Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £403,213, 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, 1928, 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.]
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I had hoped that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland would have opened the discussion on the Estimates to-day, in view of the fact that we are once again deprived of the advantage of having the necessary Reports. In the old days the Reports we got from the Board of Agriculture were adequate and complete, but now, if we receive them at all, they are belated and dull, and at least on one occasion the Report was emasculated, not by any particular official of the Scottish Office, but by a minor official of the Stationery Office. When the Land Act was passed in 1911, I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will agree with me, we were all of us full of hope that something at least was to be done to maintain a contented and virile peasantry in the glens and straths of Scotland. But what do we find? Everything we see at the present moment in connection with the land settlement in Scotland is symptomatic of failure and decay. The only thing I can find which is not decaying is the amount paid or estimated this year for the salaries and expenses of the Board of Agriculture. All the other things have decreased except one other item dealing with the destruction of insects and pests. Salaries, wages and allowances in the 54 Board of Agriculture and the travelling expenses of the Board have increased to the extent of at least £6,000.
There are three things in particular which go to show this failure and decay which oppress all those who are interested in land settlement. I referred a moment ago to the absence of Reports which, when they do appear nowadays, appear in a spasmodical and shamefaced manner. They tell the tale of the present system of extravagance and incompetence. The second fact which shows that the whole land settlement has been a failure is the fact that my right hon. Friend has at last thought it necessary to appoint a new Committee to investigate the whole problem. It would appear, therefore, that the whole question and its administration are once again in the melting pot. I know I cannot discuss what may well be legislation which this Committee may foreshadow, but it is quite clear that the proceedings of this Committee will be watched with very great anxiety, and not a little misgiving. As I endeavoured to point out when my right hon. Friend announced the names of the Committee the other day, there was at least one member of the Committee who avowedly expressed his views as against small holdings. That is very disquieting to the people of the North of Scotland. I do not know what the views of the other members of the Committee are. It may well be that it is desirable to have a member on that Committee who holds directly contrary views about small holdings, but the fact remains that his inclusion, and the inclusion of one, or two others who are supposed to have the same views, has created a most disquieting effect in the minds of the people in the North of Scotland. If I remember aright, the last paragraph of the terms of reference contained these words:And whether any amendment of the law is desirable as regards the valuation for rating of small holdings.May I ask what is meant by that? The right hon. Gentleman knows very well indeed that rates are one of the most important factors of the whole system of small holdings. He will remember very well that when the whole island of Lewis was offered as a gift by the late Lord Leverhulme, it was the question of rating in the island which debarred the people 55 of the island from accepting it. The law of Scotland leaves the rating of a smallholder in a very peculiar position. Was it my right hon. Friend's intention to review the whole of the rating system as affecting the smallholder in Scotland? If so, I feel sure he will meet with the most determined resistance. The small holding system of Scotland is based upon a peculiar system of rating, and if my right hon. Friend is going to alter that system of rating he will find he will deal a death blow at the whole system of small holdings in the North of Scotland.
Let me take another sign of failure and decay. I am not going to deal with the question of Erribol. The hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) will, I have no doubt, if he is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Hope, deal with that question later in the Debate. The name is now not only a household word in Scotland but throughout the Empire, and I have no doubt that at the very sound of it the Scottish Office quakes. The case of Erribol is symptomatic of the attitude of the Scottish Office and the Board of Agriculture towards the development and settlement of the Highlands; but for the moment I want to deal with the equally important topic which has been described as the question of the Harris raiders. I hope my right hon. Friend will realise that neither I nor anybody in my party can excuse any breach of the law. We do not attempt to do so and, if I may say so with respect, my colleague the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Livingstone) took, in my judgment, the proper attitude. As he was entitled to do, and as he rightly did, he went to Inverness and saw the imprisoned raiders in gaol, and he made it perfectly plain to them, so far as I can judge from the published reports, that if they were released, having purged their contempt by an expression of apology, he could not excuse any further attempt at raiding; and I think that is the attitude taken by all of us who sit on these benches.
But what is the significance of the raid? Surely the significance of the raid is this, that the Scottish Office have not been fulfilling the duties imposed upon them by Parliament. My right hon. Friend knows very well the condition of things in the Western Isles. He knows that the only 56 two industries there are agriculture and fishing; the men toil either upon the land or upon the sea. I am not quite certain if I am seized of all the facts in this case, but I believe myself that a promise of some sort or kind was given to these men that they would be settled upon the land. They waited for years to be so settled. I understand that somebody went to the Board of Agriculture to map out the various locations and holdings. Again time has elapsed and nothing happened. The men were sore in heart because of the delay. They were stranded. They saw their friends going in leviathans across the sea to settle in other lands. They even saw some of their old colleagues on the island of Harris being transported from that island to the island of Skye and settled upon a miserable piece of land at Talisker, which, in my judgment, is the most hopeless fiasco of land settlement the world has ever seen. They could not get any settlement upon their own island, and so they were taken, no doubt with their own consent, and settled upon the island of Skye.
My right hon. Friend, in the course of his wanderings in the Western Isles, must have gone to see that settlement. Was he satisfied with it? Is anybody who knows anything about land settlement in Scotland satisfied with it? Is a single man settled upon it satisfied with it? I make bold say there is not a single person who has the slightest interest in land settlement in Scotland who says that is a sound and good settlement. From the reports which I get at first hand and from first-class authorities, it is quite clear that that settlement is a great failure, and is not destined to be a success. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend, in the course of his reply, will be able to give us any satisfactory statement about it. My information, which is quite recent, is that that settlement has got no chance of success at all, that the settlers have no chance of making a living, and that the sooner the settlement is ended the better. I do not know whether that is an extreme way of putting it, but that is the view I received from the Island of Skye not so very long ago.
The problem of land settlement in the Western Islands particularly is not in any way different from that on the mainland, except in this respect, that you 57 cannot have the problem satisfactorily settled on the mainland unless you do two things. First of all, you must extend the holdings, if possible, and, secondly, have associated with small holdings a system of afforestation. I have pleaded time and again, as my right hon. Friend knows, for the association of those two great rural employments. The smallholder in the North of Scotland cannot make a fortune out of his holding, but he has a great many weeks, and even months, of spare time, and in the judgment of those who best know the agricultural problem in the rural districts of Scotland, there is no employment so well adapted to be a subsidiary occupation of the smallholder there as afforestation. I put this question to my right hon. Friend before during this Session, but I got no satisfactory reply, largely because I had not given notice of the question. If he would give the Committee some reply now as to whether the Board of Agriculture are acting in co-operation with the Forestry Commission in this problem in Scotland, we should be glad. My right hon. Friend nods his head, so that I hope it is satisfactory, because the question is one of the gravest and most urgent in that part of the country. While afforestation, in my judgment, as giving great employment, ought to be associated with land settlement on the mainland, in the islands there are one or two other considerations which cannot be divorced from the problem of land settlement. I will refer to two, if not three, of them. Let me, first of all, take the question of transport. You may think that is not a question which one can properly discuss on the Vote for the Board of Agriculture, but I think I am right in saying that the Scottish Office, through the Board of Agriculture, supports, by subsidy or otherwise, what is called a drifter service in the West of Scotland. I think some Friends of mine, if not I myself, raised this question with the Postmaster-General and with my right hon. Friend in the course of our discussion last year upon this very Vote, and we were informed that a Departmental Committee would be set up in order to discuss the whole of this urgent problem, and, if possible, to suggest certain remedies.
It is all very well to talk about the road system, and about various arterial ways on the mainland, but in the view of 58 some of us our roads do not end at the edge of the mainland. This country, if it were properly governed, ought to have a road system, as it were, upon the sea, and the roads should not end at Oban, Mallaig, Kyle of Lochalsh, or Ullapool, but they should be looked after and transport facilities should be available to everybody in the country, even from the remote islands. My right hon. Friend, in one of the earlier Debates this Session, suggested that we might soon expect to have some indication, at any rate, of the views which were formulated by this Committee. I feel sure, for example, that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) would support me in pressing my right hon. Friend to give us a reply at once. The question of transport there is an urgent one, and the problem in its present state is appalling. I believe there is an island where, if two rabbits were placed upon the boat and carried eight miles across to the mainland, the man who sent them would have to pay 1s. per head for their carriage. It is the same, I am told, with all fares and prices and freights. How can you expect people to live in any comfort in these Western Islands where conditions of that kind prevail? I am not now going to enlarge upon the value to the Navy of the type of men who live upon these islands. You have only to read the records of the War. I am glad to see for the first time my hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan) sitting behind the Secretary of State for Scotland. Nobody has written with greater skill and knowledge and with greater appreciation of the value of that stock both upon sea and upon land. My hon. Friend will bear me out that the preservation of that stock in comparative ease and comfort upon the land in these islands is one of the first and most pressing problems of the country. I understand—I think I am in order—that we are discussing the Fishery Vote which is attached to this Vote. I have only one word to say upon that Vote.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not know whether any suggestion has been made that we should take the two Votes together, but the Fishery Vote is a separate Vote.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I understood that we were taking the two Votes together, but in any case I am not going to delay the Committee except to say that agriculture and the fishing industry were both associated in the crofting settlement in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and I was merely going to diverge in order to say that the action which the Secretary of State for Scotland has taken in this last two years with regard to trawling—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think that I can allow the right hon. Gentleman to proceed unless there be general consent. There is a separate Vote for Fisheries, and it may be that some hon. Member may wish to move a reduction of that Vote.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I understood that we were going to take them together, but in any case I have only one other sentence. The administrative action of my right hon. Friend has proved most successful on the west coast of Scotland. My information is that the fishing industry there, among the long-shore fishermen, has improved out of all knowledge because of the very stringent action which my right hon. Friend has taken administratively in connection with illegal trawling on that coast. There is one other question with which I wish to deal before I sit down, and it is the question of rural housing. I quite understand that the housing Debate comes on afterwards, but this question of rural housing is part and parcel of the land settlement in the north of Scotland, and in Scotland as a whole.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Yes, I think I am right in saying that the Board of Agriculture have power with regard to the whole question of housing and holdings, and I understand that, though those questions might on the face of it be discussed under the general subject of housing, rural and crofting housing is a question appropriate to the problem with which we are dealing at the present time. All I wish to ask is whether my right hon. Friend—I notice that he answered a question to-day—has any opinion to express with regard to this subject so far as it concerns the rural parts of the 60 country. How many district committees—I understand that they are the bodies which have the power to formulate schemes—have already sent in their schemes and how many of these—
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour)
Of course, under the Board of Agriculture Vote there is provision for purely crofting housing, but I understand my right hon. Friend is discussing the working of the Rural Housing Act. That comes under the Board of Health. I do not want the Committee to get mixed up, but, if the administration of that Act is to be discussed, I think it ought to be discussed in its proper place.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I bow to your ruling and accept the suggestion of my right hon. Friend. I did not for a moment intend to encroach upon a discussion that is likely to come on afterwards, a discussion of which I understand my hon. Friends above and below the Gangway intend to avail themselves. But, thinking that rural housing was more appropriately discussed upon this Vote, I merely ventured to put these questions to my right hon. Friend, and, in case I am not able to catch your eye afterwards, I leave them in his memory now, and hope that in the course of the discussion afterwards he will reply to them. There is just one other thing before I sit down in which, as I have told the House on more than one occasion, I am sincerely interested. It is the improvement of stock in the Highlands and agricultural research. I think it ought to be said about the Board of Agriculture that, whatever its failings are in many other respects, it has been very successful in this. One has only to go to the various fairs and cattle shows in the rural parts of Scotland to appreciate the enormous value that has been created in stock by the action and the attitude, and the skill and the care of the Board of Agriculture. We have all occasionally complained as to the rams and the bulls which are at various times sent to the various districts, but on the whole I think it ought to be said that the Board of Agriculture has done extremely good work in this matter. I hope my right hon. Friend will tell us what is being done with regard to agricultural research. There is no doubt about it that steps have been taken with very great success in this 61 connection by the Board. I notice that there is a decrease in the Estimates for next year. I should like to know the reason for that. I do hope that, in whatever else my right hon. Friend may economise, he will not economise in agricultural research. I do not think at this stage I can say any more. I merely put these questions to my right hon. Friend in the hope that at the end of the Debate he will be able to give us some satisfactory answers.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
On a point of Order. Are we to understand that the present discussion upon which we have embarked is to be confined to agriculture, and that then there will be a separate discussion on the Fisheries Vote?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Votes have to be put separately, and I cannot prevent them being discussed separately. If, however, there were some question on which the Votes were closely interwoven, and everybody wished—and nobody objected—them taken together, I would not rule too tightly on the matter, but nothing can prevent the Fishery Vote being taken separately and there being a separate discussion on it.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I, like the right hon. Gentleman who initiated the discussion, desire to say something about the Harris raiders, but before I do so I would like to emphasise the serious, the appalling, nature of the problem which is involved in the Estimates before us this afternoon. I have taken the trouble to go through the census papers for Scotland—the last issued—and I pick out these alarming figures. In the decade 1901–11, Scotland lost by migration a natural increase of population of 254,042 persons, or over a quarter of a million in 10 years. In the following decade, 1911–21, we lost 238,587, or, in 20 years, half-a-million persons, and that after allowance is made for the 74,000 soldiers who were lost during the War. It is not only that we lost half-a-million persons in 20 years by migration, but in the rural parts of the country the decrease is actual and observable. I see the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) in his place, and the figures for his constituency are positively alarming. Between 1821 and 1921 there was a decrease of 21,000, and actually there were 21,000 fewer people in 62 Argyllshire in 1921 than there were a century ago. In Inverness County in 1821 the figures were 97,799, and in 1021 they had fallen to 82,455. In Skye in the 10 years between 1911 and 1921 the decrease in population was 12 per cent. In some parishes in that county, including the parish of Ardersier, there was a fall of 41 per cent., and in other parishes 20 per cent. In Ross and Cromarty the population in 1851 was 82,707 and in 1921 it was 70,818. All over the Highland constituencies of Sutherlandshire the population fell from 25,802 in 1851 to 17,802 in 1921. In the last 10 years the population of Scotland has fallen by over 11 per cent. I understand that the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) is going to deal with this question in reference to the parish of Durness, where Erribol is situated. In that parish there has been a decrease of 49 per cent. in the population during the last 100 years. I need not quote Orkney and Shetland, because the same fall is noticeable in the figures there, and it is observable everywhere else in Scotland. We are experiencing the same thing in almost every rural parish in our constituencies. I have figures here of parishes in Lanarkshire the population of which has fallen 38, 35 and 33 per cent., and in one parish the population has fallen 57 per cent. during the period I have been reviewing. In Kincardineshire there are four parishes in which the decreases in the population between 1841 and 1921 are 32, 41, 46 and 47 per cent., respectively, and that goes on everywhere.
May I point out that although we are losing our population at the rate of 500,000 in 20 years we still have emigration going on. I have asked the Secretary of State for Scotland a question on this subject, and it will be answered tomorrow. I have asked the right hon. Gentleman to give me the figures of emigration relating to Scotland during the last 20 years, and also those relating to Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State. I know the right hon. Gentleman has some figures, but whether they are official or not I do not know. The fact remains that, while we are having an enormous depreciation in our Scottish rural stock, we have pouring into our industrial districts a large number of emigrants from other parts of the British Empire. That is a problem which the right hon. Gentleman has to face in order 63 to prevent our Scottish stock being driven away beyond the seas. We are spending enormous sums of money assisting emigration. In Canada, Australia, and New Zealand assistance is provided in the shape of cheap passages for emigrants by the Dominion Governments. I have seen the statement that in Western Australia it costs something like £2,500 from first to last to plant a new family on the soil. When we ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to settle people on the soil of Scotland in order to prevent the depopulation of our Scottish villages, he says: "Look at the cost; roughly it cost £1,000 to settle a new smallholder on the land in Scotland." I do not accept that figure at all, and I do not think that that amount is within miles of being accurate, because the £1,000 includes the cost of the house. May I point out that you have to build houses for people in Scotland under ordinary circumstances for various classes of the community, and in those cases you do not add the cost in this way. When you are dealing with agriculture and the restoration of men to the soil why should you place the house in the balance sheet? In the second place, when you are dealing with settlers on the land, 50 per cent. of your total cost is returnable. It is not a gift at all, because you get a return in the revenue. Therefore it is grossly unfair to bemuse this House with figures in that particular manner. In that £1,000 you include the cost of making the roads. Why should you do that? The roads are used by other people besides the crofters; in fact, they are used by all sorts of people. You have no right to put in the cost of the roads when calculating the cost of the crofter's holding, and say that that is part of the cost of planting Scotsmen on the soil.
I would point out in regard to the criticisms of small holdings in Scotland, which have been rampant for many years, that at the present moment you can only point to 2 per cent. of failures. We have sent representatives to Canada who have reported in regard to Scotsmen sent across to Canada at great expense that there has been 16 per cent. of failures, although there has only been 2 per cent. of failures in their own native land. Then there is another side of the problem. When they are settled in Scotland you get some income from those people in taxation, 64 even if it is only indirect taxation, because these crofters by the consumption of tobacco and other articles contribute to the general revenue of the country. Therefore, when you settle these people in Scotland you increase the purchasing power of the people; you increase the demand for goods in the home market, because every family settled on the soil is an additional purchaser of your home products and manufactures; you also increase your public health and you prevent the steady emigration of people to foreign countries, and all this tends to make us a stronger and a healthier nation.
I was rather dismayed to find that the Committee which the Secretary of State for Scotland has set up to inquire into the finance of small holdings in Scotland did not contain one representative who was known to be sympathetic towards the whole policy of small holdings and the restoration of our people to the soil. When that Committee issues its Report, I hope the House will remember that we simply cannot afford to limit our examination of this problem simply to the question of the cost of settling a family on the soil, but must take a wider national view of the whole business. If we do that, we shall find that the social, economic, moral, and spiritual effect of a sound policy of small holdings will far exceed the seeming financial loss which is said to be involved.
The right hon. Gentleman who initiated this discussion referred to the question of the Harris raiders. I want to say something upon that point. The other night when this subject was under discussion the Secretary of State for Scotland and the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Livingstone) made some reference to this question. The latter said:I went to Inverness last Friday. I reasoned with these men. I disabused their minds of the teachings which had been put into them by wild and irresponsible men. I asked them to give an unconditional undertaking that they would obey the law, as other law-abiding Highlanders, and they said, 'Yes.' That is why they were let out"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1927; col. 1592, Vol. 205.]Later on the hon. Member said:I saw those poor fellows last week. They did not know what they had been doing.I fancy when these five men get hold of their own representative they will have 65 something to say to him about that. Then he went on to say:The responsibility for these men being in prison rests upon those people who encouraged and instigated them to break the law. [HON. MEMBERS: 'Who are they?'] They are unknown to me. I have an idea who they are, but I have no proof and I will give no names."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1927; col. 1594, Vol. 205.]The Secretary of State for Scotland, in reply, made a somewhat similar statement, and he said that these men had been sent to prison because of the wrong advice they had got from outside. I am going to challenge the whole of that misrepresentation. To begin with, these men consulted no lawyer whatever and they were not represented in the Law Courts. Nobody gave them any advice at all except the hon. Member for the Western Isles, and he gave them advice as a result of which they got out of prison. It was stated that these men had given an unconditional promise as to their good behaviour. In fact it was said they had promised that they would not raid the land and break the law and that they would go back and starve on the land of Scaristaveg. What happened? They went back without seeing any wicked lawyer, in Inverness or anywhere else. They were sent back, of course at the expense of the State, to where they came from, to Scaristaveg. They got back to Scaristaveg, and they were no sooner back there than they sent a telegram saying that they were back on the land that had been raided.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I will tell you in a moment. They said:Still on the land; cannot starve; letter posted.That was from Ewan McLennan and the others—the whole five of them were back upon the land for raiding which they were sent to prison for a couple of months. They sent that telegram to a solicitor of the Supreme Court in Edinburgh, Mr. Donald Shaw, a man who has spent a lifetime in assisting the crofters, who has never taken a penny from them, whose advice has always been disinterested, who is a man of the highest standing in his profession; and I trust that the right hon. Gentleman, here in this House to-night, will give us some justification, so far as he is concerned, for 66 his statements reflecting upon Mr. Donald Shaw during the Debate on the Motion for the Adjournment the other night. If he did not refer to Mr. Donald Shaw as the legal adviser of these men, to whom did he refer? There was no other legal adviser who had anything to do with these men, even after they had been put in gaol, and, if the right hon. Gentleman has anything to say about him and his connection with these five men he ought to say it in public and let us have it out. Mr. Shaw's advice has been disinterested, Mr. Shaw's advice to these men was not sought until after they were in gaol. He was no wild and irresponsible agitator. He had nothing whatever to do with the original raiding of this land. He was not cognisant of the fact that the land had been raided, and was only called in after the men had been arrested.
These men are back on the soil. What was the advice that they got in prison? I do not know. Nothing has been reduced to writing, and I put it that it is an extraordinary procedure, that these five men who were in gaol for contempt of Court should be brought into the Governor's room, separately, to interview the representative for the Division, that nothing should be put in writing, that certain promises were given to them—I have statements from them; I do not wish to quote them fully, but certain promises were given to these men; for example, that they would get land ultimately. These men are interviewed separately, not together, and, as the second man comes in, he is told, "The other fellow has promised, and if you do not accept you will he left and the other four will get out." When he has been induced to promise, the third man is brought in and the same trick played upon him, until the whole five get outside one by one; and they never saw the Sheriff. The right hon. Gentleman said that they gave these pledges to the Sheriff. When? When did these men give any pledges to the Sheriff? They deny it. They never saw the Sheriff. They saw the Member for the Division, they saw the Governor of the gaol, but they never saw the Sheriff, and it was only when they got outside the gaol afterwards and compared notes that they discovered what they had been let in for. They went hack to Scaristaveg, and now, according to this telegram, they are back on the raided land again.
67 What is the right hon. Gentleman going to do about it? What is to be done? The right hon. Gentleman made reference to the legal advisers, to all this legal advice that these men had got which had landed them in this predicament. I have already denied that they got any legal advice, or any advice of any kind, from Mr. Donald Shaw; but, supposing they had got wrong advice, is not even a criminal, even a man accused of murder, entitled to have legal advice? Is he not entitled to an interview with his law agent when he is in prison? And yet, when one of these men, Ewan McLennan, asked whether he might communicate by telegram with Mr. Donald Shaw in Edinburgh, he was refused—he was not allowed to communicate with his legal adviser, and that legal adviser did not know anything whatever about it until he got an ex gratia note from the Prison Commissioners that on the previous day these men had been released. We ought to have, in the interests of the Highlands, a full and complete statement from the Secretary of State for Scotland as to the circumstances in which these men have been released, and I think we ought to know what is going to be done with them now.
These men are willing to pay rent; they are not criminals; half the statements made by the Lord Advocate in a previous discussion on the Motion for the Adjournment are, as a matter of fact, out of date and incorrect. The Lord Advocate need not shake his head; I will prove it to him if he likes. For example, the Lord Advocate accused one of these men of having another holding, which he sub-let; and the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave to the House the impression that this man was a profiteer in land. I have the OFFICIAL REPORT here to prove that. Does the Lord Advocate dispute it? Will it be believed that the Lord Advocate was quoting from a document that was 14 months out of date—that the man had long ago given over that holding to his uncle, and, as a matter of fact, was not the tenant of that holding at all? The Lord Advocate's statement about the boy also was wrong. One was led to believe in the House that here was a boy 17 years of age who had no dependants and who wantonly raided the land. That was the 68 impression that the Lord Advocate gave. I am not at all suggesting that he deliberately said that to mislead the House; I am saying that this was the information that he was supplying, and that it was out of date and wrong. Whom did this boy represent? I asked this boy in prison whom he represented, and he said, "Well, Sir, I represent my mother, and I represent five brothers and three sisters." He said, "We discussed it, and I volunteered to go to gaol. My mother could not go to gaol, the other dependants could not go to gaol, and I volunteered." Certainly, this boy had never been promised land as an ex-service man, but the Lord Advocate, in giving the Government's defence to the House, might at least have indicated that this young lad was doing what he did from an honourable and chivalrous motive towards his family.
What are these men to do? Are they to starve in sight of land which ought to be cultivated? If the right hon. Gentleman says that there is no land there, or that there is not sufficient to cultivate, that is another question. We have asked in this House time and again that there should be a complete survey Let us have a survey of the land. The right hon. Gentleman knows how this can be done. He did it in Kincardineshire, as the result of pressure brought to bear upon him by the English Ministry of Agriculture. He got results there, and he got them cheaply. Why not that sort of survey of the Outer Isles? Let us know the facts. How many acres are there capable of cultivation? What acreage is being well farmed now? Upon what acreage could, for example, timber be grown? Let us have the facts, and, after we have the facts, if the right hon. Gentleman says there is only land for another 50, or another 100, if there is no land for any more economically, then we on this side, at any rate, would be prepared to agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there will require to be a migration to land somewhere else. We cannot fly in the face of the facts, but let us have the facts. The right hon. Gentleman, by resisting the attempt to get a complete survey, denies to us the facts upon which we might give a considered judgment upon the whole question of small holdings, particularly in the Outer Isles and on the adjacent mainland.
69 There are many things that the right hon. Gentleman could do to assist in the re-settlement of people on the soil. For example, there are miles and miles of the most beautiful country in the world that are desolate and given over to deer and grouse. There are miles and miles of the most beautiful country in the world where nobody dare set foot but some alien sportsman and his gamekeepers. The Duke of Westminster has an estate there, where there is nobody but gamekeepers and himself. Why? Why cannot we have the land opened up, even for holiday-seekers? Why should beautiful and healthy tracts of country be reserved for a few rich men? I hope to see the day when the co-operative movement will establish hostels all over the Highlands, or in certain parts of the Highlands, at any rate, where poor men and poor women could go to recuperate. The right hon. Gentleman could quite easily encourage such a movement. He could encourage the spending of money in the Highlands by all sorts of classes in the community, and not only by such classes as have been their ruination and damnation in the past. Then we ought, I think, to have a persistent development of road transport. Why should we not have more roads and better roads? When people raise fish from the sea, when people raise stock on the land, when people raise eggs, why should not they have every possible transport facility for getting their produce to market? To-day those roads do not exist to a sufficient extent; the facilities are not enough, and the right hon. Gentleman could open up a great development there. We ought really to have a survey. We ought to know the facts about the possibilities of land settlement, and, within the right hon. Gentleman's powers which the Acts already give, we ought to have a speeding up, as far as his powers will permit, of the re-settlement of our people on the soil, even if we do not send so many away beyond the seas as we have been sending for the past two decades.
One point more, and I have finished. The hon. Member for the Western Isles, in the course of the discussion on Scaristaveg on the Motion for the Adjournment, made what I thought was a wanton and quite unnecessary criticism of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson), who was not then present to defend himself. He is here 70 now. Possibly he will not care to say anything about that statement, but I think that I, as one of the most persistent critics of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife when the Labour Government was in office, ought, perhaps, to say that, so far from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife having done nothing whatever to better conditions in the Highlands and Islands, he did more in his eight months of office than I have seen any other Secretary for Scotland do in as many years of office. It was at the solicitation of the hon. Gentleman who made the accusation—which, by the way, was applauded by hon. Members sitting beside him—and his Friends, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife granted money to assist the fishermen. I did not think the terms of that £150,000 grant were adequate, and I said so, and others said so; but hon. Members who are now criticising my right hon. Friend got up publicly on these benches and backed him up; they poured encomiums on the terms of the offer; and it is a little bit thick now, after they have discovered that the financial terms of that loan were insufficient to induce a large number of fishermen to apply for assistance, that they should get up, on the Motion for the Adjournment, and criticise my right hon. Friend in regard to the terms of that loan, for which, by the way, I expect he was not in the least responsible. The right hon. Gentleman granted £100,000 for seed potatoes, and we never heard a word about that either. He offered to take over certain buoys and harbours if the public authorities would maintain them afterwards; he offered grants, and got grants, for the relief of unemployment in the Highlands—the making of roads, and so on. He sent a Commission of Inquiry all round the place. He introduced a Bill, which was wildly applauded by Members on that side of the House, to rectify grievances under the Small Holders Act. [Interruption.] If I am in Order—
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I think I can say my right hon. Friend introduced and got the First Reading for a Bill to prevent the eviction of smallholders, which has been waited for a long time by Members on that side of the House.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON rose—
§ The CHAIRMAN
Comparisons would be in Order when the salary of the present Secretary of State for Scotland is before the House. It is not now the time for these rival encomiums.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
It was rather less encomiums upon the late Secretary for Scotland that I was endeavouring to explain to the House than an answer to implied charges which have been made against him. However, I will let that point pass. We on this side of the House are willing to face the economic facts. If the economic facts are that these islands and the mainland will only maintain a certain proportion of people we will accept them, but let us have the facts. If the right hon. Gentleman would only give them to us, I am sure he would remove a vast amount of criticism, which otherwise, I trust, will be his lot.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
The figures quoted by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) are very interesting. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman's general political views may be no one can doubt the sincerity of his national feeling. I share with him the apprehensions that Scottish population figures show. It is to some extent due to economic circumstances and to some extent to the raised and different standards of life. Scotsmen have been wanderers in all generations. I have done a great deal of travelling in my time through many parts and a Scotsman in Malaya told me the reason he left Scotland was that it was very difficult for a Scotsman to make a competence among other Scotsmen so, he said, "I went abroad." But it is a very serious matter this diminution of population and above all of Highland stock. I often wonder if the Parliament here at Westminster realises how much it owes to the Highlands. I remember in a district in Bunessan in Mull seeing a large framed picture of the names of the number of men from that small district who had served in pretty high ranks in Army and Navy in the Napoleonic Wars and I believe if you took the district of Skye alone you could fill all the pages of the "Times" with the travels of officers who by origin were fishermen, crofters and small landowners who went into the forces which defended the whole Empire en masse, just as they did in the Great War. 72 In 1914 in the Highlands there was no one left but the cripples. The men went en masse, even in the sparse population of those modern days. They were not even greater in former times. It is said conscription was abolished by Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has anticipated me by a quarter of a moment. I was going to remark that the hon. and learned Gentleman is approaching the Board of Agriculture by a rather remote historical process.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I was simply wanting to impress upon the Committee the debt owed to the Highlands by Britain, and therefore that for expenditure to maintain that stock upon the land—I was taking up the argument of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston)—the country would be well remunerated although not on a strictly commercial basis but on the casting of a long balance sheet for a few millions spent on the Highlands. We should have expenditure to keep even the present population on the land in small holdings, and should not begrudge it. The Board of Agriculture, from the time it has been instituted, has no doubt made an endeavour to get large numbers of men settled, but I understand there are still something like 10,000 applicants waiting for land. We have occasional incidents happening like this raiding of Scaristaveg. I am not going to enter into the history of that to decide whether hon. Members above or below the Gangway are most entitled to the credit that these men are no longer in durance vile. I am very glad they are not there. We ought to treat an incident of that kind with great gentleness, although there is a technical breach of the law. After all, we should look with commendation on men who live in these remote parts and cultivate the soil for a living. Oneshould look very sympathetically upon them. We only wish we had more inhabitants of the same kind. One never can get at the bottom of how this raiding takes place. When one realises the essential law-abidingness of the Highlander, and the very scant treatment he has had from the Parliament at Westminster for the last 50 years, when you go to another part across the 73 Channel and see what happened with the land question there, and how money was poured out like water and millions of British credit were ultimately pledged for the purpose of making them proprietors of the land, one cannot help feeling, as a Scotsman and a Highlander, that our people in the Highlands have had very poor recognition for their constant law-abidingness.
I wish the Board of Agriculture could get a move on in this question of land settlement. I know they have acquired or are to acquire properties in various places, but they are not making the best use of them. This question of land-raiding takes you back to a much more remote history. I do not want again to wander away into anything which you, Mr. Hope, may think is not strictly relevant to this question, but one must understand that in the Highlands of Scotland land was held under the clan system till what, in the life of a nation, is a comparatively few years ago. The Highland land system was under chiefs and not under landowners at all, and that is the big distinction between Highland and Lowland Scotch, that the Highlander will follow a chief but he will not follow a master. He will not have an employer and he will not be industrialised. Had it not been that the British Parliament thought it its duty after the so-called rising in 1745 to abolish the clan system, these incidents would never happen. They would never have happened under chieftainship rule. There is always the recollection in the Highlands of the old clan system, which after all is only two or three generations ago, and it is still in the minds of the people that the clansmen ought to be allowed to cultivate a portion of the soil at one time or other held on unwritten title, and that is the explanation of these incidents. It goes into the historical past of the people. The Board of Agriculture is more to blame for these incidents than the actual delinquents. I am not saying the individual member of the Board is not doing his best; he is doing probably as well as any body of officials might do, but there is a certain official leisureliness about its proceedings, and one wishes they could expedite matters. They have, I believe, to consult the Treasury, and that is where the delay arises. But one wishes they could get 74 about the task with greater celerity, and get the men settled upon the land.
That leads me to this other contention. All the money that is spent on the board of Agriculture—and it amounts to over £500,000 a year—if devoted to the transport problem, would be far better spent than at present. What is the use of the Board of Agriculture buying land if the people cannot get their supplies, except at ruinous rates, brought to their holdings, or the produce of the holdings taken to the market at a price which makes it possible to send them? They do not even provide facilities where they have landowners. The old landowners used to provide piers and landing places. Lochboisdale Pier was erected by the landowner. When the Board of Agriculture came on the scene, it was a long time before they could be persuaded, and it was only when the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Livingstone) followed the good example of the importunate widow for months that the Board of Agriculture was persuaded to put it in a safe condition again. I can give another instance. The Board of Agriculture has a large estate at Strontian, in Argyllshire, with a population of 500 people, and yet there is no possible way those people can get their produce to market. The nearest pier is at Lochaline, 24 miles distant, and the men have to drive their cattle and sheep all that distance. A steamer comes once a fortnight. If there was proper pier accommodation, it would probably make weekly or bi-weekly calls. Only the other day the Board of Agriculture crofters sent a bull to the Oban market. The price of the bull reached £12 but it cost £6 to get it there. Now, what is the use of the Board of Agriculture spending money in settling men on the land, in putting up houses and settling them on the land, if, at the same time, the cattle have to go 24 miles before they can be shifted on to a steamer? Surely, expenditure on a pier is profitable expenditure. It is remunerative expenditure, because it would not only benefit the crofters but all members of the public who might go to these beautiful districts. It would, at least, be a public convenience, the same as the roads. This is a matter which the Board of Agriculture, who have got settlers more or less in all parts throughout the Highlands, ought to 75 take up and bring pressure to bear in the proper quarters, whether it be the Minister of Transport or otherwise, to get this particular matter attended to. Because, unless the means of transport is improved, all the money is pretty well wasted. If you had spent the money that is at present expended on supervising officials—because, mark you, all the Acts that have been passed dealing with the Highlands for the last 50 years have done very little else than plant officials throughout the land—it would have been enough to buy all the Highlands and present it to the people.
This question of transport is the vital question. The Secretary of State for Scotland has had a departmental report on transport. I believe it is not the practice, and that he does not intend, to publish it. I wish we could have it, because unless it is published and we know what the point of view is, and the information upon which he is acting, it is impossible for us to know whether the proper steps have been taken to put matters right. It is absolutely essential that we should have the information, and then we can make the necessary suggestions. There are one or two sources from which I have supplied information. I believe the Secretary of State for Scotland has taken them up and has got some information or advice from them. In many of the islands they were better off and better convoyed in the old days before there was transport. In the island of Tiree there were several smacks belonging to the natives, and though they were exposed to the wind and the weather and the dangers of the sea, yet, on the whole, they could get their produce cheaper and at more economical rates than is the case to—day. I notice that the expenditure of the Board of Agriculture has gone up by £6,000 in regard to salaries, wages and allowances, and I would suggest that even one-tenth or less of the £6,000 would have provided considerable transport, for instance, for the large agricultural island of Lismore, which, at the present moment, is more or less cut off from the mainland. They have only a small motor boat which can carry about a dozen passengers, and cannot carry a single head of cattle. That is all the transport that they have. If we could 76 give £6,000 in the way of grants to local people who are prepared to run small motor boats capable of carrying a few head of cattle we should be doing them a great service.
The same applies to fishermen. They cannot get their fish market. I find that in the island of Coll it is difficult to get fish to market. In fact, the same applies to the whole produce of the country. While, I believe, the Board of Agriculture is doing as well as it can, and as well as an official body can be expected to do, I think that the money that is being spent is not, to a very large extent, producing the result that might be expected, and that might be hoped for. I urge that the Secretary for Scotland should devote himself to the endeavour to get this question of transport satisfactorily solved, and then the fishermen, crofters and smallholders will be very well able to see to themselves. As long as they are held up between the markets by inadequate transport, bad roads, or by no roads at all, their problem is hopeless. There lies the solution, and in no other way. I also hope people will realise this fact. The crofter and the Highlander are probably not understood by the Lowlander or by the Lowland Scot or the man south of the Border. He is not out to make money, but to make a reasonably small living and to bring up his family in the old way "in the fear of God." That is the view the crofter has. Anyone who considers the problem of the Highlands from the so-called modern point of view will think: "Well, these men have not been successful in life." He does not understand the Highland problem. The Highlanders are not out for the purely commercial. They want to live their own life—a more or less simple life.
I remember being struck by one meeting I had with an honours graduate of my own University. He was a crofter along with his brother, a fisherman, who was also an honours graduate. They had both seen the city civilisation and had come to the conclusion that it was a poor thing compared with the simple life in the Highlands. These are not isolated cases only in the Highlands, but they are a type and a race which it would be as well, not only from the commercial point of view, but from the racial point of view, for us to do all we can to keep upon the 77 land. Therefore, I would urge the point I have already made that the Secretary for Scotland and the Scottish Office should devote themselves to the question of transport, which will enable these people to live their own lives and to profit and increase and stop the migration from these parts where used to reside, and still resides, the finest population of the British Isles.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
I thoroughly agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) with regard to the importance of transport in the Highlands. His geography was a little bit difficult to follow, but I admired the skill with which he jumped from one island to another. It shows the great number of passages which the people in that part of the country have to make in order not only to get to their homes but to get the stuff away from their homes; a very important thing when considering the question of land settlement. It is perfectly hopeless to enter upon any scheme of land settlement where the settlers are not put down in a proper position for selling their produce. That is the most important thing we have to consider when we are entering upon schemes of land settlement. Therefore, in all these schemes which apply most largely to the Highlands and the Islands, the question of transport is worthy of the first consideration. It is somewhat unfortunate that this Debate is taking place before we have the Reports of the Boards of Agriculture and Fisheries of last year. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland whether it is not possible to get these Reports presented to the House at some earlier date. Here we are in the month of May and I do not know when we shall have the Report for the past year's working of the Board of Agriculture. On the other hand the question of the reorganisation of the Board of Agriculture is under discussion at the present time, and one of the largest and most important portions of their work is connected with land settlement, and so it is not inappropriate that we should devote some time this evening to discussing this question of land settlement.
As the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) said, it is a question upon which we should take the very widest 78 view and not allow ourselves to be hampered at the outset by the question of £s. d. We all know that land settlement is a costly thing, but figures may be brought out to show on the one hand, that it is very costly without the other side of the balance sheet being brought properly into account. We have to realise the enormous social and economic advantage it is to the nation as a whole to get people well settled on the land. The policy which was instituted in 1911 was not only a policy of looking to the future but it was largely a policy of rectifying the mistakes of the past. The depopulation that took place in Scotland both for sheep and for the deer had got to be corrected, and then after the War, the problem had been made more complex by the vast army of unemployed If you consider for a moment the enormous sums which have been spent without return on what is called the dole as compared with the comparatively small sums spent on land settlement, I think we should all agree that a million or two spent on land settlement, and spent prudently, is a very much better investment than large sums spent week after week in keeping people alive and without getting any return for the money or without putting any real hope before these people.
I spoke just now of the mistakes of the past, and I should like, with the leave of the Committee, to call attention to a very interesting mistake which occurred in the constituency which I have the honour to represent. Years ago a very big trade used to be carried on by the Easterlings from the Baltic and Low Countries coming across to participate in the fishing in the summer season in the Shetlands. Fairs were set up where the people congregated for the purpose of making purchases. The Easterlings brought the nets, lines and gear and sold them to the Islanders, who fished and paid for their gear with the fish that they caught, and there was a great commercial interchange. Unfortunately, in the year 1712 Parliament in its widom decided to put a heavy tax upon imported salt and to give a bounty in respect of fish exported, with the result that the old trade was completely killed. The lairds saw that there was a great opportunity of making a profit out of the trade which used to be carried on by the Easterlings, so they broke up the farms run by one family into three or four un- 79 economic holdings, so that the people on those holdings should fish for the rent and should always be indebted to the laird. That is one of the mistakes we have to rectify to-day. The biggest demand in the Shetlands has been for the enlargement of these uneconomic holdings, and what has brought the matter to a head in recent years is the failure of the Russian market and the fall in the price of herring, as also the depredations caused to inshore fishing by trawlers. It has been said that the Fishery Board's protection vessels have done good work in stopping illegal trawling. I am very glad to hear that. They have done good work in many parts of Scotland, and they have done good work in my constituency; but the point is that they do not do enough. They do not stop the illegal trawling that goes on night and day. It is very difficult to stop it in the islands. That is one of the causes which have led to the demand for an increased size of holding in the islands, which were decreased in that unfair manner 200 years ago.
When we look at the number of holdings in Scotland the total, without mentioning the hundreds, is 76,000, and of these 50,000 are small holdings, which shows what an important part the small holding plays in Scottish agriculture. It is true that the acreage which is occupied by small holdings is only between 14 per cent. and 15 per cent. of the total acreage devoted to agriculture, but when we see that out of 76,000 acres 50,000 holdings are small holdings, we realise how very important the small holding is in the system of agriculture in Scotland. This is the more important when we realise that the actual increase in the area occupied by small holdings compared with pre-War, when the small-holding policy was first inaugurated, is negligible. The policy which was adopted in 1911–12 has practically had no real result in extending the agricultural area in Scotland occupied by small holdings. That, I think, goes to show that our policy, where it has been carried out, has not been a success.
Do we intend really to make small holdings a success or not? If we do, we must tackle it on a different basis than that on which it has been tackled in the past. Our efforts, of course, were 80 hampered by the War; we all realise that. We all realise that land and stock were purchased at peak and impossible prices, that valuation had to be made afterwards and values written down, which has added greatly to our difficulties. But we should not allow that to deflect us from the main end which we have in view, if we have it in view, and that is, to get people settled on the land. I quoted in this House the other day what was done in Denmark compared with what is done in Scotland, and I make no apology for quoting it again. Denmark has settled people on the land 10 times as fast as we are doing it in Scotland. They are dealing with thousands of people and settling them on the land while we are dealing with a few paltry hundreds. We cannot pretend that what has been done during the last 12 years is anything to be proud of or to be satisfied with.
When we look at what is imported into this country in the way of articles which the smallholder more particularly produces, the figures are most astonishing, as showing the market that is open to us. The value of the imports into this country are: Milk, dried and condensed, £5,000,000; butter, £48,000,000; cheese, £14,000,000; eggs and poultry, —18,000,000; bacon and meat produce, £55,000,000. What a magnificent market, absolutely at the door of the smallholder if he is only given the transport facilities for which my hon. Friend has pleaded so hardly just now.
Some criticism has hem made of the Committee which has been set up by the right hon. Gentleman. I do not propose to offer any criticism whatever as regards that Committee, but I shall content myself by judging from the results of their work. It is a hybrid Committee, and hybrid Committees have sometimes done very excellent work. What I should like to do would be to look to the Terms of Reference. It is an old saying that you should not look a gift horse in the mouth; but I intend to look very closely into the mouth of this gift horse, and I think we shall find that not only are the teeth bad but several are missing. I will read the Terms of Reference and suggest where I think they might be widened and improved. As the Terms of Reference 81 stand, I must confess that I am very doubtful whether the Committee is intended to extend small settlements in Scotland, or to shut them down. The terms are:To inquire into the settlement of smallholders in Scotland under the Small Landholders and Land Settlement (Scotland) Acts, with a view to reporting upon the cost incurred by the State in carrying out such settlement;I do not think we should stop there and allow ourselves to be frightened by the large cost that has been incurred. What I would like to add at that point are these words:and to inquire in what way any such settlement can be more economically and expeditiously extended.I do not want it to be left to the Committee to say that it has cost so much. I do not want the Chairman of the Committee, who is a financial expert, a Governor of the Bank of England, to say, as it is perfectly easy to say, that millions have been spent, and only so many hundreds or so many thousands have been settled, and that, it does not look like an economic proposition. What I want to find out is how we can settle the people more economically and more expeditiously on the land, and I would not like that point to be left in any manner of doubt. The Terms of Reference proceed:the value of the results achieved both economic and social; the defects, if any, in the procedure under the said Acts with suggestions for such amendments as the Committee may deem expedient; the desirability of devolving upon local authorities any of the powers and duties under the said Acts;I would like to add at this point the words:with the intention that such powers and duties may be put into active operation.It may be very desirable that some of these powers and duties should be put upon local authorities. One does not like to envisage the possibility of local authorities sitting down and doing nothing. I want to see that these powers and duties and obligations are carried out, and I do not think there should be any doubt left that, if the Committee do recommend that duties should be put upon the local authorities, the key should be kept in the hands of some authority to see that the local authorities do not go 82 to sleep. The Terms of Reference continue:and whether any amendment of the law is desirable as regards"—Here I would like to add a pet theory and idea of my own:the manner in which co-operative methods of marketing can best be extended amongst smallholders.I never make any apology for advertising the combination of co-operation with any settlement of smallholders. It has been proved throughout the world wherever small holdings have been established with success that the success is dependent upon co-operation, and it is most important that if this Committee is to go seriously into the matters laid before them, as I am sure they will, that they should not leave that subject out of their purview, because if we are to make small holdings a success, we must not forget that the success of small holdings has been proved to depend upon co-operation. Now, I come to a very important point in the Terms of Reference. They are to inquire whether any amendment of the law is desirable as regardsthe valuation for rating of small holdings within the meaning of the said Acts.That covers an exceedingly important matter. Since the passing of the Crofters Act in 1886, no attempt has ever been made to hold the crofter liable for the proprietor's rates. We have to remember that that crofter stands in a peculiar position, and from 1886 until now no attempt has been made to alter that position. In the Land Valuation (Scotland) Amendment Act, 1895, an exception was expressly made in regard to works of structural improvements made or acquired for local purposes by the lessee; and the Small Landholders Act, 1911, continued that exemption. In the Rating (Scotland) Act a suggestion was made for the rating of the crofters, and I do not think there was a crofter in my constituency who did not petition me on the subject. It would raise the most extraordinary feeling all through the crofting counties if any attempt is made to alter the expressed practice.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I presume the Board of Agriculture have no power by administration in this matter, and that no change can be made without legislation.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
I am merely referring to the Terms of Reference which are being put before the Committee. I hope I have not gone beyond that. We all know that there is one remedy.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have allowed comments on the Terms of Reference to the Committee, but it will not be in Order to have discussion on the merits of the change.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
I hope that the question of rating is not going to be pressed against the crofter. We have our Land Courts fixing the rents in the crofting areas with reference to the burdens which the crofters have to bear, and with reference to the productivity of the land, and it will be a most upsetting thing if any attempt is to be made to rate the crofters on a different basis from that to which they have been accustomed. We know that the remedy is in rating. Agricultural improvements should be exempted from rates, and the taxation should be put upon the value of the land. Once that system is adopted and followed out throughout, you will get away from all these questions of difficulty of burdening the farmer's improvements by increasing the rates.
Finally, I should like to say that settling people on the land calls for money, but it is one of the best investments that we can possibly make, if we carry it out with prudence. It is an investment the returns of which are not to be reckoned merely by increased production. It has to be reckoned in terms of a healthy and contented population. Look what we are doing in regard to overseas settlement. I can only say that I hope that overseas settlement will continue to prosper. There, we are dealing with thousands of people, whereas in Scotland we are dealing with a few paltry hundreds. Why should we direct all our energies to colonising Australia and Canada, and leave out Scotland? I sincerely trust that the result of the work of this Committee will be not to circumscribe any policy of the settlement of people upon the land, but to expedite it, and to see that it is carried out more economically than it has been in the past.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I would not have entered this discussion upon land settlement but for a feeling which, to some extent, I share with the right hon. Gentleman who opened the discussion and with the hon. Member who has just sat down, namely, a feeling of some anxiety as to the reason for the Departmental Committee which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has appointed. I view the appointment of this Committee with some apprehension, not because I think the closest inquiry into land settlement in Scotland or elsewhere would show it to be an unsatisfactory operation for any Government to undertake, but because of the methods which have caused the appointment of this Committee. Some of us feel that the Secretary of State is not greatly interested in the question of land settlement, that he regards it purely from the pounds, shillings and pence point of view. That is very natural if we look at the figures of land settlement immediately after the War, but I do not think these most distressing figures—and we all know very well what caused them to rise so high—are any excuse for regarding land settlement from a narrow or purely financial point of view. I rise, therefore, to express the hope that before this Debate is concluded, the Secretary of State will make it quite clear that throughout the sittings of this Committee the progress of land settlement in Scotland up to the full available sum which may be secured annually for the purpose will not be interfered with or watered down.
I think a Unionist Member of Parliament has every right to make that request, and indeed has every right to feel a little degree of surprise at the appointment of this Committee. I say that for this reason. In the policies of modern parties there is nothing of longer standing that the policy founded by the Unionist party, that land settlement and small holdings is an integral part of its policy. Without going into ancient history, into pre-War history, let me recall to the Secretary of State the fact that the Prime Minister at the last General Election definitely stated in his election manifesto that the policy of small holdings would be developed if the Unionist party were returned to power. Let me recall to him also the fact that 85 the Agricultural Conference which he was able to call successfully in Scotland, which could not be called in England, on which sat some of the best known representatives of landowners and tenant farmers, farm servants and smallholders, most clearly and definitely stated that the carrying out of a policy of small holdings should be an integral part of the agricultural policy of the Unionist Government. But that is not the sole reason why I am urging this point. That policy has been carried out in England by the Act of 1926, in a time of considerable financial stringency on terms of unusual generosity on the part of the Treasury. There can be no doubt that the offer to pay 75 per cent. of all possible loss incurred by local authorities justifies that statement. Further, the Act of 1926 has given to English smallholders a power to purchase under conditions which have no equivalent in Scotland.
Far be it from me to wander into the realm of the legislation, and I merely refer to that to show the contrast which already exists in Scotland and in England with regard to the carrying out of a policy of small holdings upon which so much stress was laid at the last General Election, and which is so clearly part and parcel of the policy of any thinking Unionist party. Holding that view, one is not wrong in asking the right hon. Gentleman to make clear the purposes for which this Committee was appointed. Heaven knows there are many subjects which require the closest investigation with regard to the future of land settlement. I have often referred to them in this House, and it is as clear as day that there are half-a-dozen points in which an improvement and alteration can easily be effected. Why all the solemnities of this Committee? The proper people to do this are the people who are doing the work now—the Board of Agriculture, who are perfectly aware of the difficulties. The proper person is the right hon. Gentleman himself; and my impression is that he knows far more about Scottish land conditions than anyone on this Committee, with the possible exception of Mr. Duncan. Once you have a continuous land settlement policy as part and parcel of the policy of the Government, the question as to how it can be more adequately done, the im 86 provements and economies that can be effected, is purely a matter for the Scottish Office.
Therefore, I regard with some hesitation the handing over of the policy of land settlement in Scotland to a Committee of which the chairman is to be the late Controller of the Bank of England, a gentleman who, in the past, I know has done most excellent work for land settlement in Ireland, and a gentleman who has done valuable work for Scottish farm servants. Mr. Duncan, however, has written an elaborate volume proving how absolutely hopeless small holdings are, in the face of the acknowledged opinion of all modern agricultural thought, throughout Western Europe. I think this Committee may do excellent work, but whether it will be able to teach the Board of Agriculture or the Secretary of State anything that they do not already know, I doubt very much. So long as the work of land settlement goes on to the full extent of our annual financial capacity, which I see is £175,000, then I for one shall watch with great interest the conclusions at which this Committee arrives. I do not think hon. Members realise the results which have already been achieved by land settlement in Scotland. I hate to give figures almost as much as hon. Members hate to receive them, but they are the figures for last year, and I will only give two single sets, the implication and effect of which will he obvious. Take the figures of seven arable farms converted into small holdings between 1919 and 1925, and consider the effect on population. Before conversion there were 294 persons on the farms; after conversion 682. Take four pastoral farms. The population maintained prior to settlement was 97, and after settlement, at the time of the report, 544.
§ Mr. SKELTON
Let us try to avoid mere party jokes in this Debate. So far as I am concerned, this is no party matter, and I am quite sure the Secretary of State will not regard it, as a party matter. It is a question whether it is worth doing, and I give these figures to show the amazing results which have been achieved so far as population is concerned. Let me give one other 87 example from my own constituency, and in regard to men and women whose economic fortunes I have been able to follow closely for the last five years. Let me take the case of the Castle Huntley holdings in my own constituency. Before settlement there were two farmers and 10 men permanently settled on that land. After settlement there were 43, as against 12, and that is not the complete economic result. That set of holdings is seven miles from Dundee. The land is admirable. What is the result? Not only have you got an increased number in permanent population, but for some three or four weeks during the summer the population amounts to 300 or 400 persons, who come out from the city of Dundee for the purpose of fruit picking get good wages, and on the undeviating authority of the smallholders themselves gain also in health and strength by this country holiday. I give that as an example. These are facts within my own knowledge.
§ Mr. SKELTON
Yes, that is quite true. The moral of this surely cannot be missed. Since I returned to politics in 1922, I have watched year by year the development of many of these small holdings. I will not go into details, but I can say from my own knowledge that their economic position is steadily improving and that the added prosperity and added wealth they bring into that particular parish of Perthshire are beyond question. It may be said that I have taken the best example. That is true. It happens to be an ideal position, fertile soil, good climate, and an admirable agricultural local population to draw from. But admittedly there are many acres in Scotland of which this is equally true, and without going into the much more difficult question of small holdings in the Highlands and Islands, I think the Secretary of State should look at this question from a large and broad point of view. We are only asking him to take his share in the work which is going on in Denmark and over the greater part of Western Europe. I do not care whether you study Fascism in Italy under Mussolini, the work of the Belgian Government, the work of the German Government or the work of the Denmark Government, you 88 will find one of the main pre-occupations of modern Governments is the utilisation of the power of the State to develop land settlement amongst their people. There is no country that needs it more than this. What are the results of the last census figures? Four out of every five of our population living in urban or semi-urban areas, and three out of every five living under absolutely city conditions. The need is enormous.
I have spoken longer than I meant to speak, and I rose really for the two purposes which I have tried to indicate: (1) to urge the Secretary of State that the sitting of the committee should not in the least hamper the development of land settlement up to the limit of every available penny; and (2) that no recommendation of the committee so oddly collected should be allowed to counterbalance the solemn and clear and powerful recommendations made by the combined conference of Scottish agriculturists. I appeal to my right hon. Friend not to give up a piece of social work which is essentially Unionist in character. Let him make every effort to prevent the opinion growing in Scotland that in his hands land settlement is not a great national question which is being dealt with seriously, but a mere mechanical clockwork mouse which is being allowed to run down.
§ Mr. HARDIE
No matter how we attempt to skate round this question it is essentially a land question, The last speaker referred to the Prime Minister's promise of small holdings, but he forgot to inform the Committee that when the Government made its promise it took men without price to defend the land without price, but when the men who defended the land wanted some of it there was a heavy price to the taxpayers to satisfy the greed of landlords. The last speaker also talked about increase in population and showed exactly what takes place under land settlement. Whenever you allow the splitting up of an area of land you get an immediate increase of the population in that area. The application of a tax on land values would split up all the big holdings of land and would increase the land population right away. But it is thought far better seemingly, as far as Scotland is concerned, to sweep off the people who can produce food so as to be able to rear 89 deer and attract a foreign or an Indian Prince for two months' shooting and then suggest the importation of panthers to keep away poachers. I have been a poacher myself and have lifted some good stuff off the land of the Secretary of State for Scotland, and the next time I am near it, if I get a good chance, I am going to have some more, because I think I have as much right to God's food as the right hon. Gentleman has. I am giving him due warning. The Lord Advocate, I notice, has been listening very closely to that statement. He may see the prospect of a case some day.
The arguments to-day have shown the necessity for immediate organisation in relation to our agricultural purposes in Scotland. It was a very remarkable thing, although there is a Board of Agriculture in Scotland, with various officers dotted here and there, to find on a visit such as I made at Easter to Campbeltown in Argyllshire, that in this land, where we are always crying out about increasing home produce, the case of a man who because of some dispute—never mind the details—over the land which his father had occupied for about 50 years, through a change of ownership or rentship, was put off with all his stocks. I was there during the lambing season and the man was almost demented in the effort to keep his sheep upon the grass along the roadsides. How is it possible that a thing like that should take place? It does not matter what the dispute was. Surely, if the Board of Agriculture looked after things properly, they would say, "No matter what the dispute is we cannot see stock reduced. We must see that they are properly cared for and fed." They should have arranged a grazing site for these sheep. There is no question of grass land not being available, for I went to the expense of hiring a car to investigate for myself and went out over five miles to see whether there were any grass areas on which this man's sheep could be put. That is a case which indicates generally what is taking place in regard to getting people back on to the land in Scotland. One would think that this kind of thing is being done in order to get people pushed off the land in some way. All that that man asked for, in his conversation with me, was the right to graze his sheep, especially during the lambing season. He does not want to quarrel with 90 anyone. Could the Secretary of State tell us of anything that has happened in relation to the case and why it is that valuable stock should be allowed to suffer?
The same question was raised to-day by another hon. Member in regard to Lochaline. That is the only port for the service of 34 miles inland. This place is under the control of one man. Is not this a question that ought to have been settled at the time it was raised in 1923? Here you have a man with plenty of money and he buys Lochaline. He has now bought the neighbouring estate of Finnary, where stood the mill that was used to grind the corn grown in the black and white glens of Lochaline. Here you have a man who for some unaccountable reason becomes wealthy. Here you have the black and white glens, and there are the ruins of the cottages, and the rig and fur left by the crofters overtaken by the wild bracken. Yet we are told that it is best to send the people away to Canada or to Australia at great cost. Consider the figures given in this House to-day as to the cost of settling a man upon the land. How much does it cost to unsettle a man from these glens?
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I think the hon. Member on inquiry will find that the old house was taken down to be rebuilt at very great expense.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I went there, and stayed there for two weeks. I found that slave conditions obtained there. When I arrived in Lochaline no one dared take me into his house to give me a night's shelter. There was only one house in the area that stood upon a freehold and the occupant was free to give me the lodgings that I sought. While I was there what were the big House people doing? Going round to every house and telling the fathers and mothers "It is time now for your boy (or girl) to get out to Glasgow or somewhere else for a job. Get them out of the sight of this almighty landlord and his mother." There they were, these people in these small houses. What did the landlord do to the Adam house built to the design of the famous architect in Edinburgh? He got the men to take down the stones and covered the place with dirt and sowed grass. Talk about vandals!
91 6.0 p.m.
The rivers that come down through the black and white glens are teeming with salmon and yet you have MacBrayne's boat puffing up from Oban with tinned salmon for the natives. We are told that Scotland is the land of the brave and the free. It may have been at one time but it is not now, not free. How can you develop the holiday season in such a district when the people who have houses are not allowed to take in visitors? When Craig-Sellars' yacht comes up people are all obliged to get behind their doors and to look out from their houses from behind the curtains. No one is to be seen. He brings there a shooting party to attack hand-fed pheasants. It is not sport; one might as well shoot hens in a pen. This was a great grazing place. It is interesting to refer to an Act of 1700 in Scotland. The reason why they brought in that Act was that they discovered that men who became slaughterers and then butchers were trying to grab all the grazing lands. The Parliament in Edinburgh passed the Act, which said that no butcher could hold more than one acre of land for grazing, and if he was found with anything more he was fined £100 Scots, and then his business was taken from him and he lost the freedom of the borough. But now when you get a Craig-Sellars coming along and clearing off the population, he is not dealt with. I expect he will be knighted, for his is a small offence now-adays. This grazing is not a question of one acre but of a man taking many acres and not using them. What is the use of talking about development of agriculture in the Highlands if you do not develop the transport facilities? In the whole of that arm of Kintyre there is not a road which one would care to travel on, and although there is coal at the extreme end of the arm of Kintyre they bring in coal from the North of England and the other parts of Scotland. Is it not the quintessence of stupidity? Here you have a coalpit, but because you cannot make a road, you have to ship the coal from some other place.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain FitzRoy)
There is nothing about coal in this Vote. This is a Vote dealing with agriculture.
§ Mr. HARDIE
And the farmers in the winter time in this district would be glad if they could get coal. I am trying to show that you cannot develop agriculture unless you have proper conditions of transport, and it is with the transport question I am dealing. This question of MacBraynes' transport has been raised in this House more than once, but the Government have never attempted to create an organised system of collecting produce from the islands and these outer lands in Scotland. It does not seem to be very difficult to organise a steamer service which would get the eggs fresh from these districts into the Glasgow and Edinburgh markets. That is simply a question of organisation, but, apparently, we have made a contract with MacBraynes, and it is impossible to get that contract disturbed or broken. MacBrayne goes on puffing about with a lot of secondhand steamers, expecting the people to run up to him with whatever they have to send, but they never know when he is coming or when he is going. A proper system of collection of produce would mean a great deal in the development of agriculture in these places.?
Referring again to the mill which has been mentioned, it is very remarkable to read in to-day's "Times" in the column dealing with agriculture that Scottish farmers are complaining that the market for oatmeal is being depreciated because Scottish oats are being bought by Germany and taken to Germany, and, after being milled there, are shipped to London for sale. Would the Secretary of State inform us why we cannot mill our oats in this country? Will he say we have no machinery, no mills, equal in capacity to the German mills for making oatmeal or oatflour? If he cannot tell us that, will he consult with his Cabinet which is talking so much about buying British goods and ask them to tell us why we have to buy these British goods through Germany? It would be interesting to know what traffic goes on in this respect. I have no doubt there is some Stock Exchange jugglery. The only thing for which the Tory Government seem to exist is to keep that system going.
In regard to the use of manures, in connection with production from land, I would ask the Secretary of State if he has gone into the points which I put to him previously on that subject? I pointed out to him that every country except 93 Great Britain can give exact figures of the amount of manure, chemical or natural, which is used to the acre. Germany uses 200 lbs. to the acre and, by that means, grows twice the potatoes that America can produce from her richest soil. The nearest I can get to the figures for this country—and I could not get it through the Government—is that we here sprinkle manure on the land to the extent of 28 lbs. to the acre. I wonder if the Secretary of State has taken the trouble to secure some definite data on this question? It is no use talking about treating agriculture scientifically unless you have the means of doing it, and you cannot deal with this question scientifically unless you take into account the question of the application of the proper manures in the proper quantities.
In reference to small holdings, the illustration of Denmark is such that it only requires to be mentioned. There, by a system of not allowing any improvements to go beyond the man who holds them or who has made them, you get a return upon the development of land which you do not get in any other country. The smallholder in this country has not been encouraged. He is between the upper and the nether millstones. I hope the Committee which has been appointed will look at this question from both points of view. I know the Secretary of State takes the view that he has had nothing to do with the appointment of the Committee, but he has something to do with the remit which has been given to the Committee. I hope he will give the Committee encouragement to work and will not forget that there is an opinion in the country which is quite opposed to the large holding as against the small holding.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I will not now deal with a number of subjects connected with the administration of the Board of Agriculture in which my constituency is greatly interested—such as the drainage grant—as I hope to have other opportunities and I will confine myself to an issue with which other speakers have already dealt, namely, land settlement. I approach it by way of that now notorious transaction, the sale of Erribol, which bids fair to become historic, first as an example of lax administration and of the betrayal of the trust of looking after the national 94 estate, whereby huge losses—losses which considering the scale of the transaction are unprecedented—have been sustained by the public; and, second, on account of the betrayal of the interests of the ex-service men to whom the Government are under such a direct obligation. On the first point I would remind the Committee that on a previous occasion on which this question was discussed, certain figures were agreed upon between the right hon. Gentleman and myself. The sheep stock and other stock on Erribol were bought for £45,000 and they have been sold for £10,724. Those figures are agreed.
The Secretary of State has two explanations. The first is that the State always comes badly out of these transactions. I say that is a very poor excuse for a transaction of this character. I have examined the records, and I can find no parallel for a loss on a transaction on this scale, of such enormous size as £35,000. It is our duty to insist upon a thorough investigation of this transaction, so that responsibility shall be fixed, and the risk of such mistakes being made again shall be removed. Scottish public opinion does not admire the complacency of the Secretary of State in regard to this matter. His second reason was the drop in sheep prices. He said there had been a drop of 50 per cent., and when I pressed him further he said he thought it was even more, and that he had under-estimated it. Even had there been a 50 per cent. drop it would be a very poor bridge for the yawning gap between £45,000 and £10,000, but as a matter of fact, I have looked up the official figures provided by the Highland Agricultural Society, and I find the average fall in sheep prices during the period was between 20 per cent. and 25 per cent., or less than half the figure which the Secretary of State gave to the House as the minimum figure of the fall in price.
There is another very important fact agreed upon between the Secretary of State and myself which shows the importance of this transaction, and the magnitude of the blunder. The Board of Agriculture, in June of last year, valued the sheep stock at £17,800 and to that must be added an acclimatisation value which brings the total up to £20,000. Only four months later the Secretary of State sold that stock for £10,724. Again 95 the figures are agreed. What is the Secretary of State's explanation? It is, just bad luck! The Board of Agriculture's valuations, which are put before the Public Accounts Committee, are very carefully carried out; the Board of Agriculture are most experienced and careful public servants; the Secretary of State is also very careful and is most anxious for land settlement. Yet it is true that he sold a sheep stock, valued four months previously at £20,000, for £10,000 to a pluralist farmer. Well, he says, these things just happen and it is bad luck. That explanation is all that he has given—with one or two exceptions which I am going to mention—and it is not good enough for the Scottish public. The right hon. Gentleman grows quite indignant when I draw attention to this matter, and he suggests that I have a desire to show that there is unfair dealing. Far from that, my desire is to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of removing the suspicion which does exist, and which inevitably has been created by these facts in the mind of the public, that there has been unfair dealing. So far, the answers he has given to the arguments which I have put forward have been singularly unconvincing.
In the first place, he refers to the fact that there was a loss of only £2,000 on the actual sale of the estate, apart from the sheep stock. The estate was bought for £12,000 and sold for £10,000. He forgets the very large sums of public money which were laid out on the improvement of the estate. The shooting rental, in particular, was very largely improved, and not only has he lost the £2,000 but all the money expended on the improvement of the estate since it came into the hands of the Board of Agriculture. The shooting rental alone was raised to £227 10s.—nett, not gross, and with all deductions and so forth taken off. If you take that at 15 years' purchase from the £10,000, for which the Secretary of State sold the estate, you will find that this transaction which he regards so complacently means that he has sold the farm the farm buildings, the equipment, farm servants' and shepherds' houses, two or three holdings and other houses let to tenants, and 26,000 acres of the finest grazing in Sutherland, with £1,560 worth of improvements carried out by the Board of Agriculture—all for 96 £6,587 10s. Yet, comparing in his mind this transaction with the sale of the sheep stock, the Secretary of State permits himself to dwell upon it with satisfaction, and almost with pride.
But to revert to the subject as a whole—estate and sheep stock—the right hon. Gentleman says that efforts were made to sell them at public auction. That is quite true. The first effort was made in March of last year. They were exposed towards the end of March. There were a number of inquiries as a result of that exposure, and it was agreed that they should be exposed again. The next time they were exposed was in May, within two or three weeks of the term day. Every Member of this House who is a practical man knows very well that in a transaction of this magnitude, where the sum of £20,000 or £30,000 is going to change hands, it is very important to give some weeks or some months to the purchaser to get the necessary capital available to carry through the transaction. Yet the whole of April was allowed to pass without any further exposure of this estate, and not until May, and then in the middle of the general strike, which is important when we come to consider later events, was the estate exposed again. The Secretary of State says that business had to go on in spite of the general strike. All I can say is that if it was my personal business, and if I had been responsible, I should not have thought an exposure during the general strike was likely to give me a fair kind of line as to the value of the estate. The Board of Agriculture have had this estate for seven years in their possession, and surely it was worth while to keep it another eight or nine months in order to get over the period of the general strike and the, coal stoppage, and to give time to sell the estate in a fair way before the next Whitsuntide.
So much for the second exposure. It is not surprising that the auction room on that occasion was not exactly thronged with a jostling crowd of eager bidders for this estate. The third and only remaining exposure of this estate at public auction took place two or three weeks after the Whitsunday term, with an obligation on the purchaser to take over the sheep stock as at Whitsun. It was not only wildly unlikely that anybody would be found to take over such an obligation, but for practical reasons it 97 was impossible to have this stock valued then. The sheep are not handled and clipped till July, and then, who is to pay for the sheep and lambs which had died in June and what arbiter could say what the numbers and value of sheep were on that estate at the previous Whitsun? The whole transaction would have been absolutely absurd, and it is a basis upon which no practical dealings could possibly have been carried out.
In the face of these facts, and hearing certain rumours, I thought it my duty, in June of last year, to write to the Secretary of State. I am not being wise after the event, for I warned him at the time. I protested at the time. I did not wait for the whole sale to be a failure. I have not tried to lure the Secretary of State on. I did not want him to sell the place. I made certain proposals whereby he could have fulfilled his obligations to the ex-service men and not sold the place. He said they were costly, but they would have been nothing like as costly to the public as the bargain he has carried out, and, in addition, he would have had the satisfaction of having settled the men, but he disregarded the advice which I ventured to give him. Still, when I saw that the methods of the Board of Agriculture were open to the gravest criticism, although I did not agree with his policy, I thought it my duty to write to him at once and to give him such advice and help as I could, and this is what I wrote:You are probably aware that there has been a good deal of criticism of the Board of Agriculture"—This is only two or three weeks after the last exposure of the estate at public auction—apart from the merits of selling or not selling the estate, for the way in which the sale of Erribol has been handled. It was last exposed on 8th June, for occupation as from 1st June.Then I went on to put the reasons why that was an unsatisfactory arrangement, and I continued:It seems to me that these criticisms are sound, but, of course, there are not lacking those who pass from these reasonable criticisms to the circulation of absurd rumours that there is a favoured purchaser in the background, who will come forward after one or two unsuccessful exposures and buy the estate at a greatly reduced upset price.I quite honestly thought at the time that these rumours were absurd. Then what 98 happened? We know from an answer to one of my questions that several inquirers came forward. The Secretary of State has admitted that a figure of £25,000 was mentioned as a first offer, which obviously would have been increased as negotiations had been entered into. I want to ask him now if a figure of £30,000 was mentioned by any other inquirer, whether any communications took place between that inquirer, or an agent on his behalf, and the Board with regard to that figure of £30,000. But let us return to the £25,000 which is agreed between the Secretary of State and myself. This figure would have been some thousands of pounds more advantageous to the public than the bargain which the right hon. Gentleman eventually made, and, as I say, it was only a first offer. Obviously, the man, if he had been encouraged, would have increased it, and this is clear from the letter written to the Board of Agriculture by Messrs. Knight, Frank, and Rutley, who said:One of the applicants before whom we have put this property asks if there is any possibility of a figure round about £25,000 being entertained for the estate and everything on it. We suppose that there is no possibility of such an offer being considered.That phrase at the end of that letter is capable of one of only two possible constructions. The first is that those experienced auctioneers, who have a greater knowledge of selling estates than almost any other firm in the country, thought £25,000 was so absurdly low that the Secretary of State could not possibly have considered it. I should have agreed with them. I should have said that to give the estate away even at £30,000 was to let it go cheap, but that obviously £25,000 was not worth considering. But I suggest something further to the right hon. Gentleman. I suggest that the instruction which Messrs. Knight, Frank and Rutley had received was that no variation of the published conditions would be permissible. I have put this point three times to the Secretary of State in questions across the Floor of the House of Commons, and each time he has evaded the point. The last time I asked the question was on the 6th May, when the answer was:As I stated in the note which I sent to the hon. and gallant Member. … the inquiries received were not so substantial as to warrant the opening of the negotiations or the discussion of amended condi 99 tions of sale."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th May, 1927; cols. 1915–6, Vol. 205.]My question is not answered. My question is whether Messrs. Knight, Frank and Rutley were instructed that no alteration of the published conditions would be favourably considered. I have asked that question three times, and I told the right hon. Gentleman before this Debate that I should press it to-day. I also told the right hon. Gentleman that I had two gentlemen who had been in communication with me, who say that that was the case. Did he not get my message that I sent to him this morning, that I had been told by two gentlemen who had been in communication with me that that was the answer which they had received? It seems to me that this attitude of the Secretary of State, that he would not negotiate except with somebody who gave him a definite offer, and that the inquiries received were not so substantial as to warrant the opening of negotiations, was in itself an absurd attitude. The ordinary landlord who wants to sell an estate is delighted to negotiate with anybody. He does not want them to commit themselves in advance of negotiations. He wants to lure them on into negotiations. Who could hope to sell land or any other commodity if that was the attitude which was to be assumed—an attitude of ludicrous and, as it eventually proved, costly haughtiness on the part of the right hon. Gentleman?
But again I assert, and I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to deny it if he can, that inquirers were informed that no alteration of the published conditions would be considered. The Secretary of State defined his attitude in answers to me across the Floor of the House on 22nd February, when I asked:Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question on the Paper and tell me what was that inclusive figure?The right hon. Gentleman, in reply, said:I never had any firm offer, except the one I have dealt with.I said:Was another bidder encouraged to compete against the purchaser who eventually got it, or was he choked off?The Secretary of State replied:I am bound to say that I can only do business with those who make me a firm offer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1927; col. 1564, Vol. 202.]100 Again, the other day, he answered a further question, and said:As I have already stated on several occasions, I instructed acceptance of a firm offer to purchase after the estate had been exposed for sale by public auction on three occasions. It was the difference between"—I want these words carefully noted—a definite proposition and tentative inquiries that might never have come to anything, while meantime the offerer might have withdrawn. … As I have already stated, there were no other offers than that of the eventual purchaser. The inquiries received were not so substantial as to warrant the opening of negotiations or the discussion of amended conditions of sale.Now it turns out—and I want the Committee to notice this point—that these statements, which the right hon. Gentleman was no doubt supplied with, were untrue, because I can test them by two questions which I asked, one in February and another two months later. On the 14th February he informed me thatThe eventual purchaser first approached the Board tentatively on 31st March, 1926, but it was not until the end of August that definite negotiations developed.The bargain was concluded on 11th September. Again, on the 26th April, the right hon. Gentleman told me:The negotiations in August were reopened by the Board of Agriculture, acting on my instructions.We find, therefore, that this favoured purchaser first approached the Board, but only tentatively, on 31st March, 1926. Then negotiations were continued with other people, and other figures were mentioned, only tentatively, but the negotiations with the eventual purchaser were only tentative at that point and, indeed, were in abeyance. Figures were mentioned by these other inquirers. The Secretary of State said here, on 24th March:The circumstances were that I had to run the risk of losing a definite offer for something which might have turned out to be worth nothing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1927; col. 735, Vol. 204.]Yet, as we have seen, at the time of this tentative offer of £25,000 he had received no definite offer, and it was three or four weeks after that, because it was the 31st July when he received the offer of the £25,000, before he instructed the Board of Agriculture to take the initiative in opening negotiations with the eventual purchaser. Now the Secretary of State pretends that he can only do business with those who make him a firm offer, 101 and he gives that as a reason for not dealing with these other people. Yet this favoured purchaser had come forward in March, but no definite negotiations had started then, according to the Secretary of State's own statement. Then the Board took the initiative and went down in August to this favoured purchaser and submitted to the dictation of terms—a Martinmas valuation without compensation; a refusal to take over the whole ordinary stock of the farm. That is invariably done in Sutherland, and it means that whereas the Board of Agriculture on entry paid acclimatisation value on the whole of the sheep stock, the new purchaser only paid acclimatisation value on a proportion of the sheep stock, so that the Board only received it for two-thirds of the stock on going out. That is absolutely unprecedented in Sutherland; the sale of the shotts by the Board and the extraordinarily high proportion of shotts allowed, the number of tups to be taken over, and the charge on the estate in connection with the transfer of church property, every one of which constituted not only a material alteration of the published conditions of sale, but which are absolutely and literally without precedent in the history of sheep farming in Sutherland. We need look no further than in these unprecedented conditions of sale for some explanation, at any rate, of the great loss of public money sustained in this transaction.
The Secretary of State referred to himself in our last Debate as a trustee for the public in the administration of this estate. To my mind, to sell an estate on any such terms would, in any event, have been a breach of trust. But before the right hon. Gentleman finally concluded the bargain, there was one thing which, obviously, remained for him to do if he honestly believed that these were really the best terms he could get. He should certainly have invited competitive offers—that is comparatively a small point—but to my mind his plain and obvious duty, having conducted his negotiations in private, was to have said, "I must put this place up to public sale by public auction on the revised terms." If the Secretary of State regards himself as a trustee, he should know that in Scots law a trustee is never safe unless he sells the property by public 102 roup. And even when trustees are selling—as in a recent case in my own county—the feu duties of schools, when it is well known that nobody but the education authority will bid for them, the sale, though practically adjusted by private negotiation beforehand, must, and does, take place by public roup. That is the invariable practice, and it should have been followed in this instance when public property of great value was at stake.
In this case, the only exposures at auction took place in such unsatisfactory conditions, that I, myself, protested at the time in a letter to the Secretary of State. Several inquiries had subsequently been received for property, other people had shown themselves interested, and yet, eventually, it was sold secretly and on terms which are even now not disclosed to the public. It was sold on terms disclosed to one party only, and the competitors, the other prospective purchasers, knew nothing of the terms upon which it was sold. If the Secretary of State is a trustee, and if we are responsible to our constituents for his intromissions, surely it is our obvious duty to demand that the full facts regarding this secret transaction be disclosed. I would press the Secretary of State to publish the official document containing the details of this transaction—namely, the Missives of Sale, the Minute of Reference to the Arbiter, copies of all communications on the subject of the sale which passed between the Board, on the one hand, and the arbiter and the eventual purchaser, on the other, and a copy of the Arbiter's Report on the arbitration. I have done my best by questions to elicit this information on this transaction, but there are many difficulties and there are many extraordinary and unprecedented features in this transaction. The replies of the Secretary of State on this subject lack the frankness and the fullness which characterised them on other occasions. [Interruption.] At any rate I agree with hon. Members that the replies lack frankness on this matter.
What are the grounds which the Secretary of State gives for refusal to publish? The first ground is that he says:I would like to say that it is impossible for anyone in my position to lay before 103 the House, on every occasion, all the details of transactions of this magnitude, or any magnitude in connection with my Department which are constantly coming up.We do not ask for the details of every transaction; we do not ask for them as a matter of principle, but we do want, in the Erribol transaction, the details so that the House of Commons and the Scottish public may see the official documents, and that they may have information of a matter which excites suspicion among public opinion in Scotland. Public opinion is greatly interested and we have the right, as representing the public in this House, to demand the publication of these documents. The second reason which the right hon. Gentleman gives is the expense; he does not think that the publication of these documents would justify the expense. What a paltry excuse to make! All these documents exist in duplicate or triplicate in the Secretary of State's own offices, and in the offices of the Board of Agriculture in Edinburgh. All that is necessary is for one set of these typewritten documents to be placed in the Library of this House for one week, to be available to Members of Parliament and to the Press. The country is losing about £35,000 on this transaction. What I have suggested would not cost £5—I do not think it would add £1—to the loss, and the country could well afford that extra money to see exactly what has been going on and to get to the root of this matter. I suggest that this plea of expense is an unworthy pretext for the continued concealment of these details which the public is entitled to have. I would paint out that even such a well-known and technical and non-political paper as the "Scottish Farmer" says:Sir John Gilmour is having rather a rough time in Parliament. The main trouble is over Erribol. Would it not be simpler for the Board of Agriculture of Scotland to tell the whole truth about Erribol? Some of the answers are, to put it mildly, peculiar.Then, again in another issue, it says:No defence whatever is possible of the price paid for the Erribol sheep stock by the Board, and it has not been shown that any defence is possible of the price at which one of the Board's own officials, acting as a single arbiter, handed over the sheep stock to the new owner. Sir John Gilmour, in his lengthy reply, reported in another column, did not explain why the Board, in dealing with Mr. Elliot's offer, 104 made or agreed to the proposal that the sheep stock should be handed over on the award of a single arbiter, nor did he in the least indicate why that arbiter should have been one of the Board's own officials with no special knowledge of Sutherland sheep stocks.There is just one more quotation I should like to make and that is from a paper which supports the right hon. Gentleman's own political views. After the Debate which took place here on this subject, the "Glasgow Evening Citizen" said:The Secretary of State is coming badly out of the Erribol Farm business"—among other reasons—because of the suspicion created by his extreme disinclination to give frank answers to questions. He has all along given the impression that there is something to hide.Therefore, I would press the right hon. Gentleman to publish the official documents containing these details of the transactions; documents which Scottish public opinion, and especially those engaged in agriculture, demand should be published.
But the point with which I am principally concerned is the treatment of the applicant. Here are men who gave exceptionally loyal, gallant, and unstinted service to the country during the War. They received promises from the Government that when they returned they would get the land. They have waited, eight years for the promises made to them to be fulfilled; for seven years the land and for five years the land and stock have been in the hands of the Board. But the Board, which is generous to the point of recklessness in dealing with a pluralist farmer, is stingy to the point of faithlessness in dealing with these gallant ex-service men. At first they were asked, for the sheep stock alone, a sum of £22,000, which is more than the Secretary of State received for the sheep stock and the other stock, live and dead, and the whole of the estates put together. They were asked more than the right hon. Gentleman has received for the whole of that, and no doubt their refusal caused much regret in the Scottish Office. Fresh attempts were made, and they were offered the sheep stock for £17,265—but not the same stock as the Secretary of State sold for just over £10,000. They were only offered 3,213 sheep for £17,265, while the £10,000 was received as the price of 4,299 sheep. In short, for a stock 105 of 25 per cent. fewer than the Secretary of State eventually sold to a pluralist sheep farmer, these poor ex-service men were expected to pay a figure of 70 per cent. higher. And then the Secretary of State complacently remarked:I may remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman and others who know the circumstances, that there are many other schemes which are being carried out in which these prices and higher prices than we were asking of these holders are being paid and are being successfully met.If that be true, I say that it is a damning indictment of the Land Settlement policy of the right hon. Gentleman. Wealthy farmers can have their sheep at knock-out prices, but if ex-service men are importunate enough to remind this Government of their obligations, they must pay 70 per cent. more for 25 per cent. fewer sheep—they have to pay double. This land and this sheep-stock were bought for these men; they were never offered to them on the basis of a Martinmas valuation, with all the advantages obtained by the wealthy purchaser which I have enumerated. They see it filched from them by the very body—the Board of Agriculture—which was constituted in 1912 to protect the interests of applicants for land—the very body which should have been there to protect the interests of these ex-service men, and these men see this land filched from them. And yet, when I ask the Secretary of State what he is going to do for these applicants, he tells me that he can give no indication of what may be possible to arrange for alternative schemes of land settlement for these men.
Recently we have had in this House several discussions about the land raiders in the island of Harris. The House has shown sympathy for these men. Hon. Members on all sides of the House, even hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite and the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton), have shown that they are appalled at the rapid depopulation of the country districts of Scotland. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) gave some very striking figures to-day from the Census Returns, and I will only add to those figures the statement that they are almost exactly the same as the figures for Caithness and Sutherland, which show a reduction, between 1862 and 1921, of about 35 per cent. of the population in each county. But since 1921, from inquiries which I have made, the figures 106 lead me to believe that there has been a further drop of over 2,500 out of a population of some 28,000. We need these men; the men want to stay, and the Board of Agriculture has powers now for settling these men, but the Board hesitates to use these powers. If the Board wants more powers, let the Secretary of State ask the House of Commons to give him greater powers. These are the words in which the right hon. Gentleman defined his policy in regard to land raiding and land settlement. He said on the 3rd May:If there is to be a reasonable settlement, either in these islands or elsewhere, the full claims of all men will be taken into consideration and a settlement will be made.…And he goes on:I am prepared to see that settlement extended and carried out, but I am not going to have my hands forced by those who break the law."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1927; cols. 1597–8, Vol. 205.]No one in this House would refuse to support that policy, but the two parts of it are complementary and must hang together. When the right hon. Gentleman says that he is prepared "to see land settlement extended and carried out," I would ask him what precisely does he mean to do for the Erribol applicants; for the men of the townships round Lairg, and for the crofters at Clynekirkton and Kintradwell; for the men at Torboll and Balvraid, who have been waiting since before the War; and for the Sciberscross applicants, who have been waiting as long? What is he going to do for the Rhifail applicants, who have been waiting for years for the grazing which he gives some hope may be available for them at Whitsunday? What is he going to do for the Tongue men? The estate factor stated that arrangements had been made with the Board to hand over to them a horse park at Whitsunday. We are now within a few weeks of that date. What is he doing for the applicants at Camster; what for the 1,055 unsatisfied applicants in Sutherland, and the 500 unsatisfied applicants in Caithness? These men are not criminals, they are not lawbreakers, they are patient, loyal, law-abiding people. How are these patient, law-abiding people to be rewarded?
Why is it that when raiding takes place public sympathy is so much with the raiders? It is because the people 107 of Scotland feel that the right hon. Gentleman is not carrying out the professed policy of the Government and doing his utmost to deal with this question of land settlement; because they feel that this great task of repopulating the Highlands, the greatest task which faces Scottish statesmanship to-day, is being neglected by the Scottish Office. Let the Government plainly declare a forward policy. Let them say that they intend to go forward with their policy. Let them announce a programme for overtaking the arears of land settlement which have occurred in the last few years. Let them get down to the work, and then public sympathy will be absolutely behind the Secretary of State for Scotland when he stands up for the enforcement of the law; but until then, it is on those who to-day stand condemned at the bar of Scottish public opinion—the Secretary of State and the Government—for not getting on with this job, for shirking this great national question of land settlement and the repopulation of the Highland counties, that the displeasure of the people of Scotland will fall in due time.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I venture to intervene at this period of the Debate not with any desire to deprive any hon Member of an opportunity of continuing the discussion, but because I think I am justified in rising now to meet some of the questions which have been raised, and in particular the indictment made by the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair). I have no feelings, personal or otherwise, about the criticism made upon the administration of my office, but I would like to submit a few words in reply to them. If I judge aright, it appears to be the opinion of some hon. Members that the policy of His Majesty's present Government is not in favour of land settlement or the development of small holdings. It is said that that is shown by the fact that I have recently set up a Committee to inquire into the progress, the methods and the machinery by which land settlement has been carried out. I want to say in the most emphatic terms that the policy of His Majesty's Government has been repeatedly declared as being in favour of the provision of small holdings, and that remains the policy of the Government to-day.
108 With regard to the criticism on the appointment of the Committee of Inquiry, may I remind the House, and those outside who are interested in this problem, that from time to time there have been criticisms of the Board of Agriculture, of the Minister and of the subordinates, and of the methods, and there have been indications that the House would be prepared to extend the law and to bestow fuller powers with a view to hastening land settlement. In what way does the setting up of a Committee, with a remit which is fairly wide, to inquire into the progress under the various Acts of Parliament hinder the work? The Committee will put into concrete form, so that the House may see it for itself, what has been the actual cost to the State, to the taxpayer and to the ratepayer of settling people on the land under these various Acts, and will show whether too much money has been spent or not enough money has been spent, or whether the machinery has been the best that could possibly be devised.
I have been asked what was at the back of my mind in appointing such a Committee. It is suggested that the Board of Agriculture or the Scottish Office should have at their fingers' ends sufficient information to form clear decisions upon this matter without any further inquiry. I do not know what may have been the experience of previous Secretaries of Scotland who have had to administer the many Departments which fall to the charge of that office, but I say quite frankly that, for the guidance of my office and myself, I desire to have an inquiry into a problem which is admittedly a very difficult and complex one. I am aware, as the House is aware, of the figures given from time to time as to the cost of land settlement. I may be less ready in following or understanding figures than some hon. Members, but my own personal feeling is that in the figures which are available to me I do not see in a clear and concrete form what the real cost has been. That being so, I trust the House will see in the selection of a chairman who, whatever other qualities he may have, has a full knowledge of finance, the possibility of dealing with this problem without bias, neither committed to nor against it as a policy—because the policy is not a matter for the Committee but for this House.
109 The Committee is to inquire into the facts, and to take evidence from such people as it considers representative and as speaking for and on behalf of all the interests concerned. It will be the duty of the Committee to collect all the information it can and, if I judge aright, that Committee will not only receive all the information from the Board of Agriculture and have access to all its files and figures, but will be in a position to visit representative settlements, whether they be in the Highlands or in the Lowlands. If one thing is made clear above others, it is that the remit to the Committee not only includes the financial side of the work about which the House will wish for guidance in coming to a decision as to whether we are getting full value for what we are sending, but also authorises the Committee to take into account the social side, the advantage to the State of the increased settlement of families upon the land. The wording of the reference to the Committee does not in any way preclude that.
I wish to repeat that the Committee has not been chosen for any purpose other than that of examining and reporting in the fullest sense upon all aspects of this problem. There is the question of the possibility of purchase of these holdings, as against which it has been indicated that the purchase and ownership of these holdings by smallholders is prohibited or precluded by the difficulties of local rating and local taxation. That is one of the problems which I have remitted to the Committee in order that it may consider it afresh and submit its opinions for the consideration of the House and of any Government which may have to deal with the problem. When due consideration is given to the fact that these Acts have been in operation since 1911, I think it will be agreed that the time has come when we should take stock of the position in order to see where we are going. The period through which we have passed since the War has been a difficult one, a period of high prices and of great difficulties for agriculture; and if the Committee does what I visualise It doing, I think it will place before us in a clear and concise form the story of what has happened in the past, point out where in its opinion weaknesses have arisen and make suggestions for the improvement of the machinery. Whether the Committee makes such suggestions or 110 not the House and the Government, which are responsible, will be in a position to make up their minds as to whether they can continue the machinery.
Throughout this discussion I have failed to hear a single word in favour of economy. I am not preaching to-day that economy ought to be pursued to the point of ruining any scheme of settlement, but I would remind hon. Members on all sides of the House that in dealing with this problem, as with every other problem of the State, due regard must be had to the limits of the public purse. Having said that I can only point out that the appointment of this Committee will not in the least affect the administration of the Acts as we have them at the present time. Without further legislation it would be impossible to do so. Let there be no dubiety about it, so far as provision has been made by the State for the settlement of smallholders the work will proceed and proceed as rapidly as possible. It is sometimes said that we have really done very little in the way of land settlement. Some people thought that we would have a tremendous wave of resettlement upon the land, but the same difficulty of the exodus of people from the land, which we have been facing in Scotland, is the problem that faces not only England and Wales, but every country. Into the exact causes and reasons I am not going at the present moment, but do not let us suppose that we are worse in Scotland in that respect compared with other parts of the country. As to applicants for resettlement, that is one of the problems that we desire to see investigated. It is quite true that we have these people, numbering, let us say, 10,000, on the lists, but it is equally true, when you come to investigate upon the spot the qualifications of many of these people, that you find they become greatly reduced in numbers.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
Are not the 10,000 those who are left after the lists have already been sifted down?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
No, not in a large number of these cases. Applications come in and they are placed upon record, and it is only when the Board are in a position to deal with the settlements in that particular area that these lists ate really scrutinised.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Do I understand the Lists Committee will travel and will evidence be taken in public?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
The Committee is appointed with wide powers and no doubt the Committee, in carrying out the mission given to it, will visit certain parts of Scotland. It will be for the Committee to consider, when they have met and talked the matter over, exactly how far they will go. Undoubtedly the Committee will be able to see representative holdings and they will be able to have witnesses before them either at a central point in Scotland or at one or more points. There will be no difficulty on that point.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
That will be a matter for the Committee who have been given full powers to decide. The question of these lists of applicants brings me to the problem of what are called raiders. This particular problem is one which unhappily is not a new one. I want to make it quite clear to hon. Gentlemen on all sides of the House that, if the principle of raiding were to be admitted by the State, it would act detrimentally to the very class of people whom the House desires to assist. In this last case, for instance, it is quite clear that there is only a limited amount of land in these Western Isles and the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) said that they did not desire to press this matter beyond the actual possibilities and that they were willing to face economic facts. The facts are that in these islands there are left comparatively few spots upon which, under existing legislation, settlements can be made compulsorily by law.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
A survey is not necessary, because all the information is at present in the hands of the Board. The actual places that are available are very small indeed. There are certain pieces of land, for instance, that belong to local hotels. Is it suggested that in the case of a small area round an hotel which is required for the development of tourist traffic, the House should authorise the Board by fresh legislation to go in and take away that type of land? I do 112 not think so. The House has always in the past held that the actual amenities of any property shall be preserved. I have yet to learn that it will be the policy of this House to go back upon that. Whether that be so or not, the truth is there are comparatively small areas in which people can settle in those islands. There were three small properties sold, all of which were below the statutory limit and none of which the Board could take compulsorily, yet the Board was trying to come to arrangements with the owners of those three small properties in order to meet the demand. About two of these farms we have made settlements without difficulty. It is only with this one that there has been this difficulty, and the difficulty has arisen through the desire of certain people to get land. The locality knew that the Board were negotiating to try to settle people upon this land. It was only when the proprietor held out for a price which was unreasonable, which was then followed by raiding, that the Board, on my instructions, said that they were not prepared to enter into any negotiations unless the ground could be given free of any raiders. I think I am justified in holding to that point, because it is clear that the Board had not had the opportunity of considering the relative merits of the applications in this district and there are many other applicants for land in that area. These men who have raided the land are probably by no means either the most suitable or the most deserving. At any rate, the Board must have the opportunity of definitely making up their minds as to which shall have the prior claim. The offer to the proprietor remains open. Reference has been made to the release of these men. The release of these men was made after they gave a definite undertaking which satisfied the sheriff and the Court which dealt with this property.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
The sheriff received from the governor of the prison a definite undertaking from these men which satisfied the sheriff.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I have not direct information as to whether there was a 113 signed document. All I can say is that these men gave a definite undertaking which satisfied the sheriff, and on that they were released.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Was the right hon. Gentleman not consulted in any way by the sheriff before the sheriff made that important decision?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
No, this is a question for the Sheriff and the Sheriff alone. He has been satisfied, and I regretted to think from something that fell from the hon. Member for Dundee that these men are likely to go back upon that undertaking. I cannot think that can be the case at all, and I am quite satisfied it is not the case. The Sheriff has reported that they gave the undertaking. The Sheriff ascertained from the governor of the prison that the men had given him an unconditional undertaking not to break the law on release. As the Sheriff-Substitute, who dealt with the complaint for breach of interdict, had informed the Sheriff that if the men had agreed to keep the law he would have pronounced no sentence, but would have put the men under caution to appear for sentence within a year, and as the men had been in custody from 1st April to 30th April the Sheriff deemed it prudent and reasonable to authorise their release. It is clear that if they go back upon that undertaking the only result will be that they will be freshly imprisoned.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Does the right hon. Gentleman know if anyone has a written undertaking from these men to that effect? Is it not the case that other promises were made to them?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I have no knowledge of what promises were made to these men. The Sheriff got an absolutely unconditional promise that they would obey the law. It has been said that I made certain references to legal advice which was given to these men. I am constrained to say of such advice as was given to them at the trial—the document was obviously not in their hand but was drawn up by some legal dignitary whose name I do not know, and it is clear, too, from the report of the Sheriff that they 114 had in their possession a document drawn up by a legal adviser—when they were given an opportunity of obeying the law—
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
It was when they appeared in Court. The advice they were given—presumably by their legal adviser—on that occasion was to continue—
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
The point is that the right hon. Gentleman in the Debate the other night on this question said that they had acted as they had done in raiding upon irresponsible legal advice. I am not using the exact words, but it was to that effect. The point I made this afternoon was that they raided long before they ever approached the legal adviser, and the legal adviser did not know they had raided until long after.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I was pointing out that, if the hon. Gentleman knows so much, he probably knows who gave the advice to these men to break the law. What I say is that, when the men were given a fair and honest opportunity when they came before the Sheriff, it was clear they were being legally advised to do the very thing which I say is foolish, contrary to their interests and which undoubtedly will be against their interests in the future. In those circumstances I think I was justified in saying that it is a pity that that kind of advice should be given to these men, because we must remember that the State cannot deal with people in those circumstances.
I now want to turn from that to what was said about land settlement elsewhere. I have said that in the outer Islands there is so great a limitation of possible ground for men to settle upon that it is essential that they should be taken elsewhere. I think it was the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) who referred to the Talisker Settlement. That is a settlement in Skye of families taken from Lewis and Harris. I have myself seen that settlement. I 115 do not know on what grounds it can be condemned as an impossible settlement unless one is to condemn all settlements in the settlement area. It is quite clear that there are some of the smallholders in that settlement who are making good and beginning to show their possibilities while others are failing to take advantage of what the State has given them. Let me add that it is becoming increasingly apparent that if the settlement is to be carried out men must shift from their home areas, and if need be they must be placed in other sections of the county, or even in other counties.
Let me now turn to what the hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) said about Erribol. I am constrained to say that I appreciate the soreness of feeling he has evidenced that this property, within the bounds of his own constituency, has had to be disposed of. I would also add that, when I found that this property had been in the hands of the Board for a number of years, that it was managed by the Board, and that there appeared to be no possibility of developing it on anything like suitable, reasonable, or possible terms for land settlement, I came to the conclusion which I think would have been come to by the hon. and gallant Member himself if he had had to visualise the problem from an administrative point of view, namely, that it was absurd for the State to retain in its hands a property which it was not developing for the purpose for which it was bought. I think I have said before that from the point of view of the purpose for which the land was wanted it was a foolish purchase, and I came to the conclusion that the only right thing to do was to cut the loss.
A great deal has been said about my air of superiority or secrecy in this matter. I have no desire either to be superior or secret. The hon. and gallant member made all kinds of insinuations as to maladministration on the part of the State and not following the advice of my advisers. Of course he is quite welcome to take that view, and if some day he comes to occupy a position of responsibility and trust he may find that these things are not so easy as he seems to think. This property was obviously not suited for the purpose for which it was bought, and the Board found it impossible to develop except in part for 116 that purpose. Consequently, I instructed the Board to sell it. It was put up to auction and it was offered to the public. On this point let me answer the question put to me by the hon. and gallant Member. He said that he understood that a private offer of £30,000 had been made for the whole estate. Neither the Board nor I know anything of such an offer, and we have no knowledge of it. The only offer was an offer of £25,000, and it was only a tentative offer made through Messrs. Knight, Frank, Rutley and Company in the form of an inquiry. That inquiry was made in the early part of July, and Messrs. Knight, Frank, Rutley and Company were instructed on the 5th July, 1926, that the Board would not refuse to consider a cash offer including the sheep stock, but that we should require a valuation of the stock which was to be taken over by the purchaser. It is clear that the Board did tell Messrs. Knight, Frank, Rutley and Company that they were prepared to consider the offer, but no further communication was received from that firm, therefore the Board were justified in treating that offer as an ordinary business proposition. We had a private offer which was negotiated perfectly above board. There were only two propositions, one from Messrs. Knight, Frank, Rutley and Company, which the Board gave an opportunity to develop, and it did not develop. It afterwards came to my knowledge that a private purchaser was prepared to make an offer, and on my instructions the Board opened negotiations with him. I have no hesitation in saying that the whole of these transactions, as far as the State is concerned, have been perfectly above board, that they have been carried out by the ordinary method and in the ordinary way, and when the hon. and gallant Member singles out the arbiter for attack—
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I did not do so. The only reference to the arbiter at all was made by the "Scottish Farmer."
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I was not criticising him. I regard the arbiter as the victim of the impossible conditions made by the Board. I was quoting from a Scottish agricultural newspaper which stated that 117 the arbiter chosen in this case was an official of the Board, but that was not a criticism of the officer.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I am glad the hon. and gallant Member does not throw any reflection on that officer, nor does he quarrel with the fact that it was decided by a single arbiter. If the Board had to select an arbiter who knows every district in the county, that would be an impossible proposition. The fact remains that the Board of Agriculture did value this estate at a higher value, and when one comes to discuss the suggestion of an offer of £25,000, and when it is compared with the other offer, taking into consideration all the possibilities and uncertainties connected with this matter, we came to the conclusion that the best way was to proceed by the ordinary business methods known to Scotland and that course was adopted. It is clear that the valuation of the sheep was a different valuation.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Yes, but did the right hon. Gentleman's advisers appreciate that difference between a Martinmas and a Whitsunday valuation and did they ask the view of their practical experts? I refuse to believe that practical men could have advised the right hon. Gentleman to take the course he did when the Martinmas valuation was bound to make a difference of at least one-third of the total value of the stock.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
It is clear that all these problems were taken into account, and they were fully discussed at the time. The responsibility rests with myself and the Board of Agriculture, and it is a responsibility which I do not shirk. I am told that this is a matter which has excited intense interest throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, but I do not think that is the case. I trust the House will now be saved any further discussion of this matter. It is clear that there has been a loss to the State, and if I am tempted to say anything further it is that this is an added reason for the setting up of a Committee to inquire into these matters to help us in the future.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
The hon. and gallant Member is very persistent. I may say that I am prepared to place them in 118 the Library of the House, if that will give him the least satisfaction. Let me now turn to the other side of the activities of the Board of Agriculture. Let us direct our attention and our activities towards the settlement of small holdings but let us not forget that—what is very important in this connection—that there are some other aspects of agricultural life in Scotland which are deserving of the attention of this House. Of course in connection with land settlement arises that interesting problem of agricultural co-operation. Let me say that I think there are indications of a growing strength in this movement in Scotland. As hon. Members know, it is a very slow and uphill task to bring home either to the large farmer or the smallholder the importance of co-operative methods. I have listened to criticisms of the transport arrangements. I have heard the case stated of some unfortunate smallholder having to send a single young bull to be sold at a sale which was taking place a great distance away. Surely this difficulty is only illustrative of the mistaken notion and methods adopted by these people. If there had been co-operation, there would have been no difficulty about bringing into the market, not one bull but a dozen, and bringing them at the proper time and under proper circumstances, and then the results would have been infinitely greater. It is a fact that we have made progress in our organisation and as everybody knows it has not been confined to the Orkneys. Smallholders and large farmers alike have benefited, and have been able to form an organisation to sell their wool. Breeders have also been assisted. It is no use for anyone to suppose that it is possible for these societies and co-operation to be successful if people instead of co-operating are ready to go outside whenever they get an offer which appears to be a little better than that which we offer.
I have been asked to say a word or two about agricultural research. I think we are making some headway in this problem, and I also believe that an increasing number of those connected with the land are realising the importance of this research to themselves in practice. In Aberdeen you have one of the best equipped laboratories for research in the feeding of animals—in animal nutrition—and you have at that same centre impor 119 tant research going on in regard to grass seeds and the development of pasture. These are matters of great moment to the ordinary farmer, and they are linked up by research in connection with the Dominions overseas. Researches are being carried out in Aberdeen which will materially affect sheep diseases both in Kenya and in Scotland. The same kind of problems which are facing us here are facing some of the farmers in the Dominions, and that is very valuable work. Again in Edinburgh there is now established, or I hope will be very shortly established, in addition to the animal breeding research that is going on there, a Chair in which the Professor will be ensured of security, not alone because of the interest which is being taken in this matter by the farmers of Scotland, but because of the active support which is being given to it by scientists from America. The body in America that travels over Europe and searches for anything that is likely to advance work in research has pitched upon Edinburgh as one of those places which can, and ought to be, supported.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
The International Education Board; and we have received an offer of £30,000 towards this work. The Government are making a contribution towards it, the University of Edinburgh is co-operating and making a contribution, and we have received a very generous offer from Lord Woolavington; and there are offers from others who are interested in this problem. At any rate, therefore, in Edinburgh there will be, or is at the present time, an animal research station. In the West of Scotland we have now, fortunately, been able to set up a Joint Committee for Milk Research. It is true that in the past we have had the very valuable assistance of the Kilmarnock Dairy School, an institution which has made itself a part of the agricultural life of Scotland, and is recognised and supported by the whole agricultural community; but it is clear that in its present limited form it does not cover the entire field, and I, therefore, look forward, from the agricultural point of view, with great hope, to the addition to it of the help of the university. As the House knows, we 120 have received from Mr. Hannah certain proposals. It may well be that those proposals may not be accepted in the particular form in which they have been made, but I think it is clear that it is a matter for consideration on the part of the Kilmarnock Dairy School, of the West of Scotland Agricultural College, and of this Committee, to find some central spot where these activities can be co-ordinated and advanced. Let me say only this in conclusion, as the House of Commons has always been interested in the development of the agricultural colleges. I trust that before very long we may have arrived at a real solution of the vexed question of salaries. I have had interviews with the various parties concerned, and am only awaiting communications from the colleges which will, I think, make it possible to pay these increased salaries. I trust that that may be so. Certain hon. Members have raised other questions this evening, but I will not detain the House longer, but will give way to other speakers.
§ Mr. BARR
We have listened with great interest to another duel between the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair). In the calling that I follow, it is a rule that we should never repeat old sermons. I admit that the hon. and gallant Member adds some new interest to his speech each time, and is evidently bent on following the higher precept, "Line upon line, and precept upon precept." After that digression, I will turn to the general subject of land settlement. Every speaker in this Debate has recognised that we have arrived at a critical moment in the development of land settlement. We see that the number of small holdings has greatly decreased in England, and it has certainly not advanced in Scotland. That runs parallel with a decrease, in Scotland, of the amount of arable land in the country. From the Report of the Scottish Conference on Agricultural Policy, to which reference was made by the hon. Member for East Perthshire (Mr. Skelton) in his telling speech, we gathered this fact, that, since 1918, when the amount of arable land reached its largest extent, there has been a decrease in that regard from 3,453,000 acres to 3,273,000 acres; and, in regard to the subject of small holdings, we find that there are to-day 121 1,078 fewer small holdings than there were in 1913, when the Act of 1911 began to come fully into operation. It is true that no fewer than 4,498 new small holdings have been established, but this has been accompanied by absorption of existing small holdings, to the number of 5,400, into large holdings. I do trust that the Departmental Committee which is to take up this work of investigation will go into that question, and, if possible, do something to prevent existing small holdings going out and being absorbed in large holdings while other holdings are being planted in the country.
I believe that one reason why we have not found a greater demand for small holdings in the country is this: We have 10,055 applications waiting, but I believe there would be a much larger demand if we had a more forward policy on the part of the Government. The procedure is so slow and so disappointing, and men realise that they may be incurring displeasure as well as disappointment by making applications at all. They know that the farmer or the landlord is, perhaps, opposed to small holdings, and that it may hinder them in their present occupation, and so they hold back. In regard to the amount of available land in Scotland for the further planting of small holdings, reference has been made by hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) to the land available in the deer forest area. Whenever we mention deer forests, we are at once asked, "Are you going to plant these small holdings on the tops of mountains and in bare, inaccessible places?" I do not need to remind the House that all the Commissions that have inquired into this subject have shown that there are large areas of land available in what are called the deer forests. I read in one of the research reports the other day that there are only now some 75,000 acres in England that could be used for agricultural purposes and are not in some way so used. That may be an under-statement, but I do not need to remind the House that the Commission which reported in 1895 said that there were no fewer than 1,782,785 acres presently devoted to sport, including some grazing, which were suitable for new holdings and for the extension of existing holdings. I think we need to realise that the spread of the sporting area is inimical to the extension of small holdings.
122 I sometimes read sporting papers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—and sometimes I read sportsmen's papers; and I saw in a sportsman's paper not long ago an advertisement recommending a deer forest on the ground that there were no crofters there to disturb the deer. I dare say, too, the Under-Secretary of State remembers a leading article in the "Glasgow Herald," I think in the year 1921, when one of these Commissions reported, in which it was stated that, unless something drastic were done, we should soon see one-half of the country given over to deer forests where the land should be devoted to small holdings. We look in vain, however, for anything drastic that is being done by the occupants of the present Front Government Bench in this matter. Then there is the whole extent of land that might be reclaimed for this purpose. I have travelled more in the Highlands than most. I have travelled in all parts of the Highlands; my duties led me all over the country; and I saw time and again—and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) can confirm this—places that once were devoted to arable culture but have now returned to a state of nature. For example, I understand that the new holdings in Strathnaver are doing very well now. When the clearances took place, Sir Walter Scott said that one day the landlords would regret those clearances, and I think it is very striking that, after a century, you see small holdings now being set up in the very valley where they were in such a ruthless way cleared out.
There is another question that I hope will be considered by the Committee which the Government are setting up, and that is the question of the resumption of holdings, which is allowable under certain conditions under the Acts of 1886 and 1911. I have several cases in mind, in the Isle of Arran in particular, where, on the ground that the land was required for the owner, or that it was required for building purposes, a great deal of hardship has taken place, and a great deal of insecurity has been created in the minds of the crofters. I notice that, the Secretary of State did not make any reply to the comments that have been made as to the composition of the Committee. I am not going into that at 123 any length, but I say quite frankly that I could not conceive of Mr. Duncan, who represents the Scottish Farm Servants' Union, not serving on this Committee. I say more. I served with Mr. Duncan for three years on the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Industrial Classes in Scotland, and a man more capable as well as more qualified to speak on these subjects it would be impossible to find. That, however, does not prevent me from saying, and saying very strongly, that no one has more strongly put forward his views and conclusions on the very subjects that are referred to this Committee. In his book, "Agriculture and the Community," he thrusts aside the well-used argument that it is a ladder for the promotion of farm servants. He not only emphasises that small holdings are uneconomic, but he believes that farms of 200 and 300 acres are uneconomic. He wants the ranching system. He wants it on a large scale, a thousand acres at the very least. He grudges the unnecessary fences and hedges that are put up on smaller holdings. This Departmental Committee is to examine the value of the economic and social results of small holdings. I will read what he has written on the point as showing how his mind is virtually closed on that subject:All smallholding communities are overworked communities. They can exist only by excessive labour of men, women and children. Thrift becomes a vice because the petty economies must be hourly observed. They emphasise the meaner, more selfish aspects of human intercourse. The members can never be free from the anxieties and worries of people living near the margin, to whom losses, comparatively trifling from the point of view of the community, may bring disaster. Under competitive conditions in this country the smallholder must always he too self-centred to become a good citizen or the stuff from which a healthy rural community can be created.I cannot conceive such a Committee without Mr. Duncan being on it, but I think impartiality would have dictated that there should be some man at least equally prominent on the other side who might be expected to look at it from the other point of view—someone who has some knowledge of Highland psychology and what land hunger in the Highlands means.
Now I come to say a word or two on the question of the economy of small holdings. I thought the Secretary of State for Scotland laid very great emphasis on 124 that side and was going to give it a premier position. It is easy to show that these small concerns have great difficulty in competing with large farms. We are told they are necessarily uneconomic. You may say the same about the smaller farms in the country. Indeed it has been said by Mr. Duncan in his book. He said:It is not in the interest of the nation that we should be using capital and labour uneconomically merely because it suits the farmers.But then, when he goes on to state his own scheme, he points out that there is something higher than economy and that he cannot promise economy in the financial sense even in connection with the scheme he outlines, which is one with which I largely agree, of national ownership and control. He says:I am aware that the policy I am advocating is not one that will be profitable to the State, considered on a purely commercial basis. It is likely for a time, at any rate, to prove more costly than remunerative, but in the long run it will pay to prevent the deterioration of national resources.That is exactly what we hold in regard to small holdings. He emphasises that you cannot settle this question on mere commercial expediency or economy alone. You could have justified, and they did justify, clearances on mere commercial economy alone.
One of the other arguments commonly used against small holdings is that the whole labour of the family is often employed, and that if you were to pay the members of the family a full wage for their labour, and interest on the capital invested, you would get an adverse balance. Indeed, the Oxford Institute of Agricultural Economic Research say that out of a large number of cases they found that only in the case of the production of milk was there anything left on the credit side. That, if pushed to the extreme, would be an argument against a great deal of the farming in this country as I have known it and against the position of many occupying farmers and owners at present. It is pointed out that these smallholders have very long hours of work, harder work and less money than even farm servants. That also is a just criticism in regard to farming generally under present conditions. I could say on the farm on which I was brought up in Ayrshire, a farm of 100 acres in occupying ownership, that there was constant work on the part of all the members of the 125 family from five in the morning to eight at night, and it was equally true there that if you made a budget at the end of the year and paid the members of the family at the rate the farm servants were paid there would have been an adverse balance. Therefore I think we can make far too much of this economy in regard to small holdings, singling them out and separating them from the landed system as we know it at present. I take up the challenge as to its being uneconomic in many instances. We have heard to-day some cases of failure. I should like to point to an experiment which is more than an experiment, an admitted success, in my own parish. Here was a farm of which the farmer in the year 1914, the best year he had, was able to produce to the amount of £800. That was the best amount ever made in the value of the produce. There are now nine smallholders on that farm. Their holdings range from one acre up to I think about 40, and we find a production of the value not of £800 but £8,000. There you have nine contented holders, and last year they sold over 750,000 eggs. That is one case of a real economic success, and it might be multiplied.
On the ground of greater production alone, there is a strong case for the smallholder. In the report of the Research Institute at Oxford it is pointed out that the larger the farm the more you get per unit of labour. They take farms from one to 50 acres and they find that the value of the produce per labourer is £168 19s., whereas when you go to large farms of over 250 acres the produce is of the value of £316 19s.—nearly double. That is easily accounted for. If you depopulate your rural areas of workers you immediately raise the proportion of the produce and the value of the produce to each worker, and it is easy to boast that in this country we have a larger production per unit than there is anywhere in Europe. On the other side, this Research Report equally points out that the production per acre is much larger in the case of the small holding than of the large. In the holdings over 250 acres, it is £8 4s. 4d., whereas in the small holdings it is £11 19s. 9d. That is a very important result, and I do not think we can easily cast that aside. I am under no delusions as to the position of this country. I do not believe it can be self-sustaining so far as our population 126 is concerned. I go even further and, while I would not admit sweated goods to pass from one country to another at all, still I believe the right place to produce an article, generally speaking, is where it can be produced easiest and cheapest and under natural conditions. But that does not relieve us of the responsibility of producing all we possibly can ourselves.
The hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton) referred to the Scottish conference on agricultural policy and how they have asserted that this was their policy. They emphasised the value of the ladder by which the farm servants could climb to higher stages. They emphasised that the experienced land worker should have an outlet of this kind, and they went on to say every means possible should be provided for letting such men on to the land. The hon. Member went further, and said land settlement was an article of Conservative policy and that the Prime Minister had renewed the pledge at the last election. It is not the only pledge the Prime Minister made at the last election which has been heard about in these days. If this is the policy of the Conservative Government, the Secretary of State for Scotland has not yet put up any great zeal for the professed policy of his party and he has not come to the House with any constructive, far-reaching measure of land settlement which might have aroused the interest of the country and made land settlement a success and done a little to repeople the land. The Conservative party, it is true, have advocated this scheme and in some of the books they say it would be a bulwark against revolution. They are not very zealous in erecting the bulwark against revolution. On the other hand, there are those, even on our side, who, just on that very ground, are not altogether in favour of giving these people this interest in the land, but for my own part I am quite willing to settle them on the land and I believe, however contented they may be, they will be supporters of any revolution and progress and advancement which is worthy the name. We are all familiar with the oft-quoted words of Goldsmith about a bold peasantry. We have not got a bold peasantry at the present time either in England or in Scotland. We have a timid peasantry, a cringing peasantry, an impoverished peasantry, a buffeted and brow-beaten 127 peasantry, and I could have wished the Secretary of State had had the courage and the constructiveness to go forward with this matter of land settlement and to take the part which he is evidently leaving to his successors in office of building up a bold peasantry which will indeed be "their country's pride."
§ 8.0 p.m.
If the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland had been here, I would have liked to congratulate him on the sincerity with which he met the harsh and somewhat, to my mind, unjustified attack made on him and his policy by the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair). There are two or three considerations which I would like to bring to the notice of the Under-Secretary which he, perhaps, will reply to when it comes to his turn. These three considerations apply principally to the Lowland farmers as against the Highland farmers who have had so many advocates to-night. The supreme question, to my mind, as it affects the Lowland farmer and particularly the Ayrshire farmer, is the question of milk. It is quite agreed, I admit, that the increased consumption of pure, tubercule free milk is an absolute necessity for the country, not alone for the health of the country but for the prosperity of the farmer. How are we to produce that tubercule free milk? It means the cleaning out from the herds of all tubercule infected animals, of all the animals which re-act to the test. That is an expensive process and one which no farmer can face unless he is assured that his losses will be recouped by a definite demand for milk. So far it has not been made worth his while to incur the initial cost and to incur the recurring cost. Therefore, I want, in the few minutes I intend to speak, to devote my time to suggesting to the Government the ways in which we can make it worth the while of the Lowland farmer to clean out his herds and so develop the demand for, and the supply of tubercule free milk.
What can the Government do? I have put it down under three headings. These have been suggested to me by farm workers and farmers in Ayrshire. They have stated that the Government might assist by supplying free tubercule for the 128 conducting of tests throughout their herds. They have also suggested that possibly the Government might give financial aid in the way of free veterinary inspection of their herds, so that the cleaning out process could be carried out with the least possible financial loss to the farmer. But there is one suggestion that I would like to make myself, which, I think, is possibly the most adequate suggestion to meet the necessities of the situation. It is that the Government should give financial support to national propaganda for the promotion of the increased consumption of milk. It has been done, as we know, by individual firms. We have only got to quote the cases of mustard. Why, therefore, cannot the Government do it in the case of milk? There are many resources that the Government have at their disposal—to refer to one, the Empire Marketing Board—from which they might get financial aid to develop, promote and extend a growing desire amongst the public to consume milk. At the present time we all know that in many homes milk is looked upon purely as an accessory to a cup of tea or a plate of porridge. There are people in many homes in this country who buy patent medicines. They spend their money on patent medicines, whereas if they would only devote that money to the purchase of pure milk, they would not only save their pockets but would save their health and help the dairy farmer to get an honest living out of the very hard job he has got at the present time. We know very well that if we want to make this campaign effective it must be by Government assistance and Government effort. We know, and no doubt it will be stated by the Under-Secretary, that there is at present an organisation or body in this country calling itself, I think, the National Milk Publicity Council, which is designed or intended for the purpose of developing the milk consumption of the country. But I have never yet been able to find out that its activities have extended as far as Scotland. I have been endeavouring to find out whether there is any body in Scotland that may be defined as one which is calculated to promote the consumption of milk. I find that there is one called the Certified Milk Producers' Association. They may be doing some good work in the East of 129 Scotland or in the North of Scotland, but, as far as it can be ascertained, its efforts have never penetrated into Ayrshire, and it is about Ayrshire that I am particularly interested.
There is one other point—I am doubtful whether the Under-Secretary can deal with it or whether it is within the scope of his capacity to deal with it, that is the question of beef and the consumption of beef. At the present time there is imported beef which is bought at 3½d. to 4½d. per lb. being sold in Scotland as Scotch best at 1s. 8d. per lb. Obviously that will continue as long as it can be done with impunity and as long as no Government action is taken to prevent these dishonest merchants from marketing beef on these conditions. Although I realise that my answer will be that this sort of thing has been legislated for under the Merchandise Marks Act, 1926, I would submit that the machinery involved in bringing beef within the Merchandise Marks Act is so cumbersome and lengthy that most of the people who would desire to take advantage of it would give it up in disgust. I would suggest that a very easy way out of the difficulty would be to make it illegal for any piece of imported meat to be taken out of the butcher's shop unless a broad blue band is placed round the wrapper in the same way as is done with regard to margarine. That would solve the problem and take away all the difficulties of those unhappy people who have to try to bring beef within the scope of the Merchandise Marks Act. This would help the pockets of the people; it would help their health and it would remove the attraction of dishonesty from one of the highest and most public-spirited body of people in Scotland, namely, the Scottish butchers.
There is also the question of the export of cattle from Scotland and from Ayrshire in particular. As we know, there has been no foot-and-mouth disease in Scotland for some considerable time, but at the same time it has been found impossible to get the restrictions removed with regard to the export of cattle to Canada and to the rest of the Dominions. We know that the English are a race that we may always trust. We know that it is quite possible that English cattle may be brought across the border and exported because they bear the high mark of the Scotch beast. That ought to be 130 borne in mind in making some arrangements whereby Scotland may be freed from this stigma and the Scottish farmer freed from this restriction on his export trade. I investigated this matter some time ago, and was informed that it was hoped that in a very short time three quarantine stations would be formed in different parts of the country, one of them to be in Glasgow, and that all our Scottish cattle intended for export should be put into the station at Glasgow for a fortnight before being exported. That would meet the demand and wishes of our Ayrshire and Scottish farmers. But the trouble is, nothing has been done. I ask the Under-Secretary to consider this matter and, if possible, to Give some indication to the House and to the country as to when we may hope for this quarantine station in Glasgow, so that our Scottish farmers will have the chance of meeting the demands which are being made constantly from all over the world for the Ayrshire cow.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
Ex-service men have been complimented upon the results obtained by them in respect of their holdings, and I am very glad to be able to confirm, as far as my knowledge goes, that such commendation is fully warranted by those who are directly involved. But while we say that, we cannot help feeling very deeply impressed with the situation concerning the question of raiding. We have heard the case defended by the Secretary of cotland himself. My colleague in the representation of Dundee (Mr. Johnston) has gone. very fully into the details, and has been acknowledged by the Secretary for Scotland himself as being more familiar with the question, probably, than the right hon. Gentleman himself. Consequently, I do not desire to go into details, but I want to point out—and every Member in this House is deeply impressed with the situation—that these five men who went through the experiences of the War had evidently a definite undertaking given to them that they should be given facilities for making provision for themselves and their people. Their application, for some reason or other, has gone under. That the men should have been left out of account and been obliged to take so serious a step as to infringe the law, makes all the more impression, not only upon Scottish representatives but also upon English repre 131 sentatives. These men, from what is known in the military sense as the patriotic point of view, were so thoroughly tested in their patriotism—at any rate, two of them—as to undergo the awful ordeal of war. These men were associated together in this undertaking, and to find that after the Government had been under an honourable obligation to them that they were left out of account altogether is undoubtedly not only very depressing but ought to be enraging to every true-hearted Scotsman. The Rev. Archibald B. Scott, of Helmsdale, writing on "Highland Problems" in "The Scots Independent," says:At a certain place on the Atlantic Coast the soil on the hill-side was so shallow that after a prolonged rain-storm, following a thaw, large portions of the crofts were washed off the rock on to the roadway at the bottom of the slope. The cultivators had to set to and gather up this part of their croft and deposit it once more on the rocky slope, carrying the soil in creels on their backs. Men doomed to cultivation in such conditions are worthy of decent holdings. The people who compelled the forefathers of these cultivators to leave their ancestral holdings on the fertile land, and to stick themselves to a mountain side like limpets on a rock, should have been deprived of their titles of nobility, and sentenced to long terms of hard labour, as having perpetrated treason on the Commonwealth. That men and women have been able to wrest a bare living from the soil, and to bring up families in such outrageous conditions, is testimony to what the Highland smallholder can do for himself and his family and country if he were supplied with proper holdings and encouraged.A situation is presented by the Secretary of State for Scotland this afternoon in which he has arrived at the very drastic stage of appointing a Committee. That is one of the most desperate straits into which a Minister can land himself. He makes up his mind that he is beset with difficulties. I noticed that when he was replying to the hon. and gallant Member for Sutherlandshire (Sir A. Sinclair) concerning the Erribol estate he said: "If the hon. and gallant Member were placed in my position he would find these matters much more difficult to settle than he imagines." I agree with that, and I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman. It is not merely a question of a particular statesman or, rather, I would say a particular Minister, because although I have heard references to Scottish statesmanship I have seen nothing of it. The 132 right hon. Gentleman is certainly in exceptional difficulties, and he is confronted with tremendous obstacles from which I am confident he will not be able to emerge effectually until he represents Scotland in a sense which under the present Constitution he cannot manage to exercise.
Reference has been made to the transport side of the Minister's difficulties and to the question of the timber and the cost of transport. Here is a reference to the subject from the "Scots Independent":Most of the profit goes to the railways, so that the companies get more for carrying a cubic foot of timber 150 miles in 12 hours than the man who planted it could get in 40 years. The cost of sending by rail from Forres to Glasgow for shipment was exactly the same as the sea freight from Glasgow to India. Much more could be said, but what we know is that no proper amelioration of our transport, land, labour, and other troubles will be effected until these vital matters are all dealt with in a co-ordinated scheme by a Scottish Parliament.In these discussions concerning Scotland it certainly does not look as if there was an intense feeling in Scotland on this question, to judge from the attendance, and the same remark may be applied to English Members with regard to certain English matters. There is a want of reality in our Debates, a failure to realise the depth of the trouble which besets Scotland as a whole. To-day we are only dealing with the agricultural aspect. The question of transport raises the question of the railways and the question of economy, upon which the Secretary of State for Scotland is so emphatic, raises the question of the banking interest. The right hon. Gentleman finds difficulties in dealing with a number of different Departments. This is a situation which cannot properly be dealt with by one man. It calls for separate Ministers.
The right hon. Gentleman has appointed a Committee to find out what has been spent upon schemes for small holdings, and whether it is advisable to make any further expenditure. This is an indication, as in other phases of Scottish questions, that the Government are concerned more immediately with the question of economy and the holding up of as much expenditure as can possibly be done in regard to Scotland. Scottish needs have to be impelled in a different 133 way altogether. One of the first experiences we had in dealing with a Department, was the Scottish Board of Agriculture. One of our constituents in Dundee, a man who has had large experience of agriculture in Canada, and has given special study to the question of flax culture, devised a scheme bearing upon the process of dealing with flax. It was a new process, which offered exceptional advantages not only in regard to the processes dealing with flax, but also in connection with the by-products, but when we put forward the proposition that that scheme should be tested and given every scope for being put into operation, we were held up because the Department felt that they could not do much with it. I am satisfied from the results which have taken place since then that the experiments, which have been so far successful, would, if they had been taken up by the Board of Agriculture and carried out under the auspices of the Scottish Office, have meant not merely an immediate contribution to the improvement of our agricultural circumstances, but an immense advantage to the engineering industry of the country. Our own engineering industry in Dundee is badly in need of improvement.
When a situation arises, we have a Motion moved, such as that which has been moved in regard to the Erribol Estate, for a reduction of £100, but it does not affect the point. It is only a very small ventilation of the grievances of Scotland. In regard to the Erribol Estate, the matter has not been satisfactorily met by the Secretary for Scotland, although he has made a lively defence of his position. I am more than ever convinced, and that is one of the special reasons why I have taken part in this discussion, that we must face the position which arises under our present constitution. We get a portion of time allocated to Scotland, when this Member or that Member may select a few points from the Estimates, and when that has been done some sort of remarks are made from the other side of the House to support or depreciate what has been said; but we do not really get down to the question of Scottish necessities and interests. We do not grapple with those things that undoubtedly have to be faced all over the country.
Reference was made on Friday to the absence of Members during the discussion 134 on the unemployment question. The present subject is really an unemployment question, and we have a very distinct absence of Members. Over and over again in this House and in other parts of the country, for many years, we have had references made to the steady decline of Scotland. References have been made to the facts and figures bearing upon the departure of our people, stimulated by the Government and also supported by the people themselves, who no doubt feel that they are getting a lift out of the present conditions in Scotland by being relegated to what we call the Empire beyond the seas. But if we are to build up an Empire beyond the seas at the expense of the most important part of the Motherland there is a grave reason why every Scotsman should be concerned with such a situation.
In the days when Ireland had her troubles Irishmen made some impression in this House, and every English Member was made to feel the situation, and every Scottish Member as well. I am convinced that the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr) and his colleagues in the Labour movement, every Scottish Member in fact, in the best interests of their constituents, and in the best interest of the country itself, will have to encourage the people of Scotland to insist upon the restoration of their rights to deal with matters affecting their country, because no mere apologies from any Minister in this House will ever meet the needs of the situation. Pressure must be put on not only in regard to agriculture—
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Attlee)
I must remind the hon. Member that we are dealing with agriculture, and that what he is now proposing would require legislation.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I realise that. I do not, of course, dispute your ruling The very fact that you have now called me to order only strengthens the point I am making. You can talk on agriculture and every other subject, but you are always held up. The Government know we can do nothing; and my point is that it is no good going on doing nothing, merely making recitations and quoting figures in this House. The hon. Member for Motherwell said there was an objection to repeating old sermons, 135 but in the present situation I think we must repeat old sermons. I believe in the application of sermons, and I think we should get on with the business of Scotland much more quickly if we adopted the change which I suggest.
§ Mr. MacKENZIE LIVINGSTONE
I desire to say a word or two on the recent Harris land raid as a result of which five of my constituents went to gaol. At the outset I want to make two things quite clear. I have no desire to be unfair. I listened to the Minister's statement, I realise his difficulties, but I still think that there is no justification for the provocative delays in regard to land settlement in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Another thing is this. There is no justification for men in this House or out of it to encourage loyal and law-abiding islanders to break the law.
§ Mr. LIVINGSTONE
That may be your policy, but it is not mine. In my opinion there is no justification for urging and encouraging decent Christian islanders to break the law, and if there is no justification for that there is still less for exploiting the position in which these poor men find themselves for party propaganda. My friends sitting on these benches have told me that the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) made what might be called a bitter personal attack upon myself. I am sorry he is not in the House at the moment, but let me read what he said about four-thirty this afternoon regarding these raiders. He said:What was the advice they got in prison? I do not know. Nothing had been reduced to writing, and I put it that it is an extraordinary procedure when these five men who were in gaol for contempt of Court are brought into the Governor's room separately to interview the representative for the division, that nothing is put in writing, that certain promises are given to them—I have statements from them but I do not wish to quote them fully, but certain promises were given to these men. For example, that they will get land ultimately. These men are interviewed separately, not together, and as the second man comes in he is told 'the other fellow has promised, and if you do not accept you will be left and the other four will get out.' When he has been induced to promise the third man is brought in and the same trick is played upon him, until the whole five men get outside one by one. They never saw the sheriff. 136 They saw the Member for the Division and the Governor of the gaol, but they never saw the sheriff, and it was only when they got outside the gaol afterwards and compared notes that they discovered what they had been let in for.That to me is a shameful accusation and if true would be worthy of the most profound contempt. I have as much contempt for that conduct as anyone. Let me tell the Committee what actually happened. Ten days or so ago I went to Inverness. I went to Inverness Gaol and met the Governor. If any of my hon. Friends get into gaol, I can only hope that they will get into the custody of a man who is as broad minded and as sympathetic as the Governor of Inverness Gaol. I told him I wanted to see these five men. I want to be quite frank with the Committee: I have nothing to hide. They are my constituents. He said:Very well, who will you see first; the leader?I said:No, bring in the four others first.I saw No. 1. I told him who I was, that I was there in no official capacity but as a Member for the Division, and, I hoped, as a friend. I asked him to realise what he had done, and that if he continued to shown contempt for the law and refused to obey it what it must mean to him. I asked him whether he was willing to give an undertaking to the prison governor that if he was released, which I could not promise, he would obey the law. One thing I made quite clear, doubly clear, trebly clear, to every one of the five men. It was this: that I would be a party to no disloyalty between one man and another. I wanted the whole five or none, and I resent the implication made by the hon. Member as grossly unworthy of one hon. Member of this House in regard to another hon. Member. I interviewed the whole four, and then the leader. I asked him whether he realised what he had done, and that he had led these men into gaol? I told him his responsibility, and asked him what he was going to do, and as long as I live I shall never forget the tragic picture of these five men lined up at attention—they are not all ex-service men and in any event the case is quite good enough without that. [An HON. MEMBER: "Some of them are!"] It does not affect the issue at all. I said:What are you going to do? I want the whole five of you or none. Give to the 137 prison governor an undertaking that you will not break the law on your release and I will do all I can for you, but so long as you take up this attitude of defiance of the law my hands are tied, and so are the hands of every friend you have outside. Five thousand men are not strong enough to break the law of this country.Without any condition of any kind they said,God help us, we will agree.I asked the prison governor to take down that undertaking in writing:So-and-so gives an unconditional undertaking not to break the law on his release.He asked the men, and they said, Yes. I said to him:I am here only as a visitor and this must be done through you.A wire was sent off, and the men were liberated the following day. I want to give the lie to the utterly false and contemptible accusation made by the hon. Member for Dundee. So long as I am a Member of this House, I shall do all I can to prevent any of my constituents from breaking the law, and any Member of this House is unworthy of his membership if he encourages men, as has been done in this House, to break the law. I hope the Committee will see that all I did was to befriend some of my constituents. After giving the undertaking the leader said:What is going to happen to our stock?I said:I can give you no promise of any kind. All I can say is that if you give an undertaking not to break the law now the black mark which is now against your name at the Scottish Office may become less black. Then I will do all I can for you.They asked:Will our stock be turned on to the road?I said:That will not happen. Have you a minister.They replied, "Yes." I asked:Has he any glebe?Their answer was, "Yes."
I asked:Will he let it?They replied:Yes, we think soThey told me the amount. I said:Do not bother about that. I will see that your minister is paid for his glebe.138 I now ask the Secretary for Scotland whether he will not soften his heart in regard to these people. They did not break the law on their own initiative; they were encouraged to break the law.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
This accusation has been made for the second or third time by the hon. and gallant Member. On each occasion when he has been challenged for the name he has declined to give it, for the very obvious reason that he is unable to do so. I ask whether it is in Order for an hon. Member to make these accusations unless he can produce his evidence?
§ Mr. LIVINGSTONE
I will just read part of a sentence from the OFFICIAL REPORT which gives the answer. All Scotland knows that these men did not break the law on their own initiative. Here is what one hon. Member of this House said, though I will not give his name:I would break the law to-morrow if it were going to suit my case.That was in a speech dealing with this very subject.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
This is getting worse and worse. The hon. Member is now quoting from a statement made in this House long subsequent to these men being placed in gaol. The accusation made by the hon. Member is that these men were incited to break the law by Members of this House or by some friends of Members of this House. We are entitled to ask who incited them to break the law, not who spoke about the law long after.
§ Mr. LIVINGSTONE
All Scotland knows that these men were encouraged to break the law and did not break it on their own initiative. Some one said the other night that he would move a Vote of Censure on the Sheriff. The Sheriff adjourned the case for two hours and urged these men to come to a setlement. They told the Sheriff on advice, that they could not give an undertaking not to break the law.
§ Mr. LIVINGSTONE
They were not in gaol for raiding the land. They were in gaol for breach of an interdict. They were given an opportunity by a very humane Sheriff whom I happen to know—
§ Mr. LIVINGSTONE
If it is the policy of the Labour party to encourage breaking of the law, then God help the Labour party in the Highlands!
§ Sir HARRY HOPE
I shall not follow the last speaker in discussing the question he has raised. I would like to say that I think the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland has made out an unanswerable case in favour of the appointment of the Committee that he has announced. What is the situation as regards the creation of small holdings? On the one hand we see a large number of men unable to get small holdings, and on the other hand we see a large expenditure of public money going on every year, and a great amount of dissatisfaction as to the working of the various Settlement Acts. Does not that show to us conclusively that the right thing is to appoint an impartial Committee which will sift out all the facts, and thereby, perhaps, expedite the creation of small holdings? There is, of course, a good deal of controversy as to the economic value of small holdings. I am not going into that question, but I do think that much of what we might call the contrary opinions expressed by people who have an intimate knowledge of the subject is due to the fact that agriculture in all its branches is such a very diversified industry. I mean that there are so very many different types of agriculture. When one man says that the small holding is of no value and is quite uneconomic, he looks at the smallholder only as if he were going to farm one type of agriculture. The man who says that the small holding is the salvation of agriculture looks at the question from the angle of another particular type of the industry. I think there is room for the large holder, the medium-sized farmer and the smallholder.
I think it will be a very bad thing for the country when there is no system which provides a stepping stone for the workmen to get a small holding and then 140 to progress a little further and become a small farmer, and so work his way up his ownership of land. Certainly, when we see that passionate attachment to the land which exists, especially in the West Highlands, we should be very callous and careless of these people's best interests if we did not recognise that we ought to make a special effort to enable them to get the "bit of land" which they are so keen to occupy. I have no doubt that in many parts of the West Highlands, transport is an absolute necessity if these men are to make successes of their holdings. It is not enough to put them on the land. You have to give them transport facilities, so that they may be enabled to sell the produce of the land. It is all very well for people to talk about making small holdings, but what does this House ever do to show its practical sympathy with these men after after they have taken over the small holdings?
We all know that urban interests predominate in this House. Something like 70 per cent. of the representation of this House is urban, and I am sorry to see the indifference of this great mass of urban opinion to the industry of agriculture because it is the industry of agriculture which provides the basis for all other industries. Unless we have men living in our country districts in large numbers and providing a constant stream of healthy virile manhood for our cities, how long are the cities going to continue to carry on the industries which they have been able to carry on in the past? Urban representatives might well recognise that agriculture is the foundation stone of the industrial system, and unless they give an attentive and sympathetic ear to the interests and welfare of agriculure, they are not acting in the best way from their own standpoint. By all means let us take sensible and prudent action as regards the creation of small holdings; and I only hope the Committee which has been appointed will enable us to make more progress in that direction. I think the appointment of that Committee is a progressive step in land settlement.
I was pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman refer to another side of the agricultural problem. He told us of the good work which was being done in developing research. It is undoubtedly the fact that great losses are made every year through want of knowledge of various 141 ailments which affect animals. We have diseases of horses, cattle, pigs and sheep, of which we do not know the cause or the cure; and as long as that ignorance prevails, it will be impossible for us to make that progress in agriculture which we ought to make. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the work of research which is being carried out in connection with animal diseases in Aberdeen, and I only hope that if any assistance should be required from Parliament, to enable that work to be carried on, such assistance will be forthcoming. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman to the effect that the agriculural colleges in Scotland might now be able to pay their staffs adequate and proper salaries is one of which I think agricultural opinion in Scotland will approve.
§ Sir H. HOPE
Yes, I agree with the hon. Member that it is overdue. It is a melancholy fact that for some years past our agricultural colleges in Scotland have been paying their staffs far less than the English colleges, and there was undoubtedly a temptation to our best men to go South, over the Border. I only hope that if there has been any tendency of that kind it will be arrested, but it says a great deal for our staffs in these colleges at present that they have been able to resist the temptation and have held to their posts even though they were inadequately paid.
No advance has been made in agriculture in recent years which has equalled the advance made in the matter of pasture farming. Hon. Members may not all know that to-day on many of our second-grade and third-grade lands in Scotland by the introduction of what is called wild white clover these pasture lands have been not merely doubled in value but increase in value 10-fold. That clover has the effect of creating a thick herbage which lasts for 6, 8 or 10 years without showing any signs of deterioration. When the land is ploughed up afterwards, it is found to be greatly improved by this clover. The clover is a nitrifying plant and absorbs nitrogen from the atmosphere and conducts it into the soil. It thus has the effect of enriching the soil for future crops. I hope encouragement will be given to every development in that direction and I have no doubt that the smallholders will benefit by such measures as 142 well as the farmers. I can see nothing which will help the smallholder more than if his pasture land has a grass which will keep three or four times the number of the stock formerly kept on the old grasses. We have to take progressive action to enable these men to make profit out of the small holdings when they have got those holdings; and unless we do so, the men can only fail, which brings discouragement to others and retards the very system which this House has shown itself anxious to promote.
I did not propose to take part in the Debate until I heard the speech of the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Livingstone). It is usual, when any disturbance of public peace takes place in this country, to ascribe it to the machinations of Moscow and Russia, and hon. Members opposite are constantly attributing our social ills to the teachings we have received from Russia. But now we have a new phase of the question, and we find that the grievances under which the Highlanders have been living during the last 100 years are attributed by the hon. Member for the Western Isles to "wild and irresponsible men." May I read the OFFICIAL REPORT for greater accuracy? The hon. Member said of the men who had been in prison:I disabused their minds of the teachings which had been put into them by wild and irresponsible men. I asked them to give an unconditional undertaking that they would obey the law as other law-abiding Highlanders, and they said, 'Yes.' That is why they were let out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1927; col. 1592, Vol. 205.]And again:Who are to blame for these men going to prison? Not the men who have been misled and misguided and led into prison against their own will. I saw those poor fellows last week. They did not know what they had been doing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1927; col. 1594, Vol. 205.]That is a most lamentable statement of the case, and I am astonished that my hon. Friend should stoop so low as to attribute the real grievances of these men to their being misled by teachings of that kind. Can he be unaware of the fact that raiding has been taking place in the Highlands for many years back?
In the good old days, I dare say they used to raid a good deal, and it was a means of livelihood.
§ 9.0 p.m.
But they used to raid the uncivilised parts of the South of Scotland, and they seldom raided among themselves. I can recall, as I am sure the House will recall, that just a few years ago there was a raid in Skye, and before that there was one in Tiree. These islands are so far remote from the centres of Russian disaffection that there is no chance of extremists reaching them. Will the hon. Member for the Western Isles say that these raiders in Tiree and Skye were led astray by irresponsible agitators and extremists? What hap-was this: In 1913 the men in Tiree were promised certain small holdings, and not only so, but the holdings were divided out for them, and each man knew what his holding was to be. There was some delay in the negotiations between the proprietor and the Board of Agriculture, but in the interval the war broke out, in 1914, and, as the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) said to-day, in the Highlands of ScotlandEvery man went to the War, and only the cripples were left.But when these men came back from the War—and I need not refer to the promises made by the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and other Liberals—they did not get the land promised. In Skye, the land which was promised again and again to them in 1913 was sold for a deer forest, and in Tiree the men had to raid the land that had been promised to them. These law-abiding Highlanders were encouraged to break the law, as the hon. Member says, but if he is a genuine Highlander, as he is, he must remember this, that with regard to the land a Highlander holds a peculiar position. He does not believe in the land laws, and he does not have any respect for them. I do not know that any Scotsman has any respect for the Scottish land laws. I do not think the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), whom I see opposite, will say that he has any real respect for the Scottish land laws, and I am sure the Lord Advocate can find many faults in these laws.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is quite possible that he might. I have only just come in, but I should like to see the relevance of 144 these remarks to the duties of the Board of Agriculture.
The loss was yours, Mr. Hope, that you were not present and did not hear the first part of my speech, but ere you came in I was replying to a statement made by the hon. Member for the Western Isles that the Highlander is very law-abiding and has a high respect for the law. I said that that was true in ordinary circumstances, but that with regard to the land laws he holds a peculiar creed. He does not believe, for instance, that land can be sold. He believes that land is ultimately the property of the King and is only held in a kind of stewardship by the person who holds it. I think the right hon. Member for Hillhead will agree with me in that, and that, according to the law of the land, there is no absolute private property in land. The land is held by the King, and under him it is held as a stewardship. Therefore, the land is in a peculiar position, and these men who broke this land law did so with that in view. They knew they were breaking the ordinary law, but they recognised that there has never, as far as I remember, been any great attempt made to give them land unless when they broke the law. I can give instance after instance. The last five raids in Scotland have resulted in men who raided getting the land. I see the Lord Advocate is looking questioningly at the Secretary of State for Scotland, but he will admit that in the Strathaird and other cases the men who broke the law got the land. That was a case which was referred to by the Under-Secretary for the Board of Health about three years ago. He said the men had raided what was a home farm. We read in history about the story of "The Flying House," the house which travelled in a night from one part of Europe to another. It is in some religious history of the South of France. But we had in Scotland a flying farm. We had a farm which was near the mansion house, and when the raiders took possession of the land moved three miles and—
This is not the Air Board, I admit, but the plea which the Under-Secretary put forward last 145 time was that these men had taken possession of a home farm. They recognised that that meant an argument against them, so they moved three miles, and the home farm moved three miles, too, on the same day. However, to get back to serious matters, it is a lamentable fact that the Scottish Board of Agriculture have failed in their duty. They have been discouraging small holdings in Scotland. They have made no really serious attempt to grapple with this great question. Why? The hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire to-day referred to the fact that you find men who are willing to live in these remote parts. Therefore, in all conscience they should be encouraged. The kind of men living in those parts is, perhaps, the finest race this world can produce. You have men there whose names are recorded in the martial annals of Scotland. History records what the Highlanders have done in the past and in the last War in fighting for the country. Yet those men are the men who are sent to gaol for demanding the elementary right of cultivating land for their own subsistence. There are two laws involved here. One law, passed, in 1911, said that if there were a demand for land in the Highlands, it became the duty of the Board of Agriculture to provide holdings for those demanding land. That law, I take it, is of much more importance than putting men in gaol for a breach of interdict, or for raiding land. When you have people of that kind helping to increase the produce of the country, helping to forward the "Back-to-the-land" movement, they ought to be encouraged in every possible way. I apologise for having taken up so much time, but I wanted to correct some of the statements made by the hon. Member for the Western Isles. As a matter of fact, all over the Highlands to-day this question is one of primary importance, and I question very much if the hon. Member would dare go back to the Western Isles and make the statements he has made in this House to-day.
He would not dare go back and say that land hunger was not a genuine and spontaneous demand in the Highlands but was due to perverted teaching. He knows that this land hunger is genuine and spontaneous.
§ Mr. KIDD
One thing has come out of this Debate, and that is, that we have at last laid the ghost of Erribol. As I understand, the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) now admits that the Secretary of State for Scotland acted in a very proper way with regard to this sale of land, and that he acted quite properly in having the valuation made by a single arbiter, even though the hon. Member's argument was that the arbiter did not display a judgment which he would have expected. Therefore, we have brought down this whole Erribol controversy to a very minor point. I want to refer to the very excellent speech we have heard from the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr). He pointed out the fact that there has been a large diminution in the number of small holdings in Scotland, and, not unnaturally, and particularly from his point of view, he rather deplored that fact. What I would submit to his consideration is that that diminution is not unrelated to education in Scotland. We have attained to a very high average of education there. That education has brought a certain taste which can only be satisfied by the expenditure of a fair amount of money, and I do submit to the hon. Member for Motherwell that one distinct explanation of the diminution of small holdings in Scotland is that the people to-day have a cultivated taste, and the very best small holding in the most competent hands can only afford a very poor living, even with very hard work, and the Scotsman is not attracted to smal holdings, even with the stimulus of the Liberal party, as in days gone by.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will explain the case of Denmark, which has a very high standard of cultivation?
§ Mr. KIDD
I will come to that. You have to take into account racial disposition. We in this country have always enjoyed a bigger remuneration than people in almost every other country, except America. What pleases the Dane will not please the Scotsman, and I hope the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) will not identify his native race so readily with any foreigner. I say the explanation is that which I have given. On this question of small holdings, there is no difference of opinion as far as the land hunger of the Highlands and 147 islands of Scotland are concerned, and it is the common desire of all Scotsmen to satisfy that land hunger whenever that can be legitimately done. But there are surely these three points to be considered—first, the applicant for the small holding must be a suitable man; secondly, the land must be suitable and available; and, thirdly, the expenditure occasioned by settlement on small holdings is not to be entirely ignored. I was a member of a committee which, although moribund, is still, I believe, technically in existence—the Meston Committee—and it was hard for me to observe the extraordinary expenditure made without any hope of return in the attempt to establish some proper land settlement. Therefore, I think the Secretary of State for Scotland has acted with wisdom in setting up a Committee to go into the whole facts, and I will be bound to say you will find, when those facts are examined, it would not be from the point of view of deer forests, or giving up the Highlands to sport, but of discovering the economic possibilities of the Highlands from the standpoint of agriculture.
§ Mr. KIDD
Yes; and there is a diminution of over 1,000 small holdings in Scotland. I do not want to see the Highlander used as a kind of cockshy between the Labour and the Liberal parties in their eagerness for votes. We want to discover whether we can satisfy the legitimate land hunger in the Highlands and Islands. For that purpose a Committee has been appointed and the three main points to be considered by that Committee will be these: first, are the men suitable; secondly, is the land available and suitable; thirdly, can settlement be effected without casting a burden upon the smallholder which will be a kind of chain round his neck to the end of his life. The hon. Member for Motherwell realised the difficulty. I was glad to hear him pay a tribute to the undoubted ability and knowledge of Mr. Duncan, but am I not right in thinking that Mr. Duncan himself detected a fallacy underlying a lot of this talk about small holdings. He decries the small holdings movement; indeed, he carries his attack even further. He points out that even a moderately-sized farm cannot be worked economically, and he preaches the doctrine of large holdings, referring to 148 them as ranches. He doubtless has this in view, that in any other industry there is a greater possibility of progress. The boy who is at the mine may rise to be manager, the boy who is in the shipping office may also rise; but Mr. Duncan sees that at present the land does not hold out attractions for a boy such as are afforded by other industries.
The hon. Member for Motherwell, as I understood him, thought to get over the difficulty in this way. He agreed with having large holdings, after the fashion proposed by Mr. Duncan, but said these large holdings must be obtained from land which has been nationalised and be subject to national control. Does he think for a moment that the Highlander who suffers from land hunger has any desire to be the servant of anybody? Is it not his desire to get away from the very idea of service? Does he believe that the Highlander who prays for land will become the servile servant of any State? No. The hon. Member for Motherwell proposes protection for agriculture. I shall be very glad to hear him on the subject of protection for agriculture. I shall listen to him with a certain degree of sympathy; but I hope he will not let his idea of protection for agriculture be rendered nugatory by the land and the agricultural industry being put under the State. If you are to give protection to agriculture, see that you have the stimulus of private enterprise, because without that stimulus—
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is not in order on this Vote to suggest that this land should be taken over by the State and therefore it is not in order to rebut that suggestion.
§ Mr. KIDD
I shall, of course, follow your ruling, Mr. Hope, but you can understand how attractive it was to me to find the hon. Member for Motherwell, of all people, advocating a form of protection for agriculture. I shall drop that point now and would only say in conclusion that I join with others in offering my congratulations to the Secretary of State for Scotland on his statement to-day regarding Erribol; and still more do I congratulate him upon his wisdom in appointing a Committee to examine the question of land settlement from every angle, because he is likely to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of the Highlander in a much more satisfactory way than others will do by means of talk.
§ Sir MURDOCH MACDONALD
I would like to say a word in correction of an error made by an hon. Member on the Labour benches when referring to the raiding incident on the island of Harris. He is under the impression, apparently, that the raiders were imprisoned for raiding. That was not the case. They were interdicted, and it was as a result of the interdict that they went to prison. If the raiding itself were regarded as taking possession definitely of other people's property it could be treated as a criminal offence, but what they defied was an interdict by the Sheriff.
§ Sir M. MACDONALD
The Sheriff therefore had the power, if he were satisfied that they would not repeat the raid, to release them, and he did so, and it explains why there was no necessity for the Secretary of State for Scotland to interfere in the case. As a result of the efforts of the hon. Member for the Western Islands (Mr. Livingstone) a promise was obtained from the men that they would cease raiding, and therefore obey the interdict.
May I ask the hon. Member if he is aware of any case of raiding in Scotland in which proceedings taken have not been by way of interdict? It always has been. The legal process takes that form.
§ Sir M. MACDONALD
I am fully aware of that, and on repeated occasions I have given advice which was opposed to the advice which I understand was given to the raiders in this case. I have advised people who threaten to raid not to do so, telling them the proper course was to appeal to the Secretary of State for Scotland, or to appeal to Parliament, which controls the Secretary of State for Scotland, in order to get the work of settlement expedited, so that there would be no need for them to resort to raiding. It is quite true that a very large number of my Highland fellow-countrymen have a land hunger. It was interesting to hear the Secretary of State for Scotland say that in the Western Islands, as far as the State was concerned, that desire had been met, and that there was very little more land available for land settlement, which means 150 that in the Western Islands the population is probably at its maximum, and may decrease if the holdings are increased in size so as to be suitable to modern ideas of what is necessary for an adequate living. [Interruption.] I thought the Secretary of State said the Outer Islands. That is not quite the case in the Inner Hebrides.
I think an hon. Member above the Gangway said land in Skye had been turned into deer forest instead of being given up to land settlement. But if he looks at the returns he will see that since 1912 the very great area of about 90,000 acres has been settled in the island of Skye. There is still, however, land to be settled in Skye. I understand in one case the Board have found a difficulty in getting suitable or indeed any tenants to take over the land and form the necessary club farm. If that is so, it probably indicates that, while there is a great land hunger in the country generally, men should be brought from further afield to occupy suitable places where applicants are few. I hope that the statement about the Committee which was made by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd) is correct, that full inquiry and indeed a complete settlement of the land problem will be made by this Committee. I am afraid he is rather optimistic in bringing into the terms of reference that which they do not in reality contain. The Secretary of Scotland I hope, however, will consider whether they should not contain that expanded meaning which the hon. Member for Linlithgow is so desirous of giving to those terms of reference. They might be extended so that the Committee would have the power of actually settling people at last where the land was suitable for settlement in the Highlands of Scotland.
It appears from the 1926 Report of the Board of Agriculture that a conference on agricultural policy was convened by the Secretary of State for Scotland in March, 1925, to consider what measures, if any, were necessary, either by the State or by the agriculture industry itself, or by both in concert, (1) to maintain, or (2) to increase the area of arable land in Scotland. I would be glad to know the result of that conference and, in particular, whether they have been able to issue maps showing 151 where land settlement was possible. Ever since 1886, and even before that, a great deal was heard about deer forests and the possibility of cultivation in them. I have been through a great many of these deer forests and I am not aware of any great areas of land suitable for cultivation within them. It may be, however, that there are parcels of land on which settlements could be made with large areas of hill land behind them which could be added for grazing purposes. In fact, the system adopted in Skye of club farms might be adopted now in the mainland and in that way an increase made in the number of people who might be settled comfortably in the country. If the terms of reference then are expanded so as to allow of maps being produced showing where all land is available in the Highlands, then indeed a very great boon will be conferred upon all those who deal with this problem. The older maps produced in 1886 are out of date and out of print, and, in any case, they covered areas which in some cases would probably never be settled on now. It is indeed time, after 40 years, to have a new inquiry and settle where land can be got so that the greatest number of people possible may be put upon the land.
We are now at the stage of seeing the passing of the old Board of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland has organised, or intends to organise, a new service to undertake the duties hitherto carried out by it. It would be only right, as a Member who has had a great deal to do with the Board of Agriculture, in so far as land settlement in the Highlands is concerned, that I should say that a great deal of the just criticism made about the Board was not due at all to lack of ability on the part of the members of the Board itself from its head downwards. They are all, as far as I know, able and competent men. What was unfortunate was that they were entrusted by the Secretary of State for Scotland and by Parliament with carrying out duties which were practically impossible of realisation. They could not carry out land settlement at the rate required very largely because of their being centred in Edinburgh. What was really required was that the public or public bodies in the various districts where land settlement was necessary should have been 152 called in. For instance, the county councils or district councils might have been asked to assist in settlement. Had they been asked, there is no doubt whatever that the heads of the Board would have had substantial assistance from those on the spot who were very competent to say what really ought to be done in particular cases. That would have prevented the delays and the avoidance of the delays would have resulted in helping these unfortunate people who have in so many cases been imprisoned or interdicted from land raiding. I congratulate the Secretary of State for Scotland on this new Committee and hope that he will give it such extended powers that it will be able to produce maps and show us definitely where land can be got and where settlements can be made.
Mr. W. ADAMSON
I want to put one aspect of this question that has not yet been put. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) has given the Committee this afternoon some very interesting figures relating to the decline of our agricultural population and also about the relative cost for settlers on the land in Canada and at home. He has shown to the satisfaction of the Committee, if not to that of the Secretary of State for Scotland, the importance of land settlement at home. There is another aspect of the question which I would like to impress upon the Secretary of State for Scotland. Within recent years our trade and our commerce have declined to such an extent that we have had for five or six years an unemployed army of something line. 1frac12; million men and women, and, unless we can find other outlets for their services, outlets in other directions than some of the industries in which they have been formerly employed, the people of this country and the industries of this country are going to be burdened with a permanent unemployed army. As the Committee well knows the persons unemployed are costing the State a considerable amount of money annually and that financial burden is being cast upon all classes of the community. If we can find ways and means of providing employment for a considerable section of the unemployed, we should be acting wisely. This is one of the main aspects of the whole problem that the Secretary of State for Scotland as well 153 as the other heads of Government Departments, is bound to consider. I believe that a considerable number of the unemployed can be put to work upon the land of the country. Under existing conditions we are importing a very large part of our food supply. I find from figures that are before me that we are importing 5,250,000 tons of wheat annually, 1,500,000 tons of meat, and 2,500,000 eggs as well as huge quantities of other foodstuffs. With a wise use of the land at our disposal we can grow at home a considerable proportion of these foodstuffs which I have named.
Another aspect of this problem is that we are rapidly reaching a stage when our imports will exceed our exports. During our discussions on the Finance Bill and the Budget during the last year or two, there has been a considerable amount of discussion about the rapid way in which our imports are growing as compared with our exports, and the great danger we are in when we reach a certain stage that the imports will exceed our exports. I have heard it stated again and again that we should then be in a position of not being able to purchase the large amount of the food from abroad which is necessary for our requirements. For a few generations we have been finding the money to purchase our food supplies by working in the mines, factories, and the engineering shops of the country, but the money we are able to earn in these parts of our industrial system to-day is a declining quantity and is likely to bring us face to face with the possibility of having to live on our capital unless we can find a way of growing a larger part of our own food supplies. I do not know a more important aspect of this problem than the one I am discussing to-night.
The Secretary of State for Scotland, in the course of his speech to-night, pointed out that the difficulty was that of finding the land on which to place the people. The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned that there was only a few small parcels of land scattered here and there on the Islands and the mainland, and he suggested that it would be very difficult, indeed, to find much more land on which we could put any large number of people. He said there were certain parcels of land which we could not touch, and he mentioned the land 154 surrounding hotels that could be used in the future for the purpose of attracting visitors to Scotland. None of us want to do anything to keep visitors from coming along and enjoying the beauties of a country of which we are very proud, and that would be the last place we should look to for supplying us with land.
The Secretary of State for Scotland also mentioned that much-discussed subject, the home farm. Surely, we should not think of taking from any of our fellow-countrymen the last bit of land they possess. I am sure there would be a considerable amount of sympathy shown to such men in all parts of the House, more especially if the home farm in such cases was being used for agricultural purposes. If, however, the land which we call the home farm happens to be used purely for pleasure—there are many parcels of such land in all parts of Scotland which are mainly used for pleasure surrounding large mansions, and other large quantities of land which are simply held as sporting propositions—then, I think, the majority of our fellow-countrymen would expect that land to be taken and used to the fullest extent for agricultural purposes. There are other directions in which I want to attract the eyes of the Secretary of State for Scotland if he wants to find more land on which to place a larger proportion of the population.
I find that a considerable section of the people of this country has been driven from some of the best parts of the land on the mainland of Scotland to the coast and to the islands, and these parts have been turned into deer forests and other sporting propositions. I find that from 1883 to 1920 no less than 3,432,000 acres of land have been turned into deer forests and sporting propositions. That is one of the directions in which I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to turn his attention in his efforts to find land to satisfy the land hunger that exists to-day. In the short period of time which I filled the office which the right hon. Gentleman now adorns, I found there were 10,000 applicants for smallholdings who were anxious to go on the land.
§ Sir HENRY CAUTLEY
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman for a moment? Are the existing occupiers in 155 Scotland making a profit? Are they prosperous? If not, why put other people on to an unprosperous business?
I promised that I would not take up too much time, and I would not like to spend part of my time answering conundrums, but the facts are plain. The Secretary of State himself has admitted this afternoon that there is a list of 10,000 men who are waiting for holdings. There may be some who are not making so much, but others are doing very well. The right hon. Gentleman was talking about the difficulties of finding, from that list of 10,000, the men who are capable, who were likely to make a success of it; but I know smallholders in my own constituency who have never had any experience on the land, but who had been brought up as dock labourers, and they have made a complete success of small holdings in that part of the country. To such an extent has that been the case that their example and encouragement have brought about a considerable demand for small holdings, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. He has that demand under consideration at the present moment. It does not necessarily follow, therefore, that a man must have been trained for the whole of his lifetime in agriculture in order to make a success of a small holding.
There is another direction in which I would ask the Secretary of State to turn his eyes, where he is likely to find a very considerable amount of land on which a bigger proportion of our foodstuffs could be grown, and where a considerable proportion of our people could be found useful and profitable employment. If he will look in the pigeon-holes of the Scottish Office, he will find that, during the short tenure of office of the party to which I belong, we had under consideration a scheme of reclamation which was to cost £406,000, and which would have added to the land at our disposal to a considerable extent. Not only would this scheme of reclamation have found employment for a section of our army of unemployed—and it would be far better to find employment for those men than continue to pay them for being idle—not only would it have found employment for a considerable number of men, but it would, at the same time, have added considerably to the acreage of land at our 156 disposal for the growing of our foodstuffs. There is not the want of land on which to settle men that the Secretary of State would have us believe. If the country is willing to follow the right policy, we can grow a considerable proportion of the foodstuffs that are now being imported, and at the same time provide for a very large number of people the employment which is necessary for them in order that they may live.
Those are two aspects of land settlement that I was anxious to discuss. There is another with which I should now like to deal. I was rather amused to find that my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Livingstone)—and I do not know of any reason why we should be anything else than friends, but evidently something has crept in between us—I was very much amused at the indignation displayed by my hon. Friend with regard to what he described as a bitter attack upon him by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston). Surely, when he was displaying that righteous indignation, he forgot that he had been guilty, within the last eight or ten days, of the same sin which he was attributing to my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee. He was very angry at my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee delivering a bitter attack on him in his absence, but, surely, he forgot—
§ Mr. LIVINGSTONE
May I say a word? I made no complaint whatever about being attacked in my absence. What I complained about was the character of the attack, which I resented very much, and which I resent still.
I am within the recollection of the Committee, and the OFFICIAL REPORT will prove to-morrow whether my hon. Friend or myself is correct. He was righteously indignant at the hon. Member for Dundee—
My hon. Friend can substitute another word if he cares to do so. He was righteously indignant at a bitter attack being made upon him in his absence—
The OFFICIAL REPORT will show in the morning. When my hon. Friend was expressing his indignation in 157 such a forcible way, however, he forgot that he was guilty of the same sin, himself within the last eight or ten days. He made an attack on myself in my absence—not that I cared, but it was exactly the same sin for which he was condemning my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman connects this difference with the duty of the Board of Agriculture.
I was simply attempting to reply to the statement that been allowed earlier, arising out of the Harris raiding case.
§ Mr. LIVINGSTONE
There is no Member of this House for whom I have a greater regard than the right hon. Gentleman. I should like him to explain in what way ever made any bitter attack upon him, either in his presence or in his absence.
Might I direct the attention of my hon. Friend to the OFFICIAL REPORT of the 3rd May, when he was addressing the House and pointed out that no Government that had been in office since 1918 had ever done anything for these men—that they had callously ignored these men all that time; and might I remind my hon. Friend that since 1918 there have been other Secretaries for Scotland than myself? He did not mention a single one of them except myself. Of course, one can understand that; they were of his own political persuasion. He said on that occasion:I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife, when he goes North, will explain to these men why he himself did so little to expedite their settlement on the land."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1926; col. 1593, Vol. 205.]I know nothing about this raiding case myself, except that I made an appeal to the Secretary of State not to keep these men in prison. I knew very little about the facts of the case and took very little part in anything that had been done in regard to it, but if the facts as presented by the hon. Member for the Western Isles are as correct as his ideas about what I did for that part of the country during the short period that I held office, there is not much weight to be attached to his statements. The hon. Member again and again in the course of the Debate to which I have referred, and to-night, referred to the advice that has been given 158 to these men. I half suspect he thought some of these wild men to whom he was referring who advised the Harris raiders to break the law were above the Gangway. There was not a single particle of advice tendered to these men from any of my colleagues on these benches to break the law. I do not think even their legal adviser advised them to break the law. If the information I have is correct he only appeared on the scene after they had broken the law. It would be just as well for the hon. Member not to make these statements outside the House that he is making inside. I hope our discussion to-night will lead to a fruitful result. There is no doubt that the subject we have discussed is one of the most important for our country and our people that it is possible for us to consider. I trust the many suggestions that have been made will get the serious consideration of the Secretary of State and that land settlement will be proceeded with much more rapidly than has hitherto been the case.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Dr. DRUMMOND SHIELS
I am sure it will be agreed that our discussion to-day has not only been interesting to Scotsmen but that we have had quite a fair sprinkling of English Members in attendance who have shown appreciation of the fare provided for them. They have observed that Scotsmen can see a joke and are capable of conscious and also of unconscious humour. The subject we have been considering is one that is not peculiar to this country. Land settlement is a difficulty in all countries, but I think there is one distinction in our country which separates it from others. It is remarkable that in Canada and Australia, there is the same trouble about people herding into the big towns like Montreal, with over a million inhabitants, Sydney with well over a million and Melbourne with round about a million, and very great difficulty in getting the people to remain on the land. Even the farmers' sons all tend to flock to the towns. The interesting fact that appeals to me is that in these Highland districts of ours we have the people clinging to the land even in circumstances which appear to offer no very great economic results. You have there a population with such a love for their barren treeless and windswept 159 Highlands and islands that very little assistance would make them able to stay on and populate these regions. I know there is a difference of opinion as to whether it is desirable to populate some of these areas at all. There are those who say the country is so barren and the soil so poor that it would be far better for the people to clear out and make no effort at working such an unprofitable proposition, but against that we have the intense love of these people for the country. An hon. Member below the Gangway has asked about the economic return. I have been surprised to find the results crofters have got from some of these holdings which would appear to be incapable of giving any satisfactory results.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd) uttered what I thought were some rather debatable propositions. He said we had such a high idea of education and we were so highly educated that small uneconomic holdings were not likely to be attractive, but the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) had only shortly before been telling us about two Honours Graduates who were cultivating crops and living what he called the simple life. The way the hon. Member lingered over the phrase "the simple life" suggested that some longing for that life had arisen in his own breast which, if it came to any practical result, would be, I am sure, a matter of regret to all Members in the House. The hon. Member for Linlithgow also spoke about the uneconomic character of the holdings. It is true that of the 10,000 names on the Scottish list, there are many who are probably unsuitable and would not make a livelihood. But while there is a supposed land hunger in all countries, there is the solid fact that you have these people in the Highlands clinging to land where they are barely able to get subsistence. You have the case of these raiders who are going back to what we are told is starvation, to a very low standard of life at any rate, and yet they cling there rather than go away to places which we would consider more suitable. And available land is not being used. I have been disappointed in our Liberal Highland Members! Where is the spirit of the Highlanders of the old days? I have been surprised to listen to the hon. 160 Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Livingstone) simply going to these unfortunate people who are labouring under a great sense of injustice and telling them to be good and quiet and not create any trouble and that perhaps things would come all right. Well, that is not the old spirit either of the Highlanders or of Scotsmen generally. It is a very unfortunate fact which has been driven home even to such a peace-loving individual as myself, that unless in this world you make a row, especially in maters of legislation, you do not get very much.
The hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) called our attention to what the Irish people have got in the way of grants from this country for land settlement and how they got it and the very different treatment of Scotland because of the mild and peaceable character of her people, exemplified by her representatives in this House. While we do not want to incite to law-breaking, we would say, at least, this, that the spirit of our Highland people, the spirit which has been so much commended in regard to their war service, is the same spirit which makes them stand up against injustice and refuse to be serfs and slaves in their own native land. It is an extraordinary thing that you so often have this curious expectation of a combination of the warlike and of the meek and mild spirit. Men go to war and face danger bravely and yet are supposed to lie down and to treat indignities of unreasonable delay on the part of administrative authorities in a quiet and servile way incompatible with the character which has been given them in another connection. And, I think that if there had been no wild and irresponsible person on the spot advising these people to make an effective protest, I am sure some hon. Members could have been found to do this, had it been necessary. I am glad at least, that the men had the spirit to make what I regard as a protest against the shameful delay of the Scottish Board of Agriculture in dealing with land settlement in Scotland. The position seems to be that the Scottish Office and the Scottish Board of Agriculture are half-hearted in this matter of land settlement. They do not really believe in the policy of small holdings, and they are just going along doing as 161 little as possible. Now, much has been done, as has been pointed out, by less fertile countries, not only in Denmark, which has been mentioned, and in many other countries, but also in France. The prosperity of France has always depended upon her smallholders as well as have other of her virtues and virile qualities. We want as many smallholders in our own country as we possibly can have. I quite agree that there is an economic difficulty in small holdings in the Highlands of Scotland, but I think that that might be met by the linking up of the agricultural industry with other industries.
In the Orkneys and Shetlands there has been a wonderful transformation in the last 10 years, and I think, undoubtedly, it has been largely due to the efforts of the hon. Member who represents them in this House. I was in Orkney a few months ago, and was amazed to find that the people in Orkney had captured practically the whole of the Edinburgh market for eggs. Their output in that connection is enormous. Look at the island of Harris. We used to have Harris tweed, famous all over the world. If you got a pair of trousers of Harris tweed they wore so well that ultimately you had to give them away. It the time that Lord Leverhulme was taking an interest in the island a move was made towards setting up factories, and Harris has not acquired again that prosperity which it enjoyed before. It seems to me that many of these home industries could be revived, and that they should be revived. The manufacture of such supplementary products as are produced in Orkney and Harris, as well as others with co-operative marketing would help these holdings to be economic in a way which they cannot be otherwise. On the question of survey, I think it is very important that we should have a survey of the land in tho Highlands and Islands. On the one hand we have people saying there are any number of acres suitable for small holdings which are being used for deer forests, and that the land which is suitable for cultivation is used for sport. The other side say that the land is useless, that there is only a good bit here and there, and, on the whole, the available land is not worth talking about. 162 We should like to have the facts as to that, and, therefore, I think that a survey such as the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) asked for is very desirable.
I should also like to emphasise the point which the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire made with regard to transport. He gave instances of the difficulty and expense experienced by those engaged in home industries and by agriculturists in the Highlands owing to the poorness or absence of transport. The right hon. Gentleman appointed a Departmental Committee. Why did he appoint it? Because Members waited upon him from all parts of the House. I was myself a member of a deputation which waited upon him. After a great deal of eloquence had been expended the right hon. Gentleman kindly consented to appoint a Departmental Committee. That Departmental Committee went round the Highlands and Islands and made a Report, but the right hon. Gentleman has refused to publish that Report. What is the good of that Committee or its work if we are not going to have the information? Why is the Report not going to be published? Is it because in it it is suggested to spend a little money on Scotland. The parsimonious hand in regard to Scotland is again preventing that justice being done to Scotland which is very much needed in this connection. The recommendations of that Committee ought to be available to Members of this House, and I urge very strongly that the right hon. Gentleman should make that Report public. There is one further point, and that is the item, in regard to the Empire marketing scheme, where £19,600 is apparently available. I should like to ask the purpose for which that money is to be used—that information would be very interesting—and how Scotland is to be linked up with the rest of the Empire in the extended operations of the Marketing Board.
I hope that as a result of this very interesting Debate we shall have a change of mind and a change of heart on the part not only of the Board of Agriculture but of the right hon. Gentleman himself, and that he will realise that it is perfectly true what has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) and the right hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson), that the administration of this Department was far better 163 in the days of the Labour Government. If he will be good enough to look back at their record and to investigate their actions he will find that some of their best efforts were uncompleted, and if he will kindly proceed with and complete the schemes of the Labour Government I am sure he will earn for himself a great deal of credit which he will not have by pursuing his present policy.
I should like not to follow the unconscious humour of some hon. Members opposite, but to direct the Debate into a more or less practical channel. I have heard on a good many occasions from various people who have considerable knowledge of pasture, not only enclosed pasture but also the wider area of hill pasture, that during the last generation there has been an enormous increase of bracken all over the North of England and in Scotland, and that this has had effect of reducing the food value of the pasture and making it capable of carrying a very much lower percentage of stock. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if the Board, either by experimental means or any other means, is collecting information which may be of use in dealing with this pest. Nothing could be more valuable than to reduce a pest of this kind which is, and I believe every farmer will bear me out, reducing the value of pasture. There are several ways of dealing with the pest. The theory is that you can destroy it by cutting it, but that is almost impossible because of the cost. It is conceivable that the Minister may be carrying out some experiment in regard to disease for dealing with bracken, and for dealing with it on those lines. I believe those are the only lines on which we can deal with it. From the point of view of the small holdings or of the larger sheep farms this has an important bearing upon the food-producing capacity in the future, and it is probably more important than anything that has been talked about to-day, from the practical point of view.
Another question to which I should like to draw attention is one of an experimental nature. I believe the Ministry has been very progressive in this respect during the last two and a-half years. I believe we are doing something to find 164 out what can be added on mineral lines to the feeding value of pastures at the present time. It has been discovered during the last few years, not only in Great Britain but in Africa as well, that if you introduce certain mineral salts into the feeding-stuffs of sheep or cattle it increases enormously the pace at which they fatten. The Minister may have undertaken experiments on these lines, and I should be much obliged, as one who is interested in agriculture, if he will give the House some details both as regards manures and artificial feeding-stuffs, because they will be highly valuable.
§ Mr. JAMES BROWN
I thought I was to be the last big gun that was to explode in this great sham fight which takes place every year. I have listened for years to the same Debate, the same kind of speeches, the same replies. The only thing I have missed to-night is:From the lone shieling on the misty Island.There was more hope of getting things done two or three years ago than there is at the present time. Indeed, there was more hope six years ago, because we were then discussing the land question, and we thought the Government would implement its promise to give small holdings to the ex-service men who had returned from the war. I was interested in listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Sir H. Hope). I was glad the hon. Member did not blame the Labour party for diseases of which we have no knowledge. I was breathless when he was speaking lest we might be blamed for them, and we had no argument to refute it. The hon. Member for Forfarshire—I am not joking, this is not unconscious humour—is one of our experts on agriculture. I was also interested in the speech made by the Secretary of State, and if he will excuse me, I have never heard him speak better in my life, He was speaking from his heart, and commending co-operation. I hope he believes in co-operation, for he knows that co-operation is the twin brother of Socialism. Co-operation is the great hope of this country.
I hope co-operation will take hold of the farmers of this country, for if we could get them to adopt some co-operative system there would be more hope for the country. The hon. Member for 165 Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) was concerned about the price of meat and the price of milk. I happen to be the Member for Ayrshire, where milk is produced, and where beef also is produced, although according to the hon. Member's statement, we get very litle of the beef that is produced in Ayrshire. But are hon. Members opposite in earnest in tackling this nefarious system? There is a good deal of profiteering. Is anything going to be done? You will notice, Captain FitzRoy, that I am not trying to make anything like a, speech; I am giving what might be called heads of chapters. I also heard the strong commendation of a constituent of mine, Mr. Hannah, who has given or offered a, munificent gift to the Agricultural College, and I presume to the Government of Scotland. Is nothing to be done? I know the district, the house and the site; it is a most admirable place for the work, and could not be better. I see that the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr is now in his place. I remember that when I brought up this question of milk some few years ago I got precious little support from anyone. What is the use of milk if the consumers do not get it, any cheaper? I hope the farmers will begin to see that the consumers after all should be consulted. I want to commend Auchincruive to the Secretary for Scotland and the Under-Secretary for Health. I am sure that with the facilities that will be available there, something will be done, and that Scotland will be able again to hold up its head and to say that it is leading in agriculture as in many other things.
I am sure that to everyone in this House the chief concern of the moment is the getting of men on to the land. If we except the action of 1707, when we sold our birthright, I do not believe there has been a blacker chapter in the annals of our history than the depopulation of the Highlands. I do not believe that Members on this side of the Border realise what occurred when we drove these poor people from their glens and homes. What we want is to get the people again on the land. We do know that in Ayrshire we can make small holdings pay. What are we going to do in regard to the depopulation of the Highlands? I believe there are some Members who still think that it is better to get a few pounds of rent for deer forests 166 than to try to get the men on the land again. After all, the Highlander has done something for the Empire. I was amused at the duel between the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Livingstone) and the hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division (Mr. Maxton). The one is all for peace and the other all for war. Being 50–50, both Highland and Lowland, I am sometimes for war myself, but the Lowland part of me always keeps me sane. I think I can enter into the minds of these poor fellows who raided the land. The hon. Member for the Western Isles called them good, Christian Highlanders. I believe there are one or two Christians among the Highlanders. [Interruption.] I do not agree with the hon. Member for Bridgeton. I believe that to say he is a Christian is the highest mark you can put on any gentleman.
§ Mr. BROWN
At any rate, the hon. Member has given me a higher title than I am able to command. A period must be put to patience. Patience is a virtue, but it may become an obsession, and I think the hon. Member knows the Bible well enough to know that "Oppression maketh the wise man mad." Even these good Christian men by oppression were forced to do something, which in saner moments they might not have done. In a saner moment they listened to the sweet voice of the hon. Member for the Western Isles and gave their pledge unconditionally. The hon. Member for the Western Isles is, I think, a full-blooded Highlander, and I should have expected him to have extorted something from the Secretary of State for Scotland for giving up all these rights. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are back to Scaristaveg!"] I am glad to hear it. I am glad they are showing they have red blood and that they are going to get something.
This is a Scottish night, and I was very glad to hear an hon. Member claim that Scotsmen had some humour. I did not know it myself and, judging from Scottish Debates, one would never think it. What I want to know is this. Will this night's Debate result in anything for our people? Are we going to get any further forward in placing our people on the land? The Government ought to be thankful that 167 there are so many people anxious to get on the land. Every one of us ought to be anxious to see as many people as possible placed on the land. Any Government—and I am not exempting the Labour Government—which could be got to take up this question seriously, and to give us some opportunity of getting the best of our people on the land, would deserve well of the country. Any Scottish Minister would deserve well of Scotsmen and Scotswomen who could bring that ideal a little nearer. I trust that this will not be a sham fight, but that something will be done as a result of it. The hon. Member who spoke before me made reference to bracken. I do not know if that was only a peg on which to hang an argument. We are not enamoured of bracken at all, but want to get rid of it as far as possible. I want the men settled upon the land, and if we can get any promise that any more progress will be made, I do not think this night will have been wasted, and even English Members who are here will rejoice with us in that we have found our lost treasure and brought it home.
§ Mr. STEWART SANDEMAN
I do not want to stand between the Committee and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and the amusement which he always causes—the pleasure, the laughter, and sometimes the grief. I am an ordinary Fifer by adoption. The Kingdom of Fife has probably done more—I notice that many hon. Members have referred to it as Fifeshire, but I would like to point out once and for all that it is the Kingdom of Fife—to supply Members to the House of Commons than any other part of Scotland. When the hon. Member for Bridgeton brings in his famous Home Rule Bill which he has promised, I can assure him that the Kingdom of Fife will stand out, and that he will find it very difficult to bring in the legislation that he proposes there.
We have been talking about this question of settling our land. I am sorry to say that one of the reasons why we cannot get these small holdings really going better is the housing problem. Take a village that I live very near in Fife. The housing there is in the most disreputable condition that one could imagine. It is very difficult to believe that in the majority of the houses there 168 the floors are still made of earth. Is that an encouragement to people to go and settle on the land? The conditions are deplorable, and one of the first things which we must do is to arouse public opinion to say that these conditions are not tolerable. You cannot expect people to come and live on small allotments far away from the towns, where there are no attractions and where they have no other people to talk to. In the towns they are not tied down to one or two people to talk to, and they can go to cinemas, football matches, and this, that, and the next thing. What prevents the settlement of land is the Scotsman's love of sport. He wants to see a football match or to play football, and my personal experience is that the Scotsman does not mind paying. What he does want to get is value for his money. If he is going to pay 6d. for a football match, he wants it to be a good match. There is always talk about the huge areas being taken up for deer forests, but I ask any hon. Members above the Gangway: Do they want to take a small croft up there and try to cultivate it? They would much rather be down here.
Why do they not go and do it? It is perfectly certain that if they want to go, they can go. If we can get some rich Americans and some wealthy Englishmen to come up and leave a good deal of money behind, they are perfectly fair game. Why should we not plunder them for the grouse they shoot? What we want in Scotland is for people to come there with their money, and leave it behind. We can perfectly well look after it, once we have got it, North of the Tweed. I wish to hear the hon. Member for Bridgeton offer a few words, though I could go on for hours about this question of settlement on the land. Very few people want to settle on it, and as I have said before, I cannot see any Members who are so keen to get down here, going up there to settle.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
Perhaps I may say a few words in closing this Debate, and to answer some of the questions which have been put to me from various parts of the House. When I spoke before, I had omitted to answer a question which was put to me with regard to the increase 169 of salaries shown on the Vote, and I wish merely to explain, that while an increase is shown of £5,835, that this increase is due, as to £5,169, to salaries of officers, which were previously borne on the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund, being transferred, by Treasury instructions, to the Board's Vote. There is, therefore, no extra charge falling upon public funds, and perhaps that will ease the minds of some of my hon. Friends.
I do not propose to follow out further the discussion as to the Scaristaveg raid, except to say that I regret very much that remarks should have been made by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Dr. Shiels) and the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. MacNeill-Weir), which might lead people to suppose that generally throughout the Highlands people were not prepared to obey the law even in respect to the seizure of land and public property. It serves no good purpose to use language of that kind, and I am certain that on this question hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House will realise that they do no service to this cause, which we have been discussing to-night, by such statements, and that all such statements in this House are interpreted in a far wider sense than, perhaps, hon. Members mean when they make them in this House, and are, therefore, all the more dangerous. I trust we shall be moderate in our language, and, while we may speak with pride about the independence of our Scottish people, let us not be led away into promoting the idea that that independence can be shown with advantage in the non-observance of the law of the country.
Questions have been asked about the survey. In discussing this Vote last year I told the House we had made a preliminary survey of one county in Scotland. I was encouraged by the result of that survey to prosecute research a little further, and we have instituted surveys, both in the south-east and the south-west of Scotland. I think we may gain important and valuable results from those surveys, which are now in progress, but we must remember that we must proceed with caution. We are employing in those surveys the most-skilled people we can obtain, and are endeavouring to check the results of their investigations, and I trust that in due course we may be able to give the House the benefit of some 170 of this research. We are also encouraging, so far as State funds will permit, the development of drainage; and behind that, as a very natural and important part of the problem, must follow an effort to encourage the liming of the soil. That is being materially encouraged at the present time by the growth of the sugar-beet industry, which the Government have assisted by a subsidy. It has become apparent that an increase of lime in the soil is one of the essentials of good cultivation of beet. That work, which is being assisted by the sugar-beet factories and those working with them, is making a good impression in many parts of the country. The development of the supply of lime in Scotland is fairly satisfactory, the difficulty, of course, being to get it from one area to another, but great progress is being made in this direction.
I was asked to reply to some questions regarding milk. A scheme of investigation into the utilisation and marketing of milk and milk products is to be carried out in Scotland and in Northern Ireland. The scheme as approved consists, in the first place, of experiments in feeding school children, and, secondly, a preliminary investigation into the previous efforts at utilisation of milk products, prior to the drawing up of proposals for further work on similar lines under one of the schemes now being carried out under the direction of the Scottish Board of Health; and with regard to other work, for which the Board of Agriculture will be responsible, a grant of £800 has been authorised. This, I may say, is part of the scheme under the Empire Marketing Board.
In addition to what the Empire Marketing Board has done in connection with milk research, a grant has been made for pasture; and with regard to the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Torquay (Commander Williams) with regard to bracken in the hill pastures of Scotland, that point is one of very material importance both to the sheep farmer and the smallholder. Science is doing something, we hope, towards finding a solution, but I am not in a position to-night to say to the Committee that this problem has been solved. At any rate, experiments are proceeding upon the lines of endeavouring to find some material which will bring about a 171 disease of the root of bracken. If that is achieved, it no doubt may have very wide and far-reaching effects, but it would be unsafe to say more on that subject at the present time.
Surely there are diseases which attack the leaf, and would it not have been better to investigate those than to attack the root of the bracken?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
This is a very technical and scientific point and perhaps I was unwise in using the word "root." At any rate, experiments of a highly scientific and, I hope, practical character are being pursued.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I cannot give the exact place, but I will inform the hon. Member. They are being conducted under the general auspices of the Board in conjunction with scientific bodies. I was also asked as to the investigation of the effects of minerals on pasture. Those investigations are also being carried out and may have very material results in improving the pastures of the country. The Empire Marketing Board has also given very valuable assistance towards establishing the Chair for Research on Animal Breeding at Edinburgh University, and there is in addition a scheme for investigating poultry and the production of eggs in conjunction with Northern Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson), who spoke during this Debate, suggested that a great deal more might be done towards producing food supplies in this country. All our efforts, scientific and practical, are being directed towards increasing the productivity of the existing cultivated soil. We have in this country a certain proportion of really first-class agricultural land. There is a large proportion, unfortunately, which does not come into that category, and there may be a considerable portion of arable land which is of a very poor quality. If we are going to improve the 172 production of foodstuffs, our energies ought to be turned in my judgment rather towards the improvement of existing cultivated soil, and towards finding the means of making it more productive before we endeavour to break fresh soils. That will not preclude us, of course, from doing so, but I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that anyone who supposes that we would be able to grow any largely increased quantity of wheat in Scotland than we are doing at the present time is believing something which I am certain cannot be practically effected.
It may be increased to some extent, but undoubtedly anyone who leads the general public to believe that it can be widely increased is doing something which he will fail to carry out. I am reminded of the possibility of increasing the productivity of the deer forests in Scotland. We hope to get a return this year of the amount of stock which is being grazed and fed within the precincts of those hills and glens. It is impossible to say how far one can make them really productive. There is the difficulty of transport, and the distance from the markets in many cases prevents what is suggested being made an economic proposition. Nevertheless the Government have been steadily pursuing the possibility of opening up roadways improving the main arteries of the country from which feeders can be made. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has referred to the scheme of reclamation.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
Have any steps been taken to expedite the shipping of food-stuffs from the northern to the southern portions of Scotland?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
That subject very properly comes under another Vote, although I know that a portion of this Vote is devoted to transport. All I can say in regard to that subject is that Messrs. MacBrayne have undertaken to find a fresh ship to replace the ship that was wrecked the other day. If we get a couple of fresh ships, as I hope we may, that will meet the difficulty. I would like to point out that negotiations for the improvement of this service have to be carried on not only with my Department but between myself and the Post Office. These matters are receiving our constant attention, and we hope within the next few days to have met 173 all these people. Further suggestions have been made that I might consult people outside this particular firm. I am in process of so doing, and I am quite willing to listen to any practical suggestions which can be made. Up till now I have not received any suggestions of a really practical nature. I can only say in conclusion that I trust the interest which undoubtedly this Debate has aroused will have cleared the air in some respect, and if it has done nothing else I am sure it has justified the line which I have taken in appointing a Committee of Inquiry into a subject in regard to which a great complexity of views is held.
§ Mr. MAXTON
In the one minute which is left I want to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, when we get
§ another day to discuss these important questions, that he should take special steps to see that the report of the Board of Agriculture is in our hands. It is now six months since the end of the year, and there is something shockingly wrong in the Board of Agriculture and the Scottish Office that they are unable to get their report completed in six months after the financial year is ended. I hope that in subsequent years the reports of these Departments will be in the hands of Members early enough to give us time to study them.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £403,113, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 65; Noes, 164.175
|Division No. 109.]||AYES.||[11. 0 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Barnes, A.||Hayes, John Henry||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks,W.R.,Eliand)|
|Barr, J.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Batey, Joseph||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Broad, F. A.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smillie, Robert|
|Buchanan, G.||Kelly, W. T.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Kennedy, T.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lansbury, George||Townend, A. E.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawrence, Susan||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Livingstone, A. M.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Dennison, R.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Dunnlco, H.||MacLaren, Andrew||Westwood, J.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Whiteley, W.|
|England, Colonel A.||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Maxton, James||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Windsor, Walter|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Mosley, Oswald||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Potts, John S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hardle, George D.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Sir Robert Hutchison and Mr.|
|Harney, E. A.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Ernest Brown.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Clayton, G. C.||Goff, Sir Park|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Grace, John|
|Applln, Colonel R. V. K.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Balniel, Lord||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Grotrian, H. Brent|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend)||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Bennett, A. J.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Berry, Sir George||Dalkelth, Earl of||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Drewe, C.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks,Newb'y)||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.|
|Buchan, John||Ersklne, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Burman, J. B.||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Campbell, E. T.||Fielden, E. B.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Ford, Sir P. J.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Kidd, J. (Linllthgow)|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Templeton, W. P.|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Price, Major C. W. M.||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Little, Dr. E. Graham||Ralne, W||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Ramsden, E.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Rawson, Sir Alfred Cooper||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Lumley, L. R.||Remer, J. R.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|McLean, Major A.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Waddington, R.|
|McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Rice, Sir Frederick||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|MacRobert, Alexander M.||Rye, F. G.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Salmon, Major I.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wells, S. R.|
|Margesson, Captain D.||Sandeman, N. Stewart||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dalrymple|
|Merrlman, F. B.||Savery, S. S.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Meyer, Sir Frank||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)||Wilson, M, J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Slmms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfast)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel George|
|Moreing, Captain A. H.||Skelton, A. N.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dlne, C.)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Oakley, T.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Pennefather, Sir John||Storry-Deans, R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Penny, Frederick George||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Mr. F. C. Thomson and Captain|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Strickland, Sir Gerald||Bowyer.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, and objection being taken, to further Proceeding, 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.