twenty years. It is not quite the case that you are continually replanting; you do not replant year by year: what you do is each year to plant a new area so that you may have a rotation, and when the first planted area is ready to be cut down then you have another area which in a year's time will also be ready, 1935 and so the rotation continues. That is a businesslike view of the matter. A question was put to a large landowner about giving up his land for this purpose, and, if my recollection serves me rightly, he showed every disposition to conform to what is the essential thing of all, and that was that he should not look to regain his land under any circumstances or in other forms or for other purposes than as continuous afforestry. The system of rotation of areas must be a continuous operation. But the landowner did suggest something of this sort—a permanent renewal of a leasehold arrangement by which he gave up the management and superintendence of his land entirely to the Government Department, while retaining the other rights of the landowner, which, for reasons I am really unable to fathom, he was unwilling to part with altogether. The landowner does not like the idea of a sale out-and-out. He is willing for his property to be used by the Government for afforestry, and quite ready to yield supervision of it, but he still wants to retain the sense of ownership. I would call attention to the necessity of a large expenditure of money in this matter. You want to combine with this scheme of afforestation a system of small holdings round about and close to the forest; you must acquire land for that purpose; you must create permanent agricultural holdings for the labourers employed on the land. The essential labour for the Forest Department comes at one period and the necessary labour for the small holding at another period. Then you must have an arrangement of light railways to get the stuff away and to bring to the people living in and near the forest the necessaries of life, so that they may have some degree of comfort. You must have proper establishments and plant for preserving this timber; you must have sawmills; and, what is still more important, you must have apparatus for pulping the wood as they do in Norway. I only want to point out that these schemes cannot pay unless they are carried out on a big scale, and the idea of taking quite small areas and of patting soldiers on the land is mere trifling with the matter compared with what the position of afforestation should be. I hope the Government will go on with this matter. I hope they will have the courage to make the nation less dependent upon imports for its timber supplies in the future.
1936 May I refer to the dilemma which the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of National Service, and the military authorities jointly have put us in in regard to labour on the farm. We are now told that whatever may happen to agriculture the military authorities must have these men. That may be right or wrong; we, at any rate, cannot dispute it. Up to the present we have done our best to conform to the demands of the authorities. But if there are certain concessions to be made, I would ask the Secretary for Scotland to use his influence with and to put pressure upon those with whom the decision rests to ensure that men who are really essential to the farmer shall not be taken away. The farmers no doubt must put up with worse labour, but there are cases in which it is essential the skilled men should be retained. I would mention the case of a shepherd taken away and no one being available to fill his place. I have two important eases in my own Constituency. The case of a farmer and a man to drive his self-binding machine has been sufficiently ventilated, but I ask the Secretary for Scotland to listen to the representations which have been made, where the importance of retaining a man is quite out of proportion to any possible advantage the military authorities may gain by their refusal to make an exception in any case.
§ Sir E. PARROTT
I should like to accentuate the grievance with regard to the fruit business to which my hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. Price) has referred. I make no apology for raising the question of the strawberry crop, for I think nearly everybody will agree with the ancient divine that "God might have made a better berry, but doubtless He never did." I have in my hand a letter from the secretary of the Scottish Wholesale Fruit Merchants' Association, in which he gives the state of the case as follows:The strawberry season now being almost full upon us, if anything is to be done it must be done instantly. Personally we do not believe that the preserver, the trade or the public would have grudged a considerably higher price being fixed. The unanimous opinion of our association was, and still is, that if the Food Control had claimed 70 per cent. and allowed the 30 per cent. to have been sold in the open market at an uncontrolled price, the extra received on the 30 per cent. would have been sufficient to have reimbursed the grower for the small price fixed by the Controller and would have ensured the full crop being harvested. Whoever fixed the price, they certainly did not consider the present purchasing 1937 value of a sovereign. The fixed price is lower than in pre-war times and the cost of production very much greater. The crop is unfortunately very short, and therefore the grower needs a higher price, and our proposal of 30 per cent. free at uncontrolled price would have helped the grower and given housewives the opportunity of using the reserve sugar they have denied themselves of in other ways in order to have their usual boiling of home-made jam, and the higher price would have allowed the grower to gather all the crop without monetary loss. At the fixed price and the higher rate of wages the grower cannot continue to pick to the finish except at a serious loss in money. Can anyone blame him if he fails to gather them? If the Controller's plea is that the fruit is required for jam for the needs of the Army and Navy, why is the jam on the open market for sale?I have nothing to add to that letter, which I think puts the case very succinctly, and I hope we shall have some statement later on by the Secretary for Scotland on this question.
§ Mr. WATT
I seem to have a peculiar capacity for not catching your eye, Mr. Chairman, and it cannot be that my physical characteristics are unobservable. Therefore I do not know why it is. I have a few observations to make on this Vote. In the first place, I desire to associate myself with the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. Price) and with the hon. and learned Member for West Aberdeen-shire (Mr. Henderson) in complaining of the day that has been fixed by the Government for the consideration of Scottish Estimates. As they have indicated, a number of our Friends the Scottish Members had engagements in Scotland and were unaware that the Estimates were coming on this week and are therefore absent, and, moreover, this is an attractive day outside to the other Members of the House, they wanting to attend some baseball match, and whenever there is an odd day when the Englishman wants to get away, I will not say on the spree, but on an outing, Scotland is always shoved into the Cinderella place. The Committee are here to consider a very large sum of money in connection with the Department of Agriculture. The sum that is being passed is something like £80,000, and the point that the Committee have to consider is whether the nation gets value for this £80,000. Is the Scottish Board of Agriculture and are its works worth £80,000 per annum? I do not believe that even the Secretary for Scotland, with a brief for the Department, would be able to assert, much less to prove, that that Department was worth that large sum.
§ Mr. WATT
I am glad to think we shall have the pleasure of listening to the right hon. Gentleman again. I take the liberty of thinking that it is not worth quite that figure, that it is not energetic enough in big things, and that it fritters away its time largely in comparatively small things, and I think the right hon. Gentleman, although he took the opportunity of praising in a superlative manner the work of that Department, does not mean it with his whole heart, because I believe he has had in view on many occasions since he became Secretary for Scotland the idea of making great alterations in the Department, and unfortunately since he got there no alternations have been made whatever, except a reshuffling of the cards when one of the Board Was sent to France. May I say that a Secretary for Scotland—indeed, all highly-placed officials—show their power and the suitability for their positions by effecting changes. I think that when a man makes no change when he is put at the head of a Department he is not the best man for that position. He allows things to drift, and indeed it is necessary, in occupying a position such as my right hon. Friend occupies, that he should not only have a head and an intellect, but that he should have a strong foot too, and that he should exercise his foot on some occasions by removing the inefficients. That has been the boast of the head of his Government, for the Prime Minister has boasted that his policy has been always to remove inefficients, and I think my right hon. Friend should imitate that in some of his Departments. I do not know who are the inefficients in the Board of Agriculture and who are not, but he should find them out, and, having found them, I think he should make changes there.
The right hon. Gentleman took exception to an observation of mine about the taking of the men from agriculture when I said that the War Secretary in the struggle before the Cabinet had overridden the agricultural representatives both of England and Scotland, and had got his—the War Office—way in dealing with the men engaged in agriculture. Perhaps that was a rough way of putting it. No doubt the necessities of the War weighed a great deal with my right hon. Friend and with the representative of England in these discussions, but at the same time may I point this out to my right 1939 hon. Friend, that in many cases where there is a struggle between the Scottish Office and other Departments—such as the Food Department, for instance—the latter wins? My right hon. Friend is there at the forefront of the Scottish Office and nation to fight the battle of Scotland, and when he is put up against the Food Minister and the War Office, and so on, I regret to find that very often he is overriden. As a concrete instance of that, I will say this: A struggle took place with the Ministry of Food and the Scottish Office about the price of the potatoes that the farmers were growing in Scotland, and in that struggle for equality for farmers throughout the two countries my right hon. Friend was ousted. He allowed the Scottish farmers to get less for their potatoes than the English farmers got. The English farmers are to get £7 a ton, whereas a large portion of Scotland is just to get £5 10s. a ton. The growing of potatoes in Scotland is a more expensive thing than the growing of them in England: wages are higher, the ground is less prolific, rents are higher for the same class of soil, and in every way the Scotsmen have greater difficulty in putting their produce on the market than the Englishmen have. Yet the Englishmen are to get 30s. a ton more than the Scottish farmers for potatoes. The protagonist for the Scottish farmers was my right hon. Friend, and, that being so, the result is that they will get less money.
There is another point with which I want to deal in connection with potatoes. My right hon. Friend, or the Food Department, have arranged that as much as £100 an acre should be given to the early potato growers in Scotland, whereas the late potato growers are allowed only £5 or £6 a ton, which comes to about £30 an acre, and the one is just about as difficult as the other to grow, whereas in the case of the early potato grower he gets in another crop, and will move two crops on his land, while the late potato grower can only have one. How is it that that came about? What has the right hon. Gentleman to say to that? May I say what my diagnosis of the situation is? It is that the right hon. Gentleman and his Department consulted only an early potato grower, and that gentleman, of course, gave the advice which has led to this particular condition of affairs. Another point to which I wish to draw attention is the want of sympathy which the Board of 1940 Agriculture has shown to co-operative selling. If one reads this Report one finds that they are taking credit for having in one instance advanced £500 to the Central Markets Supply Association and a similar sum to the Agricultural Organisation Society. These institutions are for the selling of the produce of the farmers in a cooperative way, and it is such institutions that have made the success of Ireland. Co-operation in selling has made Ireland in the last twenty years a prosperous country, and there has been a great desire on the part of everyone who knows anything about agriculture to advance this co-operative principle by the encouragement of the various societies in Scotland so that they could be put on a par with Ireland. England, too, has sought in every shape and form to encourage, if not enforce, the institution of co-operative societies. The Board of Agriculture in Scotland, with its £80,000 per annum, has given on loan to these co-operative societies £500—a most magnanimous sum—to encourage this best scheme that is on the tapis. This same Board of Agriculture, which gives £5,000 for the clearing away of cut wood on private estates, gives for the encouragement of this great necessity of modern times £500!
The last point on which I desire to speak is the question of forestry and the encouragement of forestry. Every Scottish Member knows the history of Scottish forestry. A Committee has inquired into the question, and decisions were come to which were definitely and clearly against taking over anything in the shape of leases. My hon. Friend said they had a very favourable offer of leasehold property from the Duke of Argyll, and they turned it down because of the principle. But now an offer has been made of a seventy-five years' lease, and my right hon. Friend tells the Committee to-day that that offer has been accepted, and will be signed and sealed shortly. I think that is a lamentable and an unfortunate thing. We are inclined to wonder how it has been brought about under the regime of my right hon. Friend, and one is inclined to think there has been something wrong in the state of Denmark when one realises that the individual in the Development Commission who turned down all the proposals made with reference to purchase is in this particular instance interested in the estate—to put it mildly, interested in the estate—which has now been leased for 1941 seventy-five years. My right hon. Friend and his Department were not desirous of purchasing. I need hardly tell him there was an intermediate course between purchasing and leasing, namely, that of feu, which would have given permanent possession at practically a rent, and would have prevented a disadvantage which my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeen-shire pointed out, that at the end of seventy-five years all the benefit of the Government's expense and money will go to the owner of the property.
One word more, and it is in connection with the estate of Shinness which the right hon. Gentleman has taken over. Reference is made to it in the Report as having come into the hands of the Board of Agriculture on the 28th May, but no details are given as to figures. Nebulous references are given as to sums spent, but no details, which, I understand, will not stand examination. This particular estate is the gift about which my hon. Friend said you should not look a gift-horse in the mouth. This gift was made by the Duke of Sutherland. I understand the lease was coming to an end, and that the Duke was bound to take over the sheep, the value of which, I am told, was as much as £30,000. Whilst this liability was over his head, he presented the estate to the nation, but with his presentation was also the liability of the Duke for the sheep, estimated at £30,000. We are not told whether the Government had to pay that extraordinary price—that serious price—or whether they had not. Of course, the Duke of Sutherland handed it over to the nation because he saw the difficulty of getting another tenant to take this Shinness property, and, when last I asked the right hon. Gentleman regarding Shinness, he said it was not the case that a tenant could not be easily found for this particular farm. I can just imagine a farmer in that district and of that status being able to take over a liability of £30,000! No tenant could have been got, and the Duke, with that cleverness which characterises that particular section of society, saw the difficulty coming and avoided it by presenting this estate to the nation.
§ Major CHAPPLE
I agree with my hon. Friend that the State should not undertake any forestry schemes except upon Crown lands. Forestry is pre-eminently a State function. Although I have very little confidence in State enterprise in most things, this is one of the 1942 things in which the harvest is so far removed that it is a matter for State enterprise. But the State should start on this principle, that no trees should be planted on any land except Crown land. It should be very easy to secure land. In the first place, land in Scotland appropriate for forestry is useful for very little else, and should be secured at its revenue value capitalised at 5 per cent., the arbitrators being limited as to the factors which they should take into consideration in estimating the value. The difficulty arises from the fact that arbitrators seem to lean so much to the side of the owners and in estimating value to take factors into consideration which are really preposterous. Quite recently some land was secured for Government purposes which was practically useless and had no revenue value whatever. The arbitrator took into consideration that, while the land had no intrinsic value, the land adjoining was worth £45 an acre, and that if the State could not get this valueless land, it would be forced to take land valued at £45 an acre, and therefore the arbitrator put £45 an acre on this valueless land. It is essential that strict limitations shall be laid down in the case of arbitrators as to what they shall take into consideration. Even if the State buys at a prospective revenue of the land, capitalised at 5 per cent., there is no reason why it should not own most of the land in Scotland otherwise useless, but suitable for forestry. I feel it my duty to press that point upon the Committee, because I think it is so important.
I want to call attention to the value of supplying information and knowledge to those who are dealing with agriculture in Scotland. I read in this Report about a supply of bulls, a supply of pigs, a supply of stud horses, and so on. These are not nearly so valuable to the farmer as a-supply of scientific knowledge by leaflets, and so on, and research work should take the form of research along those modern methods of increasing the fertility of the soil and increasing the supply of land. I want to make a reference to the possibility of reclaiming large areas of waste land in Scotland, and making it available for agricultural purposes, largely by spreading knowledge as to how that land may be reclaimed. I do not mean that the State should reclaim land. That is one of the functions it cannot satisfactorily perform. When you get to an enterprise 1943 which can be better performed by private enterprise the State should leave it severely alone. Forestry is one of the things private enterprise cannot afford to undertake, and therefore the State should take it up, but land reclamation is a thing which can be done infinitely better by private enterprise than by the State. That can be done by spreading knowledge among those willing to learn, who have the capital ready to invest in land reclamation, and who would, if they had facilities for reclaiming land, adopt the modern methods. To one or two of those modem methods I will refer. There are enterprises only about five or ten years old in the United States. They are now using machinery for nearly all purposes of land development. If the Agricultural Department of Scotland got into touch with the Agricultural Department there, and with those experimental stations that are so numerous all over the States, they would get an abundance of information, some only five or ten years old, which would be invaluable in Scotland for the purpose of land reclamation.
Let me give one or two instances. Machinery now can ditch, drain and embank in a way hand-labour cannot possibly do, so far as cheapness and efficiency are concerned. The time is coming when labour is going to be dearer and more inaccessible than ever. A good many enterprises for land reclamation were turned down under the old estimates of hand-labour, but land which has been waste for the last twenty to a hundred years could be brought into use if these modern machinery methods were adopted. You can use dredgers which can walk a mile a day and dredge as they go. I have seen dredgers in Canada digging a ditch 14 ft. wide and 4 ft. 6 ins. deep at the rate of a mile a day, and only two men were required for each shift. To see this monster walking across the plain was a weird sight. That dredge was turning over that ditching spoil at 7½d. a cubic yard, and from that it is quite easy to estimate the cost of a mile of ditching 14 ft. wide and 4 ft. 6 ins. deep, which it can do in a day. The farmer could be told what the estimate would be, or, taking the kind of land into consideration, how much it would cost to drain it with one of the small drainers and ditchers which move on caterpillar wheels, like the tanks, and go over swamps which formerly could not be 1944 drained at all. These things have been brought into use in the United States, and on land which would not bear an animal, a bullock, a horse, or even a man, these tractor ditchers will drain at a cost of 7s. 6d. per acre, and drain land with open drains which beforetime it was estimated would cost from £5 to £7 per acre to silt drain. The work could be done in some cases for even less than 7s. 6d. per acre. This information should be made available to agriculturists in this country. There are thousands of acres in Scotland to-day which could be brought into use if these modern methods of reclamation were applied.
Apart from the method of machinery and the draining which I have just described, there are also other methods of improving the soil. You may reclaim land in three ways; by draining the water off, by banking the water out, and by fertilising. You may have absolute reclamation, or, you may have relative reclamation. Land that is of the value of £2 per acre by reclamation and by these fertilising methods may be made worth £3 to £4 an acre. There are chemical methods in use in the United States. There are agricultural colleges in the United States in connection with agricultural stations, and from these stations you can, for a guinea, get a report as to the capacity and capability of the soil. The report that you will get for that guinea will tell you what is the chemical nature of your land, in what it is deficient, whether; you had better grow potatoes, or wheat, or grass; and, finally, it will tell you what you have to do in order to get out of the land its maximum fertility and what particular plant or crop you ought to grow upon it. Helping forward by methods of this kind, and spreading information about them, is infinitely more valuable than buying bulls and sending them round to the farmers. It is infinitely more valuable that they should have knowledge to show them, as in the United States, how by scientific methods they can get the maximum amount of produce with a minimum amount of labour and expenditure. I read a leading article in one of our leading newspapers where there was an estimate given of the value of wheat as a crop. The writer said that if you lost 6d. a bushel on wheat, and by more science grew 2 bushels instead of 1, that only meant that you were losing 1s. The writer ignored the fact that the problem of agriculture is to get the maximum result with the minimum 1945 of labour and expense. I am suggesting to my right hon. Friend that if he induces the Agricultural Department to get into touch with all these scientific methods, these up-to-date methods, that the sowing of this good seed of knowledge will, in a few years, produce perhaps a hundredfold. I have very little else to add to what I have said, except that I could give illustrations that bear upon what I have said from land which I know in Scotland in which this knowledge could be used with the utmost effect. There are rich areas along the Firth of Forth of land, so rich in their productivity as to produce 85 bushels of wheat per acre. Some of it has been reclaimed, and last year produced a crop of 85 bushels per acre. There are 2,000 acres of exactly similar land. You can get a modern dredge, capable of dealing with 10,000 cubic yards in the course of twenty-four hours. Hand labour is not in it. Hand labour on such a machine could be paid £5 to £10 per week. By the use of machinery like this you could pay labour higher than ever before, and yet increase the productivity of the soil. I commend these observations to my right hon. Friend, who I am quite sure will appreciate the significance of them.
§ Mr. MUNRO
Perhaps I may be allowed to deal with one or two of the important points which have been raised since I last spoke. The last speech to which we have just listened was a most interesting one, and my hon. and gallant Friend may be quite assured that the suggestions he has made will be most carefully considered. I agree with him as to the importance of spreading a knowledge of the best agricultural methods, and in particular a knowledge of modern methods. In that connection, if my hon. and gallant Friend will refer to page 15 of the Report he will see that the county extension work of the colleges is going forward on these lines, not perhaps to the extent that he would desire, but he will see that the matter has not been lost sight of. Bearing also upon this interesting observations as to draining and ditching, I may tell the Committee that a scheme for the purchase of a drainage machine from America was sanctioned by me only the other day. That machine is being brought across, and it will be tested by the Highland and Agricultural Society on behalf of the Board of Agriculture. The circumstance may be small perhaps, but I think it is significant of 1946 the fact that the Board of Agriculture has really got an open mind upon these modern improvements. The Board has recently published a journal to which reference has been made. I am very glad I have been able to sanction it. It is called the "Scottish Journal of Agriculture," and is a quarterly production, in which the most recent knowledge about these scientific matters with which my hon. and gallant Friend has dealt is published. He, therefore, may rest assured that the observations he has made will receive the utmost attention from the Board, and, if possible, that effect will be given to his suggestions.
A question was put by the hon. Member for the Tradeston Division with regard to Middlebank. The question is of a legal nature, and I have asked my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General to reply to it. I rather think he cherishes a misgiving which is not well founded, but it is really a legal question, and, as I say, I am asking my hon. and learned Friend to reply. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire County (Mr. J. M. Henderson) delivered one of his characteristic speeches, and at this hour I cannot possibly deal with the various matters into which he went in detail. I am rather sorry for the attack he made upon-the Development Commission, particularly at this moment, for, so far as I am concerned, as head of the Board of Agriculture, I may say that every recommendation which the Board has made during the last eighteen months or so, I think, without exception, has received effect at the hands of the Development Commission. I am really at a loss to suggest any better arrangement that can be made at this time than the system under which we are working at the Board of Agriculture and at the Development Commission. There may have been grievances in the past. I know quite well the history of which my hon. Friend spoke, but I really do not desire to go into it to-day. I think it is desirable, if possible, to avoid recriminations regarding the past.
§ Mr. MUNRO
My hon. Friend went very far back into ancient history, and referred to the Development Commissioners and the Board of Agriculture. I do think it would have been more useful 1947 to have concentrated upon the position to-day, and to have endeavoured to forget rather than to remind us of what may have been an unfortunate episode in the dim and distant past.
§ Mr. MUNRO
Yes, dim and distant so far as we are concerned to-day. I do not see any useful purpose that can be served by raking it up. So far as Craigmyle is concerned, I should like to say that I quite appreciate the observations of the hon. Member that in certain cases land should preferably be leased, but I do not agree that it is invariably so. He takes a strong view—
§ Mr. HENDERSON
The three Committees have reported strongly, and, of course, the right hon. Gentleman, if he agrees with me, must agree with them.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I think my hon. Friend puts that a little higher than he is justified in doing. It is always a question of circumstances. If we can lease, in the first place, the same amount of capital is not required; I think my hon. Friend will agree with me there. In the second place, planting can be made upon areas which are not in the market at all. These are considerations which my hon. Friend agrees must be taken into account, on the one hand; and, on the other, there are other considerations in favour of purchase. What I say is it is largely a question of the circumstances, and the period for which the lease is entered into. It is surely a matter upon which one must be guided by one's expert forestry advisers?
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I am sorry to interrupt, but why was not the Advisory Committee, which is still in existence, consulted?
§ Mr. MUNRO
The Advisory Committee, so far as I know, has not met for years. Whether that Committee is in existence or not at the present moment, I really do not know. If my hon. Friend desires to have it resuscitated or thinks 1948 it can serve any useful purpose, I am quite agreeable to consider the suggestion. All I do say is that the attitude that my hon. Friend has taken up in regard to the Craigmyle transaction is rather ungracious. I take full responsibility for that transaction.
§ Mr. MUNRO
My hon. Friend himself said that this was a transaction for the benefit of the landowner. I do not agree. The transaction is one for which I accept the fullest responsibility. I do not profess to be able to judge a matter of this sort, but I took the best expert advice I could get, and I do say that, in the circumstances, it was a good bargain for the State. I hope that time will show that I am right and that my hon. Friend is wrong in this matter.
Mr. D. WHITE
Has my right hon. Friend considered the possibility that I suggested of obtaining the land for afforestation by feu?
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MUNRO
That possibility certainly has been considered, but it depends a good deal, does it not, upon the circumstances? There are certain cases, in my humble judgment, where it may be desirable to feu, other cases where it is desirable to lease, and other cases, again, where it may be desirable to purchase. In deciding which of these particular methods one shall adopt, we must, it seems to me, take the best advice we can get upon it, and that is what I did. The hon. Member for Central Edinburgh spoke of the agricultural Grant being reduced £10,000. The reason for that was that we have had, and have at present, as much money as under existing conditions we can spend for small holdings and other purposes. There is the problem of war-time conditions in both Scotland and England, and you cannot create small holdings under these conditions; you cannot get the labour nor the material at reasonable prices. We had an accumulation) of money 1949 to the credit of the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund. When the matter came on it was a question between the Treasury and myself. It was put to me with some force that looking at the state of our accounts, and the estimated expenditure for the coming year, that we could not spend what we had then, even if the expenditure came up to the estimate. When my hon. Friend referred to the English Grant he should remember that it was reduced to £170,000.
§ Mr. MUNRO
Yes; but that money included money to be devoted to the construction and purchase of small-holding colonies. What I do know is that small holdings have been damped down in England just as in Scotland in war-time for precisely the same reasons. I can assure my hon. Friend that all these considerations were very fully argued before the Treasury, and we thought it was not wise to press the matter further at the present moment. With regard to strawberries, for some time the market remained uncontrolled. As my hon. Friend knows, English strawberries are earlier than Scottish strawberries, and, therefore, the English strawberry grower, while the market was uncontrolled, sold his goods at the high figure. Then the price was controlled both in England and in Scotland, but inasmuch as the Scottish crop is later the Scottish grower did not get any advantage from the higher price. I do not know how you could avoid it.
§ Mr. PRICE
I saw the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Mr. Clynes) on this subject, and I have had a good deal of correspondence, and the extraordinary thing is that not in a single instance have they replied to my query about making the Order applicable to Scotland later, and that is the point I hope the right hon. Gentleman will press.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I am much obliged to the hon. Member for raising this point. I know that it is important. I will 1950 make it my business to confer with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food to see whether anything can be done, and I shall not forget that time is pressing. I listened with great attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Ayrshire, and the observations which he, from his wide experience, made upon the question of forestry, and I can assure him that I shall bear them in mind. The last speech made by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Watt) was of the usual breezy character which we always enjoy, and I am quite sure the criticisms he has made will be taken in good part. With regard to the estate to which he referred, I cannot go into details, but I am assured that the transaction is regarded by the Board of Agriculture as a thoroughly good business transaction, and if he desires any further information, perhaps he will be good enough to put down a question, and I will do my best to give him a satisfactory answer. After the Solicitor-General has dealt with the point raised by the hon. Member for the Tradeston Division (Mr. Dundas White), may I appeal to the Committee to allow us to get this Vote, which has been under discussion for some considerable time?
§ Mr. HENDERSON
My right hon. Friend said he was not aware that this Advisory Committee was in existence. It has not been dissolved, and on the Committee of Reconstruction three of the members of that Committee are included.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
There are five, and they are all available with the exception of one, and they are the very men that the Minister of Reconstruction has put upon his Committee. I think my right hon. Friend was very unfair in saying that I was ungracious to the landlord's interest in this particular case. I would like to say that if he had been my own brother I should have opposed the matter. The terms of the lease have not been stated, but I object to it because it is a lease, and because I believe a lease is altogether wrong under these circumstances. I distinctly said that I did not doubt the bona fides of my hon. Friend in the matter, and I would not do such a thing.
The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND (Mr. Morison)
The point raised by the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Dundas White) is one of some importance, but I think it may be dealt with in a very few sentences. I quite agree that the passage in the Report of the Board of Agriculture is rather elliptical on this particular topic, but I can assure him that the tenure of the small-holder is perpetual. It can only be ended in one of two ways. Either it may be renounced by the small landowners, or the tenure may be ended in exceptional circumstances by the resumption of the holding by the landlord. Section 18 deals with the former and Section 19 with the latter of these two ways. When the proprietor comes to sell his estate he of course is not limited in the way in which he proposes to put it up to auction. But, as in the Middlebank case, he had chosen to put it in twelve separate holdings, he might have had twelve purchasers, and each would have had the right under Section 19 of the Statute to go to the Land Court and say that he wished to have this particular holding for his own personal occupation, and the particular tenure on the estate would have been ended in accordance with Section 19 of the Statute. That is a risk which the Middlebank small-holders wish to avoid.
Mr. D. WHITE
Do I understand that, in conformity with Section 19 of the Act, if the landowner should sell land which is in small holdings in small lots, the tenure of the small-holder may be jeopardised?
I think that is so. Under Section 19 the particular occupier may have his tenure jeopardised because of the operation of Section 19 of the Statute. But this is all subject to the order of the Land Court. That is the particular explanation, and I can assure my hon. Friend it is not the tenure that gives rise to this difficulty. It is the operation of Section 19.
In regard to the latter case I should not like to say, but it is certainly so in regard to existing small holdings.
§ Mr. MUNRO
Yes; I am able to explain. I think the hon. Member will agree with me that there have been a large number of points to deal with, and I am sorry I omitted to deal with that. My hon. and learned Friend is an authority on the subject of potatoes, but I am sure he will appreciate the explanation. He knows that Scotland produces chiefly potatoes, but we get our own back in the matter of seed potatoes. My hon. and learned Friend says that when you put one account against the other it does not work out quite well from the point of view of Scotch interests, but my information is that it does.
§ Question put, and agreed to.