Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £350,179, 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, 1929, 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.— £100,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
It will be within the recollection of the Committee that seine time ago the Scottish Estimates were put down for consideration in Committee, and at that time there was what, in my judgment, was a legitimate protest made that these Estimates could not be properly considered until such time as the appropriate reports dealing with administration were in the hands of the Members of the Committee. It is quite clear that without reports dealing with the administration of the preceding year, the Committee could not usefully discuss the Estimates. Since then—and I congratulate my right hon. Friend upon it—reports have appeared in rapid succession. I think we have had no fewer than seven or eight, and these reports are of varying importance, but I think the report with which I am going to deal to-day is the one which, in the opinion of Scottish Members, is the most important of all. I think that the party to which I have the honour to belong is entitled to be congratulated for taking this, the very first opportunity of discussing a subject with which that party has been for so long and so honourably connected in Scotland.
This year there are three reports dealing with the land problem of the country. There are, the Report of the Land Court, the Report of the Board of Agriculture, 658 and the Report of the Committee on Land Settlement which was instituted over a y ear ago. As to the Land Court Report, I have got very little to say at present. This year it is very meagre and very emasculated, and I hope that my right hon. Friend has not allowed on this occasion a clerk at the Stationery Office to cut that report to pieces, as a clerk did at the Stationery Office not very long ago in dealing with another Scottish Report. It may be, however, that the very meagreness of the Report is a good sign. I have read it, as my colleagues have read it, from cover to cover, and I think we, are satisfied with the work which the Land Court is doing. The second Report is of more importance. I refer to the Report of the Board of Agriculti re itself. It is not meagre and emasculated, as one would have expected from a body which, we understood, was moribund. It has still got its blue cover, even although—to use the appropriate language for this week of the Prayer Book—we sang its Nuns Dimittis, but the Board of Agriculture is still with us, and—to use the appropriate agricultural language—is still kicking.
If my colleagues have considered, as have no doubt they have considered, the Estimate; as they appear in the White Book, they will have seen that this year, as last year, and, indeed, every year, the one amount which makes us pause, and gives us cause for great anxiety and often anger, is the amount which annually is used by the Board of Agriculture to pay its own salaries and expenses. Out of a sum this year of £450,000, no less than £120,000 goes in salaries, wages and allowances. That is a significant figure having regard to another, namely Grants-in-aid of the purposes of small-holdings and land settlement. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will see to what I refer on page 145 of the White Paper. Last year the amount expended by the Government was £175,000, and this year it is only to be £75,000. The amount of £100,000 less this year that last year on the most important of all the schemes of the Board of Agriculture requires a good deal of explanation. I shall be glad to hear what explanation my right hon. Friend can give me with regard to that. There is something wrong somewhere. While you have a diminution of £100,000 upon the 659 most important of all schemes, you have only a diminution of £540 in the travelling expenses of the Board. I notice that though there is no diminution in the travelling expenses of the Board, at the same time, in the Report, on Page 11, they say:Much of the Board's time during the year has been occupied in the preparation of memoranda, including financial and statistical statements, for submission to the Committee.Surely there must be an explanation of that. If the whole of the Board's time, as their own report says, has been utilised in preparing statistics and memoranda, there must have been some sort of diminution in the amount expended in travelling expenses and allowances; but there is no such diminution. When the Board of Agriculture was instituted in this House, it was instituted primarily for the settlement of men upon the land, and let me read for a moment a short sentence in the Board's own Report which my right hon. Friend will find on page 12. It says:Appendix No. 1 shows the position with regard to the 22,530 applications received by the Board since 1st April. 1912. As stated above, 4,915 have been satisfied through the settlement of applicants; 9,389 have been withdrawn subsequent to lodgment, either by the applicants themselves or by the Board; while 8,226 remained on the. Board's lists pending settlement.That appears to me, and to nay colleagues who represent Scotland, as a disgraceful state of affairs. Nobody appreciates the difficulties which the Board encountered more than I do. We have to remember that the War intervened. We have to remember that prices after the War were exceedingly high. The price of stock was high, the price of land was high and the Price of food and implements was high, but the fact remains, as one would gather from questions put recently by my hon. Friends above the Gangway and myself and other colleagues in the House, to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, there is a tremendous demand unfulfilled in Scotland to-day for land settlement. I am not going to refer again to the question of Glenshiel and Kintail in my own constituency. I have been pressing, as my right hon. Friend knows, for an adequate settlement of smallholders in that 660 part—a very desirable part for a settlement—but, as far as I know, nothing has been done. I know my right hon. Friend has been giving it his personal attention and for that I am grateful, but the fact remains that there is an unfulfilled demand by eligible applicants for land throughout the whole of Scotland, and particularly in the Highlands, and after 16 years of work, 16 years of heavy bills for travelling expenses and allowances for the Board of Agriculture, we have still, on their own showing, no less than 8,226 men whose applications have not yet been satisfied. It requires a great deal of explanation.
While I am dealing with the question of land settlement in Kintail and Glenshiel, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is in active co-operation with the Forestry Commission on the subject? I know of three or four cases in which the fixity of tenure of the smallholder has been in jeopardy because the Forestry Commission come forward with a claim to take possession of the land as suitable for tree growing, even when the land has been acquired by the smallholder under Statutes passed by this House. Surely it is wrong for one Department to interfere with grants which have been sanctioned by another Department, and it seems to me that it is a clear case of a lack of co-operation between these two Government Departments. It is in the interests of both Departments, if they are to fulfil the objects for which they were created, that land settlement should take place with good will and should be effective. Instead of that we find one Department fighting against the other. It is a condition of things which ought not to be tolerated, and I hope the Committee today will make strong representations against any conflict between two Government Departments on such an important issue.
As I have felt it my duty to make these comments on the work of the Board of Agriculture—I hope I have not spoken too strongly—may I say what pleasure it gives me to point out to the Committee the many good things which the Board has done and is doing. I refer, particularly, to what it is doing in agricultural education and research. I should like to draw the attention of the Committee, and indeed of all those interested 661 in agricultural education, to the Report which the Secretary of State got from an old colleague of mine in Ireland—Mr. Campbell—which is well worth a study. If all the recommendations suggested in that Report were carried out the Board of Agriculture and the Secretary of State would confer great benefit indeed on the biggest industry in the country.
Another example of the good work which the Board is doing is the improvement in live stock. One has only to visit agricultural shows in the remote villages in the Highlands to notice the enormous improvement that has taken place within recent years in all kinds of stock, cattle and sheep and ponies, and I gladly give my meed of praise to the Board of Agriculture for what it has been doing in this respect. May I strike again a note of criticism. Last year a very large grant was given for agricultural drainage, but very little is allotted this year for so desirable a purpose. We all know how valuable it is as an asset in the perfecting of agricultural land. Let me read what is said on page 65 of the Report of the Board of Agriculture:Particulars were given in the Board's last Report of the allocation of grants amounting to £20,625 offered by them under the Agricultural Drainage Scheme, 1926–27. At 31st December, 1927, claims amounting to £14,708 had been paid, and only three claims remained outstanding. It appeared that many applicants had failed to take full advantage of the grants offered to them. The total cost to the applicants of the work in respect of which these grants were paid was approximately £48,960, of which sum £35,590 represented the wages to the workmen engaged.Surely no money could be more profitably expended than on drainage, for the reason I have given. You have more than three-quarters of the amount used for unemployment purposes, giving work to unemployed. It is not relief work, but productive work, which in the long run will make that soil more fertile than ever and make it an additional advantage to the community and the country as a whole. One word about agricultural cooperation. Some friends of mine on these benches are extremely interested in this question I am equally interested. The whole of Scotland is interested in two new movements. I refer to the milk co-operative movement and the wool co- 662 operative movement. The milk co-operative movement has a great hold on the second city of the Empire, Glasgow. It is doing magnificent work, and is of great advantage to that large and flourishing community. Speaking for all my colleagues, I say that we are most anxious that the Board of Agriculture and Secretary of State should give every support possible to a movement of this kind.
The same applies to co-operation in wool. Last year I travelled through Canada, and I found that the agriculturists there were very keen in support of the "Pool" system. That is a system which would be of enormous advantage to remote agriculturists all over Scotland. The hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) knows that there are many agriculturists far away from the big market centres who, if assisted by some co-operative scheme, would be able to market their wool and other products at a reasonable price. At the present moment they cannot possibly do so. I notice with much pleasure that all the important agricultural associations in Scotland support very strongly this co-operative movement in wool, and I hope that the Secretary of State to-day will give us an assurance that the cooperative movement in wool and in milk will be supported by the authorities and by the Government. Let me deal with one small point before I come to the Report of the Nairne Committee. Under the Corn Production Acts (Repeal Act), 1921—I see the Lord Advocate present and he will probably appreciate the point—it became the duty of the Board of Agriculture to insist upon the destruction of injurious weeds in agricultural districts. I support that duty, but when a duty of that kind is placed upon any official body it should be exercised with patience, caution and prevision.
In the very midst of harvest in my own constituency, which is one of the most wonderful agricultural constituencies in the world the Board of Agriculture sees fit to distribute harum-scarum its warnings to these farmers, who are noted all over the world for the excellence of their crops. They feel insulted by the receipt of what they regard as meddlesome and pettifogging notices from an incompetent 663 body in Edinburgh. There was only one case in the Courts last year in which a fine of £3 was imposed, and I beg the Secretary of State to warn his officials in Edinburgh not to send out helter-skelter warnings and notices in the midst of harvest, which is the most important time for farmers, and that if they are to send these warnings they should have some justification for so doing. I produced last year two cases of warning notices sent out in the middle of the only good week in September, when the crops were being cut and gathered. It is sheer stupidity on the part of the Board in Edinburgh to send out indiscriminately notices of this kind to men who know their work far better than any Board in Edinburgh or in London.
Having dealt with the two Reports which we are accustomed to discuss on Scottish Estimates let me deal with the Report which I regard as the most important of all. I refer to the Report of the Committee on Land Settlement in Scotland, but which is generally referred to as the Report of the Nairne Committee. It is within the recollection of hon. Members that when this Committee was appointed over a year ago some of us had misgivings as to is composition. It was appointed without any consultation with the House of Commons. The Secretary of State was perfectly entitled to do that, but when we heard the names of the Committee suddenly announced many of us felt some anxiety. We wondered why a Committee of this kind was being appointed at that particular moment. Rightly or wrongly we had a suspicion that a Committee of this kind, appointed to investigate land settlement, which was not looked upon with high favour in some quarters, might be hostile to that movement.
We have all read that Report, and I must confess that it is a most agreeable surprise. My old friend, Mr. Joseph Duncan was a member of the Committee. He is one of the best known Labour candidates in Scotland, a very able man, and one who is sincerely anxious to do his best for the betterment of land conditions in Scotland. But the fact remains that he wrote a very telling pamphlet against small holdings. He pointed out that they were uneconomical and were the 664 last resort of infirm agrarian minds. When a protagonist of that character was on the Committee I, for one, felt rather doubtful as to what its findings would be, but I am agreeably surprised to find that Mr. Duncan signs the Report, which says that of all the movements in agriculture in Scotland the small holdings movement has produced the greatest effect. It is well to recall the terms of reference to that Committee. My right hon. Friend will find them on page 5 of the Report. I am sorry to have to read so much from the book, but the quotations are important.
I have read every line of this Report, as have all my colleagues, and I say again that it is amazing to find, after half a century of experience of the small landholding movement, how sound and statesmanlike were the views m to land settlement of the great Liberal pioneers of 50 years ago. Let me take the terms of reference one by one. The first was to inquire as to the cost incurred by the State in carrying out land settlement. The Committee very properly point out that the whole case is bristling with difficulties. I quite admit that fact. But the most virulent critic of the small-holding movement always bases the justice of his criticism on the amount of the necessary cost of these holdings. It was very difficult to come to any accurate estimate of the cost. You had the pre-War period, the War period, and the period after the War, when great pressure was put, as the Committee point out, upon the Board of Agriculture to settle men, and particularly ex-service men on the land. The result has been—it is very deplorable—that a great amount of very unsuitable land has been purchased and partially developed for small holdings by the Board of Agriculture. But when the Committee came to a conclusion as to the cost, the critics of the small-holding movement must have felt themselves confounded.
The average cost of settling a man and his family upon a small holding in the North of Scotland, is only £265. There is, of course, a very much larger average for the whole of Scotland, but does anyone say that the amount is excessive when one remembers that the beet sugar industry got for its manufacturers, in 1927 and 1928, no less than £167,552? Surely anyone who realises that, while 665 sugar may melt away, there is a permanent result in a small holding, will agree that £265 for the permanent settlement on the land of a happy and contented peasant is a very much better bargain than a temporary subsidy for an industry which ought very properly to stand upon its own feet? Some of us may say that £265 is a large sum, though in our heart of hearts we do not agree with that statement. Let us consider what is happening now in Australia and Canada. For the type of man that you are settling in the rural parts of Scotland the Australian Government, or even one of the States of Australia, is prepared to expend £1,600 to £2,000. If we at home, in the heart of the Empire, do not know the value of a man of that sort, every one of the Dominions knows his value and is prepared at any time to spend £1,600 to £2,000 for his settlement upon Dominion land. I have told the Committee the amount that the Board of Agriculture spends annually upon travelling allowances and expenses. For one year's travelling allowances and expenses of the Board we could settle 480 families upon the land permanently. The complaint of cost, when compared with figures of that kind, is ridiculous. I am certain that no money could be more profitably expended in any part of the country than for the proper settlement of so many excellent applicants upon the soil of their own country.
Let me now take the second point in the terms of reference. The Committee were also to inquire into the value of the results achieved, both economically and socially. The Committee report:We have not considered it part of our duty to express any opinion on the general policy of land settlement.But they could not help themselves. Every page of their Report expresses their opinion with regard to the efficacy of land settlement, and particularly land settlement in the Highlands. Some critics regard it as an inveterate prejudice on the part of the Highlander that he should prefer the hard and ungrateful soil of the land of his ancestors to what is called a fir holding system elsewhere. Such a prejudice, if it be a prejudice, may not have the approval of the theorists or of the economists, but the spirit which underlies it has stood the country and the Empire in good stead on more than one occasion. You cannot regard things 666 of that kind as padre items in a profit and loss account. They are what the famous historian called the imponderabilia. You cannot estimate; you cannot weigh them; but without them the country is poor indeed.
Let me state briefly what is said on page 26 of the Report of this impartial body, appointed by the Secretary of State without consultation with Scottish Members. Paragraph 40 says:There can be no difference of opinion as to the social results of the work of land settlement in the Highlands. By taking over sheep farms land has been provided for making new settlements or for enlarging the holdings of crofters in existing townships. The result has been to thin out the worst of the congested districts, leaving more room for the older holdings. Sheep stocks have been taken over and transferred to the crofters, usually by means of a club fm m which the crofters run. Some of these clubs, which were formed in the earlier years, have paid off their loans, and the communities have reached a stage of comparative affluence. Those which commenced operations when sheep prices were high will have a struggle to pay off their loans, in spite of the fact that they got their stocks at prices much below what they cost the State, but there is no reason to believe that they will not succeed in time. The prospects of all these crofters are greatly improved as a result of the settlement policy.I think that that is a wonderful justification of a policy which has been the policy of successive Governments for so, long. Then I come to the most difficult of all the points, and it is my last. I refer to the terms of reference which ask for "defects, if any, in the procedure." This particular part will appeal not only to Members representing the Highlands, for it is a far-reaching and important question of interest to every Member for Scotland, whether he represents the Highlands or the East or West or South of the country. The suggestion in the Report, with one dissentient voice, that of Mr. Norman Reid, is that in the South of Scotland, in what is called the Lowlands, and certain parts of my own constituency and that of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), the benefits of the Small Holdings Act should really he abolished, and that we should go back to the old system of what is called ordinary agricultural tenure. I do not know what my colleagues from Scotland think about it, but I know what my people think, and they are wholly opposed to the suggestion.
667 Let me take the short memorandum which has been written by Mr. Norman Reid. Apart from the fact that he has the great qualification of being a distinguished constituent of mine, he has many other qualifications: He is a practical farmer and he was for years one of the leading members of the Land Court. He has recognised ability in agricultural pursuits, and that ability is recognised all over the world. What is his view? He demolishes the proposal. By sheer force of argument he shows that those who support that proposal have not a leg on which to stand. Let me put it in another way. Are Members in the South of Scotland really going to say that the three cardinal principles attached to the small-holding movement in Scotland in the various Acts are to be no longer in their possession? What are those three cardinal principles? The first is security of tenure. That has been regarded as a boon and a blessing all over Scotland. The second is a periodical revision of rents. Rent is first of all fixed by an impartial body called the Land Court, and every seven years that rent is periodically reviewed. The result of that satisfactory method has been that you have not got a single penny of arrears of rent in any part of Scotland where the rent has been adequately and justly fixed. Are Members from the South of Scotland to tolerate the abolition of that principle? Take the third cardinal principle, the principle which was fought for in the Land Acts of Ireland and of Scotland, namely the principle of compensation for improvements.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he it attempting to indicate to the Committee that the proposal of the majority of the Committee, whose Report he has mentioned, is to the effect that the Land Court is not to adjudicate on the question of rent and compensation in future? If so, I draw his attention to the fact that on page 55 of the Report, in the summary of conclusions and recommendations, Recommendation No. 2 distinctly states that in the Lowland districts ordinary agricultural holdings in future are to have the right to apply to the Land Court "for adjudication on questions of rent and compensation."
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
That may be so, but the fact remains that they become agricultural tenants; they are no longer statutory tenants with the protection of the Small Landholdings Acts—not at all. My point is that they have no longer security of tenure; they are tenants at will, and can be turned out at any moment. The proposal now is that under the administrative power of the Board of Agriculture, under Part I of the Act of 1919, the Board should buy the land, and should divide that land, having equipped it and prepared it for entry, among prospective smallholders, at a rent to be fixed by them—not by the Land Court but by the Board. My hon. Friend shakes his head and presumably disagrees. Does my hon. Friend admit that security of tenure goes, and that the tenant in the South of Scotland in the future will be a tenant at will?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
He becomes a tenant at will of the Board of Agriculture; and the moment it is known that a public body like the Board of Agriculture is going to purchase land for the settlement of small landholders, immediately the land will go up in price and the moment it goes up in price the Board of Agriculture, if it is a business body, must charge proportionately higher rents. Everything that the Board does will cost proportionately more, and the result will be that, in order to provide an economic rent, the small landholder will be called upon to pay a very severe rent and one which will be a drain upon him. I am convinced that when the people of the South of Scotland realise what is proposed, they will resist the proposal to the bitter end. It is a retrograde step of the worst kind. Even England, during the last year, has insisted on the principles of security of tenure and fair rent. It surely would be a retrograde and stupid step on the part of Southern Scotland to accept this new proposal when even a great country like England, watching the experience of Scotland and knowing its own experience, has recently demanded fair rent and security of tenure as matters of right.
Not only would the benefits under the Act be taken away from the southern smallholder, but another difficulty would be created. This proposal creates the difficulty of having, as it were, three 669 competing tenants in the same country. There is the crofter or the old landholder who gets considerable benefit. Then you have the statutory small tenant at the present moment with benefits not so great, and you would create a third class of tenant, who would eye with suspicion and no great gratitude the advantages which the Mother of Parliaments gave to his friends in the same county or the same country. The whole proposal is preposterous and ridiculous and I, for one, intend to resist it to the bitter end. I come to the fourth point in the terms of reference, namely, the question of rating. I know that I am about to tread on very delicate ground in dealing with that subject but I am not proposing any new legislation. I wish to deal with the administration of rating under the Board of Agriculture at the present moment. I know that the proposal of the committee, if carried into effect, would require legislation. Under the Small Holdings Acts the crofter or smallholder is exempt from rates upon his land or upon improvement on his buildings. The proposal now is that he should no longer be exempt, and it is suggested that this proposal should apply to the whole of Scotland. I know that such a proposal will be resisted—
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am sorry. I realised that I might be trespassing. All I have to say is that that proposal also has been completely destroyed by Mr. Norman Reid. He points out that it would be a breach of faith—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I have no doubt that the gentleman's opinion carries weight with the right hon. Gentleman, but it cannot be cited here.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
This is the minority report. I quite realise the difficulty, and I gave the Chair fair warning of the danger. However, I do not need to go any further. All I wish to do is to direct atention to pages 62 and 63 of the Report as giving proof of the wonderful effect which the adminitration of the Board of Agriculture has had in connection with housing.Most of the housing had been erected in the belief that it would not be assessed for rating purposes and, at this date, to bring it in for that purpose, would be something like a breach of faith"—
§ The CHAIRMAN
Really, the right hon. Gentleman, who is no novice in these matters, must be aware that he is out of Order. Indeed he began by saying that he knew it would be out of order to discuss a certain matter, and he then proceeds with various circumlocutions to do so.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
On the point of Order. I gather from the right hon. Gentleman that what he is arguing is not that there should be legislation, but that there should not be legislation. Is that not in order?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Certainly not. Hon. Members cannot discuss legislation in Committee of Supply, either for or against.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Without referring to legislation, I thought I could repeat the comment made upon the effects of the administrative action of the Board of Agriculture in reference to existing housing in the North of Scotland. I can say—and these are my final words—that the report conclusively points to the fact that there has been a revolution in the social we fare of the people of the Highlands, brought about by the administrative action of the Board of Agriculture, in regard to housing. I have endeavoured to bring the notice of the Committee, as cogently as I could, the chief points of this recent report. It is in my judgment the most important report issued by the Board of Agriculture for many a long day. If it means anything, it surely is a justification for the small-holding movement in Scotland. I beg of the Secretary of State to regard it in that light, and to do everything which is humanly possible to settle desirable applicants upon holdings in their native land.
Mr. WILLIAM ADAMSON
I expected that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland would speak at this juncture.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I came in to hear the Secretary of State, and I object very much to this method of procedure. I do not often take part in discussion on Scottish Estimates. In fact this is the first time I have ever opened my mouth upon such an occasion, but I ant interested in Scotland from many points of view, principally because of the magnificent sailors who come from 671 Scotland, and I would like to hear what the Secretary of State has to say on these matters. At Question Time I have noticed several of my hon. Friends pressing for facilities for the settlement of ex-soldiers in Scotland, and I have heard the most unsatisfactory and evasive replies from the Secretary of State. I as an English Member, support my Scottish friends on both sides of the House in this matter, and I protest against the silence of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour)
It is within the recollection of the Committee that the practice has been to submit these reports to the Committee, and it is for hon. Members, if they have any criticisms to make upon my Department, to express those criticisms. T shall reply to them afterwards.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
It is only right that I should say that my right hon. Friend very courteously told me that he did not propose to open the Debate, but that at the end of the discussion he would reply.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
We have on the Treasury Bench four representatives of the Government—the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the Lord Advocate and the Vice-Chamberlain of the Household. It has always been customary for a Minister representing Scotland to take part in the opening stage of the Debate on these occasions, explaining the report submitted and leaving it to one of the other representatives to intervene about the middle of the Debate while, generally, a third Government representative closed the Debate. That practice gives the Government a chance of offering explanations and replies at three different periods, so that hon. Members know the position and the attitude which they are taking up on the various points raised. It is treating hon. Members from Scotland in rather a cavalier fashion if we are told that we must discuss all these questions and that the Secretary of State will rise perhaps at 11 o'clock to-night and reply for half-an-hour on the whole discussion. Without casting any reflection on the right hon. Gentleman, a reply of that kind is absurd.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Does the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman not indicate that unless there is some criticism of the Report now before us he is going to remain silent? If that is his attitude, then no speeches should be delivered by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench at any time. Surely it is customary for right hon. Gentlemen who are responsible for Departments of State to explain the administration of those Departments on these occasions. In this case explanations of some kind are desirable. The attitude of the right hon. Gentleman amounts to this—he will say nothing until hon. Members on this side have spoken. Then he is to come along with a thundering reply, and, I suppose, in the event of any further observations being offered from this side, the vivacious Under-Secretary of State is to come along and deal further blows to hon. Members here and below the gangway.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Then, possibly, the Lord Advocate will wind up on the legal issues involved. It is a most amazing situation. We can appreciate the attitude of the Lord Advocate who is now, I observe, running away from the Committee. The Lord Advocate will never stand up to a situation. He rarely speaks here. Is it suggested that he has so many responsibilities of a legal kind that he cannot undertake the responsibility for this Report or any part of it? I invite the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State to stand up for his Report here and now and offer such explanations as he can. If his statement is regarded as satisfactory it may be unnecessary to pursue the matter, but he should not say to us, in effect, "There is the Report; take it or leave it."
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think if the hon. Member wishes to pursue that subject he ought to move that I report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I appreciate the advice which you offer, Sir, but I do not propose to accept it at this stage. I would direct your attention to the fact that on a previous occasion when hon. Members on these benches desired to discuss the Scottish Estimates, a protest 673 was made on the ground that no report was available. Am I to understand that on that occasion the right hon. Gentleman would not have spoken because the Report was not there, and—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman is not now discussing the Vote, but the silence of right hon. Members. The usual and, in fact, the only way in which that can he brought into order is by a Motion to report Progress, but that can afterwards be negatived or withdrawn by leave. On the Vote before the Committee, the discussion must be confined to the Vote.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I am afraid that I have not made myself quite clear. I am merely inviting the right hon. Gentleman to offer a few observations on this Report. I should sit down at once if the right hon. Gentleman would now indicate his desire to respond to my invitation and that of other hon. Members on this side.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
May I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for Scotland, in the exceptional circumstances in which he finds himself, at least to make a statement on the subject of this Report now l The right hon. Gentleman who initiated the discussion to-day gave one interpretation of the meaning of the majority Report. There are other interpretations of that Report, and there are different views held as to its meaning in all parts of the House. It is surely right, therefore, that we should know the opinion of the. Secretary of State upon a matter on which he has two Reports before him, namely, a majority and a minority Report; and as there are at least two or three different interpretations of the vital principle underlying this Report, surely the right hon. Gentleman should not only tell this Committee but the people of Scotland precisely what, in the opinion of his Department, this Report means and what action, if any, he proposes to take upon it. It seems to me that without the Secretary of State making a statement, we are discussing the subject of agriculture in Scotland in vacuo. In regard to the interpretations of the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson), if he will turn up the summary of conclusions and recommendations 674 of the majority Report, on page 55, he will find that in Sub-section (2) of paragraph 112 they state:That in future smallholders should be settled by the State in Lowland districts as tenants. … with. … the right to apply to the Land Court for adjudication on question; of rent and compensation (paragraph 63).Then, if he will refer to paragraph 63, he will see that the tenants—
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
In that paragraph 63 the right hon. Gentleman will find that it states:The tenants on the Board's estates are at present settled on landholder's tenure. … acid it seems to us that they should afford sufficient security of tenure and reasonable conditions of tenancy for tenants of the Board in Scotland.When we turn to page 13, we find out exactly what landholder's tenure is. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman wilt give me his attention.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
My colleague the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) is following the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I am not so much interested in the right hon. Gentleman's colleague as in the right hon. Gentleman himself. On page 13, paragraph 17, we are told:Holders. … whether on properties owned 103 private landlords or by the Board, are registered as landholders by the Scottish Land Covert. … In the main, these benefits are:(1) Fixity of tenure, subject to the observance of certain statutory conditions."
If my interpretation is wrong—
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
If my interpretation is wrong, at least we ought to have it authoritatively so stated by the Secretary of State I know that there are large numbers of people who are quite as interested in agriculture in Scotland as the right hon. Gentleman who think that my interpretation is right, and I know that the Lord Advocate, who knows as much about the law as does the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty, thinks that he is wrong. Here we have 675 the Report of an important Committee, long awaited, composed of men of great skill and knowledge. The Secretary of State for Scotland to-day offers no explanation of that Report or as to the Government's intentions towards it, whether they will support the majority or the minority contention, and I suggest that it is merely playing with the interests of agriculture in Scotland for the right hon. Gentleman and his assistants, the other representatives of the Scottish Office, simply to throw this Report into the Vote Office and allow hon. Members on all sides to get up and make what interpretations they may care of various paragraphs, while the Secretary of State, on the most important subject before Scotland, sits like "Brer Rabbit" and says nothing. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman, before the Debate proceeds further, will at any rate give us his interpretation as to what is the essential recommendation of the majority Report of the Committee and as to what action, if any, the Government propose to take upon that Report.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
I cannot help hoping that the Secretary of State for Scotland will yield to the unusually flattering requests that have been made by his colleagues of all parties and participate even at this early stage in the Debate. I am only a very junior Member, and I have no wish to speak in front of the Secretary of state or of the right hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson), and I think it would be greatly to the advantage of the Committee if the Secretary of State for Scotland would intervene now and tell us what his policy is, first, on these Reports which we desire to discuss. We do not want to discuss them merely academically, nor particularly do we want to discuss the opinion of these gentlemen, eminent as they are, as expressed in the Reports. We wish, in Committee of Supply, to discuss the administration of the Government, and we wish to have some report by the Secretary of State on his administration for the past year.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
No, but I want to say one other word, if you will allow me, Sir, before continuing my remarks on the general subject. I have been in the House a very few years, but on every occasion of the discussion of Scottish Estimates I have heard the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary either open with a statement or else speak immediately after the first speaker. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to do so now. If he does not respond, I must continue my remarks.
§ Mr. HARDIE
It is a most unusual occurrence that when such a general request is made for the Minister to speak, it is not complied with. Is it because there are none of the Leaders of the Liberal party here?
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
My right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) is our leader on this occasion. I will take, first, the point which was raised by my right hon. Friend and commented upon by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), who intimated that he was not interested in what I had to say on this question, but I think I can resolve all his doubts. I think it is absolutely clear that my right hon. Friend was correct in the interpretation which he gave of the recommendation of the majority of the Committee on this point. The passage to which the hon. Member for Dundee referred was a mere summary of the recommendations of the Report, and, I think, a slightly misleading summary. It refers in that summary to paragraph 63, and it is absolutely clear from that paragraph, in which is contained the main recommendation of the majority, what they intend. They say:The tenants on the Board's estates are at present settled on landholder's tenure. … It is a matter for consideration whether this is necessary, or whether they should in future be settled on the conditions applicable to ordinary agricultural holdings.That is the proposal which we resist. These are the conditions on which the tenants of small holdings in England and Wales sit on properties owned by the State and local authorities, and they say: 677It seems to us that they should afford sufficient security of tenure and reasonable conditions of tenancy for tenants of the Board in Scotland.My right hon. Friend, my colleagues, and myself are absolutely clear that those opinions are such as we resist. The Report proceeds:It might, however, be provided, in view of the existence in Scotland of a Land Court of which there is no counterpart in England, that the tenants of the Board should have a right to have their rents revised by the Court.And it goes on to say that certain questions of compensationmight also be made capable of reference for settlement by the Land Court.These, however, are only possibilities, but the proposal itself is definite, and what they do say is that the existing tenure in England should afford sufficient security. That is what is definite; there is no "might" about that:It seems to us that they should afford sufficient security of tenure and reasonable conditions of tenancy for tenants of the Board in Scotland.It is that opinion with which we profoundly disagree.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
That reads:We refer elsewhere (p. 37) to the difficulty experienced in Scotland in removing a small landholder who fails to meet his obligations. … A much simpler and speedier process. … appears to be available in the case of statutory smallholders in England, which might be adopted in respect of the Board's tenants if they were holding under ordinary conditions of tenancy instead of landholder's tenure.My hon. and learned Friend is quite right. That is a further sideline of the same thing. It is carefully put forward, and it shows that this change is advocated again on this second ground, and that it would make the removal of a smallholder easier. I can hardly believe there is any doubt left in the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, but, if there is, I would refer him to the opinion of Mr. Norman Reid, who signed the Minority Report. He has been through all these discussions from the earliest stage; he has been contributing to them, and he knows exactly what is in the minds of his fellow Commissioners. Yet he says: 678I entirely disagree with the recommendations made that in future land settlement should take place in the districts referred to on other than landholders' tenure.He goes on to say:The proposed departure"—about which the hon. Member for Dundee feels so much doubt—would mean nothing else than destroying the object for which the whole Landholders' Code was enacted, videlicet, the preservation of security of tenure and compensation for improvements.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Why does the hon. Gentleman leave out the effective passage[...] I draw his attention to this sentence, which he completely missed:To some extent in the foregoing Report provision is made for periodical revision of rent by the Land Court, and settlement by that tribunal of questions arising on out-go.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I left it out, because it is obviously governed by the sentence immediately following. The way it reads is:To some extent in the foregoing Report provision is made for periodical revision of rent by the Land Court, and settlement by that tribunal of questions arising on out-go.But even granted that, having mentioned that, Mr. Reid goes on:But the proposed departure would mean nothing else than destroying the object for which the whole Landholders' Code was enacted, videlicet, the preservation of security of tenure and compensation for improvements.Therefore, I think there can be no doubt left in the mind of the Committee as to the meaning of the Report on that point. While I am on this question of land settlement, I should like to turn to the general question of the administration of the right hon. Gentleman in respect of land settlement during the four years in which he has been responsible. There has been a growing demand for land during that time in Scotland from the sons of present smallholders, from farm servants, and from all classes of the agricultural population of Scotland. Nor is that all. At the same time, there has been great distress in pertain industries in Scotland, particularly in the mining industry. In that industry are a large number of men who, within the past 30 or 40 years, have been drawn into it from agriculture, and 679 still live in close contact with agricultural conditions. They are men for whom the Government are trying to find employment at the present time. A Transference Board is moving about the country trying to find industries to which to fit them. The agricultural industry is one in which, if there were a bold policy of land settlement, work might be found. These sentiments have been expressed on several occasions by hon. Members who support the Secretary of State for Scotland, such as the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) and the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton). There is this demand from the agricultural section of the population, and also this need to find employment for the men engaged in the distressed mining industry.
What is the record of this Government? I go back to the peak year, in which the greatest amount of settlement was made, the year 1922, when 737 small holdings were created. Since then, the numbers steadily declined until last year. I asked a question as to how many small holdings were likely to be constituted last year, and I was told that the number had declined from 737 to an estimated number of 148; and the hon. Member for Perth rose in his wrath from those back benches and sharply questioned the Secretary of State for Scotland as to whether there was not some mistake in the figures. Far from that representing the number, the Government failed to create anything like 148, for, on turning to the Report of the Board of Agriculture for last year, I see that the total is only 92. In these circumstances, that is a deplorable record on the part of the Government. When this Committee was appointed, I was one of those who, like my right hon. Friend, having examined the membership, thought that it was a Committee which was put up to justify inaction in land settlement. I cannot help having a sort of feeling at the back of my mind that there really was some such intention, for the Committee is unwillingly forced to recognise the good work that land settlement has done in Scotland. Nevertheless, retrograde proposals find their way into their Report, though, on the whole, the effect of the Report is to show that 680 the social and economic results of land settlement in Scotland have been revolutionary; that the social conditions, particularly in the Highlands, have enormously improved; that a greater proportion of people are employed on the land, where land setlement has taken place, than were employed before the farms were broken up; and that the process has been in all respects a healthy one. Moreover, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out already, the cost is low as compared with the cost of settling men in other countries of the Empire.
I suggest that, where it is a little higher in the Lowlands, with increasing experience the cost could be very largely reduced by the adopt ion of certain methods which I do not think have been properly tried. For example, I think that it is clear that we want small holdings of different kinds. We want the family farm at the top, the farm which is big enough for a man to work with his family. Then we want a smaller holding, which is just economically self-supporting, and perhaps sharing in a club farm. Then we want a holding which a man can occupy and which shall be a home for him and his family, and from which he could get work of different sorts in the district; he may be a skilled ditcher, or a craftsman of some kind in agriculture, and he may be able to get work on large farms in the neighbourhood. Then we want to concentrate very much more—and I think this is true of the holdings all over Scotland—on the small lines of agriculture, such as pigs, poultry and honey. Then, I submit, we could start a colony settlement for men, perhaps of miners. I do not see why the Government should not get 24 or 36 miners and start a colony; house them well, and give them 10 acres of land each, and let them concentrate, with the assistance of the experts of the colleges of agriculture, on pigs, or poultry, or honey. Look at Northern Ireland; there, with a population of 1,250,000, they have 8,000,000 poultry, and produce 1,600 lbs. of run honey and 16.000 lbs. of honey in sections in the year. Their average is 270 birds per 100 acres of crops and pasture, as against 98 in Scotland. Cannot this be more intensively developed, especially in the lowlands of Scotland? Of course, they would have to be close to a market in a good position: it is not the sort of colony that could be 681 started in the wilds of Sutherland en Ross-shire. They would have to be near a market, and have suitable land. I suggest that that would be a means of finding employment and livelihood for a great many men who are now out of employment.
As regards the Highlands, the figure of £285 as the cost of settling a smallholder is the sort of figure which, far from checking us, should encourage us to go on, and should encourage the right hon. Gentleman to a more vigorous prosecution of the small-holding policy, which the Committee shows has so thoroughly justified itself. There is one point about the Highlands to which I would refer, and that is the question, which is mentioned in the Report of the Land Settlement Committee, of the position of the sheep stock clubs. It is true that they went through a very difficult time. They bought their stock at high prices in the very worst time. I have in my mind those great sheep farms which were taken over in Sutherland, and I appeal to the Secretary of State to take into serious consideration the proposal which has been made that the terms of the repayment of their loans should be made easier. I see in the Report of the Board of Agriculture that in some cases the period has already been extended from 10 to 15 years, and I would strongly urge the right hon. Gentleman to take that into consideration in regard to some of these other farms, particularly those in Sutherland. The men are doing well, and the sheep are as good as they were in the old days, when they were on the large farms and looked after by large farmers. The economic conditions have been against the men, and if they are given this kind of help to tide them over the crucial years, it will greatly lighten their burden, and I have no doubt that they will make good. I do not want to say anything more or land settlement except to impress on the Secretary of State for Scotland the real need of meeting the land hunger in the Highlands of Scotland.
The old Adam crops up every now and then in this report of the Land Settlement Committee. You see them digging their toes in as they are apparently dragged along, reluctantly and against their will, to take a new and fresh and snore hopeful view of land settlement 682 than they ever intended to. They dig their toes in occasionally, and say it is yet rather doubtful whether the men will be able to make it pay, and that it will still need time to see whether the results will really justify the hopes entertained, but, all the same, you see it clearly stated that the men are doing well in the most difficult circumstances. Then they say there are some signs of slackening in the demands. In one paragraph they say there are signs of a new feeling on the part of the younger men. I am sure those who know the Highlands best know perfectly well that there is no slackening in t he demand for land. The demand for land is keen and active all over the Highlands, as is shown in the Report of the Board of Agriculture. In their Reports for the last three years they say the average number of new applications for land is more than 500 a year, and this at a time when men are being settled at the rate of only 150 a year. The demand for land is overtaking the supply instead of the supply overtaking the demand, and therefore I appeal to the Secretary of State to tackle this question far more vigorously and with an absolutely fresh outlook.
There are two other points of importance to which I would refer. The Board of Agriculture state in their Report that the decrease in their expenditure lies under two heads, one the grants towards the cost of drainage schemes for the improvement of agricultural land, and the other the grants in respect of the maintenance expenditure of agricultural colleges. There could not be two branches of their expenditure in which it was more unfortunate to economise at the present time. With regard to drainage in 1925 the Scottish National Conference on agriculture found the need for drainage to be the most urgent of all agricultural needs in Scotland. They made a number of recommendations. They urged that in future grants should be giver for drainage not merely in order to relieve unemployment but purely for the sake of the improvement of the land, and, therefore, that it should not be made a condition of a grant that the man should engage unemployed men but that he should be allowed to employ more skilled men. Another, and an obviously far more important recommendation, was that more funds should be provided, so that the work could go forward at a 683 greater speed—that more drive should be put into drainage work in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman graciously assented to the first recommendation, which was quite a useful one, and it is now no longer compulsory to engage unemployed men. That is a very good thing and I gratefully support the right hon. Gentleman in that decision. But as regards the amount of money given for the work, far from having increased it has fallen by two-thirds, not fallen to two-thirds but fallen to only one-third, of the amount that was given before the conference. The Board of Agriculture, in referring to that in their Report, say:The Board were authorised to announce a similar scheme for the year 1927–28, but owing to financial stringency the funds available were limited to just under £11,000.Four or five years ago, before this Government came into office, between a sum of £30,000 and £40,000 was being spent on this service which is of such value to Scotland. Not only is this decrease deplorable, but the system of allocating grants gives rise to the widest dissatisfaction all over Scotland. Wherever I go I meet complaints that certain large farmers get grants and the small men are left out. To some extent this is inevitable, owing to the terms of the scheme itself. The grant is for one-third of the cost of labour and materials. A large farmer employs a staff of men to do the work and buys his materials, and then gets one-third of the cost of the whole work. The smallholder, who does the work himself, gets nothing for his labour, and only one-third of the cost of the material. Very often he finds it extremely difficult to get even that. I am told that smallholders have to send in their applications time after time even for that small grant and then are turned down.
Another point is that not all the money available is spent. This is very largely due to the fact that the people who apply do not get an answer to their applications. They have to wait months for a reply. Only in April I was speaking to a man in Caithness who asked me, "Is this scheme coming along? I applied before Christmas and I wrote again in the early part of the spring, and I have been told that my application will he considered, but I have not yet heard 684 anything, although I wrote again the other day to say that I must know, as I must be getting on with the work. I have not yet heard whether I am to get the grant or not." Very often when they are at last informed that they can have the grant there is no time left to make the necessary arrangements. That explains why it is that the Board of Agriculture say in their report that not all the money available is spent. If the men got prompt answers to their applicacations and were told, "You can have so much money, go ahead with the work" the whole of the money would be expended—and a great deal more if it were available. As regards the position of the smallholder I suggest that the grant ought to be given in proportion to the amount of work actually done That ought to be made the sole criterion—apart from whether the man has employed labour or has done the work himself, or whether he is a large farmer or a small farmer. Really the simplest way would be for the Board of Agriculture to give the materials free of charge to the smallholder. Just give the materials free of charge to the smallholders, and let them do the work themselves. I discussed that with smallholders and I know that that would meet their views and would be regarded as a very great improvement on the present scheme. Before I leave the question of drainage I would like to say, although I am not going to deal with this point at any length, that all over Scotland there are large areas of land which are exposed to flood and are seriously in need of large drainage measures. In that respect we are just as badly off as they are in England. In England there has been an inquiry and there has been legislation, and I want to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what I asked him last year, and that is whether there is any prospect that we in Scotland shall have legislation to enable drainage areas to be delimited and drainage boards constituted. As to the other economy which the Board of Agriculture has effected, which has been made on the grants to agricultural colleges, I regard that as a most disastrous economy.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I shall confine myself to the case of the agricultural 685 colleges, though it is quite true that the same thing applies to the veterinary colleges. In January, 1926, the Secretary of State for Scotland intimated to the governors of those colleges that in future the Treasury grant would be reduced to one-third of the net expenditure of the colleges and that the remainder would have to be provided by local contributions. The governors of all the colleges carefully considered what means were to be employed to raise this money and sent a memorandum to the Secretary of State. The Western and the Eastern Colleges sent in a joint memorandum, and the Northern College, as its conditions were rather different from those of the other two, sent in a memorandum of its own. That was in April, 1926. In spite of the importance of this matter, they received no reply at all. However, they proceeded loyally to carry out the proposals which they had made in the memorandum. They had made certain proposals for reducing their local contributions as much as they could and for cutting down their expenditure as much as they could. They were trying to meet the Secretary of State's view, but at the same time they were pointing out how difficult the position was for them, and how the work they were carrying on would be crippled. The North of Scotland College, of course, had particular difficulties. Hon. Members must realise the difficulty of raising money in those Highland counties, with their sparsely populated districts and their almost insignificant rateable value. In Sutherland a penny rate raises only £400. Having met with those difficulties, they sought another interview with the Secretary of State, at which they handed him a memorandum. Again they received no reply to the views which were put farward in the memorandum.
In December last, they forwarded a further memorandum to the Secretary of State with a request for an interview. Again they had no reply—no reply to the memorandum, no reply to the arguments it contained, and no reply to the request for an interview. At last the estimates have been fixed, and fixed without any consultation with the governors of the colleges. In the case of the North of Scotland College an immediate restriction of its activities is involved at a time when it was never more vital that we should be making an advance in the direction of research and 686 education and helping smallholders and small farmers generally over this time of great depression in the industry. This restriction must be partially effected in the present year, but if there be no modification of the Treasury demands, under which the reduction in grant gets worse next year and worse still the year after, I am informed by the Chairman and Secretary of the North of Scotland College that work in the crofting areas will have to be altogether abandoned. This is of the utmost value at a time when it is more needed than ever it was before in the history of those colleges. One of the worst features of this embroglio is the fact that the governors have been prevents d from being allowed adequately to remunerate their staff.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
The Secretary for Scotland shakes his head, and therefore I shall be compelled to read the actual letters which have been written by the Board of Agriculture on this subject. An application for an increase of salary was made by Mr. George Donald in a letter on the 31st of January, 1924, and the Governors of the North of Scotland College recommended that Mr. Donald's application should be granted. The reply of the Board of Agriculture stated that they would only agree to a maximum of £250 of salary in Mr. Donald's case and refused to permit the moderate maximum of 300 requested by the Governors.
There was another application for an increase of salary from Mr. F. W. F. Hendry and the reply was:The Board regretted they could not see their way to consider individual applications fur increases of salary meantime.Another application was made for additional clerical assistance for the Director of County Work and the reply of the Board was:There was submitted a letter of 29th November, 1927, from the Board of Agriculture fir Scotland regretting they were unable to agree to the proposal for the appointment of an additional junior clerk and typist in the County Work Department.Those are cases in which the Board of Agriculture actually refused to allow the Governors to pay the remuneration which they considered adequate to two of their officers in the Northern College of Agriculture. On this question of salaries 687 the Association of County Staffs has never been consulted, and the revised scale of salaries is very unsatisfactory. There are other methods of putting the revised scale into effect, and that is just a point which a discussion with the Association of County Staffs would have put right immediately. In Scotland, these officers cannot rise to a salary of more than £500, whereas the same organisation officers in England can rise to £800 a year, which means that in Scotland we lose a great many of our best men who are attracted across the border on account of the higher salaries paid. I think this is very unfair to those officers who serve in Scotland, and my view is that they should have the same maximum amount of remuneration as similar officers have in England. I know that certain salaries were agreed between the Northern College Governors and the Association of County Staffs and that the Board have refused to carry them into effect.
Another important point is that higher salaries should be allowed in special cases, and those officers who are really valuable men should have better prizes offered to them than are allowed at this moment under the £500 maximum. I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to consider the advisability of taking into consultation the governors of the colleges on this wider question, and to tell me whether he is prepared to reconsider the Treasury cuts and give an answer to the Memoranda with which these officers have been plying the right hon. Gentleman for the last two years. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consult with the Association of County Staffs on this vexed question of salaries and superannuation, and consider the case of the county organisers, because these men are doing work of the highest value to agriculture at the present time. It is the hope of the agricultural community that the Government will exploit scientific research to the utmost in order to get all the advantage they can out of it. It must be remembered that in the future we are not going to have less but greater foreign competition.
The tendency at the present moment is for more land to come into cultivation in Canada, and we shall have increased exports from South America, Northern Africa, and Eastern Russia and 688 Siberia. Our only hope is to adapt ourselves to improved conditions and concentrate on those forms of agriculture in which we have a preferential advantage in quality and freshness. It is of the first importance that we should do our utmost to develop our agriculture by all the means which science can put into our hands. We have now within our reach the greatest possible means of giving every encouragement to scientific work, and we ought especially to encourage young men and women to take up this scientific work. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Major Elliot) sits with me on the Empire Marketing Board, and he knows that one of the things which at the present moment is hampering research is the lack of trained scientific research workers. These people are not all doing research work, but they are doing work which is hardly less important, and we want to attract into the scientific work the best brains among our young men and women. At the present time, the teaching profession and the medical profession are overcrowded. I think the Government ought to see to it that better remuneration should be paid to those engaged in scientific work in order to encourage more people to come into that profession. I hope the Secretary of State for Scotland will give me a reply on the point which I have raised relating to consultation with the governors of the colleges and the Association of Staffs.
§ Sir HARRY HOPE
After the criticism which has been made by hon. Members opposite, I think the Secretary of State for Scotland has every reason to be satisfied with the last year's work done by the Board of Agriculture. There has been quite a paucity of criticism from hon. Members on the Opposition side, and therefore I think the right hon. Gentleman may be fairly congratulated upon the success of the last year's work of his Department. I have never been of the opinion that we ought to depend very much upon the work of the Board of Agriculture. Agriculture in Scotland can do a good deal on its own behalf, and it has done a good deal in the past. I speak as one who has had some connection with agriculture in Scotland, and while I welcome the efforts of the Board of Agriculture in some directions, I often think that some of the criticisms which 689 have been made to the effect that a good deal of money which is now spent might be spared in connection with some of the work is not altogether wrong.
There are one or two directions in which I think the Board of Agriculture could do more. In the first place, cooperation offers a very fruitful field for more activity. No doubt agriculturists in Scotland in the past have been rather slow in adopting co-operative methods, and we have suffered accordingly. I see in the Estimates that there is going to be a Government grant of £4,000 a year and an additional grant of £500 a year, that is pound for pound of the amount spent by the agricultural organisations. In this way the Board are doing something to help the growth and development of co-operation in Scotland. I think they might do more good by spending a little more of the money at their disposal in the direction of promoting co-operation. If the Government would spend more upon this kind of development I am sure they would find that it would be one of the best things they could do to advance the interests of those connected with the agricultural industry.
Another branch of activity is that of agricultural education and research, and this is a subject of great importance, and it is one in which we certainly ought not to be niggardly. I think the Secretary of State for Scotland did an extremely wise thing when he asked for the assistance of Mr. J. IL Campbell, late of the Department of Agriculture in Ireland. There is no man better qualified to give advice on this subject than Mr. Campbell, and that gentleman's record in Ireland is such a splendid one that I am sure my right hon. Friend did the best possible thing in asking him to give us his counsel. Mr. Campbell recommended greater en-ordination among our agricultural counties, and it is in that direction that more progress ought to be made.
I would like to say a word or two in support of what has been said by the hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) who complained of the way in which the agricultural colleges are being treated. It is a perfect scandal that the officers of these colleges are treated in such a niggardly way, because the policy adopted by the Board of Agriculture discourages our best men 690 in Scotland, and it is tending to drive our most promising men from the Scottish to the English colleges. I think we are apt to lose very much in this direction unless my right hon. Friend is able to use more money for this purpose. The Secretary for Scotland ought to use his influence with the Treasury to obtain a larger grant in order that more reasonable and adequate salaries may be provided for the teaching staffs. It is no use settling men upon the land unless you do something to enable them to adopt the best possible methods to carry on their industry. That is an absolute truism, and, therefore, to cut down expenditure on this essential part of the service is most unwise; and, whether the money comes direct from the Board of Agriculture Vote or whether it can be obtained by means of a Treasury grant, I do hope that the standing scandal which presently exists will be put right, and that our colleges will be enabled to pay adequate and encouraging wages to their staffs.
The right hon. Gentleman who initiated this Debate very properly referred to the large number of men seeking small holdings who are on the waiting list. I think tin number on the waiting list is something like 8,300 and I understand that the greater proportion of that large number of deserving men who are still wanting holdings are located in what is called the Highland district of the country. It is no use putting these men into small holdings unless they have reasonable transport facilities for the purpose of the sale of their produce, and, therefore my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) is bringing forward a very wise and proper suggestion when he urges the provision of better transport facilities in tie Highlands of Scotland. I know perfectly well the intense love of their own particular districts which men have in the Highlands. They do not want to be transferred to other parts, but want to get land in their own country to begin with, and in their own part of their own county—almost in their own strath.
That love of country is most commendable, and I certainly hope that some progress will be made in settling these men. As I have said, however, it is no use 691 doing that unless they can be provided with proper transport facilities, and, in many cases, the road to their district is the sea. It is surely only right that some money should be provided, perhaps through the Ministry of Transport, to provide means of transport for them. In conclusion, I should like to say that I think the Nairne Report is a very sensible and wise Report. It confirms the opinion of some of us who were in this House when the Act of 1911 was passed, and who thought then, as we think now, that this problem of land settlement falls into two divisions, that affecting the Lowlands and that affecting the Highlands. The Nairne Report divides the subject on these lines, and the Committee recognise that the crofterisation of the Lowlands of Scotland is an absolute fallacy, as Lord Rosebery told us when the Bill was going through. In the Highland districts, however, there is the strong attachment to the land to which I have referred. I hope that these ex-service men will get farms, and that, with such means of assistance as those I have mentioned, they will be able to make a success of them.
Mr. W. ADAMSON
I was disappointed that the Secretary of State for Scotland did not rise to give us an explanation of his Estimate before other Members of the House took part in the Debate. I think that, if he had done so, it would have saved a considerable amount of the time which has been taken up in discussing one point that has been dealt with in the Report of the Nairne Committee on Land Settlement. My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) and the hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) have taken an opposite view of the recommendations of the Nairne Committee on the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson), but I am bound to admit that I think that the right hon. Gentleman is right in his interpretation of the Committee's recommendations. They have recommended that in future small holdings shall be settled by the State in the Lowlands of Scotland on the conditions applicable to ordinary agricultural holdings, with the addition of the right to apply to the Land Court on questions of rent and compen- 692 sation. That is a proposal of a far-reaching character, and, if the Secretary of State and the Government are going to give effect to it, it will undoubtedly make a huge difference between the smallholder in the Highlands, or the present smallholder in the Lowlands, and the future smallholder who may be given land by the Scottish Board of Agriculture, and I think that, once the proposal is fully understood, it will lead to a considerable amount of discussion in Scotland. One can understand the object that the Committee had in view in making such a proposal. I believe that they were trying to cure one of the weaknesses of the present Small Holdings Act, but I think that they could have got their cure in quiet another way than by a proposal of this kind, which undoubtedly, as I have said, will place the future smallholder who may get a holding from the Scottish Board of Agriculture on an entirely different footing from the smallholder in the Highlands or the present smallholdser in the Lowlands of Scotland. I hope that the Secretary of State, when he comes to reply to the criticisms that have been made during the discussion, will deal with that particular point. I think it would have been a great advantage if he had opened this discussion, and, in doing so, had dealt with this point, which has been the cause of so much discussion among the Members of the Committee already. I hope that, before the Debate finishes, we shall hear what he has to say about this matter and what his intentions are.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty, as has already been stated by the hon. Member for Forfar (Sir H. Hope), was very liberal in his praise of certain parts of the Estimate. There were one or two points in regard to which he wanted to speed the machine, but, on the whole, his criticism was very favourable. There are a few points with which I want briefly to deal. In the first place, I shall be glad if the Secretary of State, when he comes to reply, will give us some reason why such a small sum of money is being spent on small holdings this year as compared with last year. When there are still 8,000 applicants whose desire for holdings it has not yet been possible to satisfy, it is simply tragic that we are spending £100,000 less on small holdings this year 693 than we did last year. I think the Secretary of State will have some difficulty in convincing the Members of the Committee that under existing conditions, with an army of unemployed in every branch of British industry, when men are clamouring for employment everywhere and when 8,000 applicants, some of whom have been waiting for a considerable number of years, are clamouring at his door for holdings, £100,000 less should be spent on small holdings this year than last year. Another thing that I should like the Secretary of State to explain is why the question of land drainage is not being pushed forward with more energy. The hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness said that it was the most urgent of all the questions connected with the Scottish Board of Agriculture. I cart hardly go that length—
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
May I explain that I was quoting the Report of the Scottish National Conference in 1925? I said that they had put it first.
I understood that the hon. Baronet was quoting his own personal view, and, as I was pointing out, I can scarcely subscribe to its being the most important of all. There are other things that I think are of more importance, but, at the same time, the question of land drainage is a very important and urgent one, and I hope that the Secretary of State, when he comes to reply, will give us some reason why it is not being pushed forward with more energy, and, if possible, a promise that it will be pushed forward with more energy in the very near future.
Another of the things I should particularly like the right hon. Gentleman to deal with is the development of co-operation. I believe that is a question of great value to agriculture. The hon. Member for Forfar said he thought the farming community could do a great deal for themselves, and that is the reason why so little criticism has been made of the Estimate. I am not intimately connected with the farming community, but I understand it has been passing through a very critical time, indeed. The farmers I know complain bitterly of the times they are passing through, and even go the length of saying that, unless there is some improvement, agriculture, even in Scotland, is going to be in a very bad 694 way. One of the things that would help agriculture out of its difficulties is a system of co-operation to a far wider extent than was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty. We should have co-operation in all aspects of agriculture as well as with regard to the milk supply. I believe very strongly that if agriculturists were encouraged by the Government to build up a complete system of co-operation, which would enable them to eliminate the middle n an, it would be of great advantage to them.
I do not think we could discuss a more important subject than land development. We are facing one of the most critical situations in industry that our people have ever been called upon to face. All the heavier industries in which we have made our money, with which we were able to purchase our food from other countries, in the past 100 years are in a very depressed condition indeed. Take mining as an example. My own district is typical of other parts of the coalfield. Up to 1924 we employed more than 30,000 people in the Fife and Ross and Clackmannan coalfield. To-day, after four years have passed, we are employing little more than 20,000. One-third of the mining population has been cut down. That gives an indication of the condition of the industry all over the British coalfield and of the position in other departments of British industry—shipbuilding, iron and steel and engineering. During the same period that we were building up these heavy industries and putting ourselves in the position of practically supplying the world with these commodities, we were entirely neglecting our agricultural development. To-day It e are facing a different world. Our people are competing for markets with the very people we used to supply. The time has gone by when we can ever hope again to be the workshop of the world. I am not one of those who are so pessimistic that they believe we shall not be able to take our share of the world's industry, but we shall not take such a big share as we formerly did.
With a condition of affairs like that we shall require to give to the question of land development far more consideration in future than we have ever done in the past. During the last 80 or 100 years, the acreage under cultivation and 695 the number of persons employed on the land have been going down. That was a bad policy for us to pursue even during times of industrial prosperity, but during such a period as we are in now, it will be a fatal policy if we continue to pursue it. We have now reached a stage when we are told we are not making as much money in industry as will enable us to purchase the food supplies to which we have been accustomed from other countries. We are importing four-fifths of our food supply. We are not making as much money in industry as will enable us to do that. Our imports, we are told, are exceeding our exports, even after we have taken into account our invisible imports. If that is the case, we are touching our capital, and a nation that is touching its capital is in a very dangerous condition indeed, and we require to consider the question of land development from a far bigger point of view than is dealt with in this Estimate. This will only touch the fringe of the difficulty. It is time the Secretary of State and the Government were awakened to the fact that 'we are in a critical condition and that if there is no occupation in industry for our men and women, we are obliged to do something to provide for them in agriculture. There is room there, because if we are not to be able to purchase food from other people, we shall have to grow it for ourselves. Economic conditions will drive us there. I hope the Secretary of State and the Government are going to take the matter into serious consideration and deal with our agricultural difficulties from a far wider angle than has yet been the case.
I said I did not agree with what I thought was the hon. Baronet's own personal opinion that land drainage was the most important aspect of agriculture. The most important aspect of agriculture in Scotland is that we need to remove the difficulties which stand in the way of land settlement, and which have gradually drained Scotland of its agricultural population. I have a figure here dealing with the small Islands of Rum, Canna, Eigg and Muck, and between 1821 and 1921 the population of these islands has fallen from 1,620 to 515. Less than a third of the population is left. The places of these men and their dependants have been largely taken by deer. That 696 is one of the difficulties standing in the way of the development of agriculture. That same reason applies all over the Highlands. The population has been reduced by that means. It is a very dangerous evil to any nation, and we require to deal with it. There are other difficulties that stand in the way of our people having ready access to the land. It is the duty of the Government to remove these difficulties, and to make way for a very much larger proportion of our men and women finding the means of life on the land at our disposal. There is work there for a far bigger number of our menfolk and womenfolk, and I hope the Secretary of State and the Government will face the situation in the spirit in which it ought to be faced, and make the necessary arrangements for the return of a considerable number of the men and women who are walking the streets because they cannot get employment.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
I have been delighted to hear the hon. Member for Forfar (Sir H. Hope) and the ex-Secretary for Scotland lauding agricultural co-operation. There is no question, to my mind, that what is wanted in agriculture more than anything else is cooperative marketing. There is nothing so badly wrong with the industry itself. What is wrong is the way we are putting our produce on the market. The farmer to-day finds a very different state of affairs from what he had in years gone by. If he cannot put his products on the market in a cheap, reasonable and attractive way, he cannot compete in the world's markets. He has to compete with very keen and active opponents. The more publicity can be given to this idea of co-operation the better.
The hon. Member for Forfar congratulated the Secretary of State for Scotland because the Board of Agriculture had done so much to promote cooperation in agriculture. I, on the other hand, would rather say that they had not done half enough. They ought to have done a great deal more than has been done. The hon. Member for Forfar knows very well that the agricultural community are not very easy to convince on this matter. It takes a good deal of education to make the farmers realise that it is really in co-operation where 697 their best future lies. Therefore, the more publicity that can be given by Members on every side of the House, and particularly, as I have said in years gone by to the Secretary of State for Scotland, by the Board of Agriculture, the better. Whatever the Board of Agriculture can do to further the question of co-operative marketing should be done. I, for one, am not content to say that what has been done in past years is enough. I hope that in future years the Board will do a great deal more. However, that is by the way.
What I really rose to speak about was the question of land settlement. I have not been very long in the House, and it has been a matter of keen regret to me that year after year, when the Scottish Estimates come up for consideration and this question of land settlement is discussed, nothing more is done, while during the past year we see that a great deal less has been done than in former years. The way that this great, vital question of settling people on the land in Scotland has been dealt with I can only call mean, miserable and petty. It not dealing with it in the way that we should deal with a great national question by merely settling 156 people in a year. This figure of 156 does not consist of all settlements, for it includes enlargements of holdings. The Secretary of State for Scotland laughs. I think I am quoting the figures correctly. And this at a time when we are setting aside millions for colonising overseas! We are setting aside millions to settle people on the land in Canada and in Australia, but the money is not spent. Could we not do a great deal better if some of those millions were spent on settling the people on the land in Scotland? £100,000 less was spent last year than in previous years. Why are we slowing down in this way?
I have got out a few figures, which, I think, will be of interest. In answer to a question put by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) a short time ago as to the number of holdings and enlargements settled since January, 1919—the answer is given in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 9th May—it is shown that, during those nine years, there was an average of 400 a year settled, whereas last year we came down to this paltry 156. Why has the average 698 been allowed to drop like that? Is it the policy of the Government to shut down lard settlement, or is it the policy of the Government to increase land settlement? We have only these figures to go by, and they show definitely that land settlement in Scotland has been decreasing, and we have got down to this miserable figure of 156 in the year.
We were told last year that there were 10,000 applications on the waiting list of the Board of Agriculture, but I understand that since then that list has been gone through, and a certain number of what may be called ineffective applications have been withdrawn, and that the number has been reduced to 8,326. In the Land Report that number has been further whittled down, and further ineffectives have been withdrawn. It has been reduced to 4,337. I would like to take that; number—4,337—which is given in the appendix of the Land Report, and to point out that if we go on with land settlement in Scotland at the present rate of 156 a year, it will take 29 years to work off that list. By the time that list is worked off and at the present rate at which applications are now coming in, namely, about 400 a year, there will still be 11,200 to be dealt with. The position is perfectly ridiculous. It is stated in the Land Report that it is possible that the application for land will not be as keen in the future as it has been in the past, but, as has already been said, there is nothing to indicate that the applications are not coming in. All of us who have anything to do with the Highland; of Scotland know perfectly well what a demand there is for land. As soon as land can be made available, plenty of first-rate applicants come forward for it. I have not seen the evidence which has led the Land Committee to make that suggestion, but I venture to say that it is rather contrary to the figures we have before us as to the application and as to the rate at which they are coming in.
I should like to ask the Secretary of State to tell us very definitely if it is intended to extend land settlement in Scotland or not? We have come right up against it now. We think that 156 a year is practically nothing. We know that it will cost money. The figures have been worked out by the Land Committee, and we have all been pleased and sur- 699 prised to find that it costs less than some of us expected. For the settlement in the crofting counties, the average figure of cost since 1912 to the present day is £263. I would ask the Committee to compare that £263, which is the cost for making a settlement in the crofting counties, with the amount that would have to be spent on the dole over the same period of time. Which is the better investment? Surely, we need not discuss further the social advantages of settling people on the land. That has already been touched upon in the course of the Debate. I think my right hon. Friend below me referred to Section 40 of the Report of the Land Committee where they say there will be no difference of opinion as to the social results of the work of land settlement in the Highlands. We all know it. Previous Reports of the Board of Agriculture have shown how successful men have been very often under very difficult conditions.
The hon. Member for Forfar rightly said that the success of land settlement depends very often upon putting men in the right place and where there is proper transport available. If you put settlers down in the wrong place and without transport available, the chances are that the settlement will be a failure, but if you give the right men half a chance in the right place, land settlement is bound to be successful. We have seen it over and over again. I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to let us know definitely what is the policy of the Government. Do the Government intend to tackle the great scheme as it should be tackled, or are they to whittle it down as it has been whittled down in the past year?
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
A very grave state of affairs has been disclosed in these speeches and in these Reports. I view with dismay the almost practical abandonment of small-holding settlements, because I am a believer, a very strong believer, in these small holdings. I have had some small personal experiences of my own, and I know how profitable it is for a man to work a little bit of land with his own hands largely for his own consumption. He has, as I have said before, the three profits then. He has the producer's profit, which in ordinary marketing circumstances is very 700 small—the dealer and the shopkeeper take care of that—he has the dealer's profit, which is substantial, and he has the retailer's profit, which is large, all behind the buckle of his own waistbelt. Those who work for the use and consumption of their own households succeed.
If you could get what the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) pointed out, proper co-operative marketing, if you could bring the producer and consumer closer together, you would not only have solved the problem of agriculture but pretty well have solved the problem of the cost of living and the problem of civilisation. At the present moment the producer's goods are always intercepted by somebody who takes a much bigger rate off them than what the producer gets. I was talking the other day to somebody who was telling me about a certain commodity which he brings to market in respect of which there are six dealers. The dealer confessed to him that it was not the commissions, although they were 10 per cent., they made money out of. He said, "Every morning we all sell to each other and charge a commission and then it is when we sell afterwards we 'make good'. That is where the profit is." The secretary of one of the clubs in London of which I am a member asked why it was that salmon was entered at 2s., I think, in the Billingsgate record, while he was paying a charge of 2s. 6d. This was the charge contained in the official gazette, and he was calmly told that salmon was entered at the smaller price so as to enable the dealers to deal with the fishermen.
That is what is being done now in all markets. That is the real trouble. Where the question of marketing comes in, the small trader has not sufficient turnover to become a business man and learn the tricks of the trade. He is purely a producer. If he were in some co-operative association consisting of a few of the smallholders with a few commercial heads and the goods were massed together, there is no doubt there might be a very much bigger profit. In regard to eggs there was some co-operative arrangement for the assistance of the people of Orkney created by a Glasgow citizen which resulted in a large profit on Orkney eggs. They were getting 4d. a dozen for eggs in Orkney prior to the year 1925, and through a co-operative 701 association, which, I think, is still in being, the people in Orkney received 1s. 6d. a dozen for their eggs throughout the year. This is the result of cooperative marketing.
My hon. Friend the Member for Forfar (Sir H. Hope) hit the nail on the head regarding the Highlands when he said transport was largely at the bottom of the whole difficulty. It is no good the Board of Agriculture spending money on settlements if men are practically marooned with regard to transport both for incoming and outgoing goods. The Board of Agriculture spent £40,000 or £45,000 on an estate called Strontian. They settled a certain number of men there and enlarged some holdings. I do not think there were many of them, but the population of the district is about 500. A steamer calls there about once in 10 days and charges pretty well what it likes. There are no restrictions on its charges. It just takes up the position taken up by Highland transport practically since the War, namely, "Have you any money" "Yes." "Well, what we leave you of it is money you have made." They charge what they like. But what is the state of things at Strontian? There is neither pier nor any proper landing place. Not even a shed to protect goods such as bread, sugar or flour, which is liable to be, and often is, destroyed by the weather. There was a very large capital expenditure in buying this property, and yet not even a landing stage or place where they can shelter their stuff. The result is most unfortunate. Let me give the case of one good fellow, an ex-artilleryman with a very fine record of service, who has a nice house there. He told me that one day he had to drive sheep 22 miles to Loch Aline, and as it was along a motor road it took him a long time. He had his crop standing out, which he valued at between £40 and £50, and while he was away down came the rain and on his arrival home he found the stooks floating down the flooded river and his crop was destroyed. That was because there was no pier at Strontian. If there had been a pier he could have driven his sheep on board the boat and within an hour or two he could have got back and could have dealt with his crop.
These are the sort of things that are happening all over the Highlands. I 702 see that the travelling expenses, telegrams, in the Board of Agriculture cost nearly £300,000 per annum. Of that expenditure a very large part is supposed to be incurred in the Highlands. When I think how that money could be so admirably spent on piers, roads, better steamer transport, etc., I cannot help feeling that the Highlands have long asked for bread and have been given a stone. They have got nothing. The schemes that have, been devised for them have very largely meant the creation of bodies of officials. The Board of Agriculture does fine work in many ways, in the improvement of stock and in other matters which were referred to by the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson). That aspect of the Board's work is done very well, but it would have been done infinitely better if the Board had seen to the question of transport, piers and roads, and if they had also acted in the settlement of men on the land much as is done in Canada.
In Canada, they take men from all kinds of trades and occupations and settle them on the land, and some official goes from the agricultural college at the vital time of the year and shows the men exactly a hat they are to do. This is done in large areas. In small areas a good deal can be done in the way which was spoken of by the hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair).
A man can make a living by intensive agriculture out of a comparative bit of land. I read the other day of the case of a man rear Melbourne who was making a living o at of a very small bit of land, in close proximity to a town. But although the Highlanders live away from the great towns and are in small numbers to-day, they have lived in the Highlands in great numbers in days gone by. As evidence of the numbers and type of men who lived in the Islands in days gone by, I would quote from a book on the history of Skye, which states that:In the 40 years preceding the accession of Queen Victoria, the 'Misty Isle' had furnished for the public services 21 Lieut.-Generals and Major-Generals, 45 Lieuu.-Colonels, 600 Majors, Captains and Subalterns, 10,090 private soldiers, 120 pipers; four Governors of British Colonies, one Governor-General of India, and one Adjutant-General of the British Army. Moreover, 1,600 Skyemen fought in the British ranks at the Battle of Waterloo.703 That shows that there must have been a very large population which lived and throve there in the old days when so large a force came from one small Island. Splendid men they were, and they could live there again if they had proper facilities. In those days they lived under the clan system. There was no land owning in Scotland in the ordinary sense in those days. There were chiefs, but they were not landowners. They received the dues from their clansmen, not rents. As one chief said during that time, when there was some boasting by an English landowner about his rent roll: "My rent roll is 500 men." That system was broken up by the English Parliament in what they considered to be the interests of public peace. Great suffering went on in the Highlands during that time and onwards, and it is still clinging to the Highlands to this day. I am glad to see that there is a recognition of this fact in the Nairne report. For the first time, we find that one of the Committees on the land system in Scotland is getting past the political economists and realising that the truth in regard to nations and races also applies to individuals. The Old Book says:What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?I would say, what shall it profit a nation or a race if it gains any amount of wealth in industry if it loses its population or the best element of it? The Committee say, in their Report:There are, in the Islands and on the West Coast, congested communities on the fringes of sheep farms, living under conditions of extreme penury, but refusing to leave their homes.Why do they refuse to leave their homes? Because they will not go into great crowded cities to live. It is far better to live even in a condition of great penury, more or less in the open air, with the freedom of the glens or the Islands, than to be jammed in the dense populations of cities such as Dundee and Glasgow. The ordinary Highlander would far rather be living on a very small earning than go into the congested areas, and he is right. He is an individualist, an intense individualist. I am pleased to see that the Committee say:To apply the ordinary economic test to land settlement under such conditions would 704 be absurd. It can be shown that a large sheep farm, run by a skilled stockmaster with adequate capital and employing skilled shepherds, Will produce better and more stock than the same farm with the best bits of the land laid off in crofts, and the hill ground run as a club sheep farm. … But the comparison is between two entirely different things. A sheep farm is a commercial undertaking and has to he judged as such; a crofting community is a way of living and cannot be judged in terms of a profit-and-loss account.It all depends on what you call profit and loss. Will it produce better men or sheep? If you take at the end of the year the balance of profit, if you take that short view, you may call it profit and loss, but if you take the long view as to the necessity of keeping a splendid, virile population on the land, it is a different matter. I am glad to note in the Report that:The men may go away as seamen sailing from the great ports, or as seasonal workers in different occupations, returning at intervals to their homes.If you go ino any school in any of these Islands and ask the boys what they the going to do when they grow up, in most cases they will reply that they are going to sea, but they always come back to the crofts. They are a splendid national asset. I have sailed round the world and I have never been on a ship where I have not found some Argyllshiremen or Skvemen who were sailors but who intended some day to come back to their homes. I am very delighted to hear of the comparative cheapness of land settlement, but I think it can be improved very much. The Report tells us that there are congested communities living on the fringe of sheep farms. Why should they live on the fringe of sheep farms? Why not still further pursue the policy, if you can, of settling numbers of men on larger holdings? There must be land amongst these sheep-farms that would give settlement.
Another point that ought to be attended to is the question of the fishing industry. I was speaking to a descendant of a man whose forebears lived in the Island of Ulva, and he told me that 120 years ago there were between 200 and 300 homes of crofter fishermen there. These men were celebrated for their physique and character all over the British Empire. There were none of them under six feet in height; they were 705 men of great physical powers and well educated men, with their own schoolmaster supported largely by themselves. My informant showed me letters from his forebears, beautifully written in good English. These people lived on the produce of their crofts and on their fishing. Why is not fishing better protected to-day Why do we not take better care that the inshore fishing is not destroyed by trawlers from the fishing ports? I know that there are fishery cruisers; I was surprised to hear that there are seven of them. I have had complaints of how the trawlers destroy the fish of the crofter. The crofter can keep on with a comparatively small holding if he has the opportunity to be a fishermen, but that is denied him because of the depredations of the fishing trawlers.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) is entirely wrong. We have had some most extraordinary cases. We had one case not long ago where a boat was actually photographed and seen by a number of people doing the inshore damage; but, on the other hand, it is stated that when the photograph was supposed to be taken the boat was lying in Grimsby or some other harbour. Why do we not act as they do in the Island of Iceland or the Danes, where they never think of fining a man £100 for poaching; they fine him £1,000, and lay up the boat for a time. If that were done, that would help land settlement and would put many crofts which are now struggling on economic lines.
One of the particular difficulties of land settlement, which was referred to by the right hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson) in a somewhat gloomy tone, is the urbanising of our rural population, and that is largely due to the educational system. I remember a doctor in Kirkwall telling me that in his young days the boys were taken in April from the town of Kirkwall as herd-boys in their tender years and they returned in October- greatly improved in health and physique and much improved in their mental faculties and powers of observation. They were able to beat the boys of the slightly better-off classes who were not sent to be herdboys. They became natural horn agriculturists. They had been trained to the industry almost 706 from their infancy. They took naturally to it and became quite good agriculturists before they were long out of their teens. Now, he says, that sort of thing has been stopped. They stay there until they are 14 years old and then they are afraid of a cow and want an indoor job and will not take up agriculture. Agriculture is an industry that young people would naturally take to, but if you keep them away from it until they reach a certain age you will not get them interested in it. Our country schools ought to give far more scope for introducing the children to a study of agriculture. I do not mean the little garden I mean something really plots. I genuinely agricultural, some thing that will teach them the rearing of animals and cultivation of crops, something that will give them the real love of country life, and of agriculture. At the present moment all over Anglo-Saxon countries you hay e got this more or less scholastic education for the rising generation, and it is the schoolmaster more than anybody else that has driven our population off the land. The hon. Member for West Fife spoke of certain Islands. I do not know if he knows the Island of Canna he spoke of. It is a small island, the proprietor farms it, and employs nearly all the people that are on it and raises cattle. That is one of the needs of the Highlands. If there were more cattle there, they would tramp down more of the bracken, which is one of the curses of the Highlands. The real difficulty of the Highlands is the depopulation caused at the beginning of last century in the interests of sheep. The sheep drove the crofters off the land and the deep followed the sheep as they became more profitable.
I would ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to take up the question of repopulation. What was done in the case of Tiree where the people were all given crofts. If he did elsewhere what was done there, there would be a very considerable settlement again of these strongly individualistic highland people.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I am quite satisfied; he could work it under the powers he has. It is not only the Islands. I 707 could give him cases of more recent depopulation. The island of Coll, a particularly fertile island, has had its population more than halved since 1891. It used to be about 500. Now, more than half of them have departed, and their departure has been partly due to the freight troubles, the freight charges and the difficulty of getting their produce to the market. If the Secretary for Scotland will tackle this problem, as he is tackling it, and get the transport dealt with on a proper basis, get the Minister of Transport to give assistance in the provision of proper piers and proper roads, then I have not the slightest doubt that land settlement will become an easy matter, and we will have something like a return of the old healthy, vigorous population we had in past years.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I would like very much to follow my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) on his general considerations of why the Highlands are being depopulated and those who are left are in starvation. He told us that the Highlander is an individualist of individualists, and so the Highlands are in starvation. I take it that is the logic of the position.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I never said that they were in starvation. The average Highlander in any Island is in a much better condition of social prosperity than the majority of the hon. Member's constituents.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am not going to attempt to say in this House that the condition of my constituents is defensible under private capitalism in the towns, but I gather, from the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech and from other speeches, that the individual in the Highlands under individual landlordism is as badly off as my people in the towns. These individualists of individualists come here to appeal to the State to build piers and roads, and send thorn fishery cruisers.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Yes, I know we do, and we believe in free ferries, but you believe in individualism, and therefore you get MacBrayne. The points I wish to raise are points not previously dealt with 708 in the Debate, points in which I and many other people interested in Scottish agriculture are interested. First, I want to know what is the exact position with regard to the establishment of the dairy research station at the Auchincruive Estate. I gather from the Report that the matter is not satisfactorily settled, that the Research Institute is not yet in operation, although it must be six or seven years since the offer of the estate was made for this purpose. Is the Secretary of State still dilly-dallying with the offer so generously made by Mr. Hannah, and with the authorities of the Glasgow Institute and of the West of Scotland Agricultural College? Does he still persist in his policy of killing the Glasgow Veterinary College? I notice there is absolutely no reference to it in his Report. There is a very minor reference to the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College in Edinburgh. Do I take it, that, since he withdrew the grant from that college, he ceases to have any interest in it, and that his desire is that it should be wiped out at the earliest possible moment?
The third point I wish to ask is this. I am very interested to hear that the Empire Marketing Board has given considerable grants for agricultural research of one kind or another in Scotland. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman if all this research work for the Empire Marketing Board is done at the Rowatt Research Institute, or whether any of it is being done in the Glasgow College or in the Edinburgh College? I have heard the complaint made that the young men are not available for research work in agriculture. Any information that I have on this subject is that young men and women, who have received special training in agricultural science, are walking about unemployed. Men and women with agricultural degrees and agricultural diplomas are unable to find employment. This is a rather serious matter, because a very large proportion of those specially trained young men have been trained by special grants from the Ministry of Agriculture. They are put through their training in their agricultural colleges and the universities, they graduate, and then they walk the streets as unemployed, while we are then told that men and women are not available for agricultural research work. It may be true that not 709 every man who takes a general degree in agriculture is capable of the most abstruse research, but you are not giving them opportunities of learning the work of research if you concentrate all the agricultural research work in the Rowatt Institution at Aberdeen, rind deprive Glasgow and Edinburgh of the opportunities of ever doing it.
While I am on this point of the unemployment among young men and women, who have been specially trained for agriculture, I would indicate to this Committee that there are a number of people who think that the easy solution, the certain solution of unemployment, is to train town dwellers for agricultural work, but, if it be the case, as I am suggesting that a large proportion of the people, who have had the best possible education that this country can give at present for agricultural work, are not being found employment of any description, let alone employment that is in keeping with the special training they have received, then it seems to me not to hold out much hope of making a very speedy transfer of the unemployed industrial worker to the unemployed agricultural acres of this country. Those are the three points I wish to make.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
Perhaps it will be convenient if I reply to the Debate at this stage. I am very glad indeed that I have the opportunity of listening to the views of hon. Members from Scotland, not only upon the ordinary Estimates of the Board of Agriculture, and the work which they have been doing, but also the views which have been expressed upon the committee which I set up some time ago under the chairmanship of Sir Gordon Nairne. I should like to say that we are much indebted to the members of that committee for the painstaking way in which they carried out their work. I am sure I am expressing the views, not only of myself and of my own Department but of all Scottish Members, when I say that we much appreciate the clarity with which they have set out the problem they were asked to consider. It is, of course, a matter for regret that Mr. Campbell, owing to the state of his health, was not able to continue to sit upon that committee, but the House has already had its attention drawn to the fact that I have 710 recently received from him a very interesting and useful report upon the whole problem of agricultural education in Scotland, which, I hope, we may be able to use as a fresh starting point for agricultural improvements. The Committee will, I am sure, realise that it would be premature and, indeed, Impossible for me, to express any definite opinion upon the report submitted t o me by the Nairne Committee. I have, of course, read that report with great interest. It will be a little time before I in consultation with my Department, can come to a definite conclusion and, in the ordinary course, submit to the Government any proposals or changes.
Reference was made in the Debate to-day to a matter of no small importance, the recommendation made by the committee as to the possible policy for dealing with the small holdings problem in the non crofting counties. I am not going to express any opinion as to which solution should be taken on that matter. I think it is clear that the interpretation which the right hon. Gentleman put upon the tenure, that it was to be assimilated to the agricultural tenure in the Lowlands, with a safeguard in matters of excessive rent and of way-goings, was the essence of the proposal.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Let me make it quite clear. There will be no guarantee at all of security of tenure.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
There would be the guarantee of security of tenure which applies to the ordinary agricultural tenant, and it assimilates it to the same conditions as those of agricultural holdings in England and Wales. I am not expressing any opinion as to what, the Government may do, but it will require mature consideration before coming to any conclusion. Let me now turn to some of the questions which have been raised in this Debate. Comment has been made upon the salaries paid in the Board of Agriculture. I would point out that this year, in conjunction with other Departments, we have been trying to make economies in the general interests of the State. That necessitates, of course, a reduction of salaries. There has been a decrease in salaries, and, if we compare the years 1927 and 1928, there has been an actual decrease in the number of staff—I admit it is only small in number, six—and a decrease of £747 711 in salaries. If we add to that, as I think we are justified in doing, the amount saved under different heads in salaries, it amounts to over £1,000.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
Hon. Members must not forget that when they urge me to carry out great extensions of land settlement it means that the more land settlement progresses the more need there is for supervision and for planning. If we develop not only this particular side of land settlement but are to make progress on the scientific side as well—I am glad hon. Members are taking an interest in this matter, and I was very pleased to listen to the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton)—it becomes necessary to have a staff efficient for the duties which they have to perform. I want to refer to another economy which has been driven home to us because of the circumstances of the times. I refer to what has been said about the expenditure upon land settlement itself. To listen to some of the speeches in the Debate one would suppose that we were deliberately abandoning land settlement. That is not the case. It is true that there is a reduction of £100,000 under this head in the Estimates for this year, but the Committee must not assume that because this is the case there is going to be any appreciable departure in the work of settlement which has taken place during the last few years. We agreed to the reduction on this particular Vote this year on the assumption that the maximum amount of £175,000 would he available for the two following years, in which case the Board of Agriculture would be in a position to meet the existing commitments at the rate at which they have been maturing in recent years and in addition to make new commitments averaging £130,000 per annum for the next three years, at the same time having a reasonable reserve and margin for dealing with an acceleration of work and meeting commitments.
In the past three years, the Board have expended on land settlement, in 1924–25, £189,000; 1925–26, £131,000, and in 1926–27 £141,000. When I am asked whether I propose to proceed with a completely new development of land settlement at an 712 accelerated pace, of course, I cannot do so under the provision which is asked from the House at this period. All I can say about the future is that the Government must take into consideration the Report which we have recently received and the general financial circumstances of the country at the present time. In addition, the Committee must not forget the provisions which the Government are making in other respects in the Budget of this year which will have, no doubt, a far-reaching reaction upon the condition of those who work on agricultural land throughout the country. It has been suggested that there is a lack of co-operation between the Board of Agriculture and the Forestry Commission. I can assure the Committee that that is not the case. Like every other arrangement between two parties it may be that there is room for improvement, and I am very willing to explore any avenue which will bring them into closer contact, but I assure hon. Members that at the present moment there is the closest co-operation between these two bodies.
I turn now to a matter which has been referred to by mere than one hon. Member this evening, and that is the provision of money for agricultural drainage. I am well aware that this is one of the prime recommendations of the Commission on agriculture, and I agree that it is one of the most urgent problems with which we have to deal. I wish the circumstances were such that more money could be spent upon it, because there is no other service which is of more importance in dealing with the problem of the land. I can assure the Committee that Scotland has received her full share of the money that is being set aside for land drainage, and we have done our best to administer it on practical lines.
§ Mr. HARDIE
Do you not think you might drain the land of the water in the same way as you have drained it of its population?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
We have endeavoured to administer the money on practical lines. One hon. Member has suggested that we should only use the unemployed on these works. It is, of course, a very difficult thing to administer a fund of this kind without causing some friction between various applicants who apply for grants. The right hon. baronet may rest assured that we are very con- 713 scious of the necessity of trying to keep a balance not only between the various parts of the country but between the various classes of holders. It is clearly one of the conditions that, when drainage operations are carried out, the schemes must be submitted for approval. That, of course, takes time. They have to be examined to make sure that they will be effective: that the money will not be wasted. That is one of the conditions of a Government grant, and, in addition, it is impossible to give direct grants to small crofters except for the material, because that is their only expenditure. If, on the other hand, the crofter employs someone to do the work and can show that he is doing so on the same conditions as other people, that claim will be considered. I agree with the Committee that as and when we can get more help in this matter of drainage it should receive support from the Department and myself.
I turn to the problem of agricultural organisation. Nothing will do more to help agriculture than agricultural organisation, but the essence of it is to get the agricultural community really to take the matter up for themselves. I am glad to think that the past year has shown a great advance in this direction. We have had two striking examples of the value and possibilities of agricultural organisation, first, under the wool scheme and, secondly, under the milk pool. I hear with great regret that there are those in this wool combine, who, because they happened to be offered temporarily some particular rise, are inclined to be led away. If that is the way in which those who interest themselves in these things are going to treat agricultural organisation, let me say quite plainly, it is bound to fail. I say, and I hope this will reach a wider circle than I am speaking to at the moment. that they will realise that it is only by real co-operation and by sticking together that they can get full advantage of this scheme. I trust that the milk pool, which is operating now in the West of Scotland, may shortly extend its operations into the East of Scotland and that before long we may have a complete network linking up and giving enormous advantages to the milk producers in Scotland.
Just a few words on the more scientific side of agriculture—the question of the 714 agricultural colleges. I regret that the agricultural colleges should feel that either I or my Department have failed to take a real interest in their representations or in the question of the salaries of the staffs. Let me say at once that the salaries which have been paid in the, past to the workers in our agricultural colleges have unfortunately been low and, obviously, one of the reasons why we have lost some good men in Scotland has been the fact that they have been tempted elsewhere. But it was essential in dealing with this problem that I should come to an understanding with the colleges themselves that they should give a larger measure of support and make a better balance between the State contribution and the local contribution. The colleges made certain representations to me. I have met representatives of the colleges personally on two occasions and have discussed this subject with them. I believe that we have come to a settlement of the salary part of this problem. I gather from what has been said in this Debate that the expression of dissatisfaction with the salaries referred mainly to the county organise' s. When the proposed increase of salaries was intimated to the colleges last Oct 3ber the three colleges jointly asked for reconsideration of the scale with a view to the maximum being increased to £500. This was granted, after representations to the Treasury on behalf of myself and the Board of Agriculture. Now one of the colleges and one only comes along, and that the North of Scotland College, and asks for this maximum to be again increased by another £50.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Are the scales that the right hon. Gentleman has approved for lecturers in the agricultural colleges lower than the scales that he has approved for teachers in secondary schools throughout the country?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
All I can say is that, as a result of representations which I have been able to make to the Treasury, we have come to a settlement which was accepted by the colleges and which goes back to 1926, and that it is at any rate 715 a vast improvement on the conditions which existed when we discussed this problem a year ago.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
Is it quite fair to put it in that way? After all, I did my best to get improved conditions, and when the conditions which I originally submitted for the consideration of the Treasury were again questioned I returned to the Treasury and succeeded in getting a further concession. There must, of course, be some limit to these negotiations. We have recognised the necessity for improving the conditions. I am at one with the hon. Gentleman, and indeed with all my colleagues, in saying that we must do all that is possible to get the best scientific service that we can in Scotland.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Would it not be possible to consult the people who represent those most directly concerned, that is, the association of the college staffs, which would be able to give the right hon. Gentleman the point of view of the people concerned, who have to receive these salaries?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
My Board have been in consultation with all those in the colleges and I have myself met in consultation those who really are the principals, who know all the circumstances and can explain to me all the details. I have done everything that I can to improve the conditions. Let me turn now to the question of the work which the colleges in Scotland are doing. Those who have read Mr. Campbells report must feel that, great as is the progress we have made in Scotland, there is still much left to be done. We have set our minds towards trying to get a, proper co-ordination of work between the three colleges. The assistance which comes not only through my department, but which has been given and may be increasingly given by the Empire Marketing Board, has all been directed towards making this research under the best possible conditions. Roughly speaking, Aberdeen is concerned mainly with animal nutrition, Edinburgh with animal breeding, and Glasgow now and increasingly with milk. If we can get, as I hope we shall 716 at a later stage, further conferences between the colleges and a close co-ordination of work between them, we are likely to get the best results.
With regard to Auchincruive, the hon. Member for Bridgeton asked whether that matter was now proceeding. That offer was made to the West of Scotland College of Agriculture and was not accepted. I invited the donor, Mr. Hannah, to place the estate at my disposal, and I am glad to say that I have been able to accept it, and to come to an arrangement with the West of Scotland College by which Auchincruive will be developed not only for ordinary agricultural teaching and administration, but will before long, we hope, be the headquarters of what is now the dairy school at Kilmarnock, and will have, in addition, the scientific research station placed there. We are taking a certain amount of money in these Estimates to begin the development of that estate, and I would only say now that the Government are greatly indebted to Mr. Hannah for the generosity of his gift and for the great patience that he has shown over a long period of very difficult negotiation which is now happily brought to an end.
I am glad to think that there is a general awakening throughout the agricultural community in Scotland in favour of agricultural research. Our problem is not only to find the best scientific minds to investigate these problems, but to translate into language which can be understood of the agriculturist the results which are achieved in the laboratory. I hope that by some system of winter classes or short courses, or by improving the conditions of those who visit the various institutions, we may increasingly be able to strengthen them. There is growing up a younger generation of farmers who are taking a keen interest in this problem, and the more we can stimulate that interest the more likely is agriculture to flourish. I hope the Committee will realise that there is no lack of good-will on the part of the Board of Agriculture in developing these services.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
As to the work of the colleges of agriculture, I pointed out that the work of the North of Scotland College is going to suffer this year a severe restriction in connection with the 717 travelling expenses and allowances of the College's organisers, that in the crofting counties, which need the organisers most, the allowances have been cut down most, and that if the demands of the Treasury have to be met, the Chairman and Secretary of the College tell me, it will mean that the work in those districts will have to be abandoned altogether. They have implored the Secretary of State to give them an opportunity of discussing the situation with him. Will he not meet them and discuss the matter with them so as to avert what would be a catastrophe?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I was in Aberdeen some time ago and then discussed the problem. It was stated to me that if certain reductions that the Treasury expected were made, they would have to curtail their work. But if certain counties in Scotland will make no contribution, and if the services of the College are regarded as of small importance by the counties, obviously then the service must be curtailed. I am hopeful, however, that these counties will realise that these services are of value to them, and that they will make a contribution. If they do so, I do not doubt that a solution of the problem will be reached. I hope that a solution will he reached. Anything that I can do to facilitate that end I shall do.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Will you allow the Governors an opportunity of discussing this question with you in an interview?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I have already seen the Governors upon two occasions, and have discussed the matter. I think the case must be left at present with the Governors, to bring pressure on the counties that are not giving them the necessary support. If and when they find that that is impossible, I shall be quite willing to meet the Governors. I do not know that at the moment I can usefully add anything else.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
All I can say upon that question is that, following upon the recommendation of a Committee, the grant to the Veterinary College of Glasgow has been withdrawn. Of course I realise the feeling of some of those who are connected with the service, but I think that the service of the veterinary 718 profession would be best served, in a small country like Scotland, if this side of it were concentrated in one place. If all those students who are now going to Glasgow College went to Edinburgh College, the arrangement would be infinitely more efficient in every way for the general service of the veterinary profession in Scotland. I regret that in the circumstances I cannot hold out the least hope that there will be any revision of the decision which was come to after very careful investigation.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.