Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £397,313, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1932, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, including Grants for Land Improvement, Agricultural Education and Research, Loans to Co-operative Societies, a Grant under the Agricultural Credits (Scotland) Act, 1929, a Grant in respect of the Hebridean Drifter Service, and certain Grants in Aid."—[Note: £175,000 has been voted on account.]
Mr. W. ADAMSON
When I introduced the Estimates last year, I took the opportunity to say a few words upon the agricultural industry and its importance and stated that, in my view, the policy to be aimed at is one 7.0. p.m. which would make the best use of the natural advantages of the country and which would do most to supply the enormous market for agricultural products which lies at our doors. The magnitude of this market is shown by the fact that we import annually £230,000,000 worth of food, exclusive of cereals. Of the total value of meat consumed annually in this country 48 per cent. is imported; the corresponding proportion of poultry and eggs is 54 per cent., of dairy produce 52 per cent., of potatoes and vegetables 27 per cent., and of raw fruit 42 per cent. All of these can be grown in one or other area in this country. Notwithstanding this vast demand in our home market, we, along with the rest of the world, are 268 sharing in an agricultural depression due to widespread causes, for which it is difficult to find any speedy and effective remedy. It is no great consolation to know that we are not alone in our difficulties. It is some consolation to believe that the standard of technical efficiency of most of our farming is high and that for that reason probably we are suffering less than many of our competitors. I have had occasion to refer in the House to the various agricultural surveys which have been made by the Department of Agriculture from time to time. These surveys are made for the purpose of ascertaining by careful inquiries the economic conditions in difierent parts of the country.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dunnico)
I must ask the right hon. Gentleman whether these figures refer to Scotland only or to the whole country. If they refer to the whole country, I could not permit a general discussion on agriculture throughout the British Isles on the Scottish Estimates.
I simply mentioned the figures to show the market open to Scotland as well as to England, and I have now passed on to matters which are exclusively Scottish. As I was saying, when you put the point—you were quite within your right—the first result of these inquiries covering the year 1929 is of the utmost interest. The results for 1929–30 should also prove of interest and value to the agricultural community. I regard the work of collecting and compiling these figures, with the assistance of the agricultural colleges and the farmers as of the first importance. In due time we shall be able to have a trustworthy picture showing the financial conditions of agriculture in Scotland. It is on the lines of promoting self-help that the Department of Agriculture is proceeding and considerable advances in that direction have already been made.
I also referred last year to the experiments inaugurated under the regulations of the Agricultural Produce Grading and Marking Act and, in particular, to the grading of pigs. The experimental scheme for the voluntary grading and marking of Scottish killed pigs was begun in Aberdeen and certain other centres in the north-eastern counties in October, 269 1929. The scheme was taken up with enthusiasm by a number of traders and has proved continuously successful. During the first four months of the present year the weekly average number of sides graded and marked was about 2,500, while the number of butchers and dealers who were submitting the pigs for grading was about 190. From the beginning of the scheme up to the end of April, the total weight of pigs graded and marked was about 19,000 tons. It is not possible to say precisely what the effect of the scheme has been on the prices realised for the meat in London, but, according to evidence submitted to a committee which investigated the matter and reported on the subject last year, Smithfield has absorbed larger quantities of Scottish pigs at relatively higher prices than in previous years. Whether the marking and grading of pigs can be extended to other centres such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee, depends, in the first place, largely on the provision of the necessary quantity, which so far it has not been possible to obtain for that purpose; but I have no doubt that the success which has already attended the system will enable us to find the funds for an extension of grading and marking, which will be advantageous both to the producer and to the consumer. Among other commodities to which the National Mark scheme applies, are potatoes, eggs and tomatoes. In all cases the schemes are proving beneficial, and it is to be hoped that they will be increasingly adopted so that our home products may gain and hold a permanent position in our home markets.
With the aid of the Empire Marketing Board, other measures have been taken to bring the merits of our Scottish agricultural produce to the knowledge of consumers in the various parts of the country. Exhibits of various kinds have been held at the British Industries Fair, the Empire Marketing Board shops in Glasgow and Birmingham, the Scottish Grocers' Exhibition, the International Grocers' Exhibition, the Imperial Fruit Show, and the Glasgow Civic Empire Week. These efforts towards the grading and marking of produce are steps towards the organised marketing for which the Government's Marketing Bill now under consideration makes provision. In considering the position of Scotland in 270 relation to the policy of the Bill, I thought it right to take into account the existence of such bodies as the Scottish Milk Agency, and the Scottish Wool Growers Limited, which have been formed for the purpose of dealing on a large scale with specific commodities and which contemplated the furtherance of the principle of co-operative action. Accordingly, in its application to Scotland, the Bill provides that the governing body of an agricultural society may be constituted as a board for the purpose of the Bill.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman must not discuss prospective legislation. I have to consider what the effect of his speech would have on other Members, and my ruling would be that it would entitle hon. Members opposite, if they so desired, to discuss the suggested legislation, and that could not be allowed on these Estimates,
I had no intention of discussing the merits or otherwise of that legislation. I was simply pointing out the relation the Bill would have to our grading and marking scheme and what could be done under the Empire Marketing Board.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
If I permitted the right hon. Gentleman to make comments on prospective legislation, I could not prevent other Members of the Committee disputing and if necessary repudiating his opinion. Therefore, I cannot allow prospective legislation to be raised.
I am sorry if I have transgressed the Rules of the Committee. I do not think that anything I have said up to now has transgressed the Rules. I merely mentioned this Bill, and I did not proceed to discuss its merits or otherwise. I simply proceeded——
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I cannot allow that to pass. The right hon. Gentleman is making specific and definite reference to a Bill which is before Parliament. Whatever may be his intention, the effect of that upon the Committee would be that I could not refuse to allow other Members to comment on the matter. I cannot allow that and must rule the matter out of Order.
I bow to your Ruling. All I wanted to say in regard to legislation 271 was that I intended to mention the question of live stock and the efforts that were being taken by the Government to improve it. But, as you have already said I cannot mention legislation, I bow to your Ruling and will proceed to deal with other matters.
I now come to the question of education and research, two most important matters to agriculture. This work is proceeding with increased energy and interest on the part of the farmers, and it is to their interest and its result that we must attribute in some degree the ability of the Scottish farmer to withstand the present depression. A few weeks ago the Hannah Dairy Research Institute was formally opened. Recognition of its value has been shown by the contributions from agricultural societies and individual farmers. The Macaulay Institute of Soil Research, due to the generosity of Mr. T. B. Macaulay, of Montreal, is now in being in Aberdeen, and it is expected that it will be in full operation by the end of the year. The fine new buildings of the West of Scotland Agricultural College at Auchencruive are nearly completed and the dairy and poultry section of the college have now been installed there. We have now in Scotland a system of agricultural education and a group of research institutes of which we have reason to be proud. Some indication of the value which is placed upon research may be gathered from the fact that since the War £340,000 has been contributed to research in Scotland by private individuals and firms, and £22,500 has been produced by farmers themselves, assisted by one or two seed merchants for the formation of a plant breeding society which, by the way, has already produced some very excellent results.
I now turn to the question of agricultural credits, upon which hon. Members from time to time have asked many questions. Hon. Members like myself are aware of the difficulty which has surrounded this matter. Agricultural credits became an accomplished fact in England and Wales shortly after the Bill passed through this House, but we in Scotland have experienced some difficulty which the right hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Sir J. Gilmour) was unable to overcome when he was Secretary of State and which I myself, notwithstanding many anxious efforts, 272 have not been able to overcome. I am glad to say, however, that after long and terious negotiations four of the Scottish banks, the Royal Bank, the Commercial Bank, the National Bank, and the British Linen Bank, have agreed to find sufficient capital—namely, £100,000—and to set up an Agricultural Security Company in Scotland under the terms of the Agricultural Credits (Scotland) Act, 1029. The banks are considering now how to finance an issue of debentures from which the greater part of their working capital will be derived, and I take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the public spirit and good will of these banks which have accepted the responsibility of setting up this Security Company as a matter of public policy and national welfare, and not as a commercial development which they would in normal circumstances have adopted. The memorandum and articles of association which have been framed, generally on the lines of the corresponding instruments adopted by the English Mortgage Corporation, are now before the Treasury, whose approval has to be obtained before the financial support from public funds contemplated by the Act can be forthcoming. Naturally, it will take some little time to get over the preliminary difficulties, but I am glad to be able to announce that things have progressed so favourably and that at last we are within measurable distance of being able to set up agricultural credits in Scotland as well as in England.
The next point in connection with these Estimates is the question of land drainage. I had hoped that the Land Drainage Act which came into operation last year would by this time have enabled me to report Progress both as regards the drainage of land and as regards the provision of employment. The operations of the Act, however, are, hedged round by so many safeguards that the most minute precautions must be taken before a scheme can be launched. The most important on which the Department is engaged at present is that of the Kelvin, where 2,000 acres of land are liable to flooding. The scheme is complicated by the fact that the Kelvin flows through the City of Glasgow, and several industrial undertakings make use of the water. The Department's engineers have prepared a scheme for excavating and deepening the bed of the river, and the 273 work of estimating the benefit which will be conferred upon the lands liable to flooding by the carrying out of this drainage scheme, for which a corresponding charge will be laid upon the owners, has been completed. The Kelvin scheme is possibly the most difficult and complicated of all the schemes which the Department is likely to deal with under the Act, and the experience gained in dealing with this big undertaking should make it possible to deal with other schemes more rapidly than has been the case so far as the Kelvin is concerned.
The Department have now under examination by their engineers schemes in connection with the Annan, the Nith in Dumfriesshire, the Lossie in Morayshire. Not less urgent in Scotland is the need for pressing forward the work of field drainage. The improvement of all classes of arable land by tile drainage and of the hill pastures by the cutting of hill drains is a work which will benefit very large sections of our agricultural community, and I am sure that even those who are not agriculturists can appreciate the value which good drainage will confer upon the industry. I was glad to be able to persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year to double the amount of the grant made by the State towards this purpose in Scotland, and the amount so increased is being made available again this year. It is a sum of £30,000, and as the State's contribution is not more than one-third of the cost it ensures the spending of nearly £100,000 and will give employment to a considerable number of unemployed persons in this type of work. In connection with the grant of last year we spent roughly about £100,000 and have been able to insure the improvement of about 9,000 acres of arable land and about 127,000 acres of pasture land.
The next point is the question of land settlement. I think I can claim that the Government have done everything that was possible to utilise the resources at their disposal, to improve the existing administrative machinery and to provide new machinery and funds for widening the scope of this service and extending its benefit to applicants who otherwise would be disqualified through lack of the capital necessary to undertake successfully the cultivation of smallholdings. I would remind the Committee that 274 during last year we have spent a considerable time in thrashing out the details of two Bills in which land settlement figures somewhat prominently and, having in view of your Ruling, Mr. Chairman, I will simply mention them—the Land (Utilisation) Bill and the Small Landholders and Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Bill, a purely Scottish Bill. In regard to executive activities, which we have full liberty to discuss this afternoon, I need not remind hon. Members that these activities are restricted by the fact that the grant-in-aid to the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund is limited by Statute to a sum of £175,000 annually.
For some years prior to the coming into office of the present Government the full grant-in-aid was not used, but on assuming office in June, 1929, I instructed the Department that the progress of land settlement should be accelerated to the maximum possible within the limits of the fund available. This has been done. Last year I made provision for the maximum grant-in-aid of £175,000, and I ask for a similar provision this year. During the five years of the previous administration the annual average sum provided was a little over £110,000. Since June, 1929, I have authorised the acquisition of 17 estates, embracing 17,740 acres suitable for sub-division into 270 smallholdings and 26 enlargements of holdings. This is in addition to schemes of settlement on the estates of private individuals, which have also been in progress during the two years named. During the preceding five years the number of estates acquired was 31, embracing 26,000 acres and providing for 240 new holdings and 34 enlargements of holdings. The number settled during the two years of my office was 240 in 1929 and 280 in 1930. In the two preceding years the numbers were 156 and 208 respectively. In the five years prior to June, 1929, commitments entered into amounted to £487,000. I have authorised, in the period of less than two years from June, 1929, commitments amounting to £604,053.
These figures will show that, so far as land settlement is concerned, we have been doing our best to speed up the programme so as to be able to settle as many people as possible on the land. If we are fortunate enough with the legislation 275 now in progress, we believe we shall be able to increase that number. Personally, I take the view that one of the biggest things we can do is to make a better use of the land at our disposal. I claim that in the time at our disposal we have been doing that, and I can assure the Committee that so long as we remain in office, we shall take every step possible in order to accelerate schemes of land settlement.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I think the Committee will congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the interesting survey that he has made. He has added some information to what is to be found in the report of the Department of Agriculture which was put into our hands by the Vote Office yesterday. By far the most important item in the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that in which he made an announcement regarding agricultural credit. As he rightly said, he has been pressed for the last two years to get on with that matter, and I am sure that it is a great satisfaction to agriculture in Scotland to know that at last something is to be done. One could gather what the reasons were for the delay. The right hon. Gentleman indicated that the four banks which had now seen their way to come forward in support of the proposal were considering the question of the issue of debentures to the public. I can imagine that it was on the question of the value of those debentures that all the banks in Scotland were holding their hands. No doubt the debentures are to be issued as trustee securities, and the banks probably had some doubt as to whether the securities would maintain their value over a period of years. One can only hope that the venture which is now to be launched will be a great success.
There is a crying need for credit in Scotland for many purposes. There is the need of those farmers who have bought their farms, who are at present paying very high rates of interest to private lenders and now wish to get the benefit of some cheaper credit by means of the Security Corporation. There is a still larger class of farmers, in fact the farmers in general, who have a particularly lean time between the sowing of the seed in the spring, the payment of Whitsuntide rent and the date of the reaping of the crops. It is necessary for 276 the farmer to have capital to tide him over that period. Can the Secretary of State given any information as to the date when loans are likely to be available to the farmers? That is the point on which they will want information. I hope that the arrangements are not going to take as long as the preliminary negotiations, and that within the next month or two at least we may see some progress made with regard to the actual giving of loans to those who need them.
One has to turn to the report of the Department of Agriculture in order to get a full resumé of the work done by the Department. Anyone who wants to know whether farming can be made to pay ought to read the report, with particular reference, for example, to cooperation and marketing, and with regard to agricultural education and research and the improvement of livestock. Those who have doubts as to whether rural life can be made attractive should read about the Women's Rural Institutes, which in recent years have made amazing progress, and in which I have a sort of paternal interest, because I was one of three men who were permitted to be members of the first committee that set this great movement on a national basis in Scotland. Before long we were summarily dismissed and for many years the movement has been entirely in the hands of the women themselves and is doing splendid work. I think it is fair that we should congratulate the Department of Agriculture upon the activity which it has shown in the numerous sections of its work. It has been active and aggressive, though I shall have to criticise it on one or two points before I finish.
I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman emphasise the matter of education and research, on which, as the Estimate shows, a sum of about £150,000 is to be spent this year, an increase of £15,000 on last year's total. The question at once presents itself, how are all the results of the research to be made known to the farmers, the men and women who are actually carrying on the industry? The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt devise means for doing that. In the report itself there is a mine of information which one would wish to be in the hands of those who can best use it. One is sorry to see a decline 277 in the allotment movement. That is one of the dark pages of the report of the Department. I see that over a period of 10 years there has been a decline of something like 1,800 acres. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having set up a strong Committee to further the allotment movement, which I am certain will be of great benefit.
I would emphasise two points in connection with the buildings on the smallholdings in Scotland, particularly in the Highland districts. It is a matter for congratulation that the reproach of what were known as "the black houses" has been largely removed, and is in course of being still further removed in the West Highlands. The right hon. Gentleman did well to emphasise the assistance being given to crofters to repair and rebuild their own houses. It is the most economic method to follow. No one can put the supply of building materials to better use than the owners of the cottages, who know what they want, and can supply their own labour for the purpose. The right hon. Gentleman, referred to land drainage, and one regrets with him that there has been so much delay in putting it into operation. Apparently, progress has now to be made in dealing with the flooding of the River Kelvin. The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned other three rivers, the Annan, the Nith, and the Lossie. By the Lossie, does the right hon. Gentleman mean the Spey? Year after year there has been such heavy flooding, and there the need for the Act being put into operation is probably the greatest in that part of Scotland. I could take the right hon. Gentleman to a part of my constituency in Kincardineshire where a number of farms have been completely submerged and the area is now a huge loch, because there has been no drainage in that area since the War. It is an area to which he should direct his attention in order to retrieve the laud for arable purposes.
The next matter to which I would refer is the survey. I was interested to hear that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to publish the results of the survey which he has been making of the agricultural land in Scotland. I would like to know whether he means that he has completed what was begun by his predecessor—a 278 minute survey of the agricultural land in each county in Scotland. If I remember rightly, Kincardineshire was the first county to be reported on, but I understood that the report which was presented to the Department had been kept more or less as a confidential document. I never could understand why the reports which the Department is obtaining should not be made public. The survey which I understand the right hon. Gentleman is making is a survey of how the acreage in each county is being utilised, and whether in some cases it is not being utilised at all; what acreage requires drainage, how the land can best be used for agriculture or afforestation, and also general statistics with regard to rural conditions, the amount of stock on the various holdings, the size of the holdings and so on. If he could add to this publication a series of maps explanatory of the reports they would be of great service.
I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will not forget a matter which I brought under his notice by means of a question recently, namely, the continuation of the register of smallholdings. In spite of all the protestations made by the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors that the Department is yearly adding so many hundreds of smallholdings to the list in Scotland, the total number of holdings in the country was reported by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor within the last two or three years to have been no greater than it was in 1911. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, as a result of the two years' efforts of his Government, of which he is naturally proud, the total number of holdings to-day is any larger than it was in 1912. I have the gravest doubt as to that because it was frankly admitted by his predecessor that there was a constant leakage of holdings going out of the Acts, owing to the fact that the code of Smallholdings Acts was not watertight. It was to that matter that some of us directed attention in Committee on the consideration of the recent Measure.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of land settlement. I should like to know who is the responsible officer in the Department of Agriculture now dealing with the question of land settlement. In 1912 there was a Commissioner for Landholdings, but that office was done away with and I should like to know 279 not only who is the responsible officer now, but also what are the qualifications of the responsible officer. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give that information which will be of interest to the country. Regarding the land settlement policy of the Department the report claims that under the Land Settlement Act of 1919, 95 separate estates were acquired totalling 330,498 acres. I assume that these 95 estates were acquired by one Government or another by purchase. In contradistinction to that statement the report shows that under the Small Landholders Acts, 1886 to 1911, 320,565 acres were acquired, no doubt mostly on privately-owned estates, and I assume that this land was acquired by scheduling, that is to say that Department did not purchase the land, but merely obtained the use of it, the private owner receiving rent for it.
The proposition which I put to the right hon. Gentleman is that he ought not to waste in this way the comparatively small amount which is annually given to his Department by way of grant and which, according to himself, he has considerable difficulty in getting from the Exchequer—or at any rate he has difficulty in getting it augmented. I suggest that he ought not to waste it in purchasing land from the landowners, but that he ought to adopt the method which is ready to his hand of obtaining power to get the use of the land. I see that during 1930 the Department acquired nine new estates and an additional portion of another estate, that is to say, land suitable for 179 new holdings and 26 enlargements. Apparently under the Smallholdings Acts they were only able to settle 11 new holdings, and the obvious inference to be drawn from these facts is that the Department is proceeding almost entirely by the method of purchasing land instead of merely scheduling it, in order to obtain the use of the land from the owner. That is a very expensive method and is depriving the right hon. Gentleman of a large fund which he could use for equipping holdings and providing them with roads, fences and water supply. I trust that he will reconsider that matter.
The right hon. Gentleman made no reference to a demand of which he must 280 be well aware and which is referred to in the report. That is the demand of the ex-service men for holdings. The report shows that 9,418 ex-service men applied for holdings since 1918, and it is noteworthy that 4,785, or practically half of them, withdrew their applications. No doubt that means that many of them were heartsick of waiting. Some of them have waited for 10 or 12 years in the hope of getting holdings. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that at the present moment there are 2,238 outstanding applications by ex-service men for new holdings leaving out of account enlargements? I would press upon the right hon. Gentleman this question—is it want of capital on the part of these men which is preventing him from providing them with holdings? If so, can he not see his way to make some relaxation with regard to these loans. Surely the nation's debt to these men ought to be paid now after this long delay. Already this afternoon one matter of a long delay has been laid at the door of the right hon. Gentleman and I, with great respect, would lay this matter with regard to the ex-service men's holdings, at his door also, as a matter in which there has been too much delay.
That is not to be laid at my door, but at the door of the hon. Member's party and another party.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I think, respectfully, that the matter to which I am now referring is to be laid at the door of the right hon. Gentleman and it is a very serious matter for these ex-service men. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman not to consider too much in this connection what other Governments have done. If they have been remiss the blame is theirs. But the right hon. Gentleman's opportunity for making a reputation may be that he can supply these men with the holdings of which they have been deprived for so long and I urge that consideration upon him with great deference. The report is silent with regard to the tenure of these holdings which the right hon. Gentleman tells us he is settling. I contrast with that, the report 281 of another Department which comes before the right hon. Gentleman, namely the Scottish Land Court. They have not been silent with regard to tenure. I expected that the Department of Agriculture would have made some submission to the right hon. Gentleman in reply to the very serious charge which the Scottish Land Court has made with regard to the actions and policy of the Department. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, the Scottish Land Court have called public attention to a very serious new departure of policy. They say in the report for 1928:A new development in the practice followed by the Board in dealing with the method under which we are asked to fix the rents of properties of which they are proprietors, has rendered it necessary for us to add a new table to our reports. This new practice signalises a departure from the normal conception of the landholder which has been embodied in "the statutes as being a tenant who has acquired a pecuniary interest in the permanent improvements on the holding on which he is not rented and for which he is entitled to claim compensation on his outgoing.In the following year they called attention to the same matter and I do not intend to allow it to go by default. I propose to provide the right hon. Gentleman with one or two references which I trust will satisfy him that the change of policy is not warranted, that it is contrary to the intention of the Acts and that it is also contrary to specific Sections. The point is that, instead of continuing the policy of giving loans to holders in order to settle them in holdings—the holders retaining the loan during a period of, say, 50 years, and becoming entitled to a pecuniary interest in the buildings—the Department of Agriculture, on the instructions I understand of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in office, made a departure from that settled policy, and it is now the custom from day to day in the Department to let holdings as equipped holdings, giving the holders no opportunity of becoming practically the owners of the buildings during their lifetime or the lifetime of their families. The result is that they are rated at a higher rate by the public authorities and they are also liable for repairs and restoration of buildings.
In all these different ways the Department is establishing holders upon a basis which is most prejudicial to the holders, and the only scrap of excuse offered to 282 the House of Commons for it, was offered by the late Under-Secretary of State for Scotland who said that the Department wished to have the option to settle on a quit rent basis if it desired. May I press this point on the right hon. Gentleman—that under the 1911 Act the landholder is specifically defined as a man who owns the greater part of the improvements upon his holding. When the right hon. Gentleman uses the money given to his Department by the Treasury he should remember that he is getting that money under two Acts. He is getting it under the Acts of 1911 and of 1919 and Section 6 of the Act of 1911 states definitely that the money is to be used for the purpose of facilitating the constitution of new landholders' holdings, while in Section 9 of the Act of 1919 the constitution of the landholders' holdings is mentioned, and it is stated that they must be recorded in the landholders' holdings book. Then Part IV of the Act provided for the Department borrowing money from the Public Works Loan Commissioners to the extent of £2,750,000 but it was to be borrowed for a certain purpose, that is for the adaptation of land for landholders under the Act of 1911. Are the Public Works Loan Commissioners aware that part of the money which is being lent by them to the Department of the right hon. Gentleman is being used for purposes other than those specifically set forth in the Acts?
I would like to know whether any of the funds that have been earmarked for landholders only by these two Acts have been used for the purpose of equipped rents. If they have, I think they have been misused. The right hon. Gentleman has already cited an instance this evening in which he gave definite instructions to the Department under his charge, and I trust that in this matter of equipped rents he will use his own discretion—and nobody is more able to do it, than he—and instruct the Department that they shall abide by the settled policy of the Smallholdings Acts and depart from the recent policy of equipped rents. The matter will no doubt be taken up by the Public Accounts Committee, but he will regret as much as I that the matter should be allowed to go on so long that serious complications may eventually arise. At least it will not be for want of fair warning, because, as he knows, 283 I raised this matter this time last year in the House and in Committee upstairs and I intend to press it until I see that the Department is not allowed to usurp the rights of this House in this way. Parliament has set forth in the various Acts, in no uncertain way, the policy which is to be followed, and it is for this House to see that the Acts are duly observed.
§ Sir JOHN GILMOUR
I think the Committee will feel that a discussion upon agriculture and the administration of the Department at this time may serve a very useful purpose. Scotland is going to celebrate the centenary show of the great Highland and Agricultural Society this year, and is going to welcome within her shores representatives of the farming industry from the outer Empire. These are matters of great interest to all who are concerned with agriculture in Scotland. The Department over which the right hon. Gentleman presides deals with the administrative side, and in so far as funds are available to them, they endeavour, quite properly, to assist agriculture in a variety of directions. I would like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman who now holds the office of Secretary of State for Scotland on the success which has attended the very long-drawn-out negotiations with the Scottish banks. I was in the position of endeavouring to carry out an agreement with the Scottish banks for loans to agriculture some time ago. It was a fact, I think, that in Scotland our banks have given more readily, and under easier circumstances than has been the case in England, assistance to the farming industry, but it was felt in this House, and I was one of those who felt it, that there was a gap, and I am glad to think that that gap now may be filled. It is clear that there are still some final hurdles to be got over, and the right hon. Gentleman is not yet in the position of being able to tell us quite definitely when these loans may come into operation.
Reference was made by the right hon. Gentleman to the surveys which have been made in Scotland. These have been going on for some considerable time, and I am glad to think that they are being continued and that we may ultimately get 284 from them a good deal of helpful information. I would say, in regard to any criticisms as to secrecy, that, as I understand it, a great part of the information which has been given to the officials of the Department in carrying out these surveys has been confidential information, and that where anything is to be published it must be published with a due regard to those circumstances. All the same, I think there can be collation, and I hope that from time to time we shall have the advantage of seeing the result of these surveys.
In regard to that problem, the question of drainage, both arterial and field drainage, also arises. It is a fact that the right hon. Gentleman has been able to double the amount which has been available for that purpose, and here again I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having been able to get that added money, but I want to ask him one or two questions about it. I observe that in the Estimates which we are considering, a very large additional sum is asked for as travelling expenses and for other matters with regard to the staff. I presume that those increases are due to greater activity of the officials and perhaps an added staff, due partly to the drainage problem and partly to the increased efforts of the Department for land settlement. In these hard times, however, we want to be quite sure that we are going to get real value for an added expenditure on the staff at the present time. I am very desirous of being quite fair to the Department, because I have the greatest admiration for a great part of the work which they do, but I think this House ought to understand exactly for what particular reasons these increases, very considerable in themselves, are asked for.
I want now to say a word about the problem of research in agriculture and the great strides which we have made in this problem in Scotland, and to express, not only to the right hon. Gentleman and the Department, but, if I may, to men like Mr. Hannah and Mr. T. B. Macaulay, for their generosity and for the fact that their generosity has stimulated and increased the interest of agriculturists of all types and classes in Scotland in the problem of scientific research. Everyone who has been privileged, as I have been, to attend and to see something of the work of Dr. Orr, 285 in Aberdeen, and the work which is being done in Edinburgh, ought now to realise that in the West of Scotland there is established in the atmosphere of the country districts, outside the great cities of our country, a further research station. It is, I think, a matter of great congratulation. But I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman if, in carrying out this research work and in encouraging the universities and the agricultural colleges, he will not lose sight of the necessity, in this scientific work, of maintaining the practical side. I have an apprehension that many people are going through these agricultural colleges, attending these classes, and gaining their diplomas for the purpose, not of going back into active work on the soil in agriculture, but rather tending towards attempting to pass for posts as instructors both in this country and outside.
When one looks around the country at the present time and desires to get a good, sound, practical dairymaid or someone for ordinary work upon the farms of our country, it is an extraordinarily difficult thing. I speak from practical experience of the shortage of really efficient dairymaids, of under-shepherds, and of qualified cattlemen. If these institutions are to serve their full and proper purpose, their energies must be turned towards encouraging, training, and improving the knowledge of the people who are actually working upon the land. That brings me to say that I am glad to think that already steps are being taken to form classes, not of great length, at centres in either the colleges or in our cities, but bringing these classes into touch with the working farmers and the young men and young women who are serving their apprenticeship in this industry. If that is being done, I think we can get real value out of it.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can say anything more to us about the progress which the Macaulay Soil Research Institute has made. I realise that it is early days yet, but when I was in the outer islands last autumn, I saw the beginnings of the enterprise outside Stornoway, and I heard from time to time of something which is going on in Aberdeen. I think we should be interested to know whether it is too early yet to come to conclusions or whether anything of an encouraging nature can be made known. I 286 should like also to ask incidentally whether any further progress has been made on the subject of bracken disease. Those of us who hope that some solution of a scientific nature might be found for dealing with a problem which affects a great part of our grazing areas in the Highlands are, I think, a little disappointed that our experiments in this direction have not been more fruitful, but I should like to know if any further advance has been made in that matter.
I congratulate the Department upon a great deal of the work which they have been doing, but so far as agriculture is concerned, the real problem which faces most of us who want to make both ends meet upon the farms is not only to know the most highly scientific methods, not only to have available to us the means of obtaining loans for agricultural purposes, but above all to find a market at a remunerative price for that which we produce. The right hon. Gentleman quoted certain figures, sections of which may apply to Scotland, as to the immense amount of foodstuffs of all qualities and kinds which come into this country and compete with our producers. I was glad to note that he evidently was disturbed at the enormous figures and that he desired to see something done to deal with that problem, but that would lead mo into fields which are probably outside the De-bate this evening. While I congratulate the Department on the progress they have made, I fear that there are still wider and more clamant problems in agriculture on which we cannot touch to-night.
§ Major COLVILLE
I wish to draw attention to one particular branch of agriculture in Scotland, that is, the growing of small fruit and vegetables. On the 19th November last there was a Debate in the House in which the question of the fruit-growing industry was discussed. Since that date deputations have been received by the Scottish Members to discuss the peculiar position of Scotland as regards this industry. These deputations made plain to Members of all parties that the position in that industry was very serious. On the 19th May a question was put by the hon. and learned Member for South Aberdeen (Sir F. Thomson) on the subject of the fruit industry, and he was informed that 287 the Government were well aware of the serious position, but the observation was made in the answer that, according to information in the hands of the Secretary of State for Scotland, there had been no considerable decrease in the employment of fruit harvesters in the largest fruit-growing area of Scotland last year as compared with the year before. He added that the distress in the industry was partly due to a very large crop of raspberries which had produced a slump in prices, and which came largely from a prolific cane of the "Lloyd George" variety.
The position as we know it in Scotland and as we hear of it from representative bodies is rather different from what that answer would indicate. We have it on very good authority that the employment last year in harvesting fruit was very much reduced from the previous year. It is possible that large numbers of fruit harvesters were taken on, but that they were not retained in employment for any length of time. I have here a statement made by the Scottish Council for Women's Trades. Many women are engaged on fruit harvesting, and this statement makes it plain that large numbers of these fruit harvesters, who normally find employment in this work, were paid off after a short length of time and found themselves unemployed. The statement said:Last season thousands of these workers, drawn from all over Scotland, and largely from our big cities and from mining districts, had to be dismissed after only three weeks' employment, leaving an enormous quantity of valuable fruit ungathered. This had to go to waste on the bushes.I would be going outside the scope of the Debate if I outlined the measures which would be necessary to prevent the importation of the foreign pulp which hits this industry, but I think that I am right to point out the serious position in which this industry is placed at the present time. We would not be entitled to pass this Vote if we thought that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues were not fully aware of it, and did not intend to put up to the proper quarter the grave position of the industry.
I want to say a word about the importance of this industry from the point 288 of view of giving employment. The area under cultivation last year for small fruit and vegetables in Scotland was 17,000 acres. When that figure is compared with the total arable area in Scotland, which is roughly 3,000,000 acres, it seems to be a small proportion; it is about 1–200ths; but from the point of view of the employment which it gives, its importance is very considerable. The fruit industry employs approximately 4,000 regular workers and 14,000 casual workers in Scotland, a total of 19,000 workers. If that is contrasted with the number of acres covered, it will be found that one worker per acre is given employment in the industry. In the larger branch of agriculture on account of its nature, the proportion is less; there is only one worker for every 31 acres. I therefore earnestly ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider this industry on account of the valuable possibilities it has of giving employment, and to represent to the proper quarter what necessary steps can be taken to safeguard it from unfair competition.
Another branch of the fruit industry which has made strides in recent years, but which is now also feeling the same depression on account of imports, is the tomato or glass-house industry. In the Clyde Valley in Lanarkshire where I live, many glass-houses have been built. Here one regular worker is employed for every one-quarter of an acre. If that industry can be encouraged, we can get much more employment, and I know a way in which it can be encouraged. Yet last year the imports of foreign tomatoes were higher than they had ever been before. We shall shortly, I understand, have the opportunity of meeting a deputation representing the fruit-growing industry. They are to meet separately Members of all parties who represent Scottish constituencies. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider carefully what I have said, and to give due regard to the representations put forward by this deputation. I will, in conclusion, quote the words of the President of the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture in a recent statement in which he says:The position of the raspberry grower is now a desperate one. Many of the small people have already been ruined, and if the conditions of last year obtain for another crop there will be universal bankruptcy in the industry.289 These are strong and grave words, and the gentleman who used them was speaking from close personal knowledge of the industry, and was entitled to take a grave view of the situation.
I have another point to make in regard to a different question, namely, the position of allotments. In the report of the Department of Agriculture, on page 84, we find a very serious decrease in the number of allotments in Scotland. In 1919 the total was 41,000 covering an area of 2,600 acres. In 1930 the number had gone down to 13,500 covering an area of only 840 acres. I am glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that a strong committee has been formed for the purpose of encouraging allotments in Scotland. We wish that committee all success in its work, and I trust that it will, among other duties, consider carefully the proposal to tax land values, and will represent in the appropriate quarter that this tax will have a restrictive effect on allotment holding in Scotland.
§ Sir MURDOCH MACDONALD
I wish to put a specific point to the Secretary of State in regard to the Estimates of the Department of Agriculture. The point comes under the heading of "Public Works and Miscellaneous Services in the Congested Districts." Some time ago the right hon. Gentleman appointed a Departmental Committee to examine into the condition of piers and small harbours around the West Coast of Scotland. We have not yet had the findings of that committee, and do not know what work may be carried out as a result. May I draw attention to one or two specific cases where work could be carried out with great advantage to the agricultural community in Skye? The first case is that of the pier of Kyleakin. About 1895 the railway company on the adjoining mainland came to this House to ask for a grant-in-aid in order to construct a pier on the opposite side in the Isle of Skye. They got the grant, and they erected a pier and maintained it for some time. As a consequence of having that pier they acquired from the then proprietors the ferrying rights between the mainland and the island of Skye, and I have no doubt those rights were transferred to them on the assumption that they were to maintain the pier for all time. Unfortunately, some years ago they allowed the pier to fall into disrepair, 290 so much so that it became quite unusable, and in fact has practically vanished. The result is that that particular district has been grievously affected through no boats being able to call to deliver or accept goods.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Does this matter come under the administration of the Department? Unless the Department are administratively responsible, it is not in order to raise it on the Estimates.
§ Sir M. MACDONALD
As I see it the Estimates refer to public works and miscellaneous services in congested districtsunder Section 4 (1) (a), (e), (f) (g) and (h) of the Congested Districts (Scotland) Act, 1897, e.g., piers.It was on that particular item of piers that I based my remarks.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
All that I want is to be assured that this grievance is one for which the Department are responsible.
§ Sir M. MACDONALD
The Department have at any rate appointed a departmental committee to examine into the question, and, in view of that, I was putting to the right hon. Gentleman the facts as I know them. I hope the right hon. Gentleman or the Under-Secretary will tell us what it is proposed to do in this particular case. My second point, i s that a number of other piers have been erected on the west coast under the Congested Districts Board. These piers were handed over to small local committees. Owing to an alteration in the circumstances, and particularly to these small committees being unable to function on account of lack of funds, their interests should now conceivably be taken over by a larger body. Under a recent Act of Parliament the Skye District Committee, as such, was abolished and its powers were merged in the county council of Inverness. The county council is naturally not anxious to repair any of these congested district piers, or to maintain them in future until they are put in a proper state of repair. It is impossible to find funds locally to do this, and therefore it devolves upon somebody to restore these piers to their normal condition. I understand the departmental committee has been examining into that question, and I should be very glad to know the result of the committee's findings and the intention of the Secretary of 291 State. That nothing much is likely to happen is evident from the fact that the grant under this particular head is not increased but decreased. That makes it appear as if nothing is to be done in the coming year arising out of the report of that committee.
Mr. R. W. SMITH
The subject before the Committee is of very great importance to Scotland. I was very much struck by the remark of the Secretary of State that "in due time" we may be able to get a trustworthy picture of the financial position of agriculture in Scotland. Agriculturists have no doubt about the financial position of agriculture. There is no necessity to await the results of any survey. The necessity is for action to be taken by the Government, administratively and otherwise, to put the agricultural industry on its feet. There is no need to await the "due time." We know what that means in the case of a Labour Government—it usually means waiting a year. The position is that agriculture is in a very bad state financially, and the sooner the Government do something for it the better. I have a special question to ask regarding the marking and grading of beef. At the present time different graders are appointed for different counties. They grade the meat in its different classes—1, 2 and 3. One county may produce a much better quality meat than others. From each of those counties will come meat that is graded as in Class 1, but the meat from the one county will be distinctly better than that from the other counties, and it is distinctly unfair to the county which produces the best meat that when all this meat gets to Smithfield its contribution is represented as of no higher quality than the meat from the other counties. Are there any means of checking the grading? We want a mark which is a national mark and not a county mark. I am very much in favour of the grading of meat, but I think the man who produces the finest quality should get a higher standard than the man who produces meat which, though marked as of first quality, is not quite so good.
We have been dealing with small points to-night, but I would like to draw the attention of the country to the fact that since 1929, when our party went out of office, the cost of the Department of 292 Agriculture has risen by no less than £93,221. That is a very big item, and it is extraordinary that two years ago, when the cost was £100,000 less, the Department was run more efficiently, and agriculture was in a much better position in Scotland. It does not say much for a Government which professes to do so much in the direction of economy to find that they are spending £100,000 more than was spent for the same purpose two years ago and that the unfortunate agriculturists of Scotland are nevertheless in a worse position.
It is rather an extraordinary fact that when the Estimate is examined we find that no less than £14,732 more is required for the cost of the Civil Service staff at the head office. What is more extraordinary is that 70 more people are now employed in the Department of Agriculture than were employed two years ago, and they are costing the country £14,732. The next question to which I wish to refer is that of agricultural smallholdings and the amount dealing with land drainage. I notice that the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund received £36,000 more than it received in 1929 and land drainage gets £38,000 more. We find from the Estimates that no less than £12,000 more is required for arterial drainage schemes this year as compared with last year. We have been told that the Kelvin Valley scheme and the schemes for arterial drainage are going on very well, but, if that is so, why is the money voted for this purpose lying idle? On page 153 of the Estimates we find that in 1930 £10,000 was voted to provide for grants for the purpose of assisting in the provision of seeds, fertilisers and equipment for unemployed persons. Apparently, it was thought that this money would be required in 1930, and an Estimate was made for £10,000, but it does not appear to have been used. With regard to the £12,000 required for arterial drainage, I want to know if it is really going to be used. Perhaps the Secretary of State for Scotland will be good enough to give us some information on that point.
I will now deal with the question of the settlement of smallholders on the land. The Government often take credit for the success of their schemes for the settlement of people on the land. This may be a good policy or it may not, and 293 I am as anxious as any hon. Member of this House to see that the agricultural industry is put on its feet. We want to be quite certain about the cost of the settlement of smallholders. If the cost is going to be very great it will be a serious matter, but if it is going to be done very cheaply it may be all right. I do not think that the Department of Agriculture can be depended upon to do this kind of work efficiently. I would like to refer to the report which was issued yesterday. I think it is rather extraordinary that we have to discuss this question so soon after the report has been issued. It is necessary in regard to large schemes of this sort that we should know what they are going to cost. The Department of Agriculture for Scotland is quite incapable of arriving at a proper Estimate. On page 21 of the report of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, under the heading of "Abandonment of Schemes," it says:Mention was made in the Department's last report that the Department had made Orders confirming schemes for the constitution of new holdings and assigning enlargements of existing holdings on the four farms at Bellfield, Balblair, Balnagore and Ardmore, all in Roes-shire.What happened was that they abandoned the setting up of all these schemes except one, because the cost was going to be too great. In the case of Ardmore the Department's estimate for compensation was £200, and the court awarded £511. In the case of Balblair the court awarded £l,800 compensation as compared with the Department's estimate of £500. In the case of the farm at Balnagore the Department estimated that nothing was due to the owner-occupier by way of compensation. In this case the report says:The claim amounted to over £5,034, being a net estimated annual loss of £397 6s. 10d. capitalised, and the court, by a majority, awarded £1,542.In the case of Bellfield the Department thought that £200 would be adequate to compensate the tenant, but the court awarded £755. It is clear that in regard to smallholdings the Department cannot even work out correctly the amount of compensation. I would like to know what agricultural tenants think of a Department which is offering them about one-third of the compensation to which they are legally entitled. Page 25 of the 294 report deals with the progress of settled holders. We have been told that the failures among smallholders amount to about 5 per cent. for England and Scotland, but I do not know what the figure is for Scotland alone. I should not be surprised if the figure was much higher in Scotland. The report is supposed to give us information about land settlers in Scotland. On page 25 it says:The Department continue to receive reports as to the success attending the efforts of individual holders.That is an extraordinary statement, and they go on to enumerate the various holders who have made a success. I could also enumerate individual holders who have failed. Why are they not in this list? We are not even given the percentage. I think that the House and the country are entitled to know, if we are going in for this large settlement of smallholders, whether the present smallholders are making it a success, and I want to put three direct questions to the Secretary of State. The first is: What is the percentage of failures of smallholders in Scotland alone? The second is: How many smallholders are there who are in arrear with their rent at the present time; and the third is: How many smallholders are there who have received loans from the Department and who are in arrear with the payment of interest on those loans? I should be grateful if we could have answers to these questions, because I think they will give us a much clearer idea of how these smallholdings are succeeding.
This large increase in the Estimates is very serious. If the money must be spent, there are various ways in which it could be better spent than by allocating £14,000 for office staffs, surveying staffs, and so on. The Minister himself referred to the question of field drainage. I agree with him that that is enormously important, and I think that some of the extra money that is being spent by the Department would be much better spent from the point of view of agriculture if it were spent in encouraging field drainage. I gather from the report that the applications were largely in excess of the funds available. I appeal to the Minister to see whether the money cannot be spent more efficiently than is indicated in this 295 Estimate, and whether less cannot be spent for staffs and civil servants and some of the other items enumerated.
I only intervene because the Derby is one of the races during the year that I like best to attend——
That is out of Session. In order to make sure of being in my place to-day, so that I might try to look after the interests of Scotland, I forewent going to the Derby, and, unless I make this contribution to the discussions that are taking place, no one will realise the sacrifice that I have made for the sake of my constituents. There are many others who have spoken in this Chamber only for that reason, and I am doing it for the first time in my life and for a definite purpose, namely, to show that I did give up a very great pleasure in order to be in my place and to do anything that I could do to contribute to the better government and prosperity of Scotland.
I want to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the ingenious, shrewd, and on the whole skilful way in which he presented, I will not say a very bad, but a bad case. The right hon. Gentleman has taken steps to put before this Committee, and through this Committee before the country, a condition of affairs that does not, although he may believe it does, accurately represent the facts. We know that agriculture has never before been in such a depressed condition. We know that, even in the most prosperous agricultural areas in Scotland, the conditions to-day are giving rise to the very gravest anxiety, and, therefore, while it shows a very optimistic streak in the right hon. Gentleman's nature, it is not, perhaps, consistent with absolute fact to present such a view to the House as he has presented to-day.
I should like to congratulate him on a very charming ceremony which was performed a fortnight ago, when he opened the newly built and equipped Hannah Research Institute in Ayrshire. He did it with the same skill and charm 296 and ingenuity with which he presented his case to-day. I would only make one comment, and that is that, when he received, as he graciously did, a golden key for the opening ceremony, I was hoping that the thought passed through his mind that possibly a golden lock might have been presented to his predecessor, who, after all, laid the foundation by his negotiation, by his tact, and by his constant effort, for producing the result which the light hon. Gentleman saw a fortnight ago. There are one or two points to which I should like the right hon. Gentleman to direct his attention. He has a keen sense for injustice, and at the present time he might reserve that keen sense for an importation of rennet into this country which is being used for making cheese. He himself referred to marking. Rennet is coming into Scotland now from the Continent, which, when it is used for the manufacture of cheese, results within a fortnight in the most filthy-smelling cheese that——
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that to deal with that matter would involve legislation, and, if not, it appears that it would come within the province of the Ministry of Health.
Although I agree that the perfect solution would be total prohibition, I want to ensure that that rennet is marked, so that our unfortunate farming population may know where it comes from when they buy it in the shops, and that it is likely to produce cheese which they will not be able to sell. I have sent samples of it to the right hon. Gentleman himself, and I am astonished that he is looking so well to-day after it. I kept it in my office for two days, and then I realised that the right hon. Gentleman might be a better recipient, and so I passed it on to him. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's various contributions towards the destruction of pests, research work, the betterment of agricultural stock, and so on, I should like to point out that, while we have, in connection with the West of Scotland Agricultural College, this very fine Hannah Institute, that was only made possible by the generosity and patriotism of one man, and the point arises that on the other side of Scotland you have another college which is, I will not say starved, but certainly 297 is without the facilities that it should have for conducting its work. It seems to me to be quite wrong that one college, because it has the backing of a man of wealth and patriotism like Mr. Hannah, should be in the happy position of being able to carry on its work more efficiently and to a larger and wider extent than a college on somewhat similar lines in the East of Scotland which had not those facilities. I do not know whether the Government can do anything in this matter. I do not want them to spend more money by increasing their contributions to the Edinburgh College, but I think there should be some levelling of the help received by people who are working in the best way that they can to produce the best possible results for agricultural research in Scotland.
I am sure that everyone in the Committee realises that all the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman are worth very little, if anything, unless he does something to bring agriculture on to a proper paying basis in the country. How can you do that? There are two or three ways. A scheme was promoted two years ago for the purpose of ensuring that farmers in the West of Scotland had adequate power at their disposal for mills or machinery, or whatever it might be, and also for adequate lighting in the farms, threshing barns and so on. That was called the Galloway water power scheme. For that purpose some of us withdrew our opposition. For two years nothing has been done and the unfortunate farmer is still waiting for those extra facilities which were going to make life more amenable and render his efforts to make a living easier. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will explain why nothing has resulted from that Measure.
One of my constituents has raised the question of the proposals that are now apparently going to be adopted with regard to the valuation of sheep stock. Hitherto it has been the custom for a buyer and a seller to appoint a valuator each and for those two valuators to appoint an assessor. If the valuators appointed by the buyer and the seller could not agree, possibly the sheriff would appoint a valuator. Sheep stock is one of the most difficult stocks to make a living out of, because sheep vary so much in what they get out of the same 298 land. You may put one lot of sheep on a piece of land, and they will do very well. You may put another lot on the same land the following year, and they will do very badly. It is a most difficult problem how to feed and raise sheep. If this proposition of the right hon. Gentleman is carried out, it will mean that valuators will be appointed by his Department, and you will have people coming from outside, who know nothing about local conditions and know nothing about the sheep and the quality of the land on which they live, giving decisions which no one but a local man could successfully give. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, to continue the existing position. It has worked very successfully, and I do not suppose anyone wants to see it altered.
§ Mr. MATHERS
I want to ask what the Department of Agriculture intends to do to meet the situation of those applicants for allotments and land for poultry farms, etc., who would have been adequately met under the terms of the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill. A number of applications have come from my own constituency, which, while not agricultural, contains a very large number of people who have only recently removed from the soil. All our Scottish cities are made up of people who, within a generation or two at the most, have been connected with the land. I have been rather interested to hear hon. Members opposite asking the representatives of the Government what they are prepared to do in certain eventualities. My inquiry is one that might almost be directed to them as to what they were thinking of when they allowed their representatives in another place mutilate the Land (Utilisation) Bill 9.0 p.m. so seriously. Even at present we have more scope in Scotland for dealing with settlement on the land than is the case in England, and I am anxious to know whether what remains of the mutilated wreck of that Bill is going to be allowed to pass into law.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I cannot allow the hon. Member to discuss prospective legislation. That has already been ruled out of order.
§ Mr. MATHERS
My inquiry is simply what the Department has it in mind to 299 do by administration to meet the position of those applicants and what advice they would give now to those who wish to make applications of that kind, and what prospect there is of those applications being met.
§ Mr. MILLAR
The question the hon. Member has raised is one of great importance. It is raised very sharply in this report that is in our hands. I am glad it has made it clear that there are already so many applicants for smallholding's who are well equipped and suitable for the purpose, so that we may first absorb those who are undoubtedly qualified. The section of the report that deals with smallholdings indicates very clearly the continuing land hunger that persists. The demand for settlement is persistent and is increasing. The report of 1930 shows that there were 737 applications, as compared with 489 the year before and, as one goes back, one sees the accumulation of applications which the Department have had to face and have yet to deal with. I have had practical experience of the settlement of smallholders in my own Division, where I follow with interest the work that is being carried on by those engaged in the Thirdpart land settlement. There is no question whatever that the success of small land holdings depends very largely upon the individual and his qualifications. He must also have decent land upon which to work. Where, as at Thirdpart, smallholders have been placed on waterlogged land, they have found its cultivation a very difficult undertaking. There have also been difficulties with regard to water supply which have caused very considerable complications. The position of those smallholders ought to be considered by the Department from a more sympathetic point of view. I have had a good many dealings in connection with those matters, and I have come to the conclusion, from my experience of those with whom I have come in contact, that in many cases they are finding it a very difficult and a very hard fight, and they deserve every sympathy and support. I am glad that reference is made in the report to the success of smallholdings. I do not agree with my hon. Friend behind me that it is not a fair and proper thing to bring before the notice of the public generally the fact 300 that smallholdings can be and are a very great success in many cases, and I am glad that emphasis is put upon the fact that the success of many smallholders is due to their wives being well-equipped for the work which is being carried on. I believe that the necessity for coping with the demand for land settlement is greater than ever. I urge the Government to avail themselves of the experience of those who really are thoroughly well equipped, and who in such large numbers seek settlement on the land, before they go elsewhere. They should start by giving those who have had experience of agriculture the first opportunity.
I wish to refer to the services which the Department can render to the farming community in relation to its many activities. I believe that information as to the best methods of farming, and, what is more important, proof as to how it can actually be done, combined with research work, is one of the best forms of State aid which can be given to any farming community. We are passing through critical times, and many of the farmers are faced with a very hard struggle, but there has been, at any rate, some improvement in certain directions. I am glad to think that the serious situation which arose last year, owing to the over-production of potatoes and the consequent pronounced glut and fall in prices, has been overcome, and that the situation to-day is a happier one. The same can be said with regard to oats. The price of oats to-day stands very much higher. At a time like this it is very important not to adopt quack remedies, but to try to secure a real advantage to the farming community. I am very much impressed with the reference in the report to the efforts which have been made to investigate farm economics. I believe that this is one of the most hopeful lines to take. The necessity of carefully analysing results on particular farms and ascertaining what is the most paying form of farming, is very important. Now that we are living in changing times, with an enormously increased world production of cereals owing to mechanised farming, it is essential that our farmers should endeavour to adjust themselves, as far as possible, to the conditions under which we are living to-day.
301 I should like to congratulate the Department upon issuing the Scottish Journal of Agriculture, which contains from time to time some exceedingly thoughtful and helpful articles dealing with various aspects of fanning. I refer particularly to an article in the Journal of Agriculture issued in January, 1931, by Dr. Orr, of the Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen, on the subject of stock farming. The facts set forth in that article ought to be studied carefully by all who are engaged in farming to-day. The main question raised is the importance of developing our stock farming and mixed farming under conditions which will enable farmers to make the most of their land and opportunities. The basis of the argument rests largely upon the fact that the wholesale cost of the food consumed in this country at the present moment runs to about £15 per head. If you analyse the cost of the various classes of foodstuffs, taking £1 as the unit, you find that meat, bacon, milk, butter, cheese, eggs, etc., amount to 12s. 6d in value; cereals—wheat, flour, oatmeal, barley, etc., 2s.; fruit, 1s. 9d.; sugar, 1s. 9d.; potatoes and vegetables, 1s. 3d.; and fish, 9d. The importance of these facts is that cereals account for only one-tenth part of the nation's expenditure on food, whereas animal products account for more than half of the total expenditure.
If we could develop our animal husbandry to-day in many areas where it would be possible to do so, we could enormously increase production for a market which lies at our doors. In animal products we produce rather less than 50 per cent. If these products were produced at home, the increased production would amount to over 6s. in the £ or nearly one-third of our total expenditure on food. I emphasise the necessity of trying to capture the market which is at our doors in meat, and dairy and poultry produce, which have the advantage of being produced under fresh and excellent conditions in this country. Our home farms produce animal products to the value of £200,000,000 and in addition we import more than £200,000,000 worth. If we were able under a wise system of mixed farming—[An HON. MEMBER: "Introduce tariffs!"]—My hon. Friend suggests tariffs. I thought that we should hear about that matter. He knows perfectly 302 well that the farmers themselves have reason to suspect promises which have been held out to them both with regard to tariffs and guaranteed prices. They had the experience of a guaranteed price under the Corn Production Act, and they are not very anxious to have the system repeated. Here they have an opportunity of securing a very considerable advantage by adapting themselves to the conditions of the time. The development of intensive stock farming would be accompanied by an increase of labour. You will find in the article referred to, and in two other articles printed along with it, a strong argument in support of the view that you can have increased employment under a system of mixed farming where you may reduce the actual acreage of cereals and vary your crop, with the addition of temporary pasture. That is worth consideration by the farmers today.
Reference has been made to the question of agricultural drainage, and while we congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon having increased the amount of money available, those of us who have had experience of the necessity of drainage know what a drop in the bucket this sum is as compared with what is required in order to put our land into proper condition. There is an immense amount of land in Scotland which is not only awaiting drainage but requiring to be limed, and if something could be done to improve transport conditions, and to get a large quantity of lime upon the land, as in the old days when there were lime kilns all over Scotland, we should be in a position greatly to improve our pastures. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will encourage the development of land drainage schemes by a larger grant, which would mean very substantial advantage to the country.
With regard to the certificates, mentioned in the report, for the importation of potatoes, I should like to know whether the Government have fully considered the risk of disease which still continues through the importation of potatoes from other countries. A case could well be made out for complete prohibition owing to the substantial risk of danger to stock and home crops through the importation of foreign potatoes. In connection with the agricultural credits scheme, could the right hon. Gentleman 303 answer the question put by the hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) as to when the farming community in Scotland will be in a position to avail itself of the scheme? The conditions have been under consideration for a long time, and, if the scheme may be regarded as sound, I have no doubt that the Treasury will give their consent. With the pressure that right hon. Gentlemen can bring to bear, they ought to be in a position to give their consent at a very early date. We are faced with a very urgent matter, and the delay that has already taken place makes it the more urgent that we should have a statement as to when a scheme will be available.
In considering the question of agriculture, we must keep in view the fact that the farm workers of Scotland form the backbone of the industry and that everything should be done to encourage them in their work. I do not believe that the readjustment of fanning methods so as to develop intensive mixed farming would involve loss of employment. The evidence is all the other way. Wherever you get intensive farming you get fruit growing, market gardening and other forms of industry, and the employment is very great. The employment in the poultry and dairy farms comes next and is also great. We should keep in view the desirability of securing continuous employment for the farm workers of Scotland who, as a class, are highly skilled. We cannot afford to let them go to other countries overseas, to which so many have been emigrating recently. The conditions in regard to rural housing, holidays and wages are all matters that deserve most anxious consideration on the part of the Department of Agriculture. Unless we have a contented peasantry, contented agricultural workers, working under fair and free conditions, we shall never get full advantage out of our agricultural system in Scotland. I am glad to see that the agricultural education which is being afforded to that particular class has resulted in a large number of awards of scholarships to the sons and daughters of agricultural workers, who have proved themselves fit to undertake positions of responsibility after the training that they have received.
304 I hope the Department will keep in view the fact that it is not only their duty to assist in the administration of the various matters dealt with in the report, but that they have a direct responsibility to the agriculturists of Scotland in assisting them in every possible way to secure better conditions for the farm workers and better methods and better markets for agriculture. One of the best things that could be done is to secure to the fullest possible extent the home market by better organisation.
§ Mr. J. BROWN
I have imposed upon myself the self-denying ordinance of speaking for only five minutes, but I cannot refrain in those five minutes from offering my congratulations to the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Department generally, and to offer my sincere condolences to the hon. and gallant Member of Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore). He spoke so feelingly that he nearly drew tears to our eyes. He deserted the classic slopes. I know as much about the classic slopes as the hon. and gallant Member seems to know about farming. He spoke of three things. Why he mentioned the Derby I do not know. He said that he was trying to help that most deserving class of people in Scotland, the farmers, but I do not think that he mentioned farmers once in the whole of his speech. I have a great many sheep farmers in my constituency, and I am glad to know that the town of Ayr now possesses some sheep farmers, about whom the hon. and gallant Member is very anxious. He spoke about some horrible cheese. I have had a sample of that cheese. The remedy lies in the hands of the fanners. I am given to understand, from information received from the Department, that it was not the rennet that was at fault but, the starter. I was told, and I believe it to be true, that the rennet and the starter can be got at home and that there is no need to take any of the foreign stuff. The hon. and gallant Member represents burghs along the line of coast where I do not think there is more successful farming in the whole of Scotland.
There are other farmers in Scotland in addition to those who live along the coast.
§ Mr. BROWN
A patriotic Member ought to begin at home, but the hon 305 and gallant Member extends his philanthropic ideas to other parts of Scotland. There are other people who are capable of looking after other parts of the country. He mentioned the Loch Doon scheme. The Government have nothing to do with that scheme. It was a private Bill which was passed in the teeth of fierce opposition. It was against all my ideas that the Doon should be utilised for such a purpose. I did not know that Ayrshire was going to benefit very much from that scheme. It is the Galloway counties that are to benefit if the scheme ever comes into operation.
The reason why I introduced that point was that I was hoping to receive an answer from the right hon. Gentleman. I understand that a grant is contemplated from the Unemployment Grants Committee to the promoters of that scheme, and I want to know exactly if Government money, taxpayers' money, is to be contributed to a private enterprise which we as Ayrshire Members, do not support.
§ Mr. BROWN
I accept that, but I think the hon. and gallant Member will admit that he did not make it very clear. I want to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the Department on having at last done something. I remember year after year we had the same story told us, the same questions put, and the same answers given, and nothing was different at all. I congratulate the Department of Agriculture for Scotland on at length having made a move to provide smallholdings for our people. I do not think people living in the towns really understand the land hunger which the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Millar) mentioned. Everybody wants land if it can be got, and I am glad to think that in my own constituency, near my own door and in the very place about which the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs talked, where the Research Department opened two or three weeks ago, we now have smallholdings and men have started work on them. I think we should praise the Government for having done something which other Governments have never attempted to do in their long occupancy of the Front Bench. I want to thank the right hon. Gentleman and to say how much I—who represent a large agricultural constituency where we have sheep farming which has done very 306 well—am pleased to think we are now doing something for which the Labour Government deserve to be in office for the next two years, in which time I believe we shall see a still larger number of smallholdings given to the people who are so desirous of trying to do something for the land and for the good of the country.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Provision for smallholdings has been made, but not nearly so much as we should wish to see. It is pathetic to think how many thousands of men are still wanting them, and how many have fallen away from the queue, as it were. I have always been a believer in smallholdings, for the reason that a man will work harder for himself than he will for a wage. It has been a great disaster that, smallholdings have died down so much in many parts. I remember a farmer telling me that in his father's younger days there were large farms surrounded by smallholdings. The smallholders were really the farm hands of the large farms. They worked for them and then borrowed the ploughs, horses and cattle and worked on their own land. They thus got into a habit of industry and hard work, which the mere wage-earner finds it very difficult to acquire. He said it was not so much the amount of money they made, but that they were a thrifty people with the money they did not spend, and so they really did very well. A man working on a bit of land can grow practically all his own food, and any that is over and above that is surplus.
I know cases in my own constituency where men in a comparatively small way grow practically all they require for their own wants, with the assistance of a little fishing, and they are much more comfortably off than the fairly highly-paid town operators. They are not out to make money in the commercial sense. They are not commercial farmers, and it is a mistake to look at smallholdings from the point of view of industrial and commercial enterprise. They are there to make a living and a little surplus. I was astonished on the Clydeside to find so many glass houses. It reminded me of the miner from Fife who arrived at Waverley Station, Edinburgh, and fell asleep. They put him back in the carriage, and when he got back his friend's 307 asked him what sort of town Edinburgh was. He replied that it was a very peculiar town, because it appeared to be all roofed in. Similarly Clydeside seems to be almost entirely roofed in with glass, for the smallholdings are prospering exceedingly, growing tomatoes. They are of much better quality than the imported tomato, which has neither flavour nor the texture of the Scottish homegrown tomato. There is unlimited room for them.
If you go in for large-scale farming and the small farmer tries to imitate that by growing corn crops and rearing stock, he will do no good but if he contents himself with small, intensive cultivation under glass, and grows fruit and so on, he will make a living. What is needed above everything else is to see that there is proper transport to encourage the local producer, to do what we can to stop these raids upon motor transport, and to turn a deaf ear to pleas for other forms of antiquated and less convenient transport. I do appeal to the right hon. Gentleman that he should at last carry out the undertaking for the fulfilment of which we have been waiting during the years he has been in office, and provide the steamers with suitable piers, so that smallholders can get their stock sent to market. Unless something of that kind is done, the smallholders will be very seriously handicapped and unable to ship their produce, and it will be idle for them to try to make a living. In days gone by, before the landholders were rendered almost insolvent by taxation, they used to build the piers. They cannot do it now, because they have not got the money, and this beneficent Government, which has abstracted almost the whole of their fortunes, must take their place and provide piers to enable smallholders to thrive.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
The hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) may rest assured that no one has more sympathy with the question of the better equipment of piers in the north-west of Scotland and in the islands than those who are now responsible for the administration of Scotland. If we are to develop the western isles and the north-west coast of Scotland, 308 we can only do so when we have a proper transport system, with piers properly repaired, and a larger number of piers than we have at the present time. None of his predecessors in office has paid more attention to this particular problem than the present Secretary of State, who has repeatedly visited these parts of Scotland to study the problem for himself and also to consider the question as to the priority of work so far as particular piers are concerned. In listening to the arguments which have been put by hon. Members opposite, it seemed to me that the points put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire cancel the arguments of the hon. Member for Central Aberdeen (Mr. R. W. Smith).
The only real criticism that has been levelled during the discussion has been that of the hon. Member for Central Aberdeen, who complained about the increased cost of land settlement in Scotland. If there is one question more than another which requires careful consideration and wise expenditure, and more expenditure, with the problem of unemployment facing us at the moment, it is the development of our own land and an extension of smallholdings. It is a remarkable fact that despite the crisis which faces the agricultural industry at the present time, we have had during all the years that the smallholdings scheme has been m operation, only 5½ per cent. of failures.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I am only dealing with Scotland. That is quite a big enough problem for my right hon. Friend and myself. If we had the same number of failures in the industry generally we should consider ourselves very fortunate. It is a remarkable fact that whilst we have to face this critical situation in agriculture generally, the smallholdings' movement has come out of the crisis much better than the general agricultural community.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
Before I finish my reply I will answer every pertinent question put by the hon. Member.
The Under-Secretary says "pertinent question." Is it not a pertinent question to ask whether there are any in arrears with their rent or who have not paid the instalment on their loan?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must allow the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to proceed. He assumes that his questions are not going to be answered. He must give the Under-Secretary an opportunity to reply.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I will deal with that particular question before I conclude my speech. The hon. Member is asking me to accelerate my speech much more rapidly than his own Government accelerated land settlement. The hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) asked what was being done in regard to the River Spey. The engineers at the request of the Department have made a survey of the lower reaches of the Spey, but they are unable to suggest any scheme of work which can be carried out at a reasonable cost and with the expectation of a permanent result of safeguarding against flooding. While they report that a low wall or embankment on the low lying ground might provide some protection against minor flooding, their recommendation that this work may be undertaken was made with the qualification that it would not provide effective protection in severe flooding; and in view of the condition of the buildings it might be advisable as a more effective way of dealing with the problem to consider the alternative of the evacuation and reinstatement on higher ground. That is a problem which is receiving our consideration at the present moment. The hon. Member also asked for the officer who is responsible for land settlement. The responsible officer is the permanent secretary to the Department, but one of the assistant secretaries of the Department is responsible, under the permanent secretary, for the administration of smallholdings; and both these officers are responsible to the Secretary of State, who is responsible to Parliament.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
One of the assistant secretaries of the Department is 310 responsible, under the permanent secretary. A reference was made to surveys by the hon. Member for Kincardine. The surveys to which I refer deal with the profitableness of farming, book-keeping and problems associated with the financial side of the industry. We are collecting information which can be passed on to the farming community and which may be of great value to the industry as a whole.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
The suggestion of the hon. Member will receive consideration. The right hon. and gallant Member for the Pollok Division of Glasgow (Sir J. Gilmour) asked a question regarding the increased cost of travelling expenses. This is due partly to the acceleration of land settlement by the present Government and partly to new legislation under which new duties have been imposed upon the staff of the Department. The right hon. and gallant Member also put a question in connection with the experiments on peat land which had been carried out. The conditions on the experimental farm have provided some satisfactory crops. My right hon. Friend and myself when Parliamentary Private Secretary paid visits to that particular farm and saw some of the experiments being carried out, and I feel sure that all of us would wish to express our thanks, as a House, to Mr. T. B. Macaulay for the splendid financial assistance he is giving us and the great experiments that have been made possible in the interests of the reclamation of land and the turning to good use of such soils as are to be found in various parts of the Highlands and Islands. It is, however, too early to say whether the experiment being carried through at this one place can be made applicable to other areas. We are continuing experiments in the hope that success will attend our efforts, and then the enthusiasm of Mr. Macaulay will enable us to secure benefits for the rest of Scotland.
The hon. Member for Inverness (Sir M. Macdonald) asked some questions about piers. I have already referred to that matter briefly. The problem of the particular pier he mentioned is one 311 of great interest to the hon. Member, who interviewed the Secretary of State and myself about it. The matter is still receiving consideration, and the hon. Member can rest assured that if it is possible for anything to be done to improve the pier it will be done. It is a question of priority. There is a limited sum of money to be spent, and the question of priority has to be settled first in the interests of those who require the expenditure of the money. The question of piers as it affects this and other places is receiving very careful consideration. There is a report of a Departmental Committee which is under consideration at the moment.
Certain questions were put by the hon. Member for Central Aberdeen and Kincardine. He asked about the amount of the outstanding rents for smallholdings. In most cases the arrears to which I shall refer are not irrecoverable; in many cases it is merely a question of payment being deferred. I will give the figures as far as I have them. On 31st March, 1931, the amount due was £50,964, and the arrears were £11,800. The building loan annuities falling due were £38,666, and the arrears £7,306. The number of holders in arrears was 1,191. I trust that those figures give the information required. Another question was, what money had been expended for arterial drainage? The hon. Member may rest assured that if we can speed up the provision of work for the unemployed and materially deal with the problem of flooding and the draining of our waterlogged land, so far as our administrative power allows the £12,000 will be spent before the end of the year. It is only an approximate estimate, and there may be a balance left or a deficit which will require a Supplementary Estimate, but so far as our administrative power allows we shall do our best to get a full return for the money and to see that it is spent in the best interests of land drainage in Scotland.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I thought I had answered that question. The hon. Member seems to be the only one in the Committee who objects to expenditure which 312 will improve the land. Other hon. Members have not complained.
I did not complain. I said that I thought the money could be more usefully spent, as the Under-Secretary will see if he refers to the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow. My memory is probably as good as his. The other day, when a question was put, he corrected me for not having taken up his reply accurately and referred me to the OFFICIAL REPORT. When I looked at the OFFICIAL REPORT I found that I had been perfectly correct. Let me ask again, Does the Secretary of State consider that it is likely that the £12,000 will be spent? If not, as I said, it could be more usefully spent in field drainage.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
It is not only likely to be spent, but in the condition in which land is in Scotland at the present time, it is most desirable that it should be spent. That is a definite answer to the hon. Member. I think I have now dealt with the main points raised during the Debate. There is no problem which requires more careful thought than the problem of land settlement. In 1929 the Government, through my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, decided to accelerate, land settlement in Scotland. With the limited funds at our disposal we have tried to give effect to that acceleration. We have to get more and more people settled on the land. I consider that we ought to develop more and more smallholdings. I believe that, with the present agricultural situation, by the development of smallholdings we shall be able more effectively to deal with the problem of cultivation for our own people of food from our own land, and also deal with the problem of unemployment.
§ Mr. MILLAR
Would the Under-Secretary state when he expects to get Treasury sanction for the agricultural credits scheme? That question has been put twice.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
It is impossible for me to add anything to what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said on that point. It is a question that has been exercising the mind of my right hon. Friend for a very long time. There have been great difficulties in the way, 313 but the important thing is that we are going to see success where others failed. We have now got four Scottish banks to agree to set up a corporation. These banks are responsible for carrying through the work, and they will carry out the arrangements in their own particular way. The hon. and learned Member may rest assured that there will be no avoidable delay in having the money available for assisting agriculture.
§ Mr. MATHERS
I am sorry that I was not present when the Under-Secretary of State began his speech. I asked what advice he would give to those who are anxious to have land for allotments and the like.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
The only advice I can give is to await the possibility of the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Bill getting through the other House. It is the only possibility which lies in front of us of placing more people on the land and I did not refer to it earlier because I knew that, as the question involved prospective legislation, I would be out of order in doing so.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. T. Kennedy.]
§ Committee report Progress; to Bit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Government Order was read, and postponed.