HC Deb 03 July 1924 vol 175 cc1531-87

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £326,692, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1925, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, including Grants for Agricultural Education and Training, Loans to Co-operative Societies, Expenditure in connection with the Supply of Seed Oats and Seed Potatoes, certain Grants-in-Aid, and certain Services arising out of the War."—[Note:£120,000 has been, voted on account.]

4.0 P.M.

The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. Adamson)

The condition of agriculture during the past year has not been so satisfactory as one could wish, but the depression which overtook Europe and America after the War has probably been less acute in Scotland than in most places. There is little doubt that the comparatively efficient state of agriculture and agricultural education in Scotland have been important factors in enabling Scottish farmers to meet their difficulties better than has been the case in other parts of the world. In the further development of agriculture, education and scientific research must play a more important part in the future than in the past, if the agricultural industry is to occupy the position which every one of us, I am certain, wishes it to occupy. These two great factors—agriculture and education—must be brought into closer contact if the well-being of the agricultural section of the community is to be served and their prosperity assured. In this connection, agricultural education must be more fully developed by the education authorities, in conjunction with the agricultural colleges. Education in rural districts must have more of an agricultural bias than has been the case in the past. Our village schools should have their garden plots where the pupils could be taught the elements of science in its application to plant life, soil, bacteriology, and agricultural botany. The post primary schools must be more generously supplied with ground for actual cultivation and with a more advanced type of teaching.


Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that in the primary schools in the rural areas of Scotland education should be given a definite bent towards agriculture?


"More of an agricultural bias" were the words which I used. The county areas must have still larger schools with experimental or demonstration farms, these central demonstration schools being closely linked up, on the one hand, with the smaller schools, and, on the other hand, with the agricultural colleges. Care must be taken to see that the higher colleges are adequately and efficiently staffed with teachers who have specialised in the higher branches of agricultural science, one of the most difficult of sciences, but at the same time a science which, if fully placed at the disposal of the agricultural community, will enable that community to help itself. While education will provide for the future farmer, research will do more for both the present and the future prosperity of agriculture than any other movement that could be suggested.


I am sorry to interrupt, but I think it would be more convenient to discuss this matter on the Education Vote. The right hon. Gentleman is raising very doubtful points of educational policy to which some of us object. Would it not be better to discuss them on the Education Vote rather than the Agriculture Vote?


The right hon. Gentleman or any other Member who disagrees with what I am saying on this question of agriculture——


May I point out that under this Vote, which we are now discussing, agricultural education and research properly come in.


The point which I raised doubt about was the distinct reference in the right hon. Gentleman's speech to the elementary schools. He announced a certain policy with regard to these schools, which certainly, in my mind, is open to dispute, and I think some hon. Members opposite will agree with me. Therefore I think it raises a very important question of general policy, quite apart from the agricultural colleges.


The right hon. Gentleman is likewise tied down under this Vote to agricultural education.


Already the research stations in Scotland are supplying valuable information to the farmer, but they are only beginning. Nutrition, plant breeding, animal breeding and animal diseases are being investigated, and sound foundations are being made with respect to these matters. Our further needs are for research in dairying economics and horticulture, and we hope to provide for these in some measure, as well as to extend the existing institutions by means of the additional grants for such purposes which are being put at the disposal of the Development Commissioners by the Government. Nothing is more likely in the long run to produce the best effects than the extension of education and research. It is gratifying to report that the work of the Board of Agriculture in this respect has become so extensive that I have thought it desirable to appoint a committee to investigate and report upon the systems and finances, and the report of the committee, I understand, will be issued very shortly. One of the most gratifying features of the Board's work in Scotland is the response which has been made by agriculturists to the proposals for research work. No less than £22,000 has been raised by the agriculturists themselves for the establishment of a plant-breeding station. Some £5,000 or £6,000 has been raised for the inauguration of the Animal Diseases Research Associations. Large donations have been made by private individuals and others to the Rowett Research Station, and, if similar benefactions can be obtained for research in animal breeding, the scientific investigations in Scotland will be on a sound footing.

The condition of the crofting areas makes it necessary for the Board of Agri- culture to adopt special methods for their development and assistance. The problem of winter keep for stock is one of the most difficult. During the past year I have provided funds for experiments in the use of ensilage and the construction of silos at several centres. If these experiments prove successful, it will go a long way to add to the prosperity of the North-West Highlands of Scotland. Gratifying success has attended the provision of egg-distributing stations. The improvement of poultry has been marked, and all that now remains is to ensure that the superior results are exploited to the uttermost by means of co-operative societies. Co-operation in egg collection in the Orkney Islands has been remarkably successful; so much is that the case that the annual value of the eggs exported is greater now than the annual valuation of the Islands. In the Island of Tiree it is also reported that the output of eggs is equal to the rent of the holdings on that island. These results alone would justify the work of the Board of Agriculture, even if they have no others to their credit. The schemes for the improvement of live-stock are continuing to work satisfactorily. The improvement of the sheep on crofters' common grazings, through the provision of better grants by the Board of Agriculture, has been noticeable.

It is to be regretted that, while there are examples in Scotland of successful co-operation, the spirit of co-operation is not extending so rapidly as one would desire. As the Committee knows, I succeeded in obtaining facilities for the Board of Agriculture to make loans, as recommended by the Linlithgow Committee, to co-operative societies for the acquisition and improvement of premises and working capital. I also succeeded in getting the consent of the House to withdraw the proviso that the maximum grant to the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Societies should not exceed two-and-a-half times the income from other sources. These are very considerable facilities, and I trust that they will be taken full advantage of. While the Government have every sympathy with the difficulties of the farmers, neither the Government nor the public can be expected to regard these difficulties as insuperable while the farmers themselves neglect to organise their industry on a more co-operative basis. It is indisputable that millions of pounds are lost to the farmer annually owing to the determined individualism of his method of buying and selling. It is the intention of the Government to explore every possibility by which assistance can be given to agriculture in this direction, but assistance can only be given to those who are willing to assist themselves, and I would urge upon my farmer friends the importance of preparing for continued competition from abroad by organisation at home to meet it.

There is no lack in Scotland of appreciation of education and research. The desirability of uniting in other directions is also apparent. Next week the International Conference on Cattle Breeding is to be held in Edinburgh. A National Dairy Council for Scotland is in process of formation. A conference upon potato diseases and potato cultivation is to be held in the course of the next month. All these are gratifying evidences of the interest in the scientific side of agriculture If only greater interest could be taken in the business side of the industry and the organisation of purchase and sale, the future of agriculture in Scotland in my opinion would be brighter. I am convinced that the best prospects for the smallholders in the Highlands and Islands lie in co-operation. There is no reason why cheese-making should not become a common method of agriculture in the Highland glens and in the Islands. All that is needed is the desire to co-operate and a willingness to accept the advice and instructions of the representatives of the Agricultural Colleges and the Board of Agriculture. An attempt is now being made to start a cheese factory on one of the Board's estates in Skye. I visited there recently and was convinced that everything was favourable to the scheme except the temperament of the Board's tenants, who with characteristic Scottish independence fail to appreciate the advantages of co-operation like the Danish farmer. Nevertheless I am convinced that in such methods we must look for improvement in the prosperity of the crofting counties. It is significant that where the Board of Agriculture have made settlements and have compelled the crofters to co-operate in the purchase and management of sheep stocks such co-operation has been an unqualified success. Although large sums have been lent by the Board of Agriculture for the purchase of sheep stocks there are no arrears of interest except in two cases, and they are of trifling amount. I can recollect no occasion in recent years where land settlement in Scotland has not been one of the major questions of debate. The subject is one which deserves unremitting interest and attention. We are all of us exercised by the problem of how to bring to the towns the sweetening influences of the countryside, and there is no one who does not feel some disquietude as to the future of the human stock of these counties if the drift to the towns continues, and if still the numbers of our people born and bred in the country and deriving a decent living from rural occupations continues to diminish. This question of land settlement should therefore be brought continually under review in this House.

The total area which has come within the scope of the Board's land settlement schemes amounts to 679,751 acres. We have taken over from the Congested Districts Board 84,000 acres. The Board of Agriculture itself has purchased 350,370 acres, and under Part II of the Act there have been settled on private estates 245,381 acres. The number of holders who have been settled in this way is 4,500, of whom 3,904 have been placed by the Board of Agriculture. At the present moment the total number of applicants for small holdings and for enlargements of holdings on the Board's list is 9,984, of whom 3,504 are ex-service men and 2,264 of them are entitled to first priority. Of this last number, however, only 720 are regarded as suitable for settlement. That is to say only 720 ex-service men who applied to the Board for holdings before the 1st March, 1921, and who are otherwise qualified for settlement, now remain on the lists. They are spread over the whole country. Of these 340 are being provided for in schemes already projected. It is obviously impracticable and uneconomic to frame schemes of land settlement for the remaining 380 without including with them a large number of applicants who either applied subsequently to the 1st March, 1921, or who have not ex-service qualifications. In the face of this demand for small holdings it is absurd to continue to confine land settlement to the first priority ex-service men having the present qualification, and I propose to ask for the necessary powers to proceed with the settlement of second preference applicants and civilians, while giving the first preference men first consideration.

As hon. Members of the House are aware, the possibility of the Board's settlers losing their holdings by sale and resumption on the part of a purchaser who has no other land has been before me and my predecessor, and I am glad to be able to announce that a Bill has been prepared to meet this difficulty and has been given its First Reading in this House. It is a Bill which will secure the holder in his tenure. There is one other matter to which brief reference may be made. It has become a matter of primary importance that the production of food and the prospects of the small-holders and farmers should not be prejudiced by the absence of power to control the depredations of game, foxes and other vermin. With this consideration in mind, and having before me the Reports of the Deer Forests, and Game and Heather Burning Committees, it is my intention to introduce such Measures as may be necessary to deal with this important aspect of the small holdings movement and of agriculture in general. Rural unemployment and distress in the northwest highlands and islands of Scotland have been met, as far as possible, by providing (1) a scheme of land drainage and improvement at a cost to the State of £45,000, which represents less than half of the total expenditure on these relief works; and (2) relief works on roads in Lewes and other outer islands in conjunction with the Ministry of Transport, costing nearly £30,000; and (3) assistance given to the smallholders to the extent of £100,000 for the purchase of seed oats and seed potatoes in the congested districts, thereby enabling necessitous crofters to get seed at approximately half its market value. In connection with a subject like this, I could go on for a long time, but, feeling as I do, that it raises matters of vital importance as far as agriculture is concerned, I consider it would be a mistake for either the Under-Secretary or myself to take up too much time in introducing the various topics that will come under review in the course of this Debate. Consequently, I am refraining from taking up more time at this juncture in order that as many hon. Members as possible may take part in the Debate, and I hope hon. Gentleman will refrain from making long speeches, so that as many as possible may join in the discussion.

Lieut.Colonel Sir JOHN GILMOUR

The right hon. Gentleman in his closing remarks has asked hon. Members to limit their speeches in order that as many as possible may take part in this Debate. I have no fault to find with that at all. It is certain that this subject of agriculture is one of the most important which comes before this assembly. It affects primarily the condition of our country and the prosperity and progress of all classes. I do not believe there is any subject which requires more careful consideration from everybody than this one which we are now discussing. I am also happy to think that while there may be many different views expressed upon the problem, hon. Gentlemen of all parties realise to-day that this is a matter which, whether they come as representatives of the towns and of our great commercial centres, or as representatives of purely agricultural areas, it concerns both. It is not easy for those who live in our great cities to realise fully the difficulties of the problems which confront agriculturists. I speak as one representing part of a great industrial centre, who has been brought up in the country and has been associated with agriculture, and I realise that there is unfortunately a great gap between the views of many people in these areas.

I trust that the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Department to-day will realise that the duties of the Board of Agriculture are such that they should be representative of all branches of agriculture. I do not wish to raise anything of an acrimonious note in this discussion, but I do want to say, whether rightly or wrongly, that there is a large section of agricultural opinion in Scotland who have come to consider that the Board of Agriculture has not, in the past, realised that this particular subject is of a very wide nature. In our discussions in this House we have seen that interest has been turned mainly towards, no doubt, important questions, but still limited questions and limited areas, instead of to all parts of the agricultural industry in this country. I am the first to recognise that the problems of land settlement, of small holdings and of crofting areas and congested districts are problems of immense importance, and I want to emphasise this point, that hon. Members, in considering these questions, should remember that one has to consider agriculture as a whole, both from the point of view that it employs the largest number of people and that it produces the greatest amount of food for the supply of our people in this country. The consideration cannot from the circumstances of the case be confined to the crofter and Highland areas. On the contrary, it is on the larger holdings, of what I believe to be more economic size, and it is in the southern portions of our country, that the chief interest, certainly of those who live in our cities, is bound to be centred. I am, therefore, all the more pleased to note that, in his opening remarks, the Secretary for Scotland laid stress upon the necessity for the progress and increasing development of agricultural research and of education. Upon the thorny subject of whether the question of agricultural education is to be dealt with in primary schools, I will not venture to touch at the moment. All I will say is that, in my judgment, the sooner we take an interest in this education problem, the more likely we are to increase the interest of the rising generation and to fit them for taking their place in the agricultural world.

I have looked at the Report which is in the hands of hon. Members. It covers a very large area, and it is full of interest, but I want to ask just one or two questions with regard to the Board of Agriculture itself. I notice a considerable increase in the item, "Salaries, Wages and Allowances." I presume that some portion of this is due to the necessary increase of staff to deal with the problem of land settlement, but I wish to say again, without going too far, that there is a distinct feeling among the agricultural community that the offices are large, and that the staff is numerous, but that there is very often—it may be partly due to mistakes on the part of the agricultural interest themselves—a distinct delay in getting their questions dealt with by the staff of the Board. The right hon. Gentleman, of course, has succeeded to this office and has had no great time to investigate this problem. He has succeeded to these difficulties and problems which have faced others before him. But I do beg of him, when he comes to consider the future and the work which lies before him, to try and impress upon the staff under him the absolute necessity of gaining the confidence of the agricultural community as a whole, and not turning a deaf ear even to suggestions which, to the official mind, may not appear very workable, but which, at least, ought to be investigated and met with some consideration.

If one looks at the various increases under this Vote, the larger portion, of course, is assigned to the relief of distress in the Western Islands and to services in congested districts. I recognise the necessity of that, but I wish to raise a particular point in which for a number of years I have myself been much interested. The Secretary for Scotland spoke to-day, and spoke rightly, of the great advantage which agricultural co-operation is likely to bring to agriculturists of all classes. In my judgment, the problem is not one that is confined purely to small holdings. It can and ought to be extended to the larger holdings. One knows from long experience that our Scottish people are slow to move, that they are slow to adopt these new and, as I believe, advantageous methods of purchasing the seeds and manures which they require, and of marketing the produce of their farms. But, while I recognise the friendly tone of the right hon. Gentleman towards this movement, I do beg of him to do what he can to increase the sums which are placed at the disposal of the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, which for a number of years has asked for such an increase in pursuance of its work. We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the step which was taken in doing away with the limitation which has hitherto existed, that a grant could be made for that work only in proportion to what was put down from private funds; but I want to point out that the work of that Society is an educative one. It is a work of propaganda, and, unless it can widen its field, it is really not what I should call pulling its weight.

In addition to that, I want to stress another point. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman can come to any kind of arrangement whereby either that Society or any other should be placed in a position of knowing, say for a term of three years, the kind of amount which would be at its disposal. I say that because it appears to me to be impossible, for a propaganda of this nature, to appoint, first of all, the requisite number of organisers to go into the various districts in Scotland, and, secondly, if they work from hand to mouth and from year to year, they cannot attract to their service that class of man as an organiser whom we should desire to see attracted.


May I ask if the right hon. Gentleman is referring to the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, Limited, of which he is vice-president, and if he can explain to the Committee—we are all very interested in this—why it is that that society will not spend all the money it has got, but actually invests money with the Edinburgh Corporation?


I am quite certain that, if the hon. Gentleman would care to investigate the expenditure of the society, he would agree that we are working practically up to our limit every year. Of course, there must be a little in reserve to meet salaries and expenses and various other matters of that kind, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are working up to the fullest extent, and, indeed, we submitted over a year ago a further and enlarged scheme, in which we pointed out that the limit which we have now of a little over £2,000——


Nearly £4,000!


The grant that we get, as hon. Members will see if they will look at the Estimate, is a little over £2,000. The late President of the Society, Dr. Douglas, who was at one time a Member of the House of Commons, and who took a very great interest in this matter, submitted, just before his death, a scheme which would have placed this work upon a much wider basis. I do not wish to raise any question of obstruction on the part of anyone, and, indeed, I do not know where the mistake lies, but I do know that by some misfortune, instead of securing a sum of at least £5,000 for the development of the work this year, we are only receiving to-day a little over £2,000. In any case, whether we are spending every farthing that we possess or not, let us look at this matter from the point of view which I am sure is the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman, and which I hope may be the point of view of Members in all quarters of the Committee, namely, that of the urgent necessity of education in this matter. It is not to be done in a day, and it cannot be done except by men who have a competent knowledge of that of which they speak; and these are not so readily found. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether he can offer some supplementary grant, even at this eleventh hour, for the extension of this work? He has referred to the question of egg-collecting societies. All I have to say on that is that we would desire, above all things, to appoint now an extra organiser to deal with that very question in the Orkneys and elsewhere, and it is only because we have not the funds at our disposal that we are unable to do this. Turning to the larger areas, and coming to the question of milk production, there is nothing which, in the South-West of Scotland, has done more to improve the class of milk, and to lighten the burden of the life of those who produce milk, than this co-operative work and the erection of creameries. That has led, in my judgment, to an improvement in the life of those who are engaged in this industry, and, also, has not only given them an infinitely better return for produce, but has ensured the sale of the milk to those in the cities in a better condition than would otherwise have been the case. I do not wish to labour this, or to take up the time of the Committee, because I realise that many others wish to speak, but, believing, as I do, that this is a matter of primary importance for all classes of agriculturists Scotland, I do press the right hon. Gentleman to do what he can to give us a little more assistance for this work.

There is just one other thing that I want to say. I have from time to time been pressed by those who are interested in the training of women in agricultural work. I recognise the great difficulties of that problem, and I am glad to note, in the Report which we have before us, that certain steps have been taken in that direction. It is clear that, as long as our system of agriculture exists in Scotland on its present footing, and as long as women are ready and available to work on the land, as has been our custom, it is very desirable that they should receive an efficient training. One of the greatest and most difficult problems of any agriculturist is the rearing of calves, and one of the evils which everyone sees is the destruction of calves in so many cases. It is largely a problem of getting the individual who can take charge and who will give the time and trouble and has the necessary knowledge to bring up the calves. It is not an easy matter, but, in my judgment, if the Board can do anything to increase and develop that part of the work, they will be doing something which is of advantage. I believe, too, that it may give an opening to many individuals, even from our cities, to go on to the land and live a healthy life in the open air, which, again, will react upon the general position. As far as I and my friends are concerned, we wish to assist and develop the work which the Department is carrying on, but we do ask that there may be a recognition of the wider interests of agriculture, which I believe has not been entirely the case in the past. I would, in conclusion, say that, if the right hon. Gentleman will proceed upon the lines which he has outlined to us in his speech to day, he will have our support.


I think the Committee must regret that we did not have an opportunity for a discussion upon the Vote for the salary of the Secretary for Scotland, not because we disapprove of him, but because, on that Vote, each and all of us could raise any subject which in any way affects the interests of our country. I have read with very great care the Report of the Board of Agriculture, and I must frankly confess that I do not think it is satisfactory. We are all aware that the work of the Board is very varied and multitudinous in its aspects, but the Report this year—and I would ask my hon. Friends to re-read it—appears to me to be like the catalogue of an agriculturalist or a horticulturalist. The right hon. Gentleman sought to justify it upon the fertility of the hens of Tiree and Ordney. I quite agree that the right hon. Baronet who has just spoken was perfectly right in the line he took. He represents what he calls the main body of agriculture in Scotland, and a very adequate and worthy representative he is. He is out to make the Secretary for Scotland and the Board of Agriculture realise that the agricultural industry is in the main in the South of Scotland. I take the other line. I say that the Board of Agriculture was primarily constituted for the settlement of men upon the land, and if in so doing it can train men to the use of that land effectively, good and well. It was not originally constituted for the assistance of the larger farmers, but it very wisely, in my judgment, has devoted a good deal of attention to scientific research in the best interests of agriculture as a whole.

The first thing that I and my colleagues from the North of Scotland looked at was the question of land settlement, and we were deeply disappointed. Indeed, if there was one cry of despair in the speech of the Secretary for Scotland, it was when he was dealing with the question of land settlement. The Board of Agriculture is to-day the largest land owner in Scotland. He assumed a pride in the fact that at one time the Board had command and control of no less than 600,000 acres. When I read the Report I find that the Board to this day have still got unallotted 350,000 acres, of which 50,000 are arable. In the same paragraph I find that no fewer than 10,024 ex-service men are still on the list, and of these 2,534 are first preference ex-service men. How can the right hon. Gentleman stand at that Box and say things are satisfactory when you have these men demanding to be put on the land? I do not blame one party more than another. I blame my own party just as much as any other, but the Liberal party in the Coalition Government did a great deal. It settled more men upon the land than any Government for 50 years. I do not wish to enter into the realm of controversy at the moment, but I have to justify my own existence. When the Secretary for Scotland tells us the Board has all these acres at its disposal, and at the same time that there are 10,000 men who have made application and who, so far as I know, are not only first preference men, but men who could be suitably settled on the land, I was not at all surprised at the cry of despair to which he gave utterance. May I try to explain, as the right hon. Gentleman has not attempted to explain, why it is that there has been no greater settlement of ex-service men and others on the land? He said the time has now come when it might be necessary for the ex-service men to forego their preference. I should be exceedingly sorry if that should be the case, but if there are civilians who are now more competent and more suitable, and who are exceedingly anxious to get possession of land, I should like men to be settled on the Board of Agriculture's land at all costs and as quickly as possibly.

Why is it there has been such a deadlock, such a cry of failure and despair on the part of the Secretary for Scotland? I will give four reasons. First of all, after the land Setlement Act was passed in 1919 the cost of land, the cost of stock, the cost of housing and the cost of implements was enormous and many men were exceedingly chary, when they were asked their advice, to advise young ex-service men who had no knowledge of agriculture to settle upon the land at such an enormous cost. I have no doubt at all that that has kept a great many men, wisely in many ways, from settling upon the land. But there is a change in prices. There is a change in the value of stock, and I think, in view of the cheapness of agricultural conditions now, the Secretary for Scotland and the Board of Agriculture might have done much more than they have done to help these men to settle upon the land. I think the second reason is that the holdings are at present too small. It was the theory in the past that the crofter's land should be the most miserable in the whole country. He never in the past was offered good land. Everyone thought that if he was offered land at all the proper land to give him was a barren rock by the seashore or the most uncultivatable land in the whole district. I am glad to say that that sentiment has changed, and there has been an attempt to place upon the best land in the country ex-service men and other applicants for small holdings. But the fact remains that even on the good land the holdings are too small. I take the famous case of Arabella in Ross and Cromarty. There are 20 settlers on that particular farm. It is land of the very best type. I find in the report of the Board of Agriculture that no less than £7,500 of the capital for instituting these small holdings has had to be written off. I know the Land Court had to go round and re-fix valuations, and I found that there was one man upon those holdings who made his croft pay. It was under the regime of the late Secretary for Scotland. The moment it was found that he was making it pay by the arduous labour of his wife and family, up the rent went. We thought we had abolished all that sort of thing by the establishment of the Land Court and of the Board of Agriculture. I tried to make inquiries about it, and I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether his predecessor in office has left any reason which would justify the increase in the rent of any smallholder placed there at the instance of the State whenever he improves the condition of the holding upon which he and his family work.


Is it not the case that the question of the raising or lowering of the rent is purely a matter for the Land Court?


It ought to be, but the fact remains that when I appealed against the decision I could get no assistance. It is obviously wrong. When the State establishes men upon the land in small holdings, if they improve their small holdings the Crown has no right to come in and increase the rent.

Let me take another reason. I think the holdings are too small, because there is not sufficient grazing. In the ordinary small holdings in the Highlands you may have a few acres, but very often the rent is paid by the out-grazing for the cattle and sheep, and a great many people in the Highlands are deeply concerned that, while they are able to live and no more upon their crofts on the arable side, they have not sufficient outrun for the cattle and sheep, and the right hon. Gentleman might very well consider whether in practice the Board of Agriculture should not give out a far larger proportion of the land which they have at present got unallotted for the purpose of out-grazing and sheep runs for cattle and horses. But an even more important reason in my judgment is this: I have always held that the smallholder in the Highlands has been proud, poor as he was. I have always maintained that he could never expect any fortune at the end of his life because of his occupation of that holding. Furthermore, it was always a home to him, and has been to his family for generations, and therefore he has a sentimental pride in his occupation. But the smallholder in the North must of necessity, to make both ends meet—because he has a good many months in the year when nothing is doing—have subsidiary occupation, and one part of the Report which pleased me more than any other was the fact that there was co-operation between the Forestry Commissioners and the Board of Agriculture. In many instances they had co-operated. The Commissioners own a large amount of land in Scotland, and the right hon. Gentleman has told us the Board of Agriculture is the largest landowner. Why cannot they co-operate and produce townships of smallholders on the most effective way by placing men upon the more arable parts of the land owned by either of these two bodies and using the less arable land higher up the hillside for the purpose of cultivation?


Why should there be two authorities?


I believe the Forestry Commissioners have done excellent work, but there is not a single Minister in the House who can speak for them authoritatively. My right hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Acland) answers questions for them and has done a good deal of work on their behalf but the fact remains, now that afforestation has become not merely a national but an imperial industry, that we should have someone who is responsible to the House and can answer for it.

5.0 P.M.

If I have attacked the Board so far in my observations I must confess that they are owed a great debt of gratitude for one or two other aspects of their work. I am very glad they have been spending a good deal of money on agricultural research and I willingly subscribe to everything the right hon. Baronet has said with regard to that. I am also glad they are doing extension work. They have now experimental holdings. I have one in my own constituency which is doing admirable work, because the landholders can see how things in that locality ought to be done. But how can the right hon. Gentleman justify the so-called agricultural bias in the primary schools in Scotland when he himself has come forward and said that though there was land in abundance he could not settle any men upon it? The agricultural colleges are exceedingly useful for the higher class work of research, but what we want more than anything else is not only a development of that but an extension of the training of ex-service men and others so that they may be able to occupy land not only at a profit to themselves but at a profit to the State as a whole.

My right hon. Friend, if he is travelling through the main land of Scotland—I know that he has been enjoying a cruise on my old friend the "Minna" in various parts of the Western Isles—will come with me to the North of Scotland this summer and pay a visit to a cattle show, he will be greatly surprised to find the excellent work that the Board of Agriculture has been doing. The Board has not got sufficient credit for the work it has been doing in that respect. The breed of Highland ponies, of Highland cattle, and of Highland poultry, and the types of potatoes and oats have all been improved during recent years beyond all recognition. For that class of work the Board of Agriculture is deserving of all praise.

There is a certain amount of money spent every year in the Highlands of Scotland under an item called Public Works in the Congested Districts. I know that Sir Robert Greig, for whom personally I have profound admiration, does everything he can to find out the best objects upon which to expend that money. I was astonished to hear the other day that only £10,000 per year is expended upon that particular object. I carefully perused the Report of the Board, and I find that they were able only to perform a very few of the highly necessary works which must in the course of time be performed in the Highlands of Scotland. That money can be very properly divided. It has gone this year almost all to one constituency. It is true that my constituency got a fair amount of it the year before, but I want the Board of Agriculture to divide it fairly among the districts.

I have, for example, got an application, which has been passed by the county council, for a bridge for children over the river in the Parish of Strathcarron. The local authorities are not anxious to spend the money but they are quite willing, in the interests of the poor children who have to go to school over this marshy and difficult ground, that a certain amount of money should be spent. The Board has money for this particular purpose. I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman on this subject and he said that the matter was receiving consideration. I am tired of a reply of that kind. It has been reverberating in this House for generations, and I thought that when the right hon Gentleman came into office he would see that speedy effect was given to what was regarded as a promise by the Board of Agriculture. Another road to which I would draw attention is the Drynie Road, in respect of which the same conditions prevail. I am quoting these instances as typical of what is taking place in the Highlands, and I ask my right hon. Friend to take a note of them and to give an assurance that he will consider the urgent advisability when works of great public utility of this kind have been passed of seeing that the works me proceeded with.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend is paying attention to the question of ensilage. That is a matter of great importance in connection with the winter feeding, and if he will do that for agriculture in the Highlands, all concerned will be very pleased. I was astonished that he had no reference in his speech as to giving administrative effect to some of the recommendations contained in the report of the Deer Forest Commission. That report was not issued by the right hon. Gentleman's party, nor by my party, nor by the party opposite, but by men of all parties, deeply attached to the land in Scotland and deeply interested in the welfare of agriculture and of the people. The Commission came to certain conclusions, and it was expected over two years ago that those conclusions would be given effect to. I am not dealing with the conclusions which require legislative sanction, but with the conclusions to which administrative effect can be given. My right hon. Friend knows that this is one of the most important things in the history of agrarian life in Scotland, and yet he never mentioned it in his speech. I would ask him in his reply to tell us whether he is going to put into effect the administrative proposals of the Commission and whether he is going to attempt, in the course of giving effect to these proposals, by agreement or otherwise, to lower or wipe out the cost of proceedings. The enormous cost of arbitration and the enormous cost of awards has practically prohibited any of the smallholders who are anxious to get extensions in the deer forests from asking for those extensions. If my right hon. Friend can perform anything in that respect administratively and quickly, he will be doing something that will be of great value to the community as a whole.

I should like to say something about the alleged overlapping of the staff but I dealt with that last year, and I would only now, in conclusion, ask my right hon. Friend to be vigilant where money is concerned down here. If he is vigilant and he gets the amount that is necessary for the upkeep of all good institutions in the north, and for the settlement of an excellent type of man on the land, he should be equally vigilant in seeing that the money is properly and efficiently distributed in Scotland. If be does this he will be conferring a great good upon the country which he represents in this ancient House of Parliament, but if he fails to be vigilant and to give effect to necessary reforms he will find that he has no single supporter in any corner of the House.


I regret that although Scotland has over 70 Members of Parliament we are only allowed two or three days for discussion of Scottish affairs. I also regret the empty state of the benches opposite, considering the interest which the hon. Members opposite take in agricultural matters.

I should like to say something with regard to the value of experimental work and the training, if not of children, at any rate of young people in this kind of work. Very valuable results are to be obtained from experimental stations. I do not confine my conception of experimental stations to the ordinary use of the term. I do not think we shall ever get the full value of experimental work until every farmstead in the land has an experimental part of its own where people who are actually cultivating the soil may experiment for themselves, and obtain also valuable information from the publication of literature respecting the various experiments which have been made in other parts. The experimental work which is going on in Canada is very valuable, although it is sometimes confined to very small areas. At Brandon experimental station, in Western Canada, on a small area of four acres, 52 bushels of wheat to the acre have been produced. A one-fortieth of an acre plot at the Rosthern experimental station has produced 70 bushels, and a one-nineteenth part of an acre plot has produced at the rate of 81 bushels to the acre. If we had something like that on our farms we should get enormous value by that kind of experimental work, and very much greater results would follow as far as that kind of experimental work is concerned.

There is a further aspect of the question. I do not think we shall ever be able to get the full value of our natural resources in this country so long as land is private property, owned and controlled as it is at the present time. I look forward to the day when the resources of the nation will be available to the nation. When that time comes we shall have much less difficulty in feeding our people than we have at the present time, and we shall be far less dependant upon foreign nations for our food supplies. This is a problem which concerns not merely agricultural areas but is closely bound up with the intimate life of great towns and cities. It also has a bearing upon the problem of unemployment.

We have in Scotland at the present time a more acute form of destitution than exists in any other part of the land. The fact that in Glasgow itself for four years over 31,000 people sought the refuge of prison cells as a place, because they were absolutely destitute, for protection during a winter's night, is evidence of the very deplorable conditions prevailing. That is probably due to the gradual decline of agriculture in Scotland during the last 50 years. We do not realise to what a great extent that decline has taken place in Scotland. The area under wheat has fallen from 133,000 acres in 1871 to 65,000 acres in 1922, notwithstanding the fact that the population has very largely increased, if it is not actually doubled. There has been a heavier decline in barley. In 1871 the acreage of barley was 251,800, and in 1922 only 157,000 acres. There has been a decline from over 1,000,000 acres under oats to 988,000 acres in the same period. This is a very serious state of affairs, and it is partly responsible for the very great destitution which exists in that country.

I believe that there are very great latent possibilities in agriculture at the present time, and much greater than have yet been realised. There are people who imagine that there are certain types of land, grass lands, which cannot be greatly improved. In confirmation of the view which myself and other hon. Members from Scotland hold, I may say that the amount of grass land is out of proportion to the needs of the country, it is employing a much smaller number of people than the same proportion of tillage land would employ, and is producing a far smaller amount of foodstuffs. In 1916, at the economic proceedings of the Royal Dublin Society, Professor Thompson declared that, comparing grass lands with land under tillage, the value of wheat grown was 15 times greater in the terms of food supply as compared with land under grass. In addition to that, we should appreciate the value of experiments in regard to increasing the yield from the land, and experiments in improving the types of cattle and the quality of milk. We should also use the knowledge which we possess to better advantage. I have tried to conduct one or two small experiments of my own, and although I do not attach too much importance to them, they have a bearing upon these problems. Taking the ordinary yield of a grain of wheat in an average wheat field, I have been able to produce not merely 60 grains from a single seed, but from 1,000 to 1,500 grains from a single seed, and that is only one-fourth of what other men have produced. If we would cultivate the land on that scale we should be able to feed all our people without any great difficulty.

What is called the growth of multiple wheat has existed for at least 60 or 70 years, yet no serious effort has been made to deal with the problem from that point of view. In addition we have also to realise that valuable experiments have been conducted in some other parts of the land. The late Marquis of Tweeddale experimented on a farm of over 1,000 acres, and at the end of three or four years of his experiments he was producing by the new method of cultivation over four times the average yield previously obtained from the same acreage. In Northumberland they have produced from grass land, which was formerly regarded as of no great value, not merely double, but in some eases quadruple the amount of foodstuffs which they had obtained. Not merely is this a question of experimental stations, but I think we could put a very much larger number of men on the soil of Scotland, but if that is to be done we must introduce more of the co-operative spirit to enable men to do that kind of work.

I would suggest, in conclusion, that there should be placed at the disposal of the House of Commons the results of various experiments which have been made, not merely in this country, but in some other parts of the world. For instance, the work of Luther Burbank in the United States with regard to the breeding of new types of plant life, and the work of the two Saunders, father and son, who have produced a type of wheat called the Marquis wheat which has a 20 per cent. higher yield than the Red Fife which is now being grown. They have in the United States this kind of information which, if placed at the disposal not merely of agricultural people in this country but of the community generally, would have a valuable effect in stimulating their energies and ideas upon similar lines. I want the time to come soon when the appalling amount of destitution which is a disgrace to our modern civilisation, as it exists in Scotland at present, can and will be remedied. It would be remedied if Ministers would regard themselves as being responsible for the well-being not merely of a few well-to-do people in this land but of the whole community. We have got to a stage of civilisation now in which in my opinion it is a monstrous disgrace that intelligent, capable and honourable workmen should be living in destibution as they are living at the present time.


The hon. Member who has just sat down has made a very interesting statement as to the future possibilities of agriculture. May I ask if I am correct in assuming that the happy state which he has outlined for us will be attained when his particular remedy of State ownership has also arrived? Personally I do not think that State ownership is going to offer any possible advantages under our present system. It is perhaps not a question which affects Scotland only, and I do not intend to pursue it further, but I should view with very great interest any proof by hon. Members opposite that State ownership is going to produce an increase in the production of the land for which all of us in all parts of this House are looking so earnestly.

There is one point, which was mentioned by the Secretary for Scotland, on which I would like to support him. That was the question of rural education. I am rather sorry, on looking through the Estimates, to see that the amount allocated for education is less than in the previous year. The hon. Member who opened the Debate on this side regretted to see an increase in the amount for salaries, and I join him in that regret. If that increase had not been shown, and if the same amount had been given for educational purposes it would have been a better arrangement. I am very glad that the Secretary for Scotland proposes to begin the education of people in agricultural matters when they are young. I do not intend to discuss the question of the desirability of introducing a bias into the elementary schools, but the younger you can begin to interest people in agriculture, and to show them its enormous possibilities, and also the great worth of agriculture, the better for this country.

There is no doubt that at present a great number of young people of both sexes in the country are attracted by what they think are the superiorities of the town. By superiorities, I mean that a great many of them look upon clerkships, and what is known as the Civil Service and things of that sort, as occupations which are superior, from the social point of view, to occupations on the land. One of the ways of combating that tendency, and of keeping people on the land, is to teach them when they are very young that, after all, the production of food and the scientific production from the land of all that it can be made to yield is one of the highest social duties which a man can perform. That is a point which must be remembered, and I hope that the Secretary for Scotland, when he is introducing his scheme for improving education, will see that that side of it is brought out very plainly, because I think that our rural problems largely result from that kind of feeling which I have mentioned.

We all know that agriculture in Scotland, though perhaps not in the terrible condition which it has reached in some parts of England, is at the same time passing through a period of very great difficulty, and, that being so, we should not miss any opportunity of improving the situation of agriculturists in general, farmers and farm servants, and crofters, and all those who are occupied in producing the food of the country. Even there we have to look to what may be considered the auxiliary sides of farming. Therefore, I welcome the statement as to the productivity of the hens of the Orkneys, and I hope that before the end of the year either the right hon. Gentleman or his successor will be able to tell us an equally encouraging tale of the activity of hens in other parts of Scotland as well. I was struck with the very curious fact that we should have to go abroad to such a very large extent for such a common necessary food as eggs, and everything that can be done ought to be done to encourage, not only farmers and crofters, but also cotters and anybody with even a small piece of land to go in for egg production and poultry farming. Anything which the Board of Agriculture can do towards assisting them in that respect will have my most hearty support.

Another point to which attention might be paid is pig-breeding. Lately we have seen a tendency in Scotland to increase the number of co-operative bacon factories. That is a thing which the Board of Agriculture should watch and encourage. It has been suggested in very responsible quarters that the number of these factories may outrun the supply. It is said that only about three can be profitably run in the South and about two in the North-East. That is a wrong way of looking at it. I do not see why, with proper assistance and encouragement from headquarters, the number of pigs bred all over Scotland, and particularly perhaps in the North-East, which is already a very large pig-breeding district, should not be greatly increased. Everything which we can do to increase our food production at this moment should be encouraged. Pigs form a very important part of the food of the people. I think that the Secretary for Scotland might well increase the attention which his Department is giving to that particular matter.

There is another small point which is mentioned in the Report of the Board of Agriculture, which I would like to see mentioned at much greater length. There is a very large possibility in a great many districts in Scotland, where there is heather, or realising quite a considerable income by smallholders and others from the keeping of bees. I have seen myself very prosperous results coming from the keeping of hives. In heather countries there are masses and masses of honey to be collected. Heather honey is the finest honey which this country produces, and I hope that the sum of £50 which was given last year for the encouragement of bee-keeping may in future be increased. I hope that the Board of Agriculture will take such steps as they can to increase knowledge on this subject, and also to increase the desire among the people to keep bees. I know that a lot of people look upon them as terrible animals, if they can be called animals, and I am rather inclined that way myself, but I understand from people who handle them that they are very simple to deal with, and they certainly can be made to produce a large revenue from something which will cost nothing.

Those are all small points which we might consider with a view to helping agriculture, but I am very glad that so many people have said that the Board of Agriculture should take a very wide view of its responsibilities. I happen to have the honour of representing a constituency which consists very largely of large farms. Some of the very best and largest farms are situated in that constituency, and there is no branch of the work of the Board of Agriculture which is more important than developing and assisting the best kind of agriculture. I hope that the Secretary for Scotland will do all he can to develop that research and experimental side which is so important from the point of view of the large as well as that of the small agriculturists. That brings me back to where I started. When you are increasing the amount of scientific research and increasing higher farming and a more scientific outlook, you will encourage young people of great intelligence to realise that there is, perhaps, more in it than they were inclined to think. That is a point of view which should be brought before young men and women when they are contemplating a future for themselves, and also before parents when they are contemplating a future for their children, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give that point also his serious consideration.

I do urge upon the right hon. Gentleman the desirability of doing all he can, even though it may be only a little, and even though he may have to tread a very difficult and stony path, to endeavour to get Scottish agriculturists to co-operate. I know that in this matter he is up against great difficulties, owing largely to the sturdy independence of the Scottish farmer, but personally I cannot help welcoming that independence from a certain point of view, for I think that it shows that the Scottish farmer is not likely to fall in with some of the views of the right hon. Gentleman and those who sit behind him, and I think that, perhaps, one of the greatest assets of our country is the fact that the farmers of Scotland are strong, sturdy, stout individualists. That has been very largely the cause of the strength in Scotland in the past of the party which sits below the Gangway opposite, and I am confident that it will be one of the greatest bulwarks against what appear to some of us to be the fallacies behind the policy of Members of the Labour party. However, I do not want to introduce any controversial topic. We are all here to do what we can for the improvement of agriculture, and it is on the lines that I have mentioned that I beg the Secretary for Scotland to continue in the excellent ways which he has described to us this afternoon.


I must confess that I did not understand how the Secretary for Scotland took credit to himself for the fertility of the Orkney hen. Orkney is a great place for producing hens, but where the Board of Agriculture should come in, in regard to Orkney, is in impressing on the people who own the hens the great value of the grading of their eggs, and of examining them and marketing them by up-to-date methods. In that direction there is a great opening for the work of the Board of Agriculture. The task has not been undertaken to the extent that it might have been. During the last General Election I had some difficulty in impressing on the electors there the great value of these methods, compared with the methods that are put forward under the guise of the Merchandise Marks Bill and similar Measures. I have to thank the Secretary for Scotland for the reference which he made to the introduction of the Bill to deal with the distress that has been caused in the crofting counties over the matter of the resumption of small holdings. I am glad that the Bill has been introduced, but I would have been still more glad if the Secretary for Scotland could have said that it had reached its Second Reading. The sooner that Bill becomes an Act the better it will be for the Highlands of Scotland.

I have also to thank the Secretary for Scotland for his declaration with regard to land settlement. It is most important that this question should be pressed forward. I have taken the trouble to analyse the figures that appear in the Report of the Board of Agriculture. From that analysis it appears that the length of time that has been taken to settle the number of people who have been settled on the land is out of all proportion to what should have been the case. I must apologise for troubling the Committee with a few figures which show what has been taking place during the last 10 years. The Report says that there were 3,631 applicants settled. That does not mean that those applicants were all settled on the land. It means that there were 3,631 applications dealt with. Many of them were for enlargements of holdings. The actual number of fresh settlers placed upon the land during the period was 2,275, of whom 1,570 were exservicemen and about 700 were civilians. That is to say that since 1912 the actual number of persons newly settled on the land is 2,275. Taking the whole number of applications, this means that an average of a little over 300 a year have been dealt with and that it would take over 30 years to deal with the list which is now before the Board. It will take something like 10 years at the present rate of progress to deal with the exservicemen's applications which arc ripe to be dealt with.

The very important statement appears in the Report that the funds provided by the Acts of 1919–1921 are insufficient for suitable ex-service men being dealt with. If the funds are insufficient for settling the ex-service men who are ready to be dealt with, how much more insufficient are they to deal with the whole body of people who have made applications, and are waiting to be dealt with? I welcome the declaration of the Secretary for Scotland that more attention was to be given to this matter. But here we have the Board of Agriculture declaring that the fund is already insufficient for dealing with the ex-service men. If the matter is to receive the attention that it ought to receive, there shall be far more than an average of 300 men settled annually. We should not take 10 or 20 years to deal with the lists that are before the Board now. A great deal more vim should be put into the effort, and more money should be provided, if necessary. The matter has not been dealt with on the broad lines and with the vigour behind it that there ought to have been in the past. I hope that the Secretary for Scotland will translate his words into deeds, and that if he continues in office for the next 12 months, we shall be able to congratulate him at the end of that time on a very great improvement in this direction.

There is one other point to which I wish to draw particular attention. Everyone who is engaged in agriculture is aware of the very great importance of fertilisers and feeding stuffs and of the purity of those things. It appears from the Report that we have before us, that of the samples examined in the various counties of Scotland during the past year, over 40 per cent. of the fertilisers and over 38 per cent. of the feeding stuffs were unsatisfactory. Those are most astounding figures. There is very little in the Report throwing light upon the figures, and I hope that the Secretary for Scotland will be able to give us some information as to what this statement really means. In answer to a question that I put the other day, in reference to prosecutions following the analysis of these unsatisfactory samples, I was informed that no prosecutions had taken place during the year. It seems to be a most extraordinary state of affairs that no less than 40 per cent. of fertilisers should be reported as unsatisfactory on official analysis. How unsatisfactory have they been? Does it mean that they deviated only slightly from the standard that they ought to have reached, or that they are of such a quality that the person who bought them was not receiving full value for his money and that the land was not receiving proper nutriment? In some counties the percentages were even worse. Aberdeen, I think, is about the worst, and it is a county from which a very large number of samples was taken. In Aberdeen 58 per cent. of the fertilisers and 51 per cent. of the feeding stuffs were unsatisfactory. Seeing of what very great importance fertilisers and feeding stuffs are to the industry, I hope that the Secretary for Scotland will be able to satisfy us on the point and let us know that in Scotland at least, we get what we expect when we pay money for these things.


I was rather surprised that the hon. Member who has just spoken seemed rather to deprecate the value of agricultural co-operation.


I am very far from deprecating what has been done. I merely said that a great deal more might be done by instruction and demonstration by the Board of Agriculture.


I rather understood that the hon. Gentleman said that during the General Election campaign he found very great difficulty in getting his constituents to accept his point of view about the value of agricultural co-operation.


Not the value of co-operation but the value of grading and marketing eggs by modern methods.


I am glad that the hon. Member has not in any way deprecated what I regard as the most wonderful success of agricultural co-operation in Scotland. When I was in Orkney last year I found that there were 13 co-operative egg societies in the hon. Member's constituency and that one of them alone was selling 79,862 eggs. They were actual farmers, smallholders in the Island of Sanday, who were making £200 per annum from eggs alone. There are parishes in the Orkney Islands where there is actually no Poor Rate whatever. I am sure that that is entirely due to the acceptance of the idea of co-operation and the success with which the smallholders have pursued that idea. I listened with some dismay to the speech of the Secretary for Scotland. I do not think that he deserves any bouquets. He has done his best, and probably has done better than any of his predecessors, but it is not good enough for us. It is not good enough to come here and say that since the days of the Congested Districts Board there have been 4,500 men settled on the land. He forgot to tell us that during that period there was a decrease of not fewer than 45,000 in farm servants alone. With a decrease of 45,000 it is nothing to boast about that you have put one-tenth of that number back on the soil. From 1871 to 1911 there was a decrease of 55,859 male persons engaged in agriculture in Scotland.

The Secretary for Scotland has to-day proposed nothing. He tells us that he is going to develop agriculture. Well and good; I hope he will. I hope he will go about with his propaganda to Tiree and the Orkneys and the rest of it. He will do good if he does that. Even if he goes ahead with his propaganda for co-operation in agriculture he will not touch the point. The right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) knows the facts. He talked about Arabella. He might have said that this colony of small holdings in his constituency was the only place where they got baths in their houses. Part of the loss on those small holdings was due to the extraordinary cost of the houses which were built on the holdings. Even if you have all this propaganda for co-operation you have not touched the real essence of the trouble. The Game and Heather-burning Committee showed what was wrong. Scotland is being used as a game preserve and a playground for the rich A large part of my native land is under deer; more of it is used for grouse, and as parks. This question will have to be tackled and the recommendations of the Game and Heather-burning Committee will have to be put into operation. I know it will take legislation, but if the Secretary of Scotland were to state that he intended to ask for powers to deal with evils of the kind mentioned by this Committee——


I said so.


I did not hear the right hon. Gentleman, but if he said so I withdraw. I wish, however, he would tell us exactly what is in his mind as to the Labour party's policy with regard to the re-peopling of rural Scotland. Is he going to deal with the problem as a whole? Is he going to have a re-survey made of every county from an agricultural point of view? He has already some of the figures in the Board of Agriculture Offices in Edinburgh, but he could make a survey of the various counties to see in a particular county for instance, how many small holdings could be allotted, how many acres of arable land were available and how many acres for grazing, and, in the less useful parts, how much land was available for afforestation. Afforestation schemes could be used with a view to providing 150 days' work in the year for the crofter, and crofting could thus be made an economic proposition. We could lift these people up from their position as a subservient class, barely getting a living, to the position of a class earning a decent livelihood. We must treat the problem of land settlement as a whole, and the powers and functions which are at present enjoyed by the Forestry Commission should be taken by the right hon. Gentleman's Department so far as Scotland is concerned. We should run this thing as a private business would be run. I notice in the report that the right hon. Gentleman is co-operating with the Forestry Commission, but that is not good enough. There should be a comprehensive scheme, and if the right hon. Gentleman were to approach the matter in that way, I believe it would be possible to put men back on the soil in Scotland, not at the rate of 300 per annum, but at the rate of over 10,000 per annum.

The right hon. Gentleman should encourage local authorities to carry out afforestation schemes on the water catchment areas and give them money at a low rate of interest to do so. In that way it would be possible this winter to find economic and healthy employment for 50,000 men. That is something worth doing. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Pollok Division of Glasgow (John Gilmour) was speaking about co-operation and about the necessity for spending further money on propaganda, I had the temerity to interrupt him with a query as to what the society of which he is vice-president is doing at the moment. The right hon. Gentleman asks for more money, and I agree that more money should be spent on propaganda for co-operation, but I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman should ask for more money for his society. If I understand the balance sheet of that society, the total expenditure for last year is returned at £7,858, but of that sum £1,600 was lent to the Edinburgh Corporation and another £2,000 was also lent to the Edinburgh Corporation, making a total of £3,600, or almost half of what is returned as expenditure. Apparently they do not spend very much. I think they should be spending more money, and I am sure every Member in the Committee will support me in trying to induce the Secretary for Scotland to give larger grants, but I hope there will be a guarantee that money so granted will be spent, and not invested with the Edinburgh Corporation or anyone else.


May I say the interest on that money is being used to the fullest extent. The money lent from time to time has to be shown in the balance sheet in this way.


I do not profess to be able to explain balance sheets with the same perspicuity as the right hon. Gentleman, but when simple folk like myself are asked to give more money, and when we see that there is £3,600 in hand which has not been spent., we are entitled to ask for an explanation. I now wish to ask the Secretary for Scotland what he is going to do about MacBrayne's contract. We were told last year that MacBrayne's contract came up for signature this year.


If the hon. Member is referring to the Hebridean steamer service he is out of order on this Vote. That matter is dealt with in Vote 35.


I must depart from the subject in that case. If the Secretary for Scotland will be in order in doing so, I hope when winding up the Debate he will assure us that the money spent upon land settlement and agricultural development is not going to be thrown away into the maw of the great trust which is strangling the Western Highlands. I desire to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that to-day in Prussia alone 87,701 people are employed in State forestry, and in Baden, 12,491. Will the right hon. Gentleman approach all the local authorities in Scotland by circular and invite them to prepare their water catchment areas for afforestation? Will he give them money at 1 per cent, or 2 per cent. interest to do the work. I know they get grants, but I want them to get money at a low rate of interest. Will he tell us approximately how many thousand acres are available which can be prepared this winter by drainage and fencing? I ask him to let his Department break out into something fresh. Do not let us have a stodgy repetition of the stodgy reports which we have had from the Board of Agriculture in past years. Let us have a real effort to prevent the decay of the Scottish nation; a real effort to stop emigration, a real effort to replant the people of Scotland and the soil of Scotland.

The right hon. Gentleman has already told us that he is going to break up private landlordism, or, at any rate, is going to take another shot at it through the operation of the Report of the Game and Deer Forests Commission. Let him mark this as a new era; the Hegira of a new Mohamed setting out upon his march. I ask the right hon. Gentleman what he is going to do? I assure him that I, for one, and I speak for two or three dozen Members in this Committee, are not going to sit tamely year after year during these Debates on Scottish Estimates and allow the kind of thing to go on which has been going on. I feel I would be false to the history of my country and to the people who sent me here if I did not guarantee a thundering big row here 12 months from now unless the process of the decimation of the people of the countryside, the flooding of our slums, and the sending of our people across the seas is stopped and replaced by a process of repeopling the countryside. If the right hon. Gentleman sets his face towards that goal and sets out bravely, he will have the backing of nine-tenths of the people of Scotland, and he will be able to say, when his little day is over, that he tried to do something for his native land. The present Report from the Board of Agriculture is not an indication that they are trying to do anything at all.

6.0 P.M.


I ask hon. Members to give me the indulgence which they always extend to one who is addressing them for the first time. We have listened with great interest to all that has been said about the crofters and about other subjects concerning the Highlands, both during this and during recent agricultural Debates, but I think it appropriate to remind the Committee that there are also large agricultural areas in the South of Scotland, in which many of us are interested, and which embrace all kinds of farming, principally of a very high standard. I trust the Scottish Board of Agriculture are not devoting their attention solely to subjects which affect the Highlands. I was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland in his opening remarks in regard to sheep only mentioned improvement of sheep in the crofting areas in the Highlands. Sheep farming and breeding is of the greatest interest to all agriculturists in my constituency, and the woollen trade is a matter of the highest importance to them and to everyone engaged in the manufactures for which the Border burghs are so famous. I will not go into a subject about which so much could be said, but in passing, I may refer to the way in which the importance of this industry is emphasised in another place by the Woolsack. It has been pointed out to me by friends of mine condemned to sit in that. House, and I understand it is there to remind us of the great value of wool in the past history of the country and incidentally of its present necessity in connection with many of our industries and manufactures. Anything which the Minister and the Board of Agriculture can do to assist sheep farming is for the benefit not only of agriculture, but of many allied industries. I hope the right hon. Gentleman is not only continuing, but is taking steps to see that there is an extension of the policy of agricultural education and research into diseases of animals, and that he is making ample provision for these purposes. I am glad of this opportunity of referring to a question concerning a sheep disease, which is of very great importance at this moment to all sheep farmers in Scotland, and especially in the border counties. I think it is necessary to bring this matter to the notice of the Secretary for Scotland, and to draw his attention to the great and unnecessary disadvantages with which all flockmasters, especially in the South of Scotland, are competing at the present time, owing to the Regulations with regard to sheep scab, about which they have frequently complained and offered alternative suggestions within the last 12 months. I believe that the Scottish Board of Agriculture have the greatest sympathy towards these proposals, and that they are agreed as to the advantages of their adoption. I would, therefore, like to ask the Minister whether this is not so, and whether he will use his influence with the Minister of Agriculture to see that these proposals can be carried out. If it is the case that the inspectors of the Scottish Board arc in touch with this matter and are in agreement with these proposals, I would like to know why it is that nothing so far has been done to remedy the situation. This disease is not as, serious as many others, but it is sufficiently serious to demand that adequate steps should be taken to stamp it out and prevent it from spreading. It is, however, most objectionable and unnecessary that nearly all the sheep trade in Scotland, especially in the southern counties, should be interfered with and handicapped to the extent that it is at the present time.

Under the present system of the Department concerned, there is very considerable interference with trade, and there are very few adequate measures to deal with the disease. What is wanted is the absolute reverse, and by doing this the Department concerned can do a real, good, practical turn to one branch of agriculture. Owing to the present double dipping Regulations, much expense is caused to farmers, and often considerable loss in the value of sheep, owing to unnecessary dipping, and at the same time there is a prevention of the free movement of sheep, for no adequate reason. The new Order of the Department, commencing this week, is not strong enough to be effective, but at the same time it continues the handicapping of the market. I, therefore, ask the Minister to give effect to proposals both made in Scotland and by deputations to London that the areas where sheep scab originates or is prevalent should be scheduled and that unnecessary dipping of clean sheep should be done away with, and I would ask him to use his influence with the Minister of Agriculture to have these proposals carried out and action taken, if possible, before and not after the sheep and lamb sales of this year.

While on this subject, I think the Scottish Board of Agriculture should help to safeguard Scottish interests in another way. I do not believe that the local authorities should be allowed to use such wide powers as they are doing in certain cases in making their own Regulations, especially with regard to the movement of animals, and that the Ministry of Agriculture should be asked to take the responsibility instead and see that there is more uniformity between the different districts. As a member of a county council where the agricultural representatives have been against the use of these powers by local authorities, and where such success has been met with up to the present time that there has been no foot-and-mouth disease or sheep scab disease, I think local authorities very often carry their protective measures too far. In the last few weeks, instances have come to my knowledge of local authorities putting these restrictions against other counties, including those counties in the South of Scotland, as a result of which normal trade in livestock in those counties has been seriously interfered with, and these instances to which I refer are chiefly from the English side of the Border. I think that too much is very often made of the Cheviots as a dividing line by those people south of it when putting on these restrictions, and that districts on each side of the Border carrying on similar kinds of farming should be on the same footing. I think the Scottish Board of Agriculture and the Minister himself might be asked to safeguard our interests on these occasions and to use their influence with the Ministry of Agriculture in London.

I wish now to refer to one other point, on the subject of education and research. I notice, under Item M.1, a decrease of over £4,000 in the grants to agricultural and veterinary colleges in respect of maintenance expenditure, and under Item M.2 I am glad to see an increase of £1,649 for agricultural research. After listening to the Minister of Agriculture discussing the advantages of the extension of agricultural education, I was surprised to see that the first serious reduction in the Estimates occurs under this first heading, and I hope it means that the economy is effected owing to the money not being required, but I would strongly deprecate any stinting of the upkeep of any of our research colleges. For instance, we now have in Edinburgh the Royal Veterinary College, on which very large sums of money have been spent in recent years to provide adequate buildings, and which also possesses a hospital, with a large external and internal clinic, for the purposes of teaching. Moreover, this college has been built up for over 100 years, and careful study and the best brains have continually been improving it and bringing it up to date. Only recently the Animal Diseases Research Association have purchased a site near Edinburgh for a research station for the purpose of carrying out some of their work in this college. Rather than that the two colleges in Edinburgh and Glasgow should continue to exist in a state of semi-financial starvation, and neither of them able to advance in the way that is so desirable, I trust that the Ministry will see that a sufficient grant is made towards completing the equipment of the new buildings of the Royal Dick Veterinary College in Edinburgh.

Owing to the heavy burdens of taxation and rating of agricultural land, and as almost all and in many cases the whole, of the net returns from land, equipment and buildings is required to be put back in upkeep and proper management, it is no longer possible, as formerly, for owners and occupiers to give what they would like to such valuable institutions. It is now, therefore, more than ever essential that the Board should take its part in seeing that this college has a sufficient grant to enable it to carry out its special purposes, especially the training of students for the future, and its valuable research work. In view of the fact that so much trouble and such a large amount of expense has been incurred in making the buildings as good as possible, the Ministry can do a real service to agricultural and veterinary education by giving any encouragement and necessary assistance. The research work of the Animal Diseases Research Association has already recently resulted in valuable discoveries in sheep diseases, and a substantial reduction in the death-rate from braxy, and I hope that the grants for this society may be maintained, or even increased, instead of being, as I see, slightly decreased. I hope this may also apply to the Scottish Society for Research in Plant Breeding, and I might add that both these institutions have been largely supported by private subscriptions from landowners and farmers, as the right hon. Gentleman said in his opening remarks.

In conclusion, I should like to ask one or two further questions about land settlement. I did not quite understand what was the present policy of the Minister in settling those applications which had been examined and found to be satisfactory and likely to succeed in small holdings, and I would like to ask if it is the intention of the Board to cooperate more than has been done with the Forestry Commission in forming small holdings. I would like to suggest that this kind of holding is more likely to succeed in districts remote from railways and markets than most other kinds would be. As an instance, I would like to ask if the Board are considering starting some small holdings on the Forestry Commission land in Liddesdale. In connection with this and with the training of ex-service men in agriculture and allied occupations, I should like to refer to the scarcity of skilled men at present as stone dykers, wire fencers, hedgers, and drainers in many districts, including the south of Scotland, and to the favourable openings for these people if they also occupied holdings which were not so large as to prevent them working for wages or on contract for a considerable part of the year. I thank hon. Members for the indulgence that they have given to me.


I am sure it is the wish of the Committee that I should congratulate my Noble Friend the Member for Roxburgh (Earl of Dalkeith) on his extremely interesting maiden speech. The Committee listened to the speech with added interest, because the representatives of Scotland, at any rate, know the great part that the family to which the Noble Lord belongs has played in Scottish agriculture. There are many points that were dealt with by the Secretary for Scotland to which I should like to allude, but I know that there are many Members who are anxious to take part in the Debate, and therefore I will touch on very few indeed. There was one point raised by my Noble Friend the Member for Roxburgh that I should like answered, and that is the great shortage that exists in the south of Scotland at the present moment in regard to skilled hedgers and drainers. These men—the old men—are practically dying out, and there are no young men coming forward to take their place. I believe that a scheme ought to be promoted whereby ex-service men who are out of employment at the present moment could be trained as expert hedgers and drainers. There is no doubt a great deal of land all over Scotland that requires draining, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to get skilled men to carry out this work, and I would suggest to my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland that the Board of Agriculture might take up this question of the training of skilled hedgers and drainers.

I was greatly interested to hear what the Secretary for Scotland had to say with regard to the question of education. I think we all recognise to-day in the general sphere the great value of education, but, to come down to agriculture, it appears to me to be absolutely essential that we should have a more efficient system of agricultural education. I must say I have grave doubts about the advisability of introducing any sort of vocational education into our primary schools. There are a great many authorities in Scotland that are promoting advanced courses in the post-qualifying stages of our elementary schools. I think in these advanced courses, an element of rural industry might be introduced. I do not want to confine it to agriculture, but to get a rural atmosphere in these advanced courses would un-doubtedly be advantageous. I would, however, suggest that this question must be treated with extreme care, because the people of Scotland as a whole—and I have no doubt it is the same in other parts of the United Kingdom—have always been extremely suspicious of anything in the shape of vocational education entering our elementary schools.

We hear a tremendous lot about cooperation in this House, and I am not going to minimise for one moment the importance of agricultural co-operation, but I would suggest that it is a thing that cannot be developed rapidly. It is an organisation of extremely slow growth. I am sure my right hon. Friend the Member for Pollok (Sir J. Gilmour) will agree with me that agricultural education in Scotland has moved very slowly indeed, and it has not been for the want of a thoroughly efficient organisation. My right hon. Friend the Member for Pollok referred to Dr. Douglas, who was chairman of that organisation for a number of years. I am sure all of us who have been identified with Scottish agriculture realise what a great amount of work Dr. Douglas threw into agricultural organisation, and how great is the loss Scottish agriculture has sustained through his untimely death. Although agricultural co-operation can undoubtedly do a great deal, it cannot accomplish a revolution in the agricultural world. It can put agriculture on a more satisfactory footing than it is on today, but I do not believe that even the most efficient co-operation can keep our third class land under cultivation, and that does appear to be the major problem, if we are going to keep even our existing population on the land.

I would, therefore, suggest that we have arrived at a time when we want to have an inquiry into all the machinery dealing with agriculture in Scotland, not only on the educational side, but also on the scientific side. I am one of those who, in the days of my youth, was very enthusiastic about Scotland having a Board of Agriculture of its own, and many of us who supported very, very strongly the setting up of a Board of Agriculture for Scotland at that time had in our minds the great benefits that Ireland had received from a separate agricultural department, and we were hopeful that the same benefits would accrue to Scotland. I do not wish to criticise the Scottish Board of Agriculture unduly, but I do say that it has not retained the support that it should have done of the agricultural community in Scotland. All sections of agriculturists in Scotland are rather disappointed in the Scottish Board of Agriculture. I have no doubt that its difficulties may have been largely difficulties of finance, because those are the main difficulties of the present day, but I am inclined to think that the Board of Agriculture could gain the sympathy and the hearty co-operation of the agricultural world in Scotland if a thoroughly impartial and an expert inquiry were held as to the direction or directions in which we should endeavour to move in getting a higher state of efficiency in Scottish agriculture.

It is always possible for first-class land to pay under nearly every condition we can imagine, and even second-class land, possibly, to yield a profit, but if we cannot bring science to our aid—and I am afraid it is the only thing we are likely to get—a great deal of this third-class land will go out of cultivation. I believe the solution with regard to land being kept under cultivation, which was brought forward by the National Farmers' Union of England and Scotland last year, was on the right lines, but that scheme has, I think, been definitely rejected, in the meantime at least, by the country, and has not undoubtedly a majority in this House. Therefore, I think we have got to try and get our Board of Agriculture in Scotland to develop along new lines—lines that are likely to maintain a larger population on the land.

There is no doubt a great deal to be said for land settlement. I do not wish to be unduly critical, but I do say that there are a great many of us in Scotland to-day who think that the methods by which land settlement has been promoted since the War have not been the most satisfactory or the most economical, that we have not got value for money and that the smallholders, who have very expensive, though not very satisfactory, equipment placed upon their holdings. Will in years to come have increasing difficulty in getting profit out of those holdings. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are having it now."] Quite right; they are having it now. As I know from the small holding colonies in the part of the country I represent, they are having very great difficuties to make ends meet, and on all grounds, not least the ground of the smallholder, I think the Secretary for Scotland would be very well advised to set up a Departmental Committee, not for the purpose of unduly criticising the Board of Agriculture, but to assist them, and to show in what direction we can put Scottish agriculture on the high road to serve the Scottish people.

I believe in Scotland, possibly, we have a higher standard of agriculture than South of the Border, but it is increasingly difficult to maintain that standard, and it is increasingly difficult to keep the rural population. Emigration is taking a great toll from our rural areas, and a toll of the most skilled men, the men who are absolutely essential if we are to keep even our present standard of Scottish agriculture. This can only be met by finding an outlet for these men, so that they will not be smallholders all their lives, but when they reach middle-age and their family grows up, and is able to assist them, they will be able to take a larger holding. Do not tie them down to a small holding all their days, I believe a man who can get a fair living on a small holding may be able to move on to a larger holding, and it is one of the great defects of the present system of small holdings that a man gets tied down the whole of his days to that small holding. There are many other reasons I should like to give the Secretary for Scotland for going into the question of a thorough re-organisation of Scottish agriculture, and I do trust he will give consideration to the matter. I can assure him that I come into contact with all sections of agricultural opinion in Scotland, and it is highly critical of many acts of administration of the Scottish Board of Agriculture. It would be beneficial to the Scottish Board of Agriculture, therefore, if an inquiry were held, to show in what directions the Scottish Board might be made really an efficient organisation to promote Scottish agriculture.

Lieut.-General Sir Aylmer HUNTER- WESTON

I rejoice very greatly that on every side attention has been drawn to-day to the fact that the settlement of ex-soldiers on the land has in Scotland gone so very slowly. I say that, because I know the great difficulty the Board of Agriculture have in this matter lies really, not with the Secretary for Scotland, or his predecessor, who, we know, have been most sympathetic, but it lies in the difficulty of getting money from the Treasury, and it can only be that we can get money from the Treasury if there is a clear exposition in this House, by people of all shades of opinion, that it is necessary to get money for this very important object. But while agreeing that money should be spent on this, I would enter a, caveat. I am not at all persuaded that we are putting our ex-service men on the land in the right way. In Yorkshire some of the colonists put on the land have been a great success. In many parts of Scotland there has been, as we all know, a great failure. I would like to suggest to the Secretary for Scotland that he should have an inquiry made into what have been the conditions that have led to success in the one case and failure in the other. That is a concrete proposal. I have my own theory on the subject, but I do not propose to bore the Committee with it. All that I say is: Inquire into the subject to see where things have gone right, and where things have gone wrong. Then, having seen where are the good points, let us develop that side of the settlement scheme in Scotland.

There is another point—a small one, perhaps, but, I think, an important one—which has not been touched upon at all. We have talked, and talked rightly, of the importance of trying to increase production, but there is another side. We should try to prevent waste, and there is no greater pest and danger to a great number of our crops in many parts of the world than rats and mice. Parliament has rightly placed on the Statute Book an Act for the destruction of rats and mice and I rejoice to see on page 68 of the Report of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland that the Board have done what they can to get local authorities to take measures to carry out the provisions of that Act. I see that in some counties the Board's advice has been followed. I do not wish to enlarge on the subject, but I would ask the Secretary for Scotland to see how the rats' destruction has been carried on with advantage in one part, and try to get similar provisions made all over the country. There is no question that that is one of the most destructive agencies in the country at the present time. It is one which is not really recognised by most of us, and it certainly should have a good deal of attention devoted to it by those whose business it is to look after agriculture in Scotland, to wit, the Board of Agriculture.

Another suggestion I would make is one which has been made by many other Members, and that is the necessity for increasing and perfecting research work for agriculture in Scotland. Most of us from agricultural counties have seen that the Board of Agriculture has been developing demonstration holdings. There is nothing, I think, that is so good for the development of agriculture. It is an axiom, I think, of all educationists that it is no use appealing only to one sense. It is no use merely talking and writing; you must appeal to the eye, so that you may see. Especially that is so in the case of the farmers who do not take in what you say to them, and do not care. Well, what they want to see is a delivery of the goods. Where you can get demonstration holdings, and can show by the demonstrations that you are getting a better crop by a particular system or by a particular form of seed or a par- ticular manure, then you are going to get some real good out of the work that is done.

Furthermore, I would suggest that where you have these demonstration holdings more use could be made of them by trying to get into connection with the farmers, and getting them shown over at some favourable time. One of the inspectors of the Board of Agriculture, who is gifted with the "gift of the gab"—and many are—should accompany the party and should be able in a persuasive and eloquent way to put before the assembled farmers the particular points that are of value in that particular part of the country. It is quite useless, as we all know, to say that agriculture is being developed in England on certain lines. We will not have anything to do with it in Scotland if talked at in that way. I say the same thing applies in relation to, say, the South-East of Scotland. What may be done there does not particularly interest those of us who live in the South-West. What has to be done is to give the particular information and instruction necessary for our own particular part of the land. We do not believe it will succeed if we do not see it with our own eyes. These, then, are the particular constructive points that I desire to put before the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland to-day.


I do not wish to follow the right hon. Gentleman in his very interesting remarks about the wisdom of co-operation, research, and agricultural education, partly because I think that, in the opinion of the whole House, that part of his statement was extremely satisfactory, and because many hon. Members who have better qualifications than I, have been making constructive suggestions. I am sure, however, that the Secretary for Scotland will not think me ungrateful or ungenerous, but merely businesslike, if I concentrate on that part of his speech which seemed to be more unsatisfactory. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Clackmannan (Mr. Johnson) in his remarks on land settlement that the programme the right hon. Gentleman sketched of land settlement is in many respects unsatisfactory. The urgency of this question does not seem to be fully appreciated by the Secretary for Scotland, or that in the last two generations in nearly every Highland county, if you look at the Census figures, you will find that there has been a decreasing population in the Highland counties. That decrease has been between 30 per cent and 40 per cent and in some counties more than 40 per cent. That is a process we want to stop. That is a process we want to reverse. It seems to me, therefore, to be one of the most vital questions which we have to discuss on this Vote, and I was all the more disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Pollok Division (Lieut.-Colonel Sir J.Gilmour), in the course of his extremely interesting and eloquent speech to-day, referred somewhat slightingly to the question of land settlement, and especially to the question of land settlement in the Highlands.


If I gave an impression of that kind it is an entirely erroneous one, and I did not certainly mean to so express myself. What I was suggesting was that on the estimating the balance of the importance of the work in Scotland there ought to be taken into consideration the interests, the larger interests of agriculture as a whole. Consideration ought not to be confined to definite areas.


But my point was that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did specially mention in a somewhat deprecating way the interests of the Highlands. He said in the matter of land settlement that large holdings of a more economic size were of greater interest to the people in the towns than smallholdings in the Highlands.


Certainly, a greater production of food.


From that point of view I venture to say that land settlement in the Highlands, and from the point of view of the race, is a far more important problem than land settlement in the Lowlands of Scotland. Not only that, but in the Highlands this is the most economic way of using the land, whereas, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said in his argument, perhaps in the Lowlands it is more economic to use the land for large farming. The first point with which I shall deal of the ex-service men is in regard to land settlement is the treatment of ex-service men. I would refer to what the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ayr and Bute (Lieut.-General Sir A. Hunter-Weston) referred to, and that is the chance that has already been given to these ex-service men. They have not had a fair chance. The whole matter has been put to the Secretary for Scotland before, but I should like to associate myself with the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite in regard to a possible inquiry into the causes which are at the root of the success, on the one hand, of small holdings in Yorkshire, and their failure in parts of Scotland. I hope he will take that suggestion into very careful consideration.

The first thing with regard to small holdings in Scotland to which I would refer is the exaggerated promises that were made in many cases by the officials of the Board at the time when the holdings were constituted. Large farms were bought and there were a certain number of applicants for these holdings. The officials of the Department, anxious to fill up these farms, went around promising in the most exaggerated way to these smallholders that every kind of attention would be given to them, to the house, that the drains would be cleaned, the fences put in order, and so forth. Everywhere you go now in Scotland into these colonies of smallholders you are up against the promises then made. You ask, "Where are the promises? Have you anything in writing?" and the answer you get in case after case is "No, but the officials of the Board have been around and have promised us this, that and the other!" It has all had a very bad effect upon the confidence which ought to exist between the smallholders and the Board of Agriculture.

The next thing to which I should like to refer is the tremendous burden put upon these holders that have entered into the holdings since the war in respect to housing and other capital charges. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Fife (Mr. D. Millar) and I in the last Parliament particularly pressed that these holdings should be revalued. That was done last year, and the effect has been that in many cases, in the case of, say, Shinness, nearly half the holdings were reduced to a fifth of their previous value, which had been put upon them in the first case. In many other cases they were reduced to a half, a third, or a quarter of the whole. That shows how heavily burdened were these small holdings, and, when they were taken over, what a poor chance these men had who were put into these holdings. We had to win other concessions from the Board. There was the ingoing obligations for payments of crops which were reduced, and limited to seed and labour. There were difficulties over drains and fences—these great burdens were put upon these smallholders. It is only gradually and after tremendous effort that we have got some of these things remedied.

There is one point I wish particularly to put to the Secretary for Scotland, and that is in regard to the corn subsidy. In recent months we have got the corn subsidy for the smallholders, but it has been paid in such a way that the subsidy has only been given in full to those holders on whose land corn happened to be growing when they entered on the holding. Other holders who took over, perhaps, a field of turnips or of grass, and had no corn on it, are getting the full subsidy, it is true, but only on condition that they pay back £l per acre in respect of corn grown and 10s. per acre accommodation rent to the Board of Agriculture. 90.1 of the ex-service smallholders of Caithness are opposed to this method of payment including many men on whose land corn was growing when they entered, and every man ought to get payment, irrespective of whether corn was growing or not on his land.

The next question I want to raise is that of housing. On the estates which are actually owned by the Board they should bear the responsibility for the housing. The housing in many of these places with which I am acquainted is bad. In one particular instance I know of, in Caithness, the housing is appallingly bad. It is much worse than the average housing in the country. We are not now looking forward in the matter of housing, because you have gone back 20 or 30 years in putting up the wooden huts in which these men have now been housed. There is one case I know of where the man has been living for three years, and the water was coming in so badly that, when his wife was ill, the bed had to be covered specially—with an umbrella—to keep the rain off, and he had to spend £18 on repairing that house in the third year of his living there. There are three or four others of which I could speak in Watten where men are living in houses with cattle under the same roof, and these houses have been put up in the last three years by the Board of Agriculture! The men live with the cattle, without even a wall or a stone partition between them, nothing but a small double wooden partition. Therefore I do suggest that the Board of Agriculture must take up this question of the housing of these ex-service men, for it is not good enough. It is up to the Board of Agriculture, who owns these estates, to see that the housing is what it ought to be. The least they can do, in relation to, the Housing Bill which is now before the House, is to see what new powers they have under that Bill as landlords, and to put up decent houses for these men on their property. There is another point in regard to land settlement that has been suggested to the Secretary for Scotland, and that is that the existing townships should have the first claim on such grazing as the Board may acquire. The important thing is to put the existing township on an economic basis. I shall be glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman has to say from that point of view. I feel sure that he will always keep the claims of the ex-service men first, and give them full preference though he will not entirely ignore the claims of the townships if they have not got a majority of ex-service men in them. It has happened that a number of ex-service men have been unable to get the grazing land required because in the township in which they lived they did not happen to be in a majority. I hope that will now come to an end. For instance, in a certain place with which I am acquainted there is an improvement scheme which I should like the Secretary for Scotland to know is hung up by the Board of Agriculture merely on this ground that there is not a majority of ex-service men amongst the applicants. I hope that that will now be put through at the earliest possible moment. Two or three of the neighbouring townships were concerned in this. In the ease of Camster, for example, those concerned felt unable last year to take the matter over because there was not a majority of ex-service men amongst the applicants, and a golden opportunity of taking over a very good farm in a congested district was thereby lost, and at Lairo there is an opportunity which ought not to be lost of taking over a farm, the grazing of which would put 3 or 4 townships on an economic basis.

Finally, I also want to put this point, in connection with land settlement. I refer to the importance of ancillary occupations. I put fishing first. If there is no improvement in the fishing prospects of these men who spend part of their time on their crofts and part of the time fishing, large numbers of families will find themselves without adequate means of support. It is the one thing which will make a success of the holding, if at the same time help is given to the men in the matter of ancillary occupation, and protection given them from the depredations of the trawlers and others when they are fishing off the coast. If they are not helped, in this and similar ways, if they feel they have nothing to fall back on, and are not given the protection they need from trawlers and Seine net fishermen, these people will have to remove from places like the island of Stroma, and you will have to take over farms on the mainland for the purpose of settling them on the land in holdings of an economic size.

I associate myself with what has been said about the importance of associating afforestation with land settlement. We are all glad that the Secretary for Scotland is going to bring in a Bill to deal with the resumption of small holdings, but I am disappointed that he did not take up the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton). I would like to ask what chance has the Secretary for Scotland s Bill of passing this Session. If the right hon. Gentleman had taken up the Bill I have mentioned three or four months ago, when it was first introduced, it would have had a good chance of passing into law this Session. With regard to the amount allotted for seed oats and seed potatoes, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what proportion of that money has already been spent? We have heard with pleasure the announcement that the Secretary for Scotland proposes to set up a Commission to inquire into economic development of the Highlands of Scotland. The money available for that purpose is now being paid away in excessive rates and burdens of taxation, and the right hon. Gentleman must either substantially relieve the rates in some way or other, or else lend money for such purposes as housing, water supply, drainage and fencing at low rates of interest.

In France the small cultivators are able to borrow money at 2 per cent., and I should like to know why Scottish cultivators have to pay 4 per cent for their loan. There is a scheme for loans for crofter housing which is administered by the Board of Agriculture, and the crofters have to pay a flat rate of 4 per cent. There are scores of holdings on which they only pay £3 in rent, and, if a crofter wants to borrow £200 or £300 to develop his holding, he has to pay 4 per cent. interest, which trebles or quadruples his rent. No flat rate scheme having such a high rate of interest has any chance of success in the High, lands, where it has only been able to produce 96 houses, and only three of them in Caithness. I urge the right hoe. Gentleman to press upon the Treasury the desirability of lending money at a lower rate of interest, and even at the same rate as it is lent to small cultivators in France. No land should be entirely reserved for sport, and it should all be made available for grazing and agricultural development. I know that in Caithness the tendency is all that way, and a large amount of land which was deer forest a few years ago has now been put back to grazing. I hope this practice will be made compulsory all over Scotland until we are sure that the land of the Highlands is put to the best and most productive use. That will not exclude sport, but the productivity of the soil must come first.

Something has been said about there being a subservient class in Scotland, but there is no such class in the Highlands. We want every man to have a chance of making his living independently by cultivating the soil. We want everything removed that hinders the progress of agriculture in the North of Scotland, and I hope the Secretary for Scotland will use his influence to get the Safeguarding of Industries Act repealed, because it only makes it more expensive for the farmers to buy what they require. The hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. T. Johnston) referred to the development of water power, and I hope that matter will be considered. Better communication, railways, and roads are all important for the development of small holdings and the fishing industry. I am sure, if the right hon. Gentleman will come forward with a bold scheme for developing the national resources of the Highlands of Scotland, he will have the support from all quarters of the House. Even if it requires a bold and resolute effort to hack through the obstacles erected by vested or sectional interests, he will at any rate have the whole-hearted support of Scottish Liberal Members.


I think I had better reply now to a number of points which have been put to me by Members in all parts of the House. I hope we shall now be able to draw the discussion on agricultural matters to a close, because we have already taken up half the time allotted to this Vote and we have still five other subjects set down for discussion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Pollok Division of Glasgow (Sir J. Gilmour) said he hoped that the Board of Agriculture would take a broad general view of agriculture and that we should not confine our energies too largely to one part of the country. I can assure my right hon. Friend that the Board of Agriculture and myself have no intention of doing anything but take a broad general view of agriculture. It is at the same time true that there are parts of Scotland where the difficulties are greater than in some other parts, and these difficulties have to be examined and considered. With regard to what has been said about grants to the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, already by Supplementary Estimates we have been able to increase the amount which for some years past has been granted to this society.

The grant was limited to 2½ times the amount raised by the society from other sources, but the Supplementary Estimate which i got through the House removes that embargo and places us in the position of being able to give the full amount to the society of which I have spoken. All I would like to add is that I think it would be better for me more closely to examine the work of this society with a view to finding out whether we are getting full value for the money spent in this direction. It it be true, as the hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. T. Johnston) says, that the society has considerable funds invested in various ways, that is a question which we may have to discuss very seriously with the society. A number of points were put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson). He said he was not satisfied with the Report of the Board of Agriculture in certain respects and that the Board had 350,370 acres of land unallotted. I do not know where the right hon. Gentleman got his figures.


May I read that part of the Report where I got my information On page 14 of the Twelfth Report of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland there appears the following paragraph: Excluding estates taken over from the Congested Districts Board, 51 separate properties are now owned by the Board, their total area being 350,370 acres, including 32,513 acres of arable land.


That does not say that there are 350,370 acres unallotted.


The Report goes on to say: The development of subdivision schemes on estates previously acquired has proceeded throughout the year, entry being given to 209 new holdings and 48 enlargements of existing holdings. Obviously, there is a distinction between the amount previously owned and the amount now owned, and the subdivisions have been going on in regard to the land previously owned.


If the right hon. Gentleman will examine the districts mentioned, he will find that he was wrong in stating that there are 350,370 acres of land unallotted.


I am sorry again to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but what does the Report mean when it states that 51 separate properties are now owned by the Board, their total area being 350,370 acres? What does the word "owned" mean?


The right hon. Gentleman is now speaking of 350,370 acres "owned" by the Board, but what he actually said was, that that number of acres were "unallotted," and the right hon. Gentleman cannot find inside this Report any figures to justify that statement. I was going on to say that the proportion of land unallotted is less than one-third of the figure named by the right hon. Gentleman, and holdings are being arranged for on the unallotted ground. Consequently, as far as that part of the right hon. Gentleman's criticism is concerned, he is entirely wrong.


There are between 50,000 and 60,000 acres for which no arrangements have been made.


Almost a half of the unallotted land is being arranged into holdings at the moment. With regard to the other half, there is a 7.0 P.M. part of that land that the Board cannot get occupation of until a certain date, and there are other difficulties in the way.


If I am wrong I will confess it. My right hon. Friend referred just now to a certain portion, a third, I think, and I want to know where information in this Report can be found about it. I can imagine it might be in Appendix 3, but I have carefully studied the Report. I want to know exactly what number of acres is now owned by the Board, and the proportion not allotted. My right hon. Friend refers to something not now in the posses0073ion of the Board. I want to know the proportion now owned by the Board, which is available now.


Only 102,452 acres remain unallotted. If the right hon Gentleman will look at Appendix 3 he will find the information. I have already explained to the Committee that almost a half of that is being arranged for small holdings.


It is all owned by the Board?


I think we had better leave that point awhile. I would refer to a comment of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) He said——


What I said was that I was surprised the right hon. Gentleman was taking credit to himself for the fertility of the hen.


If the hon. Member will look at the Report tomorrow morning of what I said, and if other hon. Members will look too, they will find that I am not trying to take credit for the fertility of the hen. I pointed out that the co-operative method of agriculture in the Orkney and Shetland Islands, as well as in other parts of the area, had been a huge success, and I drew the attention of the Committee to this with the view of showing the great advantage of the application of co-operation in agriculture. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) also drew my attention to the question of the crofters. No one appreciates more clearly than I the difficulty imposed on the crofter in many instances by the smallness of the croft. My hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling (Mr. T. Johnston) discussed some very important points. He pointed out that he was disappointed by the statement that I put forward with regard to the numbers that have been put upon the land. But I may remind him that I had no responsibility for that period I want to assure him that if I am responsible for agriculture any longer, I will do my best to reduce any disparity. Another point was raised with the object of discovering what use could be made of the arable lands in Scotland. I was also asked to give a promise that afforestation of water catchment areas should be proceeded with at the earliest possible date, and the hon. Member assured us that if that were proceeded with, it would provide work for 50,000 men—taken together with the other scheme for afforestation. What I want to say is that I am not responsible for forestry. As a matter of fact, this House dealt with forestry in 1919, and took the power of dealing with it out of my office and put it into the hands of a Forestry Commission. I will see that the hon. Member's representation is put forward in the proper quarter. I am anxious, indeed, that we should have as many unemployed men as possible put to useful and I believe profitable work.

Another question was put by my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling which concerned economic development. All I want to say is that, so far as I have looked at it, the possibility of development, of economic development, of that part of the country includes the problem of transport. The problem of transport has an important bearing on the development of the Highlands, and I shall certainly look carefully into this matter. Another point was raised by the Noble Lord the Member for Roxburgh and Selkirk (Earl of Dalkeith), and, in passing, may I compliment him on his first effort in the House? He put to me one particular point, asking me if I would speak and use my influence with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture on the question of diseases of animals. I must remind the Noble Lord that it was his party who took this very matter about which he is so much concerned out of the hands of the Secretary for Scotland and placed it in the hands of the Minister of Agriculture. That plan, evidently, is not working well, and I would recommend him to discuss it with his friends.

Another point was raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Ayr (Lieut.-General Sir A. Hunter-Weston), who asked me if I could tell why, in certain areas, they were very successful in exterminating rats, and in others they were not. I understand that that is more a question for the county council than for me, and I would advise the hon. and gallant Member to get into touch with the county council. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland spoke about fertilisers, and asked if 40 per cent. of certain fertilisers analysed in Scotland were unsatisfactory. That is rather a serious thing, and one I can assure him I will take an early opportunity of inquiring into. We want the land to be of full value—to give full value for the money spent. [Sir A. SINCLAIR: "Can the right hon. Gentleman reply on the corn subsidy to ex-Service smallholders?"] That is one of the points I do not want raised, not for the reason that I object to giving information to hon. Members, but because in this matter the Board of Agriculture are in a difficult position. I have made very close inquiries into the circumstances referred to by nay hon. and gallant Friend, and I think the Board of Agriculture has been very generous in its dealings with these people. If I did not believe that, I would have a meeting between the men and the Board of Agriculture, but I repeat, I think the Board has dealt very generously with the men as a body. I have covered nearly all the points raised, and I hope the Committee will now be prepared to pass the second Order on the Paper.


I would like to get some assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that he will take into con- sideration the setting up of some Tribunal or Departmental Committee to ensure that the Scottish Board of Agriculture shall be of real use to Scottish agriculture. I think it is of extreme importance that the Board of Agriculture in Scotland should have some extended policy on agricultural matters We do not want merely to criticise the Board, we want to be of use to it; we want to bring it more into sympathy with agricultural thought throughout the country.


I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that, as far as the present Government is concerned, they are giving close attention to an extended agricultural policy because they want to make the agricultural industry as prosperous as it is possible for it to be.

Question put, and agreed to.

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