HC Deb 24 June 1926 vol 197 cc647-87

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £433,111, 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, 1927, 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: £150,000 has been voted on account.]


I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.

By leave of the Committee I wish to take advantage of the present opportunity to dot some of the i's and cross some of the t's in the speech which was made by the Secretary for Scotland on a previous occasion. I have devoted an hour or two with great pleasure and some profit to the remarks made on that occasion by the Secretary for Scotland. In the first place, I would like to say how much we are in agreement with him on some of his main points. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I emphasise one or two of the points to which he alluded in his speech. He said early on in his remarks that Every time one surveys the problem one sees the enormous advantage of having what I would call a stepping-stone from the small holding to the medium holding, and from the medium holding to the larger holding"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th June, 1926; col. 2559, Vol. 196.] I agree with that statement. I think the Secretary for Scotland should remember that if he wishes to build up agriculture on a suitable basis it must be a very broad basis of small holdings. You gradually grow from your small holdings to your large farm, and of course you want a very broad basis of small holdings to support that system. The figures from Denmark are very instructive. The last figures were published in 1919, and since then the small holdings under 25 acres have increased to 109,145, 25 to 37 acres to 25,494 out of a total of 205,929, which gives 120 per cent. of smallholders as the basis of the agricultural pyramid in Denmark. I do not think it is possible to secure the best return from the land and the greatest settlement on the land unless you set before yourselves the problem of increasing the small holdings and making them the basis of your pyramid. Further on in his speech, the Secretary for Scotland said: I say that my policy in regard to small holding settlements is to endeavour to see that those settlements are put in places where the individuals concerned have the greatest hope of real advantage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th June, 1926; col. 2560; Vol. 196.] With those sentiments I agree entirely. Some of the post-War settlements made in Scotland have not been very successful. I should like for a moment to quote a case which came under my own eyes in my constituency, where things are not all that they should be. I give as an instance the case of a farmer in Skaw who had a sheep farm. He had a small holding which was subsequently enlarged. In the old days the sheep could be driven up to the farm, which was situated at the top of a hill, and they could be driven down, but now that the holding has been broken up into small holdings there is no road by which this can be done. I am afraid the settlement has been left in the position of what I would call an unfinished piece of work on the part of the Board of Agriculture, because it is evident to everyone that, on a settlement of small holdings so placed, people cannot either cart stuff in or out of their holdings, which puts them at a very great disadvantage. I only quote that as an instance of accidents that have happened in settlement.

I hope the Committee will forgive me for constantly referring to Denmark, but, after all, it is one of the leading agricultural countries, and it is a country the methods of which I have spent no little time in studying. Where a country has shown us the way, I think we cannot do better than follow it, if it is a good way. It is an old saying that Fas est ab hoste doceri. If we can learn anything from the Danes, we should do so, and try, if possible, td do better than they. They have laid it down as an axiom in land settlement that every holding should be on an economic basis. The history of land settlement in that country is rather interesting. It began in a very small way, by the giving of grants of half an acre, an acre, or an acre and a half, to agricultural labourers for gardens, with the idea that thereby they would be encouraged to remain on the land, that their lot would be made better, and that a policy of that sort would tend to keep the people in the country. In the course of years, however, the Danes learned by experience that that is not the way to do it, but that the real and only way in which success can be hoped for is by making a holding which will economically support a man and his family. I think that that is a line that we should follow in this country, and that whenever we are engaged in settling people on the land, we should regard, not only the size of the holding, but its productivity, and assure ourselves that it is such a holding that a man and his family can live and support themselves comfortably upon it.

The Secretary for Scotland further went on to say that this policy of small holdings is not really altogether an economic policy except from the point of view that we may achieve the settlement of groups of men in certain districts who may raise a considerable amount of food, and that you have the very great advantage of keeping men and their families upon the land—a problem that no one in Scotland, certainly no one who for the time being holds my office, can neglect."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th June, 1925 col. 2561, Vol. 196.] Surely, however, it is an economic policy. If the holding is an economic holding, what better goal can we put before our eyes than increasing the number of people living upon the land, and increasing the productivity of the land? I must confess I do not quite understand what the Secretary for Scotland means when he says it is not altogether an economic policy. I rather fancy he still has a hankering after the large farm. We all know what the large farm can do and has done in Scotland, but surely, if we really desire to stop rural depopulation in Scotland, and to increase the productivity of the land, we must have a large, whole-hearted determination to increase land settlement, to increase the number of small holdings, and to increase the number of people on the laud. Although the Secretary for Scotland has said that he is, to a certain extent, in favour of that policy, I am sorry to see that he goes on to qualify it by saying that it is not altogether an economic policy, and I should like to hear from him some fuller explanation of what he means by that statement.

I am going to make a suggestion which at first sight may perhaps appear to Members of the Committee to be a rather unusual one, but I think that, when it is looked at closely, it will be found to be one that has some merit behind it, and I would commend it to the Secretary for Scotland. We all know that a short time ago it was decided to set aside a large sum of money—£1,000,000—for the purpose of marketing Empire produce. When the idea of marketing Empire produce had been allowed to filter down to the minds of the people, the agriculturists in this country thought to themselves, "If the Government are going to spend this large sum on marketing Empire produce, it is going to bring it into competition with the produce of our own farms in this country. Where do we come in?" As the result of that, the Government decided to put on the Committee a representative of British agriculture, and, as the money was to be devoted to the purpose of marketing Empire produce, it was not only to be the marketing of the produce of the Dominions, but the marketing also of the produce of Great Britain. If we really want to make land settlement a success, then, as I was saying the other night, though I do not want to repeat myself now, we cannot make it a real success without co-operation, and the suggestion I would make is this: Let us in Scotland get hold of as much of that money as we can, and start a real, genuine propaganda campaign on behalf of co-operation. If we can get farmers in Scotland really to take up co-operation, it is going to mean a great deal more to them than any £1,000,000 that can be given by the Government for marketing Dominion produce.

I referred on the last occasion to the very great importance of co-operation for, the success of land settlement, and I would seriously put it to the Secretary for Scotland that, if that policy is to succeed, he must have co-operation. In order to get farmers in Scotland to co-operate, you have to teach them, and in order to teach them to co-operate, to teach them the advantages and value of co-operation in marketing their goods—because it is in marketing goods that we fail at the present time—we shall have to spend money. Here is this money, provided for the improvement of the marketing of Empire produce. Scotland is part of the Empire, and I most earnestly suggest to the Secretary for Scotland that as large a portion of this money as we can get hold of for Scotland should be utilised in a great campaign for co-operation. We cannot do it by small efforts; it must be done by a great, big effort. The Government must put its weight into it, must make up its mind that it wants it, and then go for it with all the money it can get. Here is an opportunity for putting some power into the engine.

Now I wish to refer to another point, which does not come strictly under the Secretary for Scotland, although, as he represents so many departments of activity, it is rather astonishing to find one which escapes him. I refer to rural telephones, which come more strictly under the Postmaster-General. What I want to ask the Secretary for Scotland to do is to use his influence with the Postmaster-General to see that the system of rural telephones is very largely extended. At the present time it is not realised as it ought to be that the telephone service is a national service, and we see in the small rural districts, where the telephone would be of the utmost benefit and advantage to farmers, that the little country areas are asked to put up guarantees before they can get the advantages of the telephone. I would ask the Secretary for Scotland to use all his great influence with the Postmaster-General to endeavour to change the point of view on this matter, because the use of the telephone is of such great advantage to the rural districts in Scotland that, if we can once get it looked upon as a national service, so that the small, poor country districts may get the same advantages by it as the rich towns do, we shall be doing a great deal to advance and help the agriculture of our country.

There is one point, to which I desire to refer for a moment, that is touched upon in a return in the Report of the Board of Agriculture. It is a matter to which I have referred on previous occasions, namely, the standard of fertilisers and feeding stuffs that are sold. The return, in the manner in which it is made now, is more intelligible than it was a year or two ago, because formerly they used to enter simply a divergence from the standard of purity, without saying whether it was above or below the mark, but the return now, which appears on page 95 of the Report, divides up the different samples which have been tested, showing those which were above the Mark, those which were below, and those which conformed to the guarantee. While I gladly admit that a very large proportion were not only up to the guarantee, but exceeded the guarantee in value, there were at the same time some 8 per cent. of the total number of samples taken—which, after all, was a not very large number, namely, 676—which were below the guaranteed value in their contents. I should like to ask the Secretary for Scotland what steps are taken to check the sales to see that they are according to guarantee, and to prosecute if they are not; and whether any prosecutions were undertaken in respect of sales where the samples taken showed that the articles sold were below the guaranteed value.

I should now like to turn to another branch of the activities of Scottish agriculture, which are summed up in the part of the Report relating to the Land Court. When I say, however, that the activities of the Land Court are summed up in this Report, I am afraid I am not stating what is exactly true, because their main activities are summed up in a. very large volume which is not printed, but which is a neostyle volume costing 30s. to buy. The result is that the sale of this volume, as the Secretary for Scotland very well knows, is very small indeed, and I am sorry to say it is going down. Two years ago, sixteen copies of this volume were sold, at the price of 30s., but, I regret to say that last year only 12 were sold. About a year ago I asked the Secretary for Scotland whether we could not have these most important appendices printed. They contain information of the utmost value to smallholders all through Scotland. It is a volume which should be in every parish and in every district in Scotland, so that the smallholders can consult it. At present, of course, that is quite out of the question, and no one can consult it unless he is a Member of Parliament or a millionaire. I was told that the saving on neostyling this volume instead of printing it amounted to about £300, but, as it costs about £112 to neostyle, and practically nothing comes back in return from sales, I would ask the Secretary for Scotland whether it would not be possible in future to get these volumes printed and sold at a price that would enable anyone who wants to buy them to do so. Apart from that, the volume itself is exceedingly inconvenient, and the members of the Land Court do not bless it—I will not put [...] any more strongly than that—especially when they have to travel about with these enormous, bulky volumes, in which it is very difficult to find one's way about, and in which, in course of time, the ink will fade away and become more and more difficult to read.

I earnestly urge upon the Secretary for Scotland the importance of keeping this very valuable work in an available form. It appears that last year people have come from the ends of the world to look into the work that is being done by this remarkable Court of ours in Scotland, because the work that it does is really remarkable, and, speaking for myself, I look forward to the time when the work of the Land Court in Scotland will not be confined to small holdings only, but will be very much extended. A Court with power to fix fair rents and to grant compensation, a Court trained in dealing with these special technical matters, can be of the very greatest use to an agricultural community, and when we get people coming from the ends of the world to see what this remarkable Land Court is doing, it is rather a comment on our own valuation of their proceedings to see their work neostyled at a price at which no one can purchase if in our own country. I would ask if the time has not now arrived when we might ask for a report from the Land Court of the working of the Smallholders Acts since 1911. There have been a great many very important decisions given in the last 12 or 15 years and a great deal of very important work has been done with grazing Regulations and the regulating of common grazing both in the highlands and the islands, and it would be a very great advantage if we could have a report as to the working of the Acts from those who have had to administer them, so that we can see in what respects, if any, they need to be amended.

To refer back to Denmark, it is as we know, a Free Trade country and has made its agriculture prosper, not as some Members would say in spite of Free Trade but because of it. They are able to buy all they want for their industry in the cheapest market, and I want to utter this warning now. Under the influences of the White Paper of the Board of Trade we see from time to time protection given to industry which puts up prices. That protection is meant to put up prices because the industries are said to be distressed, but we have to remember that every price that is put up may affect agriculture, which can never be protected. We are all agreed on that. Agriculture, our own great key industry, cannot be protected. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Go to the country and try and you will soon know why not. It is not a matter to argue about. We know you cannot give protection to meat and corn. [An HON.MEMBER: "Why not?"] Let the hon. Member get the Prime Minister to put that forward as a programme and go to the country and he will get his answer soon enough.


On a point of Order. Is there any suggestion that the Secretary for Scotland is proposing to introduce in these Estimates Protection through administrative methods?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dennis Herbert)

I have been watching what the hon. Member said. He must not let his remarks develop into an argument on the question of Protection.


I was rather led away. The business begins with the administrative action which is taken by the Board of Trade under the White Paper. It is a matter to which agriculturists should always keep their eyes open I was saying that the success of agriculture in Denmark is very largely due to the great spirit of independence fostered with regard to it by the Government. The Government interferes very little in agricultural matters, and the less they interfere the better for it. If agriculture is going to succeed it must succeed by its own efforts and not by outside efforts. The Government can hold the ring and see that it gets fair play, and once that is done I have no fear for agriculture. When talking with leading agriculturists there they said frankly, "You look upon us as the leading country in agriculture. Do not think for a minute that we are satisfied with ourselves because we have raised the average production of our milk and cows to their present figure. We are not going to stop there. We are always trying to go one better, and we are quite ready to show other countries what we are going to do because we are not 'afraid of their competition if we always go on, with our independent spirit, trying to go better." The research work which has been and is being done in our own country is worthy of every praise, but the research work I saw in Denmark seemed to be carried on on a rather more, shall I say, co-ordinated scientific basis.

9.0 P.M.

Experiments of an exactly similar nature were being carried out in diffrent localities all through the country over a period of years in the most careful and scientific manner as regards the productivity of different soils treated with similar and different fertilisers, and then after a series of, I think, seven years that these similar experiments were being made, the whole of the results are brought together and tabulated so that the Table will show what will be the best fertilisers and the best seeds to apply to given soils. I should like to see something of that sort done on a more extended scale in Scotland. We have had a good deal done by demonstration in different parts of. Scotland. That is in the same direction, but it is not done on quite a sufficiently scientific basis, and if the Secretary for Scotland could put that forward for consideration by his scientific advisers it might be of advantage to the agricultural interest as a whole. I hope the Secretary for Scotland will not be, shall I say, over-cautious. None of us like to be considered rash, but I think perhaps the Secretary for Scotland is a little over-cautious in his agricultural policy. I would ask him to take his courage in both hands and not let his advisers at the Board of Agriculture consider things too much, for by this means they become

"sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought; And enterprises of great pith and moment, With this regard, their currents turn away,

And lose the name of action."


I welcome another opportunity of discussing for a short time the agricultural Vote for Scotland notwithstanding the fact that last week we had an opportunity of putting forward our views on agricultural questions. The subject is of such supreme importance to the Scottish nation that I think every opportunity that is afforded us of discussing these matters can be usefully taken advantage of. While we on these benches are in agreement with quite a number of the points dealt with by the Secretary for Scotland, such as research and education and a number of others, which I think I mentioned on the last occasion we were discussing the subject, at the same time we think that if agriculture is to be put on the footing which I believe every Member of the Committee would like to see he will require to go much further than was outlined in his speech last week. We feel that a live, bold, agricultural policy is vital to our people. The Scottish Chamber of Agriculture agrees largely with that point of view. At a meeting held in the early part of the year they passed a resolution which outlined an agricultural policy that corresponds very closely with that which has been advocated by the Scottish Labour Members for a considerable time past. Here is part of the policy outlined in the resolution referred to. They say first that the land should yield its highest economic possibility in the way of food for the nation. That is just what we have been failing to do for many years past in Scotland as well as in other parts of Great Britain. In the last 17 years or thereabouts the acreage under crops has decreased by no less than 150,000 acres, and since 1914 the acreage under crop and grass has decreased by no less than 70,000 acres. These figures present an aspect of our agricultural life which I am certain is not pleasant either to one side of the House or the other.

The Resolution goes on to say that if the land is to yield the highest food production that object can only be secured by an increase of the arable area or by a more intensive cultivation thereof. Both are required—the extension of the available area and the more intensive cultivation of the acreage. In order to give effect to a policy of that kind, the Secretary of State for Scotland would be well advised to have a complete re-survey of every county from the agricultural point of view. He has already a number of figures in the Scottish Board of Agriculture, but he should have a complete up-to-date survey made of every county, in order to see the possibilities of agriculture in the country. That complete survey would let him know how many small holdings could be allotted and how many small farms would be available. Lest week he said that there required to be small farms as well as small holdings, so that agriculturists could go from the small holdings to the small farms and then to the larger farms. Such a survey would inform him as to the amount of land available for that purpose. It would let him know how many acres of arable land are available in Scotland, and how many acres can be secured for grazing purposes. I understand that it is one of the strong points in the general agricultural policy of the Government that within the last year or two they have been encouraging knowledge of the production of meat and milk.

The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour)

Hear, hear!


The survey would enable him, by having a complete knowledge of how many acres of land are available for grazing purposes in Scotland, to forward that policy. It would also inform him how much land is available for afforestation. He will agree with me that afforestation is of extreme importance to our people, not only from the point of view of agriculture and the work it would find for people engaged on the land but because of the saving it would be to the country by enabling us to produce a larger quantity of the wood which we use from year to year. It would enable him to see how many acres of land are available for a combination of afforestation and agriculture. Some time ago the Forestry Commission discussed the question of combining small holdings with afforestation, small holdings being provided for the men engaged in afforestation schemes. The survey would enable the right hon. Gentleman to find out how ninny acres of land are waterlogged, and can be drained and reclaimed at a reasonable cost. I am strongly of opinion that there is a much larger area of land in a waterlogged condition in Scotland than many people think. The survey would enable him to have a fair idea of how much land could be reclaimed, particularly along the arms of the sea.

If we are to make a complete success of agriculture, we must treat this question as a whole and examine it from every point of view. To be successfully treated, land settlement must be treated as a whole. Another part of the resolution of the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture says that the land should furnish a basis of life and a reasonable livelihood to the greatest number of people. Here I think we are reversing the policy that ought to help us through. The number of people who are getting a living on the land in Scotland is steadily on the decrease. Between 1881 and 1911 the decrease in the number of those engaged on the land in Scotland amounted to 55,162 male persons. If we add to that number the wives and children belonging to that big section of our people, it means that there has been a reduction of the agricultural population in Scotland in those years amounting roughly to about 250,000. If we add to the reduction in those years the decrease that has taken place between 1908 and 1925 we get an additional number of male agricultural workers of 36,350 who left the land. Between 1881 and 1925 more than one-third of our agricultural population has disappeared. They have emigrated or have been absorbed into the industrial districts, intensifying our industrial problems and adding enormously to an already very difficult industrial situation.

Before long, we shall require to give far more attention to our agricultural resources than we have done before, at least within the last 100 years, not only in Scotland but in England. We cannot hope to continue to be the workshop of the world to the same extent as we have been for nearly 100 years. If I am correct in assuming that, we shall not be able to take as big a share of the world's trade in the future as we have done in the past and we shall not have the same amount of money available for purchasing that large proportion of our foodstuffs from abroad that we have been in the habit of doing in recent years. We shall require to grow a bigger proportion of our own foodstuffs. If we follow the policy that will enable us to do this, it will at the same time enable us to find work on the land for a very much large proportion of our population than we have done within recent years.

I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) again try to reinforce the remarks I made a week ago with regard to the value of co-operation. I hope those remarks are not going to fall on deaf ears, and that the Secretary for Scotland is really going to do all he can to encourage co-operation among the farming population. That is one of the things that will make agriculture a greater success than if we go on in the individualistic way in which we have been working for a number of years. Not only do I believe that co-operation in agriculture is good, I believe that co-operation in any industry is good. Everything that can be done to make agriculture a greater success in the future ought to make a strong appeal to everyone. Not that I think the farmers in Scotland are less active than farmers in other parts of the world. The Scottish farmer can hold his own with the farmer anywhere, but I think the Government is doing far less for agriculture than it should. Some of the things which I have pointed out to-night, and to which I referred a week ago, lie more to the hand of the Government than they do to the individual farmer. There is much that can be clone by the Government to stimulate and encourage agriculture, and the Government should avail itself of every opportunity of encouraging and increasing the amount of agriculture possible in this country because it is of vital importance to the future of our people.


In the speeches of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Western Fife (Mr. W. Adamson) we have had no repetition of that criticism in regard to Scottish methods which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) made earlier this afternoon in regard to English agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, in describing the conditions of British agriculture, said that we were importing £15,000,000 to £20,000,000 more meat than before the War, and that our stock unit per 100 acres is less than the stock unit in Denmark and Belgium. In regard to the criticism as regards the units of our stock the right hon. Gentleman ignores the very apparent fact that in this country we have an enormous area of land taken up by hills and mountains, and, therefore, any comparison between the number of our units per 100 acres watt the units of stock in these level countries on the Continent is quite fallacious. We have to consider this evening the administrative action of the Secretary for Scotland as regards agricultural affairs, and I think we must be struck with the one outstanding success which has been achieved during the year—namely, the convening of the Agricultural Conference in Edinburgh of all parties connected with the agricultural industry in order to see whether a great and practical policy can be brought forward for the benefit of the industry.

Last week when the Vote was being discussed, some criticism was made on the benches opposite that the recommendations of that Conference had not been carried out by the Secretary for Scotland. What are the facts of the case? The first recommendation which the Conference made was that money should be voted for drainage. What has been done as regards that? In the year 1924–25, £33,500 was available for drainage, and another £10,000 was added on the 1st January, 1925. On the 31st December, 1925, £28,000 of that money had been spent upon schemes costing £65,000, and £45,000 of it went in wages. By it, 5,100 acres of arable land were thoroughly drained and 160,000 acres of other land surface drained. We are told by this Report that in the present year £20,600 is being devoted to this purpose. Does not that indicate that the Secretary for Scotland has carried out the first recommendation made by the Conference? Then again as to loans of money at low rates of interest to farmers the Government are, as we know, carrying that into effect. As regards houses, that is the building of more houses in rural Scotland, and the reconditioning and repair of existing houses, both of which are of enormous importance the Government are at the present time considering the best method of giving practical effect to it.

Then there is the recommendation that money should be spent on research and demonstration areas. We know by this Report that large sums of money have been given for these two purposes. Other recommendations which the Con- ference made were that more electrical power should be available for our requirements, and that foreign produce should be marked with the country of origin. On these two points action, has been taken by legislative means which it would be out of order for me to discuss at the moment. The Conference also recommended that a 10s. duty should be placed upon imported foreign malting barley, and that the Agricultural Rates Relief Act should be continued. Both these subjects are outside the scope of our discussion this evening, but from what I have said, it can be proved that the Secretary for Scotland has taken steps to carry out the recommendations of that practical and useful Conference.

One of the main parts to which the Board of Agriculture has turned its attention to has been land settlement. We have heard on many occasions very earnest remarks in favour of land being available for ex-service men. During the year under review 257 new small holdings have been created, 106 of them being for ex-service men. What was the cost of those 257 new small holdings? Under the Smallholders Act, 1911, £175,000 was spent. Under the Land Settlement Act, 1919, £110,000 was spent. In all, £286,000 has been spent upon making those 257 new small holdings. Altogether, since this new small holdings policy, as we can read in Appendix No. 1 to the Report, a total of 4,498 new small holdings have been created under the two Acts to which I have referred. 12,055 applicants are still waiting for small holdings. When we begin to arrive at what is the wisest policy to pursue on this question we must take a comprehensive view of the subject. What does it cost us to carry out this policy? If we look at this subject in that way, we find that every one of those new small holdings created had cost the taxpayers £1,000. That is a large sum of money for a small holding. My hon. Friend the Member for Orkney, when he was discussing the small holdings system in Denmark, said that one of the reasons for their success was that they were founded upon an economic basis. I cannot but think that when small holdings cost something like £1,000 there is going to be such a dead-weight of debt and of capital expenditure hanging over them that there is very little chance of them ever being an economic proposition.


Perhaps I should have said that the cost of making a holding in Denmark is approximately the same as in Scotland.


I leave the matter as I stated it. In those days, when money is so tight and when we require money for so many essential services, we must temper our enthusiasm for small holdings with a wise recognition of what our financial obligations are. While we recognise that the Board of Agriculture can play a great part in assisting agriculture in Scotland, we must all recognise that the foundation stone of any agricultural prosperity must be, and is, the individual skill and energy of the farmer. Farming is an industry which, as it were, is closely associated with nature and her laws. Any man taking to agriculture as a calling must make it his point to probe into the secrets of nature as deeply as he possibly can. Therefore, research work, and money spent upon research work, is a very necessary procedure. In the activity of the Board of Agriculture we see that considerable sums of money have been spent in that direction. Nature and science are allies. I have had close association with practical agriculture and I know, as a practical agriculturist, that any man who wants to make the most of his work requires to harness science to his efforts. There is a wide field for the Committee in its efforts to introduce new varieties of plant and seeds. On the whole, most of the prolific new varieties of seeds have come from Sweden, therefore, when we are undertaking research work, it is only right that we should turn our attention to that direct ion and endeavour to supply the farmers of this country with new varieties of plants and seeds of such a prolific nature that they will not be dependent upon those coming from foreign soil.

In carrying on this valuable research work we have, of course, in Scotland agricultural colleges. Those colleges have the support of the county councils and the education authorities in their districts. Unfortunately, they carry on hampered by great financial burdens. One result of that is that their staffs are grossly underpaid. We Scottish Members have had deputations from the staffs in the past, and we do know how their efforts are hampered and how, perhaps, promising young men are drawn away from our Scottish agricultural colleges, all because their salaries are not in keeping with the scale paid in England. That is a state of affairs which, in the interests of efficiency and of this invaluable research work, ought not to be continued. I know my right hon. Friend is taking every possible step to bring about improvements in that direction. He very wisely acts upon the policy of getting the districts round the agricultural colleges to come in and bear a greater share of this financial burden. As they do that, naturally, they will take more interest in the work carried on, and I earnestly hope, whether it is by local support or by Treasury grant, that we may see this grievance to a very large extent removed in the future. Undoubtedly, it has a hampering effect upon this work in Scotland.

I turn to another branch of scientific development, namely, that connected with the veterinary profession. We have in our flocks and herds diseases the cause of which and the cure for which are at present largely unknown. While that state of affairs exists, it is only right that public money should be used in support of these veterinary colleges which will have the result of removing some of these scourges and lightening the cost which they entail on the country. My right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland has supported the Royal (Dick) College in Edinburgh, and has made it the principal veterinary college in Scotland. I quite agree that, in his support of the Royal (Dick) College, he is acting wisely, but our other veterinary college in Scotland, namely, that of Glasgow, is also a very deserving institution. I observe by this report that it received the paltry sum of £50 last year. Perhaps my right hon. Friend has not enough money to help both these veterinary colleges. Yet when we see the many diseases which are devastating our herds at the present time, and when we realise that there may be many young men in the West of Scotland—perhaps in the Highlands and the Islands—who are unable to go to Edinburgh, but who might naturally drift into Glasgow, we should recognise the possibilities of the genius which may be lying dormant in this respect at present and which might blossom out into a great national asset. Therefore, I hope in the future there may be some more assistance for the Glasgow Veterinary College.

The recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease has been the outstanding feature during the past year. Personally, I think it fortunate for the agricultural industry and for the nation that at last we have been able to locate the source of the disease. We have had it definitely proved that carcases of pigs have been the means of conveying foot-and-mouth disease into this country. Not only have we seen our own herds affected, but we know the danger which may arise to human beings from infected animals. Therefore, I think the prohibition of the import of these carcases until the Continent is clear of this scourge is only right, and in the interests of the people generally. The prohibition of the import of foreign pig carcases is a very important matter for the consumer. It opens up a new situation. We import a great quantity of bacon every year and with the closing of our market to bacon from these particular Continental sources, we recognise that a responsibility is placed upon and an opportunity is opened to the home Producer. Up to the present farmers have not been as progressive in regard to bacon products as they might have been. We are an individualistic people and we like to do things in our own way. Yet we need to keep our eyes open and to recognise the changed times in which we live.

We see that the Danish methods are all in the direction of what is called standardised production. Every carcase is about the same weight and the same size; it is not a case of one carcase being long and narrow and another short and dumpy. The Danes, by organised effort, have produced a bacon pig of uniform size and weight and we in this country ought to take a leaf out of the Danish book in that respect. I understand that the pig desired by bacon curers is a pig of from 165 lbs. to 170 lbs. live weight. The Board of Agriculture gave premiums for boars, but I urge upon them to use that money in the direction of bringing into existence a system of the standardised production of bacon. I have no doubt that farmers generally will give their support in that direction and with this new prospect before them in connection with home production of bacon—which is so urgently needed in the public interest—I think the Board of Agriculture can do a good work by not only advising the farmers in this matter, but by encouraging them to adopt standardised production. By organised effort they can make an improvement in that direction and bring a very important trade back to our own people. I think the record of work done by the Board of Agriculture during the past year is one with which Scottish Members are satisfied and I am sure if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) had any intimate association with Scottish agriculture he would not be so pessimistic as he has expressed himself to be and he would not think that he knows so very much about the subject.


I will not traverse the last part of the ground covered by the hon. Baronet who has just spoken, but I cordially agree with what he said on the importance of agricultural research and of education in the agricultural industry. We all know with what respectful attention the hon. Baronet is always heard in this Committee on this subject, and we know that, apart from the Secretary for Scotland, there is no one who more accurately reflects the views and intentions of the Government on agricultural questions than he does. It is, therefore, with the greater diffidence and reluctance that I find myself compelled to traverse some of the statements in the earlier part of his speech, to query some of his facts, and to dissent entirely from some of his conclusions. He congratulated the secretary for Scotland on summoning that great. Agricultural Conference and he said that all, or practically all, the recommendations of that Conference were being promptly carried into effect. I take a very different view. As a matter of fact, it is relevant to consider the composition of that Conference. I have never criticised its composition, and I do not intend to do so now. What it seemed to me was very important to do was to get a good representation of smallholders, and we did get at least one very good representative of the Scottish smallholders on that Conference, but I think it is fair to say that on the whole some people took the view that it was in its constitution a little conservative—I do not mean Conserva- tive in a party sense—but a little inclined to take a conservative view of the problems of agriculture, and that on the whole the bodies represented on that Conference were connected with one interest in the agricultural industry more than with the other two, namely, the landed interest; at any rate, it was expected that the conclusions would be a little conservative, and I might say timid, and I think the general complaint by Scottish farmers all over the country when the conclusions were published was that they did err, if at all, on the timid and rather anæmic side.

I am sorry the hon. Baronet the Member for Forfar (Sir H. Hope) has left the Chamber, because what was the first action that the Government took after the publication of that Report? The first issue that arose after the Report came out was in regard to summer time, and the Government directly flouted the recommendations of their Conference on that first issue that we had to discuss. I will not go into it now, because I want to cut my remarks as short as possible, but everybody who knows agricultural conditions in Scotland knows that, whether from the point of view of the farmer at harvest time, or of the convenience of the farm servants throughout practically the whole of the summer, it is a tremendous handicap and inconvenience to the great mass of Scottish agriculturists. The first point on which the Conference, their own Scottish National Agricultural Conference, laid the greatest stress was drainage. What are the facts about drainage? The hon. Baronet spoke as though the Government had completely carried out the recommendations of the Conference, but the Conference pointed out the urgency of making an advance on what had been done in the past, and they said: There is no improvement of which land in Scotland, both fixable and grazing, is at present so urgently in need as drainage. and they went on: The question arises whether the present scheme meets the case. In our opinion, it does not. What has been spent on drainage in recent years? I have the figures from the answers which the right hon. Gentleman has given to me in this House. In 1922–23 the figure was £62,540; in 1923–94, £45,125; in 1924–25, £43,500; and in 1925–26, £43,000; and all we are going td get for Scotland in the coming year is £20,000, so that on the first recommendation which the Scottish National Conference made, and the one they considered of the greatest urgency of all, the effect of the policy which the right hon. Gentleman is carrying out is to give us less than half of what we had to spend under the unemployment relief scheme for land drainage.

Then there was the question of lime, and all we are told in the reply which the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to give me to a question I asked last week is that an intensive survey of the agricultural economy of four parishes in Kincardineshire has been made, and that the question of a general survey of the supplies of lime will be further considered. Of course, it ought not to need to be considered. It is just under a year ago—two or three weeks under a year ago—that this Conference reported, and it ought to have passed far beyond the stage of consideration by now. On the Board of Agriculture's own property in Sutherland there is a magnificent lime kiln, and abundant supplies of lime, and in the days when communications were far more difficult than now, in Sutherland and Ross-shire and Caithness and Orkney they developed a fine supply of lime from the Erribol kilns. The Government ought to explore all the other lime resources all over the country. So much for the fulfilment of the summertime recommendations, the drainage recommendations, and the lime recommendations of the Conference.

Then we come to credits, which is a vital question, and I spoke on the English side of it this afternoon. The hon. Baronet the Member for Forfar seemed to have some knowledge that there was a scheme on the stocks, but all that we were told last week, in the answer to my question, was that the matter was still under consideration, that discussion was still going on. It may be the hon. Baronet is right, but we have not seen the colour of this scheme yet, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can give us definite assurances that this scheme of credits is ready on the stocks and will be introduced before Parliament adjourns, as I hope it will adjourn, before the end of next month. Then there is the question of housing. At last the Government are taking up the question of rural housing. We appealed to the present Minister of Health in 1923 to realise the urgency and importance of this subject and the inadequacy of the proposals he then put forward. I understand at last they are going to do something, and the most important question in that connection is the enlargement, improvement, and reconditioning of existing houses, in regard to which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will at long last give us a, satisfactory assurance, an assurance for which I, personally, have been pressing on every possible occasion since 1923.

One very useful recommendation, of great importance to Sutherlandshire and other parts of the country, is that in regard to the eradication of bracken, and I hope that that work and the investigation of that question will be pressed on by every possible means. Then there is the question of co-operation, and in that I warmly agree with everything that fell front my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Orkney (Sir R. Hamilton), and would press upon the Government the importance of giving a real impetus to the co-operative movement in Scotland, which can only he done with the authority of the Government. It is true that the Government could not have done it five years ago, or four years ago, or, perhaps, three years ago, but I think there is sufficient education now in Scotland, I think they really do understand the importance of it in the various districts of Scotland well enough now, and I think we have got to the point now where a big push from the Government will enable real progress to be made.

What, after all, I think of the greatest importance from the Scottish point of view is land settlement. The hon. Baronet the Member for Forfar (Sir Harry Hope) referred to the matter as though there had not been progress made by the new holders in Scotland. It seems to me, reading the Report of the Board of Agriculture, that you get exactly the opposite impression. You get the impression that land settlement in Scotland is doing well, and the statements of the Board of Agriculture can be employed to justify this. On the other hand, there seems very little progress being made to catch up the appalling arrears. In this demand for land settlement there is every sign of their having received more applications than they can hope to grant under present conditions. During the year 705 applications for new holdings have been received, 302 of these being from ex-service men. There are 10,055 applications in hand today, of which 3,853 are from ex-service men. The Secretary for Scotland speaks about taking away the priority of ex-service men. I hope he will make it clear that ex-service men will continue to have a priority, but that the fact that particular applications may include men who are not ex-service men have been included will not as hitherto mean that their application will not be considered. That is what I think the right hon. Gentleman means. He means, I think, that in future application are not to be ruled out because there are no ex-service men concerned, but that he will continue to give preference to ex-service men, many of whom have not yet been satisfied.

If the present rate of advance continues, as in the Board's Report—I think it was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland—I think it was 250 holdings that were constituted last year—at that rate it will take 45 years to overtake arrears. It is quite true that some people will he dead before the end of the 45 years. Against that, there are 700 applications annually. It is, therefore, perfectly obvious that even at the end of 45 years the question will not be solved if the Government are content to proceed only at the present rate. The Board of Agriculture say that the results are so successful, that in the next generation an increased number of men and women will look forward to settlement on small holdings. It seems to me therefore, that this thing must be tackled on quite different lines from those the Government are pursuing at the present moment.

The Report of the Board also refers to the difficulty some men have experienced in settling down. I can only say this on that point that I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to see that these men who are settling down are treated generously in regard to arrears of rent. The Board in their Report refer to some of the prudent men, the smallholders who before their rents were finally fixed—because it took three or four years before some were finally fixed—the more prudent smallholders put aside money to meet the situation. But the others did not spend their money extravagantly, but they put it into their holdings, they purchased stock, and they improved the land, which was a good thing for their holdings, and a good thing for agriculture in Scotland. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, especially in the case of certain settlements, as he knows in my own constituency at Reay and elsewhere, to consider favourably the matter of generously treating those, giving them time in which to pay, and not harry them as in some cases seems to have been done. The success of this policy is amply proved. The Report of the Board says that the percentage of failures is extraordinarily small, and that the results are satisfactory.

I would urge upon the right hon. Gentleman, in view of this extremely satisfactory report on the smallholdings policy, that it should be pushed forward. There is one point on that which I wish to make, and I give by way of illustration my own constituency. The point is one of real substance, and has created a good deal of interest outside my constituency—that is the question of the selling of the Erribol estate. It was bought at a very high price just after the war. The Government then said that they would settle on that estate 23 new holders and allow eight enlargements. They have managed so far to settle eight new holders they given seven enlargements. Now they propose to sell this estate at a loss; to sell it without giving the opportunity to the ex-service men of Sutherland to acquire holdings—ex-service men I agree!;—I notice that the Secretary for Scotland is looking at me suspiciously—but the only way in which they can get holdings on this estate is if they are prepared to put down £400 or £500 each for their share of the sheep stock. What is the use of that? The poor crofters who are paying a couple of pounds rent or less than two pounds—how can they be expected to put down £400 or £500 as capital? The sale of this farm at a loss, as it must be, is I think not a good business. The right hon. Gentleman has exposed it for sale twice in Edinburgh, and twice it had to be withdrawn, each time at a lower upset. I would appeal to him to re-consider the question, give the men a few years, in the meantime settle them on the arable part of the farm with a little grazing on the seaboard where they can bring their own stock, and where they can gradually extend; (let the southern hirsels on lease for a few years to grazing farmers), then, as they get more and more, put them into the new holdings. They will then be able to afford to pay the rent, and they will be able to afford to take over the whole farm. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should consider following that policy rather than selling this farm at a loss at a time when there is a claimant demand, as he knows for small holdings in Sunderland, and a demand by 150 ex-service men. He knows perfectly well the strong feeling in Sutherland. I know he has heard from public men in the county who have notified him without the slightest reference to me, and I would press him that he should consider some other scheme than the one put forward.

There are two small points I wanted to speak upon before I finish. The one is the remuneration of the staffs in the agricultural colleges. We do feel that these agricultural colleges have done an immense work. They have opened the eyes of the Scottish farmers to the value of science in agriculture. Hon. Members would not have believed 10 years ago that it was possible for the farmers in Scotland to take the view they now do as to the advantage of science. The fact that they do is very largely due to the splendid work of the staffs of these agricultural colleges. In 1919 they put an application forward for increased salaries which would put them on the same basis as similar men in similar positions in England. The application was refused. In 1923 they put forward another application. They were told that they must wait for the Report of the Constable Committee. That Committee reported two years ago, and reported in their favour. Two years have passed and nothing has been done. The right hon. Gentleman has said that it is a matter for the governors to come to an agreement with the local education authorities. I say that it is disgraceful that that point of view has not been made quite clear at an earlier stage; that two years ago the governors were not told what was their duty. By now these agricultural staffs should be getting the salaries which men employed in similar positions in England have been getting.

There is one small point to which I would like to refer, namely, the young farmers' clubs. There is a paragraph about it in the Board of Education's Report. It is a most valuable movement, it was started in Caithness and it is spreading in Scotland now, and helps the young people of the district who come into these clubs to take an interest in agricultural experiments all over the county, and helps them greatly. To some extent the Board of Agriculture is supporting it and wholeheartedly approves of it, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to give me some assurance that he will help them by giving them a co-ordinating authority and some official recognition, and that an official of the Board should go, round shepherding and helping these young farmers' clubs all over the country, co-ordinating their efforts and giving them that official recognition which would enable the movement to grow with success in Scotland.

Finally, I would like to say just a word on the question of the revival of rural life in Scotland, because the right hon. Gentleman knows how hard we are hit by emigration both to foreign lands and into the towns. The population of Caithness has fallen from 41,000 in 1861 to 28,000 to-day and it is still falling. We sec men going every day and every week from the fishing villages, and from the agricultural parts, and I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to consider this problem in its wider aspects. I join with the right, hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench in asking for the national survey. Let us have a survey of the economic potentialities of our native land. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of starting it in one particular county, but let him extend the limits of his surrey to cover the whole country, or at any rate characteristic counties all over the country, so that something really substantial and comprehensive may be obtained, and so that a bold and comprehensive policy can be initiated for the revival of the rural life of the country.


We always listen to the hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) with interest and instruction when he speaks on agricultural matters. One feels he knows what he is talking about. To-day we listened to the right hon. Member far Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and it struck me it was very like the practice which prevails in the English Bar, when a very energetic junior may provide a very magnificient brief which his senior takes in hand and starts to speak from but which he has never read or studied. That was the impression we got from the right hon. Gentleman. He gave a great many points, many of which were no doubt accurate, but one had the sort of feeling that they were picked out—points about imports of food, eggs and other commodities.

In regard to the import of meat, which the Highlands of Scotland are doing something to supply—because there are great stock breeders among the crofters—one always has a certain feeling of despair when one reads speeches like that of the Chairman of Bovril, explaining he could raise a steer in the Argentine for about as many shillings as you could raise it for pounds in this country. One feels with the development of transport it is now cheaper almost to bring a beast from the Argentine, live or dead, than from some parts of Argyllshire to Glasgow. One feels it is difficult in these larger matters of agriculture for the home producer to compete, and still more difficult is it in the growing of grain, when one considers the gigantic areas with which he has to compete, and the certainty which the colonial always has of reaping his crop.

There was one point which has not been dealt with fully, but on which the hon. Member for Caithness touched, namely, that of the population coming into the towns. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs never dwelt on that, but it has its psychological aspect and it is one of the features of the Anglo-Saxon civilisation; and it is largely due to the Anglo-Saxon system of education that we have that mankind is always a gregarious animal, and tends to be so, more and more, under that system of education. The system is the same for both country and town, although the life of the town is very different as compared with that of the country. The same thing has been found in the Colonies, and one hears in Australia of the tendency to congregate in the towns, simply because things have a certain liveliness in the towns which is lacking in the duller country life.

I think the system of education to be adopted for the country should he wholly different from that for the towns. When you have got the fundamentals, then, if you are going to be an agriculturist, you should be very early introduced to that life. I was talking with one of the leading sheep-breeders, and he told me of the results of that method of education. He said in his younger days the little boy went out with his father, and from five to six years he tended the sheep, until at 15 years he was a shepherd and knew his job thoroughly. Similarly, another man in agriculture told me how men used to go out at very early years and so became born agriculturists, fond of animals and able to take an interest in them, being brought up alongside them. That was in the summer time, and in the winter they pursued their studies, and with the advantage of the additional energy and power gained by being out in the open they were able to overtake in the winter months, from an educational point of view, the boys who had not possessed those advantages. That is the line we ought to pursue if we are going to get our population on the land. We must make the country more interesting and give our country population a less urbanised education.

The Board of Agriculture is a body which is not too popular in the North of Scotland and least of all in Argyllshire. I will not deny that it does some very good work. The Secretary for Scotland on one or two occasions, when I have made an appeal to him, has got the Board of Agriculture readily to respond to the small bequests I have made. But still there is considerable feeling in the Highlands that the people who benefit most by the officials of the Board of Agriculture have been hotel keepers, and that the farmer himself has not had perhaps the large benefits which one hoped he might have.

The county I represent is different from the county represented by the hon. Member for Caithness. There the most difficult problem that we find is the problem of transport. I say to the Secretary of Scotland that if you take all the improvements—the Board of Agriculture and the Land Courts, and all the large bodies of officials who have been visited by Parliament on these districts—if you take their cumulative expenses and put them together, they would have, been sufficient to have bought the whole land of the Highlands for the agriculturists. All the efforts they can make to improve the condition of the people will be of no avail unless the problem of transport is solved, and it is made possible for the agriculturist to get his supplies and to get the products of his holding to market. All around the coast of Argyllshire there are crofters who would be able to make a reasonable living between agriculture and fishing—by the fishing itself some of them could make a comfortable living—if it were only possible for them to get supplies and to market their goods. But at the present time that is absolutely impossible.

The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Livingstone) told me that the inhabitants there have, owing to the cost of Scottish transport, given up getting anything at all by those means, and get the whole of the supplies brought to them by steamers from the north of Ireland. They cannot get them under the Scottish system, which Has been to give a monopoly contract to one particular company which, as I have already stated in the House, combines all the evils of nationalisation with all the evils of private enterprise without any of the benefits of either. The Secretary for Scotland has had a Departmental Committee incubating on this question for a long time, but, so far as we can discover, nothing has been hatched, and the unfortunate islanders of Lismore, Islay and other places, who are very good agriculturists, have not a chance. The agriculturist on the mainland gets a road provided, partly by the Ministry of Transport and partly out of public rates, but the unfortunate agriculturist in the islands has got to pay whatever is asked of him, and if he has anything left over he must be grateful that he is allowed to keep it. That is the position there, and unless this question is tackled it will be impossible to secure the full development of these parts of Scotland.


I understand that, in contrast to the position in England, the Board of Fisheries in Scotland is a separate body. We are now on the Vote for the Board of Agriculture.


I hope I have not transgressed. I was speaking about the difficulty of the agriculturist getting his produce to market because of the lack of transport, and I was asking the Secretary for Scotland, who has set up a Departmental Committee on the subject, to take steps to make it possible for the agriculturists in the Highlands, and, above all, in the Western Isles, to get their produce to market, whether by road or by steamer.

There is another matter to which I would direct the attention of the Secretary for Scotland. I do not think it requires legislation, being, I believe, a purely departmental matter. We in Argyllshire, have been particularly successful in growing sugar-beet. I take credit to myself that before the matter was taken up by the Labour Government or by anyone in Scotland, I had supplied seed and instructions to all the farmers in Argyllshire, who took keenly to the growing of sugar-beet. When, later, instructors came to teach them, they found them busily growing sugar-beet. They have already grown sugar-beet with a higher content of sucrose than in any part of the world. There is more than 20 per cent. and upwards of sucrose in the sugar-beet grown in the Mull of Kintyre—20.7, I think, whereas 15 per cent. is regarded ordinarily as a very good content. In Argyllshire, too, they are very successful with the growing of potatoes. A very large portion of the seed potatoes for England are brought from Argyllshire. [Interruption.] That is what I am assured by a potato grower. That applies also to the Mull of Kintyre. They have a hardihood which can stand—


Strong drink!


The sugar-beet industry ought to be developed, and not alone for the making of sugar, because in Germany, in Belgium, in France and in the United States, there is rapidly springing up a very large industry in power alcohol, a large portion of which is made from sugar-beet. In any particular district where there is an over supply of potatoes, instead of allowing them to rot you could always send them to a distillery and get something for them, and in this way the highest maximum price would be obtained. I urge the Secretary for Scotland to approach the Treasury with a view to getting his grant increased and extended to those parts of the country in order to set up small distilleries in the districts where the sugar-beet factories have been established. We also want our motor transport developed to a greater extent and we should develop these industries in those parts of the Highlands by establishing small distilleries which would be a great benefit to agriculture. I hope the Secretary for Scotland will get the Board of Agriculture to go into this question and get a larger grant. I am satisfied if he does this that the Board of Agriculture will have taken the biggest step in advance for the development of the Highlands and smallholdings. If the Secretary for Scotland can get this matter looked into by the Board of Agriculture he will have done an immense deal for land settlement in the Highlands and if he succeeds in developing transport as well he will have achieved a greater success than any of his predecessors.


I want to deal with some points which were raised on the English Vote with regard to drainage. I took a great interest in that Measure, and I can see the tremendous difficulties of drainage. In Scotland drainage becomes a very small item indeed. If we had set ourselves seriously at any time to drain the land of Scotland, we could have done it at a thousandth part of what it would cost to do it here. What is wrong with the application of our land in Scotland is that you are prevented in every way from getting anything done in the interests of the nation. I was reading an article the other day about the way in which pigs are bred in the hills in Italy. A boy goes out in the morning from the town, gets the pigs, and makes for the hills, coming back at night. We are told in Scotland that we cannot do anything like that, but we should be able to do so, and why should we not make an effort, in any case, to see whether we can, in view of the statements that have been made as to the dangers of foot-and-mouth disease, not only to four-footed animals, but to the two-footed animals who eat them? From the point or view of health it would be well worth some expenditure of money.

Seeing that, so far as agriculture is concerned, this country is going to be in the hands of people who have the right to say whether their land shall be used in to interests of the nation or not, we have got to the point when we shall have to consider whether we shall wait until, owing to development in those countries from which we now get food supplies, they will say they have no food to send us. Would it not be sane to start now, seeing that out of every five loaves that we eat four are imported? I would be glad to give any services that I could, from the question of drainage down to the question of pigs, and I know the Secretary for Scotland will give me great opportunities. When you come to discuss the question of getting labour for the land, and the difference between the seasonal needs of land, you want to get an understanding of what is meant, by the concentration of industries in towns. In this House during the last three weeks a number of people have been talking about the emigration of large blocks of miners and their families away out to some foreign land. They say it is all right so long as you can get rid of the unemployed miners across the seas; they do not suggest that we might teat the value of spending the money in starting them here, and seeing what they can do on the land. You do not in any way increase the wealth of the nation by sending people who are producers abroad to some other country to produce there; it would be far better first to use every inch of the land and employ all the labour you can upon it. It has been said very often that the miner is a grand type for training to work on the land. If that be so, why give other people across the sea the advantage? Why not take full advantage of the miner and his capacity for changing over, and get down to the real business of agriculture?

A statement was made in regard to electrical power in the Highlands. People speak of electrical power, forgetting some of the illustrations that are being given in the Committee which is considering the Electricity Bill. If you are going to have electrical power applied to industrial areas in this country, you have to get down to the fact that you cannot possibly distribute electrical potential over large areas in order to tap it at distant points; but if you had your community so cut up with reafforestation that men are taken during the months when they are not required for agriculture, and if you had at the same time small industries, many of which do better in the country than in the towns, linked up and arranged, you could cheapen your electrical energy per unit, because, in that great expensive main line that you must take through the area—


On a point of Order. Is it in order now to discuss the Electricity Bill?


I am not discussing the Electricity Bill.


It would not be in order to discuss the Electricity Bill, but I understood that the hon. Member was making some suggestions to the Scottish Board of Agriculture that they should make some sort of survey as to where electrical power might be used.


That is the only way in which you are going to get really cheap power, whether for agriculture or for small industries, in order to prevent additional drafting into the cities. You have to get down to the scheme now on a basis on which I think it would work smoothly. If, however, you start getting miners on to the land, beginning with the drainage and the bracken, I am not blind to the fact that, if all that public money is going to be spent in order to take away from a man's land the bracken which he is too lazy or stupid to remove, then, after the public has done that for him, he charges a higher rent. I am not blind to that, but I want to get. Members on the other side to understand that what happens is that, when public money is spent on improving land, us less at the same time you make provision for taking the value of the improvements mane with public money, the landlord is going to say, "This is a very good thing; there is some more bracken higher up."


That would require legislation; it is not within the powers of the Board of Agriculture.


I do not think it would require legislation if the Secretary for Scotland were more energetic. There are many ways in which he could do it through present legislation. If you take the question of roads, which was mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten), here is something that is worth the attention of the Secretary for Scotland, and would not require legislation, because the legislation is through. Wherever you get a good stretch of country where the motorist can have a good time you will have a road, but you will find that, if you want a road through Mull, or Rum, or Eigg, or Tiree, there is nothing like the same energy in getting roads in those places. When it comes to what the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire was talking about, I have been on that in this House more than once, and I am glad he has taker it up. It is a sign that we are improving with contact. But may I point out a new feature which may have occurred to the Secretary for Scotland, that if you take the islands the hon. Member was speaking about, you could develop your alcohol, which would give you all the power you require for any industry. I remember dealing with this in the House three years ago, and some people laughed at me, but they did not know what. France was doing. It is not a question of getting up and trying to make a speech, but of trying to get you to understand that these are practical things that can be done, and the nation that is going to be a great nation has got to get down to all these practical things to get employment for its people.

May I make one reference to the Glasgow Veterinary College. It is very unfair. If you are to judge by the money allocated I should say the right hon. Gentleman is mote favourable to Edinburgh than to Glasgow. Imagine, only giving TC50 to the Glasgow Veterinary College! If you take the results of these two colleges, the greater man has come through the Glasgow College. [HON MEMBERS "No!"] Yes. No one can deny that when you have the book that shows it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] No, you cannot. The hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain Benn) is trying to feel that he must do something for the adjacent borough. He has not been in touch with the Glasgow Veterinary College. He does not know anything about it.

Now when it comes to the question of transport, I have been on the island of Coll years ago, and went through a three years' course of visitation to these islands. It was not a question of going to the expense of making a road. I suggest again to the Secretary for Scotland that we have now a system of inland transport highly developed. That is road transport. I do not care whether you take the islands in Scotland or anywhere else. Where you have to deal with these heavy bogs, and you have your lands lying on each side of them, there is no reason why you should not be able to transport in or out at half the cost of the road. The whole of it could be done with a single road. When you get to the islands, they are so small that there is no difficulty at all. When it comes to the question of transport, if you are not going to make the roads, you ought to do something by these other means in order to give the islands a chance. What chance has an islander? He is cut off because he is on an island, and he is at the mercy of the landlord. The whole of this business, so far as agriculture is concerned, is that every improvement we have made by public money has gone direct into the pockets of the landlord. If we were a sane people, we would say: "If you are not going to keep this land in order, we are going to give you an interest in keeping it in order. We will tax every inch of it at its full value, and make you go into the market to get the money to pay the tax."


I rise with hesitation because I feel certain the number of suggestions the Secretary for Scotland has received must make him feel very disinclined to listen to any more. I want very much to congratulate him on one particular achievement of this year's work, and that is this very careful survey that has been made of agricultural parishes. Anyone who follows the work that is done must know how very progressive and valuable it is; but in striking out an entirely new line in present agricultural conditions, I think the right hon. Gentleman has done something of very great value, not only to Scotland, but to the whole country. I would urge him to publish as soon as he can the result of these surveys, because I believe it will show that it is possible even now for a skilful farmer to make a very good living off a Scotch farm. Although no doubt it will be shown that some farmers in these parishes are having a bad time, the fact will undoubtedly be brought out that a proper application of modern skill, even in the distrissed condition of agriculture to-day, results in a profit and not in a loss.

It is clear from the Report of the Board of Agriculture recently published that we have reached, with regard to land settlement, a stage where the knowledge acquired should be collected and carefully studied. I will not quote the figures with regard to the increasing population, the increasing produce and the increasing stock which land settlement brings with it, but those who have looked at the Report cannot fail to be very struck with such figures as these. Taking the arable farms, on seven arable farms before settlement there was a population of 294 persons, and after settlement 682. Taking four pastoral farms, prior to settlement there was a population of 97 persons and after settlement a population of 545. I could give the Committee similar figures in regard to the increase of stock. These are only figures in regard to a few farms which have been tested in that way, and it would be of immense value if the Secretary of State for Scotland would appoint a Departmental Committee to give us the full results on all the main heads of land settlement up to date. First, the increase of the holding population, and, secondly, the increase of the employed population.

In my small studies of land settlement both in England and in Scotland, nothing amazes me more than the enormous number of men who are employed over and above the holders themselves in cultivating intensively small holdings. If we could only have full and careful figures as to the employment which land settlement brings with it, we should have a new and most potent argument in favour of that policy. In the third place, we want up-to-date figures as to the increase of stock and, fourthly, as to the increase in value of the production of the land. We have a considerable store of information available for study. Let me urge, as a prelude to further advance, that this information should he studied and collated and put before the public. If we have that done, I do not think it would he possible to hear observations like those made by the hon. Member for Forfar (Sir H. Hope). I do not think views so reactionary would be possible to be heard.

I believe that we shall never make a full use of the land in getting the full produce and the full wealth from it until we definitely, carefully and steadily continue the policy of recolonising the land of England and Scotland. I am satisfied from my studies of the subject that that can be clone. It cannot be done in a moment but only by continuous effort, and it can only be clone if there is a steady public opinion behind it. It is in order to rouse and to concentrate that steady public opinion that I urge the. Secretary of State for Scotland to give us full knowledge of the length we have already reached and the achievements we have already made in regard to land settlement in Scotland. With that full opinion behind him, he need not hesitate in going forward, and we shall then do a great deal of work which will be very valuable to the country before this Government goes out of power.


This Debate has been characterised by the general helpful tone of the speeches. I am very conscious of the shortcomings of any public department, and I am not going to claim that, during the past year, which the Committee is reviewing, the Board of Agriculture or I as the Minister responsible for the Board of Agriculture have achieved everything which we set out to achieve; but I do think that we have made material progress. The Committee will be aware that the Conference which was called in Scotland did not receive the support from certain quarters which I think we were entitled to expect. But that it was a Conference representative of all classes of agriculturists is quite certain. That Conference made many recommendations which have been the basis of the agricultural policy of the Government. I have been told that very little has been done; that the Conference itself was timid. I think the Conference was wise in this, that being a body of practical men, and looking at tips question as practical men with a knowledge of the difficulties with which we are faced at the moment, it did not make propositions which were in the main outside the possibility of achievement.

Let me take some of the points which the hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) raised. He complained about Summer Time. I have every sympathy from the point of view of the agriculturist with the difficulties which agriculture may have to face in accepting such a Measure as Summer Time, but I am convinced that these difficulties are not to be weighed as against the great advantages which come to the great mass of the people of this country, and I say further, as one who has had some practical experience in agriculture, that it is possible to adapt oneself to these conditions. Let me turn to the question of drainage. The Conference asked that drainage should be dealt with, but on different lines, and that has been carried out. The restriction previously was that no drainage scheme could be carried out except by unemployed labour. That was a Measure necessary in a difficult time, but it was clear that if drainage was to be effective it must be liberated from that restriction: and the restriction has been removed. It is always a difficult problem to decide whether the amount of money laid aside for any purpose is sufficient, but in any case the Government have in all these matters to weigh carefully, not only the advantages of a. particular system, but their responsibility to the general taxpayer. I am always willing to press the Treasury for larger contributions for useful purposes, but I think we have, at any rate, made a reasonable start and upon fresh conditions.

With regard to liming I agree that it is a subject of paramount importance for agriculture. It is almost as important as drainage, the two go together. It would be folly to waste lime on land which is not properly drained. Drainage is followed by liming. We are making progress in this matter and we have had a survey made of one particular county. Let me say one word about that survey and the lessons it may bring. I think it is a useful start, and from this survey and the record which it brings I think we shall have much useful information. While I have not had much time to study this first Report I am quite convinced that it would be wise, as soon as we can carry it out, to make a further survey of typical areas in other parts of the country. This kind of survey can only be carried out after a good deal of care by selecting people who have the best knowledge on the subject. It is a problem which takes time and is also costly. I am limited in the amount I am able to spend on such objects. That we are alive to the necessity and utility of such a service is clear. I hope in the future to be able to make a further survey. It would be unwise to jump to conclusions too rapidly upon a partial survey such as we have been able to carry out.

With regard to rural housing, the Government are very conscious of the necessity for improving matters. That is one thing which is no doubt clearly brought out in such a survey as we have made. Customs, of course, differ in different parts of the country, but it is clear that there are many parts of Scotland, particularly in the north and north-east, where we have too much of what is known as the [...]othy system, and it is essential that, so soon as we can devise means, we should do what we can to increase the number of cottages available for the farming community. The Government are actively dealing with this matter, and I hope it way soon be possible to make an announcement of policy.

We then come to such questions as the eradication of bracken. That is a current problem in the Highlands of Scotland. I need only say that there are many farmers and proprietors who are actively taking steps to deal with that problem. On the other side, the agricultural colleges are making yearly definite experiments in varieties of methods to deal with this question. It is not an easy one, and it is, unfortunately, also a costly one, because of the extent of it and the number of men you have to employ if you are going to deal with these large areas.

I come to the question of land settlement. I was asked by the hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness what was the considered policy with regard to the ex-service men. All I can say on that is that we have endeavoured, and I think with some measure of success, to meet those undertakings which we gave for the settlement of ex-service men. It is becoming abundantly clear to those who have to administer these problems that, while there are many ex-service men who can, and want to, be considered, we have increasingly, at the present time, many men who are not ex-service men but who are well qualified to become smallholders, who are suitable, and will make a real success because of their training and their knowledge. The policy which I am laying down is that applicants will be considered on their merits. Preference to ex-service men will be given, other things being equal. I do not wish to rule out ex-service men, but I do wish to give the fullest, opportunity to the individuals of the other class who are likely to make a success of this movement. Of course, many difficulties face us, such as that to which the hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness referred in connection with Erribol. Everyone is aware that the Government acquired the estate in a time of great pressure, and I came to the conclusion myself, after investigating the difficulties which the Board have had in finding any suitable scheme for the development of that property, that the trouble is to find men with capital. After all, this is a sheep farm, carrying a stock of something like 4,000 sheep. Up to now we have been arable to find individuals prepared to take on the responsibility involved. The farm has been put up for sale, and I am hopeful that it may be sold. I believe that by doing so, we shall clear the way for more useful work. If it should happen that we cannot dispose of it, then I am ready and willing to consider any scheme such as the hon. Baronet mentioned, and go into it in detail at another time. I am very conscious of the interest which hon. Members take in the staffs of the agricultural colleges in Scotland. I told the House of Commons on a previous occasion what I proposed to do. I hope to take some action before long which will bring about a satisfactory result.

I am very anxious that we should proceed with the investigation of the scientific side of agriculture, and I would like to see going hand-in-hand with it, a sane land policy. I myself feel that land settlement is very costly, and that you may make a loss upon every holding of something like £400. It may be that such is inevitable, and that it is the State's desire to pay to that extent for the results which are achieved. But it is a costly scheme, and I am, therefore anxious that it should be proceeded with in the Measure which I described when I spoke previously, because I believe that by overstating the case, or overdoing this policy you are only going to bring disaster to the people concerned. It is better to go on steadily, and if we do so I see no reason why we should not achieve satisfactory results.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.

It being Eleven of the Clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress, to sit again To-morrow.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.