§ Again considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. JAMES HOPE in the Chair.]
Question again proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £155,953, 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, 1923, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board or Agriculture for Scotland, including Grants for Agricultural Education and Training, certain Grants-in-Aid, and certain Services arising out of the War.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I was regretting that the delay had resulted in breaches of the law, and stating that in my opinion the delay on the part of the authorities, however caused, was the real reason for the unrest and for the breaches of law which had taken place. The proper remedy, of course, is to meet the legitimate demands, and it cannot be stated, I think, with any justice that the legitimate demands of the civilians and of the ex-service men have been fairly met up till now. As long as that situation arises, there will always be the danger of these breaches of the law in all parts of the country, and far less, by comparison, in Scotland than in other parts of the United Kingdom. That was not the only case which which the Government had to deal. There was the case of Pitcalnie. I understand that a satisfactory settlement is in course of being effected or is effected—
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Then I should like to ask the Secretary for Scotland if he will tell us what were the reasons for the reversal of the decision which had been made to the effect that this settlement should proceed. I would remind him that in May last a question was asked here, together with a series of supplementary questions, as to what the position was, and I think my right hon. Friend said that, in the exercise of the discretion vested in him, he had given a decision that the scheme should not proceed. I am interested to know on what reason that decision was based, as I think Mr. Speaker, during those supplementary questions, said the matter ought to be raised on the Estimates. I take the opportunity now of asking the Secretary 2316 for Scotland to tell us what was the reason which actuated him in the decision which he then took and which led to another breach of the law, of an almost trivial kind, I suppose, as it was not followed, I understand, by the prosecution or imprisonment of any of those who took part in it. There are other cases, the position of which I should like the Minister to tell us at the present moment. I understand that the following schemes, amongst others, are still being held up, and that a very considerable amount of unrest is likely to arise, and is fermenting at the present moment — Glenmore, Balloch, Morayston (Dalcross), Ardersier, Berlem (Glenurquhart), Ardullie, Fanellan and Balmacaan. I rather think that the one at Fanellan is settled, though I am not quite certain. I should like to have some information as to how matters stand with regard to the schemes or proposals in those various cases. Turning from that for a moment, I want to comment, not unfavourably, on the amount which has been paid, or liabilities incurred, in the acquisition of land. I understand the total annual value of the estates by requisition is £40,291, and of this amount £739 odd represents the annual value of estates which were gifts. The area purchased is 213,610 acres. The annual value at the time of acquisition was £21,432. The price paid was £431,109. That, on a basis of 20 years' purchase, works out at about £428,500. I must say that that is not an unsatisfactory state of affairs with regard to purchase. With regard to area acquired, on the basis of a 30 years' rent charge, I understand they have acquired, in round figures, 59,000 acres, the annual value being £11,138, and the rent charge amounting to £13,600. Again, I think that is not an unsatisfactory price or arrangement to have arrived at. That also applies to land where leased for a term of 250 years. There, again, the rent which is actually paid is in close approximation to the value of the land acquired.
I want to ask a question as to the amount of land feud. The area of the land feud is 7,733 acres. The annual value at the time of acquisition is £5,000 in round figures. Feu duties amount to £67,725. The larger proportion of that increase is due to Gretna. I want to know what are the particulars which have 2317 caused that very considerable difference between the annual value at the time of acquisition and the amount of feu duties to be paid. No doubt there are some sufficient reasons for that, and I should like to have them. I desire again to refer to the complaints of the ex-service men and civilians, and to point to this remarkable fact, as disclosed by the annual report itself, that out of 6,114 applicants, round about 800 or 900 only have been granted the land for which they sought. With regard to those that were not ex-service men, there were 6,645, and only 720, or thereabouts, have received the land for which they asked. Granting that there has been a satisfactory increase—and any increase is satisfactory—in the rate of settlement, the whole position is still thoroughly unsatisfactory, and if it is to be grappled with efficiently, if you are to get a steady, quiet public mind in this matter, instead of unrest, suspicion and hostility, the question will have to be grappled with much more decisively than at the present moment. It is said that we have not got the money. That may be so, if you are going to deal with this matter simply on the ground of economy. But we are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds in other parts of our Empire. It is no use telling them there is no money for this. That does not give you the social peace for which you ask, because they know, as well as we know, what huge sums are spent which, as I think, and I believe the majority of them think, are wholly unnecessary and extravagant. This is a matter which, on the grounds of solid investment and of social peace, must be dealt with, and is quite as important as spending round about £1,500,000 or £2,000,000 for ammunition for big guns, which we decided this week in Committee of the House. Presumably that was a piece of national urgency. I put this case of the settlement of these men on the land on the same grounds of national urgency, and that is the way it will have to be met.
Sir F. BANBURY
The right hon. Gentleman does not suggest that the taxpayers of this country should find the money?
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I am dealing with things as we find them, and it is an entire mistake to suppose that the Scottish nation is not taxed equally with 2318 citizens south of the Border. They bear their full share. Some people say they bear more than their full share, but I say their full share, and they are as much entitled to consideration in such a matter as this as any part of the British Empire. They have rendered equal service, and even service which might be more favourably described, to the Empire, and should be equally well treated. Let me read to the Committee, as an example of what is in these men's minds, and which ought to be answered by swift and generous action on the part of the Government, a message from a man who led raiders. This is what he said after they had taken their illegal action:We trust the people of Scotland will not misjudge us for what we have done. While fighting, we were promised homes in our native land, and we saw posters showing the ideal homes for which we should fight. We believed those promises were made in all sincerity. When we returned, we asked for only a small piece of land in our beloved Ross-shire, and waited. At last, after years of weary waiting, we thought that we were to be allowed to build houses, but again the cup was ruthlessly thrust from our lips.Whether the language can be described as exaggerated or not—I do not think it can—what the Government have to reckon with is the conviction in the minds of thousands of really reputable citizens, men who are, as everyone who knows the character of these men will say, law-abiding, that they are driven to take illegal measures by what seems to them to be the strongest provocation, and action not dictated solely by personal or selfish reasons, but, as representative men, they felt they were acting, rightly or wrongly, not only for themselves but for others. That is a very serious position to arise amongst law-abiding communities. That feeling of unrest will not be satisfied by hypothetical deductions which the Secretary for Scotland has given us.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I think they are. Here is a genuine case based upon specific Government promises, and action is delayed during a time of apparent plenty, and now, of course, when the cold facts of the situation have driven the guardians of the public purse to it, the amount is cut down. Without going into more details, that is the indictment of policy which we make against those who act in 2319 this matter, and it is for that reason that I very much regret I feel bound to move a reduction of the Vote.
I want at once to come to the suggestion I have in view, and that is that my right hon. Friend should appoint a Commission of Experts to consider the operations of the Board; how far those operations have been successful, and, if not successful, why not: what has been the cost of the policy pursued at the present time; and what the cost is likely to be. I hope he will give sympathetic consideration to this proposal of mine, especially when I have given the reasons for putting it forward. The real source of this proposal is the Northern Counties of Scotland—the Counties of Caithness, Sutherland and Ross and Cromarty. The right hon. Gentleman is not likely to suggest that there is any lack of sympathy with his efforts in those counties, nor will he suggest that those counties, on the subject of agriculture and land settlement, are likely to toe lacking in intelligence. The feeling of these counties was so great that in September of last year a conference was held at Dingwall—a place well known to the right hon. Gentleman —of the leading agriculturists of these counties. The result was a resolution in the direction in which I have indicated, and of the request I have made. Following upon this conference at Dingwall, the Board of Agriculture itself felt compelled to call a meeting of the parties interested at Edinburgh, I think, on the 29th June this year. At that meeting there was a very good representation of the various interests. The Board of Agriculture itself was represented; so was the National Farmers' Union, the Northern Agricultural Committees, and the Scottish Land and Property Federation. At that conference in Edinburgh these charges were brought: Firstly, the Board's neglect by retaining too long the land in their own hands and not passing it on timeously to the real settlers; secondly, the serious reduction of valuable stock which has taken place during the Board's occupation: thirdly, there was the charge— and a very serious charge—of bad cultivation; fourthly, delay and lack of business methods—as animadverted upon by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean)—though I [...] not want to follow him in suggesting 2320 that that delay is an excuse for the serious situation which took place in the Islands. That was also one of the points made at that meeting to which I have referred. Fifthly, there was the uneconomic holdings which have been created, and the Board's pursuit of their own line, despite the facts staring them in the face; and, sixthly, the difficulties which had arisen with the new tenants through failure to acquaint them at the start with what the settlement would mean to them in the way of future burdens, thus creating endless discontent.
I have many instances under each one of these heads of indictment, but I do not want to weary the House, the more so because many other hon. Members desire to speak. I wish to give only one illustration in each case. Take the first, that of the retention of land by the Board. I will not mention, unless the right hon. Gentleman desires, the names of the farms—though I am ready to do so—but in one case the land was retained for 18 months, in another case for two years, and in a third case for four years. In regard to the reduction of stock, in one case—I can give the name here, the Stempster Farm—the sheep were largely reduced from something like 600 to 200, and even the latter were brought in to be fed not on the farm, they were fed on turnips carted from Forss Mains, a distance of three miles. In regard to bad cultivation—which is a more serious charge to bring, and which reflects very seriously on the Board as to their selection of local managers—in the case of Stempster, no turnips were put down in 1921, and 35 acres were fallow. The farmyard manure for this crop was carted on to the ground, but in February last it was still lying there wasting, no attempt having been made to save it by putting a thick layer of earth on it Exposure to the elements had rendered it practically useless.
In the case of Forss Mains Farm, 32 acres of this were left uncultivated last year although the farmyard manure was actually carted on to the ground. There are a great many other cases of bad cultivation, details of which I am prepared to supply to the right hon. Gentleman. I want to remark upon the uneconomic policy pursued by the Board. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) has pointed 2321 out that land settlement is not a matter exclusively of profit and loss. The Scottish Secretary himself has reminded us that, in order to create these settlements and plant these people on the land, the Board were prepared to advance the money for the buildings and so on at the totally uneconomic return of 1¼ per cent. It is not open to us to discuss policy at all on this Vote. I accept the policy for the moment, and the supply of land even at the cost of the State. But surely the Board of Agriculture ought to discover whether the policy can really be pursued in the future. You may give the man land for nothing and you may put up his buildings, you may charge him nothing, but the return may be bad. You may supply him with official stock, and yet the conditions may render it utterly absurd to attempt the working of that land. It may be an intrinsically uneconomic and unsound proposition.
What I suggest this Commission would probably discover would be not only whether the facts I have given in regard to bad management were right, not only would we discover some remedy for that bad management, but we would discover what expenditure we can indulge in in this idea of settling people under uneconomic conditions. I know the sentiment which comes to the assistance of the men who have fought for us is one that will obtain the support of the people in Scotland, certainly, with, enthusiasm; but the people of Scotland, generously inclined as they are, very properly, in regard to such recipients, are still guided by some degree of prudence. They find here a class selected for treatment which cannot be applied to the industrial world. It is a kind of treatment that you cannot spread over every section, and, therefore, when you apply this particular treatment to a particular section of the community, the nation, as a whole, is entitled to know what it is going to cost. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, to agree with me that the questions which I ask should be carefully met, and the exact extent of the obligations undertaken stated. The Scottish Secretary will tell me—if I am rightly informed— that there is no end of discontent in regard to these settlements. He has already told us that something like 200 of the 700 have failed to put stock on the land. Apart from that, I think 2322 others have left the settlements. Certainly, the discovery of what their obligations would be in the future has occasioned, in a very large measure, the abandonment of as many applications as have been abandoned. Surely, I have made out a sufficiently prima facie case against the Board to justify my pressing my statement that a more or less independent commission of inquiry should be set up, having all interests in agriculture represented. On that Commission I would recommend there should be representatives of the Farmers' Union, of the men who have stayed, of the men who have applied and dropped their applications, of the men who had settled, and who have left; and, in addition to that, I would hope that the land interest might have representation with the Board of Agriculture itself.
In conclusion, I want to say that 1 do not put this proposal forward with any desire to hamper or embarrass the Board of Agriculture. I am well aware that for any Board to be called upon to make a decent show in working what was an intrinsically uneconomic scheme, however desirable and worthy it may be, at such a time when money is scarce, and when everybody with the smallest intelligence or prescience about the future looks doubtful, is a task of enormous difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman asked this House not to crab but to co-operate. I submit one of the best means by which one can prove to all parties the value of co-operation is to appoint a Commission such as I have suggested, intelligently representing such interests as I have named. The Board ought not to be ashamed of this. It is not put for their annoyance. I do, therefore, hope my right hon. Friend, when he comes to reply, will be able to give me some assurance that the Commission I have asked for will be appointed, and that the different grievances I have submitted in detail will be fully considered.
Mr. W. GRAHAM
I have no claim to speak for the agriculturists of Scotland. What I trust to do this afternoon, very briefly, is to call attention to questions that might be raised by any Member who has no experience of agricultural conditions. The Secretary for Scotland, in introducing his statement, referred to the fact that there was represented in these Estimates a very large measure of 2323 economy. I think it is important that at the present time the Scottish people should really understand the drastic cut involved in the amount for the Board of Agriculture in Scotland for the coming year. The actual figures are that in 1921–22 the net total for the ordinary services of this Board were £435,000. For 1922–23, the present financial year, that is cut down to practically £271,000. A very large part of the reduction in found under Sub-head H, where last year in respect to the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund Grants-in-Aid we had a provision of £215,000, while on this occasion we are cut down to £128,000. On referring to the explanatory matter relating to this item it appears that last year under Sub-head H for Land Settlement and Improvement of Congested Districts in the Highlands and Islands we had £185,000 as against only £60,000 for the present financial period. We have very often indicated that we are very strongly in favour of economy, but I do ask Scottish Members to face this frank question as to whether under the existing conditions of land settlement in Scotland we are getting fair treatment. As a matter of fact, a wise public expenditure on land settlement would be, I think, by common consent, a very valuable investment. Personally, I hope that after these reductions have been made there will still be provision left for a considerable number of ex-service men and civilians in Scotland, who are undoubtedly awaiting opportunities for land settlement at the present time. In that connection there are two points I wish to ask the Secretary for Scotland to notice in his reply. In the crowded city districts which many of us represent we come into contact with considerable numbers of ex-service men and civilians who desire small holdings, or who desire to be otherwise settled on the land. Practically all Scottish Members come into contact with the Board of Agriculture, and we are all impressed by the great delay which takes place, but we are even more impressed by the fact that a considerable proportion of ex-service men and others are steadily losing heart, and that appears to me to be the most tragic feature of the present situation. Is it unreasonable to suggest that instead of allowing despair to affect these ex-service men and civilians, something might be 2324 done, even if considerable delay is inevitable in the direction of settling them on the land, by way of training them for the occupation which they hope they will ultimately be able to follow?
That raises a very difficult and a very serious question, because a considerable percentage of these men are drifting to other callings, very often of a casual character, for which they are singularly ill-fitted, and they would be much better off if they were occupied on the land. They see no prospects of getting a holding in a reasonable time, and they are withdrawing their applications and going to other pursuits. It has always seemed to me that it might possibly be one of the healthiest developments of the work of the Board of Agriculture and the Ministry of Labour to try and train these men in agricultural pursuits. I press that point again this afternoon as a consideration which should be borne in mind.
The only other point I am going to put is that having regard to the experience of men who have been already settled on the soil it is perfectly clear that we are not likely to get the best results until we proceed much more largely on a co-operative basis. A very great deal has been done in other countries in the direction of agricultural organisation by the joint use of machinery and agricultural implements, and the rest of it. I am aware that when we consider a problem of that kind in Scotland a very clear distinction must be drawn between the Highlands and the Lowland districts. It may be more difficult in the Highlands to apply these principles of agricultural organisation, but it should be very much easier in the Lowlands where a considerable percentage of our ex-soldier and civilian applicants might be settled. I think it is not untrue to say as regards Scottish agriculture that the investigations which have been made show that in Scotland this kind of agricultural organisation is very limited, and has only been applied to a comparatively small extent. I should like to see far more investigation and a much larger application of this principle. I am satisfied that we are not likely to get the best results for a large number of ex-service men and civilians unless that principle is applied. In the long run it would make for a certain economy in the use of our resources These are the only two considerations which I am pressing now, 2325 and they have been put to me by people interested in the welfare of the ex-service men. For these reasons I hope we shall have some information on these points from the Secretary of Scotland.
Colonel Sir A. SPROT
The Secretary for Scotland has invited criticism, and I propose to offer a few words of criticism upon what he has told us, but it will not be at all from an unfriendly point of view in regard to the subject with which he has been dealing. We all have our opinion on this small holdings question, and I think we ought to examine the question with an open mind. It is no use telling people that you are against small holdings as is often done on my side of politics and those connected with land. It is all a matter of whether the thing is economically sound or not. If it had been economically sound small holdings would have existed all over the country by natural means, and they would not have required to be brought into existence by artificial means.
Before I come to the example which I propose to give from my own constituency, for I intend to deal with the aspect of the question in the Lowlands alone because I know nothing about the Highlands, I wish to say that I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has told us that the progress of the settlement of ex-service men on the land has been, unfortunately, very slow. The settlement of these men on the land was a pledge we all gave at the last election, and that is a pledge which we meant, quite frankly, to carry out. Up to the end of last year only some 900 of these men had been settled in that way, and, making allowance for what has been done since the 1st of January which has brought the total up to about 1,000, that is a very small result from all the efforts which have been made in that direction.
The Secretary for Scotland has pointed out the difficulties which stood in the way and he used the phrase "non-effective applications" for small holdings. I can quite believe that, in a great many cases, that phrase is applicable. This point is dealt with in the Report in which we are told that, after small holdings had been prepared and got ready for occupation, some of these men, when they were shown the small holdings and asked to undertake the job, were unwilling to come for- 2326 ward, or possibly they had not sufficient capital, or they were unwilling to face the responsibilities which the position entailed upon them. I should say that that would be true of a great many cases amongst those who put their names down as applicants for small holdings. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman so far as that goes, but there are other reasons why progress has been very slow. The operations of the department of a bureaucracy are necessarily slow, because there must be correspondence and the sending down of inspectors who have to report to headquarters. Then you have to wait for a decision upon every small matter, with the result that progress under a bureaucracy is necessarily always slow. The mistake is probably due to the fact that the Department set out to do this thing on its own instead of enlisting the sympathies and inviting the co-operation of all those previously connected with the land. They should have enlisted the sympathy and co-operation of landowners and farmers of Scotland, and if they had done that they would have been much more successful, and progress would have been much more rapid in carrying out what they proposed to do.
Another reason why they have been so slow in producing any results is that they have been too ambitious in their aims. I believe that in England the small holdings movement for fostering and settling ex-service men on the land has gone on much faster than in Scotland, because a different view has been taken of what a small holding should be. They take a man living in a house in a town, and they give him a piece of land within easy reach of his home, and they do not spend any money equipping it. They merely divide up a certain tract of land and give it to the people who have their dwellings elsewhere, and they call that a small holding. In Scotland we have taken a different and, in my opinion, a much too ambitious view, because they provide a separate house for each applicant, and we are required to invest a great deal more money in the business; consequently it has taken a great deal longer to put the scheme into operation. I intend to illustrate this point by some figures which were given to me in answer to a question with regard to an estate in my own constituency in the County of Fife which was bought by the Scottish 2327 Board of Agriculture, and is now in process of being turned into a number of small holdings. I am very familiar with the ground, and I know that before this was done it was the property of a certain gentleman belonging to a well-known Scottish family, and there were three farms on the property. There was a landowner at the head, there were also three farmers, and there were a certain number of cottages for the ploughmen, I think about half a dozen on each farm.
What was the position of affairs under those circumstances? All the repairs necessary to the buildings, the fences and the cottages were done by the landowner, who drew a rental perhaps amounting to about £1,500 a year. He paid Income Tax and local rates, and the farmers did the same, and the rest of the taxpayers of the country had nothing whatever to pay. Food was produced on this estate in very large quantities, and one of these farms produced exceptionally fine crops. That was the position before. Sixty-four people, allowing four individuals to a family, were maintained in that way, and the Government and the taxpayer paid nothing.
What has happened since? The Board of Agriculture stepped in and bought that property for £29,000. It is turning it into 30 small holdings, and spending on equipment an estimated sum of £50,695; in all, it is going to cost the country £79,695, or, in round figures, £80,000. That is all being done for 30 smallholders, and if the Government had invested the same amount in War stock it would have produced £4,000 a year, quite sufficient to give every one of these ex-service men a comfortable annuity for the rest of his life, and there would be the capital available for their successors. They have spent this large sum in turning this estate into small holdings and equipping them. The old buildings have, of course, been utilised. Cottages have been joined together and adapted, but in other cases new-houses have been built for the smallholders, and small steadings have been added to the three which previously existed. They are charging each smallholder £1 per acre for the use of the land and extra for the extra equipment which has been put on it. They are spending about £2,000 on each of them, and are charging l¼ per cent. interest on the outlay on the holding. The effect of that is, 2328 generally speaking, that the smallholders have to pay about double the rent which is paid by farmers on adjoining property. They have to pay about £2 per acre instead of one.
They are not all of them doing very well. We know that agriculture has had difficulties to face in the past year or two, and even those who have been in the business all their lives, and are well established in it, have suffered from the great fall in prices which has taken place. These people are struggling along. In some cases I believe they will do very well. I notice that a pair of them—brothers—who each had 50 acres, and who had been ploughmen before they 'went into the Army, appear to be likely to do well with their 100 acres, but, as for the rest, some of them certainly will not pull through, and in the case of others it is rather doubtful. I am told that the Scottish organisation for co-operation has been in touch with these people with a view to trying to help them to cooperate with each other, which is, of course, a way out of the difficulty. But they have reported that these men have to pay so much for rent and for interest on the equipment that they are unable to put down any money for manures or feeding stuffs or for anything required for the improvement and stocking of their holdings.
We have placed these people in that position. We have made that change in the organisation of this little bit of the country. I suppose there is no more food produced on that land than formerly. I shall be told, perhaps, that a larger number of people have been settled on it. Allowing, again, four to the family, the increased number of people employed on this particular property as a result of this enormous outlay of nearly £80,000 is 56. I submit that the whole thing is unsound, and that we must invent some other means of arriving at the end we have in view. Whatever system is ultimately adopted must be different from this. When you have embarked on a system which is uneconomical it cannot possibly meet with success. It is hard on the country, on the taxpayers who have to pay, and on the smallholders themselves if they, through no fault of their own, are unable to make a living out of it. For that reason I shall be prepared to support the proposal of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd) that 2329 the Board of Agriculture should be invited to call into its councils those bodies to which he referred in order that suggestions should be made which will better enable the attainment of the excellent object we all have in view in the most economical way.
§ Dr. MURRAY
The speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Eastern Fife (Sir A. Sprot) reminds me of the title of a lecture I once listened to from the late Duke of Argyll on "Neglected Factors in Political Economy," in which was pointed out certain factors never discussed in the books as economic factors. My hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken has been dealing with political economy in connection with smallholdings, but he has neglected to point out many factors which ought to be taken into consideration but which cannot be expressed in pounds, shillings and pence. Although the proposal made by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd) is not directed against smallholdings, I think I am entitled to say it is calculated to throw a cold wave on the enthusiasm which should be associated with that movement. The idea has come from an element in the country which has not been favourable to the creation of smallholdings in the past. There has been a good deal of criticism directed against the Board of Agriculture from all sides of the House, but I do not think my right hon. Friend can charge me with at any time indulging in malignant criticism. The only malignity in the criticisms I have noticed in connection with this matter came from the right hon. Gentleman's own side of the House, and nothing could have been more malignant than the vendetta directed against the late Chairman of the Board.
The question of small holdings has been sufficiently dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean). On the whole, I agree with him. I make no charge against the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Government. My charge is against the Government as a whole. It is that they have made so many promises to agriculture and have not been sufficiently active to secure their fulfilment, and have also been niggardly with regard to money. That latter point, however, may be due to Treasury intervention. At the back of our criticism is the complaint that the 2330 Government have not fulfilled as fair a proportion of the promises they have made as we had a right to expect. I pass from the consideration of the general question of small holdings in Scotland to my own part of the country. I am inclined to be less critical of the Board of Agriculture in that regard. I have had occasion to regret their delay in the settlement of ex-service men in various portions of my own constituency, but I must admit that more progress has been made in this outlying part of the United Kingdom than in perhaps any other constituency in Scotland. The deduction I might draw from that would not be perhaps in accord with my natural modesty. But whatever has been the cause, I think it is largely due to the fact that one official of the Board of Agriculture is thoroughly well acquainted with my constituency, and that has expedited matters very considerably.
Reference has been made to raids on the land in the Hebrides. Men have been put in prison in connection with them, and on that subject I have expressed my opinion at various times. But I must give the right hon. Gentleman credit for the way in which, in spite of the difficulties created by these raids, he has sought to solve the problem without penalising the people in any sort of way for the offences which have been committed. My right hon. Friend has been very generous in his treatment of the men. I should like to see more progress made with regard to applications for land in North and South Uist—these settlements, referred to in the Report of the Board of Agriculture, which so far have not been effected. THERE have been expressions—not, I think, very serious—of impatience on the part of the ex-service men who have been awaiting the decision of the Board of Agriculture. I should like to hear that those eases in which negotiations have been going on are getting near completion, and when that happens I do not think that I shall be able, on any other occasion when I am here, to reproach my right hon. Friend with neglecting the question of land setlement in the Hebrides.
There is one point I should like to make before leaving this subject, and that is with regard to the housing of these smallholders on their new holdings. I was medical officer of health for the 2331 Island of Lewis for many years, and one of the great difficulties that I found was in regard to housing Consumption is rife there, and one of the gravest charges that I can make against the Board of Agriculture is that some 15 years ago, when a village settlement was established, they allowed the men to go on and erect houses of the same character that we had been condemning year after year as conducive to the prevalence of tuberculosis, which is such a terrible scourge in that island. The Board of Agriculture allowed these men to build what were supposed to be temporary houses, and there they have remained to this day. From that point of view the Board of Agriculture have helped to retard the progress of housing in those parts. I know, on the other hand, that the Board have done a good deal to help housing, and I want to be fair to them, but I think it is a pity that, in the case of these new holdings, they did not in some way or other help the men more liberally in the matter of house building. In the Report it is pointed out that the settlement of men on the land in the Highlands is cheaper than in any other part of the country, because, as the Report says, the practice is for the crofters to build their own houses. I would urge that more attention should be paid to that matter. From some of these settlements I have received urgent representations, asking me to get the Board of Agriculture to help them with regard to the character of the housing. They say that they cannot get enough help from the Board to enable them to build decent houses in which to live. The housing problem on these settlements is just as important as that on the land itself, and I would urge of the Board of Agriculture, through the right hon. Gentleman, to see if they cannot in these cases give more help in regard to it.
There is another matter which comes within the ambit of the Board of Agriculture, and that is the assistance given in these outlying parts in getting roads constructed. The means of transport on land as well as on sea are very far behind the requirements of present-day civilisation in those parts, and the Board of Agriculture, as inheritors of the functions of the old congested districts board, have had funds to help those parts where the 2332 valuation is very low and they cannot get sufficient money to construct roads from time to time. Of course, I recognise the financial stringency at the present time, and I would again throw a rose at the feet of the right hon. Gentleman and thank him for the help which, through the Board of Agriculture, he has given us during this last year in connection with unemployment in those parts, by way of grants for the construction of roads. I am not going to tell him of the necessity for those roads, because he knows it already, but the fishing there has been a tremendous failure for a number of years past, and this year in particular, and there are thousands of men and women out of work. The economic conditions in Lewis at the present time are worse than ever they have been in the memory of living man.
Therefore, I desire to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the necessity for continuing these operations in connection with roads at the present time, in order to give employment to the men in those parts. They have no work to go to. Thousands used to be employed in the fishing in various parts of Scotland, but now only a small fraction of them can get employment, and, therefore, they must remain at home. They cannot live upon their crofts, which are only three or four acres in extent, and furnish only a small portion of their living. Therefore, industrial work is absolutely necessary for them. It is not forthcoming, and the only thing, unfortunately, that they can rely upon at the present time is relief works. These, according to present arrangements, have to stop on the 31st of this month. I know they were extended beyond the original time, but I would appeal to my right hon. Friend to have them continued all through the year. The roads are necessary for one thing, and the distress is still very great. Unfortunately, there is no industry there.
I understand, from an answer which I received from the Secretary for Scotland this afternoon, that an inquiry is proceeding at the present time with a view to deciding whether these relief works shall be continued for some time longer or not. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, or whatever officials are concerned, to inquire, not only in Lewis, but in Harris and Uist, where patches of distress will be found, due to unemployment, which could be immediately 2333 relieved by road construction works. There is no part of the country where relief works are simpler. Every man is willing to turn his hand to work on the roads. We are not so fastidious as I have discovered people to be in London and in some other parts where roads are being made. Every man is willing to turn his hand to build a road or construct a pier—and I hope that this latter kind of activity will be added to the list of construction works. Therefore, it is a very simple matter to relieve distress. They do not want charity, hut want to work for whatever money they can get. In this connection, may I crave the indulgence of the House for a moment on a matter that excites a good deal of public interest—namely, the matter of Lord Leverhulme's development works in Lewis, which, as probably most Members of the House know, have for scome time been stopped. We all hoped that they were going to provide a good deal of work for the people of Lewis, and undoubtedly they would have been of great use, but they have come to a dead stop. I should not bring this matter before the House were it not for the fact that a great number of people take special interest in these works, and Lord Leverhulme's speeches get publicity all over the country. I should like to refer to a speech which he made in Stornoway on Wednesday of last week, in which he makes certain charges against me, and, as the Parliamentary representative for the place, I ought to take notice of it. I must say that he criticises me in good company, because he begins by criticising my right hon. Friend, of whom he says:Mr. Munro thought these schemes should not be adopted, and from him he had received no support.However, he tempered the wind to the shorn lamb in the case of my right hon. Friend, and said that.He wished to give all credit to Mr. Munro, hut he had hoped that he would receive some encouragement from the local Member of Parliament, yet he had no letter nor had he read of any speech in support of his plans,and more to the same effect. That statement is certainly not correct. I know quite well why Lord Leverhulme made it, and that, if I would say nothing else but ditto to everything he said, he would give me every credit. I would 2334 point out, however, that there has been no occasion on which I have referred to these matters in this House when I did not give Lord Leverhulme credit for his work and praise his plans. The only difference between us was, that I maintain that the few ex-service men—and they were simply a handful—who wanted small holdings, should get them because they were promised to them. I was pledged to the very lips to promote these small holdings and to see that these men got them when they came back from the War, and in doing so I thought I was carrying out the policy which Lord Leverhulme submitted for the adoption of the country at the great Coalition meeting on the eve of the General Election in November, 1918. The policy of providing small holdings for ex-service men was submitted by a Member of the House of Commons and seconded by Lord Leverhulme. He was then the proprietor of the Island of Lewis, and he made no exception, so far as I can see, with regard to his own estate. In order to show that, with that reservation as to small holdings, I am in agreement with him, I may, perhaps, be allowed to read this extract from some remarks I made in this Chamber on the 4th August, 1920;I have always given credit to Lord Leverhulme, in this House and outside, for having the very best motives in his policy. It is a very great disaster that the works which he has set in motion there should be stopped. My own view all along has been that there is no reason why the development of small holdings and the development of Lord Leverhulme's works should clash in any way, and I have never been able to find any responsible man who has been able to discover any reason why they should necessarily clash. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend"—that is to say, the Secretary for Scotland, who intended to go there at that time in order to try and arrange matters as between the raiders and Lord Leverhulme, but was prevented from going, owing to unfortunate circumstances in which we all sympathised with him—will be successful in evolving some scheme which will be satisfactory to those men who have been promised the land, and also to Lord Leverhulme, who will be able to go on with his work. Small holdings are not sufficient for the Western Islands. There must also be development of industry. In very few instances are the smallholders or crofters dependent entirely on the crofts for their living. In most cases they are also in the fishing industry. When the right hon. Gentleman sees the situation for himself, I 2335 trust that, after consultation with men on the spot and with Lord Leverhulme, he will bring out of the confusion a scheme satisfactory to all concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th August, 1920; col. 2484, Vol. 132.]I also spoke on the 4th August, 1919, in even more enthusiastic support of Lord Leverhulme's scheme, although I will not trouble the House with a quotation. In pursuance of what I said, I went down to Stornoway and stayed there for some weeks waiting for the Secretary for Scotland, but, unfortunately, he was not able to come. The Lord Advocate came, and I claim that I did my very best to get the raiders there into a frame of mind that made it easy for the Lord Advocate to come to an arrangement with them which was also satisfactory to Lord Leverhulme, and when the history of that little transaction comes to be known I have no fear of any man being able to say I did anything to stop or retard Lord Leverhulme's scheme. As a matter of fact, although Lord Leverhulme is trying to find a scapegoat for the failure of his schemes, he told us in a speech at the same place last year frankly that he stopped them because the economic conditions were so difficult that it would not pay to go on with them. It is not true to say that the people of Lewis did not fulfil their part of the bargain. This has been published throughout the Press in Scotland to show that Lord Leverhulme sometimes blames the raiders for stopping those schemes; but in a speech at Stornoway, reported in the "Glasgow Herald" of 10th February, 1920, he said:He felt it would be a gross act of injustice on his part to penalise one district because the men of another district chose to pursue a short-sighted policy. He proposed, therefore, to concentrate on Stornoway and Harris. He would not give up any scheme he had intended for Stornoway unless, of course, there was raiding on the farms in the neighbourhood of Stornoway.There has never been any raiding on the farms in the neighbourhood of Stornoway, and, so far as that is concerned, the people of Stornoway and Lewis have fulfilled their part of the bargain. If the raiders are blamed, he must submit to his own judgment that it would be an act of gross injustice to punish one set of people for the acts of another. I am sorry to inflict that more or less personal matter upon the Committee, but it has found publicity not only through the local Press but the daily papers in Scotland, 2336 and it would seem a very serious thing for the locality to be against schemes which were in the permanent interest of the community. I do not think hon. Members, at any rate, will charge me—in fact, I am afraid sometimes it is regarded as a joke—with neglecting the interests of that part of the world.
I should like to refer to one or two matters which have been brought into the discussion. First of all, may I make a short reference to the proposal of a Commission to assist the Board of Agriculture in reference to the settlement of smallholders. This is a novel proposal, and some of us have not had an opportunity of considering fully the result, but there may be many things to be said in favour of it. The Board of Agriculture might not be any the worse for such a Commission. Its administration has been celled in question by many people without knowledge, and statements have been made, grossly inaccurate, condemning the policy of the Board, and possibly full inquiry by a Commission into all the facts will be of considerable benefit to smallholders, to agriculture generally, and to the Board itself. A very well-known gentleman wrote me very lately about one smallholder who had been very badly used by the Board, and pointed out that promises had been broken and pledges unfulfilled, and he made many other such statements. At last I asked him to write me specifying what the promises and pledges were, and I would make a point of having the subject thoroughly investigated. The letter was written several weeks ago. His letters came very freely prior to that time, but since then I have heard nothing on the subject.
I am afraid in many cases people speak about some of the actions of the Board without accurate knowledge. I am not here to defend the Board. Defence, if defence is needed, is in far abler hands. We all like in Scotland that all parties should get fair play. The Board undoubtedly has made mistakes. and the fact that the whole of the work that is being done is uneconomic adds to the difftcultties of the Board and of everyone who is interested in the settlement of smallholders on the land, whether it be in the Highlands or the Lowlands. Everyone knows the deep interest the hon. Member (Dr. Murray) has in the subject, especially in reference to his own 2337 constituency. He pleaded with the Secretary for Scotland to increase the giant for the purpose. The unfortunate thing is that the Treasury is depleted, and we all cry collectively for economy, but sometimes we forget when it is a personal matter, and we like to ask for as large a sum as possible for some subject which has our sympathy. Not only is the settlement of smallholders uneconomic at present, and will possibly ever be, but agriculture altogether in Scotland and elsewhere is in the same condition. While smallholders are struggling with difficulties and finding them too great, their fellow agriculturists on the larger farms in the immediate neighbourhood are in the same condition, and bad they not a reserve of capital they would end in bankruptcy in a very short time.
An hon. Member suggested that the Government had been far too profuse in their promises to ex-service men. I should like to ask the Committee if they think promises were made too profusely for the services rendered. When the country was served so magnificently by those splendid specimens who went from all the parts of the Kingdom surely we were entitled to do something for them when they returned, and if the problem is uneconomic, we are getting some return. The hon. Baronet (Colonel Sir A. Sprot) suggested the average number in a family as four, but I think if statistics are examined closely you will find if you deal with smallholders and their families, you will have to multiply the number by about two in order to get an accurate figure, and the boys and girls reared on these smallholdings as a rule prove the finest of our manhood and womanhood and are one of the greatest assets this or any-other country could possess. It is most unfortunate that these settlements are being made at a time when agricultural produce is slumping in price, and when values are decreasing, but there are some smallholders who are finding that they can work their holdings economically. If, as was suggested a few minutes ago, there is no more farm produce grown on the small holdings collectively than there was on the large farms, there is something radically wrong, for to my mind there is no possibility of a smallholder succeeding on a small holding unless he goes in for intensive cultivation. If he thinks some- 2338 thing about the kind of crops he has got to grow, and if he is near a town, makes provision for the kind of foodstuffs that town requires, he will then be able to produce 100, 200, 300 or in some cases 400 per cent. more than was done on the large farms. Comparing the English with the Scottish smallholders, I think, is not a fair proposition. You have in England a number of smallholders within reasonable distance of this great city, near railway carriage, with magnificent soil, with a splendid climate, where they can rear two or three crops in one season. Is there any place in the Highlands where they can got more than one crop in one season?
As one of the most eminent divines in the City of London said in my hearing not long ago, speaking to a Scottish audience on an August afternoon when the rain was pouring down and all the visitors were very much depressed, "You should be thankful, boys and girls, for the Scottish climate. It is true there are difficulties and the soil is thin and the crops are sparse, but the boys and girls who are reared under these conditions can be transplanted South or anywhere else, and they always thrive well." We want to see it made possible for many boys and girls to be reared on small holdings in Scotland who will be an honour to the whole country and to the Empire wherever they go. The proposal has been made that we should have cooperation. I welcome the suggestion. It is not the first time it has been made by a long way. There are many difficulties, but I think at present there has been greater progress made in regard to cooperation amongst small holders, and even large holders, than? have ever known before, and this is something which should have our approval and support.
I have often thought and said that no effort or expense should be spared in developing small holdings in our own country, but under the new conditions and under the new experience that we have it is possible that emigration, which some of us thought was a curse to the community, might be one of the best things possible, especially when we are sending our best emigrants to our own colonies. We can recall what some of our colonies have done for us in the late War by sending back the finest men we sent off to 2339 them, and in co-operation with our colonists it is surely possible to establish on far better and more economic lines the settlement of some of our ex-service men. It is true that the ex-service men in some cases are whining and say they have not had the treatment they ought to have. I am sorry so few of them have been settled but it has been a kindness to many of the men themselves. Hundreds of them were carried away with the lure of agriculture and with the kind of life that could be lived there, and they thought, because they saw an odd farmer here and there with yellow kid gloves and a motor car and a few other such accessories, they had nothing to do but to go into agriculture and they would be able to live in the same manner. Some of them have had a rude awakening, and others may if they can be settled on the land. But having made the promise, surely we must do our best to keep it. After all, the country's pledged word has to be honoured, and we may gain more by honouring our promises, even although the fulfilment proves uneconomical, than in any other direction.
We have had a tremendous scourge of foot-and-mouth disease, which has swept over Scotland as well as England, and those who have observed the manner in which the disease was dealt with by the different county associations, through the Ministry of Agriculture in London, have come to the conclusion that there is need of some revision. There ought to be one central authority in Scotland for dealing with this subject. Personally, I have always thought, although I am not universally supported in Scotland in this view, that the Board of Agriculture for Scotland should be the administrative authority. After the recent experience, I am more convinced than ever on that point. There is one matter on which further money ought to be spent, and that is for plant raising and for research in connection with plant tests, and administration along those lines. I congratulate the Board on what they have done and the steps they have taken in this direction, but if we are to succeed as a country in competition with other countries in making our agriculture a success, we require to investigate every possible scientific method of dealing with crops, increasing their volume, and deal- 2340 ing with the whole matter of agriculture in a way that will be economically sound and good for the country.
Mr. R. McLAREN
Whatever may have been the cause of the delay in settling men on the land, it is most unfortunate that there has been so much delay, because we all made solemn promises that we would see justice done to the ex-service men in connection with land settlement. I know very little about agriculture, but I want to draw attention to certain things which have occurred in connection with the training of men for agriculture. The Board are to be congratulated upon the method by which they have trained the men, but after they have been trained in some cases the money has not been well spent. I know of several cases of men who have been trained in connection with poultry keeping, because they were not able to follow their own occupation. After their training they began operations. A grant of under £100 was made to them, but it was so meagre that they were unable to stock their farms and to build small houses, and in a short time the whole thing had to be abandoned, the men were out of employment, and the money was lost. I suggest that in connection with the training of ex-service men the Board ought to see to it that they have sufficient capital to start in the work for which they have been trained. Otherwise, the same thing will occur in other directions that has occurred in connection with poultry keeping. There are cases in my own district where men borrowed money to stock their farms, but owing to the smallness of the grant they were hopelessly bankrupt in a very short time. If it is worth while for the Board of Agriculture to train them in connection with agriculture. it is worth while to see that sufficient money is granted to enable them to carry on their work. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd) quoted several cases where through want of plant, etc., the thing had become a hopeless failure. That is due to the same cause as the cause which has operated in the cases I have mentioned. Unless the Board of Agriculture are prepared to do something in the way I have suggested, the money will be wasted.
I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Kinross and Western (Mr. Gardiner) 2341 say that a great change had come over agriculturists in regard to emigration, Not long ago those of us who believed in an Empire development scheme were assailed because we advocated it. I suggest that in order to help agriculturists it would not be a bad plan if trained men and trained boys were assisted by means of an emigration scheme, so that they could do good to the country in which they settled and help this country also. On the broad question of training, I regret to say that this year the very small sum of £5,000 is allotted for this purpose. That, I suppose, means that fewer men are coming along to be trained. If it means that the money cannot be obtained for training the men it is a great pity, because the country is bound to help these men who did so much for us during the War. After we have pledged ourselves as honest men we are, bound to see our pledges carried out, and it behoves this House, and especially the Scottish Members, to see to it that, having promised these men that their interests should not suffer because they went to the War, something should be done. The small sum of £5,000 should be increased, so that the men may get their training and we may help them to follow their new occupation.
§ Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
I desire to deal as far as I can with several practical points. In the first place I would refer to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Linlithgow, which was supported by the hon. and gallant, Member for East Fife (Sir A. Sprott) and the hon. Member for Kinross and Western (Mr. Gardiner) that a Commission should be set up to inquire into the whole work of the Board of Agriculture with regard to land settlement. I hope the Secretary for Scotland will not jump at that suggestion but will give it very careful consideration. The complaints that have been made to-day have been that the Board of Agriculture has not carried out the process of land settlement with sufficient rapidity. If a commission is to be set up to inquire into the whole process, it will mean that the Board of Agriculture, its Chairman, its staff, will have to give evidence and be taken away from their work. Although a year hence the commission may submit some sort of report, the whole of the work in the meantime in connection with Scottish land settlement may unreasonably be held up.
2342 The Secretary for Scotland said he had devoted many hours of careful thought to Scottish land settlement, and so had the Board of Agriculture for Scotland. That is unquestionably the case, and I am prepared, in my humble way, to pay tribute to the Secretary for Scotland for the thought and care that he has given to this problem. Of course, we know what it is that has chiefly held up the Secretary for Scotland and the Board of Agriculture and prevented them from progressing as fast as we would desire in the matter of land settlement. It has been the question of finance. The Secretary for Scotland has gone again and again to the representatives of the Treasury for further money in order to help forward the question of land settlement, but he has not been able to obtain it. It comes ill from the mouths of some hon. Gentlemen opposite who have never on any occasion, so far as I am aware, done anything to check the Government in its reckless finance and wasteful expenditure to ask now why there is no money for the progress of land settlement schemes. What has the hon. Member for Lanark North (Mr. McLaren) done? Has he voted against expenditure in Mesopotamia and in Russia, involving this country in hundreds of millions of pounds, when a few millions would have done all he wants in the matter of openings for ox-service men on the land? A matter of five million or ten million pounds would enable the Board of Agriculture to engage a larger staff, to purchase more land, to put up more buildings and steadings, and in a very short time we should have tremendous progress. I realise that the Secretary and the Board have gone a long way in the direction we all desire, but they have been stopped by the reckless and wasteful extravagance of the Government.
The hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) referred to the question of agricultural organisation. The right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) will remember that in 1911 he moved, and I seconded, in this House the Scottish Small Landholders Bill. Both of us laid stress upon the fact that the Scottish Landholders Act was not sufficient for Scottish land settlement, but that what was most essential was agricultural research, education, and organisation. My right hon. Friend 2343 has done a great deal by private effort. So far as I have been able I have also done the same. The Secretary for Scotland has assisted agricultural education in Scotland. We have gone further. We have developed the Scottish Smallholders Organisation, which is to be amalgamated with the Scottish Agricultural Organisation. I would ask the Secretary for Scotland to tell us what is exactly the position at the present moment? We set up in connection with that the Scottish Central Land Bank. That has gone out of existence. The Secretary for Scotland promised last year that he would take steps to substitute for it a system of credit facilities for smallholders in Scotland. How far has that got? Personally, I took exception to the scheme. I took exception to the fact that the scheme did not bring within its scope the efforts of the smallholders themselves, and was to be run by a bureaucratic, even though a sympathetic, public department. What is the present position of the credit facilities scheme for assisting smallholders? When the right hon. Gentleman replies perhaps he will say exactly how the matter stands.
This is the only day in the year on which we have an opportunity of discussing the question of Scottish agriculture. Therefore I make no apology for pressing the somewhat large questions which affect the agricultural industry in Scotland. It is a well-known fact that agriculture, both in Scotland and in England. has been going through hard times. The slump in prices, the very heavy increase in rates and the continued operation of Summertime have all had a very injurious effect on Scottish agriculture. That brings me to the Report of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland. On page 13 I notice that, at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on the 11th March, a discussion took place regarding the allocation of the grant of £150,000 for the promotion of agricultural development under Section 3 of the Corn Production Repeal Act of 1921 and as to the manner in which the £150,000, the Scottish share of the £1,000,000 given under that Act, is being distributed. At that time some of us put forward a plea that it should be devoted not to ulterior objects such as small holdings, but to agricultural re- 2344 search and education. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us that it is principally to those objects that this sum of £150,000 is being devoted. I am glad to notice on page 27 of this Report that, in respect of agricultural education and research and the work carried out in that connection at agricultural colleges,Any future increase in the attendance at the colleges will depend on the growth of agricultural science and the appreciation of its utility by practical agriculturists. Signs are not wanting that this interest and appreciation are increasing.That is a significant and important fact. What is required more than anything else in agriculture; at the present day is, that the sons of farmers, people engaged in practical agriculture, should take advantage of these agricultural college courses, of the science and education of agriculture in order that they may be more fitted, when they take up farming themselves, to engage in agricultural pursuits in a scientific manner. That is the reason why, at that time, we laid so much stress on the fact that this particular £150,000 should be devoted to agricultural education and research. If real progress is made in the question of agricultural education in Scotland we shall sec a revolution in the system of farming and all that that means in increased wealth and prosperity to the country as a whole.
I pass to the subject of grazings in deer forests. I have asked the Secretary for Scotland questions in regard to legislation which would be required to carry out the recommendations of the Deer Forests Commission. I am not going to poach on ground outside the scope of this Committee, but I would ask the Secretary for Scotland whether it is still not possible to introduce this Session the Bill that he is drafting? If that is not possible, could he, before he introduces it, give some indication during the Recess of what its contents are going to be? That may be somewhat outside the limits of Parliamentary procedure, but we know cases where secrets, Cabinet secrets, even, are disclosed, and if he is not able to introduce this Bill before the end of this Session, then I hope that he will consider whether, in an interview with the Press, something of that sort could not be arranged, in order that we should be enabled to discuss the chief proposals of the Bill before we resume in October.
2345 I am very glad to notice that the Treasury has sanctioned at the instance of the Board of Agriculture a grant not exceeding £2,300 from the Development Fund in aid of the maintenance during the first 12 months, from the date of commencement of its work, of the Animal Disease Research Association. All who are interested in agriculture will welcome that announcement. I am convinced that the right way to go to work, so far as animal research is concerned, is not to keep animal research work wholly within the limits of a department, but to bring it within the scope of the work of outside organisations, working farmers and others, v. hose interest it is to promote research in animal disease. This is a step in the right direction. I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman and the Board have been able to put this forward to the Treasury. I hope that if the work develops further money may be forthcoming. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Lanark (Captain Elliot) is not here. He has given special consideration to this subject, and he would emphasise what I am going to say. Those who know the facts know that certain discoveries, let us say in sheep disease—I go no further—might alone mean millions of pounds saved in the year It is impossible to lay too much stress on animals disease research, and I am glad that it has received sympathetic consideration from the Secretary for Scotland and the Board.
I am not one of those who join in the criticism of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland. The Board was only set up in 1913. the year before the War, and it has done on the whole marvellous work in very trying circumstances. There may have been lapses and faults, but who does not commit faults? The Board has been hampered in the matter of Scottish land settlement by lack of funds. The right hon. Gentleman rightly drew attention to the fact that the Board has been reconstituted. I wish the reconstituted Board every possible success, and I believe that, reconstituted as it is, if it has the funds put at its disposal it will make great progress in the matters which have been debated this evening.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Major M. WOOD
What has taken place to-night shows that the time devoted to Scottish Estimates is inadequate, and I hope that soon we shall have two allotted days for Scottish 2346 Estimates in the year. I do not desire to go over all the work of the Board of Agriculture. I confine myself entirely to the question of land settlement. The Secretary for Scotland took some credit to himself that he had been of late months speeding up the process of settlement of ex-service men and others on the land. I am very glad to acknowledge that there is some justification for that boast. I am bound, however, to say that the undoubted acceleration of the settlement of men on the land has not been sufficient to make good the promises of the Government before the Election of 1918. We look for a great deal more from the Government than we have yet received in that particular respect. Might I ask the Board of Agriculture to consider this matter in a subsequent Report? The Secretary for Scotland gave us some very interesting figures to-day with regard to the progress of land settlement from the beginning. The Reports which are published always take all the years together, and give us the number of holdings which have been created since the commencement of the Act of 1911. We want to have the time during which the creation of small holdings has been in progress divided into two parts, so that we may know what was done before the Act of 1919 and what has been done since. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that Act opened a new era in this matter, and the two eras ought to be considered quite separately.
I was rather surprised at a sentence in the Report of the Board of Agriculture—I think the same thing was suggested in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman —that applications from ex-service men had practically ceased.
§ Major WOOD
I withdraw that in regard to the right hon. Gentleman, but I repeat it in regard to the Report. On page 15, the Report says:As compared with 1920, applications from ex-service men show a decrease of 1,122 and those from civilians a decrease of 272. It thus appears that the great majority of ex-service men desiring land had lodged their applications during the preceding two years.That seems a most amazing remark, in view of the fact that the Board of Agri- 2347 culture itself, on the instructions of the Government, caused a notice to be put into the Press—or, at any rate, they came to the decision that after 1st March, 1921, the preference which had previously been given to ex-service men would be withdrawn. To make a Regulation of that kind, and then to boast that the applications from ex-service men have fallen off, is quite inconsistent, and is quite to mislead the country. No doubt it is unintentional, but it is, nevertheless, very real. A great number of ex-service men still require holdings, but have not applied for them for various reasons. The publication of that particular Order naturally put a stop to the flow of the applications. As has been said, there are still some 4,365 ex-service men who have applied for holdings, and whose applications are not yet disposed of. That suggests there is still a very effective demand for small holdings, and that the present rate of progress will not be sufficient to overtake the demand in the time we are entitled to expect. That is making all due allowance for the possibility that a considerable percentage of these are not really effective applications at all. I quite realise that.
§ Major WOOD
I am quite sure there are a considerable number of men who would not take the holdings, even if they were offered to them on good terms. The right hon. Gentleman, however, is very well aware that it is difficult to get at concrete facts on these questions. I am inclined to think that the terms on which the Board of Agriculture sometimes propose to settle men are not as attractive as the men were led to expect in 1018. It seems to mo that the Board of Agriculture had no right or authority to issue the Order with regard to ex-service men. This preference, which was to be given to ex-service men, was given by Statute. The Secretary for Scotland. with all his power, is not entitled to overrule an Act of Parliament. The preference was given by Parliament, and the right hon. Gentleman is going quite outside his province in making such an Order at all. We have particular reason to complain, because no adequate notice was given of publication of the Order.
2348 Anyone acquainted with this question knows that a great number of ex-service men, who had hopes of small holdings and meant to apply for them, deliberately postponed making their applications, for various reasons. They were entitled to assume, in any case, that all suitable ex-service men were to be given small holdings, because that was the promise made by the Government in 1918. There wore various reasons why they did not apply. I could give them to the Committee, but I will only mention one. There are at present something like 150,000 men still under treatment. A great number of those men who will eventually be discharged from hospital will be unfit to go back to their former employment. They will look to engaging in open-air work and to getting small holdings. By this Order of the right hon. Gentleman these men, whose only fault is that they wore seriously wounded, are to be deprived of the preference promised to ex-service men. In his speech the right hon. Gentleman dealt with another aspect of this question—the injustice which was in many cases done both to civilians and ex-service men because of this preference given to ex-service men. It has been construed by the Board of Agriculture that that preference meant that no civilians were going to be considered at all, and in many cases a good scheme has been set at nought because the Board would have had to fit into it a number of civilians in order to provide for ex-service men in any particular district. I hope, even now, that the Secretary for Scotland will be able to rescind that Order altogether, and give a greater discretion to the Board of Agriculture to make schemes which will take in both classes of men. If he gives such discretion, there will be no difficulty on that particular score—a difficulty which, I note, is referred to in the Report of the Board of Agriculture.
I have, on several occasions, drawn the attention of the right hon. Gentleman—I do so again this afternoon—to a question to which he referred in his speech. That is the fact that there are so many smallholders in Scotland at present who have been on their holdings for a considerable time, and who, even now, do not know where they are. The right hon. Gentleman told me this afternoon that 178 smallholders in possession of their 2349 holdings do not yet know the rents they are going to pay. That is most unfair to those men, because no man can expect to work any holding properly unless he knows exactly where he stands. He does not know whether he is making a profit or a loss, or if the venture is likely to come out successfully or not. That is not all. I wish to call to the form of agreement which the right hon. Gentleman makes these men sign before they take up a holding. The first sentence says,I, hereby agree to enter upon occupation of the holding numbered, at a rent to be fixed by the Board.That is to say, he is going into a holding and the Board may charge any rent they think fit. The agreement goes on:I also agree to pay for the buildings and equipment allocated to the holding.There is nothing said there about the method by which the price of the buildings and equipment is to be fixed. The poor small holder goes into the holding and is entirely under the thumb of the Board of Agriculture, who may practically charge him what they think fit. The agreement goes on:I further agree to occupy the holding subject to the conditions of let which may be fixed by the Board,and so on. There is a number of sentences of that nature, and not a single undertaking of any kind by the Board of Agriculture. An agreement of that nature is harsh and unconscionable. To make a smallholder sign it before he goes into a holding is to take an unfair advantage of a man who is not in a position to know exactly where he stands.
Imagine an ex-service man, who has just come out of the Army. He perhaps has not got a house, and is living under most unfavourable conditions. He has applied for a small holding, and the Board of Agriculture says, "We will give you a small holding, but you must sign the agreement." Of course, he will sign it at once. The very suggestion that he can get a house will make him sign anything. Once he has signed it and got his house he will have time to reflect. He will find that he has perhaps risked his small capital, because, when the time comes, the Board may stipulate for any rent they think fit and put what price they wish upon the buildings. By the time this price comes to be definitely 2350 fixed, it may be—indeed, it has occurred —that the value of these buildings has fallen very considerably. Naturally, before the man agrees finally to take over the buildings at a certain price, he says, "I want to take them over at the value at which they stand now. It is unfair that you should ask me to pay a price for buildings which I could not realise if I sold them at once. To agree to anything of that kind means to me a dead loss at once." If the Board of Agriculture think it right to delay coming to a definite agreement as to the price to be paid by the smallholder, the Board should bear any loss that might have accrued in the interval. Very often it is not the case that buildings have to be put up. The buildings and everything else are there to be valued.
I must make some reference to the question of deer forests, and particularly to the Departmental Committee's Report which was published some months ago. The quickest way to make my point will be to read a sentence or two from the Report. In their general conclusions the Committee say, on page 27 of the Report:Economic pressure does not account for the afforestation of the whole. In some cases the sporting tenants offered a higher rent than any farmer could afford to pay. In others sporting tenants bought up the rights of adjoining sheep farmers. In others, farms were bought for the express purpose of creating deer forests. Even at the low prices then current, we are satisfied that a considerable part of the area afforested since 1892 could have been farmed at a profit after paying a moderate rent.The Committee state on page 17 of the Report:There are instances of forests on the lower levels with sufficient haugh land and old arable which might prove capable of settlement by the constitution of self-contained small holdings on such lands, and the use in whole or in part of the remaining ground as common grazings or for the carrying of a club stock.That is an authoritative statement that a part of the land which is now occupied by deer forests could be used for the purpose of creating small holdings. What have the Secretary for Scotland and his Department done to get hold of that land, which at present is of practically no value? I think I am right in saying that there has not been a single acre of deer forest land taken for small holdings, except in one or two cases where the land 2351 has been bought outright by the Government. That is a condition of things of which we have a right to complain. There is land there which could be used. In the last Act dealing with this matter there was a provision which I am inclined to suspect had the definite object of preventing the land being taken for land settlement. The provision stated that if the Government took any land from deer forests for small holdings they would have cast upon them the obligation to put up at their own expense fences to keep the deer from wandering on the small holdings. If anyone keeps wild animals of any kind the onus should be on him to keep them more or less under restraint so that they can do no damage. If it be necessary to set up fences round small holdings that are taken from deer forests, the expense should not be put upon the Government or on anyone who desires the land for cultivation. I hope that the Secretary for Scotland will hold out some hope that in the near future land in deer forests will be seized by him and his officials and applied to the purpose for which this Committee says it is eminently suitable. I am glad to think that in recent months the Secretary for Scotland has made some progress. We hope he will make greater and more accelerated progress in the future. I realise all the difficulties that there are. We have deliberately allowed land, in the Highlands particularly, to go out of cultivation, and we cannot expect to undo the mischief of generations without expenditure.
§ Mr. F. C. THOMSON
I rise to deal with only one subject. I have been reading the Report of the Board of Agriculture, and particularly that part dealing with research, agricultural education and the work of the training colleges. I would like to draw attention to that work, which is of the highest importance for the future of scientific agriculture in Scotland. Valuable researches are being carried out under the auspices of a Joint Committee of the University of Aberdeen and of the North of Scotland Agricultural College. During the past year they have been studying different foods, finding out the mineral requirements in foods for pigs and sheep at different stages, and have been making valuable experiments in regard to other foods. Valuable work has also been done in testing the nature 2352 of typical soils, and with regard to drain gauges, especially interesting during a dry year. Much study has also been devoted to an inquiry into the causes of bee disease. All this is work of great importance. We want to find out all we can about soils and the most nourishing food for various stock. In this country in the past we have been too apt to be haphazard with regard to agriculture, and have not realised how much was still to be learned from study and research, chemical and otherwise. This work is being carried on in Scotland with very satisfactory results, and I am sure that it has the hearty approval and the good wishes of the Secretary for Scotland.
§ Sir HENRY COWAN
The vital interest of Aberdeenshire in the subject of this Debate is perhaps indicated by the fact that four Members representing different parts of the county have spoken in succession to-night. I would have liked to have said something about small holdings, but I realise that the hour is late and that other Votes are to be discussed. I shall, therefore, say merely that. I agree with a great deal that has been said by my colleagues, but that I feel that we are greatly indebted to the Secretary for Scotland for the interest he has shown in the subject, and that we ought to congratulate him on the record which he has established under very difficult circumstances. The subject to which I wish to call attention briefly is that of grass sickness in Aberdeenshire. I called attention to the matter some weeks ago in a question which I put to (he President of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. He replied that as this was not a notifiable disease it did not come under the jurisdiction of his Department, but under that of the Secretary for Scotland. Grass sickness is a mysterious and deadly malady. It is raging in my constituency, particularly in the areas around Turriff. The cause of it is unknown, but it is suspected that the use of bone meal is at least a large contributory cause. That is the opinion of many competent observers.
In view of this suspicion and of the fact that two distinct cases of anthrax have been traced within the last few weeks to the use of bone meal, I submit that I am entitled to ask my right hon. Friend to take steps for the protection of agriculturists against the dangers resulting from 2353 the use of this meal in the condition in which it is supplied. I understand that if bone meal is treated by super-heated steam these dangers are removed. There is a cargo of 2,000 tons of bone meal which arrived at Aberdeen a little while ago, and has been distributed throughout the county. This meal, distributed in the condition in which it was shipped to Aberdeen, is a possible source of danger. A sample of the meal was sent by a farmer, whose horses died of anthrax, to the bacteriological laboratory in Aberdeen for examination by a doctor tocher, and he reported that the bacillus anthrax was found in the sample. We are entitled to ask the Secretary for Scotland to take such measures as it may be in his power to take to protect the pastures from infection. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is yet prepared to say what can be done in regard to the supply of a serum to deal with grass sickness. Such a serum has been employed with considerable success, though not on a sufficiently large scale to justify one in saying that it is a complete cure. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us that he has made an arrangement for a trial of this serum on a large scale, and that a supply will be placed at the disposal of farmers. I wish also to draw attention to the hardship which farmers in my constituency experience owing to the heavy taxation levied upon motor cars, and particularly upon those cars for which the farmers, being an economical people and not too affluent, have a preference, namely, the Ford cars. Upon these cars the tax is no less than £'23 per annum. That is a very serious impost upon the basic industry of the country, and I would ask my right hon. Friend to use his influence with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in favour of its removal.
§ Mr. MUNRO
There have been, I think, 12 speeches delivered on the subject of land settlement, and I must endeavour, as rapidly as possible, to run over the points raised and to endeavour to meet the criticisms levelled against the Board. I shall begin with the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean). First of all, I regret that I should have to say in his absence which I should have much preferred to say in his presence, but he has explained to me that he is unable to be present at this stage of the Debate. Before I deal 2354 with the speech in detail, I wish to clear up a misapprehension which seems to have arisen out of a phrase which I used in opening this Debate. I referred to "malignant criticism" of the Board. I am afraid I did not make it clear that I did not for a moment suggest that such criticism had proceeded from any Member of this House. Looking back over the various Debates which we have had, dealing with this matter, I cannot remember any criticism from any quarter of the House which could properly be so described. My reference was to criticism in quite different quarters outside the House, and if any hon. Member thought I was referring to criticisms delivered inside the House, I wish to disabuse his mind of that idea at the earliest possible moment.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Peebles made what I regarded, and still regard, as a speech which was grudging rather than generous. He said far more rapid progress should have been made with regard to land settlement in recent years, and he described the progress which had been made as thoroughly unsatisfactory. I do not think my right hon. Friend listened attentively to the speech which I made. His attention, as he owned himself, was diverted by other matters and accordingly be delivered a speech, a large part of which obviously had been prepared without any reference to the figures which I gave, and which accordingly was quite inappropriate to those figures. My right hon. Friend is not in a strong position to criticise in regard to this matter. I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for Central Aberdeen (Major M. Wood) who referred to the desirability of separating the two eras of land settlement. I should like to draw the attention of the right hon. Member for Peebles to the two eras with regard to land settlement. I should like him, on reflection, to say whether, when he considers what was done before this Government came into power and what has been done since it came into power, he is in a particularly strong position to criticise the rate of progress which has been made or the expenditure which has been incurred.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I am going to be perfectly fair in my criticism, but I will not give way to my hon. and gallant 2355 Friend. I claim my right to reply. My hon. and gallant Friend occupied a considerable time and he should hear my reply, even if the reply is not convenient to him. I was going to point out that in the years from 1912 to 1916 the number of holdings which were set up in Scotland, under the Small Holdings Act and under the previous Administration, was 933. In 1922 the number was brought up to 2,058. In the former era the cost was, approximately, £280,000. That was the measure of the generosity then meted out to the smallholders. The approximate cost of the holdings, which have been constructed since the present Government came into power, is over £2,000,000. Now the Committee will appreciate what I meant by saying that the right hon. Member for Peebles is not in a strong position to criticise the rate of progress made in recent years when it is compared with the rate of progress made under very much more easy conditions, in pre-War days.
§ Mr. MUNRO
My hon. and gallant Friend was not in the House then, but he knows perfectly well that under the statute, which the hon. and gallant Member for Kincardine (Lieut.-Clolonel A. Murray) was partly instrumental in getting passed, very large power was acquired. I am not quite certain that it was sufficient, and I claim some little credit for remedying that state of matters, but it will not do for my hon. and gallant Friend to say there were no powers. The powers were considerable.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I hope I may be allowed to proceed without interruption. I am developing an argument which is very difficult after the number of speeches which have been made. I pass from that, having made what I regard as a perfectly fair point, to deal with what the right hon. Member for Peebles proceeded to say on the subject of raids. What he said on that subject I regard as very regrettable —I had almost said mischievous. I am quite sure it was unintentional on his part, but his remarks might quite well—unwittingly, so far as he is concerned —be construed outside, in uninformed quarters, as a direct incentive to raids. 2356 The right hon. Gentleman did not intend that, I am quite sure, but I have got to deal with it. He has no responsibility in the matter. I have; and that is the difference. What he said was unfortunate. He said, for example, that apart from the raid there would have been no settlement in Raasay. There is no warrant whatever for that statement. It is wholly inaccurate, and I regret that it should have been made, because the situation has been difficult enough in all conscience, and I should have expected from my right hon. Friend encouragement and support in the policy which I have followed in this regard, instead of criticism which really tends to weaken my hands in dealing with an extremely difficult situation.
So difficult was that situation that, after the fullest consideration, I issued instructions that all persons who raided lands should be struck off the list of effective applicants for land, and I am quite sure that intimation had a wholesome effect in Scotland. I regretted the necessity of making it, but I felt constrained to make it, and I hoped I should have the support of every Scottish Member in endeavouring to enforce the law, because nothing can be more prejudicial to the interests of the average ex-service man than that these sporadic raids should take place. Let the Committee note what the situation is. There are hundreds of these men waiting quite patiently. Then suddenly they see certain men who are not so patient carrying out a raid, and then my right hon. Friend says that because these men did so they are getting the land. As I say, it is not an accurate statement, and I am afraid of the result of that kind of argument throughout the country to-day, and therefore I regret the tone and tenor of my right hon. Friend's observations in that particular. My right hon. Friend then proceeded to ask me certain questions with regard to the Board of Agriculture's action in the matter of Port Kelm. Although I hope the Committee will not regard it as tedious, I shall endeavour to give an answer to his question, but, I may add, it would be very much more convenient—and I do not know that I shall be here next year—for any holder of my office, if he were to be informed beforehand, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Dr. Murray) was good enough to do on this occasion, with re- 2357 gard to specific cases relating to specific parts of Scotland. A Minister cannot possibly be expected to be fully prepared unless he has notice given him that these questions are to be raised.
My right hon. Friend asked about Port Kelm. That happens to be fresh in my memory because the hon. and gallant Member for Central Aberdeen (Major M. Wood) raised it to-day at Question time. I first refused to consent to the Board's Order in this case, as I thought it would be more equitable to the lady who was interested in that property as proprietor that it should be acquired by purchase than that a scheme should be carried out under Part II of the Act. The proprietor, however, when approached on the subject, declined to sell, and having given her the fullest opportunity of adopting what I considered in her own interests the more equitable and easy method, I then directed that a scheme should be carried out under Part II of the Act, and that has been done, and that is the whole story of Port Kelm. Everything, so far as I know, is peaceful there to-day. My right hon. Friend proceeded to inquire with regard to particular schemes, and I really think it would be in the interests of the Committee generally that I should not give any details across the Floor, which would occupy time, and which, I feel, would not interest many Members present. I should prefer to communicate by letter with my right hon. Friend, giving him, as I can easily do, the information for which he sought. Finally, he spoke with regard to the land which was feud at Gretna. He asked how the feu duty was fixed. The answer to that is that the feu duty was fixed by the War Office itself, and by arrangement between the two Departments and according to my information, the adjustment was a satisfactory and equitable one. My right hon. Friend spoke about hypothetical percentages. They are not hypothetical. These are not probabilities; they are facts. I have had the most careful investigation made, and I have learned, only this afternoon, as a result of a resurvey, that it is safe to knock off from 25 to 30 percent. as being ineffective applications both among the ex-service men and among the civilians.
I pass to the subject which was raised by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Kidd), who asked for the appoint- 2358 ment of a Commission of Inquiry. He called it a Committee of Experts, and he suggested that it might be drawn from farmers and farm workers and the landed interests, and, I think, also the Board itself. I have very great hesitation in assenting to a proposal of that kind. especially if the Committee is to deal with matters of policy. I rather gather the hon. Member's proposal to be that it should deal with matters of policy. He said these holdings are uneconomic. In other words, his speech cancelled the speech of the right hon. Member for Peebles, because the right hon. Gentleman said, "Expedite and accelerate your policy of small holdings," whereas the hon. Member for Linlithgow says, "Shut it down, it is uneconomic, and appoint a Commission to inquire into the whole matter." It is very difficult to appoint a Commission to deal with policy for which I, as a Member of the Government, am responsible, for which this House is responsible, and which has been affirmed and re-affirmed in this House. It is also a policy which has been settled by the Cabinet and which, with particular reference to Scotland, was re-surveyed quite a short time ago by a Cabinet Committee presided over by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War.
It seems to me that it would be difficult to allow policy to be reviewed at the hands of any such Committee as is suggested, and inasmuch as the whole situation with regard to Scotland has recently been subjected to examination by this Sub-Committee of the Cabinet on the responsibility of the whole Government representing all branches of the Coalition, I think it would be highly inappropriate so soon after the situation has been dealt with authoritatively by the Cabinet, that a roving inquiry should be set on foot and taken part in by the various classes of the community to which the hon. Member for Linlithgow referred. Surely the more appropriate thing to do is to do what the Board of Agriculture has already offered to do. At the Conference to which reference has been made, the Board of Agriculture undertook that if any case of alleged mismanagement were represented to it, an immediate inquiry would be made by an official of the Board in conjunction with any member of the Farmers' Union, or other body which conceived itself to be interested. That proposal was accepted as satisfactory by the 2359 Conference to which I have referred. Will the Committee forgive me if I read, as he made such a point of it, a few sentences from what was said by the representative of the Federation after the Conference had concluded? Mr. Richardson said:I feel, speaking for the Federation, that you, Sir Robert, have dealt with our memorandum after a short reading of it in a way to show that we have raised points of interest to the Board, and that the Board have previously had those points in their own view, so that I think there is, speaking for the Federation, a good result from this Conference, in that we have both been seeking the same thing and that this can do nothing but good. I am speaking for Mr. Murray, and he desired that we should express our gratitude again to the Board for having met us to-day and for the statement you have made, and that he considers, from what you have said to us. that you have said all we could expect you to say, namely, that if we had special points where we have individual cases in point of what we think is maladministration, you are ready to receive a responsible person and send one of your people to meet him and discuss with him, and, having said that, we think you have said all that we could expect you to say to-day.Accordingly, the representative of the body, for whom I assume my hon. Friend spoke, seemed to have been satisfied with that proposal, which seemed to me an adequate and fitting proposal, much more adequate and fitting than the bigger proposal which my hon. Friend made.
We had from my hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham), if I may say so, one of the moderate and suggestive speeches which we expect him to deliver. I was a little sorry that he should have dealt as he did with the alleged cheese-paring arrangements which have been made in regard to land settlement in Scotland. It is the old story, that while we are all economists, we always want to economise at the expense of something in which we are not ourselves interested, but I am told that the decrease in Sub-head H to which he referred, "Grants to Agriculture (Scotland) Fund," is substantially due, first, to the utilisation of unspent balances of the Fund and, secondly, to the realisation of assets of the Fund. At any rate, I consider that, so far as Scotland is concerned, we have been quite fairly treated in the matter of finance, although I could wish the money had been greater and could have 2360 gone further. My hon. Friend went on to speak of training men to settle on small holdings. I quite agree in regard to the value of training, but, at the same time, I think perhaps the complete answer to that suggestion, at the moment, is that there are more men who are fully trained waiting for holdings at the present moment than we can accommodate, and accordingly I am afraid that, at the moment and under the circumstances of to-day, it would be a work of supererogation to train any further men for that purpose. I would remind my hon. Friend that quite a number of special schemes directed to the use of men who are in clubs are now proceeding. My hon. Friend then suggested that more should be done upon what I might call a community basis. I quite agree that that is a valuable suggestion, but, according to my information, where it has been tried in England it has not been a striking success. Undoubtedly, however, I will bear his suggestion in mind and confer with my advisers to see whether or not it is possible in the future to do anything in that direction in Scotland.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Fife (Sir A. Sprot) made some criticism with regard to the kind of small holdings which we are setting up in Scotland. He was correct when ho said that, whereas in England a small holding is more or less an allotment, in Scotland it is a miniature farm and accordingly more costly to construct, but here we are dealing with matters of Scottish traditions, and really there is no demand in Scotland to-day, so I am informed, for these bare land holdings, with which we are quite familiar on this side of the Border and which are worked, as I believe, to some profit. In the Highlands my hon. and gallant Friend will remember that this is in many cases the only industry, coupled with fishing, in some places, and accordingly I am afraid it is impossible at this time of the day to introduce what is really an alien system into Scotland for which there is no desire at all, so far as my information goes. My hon. and gallant Friend spoke about enlisting the sympathy of landlords. The Board have made every attempt possible in that direction, and have invited the assistance and co-operation of the Land Property Federation, and I have no complaint to 2361 make in regard to the manner in which we have been met in this matter at all by that association or by the landlords in Scotland generally. My hon. and gallant Friend went on to criticise the expenditure of money on Thirdpart, Fifeshire. That is a story with which I am familiar. He spoke of the amount of money which had been spent, but he must remember that the amount to which he referred is not a gift but a loan, and that, so far as capital is concerned, it pays interest to the nation in the form of a return—namely, in the form of rent, and my hon. and gallant Friend will remember that on this matter he had an interview with the Board of Agriculture. There had been some letters in a certain newspaper raising the question whether this estate had been successfully dealt with. My hon. and gallant Friend kindly interviewed the Director of Land Settlement in October of last year, and the record taken at the time is in these words, that after hearing both sides of the ease the hon. and gallant Member was of opinion that, generally speaking, the holders had no seal ground of complaint and that the Board had acted reasonably.
I pass for a moment to my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Dr. Murray), and at the outset I want to make acknowledgment, if I may, of the generous character of the speech which he was good enough to deliver. It was a balanced speech, containing criticism and appreciation. At one time he thought he was going too far in the direction of appreciation, and so he backwatered very rapidly into the region of criticism, but I have no complaint to make of the speech as a whole. It was a kindly speech, which I very much appreciated. In regard to the situation in North and South Uist, which he raised, I think he knows how the matter stands. I have the details here, but I think it would be more convenient, speaking late as I am doing, that I should communicate with him on that subject, and also on the subject of housing, in which the Board of Agriculture and the Board of Health are jointly interested. My hon. Friend passed to the subject of roads. He is very familiar with the road problem in the Western Isles, and I am very sympathetic, as he knows, with the wants and desires of the people in that locality. I am obtaining, as I said at Question Time, a report on 2362 the whole matter. I have already, after some conference with the Treasury, extended the time by two months during which these roads can be completed, and whether or not I shall succeed in persuading the Treasury to agree to a further extension is on the knees of the gods. I shall certainly undertake to represent my hon. Friend's views, as well as my own, to the Treasury in order that they may come to a decision. Into my hon. Friend's dispute with Lord Lever-hulme I do not propose to enter. I myself have had a great many interviews with Lord Leverhulme in regard to settlement in the West of Scotland, and I should like to express my appreciation of the concessions recently made in regard to his farms in Lewis, concessions which, I think, have done a great deal to solve the difficulties which previously existed on those farms. I will only add that if Lord Leverhulme thinks for a moment that I or the Government have not assisted him promptly in carrying out his scheme, he is labouring under a complete misapprehension.
My hon. Friend the Member for Perthshire (Mr. Gardiner) spoke about the Commission which the hon. Member for Linlithgow proposed and made observations upon it which I bore in mind in replying, as I did a few moments ago, on that point. He also spoke of the value of co-operation, and I quite agree. He said there were difficulties, and there are, but whether, as I said a moment ago, it is possible in Scotland to develop that very useful principle, is a question upon which I shall further consult with the Board. My hon. Friend went on to deal with foot-and-mouth disease, and there I. though, with all respect to you, Mr. Chairman, that he was treading on delicate ground. inasmuch as any alteration in the principles which are followed in that matter would require legislation. Therefore, I am afraid I should get into trouble if I followed my hon. Friend in his pilgrimage in that direction. He further spoke of the importance of plant raising and research on similar lines. I quite recognise it, and I have recognised it to this extent, that I think I am right in saying I have authorised the Board to make a grant of £22,300 on a pound for pound basis for the encouragement of that particular line of research, and were it possible I should like to assist in the development of that kind of research. 2363 My hon. Friend behind me, the Member for Lanark (Mr. R. McLaren), spoke about the training of men in agriculture. I have already dealt with that matter. In regard to the abandoned schemes at Raasay and Rona, I should be grateful if he would send me particulars of any such cases, when I shall have inquiry made. I am unaware of the cases to which he referred, and I have had no notice of them. He also dealt with the wide and difficult question of emigration. I will not follow into that. There are considerations, as I pointed out in my opening statement, on both sides. There is, on the one hand, the difficulty and danger of impoverishing our native country by parting with some of the best blood in it, and there is, on the other hand, the extension and expansion of our Empire, to which none of us can be blind, and it is difficult to hold a balance between those conflicting considerations.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kincardine (Lieut.-Colonel A. Murray), to whom I am grateful for his appreciative observations, made, some criticism on the proposal of a Commission. I do not pursue that further, as I have already told the Committee my views in regard to it. He also dealt with what he called the reckless and rather wasteful extravagance of the present administration in directions far remote from land settlement. I am afraid that there also he has been more successful than I should probably be if I endeavoured to follow him in that particular controversy, but, so far from admitting the charge, I, of course, deny it. He then proceeded to deal with a matter obviously in order, namely, the organisation of small holdings in Scotland. He asked me what the provision was in regard to the amalgamation of those two societies. Negotiations are still proceeding for the amalgamation of the two smallholders societies, but I think it would be very inexpedient—and I hope my hon. and gallant Friend on reflection will agree—that I should say anything here at the present moment which might prejudice the negotiations which are still going on. I am very hopeful of the result. I am endeavouring to do my best to bring about a satisfactory solution of what my hon. and gallant Friend must admit is an extremely difficult situation, and with that end in view I hope he will 2364 excuse me from saying anything more than that negotiations are still going on and that I hope they will soon be concluded. In regard to present facilities, -my information is that the Board are doing everything they can to further that movement. They have appointed an organiser, who is going round and endeavouring to promote any arrangement with that end in view.
My hon. and gallant Friend will also remember that the Board is now in a position to make loans itself under recent legislation, and is doing it, and the need for such organisation is by no means so great as it was before the Board had that power. But my hon. and gallant Friend may be quite certain that I am alive to the desirability of these facilities being provided, and that everything that is necessary and expedient, according to my information, has been done in that direction. With regard to what my hon. and gallant Friend said on the subject of education and research, I can assure him that the whole sum of £150,000 is being devoted to these purposes, and to these purposes only, and at the present moment a scheme is awaiting my sanction allocating that money to the various activities which are comprised under these two heads.
As regards deer forests, I have explained the situation with regard to the Bill. A Bill has been drafted, and I am afraid, looking to the situation at this late stage of the Session, it will not be possible to deal with it before we separate. I think, in the circumstances, we shall not lose any valuable time if the Bill be introduced, as I hope it will be shortly after we reassemble. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire (Major M. Wood) talked about the time limit which had been imposed for the applications of ex-service men. That time limit was not imposed by me. It was imposed as the result of the decision of the Cabinet in connection with the inquiry which I said was held in January, 1921, and that decision ran in these terms:No applicant will be eligible for the preference given to ex-service men unless his application has been received by the Board on or before 31st March, 1921.That was a decision which, I think, the Cabinet was well entitled to give, acting, I conceive, on the recommendation of the 2365 Committee of which I was a member. I think it is entirely legal, but if my hon. and gallant Friend can convince me that it is illegal, I will see that it is reconsidered. My hon. and gallant Friend next complained that the rents had not been fixed in 178 cases. I explained, in my opening statement, why in these cases the rents had not been fixed, and I thought I showed that I am at present in negotiation with the Treasury with a view of ascertaining whether these rents, which were fixed at the peak of prices, can be in any way abated. Does my hon. and gallant Friend desire that I should cease my efforts with the Treasury, and that the rents should be fixed at a sum which I think would be prohibitive? His argument on this matter was so petulant, if he will allow me to say so, that I feel rather disposed to allow the Treasury to settle it now, but I can assure him the efforts I am making are entirely in the interests of the smallholders for whom he speaks, and, unless these efforts are successful, rents will be fixed at a figure which these smallholders will find it very difficult to meet. I hope he believes me when I say that the only reason these rents are not fixed is the interest of the smallholders. My hon. and gallant Friend criticised the agreement which the Board entered into with these men. Surely he docs not suggest that the Board's intention is to rack-rent or to swindle these men? Nothing is further from their intention, and, at the present moment, I know of no complaint which has been made with regard to the agreements entered into. None have reached me, and I am not aware of any having reached the Board. One would think from my hon. and gallant Friend's criticisms that the Board, the tenants and landowners were at arm's length, and that the interest of the Board was to rack-rent these men and outwit them.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I think the decision of the Board will be just as favourable to smallholders as a decision of the Land Court would be. If my hon. and gallant Friend can bring me a single case where the Board has rack-rented or outwitted an applicant for land, and fixed a rent which, under the circumstances, he would have 2366 been well advised not to undertake to pay, I shall be very much surprised. My hon. and gallant Friend also referred to the Deer Forests Report, and the land which the Deer Forests Commission reported was available for small holdings in deer forests. I am going into the matter now, but if my experience in the past teaches me anything, it teaches me that the compelling influence which precludes the acquiring of the land of deer forests is that it is far too expensive. There is the question of expense to which he referred. The law would have to be altered in that matter if he had his way, but, under existing conditions, there is to be no alteration of the law now, or any immediate prospect of it, I am afraid. The situation is to-day what it has been for a long time past, namely, that this deer forest land is prohibitive in price. My hon. Friend the Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. F. C. Thomson) referred to the Rowatt Research Institute. I fully appreciate the generosity of the donor who has contributed so handsomely to the work of this very useful institution. My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Sir H. Cowan), finally in a speech which I quite appreciate, because he recognised the difficult circumstances under which all these operations are being carried on to-day, referred, first of all, to grass sickness in horses, and to motor-car taxation, which illustrates the variety of subjects with which any unfortunate holder of my office is called upon to deal, with or without notice. On the question of grass sickness, I have had interviews with my hon. Friend before now, and I think he knows that an investigation has been carried on by the Highland Agricultural Society through their consulting chemist, with the assistance of another chemist in bacteriology. The Board gave a grant towards the investigations in 1921–22, and the scrum which has been referred to was prepared in the laboratory and supplied to the veterinary surgeons in the districts where the disease was reported, and the veterinary surgeons consider that the results from that serum may be regarded as satisfactory. Investigations are still proceeding, and my hon. Friend may rest assured that we are carefully watching all developments.
With regard to the motor-car tax, I have a fairly wide jurisdiction, but it does not cover that point. All I can do 2367 —and I willingly give that undertaking—will be to convey to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the views my hon. Friend has expressed in order that they may receive consideration from my right hon. Friend, who has jurisdiction which I have not. I apologise to the Committee for speaking at such length, but I have endeavoured to cover as well as I could the numerous topics which have been raised, and now