HC Deb 04 August 1939 vol 350 cc2906-22

3.5 p.m.

Sir Murdoch MacDonald

An hour or two ago we listened to what I regarded as being a wonderful speech by the Prime Minister— wonderful in the sense that it showed the mind of the Prime Minister and the Government in regard to foreign affairs, better even than the regulated despatches which the Prime Minister has read to the House on previous occasions. It was the humane and natural utterance of a man who is oppressed by what he sees in front of him, especially in connection with China and Japan and the treatment of our people there. I wish that there could have been a very full House to listen to the Prime Minister, and certainly, I hope that all his critics will read that speech when it appears in the Official Report, and digest what he said, realise fully what was in his mind, and ask themselves whether they cannot trust the Government properly to conduct its affairs. Following that Debate on China and Japan and foreign affairs generally, there was introduced the subject of refugees and distressed people in many parts of the world. Like every other hon. Member, I have the very deepest sympathy for these people, and I would do everything I could to help to relieve the distress which unfortunately afflicts certain places. We have just heard that the Government have been doing their share; whether or not that share is adequate or not is not a matter for discussion at the moment.

I want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that, while there may be, and indeed are, distressed people in many countries of the world, we have here at home 250,000 people of whom at least 100,000 are in circumstances in which we would not like to meet them. On Tuesday last, the Secretary of State for Scotland made a statement in regard to the Highlands and Islands area, where these people are living. That statement, however we may regard it, obviously is the first definite step towards a real attempt to put the situation right. It is a small and halting step. We have to-day as Secretary of State for Scotland a man who is fully cognisant of the position. If I read his mind aright, he is just as determined as I or any other Member can be to put the situation right, but he has very great lions in his path. There is the Treasury, and not only that, there is the preoccupation of the Government with the international situation. Obviously, the dark clouds that are hovering over us make the present a difficult time in which to deal with a problem of this kind.

In so far as my right hon. Friend has taken the first step, however halting we may consider that step to be, we realise that he is making an endeavour to deal with this situation. I congratulate him on having done so and I am deeply grateful to him for having taken that first step. I hope these halting steps will in due course be followed by other measures. I hope that, when the arrangements have been made for the expenditure of the money which my right hon. Friend intimated was to be spent in the first year, he will be able to come to that Box and announce a great step forward and a great advance on the present programme. He has ample material to help him in coming to a conclusion. Major Hilleary, an English gentleman, living in the Island of Skye, who knows the Highlands as intimately, I suppose, as any of us, very kindly agreed to devote his time to the formation, with certain other ladies and gentlemen, of a committee to go into this question. That committee produced the Highlands and Islands Report and all the evidence which the Secretary of State can require is in that report. Indeed there seems little to be done except to give effect to the various recommendations in the report.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Colville)

One of the difficulties about the report is that a large part of the recommendations takes the form of advice that there should be further examination. The practical suggestions on which action could be taken, form only a relatively small part of the recommendations.

Sir M. MacDonaid

I was coming to that point. The Secretary of State on Tuesday intimated that he intended to hold certain conferences. He did not propose to adopt the specific suggestion in the report that a commissioner should be appointed for the area to make proposals to him. He said he proposed to hold conferences with his own officials. If I heard his correctly, he added that it was his intention to call in other people who were cognisant of the circumstances and that those other people, along with his own officials, would formulate the policy which he could consider and present to the Government for their adoption.

It may be asked: Why should this part of our own country be in such a distressful condition? For the answer we have to go back very far into history. The origins of this problem are dealt with in the historical narrative contained in the report to which I have just referred. It gives a resum6 of the history of the Highlands from about 1750 onwards, and I think it is about the best written and most concise statement on the subject that I have seen. The young man who wrote that historical narrative is to be congratulated on the clearness and accuracy of his statement. He showed there quite conclusively why it is that we are faced with this situation to-day. There were two things. First, there was the iniquitous condition of the land laws. In 1886 an effort was made to put these right, and another effort was made in 1911. Both these efforts were excellent, but they were niggardly. [Interruption.] We have greater hopes for the future than I think we had in the past. Those Acts of 1886 and 1911 did alleviate the position, but they did not put it right, and what I would like to impress upon the Secretary of State is this, that taking niggardly steps, spending a little money now and a little money again, and having a large staff as a consequence to control the expenditure, is really wasting public money. It is far better to have a thorough and drastic scheme at once and to put right the situation than to continue dribbling money into an almost bottomless pit and not get a proper return from it.

I am glad to see my right hon. Colleague the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) in his place, for I was going on to say that Free Trade was one of the major causes of the disaster which overtook the Highlands in the early years of last century. If those effects were a necessity, if it was necessary to impose Free Trade in the Highlands in those days, it was only reasonable that the Government should have said "The effect of our proposals is to put a vast number of people out of work, and if we do, what is to happen?" We all know what did happen. Those people had to emigrate, and they did not even emigrate under the conditions to which an hon. Member referred a few moments ago in regard to refugees. They emigrated very largely to America and Canada, by the tens of thousands, just because of the introduction of Free Trade. The introduction itself might have been quite right, but it was the duty of the Government to see that some step was taken to replace other work, whereby these people could get a living.

Mr. Bracken

Did not the Scottish emigrants take away all the best jobs from the English?

Mr. Maxton

We did the jobs, and they got the money.

Sir M. MacDonald

Those things that I have mentioned cause a condition in the Highlands which, notwithstanding 1886 and 1911, has not yet been put right. As a consequence, the steps now being taken by the Secretary of State in order to remedy these things are just as vitally necessary as they were at the moment when those effects took place long ago. I could quote specific instances of the niggardly or unfortunate methods adopted in dealing with the problems involved. That country is largely a sheep country. Just after the War sheep stocks were bought and tenants were placed in possession. It is true that they got their sheep stocks at a reduction on what the Government had paid for them, but still the prices were far and away higher than present-day market-values, and as a consequence those tenants, all small people, are paying interest on large sums which bear no real relation to the actual value of the stocks they hold. I did not hear the Secretary of State refer to that particular aspect of the matter on Tuesday, but I hope he will carefully take into consideration the position of the sheep-stock holders throughout the Western Highlands of Scotland. His colleague the Minister of Agriculture has been endeavouring to help sheep farmers by means of a subsidy, but that is a means of saving the really well-to-do farmer from falling into bankruptcy by enabling him to get a price for his sheep which will meet his costs and leave something over for himself. That remedy takes no account whatever of the heavy interest charges which the crofter population have to pay in connection with their sheep stock, and it has to be remembered that they are people in a very small way who feel the weight of this burden more than other classes of sheep farmers.

There is one other matter to which I would ask the Secretary of State to give serious attention. A few years ago I brought to his notice the fact that a certain pier in Skye had fallen into disrepair. It had originally been built—or the extension part, to which I am now referring—ut of funds provided by the Government. Promise after promise that the pier would be repaired has been given and some 11 months ago I understood from the Secretary of State that matters were in train for settlement, yet not a thing has been done up to the moment in the way of starting work.

Mr. Colville

I said that so far as I was concerned agreement had been reached. It is for the local authorities to carry out the work, and I suggest that the hon. Member should make his representations in that quarter.

Sir M. MacDonald

It may well be the fault of the local authority, but local authorities have to act under regulations which the Secretary of State controls. Local authorities now have to get a Provisional Order before they can carry out such work, and apparently that takes a long time, and I have no doubt that partly explains the long delay. But there was no such delay in the past when the Government acted through the Congested Districts Board. If it was decided that the money should be spent the work used to be started within a month or two, whereas now there are delays which are sometimes unconscionably long. I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to indicate that this niggardly step is not all that he intends to take, and that a very great programme can be envisaged for the future to put right this grievance.

3.25 p.m.

Mr. Macquisten

The last speaker is perfectly right when he says that the problem began early and in the middle of the eighteenth century. Prior to that time we had in the Highlands a kindly civilisation. It was broken up by the purely commercial outlook of the landed system which was then imposed upon them. In those days there was an administration in this country which passed the Septennial Act extending the life of Parliament because they knew that the country was against them. They even increased the number of peers to do it so as to have time during which they could get through laws to cast out those who were opposed to them. They thus created problems which are still facing us in our time. I do not wish to say anything disrespectful to the present regime, but I believe that if the Highlands had succeeded in those days we would never have lost the American Colonies and we should never have had the Great War.

Let me tell the House what they did in regard to land laws. There was no landlord system in the Highlands at all. There were seldom even written titles. There was clan land on which rents were not levied but feudal dues were paid to the chiefs of the clans, to keep up their dignity. It was for the chief to foster the welfare of his clansmen and they did that in a very loyal spirit. Of course they had the right to pit and gallows and occasionally they hanged one or two of their clansmen but only when the clan was of unanimous opinion that the person in question was a bad lot and would be none the worse for hanging. The Government ordained in 1746 that they would put an end to the strength of the clans because the Government have got a proper shock at Prestonpans and Falkirk when Johnny Cope was not up in time. They passed land laws assimilating this primitive and yet much more humane system, far more admirable system of land tenure, to the English land tenure. They ordained that all land must be held by an individual or by a corporation and that the holding of land just as clan land, as the swans hold their pieces of land in the Thames, by the strength of their own right arm—if any other clan invaded them the invaders had to suffer for it— was to be put an end to.

The way it was got round—the clansmen always try to get round this kind of thing—was that they went to Edinburgh where there was a factory for forged titles. They took their leading clansman with them and he conveyed the clan land to the chief. After the chief had been 40 years on the sasine register the land became the chief's in law. It was all very well while the old chiefs were alive because they knew they were really trustees for their people and things went on pretty well but after they died because they had got their sons into the English army or had sent them to English schools to be educated, they spoiled good Scotsmen and did not make Englishmen of them. He got into habits different from those of his ancestors. He got into debt, and then the land was mortgaged and sold. Then the sheep farmers came on the scene. The land was not always used for sheep. It was used for the rearing of black cattle, as you will find if you read Dr. Johnson's "Tour of the Hebrides." There were innumerable cattle in the Highlands in those days, and, if the rearing of cattle could be carried on there now, they could supply enough "baby beef" to keep the towns of Scotland going in a much better way than by buying meat from abroad. [An Hon. Member: "What about the bracken?"] The cattle trample down and destroy the bracken much more than sheep do. Sheep will ruin a pasture, because they just nibble off the fine grasses and leave the coarse grasses to grow. The Highlands have gradually deteriorated more and more under sheep, and no measures should be taken to help the sheep farmers, welcome as they are as far as they go, because such measures will not restore the fertility of the land. The only way to do that is to bring back the cattle.

I have given some of the real causes of the ruin of the Highlands. The people had a national dress, which, owing to the fact that in those days they did not double-dip sheep, was a waterproof costume in which they could stand up to the climate—and it is a terrible climate. Above all, they had the sacred right to make their own refreshment, they had the right of private distillation. Every crofter and fisherman had his own small still, and with his small still, his waterproof kilt, and his chief to look after him, he could laugh at the climate.

Mr. Bracken

Surely my hon. and learned Friend must pay some tribute to modern civilisation? There was then no central heating to help the Highlanders keep warm in their kilts?

Mr. Macquisten

They were able to make a far better source of warmth for themselves, and that enabled them to stand up to the climate. It has all been taken from them, which is a perfect outrage. I remember talking with one old Highlander in the Mull of Cantyre, who had just got his old age pension, while still allowed to work on the roads for a wage of 18s. His main complaint had always been the cost of his draw. I asked him what it cost him per week, and he said, "It is only half-a-crown a week now; the pension pays the other 10s. I am ashamed," he said, "to be buying my refreshment out of a shop; when we were young we all made our own, as we baked our own bread. It is far easier to make than to bake good bread. I would do it yet, but the neighbours are so treacherous, and would tell about one I think it must be the education that has corrupted them. I cannot see why I should not do it yet. The food is my own; why cannot I cook it in the way that I want, without the Government interfering?" Is there any Member of the House who can answer that simple question? "Why cannot I cook my own barley in the way that I want to cook it?" It is a monstrous interference with human liberty. When I raise this question, it is made a subject of derision and laughter. The reason is that, under the modern system or education, people do not think for themselves, and are incapable of taking anything back to first principles.

As I have said, the Highlanders lost three important things. They lost the fostering care of their chiefs; they lost their national costume, which has be-come a subject of ridicule; now is only worn by the lairds and factors, and by Englishmen who come North. All these things have been taken from the Highlander, and he had got into a terrible position when the Crofters Act, 1886, was passed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Sir M. MacDonald) has said. I was present at the opening of the Glen Albyn road past Loch Ness, where the workmen could not get to work for the char-a-bancs full of people from every part of the world who were watching for the Loch Ness monster. One of the county officials told me that in Inverness there are still what are known as squatters: men who escaped after the "'45," when the Highlands were hunted down in a fashion as bad as anything experienced by the Belgians and almost as bad as was experienced by the Abyssinians. They hid in Inverness, and some of the lairds there, although they had not themselves risen in the "'45" let them squat; and this squatting grew into a definite legal right, as has been decided in the Court of Session. A squatter pays no rent, because he has no lease, and is under no obligations, and the landlord pays no rates or taxes on him because he does not receive any rent; and neither does the squatter pay rates or taxes. I was asked whether I would assist in getting these people brought under taxation, and I said, "No; thank God there are still some places in Scotland where a man can escape these sharks of collectors of rates and taxes. I will not assist you."

Every right that the people had has been taken from them by the processes of economic law, and so you need to go to Canada to find Gaelic newspapers and the best of Gaelic spoken. There are a great many things which can be done. Look at the roads which are built. You put great costly boulevards, like the road to Glencoe, which motors scorch through before they see anything but the speedway in front of them but there are all the little side roads. The Minister for obstructing Transport, whom we call the Minister of Transport, might go to the Islands and see the road to Port-nahaven in Islay and Salen in Mull, where decent 14 foot roads have been cut down to nine feet, so that if two motorists meet each other half way it is a question of who is to give way and difficult to decide at times who is to go back.

Mr. Aneurin Bevan

Is the hon. And learned Member aware that he is describing the state of hundreds of roads in Wales?

Mr. Macquisten

Yes, I think that the state of roads in Wales is pretty bad, but hundreds of Welshmen manage to get out of Wales. Steamers have been running to and between Glasgow and Campbeltown, which was once one of the richest towns in the whole of Scotland It had a coal mine, a shipyard and 24 distilleries. They brought untold millions of pounds to the Treasury. It was the most lucrative industry in the Highlands and the most profitable for the Empire and did much to keep the balance of trade open. It was made in Scotland and they have taken it all away. They have reduced it so much by this savage taxation that most of the distilleries are closed down and now only two are working. The poor people in Campbeltown, to the extent of 50 per cent., have been unemployed for years and years, sitting wondering what has happened. Most of the distillery owners have retired and have become country gentlemen with large fortunes, but the people have been left derelict.

Now the steamers have been taken off, and there appears to be no means of appealing to the Secretary of State about the matter. It will happen unless they can get some sort of subsidy. Why can we not do something for transport in the Highlands as they do in Norway, where they subsidise steamers which call at all the remote ports, no matter how small the place is, because that makes a steamer service and it is better than letting the service be cut down? They are awfully intelligent in Norway. If a man is travelling with his wife they can go for fare and a quarter. There are other little human touches of that sort. I want to urge the Secretary of State to do that kind of thing with the object of getting better and cheaper transport. Let him point out to the Treasury what they are taking out of the Highlands distilleries and the hardship that is being caused to the, Highlands.

3.42 p.m.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

I very much regret that my time is limited to four or five minutes because I must give the Secretary of State sufficient time to reply. I hope that we shall be able to make some better arrangements in the future than having only 1½ hours in which to discuss Scottish affairs. Perhaps it might be possible to induce some hon. Members to come to the point rather more rapidly. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) was very interesting but not too topical in his discussion of Highland affairs. It is a lamentable feature of this House that on almost all Highland occasions we are limited to a' few minutes, and we have made repeated protests on many occasions. This points to the need for greater control by the Scottish people of their own administration and legislation. I say emphatically that there is no other way to solve this problem but for the Scottish people to have full control over their own government in a Scottish parliament. We have had proof of this, year after year when Scottish affairs have to be discussed in a very few hours. We need more control over our own affairs.

I shall not take more than three or four minutes in what I have to say. I am not going to pretend to disagree with the hon. Member for Inverness (Sir M. MacDonald) that the Secretary of State is sincerely anxious to help Scotland, I know that is perfectly true. After experience of three other Secretaries of State I can say that the right hon. Gentleman is by far the most effective of them and I believe the best intentioned. His success with the Treasury must be modified by the fact that he was trained at the Treasury, and therefore the fight with his old colleagues must be softened a little. Even he has come to realise that Scotland is not getting justice from the Treasury. On the question of roads and piers about which the hon. Gentleman for Inverness spoke at some length we are to get only £300,000 in five years. Does the Minister honestly think that that will go very far towards a solution of the problem of the provision of second class roads, parish roads, Department Settlement roads for which the State is directly responsible, and so on? The Minister will have to tackle the Treasury if he is to deal with the problem properly.

With regard to land improvement the Minister should acquire for the purpose as much land as he possibly can for the State. When the Department of Agriculture does acquire lands they should drain them, clear them of bracken, and as soon as possible fence them properly. In many Department estates we lack the water supplies, roads and drainage necessary for successful agricultural settlement.

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman intends to encourage co-operative marketing which I have long advocated as one of the fundamental needs of the Highlands and Islands, especially among the fishermen and that he is going to do something on the question of veterinary services. This is a very important question, especially in some of the southern islands, where they lose a great number of cattle every year owing to the lack of veterinary surgeons whom they have to charter at a cost from Skye. Although it is a very small contribution in relation to the size of the problem, I am glad that he is going to help in the supply of motor boats and engines for the use of the lobster and local fishermen, and I would ask him especially to concentrate upon places like the Island of Eriskay, where the fishing community is almost in ruins to-day; and there are many other places like it in the other Islands about which I shall be glad to give him information.

In regard to agricultural training, I am glad that it is proposed to arrange for a number of demonstration crofts to see what can be done in regard to land and agricultural improvement, in addition to having the existing isolated and rather remote large scale demonstration farms far from the crofters' homes. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to take into consideration the possibility of acquiring 50 or 100 acres of land round certain villages in the rough pastures. I can guarantee that many of the villages will be very anxious to help to improve the land for an experimental period of three or four years, which is the minimum time necessary for such improvements. They cannot afford to do it as it requires fencing; and I suggest he might set up a separate fund of money for fencing.

As to freights, I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has not taken up the idea which was put to himself and the Postmaster-General by me in the MacBrayne debate of the flat rate for goods to and from the Islands for carriage in the subsidised steamer area. With regard to afforestation there has been a number of protests against agricultural land being put under afforestation, but I agree that the extension of scientific and economic afforestation is in the national interest. It can be very useful in connection with land drainage and other agricultural problems. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon producing some proposals.

I should not like to see a non-democratic over-ruling commissioner running the whole of the Islands, and Highlands. I believe that it is impossible to find a man or committee of men who could be made successfully responsible for this work. The local authorities have known and definite responsibilities, and they can, if not efficient, be turned out by the people if they feel like it. They must not be allowed to shirk these responsibilities. But they cannot be expected to undertake the reconstruction of this wide area and deal with its longstanding and difficult problems until the Secretary of State and the Government agree that it is worth while to provide the finance.

3.54 p.m.

Mr. Golville

The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) has made, in a few minutes, a very useful contribution and has touched upon a number of practical points in relation to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. I too am sorry we could not have had a longer time to debate this question to-day. If the official Opposition had not staged a Foreign Affairs debate for the third or fourth occasion this week, we could perhaps have taken more interest in subjects nearer home.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to arrange with the Government to give a day of parliamentary time after the Recess to discuss Highlands and Islands affairs?

Mr. Colville

That is not a matter with which I can deal, but no doubt the hon. Member's suggestion will be noted. But as I say I should have liked an opportunity for longer discussion to-day. The proposals that I outlined to the House must be reviewed against the background of the present financial situation of the country. We have never at any time in our history had to face such a strain on our finances as we are facing to-day. While some of the critics of the proposals I made have failed to recognise this fact, I am sure that the majority of the people do recognise the background under which we have to consider all our social improvements and advances in these days. It is unfortunate that that is so, but it is true, and it is because of the tremendous expenditure on National Defence that we are bearing.

Mr. Stephen

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the rehabilitation of Scotland is of far greater importance to the country than the building of a Dreadnought?

Mr. Colville

The preservation of Scotland as part of the British Empire is also of very great importance.

Mr. Macquisten

If we had not plenty of Dreadnoughts we should neither have England nor Scotland.

Mr. Colville

I must not be drawn away from my point, and that is, the background of the expenditure on National Defence. At the same time we must not forget the amount of money that is being spent at the present time on the Highlands and Islands. There is a population of about 290,000 in the Highlands and Islands, roughly one seventeenth of the total population of Scotland, and undoubtedly per head of population there is much more State money being spent in the seven crofting counties than elsewhere. It has been recognised by successive Governments that the people who live in those countries have certain physical difficulties to contend against, owing to the character of the country in which they live.

Mr. Maxton

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us the figures?

Mr. Colville

I am going to give figures. The proposals which I outlined the other day were for an additional sum of £65,000 a year to be spent on certain services in the Highland and Islands during the period of five years. I notice that one critic of the Government was reported in the Press to have said that it was not £65,000 a year that was wanted, but £500,000 for 10 years. That is a very modest requirement compared with what is being spent in the Highlands to-day. Far more than £500,000 of State money has been spent in the crofting counties in the last year. The figure was just under £2,000,000 of direct State grants.

Mr. Maxton

Two million pounds?

Mr. Colville

In the seven crofting counties the amount of State money spent was about £2,000,000, and it will be considerably more this year, because there are certain grants, such as the oats subsidy, which tend to come into our crofting counties. There is for instance the crofting counties road programme. Again, in addition to the Land Settlement and Crofter Housing Schemes the Department of Agriculture paid out last year £58,000 for services which included assistance to local authorities for roads, piers, harbours and other public works. Then the Scottish Education Department paid special grants of £103,000 in the same period to the Highland and Islands Counties. With these special grants and other financial arrangements of the Education Department, the Exchequer meets 72 per cent, of the education expenditure in the Highlands and Islands compared with 51½ per cent, in the rest of the country. Then there is the Highlands and Islands Medical Service scheme, amounting to expenditure annually of over £100,000. In the present year the estimate is for £10,000 more. This scheme will have a very beneficial effect on conditions in the Highlands and Islands and will undoubtedly be of great assistance. I could give many other examples of the practical things that are being done directly as a result of State assistance in the Highlands and Islands. The Island of South Uist, for instance, is being joined to the Island of Benbecula by a bridge and causeway.

Mr. Maxton

I have reckoned up the figures and they do not come to £2,000,000.

Mr. Colville

I was only giving examples. The bridge between these two islands will be a great boon. The cost of the scheme is £37,000, of which 75 per cent, is being met by the Ministry of Transport and 15 per cent, by the Department of Agriculture. It could not have been undertaken but for that assistance. In the case of another pier which is costing £1,000 this will be provided almost entirely from State funds, and there is the case of another scheme in the Island of Lewis which I announced yesterday, by which the fishing community will be helped. Nobody can dismiss as of no account a proposal to place at the disposal of local authorities £60,000 a year or £300,000 in all, a great part of which is to go for the provision of necessary services which I have been urged to provide, namely, for roads which are not covered already by grants and the provision and repair of piers. There is a good deal of loose speaking as to what can be done to rehabilitate the Highlands and Islands. Some people imagine that they can be covered with towns like Dumbarton, engineering centres, which would bring employment to the Highlands. I do not think anything of that sort is possible. We must work within the conditions in the Highlands for which certain employment only is suitable, and do our best to stimulate enterprises which would give that employment. It is with that end in view that the supplementary programme has been undertaken, towards helping the kind of enterprises in the Highlands which can be developed.

In the realm of agriculture the provision of fertilisers will undoubtedly help, and provision is also made for assistance to township or grazing committees to enable them to undertake field and hill drainage. I have been urged to do something more as regards bracken cutting. It presents a difficult problem, and at one time I thought it would not be possible to do anything but I now have in mind a scheme whereby assistance can be given to the cutting of bracken by hand. We thus hope to give further help to get rid of this dreadful pest. I admit that machine-cutting does not really meet the case in certain types of land. Then there is the provision of training and demonstration in agriculture, to which some prominence is given in the recommendations of the committee. My proposals should effect a considerable advance in this connection. Another proposal is for loans towards the provision of motor boats for lobster fishing and of engines for existing boats. I propose by this means to assist the lobster fishing industry in the Western Isles. I also hope to assist the fishermen in getting their products on the market by arranging a reduction of steamer freights.

I have not found it possible to adopt the recommendation for the appointment of a Commission, but that has not been without a great deal of thought. The Commissioners' function was in the first place to survey conditions and to conduct investigations. I agree that further investigations in certain matters are very necessary, but I would submit that no one can take away responsibility from the Secretary of State and from the local authorities in administration. I propose therefore, to have regular conferences with my Departments and also with other departments concerned, such as the Ministry of Transport and the Post Office, with the concurrence of their Ministers. These conferences should prove most useful in enabling a general picture of the requirements of the Highland area to be made, and in helping to make more fruitful the many measures which the Government are taking for the development of its resources.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

In the last minute I want to make a protest and say that it is quite absurd to give us only one hour for the discussion of these most important matters.

Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Four of the Clock until Tuesday, 3rd October, pursuant to the Resolution of the House of 2nd August