§ Mr. FREDERICK MARTIN
I beg to move,That this House urges upon the Government the desirability of extending the operations of the Forestry Commission and, generally, of promoting the interest of Afforestation, as a means of increasing the capital assets of the country, providing employment in a healthy and remunerative occupation, and, particularly in the Highland and certain other Scottish counties, facilitating the settlement of smallholders on an economic basis.I should, in a sense, apologise for interrupting the very important discussion on housing, but I think there is some appropriateness in the subject of the Resolution. I am inviting the House to turn its attention for some time from the problematic houses of the future to the traditional habitations of our progenitors, and I venture to suggest that the housing shortage must have begun when our progenitors forsook the tree-tops and took to the caves, and that it has been getting more and more troublesome ever since. The Resolution covers the field adequately, and I hope it will have the unanimous support of all parties in the House. I feel indeed that I am forcing an open door, because I recollect that both the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) spoke of afforestation a few days ago as a subject demanding immediate attention and one which, if properly tackled, would help to solve the unemployment problem. In my short experience, however, I have learnt to be very suspicious as to the fate of any project which is described as not being a party question. I think it will be found that when a matter becomes everybody's business it becomes nobody's business. For a long time this has been the case with afforestation. I do not believe any great reform was ever carried in this country until it had become a vital party question in which the credit, the reputation, and perhaps the whole future of one of the great parties was involved. The party system is, for the time being, in a peculiar state, and I think this is an opportunity for all parties to co-operate heartily on a matter in which there is nothing to divide them.
Some years before the War and before the State was taking any interest in afforestation those most keenly anxious to advance forestry, in Scotland at all 1354 events, were mainly hon. Members belonging to the party opposite, and I think it due to them to say that the great landowners in the Highlands showed a very public-spirited example to the nation in the way in which they themselves tried to advance afforestation, while they also preached the advantages of afforestation to the whole country. The question at the moment is in a very favourable position. The Forestry Commission which was set up after the War is, I believe, one of the few remaining parts of the great machinery of reconstruction which was started at that time. The Commission is a statutory body and in a sense is not under the direct control of the House of Commons, but fortunately it is very ably represented in this House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Acland), and I hope he will have an opportunity in the course of this evening of informing the House as to the activities of the Commission. I say at once that I am not an expert in forestry, because I feel certain that if I did not say it the House would understand it before I finished. But I have for many years taken a deep interest in this question, particularly from the point of view of its effects in relation to land settlement in Scotland as well as other parts of the country.
The Commission has, I believe, been handicapped in its activities through lack of money, and I would ask the Ministers responsible to bear in mind that in dealing with a question like afforestation they must take a very long view. A system of annual grants varying in amount from year to year is of no use in this matter. There must be a policy laid clown and stuck to courageously over a long period of years. That is of the essence of the finance of afforestation. A vast amount of the forest in this country is the property of private individuals, but it is no longer possible for the State to look to the private landowner entirely to finance and manage afforestation for the benefit of the State. It may be that in this matter we shall have to embark upon a very large scheme of land nationalisation and the purchase of certain lands by the State. For myself, I am not at all afraid of that process, because I believe that the true Liberal point of view in the matter is that we regard nationalisation, not as a matter of faith, but as a matter of expediency. I think that if 1355 nationalisation can be proved, as applied to any industry, to serve the interests of the State better than private enterprise, I, as a Liberal, should heartily welcome nationalisation.
In case there be, on the other side of the House, any prejudice against nationalisation at any cost, may I remind my hon. Friends opposite and others that the case was very explicitly given away by a spokesman of that party in a debate in this House only a very few weeks ago. We had a debate here one evening, raised by my hon. and gallant Friend and colleague the Member for Central Aberdeen (Major M. Wood), on. the question of the resumption of small holdings, and we were very anxious that the process of resumption should be stopped by legislation, and from the other side the hon. and learned Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. F. C. Thomson), who was Solicitor-General for Scotland in the last Government, and who presumably spoke with authority, said, quite truly, that if you were to prevent resumption entirely, you would render many estates unsaleable. Therefore, he was rather of the opinion that in those circumstances the only fair thing would be for the State to acquire the small holdings and to become itself the landlord, and his views on that subject were very ably supported by the Noble Lady the Member for West Perthshire (Duchess of Atholl), so that apparently nationalisation is a good thing when it suits your own particular interest, and I am glad to welcome that as a concession to the Liberal point of view, which is that nationalisation is not to be opposed when it can be justified on the ground of the welfare of the State.
Duchess of ATHOLL
What I think said was that, as the State had given the smallholder security of tenure, the State should help the smallholder to purchase his holding at a fair valuation.
§ Mr. MARTIN
I accept the correction, but I am pretty certain that at all events the hon. and learned Member for South Aberdeen suggested that the State should acquire the holdings and should then either few them to the small landholders or help the small landholders to acquire them. At all events, the State was to become the landlord in the meantime. On the question of afforestation, I think State purchase will be necessary in some cases. In Scotland, at all events, 1356 if you will examine the record of the Forestry Commission, you will find that the amount of land which was intended to be purchased on the lines of the Acland Report has not, in fact, been reached. The Treasury, I understand, is not at all favourable to the purchase of estates by the Forestry Commission. On the other hand, in Scotland a very large number of landowners are not in a position to feu their estates, but if you are to hand the management of the estate for afforestation over to a public Department, then they are prepared to sell outright. So I hope that one of the things that the Government will consider in this matter is the giving of powers to the Forestry Commission—or, if they choose to set up a new Department, to whatever Department they entrust the work—to purchase the land, in Scotland, at all events, if there is no other way of getting it.
The important thing, of course, is to get the land planted. There is an idea abroad—and I rather thought the Prime Minister adhered to it the other day—that you can plant all the mountains of this country with trees. I do not know that he deliberately meant to convey that impression. I think he was probably rather carried away by his poetical language at the moment. But while that is so, while there is a large amount of land that cannot be planted with trees, there is a large amount, millions of acres, in this country which produce nothing now, but which could be turned into profitable woodland. I remember, a good many years ago, when this superstition that the mountains could be planted was in vogue, that a certain Scottish nobleman took a party of very strenuous advocates of afforestation over his estate, and I fancy that he managed to convince them that not even the most courageous tree of any description would grow on the top of some of the mountains there. But leaving that aside, there is still a very large amount of land that could be planted with trees. There are large tracts of land which at present carry a few sheep, only one sheep to the acre, which could certainly be turned into profitable woodland.
But I will leave the details to other speakers who know more about the subject than I do. What I want to base my case upon is the importance of afforestation as the necessary complement to the 1357 solution of the small landholders' question in Scotland and in England. The small holding in Scotland—and I know something about it, and I daresay the same is the case in England—in many cases is not a profitable proposition. It involves on the part of the small landholder very severe work, and the living that he gets out of it is very meagre indeed. There are, of course, specially favoured places, where the soil is good and the markets are readily available, where the small holding can be made into quite a profitable undertaking, but there are many other places, where the land is not so good, where the markets are out of reach, and where for other reasons the fact is that the small holding by itself is not attractive and is not profitable. The scheme which I venture to think the State ought to pursue generally in respect of afforestation, both by the encouragement of the private woodland and by the purchase or feuing of land on its own behalf, is to plant trees only in such parts as will grow nothing but trees, and wherever possible, where there is an arable patch of whatever size, to leave it as arable ground, whereon the small landholder can have his place erected. Providence has so arranged matters that the work of the woodland has to be done in the winter time, when the work on a farm is light. If you can provide this subsidiary occupation for the small landholder, you are going to make all the difference to him between a life of hard work and poverty and a life which offers the prospect of an adequate reward for his labour.
There are many reasons—military and others—why we should pursue this policy of afforestation, but, after all, the most important crop that the country districts produce is the people who are reared on the land. There was at one time, as I remember, an idea that if you pursued afforestation properly, you would be able to take the unemployed from the cities and plant them on the country in ideal sylvan conditions. I do not want to put the case nearly so high as that, because it is true, of course, that a great many of those who have, been brought out of the towns are unfitted for rural occupations, and, as we say in Scotland, they would probably not be able to make "saut to their kail" if put on the land. There is another very large section in the towns who have drifted in from the 1358 country, men who have been attracted into the towns for various reasons, who, if a decent living were offered to them in the country, would be very glad to go back after the glamour of the town had worn off. While I do not say that afforestation will provide work for the hundreds of thousands who are unemployed in the towns, I do think that, if properly managed, it might attract back to the country a large number of those who, for one reason or another, were foolish enough to leave the country for the town in their earlier years.
The small holdings problem has been studied very closely during the last few years, and particularly in the light of the settlement of ex-service men on the land. I am convinced—and many who know this problem much better than I are also convinced—that unless you do something in the way I am advocating of running afforestation and small farming together, you will not be able to make an economic success either of the ex-service man's small holding or any other small holding. The action and reaction of the two things are greater than might be expected at first sight. If you supply the smallholder with an occupation for his spare time in winter, you will also enable him more efficiently to work his holding. I believe on the Continent, for example, small landholders are able to equip their holdings comparatively better than our own people, because, for instance, they can afford to keep a horse, which they can hire to the State during the period of work in the forest, and then they have the use of the horse for the work of their own farm. In that way you very much increase not only the remuneration of the small landholder, but increase his sense of independence and security, which is a great matter.
There is one aspect of the resettlement question which I should like to bring before the House. I think the time has come when it might be advisable to grant to the Forestry Commission, or whichever body may be charged by the new Government with this duty, powers to erect forest holdings. They would be very small holdings, where there would be enough land, perhaps, for a man to keep a, cow and raise such vegetables as he required for his own house, but perhaps not enough to sell. His main occupation would be afforestation, but if you give a 1359 man a house and a small piece of land, you would really be introducing a new class of holder we have not got at this moment. A comparison between the raising of sheep and the raising of trees is very interesting. I believe Professor Somerville pointed this out. In certain districts one acre of land supports one sheep, and 1,000 acres of land support one shepherd, Properly dealt with in afforestation, and properly planted, 1,000 acres would support 10 men instead of one man, but if you imagine this scheme going on properly, and many thousands of acres being planted, you could increase the population on the soil not by 10 to one, but in a much greater ratio, because you would have all the subsidiary trades, the saddler, the blacksmith, the baker, and all the other people whose services would be required. So that as it went on, and forestry developed, you would have a very much larger population on the soil than can be proved by statistics, or problematical statistics on paper, before the work has been commenced.
With regard to the Forestry Commission itself, I have learnt during the past few days that a certain number of people are very critical of that Commission. I daresay that the experience of many hon. Members is the same as mine, that when you put down a Motion on the Paper you find that there are a large number of people throughout the country of whom you have never heard before, who are very anxious to put their services at your disposal, and to give you a free course of education by correspondence. I should like to mention two things that have come to my notice, and which might be dealt with by someone who knows in the course of the Debate. On the matter of forestry education, the criticism is made that the Forestry Commission is training people at three or four schools in the country, while there are skilled foresters unemployed. If that be so, I think it ought to be seen to, and while industries are in the state they are at present, we should be careful to employ all the skilled labour that exists before training more labour that we cannot absorb. I do not know what is the position with regard to the higher education of the scientific foresters, but I have had one complaint from a gentleman whose acquantance I had not made before, to the effect that he under- 1360 took scientific training because he thought forestry was to be a. very great thing in the immediate future, and he has been unable to obtain any kind of situation, although he possesses the necessary scholastic qualifications. That is a matter, I think, that might he looked into.
On the general question, I think there must he complete agreement that this is a matter that has been greatly neglected in the past, and the lesson of the War is that we must go on at once. The Forestry Commission, I believe, has in view the bringing of afforestation to such a pitch that in case of war we should have three years supply of standing timber in this country, and it is almost unnecessary, I think, to remind the House how vital is an adequate timber supply to a country in time of war, and of the extraordinary difficulty of bringing timber to this country during war, because timber is a very bulky article. If you put the case of food as represented by one sheep on the acre, against the number of trees that might be grown, you find that if all the afforestable land in Scotland were planted, and the necessary sheep abolished for the time being, you could, in time of war, repair the shortage of mutton by, I think, four or five shiploads coming in from abroad, whereas if you had growing timber on the land that you would otherwise have to import in war, 400 or 500 vessels would be required to bring it to this country. So that there is really no quarrel between the sheep and the tree, so far as the national interest is concerned. I am sorry to say the sheep has not a look in in a comparison of that sort. The woodland crop is vastly more important, and when it comes to the question of the afforestable portions of deer forests, of course, the case in favour of the tree is stronger than ever.
I remember, just before the War, a friend of mine who was very greatly interested in forestry, and was engaged in it as his daily work, brought to this country one of the most eminent authorities on forestry in Germany, and took him all over the Highlands of Scotland. The opinion of this eminent authority was that for the growth of certain kinds of useful timber this country had advantages over any of the Continental countries, where trees, in fact, were profitably grown at an altitude where the winds were higher and colder than in parts of this country. He 1361 was shocked at the amount of land that we had lying waste in this country. During the War, of course, we discovered an interest in the subject, and we got to know a great more about afforestation than ever we had known before. I do not think many of us before that realised how extremely valuable the woodlands were to this nation. Let me mention a case which, I think, will appeal to all of us, especially after the discussions that we have been having as to the cost of new roads, up-keep of the roads, the high cost of the new houses, and rent and rates, and so on. In one district in France, namely Bordeaux, where the woodlands are publicly owned, the revenue from the woodlands is sufficient to pay the. local rates—that is, the rates for education, for the upkeep of the roads, and so on.
Undoubtedly it will be a long time before we arrive at that state of affairs in this country. Already, however, the municipalities are doing a certain amount of afforestation. This is another direction in which encouragement should be given by the State. Some of the municipalitites do own land which is afforestable and which they require for the purposes of their water supply. They could plant these areas, and in some cases are doing something in that direction. They might be encouraged in this by the House of Commons. In course of time, if these municipalities go on, they may be in the happy position of the people of Bordeaux and be able to live minus rates for education, roads, and so on. It is for us to apply ourselves to the discussion of the practical details of a measure to effect what I have been advocating. I consider myself very fortunate in having this opportunity for bringing this matter before the House. As I have suggested, it is a matter in which we can all co-operate without doing any violence whatever to our own political predilections. As to how far and in what way the State should help in this matter. It would be possible to draw a very rosy picture of Scotland under such a regime; but I forebear. I do, however, think it is a matter on which we have lost a good deal of time already, and I do hope the Government will keep in its mind the fact that this is a thing which must be done, and at once!
1362 A long view is necessary. If you are to make provision for unemployment those in charge of the Forestry Department ought to know what you are prepared to do at the very beginning of the year. They should also have the necessary financial support. In that case they would be able to do a considerable amount of work during the winter season. It is no good doing the thing by fits and starts, or taking it up at short notice. It is a subject on which, as I say, we can all co-operate with the Government. I hope that as a result of this Debate, the Government will take its courage in both hands in this matter, because, although they have only been in a few months, this is one of the obvious directions in which there is a partial solution of the unemployment question and one which ought to have been taken in hand at the very outset. I am quite certain that if the Government will embark upon a courageous policy in regard to afforestation they will have the support of people, both inside and outside this House, who have the welfare of the country at heart.
§ Sir COURTENAY MANSEL
The words which fell from the Prime Minister on the subject of afforestation in last Thursday's Debate left no doubt in the minds of his hearers that the Government fully appreciate the importance of afforestation in connection with unemployment and resettlement. Of course it is the agricultural smallholders who will carry out the necessary work in afforestation schemes. The task of the permanent afforestation staff will merely be of a supervisory nature. That, of course, has always been so. The evidence given before the recent Royal Commission said:That there are no permanent forest workmen in Germany. Work in the German forests in the greater part of the country is done in winter, and they are the same men who cultivate the land—smallholders. In a great part of Germany and France the same men who do the work in the forests in the winter work in the fields in the summer.Our condition in regard to afforestation at the present time is really a disgrace to a great country. We have per head of the population less forest land than any country in Europe. We are more denuded of forests than any country in Europe, with the exception of Denmark and Greece. We obtain 95 per Gent of our supplies of timber from abroad. We pay £100,000,000 per year for foreign 1363 timber. Other countries do not enjoy the benefit of our mild, insular climate, and consequently their climates produce most serious consequences. They have devastating floods in the wet season, and droughts in the dry season. We are saved from that by the good fortune of our insular position. But bad as our position is, however, there are some compensations. We have got our feet in the right path, and I think our feet have been in the right path ever since the Royal Commission was constituted.
Afforestation is no longer the waif and stray, the neglected Cinderella of the other Ministries. It has now in charge of its interests men who are certainly experts, and who view the whole problem with knowledge and sympathy. I hope, however, they will not fail to urge upon the Government the necessity of a proper survey of the land for afforestation before the work is undertaken. I am afraid from an answer to a question on the subject of an ecological survey, that that point is not sufficiently appreciated. I am sure it is an essential preliminary to any scheme of afforestation. I desire on this very important subject to address myself to one point in particular, and that is the financial aspect on which afforestation is undertaken. I am far from thinking that the financial side is the most important aspect of afforestation. Important as it undoubtedly is, I should consider even more important the safeguarding of our supplies of timber. Important in time of peace this is possibly vital in time of war. I should consider even more important the re-settlement of our rural areas. I should consider even more important still the proper, full and economic use of the land.
I should not urge that purely financial reasons should be allowed to over-ride agricultural reasons in the administration of an afforestation scheme. For example, I do not think shorter rotations should be adopted in accordance with the theory of indicating percentages, because the rate of interest has gone up, and I think the species of trees should be carefully selected in accordance with the sylvicultural capacities of the land to be afforested, and not on estimates of the state of the timber market at the end of a rotation. Many hon. Members of this House are also business men, and I think some good reasons can be put forward 1364 showing the real value of capital invested in afforestation. I hope hon. Members will look at this problem with a long vision of the kind which was shown when we bought the Suez Canal shares. I hope they will be able to look upon a great afforestation scheme as an economically sound sinking fund for a portion of the great National Debt that is weighing our country down.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) rather astonished the public by stating that he paid his election expenses out of capital. From the point of view of forestry, the whole world is living upon its capital, and it is existing in a thoroughly spendthrift manner. A work on the forestry resources of the world, recently published under the authority of the United States Forestry Department, estimated the world's income in timber at 38,000,000 cubic feet and the expenditure at 56,000,000 cubic feet. What is the natural result of this spendthrift kind of policy? It is that the world's position is materially affected, and the prices of timber as the supply goes down are gradually rising. They call in evidence the testimony of Mr. Alexander Howard, who saysWithin my own experience I have known the rapid change from the extravagance of wealth to the leanness of poverty, which is shown by a comparison between the imports of timber from the Baltic 40 years ago and those received to-day. At that time it was possible to produce 75 per cent. of 9-inch and 11-inch and the remainder only in smaller sizes, whereas to-day it is hard to get 25 per cent. of 9-inch, hardly any 11-inch at all, and the remainder in smaller sizes, since the trees are not large enough to yield any bigger average. Gone also are those supplies of beautiful walnut, yellow pine, white oak and poplar which came to us so abundantly from North America.Perhaps it will be said that although the resources of foreign countries which supply us with timber are diminishing, yet the British Empire possesses inexhaustible stores of timber. Let us take the case of Canada because that is undoubtedly one of the countries of the world that is rich in timber resources. The United States at the present moment is taking 72.6 per cent. of Canada's exports and we take 24.2 per cent and the other countries of the world 3 per cent. The consumption of timber by the United States is extraordinarily large. They 1365 use not only more wood than any other country in the world, but more than three-quarters of the whole world's consumption. They are beginning to feel the pinch and they are getting alive to the danger of the situation. Their experts have reported upon the growing scarcity and mounting price of timber in the United States, and they say:It is obvious that the present situation cannot continue indefinitely with consumption so much in excess of growth, and no provision whatever for subsequent timber crops on the greater part of the cut-over lands. More adequate measures must be adopted to increase the amount of growing timber, the rate of consumption must be cut down to a small fraction of the present rate, or the United States will have to import enormous quantities of wood. It is probable that all three thing will happen in some degree. The surplus of exports over imports has been steadily dwindling for several years, and is likely to give way to a surplus of imports within a very short period. Imports of soft woods will come from Canada while hardwoods in ever-increasing quantity will be brought from tropical America, Africa and Asia.9.0 P.M.
We are told by the United States authorities that our supplies of timber from Canada will be cut off and the United States will require all those great quantities of timber produced in British Columbia. I will now take the casse of Australia. You have there only the coastal areas with timber resources. She was never rich in soft woods, and they are now exhausted, although she still possesses very valuable hardwoods. In New Zealand, with only a population of 1,200,000 people, we find a very good example set to this country. I believe the rate of planting, under the present scheme on which our Forestry Commissioners are operating, is about 15,000 acres per annum, or 150,000 acres in 10 years. New Zealand plants 14,000 acres, and her resources are very great as compared with ours, and yet she is proposing a scheme of afforestation almost as great as our own at the present time, and she has realised, at any rate, the growing famine of timber that is threatening the world, and though they estimate that they have a stock of timber for 30 more years in their country, they have recently imposed legal checks on the export of timber, and it is now impossible to export timber from New Zealand without a licence from the Government. I do not think it is an exorbitant demand to ask the Government of this country to 1366 show as much prudence, determination, and foresight in defence of our interests and in adding to the assets of this country as the Government of New Zealand have done in defence of the interests of that country.
§ Colonel COURTHOPE
I wish in the first place to congratulate the hon. Member who moved this Motion upon the admirable way in which he did so. Both the Mover and Seconder have advocated their proposal from two quite distinct and both quite admirable points of view with which I think we can all agree. He took the position of the smallholder as his main reason for advocating afforestation; and the Seconder of the Motion took a rather wider aspect, namely, that of finance. I want, if I may, to take a rather wider aspect still, and to ask the House to look at this question from the point of view of the urgent necessities of this country during the next, we will say, 50 years, rather than from the point of view of the smallholder or any other local point of view, though I entirely endorse what has been said upon those points. One of the best of the official publications which we have had in this country on the subject of afforestation is that which bears the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Acland), and is commonly known, not only in this country, but by foresters throughout the world, as the Acland Report. It is an exceedingly valuable document, and it is upon that Report and its recommendations that the present—perhaps I should not say policy so much as authorisation—of the present Forestry Commission was founded.
I only want to say two things about that Report, and I think it is important that the House should realise them. One is that, at the time that Report was drawn up, we were in the comparatively early stages of the War, and that, since that Report was drawn up, the best of our timber in this country was felled for war purposes. We had, at the time that the Acland Report was printed, nominally some 3,000,000 acres of woodland in this country. I say "nominally" with deliberation, because we all know that that figure includes very considerable areas which, although they might be woodlands in one sense, were not commercial woodlands at all; and we all know that, speaking in quite round 1367 figures—I am not going into statistics—one-third of that total, or about 1,000,000 acres, and the best 1,000,000 acres in the country, was more or less stripped for supply the needs of the nation during the War. I want, therefore, to make this point, that, if when the Acland Report was published there was urgent need for a certain minimum policy of planting in this country, the need when the Armistice was signed was many times greater. I do not think that that will be disputed by anyone.
The Acland Report was based upon the assumed need of independence of imported supplies of commercial timbers during three years of war. We all hope, though none of us are prepared to assume, that we have not to face three years of war in the immediate future, and for the purpose of my argument to-night I am going to the other extreme, and am going to say, let us ignore the possibility of war, and consider what the future has in sight for us if we have 40, 50, or 60 years of peace. Last year there was held in Canada the Second Imperial Forestry Conference, the first having been held in 1920 in London, shortly after the conclusion of the War. I can recommend any hon. Member who is interested in forestry, and who has not already studied it, to read with care the Report of that Second Imperial Forestry Conference, held in Canada last year, and in particular those parts of it which deal with the world's supply of commercial soft woods. The hon. Member who seconded this Motion said with perfect truth that what we are concerned with are soft woods. I am not going to argue to-night with reference to the tropical hardwoods of the world. There are great quantities of them, at present we hardly know what; but. I cannot fancy the Minister of Health being so encouraging and optimistic about his housing schemes if the building operatives of the country were compelled within the next 20 years to use, not the commercial soft woods to which they are accustomed, but tropical hardwoods for the structural timbers of houses. Therefore, I am going to rule tropical hazdwoods out of my argument for the moment, and to consider commercial soft woods only. If one studies the Report of the Forestry Conference, one finds some very 1368 alarming figures—figures put forward by men whose right to speak on those subjects cannot be disputed—about the exhaustion of the commercial soft woods of the world.
§ Colonel COURTHOPE
I am making this point, and I think that you, Sir, will correct me if I am wrong.
§ Mr. STURROCK
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me, may I put it that we are not discussing the particular qualities or kinds of wood, but the whole question of afforestation?
§ Colonel COURTHOPE
If the hon. Member had exercised a little patience and self-control he would have realized—
§ Colonel COURTHOPE
I do not think I ever take up the time of the House unduly My point is, and if you, Sir, will allow me, I am going to make it, that the exhaustion of the timber supplies of the world is very rapid indeed, and, because it is so much more rapid than this House in the least realises, the hon. Member's interruption proves that he is entirely ignorant of it. It is so mach more rapid than the House realises, that the importance of this Motion is even greater than is represented by the urgent need of establishing smallholders in this country. I think that that is a reasonable point to take. If hon. Members will study the Reports of this Conference as to the rate of exhaustion of commercial soft woods, they will find that in the whole of North America the present rate of exhaustion of commercial soft woods will completely wipe out the virgin forests of Canada and North America within 25 years. I do not say that there is nothing coming on, but there is nothing to take the place of the virgin forests, and there will be a great hiatus in point of time between the exhaustion of the virgin forests, if the present rate of consumption goes on, and the maturity of the young forests which are coming on to take their place.
But we have soft woods in other parts of the world than North America. Let us look at Europe. There are only three countries in the whole of Europe where the rate of exhaustion of commercial soft 1369 woods does not greatly exceed the annual increment of the forests. Those three countries are Sweden, which is an important one, Finland, which is fairly important, and Montenegro. I do not think we need bother much about Montenegro, but it is a fact that in every other country in Europe the exhaustion of commercial soft woods far exceeds the annual increment, that is to say, the growth of the forests. Taking the whole of the soft-wood forests of Europe together, on the best estimates that the best experts in those countries can make, it will take seventy years, at the present rate, to wipe out the commercial soft woods of Europe. What have we left? We have already heard with truth that there are no soft woods to talk about in Australia. There are soft woods in Asia, but not in parts of Asia which are accessible, and in fact I think I am not overstating the case when I say that outside Europe and North America the supply of commercial soft wood is so negligible as compared with the demand that we could ignore it altogether.
What is the outlook? What does this mean for this country? We are great importers of commercial soft-wood timber. It is probably of greater importance to us that the world supply should be maintained than it is to any other country in the world and we shall be the first to feel the pinch when the shortage becomes acutely felt, as it must within a very few years. Country after country that we have been accustomed to look to for our supplies will be restricting their exports. The United States of America are doing it now. Not only are they sitting rather tight on their supplies, but they are importing a very large proportion of Canada's output and they are already beginning to compete with us in the Scandinavian market for commercial soft-wood timbers. I think we may practically rule North America out of the picture as far as our supplies in future are concerned. I do not mean to say that we shall not get a certain amount of expensive timbers from them, but for ordinary soft-wood commercial timbers we can rule North America out in a very few years time. I do not know where we are going to look for our supplies unless we succeed in finding some method of handling tropical hardwood or some products of the tropical forests, which admittedly are vast, to enable them to 1370 take commercially the place of some of the soft-woods which are used to-day. I do not fancy our people taking kindly to the handling and utilisation of tropical timber in place of the soft-woods they have at present. I hope I have not wearied the House by taking this rather wide aspect of the subject. I know I have annoyed one hon. Member, but that I cannot help. I hope the House will feel that it is of importance that the danger that faces the. world, and this country in particular, in respect of this very important essential of life should be brought to their notice. I feel myself that this danger is the strongest possible argument that can be advanced in favour of the Motion, which I am very pleased indeed to support.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
In supporting the Resolution I think, so far as the Debate has gone, we should be right in concluding that it will go through the House unanimously. I sincerely trust, if that does happen, that the Government will, as speedily as possible, give effect to the desire of the House, for two reasons. The question of re-afforestation dovetails into the problem of unemployment. We are on all sides of the House anxious to do something practical—at least, I presume that is correct—for dealing with the unemployed problem, and by re-afforestation we shall be doing something very effective in dealing with the problem, some of the hardships of which must be mitigated as speedily as possible. Therefore I trust that if the Resolution goes through unanimously, as I believe it will, the Government will do everything possible to help the Forestry Commissioners. I am very interested in this question, because I represent a constituency in which hundreds of acres of land have been denuded of trees during the period of the War. I have had a very favourable reply to a question I put to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tiverton as to his anxiety to help us in all directions possible to get that land which was denuded of trees once more re-treed. I hope the Government are going to help me, at least, as one of their supporters to provide for those who are unemployed the work which can be provided in connection with re-afforestation in that part of Scotland. No one suggests, on this side of the House, that the whole of the mountains of Scotland are available for re- 1371 afforestation, but a Royal Commission sat in 1909 dealing with coast erosion and re-afforestation. It is reported that there were 9,000,000 acres of land available for re-afforestation in Great Britain of which approximately 5,000,000 acres were in Scotland. The Commission suggested the re-afforestation of 150,000 acres per annum. Under the Coalition Government we had reached a stage when they were doing their best to re-tree 10,000 acres per annum, but in the sacred name of economy expenditure in that direction was cut down, with the result that we reached a point when we were only dealing with approximately 5,000 acres per annum.
We had the promise of the Prime Minister in dealing with unemployment quite recently that the desire of the Labour Government is to go in for afforestation to the extent of 30,000 acres per annum. The Afforestation Committee pointed out, as the result of the evidence they heard, that 150,000 acres per annum would provide work for 18,000 men annually, and that 18,000 men would also be occupied in incidental and subsidiary occupations and that there would be provided permanent employment for one man for every 100 acres which came under the scheme, rising to 90,000 men when the scheme was completed. Every 100 acres will provide work for 12 men, and if we really went in for a scheme of re-afforestation of 1,000,000 acres, it would provide permanent employment for 120,000 men directly. The indirect result would be that there would be subsidiary occupation for another 120,000 men, which means that by a really long-sighted scheme dealing with re-afforestation we should be able to provide employment permanently for 240,000 men. It will be quite a paying speculation. This is one thing in which we may go in for a scheme of nationalisation without interfering with the sacred ideals of hon. Members opposite who are so anxious to defend private enterprise. To go in for reafforestation means that you have to expend capital, and it may be 80 years before you get a return. As most of those who believe in capital want an immediate return, and as most of them will be dead in 80 years, this is a scheme which would greatly benefit our children and our childrens' children. Therefore, I suggest 1372 this is a scheme which lends itself to nationalisation.
There was a report issued recently, and copied in the "Glasgow Herald," dealing with sylviculture in Germany, and in the evidence given before the Royal Commission we find that in 1908 no less than 74,662 were engaged in the State forests in Germany. In the evidence before the Royal Commission in connection with afforestation it was found that the forests of Germany provided employment for 1,000,000 men. That meant that men were engaged in producing something. Surely if we could apply the same principle here, it would be better than paying millions for men doing nothing. If a scheme of afforestation was necessary in 1909, it is more necessary now. If there were 9,000,000 acres available for afforestation in 1909, surely more acres are available now because of the acres that were denuded of trees because of our necessity during the War. In the county which I represent, not an acre of land is owned by a Labour individual. Very few acres are owned by Liberals. Most of the acres are owned by Tories, and if the Conservatives are anxious to prove their real sympathy with the unemployed, as they made us believe during the Debate on unemployment, then if those who own land privately refuse to place it at the disposal of the State and to allow us to get on with afforestation, it is up to the Government to take that land in the interests of re-afforestation in that county.
Duchess of ATHOLL
The question of afforestation is not exactly a woman's question, but as I come from a part of the world where a great deal of afforestation has been done over a good many years—for the past 100 years there has been a great deal of afforestation in that area—and as I have had occasion to see what afforestation can do for unemployment, particularly in regard to employing unskilled workers, I should like to say I very heartily support this Motion for several reasons:—from the point of view of increasing a very valuable and necessary asset to the country; from the point of view of giving the smallholder subsidiary employment which is so necessary if he is to make a fair living; and for the very urgent reason of providing employment for our unemployed workers.
1373 When one begins to consider what land should be afforested, there are certain difficulties one meets in the way. I think I may claim to have acquired for some years past the habit of never passing what appears to be a waste or un developed piece of land without wondering whether trees could be grown there, and I very often find, when I pass on that idea, that that land is already being occupied for sheep grazing, and that brings one to one of the real difficulties in the way, that a great deal of the most suitable land for afforestation is providing very good summer grazing for sheep. Although there may be people who would gladly see such land afforested, sometimes the sheep farmer does not quite see it from the same point of view. That is one difficulty. I think the solution is that where lower sheep grazing has been taken for small holdings, every effort should be made to secure the higher adjoining land for afforestation in the interest of the smallholders, but sometimes it is not easy to do at once everything one feels desirable. I also agree that the lower slopes of deer forests could be afforested. It has been rather a comfort to me to hear from hon. Members opposite that they recognise that certain parts of deer forests could not be suitable for that purpose. Personally, I have only too vivid a picture in my mind of trees some 50 years old grown at an altitude of 1,200 feet which do not come much above my waist. That is perhaps not very encouraging to people who wish to afforest above 1,000 feet. It is generally recognised that afforestation is not economic above that level. Another difficulty is the question of the soil. So much of our waste land in Scotland is peat, and you cannot grow trees on peat soil. I understand that the Forestry Commission are making experiments in this respect. If they can succeed in discovering any way out of that difficulty, it will be of great advantage to Scotland. That is one of the very real difficulties which stand in the way and which we must not forget.
Of course also from the point of view of the private owner who wishes to carry out afforestation, there is the question of expense. The expense has risen considerably since the War, and it is a very difficult matter for many landowners to do as much planting as they would wish to do to replace the trees cut down during 1374 the War. They have necessarily had to face very much increased taxation. There has been an abnormal rise in the rates in many rural parts of Scotland, and the expense of planting, which now is about £12 an acre, is more than many landowners can afford, especially when they have to remember, as the hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Westwood) reminded the House, that the planter may have to wait 80 years for his return. There is also the question of Death Duties having to he paid on the timber when it is cut, and that is very apt to wipe out any profit of say 3 per cent that otherwise might be made on the timber. I should like to suggest to hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench that one way in which to help to encourage afforestation by private individuals would be if the land on which the timber is grown and the timber itself could be exempted from Death Duties. That would undoubtedly give a stimulus to afforestation through private initiative. Private afforesters may not be able to bring to bear on this subject all the scientific knowledge that the Forestry Commission no doubt can bring to bear on it Still there are many admirable men with practical knowledge as foresters, admirable foremen, and head foresters up and down Scotland, whose knowledge in this respect is of very great value to the State, and who are worthy of all encouragement.
Another great difficulty which stands in the way of afforestation by private individuals is the question of railway rates. It is, unfortunately, too true that it often costs less to import timber into the country than to transport it to our coalfields. It is a very serious handicap to the private individual who wishes to afforest. I feel that if private owners could he given any help such as I have suggested, by way of exemption from Death Duties, it would he a very great help and stimulus and, after all, we want to get trees planted in any way we can. I am sure we recognise that this question is much too important to he treated only on theoretical grounds, and I am only too glad to know that the hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles did not treat it in that sort of spirit. He seemed to welcome trees from whatever source they might come. That is my own view also. I am too anxious to see afforestation to mind whether it comes through 1375 private owners or the Forestry Commission. I want to see the trees planted. I should also like to support the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, (Mr. F. Martin), in regard to the question of continuity in this matter. Anyone who plants must necessarily take a long view, and for that reason I think that if an owner shows public spirit in planting, obviously it is essential for the State to have a clearly defined and continuous policy. The hon. Member opposite was rather inclined to suggest that there might be a sudden expansion of afforestation. I would like to submit that the expansion should not be too sudden or too violent. If you expand too suddenly you have no trees to plant, nor skilled foremen to superintend operations, and if you suddenly draw in your horns, then you are left with a whole lot of trees unplanted and with a loss of time and money spent on clearing the ground. Therefore I say this matter is one which requires very careful thought and continuity of policy. It is a matter of great importance to the country that not only should we repair the great loss in timber which had to be cut down during the War, but also that we should prepare for a possible famine in America and other parts. We also desire to provide the utmost possible employment—and healthy employment at that—for those who are unemployed, and for these reasons I hope the Government will do all they can to encourage afforestation by private individuals as well as to develop the work of the Forestry Commission.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
I would like to draw special attention to one aspect of the policy especially referred to in the Resolution, and that is the manner in which the settlement of smallholders may be facilitated in connection with afforestation schemes. The House is no doubt acquainted with the admirable Report, of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Acland) on this subject, a Report which dealt in special terms with the policy of land settlement and held out rosy prospects in the future for facilitating the creation of small holdings. I would like to quote these words from that Report:Forestry opens a new vista for the small holdings policy. It makes the creation of 1376 small holdings not only possible, but necessary in districts where the cost would otherwise be prohibitive.I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Report anticipated developing the policy of small holdings in such a way as would eventually settle on the soil a very large number of people. The figures given in the Report represented something like 120,000 persons, and, as one of my hon. Friends has just pointed out, a very much larger number might easily be settled under a well-thought-out scheme. The Committee also reported that they wereof opinion that the increase of population under such healthy conditions and with continuity of steady employment would in itself be a national asset of no mean value.I am sure the sentiment will be shared in all parts of the House. I was one of those who, when the Afforestry Commission was appointed, felt rather jealous that the forestry interests in Scotland were to be handed over to a Commission which was to deal with the whole United Kingdom. I felt that we in Scotland had a special interest in this matter and were entitled to have a special say in regard to the reafforestation of our country. Some of my doubts have not yet been altogether removed. Whether it was a wise thing to take from the Scottish Board of Agriculture the powers which it at that time possessed in regard to afforestation was I thought doubtful, in case it might be more difficult for the two bodies to carry out a joint policy of land settlement. I hope my right hon. Friend will be in position to reassure us on that point. I would like especially to urge that there should be an effort to develop the original policy of increasing the resident population in rural districts. That should be the permanent policy. There are difficulties with regard to employment for, although a large number of men and boys are employed during certain seasonal periods, the employment given is not of a permanent nature, and we have not seen these holdings rising up which we had hoped to have secured in various parts of the country.
May I ask my right hon. Friend how it is that although such a large area of land has been acquired in recent years, and there must be a very considerable quantity which is unplantable and which is still fitted for forming small holdings, the Commissioners have not found it 1377 possible to use a portion of that land for small holdings. I drew attention last year to that matter and put a. question or two with regard to the actual number of individuals who had been settled on the land under afforestation schemes. I was told in reply that no holdings had been settled by the Board of Agriculture on lands absolutely acquired by the Afforestation Commission, but that on joint schemes of land settlement and afforestation entry had already been given to 40 new holdings and 11 enlargements up to the 3rd July, 1923. That seems to me a very small number for the period In another question which I put as to the number of dwelling houses erected by the Forestry Commission for occupation by their employés I was informed that only 20 had been erected and that the number of employés now settled with houses was only 50. That, too, seems to be a very small proportion of the number of men to be permanently settled in connection with these afforestry schemes. I would urge that it might be possible by some co-operation between the Board of Agriculture for Scotland and the Forestry Commission to enable schemes for the settlement of small land holders to be brought into operation in the various districts where afforestry operations are being conducted.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to give us an undertaking that more regard will be paid to the permanent settlement upon the soil of men who have been trained in forestry, and who are fit to take up permanent work as forestry officers, also that, at the same time, the smallholders, many of whom are anxiously awaiting settlement may be encouraged to settle in forestry districts, and that communal settlements may be established, with great advantage to the forestry schemes in regard to the supply of labour. May I also appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in connection with the work that the Commission is doing, that the educational facilities should not be starved I notice from the last report that there has been a reduction in the number of apprentices at the forestry schools. Only 45 received training during last year, and one school has been closed. I hope that does not mean that there is less effort being put forth in the direction of training apprentices for forestry work.
1378 Finally, I would ask that we in Scotland, having a well-equipped forestry school of our own, and well-equipped university courses, should not be prevented by any action of the Forestry Commission from having our graduates getting their post-graduate forestry course in Scotland which will fit them for appointments abroad. I understand that the Forestry Commission have made it clear that the post-graduate course at Oxford is to be regarded as the finishing course which is to equip applicants for appointments abroad, and that the postgraduate course in Scotland is not regarded as adequate. I hope that graduates from Scotland will not have to go away from the country, but that they will be able to get their training through our own admirable forestry courses, which will equip them for appointments all over the world.
§ Mr. REMER
I should like to join in the chorus of opinion demanding that there shall be the fullest co-operation of all political parties upon this subject, in order to find whether we can have a continuity of policy and an understanding which will avoid the possibility of rash expansion or rash cutting down of our forestry policy. I approach this question as one engaged in the industry. I have heard several hon. Members refer, as is done in the Resolution, to the suggestion that this industry can be placed upon an economic basis. I have heard hon. Members say that the growing of timber is profitable, and they have spoken of the woodlands of Bordeaux and Germany, where large profits have been made out of the growing of trees. It is just as well that we should examine why it is that afforestation is not profitable, as a general rule, in this country, while in other countries abroad it is profitable. The Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) has mentioned the very important question of railway rates. On round timber the rates are just about double the rates on sawn timber. If you import timber in a sawn condition from abroad, the railway rates are just half what they are on round timber. That is an important point, which should be brought to the notice of the House and of the railway companies, so that the matter may be rectified.
A further difficulty in regard to round timber is that of the loading facilities on 1379 the railways. The loading of timber at railway stations is most primitive in this country. For example, you may have trees in Carnarvonshire which you want to take to a country station in that county. The railway company will send a travelling crane from Chester, leaving at 8 o'clock in the morning, and after having been shunted at various places in order to allow expresses to pass, it may arrive at about half-past eleven, and at 2.30 it leaves, and you never see that train again for six weeks. The result is that the timber is on the station, depreciating, and interest on the money represented is running on, so that it is utterly impossible for the owner of the trees to get the full value out of them which they should secure.
There is also the question of the extraordinary traffic on the roads. The Noble Lady has referred to the question of Death Duties being paid on standing timber, which is a very important point. This standing timber also pays rates. Surely after having grown the trees, the grower should be allowed to bring them along the roads, having paid rates on the trees, without having the local council or county council coming upon him to pay damages for the extraordinary traffic which is caused through the haulage of the trees over the roads. There are many other ways, besides the removal of the disabilities to which I have referred, by which we could secure a profitable growing of trees in this country, and a greater acreage of trees under cultivation. We must remember that the natural resources of this country. are not such as would allow trees to be dealt with as cheaply as in other countries. We have not the great rivers in this country down which we can float the timber, as they do for many hundreds of miles in Canada, the United States of America, Riga, Latvia, and other great timber countries. In those countries, trees are floated down the rivers for two or three hundred miles.
I approach this question as a national question, and I hope that all parties will be got together and adopt a national scheme. Though I am in opposition to nationalisation in principle, I realise that the great thing is to grow the trees, and am not very much concerned whether they are grown by the Forestry Commission or by private enterprise. If we can 1380 approach this matter from the national standpoint and try to find a means by which the national emergency of which we have heard can be averted, it will be all to the good. As a practical man, however, I do not place much reliance on what professors say as to the future position of our timber supplies in this country or in other countries. Twenty years ago I was told that in ten years there would be no more ash trees in the whole of the United Kingdom, but in the greatest demand that this country ever had for ash, during the War, for aeroplane purposes, we were able to meet the demands. Today we are cutting down English ash trees to a very considerable extent. I hope this Resolution will be passed and that we shall approach the matter from the national standpoint, and that all parties will combine to bring about the growing of trees.
§ Mr. G. BARKER
It gives me great pleasure to support the Motion. I come from one of the most beautiful counties in England—the Country of Monmouthshire, a county which, during the War, was denuded of much of its beauty by the remorseless removal of trees. There is a great deal of unemployment in this county and it would be an excellent means of reducing the number of unemployed if the Government would replant these vacant sites, and add to their beauty and utility. I am gratified to know that something is being done in this direction, but I hope that the Government will increase the number of men whom they have engaged in this pursuit. There is another point. The Motion refers to remunerative employment, but does not say anything about the wages. This is a Government business, and we expect the Government to set an example to private employers in paying, at any rate, a living wage to those whom they employ. It is a disgrace that a rich country like ours should employ men and not give them a reasonable living wage. This matter has been brought before the House by myself on previous occasions. In the County of Monmouthshire 16 men are employed by the guardians on afforestation work at 35s. a week. There is no man who to-day can keep a house over his head and pay his way on such a wretched pittance as that It is not a credit to this Government or any other Government to pay such wages. There 1381 are two men employed at 37s., and there are two who are only getting 24s. 6d. I hope that, after this Debate, this disgrace will be removed and that these men will be paid, at any rate, a reasonable living wage. My reason for interposing in the debate was to call attention to two points, namely wages and unemployment, especially in the Blaina and Abertillery districts where there are unemployed over 1,000 men who could very well be employed on afforestation. I hope the Government will see that these men are employed, and that they are paid a wage that will enable them to maintain their families in decency.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Colonel Sir CHARLES YATE
The discussion to-night has been mostly about Scotland, and I would like to say one or two words for England, but before I do so I would like to express agreement with what the Noble Lady the Member for West Perth (Duchess of Atholl) said regarding the peat lands of Scotland. On the moors and peat lands in the North of Scotland we find the roots of ancient trees showing that at one time they were under forest. Wherever you cut peat you find the roots of trees. We hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Arland), and the hon. Member for Monmouthshire (Mr. Forestier-Walker), as representing the Forestry Commission, backed up by the Minister of Agriculture will find out some means of planting the peat lands in the North of Scotland. If trees were once there I see no reason why they should not be grown again. So I hope that attention will be given to this matter. With regard to forestry education, I have been during my life associated with forestry in India, and I hope that we shall have as good a Forestry Department in this country as has been created in India. I can remember that when I first entered the service all our Indian forestry officials had to go to places in France and Germany to be taught what forestry was. In India we have long since made ourselves independent in this matter, and we have as good a school of forestry as there is in the whole world, and good scientific men as forestry officers. I was sorry to hear one hon. Member state that the forestry trained man could not get employ- 1382 ment in this country. I hope that that is not the case. I hope that the training given will result in employment being found. Encouragement must be given to private individuals to afforest their land, and for that reason I support the suggestion made by the Noble Lady the Member for West Perth with regard to encouraging private individuals to plant by the abolition of the Death Duties on timber. Something must be done to induce people to plant in this country. In India we have got many kinds of woods which have been hitherto unknown in this country. At the Wembley Exhibition there is a magnificent collection of woods grown in India, and I hope that the supplies from that country will continue to increase.
On the subject of forest lands in England I would ask the Forestry Commission and the right hon. Member for Tiverton and the Minister of Agriculture to look at the report of the Midland Afforestation Association which was held in Birmingham the other day. The Earl of Dartmouth is the President. The report stated that the three principal objects were to show that their design of growing timber on pit mounds was both reasonable and practicable, to set up local committees wherever there was work to be done and to plant and keep on planting. I would ask that consideration should be given to this report to see what can be done to help to carry on the work. I do not know what the Forestry Commission has done. When we think of the enormous number of pit mounds which are in the country at present, and are not only derelict but an eyesore, and realise that the land could be acquired at a nominal price we should agree that that land ought to be made use of for this purpose. I know one firm which planted sixty acres of pit mound the other day as an economic proposition on their own account, and I remember during the War hearing of one proprietor who supplied his pits with pit wood during the whole War almost entirely from the pit mounds that he had planted years before. These pit mounds are giving no return whatever at present. Surely the Forestry Commission and the Minister of Agriculture working together can manage to take over these old disused pit mounds and plant them. 1383 Another thing which I would like to bring to the notice of the Minister is the necessity of the Forestry Commission doing something to increase the supply of food in the country. I would like them to take in hand the planting of apple trees. There is no finer food for men and animals than apples, and I want to see apples grown all over the country and made so cheap that poor people, instead of having to pay 3d. or 6d. per lb. for apples, will be able to get them at almost a nominal price. Year after year since I have been in this House I have been urging Ministers to try to come to soma arrangement with the railway companies to plant apples on all the waste lands lying along their lines. There are great stretches of land along the railway lines yielding nothing whatever. This is all enclosed land, and it will be an economic proposition to giant these waste lands which would ensure a large supply of apples all over the country and facilitate the distribution which is now almost prohibitive owing to the high railway rates.
§ Sir C. YATE
Quite right. This land might be used in that way and we could get fruit much cheaper than we can get it now. Municipal and other local authorities should be urged to do what is done in France, namely, to plant the roads with avenues of apple trees. In France you see the apple trees growing all along the roadside. Will the Minister take that into consideration? New arterial roads are now being made. Cannot they be planted with something that will give some return? [HON. MEMBERS: "The boys would steal the apples!"] For Heaven's sake let the boys steal them it would be jolly good food for them! We want to increase the supply of food in this country. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will ask the local authorities who may wish to move in this matter to send representatives over to France to look at the roads there. If, after Whitsuntide, I put a question to him on the subject, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give me a satisfactory reply on both the points that I have raised.
§ Mr. HUDSON
I would like to join in this Debate, not as a Scotsman, but as an Englishman. In the last important Report that we have had on the subject, there is evidence that in England, as well as in Scotland, there is abundance of opportunity for the production of timber. I think that the figures were 5,000,000 acres available in Scotland and 4,000,000 acres available in England. What is wanted is bigger faith, a more scientific and determined approach towards a solution of this problem. The last speaker reminded us that in many parts of Scotland, in the peat lands, there are evidences of timber having been produced in the past to a considerable extent. I have seen peat lands in England which could be used for the same purpose. I refer to the moss land of the Manchester district. The famous Chat Moss actually produces timber at the present time. If there were a determined, scientific approach to the subject, backed by concentrated effort—not by the spasmodic effort of a landlord who tries now and gives it up, and another landlord who tries again later—I am certain that the peat land throughout the country could be made extremely productive of timber. All through the North of England centuries ago there were extensive forest lands. Many of the local names still remind us of that fact. There were the Rossendale Forests in Lancashire, where you can see hardly a tree now, and the Pendle Forest that surrounded the Pendle Hill. You can find the same traces in Yorkshire. It is a remarkable fact that as you travel up the dales of Yorkshire you can find trees growing far up the hillsides at a point higher than that mentioned by the Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl), that is to say, above the 1,200-foot line. Above that height timber is now successfully grown there.
The same problem is seen in South Wales. An hon. Member has referred to Monmouthshire. We might go further West in South Wales. There is all that wonderful valley, the Neath Valley, the valley above Swansea, which comparatively recently produced timber to a large extent. Much of it was cut down during the War. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the whole of those valleys, or the upper ends of them, could he set aside for the production of timber, if we eared to organise the business on a 1385 large scale. This matter is important, not only because of the employment that it would provide immediately, but because, if the thing were organised effectively, we would ultimately get all sorts of openings for rural industries. I am not sure whether the million people who at one time were employed in Germany in connection with the production of timber were actually engaged in direct afforestation processes. I suspect that many of them would have to be included among the manufacturers of toys, the wood carvers, and those engaged in other industries closely associated. Such a development would be equally likely here. It is not a matter that becomes immediately important, but, taking into account the trouble of regularising employment in the future, it is extremely important for this Government or any Government to try to make an arrangement whereby timber could be produced on a much greater scale than the present.
Another factor particularly interested me in this Debate. It was referred to very lightly by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer), who said he did not care very much whether it was the Forestry Commission or private enterprise that enabled us to reach a solution of this problem. From the Labour Benches we heartily congratulate the hon. Member, who is not usually found expressing any sort of sympathy for communal activity in this or any other matter. The trouble at the moment is that private capital, as has been said, is not prepared to wait for the long period which must pass before a profitable return can come. Private capital tends to leave to the State those industries which can yield a return only after long patience and the passing of many years. If it is good for the State to step in in cases of that sort, I expect that before we have done with this matter and followed the argument to its logical conclusion, we shall find that we are making out an infinitely stronger case for the application of State activity to other industries as well. We are glad to begin this course of instruction by getting the hon. Member for Macclesfield to admit the necessity of the community coming in, at any rate in some cases, and of the social management of this great industry of afforestation. I am quite sure, in view of the sympathetic attitude shown in every part of the House to-night toward this proposal, that 1386 an effective lead given by the present Government would be backed up by all parties, and I hope in the immediate future the Government will he able to announce a very effective and complete scheme for the development, of afforestation in this country.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I think everyone will already have congratulated, in spirit if not in words, the hon. Member who introduced this discussion. We all admired the cheerfulness, the good feeling and the understanding displayed in his speech, which I think was a very good start for our discussion to-night and will, I am sure, have useful results. I desire to tell the House clearly what is the present position with regard to the prospects of a programme of forestry such as I think we all desire, and I believe a clear statement on that point at this stage will help us. I am quite certain my right hon. Friend who is going to reply to the Government will not object if I state what has been happening since the Government came into office with regard to This matter, which they quite certainly have at heart and which they desire to help. I happened to be in the Chair of the Forestry Commission this winter for a few months while the Chairman, Lord Lovat, was abroad, and almost on the day after the new Government came into office my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education—who was and is interested in this matter-- asked me what proposals I could make to assist in the extension of employment through forestry. At later stages the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary for Scotland have shown themselves equally anxious to get in touch with the representatives of the Commissioners in order to find out the position and to see what were our ideas of expansion.
When I was asked about it by the Minister of Education I said the position from the point of view of the Commission was a very simple one and that the programme laid down by the Committee over which I had the honour to preside was still that which we desired to carry out. That programme if finally carried out will result in the afforestation of 1,750,000 acres of land in this country, and we were very desirous of carrying out the scheme for the first 10 years which was a programme of planting 150,000 acres with coniferous timber. Although we had a 1387 flying start and for the first three years planted more than was contemplated in the Report of the Committee, we were cut short by the Geddes Axe and narrowly escaped complete extinction. I remember now with what gratitude I heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who was then Prime Minister, say that he had repealed so many Acts which he had passed only a short time previously, that he had to draw the line somewhere and therefore the Forestry Commission, at any rate, would be allowed to continue. We were, however, cut short when we got to a certain point, and though for three years we had been planting about 10,000 acres a year the arithmetical increase under the scheme of my Committee has been stopped. We want to get on with it again and to go ahead doing more every year until in a few years we get up to the figure of 30,000 acres per year, which I was delighted to hear the Prime Minister say he would like to see planted.
You cannot rush it all at once, because of the difficulty of planting. You must have your schemes clear in front of you, and when you sow your seed which will be planted out three or four years later, you must know where you are going to sow it, and therefore we cannot rise suddenly in one year from 10,000 acres to 30,000 acres in the next. We want to be able at any rate to accomplish that which we set out to accomplish, and which we can accomplish within the money which Parliament then laid aside for us, namely, 150,000 acres of planting in the first 10 years, which will put us on a basis of 30,000 acres a year, which we are to continue for the next 30 years, that is, building up the 1,750,000 acres which we ultimately want. We put all that together on paper, which the Government received in a very friendly way, but they said they would like to consider the matter through a Committee. My ears have been tingling by the references made this evening to the Committee of which I was Chairman, so far be it from me to think that no Committee could do good. It will only be about the seventeenth Committee which has considered forestry in the last 20 years, and so it may do good, and, therefore, I will raise no objection to the appointment of a Committee.
1388 But Committees delay things, and so the next thing was that I asked the Government whether, in view of possible expansion and of our desire to be able to climb up and make good the check we had had from the Geddes Committee, we might sow some more seed this year, buy some more seed, prepare the ground for planting it, and actually plant it, to all of which they said, "Yes," and the extra seed has been bought, the seed beds have been prepared, and the teed has been sown. Everything, therefore,. seemed to be going, and, I think, was going, very well, and there was this expansion, apparently, fully agreed upon, or at any rate regarded favourably. At that time —I think it was about then in March—the Chairman, Lord Lovat, returned, and picked up the position as he then found it. He was very glad to hear how well the Government were apparently, regarding us, but I think he entered a necessary caveat, and said that if we were really to expand we must he able to acquire more land, and that if this Committee that the Government were going to appoint drifted on over the summer, we should miss all this year in negotiating for land, and so on.
Clearly, it takes some time to acquire estates, whether by lease or purchase. It takes some considerable time to clear the areas of scrub and all the rest of it that have grown up since they were cleared in the War. If we are to be ready for the expansion which we hope will take place, not in the next winter, but when the seed which is now corning along begins to be ready, say, in the winter after, if we cannot do something pretty quick in the way of trying to get new land, then, with the best will in the world, our schemes of expansion will be checked, and we shall not do what we can. Therefore, I think he made a sort of suggestion that if the Government were still determined on a Committee, it should have some simple terms of reference, such as whether forestry can do more than it is doing to settle men on the land and to give employment, and, if so, how, and he expressed the hope that, if it were appointed, it should be appointed at once, that it might perhaps be instructed to report quickly, and that we should have got the. Report out by now. I think 15th May was the date he named, but he hoped that, one way or another, things would be decided so that we might 1389 know whether or not we should go forward.
The Government have been extremely busy, the Committee is not yet appointed, the terms of reference are not yet settled, and we are now certainly being held up. We have been refused permission to acquire land, and without fresh land we really cannot get forward. If you over-plant the land you have, and plant more than the proper proportion each year, you set up a sort of wave motion. You plant up all the estates you have cleared quickly, the employment conies to an end, and there is none till the thinning stage begins 10 years later. That is not economical, and it is not the way in which to settle people on the land. You ruin your working plans. As I must repeat, if we are to have a real chance of getting more planted, not next winter, but the winter after next, we must begin getting round and clearing necessary land now. There is another thing. Looking only at this next winter, the Government may clearly want to have an unemployment scheme, and to employ people in country districts in things like scrub-clearing, which mean no expenditure to the nation and pay for themselves; but if we are to do that satisfactorily, we must be looking out our scrub areas now, arranging with the owners, arranging for the accommodation of the men who will do the clearing, and making contracts for the scrub, and so on. You cannot improvise in October or November. I am not suggesting any real blame or criticism. I know the Government have had an extraordinarily busy time, but I do hope they will give the word "Go." All I am asking for now is leave to go forward within what Parliament decided four or live years ago, and within the money. Not an extra farthing is wanted, but we must have leave to get forward within our scheme, or it will be too late.
Then I want to say a word about the suggestion made cy the Prime Minister, as I understood, a night or two ago, which was that he might feel it necessary to promote legislation to put the Forestry Commission under one or other of the existing Departments, and to take away from it the position of modified independence which it has at the present time. There is this to be said. We are, of course, quite definitely under the Treasury, and we have been pulled up 1390 time after time again by Treasury Regulations and instructions. For instance, there is the matter to which one of my hon. Friends referred, namely, that we are only allowed to pay wages which compare pretty narrowly with the agricultural wages current in the district. That is the Treasury Regulation, and I should be very glad to have it relaxed. That is one of the rules we are under. And, of course, we are under Parliament—and quite rightly, too—and it is in the power of any part of the House, when it comes to its turn, to put down the Forestry Estimates for review. We are under the direction of Parliament in as immediate a way as any other Government Department, but we are not under any of the ordinary Ministries. We are not split up under two Ministries of Agriculture. That appears to the Prime. Minister—as, indeed, it is—rather anomalous and rather special. My position is special in practically answering for the Government, but not being a member of the Government. There is a reason for it. The Government and everyone else concerned came to the definite and deliberate conclusion that the only way to secure certain and steady progress was to have somebody responsible for getting that progress made, without having the chance of its policy being pulled up by the roots, by the possible vicissitudes of changes of Government, and that sort of thing.
First of all, it is clear that if we were split up under two existing Departments, it, would be the Departments of Agriculture. There you have two Departments, two staffs, two policies and a good deal of waste in consequence of having two Departments instead of one. And there is always this—and it was the experience both with the English Ministry of Agriculture and with the Scottish Board of Agriculture—that inevitably, when you have got certain money only to spend, and when you have to choose between ways in which you will get fairly equal results, like encouraging land settlement, and experiments, and so on, with regard to crops and stock, like encouraging co-operation and credit where your return would come if it does come, within three or four years at latest—when you get these things with a comparatively quick return on the one hand, and forestry on the other hand, well, forestry, with its long-delayed return, will 1391 take the lower place and a back seat, and it is only human nature for a Department to prefer a thing that brings in a quick return than to take things which require very long views I think that was the reason why for years, and years, and years, and under all sorts and kinds of Committees, actually very little got done; it was not done until you had an authority whose duty it was to concentrate or forestry and nothing else.
You must really have a uniform policy for generations so that when the seed is sown you may know what is likely to happen, and when you plant trees know how the proceeding is likely to develop. The temptation ought not to be left to the Minister to pull up the timber or to sell the produce to balance his estimates. The Chancellor of the Exchequer ought not to be allowed to cut down the timber before it is really ripe. Though I do not care to repeat what I have said, or quote what I have said or written, there are one or two sentences in this report that I think are as true now as when we drafted them on the subject of permanence in policy and which I should like to read to the House. We say:The afforestation policy of the State, once embarked upon, should be as little as possible liable to be disturbed by political changes or moulded by political pressure. We cannot, and do not, claim that it should be independent of the control of Parliament, but when Parliament has once adopted a policy of afforestation the decisions that have to be taken as that policy develops ought not to be taken by politicians, and if grievances and difficulties arise they should be adjusted in an atmosphere in which forest policy and not political expediency is the deciding factor.Again we say:Independence is important also in regard to funds. An clement of control is, of course, essential, and it may well be strictly enforced. Parliament must be informed of the cost and the result of each year's work. The public, in fact, will want to know and will have a right to know that they are likely to get value for their money. This, however, ought not to be incompatible with an arrangement under which tile authority will have, during its early years at any rate, a greater degree of certainty as to the funds which it will administer than is generally produced under the system of submitting annual Votes to Parliament. If there were a power to pull up the authority by the roots to see how it was getting on the results might almost be as serious as if a similar process were performed upon the trees that it had planted.1392 That is perfectly true, and I hope the Minister will consider these arguments before he brings in any legislation to break up the authority which has been established. After all, we have certain assets. We have made mistakes of course. It is an asset if we have—as we have—the goodwill of the landowners. It is an asset that we, through the Imperial Forestry Conferences which have been held, have been the means of expanding and encouraging afforestation all through the Empire. Hitherto, in our expenditure, it is true, a larger proportion of what we spend goes actually in the wages of labour than is the case in any other public Department. It is something that we have been able to keep a steady line, and hitherto to carry out, in spite of the Geddes axe check, pretty well what we set out to do at the time we were appointed. After many of the things we set up, only to see them fall by the wayside, it is something to he alive and kicking, and so be going the straight way we were told to go.
Let me now say something on one or two points which have arisen in the course of the Debate. First let me deal with the position in Scotland. It is true that we have not granted so much in Scotland as in England and Wales, and as we expected to. The proportion has been for some years something like 3 to 2. I think that last year they were 7 to 3. That is partly because we have, found a very great deal of land—very good planting land, and very deep land—in England. We have found that. it was easier to get hold of land in England, because the English holder is more willing to lease, the Scottish owner not often being able to feu his land, but requiring it to be purchased. We have had no difficulty in ourchasing, but we have often had to spend a good deal of money in fencing the land. for protection against deer and rabbits, which often costs more than the freehold of the land itself. In Scotland we have found that if we are to acquire more land we must buy outright, and the Treasury has put as much check on the policy of purchase as they possibly can. This is not wise in the long run because, if you take a long view, if you go on leasing, say, for 100 years, you will find you have spent in the end five times as much by paying rent every year as you could have bought 1393 the estate out and out for at the beginning.
The immediate economy is the lease, and it may be inevitable on account of the system that we have not been allowed to purchase, but unless we can extend the policy of purchase we cannot go ahead in places where by going ahead we should be of the greatest service to those who want to live on the land. The mere fact that land was once under trees is no evidence that it easy to put it under trees again because it needs much drainage, and you have to get rid of the acidity due to the decay of vegetable matter be-fore you can make a great deal of the peat land plantable. These things have prevented us making the progress in Scotland we want to make.
With regard to what the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Millar) said, we should welcome any closer working with the Scottish Board of Agriculture which would increase our joint power of getting land settlements in connection with forestry. Last year we had an idea of setting up a sort of Standing Committee which we thought might be useful, and I hope to be able to take up that idea again, because the closer the two Departments can work together the better it will be from every point of view. One or two other points about education have been raised. If I could hear of one or two really thoroughly competent foresters out of a job I believe I could put them into jobs which I think they would take on. I think, however, when there are so many men out of employment we should not tempt men to leave private employment. If there are some really good men out of employment I believe I know of one or two cases where they could be employed. We have no policy which tends against the employment of thoroughly experienced foresters.
With regard to the higher centre for forestry education, I would like to have a special conference with some of my hon. Friends from Scotland with regard to training forestry officers, and so on. The Commission has worked at it very exhaustively, but if you put together the claims made by all the universities and the extension of forestry schools, it means art expenditure of about £300,000, which is impossible at present for us to meet out of our limited grant. If hon. Members can get us more money, good and 1394 well. With regard to the question of a higher centre, I have no objection whatever to having a higher centre in Scotland, but, at any rate, let us get one really first-class higher centre established to begin with; and it is difficult for us, in this connection, to go behind the unanimous recommendation of the Imperial Forestry Conference, which consisted wholly of fully-trained officers trained in all sorts of different places in the Empire, but mainly in this country at Edinburgh, Cambridge, Oxford and so on. Their recommendation was that we should all concentrate on inaugurating a central institution for forestry training and research at Oxford University, and pushing on with that. I do not in the least say that if we get that, that should be the only one, but I do say that one centre where the very highest training can be given is of very great and pressing importance.
May I end by saying a few words about the question of employment—as to what you can do and what you cannot do in giving employment in forestry? I should like to run very briefly through two or three of the cases whore a change has been made by operations for which the Commission has been responsible. There is the estate at Shobden, in Herefordshire, where there were 1,800 plantable acres, consisting very largely of scrub, providing no employment at all when we acquired it in 1921. The number that we have employed since then has averaged 53, in addition to the employment given to farmers and their horses in hauling the scrub we have cut down. Fifty-three instead of none is an improvement. Again, at Downham, in Suffolk, there were 5,000 acres on some of the light land there, which had gone out of arable cultivation when we acquired it, and was overrun by rabbits. The farm cottages were unoccupied, and only six men were employed on the whole 5,000 acres. Today, five farmhouses with 520 acres of land are let to tenants, because we have cleared it of rabbits; 21 cottages are occupied which were all unoccupied and deserted and derelict; and forestry employs steadily 22 men in summer and 100 in winter. That is an improvement. At Inchnacardoch, in Inverness-shire, there were 4,000 plantable acres when we acquired it in 1920, which only employed five men. That number has now gone up to 35, and we have put up additional 1395 accommodation for six married and 14 single men.
I might go on with many other illustrations. As a matter of fact, I have not time for the most conspicuous of them, the Rendlesham estate in Suffolk, where we are really steadily expanding into something which, if we can go steadily ahead, will make that part of the country something rather like the Landes district in France, turning a district of almost barren and unproductive sand into a really flourishing estate, with a real society of men established upon it. You can steadily increase employment by forestry by giving work in winter to men occupying small holdings and so on in districts where very often, without that winter work, they could not economically live. That is so in parts of Scotland, and it is so in parts of Wales: and that will help and develop. With our limited funds we have not been able to establish forest holdings or to house the men as we should like, but we have put forward schemes to the Government asking them to allow us to do both these things, and automatically, as forestry expands, that work will expand. One point I want to make, however, is that, to the extent to which you use forestry for preventing men from drifting into the towns, for keeping them in the country, for giving an economic life to smallholders, you cannot at the same time use it as a stream into which you can turn unemployed people from the towns. I think if we can to a considerable extent use forestry to keep men in the country who would otherwise have gone into the town we shall be doing a great thing, and you cannot ask too much. When we get up to 30,000 acres of planting I reckon that what with annual planting and what with the people permanently settled we shall in the ten years have actually settled 6,000 families in permanent employment who would otherwise not have been so settled. It is not a great number hut it helps. With regard to the matters raised by the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Barker) and the hon. Member who preceded me, I will either see them or communicate to them the notes I have in writing, so as not to encroach further on the time.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Noel Buxton)
The right hon. Gen- 1396 tleman is a Forestry Commissioner, and he speaks, as it were, with Ministerial authority. No one else is responsible for the conduct of the Forestry Commission. It is not responsible to any other Department except in connection with its finances. I am not versed in the work it does. I am all the more gratified to be allowed to say a word on the question, because there are few things which can give more pleasure than the actual planting of trees. The Government are very glad to notice the increase which is taking place in the interest in afforestation, and view it certainly not only as a question of provision for war, bat decidedly also as a national investment and as a means of settlement. If the House likes to pass the Motion in the form suggested, the Government certainly do not oppose it, but I should like to urge that it ought to be construed in a very broad sense. Schemes take time to mature, and they need long views.
The Cabinet has been exploring the question from the very earliest clays of its existence, and the matter is now in the hands of a Cabinet Committee, in spite of what my right hon. Friend said. That Committee is collecting material. When I look at the words of the Motion I see it is easy to make a declaration in such terms, but I am not satisfied that a good scheme can he drawn up on the basis merely of extending the work of the Forestry Commission. A simple declaration of that kind is not quite so easy to implement. We ought to study the manner in which land settlement can be associated with forestry, and in this sense. I am not satisfied that the work of the Commission; is it is would he adequate for the purpose. There are other bodies which have now a great body of experience in regard to land settlement, and it needs to be considered whether, as suggested in the Motion, the Commission itself should be charged with land settlement or whether it should be carried out in some other way. This is not for a moment a fault of the Commission, which is, I think, unduly limited by the conditions imposed upon it. The Prime Minister has already said no one appreciates Lord Lovat's work more than he does, but there are restrictions on their work in connection with land settlement.
1397 I am told there are great areas in Wales which might be made profitable and economic for afforestation. A great authority was telling me only to-day that some of the hills are not growing trees. They have fairly steep sides which might be very good planting land, and in connection with them on the lower ground there might be, as has been suggested, forest holdings where the sheep would be in winter and they would be run on the tops right above the wooded belt in summer.
§ Mr. BUXTON
That leads me to the next point I was going to make, the question of acquisition. The subject of powers of acquisition was raised by the Prime Minister the other day and that would have to be considered. Legislation may be necessary.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I know that. I think the Commission has the same powers as the Development Commission, but those powers may be very slaw to put in force in certain cases, and you have also very complicated questions of title which require to be taken together with the effects of the Development Commission's acquisition system, which may require further legislation. We recognise that ancillary employment is of the greatest importance to smallholders. There are many holdings in the Highlands where forestry is the principal supplementary employment. The Boards of Agriculture for Scotland and the Forestry Commission have co-operated with good effect, but I am told there are many difficulties, especially in the North. In the Highlands there is good land, but very often it is intermingled with the hind suitable for afforestation, and extensive fencing must be erected to protect young plantations from livestock, and this makes it a very costly matter. A number of holdings have been provided in Scotland. The land, as I see it, has been bought extraordinarily well. I am full of admiration for the success of the Commission in buying this land. The main difficulty about any very great scheme still might prove to be one of powers, as I have just stated. If legislation is needed, the Government will propose it. It is very 1398 regrettable that the Geddes Axe, though it failed to stop planting, did cause a certain delay and kept the acreage down to 10,000 acres.
I thought of giving some of the general statistics, but my right hon. Friend has given them in large measure, and they come better from him than from me. 70,000 acres have already been planted. The State has planted 38,000 acres on purchased or leased land. Unemployment relief schemes brought about by grants to private owners and local authorities have covered 31,000 acres. They have been about £3 an acre. The present Government did add to unemployment grants to the extent of £30,000 in addition to the. £50,000 that had been allocated before. The Commissioners have acquired about 120,000 acres of plantable land. Seventy-five per cent. has been leased, and the land bought last year was at the price of £ 17s. 6d. per acre. I would like to say a word about the status of the Commission. My right hon. Friend has instanced the delay which he thinks might have been avoided in the last few weeks. One suggestion to my mind, without committing myself or anybody else, is that it might have been an advantage to hint in having a responsible Minister to come to whose business it was to see that the views put forward went along the proper channel in a normal way. We propose to consider very carefully the relations of the Forestry Commission to other Government Departments. We suggest there should not be interruptions snore than are necessary, and that the independence of the Commission should be maintained as far as possible. But, after all, there have been interruptions. There were interruptions caused by the Government appointing the Geddes Committee. There are also interruptions because the Commission is obliged to go to the Treasury for confirmation of the grant it receives each year, and that brings them to a state of dependence on the Government of the day. We hope before very long to be able to report the decision of the Cabinet as to whether legislation will be wanted to deal with this question. The Government ought to have the power to impress its ideas on the Commission. I think that is all I have to say on the Motion. The Resolution represents an ambition which T hope we all share. To sure up, I may say the Government are 1399 not losing time, and the delay implies that their deliberations will be thorough. But we are fully alive to the high importance, of the matter.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. NALL
It is not possible to say in a few minutes what one would wish to say on this topic. I am sure we must consider that afforestation is one of the most useful things that can be done, and if the Government will act wisely and not unnecessarily incur a large additional expenditure, then I think their action will meet with general support. I believe that one of the most successful schemes which has so far been adopted is that of the Manchester Corporation in connection with their water works. I think it is fair ground for inquiry how far this work of afforestation can be pursued in connection with the great water undertakings of the country. I noticed that that idea received support on the Labour benches the other day, and I hope that when the matter is gone into the afforestation side of the question will not be lost sight of. I hope that all that can be done will be done by the Government.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That this House urges upon the Government the desirability of extending the operations of the Forestry Commission and, generally, of promoting the interest of Afforestation, as a means of increasing the capital assets of the country, providing employment in a healthy and remunerative occupation, and, particularly in the Highland and certain other Scottish counties, facilitating the settlement of smallholders on an economic basis.