§ First Resolution read a second time.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.
§ Mr. HOGGE
borne comment has already been made with winch most of us will agree. I think it is rather unfortunate in prevailing circumstances that first of ail the Scottish Estimates this year have to be discussed on Report, and have not been in Committee, which, as hon. Members of this House know, renders it impossible to deal in that detail to which we are accustomed in our national affairs in this House. It is also unfortunate that the river procession takes place to-day, particularly because every Scottish Member, coming from a country which has furnished so many men for the Mercantile Marine, desires to show his appreciation of their services. Nevertheless, this cuts very much into our time, and it is unfortunate. After all, we have to make the best of the opportunity left to us, and I propose at once to set about with my criticisms.
The Vote for the Board of Agriculture this year raises a number of topics which are interesting, not only to Members who represent rural constituencies in Scotland, but also to those of us who represent urban communities. At any rate, there is one feature introduced into the Vote this year, namely, that which deals with the training in agriculture of demobilised officers and men of His Majesty's Forces, which brings the question of agriculture home to us in the urban communities, from whose constituencies many have joined the forces, and who now, when they have returned, display a desire not to return to their old avocations but to seize the opportunity provided by this Vote, which I was very glad to see has been largely increased, I think from £6.000 to £24,000. I am not sure that it is big enough yet but I am glad to say it has been increased. 65 They desire to take advantage of this Vote and train themselves for a new life. There is another item of interest to the Vote which I am glad to see. I note that the Grant-in-Aid, which is Item K, if I remember rightly, was suspended during the War, has again been placed in the Vote for this yea f. I shall have some questions to ask on that point, because, if my memory serves me rightly, the Grant which may have been paid during the years of the War was not accumulated for the purpose of the administration of the Act. That money went back, I believe, to the Treasury.
§ The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. Munro)
Yes; the Grant was reduced during the War to £10,000 a year instead of £22,000.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HOGGE
That means that during the War money which might have been accumulating for the administration of the Small Landholders Act was not accumulating, and, as we all know, the number of men who could have been put on the land was very materially reduced. At any rate, whatever we may say later on when we resume the proceedings, there is some considerable satisfaction among the Scottish Members with the Vote of £185,000 for Agriculture, because if there is one thing which is more urgently required in Scotland than another to-day it is the speeding up and the quickening of the administration which is behind the Scottish Small Landholders Act. We look forward to the operation of that Act to help on the repopulation of many of our counties in Scotland, and to the Act providing for the resuscitation of rural life in our Scottish communities. The interference with the administration, both from the lack of men and the Jack of money, has meant to Scotland a large hiatus equalled by the length of the War in the operation of placing men upon the land.
§ Sitting suspended for River Procession (Sea Services Commemoration), on the Anniversary of Mobilisation, 4th August, 1914.
§ MR. SPEAKER resumed the Chair at twenty minutes before Sis of the Clock.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I wish that when the proceedings were interrupted someone else had been speaking, in order that when the Debate was resumed a Member of this House with more authority than myself could have referred to the pleasure and gratification with which we have all wit- 66 nessed the Pageant on the River. It was a Victory Pageant, but we hope that the River will be used for peaceful purposes for the remainder of our lives.
With regard to the particular Vote under discussion, I want to draw attention to the wasteful experiments which have 'been made by the Scottish Board of Agriculture in taking land for the purpose of settling soldiers on it after their return from the War. I would like to know, for instance, what progress has been made with the estates known as Borgie. During the War, the Duke of Sutherland presented this large estate to the Scottish Board of Agriculture, and a promise was held out at that time that a considerable number of men would he accommodated upon it as colonists. As far as my information goes, very little real progress has been made, and nothing practically has been done except in the way of improving the rest of the Duke's estate, through which a railway is to be made in order to reach Borgie. The last I heard of this particular estate and of the various experiments made by the Board of Agriculture was that those experiments had resulted in fewer than twenty men being placed on the land for any purpose at all. A great story was told of what would be done in afforestation combined with small holdings, but I am informed that all experiments in the way of afforestation have proved unsuccessful. I should like to hear how much this estate has cost the nation since it was taken over by the Scottish Board of Agriculture, and how many actual settlers arc at present to be found in that remote part of the country.
The second example of waste of expenditure on the part of the Board of Agriculture is to the found in the experiment tried with the estate of Midlocharwoods. As a matter of fact, a large part of this estate is under the high-water sea level. Its total area is 520 acres, and when it was taken over it was divided in the foil-owing way: There were 158 acres of fair arable land, 62 acres of very inferior land, and 340 acres were flooded "moorland. [An HON. MEMBER:" The estate was only 224 acres in extent!"] I am giving the-figures of the estate as it existed when it was in the possession of the Scottish Labour Colony from Glasgow. It was used as a colony for inebriates, tramps, and general wayfarers, and there was a dormitory, consisting of a wooden shanty, 67 providing accommodation for some thirty people. I should like to know a little of the history of that transaction. The estate was turned down as being absolutely unsuitable for the purposes for which it has now been taken. It was in December, 1916, that the proposal to take it over for the purposes of colonisation was absolutely turned down. It was not until the middle of 1917 that negotiations were reopened for the purpose of securing it, and it was actually purchased early in 1918, but as from Martinmas, 1917. At the time it was taken, the Dumfries Local War Pensions Committee protested strongly against its being acquired for any such purpose, and they asked the Department to hear them in opposition to the proposal to take it over for use as an ex-soldiers' colony. Under the Act of Parliament, under which it was proposed to take it, over three-fourths of the entire estate must be arable land, but we find in this case there are still remaining at least 300 acres of moorland, and all attempts to break up the estate and to use it as a settlement for soldiers and discharged men have so far entirely failed. I should like, therefore, in the case of Borgie and of Midlocharwoods, both of which are painful illustrations of experiments having been undertaken without sufficient care—I say I should like some information as to the cost and result.
The second point I want to put depends upon the first I tried to make. It is inadequacy of the provision. I want to deal now with the long delay which occurs between the application of a discharged man to the Scottish Board of Agricultures for land and his being actually planted upon it as a settler, but I will only cite one example as an illustration of what I mean, because the interruption which has occurred in this discussion does not leave a very long time for Members to take part in the Debate. But there was the case of a man named Duncan Watson, from Argyllshire. This lad was eighteen when he joined the Army. He served in the Army two and a half years; was severely wounded, and was for a long time in hospital. His for bear's had farmed land in that particular county with great success, and he was particularly anxious to get a small croft or a small holding where he could continue the occupation in which he had been trained. The curious thing about his application was this: 68 When it was first sent in it was referred to the Food Controller, presumably with the idea of ascertaining whether this land ought or ought not to be brought under food cultivation. The Food Controller turned the application down. Then there was an appeal to the Scottish Board of Agriculture, which also refused the application, and the last I heard of the matter was this, that the Scottish Board of Agriculture tried to get into touch with that well-known land reformer—the Duke of Argyll, who insisted that there was no reason why this lad should be put on the land, and who refused to move in the matter at all. I think I am quite fair in saying that that case is typical of many others. It is clear that the various efforts made from time to time by the Scottish Board of Agriculture to put men on the land have failed to a very considerable degree, and that there is not an appreciable number of men yet settled upon the land in spite of the big promises made in this direction.
This brings me to the third and last point I want to make. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith (Captain Wedgwood Benn) the, other day asked the Secretary for Scotland whether in making new appointments of technical officers to-the Board of Agriculture the vacancies would be advertised, so that discharged and disabled officers and men with the necessary qualifications for the work should have an opportunity of applying for the post. The reply of the right hon. Gentleman was that ho would do this when practicable. I have made some inquiry, but find there has been no advertisement issued so far, and I do not know whether the right lion. Gentleman intends to advertise, or whether the phrase "where practicable" means that nothing of the kind is ever going to be possible. But in any event it is true-that appointments are being made. The other day a Scottish-Indian who left the country in 1914 and took no part in the War was recalled from India to take up-one of these appointments. It seems tome ridiculous that although we are supposed to make these situations available for discharged men—and there are bound, to be in Scotland hundreds and thousands of men who have come from agricultural districts there—from the Highlands and Islands—and have served brilliantly in the War, and who, therefore, ought to be given a preference wherever possible in every case involving supervision of work: 69 of this nature in Scotland, I say it does seem to me ridiculous that with so many suitable men available a civilian should be brought back from India to fill the post. These criticisms which I have made might be extended indefinitely, but in view of the shortness of time I do not think it would be fair for any of us to take up much of the time of the Committee; therefore I have curtailed my observations. But I shall be obliged if my right hon. Friend will give answers to the specific questions I have put in regard to what I consider to be not perhaps maladministration but certainly bad administration on the part of the Scottish Board of Agriculture.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. STURROCK
I should like to pre face what I have to say in regard to the Scottish Board of Agriculture by expressing my deep regret that the Scottish Estimates should be taken on a day which is entirely unsuited for the serious consideration of matters affecting the good government and administration of Scotland during present and future years. I do feel, in view of the interruption of the Sitting—for a purpose with which we all sympathise—to enable us to witness the River Pageant—and in view also of the fact that this day is entirely inconvenient for many Scottish Members of Parliament, that it is extremely regrettable, when there are so many serious matters affecting the welfare of our country which need to be carefully and thoroughly debated, we should have been called upon to discuss them under these circumstances. There is another point which I should like to submit to the Secretary for Scotland for his consideration. I know perfectly well we cannot expect an immediate answer to the suggestion just now, but inasmuch as we have a Scottish Standing Committee which is ready at any moment to consider matters affecting Scotland and which is ready during the Session to take up and deal in a satisfactory manner with measures affecting Scotland, surely it could be called together to discuss the Scottish Estimates and subject them to that careful consideration and revision which I am sure they demand. It is a perfectly practical proposal, and although it might not have any precedent to warrant it, yet in these days we are making precedents in every direction, and seeing that the Scottish Standing Committee is representative of every Scottish interest in 70 the House, without respect to party, we ought to be allowed to take up these Estimates in that Committee and go into them very much more fully than is possible in this House with the limited time at our disposal.
I desire to refer to the Report of the Board of Agriculture especially in regard to the question of small holdings in all parts of the country. I am expressing what I am sure is the general view of the House when I say that amore lamentable document, so far as regards that particular question is concerned, was never presented to Parliament by any responsible body in Scotland. One of the first observations in the Report is thatThe Board recognise that on the resumption of inquiries a number of existing applications, many of which are of long standing, would be found to be cancelled by deaths and other causes.In other words, a great many men who have applied in years past for small holdings have, possibly owing to the War, disappeared from the list of applicants on account of their premature death. I say without hesitation that for every name that is withdrawn by reason of death there are probably ten, twenty, or even fifty withdrawn by reason of disgust, at the dilatory tactics pursued in securing small holdings. The Board state thatMany of the existing applications are of an urgent character.They go on to say—it is a very significant thing—thatAn increasing tendency on the part of applicants to insist on compliance, with their demands is noticeable, and though the applicants have for the most part realised the necessity for patience, threats of forcible seizure are becoming more numerous and have in a few cases been put in force.That represents the most damning indictment of the policy of dilatoriness one could well imagine. As one who stands for constitutionalism and Parliamentary action. I think that where these men have had the promise held out to them year after year of being settled on the land with their own holdings and nothing is done by the Board—I shall deal later with the reason why the Board does nothing—if ever there was an excuse for direct action, it exists in the case of these men, whose reasonable hopes have all been disappointed time and again. The Board go on to remark that whenever a farm has been taken for small holdings a number of new applications immediately follow. That is very natural and clearly understandable. Many of the people who want small holdings will not trouble to 71 apply for them because they do not believe they will ever get them. But men who are living in an. area where a farm is taken over for the purpose of creating small holdings naturally make a demand when they believe they are going to have their ambitions satisfied. I should like to allude to the question of the difficulties which have arisen in the Lewis on account of the action of the individual who has purchased that island. I ask the attention of the House to a paragraph in which the Board complains that Lord Leverhulme has intimated to the Board that, anxious as the Board is to secure land for small holdings in the Lewis, Lord Leverhulme—so says the report—intimated that he had in view the projection of other schemes for the development of industries and the improvement of transport facilities in the island, and considered that these would be more effective in solving the economic difficulties of Lewis than the constitution of smallholdings under the Small Landholders (Scotland) Acts.The Board thereupon represented to him that their plans did not conflict with the no doubt excellent projects he had in hand, but apparently the Board felt that they had no satisfaction whatever in the matter. I wish to remind the House, without disparaging Lord Leverhulme. who may have the most excellent intentions in regard to the Lewis, that the principle at stake in this paragraph of the Report of the Board of Agriculture is one which I sincerely trust every Scottish Member here will fight, for it amounts to this, that Lord Leverhulme, at the very moment when we have emerged from the greatest War in history in the interests of liberty, is taking upon himself to tell these people, who have historic and sentimental associations with the Lewis, that their future lives are to be guided along the lines laid down, not by themselves, not in accordance with the traditions of their ancestors, but according to the dictates of a successful soap-boiler who has happened to buy up that island The point at issue is a very serious one. We all desire to see the success of the island achieved on any lines considered practicable by Lord Leverhulme or any other body, but when it comes to this, that we are going to replace the tyranny of the Prussian Kaiser by the attempted tyranny on a minute scale in a small island of a man who, through his own commercial success, has beén able to acquire that island, there is a point of principle involved which every Member of this House must fight and 72 fight to the death. Let Lord Leverhulrm do what he wishes in the way of developing the prosperity of the Lewis, but leave the people of that island, if they do wish to enjoy small holdings there, free altogether from his own proposals. I cannot for the life of me see why any man who wishes to live a life on the land should be compelled under the dictates of Lord Leverhulme or any other body to engage in canning, fish-curing, or any other industry which may be established. The whole Report of the Board of Agriculture in relation to small holdings calls for the immediate consideration of the House of Commons. In their general observations the Board go on to say that theythink it well at this stage to place on record their considered opinion (a) that the demand for small holdings continues to be real and pressing—which everybody knew before—(b) That successful small holdings can be established in all parts of Scotland on soils and under agricultural conditions of the most varied character; and (c) that the holdings which already established have been justified by the results from the point of view of the individual holder, the increased production of food and the greater number of people who obtain a living from the land.Then they remarkEven under a greatly accelerated procedure, it will take many years to exhaust either the demand or the land available.The next point is the main one for the House to consider. They further lay down that the powers presently in existence are entirely inadequate for the purposes they have in view. The responsible leaders of opinion in the country have, during the whole course of the "War, held out the rosiest hopes to the men who came forward to serve their country during these past years that they are going to be settled on the land under advantageous and favourable conditions. This Report, coming on the back of what has been said in that direction, is truly a lamentable document. I trust that the House, and especially this Government, which is committed to a very wide and comprehensive programme of reconstruction, will take into early consideration the clamant need that exists in Scotland for small holdings on a much more extensive scale than appears to be possible according to the Board of Agriculture under existing legislation.
§ Mr. HARRY HOPE
The year 1918 has been one which has provided the Department with a wide field of useful activity. When we come to read this Report and to think of the important part the Board have 73 played in increasing the supply of home grown foodstuffs in Scotland during 1918, we are bound to recognise that it did a good and useful work. We know that through the agency, and with the assistance of the county agricultural committees, assistance was given to farmers which enabled them enormously to increase the supply of home-grown foodstuffs. Not only did we get something like an increase of 240,000 acres in the acreage under cultivation but. we got a very large proportion of the increase which was recommended carried cut. That shows that the farmers, of Scotland backed up the efforts of the Board of Agriculture in this direction. When we see what the Board did in supplying farmers with increased supplies of fertilisers, we must recognise that it did good work in that direction, for without an adequate supply of fertilisers it would have been impossible for us to secure the maximum production from the soil. In enabling sulphate of ammonia and super phosphates to be obtained the Board did good work. In this year, when we see the cost of everything increasing so enormously every day, it would be well for the Board of Agriculture to continue to enable farmers to obtain sulphate of ammonia at a reasonable price as they did in 1918. As regards feeding-stuffs, the Ministry winch took over the charge of that branch of the work, arid no doubt the Board of Agriculture did all that they could to enable them to be obtained at reasonable prices, but ur doubtedly, owing to a large export, there was caused to a great extent a rise in the price of feeding-stuffs. I hope the Board of Agriculture will bring more effective pressure on the Ministry of Food and endeavour to get feeding-stuffs brought down to a more moderate level. As regards the supply of milk, we know what great difficulties existed during the year under review, and we cannot but recognise that the Board of Agriculture did what it could for the farmers. The War Office demands had to be met. I do not think anyone, even amongst the agriculturists in Scotland, desired to see the War Office requirements starved, and I am quite sure the farmers of Scotland recognise that the Boards backed them up as far as they could reasonably hope to be backed up. The Estimates show what an enormous sum is being asked. For this current year £345,000 is being asked—an increase of £265,000. That shows a position which demands very careful considera 74 tion. In all directions there are openings for increased expenditure, but there is bound to be an end of spending money in all directions, and we want to see all Government Departments taking a lead in exercising economy.
As regards the creation of small holdings in Lewis, a very abnormal state of affairs exists. The people are so attached to the soil that we have small holdings so small that they are not economically sound, and yet they are subdivided up amongst cottars and crofters. That creates a very difficult position because there is only a moderate amount of land available, but I think these cottars and crofters in Lewis, by the magnificent response which they have made to the national cause, deserve exceptional and special treatment, and though I have a great appreciation of the patriotic efforts which Lord Leverhulme is trying to carry out up there, yet I should like to see that attachment to the soil which the Lewis man has not altogether sat upon. I should rather like to see it sympathetically treated, and if possible land given to them. I quite agree that perhaps their future would be much better if they took up industrial and other work, but. yet the attachment of these people to the land is so great and, after all, everyone knows his own business best—and their war record is so good that I think the House ought to treat them sympathetically. I have heard very great doubts cast upon some of the projects which the Board have in view. I have heard that on a large farm in Ross-shire, which I think has something like sixteen cottages on it, the probability is that by being sub-divided up into small holdings there will not only be fewer people living and brought up upon the holdings, but there will be a far smaller amount of foodstuff produced. I have been told that by practical people knowing the district. If there is anything in it I hope the Board of Agriculture will not make small holdings merely to satisfy the cry for small holdings. We want every district considered on its merits, and, after all, the variation of conditions is great, and the habits of the people differ completely in one part of Scotland from another. In some parts their whole ambition is to get small holdings, in others it is to get a higher wage. Therefore it is not enough for the Board in after years to say, "We have boon successful, we have created so many small holdings on paper," when, by 75 that means, they will never be a success. They need to consider the wants of the people in each district, and if they do that in a practical and sympathetic manner we shall achieve far more success than if they merely come to the House and say, "We have been successful, because all over Scotland we have numerically increased the number of small holdings to such and such an extent." As regards the action of the Board generally, we may consider that during the War it played its part well in increasing the supply of home foodstuffs.
Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
The House is conducting this discussion under some difficulty, and I should like to join in the protest which has been made as to the occasion, which has been chosen for the Debate. Nothing, perhaps, is to be gained by making a protest, but I hope the Government will in the next and succeeding years see, if they are still in power, that the same sort of thing does not happen again. I think it only right that the House should congratulate the Board of Agriculture for Scotland upon the work it has accomplished during the struggle from which we have just emerged. There are certain matters in which it has not been able to make that progress which the majority of us could have desired, but I think we ought to take note of the efforts that the Board has made to cope with the work with which it was entrusted during the War, particularly in view of the fact that a very large number of its officials were released for service, and did most admirable work during the contest. There are a large number of applicants for small holdings, but a comparatively small number have been satisfied. If the figures in the Report are accurate, out of 6,471 applicants for new holdings only 596 have obtained them, and out of 4,254 applications for enlargements only 433 have been satisfied. That is a deplorable state of affairs. I agree that it is due not to the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, but to the powers that they lack and the. defects in the Small Landholders, Scotland Bill, which I hope will be rectified by the Land Settlement Bill which the right hon. Gentleman said he would introduce shortly. Another item in the Report refers to the valuable assistance given in the matter of land settlement in this and previous years by the Land Banks connected with the Scottish Smallholders Association. 76 Reference has been made in previous Reports to the valuable assistance given to the Board by the Scottish Central Land Bank, and I would urge upon the Secretary for Scotland that in the schemes which he proposes to introduce he should employ the assistance and the experience of that particular bank in order to assist the smallholders throughout Scotland financially.
I pass on to that part of the Report which deals with the Agricultural Costings Committee. It is a most valuable Department, and I hope the Board of Agriculture and the Secretary for Scotland will do everything that lies in their power to obtain the co-operation of tenant farmers and Scottish agriculturists generally in the agricultural costings schemes. If they do so, I feel sure it will produce in a short time very beneficial results for agriculture in Scotland. I have addressed questions to my right hon. Friend on more than one-occasion with regard to the proposed Council for Agriculture, Will he in his reply tell us exactly what is the position with regard to the Council? I have urged upon him that he should ensure a proper representation for smallholders on it. I do not know why lie departed from the recommendations made by the Agricultural Policy Sub-committee of the Reconstruction Committee. If that Report had been adopted, the Council would have been elected on the Irish model. I presume it is now too late to go back upon the method of setting up the Council, but I would urge upon my right hon. Friend that he should ensure proper representation for smallholders, who are growing in numbers and in agricultural importance. There is another matter to which I would like to call attention, and that is the Royal Commission on Agriculture for Scotland. I doubt whether any hon. Member could rise in his place to-night and affirm that the representation on that Commission in respect of Scotland has given satisfaction to Scottish agriculturists. I feel perfectly certain that it has not. Again, it is too late to make any change in the Commission, but if the Scottish Estimates had been taken in the Scottish Standing Committee attention might have been drawn to that particular matter, and the representation on the Commission might have been more satisfactory for Scotland than it is.
§ Major W. MURRAY
In rising for the first time as a new Member to address the House, I would ask for the indulgence of 77 hon. Members. Notwithstanding all that has been said on the subject, I should like to say a few words upon the main, line of administrative policy which seems to actuate the Board of Agriculture in relation to small holdings, and their discouragement. We can. hardly congratulate the Board, however excellent their other work may have been, upon the number of small holdings that have been set up or the number of purchases they have made. I do not quite understand the figures which were read out by the hon. Member for Kincardineshire. So far as I can make out from the report of the Board during the year, the Board have only created eleven small holdings in addition to those that were there before, and only four purchases of blocks of land have been made. With regard to these purchases some reference has been made to the estate of Midlocharwoods. I entirely agree with the criticisms which. have been made on that subject by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh. The only excuse for purchasing it was because there were a large number of very good buildings upon it which might be taken over for training men for small holdings, but for soldiers who intended to settle upon the land and as a permanent residence for smallholders, considering its distance from all the railways and towns, it was an inadequate and an unwise purchase. These are not good results for a year in the matter of small holdings. A good many difficulties stand in the way, and some of these difficulties are certainly due to Acts which have been recently passed by this House. In particular I would refer to the provision of the 1918 Act, which was referred to by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, which makes it a condition that three-fourths of the land purchased for small holdings shall be capable of cultivation. That proviso has done a great deal of harm. As the Board themselves say in their Report, it has ruled out practically the whole of the Highland counties. I know of one very excellent scheme in which small holdings, forestry, and rural industries were to be combined, and this very good scheme was to be established near a town and near a railway; but it was ruled out by the provision in question. That provision really makes the combination of agricultural holdings and forestry impossible, because if the State is going to purchase land for forestry it must do it in very large quantities, over 78 large areas of' land, or else it will not be worth its while to purchase land at all.
I particularly wish to consider the main line of policy which has been laid down by the Hoard. The Board say:To ensure economical management and for other reasons the Board were of opinion that blocks of land of considerable extent should be acquired, save in exceptional cusses. Difficulty has been experienced in seeming such, areas embracing land of suitable character.I differ entirely from that view. If their policy is going to be to provide big blocks of land of 1,000 to 3,000 acres, say one or two per county, they will never resettle the Scottish people or the ex-soldiers on Scottish land. The idea appears to me to smack of bureaucracy. It is putting the question of management and the wishes and convenience of the Board before the wishes and convenience and the natural desire of the ex-soldiers or ploughmen who may desire to settle on the land. It is not what the ex-soldier wants, it is not what the ploughman wants, and I do not think it is what the people of Scotland expect. The soldier comes back to this country, and he expects to settle somewhere near his own folk. It is natural that he should want to do that, and he Las a right to expect it, but the Board instead only offer such a man a place in some big settlement of small holdings which may be twenty, fifty, or 100 miles away from his native village. I would ask hon. Members to put themselves in the position of that ex-soldier who comes home hoping to get a small holding, and he has an offer of this kind made to him. If I were in his place I should be inclined to refuse it, and I think a good many hon. Members would have the same view of the matter.
The policy of the Board seems to me to entirely ignore all the social reasons for small holdings. Many of us will remember that some years ago when this matter was much debated, the social reasons for small holdings appeared to be quite as strong if not stronger than either the agricultural reasons or economic reasons. Groups of small holdings in a parish lead to contentment. They lead to a knowledge of the land among a greater number of people than those who possessed that knowledge before, and they lead to an understanding of the land and of the land question. All these make for good. I would like to see quite a different form of policy. I would like to see small holdings, if possible, established in groups in or near the majority of rural parishes in Scotland, and I am persuaded that if the Board made 79 that part of their policy, land for such purposes would be very readily forthcoming in many parishes in Scotland. I shall be told at once that that sort of scheme is not practicable. I shall be told that it is too expensive, that it is difficult to manage and so on. My reply to that is two-fold. In the first place, I want to know whether less is going to be done in Scotland to settle people on the land than seems to be possible and practicable under the English Land Acquisition Bill. A policy of numerous groups of small holdings rather than blocks of small holdings is possible in Eagland to-day, and from inquiries I have made in England certain county councils, who are considering the matter, favour the setting up of numerous small groups of small holdings rather than the purchase of huge blocks of land. That is much the better idea of the two, and if it is practicable in England it ought to be practicable in Scotland, find I hope that steps will be taken towards that end.
Finally, I should like to say a few words on the question of management and inspection. In my view small holdings do not require much management or much inspection. I have known groups of small holdings set up under the 1911 Act, and I do not think they were ever inspected. If they had been inspected, there is no material result from that inspection. We give these men security of tenure and set them up in the best way possible. We should, after that, leave them alone. A man does not want his home inspected, and particularly he does not want his farming transactions overlooked by some official. He is likely to live a far happier and probably a more prosperous life if he. is left alone and left as far as possible to work out his own salvation. Whatever may be the result of this policy of big blocks of small holdings, I am certain that it is not a policy that will satisfy either the ploughman, the ex-soldier, or the people of Scotland.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend upon the speech to which we have just listened, and I express the hope that we may often hear him, especially in our Scottish Debates, because I am sure he can give us valuable advice. I do not think the complaints against the Board of Agriculture to-day have been justified. I have never been a great admirer of the Board of Agriculture. I have criticised them every year since they were created, but I feel less 80 inclined to criticise them this year than ever, but I do think, from reading the Report very carefully, that they have done excellent work. It seems to be forgotten by many who complain about the lack of activity in the settlement of small holdings that we have had four years of war, during which it has been impossible to do anything of the kind. The Grants for special purposes including those things have been withheld for the last two or three years. The cost of building and fencing has risen enormously, and, apart from that, there was no labour to do the work. It is very unfair in such circumstances that attacks should be. made upon the Board for things for which they were in no way responsible. It is no business of mind to defend them. Xo doubt the Secretary for Scotland will do that, but, having criticised them before, it is only fair to express these views now.
So far as the Board is concerned with the question of the Lewis and other places, I cannot help thinking that the remarks of the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Sturrock) were not in the happiest of taste. The Lewis has always been a difficult problem, and is at present a difficult problem. A long time ago, when Sir James Mathieson acquired the island, he spent £400,000 or £500,000 in reclaiming a large part of the island, but the scheme was a disastrous failure. It was a well-intentioned scheme to provide small holdings for the cottars who were there, but I have been told that the land which was reclaimed is really in a worse condition now than it was before the money was spent. The proposals for the present development of the island which Lord Leverhulme is trying to carry out, from what T read in the newspapers, is of very much more practical character, and proposing things such as fish-curing stations seems to be the best way of developing the island. But, whatever Lord Leverhulme's views may be. I do not think that he is a man who would stand against the Board if they desired to establish a certain number of these holdings. They have now the power to do so, if they wish, and no doubt will exercise it if they think fit.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
It does not say for a single moment that Lord Leverhulme absolutely refused to give land, and I do-not think he did so.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
The hon. Gentleman suggested that Lord Leverhulme set himself against the Board in the matter and intended to develop schemes of his own against theirs. This does not say so. He expressed these views, on the subject. He thought the other was the better way of developing the island, but I never heard that he refused to give land for the purpose. I wish now to ask a question about the forest of Inverailort, which was taken over by the Board of Agriculture in 1917 for the purpose of a sheep farm, and, as they said, for increasing the productivity of food supplies. Last year, when a question was put by Colonel Stirling, who was then a Member of this House, I myself asked in June what the result of that action had been. My information has been that it has been disastrous. As was anticipated before the Board entered into possession of the land, the number of deaths of sheep put upon it was as great as it was many years before when the same attempt was made, so that, so far from increasing the food supply, the deer were driven off and a large quantity of sheep provided during the strenuous times of the War have been lost. The right hon. Gentleman promised me two months ago that he was having a full report of the circumstances and would communicate with me when he received it. He has not done so; but, if he has received the information, probably he will be able to give it to me now. The answer which I received was somewhat misleading. I rather think that the right hon. Gentleman mixed up two things. I wanted to know what the result of the count had been in 1918 and in the July of this year. He did not give me that, but he gave me the number of sheep on the land. That is all very well, but a considerable number have been put on the land again, and if those were included in the count that he gave me, that does not furnish an answer at all. I want to know what the death-rate has been, and whether the experiment has been a failure or not, and I will be glad to have an answer?
§ Dr. MURRAY
Representing, as I do, perhaps the biggest crofting constituency in the Kingdom, before coming to the main part of the work of the Board, I may first say a word or two about the condition of the parish pump—the small things that the Board of Agriculture have to deal with in the various parts of the Highlands.
82 After all, the protection of the parish pump, is of great importance. I am not going to join in the criticism of the Board of Agriculture with regard to the operations during the War. I -acknowledge that in certain directions I should have liked to see more work done, but I admit that the War, which has covered a multitude of sins, has been a valid excuse for neglect in certain directions. But, now that the winter of our discontent is past, I see some sign of returning life in the Board of Agriculture. If I were to look at this Report alone as showing the works and intentions of the Board of Agriculture, it would certainly be a very hopeless outlook, but I know from activities in recent months that the Board have got into their stride again, and I believe that in the near future they will be able to show that the criticism levelled against them for activities in certain directions during the War were not, perhaps, too well founded. There are many matters with which I would like them to deal that have not been attended to before. There are certain activities in which the Board used to engage in what is called officially the congested area in the Highlands. Among these were the question of roads, piers and harbours, crofters' houses, the fencing of crofting villages, and other matters of that sort. All these activities have been practically suspended during the War, but I do hope, with regard to the roads, that the Board will resume their activities very soon. Dwellers in towns, even those accustomed to their own rural parts, cannot understand the difficulties which large numbers of people in the Highlands and Islands have to put up with owing to the want of roads. Many times during the winter, when storms prevail and snow lies deep on. the ground, villages are cut off from receiving necessary supplies because of the want of roads. I am glad to acknowledge that the Secretary for Scotland, in connection with a road which I brought under his attention in the early part of the year, has seen that the Board of Agriculture have already taken the matter up.
I may now draw attention to one or two other roads which are very much needed and might occupy the immediate attention of the Board of Agriculture, if the people of these places are to live in a better way than they did before the War, as they were promised they would. There is, for instance, in Lewis the road to Aird Uig joining up the village with the 83 main road, and also the village of Crow-lista with the main road. Further south in Harris a road is required from Avan-suidh to Huisinish, in order to help the people of the Island of Scarp, where they are very badly off. In the Island of Scarp, which has a fairly large population, they are faced with great difficulties. No doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Mori son) is glad to escape electioneering difficulties in future years in this island, which is now cut off from its constituency because of the difficulties of communication. They have first to cross a ferry, then before they get to a road they have to travel across five miles of moor track. The Secretary for Scotland or the Board might well spend a couple of hundred pounds in bringing the people who live in this island in touch with outer civilisation. Another road to join up the village of Marag with the main road is very much required. Another important matter is the question of piers. We have heard a great deal about the occupations of the people of the Western Isles. One of their main occupations is that of fishing. They cannot prosecute their fishing very well without piers on which to land their fish. I hope the Board of Agriculture will renew their activities in this direction and erect very much needed piers at various points on the coast. In passing, I should say that Lord Leverhulme—I must say this for him—has helped largely, and is helping now, in improving the roads. He is making one or two excellent roads from which he cannot possibly gain any pecuniary advantage at once. I want to be fair to him. But he cannot do everything. We must look to the Board of Agriculture. We sometimes used to get a Secretary for Scotland to go up to these parts. Now we have an Under-Secretary, and I understand he is going to follow Dr. Johnson in a tour of the Hebrides. I hope, however, that he is not of the same critical weight as Dr. Johnson. I can promise him that in places he will have considerable difficulty in climbing up the rocks. The Board of Agriculture has been doing pretty well in the direction of providing piers. I want to make one criticism. The Congested Districts Board, which preceded the Board of Agriculture, seemed to adopt the policy with regard to piers that when they found people who wanted a pier they gave it to them, something to look at which was of no use whatever, whereas an extra ex- 84 penditure of £300 or £400 would have made it a thing, not perhaps of beauty but of considerable usefulness. At present most of the piers erected by the Congested Districts Board are absolutely useless. I hope there will be a re-survey of all those piers, so that by an addition here and there they may be made of some use. to the people. Other piers are very much needed, for instance, for the congested fishing population at the Butt of Lewis, where we got the first word of Hawker's safety. A great quantity of fish used to be landed at the harbour, but it is useless because of a breakdown some years ago. I hope the Board will see that the harbour at the port of Ness is repaired and made useful to the large number of splendid fishermen we have there. There are other harbours needed, but I will send details to the Secretary for Scotland and not mention them now.
I come next to deal for a short time with the most important question in connection with the Western Isles, as it is the most important question for the Highlands generally, and that is the question of small holdings. I was very much interested in the references made by other hon. Members to the condition of things in the Western Isles. Here, again, I have to acknowledge that, since the Armistice, the Board of Agriculture have been showing a commendable diligence In securing land for small holdings in various parts of the Highlands and even in the islands. The first time I addressed this House I brought two things to the attention of the Secretary for Scotland—the case of Barra and the case of South Uist. I am glad that a large farm has been bought in the island of Barra. In the two areas I have to acknowledge with gratitude that the Secretary for Scotland and the Board have been doing some good work. I am very glad to acknowledge also that landlords in the Highlands generally have shown themselves agreeable to the formation of small holdings on their estates. Indeed, one of the. strongest resolutions in favour of granting small holdings in the Highlands has come to me from a Committee over which Lord Lovat, one of our biggest landlords, presided. It is very pleasing to see that the old Highland lairds have come round to the idea that after all men are better than sheep, and better even than deer. Small holdings are a big asset to the country. The late War has proved to us that the more 85 people we have on the land the better for the country, whether in peace or in war, and especially in war. In my own Constituency during the first week of the War, on a journey through the whole Island of Lewis, it would have been hardly possible to find a man capable of bearing arms. They were all away at the War, and the women were tilling the soil, cutting the peats and keeping the home fires burning. I think that men of that sort when they come back, even if they are wrong in demanding small holdings, deserve a little consideration. They bought their freedom at a great price, and I think that even if great commercial magnates think that some other schema is better for them, a little self-determination after all is a good thing. Their blood will be upon their own heads it the thing fails. An hon. Member spoke about the sentiment of these people and their attachment to the soil. I quite agree there is some sentiment. What brought men home from Canada and Australia and New Zealand? Sentiment. When they saw the country in danger they came across to fight for it. We are not such a simple people as we look. It is said that the people are unwilling to leave those parts and prefer to stick to their poverty and misery because they do not know any better. They do know better. The great bulk of the population of these islands, male and female, has been for years going round the coast of Great Britain. They have visited Wick and Aberdeen and Yarmouth, and have been to Ireland. They have seen industrialism. They know what their own life is, and they have sufficient common sense to know what is best for them. I hope that industrialism as we find it today is not the last word in the expression of social life. I look at Liverpool and Yorkshire. I see nothing but chaos. I look at Lewis. In comparison it is a perfect Garden of Eden.
I do not see why Lewis, of all places, should be singled out as the only place where the landlord is unwilling to grant smallholdings. He has expressed his unwillingness. I want to be fair to Lord Leverhulme. He said that he has a better plan for the people of. Lewis. Through interviews and in other ways he impresses his views on the country as a whole, and you get a picture of Lord Leverhulme coming with a great flow of capital to Lewis, willing to develop great industrial schemes, and of the simple people there being against them. It is nothing of the 86 kind. I have hardly heard one word of criticism, against Lord Leverhulme's schemed. There is room in Lewis for other things besides industrialism. The difficulty is that Lord Leverhulme is not willing to break" up any of the farms in Lewis in order to grant small holdings there. I agree that Lord Leverhulme's motives are the very best. He wants to improve the country. I believe that his schemes will do a great deal of good. In j public and private I have always admitted that. I believe that hundreds and thousands of the people of Lewis will come in and willingly work Lord Leverhulme's schemes. What I do object to in Lord Leverhulme is that he has come there, no doubt with a mind developed under somewhat different conditions, under commercial and industrial conditions, and he cannot see that any other kind of life is worth living, except in a model town with nicely built cottages, curtained windows, and a picture. I do not object to that sort of life either, and I would be the last person in the world to prevent a man going into industrialism of that sort. His lordship thinks that the life of the people of Lewis is a very hard life, and a squalid life. It is nothing of the kind.
Their life in Lewis is as high a life as in a city, say, like Liverpool, and it is not such a poverty-stricken life. The people do not live in the lap of luxury, yet I never saw any abject poverty there, and I never knew of a death from starvation or of illness which could be attributed to deficiency in food. During the War there was no place where the people wore generally better off than in Lewis. That shows the value of life as distinct from its industrial side, and that value is an asset to the whole country. What I object to in Lord Leverhulme is that he is not willing to divide any of these farms into, holdings for those who want them, whether they are returned sailors or returned soldiers, or those who lost their breadwinners in the War. In the Island of Lewis there are 800 applications for small holdings, and those have been before the Board of Agriculture for seven or eight years, and not one of them has yet been done, and that in Lewis of all places in the country. I say it is a shame. I do not care what Lord Leverhulme's aims may be, and they are of the highest, I know, but I do think that the Government and the Board of Agriculture must recognise that a great portion of the people in Lewis want to live the old life of liberty, and do not want to go into 87 mills or factories and work, say, from 5 o'clock in the morning until some hour in the evening. They want their liberty to earn their living in their own way as they have hitherto done. An hon. Member referred to the fact that these were not economic holdings. I quite admit, but the mistake people make is to look at the people of Lewis as merely crofters. They are men who want to live their life in their own way; they are crofters and fishermen, or in a word, they are amphibious. Most of them do not want more than three acres. What they really desire is a home and a homestead to use as a vehicle from which they can make their living on the land and round their own coast and other people's coasts. That is the basic fact which should be kept in mind when we are discussing the people of the Western Isles, and especially Lewis and Harris.
Lord Leverhulme gives one or two reasons for not dividing up the farms. He says that there is not enough to go round, and that while there are 800 applicants the farms are only capable of being turned into 200 holdings. I do not admit those figures, and I say that there is land capable of far more small holdings than that number. But even if the numbers are correct that is no argument against giving what there is. Let the matter be decided by the casting of lots or by ballot. Nobody pretends that it will solve the problem, but will the settlement of a dock strike settle the industrial problem in the whole of England, or even in Yorkshire? This will settle one aspect of the question, and that is all we claim for it. Another argument that Lord Leverhulme uses is that these farms will be needed for a milk supply for the great Stornoway that is to be built up as a result of a big industrial effort. The farms would be needed for their milk supply for the population immediately surrounding them, so that that argument does not hold water. This is the question in which I am most immediately concerned. I am very sorry that this difference has arisen with Lord Leverhulme, because I have already acknowledged, and I hope I have said nothing in disparagement of Lord Leverhulme's efforts, that he has a perfect right to his opinions, and equally I maintain, we have a perfect right to ours. A curious thing is that when I was a simple rustic up in Lewis I saw a report of a meeting in London of Coalition Liberals at which the Prime Minister presided, and 88 there was a programme submitted there in which small holdings formed a very prominent and strong part. The seconder of the motion on that subject was Lord Leverhulme and it is very strange when he had a chance of applying the policy which he helped to launch on the country on the eve of the General Election that he should have forgotten it immediately the election was over. I hope that the Government are going to remember that this is their policy. There have been suggestions in the Press that if the people of Lewis persist in demanding these small holdings, and if the Government persist in dividing these farms, that Lord Leverhulme may wash his hands of these schemes. I say that that is a very cruel alternative, and I do not see any reason for antagonism between the policy of dividing the farms and the highest development of Lord Leverhulme's industrial schemes. When I see suggestions that because of the stiff-necked politician he met in Lewis and the stiff-necked Board of Agriculture in insisting on cutting up his farms that he may wash his hands of the whole thing, I say that one thing has no necessary connection with the other. It would be just as likely for the Minister of Health to say that he would have no housing scheme for London unless all the population wore kilts instead of trousers. I hope that the Board of Agriculture will respond to the reasonable demands of these men. They have taken some part of the farms. I do not praise them for doing so, but I am not going to blame them for it. They were taught the lesson that that is the only way of getting anything done. I think that these men should be allowed a certain amount of liberty in selecting their own way of living. This demand for land which industrial people cannot understand is bred in their bones. Some people, for instance, cannot understand why Ireland, which was never so prosperous, is so strong in its demand for self-government. Lord Leverhulme cannot understand the aspirations of these people to get land, and I hope that the Board of Agriculture will give them that land, if necessary, by compulsion.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I hope the House will allow me to express my regret if the fact that this day has been devoted to Scottish Estimates has been found to be inconvenient by any of my hon. Friends from Scotland. It is the day of the Pageant, and a Bank Holiday, and it is also a memorable day in the history of Great Britain, namely, the 4th of August. But we 89 have had a Debate, in spite of any circumstances of embarrassment which may have arisen from the facts to which I have referred, which I venture to think has been useful and has been conducted on a, high level. In that connection I would like to join with what was said by one of my hon. Friends in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Major W. Murray) upon the maiden speech which he has delivered. I can assure him I listened to it with the greatest possible care, and the views of policy which he enunciated so clearly and definitely will be very carefully borne in mind in connection with the future policy or the Board of Agriculture. I have no sensational story to tell the House of the Board. It is a record of unremitting industry and conscientious work, done, as I think the House recognises, under very difficult and discouraging circumstances, because we are here dealing with a Report that covers the year 1918, one of the years of the War. The work of the Board has been, roughly speaking, divided into two parts, as have been the speeches of hon. Members. There is, first of all, the agricultural side pure and simple, and secondly, the question of land settlement, which bulked more largely in the speeches of hon. Members than any other topic and which was naturally the most important subject to deal with at present. On the question of agriculture, may I mention one or two things in order to show that the Board has made the best use of the opportunities afforded to it? First of all, with regard to education and research. There is no part of the work in agriculture which is more important than that which is directed to those two topics. The attendance of students at the agricultural colleges in Scotland diminished, of course, under war conditions, but there has been a marked increase in the number of those students since the cessation of hostilities, and many Colonial and American soldiers have attended the agricultural classes. In fact, the accommodation has been very severely taxed. Now it is proposed to extend the work of those colleges in the future, and a Grant of £45,000 per year for five years has been made by the Treasury for the extension of agricultural education and research in Scotland. I have no doubt at all that comprehensive schemes of research into the prevalent diseases of the more important animals in agriculture and into the improved methods of plant-breeding which are now in contemplation will 90 benefit to a very large extent by this Grant which I am glad to be able to announce to the House.
Another feature of the Board's work in connection with agriculture has been that to which reference was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stirlingshire and Clackmannan, namely, the increased cultivation of land. I desire, in passing, to acknowledge the kindly and complimentary manner in which my hon. and gallant Friend referred to the Board's work in this regard. As the House knows, the submarine menace created a dangerous food situation in Scotland and elsewhere, and the Board appealed to the Scottish fanners to increase their cultivation in 1918 far above that which they had accomplished in 1916. Despite the great shortage in labour, which interfered with and hampered the Board's efforts as well as those of the farmers, no fewer than 241,300 additional acres were placed under the plough in 1918 as compared with 1916. That, I venture to think, was a very creditable achievement on the part of the farmers of Scotland at a very difficult time. They served the country well. The Board has assisted in cultivation by providing motor tractors, ploughs, cultivators, binders, and so on, and, by means of these various appliances, 24,000 acres were ploughed, 3,600 wore cultivated, 5,700 were grubbed, 5,500 were harrowed, and 7,000 were harvested. These were the necessary occupations to which the Board had to devote itself in time of war, working in close alliance and harmony with the farmers of Scotland. My hon. and gallant Friend behind me referred also to the work the Board had done in connection with the provision of fertilisers. Such crops could not have been produced nor reaped were it not for the arrangements which the Board was able to make in connection with these fertilisers. I shall bear in mind what the hon. Member said, speaking I know from very full knowledge and experience, regarding the question of feeding-stuffs. That, no doubt, is as important in its own way as the question of fertilisers, and it will occupy the Board's attention in the future as it has done in the past.
The labour difficulty, as he reminded the House, was very acute. One had to endeavour to square the circle, so to speak, satisfy the Army requirements which the safety of the country demanded, and on the other hand produce food at home, which in a certain measure, it not equally, 91 the safety of the country also demanded. That was one of the principal tasks of the Board in connection with increased cultivation. In most cases the increased cultivation was achieved voluntarily by the farmers of Scotland, and I say this, speaking as a Scotsman, with some little legitimate pride. I mean that in comparatively few cases had compulsory orders under the Defence of the Realm Act to be issued in Scotland, Scottish farmers regarding it as the performance of a patriotic duty that they should place their land under cultivation and take the risk of any loss which might ensue and which, in some cases, did ensue. Then I desire to say a few words in answer to the hon. and gallant Member for Kincardine (Lieut.-Colonel A. Murray) regarding the agricultural committees to which he referred. Agricultural committees were started, I think I am right in saying, in 1915, in practically every county in Scotland for the purpose of stimulating food production, and they were organised by the Board. Agricultural executive committees, smaller bodies, were set up by these agricultural committees in the year 1917, and they did extraordinarily good work. It was thought, therefore, that they should be put upon a more formal basis and have a permanent place in the agricultural administration of the country, and accordingly a scheme for reconstructing these committees were devised and promulgated. That scheme—I can describe it to the House very briefly—was of this nature. In the first place, an electoral body of twenty-four members is being formed in each county in Scotland. Twelve of these are nominated by the county council, four by each of the main agricultural societies in Scotland—that is to say, the Highland. the Chamber of Agriculture, and the National Farmers' Union. These electoral bodies appoint executive committees of not fewer than ten and not more than a specified number, which is twenty in the larger counties in Scotland, and the Secretary for Scotland nominates to each of these committees, after consultation with associations of farm workers, two members to represent farm servants upon these committees. These executive committees in turn elect members to serve on what is called the Scottish Council of Agriculture, to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred. Each county has not fewer than two representatives on that council, and twenty members in addition are to be 92 nominated by the Secretary for Scotland. I feel sure that smallholders will almost certainly be elected to serve upon the National Council. That, I think, will almost certainly be the case, but if they should not be elected, then I shall make it my business to see that among the representatives whom, in virtue of my office, I am entitled to nominate, their interests will be duly represented. Of that National Council, a still smaller body is to be formed, namely, an advisory committee, of nine members who are elected, along with three nominated by the Secretary for Scotland, and their functions are to advise the Board on any matter referred to it by the Board or by the council. So much for the machinery of these agricultural councils.
I should like to say a word of approbation, and of gratitude also, to the district wages committees and the Central Wages Committee in Scotland, whose tenure of office is, under Act of Parliament, until the 31st December of this year, and who have already practically finished their task. It has been a very excellent piece of work, if I may say so—difficult work, and very fruitful work—and deserves, I think, the full acknowledgment of all who are interested in these matters. May I say in passing also that it is proposed to-appoint at an early date two Committees to inquire into matters which are of interest to agriculturists and others—the one is into the stocking of deer forests, a matter of perennial interest, and the other in regard to heather-burning and damage to crops which is done by game. I propose at an early date to set up Committees to investigate these two important matters. I think that is the most convenient course to take, and I know that the Reports which will be presented will be of value and interest to everybody concerned.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I would not like to commit myself absolutely to the kind of Committees, but I hope to make a definite announcement as to the quality of the Committees, and the personnel of the Committees also, as soon as may be. My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Dr. D Murray) referred to the subject of public works, and welcomed the resuscitation of the Board's activities in. 93 that regard. He knows quite well that one of the earliest examples of revived activity in that direction was the Grant of £10,000 for the construction of a road in Lewis, which he ho ably represents, and also a Grant of £7,500 has been made for the construction of the Bays of Harris road, with which, I have no doubt, he is also familiar. These Grants are subject to a guarantee of maintenance which is given by the county council in each in stance. There are other smaller public works which I will not delay the House by enumerating, but my hon. Friend is right in saying that that particular side of peace-time activity has not been neglected by the Board at the earliest opportunity after the War. May I say a word with regard to the demobilisation of agriculturists? Some 10,000 men have been applied for as pivotal in agriculture and in allied industries. Of these, 8,800 have, according to my information, been released, and in all the circumstances I venture to think that that is a result on which the Board may reasonably congratulate itself. I do not propose to deal with a great variety of other topics with which the Report deal son the agricultural side, not because they are not important, but because I do not desire to make a long speech, and I want to say a few words before I sit down about land settlement, the other branch of the Board's activities. My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) dealt with this subject, and he dealt with three different topics, if I remember right. He first of all asked certain questions as regards the estate of Borgie. The position there is that we have been proceeding under circumstances of extreme difficulty, as my hon. Friend will, I know, be the first to acknowledge, but I would not like it to go forth as my view, because it is not my view, that this estate is a white elephant as he called it, nor that the expenditure upon it has been or will be wasteful. The position is, I hope, that ten holdings will be established upon Borgie at an early date.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I want to guard myself against giving a precise date, but I hope that at an early date we shall have ten holders established there. I cannot give offhand the actual expenditure to date, but I can tell my hon. Friend this, that the farm of Borgie was presented to the 94 nation through the then Secretary for Scotland by the Duke of Sutherland, and-that during the term of management by the Board there has been a profit on the working of that farm. There has been as great activity as war conditions, have permitted. Expenditure on housing, has taken place of a very much greater amount than was contemplated at first. Houses which at the time when the estimates were taken were to cost £300 have cost nearly double to-day. Fencing. has been done. There has been expenditure on roads and fencing. My hon. Friend asked me about afforestation. According to my information, a nursery for forestry has already been fenced off and prepared for planting, and I hope planting may take place at a reasonably early date. The difficulties with regard to Borgie have arisen from two very obvious circumstances, as my hon. Friend will admit. First of all, there is the difficulty with regard to building. The cost of everything connecter with building has gone up in the most extraordinary way during the War. Timber is between 200 per cent. and 300 per cent. higher than in 1913, cement 100 per cent. higher.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I am not discussing causes, but facts. Iron and wire 400 per cent., lime 100 per cent., labour 100 per cent. also. The difficulties of building under these conditions, as my hon. Friend, who is always fair in his criticism, will recognise, were extreme. The other reason why settlers have not been put upon the estate at an earlier date is partly due to the terms of the gift. Under the terms of the Duke of Sutherland's gift, the selection of men was limited to sailors and soldiers who had seen foreign service and who came from the North. I am not sure I am quoting quite accurately, but, in respect that the men have only been demobilised quite recently, there has not been time or opportunity to make greater progress than has been made.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I may have an opportunity before the Debate closes, but I cannot answer that question offhand. If I cannot give an answer now, and my hon. Friend will put down a question, I will certainly give him the information. With 95 regard to the other estate to which he referred, namely, Locharwoods, I want to say there are two properties—Mid Locharwoods and Nether Locharwoods. They are adjacent, and really constitute one property. The acquisition of Mid Locharwoods, as my hon. Friend quite rightly said, was not approved in 1916. The reason, I am told, was largely because of its limited area at that time, but the adjacent farm in the meantime fell vacant, and became available, and the purchase made extended the total area to twice the area available in 1916. I want to add that that particular estate, in the opinion of the Board's technical officers—and that is an opinion on which, of course, I feel bound to proceed—forms a most suitable property for the purpose which we have in mind. I know there may be a difference of opinion on that subject. The objections which were taken by the Dumfries Committee, to which my hon. Friend referred, were very fully heard and very fully considered by the Board at the time. They were based, I am told, upon a complete misapprehension of the requirements of small holdings. The special advantage of this particular property is that the farm was already equipped with dormitories, and it is now being used mainly as a training centre for ex-Service men engaged in poultry-keeping and horticulture, and thirty men, or thereabouts, we hope, will be settled upon that particular property with advantage to themselves.
§ Mr. MUNRO
As I stated a moment ago, men are being trained on that particular estate in poultry-keeping and in horticulture. That is my information. My hon. Friend has put to me two or three very special cases, and I am giving him the best information I can obtain at short notice. With regard to the next point of my hon. Friend as to the delay which took place in a specified case of a man named Watson, I am told that Watson, a discharged soldier, is a ploughman's son. He has a pension, but, naturally enough, little or no capital, which is not infrequent and not surprising, but I am told he wants a holding near his father's homo if he can get assistance for working and stocking the farm. The Board applied to the Argyll Estate to give him a holding on one 96 of three farms, held on a single tenancy. The estate did not see their way to make this or any other land available for small holdings. The tenant of one of these farms was also opposed to the proposal. My hon. Friend will appreciate that the cost of compulsory proceedings for the benefit of one man, however meritorious, would really be prohibitive, and I am sure he would not urge it upon us. But I hope an opportunity may yet offer to place that particular applicant upon a small holding, though the fact that his capital is so limited that he desires to obtain his father's help in a holding in the vicinity where he is may make that a little difficult. At the, moment he is employed in a local Post Office. That is all I can tell my lion. Friend about that particular case which he raised—I do not complain at all—without very full notice.
The third point my hon. Friend put was with regard to advertising appointments to posts in the Board of Agriculture. I must tell my hon. Friend there have been very few appointments yet made. I think I am right in saying only two appointments have been made up to date. Several other appointments, I hope, will shortly be sanctioned, but whether it will be possible in each case to advertise or not I am not quite sure. I am not sure that it is desirable; it very often makes for delay. The Board had recently to appoint costing officers, and advertised. They had 700 applications for six posts, and it is very difficult indeed, and does necessarily cause delay when one has to sift a number of applications so large as that. I am not sure I can go beyond what was said in answer to my hon. Friend's question, that, other things being equal, I will endeavour to see that such posts are advertised wherever it is practicable to do so. With regard to the case my hon. Friend mentioned of the Anglo-Indian who was brought home, I agree that is a very special case, and he must not take that as an example of the principles on which the Board works. That was a very special case of a man who was a dairy farmer in Renfrewshire, a distinguished student of the Glasgow Agricultural College and a successful lecturer in the East of Scotland Agricultural College. He was personally known to the Commissioner of Small Holdings as a specially competent man, and, after a short time of soldiering- abroad, he was brought back as being a man of exceptional knowledge and qualifications for the purpose in view.
97 On the more general question of land settlement, the position is that at the present moment the Board has acquired 154,017 acres as at 31st July this year, and of these 18,059 acres are arable. The acreage to which I refer comprises properties acquired by gift, properties which were purchased under the Small Colonies Acts, properties which were purchased under the Congested Districts Act, and properties which were acquired under the Landholders Act of 1911. The total secured under all those Statutes amount to 154,017 acres. Many schemes, moreover, in addition to these, are under consideration now. There are fifty-two schemes under the Small Holdings (Colonies) Acts, thirty-two under the Congested Districts Act, and 116 under the Small Landholders Act, which are under consideration now. These relate to thousands of acres of land in Argyll, Caithness, Inverness, Sutherland, and other counties in Scotland, but I would ask the House to bear in mind that, as regards much of the land, if not most of the land, which has been acquired by purchase, it is held under lease and, accordingly, one has to wait six or even twelve months before one can get rid of the tenants. In that way there are 5,646 acres which will fall in. at Martinmas, 1919, and 12,451 acres which will fall in on Whitsun day, 1920. I do not want to exaggerate the difficulties, but I want the House to recognise them, and they have been very fairly recognised by a number of hon. Members. But the difficulties of settlement, and, in particular, of erecting buildings, are extremely great at the present moment. The Grant, for example, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh pointed out, was cut down from £185,000 to £10,000 during the years of the War. Fortunately that difficulty has gone, and the Grant has now been restored to the original figure. Then there was a shortage of the Board's staff during war-time. Many members of the staff served most gallantly during the War, and the difficulty of carrying on in the absence of irreplaceable men was very great indeed. Then, again, there was the difficulty with regard to leases to which I have referred. Once you get rid of the lease and obtain possession you have still to put up buildings. Six months is a minimum time, under present conditions, in which you can erect buildings, and when you take into account the shortage of labour and the cost of materials, the House will begin to appreciate the 98 tremendous difficulty with which the Board has had to contend, and is now contending, in the matter of setting up smallholders upon small holdings, whether it be under the Colonies Acts or otherwise.
Reference was made by one hon. Member to what he called the deplorable dilatoriness of the Board. I would beg him to accept my assurance that there has been no avoidable delay on the part of the Board in this matter. Circumstances have proved too strong for the Board in many cases where they would have liked to establish these settlers at an earlier date. Had my hon. Friend been in my place or a member of the Board, I think he would have reached the same conclusion as that which I have ventured to state. With regard to the settlement actually accomplished as at 30th of June this year, 628 holders were settled in new holdings, 491 were granted enlargements, and of ex-Service men who applied for land as at 30th of June, there were 369 who had been interviewed with regard to their wishes, and 359 out of this number had been favourably reported upon. I have authorised recently the establishment of a bureau for the express purpose of getting the Board into early and close touch with the men who desire to settle upon the land, in order that all possible steps may be taken to meet the reasonable wishes of the respective candidates for that purpose. At the present moment thirty-six ex-Service men have been settled upon the land, six are employed upon farms which are acquired by the Board, and twelve are working upon other farms—fifty-four in all. So far as I can judge—and the House will recognise the difficulty of making a computation—I am very hopeful that 150 more ex-Service men will be settled upon the land before the Martinmas term, which is 11th November of this year, and the work is going on in that particular just as rapidly as circumstances admit. You cannot wave a wand and produce a small holding. It requires a great deal of thought, trouble and time, I regret to say. All I can say is that the Board is doing everything in its power to cope with the demand, which the Report states to be urgent and to be large, and anything that can be done to meet it will be done in the future, and is being done now.
§ Major W. MURRAY
Could the right hon. Gentleman say what is the size of the holdings on which these men are settled?
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MUNRO
These are figures going back to the date of the Act. So far as the size of the holdings is concerned, they vary. I cannot give a mathematical definition of the size of the holdings. May I just add that measures have been taken to train ex-Service men in agriculture? I think the House will agree with me that you could not do anything more cruel than to place a man upon a small holding who has no experience of the particular type of work; and, accordingly, there are schemes for training disabled and discharged men in four different quarters in Scotland proceeding at this moment, namely, at Ross (Tainfield Farm), Aberdeen (Craibstone Farm), Stirling (Cornton Vale Market Garden Colony), and East Lothian (Longniddry Centre). In connection with these schemes, the Board make Grants for capital expenditure and arranges for expert instruction. These are limited to disabled and discharged men in receipt of training allowances. The Board are making similar arrangements for fit ex-Service men who desire to be 'trained in the same way. Schemes are also in operation for officers. Scholarships tenable at an approved university or agricultural college in Scotland are made available to them. There are 260 candidates, and the Treasury, as I was able to intimate at Question Time to-day, has now sanctioned an expenditure of £18,000 more than the £6,000 at present available for the purpose. Training allowances have also been made to men who desire to remain on the farm of an experienced farmer selected toy the Board in order that they may get the training that is available to them there. Application has been made by 147, and out of these 100 are in receipt of training allowances to-day. Others desire to train so that they may take up farms in the Colonies, and instruction is being given at the North of Scotland College of Agriculture, where scholarships also, I hope, will be open to such men.
May I deal with one or two other points in the Debate? The question of Lewis was raised by several hon. Members. I agree with two things my hon. Friend behind me said about Lewis. The attachment of the Lewis man, he said, to the land is unique. I agree. The other was that his service in the War has also been unique. Again I agree. He said—and I again agree—that 100 it was to be hoped that Lewis men would receive exceptional consideration in respect of these two outstanding facts. I am not going to enter into controversy now as to Lord Leverhulme and the hon. Member who represents the Western Isles. If I were to do so, I should occupy a great deal more time than is at my disposal. All I can say is that it is my desire, if possible, to work in harmony with Lord Leverhulme in his scheme in Lewis—and all my efforts, and, I think I may add, all his efforts, have been directed by way of consultation and otherwise to endeavour to reach a common denominator in the matter. He has come to see me repeatedly. I have discussed the matter with him and with him along with my hon. Friend opposite. I am not without hope that we shall reach some common basis, because we both, I think may say, sincerely desire one thing, namely, the benefit of the Lewis people. I am very unwilling to add anything to-day which would tend to exacerbate feeling in the island. I am very anxious that no word of mine should be used for or against Lord Leverhulme, but that I should leave the matter at the point where it is in the Report, namely, that by conferences, I hope, some solution of what undoubtedly are difficulties to-day may eventually be found. That is the only reply that can be made at this particular moment. I trust the expression of hope which I have used may be found not to be over-sanguine.
There is also the question of Inverailort. There again the story is a long one. But I think I can tell the House in a few sentences how the matter stands to-day. There has been some little friction in the case which has perhaps been unavoidable. But I think all the parties concerned, the Board on the one side, and Mrs. Cameron Head, the proprietor of the estate, on the other, both desired the same thing, namely, that the food supply of the country should be increased at a critical moment. Mrs. Cameron Head believed that that could be best accomplished in one way, by leaving the deer forests as they were; the Board thought that that could best be accomplished—or rather, I should say, the tenant on the home farm thought it could best be accomplished—by stocking the deer forest with sheep and cattle. He thought that some substantial increase of food supplies would thus be secured. The Board took a middle course. They decided to leave one deer forest to Mrs. Cameron Head, and 101 she arranged to stock it herself. The Board, under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, entered into possession of, I think, about 1,842 acres, which was only a small proportion of the total acreage of 13,500. The Board let this place, Anstack, to Mr. McDonald, and he stocked it with 500 or 600 sheep and 50 cattle. The result of the Board's action under the Defence of the Realm Regulations so far as Anstack is concerned, at this stage, is not ascertainable, and that for more than one reason. In the first place, Mr. McDonald's lease does not terminate until 1920, and the result of his work, I think, could only be judged of as a whole. In the second place, such a return to which my hon. Friend has referred, up to the 31st July, has not been received by the Board. Until that return is received I do not think it is possible to form any opinion of value as to the success or otherwise of the Anstack scheme.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I am sorry I have not got the figure here. There is still another reason why I venture to put it to my hon. Friend that a discussion on this particular case at this particular moment is extremely inopportune. Mrs. Cameron Head has put forward a claim against the Board for £3,320 as compensation for loss sustained by her in consequence of the Board's occupation of her property under the Defence of the Realm Regulations for the past two years. That claim will probably be disposed of by way of arbitration, and I think that any discussion, either on the merits of the Board proposals or the results of the scheme, is really to be deprecated until Mrs. Cameron Head's claim for compensation has been disposed of by the arbitrator.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman be kind enough to say what this claim has to do with the success or otherwise of stocking the farm in question? I do not know what the claim for compensation is, but it has nothing to do as to whether or not stocking the farm has been a success or a failure. At the present time it is covered with dead sheep which are not even being picked up.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I agree; but I am giving the hon. Baronet the information with which I am supplied. I cannot profess to have personal knowledge of a matter of that kind. I am advised by no mean authority that dealing with these matters now might prejudice either or both parties who are to take part in the subsequent arbitration.
§ Mr. MUNRO
That is the advice I have received. Two other matters have been dealt with, the one the Royal Commission on Agriculture and the other the Land Bank. As regards the Royal Commission it is impossible to satisfy everybody in regard to the constitution and personnel of a Commission of that kind. All I can say from personal knowledge is that the appointment of Scottish representatives has been approved in certain well-accredited quarters. There may be other views, and probably in point of fact there are, but as far as my information goes an attempt has been made to meet the views of those who are chiefly concerned in the matter, and to a large extent I think that has been accomplished. In regard to the services of the Land Bank I have no hesitation in saying—and I know a good deal about the work of that particular bank—I hope its future will be as successful as its past. I have dealt with a very large number of points as briefly and as comprehensively as possible, and I hope now, or at an early period, we shall be allowed to get this Vote of the Board of Agriculture, because I know certain hon. Members desire to discuss two or three other Votes on the Paper,
§ Captain W. BENN
I was very sorry indeed, in the right lion. Gentleman's lucid, detailed, and painstaking reply to-day, in the very striking reference to the right hon. Gentleman's attempt to set up small holdings in Scotland and to build houses, to note the keenness in getting material which at present the Board of Trade is restricting the import of. That is a point worthy of note. It only shows how the clumsy policy of the Board of Trade—if it can be called a policy—is interfering in that reconstruction which we all desire to see. To-morrow we arc going to discuss a Forestry Bill. It would be out of order to 103 deal with that Bill now, but it does propose in Clause 3 to transfer, so far as it relates to forestry, certain matters or powers at present in the hands of the Board of Agriculture to a new Commission. Certain people are in doubt whether this is a wise measure or not. I notice my right hon. Friend in making his speech referred to a Committee to be set up dealing with deer forests and cognate matters, and also another Committee dealing with nurseries for forestry. I desire to ask whether he or any other Member representing the Government of Scotland can explain to us exactly how that matter stands, what powers have been exercised by the Board of Agriculture, how they have been exercised during the past year; and to give us some guidance so that to-morrow, when the other Bill comes forward, we may be in a better position to judge whether it is wise that these powers should be transferred from the Scottish Department to the new Commission to be set up in England.
§ Mr. R. M'LAREN
I have no intention of proceeding into the region of agriculture, but I wish to bring before the House a matter of afforestation. If the hon. and gallant Member for Leith had read the Report which is out, I rather think he would not have put his question to the Minister for Scotland. Let me say at the outset the Report of the Board is a very admirable Report and reflects great credit on all concerned. While I say that there are two things which I wish to criticise, though I have not time to-night to do so; but, in connection with forestry, we find that the Board has been making some inquiries, and there in an Interim Forestry Committee taking evidence. It was my privilege as a member of the deputation to see the Minister, and the question was raised as to the best class of wood or timber to be set up in Scotland. We found that experiments are being made with two classes of timber for Scotland, namely, Scotch fir and larch. We gathered it was the intention to use these for pit-props and pit timber. I wish to say to the Board of Agriculture to-night they had better be wise before they begin to use Scotch fir in connection with such timbering. It is of no value whatever in connection with mining operations. It is quite true that for short prop and face work it may be all right; very often there are no difficulties. But, in con- 104 nection with the timbering and the support of roadways, I can assure the Board of Agriculture that Scottish mine owners and managers will not on any condition whatever use it if they can get any other timber. During the War, when there was no timber from abroad, the Scottish mine-owners and managers were compelled to use this timber, but it was only because they had nothing else. The reason why they did not use this timber is this: Suppose a couple of men put in two supports in the road with the intention of standing for a long time, they find it costs about 30s. On account of the weight above it the timber gives way, and it has to be replaced at a cost of anther 30s. It is not so much the cost of the timber but the cost of the labour that will make managers very chary about using this kind of timber at all. I suggest earnestly that great care should be exercised in selecting Scotch fir if the idea is to utilise that timber for pit-props, because it will be a great mistake and a dead loss to the country. Experiments should be made to find a better timber available for collieries, and then there would be more colliery people ready to avail themselves of it and use it.
In connection with the agricultural question, the Board have done something which can scarcely be criticised in a kindly spirit. They took lands from certain people in order to get more land ploughed up to produce more foodstuffs, which was in itself a good thing. One ease came to my notice recently in which I think the people were very unfairly dealt with. In connection with a golf club, the members of which were mostly working men, the ground was taken from them and the compensation was given over to the landlord, although these men have had to pay a very large sum of money. I think the Board of Agriculture might have looked at this case from a more reasonable point of view, and if they could not have given all the money to the golf club they should have given them a part of it instead of giving it all to the landlord. I suggest to the Board of Agriculture that in a case of that kind they might consider that those men have spent a considerable amount of money in getting up their clubs and sometimes they are not able to fulfil all their obligations, and through some error of judgment they get no compensation for the ground which is taken from them.
There are certain men engaged in connection with agricultural operations under 105 the Board that we require some further explanation about. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what the inspectors do? Do they inspect the buildings or the plant or the land to see what kind of crops can be put in, or do they make inspections in connection with any other matter? I cannot see what need there is for these men to inspect so much, and it is much better that these people should be left alone on the farms to look after their own business. It is not pleasant to these people for an inspector to go about inspecting places when very often they are the wrong men in the wrong place, and the round peg in the square hole, and they do not know their business. With regard to the question of putting men on to the land there is a great deal of dissatisfaction amongst many soldiers who have returned from the War, and they think the Government are doing nothing to help them. I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Board of Agriculture would try and do something very quickly in order that these men who have done a great deal for us may be satisfied. I am glad that the men who are anxious to go on the land are going to have an opportunity. I trust this matter will have the serious consideration of the Board of Agriculture, and that the men who really desire to take up agriculture will have no hesitation in going in for it, but I think they should have sufficient training before they do so.
§ Major MACKENZIE WOOD
I desire to take this, which is the first opportunity, of raising the question of the sales of estates throughout the country to what I may call, not inappropriately, land speculators. This is the question of the greatest importance which is creating great interest, particularly in my own Constituency of Central Aberdeenshire. The procedure is the same all over the country. It is that of a syndicate which acquires an estate, and they go to the farmers or smallholders and inform them, sometimes quite bluntly, that if they do not buy their farms they will be sold, and that they are likely to be turned out of their holdings on which they have been for many years. It is obvious that farmers are placed at a very serious disadvantage in this matter because they have to buy their farms now, and they have to pay the increased prices due to the inflation resulting from the War. All over the country we have the same experience, but it is particularly acute in my own Constituency, because there are 37,000 acres of land which have recently changed 106 hands, and the result of the sales of those farms is that many farmers and smallholders in that constituency are likely to lose their farms, and in some cases these farms have been in the family they are in now for many generations. This question has been raised on several occasions, and I have put several questions to the Secretary for Scotland on the point, and we have been told over and over again that the Government realise the gravity of the situation and are considering it very seriously. I should like to know whether the Government are now in a position to give us some information as to their policy on this most important matter. It is a question which is peculiar to all parts of the country. It is all over the country, and, as far as I can gather, it is likely to increase as time goes on. The question is urgent and demands an answer from the Government at the earliest possible moment.
Then there is the question of the small holdings, which is of great interest to the North-East of Scotland, as it is to other parts. I shall not go into that question now beyond expressing my disappointment that the question of land settlement and the extension of small holdings has made so little progress recently. I have a case which has been brought to my notice. It is not a question of settlement, because the man is settled on the land. It is the case of a man who is likely to be turned out after having been settled. I put it to the Secretary for Scotland or his representative because I thought that would be the quickest way of raising the general question I desire to put before the House. Here is the case of a soldier who went to the War, was wounded, disharged unfit, and was placed on a holding by the Board of Agriculture. My information was obtained, not from the man himself, whose statement might be considered ex-parte, but from a man whose only interest is in discharged soldiers. Two years ago he received a holding of ten acres with an out-run from the Government in Glenarchy, Dalmally, Argyllshire. As far as I can gather, he has made the greatest possible success of it, and, of course, he desires to be allowed to remain, as he expected he would be. He applied to the Board to build a dwelling-house on the land, and he offered to improve the fence and to erect additional fences, all at his own expense, in return for some security of tenure. The Board, while appealing 107 to him to increase his production for 1919, pointed out that his land was taken as a temporary measure in the interests of food production, and they could not give him any hope of the holding he had improved, but they asked if he was prepared to accept another holding elsewhere if the Board happened to be in a position to offer him one. That is the position of a man who has made a huge success of his holding. He has received notice to quit from the Board of Agriculture. Surely it would be a most painful experience to see the Board evict a man of this kind, particularly as he has made such a great success of his holding, and that, as far as I can gather, there are round about him about forty acres used practically entirely for the private sport of deer-shooting? That is a concrete case which I put to the Government, because I want to know why such a man, who has been put into his holding and has been there for two years should suddenly, after having done so well, be given orders to turn out? Would he have been told to go so readily if he had not made such a success of his holding and if the land had not been so very much more valuable as a result of his labour?
Everyone admits that the question of agricultural education has been neglected in the past and great efforts are being made on. all hands to give it more attention in the future. I have here a copy of an advertisement of the North of Soot-land College of Agriculture inviting applications for the position of assistant lecturer in agriculture at a salary of £100 per annum with a war bonus of 23s. per week. This is an offer made to a man who probably has gone through a course of three or four years at the university and who has a practical knowledge of agriculture. It is an offer which is less than the wage of an average farm labourer, and I should like to know whether the Board of Agriculture approves of such remuneration, and if they really think that any good education can come out of such starvation wages. It is hopeless to expect that we shall get any good from a policy of that kind. If it is a question of the Government's stinting money, I am sure that there are many other directions in which they could economise without making it necessary to ask an agricultural lecturer to devote his time to their service for £100 per year.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. HOPE
I think we have been rather handicapped by the departure of the Secretary for Scotland from the usual practice of making a statement at the beginning of the Debate, but there are one or two points which I would like to ask him. He said that there had been 628 new holdings created, I think since the 1911 Act. I should like to know how many new holders have been actually put on the land since the beginning of 1918. It is very difficult to find that out. He also gave the figures of the acreage of small holdings. He said that 154,000 acres in all have been secured by the Board of Agriculture, of which 18,000 are arable. I presume those figures also date back from 1911. If that is so, and assuming that no more than 18,000 acres are available for being turned into arable land, the proportion of arable land to the total of 154,000 acres available is very small. We all know the great difficulties which the Board of Agriculture have been under in endeavouring to obtain small holdings, but we should like to know a little more definitely how many small holdings have been created since 1918, and what are the immediate prospects of getting more smallholders placed on the land. I know that there are difficulties and that the subject is still further complicated by the fact that in all probability the question of small holdings will be dealt with shortly under the Land Settlement Act for Scotland, which we have not yet seen. Altogether we are rather in the dark.
It is very difficult to follow the financial part of it. No statement has been, made In the past, I think, there used to be a statement of the amount devoted by the Board of Agriculture to small holdings. The Secretary for Scotland reminded us that in the years of the War only £10,000 have been granted for the provision of small holdings under Section 5 of the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act, 1911. This year we are going back to a Grant of £185,000, which was the sum voted in the pre-war year. One would like to know how that fund stands. It is expressly laid down in the Vote that this sum of £185,000 will be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, but the balance is not liable to surrender to the Exchequer at the close of the financial year. Therefore, one would like to know the exact state of the fund. How much is there standing to the credit of the fund from past years, and do the Board really think that this sum of £185,000 which they are getting now in addition to any amount which they have standing to their credit will be sufficient to 109 create the small holdings? The statement of the Secretary for Scotland with regard to the future creation of small holdings did not tell us very much beyond what we could find out from the Report and the Vote. I know that the right lion. Gentleman is most anxious to increase the number of small holdings and to promote the settlement of soldiers on the land as soon as possible, but I think it is most important to make it clear to Scotland that the Government intend not only to introduce Bills in fulfilment of their promises but to get some actual settlement of soldiers on the land in the near future.
The only other point I would like to refer to is this. The Secretary for Scotland divided his speech into two parts; first dealing with small holdings and then with agriculture. I want to take the general question, especially with regard to the appointment of the Royal Commission. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that some complaint had been made as to the composition of the Commission so far as the representation of Scotland is concerned. He truly observed, "You cannot satisfy everyone." But if there is any doubt as to the satisfactory composition of the Commission surely it is all the more important that its proceedings should be public and that it should not sit in secret. It is not, of course, within the power of the right hon. Gentleman to say whether or not its sittings shall be public, but inasmuch as there has already appeared a difference of opinion among members of the Commission as to the terms of reference and their proper definition, I hope that under the circumstances the right hon. Gentleman will use his influence to secure that the meetings are open to the public. Agriculture in Scotland as well as in England requires some certainty for the future. It requires some guarantee as to prospects in the immediate future. But there can be no such certainty until the Commission has reported. We were all delighted with the very sympathetic speech and promises of the Prime Minister with regard to the future of agriculture, but still we are anxious to get the Report of this Royal Commission. Only to-day I asked a question as to whether or not hay is to be controlled in the coming year. I could not get an answer on that point, yet at this moment hay is being sold at all sorts of fancy prices, ranging from £15 to £20, and farmers and consumers alike are anxious to know whether or not it is going to be controlled. They really want 110 to get rid of the present uncertainty, which tends very greatly to the detriment of agriculture and at the same time induces profiteering and speculation. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will have something to say on both these points.
§ Colonel GREIG
I want to call attention to the question of the equipment of small holdings, and to point out the difficulties which the Board of Agriculture has experienced in dealing with this matter. One of the chief difficulties has, of course, been that of labour, but there are also difficulties inherent to the defects in the Act of 1911. Everybody who remembers the passing of that Act knows very well what those difficulties are, and we should like the assistance of the hon. and gallant Member who last spoke and of his friends in amending the law and putting it on a better footing. What is mainly desired is the simplification of procedure and the grant of wider powers to the Board. Therein may be found our main difficulty. The hon. and gallant Member asked for more details of the expenditure. I am not in a position to go fully into figures, but it is rather significant that one of the items in the accounts is the sum of £25,931, shown as miscellaneous expenditure in connection with land settlement, and of this £21,500 was paid by way of compensation to landowners and tenants, in addition to about £1,400 expenses in connection with arbitration. There lies the whole thing in a nutshell.
§ Colonel GREIG
I have not the accounts, but probably it is a very small balance. A good deal has been said on the question of afforestry. It is alleged that the Board of Agriculture in Scotland has done very little in that direction. But that may be attributable to the fact that their energies previously to the War were directed, with the consent of Scottish Members generally, to the provision of small holdings. During the War the Board have been doing a good deal in the direction of afforestry. They have secured a survey of the whole country, and by means of their expert assistants they have done a great deal, although here again they have been hampered by the fact that so many of those experts have been serving abroad. But when one looks at the 111 Report of the Afforestry Department of the Board of Agriculture, one is bound to admit that they have an extraordinarily good record in this direction. I think it will be admitted by those who have read the Reports that that particular Department of the Board has done its duty as far as it has Been in its power.
By leave of the House, I may be permitted, perhaps, to reply to one or two of the direct questions asked me since I sat down a little time ago. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) asked me questions with regard to forestry. He referred to the Forestry Bill. I do not propose to follow him in that process, and I shall say nothing about that Bill on this occasion, because I apprehend I should not be in order. He asked me a question about what has been done in regard to forestry. If I did not refer to forestry when I addressed the House before, it was because no allusion had been made to it in any of the speeches to which I was replying. Perhaps I may say in a sentence or two what the position is. During the War, Mr. Sutherland, who had hitherto been in charge of the forestry operations, was in France, and in his absence forestry was looked after by another member of the Board, Sir Robert Greig. The Board co-operated with the Interim Forestry Authority set up by she Government from the time that that authority was set up and conferred with them from time to time in regard to forestry questions. Mr. Sutherland returned in February of this year and resumed his duties as forestry member of the Board. Several forestry schemes either are going on or are in contemplation—first, at Borgie, to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred, where a nursery was stocked with 750,000 seeds last spring, and where planting operations, I hope, will be commenced in the autumn. There is also Craigmyle, to which reference was made in a former Debate in this House, where I hope it may be possible to begin planting in the autumn also. As regards the training of men who desire to become efficient in forestry, disabled soldiers have been placed upon a number of private estates for six months' training of a preliminary character. That scheme, which has been in operation for some time, has been continued during 1918, and all suitable applicants for work of this kind have been dis- 112 posed of in that way. After a preliminary training, the majority of these men pass on to the School of Practical Forestry at Birnam, where they take the normal course of two years. A small number of them have secured other positions in nurseries outside. That school is doing exceedingly well. There are to be. I believe, twenty-four students there in October. Other schemes of the same kind are now in contemplation. As regards forest nurseries, as the Report shows, the area has been considerably extended. I am told that no less than 4,250 lbs. of coniferous seed has been sown during the last season. My hon. and gallant Friend will see that, so far as forestry is concerned, the Board has been able, notwithstanding obvious handicaps in war-time, to perform a large amount of useful work.
§ Mr. MUNRO
During my hon. and gallant Friend's absence I had said I did not propose to refer to the Forestry Bill on this occasion, as I apprehended it would not be in order to do so. An hon. Friend behind me referred to two or three topics with which I shall deal in a word or two. He first spoke about timber. What he said shall be very carefully considered, because I know his familiarity with, that topic and his experience well justify the observations he made. He spoke also of the case of a golf course where compensation had not been paid. It was a working man's golf course which had been taken during the period of the War, I suppose for food-production purposes. I have made such inquiry as I could at short notice into that matter, and I find that the golf club, unfortunately, had given up its lease some time before it was taken over for food-production purposes. Accordingly it has no legal claim against the Board, and the Board was, therefore, unable to do anything for it. Whether the golf club was badly treated or not I do not know, but I can say it was not badly treated by the Board, who had no power to act otherwise than they did in the particular circumstances. My hon. Friend referred to inspectors, and seemed to suggest there were too many of them employed by the Board. I would have assured him, had he been present, that the inspectors he referred to have very onerous duties indeed to perform, not merely that of inspecting small holdings, which he seemed to think 113 was the only duty devolved upon these inspectors. They have very onerous duties in connection with the Diseases and Pests Acts, live-stock schemes and other schemes of a like nature. I can assure my hon. Friend that the lot of an inspector of the Board to-day is by no means an enviable one.
§ Captain BENN
Is there any reduction either in staff or in Grants in view of any possible lapse of duties through transfer to any other authority?
§ Mr. MUNRO
So far as I am aware, the answer to that question is in the negative. My hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Major Mackenzie Wood) raised several questions of interest in his speech. He spoke about the sale of land to speculators. He wrote me upon that topic quite recently, and I gave him a very full reply, which, I observed, was published in the Press. I have no complaint with regard to that. I was unaware that the reply was to be published, but I have not the slightest objection to the publication. All I say to my hon. and gallant Friend to-night is that I have nothing to add to the reply I then gave to him.
§ Mr. MUNRO
That is the very point with which my letter dealt. I pointed out to my hon. and gallant Friend that there was security of tenure which could not be disturbed in the ease of land sales. If my hon. and gallant Friend is dissatisfied with the reply and chooses to write me again, I will send him another letter, which he can publish if he chooses, but I thought I had satisfied him at that time so far as policy is concerned.
§ Major WOOD
In an answer which he gave in the House to me some time ago, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Government realised the gravity of the case and were considering what to do in the matter. Have they now considered what to do, and have they decided to do anything?
§ Mr. MUNRO
That is not a question which I can be asked to answer offhand, as to what the policy of the Government is in regard to this matter. It is being considered. If my hon. and gallant Friend puts down a subsequent question, I will endeavour to give him a suitable reply. He went on to deal with a case where, he said, a very industrious smallholder had been turned out of his holding by the Board of Agriculture. I find it very difficult to deal with isolated cases of this kind, not even a name or a place being mentioned. All I can say is that I will look into the case in question. It would servo some purpose if my hon. and gallant Friend would send me a letter. I shall have the fullest inquiry made into the cases and write him regarding it. I should imagine from what he said that it may be a case where the Board had powders under the Defence of the Realm Regulations to take certain lands for the purposes of allotments for two years and that their powers either have now expired or are on the point of expiring. With the best will in the world to a smallholder, they have no power to keep him on that particular land. I do not know, but I apprehend that it may be the type of case.
§ Mr. MUNRO
Then what is the grievance? If anything can be done, if my hon. and gallant Friend can suggest anything that can be done, let him send me a letter and I will see whether it is possible to get this man, with whom I have the fullest sympathy, a holding elsewhere. My hon. Friend also referred to an assistant lectureship at Aberdeen which was advertised at a salary of £100 per annum with war bonus. I do not know the circumstances sufficiently to say, but I apprehend that the lecturer advertised for was one who has just emerged from his student's course, an assistant junior lecturer, and that he is to begin at that not very lucrative salary which, however, according to my information, is not an unusual salary in the circumstances. At any 115 rate, for that salary the governors of the college are responsible and not the Board of Agriculture, and without knowing much more than I know about the circumstances I cannot express any further opinion upon that matter.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir J. Hope) asked how many smallholders had been settled since the beginning of 1918. War conditions have made it extremely difficult to carry through any settlement on the land in England as well as in Scotland. The answer to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's question is "very few," but I cannot give a particular figure. He referred to the 156,000 acres I quoted, and asked whether that acreage has been acquired since the Act of 1911 or was acquired more recently. The position of matters is this: The 156,000 acres consist of 113,168 which were gifted to or purchased by the Board recently, and 40,849 were acquired under the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act since the outbreak of war. So with regard to a large proportion of the acreage it was acquired quite recently, and with regard to 41,000 these were acquired since the outbreak of war. Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund, and wanted to know whether there had been a balance carried forward to the present year's account. There was, I understand, a certain balance carried forward, but it has long ago been expended on the purchase of land. He asked if I thought the funds sufficient. I do not. But Scotland is to receive, under the Lands Settlement Bill, a proportion of the money given to England, and Scotland's share will be £2,500,000 or thereby.
§ Question put, and agreed to.