HC Deb 23 January 1930 vol 234 cc474-8

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 71A.

[Mr. ROBERT YOUNG in the Chair.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make further provision for the drainage of agricultural land in Scotland, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of the expenses to be incurred by the Department of Agriculture for Scotland under the said Act so far as those expenses are not recovered in the manner provided by the said Act."—(King's Recommendation signified.)—[Mr. William Adamson.]

The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. William Adamson)

After the large amount of information which has been given by the learned Lord Advocate and by others who have taken part in the Debate on the Bill, a very few words of explanation of the Money Resolution will suffice. The Bill has received the unanimous approval of the House and has been spoken of favourably by Scottish members in all quarters. I, therefore, think that the money necessary to carry out the purpose of the Bill should be granted without further discussion. The sum needed is £100,000. With this money we shall be able to carry out not only the ten principal schemes already referred to, which would have been explained in detail if time had permitted, but a number of subsidiary schemes as well. I hope that the Committee without further explanation will see their way to agree to the Resolution.

Major WOOD

I want to ask one question. Are we to understand that these schemes contemplated by Clause 2 are always to be contributed to out of public funds? Supposing there is a case where it is quite obvious that the advantage to the owners concerned is as much as, or more than, the cost of the scheme, will the whole of the cost be made payable by the different owners? In some cases these schemes will not entail any expense at all on the Exchequer.


It very much depends upon the circumstances.


My hon. Friend wants to know if a scheme comes forward in which the advantage is entirely to the proprietor, will no public money be expended?

Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE

I wish to make a protest that no representative of the Treasury is here when we are dealing with a Money Resolution. I also want to support the point which was made by an hon. Member on Second Reading, namely, that when you have Scottish Members in all parts joining together, then it is time for English Members to look out and to see that the English taxpayer is not done down by the Scottish. It is said that the cost will be £100,000 but there is nothing in the Resolution about £100,000. The Financial Memorandum says it is thought that the whole cost of the execution of the scheme may be in the neighbourhood of £100,000, but we do not know whether we are letting ourselves in for £100,000 or £1,000,000. There may be new schemes which are not mentioned here. The Financial Memorandum then says: It is thought that some 50 per cent. of the cost of all the schemes, excluding compensation, may ultimately be recovered. We do not know that 50 per cent. will be recovered. Then it says: The Department have no reason to suppose that claims will be unduly heavy. What does "unduly heavy" mean? The Committee cannot pass a Resolution of this sort without a great deal more information as to what we are letting ourselves in for.


We are dealing here with a Money Resolution which is the way in which the House provides the finance, and the Resolution says that it is a question of making further provision for the drainage of agricultural land. I take it that means something in the nature of capital charges. Although the Bill is based on the Money Resolution, the only part of the Bill which is in italics is in Clause 4, which says: The expenses of the Department under this Act so far as not recovered in manner provided by this Act shall, to such an amount as the Treasury may sanction, be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament. Therefore I take it this is really the only part of the Bill with which Parliament is concerned in finding the money. I gather that the Under-Secretary assents. But then I turn to Clause 2, Sub-section (12), and I find something quite different. It says that the cost incurred by the Department in maintaining drainage works executed in accordance with the various schemes shall be levied on and recovered from the owner by the rating authority and paid over by the rating authority to the Department. I take it that Clause 4 means that if, for one reason or another, the rate is not levied, the Treasury has to make good the difference.


We are taking power to levy the rate.


I quite see that the Government are taking power to levy the rate, but they cannot levy the rate if, for one reason or another, there is default, which is, I imagine, quite possible, particularly in Scotland. In Clause 4 power is taken by the Department to recover that amount from moneys which Parliament puts at its disposal. That is purely a question of maintenance, yet the Under-Secretary, when I put my first point, indicated that it was merely a question of capital works. Which is it? Surely it is perfectly simple to say whether the Government Department is to find contributions in aid of some kind of capital works, or whether we are finding an amount of money for the maintenance of works constructed under this Bill. Having to make good any default may involve a recurring charge and no reason has been given so far for limiting it to £100,000. It is a question of whether we are dealing with capital expenditure or with possible maintenance grants from year to year, and that is a matter of concern to every Member, whether he sits for a Scottish constituency or not, because we are all jointly responsible for the finances of the country. I hope that the Secretary of State, instead of looking at the clock, will reply to this point.


I would point out that there is very little time now at my disposal. We are putting forward this Money Resolution for the purpose of enabling us to go forward with this Measure, and, in the Money Resolution, the cost is estimated at £100,000. Had time been available I could have given the amounts set aside for each scheme, but the estimate of the total, as I say, is £100,000, and before the Treasury finally part with the matter it will be provided for in the Scottish Estimates. This Money Resolution is necessary to enable us to get the other stages of the Bill, and, having explained that to my fellow Members from England, and having pointed out that there is a unanimous feeling in favour of the Bill, I appeal to them to restrain themselves and allow us to get the Resolution.


I should be the last to—


On a point of order. What have we done to deserve this?

11.0 p.m.


These interruptions make it difficult for me to get on with the job. What I wish to know about this Resolution, of which we have had no explanation, from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury—


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.

Original Question put accordingly, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.