§ Order for Second Heading read.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Sir Arthur Boscawen)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
This Bill has already passed through all its stages in another place, and it comes down to this House for Second Reading this afternoon. The object of the Bill is that we may at last make a real step forward with a very important matter, a matter in which it is true to say that we have as a country lagged behind the rest of Europe. In the past we have always prided ourselves that in most things we are in the van of progress, but it cannot truly be said that that is the case with regard to forestry. In fact, when we consider what is being done, and what has been done in other countries, we find that there is only one country in Europe so sparsely wooded as our own, and that is Portugal. I should like to give the House a few figures that were before the Reconstruction Committee which went into this subject quite lately. The amount of land under timber in this country—and I am speaking of the whole of the United Kingdom —is only 4 per cent. In Belgium it is 17 per cent.; in France, 18 per cent.; in Germany, 25 per cent. in Russia, 37 per cent.; and in Sweden no less than 47 per cent.; so that as regards the amount of timber in this country we occupy an exceedingly low position. But that is not all. Such woodland as we possess has not been cultivated in the best manner in the past, and I am informed that the wood yield is only one-third per acre of that of any other country in which the science of sylviculture has been properly developed. It is a melancholy fact to be considered that we are in times both of peace and of war very great consumers of timber, and yet although the consumption of timber per head of population is contantly growing, we supply only 8 per cent. of the timber consumed in this country from our own resources and no loss than 92 per cent. is imported. I feel sure the House will realise that that position is not at all satisfactory and it is made worse by this fact, that we have an immense acreage in this country which is very suitable for plant- 218 ing with timber, and therefore it is not a matter of our sacrificing something else in order that we may have a better supply of timber.
There are here vast wastes of land devoted in some cases to sport and in other cases to rough grazing that carry a vary small head of sheep, or something of that sort. We have vast acres of land, estimated at something like 5,000,000 acres, which might with advantage be afforested and so enable us to supply that timber which we are importing from abroad at the present moment. Therefore, the Government feel that the time has come when this matter of afforestation should be seriously taken up and a real national effort made to develop those resources which are latent, but which have never been developed up to the present time. The state of affairs which was revealed by the War was most serious. We found, as I have said, we were importing most of our timber. We found that we had a very small timber reserve in this country. At the same time the consumption of timber during the War was enormous. It might have been thought that as building had come to a standstill and many of the uses for which timber was ordinarily required were no longer in operation it might have been thought that the amount of timber consumed would have largely decreased. It did decrease to some extent, but at the same time this fact emerged, that military operations in their present form require an immense amount of timber. Anybody who has served, either at home or abroad, knows perfectly well that for trenches, for huts, for packing cases, for munition boxes, and for every conceivable object which we had in view during the War, timber was absolutely necessary. We had to import immense quantities of timber. It was very irksome from a shipping point of view, because timber is almost the most bulky thing you can carry on board ship, and the amount of tonnage required was very great. The cost also was very great. During the years 1915 and 1916 we imported something like two-thirds or three-fourths of the timber used before the War, but the cost was no leas than £37,000,000 more than it cost during the two years before the War. Nearly the whole of that went to foreign producers and foreign shippers. After that we made a great effort here, and endeavoured, by felling a great many of our own trees, to set free the shipping that had been employed in carrying timber. To some extent we were successful—in- 219 deed, we had to do that, because we had not the shipping available. We had to do it in order even to supply ourselves with those pit-props without which coal-mining could not be carried on during the War. The result has been that we have still further depleted the reserves of timber which we had in this country, and we have to-day not only the pressing need of afforestating a great many acres that have not carried trees before, but we have the necessity of replanting those woods which were destroyed —usefully destroyed —for the sake of the nation during the War. The object of this Bill is to endeavour to make a really big, serious, national effort to cope with the situation. We do not think that we ought to lag behind any more. We think we ought to take the matter seriously in hand, and for that reason the Forestry Bill is brought in by the Government.
I should like to make it perfectly clear at the outset that the credit for this Bill, and for the work that has preceded it, does not belong to the Board which I represent, nor in any way to myself personally. We have assisted, but the real credit is due to two bodies —firstly, to the very strong Subcommittee of the Reconstruction Committee, which investigated the whole matter and presented a most valuable and unanimous Report; and, secondly, to a body known as the Interim Forest Authority, which, since that Report was presented, has been carrying on the work and doing a very great deal of spade work which, I hope, will be found exceedingly useful to the forestry authority when it is constituted. I should like to add that, if credit is due to one individual more than another, it is due to my right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland), who, as chairman of the Interim Forest Authority, has shown a degree of energy, ability, and zeal in this work which is entirely beyond praise. When I say that he is responsible and that I, representing the Board, am not, I am in the position of a man representing a Government Department which proposes to give up some of its powers. I believe that that is an almost unique position. We very often hear that Government Departments are very acquisitive of new powers, and. at all events, they do not with pleasure yield up the powers that they already possess. I confess that, in some respects, I regret the separation of agriculture and forestry. I will mention one. I think it most desirable that, in the 220 matter of small holdings, the new forest authority and ourselves, and also, of course, the Scottish Board of Agriculture and the Irish Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, should work closely together, and I think we can. There can be no doubt that when new forests are planted, and when many men are employed in the forests as woodcutters, woodmen, and so on, those men will fill in their spare time to great advantage by cultivating a bit of land as a small holding. For that reason I earnestly hope and believe that there will be no difficulty about the new forest authority and the Board of Agriculture working together perfectly amicably with that object in the future.
I realise, however, that if we are really to get a move on, if this thing is really to be done in a businesslike manner, there must be one single forest authority for the whole of the United Kingdom which will deal in a comprehensive manner with this matter. We believe that, in handing over our powers to certain bodies, we are doing what is absolutely necessary, and we think we must have this single forest authority, which, in the words of the Bill, will be charged with the duty of promoting the interests of forestry, the development of afforeistation, and the production and supply of timber; and to this body the powers hitherto exercised by the Boards of Agriculture for England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland, and also the local Commissioners, are handed over. We believe that in that way alone we shall get a real comprehensive policy for the whole of the United Kingdom. I realise, of course, as much as any man, that there may be a difficulty here. I can already hear hon. Members from Scotland, and probably from Ireland, saying that we are proceeding on the wrong lines, that we are flying in the face of experience, that we are centralising instead of decentralising, that Scotland is to be run from Whitehall, and all the rest of it. I reply that that is really not the case. Although there must be a central authority for the direction of policy and for such important questions as research, experiment, training, and so forth, all of which must be done upon a uniform and concerted basis, I realise that there must be decentralisation of the actual administration. Accordingly the Bill proposes that, although there shall be a central forest authority, there shall also be three 221 Assistant Commissioners, one for Scotland, one for England and Wales, and one for Ireland; and not only so, but that there shall be also four consultative committees, who will be able to advise the Forestry Commission on various local aspects, and as far as possible assist the central authority in dealing with local authorities and local conditions. There is to be a consultative committee for England, another for Wales, another for Scotland, and another for Ireland. Great care is taken that these consultative committees shall have upon them men of thorough experience and knowledge of the local conditions of forestry in all its aspects, and with their help, and with the executive work carried out by the Assistant Commissioners, I can assure the House that there is no intention whatever of centralising the administration. On the contrary, the administration will be decentralised, with simply this controlling central authority to guide the operations as a whole.
I would put one argument to any of my Scottish Friends who in principle object to this. It may be that you have a central authority. It may be that, notwithstanding the existence of an Assistant Commissioner, and a consultative committee for Scotland, the whole control is not vested in Edinburgh. Let me point out that there will be great financial advantages to Scotland from that. At the present moment we reckon that, of the 5,000,000 acres that may be afforested, more than half is in Scotland, and we expect and intend that a very considerable proportion of the money that is to be devoted to this purpose shall be expended in Scotland. Would that be the result if there were a separate Commission for Scotland? You would go back to that old principle of percentages, under which I think Scotland got eleven-eightieths. If you had a central authority for Scotland, the chances are that you would get only eleven-eightieths of the money. If you have one central forest authority with local administration, I venture to say that Scotland will get a great deal more than eleven-eightieths, and possibly the economic advantage from that point of view may outweigh the sentimental objection. At all events our view is that we should deal with the United Kingdom as a whole, and that the money should be expended and the work done in those parts of the United Kingdom, irrespective of 222 where they may happen to be, where the money can be expended to the best possible advantage.
I would make one further remark as to the necessity for this one central forest authority. The Reconstruction Subcommittee, which investigated this question were absolutely unanimous on this point with two small exceptions. It is quite true that the Treasury representative had Treasury doubts, as of course he was bound to have, and the reservations he made were perfectly proper on his part. Lord Lovat, who after all is well known as an energetic champion of Scotland, also made a reservation; but what was the nature of his reservation? It was not an objection to a central authority: far from it. He underlined the necessity for a central authority much more than the rest of his colleagues. His words are these:While I agree in all essential particulars with the Forestry Committee's Report which I have signed, I think it is my duty to insist, with perhaps more emphasis than my colleagues have seen fit to do, on the importance of a single Forest Authority for Great Britain.He goes on to say:The creation of a single forest authority for the British Isles is required, firstly, and principally, to make a definite break with the past, to get out of the welter of conflicting authorities, and to escape from the arena or party politics, Royal Commissions, and amateur inquiries; secondly, to make it possible for an accredited authority not only to draw up a definite policy for the British Isles, but also to set in motion the machinery for carrying it into effect; thirdly, to constitute a body who can view the forestry situation in Great Britain as a whole, and decide on purely forest al grounds the conflicting claims of the various countries unbiassed by local or political pressure; fourthly, to constitute a body who, in time of war, could act with the military authorities to exploit both State and private forests for the benefit of the country.Therefore, we hold that the need for one authority has been absolutely proved, and the establishment of a single authority is the most important part of this Bill. I should like, in a very few more words, just to describe the powers which the central authority will have, and also to say one word about finance. I have already told the House that the general power of the central authority is to promote afforestation and the supply of timber. By Clause 3 they can take land by lease or purchase, they can buy or sell standing timber, and they can make advances by way of loan or grant, or both, to private individuals or to local authorities. A great many local authorities have pur- 223 chased large areas of land in connection with the water supply, and a great part of those areas can very well be afforested when, for sanitary reasons, they cannot be used for ordinary agricultural purposes. Then the central authority can undertake the management of woodlands, and can promote woodlands. By Clause 4 they have extensive powers to prevent damage, and by Clause 7 they can, through local Commissioners, acquire land compulsorily in cases where they cannot obtain it by agreement. When it becomes law, as it will in a few days time, the powers of the Acquisition of Land Bill, for the purpose of estimating the compensation to be paid in disputed cases, will be applicable in the case of forestry. Lastly, by Clause 9, they can enter upon any land they like for the purpose of survey. These are very wide powers, but they are not wider, in my opinion, than are necessary if forestry is really to be carried on on a businesslike footing in the future.
It is estimated that we have something like 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 acres of land which is plan table with timber at present. The Report of the Reconstruction Committee does not propose that the whole of that should be planted. We have to take long views in forestry, and that is one thing that differentiates it from agriculture, where we have, comparatively speaking, quick returns and short rotation. You have to have longer returns in forestry, and your rotation is about eighty years. It is proposed that in the first eighty years 1,750,000 acres should be planted. That figure is arrived at by ascertaining how much reserve of timber we ought to have in this country if we had to subsist for three years without the possibility of foreign imports. I am not going to anticipate another war like the last, but we found during the last war that we had reached a point of national danger, and we are bound to have security in view of any possible emergency in the future. During the first eighty years it is proposed to plant 1,750,000 acres, and of that, during the first forty years, 1,180,000. The Bill itself, which starts the thing and puts it on a business basis and enables us to get on with the work, applies only, as far as the actual terms of the present Bill go, to ten years. During those ten years it is proposed that 150,000 acres should be planted by direct State action. In the case of 25,000 more acres 224 there will be a profit-sharing scheme between the owners and the State, roughly speaking, the owner supplying the land and the State supplying the necessary capital for the afforestation. In regard to 25,000 other acres, it is proposed that they should be planted, with the assistance of the State by way of loan or grant, by local authorities or by private individuals. In addition to that, there are something like 50,000 acres of woodland which require replanting, or, it may be, woodland that has been cleared during the War which will require replanting as soon as possible. That is a programme of altogether 200,000 new acres and 50,000 acres of replanting in the next ten years, and although, of course, the matter will have to be carried much farther, we consider that is a very good start. It is as much as can be made at the present moment. That is the proposal of the Reconstruction Sub-committee, and that is the proposal of the Bill.
As to finance, it is proposed that during the next ten years there shall be paid out of the Consolidated Fund an amount of £3,500,000 for the purpose of afforestation. It is not proposed, by indicating this large sum to be spread over ten years, to withdraw the matter from the control of Parliament. It is intended that Estimates should be presented of the amount proposed to be expended in each year.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
It will have to be done probably by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. That is a point I am prepared to consider in Committee as to the best method of responsibility for the Estimates. It is proposed that Estimates should be presented each year, that the House and the Treasury should have a voice in controlling the amount to be expended each year, and that the accounts should be presented to the Controller and Auditor-General. It may be that the Clause dealing with finance in its present form will have to be redrafted. If so, that will certainly be considered in Committee; but we want to establish the two principles—first of all, that there is to be control by Parliament, and, secondly, that there is to be a general guarantee of a certain sum of money for a definite period of years in order that the Forestry Department may know where it is, and be able to forecast its policy and to put it on a thorough business basis. For that reason a guarantee is necessary for a certain 225 definite sum. That is really the scheme. I believe it is the best that can be devised to meet the present situation, which is a very serious one. I shall be only too glad to consider any suggestions or proposals for Amendments in Committee, but this is the scheme unanimously presented by the Reconstruction Sub-committee, supported, as I understand, by the Interim Forest Authority. No other schema that I can think of is likely to fill the Bill. We have had attempts in the past to deal with the question. Each of the three Boards of Agriculture has rights and duties with regard to forestry, but very little has been done, as can be seen by the present state of affairs. It is only natural that the Board of Agriculture, whether it be in England, Scotland or Ireland will look more to agriculture itself and to the quick return than to the long deferred hope of afforestation. Similarly something has been done by the Development Commissioners. I am not going to belittle the work they have done. On the whole they have done very well. But it is clear that these separate and inconclusive efforts up to the present have not been sufficient. Because we think a broad-minded scheme with a central authority and general control is necessary, I move the Second Reading and I commend the Bill to the House as the best manner in which to deal with a very important and urgent subject.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman had his eye on those who sit on this bench who are Scotsmen as well as members of the Opposition. Throughout his argument he made the suggestion that Scotsmen might after all consider this Bill from the point of view of the economic advantage which might result to Scotland on account of the fact that that country is probably the most suitable area for afforestation, and he ventured the view that that might outweigh our sentimental considerations in accepting the Bill. Scotsmen are not going to be influenced either by economies or by sentimental views in this matter. There is nothing which will contribute more to the repopulation of those districts in Scotland which have been depopulated than will the successful association of afforestation and land settlement, and we are not in the least worried about whether we are going to get many salaried officials or large machinery, but we are concerned, 226 and will continue to be concerned, in the repopulation of our own country, which is very much depopulated on account of economic conditions, and more so on account of the effects of the great War. So I address myself to this problem without any of those feelings which have been suggested by the hon. Gentleman. I am opposed radically to this measure. The only reason why I will not move its rejection at this stage is that I understand the Government is not prepared to force through the remaining stages before the Recess.
§ Mr. HOGGE
In that case some of us who feel strongly on this may reconsider our point of view before the close of the Debate. I certainly was under the impression, from what I have gathered—I do not say more than casually—that the Government did not intend to proceed with this before the Recess, because there is always the value of the opinions which can be obtained on a measure of this sort in the interval that elapses between our rising and our reassembly. The first point I want to make against the Bill is that it is setting up a centralised and extraordinarily extensive bureaucracy. We in Scotland have done something with regard to forestry, but on the general point we have had more than enough of this concentration of power in the hands of a few people who are outside the real control of Parliament. I interpolated a remark when my hon. Friend was referring to the financial arrangements with regard to who is to be responsible for the laying of the Estimates on this question of forestry. My hon. Friend said he thought it would be the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, but at the same time he referred to the fact that Clause 8, which deals with the question of finance, would probably require to be readjusted. As it stands cow there is no control by Parliament. My hon. Friend realises that it would be difficult to re-examine from year to year the expenditure upon forestry as the Financial Clause is now drafted. Everyone knows how the discussion on the Consolidated Fund Bill comes on, and how difficult it would be to find an opportunity for raising a discussion on a detailed estimate of that kind. Incidentally, therefore, I hope that whatever arrangement is made that the Estimates will be laid in a fashion so that if neces- 227 sary we can disease them from time to time. Something like £3,500,000 is proposed to be taken out of the Consolidated Fund and put into the Forestry Fund, which is to be controlled by seven Commissioners, three of whom are to be paid. They are to receive salaries of £1,500 a year each or, at any rate, £4,500 in all. That is only the beginning of the expense. The staff which it is proposed to set up will cost, from information I have been able to get, something between £40,000 and £50,000 a year. Therefore, what the House has to realise in assenting to this Bill is the creation of a new spending authority, over and above the spending authorities which exist, at a cost of some £50,000 a year to the State for this new service.
My objection to this new centralised bureaucracy, at this time in particular, and especially from the point of view of the Scottish Member, is that it was only yesterday announced in the House that you, Mr. Speaker, were going to preside presently over a Committee of this House, or some other kind of Committee, not necessarily of Members of this House, for the purpose of dealing with the question of Devolution. Devolution is more in the air than any other political topic. Devolution, so far as Scotland is concerned, has frequently been argued and argued with great force from the point of view of afforestation and the repopulation of our derelict country and county districts in Scotland, and it seems the height of folly at the same moment that we are entering upon a discussion of how far we can devolute to the various nations which make up the United Kingdom their own domestic concerns, that at the same time you are forcing through this House, in the dog days of the Summer Session, a Bill which seeks to take away from Scotland in particular the control of one of its largest industries. Scotland, compared with any other forestry industry in the United Kingdom, has by far the largest proportion of that industry. All the conditions of to-day are making towards devolution. The conditions are very different in different parts of the United Kingdom, and it is pure folly on the part of those who represent English constituencies and Welsh constituencies to think of afforestation in the same category and in the same terms as those of us who are accustomed to think of afforestation in Scotland. The various reports which have been rendered from time to time by the Board of Agriculture 228 with regard to Scotland have emphasised the fact that below the thousand feet altitude which is the necessary altitude, I understand, for successful afforestation, there is a larger acreage in Scotland—the acreage in that respect in Scotland is over 1,000,000 acres—which can be afforested than in any other part of the Kingdom.
The main objection to the separation of forestry into a separate Department so far as Scotland is concerned is that we believe—I do not know how far I can speak for other Scottish Members, but it is fair to say that the average Scottish Member does take this view— that afforestation so far as Scotland is concerned must be carried on in conjunction with land settlement and agricultural development. The whole problem in Scotland of land settlement is acute. Yesterday, for instance, when other Members were absent Scottish Members were discussing this very question of small holdings in its relation to afforestation. We have found, and I think the proof can easily be produced, that in Scotland our scheme of small holdings is largely impossible from the point of view of economic success unless these small holdings are associated with subsidiary industries, and the attempt has continually been made in Scotland, particularly in our Highland and Island districts, to associate the system of small holdings with a system of afforestation, so that a man placed upon a small holding may continue to work to the extent that farming operations are possible and still have a subsidiary occupation, that occupation being his connection with afforestation. This has been fully recognised by the Scottish Board of Agriculture in the past. Efforts in Scotland were made to associate afforestation with small holdings prior to the outbreak of war. I see hon. Members opposite who used to develop this topic on every possible occasion, and however little or however much was done they will agree that the Scottish Board of Agriculture was making some attempt to secure the association of afforestation with our scheme of small holdings. If I remember rightly, a special officer was appointed prior to the outbreak of war by the Scottish Board of Agriculture, and his whole work was to look after afforestation.
By this Bill the Government take powers to purchase large estates, the bulk of which estates will not be suitable for afforestation. One of the difficulties in the past has always been that the landlords 229 have refused to come to terms for that part of their land which has been the object of afforestation. That may be a reasonable position from the point of view of the landlords, but it cuts both ways, and if you take large estates by the powers that are given you under this Bill you are obviously going to hand over to this new forestry authority land which will not be used for afforestation. I should like any occupant of the Front Bench to deal with that point. You are taking away from the Board of Agriculture large powers which they at present possess. One of the means by which you are doing it is to purchase whole estates in order to get that part of the estate which will be suitable for afforestation. That will obviously leave in the hands of the forestry authority large tracts of land which ought to be used by the Board of Agriculture for the purpose of enabling smallholders to get upon the land. Thereby you are going to create a certain amount of overlapping between the Board of Agriculture and this new forestry authority.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
Would they not be as entitled to take that land as any other under the law as it stands?
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
They can take it now, only they are ruled by the Forestry Commissioners. It makes no difference.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I do not think you would get two authorities buying the same portion of land. You would not have two public authorities competing for the estate of one individual. There might be an arrangement. I do not know what the arrangement would be, but I put it as a question. When an estate of that kind was purchased could not that portion of the estate which could be used for smallholders be handed over to the administration of the Board of Agriculture for the purpose of small holdings? I want to make it quite clear that you, if you are to have purchases of large estates, and you have this separate authority, there ought to be a clear line of demarcation.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
What my hon. Friend suggests is quite possible under the terms of the Bill, in Clause 3.
§ Mr. HOGGE
So much the better. Then we do not need to discuss that point any 230 longer. If it is clear that this land can be divided between the two authorities then we will leave it. My further point is that this Bill gives power to grant bounties to private individuals to conduct experiments in afforestation and that the State is to take all the risks. I hope I do not do injustice to my hon. Friend if I say that the landlord is to get 4 per cent. on his expenditure, that the State is to get 4 per cent. on the money that it advances to the landlord for the experiment, and that the surplus profit after that is to go to the landlord. I think that is the scheme, and I do not think I have stated it unfairly.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I should like to hear from the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London in which, of course, there are many forests, to give us his experience on the question of afforestation in the City of London. If there is any surplus profit under this Bill it goes to the landlords, but if there is no surplus profit the State is to bear the loss. The point I wish to make is that if the State is to suffer through advancing money for the purpose of these experiments, if there is any profit after the apportionment referred to surely the excess of that ought to go back to the State. If it does not go back to the State it ought to be divided between the landlord and the State in a bigger proportion than is suggested in the Bill Scottish Members will remember that we discussed this question on the Housing Bill in Scottish Grand Committee. [AN HON. MEMBER: "We did not agree upon it!"] I do not say that, but we discussed it, and some hon. Members suggested that we ought to give a bounty to private individuals to promote the extension of houses.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
They never suggested that. They suggested a payment in order to induce them to use their own money.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HOGGE
If that is not a bounty, I do not know what it is. At any rate, they discussed the question of giving people an inducement to build houses. Houses are much more urgent than afforestation. The urgency for this Bill suggested by my hon. Friend is an urgency which is disappearing every day. Apart altogether from legitimate competition with other countries in the world, the urgency of this Bill is that, in the event of the outbreak of another great war, we should not again be left 231 without a proper supply of timber. I do not think, unless all our hopes are going to be falsified, that we need build up huge forests with the object of providing for another great European war. Therefore I think we may dismiss that and say that housing is far more urgent than afforestation, and if the Government refuse to give an inducement to private individuals to build houses, in addition to what is provided for the local authorities, why should they be willing to assist individuals in afforestation which is not so urgent as the question of houses? This Bill has been based far too much on the Report of the Committee presided over by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Acland). I think that the basis on which that Committee did its work and reported was entirely wrong, and that this problem ought to have been faced not from the point of view of making this country secure in the case of future needs, but that it ought to have been dealt with from one aspect as to the problem of reconstruction and in relation to the whole question of land settlement.
It is not often, in the course of my political career, that I have been able to go to the" Scotsman "newspaper for support for my argument, but I find that the greatest Unionist newspaper in Scotland, writing editorially upon this question of afforestation so recently as June, agrees entirely with the point of view which I am putting now. Referring to the Boards of Agriculture in England and Scotland, the "Scotsman" says:The Boards of Agriculture, whose duties will lie more and more in the direction of social development and the fostering of rural industry, would seem more likely to hold mutual confidence as administrators of the enterprise we have now to undertake than a Commission of specialists in forestry, whose set purpose would be to concentrate on the planting of a fixed acreage of land in a given time. The existing Forestry Departments of the Board should be strengthened as required for the work and given broader powers than now in settling landholders and workers. In this aspect of the case it is well to bear in mind the entire dependence of sylviculture on labour. Given the land, nearly every penny of capital cost can go out in wages.In the wise decision of the question now before us Scotland has special concern, as forestry interests and knowledge are much greater there than in any other part of the United Kingdom, and the areas readily available for planting are much larger, at least a million acres within plan table elevation lying hitherto entirely unproductive, apart from deer and sport.
§ Mr. HOGGE
That is a leading article I will send my hon. Friend a copy of it with great pleasure, because I think that he can read it with advantage. An hon. Member has said that it is no credit to them. It is not much credit to the landowners. They have kept that land for the cultivation of grouse and deer and made Scotland the sporting place for people all over the United Kingdom.
§ Sir PHILIP MAGNUS
Is not that all the more reason why this Bill should be brought into this House?
§ Mr. HOGGE
No; it is all the more reason why Scotland should control its own affairs and its own policies with regard to land in Scotland from the point of view of Scotland. Taking, if you like, the pendulum of Tory successes and Liberal successes in recent years, we in Scotland could have forged a much better system for our own country than by having to come here year after year, and even now with the Coalition Government being compelled to accept a Bill which takes away from us what power we have had in Scotland and put us under a central power dominated from Whitehall. We object to that. We in Scotland do not want our forests controlled from Whitehall. That is my great objection to this Bill. Take the policy of the Government with regard to transport. They have had in this Government the greatest difficulty in transport. The greatest signs of revolution inside the Coalition have been on the subject of transport. There have been rumours of revolution both in this House and in another place with regard to transports? Why? Because the Government in that case have considered the question as a whole. They have considered on the question of transport, railway, roads, waterways, and harbours. Will anyone for a moment say that that is a smaller problem than the question of afforestation in this country? It is a much larger problem. If the Government can deal with that large problem in all its aspects, why should the Government deal with this problem only in one aspect! Why should the Government take from us in Scotland the power to deal with our own land settlement in conjunction with afforestation and concèntrate on a bureaucratic expensive centralised department in London? That power ought to reside with the people of Scotland.
233 The War has only emphasised the question of the difficulty of procuring timber in this country. This question existed before the War, but my hon. Friend will admit that probably more has been done in Scotland towards moving this question than in any other portion of the Kingdom. At any rate my hon. Friend knows of the effort made in Edinburgh University with its Chair of Forestry to train students in scientific afforestation. He will also know that more applications have been made to Edinburgh University for scientifically and technically trained men for positions all over the world than to any other place in this country, and because the Government denies opportunities to Scotsmen, the men who are being trained are leaving Edinburgh and going to all other parts of the world. So no one can accuse Scotland of not doing what it could, hampered as it is in this House by the fact that we are so few in numbers in making any real progress on this question. Having made those criticisms, it is only fair to say now what my alternative policy is. My alternative policy on this question is to strengthen the Board of Agriculture in such a way as to deal with afforestation. We want in Scotland our Board of Agriculture to be strengthened on its afforestation side. We want that afforestation to be carried through in conjunction with the scheme of land settlement. Afforestation in Scotland might be a remunerative industry for the people who put their money into it as an industry, but it is not going to help the question of the repopulation of Scotland.
§ Mr. HOGGE
Yes; but what power have the Scottish representatives and Scottish Boards had so long as we were controlled in this House as we are? My hon. Friend was here yesterday, and did not speak on the Scottish Estimates. He knows that for the discussion of the only question that we tried to raise on the Scottish Estimate we could not get more than a couple of hours on the last day of the Estimates. My hon. Friend knows perfectly well that if we had a scheme of devolution, such as may eventuate in the Committee over which Mr. Speaker is going presently to preside, and we had it in the face of public opinion in Scotland, not only our Board of Agriculture but all our other Boards would be very much more alive than they are. I am opposed radic- 234 ally to this Bill, because at a time when the whole tendency of our modern political development is towards devolution, and we are reaching a period when Scotland may control its own affairs, which is vital for securing our future prosperity, you are seeking in this House to take away those powers from the people of Scotland which they possess and centralise them in a Department in Whitehall far remote from the influences of Scottish public opinion from which experience has never led us in the past to expect any real reform.
§ Colonel Sir A. SPROT
It gives me the greatest pleasure to support the Bill which has been so ably and clearly brought in by the hon. and gallant Member. This is the first attempt in this country to give us a real and proper afforestation Department on the continental model. I remember some years ago attending a lecture in Edinburgh by Herbert Maxwell, who is a great authority on the subject, and hearing him make a statement, which was repeated by the hon. and gallant Member this afternoon and which filled me with surprise when I first heard it, that our country is the most treeless country in Europe with the exception of Portugal. The reason is that forestry has not yet been really taken up officially by our country in the way in which it has been taken up in foreign countries. We have had, no doubt, large forests in England—the New Forest and the Forest of Dean—but we have never had any real and proper system of forestry. We have never had a proper Forestry Department, and we have never had a school of forestry in this country. I should like to allude to the experience of India, which I am rather surprised not to have heard mentioned before. About fifty years ago a relative of mine, who was an officer serving in the Indian Army, and who was known to have a good knowledge of botany, was summoned by the Viceroy, and was told to go and form an Indian Forest Department. He qualified himself for that by making a tour through the Himalayas and through all the districts where big forests were to be found. He wrote a most valuable report, and a book, which is still his standard work, and he was made the first Conservator of Forests in India. When he gave up his appointment and retired home, what happened? They looked round for a successor to him, and they were obliged to appoint a German. When that German's time was up as the second Conservator of 235 Forests, they appointed another German. That is tantamount to saying that there did not exist in our country a school of forestry at all, or any body of people to whom you might go and say, "Send us a good man to be our Conservator of Forests." Let me carry the story still further. I remember very well when the Franco-German War of 1870 occurred, the young men who passed in London in their literary examination for the Indian Forestry Department had to receive special technical training afterwards. That had to be done in those days either in Germany or in France, and my recollection is that those young men who were qualified to be sent out to India as forest officers, and who, in the ordinary course of events, would have gone to the Forestry School at Nancy, could not go to France because of the Franco-German War, and they were sent, some of them, to my own home in Scot-land, where they visited the forests in Perthshire and other parts of the country and carried on their instruction as a sort of makeshift. That was the pass to which we were reduced owing to the absence of a proper forest Department and forestry school in Great Britain.
We know that the Indian Forest Department has been a great success. I think I am also justified in saying that it is a money-making institution. It brings revenue to that country, as do the Forest Departments of Germany and of France. We know also that since the day of which I am speaking a good deal has been done sporadically with regard to the improvement of forestry and forestry education. The Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) was quite right when he said that the relative of whom I have been speaking, who was at one time president of the Royal Scottish Arboricultural Society, of which I am a member, was instrumental in getting a lectureship in Forestry in the University of Edinburgh. Here I may mention that the Scottish Aboricultural Society existed for a good many years before the English Arboricultural Society was formed. I join with him, therefore, in claiming for our country a foremost place in the advance of forestry. A great deal has been done in various ways; We know that other universities and institutions have followed it up to some extent, but we are still in want of a sound and properly organised Forestry Department and school of forestry in this 236 country. The hon. and gallant Member (Sir A. Boscawen) must be familiar—I know that he is—with some of the forests of France. He knows, for instance, the forest of Nieppe, where a great deal of fighting went on both at the beginning and at the end of the War; also the forest of Esquelbec, and that of Tournehem, and the large forest outside Boulogne. One saw during the War the splendid work done by the French foresters, and of how great a use the Forest Department was in the prosecution of the War. We saw British, French and Canadian soldiers cutting material for revetments which had to be sent up to the trenches, and, although the War lasted for over four years, an immense amount of such material still existed in reserve in the forests, a fact which showed that France made good use of her forests from a military point of view.
I need not go much further in making the point which I have put forward. It is simply this, that we have neglected our forests as a nation up to now. It has been the much-abused landlord or landowner who has done all the tree-planting that has been done. I need hardly point out that a single individual has not got the opportunities for carrying on scientific forestry that is possessed by a State Department. Our landowners, no doubt, very often planted a great many trees. They did it for shelter, for ornament, and, perhaps, for the preservation of game, but they did it according to their own sweet will. They could not in many cases expect to survive long enough to see the results of their planting, and, therefore, they did not do it upon a recognised and scientific system in the same way as a Government Department would have done it. That is what is done in foreign countries. In France, in these forests I have mentioned, you do not see all sorts of trees planted together as you do in British woods. You come across a large area of oaks planted in a certain year and all of the same size. When they get to maturity they are reaped like a crop and the ground is replanted. In another place you will see a large area of beeches, and so on. That is scientific forestry. That is what we want to introduce in our country.
Passing from that, I would desire to meet what has been said by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh. He has objected to this Bill on the ground of what I may describe as the Home Rule for Scotland 237 principle. He thinks there ought to be one Forestry Department for Scotland, another for England, another for Ireland, and so on. We are not discussing now a question of Home Rule for Scotland, or devolution, or anything else. I may say this: I am as thorough and as good a Scotsman as he is; I have not got a single drop of English blood in my veins. I am a Scotsman and I represent a Scottish constituency, and I am just as entitled as he is to speak for the generality of my thinking fellow countrymen in my own country. I would submit that this is not a point upon which one ought to insist upon a separate Scottish nationality. If there were any question of the ancient laws and customs, or even of the peculiarities of Scotland, I should be the very first to stand up for them, but this is not one of those points. I think it has been thoroughly well brought out by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who brought in this Bill, that it is to the advantage of Scotland that there shall be one Forestry Department for the whole of Great Britain. I think the shortest way of putting that is this: If you have one Department, supposing that you have a good man in the South, who is good, we will say, in the management of fir trees, and there is a vacancy in the North for such a person, you can at once send him out to the place for which he is best fitted; and, similarly, you can bring down from the North any man who may have shown great capabilities for managing different sorts of trees that prevail in the South. By having the one Department I think you will ensure a steady flow of intelligent and capable and hard-working public servants in your Forestry Department, to a much larger extent than if you had Departments limited to each of the three or four countries composing the United Kingdom. That is my opinion. I leave the hon. and gallant Gentleman who brought in the Bill to deal with the other objections which were urged by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh. I must say that I disagree entirely with him when he states that there is any sound objection to the Bill upon the ground of the interests of Scotland. From a pecuniary point of view, as has been pointed out, Scotland will be the gainer and not the loser by the proposals of the Bill. On the whole, I have great pleasure in supporting this Bill. It will go far to meet a want which has for 238 long been felt. We were dealing a short time ago with a Housing Bill, and we discovered in our Scottish Committee that although a good deal of public money is to be spent upon the houses which are about to be provided, there will be few, if any, provided for our rural districts. This is a Bill which does meet some of the wants of our rural districts in Scotland, and for that reason I support it. I support the Bill because it is going to give us an organised Forestry Department for our country, and State forests, which, I think, are required, and a forestry school, which will help us to raise up in certain country districts a healthy and strong and virile class of men, which is exactly the sort of people we want to raise in our country and not in our big towns.
§ Major STEEL
I would ask the indulgence of the House in addressing it for the first time I desire to support this Bill and to say a word in regard to it from the point of view of Scotland, because, although I do not represent a Scottish constituency, I am a Scotsman and have lived in that country all my life. From that point of view I heartily support the Bill. I could not understand the argument of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), who opposed on the ground that a central bureaucracy was going to be set up in Whitehall, while he wanted the Scottish Board of Agriculture to have a separate Forestry Department, in order that the matter might be run in Edinburgh instead of in London. Under the present suggestion of the setting up of a central authority, Scotland, as I understand it, will probably have expended in the country about half the total money that is to be spent on this question, whereas, if the matter were worked by the Scottish Board of Agriculture, Scotland would only get something like eleven-eightieths of the total amount. Most Scotsmen like to get all they can, and as one of those who like to get all I can I support a scheme which is going to give us a half instead of eleven-eightieths. Forestry, as has been pointed out by the Parliamentary Secretary, is at present in a very deplorable condition. The hon. Gentleman mentioned that we have only got a very small portion of woodlands in this country as compared with the Continent of Europe, and even that small portion only provides about a third of what it would do if it were under proper sylvicultural management. That is, to a 239 certain extent at all events, due to the fact that up to the present we have had so many Departments competing with one another in trying to run this question of forestry. You have the Development Commissioners, and the English and Scottish Boards of Agriculture, and the Irish Department of Agriculture, and, after all, what have we found? In Scotland, notwithstanding the efforts of the Scottish Board and of the Development Commission, all that has been done is a forestry survey in one county and the training of a few individual foresters. I think that that fact alone is clear proof that some central authority is needed.
In forestry you have to look a very long time ahead, and you have to make plans for fifty or sixty years in advance, so as to ensure that during the time of your working you have got a proportion of the various ages of trees and also a proportion of the different sorts of trees and a proportion of hard woods and coniferous trees. If you are going to look at the matter, as I think you should, from a national point of view, it is, I think, absolutely necessary to have one central authority which shall make out one national working plan for the whole country, and which will decide how much hard wood and how much coniferous trees you should have, and which will be able to say in such and such a forest or in such and such a county coniferous trees grow best, while in some other districts hard wood is more suitable. Unless you have such a central authority you will have to deal with competing claims of different parts of the country. The other argument which the hon. Member for East Edinburgh brought forward against this Bill was the separation of the question of forestry from the Board of Agriculture. He wanted forestry to be run in future by some separate Department of the Board of Agriculture. I am a sheep farmer in Scotland, on one of those hill farms which might be considered suitable for afforestation, and therefore I am in a position to look at this topic not only from the point of view of the farmer but also from the point of view of the forester, and I say that the points of view of the farmer and of the forester are diametrically opposed to one another. If, as a farmer, I know trees are going to be planted on a farm, I will do my very best to have the land which is enclosed for that purpose selected from 240 the poorest and most exposed places, where hardly any tree can be grown at a profit. That is the point of view of the farmer. If I look at the matter from the point of view of the forester. I see at once how absolutely hopeless it would be to enclose such ground as that chosen by the farmer in order to try and grow trees at a proper profit. Personally I feel that it would be fatal to the future of forestry if it were to be controlled by an agricultural body.
Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
I am sure that the House listened with peculiar pleasure to the maiden effort of my hon. Friend who has just spoken, and will desire to congratulate him, not only on his eloquence, but on the knowledge of the subject which he exhibited. We have listened to three speeches, one violently opposed to the measure, and the other two in support of it. The three hon. Gentlemen who have addressed the House are Scotsmen, although one of them does not represent a Scottish constituency. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the j Member for the Gorbals Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes) is in the House to-day as representing the Scottish side of the Government, and that he proposes to reply in this Debate as representing the view the Government takes upon this subject from the Scottish aspect. My principal reason for intervening is because the Constituency I represent (Kincardine and Western) comprises one of the largest timber-growing and potential timber-growing areas in Scotland. It is from that point of view I have given very careful consideration to the Bill now before the House. I will say at once quite frankly that the measure, in my judgment, contains some very grave defects, but I have to ask myself whether, in view of the long history of afforestation in this country, when, after many years of appeals from those interested in the subject, nothing has been done by successive Governments, I should be warranted in opposing this Bill on Second Reading. The conclusion I have come to is that, however grave may be the defects contained in the Bill, they do not warrant me in opposing it on Second Reading, but I reserve to myself the right, after this Bill has been through Committee, of opposing it on Third Reading, should the Amendments put into the Bill during its passage through Committee not be consistent with the views of nay Constituents on the measure. The hon. 241 and gallant Gentleman the Member for East Fife (Sir A. Sprot), speaking a few moments ago, suggested that the main op position of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh to this Bill was on the ground that it was not consistent with the demand for Scottish Home Rule. I do not think that is the case. I think, if the hon. and gallant Member had listened a little more closely to the speech of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, he would have found that the main opposition of that hon. Member was based on the contention that under the provisions of this Bill there would be almost complete separation between agriculture and afforestation in Scotland. Those are the reasons why I desire to see included in the Bill in Committee provisions which will ensure co-operation between agriculture and afforestation in Scotland. That is all the more necessary if we are to have regard to the argument used by the hon. Member who has just spoken. He told us that the interests of the forester and farmer in Scotland are diametrically opposed. If that be so, it is all the more important that there should be laid down by Statute co-operation between the interests of agriculture and afforestation which in Scotland ought certainly to be developed side by side. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh very rightly drew attention to the article in the "Scotsman" newspaper which advocated the alternative policy which I shall hope to see incorporated in the Bill during its passage through Committee. There is nothing in the Bill at the present moment to ensure that co-operation which is so essential to the future social progress of the Scottish people. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh said, quite truly, that under this Bill it was possible for the Forestry Authority to acquire a whole estate, of which, according to the Report of the Reconstruction Committee, only amps; third would be afforested, and he asked what was to be done with the rest. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who represents the Government and the hon. Baronet the Member for the Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger) said it would be possible for the Board of Agriculture to acquire the rest of that estate for land settlement purposes. But what if the rest of that estate is not suitable for land settlement purposes? The hon. and gallant Gentleman need not smile so contemptuously.
I am glad that is so, because it is really quite a good point. Is the rest of that estate for which public money has been paid to go to waste T That is one of the particular reasons cited by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh why there should be the closest co-operation between the Board of Agriculture and the Forestry Authority, co-operation empowered by Statute in order that the case instanced by the hon. Member should not arise. I turn for a moment to another objection which has been raised against this Bill, and that is that it does not provide for sufficient supervision of the operations of the Forestry Authority on the part of the Scottish people. I am glad the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall (Mr. Acland) is in his place to-day, because he has contributed to this particular aspect of the question some very interesting remarks. In the April number of the "Contemporary Review "the right hon. Gentleman wrote an article entitled" The Prospects of Starting State Forestry," and in that article the right hon. Gentleman said:The Forestry Authority to be established will undoubtedly have a far more active and experienced representation in Scotland upon it than any body has hither to had which has been concerned with forestry. The whole of their administrative and executive work is to be carried out, as it is now being carried out, under the interim authority, by a wholly Scottish body sitting in Edinburgh.I ask the attention of the House to those words, "by a wholly Scottish body sitting in Edinburgh. "Then the right hon. Gentleman goes on to say, and necessarily his words carry great weight:There will be set up by Statute a most representative consultative committee of Scotland, also wholly Scottish, and it seems likely that the central authority itself will probably meet quite as often in Scotland as in England. 'What is actually in the Bill which is now under discussion? There are seven Forestry Commissioners, who form the Forestry Authority. There are three Assistant Commissioners, one for Scotland, one for England, and one for Ireland, and a consultative committee for each of the three countries and also, I think, for Wales, but there is not a word in this Bill, so far as I can see, about the wholly Scottish body sitting in Edinburgh to which the right hon. Gentleman referred 243 in his article, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman who introduced the Bill had nothing to say about that point at all. Perhaps he or the right hon. Member for Gorbals will be able to tell us the reason why the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Camborne, which was quite clearly in the minds of the Interim Forestry Authority, is not now contained in this Bill, or perhaps the writer of the article himself will be able to tell us. At any rate, let me say this. The fact that there is no such provision as a wholly Scottish body incorporated in the provisions of this Bill to administer the powers and the duties of the central authority on behalf of the Scottish people, and in the very closest co-operation with the Scottish Board of Agriculture, makes the Bill unsatisfactory, in my judgment, from the point of view of Scotland. I pass on to one other aspect of the Bill, and I propose to ask the Government whether they can answer a question that I desire to put. I turn to Clause 7 of the Bill, and there I see that if the Commissioners are unable to acquire by agreement and on reasonable terms any land which they consider it necessary to acquire, they may apply to the Development Commissioners for power to acquire the land compulsorily in accordance with the provisions of the Schedule, and in Sub-section (1) of the Schedule it states:Where the Commissioners propose to purchase land compulsorily under this Act, they may submit to the Development Commissioners a draft order putting in force, as respects the lands specified in the order, the provisions of the Lands Clauses Acts with respect to the purchase and taking of land otherwise than by agreement.It therefore appears that any land that is required is to be acquired under the Lands Clauses Acts.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
May I explain? This Schedule was drafted with a view to the fact that up to the present time the Acquisition of Land Bill has not become law, and, of course, it was necessary in the Bill to make provision for the acquisition of land, but I am advised that as soon as the Acquisition of Land Bill becomes law it will override anything which would be inconsistent with it in this Schedule, and the intention is that as regards any question of compensation it would be assessed in accordance with the provisions of the Acquisition of Land Bill. If there is any 244 doubt on that, I will take steps to remove the doubt in the Committee stage on this Bill.
I am much obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman because it certainly was a point to my mind of very considerable substance, and the reason I raised it was this, that in the discussions on the Report stage of the Land Acquisition Bill the Government, to the best of my recollection, specifically stated—and it was not so very long ago—that land to be acquired for public purposes other than for afforestation was to be acquired under the Land Acquisition Bill, but I now gather from the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the land is to be acquired under, I conclude, Clause 7 of the Land Acquisition Bill, and that if there is any doubt in regard to that particular point he will see that it is made quite clear in Committee That is all I wish to say. As I said at the commencement of my remarks, this Bill is one which vitally affects the Constituency which I have the honour to represent. I do not think it was quite fair, if I may say so, of the hon. and gallant Gentleman to say that unless Scotland accepted this Bill she would not obtain under the Bill the same financial assistance as she would if she gave her approval to it. If there are in Scotland areas for afforestation purposes more favourable than in any other portion of the United Kingdom, then quite clearly those areas ought to be planted, irrespective of whether or not Scotsmen in this House have agreed with a particular Bill which the Government have brought forward; but so far as I am concerned, I desire to say that I shall support this Bill on the Second Beading, and I shall hope to see included in its provisions during its passage through the Committee stage some such Amendments as I have indicated as being necessary.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir PHILIP MAGNUS
As an Englishman, I hope I may be allowed to say a few words in support of the Bill before the House. Anyone who has listened so far to the Debate would certainly think that this Bill has been introduced for the benefit of Scotland alone. I am ready to admit that Scotland contains almost half the number of acres that can be used for forest purposes in the United Kingdom, but that is no reason, so far as I can see, why poor England should be altogether neglected in the consideration of the advantages or disadvantages that would 245 result to the United Kingdom from the passage of this Bill. The only real opponent of the Second Reading of this Bill is my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), and, so far as I was able to gather from his speech, which was as lucid and as clear as his speeches always are, his objection to this Bill arises in the first place, because he thinks it inopportune that a Bill of this kind should be introduced at the present time, when there is a possibility—a strong possibility as some of us may hope; a faint possibility as others may hope—of a scheme of Devolution coming into operation very shortly, by means of which Scotland would have a Government and a Parliament of its own. So far as that argument goes, I do not think it is on the whole wise that we should postpone the passing of a Bill that might be of great advantage to the United Kingdom, because a system of Devolution has not yet been introduced into this country. It is not quite certain, whether such a system ever will be introduced, but, at any rate, what we are considering now is the question of introducing a Forestry Bill for the whole of the United Kingdom, and not the question of the advantage or disadvantage of Devolution. Then the other argument which was supported by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just Bat down, was that this Bill does not unite, or sufficiently co-ordinate, the Department of Agriculture and the newly-proposed Department of Forestry. That might be a valid objection, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman thinks that that objection might be removed when the Bill comes to Committee.
§ Sir P. MAGNUS
But we are discussing a Bill for the United Kingdom, I believe. Personally, I cannot say that I consider the separation of the Board of Agriculture from this new Department of Forestry altogether objectionable. Everybody must know that the conditions of the growth of timber are altogether different from the growth of those plants with which the Department of Agriculture have mainly to deal. The area to be used for the purposes of forestry is quite different, much larger, and the whole conditions of the planting of young trees is altogether distinct from the conditions governing the planting of any other plants or trees. For that reason I cannot say I consider it any disadvantage 246 that these two Departments should be separated. Then, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for East Fife (Sir A. Sprot), in an extremely interesting speech, there exists a separate Department for Forestry in every, or nearly every, Continental country, and one knows how vast are the improvements that have been made in France by having a Department of Forestry, which intervenes in all questions of afforestation in all parts of that large country, and the same is true of Germany to a less extent. I venture to think that this Bill has been long desired, and the necessity has been long recognised. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh pointed out that the difficulties under which we at present suffer, or under which we did suffer during the War, in consequence of the insufficient supply of timber in this country, were not likely to recur, because none of us looked forward to a war of that dimension, or, let us hope, of any dimension within the knowledge of those now living. But we suffered considerably from, want of timber even before the War. The War has emphasised this, very great want, and unless we do something for the organisation of our forestry we shall continue to suffer from the want of timber for very many years to come, and it is a very desirable thing that this country should be less dependent than it has been in the past on the importation, of timber from other countries. We have had pointed out the enormous cost of importing timber, the great space occupied in our vessels, and the immediate demand for timber in this country for the purposes for which timber is used—housing, for instance—and many other matters which render it absolutely necessary that we should, even at this late period, do what we can for the organisation of so important an industry on which the welfare of this country so largely depends.
It is for that reason that I welcome this Bill as a Bill of great importance to the whole of the United Kingdom. But, whereas I consider that there may be certain advantages in the centralisation of the main authority, I recognise that this Bill does provide in no small degree for decentralisation, as was pointed out by my hon. and gallant Friend who introduced the Bill. It is not a small thing that there should be, in accordance with this Bill, separate Commissioners for England, Scotland, and Ireland, each of whom would be familiar with the particular requirements of those countries, although I 247 should point out that there are the same difficulties, though to a lesser extent, perhaps, in Scotland, than we find in England, the same necessity for recognising the importance of planting trees in the soil that is most suitable for their growth and development, in England, as there is in Scotland, or in Wales or in Ireland. But, at any rate, the Commissioners in those countries would have the opportunity of recognising and pointing out any distinct differences, any specialities, in those countries which require separate consideration, and to that I attach great importance. But, besides that, there are to be consultative committees, and those consultative committees, I believe, will exercise a very great influence on the administration and organisation. If I have any fault to find with this Bill—and I expect we may all desire to introduce some Amendments in Committee—it is in connection, not so much with the powers of the Commissioners proposed to be appointed in Clause 1, as with regard to the relation of those duties, to the ability with which the Commissioners will discharge those duties. I am very glad to see that among the duties which are to be discharged by these Commissioners there occur the duties tomake or aid in making such inquiries, experiments, and research, and collect or aid in collecting such information, as they may think important for the purpose of promoting forestry and the teaching of forestry, and publish or otherwise take steps to make known the results of such inquiries, experiments or research and to disseminate such information.It is in connection with science as applied to forestry that we have been more behindhand than possibly any other country in Europe, and not with standing the excellent work that has been done by the University of Edinburgh, it must be admitted that the application of the results of scientific investigation to the manifold problems which occur in connection with tree planting, has not hitherto had the attention bestowed upon it that is desired. It is not for me to point out how numerous those applications of science to forestry may be made. We have already derived considerable advantage from some of the results of scientific investigation as applied to forestry, but there is almost a virgin field open for investigation and research in connection with tree-planting, the investigation of the seeds to be employed in planting, and various other 248 matters connected with forestry, all of which, we hope, will be carefully considered.
But I do want to point out—and it is on that matter that I shall ask leave to introduce some Amendment when the Bill comes into Committee—that I do not see there is any indication in this Bill that any one of the seven Commissioners who are to be appointed to superintend the whole of this administrative and scientific and educational work is required to have any knowledge of science whatever, and I shall certainly suggest in Committee that one at least of the paid Commissioners shall be a man who has been selected for his great scientific and technical knowledge of matters connected with forestry. It is not enough that these men should be familiar with the organisation of afforestation. It is also necessary that they should be able to realise the nature and value of the problems that may be submitted to them by the several consultative committees. It is in this respect that we have suffered in so many of our industries, not from the want of scientific men, but from the absence of any appreciation by those who control the scientific men of the scientific results of their investigations. Therefore, I do hope when this Bill comes into Committee some Amendment will be accepted by the Minister in charge with a view of taking care that of these Commissioners who are to be appointed, at least one—and I would suggest two— should have some considerable scientific knowledge. My only desire in intervening in this Debate was to indicate that I consider British interests, Welsh interests and Irish interests ought also to be considered by those who are taking part in the discussion, and to indicate practically the only Amendment that, personally, I felt very desirous of introducing in the Bill.
§ Mr. F. C. THOMSON
I desire to intervene for only a few moments in this Debate in order to support this Bill, which I think on the whole is a Bill which will be of vast benefit to the whole of the United Kingdom, and especially to Scotland. In his interesting speech the hon. Member for East Fife (Sir A. Sprot) spoke of the enormous advantage that has accrued to Continental countries by a central forestry department. We know the condition of Scotland as regards woodlands. We had, not long ago, an interesting address by a forestry expert to a number of Scottish Members, and we were 249 told that Scotland was the best—it has been demonstrated byexperiment—tree-growing country in Europe, and that the trees for timber purposes grew at a more rapid rate in certain parts of Scotland than anywhere else. With these facts, it seems almost a disgrace that we should be in the position we are with regard to timber. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), dealing with this matter from the point of view of Scottish devolution, deprecated this Bill as a retrograde measure. I, too, believe in Scottish devolution in such matters as education and local government, but I think we have to look at this from a larger point of view. I think this is an Imperial question. One will see in Clause 3The Commissioners shall be charged with the general duty of promoting the interests of forestry, the development of afforestation, and the production and supply of timber, in the United Kingdom.That is, of course, an important Imperial duty, and the Commissioners have also the duty tomake or aid in making such inquiries as they think necessary for the purpose of securing an adequate supply of timber in the United Kingdom and promoting the production of timber in is Majesty's dominions.So that it is altogether a big Imperial scheme which is required. There is something which is most attractive to the mind of a Scotsman, very naturally, of managing things in his own way and on his own soil. We have now a Board of Agriculture like that of England and Ireland, and at first sight it may seem to Scotsmen to be a retrograde step to have a central authority in England. But may I point out that this is a big Imperial matter, and it must be looked at from the broadest standpoint. The last speaker and others have pointed out that this is a great matter of forestry. We want to get the maximum drive on. It is a matter which will brook no delay. If it is dealt with in a separate fashion in England, Scotland, and Ireland, the result will certainly be that Scotland will be very much the loser. The hon. Member opposite considered, I think, that it was rather mean that the point should be made that Scotland did not refuse to take this Bill.
§ Mr. THOMSON
I beg the hon. and gallant Gentleman's pardon for using a word he did not use. He indicated it would be unfair—
§ Mr. THOMSON
To take up the point of view that Scotland had not refused this Bill. In view of the fact that she is a large timber-bearing area, the suggestion was that she should be taken into account as a sort of special entity. We must look at this question in a practical way. The Treasury being what it is, if there were only the Board of Agriculture alone in charge of the forestry, we should only get that small amount which was due to Scotland, whereas under this Bill the terms will be more generous. There is something superficially attractive in the idea of our Board of Agriculture managing both woodlands and the small holdings adjacent. We have, however, to look at this question of woodland in the light of expert opinion, and this is unanimously to the effect—and I personally have been a great deal impressed by it—that this is a great Imperial work, and once it is set going we may look for further development in the future. If we get Government support we must have one central authority, otherwise the matter will never get going in a proper way. Therefore, while, no doubt, the Bill is capable of improvement—and this can be done in Committee—I warmly support it. It does provide for administrative devolution by the calling in of three Assistant Commissioners, and consultative committees, whose functions will be most important. For these different reasons I strongly support this measure. I think it is one of the biggest things we have had for Scotland for many years. As pointed out by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, many of the holdings in our country are not economic, and unless it happens, as in France, that men can get work in woodlands they are not likely to be. Therefore, we want woodlands started on a bigger scale, and laid out in as economic a manner as possible. Surely the Board of Agriculture, working along with these Commissioners, can arrange for holdings in the neighbourhood of the forests? We have to look at this forestry matter as an Imperial question, and for the Board of Agriculture of Scotland to do its part in working together. If it does that, one has confidence that by this means, and possibly by this means alone, we shall see that real regeneration throughout Scotland that we look for with confidence in the immediate future.
§ Captain C. CRAIG
I intervene for one moment to express to my hon. and gallant Friend who has introduced this Bill my personal pleasure, to tender my gratitude for its introduction, and to assure him of the support, not only of myself, but, I think, of all my colleagues. Now that the question has been raised as to whether a separate Department of Forestry should be set up, whether this question of afforestation should or should not be put into the hands of the agricultural authorities of England, Scotland, and Ireland, seems to me to be a very small matter, and of secondary importance compared with the fact that the Government have at last realised the necessity for dealing with this question on a large scale. So far as I am concerned, it would not make the slightest difference as to whether the authority in whose hands this matter is to be, or has been, confided were the Agricultural Board or anyone else. The important point to me is that this question is being tackled. With respect to my own country, possibly more than any other part of the Kingdom is it necessary to do something in this matter of afforestation. Certainly innumerable Land Acts have been passed for Ireland. While they have had beneficial effects in one respect they have done harm in another. The ordinary tenant farmer in Ireland, as soon as he got possession of a farm, if that farm had a tree upon it, probably cut it down. Many districts, which twenty or thirty years ago had a fairly wooded appearance, are now absolutely denuded of trees. There is the aesthetic point of view. Apart, however, from that the Bill will do good. In Ireland also, not to as great an extent as in Scotland, but to a very considerable extent, there are very many admirable tree-growing areas, which for years, for centuries even, have been lying idle, or have been put to very little use. I hope under this Bill, those areas will in the future prove of considerable benefit to the Kingdom. There are no doubt, as hon. Members have said, points in the Bill which will require to be amended in Committee. On the whole, however, the Bill, from my point of view, and the point of view of Ireland, I think, is a very valuable Bill, and my hon. and gallant Friend may assure himself of our heartiest support.
§ Mr. REMER
As one who is commercially interested in the timber industry in this country, perhaps it may be of some 252 moment if I inform the House of my complete approval of this measure. It is one of the most important measures that have been introduced into this House for some considerable time. It relates to no new problem. The problem is a very old one. This is not the first attempt which has been made to solve it. But I am afraid that the attempts in days gone by have been spasmodic. They have been the result of scares. If we go back some considerable time in history we find there was a scare in this country because there was a shortage of yew for making bows and arrows. We find that in those days the people planted yew trees in their churchyards, and you will find a yew tree existing at the present time in a great many churchyard's. Later, there was a further scare because there was a shortage of oak with which to build battleships. There were a great many patriotic landowners in those days, and they did their duty in planting oaks in their hedge rows. As a result you find many oaks in the hedge rows of England at the present time.
During the present War there was another scare owing to the shortage of ash which was required for making aeroplanes. Another scare was in connection with pit-props for mines, and yet another about the shortage of general timber in view of the importance of saving tonnage. While on the question of pit-props may I refer to some of the speeches which have been made as to the shortage of pit-props and the bad quality referred to by several hon. Members. The reason for that bad quality, of which complaint was made, was because it was impossible to secure foreign pit-props. The pit-props used during the War were very largely English, and the bad quality was due to the fact that timber in England was grown haphazard, without scientific method, and, indeed, without any thought as to how the timber was going to be used.
I give complete approval to this measure. While doing so, however, there are one or two points on which I should like to give a word or two of criticism. In the Bill it states that in the constitution of those consultative committees regard shall be had to persons having practical experience relating to forestry, woodcraft, and woodland industry. It is of the greatest importance, too, that there should be someone on these committees who should have commercial experience of timber after it has been grown, and for 253 that reason I think that on the consultative committees there should be someone who has practical sawmill experience, and who is in the habit of sawing up timber, and knows what if is going to be made into afterwards. I should like to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, and his claims for Home Rule for Scotland. It is most important that the whole scheme should be under one central authority, because of the difficulty which would naturally exist if Englishmen, Irishmen, or Welshmen wanted to go and buy timber in Scotland. It is most important that they should be free to go throughout the country, to go into the four Kingdoms with their teams of men, felling the timber after it has been grown. It you have a central authority difficulties, naturally, would not arise.
My second point of criticism against the Bill is that it is an attempt—it is no good blinking the fact—to subsidise another industry. Along with the great industries that have been subsidised, food, transport, and other industries, we are going to add the forestry industry. It is most important that we should do our utmost to place this industry on an economic basis. There is no doubt whatever that at the present moment trees cannot be properly grown in the United Kingdom. There is no doubt trees have been grown by landowners who have been philanthropists to the nation. Some undoubtedly have been grown for sporting reasons. Mainly, however, they have been grown for patriotic reasons, and without certainly any thought to secure any commercial profit. For that reason, I think it is most important that the Government should take steps to place this great industry— for it can be a very great industry—on a thoroughly sound economic basis. If the War has taught us anything about forestry, it has taught us one solid, salient fact, that when the War broke out this country was very rich in timber lands. It was particularly rich in Scotland, and the value of that timber had a very great effect on winning the War. Yet, in spite of the fact that when the War broke out we were rich in this country in timber land, we imported nine-tenths—I think I am correct in my figure—of our timber requirements. It may very pertinently be asked that, with the position we were in, why did we import such a large quantity of timber, when we were so rich in timber land? The reason is not far to seek.
254 The price of imported foreign deals was£6 to£8 per standard, whilst in England the same deals could not be produced under£20 to£30 per standard. It is not particularly necessary to inquire as to why there was that considerable difference in producing timber in this country in comparison with foreign lands. Some portion of it cannot be avoided, for the reason that we have not in this country any great rivers like the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence, where the timber can be rafted to the saw-mills, ports, and the railheads. There are other reasons. The first is the very high cost of rail charges, the second the absence of loading facilities on the railways, and the third the question of the extraordinary traffic on the roads. I propose to show how these difficulties can be removed. With regard to the high cost of rail charges on timber, the railways have undoubtedly done their utmost to drive this trade away. They said it was difficult to handle and inconvenient to their staffs, and they did their best to kill the industry, and more than one railway manager has deliberately told me that it was their policy to avoid carrying English timber as much as they could. To draw a comparison between the charges in this country as compared with other countries, I only need to mention that in pre-war days you could bring timber from a place 1,000 miles from the interior of the United States, and then 2,000 miles across the Atlantic, at a lower charge than you could convey that timber from Liverpool to Birmingham, and that proves that the rail charges killed this important industry, and made it impossible to run it upon an economic basis.
Another point is the absence of loading facilities at country stations. There are at very few stations cranes by which timber can be lifted on to the trucks. Timber is very heavy, and you must have a crane in order to load it. What happens at country stations?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not think that is relevant to this Bill. This measure deals only with the earlier stages of planting trees
§ Mr. REMER
I will not pursue that point further, but there is one further point dealing with extraordinary traffic. It trees are going to be grown on timber land it is necessary to provide roads. When the trees are carted away the people who are carting them are charged very excessive amounts for damage to the roads. I think this Bill is going to be of advantage to the country, quite apart from the utilitarian reasons that have been advanced. There is the point of view of our landscapes. I do not know whether hon. Members have been into North Wales during recent times, but there is there a well-known road between Dolgelly and Bar-mouth. If you go there you will find, instead of Sills covered with beautiful trees, that those trees are all bare and black. I think it is necessary that we should put our country back again to the beautiful landscapes of pre-war days. We are all familiar with the Prime Minister's references to beautiful Wales, and in one of his speeches he referred to the forestry resources of Wales. Personally, I can vouch for the valuable timber secured for the War from the Prime Minister's native village, and I appeal for support for this Bill, not only on account of national and economic reasons, but in order to restore Britain's beautiful landscapes and to make this country fit for heroes to live in.
§ Mr. A. SHAW
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day three months."
I yield to no hon. Member in my conviction as to the need of afforestation in this country, and particularly in Scotland. This Bill, if I may the permitted to use the expression, is rotten to the core, and I hope to give some reasons for making that statement. May I draw the attention of every hon. Member, in the first instance, to the provisions of Clause 8? Under Sub-section (2), paragraph (a), it is providedThere shall be paid into the Forestry Fund—That means that there shall be paid into the Forestry Fund all the trading profits of this great Government Department, and over all those profits and transactions this House is not to have one single scrap of 256 control. There is no provision for an Estimate. There is a provision in Sub-section (3) of Clause 8, which says:
- (a) the sums issued oat of the Consolidated Fund under this Section; and
- (b) all sums received by the Commissioners in respect of the sale of any land or timber or otherwise received by the Commissioners in respect of any transactions carried out by them in toe exercise of their powers and duties under this Act."Provided that the amount to be so issued and paid in each year shall be such as Parliament may determine on an estimate to be presented by the Treasury.That applies to moneys issued out of the Consolidated Fund, but so far as the general control of the House of Commons over the acts of this important and expensive now Government Department goes, the only conclusion one can come to is that the House of Commons has been left out altogether, and no scrap of control in this respect has been provided for at all
We had an example yesterday of the sort of treatment Scotland receives in an English Parliament. We had questions of this very kind discussed on a Bank Holiday when there were prominent attraction is outside, and when many Scottish Members absented themselves as a protest against the treatment Scotland is receiving. Here is a Bill which takes from the Secretary for Scotland and the Scottish Office large sections of peculiarly Scottish administration, and neither the Secretary for Scotland, the Lord Advocate, nor the Solicitor-General' are occupying their seats on the Treasury Bench, and, perhaps, like my humbler colleagues, they share the objections which I am putting forward to this measure.
With all due respect to the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger), some of us who represent rural as well as urban constituencies are brought in closer touch with the facts on this question than the hon. Member. What is the outstanding fact which this Bill ignores from A to Z? It is that if you would regenerate and re-people those great tracts of wilderness which exist, especially in the North of Scotland, you must have something beside small holdings. Where you are bordering on the sea you must have canning industries and fisheries, but inland you must Have forestry, because your small holdings and afforestation must work side by side, and just at the time when that is being appreciated by everybody you have introduced a Bill which divorces these two things and which take away the whole area of afforestation from the Board of Agriculture in Scotland and which sets up to effect this marriage between forestry and agriculture, two conflicting Departments, with results which will ensue here, as they always do, when conflicting De- 257 partments are in charge of matters which are really bound up with one another. You are bound to fall between two stools.
Another aspect of this question in Scotland is that a divorce between agriculture and afforestation as 'being carried out when a marriage is something we should try to secure. This is what we ought to avoid, especially at the present critical time. Now we are creating a new Department when all that is wanted is to inspire new life and vigour into the existing Department. This reminds me of the gentleman who, instead of pouring new spirit into his motor car when the petrol ran out, bought a new car. We do not want new machinery for expending great capital sums. We do not want machinery inspired by landlords, or the buying out of landlords at their own prices. Some of us know a little of the personalities and of the machinations which the behind this Bill, and we shall not rest until the House of Commons is furnished with the facts. There has been a growing feeling in Scotland that the proper way to conduct afforestation is not by making huge payments to landowners. I do not agree with anyone who suggests that landowners have not done their duty by afforestation in the past. I know that now they have more slender resources than ever, and those who have done their duty deserve well of the State, but I object to the payment of large capital sums now, and we ought to adopt some other policy instead of putting in the forefront of Clause 3 schemes for buying land, apparently at prices to be fixed by reference to the Lands Clauses Acts.
§ Mr. SHAW
You will find in Clause 3, Sub-section (3), it is provided, under paragraph (a), for the followingPurchase or take on lease and hold any land suitable for afforestation or required for purposes in connection with afforestation,and under paragraph (b) it is provided that the Commissioners shall have power tosell or lot any land which in their opinion is not needed or has proved unsuitable for the purpose for which it was acquired.These things are put in the forefront of the Bill, and the Board of Agriculture or the Forestry Commission may agree with the landlord and say to him, "If you will give us your land free of charge for seventy years, we shall have an actuarial calculation made and share with your successors on a just basis the profit accruing at the 258 end of that time. "I should have thought the advantage of that course was so apparent that it must commend itself to the Government. It would save the capital expenditure involved in the purchase of land, and it would be perfectly easy to have an actuarial calculation at the beginning of the term and to bring the landlord into an amicable arrangement by which, after you had occupied his land for seventy years for nothing, he would at the end of that time, or perhaps it might be his successor, have an equitable share of the profits realised by the transaction. But there is not one word about that in this Bill from beginning to end.
I said something just now about small holdings in Scotland. There is not in this Bill a single clause or word which shows that the Government have realised that the great need is small holdings and that such a system can only be operated along with a scheme of afforestation. You are, it is true, setting up a Commission which may, perhaps, have a Scottish chairman—although there are some chairmen who, although not Scotsmen would be very excellent, and others who, although they are Scotsmen, might prove not so good. But we fear we are going to have a Commission dominated by English sentiment, a Commission largely operating in London, and a very expensive body out of touch with Scottish opinion, which is rapidly moving and hardening at the present moment. This Government, in taking away from the Scottish Office— in defiance, I would like to think, of the opinion of the Secretary for Scotland, who is soon to be made a Secretary of State, and of the Law Officers of the Crown for Scotland, and certainly in defiance of the great bulk of Scottish opinion— [An HON. MEMBER: "No, no!"] —which is, I fear, not represented by the hon. Member who dissents—in taking away this great tract of Scottish administration is not treating Scotland fairly, because it is accompanying its offer with a bribe, and that is a very poor tribute to the Scottish character. I object to that low estimate of Scottish opinion which apparently animates the Treasury Bench. Scottish opinion is moving in the direction of Scottish Home Rule. If you are going to take away many territories of Scottish administration, and you have filched a good many of them up to the present, "you may depend upon it that the day will come when you will have to give them back, accompanied, not by these niggardly 259 financial provisions, but you will have to bring in a Bill which will have to be presented by the Government, and we shall then have the spectacle possibly of the Prime Minister standing at that box and using arguments which will overthrow the very arguments now put up by the supporters of this Bill, and asking the then House of Commons to give a Second Reading to a Bill under which Scotland will be treated in accordance with her full rights as a nation.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to second the Amendment, but not for the reasons advanced by the hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill, because I do not share the view that Scotland or Scottish interests are neglected in this House. Ever since I entered the House I have regretted that I have not been a Scotsman, because had I been I might now be seated among the distinguished occupants of the Front Bench instead of occupying the position I do at the present moment. My reason for objecting to this Bill is that I do not think at the present moment we ought to embark on any further expenditure, however good the object may be. The expenditure which is provided for under this Bill may be excellent. I do not suggest that it is not. I do not believe it is going to be in any way a bribe to the landlords. I do not see how under the hon. Member's scheme of sharing the profits at the end of seventy years the landlord is going to live during those seventy years.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I suppose the reason for that is that the Scotsmen concerned have taken such good care of their possessions that they are able to live on other income than that which they would be likely to get under this afforestation proposal. My reason for objecting to this Bill is that the time has come when the 260 Government itself should set an example of economy. Every day we come down to this House and are brought face to face with Bills which increase our bureaucracy, and which increases the money that is to be spent in providing for new Ministries with big salaries. We have a Bill coming on after this which provides for higher salaries for Ministers, and yet at this time it is almost impossible to conceive how we can meet our existing liabilities. How can the Government think that the people in this country are going to exercise that economy which alone can save us from bankruptcy when they come down here continually and ask for more money! There are many things ail of us would like but we cannot get because we have not the money. When will the Government learn that, they are in such a position that their chief endeavour should be to curtail the appointments of Ministers, to reduce the number of Undersecretaries, to lessen the expenditure of the country, and not to increase it for whatever purpose, however good it may be? The hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of this Bill said quite truly there was a peculiar Clause with regard to finance. Three and a half million sterling is to be spent in ten years, or an average of about £350,000 a year. The provision of the Financial Clause cannot at present be discussed, but there is a proviso that an Estimate shall be submitted and subjected to discussion. Of course one does not know what profits, if any, there are going to be under this scheme, but under the powers to be given it will be quite easy, supposing there is something being done to which certain Members of this House objects, to postpone the sum to be allotted for the year until the next year and in that way to avoid any discussion on the Estimate of the year. There will hi no difficulty whatever in doing that, and that is a provision which, in my opinion, requires very drastic alteration.
Let us see what the powers of the Commissioners will be. They may purchase or take or lease and hold any land suitable for afforestation, and they may sell or let any land which, in their opinion, is not needed or which has proved unsuitable for afforestation. They have, in fact, a roving commission to go all over the country and buy land, and if they make a mistake they can sell it again. Under such circumstances how far will£3,500,000 carry them? It looks to me as though we are going to have a repetition of the Slough 261 fiasco, and at the end of ten years the Department will come to us and say, "We have already sunk the £3,500,000, and we have nothing to show for it. "Over and over again it has been proved that the Government has not been successful when entering into ventures of this kind. Although it may be very vital to Scotland to have more trees, I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite who said that the Government were going to do this thing well. I do not know of anything the Government have ever done well when they have assumed control of such an undertaking. It has always resulted in a serious deficit. The Government have never been successful in controlling commercial transactions. I happen myself to have planted trees, not with much success I admit, but I am sure I have been as successful as any Government official would be. May I point out that success in afforestation involves the expenditure of a great deal of money, time, and labour? There are all sorts of things to be fought. There are difficulties with regard to -weeds and to rabbits. I believe they do not grow many weeds in Scotland because the soil is so poor that even weeds will not grow there, but in England we have not only the difficulty with weeds, but we have also the difficulty with rabbits, and it is not an easy matter, therefore, to be successful in afforestation. I end as I began, with imploring the Government most earnestly to consider whether this is not the time for them to put a stop to expenditure. I do not care how good the object may be. I am quite prepared to admit that if we Here a rich country with a debt ofonly£500,000,000 or£600,300,000, such as we had at the commencement of the War, instead of being a poor country with a debt of£7,000,000,000 or£8,000,000,000 and an annual expenditure the extent of which no Member knows, it might be quite right to go in for this sort of thing. But as we are in that position the one thing we ought to do is to cut down all this expenditure and all this extravagance
§ Mr. ACLAND
Perhaps the House will allow mo to intervene for a short time at this stage in the Debate. I want first of all to answer a question definitely asked me by the hon. and gallant Member for Kincardine and Western Aberdeen (Lieut.-Colonel Murray). He did me the honour of quoting an article which I wrote on the prospects of State forestry, and he referred to the sentence in which I 262 suggested that the central authority would not centralise all the work in itself, but that the local centres of administration would be in the offices of Assistant Commissioners in Edinburgh, Dublin, and London respectively. I can only speak for the plans of the Interim Forest Authority which would, I think, be carried out by the Forest Commissioners if, to some extent at any rate, the same persons who had been in charge of the work on that Interim Authority were entrusted with it when it was put on a permanent basis. If I have the honour to succeed in having brought this question of forestry under a permanent authority, I hope I shall be allowed to step aside, and that I shall not be one of the Commissioners under the Bill. I can speak with certainty as to what was intended by the Interim Forest Authority and what has been done by them. I shall not have any personal share in carrying that policy any further if this Forestry Commission is set up; but undoubtedly, as far as the decisions of the Government go, it is intended that the actual centres of administrative and executive work should be decentralised, and that there should not be a great bureaucratic centre of offices in London. The persons I refer to who would have, in the case of Scotland, a purely Scottish staff in charge of the Scottish portions, would be the Assistant Commissioner and the divisional and district officers under him, officers in charge of acquisition, estate officers, and so on. All the work in regard to the acquisition of land, in the leasing of land, in the management of the woods, in the actual planting, in the giving of advice in regard to forestry, in regard to woodland schools, and to providing training schemes and in the giving of assistance to local authorities—all that would be decentralised from the centre, and put in the hands of persons in the national centres, such as Edinurgh.
I very much welcome what my hon. and gallant Friend said with regard to the need of the closest possible co-operation between the Forestry Commission and the Departments of Agriculture. I hope that if any Amendment is moved in Committee to make that more certain, if possible, than it is now, it will be favourably regarded by the Government. The hon. and gallant Member said, perfectly truly, that it would be necessary in some cases to acquire, either by lease or purchase, considerable tracts of land, and that the whole of those tracts would not be suitable for 263 afforestation; some would be too high to do practically anything with, and some would be more suitable for agriculture than for forestry. The Commission which would acquire those estates would, I think, in the first place, have some responsibility to the persons whom they were going to employ directly. There would be certain persons directly employed all the year round, first on the planting and afterwards in looking after the growing woods. Those persons must undoubtedly be equipped with small holdings, so that they shall have some definite interest in cultivation, and that shall be settlers in the truest sense of the word. Therefore, certain parts of the areas acquired would have to be set aside to provide them with small holdings and some subsidiary interest in the district besides that which they would have as being directly employed in forestry. But when they have set aside areas for these small holdings, undoubtedly the Forestry Commissioners would not consider themselves competent to undertake anything in the nature of a small-holdings policy. It is certainly their intention to keep in the closest touch with the Board of Agriculture in acquiring certain areas, and to agree with them, before they acquire them, what parts of those areas would remain under the direct management of the Forestry Commission and what parts could be better acquired by the Board of Agriculture for their smallholdings policy.
I was very glad to hear that the Bill was so welcome in Ireland. I went to Ireland very recently with the other members of the Interim Forest Authority, and I was appalled at the state of things, where the country was being absolutely denuded of timber. I have been informed recently that there is a district in the West of Ireland which is now priding itself on the timbered appearance given to it by the erection of a line of telegraph poles stretching across from one side of it to the other. There arc parts of the country, very far from a rail way station, where, unless some measures of afforestation are taken, hand-in-hand I hope with the co-operation of the county councils, there will be an absolute dearth of timber even to mend a cart or a gate, or to put in an axe-head or the spoke of a wheel. No country can need regeneration in forestry more than parts of Ireland undoubtedly do. One could see in other districts that the foundation of forest nurseries or woodland schools had been 264 appreciated, because as soon as one came within a radius of some bit of planting that had been done by the Irish authorities one began to see, here and there, a forest tree or a little group of forest trees—not always, one feared, honestly came by by the farmers who put them in in the corners of their holdings—showing that the State nursery had been useful to the settlers, who put in a few seedlings here and there in the corners of their farms, and proving that they were quite interested in forestry if it could only be developed on proper lines in their part of the country.
Turning to the Motion for the rejection of the Bill, which has been moved and seconded by the somewhat ill-assorted hon. Members who are responsible for the Motion, I think the argument which more than anything else appealed to me in trying to work this question through is that it is time that there should be one single authority responsible for producing adequate supplies of timber. At present it is always possible for every authority you go to to say that it is somebody else's fault that nothing is done. The production of an adequate amount of timber is almost as essential in defence service as the service of the Admiralty. Nobody would propose to split up the Admiralty so that you could say," Oh, it is true we have not provided many ships, but the other authority ought to do it. There must be some central persons who have influence and who govern and who can be had up, and if necessary hanged, for neglect of their duty. You will not get timber production dealt with very adequately in this country, even if the authority exercises a general supervisory control, unless there is somebody whom you can hold really responsible. If it were left to the Board of Agriculture, they might say, "We have not been able to make terms because the demands of the owners were too high." Another authority might say, "We cannot make progress because of the small holdings. "You would find yourselves in twenty years, in face of the steady progress of denudation of our timber, which was going on before the War and is now continuing, without any adequate provision for the production of timber in this country.
Of course, I only come into this as an amateur, and I know nothing about it really from a professional point of view, but one of the things that impresses me about this forestry service is the difficulty of being certain that measures of afforesta- 265 tion will be really well carried out. In forestry you cannot afford to make a mistake. If you make a mistake in manuring a sugar-beet crop or in planting oats, you see it in a year, and you can do the right thing the next year with your crop. The worst is one rotation. You can put it right in the next rotation. In forestry your mistake will not be seen for forty years, and cannot be put right until then. Therefore the people in afforestation must have the very best experience. If Scotland gets it sown powers absolutely by itself, and all the persons employed in Scottish forests as divisional officers, foresters, foremen, and so on, will have to start from scratch. There are no State forests in Scotland except one of very small area. They will have to start from scratch, from establishing their nurseries, and growing up in the forests, and if they serve the State for thirty or forty years they will still not have got the forests up to the condition of producing proper crops of timber. That is not the best training for foresters or forest officers. If mistakes are to be avoided these men should have proper training in the forests, and if there is an interchange of service with one term in Scotland and then a term in one of the Crown woods in England, this difficulty will be avoided, because in England there will be, under one administration and under the general control of the forest authority, all the Crown woods, which means some 63,000 acres of existing forests of very largely matured timber. So that the forester or forest officer who has the chance of working as a servant of the Crown will have a chance of serving in an actual forest, whereas, if the Scottish service is separate, he will not, for forty years, have a chance of seeing a matured forest at all. It is as if a person going into the teaching service were condemned to be a nursery governess all the time, dealing only with the youngest possible children, and never seeing education developed as it ought to be.
This Bill does provide a basis for making forestry a matter of Imperial concern. It is not too soon for that to be done. Hon. Members may have noticed recently the appalling losses that have been suffered in Canada and in the United States by forest fires during this summer. We read a few weeks ago of a forest fire in two or three of the States of America which is expected could not be put out until the 266 arrival of the snows of winter. To be able to concert Imperial measures with regard to dealing with the danger of forest fires is quite an urgent matter. It is a very remarkable thing, of which I had no idea until I began to look into the statistics, that during the fifteen years before the War the proportion of our timber that we obtained from the Empire had very considerably decreased, in comparison with the amount of timber we obtained from foreign countries. It does seem to be of the highest importance to try to concert measures with our great Dominions for establishing something in the nature of an Imperial forest service. The Interim Forest Authority has already begun in a small way on that basis. We are hoping to hold, in connection with an exhibition which is being organised by the Overseas Trade Department, an Imperial Forest Conference in December or January, at which the Dominions, India, and the Crown Colonies will be represented, and which will lay the foundations, we hope, of an Imperial bureau of information with regard to forestry, so that forestry statistics, methods of raising timber, methods of disposing of timber, and arrangements in regard to staff and administration, may be, compared, and different parts of the Dominions may be able to take advantage of the experience of other parts, which at present they cannot do. With all respect to what has been done by the Boards of Agriculture, it is inconceivable that the Boards of Agriculture should have said that it was their job to convene an Imperial conference about forestry. That sort of thing is not possible when the matter is split up between two or three different Departments. A single forestry authority is necessary in order that they may take a large view of the question, and make themselves useful to the whole Empire, as it is hoped that this authority will be able to do.
With regard to the observations of the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. A. Shaw), it is not really quite true to say, as I understand him to say, that no provision is made for Estimates being laid before this House. That certainly is not intended, and I am perfectly certain that it will be brought out quite clearly in the Clause which will be moved to take the place of the Clause which has come from the Lords. I think it is pretty definitely provided, in Sub-section (3) of Clause 8, that there 267 shall be just as definite annual Estimates for the Forestry service as for any other Department.
§ Mr. ACLAND
That is so, and I listened with interest to the point made by the hon. Member as to what is going to happen if and when we come to the stage of getting proceeds by the sale of timber— which will not be for the first ten years or so. Such proceeds would, I think, be put against the estimate on the forestry fund as Appropriations-in-Aid, and questions could be asked about them in exactly the same way as about the moneys proposed to be voted. As is well known, when a public Department receives moneys, those are always brought in in aid of the Estimates by the system of Appropriations-in-Aid, and are just as much under control as the sum which it is proposed to expend.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
This is an entirely new system of finance, as far as I remember. There need be no Estimates here of any sort.
§ Mr. ACLAND
If there is any doubt, I feel pretty certain that it can be made definite. I have had the opportunity of discussing the matter carefully with the Home Affairs Committee of the Cabinet, and there is no doubt that it is the intention of the Government that, unless Parliament has approved of an annual Estimate, the proceedings of the Forestry Commission will come to an end. It will depend, just as any other Department will depend, upon getting money from Parliament annually by estimate. The point has been made several times in the Debate that in the probable operations of the Forest Commission there will not be sufficient care for small holdings and for settling men on the land. So far as what is proposed follows, as it does follow largely, the Report of the Reconstruction Sub-committee, I think there can be really no foundation for that suggestion. There was no question about it in the Committee. We went very closely into the question of how forestry could contribute to settling men on the land, and nothing that has been said in this Debate is more strong than what was said in that 268 sense in the Report of the Sub-committee. I will quote a few sentences from their Report:The districts which would benefit most are those which are now poorest and most backward, such as the hilly regions of Northern England, Wales and Ireland, the border country and, most of all, the Highlands of Scotland. No ore disputes that large areas in these districts now devoted to sheep or deer ought, if possible, to be put to more productive uses. In these tracts, now almost uninhabited, the cost of reclamation and equipment is such that no agricultural development is economically possible unless some other industry is present to help to bear the preliminary outlay on roads, bridges, etc., and provide occupations to which the small farmer can turn in winter when he would otherwise be idle, and to which his family can look for employment. In certain favoured localities sea fishing, mines or quarries may supply this want, but in many districts sylviculture and the industries based on it arc the only agencies that can do so.I remember our getting some very interesting information from the Agricultural Commissioner for Wales, Mr. Bryner Jones, as the result of an inquiry which he made into the economic position of certain families of smallholders in Wales. He showed that over the whole of one large district, allowing for the value of farm produce consumed at home, the total incomes of the families ranged from 13s. 6d. to 21s. 6d. per week only, and in those districts, if anything like the right sort of subsistence is to be provided for the inhabitants, it is essential to provide forestry, so as to give the men steady winter work and bring them in money in the winter to supplement what they make out of their holdings in the summer. I do not think anyone could have been more profoundly impressed than we were with the necessity for running small holdings and forestry together, mutually dependent upon one another, and I can say with certainty that it is the deliberate intention of the colleagues with whom I have been working to co-operate in the most wholehearted way possible with the Board of Agriculture in schemes of settlement of that kind. We believe that in large districts there is at present no chance whatever of making economic holdings, but, when forestry has come, economic holdings can be quite readily and easily established.
The Mover of the Amendment—I am sorry to see that he has left the House—took exception to the proposals to purchase large areas of land. There is this incidental point, that, if it comes to compulsory purchase, the provisions of the Bill recently passed through this House will be put into operation. In drafting this Bill I 269 merely used the best code that lay in my hands, namely, the code under which the Board of Agriculture proceeds to acquire its land, which, of course, is the Lands Clauses Act, with certain very definite modifications which are shown in the Schedule. But when the Acquisition of Lands Bill passes, the method of assessing compensation there worked out, and assented to by this House, will be substituted for the method suggested in the present Schedule. Apart from that, I believe we shall be able to proceed very largely, not by purchase, but by lease. It is a very complicated thing to work out, but with regard to one or two proposals which owners have made to us we have worked out systems which will be put into operation, if the Bill passes, of leasing the land (so as to avoid the heavy expense of out-and-out purchase) for, say, two seventy-five year rotations of 150 years. I believe that that system will be adopted to a considerable extent. In certain cases it really pays better to purchase out-and-out than to lease. There is some land now in Devonshire, the very finest kind of land for tree production, which has been offered to us for out-and-out purchase at 35s. per acre—not per annum, but the freehold out-and-out. When we get hold of such a possibility of purchasing the very best land at such a rate, it is surely better to purchase it out-and-out than to go on paying 2s. or 3s. per acre per annum.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Those are lands which, if used for agriculture, would, I think, carry a rent of 10s. or 12s. per acre per annum, so that to be able to acquire them at 35s. per acre is to get them for very much less than their agricultural value would be if they were used for agriculture. They are not, however, lands under agriculture, and you cannot say what the agricultural rent would have been. They were timbered and have been cleared, and as a matter of fact the Board of Agriculture suggested to us that they were better adapted for forestry than for agriculture, and they expressed the hope that we would acquire them for forestry purposes. With reference to proceeds-sharing, the hon. Member for Ayr fell into the somewhat natural mistake of saying that he cannot find in this Bill any provision under which proceeds-sharing schemes could be worked out with owners. I think that if he had studied the Bill rather more closely 270 he would have seen it. It is contained, of course, in paragraph (e) of Sub-section (3) of Clause 3, which says that the forestry authority may undertake the management and supervision upon such terms as may be agreed upon, or give assistance or advice in relation to the planting or managing of any woods. Proceeds-sharing schemes will be carried out under the provision for giving assistance in the planting or management of any woods. We have already taken the matter of proceeds-sharing very much further than any of the Boards of Agriculture or the Development Commissioners have ever taken it. It is not an easy matter. One has to work out alternative methods, and the actuarial calculations are not simple. I have spent thirty or forty hours in working it out with actuarial tables, to arrive at something which could be put before-owners as a workable scheme. We are now consulting representatives of forestry societies and others as to whether we have got it into the simplest and most workable form. But, undoubtedly, that idea of proceeds-sharing, which was adumbrated and, I believe, actually started in one case by the Development Commissioners in Scotland, is going to be one of the main ways in which we hope to be able to aid afforestation.
Will the new authority take over that particular contract to which the right hon. Gentleman refers? There appears to be nothing in the Bill to say that they will take over current contracts of that nature.
§ Mr. ACLAND
The Bill undoubtedly provides that where the Development Commission has made an existing contract with the consent of the Treasury the future financing of that contract shall rest with the Development Commissioners. I have not heard any suggestion from the Development Commissioners that they wish to give up the control of contracts which they have made, although they may involve the expenditure of money in the future. But undoubtedly—and I think I can speak for those with whom I have been in the habit of working in the Commission—that contract will be taken over and financial provision will be made for it. Really it would be a good deal simpler if we took over the definite obligations of the Development Commission than if there were two concurrent authorities, one helping schemes which happened to be put forward by the Development Commission 271 and approved by the Treasury before a certain date, and the other helping schemes put forward by the forestry authority alter a certain date. We did not think it right to suggest to the Development Commissioners in advance that they should give up certain powers which they have undertaken and are willing to continue to finance. Undoubtedly proceeds-sharing has init very considerable possibilities, particularly in the case where the land which you wish to assist in afforesting is considerably mixed up with other land. Land which will not be affected by any scheme has, of course, this advantage, that there will be two authorities, both of which will have a definite interest in the financial success of the scheme, and when the financial interest of both bodies is the same, it ought not to be impossible to devise useful schemes between them.
I do not think it has been brought up in this Debate that there is a very definite and a very responsible opinion in Scotland in favour of this Bill. The course of the Debate has been rather battledore and shuttlecock between Scottish Members, and there has been about as much opposition to it as there has been support. But we ought not to forget altogether that all the societies interested in forestry have definitely preferred to pin their faith, in order to forward the interests that they have aft heart, to a central authority rather than in the continuance of the impossible expansion of the present position. The Royal Scottish Arboricultural Society, for instance, and all other bodies of that kind, are very strongly in favour of having a central authority to exercise general supervision and control. On the whole, this Bill has been very widely welcomed. The only at all large point about it has been the Scottish point, which is entirely intelligible and natural from the point of view of those who put the case of Scottish Home Rule very much in the foreground, and who, I hope, will not forget this point, which is always present in my mind, that there are parts of Scotland in which agriculture is absolutely impossible on an economic basis until forestry has been established, and this body, although it will exercise central control, is determined more than anything else to afforest in those districts where economic settlement but for forestry is really an impossibility. We have had the great advantages of Scotland brought before us both on the Forestry Sub- 272 committee and the Interim Authority very prominently, and I think it is the general opinion of those who have worked at it that at least a half, and possibly more, of the actual work to be done in future will be undertaken in Scotland, and there is absolute certainty that land settlement will be carried on in the very closest touch with the Scottish Board of Agriculture. If an Amendment is moved to secure more definitely the liaison between the forestry authority and the Scottish Board in all matters of settlement or utilisation of land suitable for agricultural purposes, I hope it will be favourably regarded by the Government.
Mr. G. MURRAY
I had some sympathy with the views expressed by the hon. Member (Mr. Hogge) with regard to the question of Home Rule, but I had no sympathy whatsoever with the views of the hon. Member who moved the rejection. I do not think the people of Scotland would have thanked him if he had succeeded in getting the Bill rejected, because I know there is a large body of opinion in Scotland which recognises that something must be done for forestry as quickly as possible, and I believe they will accept the Bill as a very good measure towards that end. I did not agree further with the hon. Member (Mr. Hogge) when he said there was no urgency for this Bill. That was the ground upon which he based his reasons for deferring it until such time as we have Devolution in Scotland. I believe there is very great necessity for the Bill. Most hon. Members who have spoken have said it is necessary for forestry to run concurrently with land settlement. If it be the case that land settlement is urgent, forestry is just as urgent as land settlement. I observe that under the Bill there is nothing provided for Parliamentary control. The lion. Gentleman (Sir A. Boscawen) informed us that he was considering arrangements whereby some Member of the House would be made responsible for the Forestry Estimates, but we want something still more than that. We require someone in this House who is not only responsible for the Estimates, but who is continuously responsible to this House for the policy and for the actions of the Forestry Commission which is to be set up. I suggest that one of the unpaid Commissioners—because it would then be unnecessary to set up a further Department—should be appointed to be answerable to this House for 273 the actions, of the Forestry Commission. The Development Commission has continuous representation in this House through the Treasury representatives. I do not believe it would be sufficient to have a Member merely responsible for the Estimates, which only come before the House once a year. I would suggest that when the Estimates do come before the House they should not be brought in lump sums but that we should have placed before us details of the schemes as far as possible, together with the main Estimates.
The next point I would refer to is with regard to the separation of the Agricultural and the Forestry Departments. The hon. Gentleman (Sir A. Boscawen) regretted the separation in some respects, and thought the Departments should work closely together. My experience of Departments is that unless they have some close contact with each other they are apt to run along in watertight compartment son parallel lines, and they very seldom meet. I think it is very important, from the point of view of the statements which have been made this afternoon, that there should be some close contact between the Agricultural Department and the Forestry Commission established in such a way that the contact is continuous. That might be achieved by the appointment upon the consultative committees, to foe set up in the different countries of individuals nominated by the different Boards of Agriculture to the different consultative committees. I believe the consultative committees, if they are used as they should be used, will form strong advisory bodies to the Forestry Commission, and If nominees of the different Boards of Agriculture are placed upon those committees I believe it may be possible to obtain that close link and contact between the Board and the Forestry Department which is so necessary for the good of both land settlement and of forestry. You cannot regard this Bill from the point of view of the United Kingdom without taking into consideration the strong views held in Scotland with regard to devolution. In order to meet that point of view, would the hon. Gentleman consider the desirability or limiting the period of the Bill to ten years? At the end of ten years it should be possible to reconsider the policy. By that time we may have Devolution in Scotland, England, and Wales, and so on, and then it would be possible to consider whether the time had not arrived when the central authority 274 could be split up and placed under the different Devolution Governments. I merely throw out that suggestion as a way of meeting that body of opinion in Scotland which believes that a separate Ministry ought to have been established there. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on having brought forward the Bill. I should have preferred originally to see a Bill with more devolution. But it is necessary to have such a Bill, and we must get on with forestry just as we must get on with land settlement.
§ Major COURTHOPE
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Acland) has informed the House of the support which has been given to the Bill generally by the organised opinion in Scotland represented by the Royal Scottish Arboricultural Society. I have been authorised by the two English societies representing organised forestry— the Royal English Arboricultural Society and the English Forestry Association—to give the same support to the Second Reading. These societies, and everybody who has really studied forestry, have been anxious for a long time that there should be a body set up whose one and only concern should be to put forestry on sound lines, and they are very anxious that there should be one, and one authority only, for the United Kingdom. There has been such general unanimity in favour of the Bill that I will not weary the House by developing any of the additional arguments that might be brought forward in support of a central authority and against the suggestion made by several Scottish Members that the Agricultural Department should look after forestry. I want to deal with something which has hardly been referred to in the Debate, which has a bearing on the point made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London, when he argued that the present was not the proper time to spend large capital sums on forestry.
I doubt whether the House realises how serious is the position of the British woodlands at the present time. It is far more serious than can be seen from road or rail as one passes about the country. It is true that some of the Welsh valleys are obviously stripped, but in many districts the damage is not apparent. It was my duty, or misfortune, during the last two years of the war period, to be responsible for buying the standing timber for the Government in England and Wales, and I can assure the House that we have been very nearly at the end of our timber resources 275 so far as conifer timber was concerned. So recently as the spring of last year a flying census of timber was taken throughout the United Kingdom which, although it must contain inaccuracies, and was never intended to be more than an approximation, did give a close idea, as far as it could be tested, of what the timber was then. We know approximately what has gone on since. The House will be surprised to hear that of timber of convertible size, the United Kingdom contained according to that census just about one pre-war year's consumption. If every tree in the United Kingdom of sawing size was taken it would supply our needs at the 1913 rate for one year only. That gives some idea of the urgency of the matter, and it brings me to my last point. The House must recognise, and I hope the Government recognises, that if a forest policy is to be a success it must depend very largely upon the efforts of private enterprise, and upon the encouragement given to private enterprise. We have at the present time, or we had before the War, 3,000,000 acres of woodlands, of which 97½ per cent. were in private hands. The estimate on which the excellent Report of my right hon. Friend's (Mr. Acland's) Committee was based presupposes that in addition to the new planting which would be undertaken, the existing woodlands would be put, I will not say on a proper forestry basis, but on a sounder basis than they had been in pre-war days. The best of these pre-war woodlands have gone. Many of them have been felled altogether, and the best of the rest have been much reduced. The question is how best can these woodlands be restored. The success of our forest policy and the success of the forest authority itself will not depend on its own direct efforts on the land it acquires nearly so much as upon its success or failure in inducing private owners to replant their woodlands and to do it in a proper manner.
§ Mr. BARNES (Minister without Portfolio)
The subject-matter of this Bill has been under discussion for the last two years. The principle of it emerged from a Sub-committee of the Development Commissioners nearly two years ago, and the matter has been revived more than once. I have no hesitation in saying that the Bill is much belated. I can assure hon. Gentlemen who criticised the Bill this afternoon that most of what they 276 have said has been carefully, and I might almost say sympathetically, considered. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) said that my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir A. Boscawen) had only put up one argument in favour of the Bill, and that was the possibility of another war. May I put forward two other reasons for the Bill, one human and psychological, and the other financial? This Bill proposes a new and healthy occupation and interest for the country. We have been growing lopsided for a good many years. We have been draining the countryside and heaping people into the towns, with dire results from the human point of view. I am not sure that the neurasthenia which is now so prevalent in the country, and which results in the stoppage of work and many other things, has not been due very largely to the increasing extent in which for the last generation people have been living in the unhealthy atmosphere of the towns rather than in the country. This Bill is intended, along with what is now being done in the way of agricultural settlement, to take that human stream back as far as possible into the healthy atmosphere of the country districts.
The second reason is the money reason. If my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh were present I would remind him that we have been importing timber for, I suppose, generations past, and that import of timber has adversely affected the international exchanges. I am told by those who know the position better than I do—I am told by experts, among whom I may include my hon. Friend (Major Courthope) —that the land of this country is just as capable of growing trees as the land in some of the other countries which have a great deal more woodlands than we have. If that be so, especially at a time when it is more than ever necessary, and will be progressively more than ever necessary, that we should affect the international exchanges in our favour, owing to the difficulty of exporting, why should we not try to make a better use of our land and grow this timber for ourselves? If the reason assigned by my hon. and gallant Friend had been the only reason, is it not a sufficiently cogent reason why we should produce this Bill and pass it? The country simply cannot afford to run the risk of going through the same experience which we have gone through during the last five years. My hon. and gallant Friend has already told the House how during the 277 War we had to import pit-props to keep the mining industry going, and that such was the pressure upon our ships we had to cut out the pit-props and produce them for ourselves. We had not only gone our last length so far as shipping was concerned, but we had got on our last legs so far as timber was concern-id. During the first two years of the War, before the end of 1916, we had expended in buying timber from abroad no less a sum than£37,000,000 over the price at which we could have got it before the War. Besides that, we have used 7,000,000 tons of shipping since then to import timber from abroad. If my hon. and gallant Friend bad given no other reason, that reason would be almost sufficient justification for this Bill.
This Bill embodies the idea of separating afforestation from agriculture. There are many hon. Members who think, and think strongly, that that is not the course that ought to be followed, out we believe that afforestation is in itself sufficiently important to keep one body busy. Its consideration involves long views. My hon. and gallant Friend said that eighty years is the time required. Pit-props do not take so long, but other wood takes longer. Therefore, having regard to the fact that long years have to be taken, and there is no profit for a very long time, it is imperative to take these steps, which are absolutely necessary for the safety of the country. You cannot expect an individual to plant wood and wait eighty years for his profit. It is time to make this a separate matter and to set about improving the position so far as the country is concerned. Owing to the neglect of afforestation only 4 per cent. of our land is under wood, whereas in some countries not less than 47 per cent. is under wood. The crux of this Bill lies in the centralised authority, with which must be allied the most modern methods of production. Experts have to be employed if we are going into this matter in a scientific way. Research has to be carefully made, staffs have to be employed who know all about the matter, and these experts and scientific gentlemen upon the staff can just as well make all the inquiries in regard to the United Kingdom as a unit as they could in regard to Scotland, Ireland, Wales, or this country as separate units. To separate this question into two, three, or four districts is simply to do the work three or four times over.
We have discussed and rediscussed this matter, and it happened to be my lot to be 278 upon a small Committee that had to consider the Report of the Sub-committee presided over by my hon. Friend (Mr. Acland). We were told of the need for centralisation. We were told that the other countries, including France, if my memory serves me right, which had had the best results in the way of afforestation, countries on which we were, to some extent, dependent, were the countries which had followed the course recommended in this Bill. While we have neglected the matter, and have become dependent upon other countries, we have found that those countries which have supplied us with wood up to a very recent date are now consuming most of the wood themselves, and to a progressive extent will not be exporting countries. The objections are sentimental. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh raised a question of Devolution, and reminded us that there was a project on foot to set up a Committee on Devolution on which, Mr. Speaker, you were good enough, I believe, to say you would serve. This matter can not wait until Devolution is established. That is a matter which is in the air. This is a matter which ought to be brought down to the arena of practical affairs. More over, Home Rule has nothing to do with the growing of trees. We are trying to set up under this Bill a central authority as a matter of business. My hon. Friend said that the Commissioners had to buy land in whole estates, but under Sub-section (3) of Clause 3 the Commissioners will have power to purchase or take on lease and hold any land suitable for afforestation, but they need not hold it all; they can sell or lease any land that, in their opinion, is not needed or is not suitable for the purposes for which it is required. Consequently, there is nothing in that argument. Having bought land the Commissioners have power to separate that land and hand over part of it to the previous local bodies or sell it to other people or exchange it whenever they find it convenient, or they can get rid of land not suitable and obtain land that is suitable. Then the hon. Member for Kincardine (Lieut.-Colonel Murray), who supported the Bill, for which we are grateful —
§ Mr. BARNES
The hon. Gentleman promised Amendments in the Committee. He said that the Bill did not provide for supervision on the part of the Scottish 279 people and that there was no distinctive Scottish authority in Edinburgh, but I may remind the hon. Member for Kincardine that the Bill does provide in Clause 5 for Assistant Commissioners in Scotland, and, of course, the common-sense view would be—and I have no doubt that the common-sense view would be taken, and, if, not, I am sure that any Amendment necessary will be sympathetically considered—that the headquarters of those Commissioners would 'be in Edinburgh. Then under Clause 6 the Bill sets up consultative committees for England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. There again the common-sense interpretation is that the consultative committee for Scotland will have its headquarters in Edinburgh. Then the point was raised by an hon. Member that there might be a difficulty in the different bodies never coming together. But there is a provision in Sub-section (2) of Clause 3 that the Department from whom powers and duties are transferred as aforesaid to the Commissioners shall, if arrangements are made for the purpose, continue to exercise and perform on behalf of the Commissioners such of the transferred powers and duties as may from time to time be agreed between the Commissioners and the Departments concerned. That is intended to meet the point which was raised. We agree that there ought to be the closest possible contact between the old Commissioners and the new bodies. I have no hesitation here again in saying that any Amendment thought necessary to give more explicit effect to that idea would be sympathetically considered.
§ Mr. BARNES
It is intended to give that contact, and if the Bill is not sufficiently explicit on this point I think that an Amendment to give effect to that idea would be sympathetically considered. The hon. Member for the University of London (Sir P. Magnus) referred to the need for scientific men among the Commissioners. I thoroughly sympathise with him in that view. That is the idea of the Bill that afforestation should be taken out of the region of amateurish effort and put into the hands of those who really know their job. Therefore I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there would be sympathetic consideration of this point. The hon. 280 Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. A. Shaw) made a full-blooded, rhetorical speech, and he talked about some machinations that had been going on in Scotland in regard to this Bill. He could not have made a stronger plea on behalf of the Bill, because we want to take afforestation out of the region of these personal political squabbles that have stood in its way in the past, and we hope that there will now be an end of these things. He was seconded in a characteristic speech by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who made a plea for economy. The £3,500,000 to be put into afforestation under this Bill wilt be one of the best investments which we have made for a long time. It has been said that it is arranged in such a way as to prevent proper Parliamentary control. There is no intention of doing anything of the kind, and if it is necessary to recast that particular Clause so as to see that no control is lost by Parliament, I think that that can be done. The only objection to the Bill is a sentimental objection—that is the objection of Home Rule. That is on unreal objection. Afforestation is a matter which has no connection with Home Rule, either for or against. It is a matter of Imperial concern and national safety, of public health and industrial reform, and for these reasons as well as for those already given, I hope that the House will give a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ Amendment negatived.