§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of 19th October, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
I am reluctant to keep the House after a very hard day, but the matter which I desire to bring before the Government concerns the economic life of the population of 30,000 people in the Island of Lewis, which is the third largest Island in the United Kingdom. At the hands of the present Government the people of Lewis have suffered a very serious grievance, which cannot be justified upon any sound ground. Sterna-way is, and has been for the last 50 or 60 years, the central of the largest fishing industry on the West Coast of Scotland; 603 and 40 years ago the Government were so mindful of the development of the economic life of this population, and so desirous of developing the fishing industry in those parts, that they instituted a daily steamer service between Stornoway and the Mainland. That service has been going on for close upon 40 years. If a daily service was found absolutely necessary by the Treasury in those days, surely now, when the population of the island has increased and the trade of the town and island has increased close upon tenfold, a daily mail service between Stornoway and the Mainland is more essential than ever before. I do not know that there is a constituency in the United Kingdom of which no part has a daily mail service except the unfortunate constituency which I represent. The service was reduced during the War from six days a week to three. People thought nothing of an inconvenience of that sort. They had more to think of during the War than simply inconvenience in travelling and postal facilities, although it produced very great hardship, and especially upon soldiers and sailors who came home on leave, but the wind was tempered even during the War to the shorn lamb, because Stornoway was a big naval base, and the Admiralty came to the rescue and made up to a certain extent for the niggardliness of the Treasury, and we had practically during the whole War a daily mail service every day of the week. At the very height of the War the Secretary for Scotland appointed a committee to look into this matter. Some of its members were well acquainted with the local circumstances, and they unanimously reported that not only should the pre-war service be maintained but that two steamers should be supplied. My right hon. Friend lacked his usual lucidity in his answer to me as to what the Report was, but the Transport Committee appointed by himself was considered of such urgency that he appointed it to go on during the War, using up petrol and even using Admiralty ships. They reported over a year ago that in addition to these two vessels the daily service should be resumed. After discussing the ideal system for that part of the world, they mention that among the immediate improvements necessary one of the first things was that the daily mail service to Storno- 604 way should be restored at once. I ask the Government to carry out the Report of their Committee. The Treasury talk about the cost. I understood from the right hon. Gentleman the other day that they could not tell the cost of the mail service. The service 30 years ago was paying its way, and it has been doing so all the time since. The traffic has increased enormously. Freights have gone up, travelling rates and postages all have gone up. I do not see why it should not pay now much better than it did 30 years ago. Even if there is a loss on the mail service on the west coast of Scotland, you should not penalise a community like Stornoway. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to speak with his own voice, and I hope that the Treasury will authorise him to do what he would like to do and restore this service forthwith in anticipation of the big winter herring fishery, which is coming on at once. Vast quantities of herring involving a capital of £500,000 will be renewed in the course of a few weeks and will require to be dealt with.
§ The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. Munro)
I never fail to admire the vigilance and devotion with which my hon. Friend attends to the interests of his constituents. I congratulate him and his constituency alike upon that fact. I quite appreciate the importance of the question which he raises. I fully realise the hardship that the people of Stornoway are suffering at the present time. I think there is a hardship, and I am sorry it cannot be removed. The facts are not in dispute. My hon. Friend has referred to some of them. Before the War for many years there was a six-day service of a mail steamer between Stornoway and the mainland. During the War the system was altered. The mail steamer ran three days a week. My hon. Friend truly said that the service was supplemented by an Admiralty boat, which ran on the other three days of the week. That system continued until the Armistice, and was then discontinued. The Rural Transport Committee, to which my hon. Friend referred, reported in 1919, and made numerous recommendations, one of which was that the six-day service to Stornoway should be restored.
§ Mr. MUNRO
That was one of the recommendations. A second was that an 605 additional steamer service should be provided to the outer islands. After discussion with the Treasury the second point was conceded. That service is now in operation. In regard to the first recommendation, the Treasury acceded to the view that that service should be resumed during the summer months. During the summer months the six days' service was accordingly resumed. The only point between us is whether during the winter months the six days' service shall be resumed. As regards the winter months, the Government regret that they have been precluded, on the ground of expense, from resuming that service. I have been in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General on the subject, and he does not consider that from the postal point of view there is any justification for a resumption now of that service. Apart from postal grounds, the matter has been very carefully examined. I had the honour of meeting last year an influential deputation from my hon. Friend's constituency, and I was very much impressed with the view they put before me. I made it my business to consider that view in consultation with the Treasury. The result of that consultation was that a slight extension was given beyond the date originally fixed, 30th September, and that concession, I think, was fully appreciated. The ground upon which it is impossible to resume the six days' service during the winter months is simply the ground of expense.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I doubt that. The maintenance of a six days' service during the winter months would entail the provision of an additional steamer, and would cost £7,000. That may seem a small sum, but having regard to the amount of the postal service, I am afraid it would not be justifiable in the public interest that the sum should be expended. The cost of a steamer service to-day is very different from what it was thirty years ago. It is found that, having regard to the extra cost of everything in connection with the service the cost has greatly in- 606 creased compared with pre-War days. Reference has been made to the herring fishing. It has been prosecuted at Stornoway for many years, and so far as the winter fishing is concerned the number of boats is 177. But they do not depend solely upon the steamer service. There are other means by which the fish are transferred from Stornoway to the mainland. I should like to meet my hon. Friend, but I much regret on the ground of expense I cannot do so in these days when economy is being pressed on the Government on all hands, especially from the opposite side of the House.