§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
In the first place, I must apologise to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland for having had to make a slight alteration in the proposed programme. It was intended that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) should open the Debate and deal with agricultural matters, but in his absence I propose, in the first instance, to raise the question of fisheries. I make no apology for asking the attention of the House for a short time to certain aspects of fishery affairs in Scotland. The industry is one of great national importance. The part the fishermen played in the War is known to everybody, and it must be a matter of serious concern to all to see an industry of this size and importance getting into difficulties.
I wish, first, to refer particularly to harbours. The harbours of a country are as much a national asset as are its roads, and it is a serious national loss if harbours fall into disrepair and become out-of-date and unable to accommodate the vessels for which they were intended. Although many of the harbours to which I refer are mainly fishing harbours, they are also harbours to which other vessels go, and, when I speak of them as a national asset, I am thinking of them, not only as fishery harbours, but as harbours to which trading vessels and the smaller vessels of His Majesty's Navy go in the course of their duties. Unfortunately, the harbours of Scotland, particularly, on the east and north-east coast, have of late years got into serious difficulties, due to a variety of causes. The conditions under which the fishing industry is carried on have altered considerably during the last 25 years. Boats used to be of a much smaller size and were driven by wind power, but those smaller 1748 sailing boats have given place to larger steam-drifters and steam-trawlers, and also to fairly large motor boats. Harbours built originally for small-sized craft are in many cases proving inadequate to the demands made upon them to accommmodate boats of a larger character which need a greater depth of water and a greater area of deep water inside the harbour.
The bad conditions were quite apparent before the War, but the War had a serious effect upon the fishing industry. At that time, many of the harbours were closed by order of the Government, and the fishermen were not allowed to go to certain grounds to catch fish. A very large number of fishermen entered the national service and were employed on mine-sweepers and patrol boats. They were engaged in a most hazardous service which they carried out to the admiration of everybody. It may interest the House to know that the actual number of fishing boats taken from the fishing industry and engaged directly in war operations was 302 trawlers, 329 drifters, and 133 motor boats. All those boats were taken for active service during the War. The fishermen were engaged in duties on those boats, and no fishing, or at any rate very little, was going on, with the result that there was a very great loss of revenue. On this point, I should like to quote from the Report of the Fishery Board for 1921 which says:The restriction of fishing operations during the War and the subsequent depression in the industry have so decreased the revenues of the harbour authorities that it has been impossible for them to keep the harbours in a proper state of repair, much less to effect improvements, and consequently State assistance has become even more vitally necessary if the accommodation is to be made suitable for the requirements of the fishing fleet.Those facilities have become inadequate and obsolete since the War. A certain amount of money has been spent upon them, but the amount has been quite insufficient to keep the harbours in the condition in which they ought to be maintained. In many cases, repairs have not been carried out, and the harbours are badly silted up, because the harbour authorities have not been able to use the dredger supplied by the Fishery Board. Some years ago the Fishery Board obtained a dredger for the use of these harbours where silting up takes place, 1749 and the report on this question which was issued in 1927 says:The dredging scheme was intended to be self-supporting, but, in view of the financial straits of the majority of the authorities, the Treasury sanctioned an arrangement whereby an authority not in a position to pay immediately the full cost of dredging might have half the cost regarded as a deferred loan not payable for a period of five years, and bearing interest which would be allowed to accumulate and be added to the principal sum at the end of the five-year period.They go on to say:As has been explained in previous reports, the serious financial position of the harbours has, notwithstanding the above concession, prevented them from taking full advantage of the scheme, and during 1927 the dredger was only partly employed.That is an extremely unsatisfactory state of affairs. Here you have a dredger supplied by the Fishery Board for the express purpose of keeping the harbours open, and the authorities are in such a bad financial state that they are not able to make use of Treasury assistance at the reduced terms which have been approved by the Treasury. The arrears of debt which are piled upon the harbours have increased and accumulated during past years with the serious result that the harbour authorities tried to do their best to keep their heads above water have had to increase their dues charged to the fishing folk, and this places another severe tax on the industry. In some instances, this has amounted to £3 per boat, plus 5d. per pound on each cran as landing dues. A charge of this kind means over £50 per annum on a single boat, and from that fact alone it will be readily realised what a vicious circle the fishermen are in.
The harbours are falling out of repair, and the harbour authorities are unable to meet their obligations. When they endeavour to do so, they are obliged to put a severe tax on an industry which is struggling at the present time under very adverse circumstances. The other day I asked for a return of the accumulated loans outstanding on the harbours, and the amount which was necessary to meet those charges. When that return is obtained it will be realised what a dead weight there is on the harbours, which will have to be relieved by some very drastic measure. It is quite hopeless to expect some of these small harbours to 1750 meet the heavy burden which has been piled upon them during the war, and which they are now absolutely unable to meet. That is a state of things with which we ought to deal at once.
I submit to the Government that the only way in which this problem can be satisfactorily approached is by having a review of the whole position. The industry should be treated as a great national concern, which must not be allowed to get into arrears. The harbours are a great national asset and they should be relieved of this deadweight of debt which it is impossible for them to meet under present circumstances, and restarted on a new financial basis. I would like to quote the opinion of various authorities, such as curers and people definitely interested in the fishing industry, who took part in a meeting which was held at Yarmouth last August. Those people represented different places in Scotland, and they were all unanimous that this deadweight of debt, very largely caused by the War, was having a very depressing effect on the industry; that the harbour authorities themselves were quite unable to throw that burden off their shoulders, and were not able to take the steps which will have to be taken in the future if the fishing industry is to regain its old position.
The Government must realise that these small harbours will never be able to pay off these heavy burdens and they must provide assistance and relieve them of these debts. It has not yet been possible to ascertain what effect the derating schemes proposed by the Government will have in reducing the harbour dues which are now charged. I made some inquiries quite recently from the Fishery Board, but they were not in a position to give me any information as to what relief would be gained in this respect. I shall be very glad if the Secretary of State for Scotland can give the House some information on that point, because it is a matter which is exercising a good many of the local authorities. There will be a certain amount of derating on the freight transport hereditaments, but how much that will amount to, and how much benefit will be passed on to the fishing industry is a point on which the industry would be very glad to have information if the Secretary of State can give it.
1751 I should like now to pass from the question of harbours to the question of markets, and here I am referring more particularly to the herring industry. Before going into the question of the herring industry, however, I should like to bring to the notice of the Secretary of State for Scotland the high railway rates that are charged on fish sent down from Scotland. Some of the figures which I have ascertained are really hardly credible; I will quote only one or two. The freight from Fraserburgh to London on a barrel of herrings is 8s., while on the same barrel sent to an upper Baltic port the freight is only 2s. or 3s. A box of kippers, weighing 14 lbs., sells in London for 4s., and of that 4s. the railway carriage represents 1s. 1d. These are pretty serious charges on the industry. We made some effort, when the Local Government Bill was going through the House, to get fish included in the Schedules under which special rates and advantages could be given, but our efforts were not very successful, for it was pointed out that had the Amendment in question—the only one which came within the Rules of Order—been successful, it would only have reduced the rates on fish delivered to steelworks, which was rather a ridiculous result. Still, the effort was made, mainly with the object of drawing the attention of the Government to the heavy rates that are charged on fish sent from ports in the North of Scotland to the markets in the centre and South of England, and any steps that can be taken by the Government to secure that the fishing industry is not treated worse than the agricultural industry in this matter would be greatly to its advantage.
With regard to the marketing of herrings, the question of the Russian market has been raised many times in this House, but I never hesitate to raise it again, because it is a question of vital importance to the herring fishing industry. Of the herrings landed in Scotland, something like 62½ per cent. are cured and barrelled for export, only the smaller proportion being consumed fresh, smoked or kippered. Cured herrings form the bulk of the export trade, and in pre-War days the greater proportion of the exported herrings went to Russia. It is not necessary for me to detail past history, but the fact 1752 remains that the Government in power do not look upon Soviet methods with a very friendly eye, and that has led them into what, I think, is the unfortunate position of refusing to encourage trade with the Russian people, which is a matter entirely apart from the views that anyone may hold as to the political methods and ideas prevailing in that country. I am very glad to see that an important trade delegation is on its way or just about to start to Russia from this country, with a view to opening up trade there, and that on that delegation there are going to be two representatives of the herring industry.
We are given to understand that the great difficulty which stands in the way of opening up trade with Russia is the question of credits. How far the trade delegation will be able to take any steps or make any arrangements to get over that difficulty, we are, of course, unable to say at the present time, but I think it will be found that the question of credits will be one of the first questions with which they will have to deal. I appealed some little time ago for the addition of Russia to the. Schedule of countries to which export credits might be given, but the Government refused, and said that it was open to private traders to push their trade and make what arrangements they liked. I must say that I regretted the attitude then adopted by the Government because I think they rather went out of their way to show a hostile attitude where a kindly word might have been very useful. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland to-day will take this opportunity of saying such a kindly word. I do not ask him to express the view that the Government's attitude should be altered, but I do ask him, at any rate, to take this opportunity of saying a kindly word in the hope that our trade with Russia may increase. It is not asking for very much, but it might do a great deal in helping out trade. I am not speaking on behalf of Russia, but entirely in the interests of our own people. I think that in our own interests a kindly word expressing hope that trade may be re-established may be of considerable use to the industry, and I do ask the Secretary of State, if he can see his way to make some expression of that sort, to do so this afternoon.
1753 Some attention was drawn the other day to a rather unusual winter catch of herrings at Buckie, or rather, at the herring port on the western side, where the catch was turned back into the sea because there were no means of dealing with it. That attracted a good deal of public attention. It is always most unsatisfactory when good food has to be thrown into the sea, especially when there are many people who are hungry and only too anxious to get hold of it. I should like to know whether, now that the Government are supervising the administration of the fund for distressed miners and are adding £1 to every £1 of public subscription, any arrangements are being made to secure that, in the event of an exceptional landing of fish of that sort, the fish shall be sent to the distressed areas rather than that it shall be thrown back into the sea. I know that there are difficulties in the way, and that it is not an easy matter to deal with, but I do ask the Government to let us know whether, with that incident in their mind, they have taken any steps to secure that such a thing shall not happen again, and that good fish shall not be thrown away when there are hungry people ready to eat it.
Apart from the question of the Russian market, which I have already touched upon, there is no doubt that a good deal might be done in finding new markets. The trade itself has done a great deal in endeavouring to open up new markets to take the place of those which they have lost, but it is rather astonishing to note that certain countries of Europe take practically none of our herrings at all. For instance, Spain and Portugal take none, and other countries in the Mediterranean take none. A trial shipment of about 35 barrels was made to Palestine last year, which met, I believe, with considerable success and may be the beginning of trade there. We know that cured herring is not a suitable article for export to very hot countries, but there are parts of the Mediterranean and the East of Europe where, certainly in the winter season, there are opportunities for opening up fresh trade, and in that respect a good deal might be done by instructions to our Consular officers. We have a great network of Consular officers all over Europe, and, if they were given instructions to make inquiries and 1754 collect and send home information, and if, when it came home, it were not pigeon-holed but published for the benefit of those interested, I think that a great extension of our markets in Europe might be found.
Then I come to another market where nothing is being done at present, but where Canada is already trying to make an opening, and that is in tropical Africa, where there are millions of our subjects, most of them fish eaters, and many of them very well off, whose ordinary food is uninteresting, yams or rice, to which they like to add something tasty; in fact, the more tasty the fish the more they like it. Canada has done a good deal in canning herring of all sizes, from the small herring of the sardine size up to the full-grown fish, sending them to Ceylon and Malaya. I should like to know whether anything could not be done by way of canning, in suitable receptacles for up country transport in Africa, to see if an opening cannot be made in that direction, because there is undoubtedly a great possibility and the chance of getting a market for canned herring. There is also the question of a hard cure for cod. The question of a hard cure is one that means scientific research. Some efforts have been made in that direction in Canada and I have been in communication with the Fishery Board on the subject, and they have promised that the matter will not be lost sight of. I should like to see it pressed forward, because there, again, in the tropical markets, if you can get a hard cure of fish that can be tied up in bundles and carried on the natives' heads up country, there are great possibilities. When an industry finds itself in a bad way—it does not matter what industry it is—the first thing to look for is the possibility of extension to new markets, and I want very strongly to press these possibilities of the tropical markets of Africa, because I am sure, if we can once devise a method of cheap curing of fish for the natives, the possibilities of the markets that might be opened up are staggering. I should like to ask the Secretary of State to see that that question of research into methods of cure suitable for tropical markets should be pressed forward.
A question that is of vital interest to the whole industry is that of credits. This is a very difficult and thorny sub- 1755 ject, and it is very closely connected with the question of new markets, and the recovery, particularly, of the Russian market as far as herring fishing is concerned. The last report of the Fishery Board for Scotland states that 82 per cent. of the drifter fleet are pre-War boats and that 41 per cent. are more than 20 years old. The whole fleet is ageing rapidly and will have to be replaced. It may be argued that it is a wrong method to increase the catching capacity of the fleet when its capacity now is more than sufficient to meet the demands of the markets that are available, but we hope shortly to recover some of these markets, and also to provide new ones, and it would be an extremely serious thing if the existing fleet were allowed practically to become useless. You have this fleet getting older every year, having to be patched and repaired, costing more to run and getting less efficient. I wish to direct attention to the importance of not letting the fleet down. I do not say increase it or give credits for building boats which will be in commission in addition to those now in commission, but steps ought to be taken shortly to inquire into the position and see how credits can be best applied for replacing the existing fleet as they gradually go out of use.
Before the War a drifter cost £3,600; now it costs about £6,000, and that is a figure entirely beyond the powers of the ordinary share fisherman, and, if some assistance is not given, I am afraid we shall see boats going out of commission, those engaged in the industry going into other lines, and the younger men who ought to be following on going abroad, in fact, we have seen that already. There has been a good deal of emigration from the Scottish fishing ports, because the younger generation do not see the chances that their fathers had of becoming share-owners and eventually owners of boats, and it would be an exceedingly serious thing for Scotland if this industry, supported by what I may call the cream of our population, should be allowed to get down below a point at which it would find difficulty in recovering. Of course, if we get back the Russian market, the question of credit would very largely solve itself. The difficulty is finding credit for an industry that is on 1756 the down grade. An industry that is on the up grade can much more easily get credit than one that is in difficulties. The serious problem that has to be faced is that the fleet may get to a point at which it will be extremely difficult and costly to replace it, and, worse than that, that we shall not have the fishermen ready to take the part in the industry that their fathers used to do. The Prime Minister, in his election address, promised an inquiry into the whole matter. When I raised the question a short time ago, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries said the English Department was inquiring into it. Although no actual commission of inquiry has been appointed, they had always got their eye on the question of credits and were ready to consider any proposition that might be put up. I should like to know what has been done in Scotland in this matter. Has attention been given to this question which is said to be so seriously engaging the attention of the Fishery Board.
I should like to refer to the very vexed question of the trawling area in the Moray Firth and the Clyde. The Secretary of State for Scotland will have realised what great interest and excitement has been aroused by the proposal to throw open a certain area on the Clyde. I understand that no final order has yet been made with regard to it. I do not know whether the time has yet expired after which an order would be made with regard to the Clyde area, but the questions which were raised by the proposal to throw open that area are in their nature very similar to those questions which have been raised in the Moray Firth. Although the question of the territorial waters within which fishing may not take place by foreign fishing boats is one of international importance, and any question of making arrangements whereby foreign and British boats may receive at least equal treatment in what may be called home waters, is not one entirely for ourselves, but also concerns other countries. I should like to ask the Secretary of State if he can give us any information as to what is being done to arrive at some satisfactory solution of the very thorny problem to which I have referred. I have endeavoured to confine my remarks to the smallest possible compass, but 1757 the questions on which I have touched are questions of very great and vital importance to the fishing industry of Scotland, and I sincerely hope that the Secretary of State will be able to give us some satisfactory replies to the questions I have raised.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
I am sure that although there may be, on the part of some Members of the House, some surprise at the choice by the party to which I have the honour to belong of Scottish questions again for the subject of this afternoon's Debate, seeing that we have spent several weeks to a large extent in discussing Scottish local government, that surprise, I am sure, will be confined to Members from England and Wales; for Scottish Members, irrespective of party, will agree not only as to its importance, and the very wide range of matters for discussion, but also that if you consider the condition of the people, the state of trade, the unemployment statistics or any other criterion of the material well-being of the people of these islands, you will find that, although there are very black spots in England and Wales, broadly speaking the conditions are far worse in Scotland than they are in England or Wales. That is not very surprising if you consider that it is upon those industries which have suffered worst from the policy or the neglect of the Government—coal mines, agriculture, the fishing industry—that we in Scotland depend in far larger proportion for our prosperity and the health of our economic life than is the case in England and Wales. The problem is, of course, to some extent a matter of administration, but it goes very much deeper than that. It is really bound up with the whole policy of the Government and with their attitude towards these problems.
I do not wish to refer to the fishing industry, which has been so adequately dealt with by my hon. Frind the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir E. Hamilton). There is, however, one point to which I would like to draw the attention of the Secretary of State, because it is a point which particularly affects that very important fishing harbour, the first of the fishing harbours on the East Coast of Scotland which happens to be in my own constituency, namely, Wick. Whereas my hon. Friend was absolutely right, and 1758 I support every word he said as to the importance of this harbour debt question, and the importance of having it thoroughly dealt with, so as to get this crushing load of debt off the back of the harbours, we in Wick, and I believe one or two other harbours, have a special claim upon the Government, because our harbour at Wick was closed during the War. Not only did that mean that we were unable to get the revenue which we were otherwise entitled to get, but, although it was closed during the War by the fiat of the Admiralty, by the action of the Government, during the time it was closed the Treasury officials actually went on totting up the arrears of interest and the instalments on the loan, until they came to the figure of £18,000, in addition to our ordinary debts, for the time the harbour was closed, and when no revenue could possibly come in. Although I thoroughly support what my hon. Friend said about the importance of dealing even more generously with this crushing load of debt upon the harbours, that certainly is an urgent question which ought to be tackled without delay.
I was going to refer more particularly, however, to the question of agriculture. I am very far from denying that the position of agriculture in Scotland is not quite so disastrous as it is in England. I think that is very largely due to the skill, energy and vigour of our Scottish farmers and smallholders, and to the farm servants, who are recognised all over the world as some of the finest skilled labour to be found anywhere. Their loyalty, their hard work and their love of their calling have been conspicuous, and have been one of the mainstays of the industry in that country. But although things are not quite so bad in Scotland as they are in England, we do feel that, to a large extent, we are fighting a losing battle. It has been fought with great pluck, and on some fronts we are making ground, but there are other fronts where, if only we could get a little of that help that we feel the Government can give, that the organised community can give at this turning point, to deal with certain questions to which I shall refer, it would open up new prospects of hope to the industry. I said that there were some fronts on which we were advancing, and there is one matter in which this 1759 Government, and particularly the Secretary of State, has done a large amount of good work. I refer to the question of agricultural research. It is one which, I know, has been very near the heart of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman), who did a great deal to advance the cause when he was Minister of Agriculture in England, and we see now in Scotland those splendid institutes, the Plant Breeding Institute, the Animal Breeding Institute, the Animal Disease station in Edinburgh, the Animal Nutrition station in Aberdeen, and, I would add, the Seed Testing station in Edinburgh, all doing admirable work which, by conferring some degree of immunity from disease upon plants and animals, and by finding means of curing disease and destroying noxious pests, will tend to reduce the costs and to increase the potentialities of agriculture.
All this work has been pushed forward with energy during the last few years, and we are undoubtedly, in these ways, making discoveries which will affect the health of future generations. In saying that, I have in mind particularly the very important research into milk consumption and its effect upon school children which is familiar to all Members of this House, and which, I hope, will provide a starting point, a spring of activity, which will be used by this Government, or by future Governments, to bring home to the people the physical advantages of milk consumption and its advantages in conferring upon the youth of the country greater mental energy, as has been proved by this research; and, therefore, increase its consumption to the advantage of the producers of milk in Scotland. I hope that these labours will be pressed forward, and in all this research, as I say, the Government have done very good work, and have assisted to the best of their power in the last few years.
Although this research work is admirable, there are two very strong criticisms which have to be made of the Government's agricultural policy, even viewed from this angle, which, as I say, is the most favourable angle for the Government it is possible to find. First, the means of conveying to the farmers the results of this research are deficient. It 1760 is being done to a very considerable extent and, considering the resources at their disposal, with great ability by the three agricultural colleges of Scotland at the present time, but they are hampered in their work by the exiguous resources at their disposal, and by the fact that they are unable to pay salaries equal to those paid in other educational establishments of comparable value, or anything approaching the salaries paid to men and women for doing similar work in England. All this is hampering their work at the present time, because they have no assured or adequate source of income on which to rely. It is time that the whole organisation of this research and educational work was taken in hand. I have reason to believe that the Secretary of State himself is to some extent of that opinion, and I should like to know if he can make any statement to the House as to what his intentions are, and whether he does not think it is time to take the organisation of this research and educational work in hand, so as to render more efficient and to accelerate the conveyance of this information in a useful form, so that it can be demonstrated practically in the sight of the farmer in the locality in which he lives.
Secondly, and far more important, is the fact that the farmer is so weighed down, and so hampered by antiquated, unnecessary and obsolete restrictions, that he is not merely stopped from making the best use of such products of this research work as are conveyed to him, but he has not been offered opportunities or means to enable him to adapt his practice to the new truths which science and hard experience are bringing home to him. On the contrary, so far from this being done at the present time, we see on all hands the deterioration of the land. We see it getting more and more waterlogged, and we see less and less use being made of it, and we cannot acquit this Government of responsibility for what is a disastrous tendency in our economic life. In no direction has this apathy of the Government been more striking than in their attitude towards the question of smallholdings and land settlement. I believe that it is a vitally important policy. They treat it as an unimportant policy, as a little side-show of agriculture, a little Liberal fad. It is my submission that smallholdings and family farming should be the foremost 1761 feature of a national agricultural policy, It would be a favourable opportunity for the solution of some part of our unemployment problem, and to my mind it should be regarded as a great Imperial policy without which there will be no adequate solution of that question of Empire migration for which this Government have, for the past four or five years, been trying quite ineffectively to find a solution.
Some hon. Members opposite talk, more often outside than inside this House, as if the Empire is the appendage of their party, and yet with this vast majority of 200 over all parties in this House, and with an incalculable majority in another place, they have been in power for four or five years, and not only have they produced no new policy to deal with this question of Empire migration, but they have not even been able to work the policy which was provided for them by the Coalition Government. They have not even been able to spend the money and use the resources provided for them under the Empire settlement scheme. Why? It is my submission that there can be no solution of the problem of Imperial migration until you tackle it from the angle of settlement here at home. They tell you in the Dominions and in the Colonies that they do not want our unemployed dumped there. They want men with some knowledge and experience of the land. How are you to get those men unless you settle them here at home first? Give them some knowledge of the land, reclaim some of our waste and waterlogged acres first, give them knowledge it that way, settle them on small holdings here; then you can rely upon their sons and daughters willingly going forth in that old Scottish spirit of enterprise and help to solve this great question of the distribution of population in our Empire. At the present time, instead of spending our racial income we are dissipating our racial capital, and the emigration agents are going round the countryside scouring it, taking away the best men, men we cannot spare at the present time, the men we want at home to populate and to cultivate and make the best use of our national resources. That is why I think we are tackling this question from the wrong angle. You will not get a solution of that great Imperial question unless you first of all tackle land settlement here at 1762 home and make the best use of our land resources in our own homeland. So much for the Imperial standpoint.
I would look at it mainly from the standpoint of our own interests at home. On the importance of small holdings and family farming, we have a mass of testimony to which the right hon. Gentleman cannot shut his eyes. There are the lessons of other countries, countries like Holland, Belgium, and Denmark, which have made great strides, which have reconstructed their agricultural life, and which are now holding out against agricultural depression far better than the countries which are depending on a system of large scale farming. I could quote a great many authorities, but I do not want to waste the time of the House. I will, however, quote one authority which the right hon. Gentleman cannot ignore, and that is the agricultural tribunal of inquiry which was appointed by the Conservative Government in 1923. One of the principal recommendations of these very authoritative Commissioners was that the Government should formulate a scheme which could be put into operation at an early date for settling suitable applicants on the land. Discussing another possible policy of giving subsidies to farmers of arable land, in connection with the policy of small holdings, they say that the former depends on certain broad decisions of policy, but that:As a measure of efficiency for the whole industry and in fairness to the skilled labourer, the small holdings policy is right, in any case.That is very important testimony. It is the testimony of very able men, and it is the testimony of the tribunal to which the Government of that day, of which the right hon. Gentleman himself was a member, appealed. Since then, we have had the appointment of the Nairne Committee. This was a committee appointed by the present Government the year before last. The committee reported last year. We on these benches were very suspicious of that committee. We knew that a number of men appointed to that committee had openly criticised small holdings. We knew that on the whole their feelings were adverse to small holdings, but they proved themselves to be a very "Daniel come to judgment," for when the Report was published, we found that they proclaimed the benefits 1763 of small holdings. I need hardly add, because it is known to hon. Members in all parts of the House, that the Board of Agriculture, now the Department of Agriculture, in successive reports, have pointed to, and have illustrated by facts and figures, the success of small holdings in Scotland. Why has there been no advance made? Why, far from any advance being made, far from matters remaining stationary, have we steadily gone back under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman?
It certainly cannot be said that there is no demand for land in Scotland. I have here the figures which were brought out by the Nairne Committee. We can see from these figures that there are at the present time 7,600 unsatisfied applicants for land. The right hon. Gentleman may say that that is not a fair figure to take and that some of these people—one often hears it said by hon. Gentlemen opposite—are unfit for farming, that they are inefficient, that they have not the capital; there are all sorts of difficulties about them. At any rate, it is perfectly fair to say that there are these 7,600 applicants, and the Nairne Committee divides them into three categories. The first is the active list of people suitable in every respect, with the capital, able to enter the holdings now, willing to take holdings anywhere. Of the people situated like that for whom there is no possible excuse for not providing small holdings at the present time there are 2,129 ready to go in at any moment. Of these, no fewer than 676 are ex-service men who have been reported on as having capital and being in every way fit to enter upon holdings at the present time.
Take those who are what you call on the suspense list; that is to say, those who are in every way suitable in character but have insufficient capital. If you have a man who is suitable and who perhaps has been a farm servant on a holding and has proved himself to have the capacity for working a holding, or who perhaps is the son of a smallholder who is known to have the capacity. I say that there ought to be a means of preventing insufficiency of capital from being a bar. There ought to be a means of giving a man a commencing credit enabling him to equip and start his holding. Taking this category of men who have either insufficient 1764 capital or who are without sufficient experience but other wise suitable as regards character and capital and in every other way if that disqualification with regard to experience can be removed, you will find that there are 4,300 men who are in every respect, except either capital or sufficiency of experience, capable of carrying on a holding successfully at the present time, and who are longing to get the land.
Let us take the numbers of ex-service men. There are no fewer than 1,073 ex-service men in the first category, men fitted in every way, men who when they were at the War or when they were going to the War were told that the first thing that would be done for them when they came home would be to provide them with some land. That was the solemn obligation of the country to the ex-service men. Of those men suitable in every respect, there are 1,073 who cannot get land at the present time. If you add the second category ex-service men, the qualifications being the same as I described in speaking of the Suspense Category, there is a total of 2,430 unsatisfied ex-service men at the present time. If you come to the number of holdings which have been provided by successive Governments, you find, if you take the number of new holdings and enlargements together, that they rose from 317 in 1920 to 737 in 1922, but since 1922 the total number has steadily declined year by year. In spite of all these recommendations of the committees which the Government set up to advise them, in spite of the hunger of these men for the land, in spite of the obligation to the ex-service men, they have diminished until in the last two years the average, instead of being 737, as it was in 1922, is only just over 100.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
That, if the hon. Gentleman will allow me, is not a question for me to answer. It is for the right hon. Gentleman to provide an answer. For my part, I think that this question should be tackled and tackled now vigorously. That would be one of the best hopes of solving the problems and difficulties of agriculture at the present time, of introducing a better and stronger structure into agriculture, and of helping to solve our unemployment 1765 problem. There is another reason why I commend this policy to the House. It is that of justice to the farm servants. Some hon. Members may say "Oh, that is merely a sentimental politician's way of talking about the farm servants and justice." Let us take the hard-headed economists and see what they have to say on this question. Here, again, they are men appointed, not by the Secretary of State, but by the Conservative Government in 1923—the Agricultural Tribunal of Investigation. Talking of the smallholdings policy, they say:This rests on the grounds of general efficiency and justice to the labourer. There is not evidence to show that smallholders are either more or less efficient and productive than large farmers, but new energy in agriculture does not come into the industry from other industries. It must arise within the industry, and the aim should be to give it opportunity. The limitation of the land is the reason why a public policy is necessary to ensure this.For that reason—justice to the farm servant, to give him the feeling that farm service is a calling which is worthy of the best energies of men and women in Scotland—the policy of land settlement is amply justified. It would hold out prospects to them of having holdings of their own to cultivate, and an independent status on the soil of their own country. That is one great justification and strong reason for going ahead vigorously in prosecuting the policy of smallholdings. In failing vigorously and effectively to prosecute the policy of small holdings and family farms, this Government have ignored Scottish public opinion, they have flouted the recommendations of their own committees, they have failed to honour the country's obligations to ex-service men and have shut their eyes to the necessities of the country and of the Empire.
I turn now from the question of land settlement to that of drainage, which is a far more important and far bigger question than some hon. Members fully realise. I will refer to a commission for which the right hon. Gentleman was personally responsible, because he set it up namely, the National Conference on Agriculture in Scotland. That Conference was appointed by the right hon. Gentle, man. They assembled in Edinburgh and produced a report which was framed on very orthodox lines. The first necessity that they put forward for agriculture in 1766 Scotland, if more and more land was to be saved from going to waste and from becoming waterlogged, was drainage. What have the Government done, as a result of this proposal? They have done one thing, not unimportant, but relatively small; they have dispensed with the stipulation that the men employed on the drainage must be unemployed ex-service men, if the grant was to be made.
The vital thing was to give grants to farmers and smallholders on an adequate scale, to enable the work to be done. We find that, far from larger grants having been given, the grants have been reduced. It is not that we want larger grants given to individual farmers and smallholders, but that we want more money to be available so that a larger number of farmers and smallholders can get their share. At the present time an immense numbers of applications are being made, but only a relatively small number are being granted. It is because the Government are actually putting less money at the disposal of agriculture in Scotland for this purpose than before the Committee reported so strongly in favour of additional resources being made available, that we object so strongly to their actions. In the year 1922–23, the sum granted amounted to £38,000, in the following year £32,000 and in the next year £29,000. Then came the year when the Scottish Committee was set up, and the resources available dropped from £29,000 to £9,000. Subsequently, it rose to £13,000, but it dropped again last year to £8,371. That is playing with the situation in Scotland. Here is a need which all the expert people in Scotland declare is the greatest need of the soil; here is a recommendation made by their own Committee, a recommendation which the Government have flouted, and they only provide these meagre resources out of which the work can be continued.
In addition to the ordinary grants given there is now a special grant given for the employment of men from the distressed areas. In many rural districts in Scotland there is at the present time an immense amount of distress. There is a great deal of under-employment and in some districts, owing to the position of the fishing industry, there is a great deal of unemployment. It was calculated, not long ago, that one man in seven is unemployed in Wick, and yet we 1767 in Caithness are expected to import men from the distressed areas away to the South, bringing them up at expensive railway fares, and then they have to find expensive lodgings in Caithness. That is a wholly unsuitable scheme from their point of view, whereas we in Caithness, and particularly in Wick—in which, owing to the state of the fishing industry there is much unemployment—we have plenty of men who could work upon the soil of their own native county if the limits of the scheme could be enlarged.
The chief point, is the need for a vigorous drainage policy. The water is catching up on the land and the position of the land is becoming worse. Deterioration is going on, and there is great and urgent need for action if the land is to be saved. There is not only the question of drainage of farm lands, but there is also the wider question of whole areas of land which are exposed to flooding at the present time. There is the famous case of Garmouth on the Spey, where vast acres of land are exposed to destructive floods, and there is the case of Killermont, on the Kelvin, near Glasgow. There are many other areas which, if we had the drainage areas properly delimited and a proper policy were pursued throughout the whole of Scotland, could be drained, and as a result we should get a great deal more land into good condition.
No wonder that the National Farmers' Union of Scotland are protesting against this aspect of the Government's policy. I hold in my hand a copy of a resolution which they have passed, recording their emphatic protest against the inaction of the Government in regard to the grave problem of the drainage of agricultural land in Scotland, and calling upon the Government to introduce without further delay legislative measures to confer the requisite powers upon suitable authorities for the compulsory removal of obstructions in water courses which are presently rendering useless many thousands of acres of land. That resolution was passed on 15th March. Drainage is vitally necessary to the prosperity of agriculture, and it is a pre-requisite of land settlement. Here, again, the Gove-ernment substitutes for action an exhibition of unblushing helplessness and senile impotence.
1768 I would refer also to the great problem of unemployment, which hangs over the whole of Scotland like a pull at the present time. Not only does it oppress the industrial districts, but we feel it in the countryside. We feel it in the fishing centres in particular, and in the agricultural centres. The amount of underemployment which exists is very severe. The situation is much worse in Scotland than in England. The total number of insured persons in Scotland is 1,263,000, and the proportion of unemployment is 14 per cent., whereas in England the total number of insured persons is 10,026,000, and the proportion of unemployment 12 per cent. Our unemployment is worse by the very substantial fraction of about one-sixth. This is a source of misery and demoralisation to those who suffer under this great evil, and it is also a menace to those who are more fortunately situated. So far as the countryside is concerned, just as much as in the towns, it would help if, instead of things getting worse, if instead of the land deteriorating and instead of the countryside emptying and the population of the country streaming into the cities and aggravating the unemployment problem in the cities, we could reverse those tendencies and get the people working on reclamation schemes and settled on the land as a result partly of reclamation schemes and partly by using land which is now derelict.
If we could also tackle a question which is vital in the Highlands and all over Scotland, that of communications, roads and bridges which are unfit for traffic; if we could effect such an improvement in the communications as would reduce the charges upon industry; if, at the same time, there could be set up in Scotland a national marketing system, to be linked up with a more efficient system of transport which would enable the farmer to market his produce on much fairer terms, and if we could extend the telephone system, which is greatly needed in Scotland, we should do a great deal towards solving the question of unemployment in the country. Add to that the question of housing. I am not going to speak to-day of the seriousness of the housing situation in our great cities, although that is in the minds of all Scottish Liberal Members who read the Report of the 1769 Scottish Board of Health which was issued last year, with its terrible description of slums in Glasgow. It is also in the minds of those who know something of housing, from personal visits to the housing conditions of our great cities. Housing is also badly needed in the countryside.
Then there is the need of electricity for the development of the countryside and for helping the people who live in the countryside. I understand that there are certain electricity schemes going forward in the Highlands which will not enable the people who live in those districts to benefit. It will merely mean that the power will be roped off to the South, and the people living in the country districts will get very little benefit from the scheme. We have the capital, the credit and the labour available. Let us use it on these great constructive schemes; schemes which will leave behind them assets of permanent value to the community which will strengthen the whole structure of agriculture and our economic life in Scot-land generally. That could be undertaken at once. For a very long time after the War, and when the unemployment came first upon us, public opinion was, undoubtedly, sunk in a certain measure of lassitude, but now that we have put off our national failing of waiting for something to turn up, now that public opinion is waking up, there is a demand in Scotland for these questions to be handled vigorously and with greater energy, drive and imagination than this Government are showing or have shown since they came into office.
Unemployment is a hideous peril, like the peril of defeat in war. There is a great opportunity for this peril to be tackled now. We feel that on the lines which we have described in the country, and which will be described by us on every suitable occasion, this great evil could be tackled successfully, in a way which would lead to the absorption of the unemployed and leave behind a strengthened economic structure in Scotland, and an enriched people. I do not appeal to this Government to tackle the question, because they have not shown the drive, the energy or the vision which would fill me with the confidence that they can handle it successfully. I do not refer to the Secretary of State 1770 or the Under-Secretary of State. They very often appear to me to be like good men struggling against adversity. There is an inland sea which is so full of salt I am told that if a man falls into it he is buoyed up and quite unable to swim, and the gestures of the right hon. Gentleman opposite remind me of a man who is trying to swim in, I think it is, the Dead Sea, which makes the analogy all the more appropriate. Therefore, I do not ask the Government to take up this question on the large scale which I have outlined; but I do think that even now, in the last moments of their administration, that they should do something to redeem their record by setting on foot the beginnings of a policy in Scotland which would at least give us a chance of witnessing some absorption of the unemployed, a strengthening of the position of agriculture by increasing the number of small holdings and family farms, the reclaiming of waste land, and an improved marketing system. If not, we shall await with confidence that day, which cannot now be long postponed, when the Government will receive the inexorable judgment of the people of Scotland.
§ Mr. T. JOHNSTON
The state of the benches on all sides of the House indicates how far vitality has gone from our proceedings and how near we are to a General Election. The hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) whose eloquence has just stirred vacancy, concluded his remarks with the fervent hope that the Government in its dying days would change its attitude towards Scottish agriculture and make a last moment amendment of their four and a-half years' policy of inaction. Whether the hon. and gallant Member expects to get anything as a result of his appeal I do not know, but, personally, I have no hope that a Government which in 1928 deliberately cut down the small holdings grant by one-third, cut down by £100,000 the amount spent upon the resettlement of people of Scotland—will in its dying weeks be the least likely to make any amendment in the direction which the hon. and gallant Member desires.
I should like to ask the Secretary of State some half a dozen questions which I am sure large sections of people in 1771 the rural areas of Scotland will be glad to have answered. For example, I should like to ask a question with regard to the MacBrayne Company. I should be glad if he can tell us the name of the Government director who is to represent the Treasury on the Board, and also what steps the Government propose to take to ensure that the 10 per cent. reduction in fares and freights, which the MacBrayne Company promised should operate over their area, will apply to all parts of the Western Islands. There are parts of the Western Islands where the MacBrayne Company do not operate. For example, the traffic to and from the North and South Uist and Barra is handled by the McCallum Company and the Martin Orme Company, and neither of these two companies have yet been incorporated with the MacBrayne Company. I shall be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman what steps he proposes to take to ensure that the traffic to and from these parts of the Western Islands is not penalised to the extent of 10 per cent. as a result of leaving Messrs. McCallum and Martin Orme out of the. MacBrayne agreement. It was certainly the intention of the Select Committee which discussed this matter that all the companies operating in the Western Islands should be brought into the agreement and we understood from the representatives of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, and the Coast Shipping Lines, that they were in touch with Messrs. McCallum and Martin Orme. Every member on the Select Committee hoped, as a result of these negotiations, that all the transport companies operating in the Western Islands would be incorporated in the MacBrayne Company and that every part of the Western Islands, including North and South Uist and the West of Skye, would receive the benefit of this 10 per cent. reduction in fares and freights. My information is that up to last week there are parts of the Western Islands, North and South Uist and Barra, where this 10 per cent. reduction does not obtain, and the people are feeling very sore in consequence. The Secretary of State is perfectly well aware that Messrs. McCallum and Messrs. Martin Orme do not get the subsidy which is given to the new public utility MacBrayne Corporation, 1772 and we are entitled to ask that the Government will take steps to see that every part of the Western Islands is treated on the same footing.
Then, can he give the House any information as to how far the experiment in the afforestation of peat land has gone; whether it is likely to be a profitable undertaking. We have been told that the experiments which have been made in the afforestation of this land give some hope of success, and I should like to know what have been the results so far of this experiment. If we could get some kind of an afforestation scheme in Lewis there would be some prospect of economic prosperity there. I hope the Secretary of State will be able to tell us how far these experiments hold out any prospect of final success. The hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland has directed public attention again to the scandal of the flooding in the Spey Valley. May I put in a word to reinforce his remarks. It is amazing that at this time of day great tracts of land should be under periodical flooding and not only that, but that farm buildings should be swept away, and the Government stand helpless; although their attention has been repeatedly directed to these floods at Question Time by myself and other hon. Members. But it is not only in the Spey Valley that these floods occur. I have repeatedly drawn attention to the periodical flooding in the valley of the Kelvin, and I am glad to see that the Farmers' Un on of Scotland have begun to pass resolutions on the subject, which, I understand, they have sent on to the Secretary of State. From my bedroom window, ever since I was a boy, I have seen these floods; anything up to 14 miles of land are flooded, perhaps eight times every winter; agricultural land wasted, soured and sodden; and public roads swept away. I have endeavoured, without the slightest success, to discover what amount of public money has been spent during the past 20 years in maintaining and repairing the public roads which had been destroyed as a result of the flooding of the Kelvin, the Luggie and the Glazert.
The remedy is simple. There is the question of the weir at Lambhill. What is to be done with that? Further up the valley of the Kelvin you have three streams choked with sludge and coal gum. It is nobody's business, under private 1773 ownership of land, to clean these streams. If one proprietor chose to employ unemployed colliers to lift this sludge out of the river and use it for banking purposes, he would not solve the problem; he would only drive the floods farther down the valley and on to other people's land; and the land behind the embankment would be flooded again. Everybody seems to be helpless. Private ownership prevents anything being done, and at the minimum certainly 2,500 acres of the finest agricultural land in central Scotland is wasted, soured and useless, and in addition public roads are torn up certainly two or three times every winter with considerable inconvenience to traffic. It is perfectly true that if the Government employed unemployed colliers to drain the sludge out of these rivers and use it for banking purposes the added value of the land would immediately accrue to the private owners of the soil, who would have done nothing for it; but nevertheless it is the duty of the Government to take steps not only to see that this land is brought into fruitful cultivation, but also to prevent these increased land values going to private owners. The enhanced values which would be secured as a result of these improvements should accrue to the public authority. I should like to know whether the Secretary of State proposes to continue his policy of masterly inactivity in face of these, periodic floodings of the Kelvin and Spey Valleys.
Finally, I should like to ask whether his Department have considered taking steps to develop the markets in the move distant rural areas. I am all for the policy of planting people on the soil, but if when people get on the soil they are going to have tremendous difficulties in marketing their produce; if the cost of marketing eggs from Skye, for example, is going to be prohibitive then, surely, a condition precedent to a further development of small holdings is an efficient transport system and an efficient co-operative marketing system, which the Government should organise. It is perfectly simple and easy. The right hon. Gentleman says that he is not an egg merchant. It is quite true that the Secretary of State is not an egg merchant, but when we discover that in parts of Skye during certain parts of the year eggs are sold at 6d. and 8d. a dozen to the local 1774 gombeen man, the local merchant who goes about with his van and exchanges tea and sugar and the rest of his goods for the eggs, I ask the right hon. Gentleman what are the wholesale prices of eggs in the large cities at that period of the year, and he tells me that the wholesale prices are 2s. 6d. and 3s. a dozen. Surely then it is obviously the duty of the Scottish Board of Agriculture to assist co-operative marketing of that produce by becoming itself, if necessary, with the assistance of the Post Office, the merchant who would market for these producers, and return to them by postal order or otherwise the exact amount that is received for their produce. There might be a depot established at Edinburgh and one at Glasgow, and so on in the large centres. Let the Secretary of State use the Post Office. The postmen are going on their rounds anyhow, and in some cases carrying one or two postcards and a letter or two. Why cannot we have properly devised egg carriers?
Why cannot the Government agree to market the eggs for these people, and to return to them the wholesale price, less a small charge for the cost of marketing? If the Government would take steps along those lines—it has been done in other parts of the world—they would begin to make it possible for smallholders in the Outer Islands and the more distant parts of the country to earn an economic living, they would begin to encourage co-operative marketing in a co-operative spirit, which would not only ensure an economic living but, as in other countries, would ensure a prosperous living. When that is done, when the Government operates along those lines, we shall begin to hear less of the steady drift from the rural districts to the towns. I would like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take any steps whatever to assist in this matter.
Then is it not possible for the right hon. Gentleman actively to assist in the development of Scotland as a health resort? The Governments of Switzerland, of Italy, of France, of Norway, and of Sweden all actively help in the development of those countries as tourist centres. Could the right hon. Gentleman not see his way, as an experiment, to assist in the erection of perhaps half a dozen or a dozen summer chalets and to advertise them, and so keep at home some of that British money that presently goes 1775 abroad? Let us see the beauties of our own country. If along these lines the right hon. Gentleman would make a beginning we should have some hope that in Scotland we should begin to have a nation once again. But nothing is done; there is not even a pretence of a policy—just nothing, no new idea. I hear a voice interrupting about the MacBrayne subsidy. That business was forced upon the Government by protests from all sides of the House. The one bright thing that the Government have done during the past four years, so far as rural Scotland is concerned, has been to set up a public utility corporation and to take over the assets of the MacBrayne Company.
Let the Government develop that idea. Let us have a tourist agency set up. Why not? Why not attract some of that £50,000,000 or £100,000,000 of money that is alleged to be spent on the Continent every year, in order that tourists may see scenery that is no better than that in Skye. The spectacle of the Coolins coming down from Carabost is as wonderful and magnificent and memorable as anything to be seen in Switzerland. Why cannot our Government do what the Swiss Government does? Why cannot it experiment with an expenditure of comparatively few pounds a year in order to attract employment to the rural districts of Scotland, to keep labour on the soil? It would mean the making of a new industry, and would do more perhaps than any of us dream to tackle the unemployment problem in rural Scotland. I would like the Secretary of State to enlighten us on the several points to which I have referred.
§ Mr. JAMES STEWART
I would like, if I can, to emphasise the points that have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), more especially in regard to the opening up of Scotland and making it more attractive to tourists. Probably it will be said that that is a matter for private enterprise. I would point out, however, that in several of our Dominions they do not leave the opening up of the country for tourists entirely to private enterprise. In Ontario, at Niagara Falls, there are a hotel and a large restaurant, and in the National Park at Rupert there are hotels and chalets and everything to make the place attractive. What is true of the Dominion of Canada and of the 1776 Province of Ontario is equally true of some of the States and the Commonwealth of Australia. In the United States also there are many large national parks, and the State provides chalets, hotels and every convenience for the traveller who wishes to visit these places and to see the wonderful sights and great natural beauties.
I am convinced that there is no part of the world that has more beautiful scenery or more grandeur in it than our own country of Scotland, and yet there is no part of the world that is less advertised. Everywhere in the City of London you will see the agencies of Continental countries, Holland, Germany and others, all with attractive advertising to catch the eye of the tourist. We hear of tourists coming from America with many millions of money to be spent in Europe, but so far as Scotland is concerned, except that the Cunard Company takes a portion here and there for shipping purposes, there is nothing done. I would refer also to the question of the sparsely populated parts of the country and the development of roads there. There are men of far more ability who know far more about roads than I do—I know very little—but in my travels I have seen places where I have thought it would be possible to start industries and draw the population away from the ever-growing industrial centres. To scatter industry in this way would be beneficial from a health point of view, and in many other ways.
In the United States one sees a place with a little waterfall, capable of generating electricity. There industries are set up because of the cheapness of the water power and of the electricity. A wonderful road system is also developed there, so that the industries can flourish under the best conditions. I read the other day in the "Times" that the State of New Jersey—it is one of the smallest of the States—has planned to spend in the next seven years no less than £36,000,000 on the development of roads. I do not think that State is larger than Scotland, but it is going to spend more money in the development of roads than we are to spend in the whole of Great Britain. The beneficial result of that enterprise will soon be obvious. I suggest to the Secretary of State that he should make a closer inspection and see what can be done to help in the transformation of our 1777 country by the development of roads, by making it possible for industry to settle in the sparsely populated Highland districts, and by assisting agriculture.
I wish now to refer to one or two matters which are perhaps rather parochial in their nature. I find in the Report of the Board of Health, dated 1928, but dealing with the year 1927 a long and elaborate article—if I may so term it—on sewerage and the pollution of rivers. At the beginning it says:Continuous pressure has been brought to bear upon local authorities to have existing conditions improved.Further on it says:The trouble from sewage, broadly speaking, arises from putrefaction, and the problem is to render the effluent non-putrescent.During the last 20 years or so, Glasgow has incurred a capital expenditure of over £3,500,000 on works and on everything that science can provide, in order to clear away from the Clyde that smell which anybody who went down the Clyde 30 years ago will remember. Once felt, it could never possibly be forgotten. It was a smell the memory of which lingered with one as if it were a fragrant perfume. Glasgow has spent this money, but three local authorities who are connected with the scheme have absolutely refused to co-operate with us in trying to bring about the day when the salmon shall once again pursue its lordly way up the Clyde. These authorities are responsible for pouring untreated sewage into the Clyde. Then there is Dumbarton and the burghs which lie on the banks of the Leven. There again you have a source of pollution, and when the tide is going up the river, it carries all that untreated sewage up the river, and, in some degree, renders ineffective the efforts which Glasgow is making at such expense. What is true of Dumbarton it true of Paisley.
There is also the case of Bearsden, a residential suburb, having its life and being outside of Glasgow, which, I suppose, considers itself a little bit above us. The corporation of Glasgow offered to treat the sewage of that district at a price but the offer was refused, and the Board of Health, instead of acting according to the words of the report, that "continuous pressure should be brought to bear upon local authorities to 1778 have existing conditions improved," and insisting on the local authority agreeing to that course, has allowed this stuff that is coming from Bearsden to be poured, in an untreated state, into the Kelvin. The Secretary of State's Department has sanctioned that procedure. They have said that while this stuff will be poured into the Kelvin in an untreated state, it will be carried in such a way that all its bad effects will be removed. It is to be carried in a pipe and poured from the pipe into the Kelvin, and we are told that this process will remove its obnoxious and dangerous qualities.
We all know that no matter how bad sewage may be, if it is poured into a river and then allowed to go for some distance, the natural filtration that takes place, in the course of a few miles will cause the obnoxious conditions to disappear. But in the present case that is not being done, and Glasgow's expenditure of over £250,000 a year is practically being wasted through the action of these local authorities who are allowed to pour this sewage into the Clyde—because that is ultimately what it means—thus endangering the health of the whole community around and about the Clyde. But the Department of Health, instead of supporting Glasgow in this matter, has given Glasgow a very nasty knock. They have said in effect to Glagsow, "We can do nothing for you." They never even offered to conduct an arbitration or to consider the matter. They just sanctioned the thing and the thing was done.
There is another matter which, though it may be regarded as a minor matter, is nevertheless one of some importance to which I would direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention. Some 20 years or more ago Mr. Archibald Cameron Corbett, afterwards Lord Rowallan, one of the philanthropists who has been of advantage to the City of Glasgow, made a present to the people of the place known as Argyle's Bowling Green at Lochgoilhead—an estate of many thousands of acres but not very accessible. The people were glad to get the opportunity of visiting this spot and the gift was for the betterment of Glasgow, but now we are being told that Lochgoilhead is to be made more difficult of access to the citizens of Glasgow. The steamers going from the Broomielaw to Lochgoilhead have now been stopped. That is 1779 the ground of my complaint. Those steamers carried people at comparatively cheap fares. As a result of the stoppage of these steamers the people will have to go by train, either to Gourock or Craigendoran, and there they will have to take steamers at fares which are, if I remember aright, more than double the former cost of going all the way by steamer. This will interfere with the enjoyment by the people of what was intended to be a health resort for them.
In this connection I may mention that the Y.M.C.A. of Glasgow set up a large building there and advertised throughout the country that they could give a cheap and healthy holiday in the midst of beautiful scenery with many advantages. Now the accommodation for 500 or 600 guests which they provided is to some extent rendered useless because of the extra cost of the fares. I believe that Scottish Members generally have received protests from the Y.M.C.A. against what is being done and we are anxious that the Secretary of State for Scotland should take some action in this matter with the steamship companies. He is now going to have some control over the companies and we hope he will see to it that the director or directors representing the State, on companies in which State money is involved, will see that something is done to assist the people in this matter.
I wish to ask one or two questions on health matters. I observe that puerperal fever is still taking as large a toll of deaths as it did 40 years ago. Apparently science, which has reduced the death rate in other directions, has failed in regard to this disease. I should be glad to learn from the right hon. Gentleman that there has been at least some reduction in the number of deaths and I should like to know what action the Government are taking in this matter. I do not like to use the word "compel" but it may become necessary for the central authority which is finding the money, to use some sort of forceful persuasion on these local authorities to induce them to develop their maternity hospital accommodation. It should be possible for every woman at the time of child-birth to have the opportunity of getting the best accommodation and 1780 treatment. We should not have them living in single apartments as they are living in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, and perhaps also Aberdeen. We should not have women, in this state, living in single apartments, in a foetid atmosphere and in places where the proper hygienic preparations cannot be made for the most important event in a woman's life.
I hope therefore that the Government Department will use the money force to compel local authorities to increase the hospital accommodation for the treatment of this disease. I gather also from the report covering the year 1927 that instead of pulmonary tuberculosis going down in that year, there was an increase. It is true that the ground which was lost in regard to pulmonary tuberculosis is balanced by ground gained in other respects, but while we have made great progress, progress which everyone is glad to see, we would like to know more about what is being done. I would like the right hon. Gentleman, or whoever is going to reply, to give us reasons, and not merely to tell us that he thinks the death rate has been due to the bad winter. My explanation of the failure of the tuberculosis death-rate to recede still further is the condition of poverty in which so many people are living. I believe that in this matter we have reached as far as we can reach until the conditions of the people are improved. There is not a medical officer in Scotland who when lecturing on this subject fails to say something to the effect that it is a poverty disease and that its main cause is not merely bad housing but other bad conditions of almost equal importance. What are the Government doing to accelerate the progress which we know can be accelerated with the proper conditions, in regard to both the diseases to which I have referred? I should be glad to have a statement on behalf of the Government covering all these points.
§ Major-General Sir ROBERT HUTCHISON
I wish to reinforce all that was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir E. Hamilton) on the questions of the fisheries and of our harbours round the coast of Scotland. I am sure the Secretary of State for Scotland knows that 1781 the inshore fishermen are going through an extraordinarily bad time. I do not know if in recent years those men have been up against difficulties such as they are having to face to-day, and I want to ask if the right hon. Gentleman cannot do something to help them. The men whom I represent have made definite proposals and have asked for definite help, but up to the present they have been denied this help. I am talking now of those men who have been prohibited from fishing in that large area of water known as St. Andrew's Bay. Deputations of fishermen from Arbroath and all down the coast have laid their case before the Fishery Board, and I am satisfied that, in justice to those men and to help them over a time of extreme difficulty, it would be a very gracious act on the part of the Secretary of State for Scotland if he could see his way to go back to the conditions of 1921, when certain regulations were laid down for the size of boats fishing in that particular area. Those regulations were not enforced, and the men were allowed to use boats freely over 40 feet in those waters, but suddenly, in 1926, those boats, built on the assumption that they would be allowed to enter that area, were prohibited from going into it.
The result has been that those boats are either completely out of commission or, in many cases, that they have been mutilated by cutting, so as to reduce them to a purely artificial measurement of 40 feet. Only 10 days ago I went down to the harbour to see boats that were actually in process of being cut, where both the stern pillar and the bow were being cut back "V"-shaped in order to come within the measurement. These men will do anything in order to be allowed to pursue their calling and get some result from their labours in that area, because the rest of the fishing at the present moment is largely non-remunerative; and, having in view the statements that have been made that there are more plaice fish in that area than ever before, as is proved by recent catches by other boats that have come within the regulations, and having in view the fact that it does not alter the system of fishing one bit whether a boat measures 40 feet or 45 feet, it would be an act of sympathy for those men if those regulations could be amended in 1782 some small way. At any rate, I hope that this particular aspect of the fishing in the area in which I am interested will be looked into by the Secretary of State for Scotland with the sympathy which I am sure he is always willing to give.
The second question which I would like to put to the right hon. Gentleman is that of a loan of money to replace broken, damaged, and lost gear. The fishermen there have formed themselves into a co-operative society, which during the last year and a half has progressed wonderfully, but they are limited in their resources, and they ask for a small loan of money, at a reasonable rate of interest, with fair terms of repayment. They are quite willing to consider that, and, knowing these people, I know how sound they are from the point of view of carrying out obligations entered into. They ask for a small loan, and they suggest something like £1,000 for their society in order to replace gear. I believe there is an Act under which the right hon. Gentleman can do that if he thinks the case is a good one. The money would not be used to build new boats, but to replace gear. There have been in recent times considerable losses of valuable nets. I noticed in the newspaper only the other day that, during the foggy weather, large numbers of nets, have been lost by certain fleets in the North Sea, owing to the passage of steamers through the nets during fishing operations, but in addition, over a period of years, ever since the War, the fishing gear has got old and out of repair, and it requires replacement if the fishermen are to get the best results out of their hard calling. Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look into the question of a loan, and, if he can help those men in that way, I am sure they will be more than grateful.
The third point with regard to fishing which I would like to put is the question of railway rates, which has been so well put by my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland. I refer to railway rates on fish, and especially on small consignments. I believe that special rates are given from places like Aberdeen and other large trawling centres, but I speak for the small fishermen, who are not able to deal with the railway companies as those 1783 larger fishing companies can, and whose rates, therefore, are sometimes too heavy. I would like to see these co-operative societies of small bands of fishermen encouraged. This band consists of about 300 or 400 members, dealing with the various towns and large populous centres, and sending their fish off daily. They are consigning fish to London and to Manchester for sale; they are trying to cultivate a trade direct between themselves and the consumers, not through the usual channel of the broker, and anything that we can do to encourage them in that way would be all to the good of those men. I hope the question of railway rates will be looked into, because we do want to preserve and keep the inshore fishermen, who were so very valuable, as I am sure the hon. and gallant Member for East Fife (Commander Cochrane) can testify, during the War in mine-sweeping and elsewhere.
The last question I wish to put, which is not quite a question for the Secretary of State for Scotland, is this: How far are the lifeboats down our coasts really up-to-date and able to preserve the lives of those who go into seas that are subject to sudden storms? I know that the Lifeboat Society has been doing a good deal down the coast in the way of giving motor lifeboats, but there are many of our harbours which are ill-provided with the best type, and I think a little pressure by the right hon. Gentleman, a little pushing along, with the society, of the needs of these harbours, would be a very good thing This need has been put before me by the fishers themselves. They realise that everything cannot be done at once, but the old row-boat type of lifeboat is very often too heavy to be moved in a hurry. The men who man the boat have to drag it sometimes considerable distances before it can be launched, and very often they are exhausted before they actually take up the oars to manage the boat. In addition, it takes time, and the lifeboats, as regards the fishing fleet, are very often required at quite short distances from the harbour. It is a question that wants looking into, to see whether you can house your lifeboat closer to the actual launching place and 1784 whether the motor type of lifeboat cannot be more generally used down our hard East Coast. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that, if he looks into the question, he will find that there is something required to be done in that way.
Now for a moment I want to turn to an agricultural question which has not been dealt with to-day, and that is the question of the arable farmer. My right hon. Friend knows our country well. I have reason to know the financial condition of the farmers in that part of the country of which I speak, and I venture to say that the large arable farmer is in a very bad way at the present moment. He is up against great difficulties, and even people who have large credit at their backs are getting into a state where they not only cannot make ends meet, but where they are losing money and beginning to look for plans whereby that loss, which has gone on now for two years, can be met. They have overdrafts of very considerable amounts on their farm accounts at the bank, and they are now looking round to see where they can cut their overhead charges. Several men who are farming large tracts of land—one to whom I talked the other day farming 800 acres of his own, another farming 500 acres, and another 450 acres—are beginning to consider the advisability of taking some of their arable land and putting it down to grass, which means fewer men employed on those farms, and they are seriously considering the question of reducing the number of cattle that they keep on the farms.
That is the first time I have ever come across suggestions of that kind in arable farming in that good part of Scotland, and I am quite sure that the hon. Member for Forfar (Sir H. Hope), who knows his country as well as I know the country further South, will agree that these farmers are getting no return on their cattle with the present price of fat cattle. There is a danger that unless something is done to assist or carry through those arable farmers, you are going to get less employment on the land fewer cattle fed on those farms, and, therefore, less substance to go back into the soil; and it is really a very serious situation. The value of produce has gone steadily down in the last two years, and at the same 1785 time the overhead costs, the cost of implements and the cost of petrol, owing to taxation and other causes, have gone up, the wages have remained constant—they are low enough in any case—and the farmers find that all they have to buy for the production of the various crops, cereals and others, have gone up, whereas the return they are getting for their produce is going down. If we are to preserve our most important industry in Scotland, and keep it in the flourishing condition in which we would all like to see it, I am satisfied that the time has come when the Government have got to do something, because we are up against a situation that is indeed serious and that may at no distant date become almost critical. I would ask my right hon. Friend to look most carefully into what the Government could do in order to assist that type of farmer.
Lastly, I would like to ask, in regard to the Research Department which has been set up, how far are the expert people who are working in this Department available to visit farms at the request of the farmers, to advise them as to suitable new forms of agriculture, and suitable manures for their land, or to give them any advice for which they may ask? In England, experts come down at the request of farmers to consult with them and give advice. I was asked by two farmers last Friday if it were possible to get these experts to look at their land, and to answer questions as to improving their farming and bringing it into line with modern science. The question on land drainage which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) so ably put forward is long overdue in Scotland, because we are more advanced than England. I believe that we have had a survey with definite results, whereas the excuse for not having a scheme in England is always that they must wait until a definite survey of the land has been made. I see no reason why we could not get on with a scheme, and now is the time to make definite plans for a particular area. If we took one or two areas and carried out the scheme as a sample, it would show exactly what could be done. The situation of agriculture not only in Scotland, but in England, is very serious, and if we are to preserve what is, after 1786 all, our greatest industry, we have to look to the Government to give us some definite sign that they are prepared to help us.
§ Commander COCHRANE
I wish to refer to the case of the fishermen in St. Andrew's Bay as it affects my constituents. The hon. Gentleman took exception to regulations which made the length of the boats a test of whether they should be allowed to fish in St. Andrew's Bay. I agree that that is a rule-of-thumb method of determining the matter, but when the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Sir It. Hutchison) said that he wished to go back to the position as it was before 1921, I do not think that he appreciated the implications of this suggestion, because if we went back to that position, we should have to abolish the modern methods of fishing, and particularly the use of the Danish seine net which has been brought into use since then.
§ Commander COCHRANE
I cannot carry in my mind the date when the Danish net was brought into use, but it is because more efficient means of catching fish by small boats have become-more generally used in Scotland, that these regulations have become necessary.
§ Commander COCHRANE
Certainly, but, as I understand it, there would be-no objection to any length of boat fishing with the type of net used before the introduction of the Danish seine net; it is because a more efficient net has been introduced that some form of regulation has become necessary. Therefore, it is a much wider question than the length of the boat. It is a question of regulating the more efficient method of fishing so that the stock of fish is not unduly depleted. It is far better that the fishermen of Arbroath should put up with the disadvantage of not being allowed to fish with boats over 40 feet long and retain the stock of fish in St. Andrew's Bay rather than that the restrictions should be withdrawn, in which case I am certain that the stock of fish, which has given a livelihood to the fishermen round that coast for many 1787 generations, would be quickly depleted and the fishermen would be in a much worse position that they are at present.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD BENN
There is an administrative question arising out of the Debates on the Local Government (Scotland) Bill which I will take this opportunity of bringing to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman. In those Debates we did not have opportunity of making certain points which concerned various parts of Scotland. Particularly I wish to raise the matter of the policing of the harbour at Aberdeen. Owing to the arrangements made for policing the harbour—which is accessible to the public in every way, and is an ordinary open harbour—between the Town Council and the Harbour Commissioners, the police grant will not rank for the rate relief under the general Exchequer grant arrangement of the Local Government Bill. I understand that the general Exchequer grant is to be calculated upon the rate revenue for the standard year, and that the standard year does not terminate until the end of May. I understand also that under the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman has the power, as explained by the Lord Advocate to me when I raised the matter in Debate, to alter the character of this private arrangement, and to permit the payment for this service to assume the natural character of a rate service and thereby to qualify for the Exchequer grant. Could not the Secretary of Slate consider carefully whether it be not possible, between the enactment of the Bill and the end of the standard year, to exercise his administrative powers, and so to alter the arrangements in this particular case as to enable the police expenditure to rank for grant? Owing to the special character of this arrangement, which applies not only to Aberdeen but to other docks, the police grant is not received in respect of this service. I assume that if the right hon. Gentleman finds it possible to follow the course which I urge, Aberdeen may profit by receiving on this expenditure the equivalent police grant which is made by the State to the municipalities carrying out these police duties. In this case they do not get it, because the services are not in the common form subject to the special rate.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour)
I believe that I have been described at various times as a sheep-farmer, a fishmonger and a schoolmaster. I find myself to-day called upon to answer a Debate of considerable diversity, but, as my colleagues from Scotland know, it has been my duty during the last five years to endeavour to familiarise myself to the best of my ability with a great many of the problems which we have discussed to-day. I may fail, of course, to answer all the questions to the satisfaction of those who have put them, but I shall address myself within such limits of time as appear reasonable to the occasion, to reply to what has been asked of me. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) spoke in the main upon the problem of the fishing community. I would say not only on my own behalf, but, I am sure, on behalf of the Government and of all my colleagues, that we are very sensible of the important place which the fishing community takes in the life of our country. Anyone who can carry back his mind to the circumstances of the War realises the immense value of the services which it rendered to the country. The harbours of which the hon. Gentleman spoke are, in a great many cases, admittedly small and widely scattered. It is one of the most difficult problems which anyone has to solve at the present time, and having regard to the fact which the hon. Gentleman also emphasised, that there has been an alteration in recent years in the character of the boats employed, it becomes a very clamant problem as to whether it is wise on the part of the Government or of the Department to endeavour to maintain all these harbours, scattered and small, along the coast of our country, or whether a policy of greater concentration should not be the right policy.
This is a matter which must be of great concern to everyone who takes an interest in this industry. I agree that a great many of these harbours are suffering to-day under a heavy burden of debt. I am not in a position now to say how some of these problems can be solved. Undoubtedly, the undertakings which were entered into were made at a time rather different from the time in which we exist to-day, and it is true that the intervention of the War has added to 1789 the difficulties which these harbour authorities have to face. I am not entirely satisfied that it would be a wise thing to hold out the hope that the Government were immediately coming forward to abolish the whole of these liabilities on the harbours, but this is a problem which undoubtedly calls for the sympathetic consideration of the Government. Anything which I can do, in spite of the fact that this is the end of a Parliament, in moulding, or in leaving behind me in the Department, some scheme or some idea as to how in future if, and when, the funds and the means are available, this problem can be tackled, I will do. That has been in my mind, and in the minds of the Department and in the minds of the Government, and to-day we are reviewing this problem.
Then there is the question of credits for the replacement of fleets. All I would like to say on that is that I do not think the time has quite arrived when it would be wise or desirable to proceed along those lines. Here, again, we are in a stage of transition. Here, again, we have reached the stage where experiments are being made. It is doubtful whether the present form of steam-drifter is the one which will be regarded as most suitable in the future, or whether some more economical method of propulsion or some alteration in the size of the boats may not be advisable. Experiments are being made to find an answer to these questions, and, in view of the fact that the existing fleet is more than adequate for existing conditions, and makes catches in excess of the demands of the market which it has to supply, I think we must adopt a measure of caution as regards any question of replacing the fleet.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
The right hon. Gentleman has just made an interesting announcement that experiments are going on with regard to these vessels. Will he tell us whether they are being conducted by the Government, or assisted by the Government, how long they have been proceeding, and whether they have reached a promising stage?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I understand that certain boats have been built—not by the Government, but in close consultation with the Fishery Board. I do not think the experiments have been carried 1790 so far that we can be sure of the results, but the experiments are being continued, and it is recognised by those who are in the industry that the Department are prepared to do anything they can to encourage and assist in carrying out those researches.
On the question of dredging harbours, we cannot be quite sure whether we should deal with all the harbours or concentrate on a few. The fact that these harbours are small and that there is not much capital behind some of them, makes it impossible to carry out any dredging operations. We have placed the dredger at the disposal of the harbour authorities, but we find that in many cases they are not able to avail themselves of this service. The problem is still engaging our attention.
I have been asked questions about the marketing of fish. I agree that this is a problem which both the Department and the industry should carefully study. The hon. Gentleman spoke of certain cases where high transport rates are charged in this country—8s. for a barrel, and 1s. 2d. for a box of kippers. Is it not the case that if the problem within this country is to be solved it must be on the lines of bulking consignments of fish? Fresh fish is perishable, and it is the essence of proper marketing that it shall be conveyed as rapidly as possible from the ports where it is landed to the centres where it can be sold. Clearly this is a problem in the solution of which the agents who buy the fish and others in the industry can materially assist by taking measures to despatch their fish in as large quantities as possible. Unless action comes from within the trade itself, I do not think there is much the Government can do materially to assist the trade. There are signs already that the trade is realising this.
Regardng the problem of the herring, which constitutes one big aspect of this question from the point of view of the markets outwith this country, the hon. Member said he was satisfied that something more ought to be done as regards Russia. He invited me to express a kind word towards Russia in connection with this problem. I would be loath to refuse any kindly word which I could feel would be useful in helping the sale of the herring in Russia, or anywhere else, but I would beg the House to remember the recasting 1791 of Europe which took place after the War, and remind hon. Members that we are sending our herrings in great quantities into many of the parts of Europe which before the War were within the bounds of Russia. By sending representatives of the Fishery Department to the markets of Europe we have endeavoured to bring to the fishing industry of this country the most up-to-date knowledge of conditions there and to propagate the sale of herring on the Continent. The Empire Marketing Board have constructed a film upon the subject of the herring. I understand that this film will shortly be released, and it is encouraging to find that the Polish Government have asked to have it for use within Poland in order that they may encourage their people to buy fish.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
It is by those means, I think, that it is most likely we shall encourage sales of herring. The hon. Member spoke of Canadian developments and of what is known as "hard-curing." All I can say on that subject is that we are keeping closely in touch with the work being done in Canada, and we have had in this country representatives of that industry from Canada with whom the Board have conferred. I believe there are certain climatic circumstances which make hard-curing in this country difficult and, it may be, of uncertain value; but, at any rate, that problem is being investigated. The hon. Gentleman also dealt with the question of trawling in territorial waters. The whole problem of territorial waters is at present being considered by the League of Nations. A committee has been investigating certain scientific aspects of this matter as far as fish breeding and the spawning beds are concerned. The findings of that international committee have been published and have been communicated to the various Governments. Those interested in these problems may think that slow progress is being made towards a conclusion, but I must remind the House, and those outside the House who are interested, that, in the main, these are problems which do not solely concern this country, and that it is of the essence of things to secure co-operation 1792 and, so far as we can achieve it, agreement if the solution is to be a satisfactory one. With regard to the Clyde area, I announced in the House yesterday that I did not propose to confirm the proposal of the Fishery Board with regard to that particular question.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
As I said in my answer yesterday, I came to that conclusion because the whole question of these areas is at present under consideration, and it would be inadvisable to take a step dealing with one particular issue when there may be others to be considered. I feel constrained to add, in view of the fact that a certain section—and I want to make it clear that when speaking of the trawling industry I refer only to a certain section—have misbehaved so flagrantly and repeatedly towards the officers of my Department who are carrying out duties entrusted to them by this House, that until there is some indication that those who represent and are responsible for that industry are prepared to abide by the laws as laid down, however irksome they may consider them, I shall not feel constrained to give them any advantages.
The hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) made a truly characteristic speech, reminding one most forcibly, by action and emphasis, if by nothing else, that he realises that we are approaching the period of a General Election. I do not wish to deny the hon. and gallant Gentleman any opportunity of making a platform oration. It is only to be regretted that the slow progress of television has made it impossible for his features and action in this House to be portrayed before his constituents. Though that is denied him at the moment, the difficulties in the way of it may be overcome in the future. We were told by the hon. and gallant Member that Scotland has suffered both from the inaction and action of His Majesty's present Government. Indeed, there is nothing which His Majesty's Government have done which is right, whether they have acted or refrained from acting. That view, of course, is permissible, and I take it at its true value. In speaking of agriculture the hon. and gallant Mem- 1793 ber asked me about research. He was good enough to admit that he thought we had made some progress in this direction during the last few years. I think the House will agree that we have made a certain degree of progress, though I am not claiming that we have reached the full fruition of the hopes with which we are all inspired. We have at Aberdeen one of the most efficient institutes, presided over by very capable people, to deal with animal feeding and nutrition.
We have at Edinburgh, under equally industrious and efficient scientific investigators, an institute dealing with the breeding of animals. And now, happily, owing largely to the co-operation of the Government but due also to the generosity of a private individual, Mr. Hannah, we have established in the West of Scotland, or are in process of establishing there a new farm to which will shortly be transferred the well known milk school at Kilmarnock. We shall be taking out of the crowded and growing town of Kilmarnock right into the country the work upon this important problem, and by that very fact we shall bring this research work into line with Mr. Hannah's efforts and those of the men who are working on the land. One of our main problems is bringing across the footlights the results of the investigations of these scientists and putting them into language understandable by the working farmer.
I look forward to the time when, as one of the fruits of the Bill which this House has just parted with, we shall give a certain measure of relief to the farming industry. I regret that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison) voted against the Third Reading of that Bill, but I look forward to the time when by that Act we shall establish larger county authorities and bring into closer working contact the representatives not only of the countryside, but of the town as well. We want all these local bodies to realise what is the common interest and the necessity of assisting agriculture in marketing the produce of agriculture in a more cleanly and efficient form than in the past. I look forward to the time when these authorities will be able to assist the agricultural colleges to arrive at a solution of these problems and give the information to the public. It is too 1794 early to be dogmatic as to how this problem will be solved, but I see research work more and more being conducted by highly trained experts with the advantage of the laboratories in our great universities.
I look forward to a possible recasting, after a full discussion of the work of the agricultural colleges in so far as they deal with higher scientific research; and, when they have gained the advantage of the knowledge which I hope they will obtain, I trust that in return they will devote their attention more and more towards ordinary everyday education and carrying out the duties of agricultural colleges. I hope that, outside all that, there will be a strengthening, and increased power given to those expert and trained individuals who can go into the countryside and convey by word of mouth and actual tests the knowledge that they have gained. We may be some distance from reaching that ideal, but I hope that, at any rate as soon as the new authorities have got into the saddle, and as soon as it is possible the executive, or whoever is in my place, will with common consent be able to arrange a conference. I should like to bring into that conference the great leaders of agricultural thought in Scotland, including the representatives of the Chamber of Agriculture and the Farmers' Union and all those who take an active interest in this branch of the subject.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
Yes, there is a county officer working under the Agricultural Department, and, if my hon. and gallant Friend will communicate with the Department of Agriculture, I have no doubt that he will obtain the information which he requires. With regard to agriculture, we have not only to consider the problem of drainage but also the problem of using the best fertilisers. One of the things which my Department have set themselves to do in the last few years has been to make a survey of certain counties and areas. It is quite evident, from the results of that survey, that there are some parts of Scotland where the land requires the application of lime, and there are equally large parts of perhaps the same county which do not require the application of lime, but may gain advantage from other fertilisers. When we 1795 have these districts classified, I think steady progress will be made. We have had a consultation with the representatives of the United States who came over to this country and worked with officers of my Department. We have a certain number of men trained in this country in the comparatively simple but often laborious task of testing the soil, and farmers will be able at a very small charge to have their farms surveyed. If farmers will take an active interest in this problem, I think they will be doing something which will be of enormous advantage to agriculture as a whole.
The hon. and gallant Member for Montrose spoke of small holdings. I have always believed that this problem of small holdings was one which must be envisaged with a broad outlook and in relation to its relative value to agriculture as a whole. I think that no greater mistake can be made than to endeavour to set up small holdings without due thought of the possible markets available for these people, because they must inevitably fail unless they are carried out on a really sound basis. It is evident that in many cases these holdings cannot be successful unless there is a close measure of co-operation among the holders themselves. Everyone who is acquainted with the conditions of Scotland knows how difficult it is to overcome the little local, personal jealousies in regard to these matters. I am glad to think that we are making considerable progress in the matter of co-operation. We have pursued a steady course, and, compared with the years immediately after the War, we are making progress. I would like to say that, when we were setting up the research station at Auchencruive, we took a certain amount of land in conjunction with that station. I am anxious to place in close proximity to that station a certain number of small holdings in order that the holders may gain the full advantage of being in close and actual touch with those who are carrying on research work.
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) complained that we had reduced the amount of money for land settlement by £100,000. The reason we allowed that money to go to the Treasury was that, judging by our experience in dealing with this problem in the past, we 1796 should not require that money during the financial year, but at the same time we have maintained the interest. We have made steady progress, and we have saved £100,000 to the taxpayers. The hon. Member for Dundee asked me a question about the new MacBrayne contract. All I have to say about the Government director is that we hope to have that appointment made within a very short time. This question concerns another Department as well as my own. Therefore, I am not in a position to announce the name of the director, but I think it will be found, when that name is announced, that he will be a gentleman who will commend himself to all my colleagues.
The hon. Member for Dundee asked me a question about the case of Mr. McCallum and Messrs. Martin Orme. Negotiations are now going on with the representatives of this firm. From the first, it has been clear that there were two possible policies. One was that this particular gentleman should run these boats and join up with the larger existing company. My advice to them was that they should at the earliest possible moment get into touch with the representatives of the company. I understand that that has been done, but at the moment, at any rate, no great progress towards amalgamation has been made. It remains to be seen upon what terms and how best this service can be continued with a due regard to the interests of the places which they are at present serving, and I hope before long that a satisfactory solution may be found. I am not unfriendly to the continuance of this service. I recognise that this company has done a very valuable service in going to some of the outer islands in very difficult circumstances and through very heavy seas.
I have been asked a question about research in peat lands. The Government are greatly indebted to the generosity of Mr. Macaulay, who has placed at the disposal of the Government certain moneys for research in this connection. It is too early to be dogmatic as to the result. We have sent over to the continent certain representatives to investigate what is being done in Denmark, Sweden, and other parts. On the continent the circumstances are not entirely the same, and all 1797 we can say is that we are making researches, and experiments are being carried out in the island of Lewis and also in Aberdeen. I am sure the experiments will be very interesting, and we must await the results.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how long it will be before he will be able to make a statement on this question?
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I am afraid I am not in a position to say when that will be possible. Reference has been made to the question of drainage, and the problem of the Spey, the Kelvin, and other rivers in Scotland. The rivers of Scotland differ, of course, from those of England, in that they are as a rule much more rapid; they are not sluggish like a great number of the English rivers, which present peculiar problems of their own. The fact, however, that the rivers of Scotland are more turbulent presents its difficulties in the solving of this problem. I confess quite frankly that, having had on hand a very large and complicated Measure dealing with local government and the relief of rates, I have found it impossible to introduce the necessary legislation which would be entailed by this problem. The House must not disguise from itself the difficulties of framing that legislation, and of obtaining any measure of common consent in carrying it into effect.
That the problem calls for the very careful, and, indeed, the urgent attention of the House, is true. I speak with a slight knowledge of farming, and I realise that we have reached a stage in farming procedure when the drains which were laid down by, say, my grandfather or my father, are now becoming inadequate or insufficient in a great many cases, but at the same time it must be recognised that, the more efficient we make our land drainage, the more necessary it is that we should find an outlet for it into larger channels. I am not without hope that we may be able, in a future Parliament, to deal with this problem, and in the meantime I invite my colleagues in all quarters of the House to consider the matter and form, if they can, some kind of idea as to how they think it ought to be dealt with. It is not quite so easy as it looks at first sight. A vast number of interests—both private interests and the interests of local authorities—are concerned, but I 1798 hope that, under the new system, where the interests of the burghs and the intersts of the counties will be combined, the fact that this problem can be dealt with upon a larger platform by the local authorities than has been possible in the past may lead to some measure of progress and agreement.
I was asked about the development of efficient marketing, and particularly of co-operative marketing. We have tried to stimulate such developments by every means in our power, and I think we can congratulate ourselves in Scotland on the fact that we have now established on a large scale a better form of marketing and co-operative effort in regard to milk supplies, at any rate in the West of Scotland. The movement will, I hope, spread to other parts. We have also an increasing number of egg societies, and we hope shortly to be able to apply to the products of those societies the national mark. In the South of Scotland a co-operative meat society has been instituted, and I look forward to the time when there will be an increasing number of these societies; a grading of the meat by them into first and second grades would be of great and material advantage. We have, in addition, the wool-growing associations. Therefore, we are making progress. It has been an uphill fight, as those of us who have been associated with it for many years know, but we are indeed making progress.
Then I was asked, why not develop my country as a great health resort? I find myself, among my multifarious duties, the manager and controller of a large number of Government public houses. During the past five years I have interested myself in the improvement, I venture to say the material improvement, of the condition of these hotels—as they are in some cases—and inns in Scotland, and I invite all those who are interested in this problem to go and stay at these hotels. I think, however, that it would be wise to leave fuller developments in this direction to such bodies as the "Come to Scotland" movement, and so on. The hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. J. Stewart) referred to the fact that a good many of the sporting properties in Scotland had been taken by the Cunard Company. I am not sure that that is an enterprise which I 1799 altogether support, but, at the same time, I should be glad to see anything take place which will develop our country and bring to it a larger number of tourists.
The hon. and gallant Member for Mont-rose spoke of the St. Andrews Bay problem, and I think he was very truly answered by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Fife (Commander Cochrane). Really, this problem comes down to one of maintaining the fish supplies and the breeding grounds for our fishing industry. It is quite certain, from the scientific investigations which we have made, that in St. Andrews Bay there are to be found large numbers of very small and immature fish. I regret that, against my desire to accommodate the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I have had steadily to refuse to give way upon this problem. All that I would say to him, and I hope that he will convey it to those for whom he speaks is, that while I recognise the feelings that exist on this matter, I have to be guided by the advice of the Fishery Board, and by the fact that it is a breeding ground and that it is, indeed to their advantage, as well as that of others, that it should be retained as such, at any rate for a time. The question of a loan for broken and damaged gear I shall, of course, consider. We did try a loan for nets, but not very much advantage was taken of it. On the question of railway rates I have already spoken—
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
No, not at present, but I will take note of the points which have been raised, and the matter will be considered. It may be that something might be done in that direction, but I can make no promise on the matter. I was also asked about the lifeboats round the coast. I am not myself able to answer with full knowledge of that matter at the moment, but I am satisfied that the lifeboat service generally has been vastly improved. More and more motor lifeboats are being brought into use, and the gallantry of the crews who man those boats is acknowledged by all. The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke in rather sad terms of the position of the arable farmer within the counties which both he and I know well. I, of course, 1800 know to my cost the difficulty of producing cattle and selling them to advantage when they are fat. All that I would say is that I think the farming community can do a good deal to help themselves in regard to this problem. It is quite clear that the modern market demands younger stock and smaller beef than in the past, and, in my judgment, one of the essential things is that we should get rid of the scrub bulls, and should see to it that we breed the very best stock. I am certain that, if that be done, it will be of material advantage to the arable farmer, and I hope that the rather improved prices for good-class stock which have been evidenced at the recent sales in Scotland may be some encouragement. We are doing what we can to lighten the burden upon the arable farmer by rate relief, by the result of our research work in animal breeding and nutrition, and by giving what other assistance we can.
The hon. Member for St. Rollox spoke of the development of roads in Scotland. I agree entirely that we must develop our roads, but I would say that that should be done upon a sound and considered policy. At any rate, I can assure the hon. Member, having looked into this matter carefully, that we are getting our full share out of the road money for the development of these roads. It may not satisfy the hon. Member, but at any rate it is a little better than the mere letter of the law, and, perhaps, the less we talk about it across the Table of this House the better. At any rate, that matter is not being lost sight of. I would also point out that, of course, in improving the roads, we have to be very careful that we do not do it altogether to the detriment of our railways, and of the large number of men who are employed upon those services. The hon. Member for St. Rollox also asked me some questions about sewage disposal at Bearsden. I admit at once that is a difficult problem, but, after very careful consideration and investigation, we came to the conclusion that in fact we had not the power to force Bearsden to go into an arrangement with the City of Glasgow which they considered to be financially detrimental to them. The fact is that the sewage from Bearsden, carried, as it will be, through a pipe over a long distance, will be, in our opinion, sufficiently 1801 aerated and broken up to enable it to be discharged into the Clyde—not the Kelvin, as I think the hon. Gentleman suggested—in such a condition that it will not be deleterious or offensive. The matter will be most carefully watched by my Department, and there is this further thing to be said, that the procedure proposed will gave a large amount of employment in the district.
I was also asked about the Lochgoil-head steamer service, and its effect upon the Young Men's Christian Association holiday resort upon Lochgoilhead. The fact is that the steamer "Lord of the Isles," well known to a good many of us during our boyhood, has recently been broken up, but I understand that there is a daily motor boat service, and that during the summer that will be increased. The hon. Member for St. Rollox also asked me what advance had been made in dealing with puerperal fever and tuberculosis. I regret, as I am sure everyone must regret, that greater progress has not been made in dealing with the very serious problem of puerperal fever, but we have taken steps to ensure that in future on every death certificate these facts shall be notified, and that in itself will be an advance in giving us information which can be tabulated. In addition, I would draw the hon. Gentleman's attention, and, indeed, that of the House generally, to a report by Dr. Kinloch, the new Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health for Scotland, who speaks with peculiar knowledge on this subject. We desire to draw the attention of the whole medical fraternity in Scotland to his report—
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
It will become available. There is the further problem of the increase of hospital accommodation. I hope that, by the steps which we have taken recently in the Bill which has just left the House, we shall make further progress in this matter. On the problem of tuberculosis we have made some progress. The death rate has fallen from 99 per 100,000 to 97 per 100,000. That, of course, has been mostly in the pulmonary type of tuberculosis. In that alone it has fallen from 71 per 100,000 in 1927 to 68 in 1928. We have the highest number of beds in the hospitals of local authorities that we ever had—4,634—and 1802 hospitals have been opened in the Shetlands. Something like £600,000 per annum is being spent by local authorities. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Benn) asked me certain questions about the position of the Aberdeen police. I am indeed encouraged when I hear an hon. Member opposite asking me to make full use of what our English colleagues call the Henry VIII Clause, but what I prefer to describe as the James VI Clause. In spite of the hon. Member's encouragement, I fear I can hold out little hope of an accommodation or arrangement being made on that point. I have discussed this very difficult problem with the best will in the world with the authorities. Of course, it varies from place to place. Some of these harbour authorities who have made arrangements with the local authorities, as they have in Glasgow, are in a fortunate position. In some other cases, they are in a less fortunate position. I will consider what the hon. Member has said, but I am afraid I cannot hold out hope that we shall be able to meet his proposition.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I should like to examine the problem a little more carefully, but I should be less than candid if I did not say from what I recollect of the numerous discussions I have had that I am afraid I can hold out little hope.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I Have followed closely what the Minister has said, but he is unable to answer the ease that has been submitted. It is not enough simply to put up in a general way that what has been said from the Opposition benches is altogether condemnatory of the Government and that we have to take it for what it is worth. Facts have to be faced. It is true we have heard such a speech from the right hon. Baronet before, and it is just the necessity for traversing some of the points that establishes the inability of the Government to make an answer. Reference has been made to unemployment. We have been sincerely hoping for a specific statement of actual plans 1803 to be submitted to the country whereby we can get a substantial change in the present deplorable situation within the next twelve months. How comes it that the Government, with its powerful majority, after five years of office has nothing to say on that question at all? When the Liberal Leader is telling us that if given the opportunity he can raise money by loan to procure employment for half-a-million men, we are bound to urge upon the Government that here is a project which was perfectly within their power and which they have neglected.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Surely the raising of a large loan, such as the hon. Member refers to, would need legislation, and consequently would not be in order on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I am submitting that before they had reached their deathbed the Government ought to have taker-some such project in hand. That is all the argument I am making on that matter. Unable, as we are, in view of the rules of Order, to advocate anything which would involve expenditure, we are entitled to urge that there is no substantial contribution on the part of the Government towards the interests of Scotland as a whole. The right hon. Gentleman, referring to the project of making Scotland a health resort, said that he had charge of a number of public-houses. Does he reckon that that contributes towards making Scotland a health resort? Is it not likely to detract from the benefits of Scotland? What I am concerned about, first of all, is not the interests of those coming from America, or any other country, but that we shall try to make our country a fit place for the people who belong to the country and who have to find means of livelihood in it. There are between seven and eight thousand in Dundee who are denied an opportunity of earning their daily bread. The right hon. Gentleman evidently has it in his mind that he will try to do better if we give him a chance again. I should say: "God help us from such a prospect." We have had five years of it, and it is undoubtedly necessary for the country to get an opportunity—and I am glad the opportunity is coming—of returning a new Government. We want a flood which will sweep every Tory 1804 Member out of the country, and this country as well, and then we shall have a chance of getting something done.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
The hon. Member says that my right hon. Friend has not answered satisfactorily the questions put to him. He may not have answered them satisfactorily in the hon. Member's opinion, but I do not remember hearing such a comprehensive speech which answered, at any rate to our satisfaction, practically every single question that was put to him. I will do my best not to make an election speech, as did the hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair), but there are one or two remarks I must make about the herring fishing industry as I have not spoken on it for some weeks. I quite believe what the right hon. Gentleman said about the supply of credits for the replacement of the fleet. It is premature to think of anything of this kind now. First of all, I am not sure that the catching part of the fleet at the moment is not, on the whole, too great for the foreign market. Secondly, we do not know what type of craft is best suited for the needs of the industry. The right hon. Gentleman said that experiments are being carried out. I hope that he will give, through the Fishery Board, every encouragement to these experiments, so that we may really have, as the result of it, the very best type of craft for the needs of the industry in the future.
I am very sceptical about the value of loans for gear or anything of that kind. The Labour Government gave a loan for gear which was a dismal failure. Not 5 per cent. of the fishermen took advantage of it. Far the best thing the Government can do for the fishing industry at the present stage is to evolve something in the nature of a harbour policy. It is no part of my business to advocate increased expenditure—at any rate, if I do I shall hear about it tomorrow morning—but I think it is not a question of spending money. It is a question of writing off debts, which I do not believe in many cases can ever be recovered by the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman practically admitted that a good many of these debts were incurred by these northern harbours owing to the wholly abnormal conditions of the country. Many were actually closed down for naval purposes between 1914 and 1918 and 1805 could not make any revenue at all. They were practically in the war zone, and these northern fishing harbours correspond to some extent to the villages in the devastated areas in France. They were in the war zone, so far as we had a war zone. The North of Scotland was cut completely into half by the naval services during the War, and that war was the chief cause of the appalling amount of debt in which they have been plunged. I do not ask for the immediate expenditure of money; I only ask for a sympathetic consideration of this problem. Take the case of Fraserburgh, for example. They have a dead-weight debt of well over £100,000 and they have no chance whatever of paying off the whole of that debt. They have to pay year by year to the Public Works Loans Board what they can. They are not wiping off any debt, paying off sinking fund, or improving their position, and, if anything can be done to put these harbours on a satisfactory basis so that they have a chance of paying these debts off, it would do more good and do more to hearten the fishing industry than anything else.
I do feel that we should concentrate on the larger harbours. Many of the little harbours are doing no good to man or beast in Scotland. There are considerably-sized harbours useful for sheltering and tending the Fleet during the winter months, but I urge the necessity of concentrating the major part of our expenditure and developing the maximum for the big harbours which have to sustain the herring fishing during the summer months. Both Fraserburgh and Peterhead are in my constituency; there it is, and I cannot help it. Sometimes, in my more gloomy moments, I feel the responsibility of representing these two remarkable burghs is becoming too crushing, but for the moment I do represent them, and the middle summer fishing is carried out from these harbours. In Peterhead, which has to contain about 50 per cent. of the international fleet which conducts the summer herring fishing, it is essential that the ports should be deepened, and also that a slipway should be constructed for the repair of drifters. They have made application to the Development Commissioners for a loan and grant for the 1806 work, and all I want to do is to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to consider this question on its merits, and I am sure he will do what he can to facilitate a grant of such a loan.
The final point in connection with the herring fishing is the well-worn topic of the Russian markets. In all statistics given by the herring fishing industry by hon. Members opposite, the fact seems to be ignored that Poland is now no longer a part of Russia. Without taking that into consideration, the statistics are absolutely false. I believe we are going to get back into trading relations with Russia sooner or later, and I am certain that, after the smoke screen of political propaganda is removed, nobody will be more bitterly disappointed, when full trading relations are resumed, than the fishermen themselves, because this market is nothing like what hon. Members opposite have led them to expect. The Russians are very poor, and the vast majority of herring exported before the War went to Poland. I want to tell hon. Members opposite that some of our curers have recently asked the Bolsheviks to give quotations, and they quoted prices which were half the amount prevailing among Scottish curers at the present time. The Russians are concentrating upon buying cheap Norwegian herrings at half the prices of our best Scotch herrings, and they will go on doing so for a considerable time. If, and when, hon. Members come into office, they will find that they will not be able to deal with them. The opinion of Bolsheviks of the Members opposite is far lower than their opinion of us. I can assure hon. Members opposite that the observations they made about the present Chancellor of the Exchequer were highly laudatory compared with the remarks they made of the present Leader of the Opposition.
That leads me to the firm conviction that the only satisfactory relationship with Russia is a relationship which is based 100 per cent. upon trade and commerce. The most wonderful thing that has happened for months past is the despatch of the industrial delegation to Moscow. If anything can be done with regard to Russia, they will be able to do it. But I am afraid that there are many things that the Russians place prior to herrings on their list. There is agricultural machinery, textile 1807 machinery, and every sort of thing; and I would not like our fishermen to build up false or exaggerated hopes of the recovery of a large market in Russia. The European market without Russia has been slowly and steadily extending in the last four or five years, and, if we can concentrate on affording the fisher-men good harbours and good bases, and, when the time came, adequate facilities for purchasing the best type of craft, I am confident that the industry will regain the prosperity which it had before the War.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I am not going to raise any question on the marketing of herrings. I want to show where there is a market for these herrings. It is not a question of going far, the payment of better wages would ensure the greater buying of herrings in this country. I should like to refer to the wages paid to the workmen at Lennox Castle. I do not know whether it is the parish council that controls these wages, or whether it is the Control Board, or the Health Department in Edinburgh, but these men are being paid 35s. per week. They are able-bodied poor, and they do not come under the Employment Exchanges, having exhausted their benefit. This work has been accordingly given to them, I understand, by the Glasgow Parish Council. The wages paid are totally inadequate. In addition to the wage, there is, of course, money for taking the men from Glasgow to their work, but it is well enough known that such a wage is insufficient to keep a family, with the need for paying rent, coal, and light, small as the quantity of the latter is that they can afford to pay. This question has been raised privately with the Secretary of State for Scotland, but we could not get a clear idea as to which was the body responsible for determining the scale of wages. In the Glasgow Parish Council, the members are told it is a matter for the Health Department in Edinburgh, and that Department in Edinburgh say it is a matter for the Board of Control. I understand that the Glasgow Parish Council is the Board of Control for the moment. Why is it, then, that the chairman denied having any power to deal with this basis of wages? I should like the Under-Secretary to tell us just who is the directly 1808 responsible authority for determining the amount of money to be paid in wages, and also the body that employs these men.
We are told that the rate of wages is that paid in the area where the men work. But, taking this rate of 35s., you must remember that you are dealing with a place like Lennox Castle, where the conditions are altogether different from Glasgow in regard to the cost of living. We ask that there should be a sense of fair play and justice so far as these men are concerned. It is not as if they were criminals or had committed some offence. It is not the men only, but the wives and the children that are affected. Last week, I visited many of the homes, and, if hon. Members could see the faces of the children, I am sure that they would not haggle about the 35s. per week. We ought to have some relation to common decency. You are going to increase the poor rate in Glasgow if you do not pay these men a sum which enables them to get the quality of food necessary for their health. You will get mothers and children coming on to the rates as necessitous sick poor. That seems to me to be a blind policy. If the men are doing the work, that work has a value. If contractors were taking the men out of Glasgow to do that work, conditions would be altogether different. Are the Government going to say to these men that 35s. is the rate and that nothing more can be done; and, that being the rate, the Government have no further responsibility for the state of the children at all? I have had great experience on the Education Committee in Glasgow with regard to elementary schools, and, as visiting members, we can always tell when a child is having food which is not of proper value. We can tell by the appearance of the children when they are getting the wrong kind of food.
These conditions obtain among these men. They are the victims of a society which compels them not only to be un-employed, but to become able-bodied poor. I should like the Secretary of State to say whether anything more can be done. I want to know which is the responsible department. Is it the Glasgow Parish Council, the Glasgow Parish Council acting as the Board of Control, 1809 the Board of Health operating in Edinburgh, the Scottish Office in Whitehall, or the Secretary of State himself? I want to know, because this thing has been dragging on for months. It is of no use our own representatives on the Glasgow Parish Council raising the matter. They are told that a letter will be sent to Edinburgh. When it comes back, they are told that nothing can be done. When we come here, we are told that it is the Board of Control.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) touched upon a very important point. There is no doubt whatever that the food of the people generally does not contain the proper nourishment. That applies practically to the food of all classes. A good deal of the food supplied in towns is not fresh and is doctored up in some way. We have had lessons in the Press for years on the evil effects of white bread, and I believe that, if the question of suitable food was looked into, not only by the Board of Health in Scotland, but by the Ministry of Health in England, we should take an immense step forward in regard to the health of the people. The same applies to herrings which ought to be far cheaper than they are. It is not that the fishermen get the money, but the price which the retailers charge makes herrings almost a luxury. I do not know where the money goes, but it goes somewhere.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) spoke about large harbours. I want to say a word for one or two small harbours, not those which are in existence, but those which ought to be in existence. I represent, with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. J. Brown), a number of what may be called small fishermen with small boats; not sailing boats, but motor boats. They catch the finest herrings in the world. They have recently had a menace revealed to them by the Fishery Board, which Board ought really to protect them. Fortunately, the pressure of public opinion is such that this threatened menace is not to be carried through to fruition. I suggest that the authorities ought to give more careful consideration to the suggestion that these men's only means of livelihood should be thrown open to Fleetwood trawlers. The Scottish trawlers do not want to invade their 1810 territory. I have had a word with the Lord Provost of Aberdeen, who, representing hundreds of Scottish trawlers, told me that he had no thought of sending boats to the Moray Firth. The offending trawlers are those which have been caught again and again, and have been fined inadequate sums. This is one aspect to which we ought to pay attention. They ought to be treated as they are treated in Iceland and Denmark, where they are fined £1,000 and have their boats laid up for months.
I want to say a word about the small harbours. A year or two ago the Duke of Montrose very generously offered a harbour free in the Island of Arran, where the men could leave their boats and take the steamer to Campbeltown for a small charge instead of having to leave them in Tarbert Harbour and then take a char-a-banc for 40 miles home to Campbeltown. It is a harbour which a comparatively small sum for dredging would put in order for fishing boats. The harbour is simply silted up by the river coming down the hills. The Fishery Board made an inquiry and said that the necessary work would cost a sum of £7,000, but the Duke of Montrose assured me that he could do it locally for half the money. He was willing to give this harbour free for the benefit of the fishermen. There has been a long agitation for a harbour in Carradale in Kintyre. I believe that in war time it could have been built for a comparatively small sum, but I understand that the estimates obtained since the War are practically prohibitive. While I prefer a harbour at Carradale, I think that the one in Loch Ranza in Arran would to some extent supply the demand. It is offered to the Scottish fishermen and to the Fishery Board free of charge, and they would have to spend only a comparatively small sum to dredge it and put it in order.
I wish the Secretary of State for Scotland would look into this matter and see if he cannot convenience that large body of fishermen. These men are the finest and hardiest type of fishermen, because they are real sailors. They are a great recruiting ground for His Majesty's Navy. They came, just as did the trawlermen and driftermen from Fraserburgh and Peterhead, in large numbers to His Majesty's forces during 1811 the War. Here is an opportunity at a minimum cost of giving them a harbour which would serve that large and unprotected area. I do hope that the Secretary of State will take up this matter again and reconsider it. I hope that the Fishery Board, instead of being the friend of the trawler, will prove the friend of the small fishermen, who, after all, catch the best fish. I do hope that my right hon. Friend will assist these men.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Major Elliot)
I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will take note of the suggestions which have been made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten), and I rise only for the purpose of answering questions which have been put by the hon. Member for Spring-burn (Mr. Hardie). The Lennox Castle scheme is under the local board of control, which is the parish council acting under a definite Statute. That authority is responsible for the rates of wages which are paid. The hon. Gentleman asks who is responsible in this case. The responsible authority is the authority employing the men. If they were to lay down an extravagant scale of wages, it would be subject to surcharge and review by this Department. I am not suggesting that 35s., or a scale round about 35s. is extravagant, or that it is not within the power of this authority to make certain modifications. That question has not been raised. The immediate point is that the local authority is the board of control. That authority has power to lay down the scales. It is not within the power of the Department directly in any way to raise the scale. To do that, would require legislation of a pretty drastic nature, and therefore it would be out of order to pursue it further on this occasion. It is not within the power of the Secretary of State for Scotland to direct that higher wages should be paid. As for the local authority, it has a discretion in fixing wages, subject to the scales paid, not merely locally, but in the city of Glasgow. These are things which it has to take into account, and the local authority has the responsibility for, and the power of, fixing the wage scales.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Have the Board of Health made any representation in any 1812 way, directly or through their officers, intimating to the Glasgow Board of Control that this was an appropriate scale of wages.
§ Major ELLIOT
Oh, no, they have not exercised any pressure on the local authority. We have, of course, discussed the matter, and I had a word with the clerk to the Glasgow Parish Council as recently as last week, and I received a deputation. No member of the deputation raised the matter of the wage scale specifically with me at all. The clerk to the parish council said that he himself was not in receipt of anything about the wage scale. On the specific question as to pressure, we have not exercised pressure on the local authority, but the matter has been frequently under discussion and consideration both by letter, by telephone, and by word of mouth between the central department and the Glasgow Parish Council, or in this case the Glasgow Board of Control.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
In the event of the parish council raising the wages beyond the level of wages in the area, would the Scottish Board of Health intervene?
§ Major ELLIOT
I am afraid that that is a hypothetical question on which the hon. Member will not expect me to commit myself. As I said before, if they raise the wage to an extravagant amount, we have to intervene, but I have confidence in the decency and good sense of the Glasgow Parish Council.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Does it amount to this, that, when the local authority raises the wages beyond the level of wages obtaining in the area, the Scottish Board of Health intervene, but that, when the wages are low, the Scottish Board of Health refuses to intervene?
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. Member must understand that we are dealing at the moment purely with the legislative powers of the central department and the action which the Secretary for Scotland can take under the powers entrusted to him by this House. He has not the power to compel the local authority to pay a higher rate of wages. That is not his discretion or the discretion of anyone else. That is the law. It is his duty to intervene if extravagant wages are paid.