Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £265,775, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926. for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, including Grants for Agricultural Education and Training, Loans to Co-operative Societies, and certain Grants-in-Aid."—[NOTE: £120,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour)
I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee that I should make a few short remarks upon this Vote. I desire to say here, as the responsible Minister for the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, what I have often said as a private Member, that I desire it to be clearly understood that the policy which I would outline for the Board of Agriculture for Scotland is one which should primarily concern itself with the large main interests of agriculture in my country. What I mean by that is that it should primarily turn its attention to the policy of agricultural education, and agricultural research, because I am completely convinced, from such knowledge as I have of agriculture, that it is through that channel more than any other that agriculture, in what ever form, whether it be the larger holdings, the moderate holdings, or the small holdings, are ultimately going to derive benefit. I wish at this stage to say that in anything I may outline as to what I think should be our policy I must of course take into account, and I trust the Committee will take into account, the fact that there is sitting to-day in Scotland a body representative of all the agricultural interests, and to that body 1868 the Government have referred with very wide terms of reference many of the problems we shall speak of to-day. I am indeed glad to think that the Government, and the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, are going to have at their disposal the considered opinions of representatives of the farmers, both tenant farmers and occupying owners, of workers on the land, and representatives of small holdings as well as the larger agricultural owners.
The terms of reference to that Conference are very wide. I wish to emphasise what I have said as to the importance of agricultural education. The Committee will see, under Subhead L of the Board's Estimates, that there is a total provision of £123,500, and I hope it will be regarded by the Committee as a reasonable provision for this important service. Undoubtedly, much remains to be done to bring Scotland up to the level of other countries in the provision of facilities for research, but I would point out that considerable progress has been made during recent years. Since the War three research stations have been established, and two others have been very largely developed. No part of the work of the Board of Agriculture is more profitable in the long run than that which is devoted to organising, encouraging, and subsidising research. I would like to say that i believe that this is largely recognised in Scotland, because it is receiving a great and increasing measure of support from the agricultural community. Apart from this proposed provision of £123,000 which appears in the Estimates, it will be remembered that £150,000 fell to Scotland under the Corn Production (Repeal) Act to be expended by the Board in the succeeding five years. In addition to that, a sum of £500,000 was agreed to be paid over to the Development Commissioners for agricultural education and research in Great Britain, and, while we have no direct guarantee as to the amount that may be spent in Scotland, I anticipate that we should receive at least £100,000 of that money.
Much has been done in recent years by the Government to support research, but a great deal also has been subscribed by the general public. The Bowett Research Institute, in Aberdeen, which concerns itself mainly with animal nutrition—to 1869 the examination of food for animals—has benefited to the extent of £21,500 by local and other donations, over £25,000 has been given for the erection of the buildings of the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College, and the Plant Breeding Station was started with a sum of over £22,000, chiefly contributed in very small sums by farmers, seedsmen, and others in Scotland. The Animal Diseases Research Association originated by the same method of local subscription, and we hope that the proposed Dairy Research Institute will excite the same local support. The Rowett Institute has already achieved notable results, and to enable these laboratory results to be tested on a commercial scale an experimental farm will be provided. Land has already been purchased, and the buildings will be erected this year. A maintenance grant of some £10,000 and a capital provision of £17,000 towards the experimental farm are proposed for expenditure in the current year. The Scottish Society for Research in Plant Breeding receives an annual grant amounting in this year to £1,541, and £600 for special works. Lord Constable's Committee, which reported upon agricultural education and research, recommended increased support and assistance from Government funds, and, in view of the annual value of the Scottish crops, this amount of £1,541 cannot be said to err on the side of generosity. I would only point out that if a new variety of oats or one or two new varieties of potatoes were produced by this station of research and, when tested, were able to stand against the existing varieties or show any improvement upon them, the return both to the farmer and to the general community would be enormous.
Then there is the great loss to the stock owners of Scotland from diseases of many kinds. It is estimated that a loss of at least £1,000,000 a year is due to two sheep diseases only. Acclimatisation values are a problem, due to the prevalence of these sheep diseases, and it is a problem which hangs like a millstone round the necks not only of the landlords but also of the tenants, and I might point out that it affects very materially the course of land settlement. In the Border districts there are two sheep diseases, lamb dysentery and "scrapie," which continue to spread and inflict enormous losses on our flocks. These are 1870 being investigated, and, if anything can come out of these investigations, it will be of material advantage. The Research Association was set up to deal with these plagues. Buildings are now in course of erection, and at the present moment the work is being carried out in temporary premises. The Board of Agriculture for Scotland has contributed £18,000 towards the cost of these buildings, and we are proposing a maintenance grant this year of £3,000. Then we have in Aberdeen and Edinburgh the Nutrition and Animal Breeding Research Stations, and these are closely linked up with the universities. I do not wish to trouble the Committee by going too deeply into all these questions, but I do desire to emphasise the importance of this research work both to this Committee and to the country as a whole.
A question which materially affects our Highland Districts is the provision of winter keep for stock. If that problem could be in any measure solved, it would materially add to the productive capacity of this class of holding. I therefore call the attention of the Committee to the fact that we are making experiments with regard to silos, and I hope that the promising results which have already come from some of these experiments may be more widely extended. I wish particularly to draw attention to the assistance which has been provided by the Rockefeller International Education Board, and it is hoped that an American soil surveyor will spend six months in Scotland working with our soil experts of the agricultural colleges. America has made enormous progress in this direction of soil analysis. There are large belts of the country in America which have been tested and where manures and fertilisers can be specifically prescribed for certain conditions of soil. These go out to the farmer with the brand of the Department, and he has complete confidence in using his money in buying these things, because he feels that he is going to get material results from them.
May I turn for one moment to another branch, namely, that of the Agricultural Organisation Society, for purchase and sale throughout Scotland. It is now. I think, 20 years since the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society first came into being. I was one of those who was 1871 at the inaugural meeting. During all this time it has been an uphill task trying to preach the policy to the farming community, who, if I may say so, are very conservative in their methods. But I hope and trust that we have now reached the stage in which it is generally recognised by all classes of farmers that there is great advantage to be derived from agricultural organisation, and I would plead with Members of this House to interest themselves directly and personally in this movement. It has been brought very closely into touch with the members of the Farmers' Union and the Chambers of Agriculture, and there are representatives on this body of the agricultural colleges. One would welcome, however, the infusion into the managing committees of this great movement of any fresh help that might come from any quarter. I trust that we may be able to do something more in the development of this question.
I would point out the practical importance of this matter. There is the dead meat trade between Aberdeen and other parts of Scotland and London and the English markets; there is the exportation of seed oats and potatoes to England: and there is the sale of crofters' wool. These are matters which are not confined to any part of the country. They are all of them things which may appear small in themselves, but in bulk they are going to help and assist agriculture in Scotland. There is the extension of co-operative dairying in the eastern counties of Scotland. A great deal has been done in the west on these lines, but a great deal more might be done. Then you come to the formation of "single purpose" co-operative purchase societies, i.e., societies dealing in one commodity alone. I hope, as the result of conferences which have very recently taken place, we may be able to make further advance in this matter of education. At any rate, we are setting aside this year rather more towards the educational purposes of the Agricultural Organisation Society, and I trust that in future years even that may be extended.
Perhaps I might say one word at this stage on the question of the Glasgow Veterinary College. The Committee will remember that this matter has been raised here, and that I have had meetings with 1872 the representatives of that body. The decision to centralise the Government grants on one college in Scotland was taken some time ago, and I would only point out that, in my judgment, the number of veterinary students that can be found in Scotland, though one might hope it will increase as time goes on, is limited. The number that can be, absorbed, either in Scotland or in the Dominions and elsewhere, is a limited number, and the real truth is, in my judgment—I am merely expressing my view—the real truth is that, if we are to make material advances in veterinary science and education, and improve the standard of work in this direction, then, undoubtedly, we must have these men taught under the most advanced conditions that are possible. If that is going to be done, particularly in the straitened monetary conditions in which we are at present existing, it is undoubtedly a wise policy to centralise it in one place.
I have noticed, in the course of the various meetings that have taken place with regard to the Glasgow Veterinary College, that the policy which has been adopted of withdrawing the grant of £600 has been the matter which has mainly figured, but the view was that, if this Glasgow College could have, or did have, the same amount of support towards improving the building and making it an up-to-date institution as the Dick Veterinary College has received on its part, then the conditions might have to be considered on a somewhat different footing. But I would emphasise that, the Dick Veterinary College having been made, as it is, as efficient and up to date as it is possible for any great institution to be, in the case of the Glasgow College, while I do not dispute the energy of some of those who have been working there for a long time, it is quite clear that, if the policy of the Government had been to continue the grant of £600, undoubtedly the next step would have been that we should have had to give, if it were going to be made efficient, large grants for improving the building and, above all, for the whole-time teachers who are necessary to any institution of that kind. It is upon these grounds that I have adhered to the decision taken by a previous Secretary for Scotland, and I believe, myself, that at the end of the day it will 1873 be found to be the policy which will give the best result for the veterinary profession in Scotland.
I do not wish to detain the Committee longer, but I would wish, in closing, to say something about the question of land settlement. I have already remarked that, if land settlement and small holdings are to be in measure successful, they must have behind them a large and efficient system of agriculture, and that they will materially benefit from the results of scientific research. During the past year, 269 applicants were given entry to new holdings, and 126 to enlargements of existing holdings. In addition, the Board placed 41 applicants in holdings which had been constituted by them since 1912, and which had since fallen vacant. Of the total of 436 applicants thus dealt with, 254 were ex-service men. This question is one in regard to which I will not commit myself to any definite policy at this particular moment, but I wish to tell the Committee the kind of policy that I have in mind. I have only occupied my present position for a short time, and I would desire, during the period which lies before me in the next few months, to familiarise myself with the actual conditions of some of the existing settlements both in the Highland areas and in the Lowlands; but, as I visualise this question, we are coming towards the end, within a comparatively short period, of the main grant which was given for the settlement of men on holdings, and, undoubtedly, whatever the future policy may be, that will have to be reconsidered within a comparatively short time.
If one looks at the map of Scotland, one sees that, so far as the outer islands are concerned—Orkney, Shetland and all the others round our coasts—the settlements already made there are practically so complete that there is no possibility of great expansion in the islands. That being the ease, it is quite clear that, if anything is going to be done materially to assist and help the people under those conditions, then, since you cannot provide more land than actually exists, you are undoubtedly faced with the necessity of propounding some alternative policy. My own view, very frankly, is that emigration under suitable conditions, either to the Dominions or to other portions of our own country, is the only practical solu- 1874 tion. Indeed, my view is that many of these holdings are too small to be economically sound for supporting the people under the existing conditions, and that, therefore, our policy should be directed more and more, not to creating an undue number of small holdings of this uneconomic size, but, where we see the opportunity, to enlarging them as others fall in.
I want to make it clear to the, Committee, however, that we have now reached a stage, in my judgment, in this settlement policy which will make it necessary for us to say to these applicants for small holdings that we cannot always give them a small holding in the immediate vicinity of where they are at present living, and that, indeed, it would be to their advantage and to the advantage of the State if they would accept other holdings which we may be able to offer, and may possibly offer, to them from time to time in other areas. Let me give one instance in explanation of what I mean. You have around Inverness, the city of the North which is well known to everybody, a considerable number of applicants for holdings, but the difficulty of obtaining suitable holdings in the vicinity of Inverness is very great, and has faced the Board on more than one occasion. On the other hand, if one looks at the map, one sees that in the surrounding counties there are many places within reasonable distance of that centre which have not yet been settled, and I would say that the practical and honest policy for the Board to pursue would be to obtain land, by purchase or otherwise, in these districts, and say to these smallholders: "Here are your opportunities; here is suitable land, and you are provided, under the terms of the engagement which we have made, with a house. While it may not be in the immediate vicinity of where you have lived, it is nevertheless giving you that opportunity which the State is prepared to give." That is what I want the Committee to understand should be, in my judgment, our policy in dealing with this question.
On these matters I am very willing to co-operate with, and to have the assistance and advice of, not only the agricultural conference which has been set up, but of Members from all districts of Scotland, to whatever party they may 1875 belong. Many of these problems are peculiar to our country, but I do not despair of finding a solution to some of them. We must, however, really face the facts, and some of these questions of which I have spoken no doubt raise, and will raise, differences of opinion in the minds of hon. Members. It is for that reason that I have spoken as frankly as I have done to-day on this matter, in order that I may elicit from them their opinions upon this question. Let the keynote of the administration of the Board be, first, agricultural education and research, the care of agriculture as a whole in the increasing production of food for the people: and, in addition, as a subsidiary matter, the propagation and settlement of small holdings and, it may be, of allotments, both of which, if they prove to make good, will be steppingstones for men of energy and enterprise in Scotland.
Mr. WILLIAM ADAMSON
The Committee has listened to a very interesting statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland, who mentioned a number of subjects in which, I am certain, each one of us is very much interested, and will agree with him in the manner of dealing with them which he outlined. For example, when he was speaking of the question of agricultural education and research, whether from the point of view of small holdings or large, I am certain that all of us are at one with him as to the value of a policy that would provide the best in education and the best in research for those who are cultivating the land. The right hon. Gentleman also informed us that there is a body sitting in Scotland now to consider agricultural problems, and to advise the Government. There, again. I am sure that each of us wishes that that body may be able to do good work and to present us with a valuable Report at the conclusion of its labours.
The right hon. Gentleman went over a very large number of questions, such as the Rowett Institution, stock breeding and research, highland winter stock feeding, the provision of silos, and agricultural education, and eventually he came to the question of the Glasgow Veterinary College, which is a subject that has been discussed a few times in the House. Before I pass on to other things, 1876 I would like to suggest to my right hon. Friend that, in view of the fact that another £100,000 is likely to be passed on to his Department, I think he would be well advised again to reconsider the question of giving a grant to the Glasgow Veterinary College. That institution has done good work up to the present, and is capable of doing good work in the future, and I want to say quite frankly that, when I held for a short time the post which my right hon. Friend now holds, if I had had the money available, he may take it from me that Glasgow would have had a grant just as other institutions of a like kind have had.
My right hon. Friend went on to speak of land settlement, and he gave the Committee very frankly his ideas concerning it. I hope that when he invites us to co-operate with him he may take some of the suggestions that some of us will make to him regarding the question of land settlement, because I think that, if we are to develop agriculture in Scotland to the fullest extent possible, we will require to go much further than the Secretary for Scotland has indicated in his speech to-day. There is no subject, to my mind, which requires more careful consideration from everyone than the one that is now under discussion. The question of the production of the greatest amount of food possible from the land at our disposal is as important for the man in the city as it is for the person who lives in the country. For many years past we have developed industrially rather than agriculturally, both in Scotland and in other parts of Great Britain. As one of our writers has put it, we have been growing our wheat in the mine, and our corn in the factory. I fear we have reached the time when we shall require to reconsider the position, because I do not think we can hope to remain longer the Workshop of the World. We shall have to be prepared to take a smaller part of the world's trade. For the past three years, so small has been our part of the world's trade that we have had over a million persons idle and a considerable number on part-time employment. If we are to maintain anything like our present population we shall require to find work for them in other directions, and one of the directions 1877 which appears to me to be open is the settlement of a very much bigger proportion of our people on the land.
There is a considerable section of our people who are now very anxious to enter into agriculture and are prepared to go back to the land. There is not only a very long waiting list for smallholders, but there is also a large number of people who are anxious to get larger and more economic holdings. This is borne out by the fact that where a farm in any part of Scotland is either for lease or for sale, there is a very large number of applicants, and in consequence of the big demand the rent and the price of land is going up. Under these circumstances it is the duty of the Government and of this House to take whatever steps are necessary to remove the difficulties that stand in the way of a much larger number of our people getting land. I am aware that there are difficulties which will require to be removed. Some will possibly require legislation in order to bring pressure on certain landowners to lease or to sell the land they hold so that it can be put to a better use than it is being put to to-day. It may be that certain persons who either lease or own more land than they are able to put to a proper use will require to have pressure put upon them as well, and it may also be that pressure may require to be put on the Treasury—I know the difficulties which will confront the right hon. Gentleman when he attempts to do that—to find the money necessary to bring more land into cultivation which cannot be profitably used now and to give the facilities for those who desire to cultivate the land.
In one of the areas that the right hon. Gentleman dealt with, a Highland area, there are millions of acres under deer forests. In Ross, Sutherland and Inverness there are considerable stretches of land under deer forests which were formerly put to, what is to my mind, a more economic use than it is being put to-day. The crofters, who used to occupy it, have either been driven to the islands the right hon. Gentleman was telling us of, where no more land can be got, or they were forced to emigrate. To such an extent is that the case, that if I quote the figures of population it will be at once seen that we require to 1878 reverse the policy, which was begun years ago, of putting the crofters off that land in the centre of the counties I have named and pushing them to the sea board and the islands. If I take Argyll, for example, out of a population of something like 80,000, 14,000 are on the islands, where there is very little land, and they are compelled in many instances to have very small, uneconomic holdings, which impose an enormous struggle upon those who are attempting to cultivate them. If I take Inverness, where some farms are yet available, out of a population of about 80,000 there are 28,000 who are living in the islands and under conditions that impose very great hardships indeed. If I take Ross and Cromarty, out of a population of something like 70,000 there are also 28,000 who are living in the islands, showing that these crofters have been pushed off the mainland in order to make room for deer, in order that the deer might take the place of men and that sport might be provided for people who could pay a larger rental than the former occupants of these holdings could do.
In addition to that, there are all over Scotland, in the Lowlands as well as the Highlands, blocks of land which are not being put to any economic use. For example, there are the parts which still surround many of the mansions, where valuable land is not being used economically. There are home farms in the Highlands attached to a number of mansions which ace kept more as a hobby than as an economic proposition, and there are blocks of land which formerly were cultivated where the farm buildings have been allowed to become derelict and a few sheep and cattle are grazed upon them, possibly only providing a fourth of the foodstuffs they are capable of producing, and certainly less than a fourth of the, labour which could be provided if they were dealt with in a businesslike way. Take another of the ways in which I think the land available can be largely increased. Both in Germany and in Denmark they have been what is called skinning the moorlands and bog-lands with very great success, and I suggest that these large tracts of moorland and bogland should be carefully examined and the possibilities discovered with a view to following the same line as has been followed so successfully in Germany and in Denmark.
1879 If the right hon. Gentleman will examine the suggestions I am making, he will find that there will be less need for emigration than he evidently believes. I agree with him that in many cases some people will require to be taken from the parts of the country they live in. For example, in the Lewes I believe there is double the population that the land can comfortably maintain, and already an experiment in that direction has been made where some of the Barra men were brought down to Skye, and they are doing very well there. If the right hon. Gentleman will follow the suggestions I am making he will find that a very large area of additional land will be made available. One of the other things that stands in the way of our agricultural development in considerable portions of the country is the want of proper transport facilities. When I held the office the right hon. Gentleman holds, I examined parts of the country with a view to testing the possibilities of laying light railways. One of the committees that inquired into the matter suggested the laying down of two light railway branches north of Dingwall, one to go to Ullapool and the other to Lochinver. I have examined that part of the country, and I think there are great possibilities of development if the right hon. Gentleman will use his influence to get a light railway to be put down which would tap both places. Then there is the question of making our roads suitable for motor traffic. Motor traffic has developed to an enormous extent, and is capable of doing valuable service to agriculture. When he is making the round he was speaking of, he might give his attention to that question.
Then there is the question of piers. There are some piers which require a considerable amount of expenditure to put them in anything like a position to make them useful to the agricultural community. In certain cases piers have been closed: for example, that at Lochboisdale. When I was in office I offered to repair part of it and to be responsible for a temporary pier, but the offer was refused by the proprietor, I believe for the special purpose of forcing the Government to repair it and then hand it over to her. There are not many Secretaries for Scotland who would do anything of that kind, but I think there are 1880 other steps which can and ought to be taken to have the pier repaired. It is not an impossible thing. There are many other matters one wound have liked to say a few words on, but I promised my colleagues I would occupy as short a period as possible so as to allow as many of them to get in as possible. I hope the same line will be taken by hon Members in all parts of the Committee. This is one of the few days on which we have the opportunity of discussing the affairs of Scotland, and I hope we shall restrain ourselves so as to allow others to get in. I hope some of the suggestions which have been put forward, and others I may put before the right hon. Gentleman later on, will receive serious condition. I do not think there is a more important question we can be engaged in discussing, there is certainly no more important question for the future development of Scotland, than the development to the fullest extent of her agricultural possibilities. There is room for doing it, and I hope that we shall get the help and co-operation of the Government and of the Secretary for Scotland in developing it to the fullest extent.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am willing to submit myself to the self-denying ordinance suggested by the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. The Committee is labouring under a very great disadvantage. We are discussing the most important of all subjects for Scotland, without the annual Report of the Board. In my judgment, the Government is not responsible for the fact that the Report is not published. I believe the exigencies of Parliament have made it possible for this Debate to take place two or three months sooner than it ordinarily takes place; but the fact remains that we are labouring, notwithstanding the lucid speech of the Secretary for Scotland, under a very great disadvantage because of the absence of the Report. May I remind my right hon. Friend that I think it was a year ago that the Report was curtailed. I believe the curtailment took place not at the hands of my right hon. Friend's predecessor, but at the hands of the Stationery Office. We Scottish Members strongly resent the one annual Report, to which we look forward, being curtailed by an alien body which has no knowledge of these important problems, which are 1881 really the kernel of the agricultural life of Scotland. I ask my right hon. Friend to see to it that the Report is published in full this year, and that he will publish it as soon as possible.
From the few facts which are available in regard to the Board of Agriculture on the Estimates, one is struck, first of all, with the fact that we are spending nearly £400,000 upon this Board in Scotland. One is further struck by the enormous amount of that large stun which goes in expenses. I refer to wages, travelling allowances and salaries. The man in the street regards that proportion of expenditure as being far too great, and the results which have accrued as not justifying such an expenditure. It is a disquieting position, and there is no wonder that one finds in many a glen in the Highlands the ordinary, thinking man regarding the Board, having considered the results of the Board's activities, as being bureaucratic, extravagant and, in many ways, unintelligent. My right hon. Friend's statement to-day will give a great many men cause to think in Scotland to-morrow. I must say that it was courageous. It was a preliminary statement of great frankness. He has attempted to outline, in a nutshell, the policy of his Department.
It is rather difficult, on the spur of the moment, to grasp what the result of that preliminary statement may ultimately be, but it looks to me as if the main problem for which the Board of Agriculture was instituted was being shelved. I am speaking for my colleagues in the North of Scotland, and I think I am expressing the views of Members in all parts of the House, whether they are Scottish Members or not, when I say that the problem of settlement on the land of a fine Highland stock is a problem which cannot be shelved by the three methods which my right hon. Friend adumbrated. The value to the country of that stock is enormous. Many men, whatever constituency they represent, would go far to press upon any Government the desirability of hastening land settlement and leaving other things to take their chance. They would have the satisfaction of knowing that the land of Scotland was being tenanted by a strong, capable and virile race.
What does my right hon. Friend suggest? In answer to questions to-day he has made it perfectly plain that there 1882 has been a decrease in the agricultural population since the last Census. I believe the decrease has amounted to 15,000. That is an enormous number of men to take from an already depopulated country. My right hon. Friend has very well said that he has nothing to do with that; but my grievance against him is that, instead of attempting to stop that great depopulation, the new scheme which he has just adumbrated is going to increase it. There were three points underlying his solution of land settlement. He said, first of all, that you cannot have a proper land settlement unless and until you have an efficient agriculture behind it. That is true; but in his statement he has only adumbrated a policy to make the agriculture of Scotland efficient. It will take a long time before his wishes are fulfilled. It may take 20 years, and you are going to have this great drift of the population from Scotland continuing during that time.
His second point was—and there is a good deal to be said for it—that we must certainly have migration. By that, I understand the transference of holders or prospective holders from one part of the Highlands or any other part of Scotland to another. Everybody knows that the Highlander has a tremendous sentimental attachment to the particular corner of the Highlands where he was born. He likes his little village, he likes his old associates and he likes his native, heath. These are considerations which I have no doubt my right hon. Friend has weighed, and they are very important considerations when you are dealing with the Highland population. A policy of migration should not take place until my right hon. Friend and his colleagues are satisfied that sentiment can no longer stand in the way, that sentiment must be brushed aside, and that in the interests of the men themselves and in the interests of the nation as a whole it is not only desirable but necessary that this migration should take place.
My right hon. Friend referred to some imaginary map which he had in his mind; a map depicting the various colonies of smallholders which had been established in various parts of Scotland. May I give him a word of warning? I know a good deal about the one important experiment in emigration which 1883 has taken place. I refer to the migration to Talisker. My right hon. Friend must be aware of that. Migration has not been a success, is not a success, and is not likely to be a success. We had a deputation which appeared before my right hon. Friend the other day, at which Sir Reginald Macleod, who is well known to my right hon. Friend and to all of us as a student of Scottish affairs with first-class knowledge, made it plain that this migration policy, particularly at Talisker, was a gigantic and colossal failure.
Before my right hon. Friend tampers with the sentiment of the people of the Highlands he ought to see that some substitute is given for the sentiment, and that they are not to be dragged from one barren part of the Highlands to another equally barren part, which is strange to them; but that if migration takes place these men should be given a chance of a livelihood upon good soil, where they will be able to make both ends meet, where they can have, not a stupid holding, but an economic holding, and where they will be able, despite the temptations of the outside world, to continue a life of peacefulness, usefulness, happiness, and contentment in their own countryside.
The third point underlying the policy was that my right hon. Friend said that we have undoubtedly to face the question of emigration. I am as proud of the Empire as anybody, and I am anxious to see it developed in every one of its corners, but equally I am not unmindful of the fact that the Highlands of Scotland are an essential and great part of the Empire. We heard to-day that £80,000 had been granted to Kenya for the erection of a school for European children, and we heard that it was essential and urgent. I agree that it may be so, but I do think the time has come when the House of Comons ought, first of all, to look at its own doors, and we Members for Scotland ought to insist upon it. We who regard the Empire as a whole ought to insist that it is not only essential but urgent that we should colonise at home first, that we should spend the hard-earned money of the taxpayer upon benefiting our own people at home, trying to give them a comfortable livelihood there and thereby supporting and strengthening the heart of the Empire. I am willing 1884 that money shall be spent for purposes of that kind in Kenya, but I beg my right hon. Friend, and he would have the support of the whole of the Scottish Members behind him, that he should try to get such sums as these for the claimant needs of the Highlands and other parts of Scotland.
What are the facts? The £80,000 is ac absolute grant to Kenya, a colony which was not known as a colony of Britain two or three years ago. Last year, when the Highlands of Scotland were in distress and destitute, we got a grant of £100,000 from the Labour Government for seeds and potatoes. What do we find? The Government only spent £55,000 of that sum, and they are holding back, indeed they have taken back the remainder of the sum into the coffers of the Treasury. I have no doubt that the remaining £45,000 is probably part of the £80,000 granted to the Europeans in Kenya. That seems to me to be a policy that is absolutely indefensible. It was the same with the so-called grant or loan of £100,000 for Scottish fishermen. We all know the struggle and the hardship of life which these seamen have to endure in the North of Scotland. What do we find? The conditions which were laid clown for the expenditure of that loan were so abnormal that only about 14 fishermen thought it worth while to apply for any such loan, and we find now that that money, which, on the Government's own showing was available, is no longer available for the purposes of the Highlands but if Kenya Colony or Timbuctoo asked the Government for any such sum for the benefit of their people, they would get it. It is the duty of the Secretary for Scotland to see that, if there is any money going, the first consideration of this House should be for the heart of the Empire. If the heart of the Empire is sound it is certain that the limbs will also be sound. I was rather afraid to introduce the subject of transport, but I notice that my right hon. Friend, with that geniality of his, discussed the subject at great length. I am not sure that it is within the scope of this Vote, but I merely mention it. I am sorry that it is not, because all Scottish Members of Parliament are united upon the need of transport.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the right hon. Gentleman can persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give a, grant for loans in the agricultural districts I do not propose to rule it out of order.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I was rather afraid that the general question of transport in the Western Highlands and Islands was outside this Vote, and I am not going to interfere in any way with your discretion. I do not propose to deal with the broad question of transport at this moment, because we are going to wait upon my right hon. Friend upon this subject afterwards, but there is a question of transport not upon so large a scale which is within this Vote. We are asking the Government, as we have asked each successive Government, to hasten the settlement of smallholders upon the land, but there is no good settling people on the land unless you give them some sort of transport facilities, and I have been writing to the Secretary and asking questions, and making myself generally a nuisance, trying to get from the Board of Agriculture little roads, where you have children going to school, from the holdings to the school. We are asking for small grants for this purpose, but we are told that there is no money. I would like my right hon. Friend, who is new to his high office, to look into this matter. You are giving £80,000 to European children in Kenya, and cannot you give 500 for district roads to the people of the Highlands who are anxious to send their children to school in places where they have to pass bridgeless torrents in the middle of winter, and very often have no chance of changing their wet clothes You cannot expect a virile population to grow up in the Highlands of Scotland in conditions like those. It is essential to give at least equal consideration to Scotland so that the comfort and education of the children are looked after.
I would like to refer to two or three points on which I think the Department of Agriculture might prove itself more useful. I was delighted that so much money was being spent on research. I think that that is a splendid thing. I understand that double the amount is being spent this year as compared with last year. That is well worth doing, and any support which we can give the Government in developing research we will willingly give, but while I am 1886 dealing with research may I draw attention once more to the claims of the staff in the three Colleges of Agriculture in Scotland. I have no doubt that the claim has been brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend. I mention it merely because I know that all the Scottish Members have been written to about it, and I think that in fairness it ought to be settled at once, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will do so. My right hon. Friend paid no attention—that was probably through an oversight—to the question of afforestation—
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I think that I am in order here, because there is a great deal of co-operation between the Forestry Commissioners and the Board of Agriculture, and I am pressing the point that that co-operation should continue. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) in a very able speech on the Forestry Commission the other night pointed out the desirability of having afforestation, particularly in Scotland, as a subsidiary occupation. No man expects a smallholder, particularly now when small holdings are so small in extent, to make a fortune. There are certain times of the year when he is idle, and our contention is that there should be such co-operation between the Board of Agriculture and the Forestry Commissioners that they should work together to have settlements made, so that there should be small holdings where the man could work to keep his family a certain portion of the year, and could have the assurance that there was external work, ancillary work, in the neighbouring forests for him during the months when he would otherwise be idle. That is necessary if you are to have complete contentment and economic holdings in the North of Scotland.
I would now ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the question of one or two old industries. The first is the kelp industry. I understand that by the burning of seaweed you are able to produce a mixture of carbonates and iodine and various other chemical substances. It may be said against me as a Free Trader that because we allowed 1887 certain chemical substances to come into this country the kelp industry was destroyed. In 1865 the island of Benbecula produced no less than 500 tons of kelp at £10 a ton, and the neighbouring island of South Uist produced 650 tons at £10 per ton. I am told by friends of mine who have made researches into the history of this matter that £20 a ton was given for kelp during the Napoleonic Wars. If you go to the West Coast of Scotland to-day you will not find any development of that kind. The people who made a handsome livelihood out of it are either gone or pay no further attention to the industry, but I think that if the industry could be revived it would be a splendid addition to the work of the fishermen and the crofters on the islands off the West Coast.
We find that, instead of helping the local people to develop the seaweed industry, the great Department of the Board of Trade are interfering with the farmers and smallholders on the west coast of Scotland, and on the islands when they touch the seaweed which their fathers from time immemorial have used for the purpose of improving the land. In reference to the questions of lime kilns I would make a plea for the revival of the lime kiln industry. My hon. and gallant, Friend the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) has taken a great interest in this matter and has been pressing my right hon. Friend for the opening of the lime kilns. On the west coast of Scotland in the old days, during the proper season, the countryside, particularly the arable country side, was white with the rime, cheap lime easily procurable from the limestone quarries, which had been dumped down, and the fertilisation of the land was thereby considerably improved. In Denmark—and we can learn a great deal from the small holdings in that country—the Government actually allow the lime to be carried free upon the railways in order to benefit the land. It is worth while for the Board of Agriculture to interest itself in a question of this kind.
I must say to its credit that it has interested itself to a great extent in another matter connected with agriculture. I refer to ensilage. I have been made to take an interest in it through seeing the effects of silos. The 1888 silo is as old as the time of the Pharaohs. It is well known that during the Hundred Years War the Germans used the silo for their own food, and in Canada and America to-day there are no fewer than a million silos at work. As my right hon. Friend has pointed out, it has abolished the need of cultivating winter crops, and the silo at work will procure for the farmer a supply which is always fresh during the winter months when the snow is on the ground. If the ensilage were increased in the Highlands of Scotland, I see it stated on the best authority, we could double the number of cattle on the land and double the number of sheep. I hope that my right hon. Friend during his tenure of office, with his own experience as a landowner and farmer, will take a personal interest in this particular subject and see to it not only that instruction is given, as is being done now to a small extent, by the Board of Agriculture, but that the principles shall be expounded on every available occasion, so that we may thereby hasten the time when we shall have, as he said, efficient agriculture in Scotland.
I will end on the same lines as those on which my right hon. Friend ended. He said that he was very anxious to take into consultation Members from all sides of the House. I think that that was very wise, but I think that he ought to go a step further. The Committee which is at present sitting in Scotland will, I hope, have a very good effect in one way. It will bring all those engaged on the soil closely together, so as to understand each other. That is a very desirable thing, but I think that, now that we have had no expert Commission in Scotland since 1892 to deal with all those points, the time has come, and this is giving effect to the spirit of my right hon. Friend's own speech, when we should have a reconsideration of the various problems in Scotland referring to transport and agriculture, and that we should have a Departmental Committee, if you like, or a Commission of some sort, appointed to give my right hon. Friend, in addition to the advice which he has been good enough to accept from us, some useful information to enable him to carry out the programme which he has advocated to-day. I hope sincerely that my right hon. Friend will consider this, and will 1889 take into consideration the various points which I have thought it my duty to bring to the notice of the Committee this afternoon.
§ Mr. SKELTON
Both the right lion Members who have spoken since my right hon. Friend spoke have made it clear that in their view the most important announcement of my right hon. Friend was in reference to the policy proposed to be adopted with regard to land settlement. I wish, if I may, to thank my right hon. Friend for opening that topic so early, because it is well known that the present fund by which the land settlement policy is at present supported will come to an end, I understand, in the next 18 months, and then the question will have to be reviewed from its very fundamentals. What I want to address myself to is another matter. I want to ask my right hon. Friend to take the very greatest care that full use is made of the experience which we have already had of land settlement. I feel that still the question of land settlement in Scotland, in the Highlands and the Lowlands, is discussed both by its friends and enemies too much in the air. We have, in fact, a very large amount of evidence as to how land settlement has progressed. I believe, from the inquiries that I have been able to make in my own constituency, that the evidence is very strongly in favour of the view that both socially-and economically where you have good soil, a suitable personnel and suitable markets, land settlement has entirely justified itself. That is my own view. But my view is not of very great importance. What is of importance is that, before a new step has to be taken with regard to future policy, there should be the very closest inquiry as to the results of the land settlement that has already taken place.
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken referred to a Committee or Commission. I cannot help thinking that the time is fully ripe for an inquiry by impartial and expert people into the results of land settlement. I do not propose to weary the Committee with figures. Inquiry seems to me necessarily to fall into three main sections. First of all, there is the question whether you increase your rural population. I think that that is proved. May I give the Committee one 1890 set of figures for which I can vouch. Eight hundred acres in Eastern Perthshire, a few miles out of Dundee, a few years ago included four farms, one of them a led farm. The result in population was three farmers, 17 agricultural workers and four women and boys employed. From 1919 onwards a land settlement scheme was introduced. The population result was, instead of 17 men, a population of 53 men, and instead of four farms and one led farm, there were 45 holdings. Instead of a small seasonal population brought in with the harvest there was a large seasonable population brought in far the harvest, both ordinary arable and fruit harvests. In every way there was a permanent increased population on the area of 800 acres.
I say nothing of the Highland holdings. That is a separate problem, and I have always been very chary of entering into it. But I am satisfied that, so far as the Lowlands are concerned, if you will only select the right men and the right soil, you can increase your rural population by a very great number. But that is not the end of the question. The next question is, when you have got the people there do you get as good or better agricultural results from their presence? I believe that you can get increased productivity. From the examples I know in my own constituency, I have no doubt as to that. But it is not the knowledge of a single Member of Parliament that is wanted. What is wanted is a close and expert inquiry into the amount of increased productivity that closer land settlement gives you. I hope I am sufficient of an economic purist to believe that there is no use going on with a policy unless it is economically sound. Therefore, I urge my right hon. Friend, before the time for new decisions has arisen, to have this inquiry into the economic as well as the population effect of land settlement. There is only one other question which suggests itself to me as one which such an inquiry would have to deal with. Assuming that your questions as to increased population and increased productivity are satisfactorily answered, there remains one question which must be answered: How can continued land settlement be carried out in the most economical way? How can we most avoid extravagance that is unnecessary and hurtful?
1891 I do not believe that enough attention has been paid in this country to alternative methods of land settlement. I have always held the view, and constantly expressed it, that the Board of Agriculture has been very extravagant in its methods of land settlement. I am not prepared to give expert advice as to how these expenses should be reduced, but I am satisfied that there are certain lines of advance which are possible. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said the other day in the Unemployment Debate that a Government drawn from the Conservative side of the House bad the great advantage that it could use persuasion with certain classes that perhaps other Governments might not have the same persuasive influence with. I am sure that there is a lot to be said for that, and that a Conservative Government can make appeals to the landlords of Scotland with great force. I recall to my right hon. Friend's remembrance the fact that when Lord Haldane was introducing his Territorial Force scheme he had no hesitation in appealing to the landowners of England and Scotland to assist him. I merely throw that out as a suggestion, but I am satisfied that you can enormously decrease the expense of setting up land settlement if you make full use (1) of local knowledge, (2) of local labour, and (3) of the general knowledge of local conditions. I believe that the charges of extravagance in the matter of land settlement have largely arisen from the fact that the Board of Agriculture has tried to do far too much itself with its own employés and its own charges, and has left far too little to be done by the local enterprise of the new smallholder or any local assistance that can otherwise be given.
I do not wish to go into that, least of all in view of the self-denying ordinance under which I gladly put myself with the rest of hon. Members who wish to speak; but I do urge my right hon. Friend that, if we are to have either a change of policy or a continuation of the policy of land settlement, we want to have it for the future upon established facts. Only careful inquiry can give us those established facts, and if, as possibly will be the case, the established facts show that with regard to population and productivity land settlement is a success, and 1892 that with regard to economy you can carry out the scheme much more economically than it has been carried out in the past—if inquiry shows that, we shall be able to go on with a policy of land settlement far more vigorously than has been done hitherto, and with enormously advantageous results, not merely to the rural districts of Scotland, but with regard to the industrial districts. There is no question—it seems to be generally agreed on all sides of the House—that we are in for a prolonged period of bad trade, as far as external trade goes. We have not begun to consider how the development of our rural districts can help our home trade. I believe that if we can find a sound basis for land settlement—I do not say it can be done in a year, for it will be a slow business in any case—
§ Mr. SKELTON
Because you have not your annual crop of suitable settlers. I do not want to go into that controversial matter. There is no greater waste possible in land settlement than putting the wrong type of man on the land. I believe that there is only a limited population, or what I have called a limited annual crop, of suitable people to put into small holdings.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I do not wish to take up every interruption. The reason why you get a larger suitable population in other countries is that the moment you have a considerable population of smallholders you have a rapidly-increasing number of people who are fit for new small holdings. Of all people most suited to put into a new holding is the boy who has been brought up on a small holding, and no boy brought up on a farm or in a ploughman's house is nearly as good for the purpose as the boy brought up on a small holding. That is why our annual crop of suitable smallholders is small. It is a slow process. I most strongly urge on my right hon. Friend that he is here dealing with a vast topic. In Scotland be is dealing with it, with certain modifications, under suitable conditions. When the time for taking a new step in policy arises, I urge him most strongly to give us a clear, impartial and inde- 1893 pendent inquiry, so that Members on all sides of the House may know where the facts lead them with regard to land settlement, and if the facts, as I believe will be the case, are with us, I think I may say to my right hon. Friend that Members on all sides of the House will hack up any constructive and progressive policy for the development of further land settlement in Scotland.
§ Mr. T. JOHNSTON
I do not know how other Members feel about this Debate, but I for one feel that it is being conducted under most depressing and alarming conditions. We got first of all from the Secretary for Scotland a certain series of figures which, if I noted them aright, appear to me to be an indictment of the Scottish Board of Agriculture no less than an indictment of this House. Smallholders were increasing in Scotland at the rate of about 120 per annum, but between 1020 and 1924 there was a decrease of 110,000 acres of arable land. Last year there was an emigration of 40,174 from the shores of Scotland. The agricultural population—this answers a point made by the last speaker—has decreased at the rate of 15,000 in a decade. It is not a question of looking for an annual crop of suitable smallholders. It is a question of facing the fact that 15,000 of the agricultural population left the business of agriculture between 1911 and 1921. These figures appear to me to be disgraceful, particularly in view of the ominous industrial outlook. We see our chief staple industry, coal, being supplanted by oil. We see oil-driven ships—30 per cent. of the total Mercantile Marine now, whereas but a few years ago the proportion was only 3 per cent. Instead of doing everything in our power to repatriate our people on the soil and to produce a larger and ever larger proportion of our foodstuffs, we sit tamely by with these alarming and amazing figures of the wiping out of a people, the herding of a healthy population in the cities, or, as an hon. Friend said, directing them beyond the seas to pursuits of agriculture abroad when they can perfectly well be engaged in agriculture at home.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) referred to the subject of afforestation, which the Secretary for Scotland never mentioned. Without afforestation you cannot have economic small holdings. 1894 Without proper co-ordination and without afforestation the whole scheme will become chaos, and I was amazed that the Secretary for Scotland did not think the work of afforestation worth mentioning. Within the time limit which we have imposed upon our speeches this evening, I desire to direct attention to one or two other points which have not been touched. In March last year I raised the question of co-operation amongst smallholders, and farmers of all classes. I drew attention to the facts about Denmark, and I made certain statements about the results of co-operation among the smallholders in the Orkney Islands. At a later date some of those statements were challenged, and in reply to a question by me, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson), who was then Secretary for Scotland, promised that the Board of Agriculture would make a detailed inquiry in the Orkney Islands, and ascertain the actual results of the great development of co-operation there. Those results have not yet been obtained. I understand that the Board of Agriculture sent a representative there, and that he came back with the facts and figures, but he has fallen ill, and nothing further has been done. The Board did not think it worth while to make another investigation in order to get the facts and figures relating to what I believe to be a most important element in this question.
What are the known facts about agriculture in the Orkneys? On the islands off the North-East of Scotland the population is prosperous. On the islands off the North-West of Scotland, in the same latitude and both treeless, the population is in starvation. There is this difference between the two. On the islands off the North East the middleman has been abolished, and the people have instituted a system of co-operative marketing. They have, I am told, collared the market for eggs in Edinburgh and Leith from the Danes. They are doing well, and there are some parishes in which the population is beginning to increase. I was informed when I was there that there are Parishes in the Orkneys which are no longer compelled to raise money for the relief of the indigent. That may or may not be correct but I was definitely told that the parish of Deerness no longer requires to raise a poor-rate. For the latest year for which I can get figures the export of eggs from the Orkney 1895 Islands represented £346,000 which far more than paid the total rents. One farmer whose books I examined kept 200 hens and by co-operation with his neighbours in the parish he had, in one year, received £176 for eggs.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I can quite understand the poverty of Argyllshire if its attitude towards modern progress is that adopted by its present representative. The fact remains that in Argyllshire starvation and poverty exist while in the Orkneys there is comparative plenty, and I submit that is due entirely to the fact that the smallholders in the Orkneys have wiped out the competitive marketing system of which the hon. Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) appears to think so highly. If the hon. Member desires further justification of my statement he can have it.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I know a great deal about the raising of fowls, and I think the hon. Member's otherwise admirable statement was a little impinged upon by the very large figure he mentioned as having been raised from 200 hens. He may be right, but the figure seems incredible to an expert.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
The hon. Member has yet a lot to learn. As a matter of fact, in two cases I can provide signed statements and there may be others. In the Island of Sandy several crofters are making these amounts from eggs. I examined the books of the Co-operative Society in the parish of Deerness, south of Kirkwall, and I found several farmers drawing over £150 per annum as the proceeds of about 200 hens. If the hon. Member for Argyllshire has any further doubt about the results of co-operation, I advise him to study the report of the Scottish Farmers' Commission which went over to Denmark, and which reported:The Danish farmer pays his way; his life is a self-respecting one, and his home shows signs of refinement as well as of comfort1896 The agricultural correspondent of the "Times," writing on 14th May, 1923, said:In skill and efficiency the whole system (the Danish system) is on a high level. The country owes its reputation and prosperity primarily to co-operation.If the Secretary for Scotland wants to keep the people on the soil it is his business to send investigators to the Orkney Islands to find out what has been done. Let him get the reports on the subject for which we have repeatedly asked and let him see to it that as far as possible the co-operative system which has succeeded in the Orkneys is adapted to other parts of Scotland. I heard the reference to a new Commission or Committee of Inquiry which has been recently set up in Scotland in relation to agriculture, and I heard the right hon. Gentleman say that on the Commission there were half a dozen representatives of the farm servants. I would like to know how those half dozen were obtained. They were not obtained through the Farm Servants' Union, which knows nothing about them. I understand that four of them are grieves, and as a result of the way in which they and the Farmers' Union have been treated in regard to the composition of this Committee, the Farm Servants' Union will have nothing to do with its proceedings. I understand that in England a different procedure was adopted, and that the Minister of Agriculture asked the Workers' Union in England to nominate representatives. That course was not followed in Scotland, and we should hear the reasons why it was not followed. At this time of day a Committee of Inquiry into agriculture in Scotland which ignores the very efficient Farm Servants' Union in Scotland begins its operations under a heavy handicap.
I hope the Parliamentary Secretary to the Scottish Board of Health will tell us what he is going to do with the results of the Committees and Commissions already pigeon-holed in his Department. What is he going to do about the Report of the Game and Heather Burning Committee? I hear talk of further Committees of Inquiry, but what is the use of setting up Committees if the Reports are to be pigeon-holed and forgotten? What is going to be done in regard to the Report just published by Lord Constable's Committee? What is going to be 1897 done about Recommendation No. 2 of that Committee? Are there to be labour representatives on the governing bodies of these colleges or not? What is to be done with Recommendation No. 17, about experiments in suitable localities for a residential farm school? What is to be done with Recommendation No. 26, as to the systematic recording and analysis of the data necessary for agricultural costing? What is to be done about Recommendation No. 28—all of which were, I think, unanimously agreed to and to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Scottish Board of Health appended his signature? What is the use of Committee after Committee and inquiry after inquiry finding out this and recommending that, when nothing whatever is done? The Report of the Game and Heather Burning Committee is as dead as a door nail. The deer forests are increasing and the rural population is decreasing, and to-day it is as true as in the time of Oliver Goldsmith thatIll fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,Where wealth accumulates, and men decay;Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade—A breath can make them, as a breath has made—But a bold peasantry, their country's pride,When once destroy'd, can never be supplied.The policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland will, in my judgment, never supply them. We are going from bad to worse, and I regard the discussion this afternoon as a most depressing and alarming one.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I also regard the discussion on the Scottish Board of Agriculture with very much the same feelings as the hon. Member who has just sat down. It is more or less a melancholy business. The Board of Agriculture has been in existence since 1913, and I understand it can be stated on reliable authority that the agriculture of Scotland, after all efforts has been as much improved by the effort of the Highland Society as by the Board of Agriculture. In 1922 I made an estimate of the cost of official salaries and travelling expenses and so forth, and 1898 although this body was instituted for the purpose of settling men on the land, as far as I could see, if one took the number of men who were then settled up to date, and divided by that number the total of salaries and travelling expenses involved, there was enough to give every man settled on the land 30s, a week Lind let him find a small holding for himself Most of the money was more or less swallowed up in official expenses. This year, judging from the figures which have been given, the results as regards settlement do not seem to be much better. One cannot help feeling that we are beginning at the wrong end. Something like £500,000 has been spent this year, and there is very little to show for it, and there is no prospect of there being much snore to show for it in the future. It is not spoon-feeding that is wanted in the Highlands, or young men who have a theoretical knowledge of farming, motoring about the countryside. Those who lecture on agriculture seldom know a good beast when they see one or can "hain a crop." They have a book knowledge, but not a practical knowledge, and large numbers of them go about the country trying to instruct practical men. I am told that a substantial portion of the population of the Isle of Skye at certain periods of the year consist of members of the staff of the Board of Agriculture.
The real problem is transport, and, as the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) has said, it is a waste of time settling men on the land if they cannot get their produce to market, and you will never get it to market under the present system of transport. The transport system is conducted, not on the principle of the value of the services rendered, but of what have the people got, and the maximum amount is taken from them. Even though you give large grants, when you find in some cases a shilling charged for a rabbit taken a comparatively short distance, and a couple of shillings for a couple of rabbits, you have a transport situation that is absolutely impossible. If you do everything to make these smallholders as prosperous as possible, and let them have every possible advantage that the present Board of Agriculture, or a Board of Agriculture 10 times better than the present one, can give them, still the cost of transport would take the whole of 1899 their profits, and they would be no better off at the end of the year than they were at the beginning, and unless you get better transport made available, all your efforts in the way of developing agriculture will be entirely in vain. Gentlemen on the other side may say I am attacking private enterprise. That is not so. I am against a transport monopoly, and wherever you get monopoly you get something bad. Monopoly requires to be checked in some fashion if monopolies are to be given. Transport includes piers and harbours and roads, and it is absolutely absurd that so many of the piers in Scotland are in private hands, so that there can be no steamer competition. The agriculturist cannot under present conditions get his produce to the market.
I was pleased to hear the Secretary for Scotland say that he is giving something to develop silos, which will solve the problem of winter feeding and wet seasons. I am informed by an expert agriculturist in the Highlands that silos would greatly increase the capacity of holdings, but with that there must be the development of the lime resources. I am told it is not necessary that lime should be burned, but only that it should be crushed. The whole of the grazings of Argyllshire would blossom with wild white clover, which is innate in the soil, if plenty of lime were applied thereto. I make a present of the suggestion to the Secretary for Scotland that he should start in on the Island of Lismore, which is a solid mass of very fine lime, known in the old days as the Garden of the Highlands, set up limeworks there, and barge the crushed lime to all parts round about; he would go a long way towards solving the difficulties of agriculture. It would also assist greatly by aiding in the destruction of the bracken which is devastating the Highlands. It seems impossible to get it dealt with by ordinary manual labour, as wages are so high. One man told me that he got a number of the unemployed, but he could not get them to stick it, and he went to Edinburgh University and got a. dozen students, who were taking their holidays, to go up for a fortnight, and the acreage that they cut was remarkable. If you put lime on the land, you go a long way towards killing the bracken. I am not talking of increasing only the fertility of 1900 arable land, but of grazing land. That is not anything in the nature of a subvention, but is helping the crofter to get his produce out of his own soil.
An hon. Member spoke about light railways. I doubt but the time is past for light railways. He also mentioned roads. Good roads are the one Communistic enterprise of which we can all approve in every part of this House. You cannot spend too much money on roads, provided you get value for money, because the road is open and free, and it allows the individual to run his own machine thereon at his time and free from all restriction. The railroad is a monopoly, and you immediately come up against all sorts of labour and other restrictions, and, besides, monopolies tend to squeeze up costs; but if you have open, free, and proper roads, each individual runs his own vehicle. Not long ago, in Argyllshire, I was driving along the coast in a Ford car, and I said to the driver: "Why do you not get a car of a lighter horse-power and have a cheaper duty to pay?" He replied: "There is no depreciation in a Ford," and I said, "There is bound to be some." He said: "This car cost me £10, and I shall sell it in the autumn for £15. I do not know that I am making any better money than a wage, but I am my own master, and I would rather make half the money and be my own master." That is the Highland spirit, and that is why they will not be industrialised. That is why Lord Leverhulme could make nothing of the Highlanders, and when he called himself Lord of the Isles, the people would have nothing more to do with him. That is why the Highlanders are so intensely interested in getting small holdings and working for themselves, and the true way to help them is to give them the transport that they need to get their produce to market.
There perhaps the Postmaster-General, with his cash-on-delivery system, would be making one of the greatest reforms ever made for agriculture. We would then get what an hon. Member mentioned in a different way, namely, the producer and the consumer brought together, and the man who solves that problem of getting the producer and the consumer face to face has solved the problem of the cost of living Nothing could be more advantageous than the fact that you could get a stone of vegetables, eggs, butter, or 1901 other commodities sent direct from the farm to the consumer. You would eliminate the middleman, and if Orkney can show us how to do it, all the better. They are not Scots by blood, but they are a very industrious people. They have always been a prosperous and a thriving people, and if they can show the Secretary for Scotland and the Board of Agriculture the way to work this co-operative principle, or even supply some sittings of this miraculous draft of hens, it will be a colossal advantage to the whole of Scotland.
The hon. Member touched on the question of afforestation, which, I agree, could go hand in hand with agriculture. It would be an enormous help in many parts of Scotland, but still there are many parts where there could be small holdings, but where there could not be afforestation. There is much danger of specialisation at present with the present Forestry Commission, for I find, at such places as Aehindarroch and Barealdine, in the Oban district, and Glensbellach and other farms at Orrich, in Inverness-shire, the Forestry Commission, in dealing with agriculture has depasturised a number of good farms, and driven the valuable acclimatised sheep stock off them, in order to plant trees, thus committing the same blunder as the Glasgow Corporation did. The latter were given a splendid estate by the generosity of a Glasgow citizen, with some farms, the rent of which was to pay for the upkeep of the groundsmen on the estate. They had not the sense to leave the farms in the possession of the tenants, but took them over themselves, and, of course, being a Corporation enterprise, which is the next thing to a Government enterprise, they lost much money, and, not content with that, they decided to afforest certain parts of it, and their foresters came down and took the best fields on the farms. The Board of Agriculture is not strong enough, or it would prevent these particular things happening. It would tell the Forestry Commission that it must look at Scotland as a whole, and not think that the trees are the only things that matter. They must realise that it is unsound business to drive the people off farms and to clear sheep off good sheep farms. I hope in future the two Departments will work together better.
1902 Reference has been made to Denmark, and I think we could with advantage have more exchange of some of our juvenile population between one country and the other for educational purposes. It would be an advantage if we could have some sort of Rhodes scholarships for young agriculturalists to go to Denmark and learn their methods. In 1837 Denmark was practically a desert, but their King and Queen took up the development of agriculture and made it into the great agricultural community that it has now become. In Scotland, in the Island of Coll, there was great distress 50 years ago, but the then Laird got a first-class cheesemaker over from Wigtown, and himself and his tenants all learnt to make cheese, and P defy any part of Great Britain or the Colonies to make cheese as good as they make it in the Isle of Coll. I have got it introduced into the London market, where it is received with great approbation. [An HON. MEMBER: "Have, you got it into the House? "] I hope to get some of it into the House.
Our schoolmasters, too, could take a lesson from Denmark in agricultural education because our education here is always a townsman's education, whatever a boy is to become; he is always educated to be a teacher or a clerk, or a lawyer, or an advocate, or something at a desk. Our education always seems to take the people away from the natural pursuit of agriculture. The former Secretary for Scotland said that our corn used to be grown in the mine, but as long as the mines are going to be interfered with to the extent to which they are now interfered with, I do not, think we shall get much corn grown there. The urban system of education for country boys has done a great deal of harm, and we shall soon lose, for instance, all our shepherds. They take them away from the shielings down to the villages and board them out, and the boys will not go back and be shepherds. Yet there is no finer occupation, and there is no more cultured or thoughtful type of man than the real Scottish shepherd. In a former generation the boys went out with their fathers to the sheep at five and six years old, and when they were 15 they were splendid shepherds and had learnt their business, but now they are supposed to start at 14 years of age, and they will not do it, and you cannot make shepherds of them, with the result that 1903 we are losing that splendid type of our agricultural population.
I wonder if we could not take a lesson from the oldest civilisation in the world, in the East, where the little boy starts his education with the particular and ends with the general. We start with the general and end with the particular, and if you keep a boy too long with the general, he will never learn the particular. The little boy in that great country which is at present in a, state of civil war, but which had a, civilisation 2,000 years ago when we were all running about in half a sheepskin—I mean China—is started at four years old. If his father is a cabinet-maker, he is a cabinet-maker, and learns right from the beginning, and by 12 is a magnificent craftsman, and goes to school then. We should adopt something of that kind with cur agricultural education. Boys should be taught in the winter, and in the summer time actively assist their parent in his particular occupation. That is the only way we shall keep our agricultural workers. Much might be done with our town population, too. Once men have left the land, it is difficult to get them to go back, though in Canada they have found men make good in these circumstances. As illustrating the effect of prolonged residence in the towns, I was told that a certain magistrate met a man whom he recognised in the market place of Inverness. He was a man who used to take a little boat up and down the Bowling Canal. The magistrate was surprised to think that such a boat could sail from the Clyde, and said, "No doubt, you have suffered some privation and had some experience, but you have had the advantage of seeing some very fine scenery." The reply was, "Ay, but I would not give ae night in the Coocaddens for a' the scenery in the Hielans." That is the corrupted town spirit. We cannot get them to return to the land, but we want to get the agricultural population already there to increase and multiply, and spread all over the land, grow the agricultural produce which is at present imported from Denmark and other countries, and, in that way, adjust the national balance of exports and imports.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
I think it is due, in my opening remarks, that I should return thanks for the vote of confidence passed by my hon. Friend in the Orkney hen. The Orkney hen has been referred to before in Debates in this House, and, without being able to say I can guarantee all the figures quoted by my hon. Friend, there is nothing at all remarkable in that part of the world for hens to earn 15s. or 16s. a year. I would, however, say to my hon. Friend, when he asks what difference there is between the West of Scotland and the Orkney Islands, that there is a very considerable difference. There is a very considerable difference in the soil, for one thing. We have the old red sandstone. There is a certain difference in the rainfall as well, and also a considerable difference in the people, and I may say, so far as the Orkneys are concerned, without saying anything derogatory of any other part of Scotland, that we have a very highly intelligent farming population there, who work very hard indeed, and it is perfectly true we make a good deal of money out of our eggs sold through co-operation. But so little satisfied are we with what we have done by co-operation so far, that a number of us are going to Denmark in the summer to study the methods in that country, so that we may sell our eggs on a more satisfactory basis, pay more attention to grading and so on, and make more money out of our eggs than we do at present.
As time is limited. I will confine myself, as shortly as I can, to the main subject on which I wish to offer a few remarks, and that is the subject of land settlement. It has been already referred to by various speakers in the Debate, and I do not think that too much notice can be drawn to the fact that land settlement schemes, so far as they have gone, are, I was going to say, an outstanding disgrace. We have only got to look at the figures of what has been accomplished during the last few years. May I quote this from the report of the Board of Agriculture, 1923:The Board estimate that the balance of funds provided by the Acts of 1920 and 1921 will not be sufficient to provide for the settlement of the whole of the suitable ex-service applicants ranking for preference.Mark you, that is only for the ex-service applicants, without regard to the civilian population. That is, in 1923 they said 1905 the funds would be insufficient to carry out their purpose. At that date, only 3,631 applicants for new holdings and enlargements together had been settled by the Board under the various schemes for settlement during and subsequent to the War. If we add to that the number given to us this afternoon, it brings the figure, roughly, to 4,000. In 1923, there were remaining on the Board's lists 10,020 suitable applicants. Deducting 400 from that number, we have 9,600 still, which means that if we go on at this rate, it will take us 24 years to get these men settled. Is that not a hopeless way of dealing with a great national question? In connection with what the right hon. Gentleman has said this afternoon, in sketching out the lines of the policy which he intends to carry out, or hopes to see carried out, in the course of the next few years, with regard to agriculture in Scotland, I would like to quote from the speech he made earlier in the year at the annual dinner of the Fife Agricultural Society:He criticised the past work of the Board They put in the forefront of their policy the question of land settlement. He was not against land settlement. He was in favour of small holdings under good conditions, but, in his opinion, the first duty of the Board of Agriculture, as long as he had anything to do with it, was that the energies of the Board must be turned more to the development of agriculture, agricultural education and scientific research. Alongside that might come, as a secondary consideration small holdings in ScotlandI should be the last person to say anything against agricultural education or scientific research; they are both very badly needed, and I am very glad to see provision has been made for extending agricultural education and scientific research. But, may I ask, what is the good of agricultural education to a man who cannot get a holding? What is the good of scientific research to a man who is living on an uneconomic holding? Those are the practical questions that need to be dealt with now, and should not be relegated to a second place. I do put it to the right hon. Gentleman that when he says agriculture must come first, and land settlement must come second, he is entering upon a very dangerous line. I would put neither one behind the other, but I would put them alongside one another, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he could not modify that line of policy, and see that both 1906 agriculture and land settlement are treated equally and fairly.
I would also ask whether this slow dealing with the question of land settlement can be considered a proper and a right way of implementing our promise to the ex-service men? Here are these thousands still waiting. It is seven years since the War. They did not need seven years to come to the Colours. We made it a promise that when the War was over and they were demobilised we would take every step to place them on the land, and here they are waiting still. This is a national question that needs dealing with on national lines, and I do not think any Member, whatever constituency in Scotland he may represent, can say for a moment that he or the people of Scotland are satisfied with the way land settlement has been dealt with by the Board of Agriculture in the past. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the time had come for a. review of how we stood, and I would like to throw out the suggestion that we should go on very different lines from those on which we have been going in the past. Our past experience has shown that land settlement has not been, and is not likely to be, dealt with satisfactorily by a branch of the Board of Agriculture. In my view, it should be dealt with on much longer lines than that. It should be dealt with by a separate commission, with powers to deal with the whole question, looking at it from now right into the future, and not be dealt with from hand to hand, mouth to mouth, and year to year. It is a very much longer question, like that of afforestation. Afforestation has been put into the hands of Forestry Commissioners, so that the whole policy may be laid on lines leading right away into the future. If it be necessary to deal with afforestation on those lines, I say it is equally necessary when we come to plant men upon the land, as when we plant trees upon the land.
In the past, the policy that has been pursued has failed owing to a variety of reasons. One of them, I am afraid, is that Parliament has not insisted on seeing that the policies that have been proposed in past Acts have been carried out. Another reason is that the Board of Agriculture, instead of settling tenants upon estates, have spent most: of their money in purchasing land, and thereby 1907 have held up and circumscribed their powers for developing schemes in the future. The Secretary for Scotland suggested that when the land would not hold any more people, they should emigrate, and he also suggested that there were very great difficulties in parts of the country in finding sufficient land for enlarging holdings. I quite agree that is so, and particularly it must be so in the case of small islands. But I would also remind him that it is not quite true to say that in Orkney and Shetland, the part I know best, there is not land available for the enlargement of holdings. There is a considerable amount of land, I suggest, available for enlargements at the present time. It might, perhaps, interest the Committee if I told them a little piece of history. In the old days, when crofters' holdings were originally laid out, they were designedly laid out on such a scale that the holder could not live on the holding, but must put in his spare time fishing. In that connection there has been a very curious reflex action from illegal trawling. Owing to the illegal trawling interfering with the fishing in home waters, the crofter-fisherman is no longer able, in the way he was in the past, to make a living out of his croft and his fishing, and, therefore, he requires an enlargement of his holding. In many parts of the country where the crofter-fisherman was able to make ends meet by crofting and fishing, owing now to the failure of the inshore fishing, he is demanding an enlargement of his holding, if he is to have an economic holding.
Nothing is more unsatisfactory than settling people on uneconomic holdings. I am afraid that has been done. Not only that, but, having been settled in places to which reference has already been made by my hon. Friend, where there is most inefficient and insufficient means of communication—having, I say, put people on the holdings where the communications are very had and very expensive, it follows that they are handicapped at once in their efforts to make both ends meet and to get their produce to market for sale. By the time they have got their produce away and sold ft, they find that the whole of the profit is gone in the freightage they have to pay. I will add no more, except to say that I 1908 most earnestly ask the Secretary for Scotland not to relegate the question of land settlement into the background, but to see that it is kept in the foreground of any policy that he may lay down for the future. I am not allowed to go into this matter by the Rules of Debate, but I would add that I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not leave out of consideration the great importance of assuring security of tenure to small holdings.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
There are four specific questions to which I desire to direct the attention of the Secretary for Scotland arising out of the statement that he made to the House at the beginning of the Debate. May I say that evidently someone who wrote to the "Scotsman" anticipated the statement that the Secretary for Scotland was going to make. The right hon. Gentleman has stated, so far as the outer islands are concerned, that there was not any chance of the extension of land settlement there. I think that was the statement made in the speech opening the Debate. I find, however, in the "Scotsman," dated 5th March, someone, who evidently knows something about the situation so far as the islands are concerned, made this statement:It is taken for granted in the South that the croft is an economic impossibility, but given fair conditions it need not be so. In this neighbourhood there are not a few crofts which support their owners in tolerable comfort, and were the Western Isles blessed with an efficient and relatively cheap transport service the number of such would be greatly increased.There is a reason for the difficulties in the Western Islands. There may be a reason for no further extension of crofts, unless we are prepared effectively to deal with the transport service so far as the Western Islands are concerned. I might point out that it will be impossible to make any of these crofts pay, or for the small holdings to be effectively assisted so far as the outer islands are concerned unless the Secretary for Scotland is going to do something by reducing the enormous freightage rates that obtain at present. Here is a comparison of pre War freights and present freights between 1914 and the present time. Take the cost in connection with Barra. In 1914 the transport of one cow was 5s.; at present it is El. One stirk cost 2s. 6d., and the figure is now 13s. [An HON MEMBER: 1909 "What is the destination?"] It makes no difference where the destination is, the comparison is with 1914. One horse cost 10s., and the transport now is £1 5s. One sheep cost 6d., and the figure is now 2s. 6d. I suggest that if you want to help the highlander probably you could do something effective—and you have the power already for subsidising certain services. One of the first things that the right hon. Gentleman or the Department ought to do would be to give orders for the scrapping of the "Cygnet." That old boat was originally made for service on the Forth and Clyde Canal, and certainly not for sea purposes, as it is used at present. In reply to the observation of the hon. Gentleman near to rue, it would only be allowed to go on the Serpentine on the 29th February, and, as that date seldom comes, hon. Members will see what I mean, for it is the only place where this particular yeses' is likely to be seaworthy. If you want to do something to help the Western Isles you have got to use the power you have already further to subsidise the transport service. When the goods freightage has been reduced the goods will be brought to the mainland as cheaply and speedily as possible.
The second question with which I want to deal is that of small holdings and allotments. In answer to a question which I, put to the Secretary for Scotland to-day, we had a somewhat remarkable answer. We find that while the number of small holdings have actually increased, the number of acres of land under arable cultivation has steadily declined during recent years. We find, too, that in ten years the number of men engaged on the land has decreased by 15,000. The Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton), I think it was, said there was no greater folly than putting the wrong people on to the land. I want, in reply to that, to say that there is no greater folly than allowing the right people not to be put on to the land, but to me emigrated, when they might produce in their own land the food which at the present time we import from abroad. I want to suggest that something has got to be done to help on real land settlement so far as the Highlands and Islands are concerned. I hold in my hand here a portion of the report of the Departmental Committee which inquired into the whole 1910 question, and this is what I read from that report:A delegate from the crofters in Strath Halladale, Sutherlandshire, told the Commissioners in 1892 that 45,000 acres of this valley had been turned into a sheep farm, left to an absentee, and 8,000 acres of that area were subsequently turned into deer forst. Sixty families bad formerly supported themselves in comfortable circumstance, on this land. The middle portion of the strath had been secured to the crofters under the Crofters Act; the area on either side which lied once been so fruitful was now a desert.Another witness was Colin Chisholm, a man of 80, who was one of those driven out from Glen Cannich in 1832 when that beautiful glen, together with Strathglass and Glen Strathfarrar, was cleared. I want the House to note this statement. He said:I have seen the finest oats I ever saw South or North, in England or Scotland, growing in the dales of Glen Cannich, the finest potatoes and the finest turnips.If they could do that in the times gone by, according to the witness in his evidence before the Departmental Committee, then, it means that we are using for deer forests to-day land which, instead of being used merely for the sport of English and Welsh millionaires, might be better used for rearing a bold Scottish peasantry. There is another aspect of the allotment question which I want to refer to, and that is the fact that under Section 18 (3) of the Land Settlement (Scotland) Act, 1919, there is provision made as follows:The Board of Agriculture may, with the approval of the Secretary for Scotland, apply moneys out of the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund to an amount not exceeding £4,000 in any one year for the purpose of encouraging and developing the provision of allotments throughout Scotland in such manner as they think fit.I want to know what the Secretary for Scotland proposes to do to apply that provision of the Act? Is he prepared to allocate £4,000 for the purposes of holdings and allotments, as here indicated, so far as Scotland is concerned'? I understand that two applications have been made to the Scotish Board of Agriculture, one by Glasgow and the other by Edinburgh. Both applications, I understand have been turned clown. Obviously, there is going to be no effort made, so far as the Scottish Board of Agriculture is concerned, to help a scheme of allotments. No part of the £4,000 has so far been applied to allotment purposes. The 1911 Departmental Committee on Allotments recommended in 1922 that the money could be most usefully applied in meeting part of the price, of the ground required for allotment purposes and in creating areas for food cultivation. So far as our country is concerned, this will be very materially helped by the Board of Agriculture assisting schemes of allotments. I believe we ought to have allotments near to the large industrial centres, and we might, by that means, be training men for going back to the land—not turning their backs on the land—and for cultivating that land which is desirable in the interests of food production.
We say that up to the present the Secretary for Scotland has not exercised the power which I claim he has got under the particular Section of the Act I have quoted. We desire that he should help on the scheme of allotments, and do everything possible to develop small holdings so far as the Highlands of Scotland are concerned—and also, indeed, as far as the Lowlands are concerned. In my own constituency there have been individuals who have repeatedly applied for small holdings. There seems to be no possibility of the extension of small holdings. Peebles-shire is one of the counties where you could successfully develop a scheme of small holdings, and, because of the extension of small holdings, go on replanting the hillside, and go in for a scheme of afforestation for the purpose of replanting the hillsides which were denuded of their trees during the War. At the present time, it may be truly said that so far as the Highlands of Scotland are concerned thatThe highlands all are hunting groundWhere men are few and deer abound;And desolation broods profoundO'er the homes of Culloden.I want to see instead of deer abounding, men abounding, and I want the Secretary for Scotland to exercise his power for the purposes of developing small holdings on the lines suggested.
The other point I want to make reference to is the need for closer co-operation between the Board of Agriculture and the Education Department. I believe, if we are to have a real system of agricultural education so far as Scotland is concerned, there must be some one body held responsible for carrying it through. There 1912 is at the present time, no one body responsible. I know one educational authority, that I am closely connected with, which has indeed appealed to two Secretaries of Scotland, the last Secretary and the present Secretary, and the last certainly gave us plenty of sympathy. I hope that the present Secretary for Scotland will ladle out the cash, and that will help materially in developing our scheme of education. The late Secretary was a Fifer. The present Secretary is a Fifer. I also come from Fife. Perhaps that combination may bring some influence to bear upon the present Secretary to give us special grants as he has the power to do. The education authority to which I have referred is very interested in agricultural education. We are anxious to bear our share of the burden if the authority is prepared to send the money. Many Boards are prepared to accept responsibility. But we claim there ought to be some assistance from the, national purse if we are prepared to carry through experiments in agricultural education. I trust that out of the funds available it may be possible for the Secretary for Scotland to encourage education authorities desirous of giving some form of agricultural education in their particular areas; and I trust he will also bring pressure to bear, and provide the necessary money for the payment of adequate salaries at our agricultural colleges. It is unfair the miserable, salaries being paid at present, in connection with the West of Scotland Agricultural College, in connection also with the East of Scotland, in fact, with all our agricultural colleges. I suggest those who are teaching in connection with those colleges ought to be classed as doing service equal to that of anyone connected with the universities. It is a nearer approach to university teaching than, shall I say, even to teaching in our secondary schools.
In introducing this Debate, the Secretary for Scotland made reference to the expenditure on research in connection with diseases of animals. I suggest that he might bring influence to bear upon the English authorities responsible to secure the removal of some of the difficulties in the way of sheep farmers in Scotland under the regulations requiring the double dipping of sheep. These regulations are-bearing most heavily upon sheep farmers, particularly in the South of Scotland. If there be an outbreak of disease, they 1913 agree that the areas ought to be scheduled, and that there should be double dipping where sheep scab has broken out in a particular district; but where no disease exists there ought not to be a regulation, applied to the whole of Scotland, to compel the double dipping of sheep which may be clear of disease. I trust he will bring pressure to bear upon the Minister of Agriculture for England who, I understand, is also the responsible authority so far as Scotland is concerned.
In conclusion, I wish to point out that agriculture is one of the greatest problems we have to deal with at the present time. We ought to produce the maximum amount of food in our own land, so as to counteract the effects of our declining export trade. We ought to produce food in our own land instead of importing it from abroad. We could do that if we extended small holdings and allotments, and carried through effectively the work of agricultural research.
§ Sir ALEXANDER SPROT
It has been said that this Debate, so far, has been rather lugubrious in tone, and I desire to impart a more cheerful aspect to it. In the first place, it is cheering to me to find the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland occupying his present position. He has a great many Departments of very diverse character under his control, but there can be no doubt, so far as this Department with which we are now dealing is concerned, that the right hon. Gentleman is the right man in the right place. He is not only a practical agriculturist himself, but he comes from a notable agricultural family. Hon. Members will admit that there is no man who has done more for Scottish agriculture than the right hon. Gentleman's father. In every department of it, in cattle and horse-breeding and in arable cultivation, he was a leading man in Scottish agriculture, and the right hon. Gentleman is following in his footsteps, and has been successful at exhibitions of stock not only in Scotland but also in London. Therefore, the fact of his being where he is leads me to take a rather more hopeful view of the state of Scottish agriculture than, perhaps, one would otherwise be inclined to do.
I should like to congratulate him at the outset on having got the Scottish Agricultural Conference going. I regret very much the hitch which has prevented 1914 the summoning of a similar conference for England, and I hope it is being got over, for I was very sorry, both as an agriculturist and as a party man, when I heard there was some prospect of its being abandoned. That conference was a great feature of our election campaign, in which we held forth the prospect of useful suggestions being obtained for dealing with the agricultural situation. The idea was not to bring together the representatives of the different classes, the landowners, the farmers, the labourers in a spirit of antagonism. No! The idea was to bring representatives of all classes together, without thought of party, to consider the best measures to be taken to raise agriculture from its present rather depressed condition. That was a sound idea, and I am glad that it is being carried out in Scotland, at any rate, whatever is happening in England.
I would like to say a word, also, on the subject of research. One of the most important matters, if it could be done, would be to find some remedy for foot-and-mouth disease. Only this morning a gentleman, who had no knowledge that this Debate was going to take place today, brought me a pamphlet about a Swiss remedy which I shall be glad to send to the right hon. Gentleman in the hope that he will read it; he can read it if he likes, and if not he can turn it over to some of his experts in the Research Department in the hope that there may be something in it. It would be a very happy coincidence if I should be in a position to point out something which would really be of use on this very important question.
I associate myself with all that has been said on both sides of the House with regard to co-operation and marketing. My right hon. Friend is one of those who has stuck to this question of extending co-operation in Scotland, being one of the original guarantors of the society which has this matter in hand. I was one of the guarantors also. It has made progress in some parts of the country; in Wigtownshire, I believe, on the dairyland, and also, we have been told, in Orkney, co-operation has done good work; but in many parts the progress, unfortunately, has been very slow. In the parts of the country I am acquainted with farmers co-operate in buying—they buy feeding-stuffs, manures, 1915 binder-twine and so on in co-operation with each other—but so far one cannot get them to co-operate in selling, and I think that is a very great mistake. I know many places in France where the producer and the consumer are directly brought together. At St. Omer, which is the centre of a very fruitful agricultural country, you will see on any market day every sort of agricultural produce brought into the market by the producers themselves. You will see farmers' wives, rows of them, with eggs, chickens and other things, and in another corner of the market you will find little pigs and vegetables. All those things are brought in by those who actually produce them, and the housewives of the town go round with a servant behind with a basket and buy what is required for the week's household supplies. That is a most excellent system, which I would like to see introduced into this country, because it means greater economy in distribution. I cannot see any objection to it, and in the report of the Commission which sat under Lord Linlithgow one will find how much more might be done in the direction I am suggesting.
I do not want to take up more time of the Committee, because I think that is perhaps the chief thing we can suggest for improving the condition of agriculturists, and more especially smallholders, at the present time. Over and above that there is the question of transport. Our railway charges are a great deal too high, and I hope there is some prospect of the charges for agricultural produce, for manures and feeding stuffs, being lowered. The Government ought to insist that the railway companies take steps in that direction very shortly. Something could be done also, if you had markets which I have described, by organising motor transport or encouraging people locally to organise it. Lorries might be sent round certain districts to collect agricultural produce and take it into the market to be sold.
The Scottish Board of Agriculture does not receive many compliments from either side of the House. There is a good deal of grumbling about it, and no doubt there are many faults in the Department. It is said to be too bureaucratic, too dilatory, and so on, but I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, being himself a practical agriculturist, will, before he has been very 1916 long in office, be able to apply some stimulus to the Department, and that we shall all see a very marked improvement before very long.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
We listened with great interest to the speech of the Secretary for Scotland, but I cannot help thinking that he glided rather lightly over some of the matters which are of the greatest importance to the Highlands. One question above all ethers which at the present time is arousing alarm, consternation and despondency, and which is striking at the root of the feeling of security that is an essential condition of good husbandry and arousing an increasingly bitter sense of grievance in the Highlands of Scotland, is that of the resumption of holdings by purchasers who have acquired them for residence. Everybody knows that sales have taken place of estates all over Scotland. Landlords have been hard put to it, and they have had to sell their land, but I think some steps should be taken to protect the smallholders who are the sitting tenants, who were given a promise of security under the Acts of 1886 and 1911. I know it would be contrary to the rules of the House to debate questions on the estimates involving legislation, but I ask the Secretary for Scotland to take the point. I have just mentioned into consideration.
From the Highland standpoint the next most important question is that of land settlement. I listened with dismay when I heard the Secretary for Scotland state that the Board of Agriculture would primarily concern itself with the large main interests of agriculture which he described as education and research work. That is quite contrary to the plain letter of the Act of 1911. The hon. Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten), who is one of the right hon. Gentleman's keenest supporters, said just now that the Board of Agriculture was constituted primarily to promote small holdings and land settlement, and that is well known to be the case to anyone who has studied this question. Under Section 5 of the Act of 1911, the sum of £15,000 was placed at the disposal of the Board of Agriculture Congested Districts Fund, and another £185,000 was set apart annually for the following purposes: firstly, the constitution of new holdings, then the enlargement of existing holdings, thirdly the im- 1917 provement and rebuilding of crofters' dwellings. Those are the principal objects to which this money ought to be applied.
Lastly, the money was to be used for the other powers and duties of the Board of Agriculture. I want to know how much of this money is spent under this heading. How much of the total of £200,000 is going for small holdings? We have had in one way and another a great deal of money voted for the encouragement of small holdings during the past few years, but the Board of Agriculture cannot get ahead because they are frequently held up in their schemes until a long line of experts have examined their proposals and the Treasury have given their sanction. If the whole of this £200,000 or even £150,000 or £175,000 was earmarked definitely for small holdings, and for the enlargement of small holdings and the rebuilding of crofters' houses, then the Secretary for Scotland could go ahead, and. as he got reimbursed by the Treasury more of this fund would be available and ha could carry over any balance to the following year.
As it is, the work of the Board is held up because so much of this money is now being spent upon other objects and the Board is dependent for every new advance on the authorisation of the Treasury. There are other ways in which the Treasury puts its spoke into the wheels of the operations of the Board of Agriculture in Scotland. When, for example, the Board buys an estate and pays for it £20,000, frequently it only requires an area of land costing some £5,000 for the purposes of land settlement, and the Board then sell the remainder of the estate, and they pay back the balance to the Treasury. Notwithstanding this, the Treasury debits the Board of Agriculture with the whole £20,000 which has been paid for the estate. The result is that that policy again limits the amount of money at the disposal of the Board for the vital work of land settlement.
I want to say a few words about the question of the first preference ex-service men. The last Secretary for Scotland stated that this was no longer going to be a condition of land settlement scheme that preference should be given to first preference ex-service men. May I point out, however, that schemes are still being held up for that reason, and it works very harshly in the case of many deserving 1918 civilian applicants in districts where it is absolutely essential for the holdings to be put on an economic basis.
It also works very hard on those 80,000 men who were in hospitals when the regulations were made, and who only came out after the date when applications had to be made, and consequently they found themselves debarred, through being in the hospital, from registering themselves as first preference ex-service men. A great many men became first preference ex-service men, and were offered holdings in 1919 and 1920, but they refused them because they said the rents were too high, and they could not make a success of them at the prices at which they were offered. Now those holdings have been revalued, and the value of the buildings has been reduced in some eases to one-third, and in other cases to as low as one-fifth, and it has been proved that these men were quite right when they said they could not make a success of those holdings on those terms.
It is not right that the men who took that view and refused the holdings on those grounds should not now be allowed to apply, and should be struck off the list of preference men. I think they should be allowed now to apply for holdings, and their applications should be taken into more sympathetic consideration because of the true instinct which they showed by refusing those holdings in 1919. In Caithness and Sutherland and in other parts of Scotland land settlement is being held up, but in my opinion too much blame has been attributed to the Board of Agriculture on this account. This Board work within the limits of a certain system, and they are responsible to the Secretary for Scotland, and the blame should be placed on his shoulders and the shoulders of his predecessors.
I was rather amused at the remark made by the predecessor of the Secretary for Scotland, because I remember that last year the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Adamson) brought small holdings in at the tail end of his speech. I think the Secretary for Scotland is to blame for the slowness with which the policy of the Board is being carried out. I know he has his difficulties with the Treasury, but he should insist on all those hindrances being removed. I would like to refer to the scheme for relieving the congestion in 1919 Canister and also that little cluster of townships round Lairg including Knockdhu, Ballone, Rheambrek, Tornich and Torrobol. I should like to hear something about those schemes, because it is of real importance to get them moving and try to place those townships on an economical and self-supporting basis. If the Board of Agriculture cannot get ahead under the present system, and the Board of Agriculture cannot help them, and the Secretary for Scotland is going to carry out his scheme of concentrating on research and education and if small holdings, and land settlement is going to be treated as a very subsidiary sphere of action, then I say the time has come to take small holdings out of the control of the Board of Agriculture altogether and a land settlement commission should be instituted to deal with land settlement. In far too many cases the Forestry Commission has taken over land which ought to be used for the wintering of sheep, and they have not taken land which they could take in Sutherland and some parts of Caithness which they could have most usefully taken over and worked in connection with land settlement, and which would have given ancillary occupation to smallholders. Instead of doing that they have taken land which would have been better used for small holdings and the wintering of sheep.
I wish to say a word or two about seed oats. The late Secretary for Scotland got a Vote through of £100,000 for this purpose, and as I have criticised his policy in regard to land settlement, I would like to pay him a tribute for providing money for the provision of seed oats. I understand that £45,000 of that money has not been used. May I point out that there are one or two cases of great hardship in this respect in my own constituency. There are one or two places such as Armadale where I should like the Board of Agriculture to allow some seed oats and potatoes, because the people there have been very hardly hit by the failure of their crops in consequence of local storms. Again it is the crofters in that district who have applied to the Board of Agriculture for assistance in the supply of materials for a fence at Topegan, and I claim that the Board should not be less generous in this respect than the previous private landlord who 1920 supplied materials in a similar case before the Board bought the property. Then just alongside Armadale there is a pier which was lost in a recent storm, and I would like to know whether the Board of Agriculture could not help the fishermen of Farr with their pier. The people in the parish of Farr have been very badly hit in regard to these three matters. I have also raised questions time after time about liming and drainage, and that is a matter of the utmost importance, because there has been great dissatisfaction with the allocation of the drainage grants, and I hope it will be possible to get a larger sum for this purpose and deal with a larger proportion of the applications next year. This not only gives useful employment to those who are under-employed and out of employment, but it also means that the productivity of the soil is increased, and it means that more people can be permanently employed on the soil and it leaves behind an asset to the whole country. The Secretary for Scotland stated that he was considering this question of lime, and that he was going to try to restore some of those limekilns. On the shore of John o' Groats there is a great deal of shell sand, which I am told when burnt gives a 98 per cent. lime. I suggest that source of lime may be taken into consideration. There are also those limekilns at Loch Erribol, and I hope the Secretary for Scotland will consider whether they can be restored. He said it would be necessary to spend £3,000. My information is that £400 or £500 would put them into workable order, and the lime would be valuable, not only for building purposes—many of the shooting lodges were built of that lime many years ago—but also for the reclamation of land. There is a great deal of land in that district in the Board of Agriculture's possession which is derelict. With that lime the land could be reclaimed. This lime is on the property of the Government at the present time. It could be put to useful purposes. The lime could be exported to Caithness and to Ross-shire. That lime has been used in past years in Ross-shire and the Black Isle. It could be carried to Orkney, where they are in need of lime. It would be a useful industry, which would be of the utmost value, not only to the people in that 1921 vicinity but to the people of Orkney, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross-shire, and it would be putting this Government property to a useful and economic use.
I would like to point out the need there is of developing all those rural industries and doing all we can at the present time to promote land settlement in the Highlands. We have recently had unemployment Debates in this House in which the seriousness of the situation has been depicted by speakers on all sides of the House. There is no immediate prospect of getting back our foreign trade, of bringing it up to the pitch at which it stood in 1913. All the more necessity, therefore, is there to concentrate on the development of our own home resources. There are £350,000,000 worth of food being imported into this country of a kind which we could grow. We could grow a great deal of it. There is land undeveloped, especially in Scotland. If you look at the agricultural returns for Scotland, you will find arable land, grazing land, rough grazing, mountain and heath land in the returns, and there is still 25 per cent. of the land of Scotland unaccounted for. Everything should be done by the right hon. Gentleman and his Department to promote the fullest development of the land of Scotland. Men in Scotland, in the Highlands, are drifting into the cities and across the seas. The best blood is being drained out of the Highlands. A bold policy of land settlement in Scotland would not only check that tide of emigration, and reverse it and save the Highland race, but it would enable the Highlands, instead of adding to the gravity of the problem in the great cities, to make a great contribution to the relief of unemployment and to the production of food from our land.
§ Mr. WRIGHT
In view of the agreement with regard to limiting Members' time, I want to confine myself almost entirely to one or two aspects of this question of agriculture, and, as far as possible, not to traverse any of the points raised by previous speakers. We are engaged in debating an extremely interesting question, and I am quite sure our time will not be misused. I agree entirely with what the hon. Baronet below the Gangway (Sir A. Sinclair) has said, except upon one point. I am not going to attempt to debate it with him 1922 at the present time. We have all agreed in all parts of this House that Britain should produce more of its food supplies from its own soil We are all agreed that a very large amount of the food referred to by the hon. Baronet could be produced here. My only point at the moment is that no person can yet say what any acre of land can produce. If that be true, then the possibilities at some future time of producing all the foodstuffs has a logical basis.
Apart from that altogether, I want to appeal to the Secretary for Scotland upon one or two points. Last year, when these questions were under consideration, I urged that, while it was very important that new research work should be attempted, it was of some importance that the results of research work already done should be made available to Members of this House and the community at large. Very valuable research work has been done already in other parts of the world as well as in this country. It is exceedingly difficult for Members in this House to obtain records of those results. In America and Canada very important results have been obtained. There is the work of the Saunders, father and son, who produced Marquis wheat. Their work has been recorded by Professor Buller. There is the work of men like Dr. J. W. Streeter. Ninety-nine per cent. of the people of this country do not know anything about this kind of work which has already been accomplished. I appealed last, year to the Secretary for Scotland that those results should be made available, just as the results of Professor Biffen in this country as regards wheat.
I would refer to the importance of the improvement of the cultivation of the land, and agricultural education and research. For instance, if we are ever to get full value of the natural resources in Scotland we shall soon be obliged to develop the latent water power in Scotland with regard to agriculture and for other matters. An estimate was given a good many years ago by a civil engineer, called Mr. Munro, who declared that there was sufficient water power in Scotland running to waste to run the whole of the machinery in Scotland at the present time. It is said that we have a better water supply in Scotland than they have in Switzerland. Our water supply has not been developed. As a 1923 matter of fact, the Water Power Resources Committee of the Board of Trade, in 1919, expressed the opinion that in a portion of Scotland alone schemes could be developed for the generation of 1,200,000,000 of Board of Trade units per annum, a quantity equal to a quarter of the total supply of all the steam power in Great Britain in 1917–18. Therefore, if that could be done, I submit that it would be of immense value to the development of agriculture in Scotland, because electric power is going to play a very great part in years to come so far as agriculture is concerned. I am not thinking of the application of electricity to plant life. It is known now that 25 per cent. higher results can be obtained by the use of electricity on plant life apart from its use in lighting and heating. The most up-to-date farmers in the South of England are applying electricity to their holdings with very great advantage so far as farming is concerned.
There is another matter of some importance with regard to water power—the development of our rivers and the deepening and widening of them. It is a well-known fact that in many parts of the country there is a good deal of land which is water-logged, and can only produce as it ought to produce if adequately and properly drained. Lord Bledisloe expressed the view a few years ago that the food supply of this country could be doubled, and he attributed half of that increase to the effect if those water-logged lands were adequately and properly drained. Fortunately, we have the machinery whereby that kind of work can be done. There was an important machine sent to India quite recently which was capable of developing a channel 200 feet wide and 12 feet deep. It could cut 200 to 400 cubic yards per hour, and be worked by two men. If we sent that machinery to India, surely we could use it for the improvement of our agricultural land in this country. I do not believe it is really, as necesssary as the Secretary for Agriculture has suggested, that more men should be sent out of this country.
I believe vast possibilities are here still so far as reclamation of land is concerned. For the last two or three thousand years in this country land has been gradually 1924 reclaimed, and, if the yield to-day is four times greater than it was five or six hundred years ago, it is due chiefly to the development of the land of this country. I should like to see some really great important scheme adopted with regard to the reclamation and improvement of the land; not merely the twopenny-halfpenny scheme which is in vogue at the present time in Scotland. One of the previous speakers has referred to the fact that this Debate has been of rather a depressing character up to date, and it seems to me that there is a Gilbertian aspect about the matter when we read that last year there was 7s. 7d. set aside for land reclamation in Scotland—£1 a week and 7s. 7d. over. That shows how seriously we have taken this question into account. In other countries they are doing very much more than that.
May I call the attention of the Secretary for Scotland to a very important thing which has happened within modern times in Germany. There was the desert of Lupitz, developed by Schlutz, a well-known farmer, who had some 350 acres of desert land assessed at 1s. 6d. a year, and at the end of 25 years' steady working he was producing 15 bushels of wheat and oats to the acre, and three or four tons of potato. That is a possibility which can be accomplished here. We have had great schemes of reclamation in this country. There was the draining of The Wash; there was the great scheme of Vermuiden; there was the great schemes of men like John Rennie. According to a report in one of the evening papers last week, The Wash between Lincoln and Norfolk is being drained. There are miles of excellent land being brought into cultivation in England so far as the reclaiming of The Wash is concerned. Seventy thousand acres have been reclaimed from the sea since the Romans were here. There was a very great scheme in Scotland 80 years ago. The late Marquess of Tweeddale came from India and settled upon his own land in Scotland, and undertook some 1,200 acres of land and cultivated it upon a new basis which was called the Yester Deep Scheme of Cultivation. On these 1,200 acres, by this new method of agriculture, the Marquess of Tweeddale, at the end of five or six years, was getting four times what the yield had previously been on the average.
1925 There are many similar instances of that kind in different parts of the world, and, if they could be applied even to a small extent to the land of Scotland, there is absolutely no need to send the best blood of the country to distant parts of the world while we allow our own land to lie uncultivated and undeveloped. We have one of the best markets in Scotland for all the products which can be obtained from the land. We are confirmed in this opinion by such an eminent man as Lord Lovat who, in a paper which he read in December, 1920, said, speaking of arable land, apart from the land devoted to deer forests, that there were still some 3,000 acres of arable land in Scotland awaiting development, and that much of the hill land was only producing about 2s. to 2s. 6d. worth of beef or wool year by year, when very much better results might be obtained if it were properly brought into cultivation. There are opportunities for reclaiming vast quantities of land and bringing about a higher standard of cultivation, and if that were done there is no doubt that we should be able to deal, to some extent, with the problem of unemployment, which concerns some of us very acutely indeed.
A previous speaker has drawn the attention of the Secretary for Scotland to one or two hard cases in his own division. I have hundreds of cases in my division of the very greatest hardship in connection with this problem. One of the evils of modern times is the rush from the agricultural areas into the great towns and cities, which have become such congested centres of population, and where, with our foreign trade, or some portion of it, lost, years of trade depression, poverty and destitution, so far as we can see, are facing the people. We must try and solve these problems in the interests of these people. One of the most painful cases that has ever occurred in my experience occurred only a week ago in this very House, when I learned that a man, with his wife and five children, whose ages were from nine years upwards, had actually walked from Blantyre, in Scotland, to London in search of work. We have hundreds of thousands of men unemployed who would be only too glad to have an opportunity of cultivating the soil of their native land if that opportunity were provided. I hope the Secretary for Scotland will take this question to heart, and try, in 1926 conjunction with his colleagues, to hit upon some really big, first-class scheme of land reclamation that will provide employment for these men, who are quite capable of doing this kind of work.
In conclusion, I would say that I hope we shall not always be, like the cow's tail, behind with regard to the information that is available. The right hon. Gentleman has said that, with regard to the analysis of soil and so on, experiments are being made, in co-operation, as I understood him to say, with experts from America; but, for 10 to 15 years past, American farmers have been able to send a thimbleful of soil to their experimental stations and have it analysed, so that they can be told precisely what its ingredients are and what kind of manures and fertilisers should be used in order to improve their land on a large scale. Why should we, who have been one of the leading agricultural nations in the world as regards our land, our animals, and our crops, linger 15 or 20 years behind what is being done in the experimental stations of the United States and Canada? I hope that all this work will be speeded up. I would appeal also to the right hon. Gentleman to eneavour to place at our disposal the results of the previous investigations to which I have referred, so that those who are interested in these problems, and the agricultural community at large, may be able to act upon the results of these researches and see if we can produce similar results here. Agriculture is the very foundation of our industrial system, and it will always remain one of the most important industries of the world; and from that point of view more attention should be devoted to it, and, as I believe, more money should be, allotted to it, than has been the case in the past.
Vice-Admiral Sir A. HENNIKER, HUGHAN
I have the extraordinary, good fortune, not only to represent the constituency of Galloway but also to live there. It is tucked away, as hon. Members know, in the south-west corner of Scotland, and is a sheep-farming and dairy-farming district. Our greatest burden is the upkeep of roads, which tells very hardly on the district. In the northern part of Galloway, where I live, a rate of a penny in the £ only represents £200 or there- 1927 abouts, and, consequently, any extra burden in the way of upkeep of roads tells very hardly on us and raises our rates very considerably. I do not know if I am in order, but I cannot help thinking that, if only the first-class roads could be taken over by the Government altogether, it would help us very greatly.
Another grievance that we have is Summer Time. I hope I am in order in regard to this, because it really does come into agriculture. What our farmers want is that there should be only four months of Summer Time in the year.
§ Sir A. HENNIKER-HUGHAN
Then I will leave that; but the improvement of agriculture would be very much greater in Galloway if we could have more time from May to September to work in the morning and in the evening. One of our great difficulties is bracken. Bracken grows a great deal all over the country, and there I think that, if we could get Government help, it would be of very great service, because cutting the bracken is a most expensive job. It has to be cut three times before you get rid of it. Galloway is called the Highlands of the Lowlands. Perhaps the only difference between it and the Highlands is that our hills are not quite so high, and also—which will, I think, please hon. Members opposite—there are no deer forests. The largest deer in Galloway is the roe deer, and that, of course, does not entail large forests to keep it going. Afforestation is doing very well with us at the present moment, and as regards afforestation I am riot in agreement with the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten), who is not at the moment in the Committee. The representative of the Forestry Commission who came down to Galloway only took the very poorest of the land, and they have undertaken a considerable amount of afforestation in Galloway, which is doing very well indeed. There has been no difficulty whatever in regard to clashing with the farmers; it has been a very great success.
1928 My main reason for rising was that I wanted to bring to the notice of the Secretary for Scotland—there have been letters on the subject already—a great scheme of reclamation, which has been mentioned by the last speaker, for the deepening of the River Dee, which flows right through the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. We hope to get the river deepened, and thereby reclaim several thousand acres of very excellent land. The only difficulty is that we have not the money to do it ourselves, and, although, no doubt, we could get an unemployment grant, it would be very difficult for us to raise the remainder. I feel that if the Secretary for Scotland would take favourable notice of that scheme it would do a great deal for the good of Galloway.
§ Sir MURDOCH MACDONALD
Looking at land settlement, particularly as it affects the Highlands and the county which I have the honour to represent, it seems to me that the Board of Agriculture regard it as a scheme whereby they ought to get back in rents the money that they expend in settling the people on the land. I think we are all aware that former Parliaments have recognised that land settlement ought to be undertaken in order to reverse the previous policy, whereby people were being crowded out of the land and out of the country. The Secretary for Scotland has stated this afternoon that the Board of Agriculture in future is going to devote its energies largely to the educational side of agriculture. I think—and in this I am in slight disagreement with some Members from Scotland—that there would be no great harm in that, because the land settlement problem could probably be taken out of its hands, and arrangements made for a real land settlement which would recognise that a rental could not be returned equal to the amount spent in capital on arranging the land settlement.
At the present moment land settlement is taking place, or has taken place in recent years, say, in Skye, and the people are put on the land—consisting of a certain amount of agricultural land and a certain amount of outrun or hillland—but practically no fencing is supplied. Constant applications are made for fencing, because their neighbours, or neighbouring farmers' cattle, 1929 stray on to the crofters' land, and there is constant trouble. At the same time, with a view to economy, proper roads are not made; sometimes there are no roads at all. I myself know of cases where houses have been planted on the hillside without any access at all to the main road. It is quite impossible for an ordinary crofter who is settled on the land to supply these things for himself, and if it is right, as Parliament and the country have decided that it is, to get as many people into the country districts as possible, a certain amount of money must be spent in order to do so, and rents must not be charged which would be the real economic rents. Probably the better course would be that the Land Courts should settle what the rents would be in any specific case, after all those things have been done which are necessary in order to ensure that the crofter or small landowner, when he has the land, shall be enabled to make an economic living on it.
§ Mr. HARDIE
It is a very remarkable thing that, although to-day we have travelled very far, and very many things have been approached, the one thing that has not been touched upon, but has been studiously avoided by those on the Government Benches is this: Why is it that, in a Debate like this, when we are dealing with land and land purchase, we are never told what the rating was on the land before purchase, nor what it is after purchase? We are never told about the money-bags that are filled between those two points. On the occasion when a Bill relating to allotments was brought before the House, we were told that the allotment holder could get cheaper land from the private individual than he could from a corporation. But they never told the truth. They never told the price the landowners took from the community. They never told about the small rates they paid as private owners compared with the rates after its purchase. I should like the Secretary for Scotland to give us some little light as to the difference in rates in land privately held and land after it is broken up into allotments. While on this question, may I draw attention to the £4,000 per annum that ought to have been used for the development of allotments. I should like him to say why this £4,000 which was allotted has never been used, and if he is 1930 in earnest in the development of small allotments, why this has not been done.
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) spoke of the necessity of training a boy for agriculture from four years of age. He pointed out that if you did not take a boy from school till he was 14 he was frightened for the cow. Evidently what was in the hon. and learned Gentleman's mind is that he would rather have a boy not frightened for the cow, but, when he reached the age of 14, frightened for the schoolmaster and education. That is the idea that lies behind the whole of the Conservative policy, to try to keep the working-class child from being educated. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] You cannot deny it. It is your policy all through. It is true industrially. The rich people's children are to have their education continued beyond 14 while the working-class child is to be forced to work in factories under uneconomic conditions. No one can deny that statement of fact. Then from this same great brain we had the suggestion that silos should be built underground so that the carts could dump the stuff in. That shows that the hon. and learned Gentleman knows nothing of what a silo is for. It may be quite easy to dump the stuff in, but you have to have certain conditions which you cannot get when your instrument is underground.
Coming to the question of transport, we have had light railways and roads, but in all these things we have been dealing with main arteries, that is to say you have only considered the case where the farmer collects his stuff from his fields and puts it on to the main light railway, the main transport road or some other main artery. There is a much more important subject to be considered in farming if you are going to do it scientifically. When I was a boy I could drive a horse in my holidays and weed turnips, so I know what I am talking about when I speak of child labour in the fields. Take the case of a man who has a big farm and no roads leading to his fields. He either racks his horse, which costs £50 or £100, or he ruins his carts, because you cannot have roads where you are going to grow wheat. We claim to be a scientifically-advanced class, on paper. We are the greatest nation on earth, on paper, and yet in your biggest farms, parts of which may be four miles from the home farm, you are dependent 1931 on horse and cart, just the same as Noah, only he had a bullock instead of a horse.
How are we to deal with this question of getting the home farm in direct touch in every direction with its outlying parts without racking the horses and straining the men? It may be done more cheaply than by a horse and cart. It can be done by means of aerial ropeways. [Interruption.] An hon. Member here is sneering in his ignorance. I will take in hand to put up a ropeway which will take a load of a ton anywhere inside three miles and deliver it at a lorry at the home farm, in the main transport road. England does not appear to be interested in this business, but I hope the Prime Minister, who is still a bit of a Scotsman—he has not lost that—will stand in behind the Secretary for Scotland and deal with this matter. For instance, at the top of Loch Inverary, if you want to go from one place to another, you have to follow a course of the shape of the letter "U." If you want to bring stuff from one place to another a ropeway will save a distance of 94 miles. It can be done. We are doing it at slate quarries, where it does not matter. In all the hilly parts this is the system that is bound to come, to feed your main arteries of railways or heavy transport roads. You are not going to have scientific transport in agriculture until you lift the crates of turnips from the field and put them on the main transport road. Then you will be able to pay higher wages, and even to carry eggs without breaking them. I hope the Secretary of State will consider these few suggestions.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I want, in the first place. to make it perfectly clear that when I laid it down that the duty of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland is to concern itself primarily with agriculture and subsequently with land settlement and other things, I would have the Committee understand—and I repeat it—that no land settlement can be made in any measure a success unless it has behind it and alongside it a sound agriculture, and that while land settlement as we know it in Scotland, which has been mainly confined to the Highlands, is of vast importance, in my judgment it is still a secondary thing to the main question of agriculture. I am satisfied that we can not only progress in agriculture, but we can also give absolute 1932 fairness to the problem of land settlement alongside of that policy. Several hon. Members have drawn attention to the problem of skinned land. It is quite clear that skinned lands, as they are known in Germany, Denmark and elsewhere, have proved not unremunerative. That is to say, when the peat surface has been cleared away you have been able to find under it a soil which has repaid working. In Scotland I am afraid the great bulk of the skinned lands are not likely to give so great a return, but I think it would be right that the Board of Agriculture should make a certain definite experiment with this matter in certain quarters and, having given it a fair trial, we may be able to evolve a policy on a wider scale. I mentioned also that in my judgment we were now reaching a stage when we must ask those who desire to be settled upon the land sometimes to move out of their immediate areas. I think that is essential for the progress of this scheme. That does not mean, in my judgment, that wherever it is possible to find land in the vicinity that land shall not be used. All I say is that I am satisfied that the man who really wishes to go upon the soil must be reasonable in so far that if he is offered a fair opportunity of having a holding which will give him a fair return it is not reasonable that the State should be told that they must give him a particular holding or retain him in a particular district. That is all I want to establish.
I was very glad indeed to hear the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) speaking so strongly in support of agricultural co-operation. I am satisfied, from some personal experience of the matter, that if we can induce people to understand what benefits this will bring to them we shall be doing an immense amount of good. It is a slow matter, but I am very hopeful that, as a result of this Debate and the great measure of support from all sides of the House, a fresh impetus will be given and interest taken by many who have not taken an active part in the movement. I agree with those who have drawn attention to the necessity of a very close co-operation between the Forestry Commission and the Board of Agriculture. That was one of the first things upon which I made inquiry when I took over my present office, and I am satisfied that as matters stand at present—and I hope 1933 this will be maintained—no important steps will be taken by the Forestry Department without first referring to the Board of Agriculture, and that as far as possible there shall be close co-operation between the two Departments, because it is quite clear that a great benefit will accrue to the small owner if he can work in conjunction with forestry schemes in planting, cleaning and draining.
That brings me to the question which many hon. Members have raised of draining and liming. I hope this question will be carefully investigated and reported upon by the Agricultural Conference. I know of nothing which would give a greater impetus to the better production on existing land and the improvement of other land than the system of drainage followed by liming. The two must go hand in hand. Up to now this system of drainage has been provided for out of grants for unemployment. I do not know what the recommendation of the Commission will be, but it may well be that we shall have to explore some system of linking this up directly with agriculture apart from the question of unemployment. However it is used, it will mitigate unemployment and under-employment. The more closely it is associated with agriculture proper, the more likely it is to be effective.
I have been asked about the salaries of those working in the agricultural colleges. I understand that this is a matter which will shortly be brought before me on a Report which has keen made on the subject, and I can assure the Committee, that I will give it the most careful and sympathetic consideration.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I understand that this matter has been inquired into. I am not quite sure by which body it has been investigated, but a Report is coming up to me on this subject, and I will give the most careful consideration to it.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I think it is. Several hon. Members spoke of the necessity of considering the question of sheep dipping, and things of that kind. That is a matter which is not directly under my control, but I can assure the Committee that I am in the closest co-operation and consultation with the English 1934 Board of Agriculture, and I trust that it will not be long before some definite decision is reached upon this somewhat difficult problem. The question of allotments was raised. The problem of allotments is undoubtedly one which is linked up with agriculture as a whole. A point was raised with regard to the £4,000 which has ceased to appear in the Estimates. That admits of a fairly simple explanation. This money was not available for the purpose of purchase or hiring of land, and it is quite clear that if the demand of those who are interested in the formation and improvement of allotments is to be met, some other means than that which was provided for by that sum will have to be taken. Even if that sum had been available, I consider that it is a totally inadequate amount to deal with a subject of that importance. Perhaps this is not the time to enter into that question, but I can assure hon. Members that I am not shutting my eyes to the importance of the matter.
Various hon. Members have drawn attention to the importance of silos. I feel sure that the experiments which are going on in putting up silos, particularly in the Western Isles, will amply repay the cost. I agree with the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) that the form of the silos is probably better underground than above it. That, at any rate, is the form which for the most part it takes. With regard to the reopening of various lime kilns, undoubtedly that is a question which must be investigated, but the Government, before entering upon expenditure of that nature, must be satisfied, first, as to the quality of the lime, and, secondly, as to the possibilities of working it with decent hope of return.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Argyllshire (Sir A. Sinclair) asked me about several schemes in which he is particularly interested, the Camster scheme and the scheme for a township in his constitutency. Both these cases the Board are investigating under, I am afraid, rather difficult circumstances. It may well be that some of these farms which are desired may be claimed as home farms. In that ease, they are ruled out by the law as it stands.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Will the right hon. Gentleman carefully consider whether the claim can be resisted in law?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
All the material facts will be taken into consideration. The hon. Baronet also raised a question about the purchase and resale of estates. He complained that when the Board purchased an estate and subsequently sold a portion of it, the price obtained for the sale went back to the Treasury. That is not the case. Supposing a sum of £20,000 is paid for an estate as a whole, and then £5,000 is realised as the price of land sold, that amount does not return to the Treasury, but is available for other purchases.
Several hon. Members raised the question of bracken. Undoubtedly, that is a problem of importance, not only in the Galloway district but in many other parts of Scotland. There have been investigations in regard to that, and that question in conjunction with the question of drainage must certainly receive careful consideration. I was asked why we were not supplying seed oats. All the facts having been taken into consideration, it was not thought that this was justifiable. Nor do I think, except in very special circumstances, that these grants can continue indefinitely. I think I have covered all the questions raised except that of transport. This is a matter of immense importance, because we cannot expect to have success on the part of land settlement schemes, nor of agriculture as a whole, unless we can secure for them reasonable freights and possibilities of sending their goods to market. These are all questions which are to be taken into consideration and reported upon, not only by the conference which is sitting in Edinburgh but by the Government as a whole.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
Will the right hon. Gentleman say what he suggests can be done for closer co-operation between the Board of Agriculture and the Board of Education in relation to the agricultural education, and also what he proposes to do, if anything, to assist education authorities which are prepared to carry through experiments in connection with agricultural education?
§ Mr. MAXTON
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether the Committee he referred to in regard to the remuneration of staffs of agricultural colleges in Scotland was the Departmental Committee appointed on the 1st 1936 February, 1924, under the Chairmanship of Lord Constable, of which the Under-Secretary for the Scottish Board of Health was a member, which Committee reported on the 12th September, 1924, and made many very valuable suggestions, particularly the suggestion contained in the reservation by the Under-Secretary of the Scottish Board of Health? As the right hon. Gentleman has had this Report since the 12th September last, cannot he very speedily deal with some of the more urgent points raised in the Report?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I can assure the hon. Member that I am giving most careful consideration to the report of Lord Constable's Committee not only on this particular matter but on the other matters raised in the Report, and I hope that we may be able to come to some conclusion before very long on these very important matters.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
You cannot have more speed than is consistent with reaching a sound conclusion. There a saying, "More haste, less speed." The hon. Member must give me a little, time to form my judgment upon this question. In regard to what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Westwood) has said in regard to co-operation between the Board of Agriculture and the education authorities with regard to the agricultural colleges respecting agricultural education, more particularly in the rural areas, I am very much in sympathy with some of the efforts which are being made to bring agricultural education into close touch with secondary schools, thereby showing the people in the district what can be done in this matter. I think it would be well that we should have some sort of conference between the various Departments concerned before we embark upon a policy involving education authorities generally in agricultural administration. I have not the slightest doubt that there may be a solution found which will be satisfactory to both parties; but the best way would be to bring the Board of Agriculture and these colleges of agriculture and the education authorities into close touch in order to evolve a proper system.
May I say a few words in conclusion, about the composition of the Agricultural 1937 Conference now sitting in Scotland. As is well known, His Majesty's Government desired to have the advice of all the representatives of agriculture in Scotland, and they invited them to form a conference. As regards the English Conference, that is outside my province. In the case of Scotland, I invited the cooperation of all the agricultural bodies in the formation of the Conference. I approached the representatives of the Farm Servants' Union, and asked them to nominate representatives. They told me that they were prepared to nominate representatives as soon as they were satisfied that it was to be a. representative Conference That offer has not, as hon. Members are aware, matured, and there are no direct representatives of the Farm Servants' Union sitting in that Conference. I had, unfortunately, much to my regret, to resort to what I decided was the right thing to do to bring to the Conference at least men who were working actually in agriculture, on farms and small holdings, and with knowledge although they are not there as representatives directly nominated by the Farm Servants' Union.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
On this matter about which there is much feeling in Scotland, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman where he got the names? Who recommended to him the six men who are there presumably representing the farm servants?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
As the hon. Member will understand, when Mr. Duncan, the head of the Farm Servants' Union, decided that he could not nominate representatives, for the reason that the Farmers' Union did not intend to nominate representatives, and working in conjunction with them he refused to take part in the Conference, I was faced either with abandoning the Conference, as was done in England, or through the officers of the Board of Agriculture in Scotland ascertaining as rapidly as possible, and from any source which was at my disposal, whether I could secure men who were actually working in the agricultural industry and were really genuine workers on the soil, and who could be liberated by their employers. I should like to say that when I discussed this question with Mr. Duncan he told me perfectly frankly that, while he might be able to nominate representatives of the Farm Servants' 1938 Union to attend the Conference, he must not be tied to sending men who were really working on farms, because he could not guarantee that he could get them, as they might not be able to get off their work.
If there has been anything lost in the failure of Mr. Duncan to nominate, I beg to claim, I think with justice, that a
great deal more perhaps has been gained by the fact that at any rate we have produced at this Conference workmen who are actually working in the industry and earning their living by that means. Be that as it may, at any rate we have to-day the satisfaction of feeling that there is in one room around a table a body of worthy representatives of the varying interests, and I am happy to say, having attended the first meeting of the Conference, I came away with the feeling that, having nominated the chairman among the tenant farmers of Scotland, who stood midway between the landowners and the workers, and that having been accepted by all sides, this Conference holds out the. prospect not only of submitting to the Government definite concrete proposals for dealing with agriculture, but, to my mind, what is of greater importance, that having in one room and in consultation all these varying interests will make them realise the various difficulties of the various classes whom they represent, and I am hopeful that their efforts will end in a Report which will be of value not only to the Government but to agriculture as a whole.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
Even urban Members have a certain interest in this Vote. The interest which we have is particularly in reference to allotments. The reply of the right hon. Gentleman touching the £4,000, which was available under the Act of 1919, will be read with great disappointment by allotment holders in all parts of Scotland. Nobody doubts, least of all the right hon. Gentleman himself, the very great value of the allotments movement, not only as a social activity, but the allotments are very often a very real source of support to families who otherwise would not be able to make ends meet. It is amazing that although an Act passed in 1919 empowered the right hon. Gentleman to take £4,000 for encouraging and developing allotments not one penny of that money has been 1939 taken by the Scottish Office for this purpose. The right hon. Gentleman says that the money is a small sum, but £20,000 has been available since the Act was passed, and none of it has been made useful for this purpose either by him or his predecessor. I am informed that it is the Law Officers who have advised that this Act does not apply. Of course legal opinion cannot be challenged by a layman, but it is an amazing thing, if this is the intention of Parliament. I am not saying that it may not be the correct interpretation of that Statute, but surely the intention of Parliament when it said that the money was to be taken for the encouragement and development and provision of allotments was that the money could be used in the way which has been asked for by the civic councils of Glasgow and Edinburgh for the purpose of aiding in the purchase of or paying the rent for these allotments.
Unfortunately, the enthusiasm which was shown for this cause during the War is being damped down, and in Edinburgh, and in Glasgow, too, I think, plots are being given up. I am told that 324 in Edinburgh alone were given up last year. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman does not want that to go on. He does not want the allotment movement to shrink, as may happen unless it is encouraged by these or some other means. The Edinburgh Civic Council find that in some cases the rent amounts to 25s. per annum for 240 square yards, which is a figure which the allotment holder cannot afford. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should do more than brush this aside, as he did in the Debate this afternoon. It is impossible for him or for me to go into the matter of what legislative remedy might be provided, but I would suggest that he should look again at the Law Officers' opinion. He has got new Law Officers to-day, and he should see if they cannot advise him that this money is available, and if it is made available and is spent, none of it from the urban point of view can be better spent than in this way.
§ Mr. JAMES BROWN
I am sorry to intervene at the last moment of the Debate, but, representing a constituency which is largely agricultural as well as mining, with some urban population, I 1940 must enter my protest against the poor results that have come from our agricultural legislation during the last six years. I remember under the Coalition Government, when we were discussing the Land Bills, how anxious everybody seemed then to be to provide small holdings for our people, but some years have passed since then, and it seems to me that there is less desire on the part of the Government now, and less pressure from outside to get those small holdings than there was. The hon. Member for Inverness (Sir M. Macdonald) was very anxious to get transport facilities. I am sure that he is not contented with the number of small holdings provided in his constituency or in the highlands and islands generally, but why confine ourselves to the highlands and islands? In the lowlands there are many people who desire to get small holdings. I can speak for one or two districts in Ayrshire which have been highly successful, and some encouragement ought to be given to the people who desire to settle on the land.
There was always a fear that there was not enough laud to go round. Probably there would not be when the Government was taking land, as it had to do, but I know that that is now past, and there are many estates in the market to-day which could easily be purchased by the Board of Agriculture or by the Government in order to settle many of our people on the land. Many of those men already have proved that it is not only beneficial to them to cultivate the land, but that it has proved remunerative as well. I think that Scotland has only dealt with about 4,000 persons altogether by placing them on the land. I wish that the Secretary for Scotland and the Under-Secretary for Health, the Board of Agriculture, and anybody who has any power to bring pressure to bear on the Government, would try to get them to see that 4,000 persons settled on the land is far too small a number for us to be satisfied with. They have settled over 33,000 people on the land in the Commonwealth of Australia. I agree that most of it may be virgin soil and that the work may be much easier to do, but 4,000 is far too small a number for Scotland.
I wish to protest against the inactivity that seems to have prevailed and to press on the Government the desirability of getting more people settled on the land, not only that persons may be benefited, but that the land may be cultivated. I 1941 agree with what the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leith said regarding allotments. Besides very large agricultural districts in my constituency, we have some forests also. In our mining districts during the War we had many allotments. To many of those men these allotments were a perfect godsend. Not to speak of the good which it did our country during the War, it gave them some kind of incentive in life after their day's work was over. Putting the people on the land gave them a certain amount of produce besides giving them a great deal of pleasure. I trust that the Secretary for Scotland will see to it that more small holdings will be granted and that every consideration which has been asked for will be given to the subject of allotments in Scotland.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.