That a sum, not exceeding £100,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for a Grant to the Interim Forest Authority.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. BALDWIN (Joint Financial Secretary to the Treasury)
Owing to the speed with which business came to a conclusion yesterday evening no Debate was possible upon this Estimate and I understand there are one or two points which hon. Members wish to be clear about. During the summer an announcement was made in another place that the War Cabinet had accepted the Report of a Sub-committee which had thoroughly considered the question of forestry in reference to reconstruction and it was the policy of the Government to give effect to these recommendations, so far as the House might ultimately think it advisable. Owing to the pressure of work it has not been possible so far to pass the necessary legislation, but it is felt very strongly that it would be a thousand pities to let the winter and spring go by without taking preliminary steps in the direction which it is desired to tread, and it is with this object that this Estimate has been introduced, to cover expenses which may arise between now and the end of the financial year by an interim authority which the War Cabinet 2800 has set up pending the passage of legislation. Certain gentlemen have agreed to serve as a central forestry authority ad interim, and their work will consist in taking whatever preliminary steps may be thought advisable, and among them of course there are such matters as the getting together of seeds—that is a matter which takes time—the raising of various nursery stock, the training of forest officers and foresters, the making of necessary surveys, and the irritation of replanting and afforestation schemes. The personnel of the authority must of necessity he temporary and provisional. Obviously many men well fitted for this work are still serving in the forces. It may interest the Committee if I give the names of those who have so far consented to serve on this authority. The chairman will be the right hon. Member for the Camborne Division (Mr. Acland); the English representatives will be Lord Clinton and Mr. R. L. Robinson; the Scottish representatives, Lord Lovatt, Mr. Walter Conynham, and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. MacCallum Scott); for Wales the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Major D. Davies); and for Ireland (Mr. T. B. Ponsonby). It has not been possible to snake an Estimate under the various subheads for this short period, but I may say that the members of the authority, with the exception of Mr. Robinson, who will relinquish his position as Superintendent-Inspector of the Board of Agriculture, will be unpaid.
I am sure the Committee will realise the urgency of the forestry position. If the work is to be done and if afforestation sites are to be secured, there is no time to be lost. I know that there has been a certain amount of controversy as to the centralising of all afforestry effort. I can inform the Committee that the legislation has not been passed. The details of the legislation will be a matter for settlement as early in the New Year as may be possible for Parliament to deal with it. When that matter comes before the House it will be open to all those who are interested and have special knowledge of these problems to press upon the Government the course which they think most desirable to obtain their ends. In order that there shall be no confusion and no clashing of authority in this brief interim period, the War Cabinet has decided that in the appointment of this interim authority, while they shall have power to take all the preliminary steps necessary they 2801 shall work, as far as possible, through the Departments of the separate countries involved. In the case of any dispute arising between the interim forestry authority and any of the existing authorities, there would be the right to appeal direct to the War Cabinet for settlement of such disputes. I hope that the few words I have said will commend this Estimate to the Committee, and that it will ease the not unnatural apprehensions entertained by some Members, who perhaps had not been fully seised of the work which is proposed to be entrusted to this interim authority.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
The hon. Gentleman, in introducing the Estimate, has informed the Committee of the purpose which is in view in setting up this new Interim Committee to deal with the question of afforestation, not only in England, but in Scotland and throughout the Kingdom. I regret very much that the House has not been afforded a better opportunity for discussing a matter which raises a question of such vital interest to the whole Kingdom, and especially of Scotland, where the interests of afforestation are so wide. Unfortunately, when the Resolution was passed last night it was not expected that it would be reached, and there was a very small attendance. The same remarks applies to a certain extent to-night. I do not think that in this matter Scottish Members generally, and Scotland as a whole is sufficiently apprised of the important subject to be discussed and dealt with to-night, or there would have been a larger attendance of Members. The effect of this Vote of £100,000 is to set on its legs a new central authority which is to carry into effect, as I understand the hon. Gentleman, the recommendations of the Forestry Reconstruction Committee, an interim authority—to use the words in the Estimate—to carry on the work pending the passing of legislation setting up permanent machinery for the purpose.
I cannot congratulate the hon. Gentleman as the representative of the public purse on this occasion in asking us to vote £100,000 for a purpose against which a protest was made by the representative of the Treasury in the powerful dissent from the Report of the Forestry Reconstruction Committee. He is opposed to the setting up of a central authority on the ground of the expense and other grounds which were set forth in his dissent. He states: 2802While there are certain obvious advantages in a policy of concentration such advantages do not appear to me to be sufficient to justify a reversal of the policy of decentralisation which obtains in regard to agricultural policy generally. A separate Forestry Department, with a paid commissioner and assistant commissioners at its head and a considerable subordinate staff which is almost bound to expand rapidly, with large new central offices, is a costly matter. The multiplication of departments is a thing to be avoided except as a matter of the clearest necessity.That is the Treasury view, and we are asked to-night by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, notwithstanding this protest, to vote this substantial sum in order to set up this authority which is to carry on, on the lines of the Report, until the new authority is set up. There are two grounds on which I desire to protest very strongly against this matter. The first is, that in the dying days of this Parliament we are asked to authorise the setting up of machinery to carry out the proposals of this Committee, which it was understood would be dealt with by legislation in this House, so that a full opportunity would be afforded to all interests affected to come here and express their views and have the matter fully discussed. The hon. Gentleman clearly indicated that it was the intention to deal with the machinery to be set up by a Bill at a subsequent period. The only reason he gave for anticipating the judgment of the electors and of the members of the new Parliament was that they did not want to let the winter and spring go by, but that they wanted to set up an interim authority to do something in the direction in which they wished to move. Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that no Bill would in any circumstances be introduced into this House to deal with this matter until the winter and spring had gone by. We are told that we are going to have a General Election within a month. Does he suggest that the Bill cannot be introduced practically within a month or two at the very outside, when every interest affected will have an opportunity of coming to the House?
I object to the carrying out of recommendations of this character by the passage of a Supplementary Estimate, and by the appointment of a Committee to the personnel of which I do not take the slightest exception. I take this opportunity of saying that the Gentlemen whose names have been suggested are all men who, I believe, carry great weight, and men who are fitted to deal with these 2803 matters, although I should have liked to have had some further representation so far as the different schools of men and authority are concerned in Scotland on this question. My first objection as to the method which has been employed here tonight to get this matter settled is to the appointment of a Committee, which is going to carry us so far upon the road as to prevent us from reconsidering the question maturely when the Bill is before us. It is, I think, a bad precedent for the House of Commons, when we have been promised legislation on the subject, to have the matter settled in advance in this manner, and is not in consonance with the procedure of this House. I hope that view will be supported, as I know it is, by a number of my colleagues from Scotland. The effect of this proposal is to set up a Committee with very wide powers. I followed closely the definition of the powers. They include all aspects of forestry. They include the initiation of forestry schemes, and, in other words, they empower this Committee to take in hand the functions which are at present being discharged by the Scottish Board of Agriculture, and to override that Board if they should differ from it, subject to appeal, as my hon. Friend points out. I should like to ask where the Chief Secretary for Scotland comes in with regard to this matter? I think the Scottish Members are entitled to assume that the Secretary for Scotland is going to have his say in regard to matters of administration which fall under his charge at present. My hon. Friend suggests that he is, but at the present moment he has the right to deal with the question of schemes relating to afforestation proposed by the Board of Agriculture. I take it there is to be an appeal direct from the Board; if there is any difference, to the War Cabinet; and there is to be no regard paid to the views of the Secretary for Scotland himself. That is, to my mind, a very retrograde step in regard to matters of Scottish administration. I hope that we shall have some further assurance from the Treasury and from those responsible for this proposal that this matter has been considered, and that the Secretary for Scotland is fully advised of the difficulties and of the results which may follow from this proposal. I have no knowledge in regard to this matter, but I for one think with regard to Scottish matters we ought at least to be in a position 2804 to know what the views of the Scottish Office are on a question of this importance.
The second ground upon which I oppose this proposal is that on its merits it is a reversal of the present policy in Scotland under which we deal with our own affairs, in our own specially constituted Boards. The question of forestry is one in which Scotland is very deeply interested. We have an area something like three times as great as the area in England to be afforested, and we have our own special conditions and our own special laws. We have at the present moment a separate Board of Agriculture for Scotland which is charged with the Forestry Department as well. The Sceretary for Scotland informed us on the Scottish Estimates the Board was at present taking every possible means to secure the initiation of forestry schemes in the interests of Scotland. I should like to remind the House that on the Estimates the Secretary for Scotland, on the 4th July, 1918, in reply to the charge that insufficient assistance had been given by the Development Commissioners to afforestry as far as the Board of Agriculture was concerned, said that every recommendation of the Board during the last eighteen months had been given effect to by the Development Commissioners, and he was really at a loss to suggest any better arrangement that could be made at this time. In other words, he was satisfied that everything was being done to give effect to the best policy in regard to afforestry in Scotland. I am quite prepared to admit that in the past we have not been able to do all we should have done in regard to afforestry, but to suggest that during the intervening period of two months before the matter can be dealt with by legislation nothing is going to be done unless this central committee is set up is a pure travesty of the situation. I speak as one who knows the interest taken in this matter all over the country and the strong desire to get a further move on.
My further objection to the proposal to-night is this, that the Committee is set up to anticipate the new scheme, and, although it is charged with afforestry work, is undoubtedly going to deal with a great many other matters affecting agriculture. You cannot separate afforestation from agricultural pursuits. I think it right to point out that in the Report of the Afforestation Reconstruction Committee they make it 2805 perfectly clear that in their view the functions of the Forestry Board cannot be separated from other functions of the Board dealing with agriculture and small holdings in Scotland, and they mention further that the question of small holdings is wrapped up in the future of afforestry in Scotland. They point out in their Report the special social and economic benefits that afforestry can bring to bear on small holdings, and that farm work fits in better with them than any other industry. They further point out that concurrently with afforestation the number of small holdings obtainable at a moderate rent can be increased and they consider that to be the duty of the afforestation authority to earmark portions of the present area which are suitable for small holdings. The Report is, in fact, ample proof of the proposition that you cannot deal with forestry altogether independently of such problems as that of small holdings That is a proposition which is accepted by every person, yet the proposal we have tonight is one which is going to set up a special Committee to deal purely with questions of afforestation, and, it may be to give very large powers also with regard to a small holding policy, which might not be in consonance with the small holding policy adopted by the Scottish Board of Agriculture; in other words, it would afford them the right to override our policy with regard to forestry and small holdings. That is a matter of very much importance to Scotland. It is anticipated that 573,000 acres will be held by the Commission in the first ten years, of land acquired by them, of which only 150,000 are to be planted. In other words, the remainder of that very large area is to be not afforested, but is to be made use of for the purpose of constituting small holdings, and therefore we will find that the policy of small holdings, of land settlement, will very largely be dealt with by this authority. It has never been suggested that the whole of the land is to be planted. The suggestion of the report is that you will be able to acquire large areas of land, some of which is suited for afforestation and the remainder of which will be used for small holdings and agricultural purposes. I am not surprised that that should be the view of the Committee, because if the House will refer to page 65 it will be seen that really their main policy, although they only deal with forestry, has been to 2806 swallow up all the Scottish Departments dealing both with agriculture and forestry. The passage in the Report says:It has been suggested to us that there is some possibility that a new Ministry may be formed which would embrace the existing Departments of Agriculture of England, Wales, and Scotland, and possess wider powers on all questions of rural land and development than are possessed by these Departments.It goes on to say:If action were taken on these lines, the views we express would be to some extent modified, and they would still desire to have a single forestry authority under the new Ministry, which is to swallow up the functions of the Scottish Board of Agriculture.I think it is a fair comment to make that this proposal would involve a central authority not only for forestry but for agriculture in our country. I am aware that there are some of my colleagues from Scotland who do share that view, but I do not think they represent anything like the mass of opinion in Scotland on that subject. I am quite sure if we were to take the views of people in Scotland we should find that they would unite in protesting against any policy which, instead of carrying out decentralisation, which is all the current of the time, we should set up a central authority which is going to control us. I do not want to suggest that there are not many competent persons who might not be able to render us splendid assistance in Scotland in regard to forestry, and I should like to make it quite clear that in Scotland we should welcome the reconstitution of our Scottish Board of Agriculture in such a way that we might have the advantage of the very best experts, and those who are best qualified to deal with this important matter. We feel that this is a matter of enormous national interest at the present time—that we should control directly the interests of Scotland, while at the same time keeping in active and sympathetic touch and consultation with the departments or authorities put in charge of reafforestation in the other parts of the United Kingdom. But I am quite sure that I am not exaggerating the feeling in Scotland when I urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that he should not in this matter seek to override what is the very, very strong view held by the Scottish people that they should have control of their own Departments in Scotland, and that so long as the present system continues in operation and the Secretary for Scotland is responsible to Scotland for this Department, that he 2807 should not be overridden by any authority. The effect of this proposal is entirely to override him. We look forward to the time when we shall administer these matters in Scotland. What in the meantime is suggested? That these questions should be determined by a central authority. The answer my hon. Friend got was that this is a matter of national interest, and that as England and Wales have an equal interest with Scotland in the matter. But surely it cannot be suggested that Scotland is not able to look after her own interests, and get her own experts, who are efficient and well equipped to advise and deal with this problem; and in the second place, that we have not got an enormously greater interest in this concern in Scotland than any other part of the United Kingdom? Some of my colleagues are present. I appeal for their support in my protest. It may be that at this stage this protest is ineffective in the sense that the Government has made up its mind. Well, whether or not we be saddled with this new authority is a question for which the Government must assume responsibility. So far as the immediate future is concerned, I am quite sure that anything they may do, so far as Scotland is concerned, which takes from that country her existing right of control over her own affairs, will not be disregarded in the coming weeks and months. I urge whoever is responsible for this to estimate very seriously whether it is wise in the interests and objects he has in view to get this matter pushed through at the end of the Session, when no full discussion is likely or possible, whether it might not involve those concerned in the future in far greater controversy than if the discussion were delayed until we got a Bill which could be fully discussed. If the decision is taken to-night, I can promise the right hon. Gentleman that in Scotland, there will be a very wide degree of indignation because of dealing with such matters in such a fashion, no opportunity being afforded for full discussion. I venture to assure him that the protest will assume a very woeful form if he persists in this Resolution.
§ Mr. BRADY
I desire to associate myself with the last speaker in his protest against the late hour at which this Vote is taken, though perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is not personally responsible for that; and, secondly, that when the 2808 Session is in its dying days a Vote of this importance should be introduced into the House in this fashion. This matter of afforestation is one of very great national importance to all parts of the United Kingdom. I venture to assert that there is no part of the United Kingdom in which the question of reafforestation is of more importance than in Ireland. Those of us who have studied the question are convinced that there are enormous possibilities for afforestation in Ireland, and I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman has consulted Irish opinion? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will enlighten us as to who Mr. Ponsonby is and what are his qualifications for so important an office? I think the Irish Department of Agriculture has done something in regard to afforestation in Ireland. It may be that Ireland's financial resources are limited, and hitherto our schemes have not been on a very large scale. Therefore it is all the more important when a proposal of this kind is made that we should know what Irish opinion has been consulted, in order that we may satisfy ourselves that Irish opinion of a representative character has been consulted. I do not know whether the Rules of the House would permit the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what is meant exactly by the appointment of an Irish Commission. We should be very glad to have a little more information before agreeing to this Vote.
§ Mr. WATT
I desire to associate myself with the protest which has been made by my hon. Friend (Mr. Millar) on this question. This Vote sets up a new authority to deal with forestry throughout the kingdom, and therefore it takes from Scotland and the Board of Agriculture there the power which that Board at present possesses of dealing with that subject. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote is acting entirely contrary to the recommendations of his own representative on the Committee which dealt with forestry, who indicated in an addendum to the Report that it was unwise to set up a separate institution to deal with forestry in the three kingdoms and yet my right hon. Friend brings up a Motion setting up a body which will deal with the three kingdoms. The Board of Agriculture was set up in 1912 with power to deal with afforestation in Scotland and yet my right hon. Friend is taking action to set up a central institution to deal with the three kingdoms, and I think that is a retrograde step. The 2809 Board of Agriculture in Scotland deals with small holdings which are necessarily associated with afforestation, and should this central body be set up to deal with the three kingdoms it follows that the subject of small holdings will fall into the hands of this central body and be taken from the Board of Agriculture, which has only had six years to deal with that subject. I think that is most unwise, and is contrary to the recommendations of the right hon. Gentleman's own Committee. At this stage of the proceedings I feel it is impossible to override the decision which the Government have come to that a central institution should be set up, but it will be unpopular in Scotland that the Board there should be so easily overridden and that they should not be given a longer time to deal with the subject. Scotland possesses more land suitable for afforestation than any other part of the United Kingdom, and we ought to have our own Board to deal with the subject. The hon. Gentleman no doubt will say that our own Board, up till now, has been inefficient in dealing with the matter, and that must be admitted, but if that is the case of the Government, it can easily be remedied by an improvement of the Board. It is quite possible to add members and to strengthen it. There is a strong feeling in Scotland that a Scottish Board should deal with the matter, and I therefore protest against the setting up of a central institution. It will be a most expensive method of dealing with it, as the representative of the Treasury has said. It would be much better if it were left to the various nations of the Empire to deal with it.
§ Sir J. FLEMING
I came into the House too late to hear all that has been said upon this Vote, but I am delighted to think that we have now made a start with regard to afforestation. I do not understand how this little Vote, asking only for £100,000, has been brought forward, and I am still less able to understand why it should be brought forward at this late hour and at this fag-end of the Session, but I can fully appreciate the fact that we are now going to begin with afforestation. It will be the time when the big scheme comes up to put everything right regarding England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. It is quite true that the possibilities of afforestation in Scotland in proportion to the acreage are far greater than in England. On the whole, the wood produced is rather better and of greater 2810 variety. When I heard the arguments used to-night for the separation of Scotland from England in the management of this matter, I could not help remembering that the Royal Scottish Horticultural Society, of which I have been a member for twenty years, passed a resolution the other day in Edinburgh approving of this scheme. If that body, which has been giving its attention to this vital question of afforestation for the last half-century, passes a resolution of this kind, men like myself, with such a small knowledge of the business, need not find very much fault, though I would much rather Scotland managed its own affairs, not only in afforestation, but also in everything else. But I am afraid we are scarcely ripe for that yet. I do not see that my fellow members from Scotland can continue in opposition to the commencement of this movement. By and by we will be able to have a round talk about this. Meantime, we ought to support the Government in this proposal to get the first instalment of this measure.
§ Colonel GREIG
I entirely agree with what has fallen from the last speaker, namely, that we support this Vote. I am not in any sense opposed to it, but I do wish and hope that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will give us a little more definite assurance than he gave in his speech as to what the meaning and extent of this Vote will be. He told us it was provisional; he told us also there would be legislation necessary in the next Parliament or Session, whatever happens. I would like him, if he could, to say that both as regards the policy underlying any question of afforestation and as regards the form in which that new Vote is to be applied that there shall be a free hand. Anybody who has read that Report must be convinced that there are at the root of it two very conflicting principles from the point of view from which one should regard afforestation in the future. There is one which may be called the war policy, and the other which is called the commercial policy. I am not going to discuss them now, but we want to discuss them before we finally decide on what lines we are going to set up our new Afforestry Department in the different units of the Empire. What I am most anxious about—and I share this feeling with my other colleagues in Scotland—and I do not wish a conflicting authority set up in Scotland, first of all against the only Minister we have here, 2811 in a matter in which land settlement and all the questions of land are so intimately connected. Afforestry is bound to give rise to all those questions which in Scotland are bound up with that problem to which I have referred. In my view—I state it frankly now—do not believe you can solve the question of afforestry in Scotland unless it is controlled by somebody that deals with land settlement. If you are going to have another outside body coining in, it will conflict with the Ministry and with the Department under that Ministry. Animadversions have been given vent to in the past, and they have been referred to by the hon. Member for Glasgow about the Board of Agriculture in Scotland not having performed its duties in regard to afforestry. I regard that as a wholy unjustifiable and unfounded accusation. Anybody who has studied the question must come to this conclusion, that the Act which set up that Board—now only five or six years old—provided a certain Grant for afforestation and other matters, but at the request of the Scottish Members, and under pressure from them, and with the general consent of the people in Scotland, the energies of that Board were directed not to afforestation, but to the question of land settlement. It is not true to say, also, that the Hoard has done nothing. It has set up testing stations, it has set up nurseries, it has trained men in the technique of forestry, and has made a beginning. If this Vote will encourage that and foster in the interim what has been done, nothing can be better than that it should be passed, and that this should go on. I do wish the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to-night will tell us definitely the basis of the Report, whether we are to adopt a war policy or a commercial policy; and, secondly, whether there is to be a separate institution in Scotland. I believe the Board of Agriculture to be the right one, but we do not wish Scotland to be controlled in this matter which so intimately affects us locally.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I wish, in the first place, to protest as strongly as possible against the action of the Government last night in taking the preliminary stages of this Vote without consultation with any of the Members from Scotland who are concerned with this subject. I have now been a long time in this House, but I do not remember any other occasion on which 2812 the Government have ventured to take that course without consultation with the Members concerned. I very much regret that my Noble Friend (Lord E. Talbot), who used to make these arrangements, is unable to be in the House owing to an accident. But for that I am sure this discourtesy would not have been shown to the Scottish Members. I can assure the Government that they feel very keenly this attempt to rush business. In the declining days of a declining Government, when Parliament is absolutely moribund, we object to having these matters, which greatly concern our country, rushed through. I am afraid that to-night those of us who have been able to remain in the House until this time will require to take this matter to a Division. With us this is a matter of principle, and there is no other method of showing what we think about it. Therefore, unless the Government are prepared to withdraw the Vote altogether, we shall have to take the drastic action I am suggesting. In order to try to get other Members of the House—who, whatever their political views may be, will agree that the matter concerns our country very much more largely than any other country—to lend us their support in defeating the Government on this Vote, let me remind hon. Members that there is in Scotland from three to four times the area of land for the purposes of afforestation than there is in the rest of the United Kingdom. If that fact is true, and I have not yet heard it disputed by anybody on the Government Bench, it is perfectly obvious that the question of afforestation is peculiar to the country of Scotland. It is because of the geographical conditions of the subject of afforestation, and because of the fact that in Scotland you have practically all the area that can be afforested in this country, that we, as Scottish Members, whatever our political views are, insist that this arrangement which is suggested by the Treasury should be withdrawn.
If hon. Members will take the trouble to look at the White Paper showing Class 2 of the Supplementary Estimates, they will find that this is an interim forestry authority. Why should we, within some four days, if not less, of the demise of this Parliament, be asked to pass £100,000 as a Grant towards an interim forestry authority? The footnote reads:In view of the urgent necessity of increasing certain preliminary expenditure for afforestation an interim authority has been set up to carry 2813 out the necessary work pending the passing of legislation setting up permanent machinery for this purpose.I do not dispute, because I do not at present know the facts, as to whether there are any preliminary works to be done, but it all that is involved is a question of certain preliminary expenditure which may reach the sum of £100,000, let me ask my hon. Friend (Mr. Baldwin), who has a large business experience, what difficulty is there in spending such portion of that money as is required for these preliminary purposes in Scotland through the regular and authorised Board of Agriculture? If I could have an answer to that question it would perhaps shorten my remarks. I cannot for the life of me understand why, with that organisation in existence, and with a certain amount of this work—the larger amount—obviously requiring to be done in Scotland, such money as is required cannot be spent in this businesslike way. If there is no answer from that question, I assume it cannot be spent in chat way because the Government does not want it spent in that way. That is the only assumption we can make from the silence which greets that question.
We are promised, as the result of this, a Bill next Parliament. What guarantee have we that this Government is coming back after the General Election? I should not mind if they were, but no Government which is going to the country, and coming back can guarantee that they are going to introduce a Bill on the Supplementary Estimate which is put before us to-night. I do not think we have a right to assume in a financial transaction of this kind, that the Government can implement the promise they are making, that a Bill should be introduced to carry into effect the suggestions of this Supplementary Estimate. But even if and when that Bill is introduced it will receive the strenuous opposition of the Scottish Members. We do not want this Bill. We do not want our afforestation to be controlled from Whitehall. We make the claim, and we shall emphasise it at every stage of the proceedings of the Bill, to control our own schemes of afforestation and we do that out of respect to the only Minister who represents Scotland in this Government. Scotland is represented by the Secretary for Scotland, and at the present moment the Board of Agriculture in Scotland is subject to his authority and speaks through him to this House and to the people whom we represent. This Committee 2814 which is suggested under this Supplementary Estimate can go to the War Cabinet, if it exists then. We have no guarantee that it will continue to exist. It certainly cannot continue to exist as a War Cabinet. It may be reformed as a Reconstruction Cabinet if we are going to have in the new Government a smaller and a larger Cabinet. If so, this new Interim Committee on Forestry can go to that Cabinet. I am glad to see that the Secretary for Scotland is in his place. It is not often that the Members on these benches spend the bulk of their time supporting his position in the Government. We are rather inclined to criticise him. On this occasion we object very strongly that he should be passed over by this Committee, which can go to the War Cabinet, and that their decisions will be put into force in Scotland probably against the will of the Board of Agriculture. I am not giving my own opinion, but the opinion of people who know. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh. I suppose it is not the first time that Members of this House have given expression to the opinions of their constituents, even though they do not know them. It is one of the privileges of a Member of Parliament to put the arguments of those he represents in this House. Therefore, I cannot understand why that should be a subject of laughter. Let every hon. Member who is laughing do the same thing himself. I was not expressing my own opinion, but the opinion of a Treasury expert. I have very strong opinions on forestry, and if hon. Members wait they will hear my own views as well as the views of one who sat on this Reconstruction Committee. In regard to this Reconstruction Committee I make a protest. I have in my hands a Report toy this Reconstruction Committee on Forestry, running to 105 pages, and I do not know any Scottish Member who was consulted on the subject.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I said a Scottish Member, as the right hon. Gentleman would know if he would listen to the criticism and not interrupt. I know he is chairman. That is why he knows so little about the respective people on this Committee. [Laughter.] This is no laughing matter so far as the Members for Scotland are concerned, as the right hon. Gentleman will learn before he has done with the 2815 chairmanship of this Committee and before he gets this money, and before he gets his Bill. After all the Scottish Members stand for something. They know their own views, and the opinions of the people they represent, and they are not going to be laughed at or interrupted by English Members who do not know.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Will the hon. Member address himself to the matter before the House? He is talking at large now. He has said over and over again during the last five minutes that he was going to quote something. Will he quote it?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not agree that the hon. Member was interrupted. He was prevented by his own interruptions.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I respectfully differ from you on that point. If it had been a point of Order, I would not have questioned your ruling, but I do differ from you upon your interpretation. My point is whether or not we should have this separate authority, and I would remind the Committee of the reservations which are appended to this Report; in the Report itself you find reservations made by a very eminent authority who certainly knows something about the subject. He points out the evil of creating an entirely new central authority to control afforestation in the United Kingdom. Is any weight given to reservations of that kind, especially when they are backed up by the majority opinion of the Scottish Members from an area of country in the United Kingdom which is far and away the largest area concerned with forestry? This Report goes on to say that the difficulty of controlling operations in Scotland from London is going to be very great. That is the crux of the position, so far as we are concerned.
Other Bills have been introduced during the past few days in which arrangements are made for controlling in Scotland other matters of as great public importance as this. For instance, in connection with the Ministry of Health it is proposed to set up a separate Department for Scotland and to provide it with a new secretary, which is an absolute innovation, so far as Bills in 2816 this House are concerned, and at the very moment when the Government, with a commonsense which is not always a feature of what they do, are proposing, with reference to the Ministry of Health, to give my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland the help of a new Department and a new Minister they are taking away from him under this Supplementary Estimate the control of one of the greatest national features in Scotland. Afforestation in Scotland is linked up with the question of small holdings. We are at present in Scotland, under an Act of Parliament administered through the Secretary for Scotland, attempting to establish small holdings in Scotland, and one reason more than any other why the effort has not been fully successful is that we have not been able to associate small holdings with schemes of afforestation. Every Scottish Member agrees that the one thing necessary for the successful establishment of small holdings is to associate them with afforestation. Where are we going to be if we get this Board of Control Committee in London presided over by a right hon. Gentleman who does not know Scotland and does not understand Scottish opinion, which will have the power not only to buy land for small holdings but to have schemes of afforestation in Scotland, while in the same breath the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House tell us that after the War they are going to give us a scheme by which Scotland, along with other nations, will have control of its own affairs, and you are proposing to set up in the last week of this Parliament an interim Committee, to be followed by a Bill in the new Parliament, which nobody can guarantee, under an authority centralised in Whitehall. If the Government think that the scheme is going through in this Parliament without the strenuous and consistent opposition of every Scotsman who loves his country they are mistaken. We are going to have our own scheme of afforestation in Scotland, and to have it associated with our schemes of small holdings. We are going to re-people our own country under the exercise of our own powers, and, in order to show that we mean that from the beginning, we shall divide on this Report if the necessity should arise.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I do not know whether, as a Scottish Member, I dare venture to support the Estimate before the House. That is what I wish to do. After all the thing which in Scotland 2817 really matters is to see the trees planted, and to see that done at the earliest possible moment. [An HON. MEMBER: "When the Department is created."] Even before the Department is created. This is not the first time I have taken an interest in this subject. Ever since I came to the House, year by year I have raised this subject of afforestation, recognising that it is one which is vital to any land settlement in Scotland, and vital to any real development of the latent resources of Scotland. Moreover this question, though it is one that interests the United Kingdom as a whole, is peculiarly a Scottish question. There is land which is suitable for afforestation in England and Wales, and there is more in Ireland, but there is infinitely more in Scotland. As one Royal Commission has estimated, I do not pin myself to the accuracy of the estimate, one-fourth of the surface of Scotland can be more profitably used for afforestation than it could be for any other purpose, and if it is used for afforestation it will not double the population or treble it, but in many cases multiply it by ten. This question is also intimately linked up with the whole question of the further development of small holdings in Scotland, as the hon. Member for East Edinburgh has just said. You cannot have a vast development of small holdings in Scotland without an auxiliary industry, and you cannot have economic holdings without the development of this great industry, which in Continental countries has led to such extensive and widespread development of small holdings. Seeing that this is so peculiarly a Scottish question, I should naturally prefer that it was developed by a Scottish Department, but as a Scottish Member, I am sorry to have to confess that the chief obstacle which we have had to the development of afforestation in Scotland has not been any central authority, and has not been the Imperial Government, but has been the Scottish Board of Agriculture which has resolutely, during the four years before the War, set itself against any development of agriculture on Scottish lines by Scottish resources. I do not blame my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland at the present time for the delay. He has shown himself most sympathetic with the development of afforestation in Scotland. Unfortunately, owing to war conditions, he was not able to put his sympathy into practice. What is the reason for this opposition 2818 to the development of agriculture in Scotland coming chiefly from the Scottish Department? The reason is that which was given by my hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrewshire (Colonel Greig). There was a superstition on the part of the Scottish Board of Agriculture, and, I am sorry to say, on the part of many Scottish members, that afforestation was merely a means of shelving small holdings, and that it was not an auxiliary policy, but was an opposition policy—a policy of those opposed to small holdings.
And when the Scottish Small Holdings Bill was passed, including as it did a grant of £200,000 a year for the purposes, among others, of afforestation and small holdings, the Scottish Board of Agriculture resolutely, and by determined policy, refused to spend a single penny of that money upon afforestation. It said this money must all be spent upon the direct creation of small holdings. But it could not spend the money upon small holdings. It found the machinery too cumbersome. It found the cost of acquiring the land too cumbersome, and, instead of spending money on afforestation, it deliberately accumulated money year after year in the bank, until it had accumulated large reserves, and then when war came the Treasury said, "You are getting a Grant of £200,000 a year for purposes of Scottish agriculture which you are not spending, and you have a good bank balance. In view of the economic necessities of the War, we will suspend your £200,000 a year, and you can live upon your bank balance." That is what the Scottish Board of Agriculture has been doing since the beginning of the War, and I am sorry to say I see little chance of substantial progress being made in afforestation if left entirely to the Scottish Office.
There is another matter which influences me just now. Before the War this was peculiarly a Scottish question, but since the War a new development has taken place. It is no longer a purely Scottish question. It is an Imperial question, limber has become an Imperial question, and it is necessary for Imperial purposes to have all the land, wherever it is, afforested. In view of the Imperial necessity, I see some chance of getting the trees planted in Scotland—and that is really the thing that matters—at the earliest possible moment. What does it matter if we get a separate Department for Scotland just 2819 now? We have not got Scottish Home Rule just now. This separate Department would be responsible to this House, which consists of 670 Members, out of whom only 70 are Scottish. Let us get a move on as quickly as we can. Let us support any means whereby we can get the trees planted and the land developed. Later on Scottish Home Rule is coming. That is inevitable, and, when it does come, then we can settle what share we in Scotland are going to take in the development of the resources of our country. In the interests of Scotland, as a Scottish Member and as a Scottish Home Ruler, I urge that we support whatever measures will secure the planting of trees at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think everybody in the House will recognise the sincere desire of my hon. Friend who has just spoken to promote afforestation in Scotland. He has made many speeches in this House on this subject, and I think we will all agree he has been, with the present Governor-General of Australia, one of the pioneers in promoting afforestation in our country. Naturally all of us who have listened to him are inclined to give the greatest weight to all the considerations he has put before the House. I regret, however, very much that on this occasion I find myself at variance with him in the practical conclusions which he has drawn. What is the situation in regard to afforestation so far as Scotland is concerned? We as Scottish Members are bound to look at this matter from the Scottish point of view. We know, as a matter of fact, that there is already existing in Scotland a Department which has power to deal with this very important problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. MacCallum Scott) has reminded this Committee that when the Small Holdings Act and the Board of Agriculture for Scotland were set up special provision was made for afforestation in Scotland. I agree with my hon. Friend that certain hindrances have been placed in the way and that there have not been shown, in respect of that Department in Scotland, that activity which we would all have liked to see. Undoubtedly we have to face the fact that there is at the present moment in existence with Scottish administration a Department which has by legislation had thrown upon it the function of dealing with this question of afforestation in 2820 Scotland. It may be true, as my hon. Friend suggests, that up to the present it has not acted as it ought to have acted, but even admitting that that is so, we are now called upon to say whether having a Department absolutely in existence in Scotland we should by a vote of this House in Committee of Supply supersede that Department. It is a very extraordinary proceeding on the strength of an interim Report dealing with the whole of the United Kingdom, to propose to interfere with a Department which relates exclusively to Scotland. Before doing that we ought to know exactly what is the position of the Secretary for Scotland in the matter. We should like to know whether he is in agreement with this proposal. Up to the present moment he has not enlightened his Scottish colleagues in this Debate. It is true my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Renfrewshire, who is private secretary to the right hon. Gentleman, has made a very interesting speech.
§ Colonel GREIG
I have spoken entirely for myself and from my own point of view. Anything I have said to-night is entirely on my own account, and has nothing whatever to do with the Scottish Office.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I expected that that was the position of my hon. and learned Friend. I only alluded to his speech by way of illustration. He has made a very interesting and valuable contribution to the Debate. I expected that after his speech we should have some guidance from the Secretary for Scotland as to the attitude of the Scottish Office towards this matter. As Scottish Members, we may be excused for taking so special an interest in afforestation, for Scotland, in proportion to area, has more land available for that purpose than any other part of the United Kingdom. The urgency of the problem in Scotland has been recognised by having a representative on the Board of Agriculture who is specially charged with the question of afforestation. In these circumstances we naturally want to know why in this, almost the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour of the thirty-first day of the twelfth month of the last year of an expiring Parliament, we should have a Vote put down as aSupplementary Estimate of a further sum required to be paid for the service of the year ending 31st March, 1919—£100,000—for an Interim Forestry Department.I can understand why there should be some desire for the first time to deal with 2821 this question in regard to England, but why should there be a desire to set up an interim authority in regard to Scotland, where you already have a permanent statutory authority? I doubt very much whether it is competent for this House on a Supplementary Estimate in Supply to supersede a statutory authority by an interim authority. I do not know whether the Government has really considered that point, or whether the Secretary for Scotland has considered it. Undoubtedly the whole problem of afforestation was under the consideration of the Government in 1914, when the Small Holdings (Scotland) Act was passed. It was in view of the importance of afforestation and the closeness of its relation to the extension of small holdings in Scotland that a special Small Holdings Committee was set up under that Act for Scotland. Why should we now have this supplementary Estimate? I have great respect for my right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland), who has held some very important posts in the Government at various times and who has shown great administrative ability in all those offices. But I remember that his recommendations in regard to the Luxury Tax have now been thrown on the scrap heap. That is by way of illustration. He is now put up as the chairman of the interim forestry authority and he has to deal with problems of afforestation in Scotland with which he has had, up to the present, absolutely no acquaintance whatever. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I do not wish to disparage the knowledge of my right hon. Friend, but so far as the country which I represent is concerned I think it is quite clear to us that he has had no special experience. We must remember that the representative appointed by the Treasury on the special Reconstruction Committee which deals with forestry has made a very strong recommendation against the course which the Government is now adopting. I do not know whether the Financial Secretary is going to reply, but I should be very much surprised if he, as a representative of the Treasury, were to throw over the recommendations of the very distinguished gentleman appointed by his Department to look after the interests of the Treasury on this special Sub-committee on Reconstruction. Up to the present we have heard nothing from the Secretary for Scotland as to his own view, and I think we are entitled to hear 2822 from him what is the view of the Scottish Office on this question. We want to know whether, before this Report was promulgated, his Department had considered this problem or not, and, if so, whether they had any schemes in view and had taken any practical steps towards putting their proposals into operation. These are most relevant considerations for the House to have in mind before assenting to this Vote.
I do not wish to go into details as to the special aspects of this question as it relates to Scotland, but we all know that the whole problem has been revolutionised by the special committees arising out of the War. It is true that many of the areas which were capable of being afforestated in Scotland are areas in which the kind of timber which can be grown is timber which could not be profitably grown on an economic basis before the War; but this has now been altered. The whole question of the importation of timber is fundamentally altered by the rate of freights which prevail, and which are likely to continue for a considerable time under the shortage of tonnage, which affects not only this country but every other country in the world. Under these circumstances, the areas capable of afforestation in Scotland have an importance which in the past could not possibly be assigned to them altogether out of relation to the importance of afforest-able areas in other parts of the Kingdom. We have a Department in Scotland in existence with a Commissioner whose special duty it is to deal with this question. Why, therefore, should there be this Vote now put before this House? It is a Vote of £100,000 for afforestation, and we have this footnote:In view of the urgent necessity of incurring certain preliminary expenditure for afforestation purposes an interim authority has been set up to carry out the necessary work pending the passage of legislation to establish permanent machinery for this purpose.I should like to know why we are to have this interim authority dealing with the situation in Scotland at all. There is an authority in Scotland at present and you are paying for it, and why should we pay for an authority to supersede it? If there is any money to be spent it should not be expended on officials so far as Scotland is concerned, but on the actual work of getting seeds, selecting areas, and the planting of trees. You have 2823 officials already in Scotland, and why should you supersede them by a new authority? To that no answer has been given up to the present in the course of this discussion, and I think it is due to the House that the Secretary for Scotland should make a statement now and tell us what the Department is doing for which he is responsible, whether it is inadequate, and to what extent, and why it is necessary that it should be superseded by a central authority. The Secretary for Scotland has been associated with me in many schemes for the decentralisation of control in Scotland, and I once drafted a Bill along with him for Home Rule for Scotland, and it is not only with surprise but with sorrow and regret, that I now find him allowing an interim afforestation authority to take over powers which are conferred on a Department subordinate to him. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to-night to assert the rights of Scotland, to vindicate the Department for which he is responsible, and decline to allow any interim authority to interfere with the work of afforestation in Scotland.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
As the Secretary for Scotland shows no indication that he proposes to respond to what I think was a very powerful appeal addressed to him by my hon. Friend and colleague opposite (Mr. Pringle), I rise to say a word or two with regard to this Estimate. I wish to enter my protest against the course which the Government has followed in connection with this Estimate. The Committee stage of the Estimate was taken last night at a moment when Members who are deeply interested in the question were absent. It was taken without notice. I want also to point out something much more remarkable. Finding that the members who had not had notice that it was going to be taken were absent, the Government took the Committee stage without one word of explanation, so that when we received the OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings of this House to-day, we find no explanation whatever, such as would have enabled us to criticise from the basis of knowledge the proposal which the Government have to make. In making this protest I am not accusing the Secretary for Scotland of any intentional discourtesy to his colleagues. I am sure that he, like the House, had been rushed by the Government. It is an action for which I am sure the Secretary for Scotland is in no way responsible. It is so alien to all his 2824 traditions. It is a proposal of a most preposterous character. If the Secretary for Scotland is going to get up to defend his colleagues—I can quite understand his extreme reluctance to perform such a repugnant task—he will find it difficult to point to any parallel where such an amount of money is voted for a scheme which has not been defined and which depends upon subsequent legislation to be passed in a subsequent House of Commons before it can be carried out.
What is the legislation that we are promised? I desire to express my agreement with the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) who pointed out that this Government cannot claim successive immortality. It may be dissolved, and it may not return. I am one of those who hope it will not return. Is it not trifling with the country and with this House to ask for this blank cheque in order to carry out, through an authority not yet constituted, powers which depend upon an Act of Parliament which cannot be brought forward or will not be brought forward in this Parliament, but is relegated to the unknown future. This action on this important question is without any parallel even in the extraordinary records of the present Government. Let me summarise what it is we ask the Secretary for Scotland to secure for us. We do not want the Government of the day, above all, this Government, to nominate for us in Scotland an authority to deal with this question, over which we have no control. This question which is most intimately connected with the local government of Scotland, should be controlled by Scotland. This proposal by the Government, and the form in which it is introduced, is alien to that for which we stand. It is the negation of all that we strive for in connection with self-government in Scotland. Therefore, as a Scottish Member, I make my protest against the action of the Government. I make my protest, also, because I believe it to be an infringement of the privileges of this House, and also because of the conduct of the Government, which has been marked not by straightforward action in the way this Estimate has been brought forward, and the way the preliminary stages were yesterday rushed through Committee. I am very glad indeed that we shall have the opportunity in the Division Lobby of showing how strongly we feel about the way we have been treated.
§ Sir J. BARRAN
I rise to make very briefly, not a protest, but what I hope will be even more useful, a suggestion. Listening to the latter part of this Debate I very fully realise the difficulty and embarrassment in which in this matter we are placed. I quite see that the Government are pledged to take prompt action, and I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow that prompt action should be taken. I am only sorry that action has not been taken more promptly. At the same time the arguments used by the hon. Member for Lanark have a weight which, I am sure, has not been lost upon the Government Bench. My suggestion would be: would it not be possible for the Secretary for Scotland to consider the advisability of not pressing this Vote at present? The objections to taking it in this form are manifest. We expect that, at any rate, within the next few months a new Parliament will be sitting. Why should my right hon. Friend not agree, without any prejudice to the discussion on this matter on its merits at the earliest possible moment in the new Parliament, to refrain from pressing the Vote now? Such a course would be meeting in an honourable and practical spirit the difficulty which is felt, and felt strongly, by many who have spoken, and who represent various constituencies in Scotland. If my right hon. Friend will consider that suggestion in a friendly spirit it will, I think, have the effect of not retarding in any sensible degree the carrying out of the scheme, which we all recognise is of urgent importance, and at the same time it will meet the practical difficulties which have been impressed upon him with so much cogency by hon. Members on the opposite side of the House. I hope my right hon. Friend may be disposed to give my suggestion favourable consideration.
§ Mr. ACLAND
My right hon. Friend has asked me to say a few words as he is not able to speak again, and the Secretary of Scotland has just intimated, too, that he would like me to do so, I take the opportunity, therefore, of intervening to say a word or two as to my own position in this matter. I happen to have the honour of being chairman of the Reconstruction Committee that went into the question some time ago. We were appointed, I think, in the summer of 1916. We reported in the spring of 1917. The Government made up its mind in the summer of 1918. When I was informed of the decision of the War Cabinet on the 2826 matter, part of that decision, I found, was that I should be asked to do my best by advice to assist in the steps which the War Cabinet had decided it was necessary to take. I was, unfortunately, only graded B2 during the War: therefore, I thought it right to do anything which the Government asked me to do during the War period—and this came within the War period—and there was, therefore, no question at all but that this being a matter which, as chairman of this Committee, I had gone into very, very carefully, I should do my best to follow out the request of the Government.
There really is some urgency for action to be taken to co-ordinate the efforts of existing authorities, and I am sorry we have got on to questions concerning Scotland so much, because there is a great deal more to be said on the general merits of the question. But there are one or two questions which have been asked on which I could remove misconceptions. For instance, there has been a misconception as to the position of the Secretary for Scotland. It had certainly never come into my mind in the discussions I had with him, and they have been numerous, or with other members of the Government, that his position and opinions were going to be ignored or given the go by. He told me the other day that the Cabinet, in deciding on the matter, had very properly decided that the interim authority should work in close touch with all existing authorities, and I took it for granted that when we worked in co-operation with and with a desire to help the efforts of the Scottish Board of Agriculture if any difference of opinion of any kind arises the matter would be considered by the Secretary for Scotland, and it would be only after he had expressed his views that there would be any question at all of this appeal to the War Cabinet which has been decided upon. I do not conceive that under the procedure which has been laid down for the operations of the interim authority there can be any possibility of ignoring the perfectly right and proper position in this matter of the Secretary for Scotland. I certainly look forward to working with him in every possible way. We have had some preliminary meetings of the body which has been appointed—
§ Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and forty Members being found present—2827
§ Mr. ACLAND
We decided, as our first act, to go to Scotland and ask the Board to see us, and to see, so that we might consult with them, whether in any way we could really help them with regard to this difficult matter of forestry. With regard to Ireland, the question has been asked as to the Irish representation. I consulted the Board of Agriculture in Ireland and the Chief Secretary, and naturally the suggestion they made was accepted. I believe Mr. Ponsonby is a very useful member of the Agricultural Wages Board in Ireland, and has done very good work there. He is interested in agriculture, and certainly knows a great deal of forestry. He is a colleague anyone would be proud to work with.
The only other point I want to make clear is this: I do not think it would be right for us to regard the authority under which we now work as in any way committing the House to a final decision as to how the general final policy of the Government with regard to afforestation ought to be carried out. I can say that when the Bill comes forward the matter will be as open for their decision as it is now. I place as axiomatic only two things—first, that the State in the future in one way or another is going to take the question of planting on big lines really seriously, and in tackling it they want to avoid big mistakes. There has always been a suspicion that State action in afforestry has been misguided, and if tackled by the State in a big way it is very important that mistakes should be avoided. Starting from this assumption, that land is to be secured, if land is to be secured, it is very necessary to look into the question of where those areas ought to be. If this matter is regarded as a matter for Scotland alone, undoubtedly there will be far less chance of securing large areas in Scotland than if the matter was considered from the point of view of the United Kingdom. Scotland can do far more than provide timber for its own needs. It can provide timber for the greater part of the needs of the United Kingdom as well; and there is undoubtedly more chance for Scotland providing for the needs of the United Kingdom if the representatives of the United Kingdom have, at any rate, some say in the survey and selection of those areas.
One word as to the argument put forward that we might as well postpone this matter for two or three months. There is 2828 no certainty that legislation will be passed in two or three months. The latest time for seeds to be planted is the end of May.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Yes; the latest stage at which seeds can be planted is the end of May next year. I did not think I had been talking about May this year. Seeds must be collected now. Every effort should be made to obtain stocks of the most necessary seeds of this country. The Douglas fir and the spruce have already shed their seeds, as far as this country is concerned. If a supply of these seeds is to be obtained for planting before the end of May, we have to take advantage of foreign supplies, and get to work to collect supplies in foreign countries. It is the same with larch. The only hope of using this planting period of next spring is to start at once, with very large measures of seed collection. As I see that my hon. Friends, to whom I did my best to listen with quietness and courtesy, are engaged entirely in conversation, I shall not continue the argument, which does not seem to interest them. But I can only say, with regard to that matter, with regard to collecting seeds and planting, with regard to starting schemes for the training of forest officers and foresters, with regard to schemes of research, and in very many other matters, there is a great deal that a central authority can do to help the efforts of existing authorities, which is all we are going to do, and what we hope to do. And I believe that those very authorities themselves, the Boards of Agriculture in England and Scotland, and the Department of Agriculture in Ireland, with whom we have entered already into the most friendly relations, will be the very first to appreciate the efforts which we hope to be able to make, and forward these efforts in this extremely important matter.
§ The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. Munro)
I had no intention of taking part in this Debate, but after the invitations to do so, which I have received from my Scottish colleagues, I agree that it would be only courteous that I should say a few words in explanation of my views with regard to the questions before the House. I quite recognise the strength of the opposition which has been shown by my colleagues with regard to this Vote. I think that they will bear me out when I say that on all occasions I have endeavoured, so far as I can, to meet their views, 2829 not only with regard to this, but on all other questions. I fully recognise also that this question is a very important question for the Scottish people, for, in respect of the afforestable area, Scotland is larger than England or Ireland. Therefore, the Scottish interest in this question is not only justifiable, but perfectly natural. There has been no question whatever of rushing this Vote through. It has been suggested that the Vote was taken last night at a time when most Members were not in the House—
§ Mr. MUNRO
It was taken with full notice. The Vote was on the Order Paper. If my hon. Friends were not present that cannot be said to be the fault of the Government. Full notice was given that the Vote was to be taken. My hon. Friends knew that it was to be taken. They had the fullest opportunity of discussing the matter at length—I do not say at too great length.
§ Mr. MUNRO
There was no one here to ask for a Government statement last night, but a full Government statement has been made to-night, and it has been dealt with fully in Debate. This question has not been brought before the House without the very fullest consideration. In the first place, there was the Committee of which my right hon. Friend opposite is Chairman which explored the question with fulness and with care. I have their Report which has been presented. It was considered, first, by a Cabinet Committee at considerable length, as I know, because I had the privilege of attending the Cabinet Committee and discussing the matter very fully, and after it had been discussed by the Cabinet Committee the matter came before the War Cabinet, which, after giving the matter full consideration, authorised the setting up of this interim authority. It was recognised by the War Cabinet that what was done was done for the purpose of making certain preliminary arrangements for the development of afforestation. There was no question before the War Cabinet, nor is there before the House to-night, of a permanent forestry authority in this country. The minute of the War Cabinet, which I have before me, expressly bears out that what was sanctioned was the setting up of an interim authority to make certain necessary 2830 preliminary arrangements with regard to afforestation in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I was not present at the War Cabinet, and I am not a member of the War Cabinet, as my hon. Friend knows. The second point which the War Cabinet decided was that until legislation was passed the interim authority should work through the existing agencies in touch with the various Departments concerned—that is to say, with the three Boards of Agriculture in the three parts of the United Kingdom—and in order to meet the point which has been made by several of my hon. Friends tonight that a policy might be adopted by the interim authority which was not approved, say, in Scotland, it was expressly provided that in the event of difference of opinion between the interim authority and the existing Boards of Agriculture there should be a right of appeal to the War Cabinet. But apart from that provision altogether, I do not anticipate, knowing my right hon. Friend opposite as I do, that in a conference between us any such difference of opinion would really arise and I do not think that the right of appeal which has been provided by the decision of the War Cabinet will have to be invoked because, after many conferences with my right hon. Friend, I am really assured that his point of view and mine with regard to afforestation in Scotland will not differ.
I would like to mention to the House this further point, that, so far as the personnel of the authority which is being set up is concerned, Scotland comes out of it uncommonly well. In the first place, we have upon the interim authority Lord Lovat, who has more knowledge of afforestation in Scotland than almost any other Scot with whom I am acquainted. I do not think anyone will doubt his expert knowledge and his enthusiasm for the development of afforestation in Scotland. Further, upon the Committee is Colonel Fotheringham, of Murthly Castle, who lately provided the equipment of the forestry school which I had hoped to open in Scotland last Saturday, but which I was prevented from doing by urgent business in London. He is also a member of the Committee, and, as if that were not enough, my hon. Friend the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Mr. MacCallum Scott) is another representative from Scotland. I think, therefore, that my 2831 hon. Friends who come from Scotland, and whose views I share, may rest assured that the Scottish point of view in the determination of these matters will be fully represented upon the interim authority—
§ Mr. MUNRO
—upon the authority which will act in consultation with myself, and if, contrary to my expectation, there should be any difference of opinion in policy, then, as I say, an appeal to the War Cabinet lies. I should like to point out, if I may, to my hon. Friends from Scotland, that the Debate to-night has very largely proceeded upon what I think I may describe as a mistaken view that we are deciding a permanent question or setting up a permanent authority for afforestation in Scotland. The Debate, in other words, would have been entirely appropriate to a Second Reading Debate upon the Bill, which will, in the next Parliament, I assume, be brought in to set up a permanent authority. That is not the case now, and the Debate is largely a misrepresentation of the circumstances in which we find our-selves to-night, because the only proposal now is that an interim authority should be set up for certain preliminary arrangements. The House will have the fullest opportunity of discussing, of debating, and of turning down, if they think fit, any Bill which may be introduced in a future Parliament for the purpose of setting up permanent arrangements.
§ Mr. MUNRO
At any rate you must remember that you will have the fullest opportunity of debating and discussing the Bill if and when it is introduced, and of impressing your views regarding it. The only question to-night is whether in the meantime, for the purpose of carrying through certain necessary preliminary arrangements, this Vote should be passed. I will appeal, if I may, to my Scottish colleagues to let this Vote pass on this assurance that there will be no prejudice 2832 to the fullest discussion and determination of the important topic which will then arise, namely, whether or no there shall be a permanent authority of this nature set up for the purpose of administering afforestation in Scotland and England and Ireland. Having in view that the Vote does not prejudice that great and important question, I hope this Vote will now be allowed to pass.
§ Mr. GULLAND
I confess I am rather at a loss to understand the position of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland. I understood that he took quite a different line. I find that in the House, on Scottish Estimates on 4th July of this year on this very important topic, he made this important statement—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 the Development Commission."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th July, 1918, col. 1946, Vol. 107.]Now the Secretary for Scotland comes down, throws over what he said so recently as July, and says that the ideal scheme is one of a temporary Committee presided over by my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. GULLAND
I do not want to labour the point, but I say that in July the right hon. Gentleman could not suggest any better arrangement, and now he talks about this temporary arrangement which he commends to the House, of a Committee presided over by my right hon. Friend. I have the greatest faith and confidence in my right hon. Friend, and the greatest praise for all the splendid work he has done during the war. But Scotland wants her own body—that is the whole point, and I really must remind the right hon. Gentleman that we are getting rather tired of all this timidity, of having reports to the War Cabinet and reports back again. We want this thing done in Scotland, and I really would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to divest himself of any authority that has been put upon the shoulders of the Secretary for 2833 Scotland. I beg of him that he should not be content with a temporary Committee. The right hon. Gentleman talked about this temporary Committee to make preliminary arrangements, and the case of the right hon. Gentleman here appears to be that he has bought a large number of seeds which he wants to plant. If you are going to plant these seeds in a specially selected place, I suggest that you have initiated your policy. Before you plant the seed you must have fixed the ground where it is to be put in. I want to say, too, that one hears all the time about a planting scheme in the North of Scotland and in the Highlands. I suggest that full consideration should be given to the South of Scotland, where there are large tracts of country just as suitable for planting as there are in the North. I rise to join in the appeal which has been made to the Secretary for Scotland to withdraw this Vote, and let us, or at any rate those of us who return here, discuss the matter when the Bill is produced. We have had to wait years when these Committees have been reporting and reporting; let us wait a little longer and get the thing put on a proper basis instead of having this temporary arrangement which apparently pleases no one.
§ Mr. KING
This Debate has now gone on for two hours and a quarter, and at this late hour it is certain that many of the important speeches will not be reported in to-morrow's papers. I would also like to observe that though in the Vote apparently there is no reason why Scotland should be singled out for special favour in the money allocated, yet there have been ten speeches from Scottish Members, only one from an Irishman, and so far only two from English Members. I hope that the money for afforestation is not going to be given in that proportion. I certainly think that there is in some way more need for afforestation in England than in Scotland, partly because Scotland has already an authority and has already done, or ought to have done, a good deal in this direction, and also because I think there are more districts available in England and accessible for afforestation—areas that are yet unopened for afforestation. I was very disappointed with the speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Acland). He seemed to be addressing his remarks to two or three Scottish Members, and when he observed that they did not attend he desisted. He did not look around him or he would have 2834 observed myself and many other Members waiting most anxiously upon his remarks, and I assure him that it was a great disappointment and a great disadvantage to us that we had not the benefit of his enlightenment upon this subject. In the few remarks that he made, and which he cut short so unfortunately, he spoke about gathering seeds.
I would suggest that a real systematic effort be made to gather seeds. I believe it could be done; in fact, I have done a little in that way myself sometimes, because I have been planting seeds of trees. There is nothing more easy than to organise children in any village to gather any amount of seeds that would be available for a certain class of trees. Another thing I should like to suggest in this connection is that seedlings be collected. I walked through the wood the other day for about two miles and must have seen hundreds, and probably thousands, of young seedlings, one or two years old, that could be taken up and collected and planted again in places where such trees would eventually have grown. I want to know whether all the organising power and opportunity which is being made in so many Departments—in gathering things suitable for munitions, in collecting animal food, and so forth—cannot be used here. Why cannot these efforts which have been admirably organised in certain districts be organised in the interests of afforestation? There is nothing, I think, that so feeds the imagination of the young and is so attractive as the planting of trees, more especially of trees that the youth who has been engaged in collecting and planting will in years to come see as great and splendid timber. These are ideas that may be followed out to a considerable extent, but at this late hour I shall not attempt to do it. I will only conclude by saying that these Scottish Members have practically monopolised this Debate, but that they are not going to monopolise the money. I hope that will be clearly understood. Scotland is not going to occupy all the efforts of this authority. I am sure that a great deal of work can be done, and if taken up in the right spirit and the right way possibly something will be achieved.
§ Mr. BYRNE
I join with my Friends from Scotland in protesting against this matter being rushed through to-night. One of my hon. Friends on the Front Opposition Bench said that Scotland wants 2835 its own body to deal with this matter. I agree that Scotland should have its own body to deal with this matter, but so should Ireland. I cannot understand why Ireland should only have one representative on this Committee. In all matters affecting Ireland you always give the least possible representation. I think the Chief Secretary will agree with me that on any Committee dealing with any matter affecting Ireland one man is regarded as sufficient. I ask the right hon. Gentleman