HC Deb 20 July 1934 vol 292 cc1501-8

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £458,136, be granted to His Majesty to complete the

right hon. Gentleman was not in the Chamber at the moment when I said that there were signs that the Seine fishermen were exchanging their large drifters for the smaller motor boats which are snore easily transferred to white fishing. In regard to the second point, I do not think there is any action which can usefully be take in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman will know, although I did not say so, that all that we can do is to discuss the matter with the Admiralty.

Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £101,287, be granted for the said Service."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 16; Noes, 105.

Division No. 341.] AYES. [3.38 p.m.
Cocks, Frederick Seymour John William West, F. R.
Daggar, George Leonard, William Wilmot, John
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) McEntee, Valentine L.
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Gardner, Benjamin Walter Pickering, Ernest H. Sir Murdoch McKenzie Wood and
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middiesbro',W.) Rea, Walter Russell Sir Robert Hamilton.
Groves, Thomas E. Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'ri'd, N.) Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Grimston, R. V. Pownall, Sir Assheton
Albery, Irving James Hanley, Dennis A. Procter, Major Henry Adam
Appiln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Harvey, George (Lambeth,Kenn'gt'n) Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Apsley, Lord Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet) Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge) Rankin, Robert
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Ropner, Colonel L.
Boothby, Robert John Graham Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Bower, Commander Robert Tatton James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Runge, Norah Cecil
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Jamieson, Douglas Russell,Hamer Field (Sheffield,B'tside)
Brass, Captain Sir William Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Brocklebank. C. E. R. Leckie, J. A. Sandeman, Sir A. N.Stewart
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Loftus, Pierce C. Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Browne, Captain A. C. Mebane, William Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Burnett, John George MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick) Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly) MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Simmonds, Oliver Edwin
Caporn, Arthur Cecll Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Skelton. Archibald Noel
Clarry, Reginald George McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dine,C.)
Clayton, Sir Christopher Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A, D. Makins, Brigadier.Generai Ernest Strickland, Captain W. F,
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Conant, R. J. E. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr) Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Moreing, Adrian C. Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Dalkeith, Earl of Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties) Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Moss, Captain H. J. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Denville, Alfred Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Nunn, William Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Edmondson, Major Sir James O'Donovan, Dr. William James Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Orr Ewing, I. L. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Ford, Sir Patrick J. Palmer, Francis Noel Wise, Alfred R.
Fuller, Captain A. G. Pearson, William G.
Galbraith, James Francis Wallace Penny, Sir George TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Glossop, C. W. H. Petherick, M Sir Frederick Thomson and Lieut-
Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.

sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1935, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, including grants for land improvement, agricultural education, research and marketing, loans to Co-operative Societies, a grant under the Agricultural Credits (Scotland) Act, 1929, and certain grants in aid."—[Note.—X£180,000 has been voted on account.]

3.45 p.m.


I shall not detain the Committee for more than a very few minutes; indeed, it is beyond my power to do so; but I wish to make some observations which I shall condense into the fewest words and the shortest space of time—a practice which I think might well be emulated by certain private Members of the House who forget what the revered Leader of the Liberal party, Mr. Asquith, used to say, namely, that there was no politician who, on any reasonable subject, should be unable to express all that was to be said in about 15 minutes.

This day was set apart for three subjects, fisheries, agriculture and education, and there are only about 10 minutes left for agriculture, of which I propose to occupy not more than three or four. I want to recall to the Committee the references to land settlement in the Debate on the Estimates for the 'Scottish Department of Agriculture which were put before the House last year. The Secretary of State, shorly after he took office, called the Scottish Members together upstairs and outlined a new scheme for unemployed men, who, in certain circumstances, were to be allocated plots of from a quarter of an acre to an acre. I understand that up to the present time approximately 1,000 plots has been allocated. In the debate last year, the Under-Secretary stated that he was very sympathetic towards this new movement, and that it was his intention to visit those plots personally and to announce to the House at a later stage the result of his inspection. His idea was that this experiment might be worth following up on a large scale. If he has time to-day to let us know the result of his inspection, I am sure that some of us who are interested in this subject would be very grateful. In my own constituency, where, unfortunately, unemployment is rife, a large 'lumber of miners would be only too glad to take advantage of plots of this kind, but the trouble is that there are not enough plots to go round. I have visited the plots in various parts of the constituency, and have been struck by the enthusiasm and earnestness with which these decent men are tackling a job which they have a chance of managing. They are fitting themselves as agriculturists on a small scale, and fitting themselves for the cultivation of much larger areas at a later date.

I am sorry that I cannot go into the subject properly now, on account of the limitations of time, but there is one point that I want to mention to the Under-Secretary. The present allowance of £2 10s. is too little for these men. I suggest to him that if an allowance more nearly approximating to £5 could be given to these men, who start with absolutely nothing, it would enable them to meet the situation in a reasonable way, to buy the little stock that they require, and to put up a few fragile buildings, and would leave them with a chance of making something at the end of the year. Of course, the difficulty in this matter is always the Treasury. and while I am not one of those who believe in regarding the Treasury funds as a dripping roast at which we can cut and come again, I do think that, for an object of this kind, a more generous spirit, as far as money is concerned, should be shown. If the hon. Gentleman has visited these plots, as I have done, he will realise the beneficial effect that they are having on those who are working them, even from the point of view of the self-respect that it brings back to them and the chance they get of developing their independence, and I feel sure that if those elements were taken into full account a more generous attitude on the question of allowances would be adopted.

3.51 p.m.


I should like to say a word on behalf of the milk producers of the South East of Scotland. They entered into the recent scheme of reorganisation doubtful, but anxious to co-operate. They now find certain disadvantages and are subjected to a certain amount of loss which they believe is due to the scheme. It is really a matter for the Milk Board. I do not wish to say anything against the members of that Board who are good men doing all they can in a most difficult situation. At the same time there is an uneasy feeling that they are not doing enough to consider the point of view of the East and South East of Scotland, and may be content to help the majority of the West and South West. The East of Scotland want to be sure that they will get fair play and will not, be used to assist the West too much. It is a matter for the Board but I ask the Ministers responsible for Scotland to keep their attention on the subject and help them if they can.

3.52 p.m.


I think my noble Friend will recollect that questions which particularly interested producers in the East of Scotland are now the subject of investigation by the Investigation Committee. We await their report and it will then be necessary to consider, if their recommendations point that way, whether or not action has to be taken under the Marketing Act. That may give rise to matters of very serious consideration indeed, but we must await the report of the Investigation Committee. The personnel of the Committee commands universal respect, and their views will be treated as having great weight.

With regard to the question raised by the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Wallace), I have visited some of these plots this year, but the pressure of the Session has been heavy, and I have not seen all that I should like. The general report that I get is that the results attained are indeed very striking. So successful are they that the disadvantage in one's mind is that of thinking that they open too wide a door for the future. My own impression is that this is one of the most significant experiments that have been made in our time with regard to the reconditioning, moral, physical and intellectual, of men, particularly in mining villages, who have long been out of work. I use the word "experiment "really to put a brake upon myself, because, though satisfied that good results have already been obtained, I still prefer to regard it as an experiment, though a most useful and interesting one.

I am glad that the hon. Member raised the question, and particularly the question of the difficulty of getting land. We have had altogether 2,250 applications, and we have only been able in the two years to give half-acre plots to some 700 or 800 men. The difficulty is the acquisition of land. I appeal on behalf of my right hon. Friend to all who are interested in the matter, to landlords and farmers who may be able to hand over, under perhaps a lease of five or six years, a field or two out of a farm or elsewhere. If they could possibly do that without breaking into the whole economic structure of their farm, I would appeal to them to assist us, because they alone can assist us in a most promising and fruitful experiment. I hope that my appeal will not be forgotten. I am sure that no greater public service could be done among the derelict and difficult areas of Scotland than to make land available wherever possible.

If there were more time available, I should describe in detail to the Committee a most remarkable phenomenon which only came to my attention through other causes to-day. It is the case of a mining village in Lanarkshire where over a series of years, long before we began to allocate plots, the unemployed miners and their wives and children have been converting the slag heaps and the blaes, bings and generally apparently derelict and useless land into orchards and other valuable property. Some people seem to think that all the efforts which we are making are useless. That is not so. I believe that there is a great demand among unemployed men to put their hands to some useful work. It is for these reasons that I repeat my appeal to all who have the control of land within the reach of mining villages in Scotland to be as forthcoming, to use a Scotch term, as they possibly can whenever they are asked temporarily to give us the use of that land.

There is only one other topic I will mention. The general topics of Scottish agriculture have been largely dealt with in recent legislation, and many agricultural discussions have taken place this Session. I wish to say a few words about oats. I am glad to say that since the increased duty was put on there has been a rise in the price of oats. What actually happened was that there was a sudden rise and then a fall, but now the price is higher than it was at the top of the first rise, and higher than it was at this time last year. I will give this one figure and no other. The average price of a cwt. of oats in Scotland just now is 6s. ld., whereas last year it was only 4s. 9d. I think that the increased duty is now beginning to have effect. In any case, without arguing as to the cause, it is a matter of real importance to the agricultural industry of Scotland that the price of oats should have risen to this considerable extent.

The function and work of the Department of Agriculture is to do all that is possible within its limits to maintain the high level of Scottish agriculture. A great step has been taken forward through the administrative action of my right hon. Friend this year in associating with the Department a council of noted agriculturists in Scotland who have from time to time, as occasion has required and great questions have arisen, given to the administration the advice which only practical men are able to give. I believe that in that respect my right hon. Friend has enormously strengthened the power for good of the Department of Agriculture in Scotland, and that we shall find as the years go by that, more and more, in its work in regard to land settlement, education and the improvement of stock, and of every matter with which it is concerned, it will play an increasingly valuable part in a side of life which is essential to the welfare of the people of our country.

3.59 p.m.


It is a very serious matter that [...]e should only have so short a time in which to deal with such an important matter as the agriculture of Scotland. There have been opportunities for agriculture generally to be discussed, but Scottish Members have not had a very large share in the debates—

It being Four of the Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.