HC Deb 30 July 1941 vol 373 cc1469-501


Resolved, That a sum, not exceeding £90, 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, 1942, for measures in Scotland to deal with casualties and disease, for expenses connected with evacuation, for repair of war damage and for other services arising out of the war." [Note: £ 10 has been voted on account.]



Resolved, That a sum, not exceeding £5,102,061, 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, 1942, for public education in Scotland, for the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, including sundry grants in aid, and for grants to approved associations and other expenses in connection with youth welfare" [Note: £5,400,000 has been voted on account.]



Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £ 350,331, 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, 1942, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, including grants for land improvement, agricultural education, research and marketing, expenses in respect of regulation of agricultural wages, a grant in respect of agricultural credits; certain grants in aid, and remanet subsidy payment" [Note: £175,000 has been voted on account.]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. T. Johnston)

Anyone who has ever considered social economy for the past century must have been struck by one notable and outstanding fact. That is the miserable status and conditions, and the low wage rewards, given to the workers in the primary industries, such as coal, agriculture and fishing. Upon the labours of the workers in these industries depends so much of our national comfort, yet, while the rewards given to other classes in the community enabled them to achieve at least a moderate standard of comfort, somehow the workers in the primary industries have lived always on the border-line of insufficiency and penury. During the war, however, we have learned a lesson—at least, I hope we have learned it—the lesson of the criminal neglect and waste that has occurred in connection with our agriculture. Never again must it be allowed to sink back into the condition in which it could be fairly and honestly described as a sweated industry.

On the whole, with the exception of hill sheep farming, I believe that agriculture is now getting into a healthier economic condition. Farmers, farm workers, our agricultural executive committees, our Department of Agriculture, all have jointly made a magnificent response to the national campaign for more food production. In Scotland, we began this war with the lowest number of acres under the plough since agricultural returns were first published three-quarters of a century ago. We were cultivating 400,000 acres fewer than in 1866. We have gone up this year to some 450,000 acres more than in 1939. More than that, we have vastly increased mechanisation on the farm. Since June, 1939, the number of tractors in use in private hands in Scotland has nearly doubled. In addition, the Department of Agriculture have now about 800 tractors for hire, all staffed and equipped, and by harvest time we shall have a proportionate number of binders and a large number of threshing machines for hire. That, I believe, marks a substantial improvement in the mechanisation of our farms. Many farmers, small farmers particularly, could never have afforded to sink their capital in tractors and other modern implements, which they could use for only a few days in the year; but, through the agricultural executive committees, the Department of Agriculture is making these modern appliances available at very low rates indeed.

Agricultural wages are higher than they have ever been before in our history. Men from the Pioneer Corps help in cutting bracken and in draining waterlogged land. The killing of hinds and stags in our deer forests has been doubled, and directions have been given to agricultural committees to ensure that any grazing land in these sporting wastes is made immediately available for sheep and cattle grazing. I would add that there is no deer forest which we shall not requisition if necessary and if we can get sheep stocks or cattle grazing stocks to place upon it. Beginnings have been made of new industries—canning industries, for example—in our rural areas. I do not want to advertise any particular firm, but I have sampled first-class canned venison stew from Inverness, which was most appetising and nutritious. I hope that in the days to come such industries will develop, so that venison, which previously was consumed only by the rich, will be made available for all. We have, as I said, been mechanising our farms. Also we have imported, or have arranged for the importation of, a very considerable additional amount of implements. I think we have increased our import of tillage implements seven or eight times, and our own production of tillage implements in this country has been more than doubled.

But mechanisation by itself is not enough. Increased acreage under the plough is not enough; it is the spirit of the man behind the machine that matters. We are dependent, certainly, upon a good harvest, but subject to that and to an adequate supply of labour, about which I will say something in a few moments, I hope this year's crop will be the finest in our history and that the co-operative results of employers and employed, with the agricultural committees and others, will be amply rewarded, so that we shall be able to say that here at any rate is one bright spot in these dark and dull days. I have said that we must ensure labour for our harvest. Well, apart from the students who have been mobilised, the women of the Land Army, the recruitment of Irish labour, which is being arranged, and Italian prisoners—about 1,000 of whom, I hope, will be made available in the South of Scotland—we have an interesting experiment in two counties, Ayrshire and Fife, whereby, through the local village registers organised by the county agricultural committees, there will be volunteer labour to help with the harvest. I am glad to say that the number of part-time volunteers is increasing very rapidly indeed, and in addition to that, and supplementary to it if need be, the War Office has agreed that, subject to military requirements, soldiers may be made available to help local farmers with harvest work where no other labour can be obtained. Any farmer who wishes to make use of soldiers for this purpose should apply at once to his local agricultural executive committee. Indeed, for all forms of labour assistance immediate application to these committees should be made.

What have been the results of this extraordinary effort of cultivation? I think everyone interested will be able to enjoy a share of the reward. We shall get over 1,000,000 tons of extra foodstuffs from the soil of Scotland this year as compared with before the war. Out of 450,000 acres of extra cultivation we shall, given a good harvest, have over 1,000,000 tons of extra food. In potatoes alone, on the basis of two stones of potatoes per week per household, we shall have an increase of 17 weeks' supply —that is equal to nearly one-third of a year's extra supply. As regards oats, we have an added acreage of 300,000, which has given us, the estimate, the equivalent of 1½lbs. of oatmeal per person per week after making allowance for losses by conversion and so on. Taking the population of Scotland at a maximum of 5,000,000—I know it is not that—we shall increase our production of oatmeal by the equivalent of 1½ 1bs. per week per person over pre-war production. These are remarkable figures.

The Chairman of the Milk Marketing Board in Scotland estimates, I believe, that we shall be able to maintain our liquid milk supply in Scotland. There is, however, one black spot, and that is hill sheep farming. We are really facing the serious economic plight of a very deserving and a very hard-working class of the community. We are fully aware of the serious plight in many areas, although not in all, of the hill sheep farming industry. There has been a succession of difficult years and of low prices, both for lambs and ewes, and to that succession of difficult years we mast add last winter's severe storms at the lambing season, with their resultant great loss of lambs. I hesitate to give some of the figures which have come to me about the loss of lambs in certain areas, but it is higher than 50 per cent. in some areas, although in others, of course, it is less. It is true that in the early markets there has been an observable increase in lamb prices. That in itself, in my view, is indicative of the short supply and, indeed, of the difficult financial position of sheep farmers.

The facts are indisputable, but the remedy is not so easy to discover. The average subsidy has this objection—at least, this objection has been offered— that if it is sufficient of a subsidy to meet the necessities of a man who has lost two-thirds of his lambs, it may be a gross over-subsidy and unnecessary to the man who has lost only one-third of his lambs. Last year the Government sought to meet the position, which was difficult enough then, by giving a subsidy of 2s. 6d. to hill sheep farmers for every breeding ewe. This year I am satisfied that the 2s. 6d. subsidy will not meet the situation. There has been an increase of 15 per cent. on wool prices, but no decision can be taken by the Government as to the amount of the subsidy or the method by which it can be given until the autumn lamb sales are concluded and price movements are known. But I give the warning that these autumn sale prices must be treated with reserve. They are in themselves not conclusive evidence upon which the amount of the subsidy can be given. I repeat the pledge given by the Government that it is our intention not only to provide conditions under which the survival of the hill sheep farming industry can be secured, but that the sheep farming community in the uplands and highlands of Scotland shall not only be allowed to survive but must be financed so that they will be able to play their part without this financial harassment. I had hoped, in the course of the Debate, to say something about mutton prices, though it is really a question for the Ministry of Food, but I have been informed to-day that a decision has not yet been arrived at. I can only assure hon. Members of this, that while we are fairly satisfied that agriculture is a going concern in Scotland as far as nine-tenths of it is concerned, we are aware of the difficulties of the sheep-farming industry, and as far as the Scottish office is concerned, we shall take every possible step we can to see that it shall be allowed to survive.

Captain McEwen (Berwick and Haddington)

We have listened to an interesting and, in the space of time allowed to him, comprehensive review of the agricultural situation in Scotland from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. We are often told that agriculture is a wide subject, and sometimes, even, that it is not one subject, but many. Possibly that explains the somewhat odd and one-sided picture which many people get from the Debates that take place from time to time in the House on this subject, for too prevalent, in any case, is the "stern-and-wild" and "mountain-and-flood" view of Scotland taken by those whose knowledge is mainly derived from the reading of Walter Scott. Hence, when our Debates revolve, as they often do, on questions such as hill-sheep farming, or deer forests, or the eradication of bracken, the holders of that view are confirmed in their erroneous impressions. But it ought to be possible, on an occasion like this, to take a wider view and to get a more complete picture of the whole, and to include not merely the bracken-covered slopes of Argyllshire, but also the fruitful plain of the Merse, not merely the high corries of Ross, but also the teeming fields of Ayrshire, the Lothians and the Kingdom of Fife

What is the complete picture to-day? It is one which is full of hope for the future. We have upwards of half-a-million more acres of grassland under the plough, and many grass fields, which had been grass for 60 years or more and which escaped the searching agricultural programme of the last war, have now at last been ploughed up. The hay crop, which a month or so ago was causing certain head shakings and forebodings, has now turned out to be an excellent one, and is, I think, mostly stacked. As for the other crops, both cereal and roots, they are full of promise. In fact—and here, unfortunately, we come to the first snag—it looks as if we are in for a bumper harvest; but the question which the farmer is asking is, how it is to be taken in? My right hon. Friend mentioned certain steps which the Government are taking to provide labour for the harvest. He mentioned the University students and arrangements for importing Irish labour, and I was glad to hear him mention also Italian prisoners-of-war labour, too. But why should there be only 1,000 prisoners of war imported for this purpose? What proportion of the total number imported into this country are we to get in Scotland? It seems to me that 1,000 is a very small number. Why, in any case, should they be confined to the Lowlands alone? I should be grateful if my hon. and gallant Friend who is to reply to the Debate would tell me something about this.

There are only three short questions I wish to ask. The first concerns cattle. I do not refer merely to the shortage of feeding-stuffs for cattle, which has been a burning question for some time past, but to the shortage of stock, especially now that the import of store cattle from Ireland is prohibited. How does this matter stand? And further—and relevant to that—what steps, if any, are being taken to curtail the slaughter of bull calves, which is undoubtedly going on at the present time? Secondly, at what stage have we now arrived in the survey of the agricultural possibilities and potentialities of land in Scotland? That was taken in hand some time ago, and I understand it is approaching completion now. Thirdly, is it possible for my hon. and gallant Friend to tell us anything about the present credit position of Scottish farmers generally as compared with the position in previous years? It would be interesting to know whether that position is more favourable or less favourable than it was.

To conclude, although in general I am opposed to the statement on the part of His Majesty's Government of their war aims, for many reasons into which I need not go at this moment, I confess that I would be prepared to waive my objections in the case of agriculture. Farmers, perhaps more than any other section of the community, are anxious to know, to put it broadly, whether the interest which the Government are now taking in agriculture is likely to be maintained after the war is over. All that one can say to them when they ask that question is that one hopes it may be so. This may not be the occasion or the time for a reasoned statement on this matter, but I ask my hon. and gallant Friend to bear it in mind, and I hope that the Scottish Office, with the Ministry of Agriculture, will press upon the Government the importance of issuing some reassuring statement on this matter at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)

I want to thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the excellent commencement he gave to the Debate. His statement was one that had so many satisfactory features that it is not likely to prove the same source of irritation on account of its brevity as his statement on health matters. I think we are entitled to thank my right hon. Friend for providing, by these brief statements, an opportunity to as many Members as possible to take part in the Debate and state the points in which they are interested. I want to raise a general question which might take for its title "The State as Landlord." I think it is very important for us in Scotland to remember how greatly the land in Scotland is controlled by, and is under the aegis of, the Scottish Office and the Secretary of State.

We have at least 750,000 acres in Scotland owned by the Government, and most of that acreage is situate in the crofting counties. I want to ask how the State is discharging its duty and responsibility as landlord in respect of the land. From information which has reached me recently—and I have a number of correspondents who write to me from time to time about Highland agricultural matters in particular—the complaint is being made that by no means is enough being done in the crofting counties and on the small holdings which have been established by the Department of Agriculture for Scotland. I am told that in respect of drainage and bracken cutting a tremendous amount is needed to be done at the present time. Recently, I have been told about holdings. I will simply read the names of the estates which have been referred to: Kingsburgh, Bracadale, Scarrybreck, Kilbride, Raasay and Glenelg. These estates have been indicated to me as places where bracken cutting is urgently needed and where water-logged land is a real menace to the food production which we wish to see carried out at the present time.

I know that the tenant can appeal to the Land Court to reduce his rent, but I do not think at a time like this that is the way to tackle the matter. The only way is to get down to the problem and to make the best use of the land by raising more crops and feeding more stock upon it. We know the work of the Land Court and the authority attaching to it, and I am sure we are looking forward to a continuance and extension of its great usefulness under the new Chairman, who was recently the hon. and learned Member for Greenock (Mr. R. Gibson), and whose successor has made a fine maiden speech in the Committee today. I should like to hear what the Under-Secretary has got to say on this point and to know that sufficient progress is being made with the land settlement in Scotland.

I should now like to refer to the question of raising more stock. In many places more stock could be raised on the land. I am thinking particularly of the Islands and the transport facilities. We know that the MacBrayne Steamship Company is subsidised to provide a service for the Highlands and Islands, but at the same time they do not seem to equip themselves for offering an adequate service for the transportation of cattle to the mainland. On that account I am afraid the raising of cattle is dwindling in the Islands. Perhaps the Under-Secretary could give us statistics showing the stocks in different parts of the Highlands, and he might answer a specific question, by giving us the comparative statistics over the last few years for cattle stocks in say, the Island of Jura.

I have made reference on many occasions to the deer forests, and I was glad to hear the declaration made by the Secretary of State about his determination to take over any deer forests which were necessary. He indicated that he would not hesitate to requisition deer forests which could be put to better use. That was spoken in his old Luskentyre manner. In regard to the killing of deer, it has been indicated to me in answer to questions in this House that a farmer is entitled to take his own measures against deer. I do not know what would happen to a smallholder if the landlord found that was being done. I am afraid in many cases that the small farmer would not have the necessary guns and ammunition to enable him to deal with the deer menace to his crop. I should like to ask whether there is any possibility of the Department of Agriculture assisting in the supply of weapons to those who are prepared thus to spend their time at night in an endeavour to protect their crops.

We all feel the limitation of time, and I will therefore pass on to ask another question. What is the position in respect of the reappointment of the chief technical officer in the Department of Agriculture? As the Secretary of State knows, that appointment was set aside, as I understood it, a number of years ago because of the urgent need for economy. I believe that many of the difficulties which face my right hon. Friend and Scottish agriculture could be solved with the help of a properly equipped, fully authorised and fully competent chief technical officer. I was glad to hear the statistics of the Secretary of State in regard to food production and particularly in regard to oats. I was glad to hear him say there would be a considerable increase in the production of oats. I know what an important article of diet oatmeal has become, not only in Scotland, but South of the Border as well. In London this year I have had the experience, which has never happened to me before, of being able to obtain and I have availed myself of the opportunity of having my plate of porridge in the morning. In the Lothians—and the name "Midlothian" stands for the best oatmeal known throughout the world—the millers have been searching in vain during recent weeks for further oats to convert into oat- meal to meet the demands made upon them. They have failed and orders from South of the Border have had to be refused and the money sent back.

I wish to raise another question in regard to food production which relates more particularly to my own constituency. I want the Secretary of State to make representations to the Ministry of Food. I am thinking of tomatoes, which are grown in large quantities, especially in the lower parts of Scotland. My constituency is a case in point. Growers complain that they have to stand up to much more difficult conditions than prevail in England. Their glasshouses are rated. That is not so on the English side of the Border, and, when it comes to fixing prices, the difference in the cost of producing tomatoes is not sufficiently taken into account by the Ministry of Food. I think it is the bounden duty of the Secretary of State to stand up for the Scottish growers of tomatoes and to make sure that they get a fairer deal than they have had up to now. The price to the grower is 9d. per lb. The wholesaler takes 3d., and the price to the consumer is 1s. 5d. It seems an absolutely unbalanced way of dealing with the prices. The producer should get far more and the wholesaler and retailer considerably less than they are getting. I am asking the Secretary of State, in his position as guardian of Scottish agriculture, to tackle the Food Ministry on the point. I would have asked with regard to drainage and farm workers' wages, but I merely mention these matters in order to give the Under-Secretary an opportunity of making any comment upon them that he may be pleased to make in his concluding speech.

Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew (Bute and Northern)

I should like to say a word or two about the problem of potatoes. We all realise how essential it is to have as large an acreage as possible. There is a couple of points which must be decided at once and published now with a view to next season's crop, because the seeds for next season are actually being selected to-day. Not only must the area be maintained and increased, but the farmer must be given an ample return on his crop. The costs are rising, and labour is very difficult. More labour is required for potatoes than for practically any other crop. One way of helping the potato industry is to encourage the stock-breeding farmers to put down more land under potatoes, which they could do if they were given coupons to buy feeding-stuffs for their beasts. If that did not have the result which I think it would have and the potatoes were not produced, the coupons would not be given out and we should be left where we are, but it is worth thinking of because these stock farmers have the farmyard manure which is absolutely essential, and they would be encouraged to grow more potatoes if this method were adopted, giving them coupons in return for the acreage that they planted.

The other thing that I want to speak about is the question of this falling scale, which is the maximum price the growers get. I should like to have dealt with the question of the merchants and the retail prices, but I do not think it would be in Order. The only reasonable way of working this scale is not by dates fixed long ahead but by dates fixed when the digging can begin. It is useless to make dates ahead and say that the price at a certain time in May or June will be so much when no one can tell what the conditions will be. In my constituency there are 3,000 or 4,000 acres of potatoes, and many of the early varieties. Do not let anyone get away with the idea that these early potatoes are a luxury. They are nothing of the kind. Certainly within recent days there have been higher prices stated in the newspapers for early potatoes, but they are potatoes which are being bought for seed purposes, and they do not give any indication of the general price ruling for early potatoes. In addition, in Ayrshire the land and the climate are absolutely suited for early potatoes but not for the later varieties. Once the potatoes are dug a very valuable gap is filled, because a second crop can be grown on the ground.

The early potato industry is one that should be helped, and it could easily be helped if some sense were brought to bear on the fixing of the scale of prices. This year we were three weeks over the normal time, and before any early potatoes were dug we had reached the fourth price week. The result was that the growers did not get their costs of production. In addition the scale began on 17th May, and between that date and 21st June prices applied to an article which simply did not exist. Had the scale begun when digging was able to begin, prices would have corresponded to costs to some extent, and it would have been only reasonable and fair, because the costs when they started to dig were the same as for the corresponding week of last year, when costs of production were 30 to 40 per cent. lower. The point is quite simple, and it must be well understood by all connected with the industry.

When the Minister replies, will he tell us why it was not considered necessary to have a veterinary representative on the Agricultural Improvement Council? I am sure it must have been an oversight, but I should like to ask for an assurance that a veterinary representative will be put on. Then we are very much worried about basic slag. I hope it is not true, but we have been led to believe that it is only the lower grades which are going to be sent to us and that all the higher grade basic slag is to be retained in England. I hope everyone connected with Scotland will join in protesting against this. It is up to all who occupy places of authority to fight for this. We will not stand for being palmed off with second-rate stuff.

Mr. Garro Jones (Aberdeen, North)

Did the hon. and gallant Gentleman get that information from the horse's mouth, from the farmers in his constituency?

Sir C. MacAndrew

I live in my constituency, and I am very much in touch with the farmers and get a lot of information. I am asking whether this information is right or wrong.

Lord William Scott (Roxburgh and Selkirk)

The statement we have to-day from the Secretary of State will be received with mixed feelings by the agricultural community on the Scottish Border. Both the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee are fully aware of the really distressing and serious economic conditions of the Scottish hill farmer, but I doubt whether there is quite the same agreement in the Committee as to whether the words of the Secretary of State are likely to remedy the position very considerably. It is true that the opening sales of lambs have given promise of far better prices than those which the Scottish farmers have been used to receive during the last few years, but we must remember that so far only the low ground lambs have been brought into the sale ring, and it will not be for several weeks yet that the high ground or the hill lambs will actually come on the market. During the last few years there has been a far greater demand for low ground lambs than for those from the high ground pastures, chiefly because the low ground lambs require far less finishing for the market and the feeders, especially those in England, have been short of the necessary keep for maintaining and fattening backward lambs.

It is not improbable that the increased acreage under the plough in England during the last three years will have a considerable effect on the demand of English feeders, and that there will be an increasing demand. I think it can be said that the decline of acreage under turnips in England during the years after the last war was one of the chief reasons for the tremendous distress of breeders on Scottish hill land. It is only a matter of time before the increased feeding capacity in England must incidentally produce a greater demand for our Scottish store lambs. This year the supply of hill lambs will be very short, and however great a rise there may be in prices, it will hardly make good or compensate for the small numbers that are coming forward and the big losses that the farmers have had to meet in the last two hard winters. Scottish hill farmers are as anxious as any other class of farmers to produce their full quota of production in the national war effort. If they succeed in securing a more satisfactory price for their lambs this year, it will assist them in the preparation of bigger and better crops of lambs in the years to come—years in which we can anticipate that the requirements of the feeders will be on an increased scale.

Unfortunately, we have to consider two very unpleasant facts. The first is that during the last 10 or 15 years, possibly even longer, the feeding value, the pasturage value, of the hill sheep farms of Scotland has considerably deteriorated. I do not think there is any doubt about that. There are many reasons for it, and I have little doubt that the Secretary of State knows them as well as I do. One result of this deterioration in feeding value of the pasturage is that there has been an undoubted decline in the constitution of the sheep stocks in Scotland. I do not think there is any doubt that the sheep stocks, especially the Cheviot stocks, have not as good a constitution as they had 20 or 30 years ago. There is no denying the fact that one of the greatest difficulties with which the hill farmers have to contend is the fact that there has been an immense amount of sickness and disease, both in the Cheviot and in the black-faced stocks. The whole condition and constitution of these stocks must be improved before we can hope to secure both better and bigger crops of hill lambs to satisfy what we trust will be the increased demand of the low ground feeders in the years to come. We have good reason to hope that in the immediate future we shall not have to face such bad winters as we have had recently.

Apart from that, there is only one thing that the hill farmers can do to improve their crops of lambs for the future. That is to improve their pasturage. Various methods can be adopted, and the Department of Agriculture are doing their best to assist. The most obvious method is increased use of lime and slag and assistance in draining and bracken cutting. I have little doubt that all hill farmers would be ready to make far greater use of this assistance from the Department of Agriculture if only they had the necessary finance to enable them to do it. Years of low uneconomic prices have put the hill farming industry into such very low condition that the average hill farmer lacks the necessary finance to enable him to maintain his pasturage and to improve it in the way which he knows is desirable, but if, as I hope, we are to secure better prices for our lambs this year and an increased subsidy for the ewes, I trust the hill farmer will have at his disposal a little more cash to enable him to do a great many things which he would have been only too pleased to do in recent years if the money had been available. I have little doubt of that, once he gets the money to enable him to do it and has a reasonable certainty that the money he spends both on the maintenance of his pastures and their improvement will give him a reasonable return in the shape of profits.

I know that to-day we are dealing largely with rather a short-term view of the hill farming industry and are chiefly concerned with the lamb crops of the next year or two. Even so I hope that the Secretary of State will bear in mind that we cannot possibly hope for a real improvement in hill sheep farming or in pastures until we have once again restored to the hill sheep farms the numbers of cattle they used to carry in past years. I am well aware that faulty drainage and various other instances of what might be termed neglect have been to a certain extent responsible for the deterioration of the pasturages, and probably a considerable deal of it is due to overstocking, but I think there is no doubt that the chief cause has been the withdrawal of cattle from the lower grazings of the hills and I am convinced that we shall never see permanent prosperity restored to hill sheep farms until we once again have cattle back on them.

I trust there is no truth in the belief that only low grade slag is to be available for Scottish farmers. There is a belief in some quarters that if only you have sufficient slag, it does not matter very much whether it is high grade or low grade, and that double the quantity of low grade slag will make up for its poorer quality. That may or may not be true, but the fact remains that transport is the chief expense in putting slag on the high ground farms, and if we are able to get high grade slag we shall get the value of the slag into the ground without the enormous extra cost of transporting greater quantities of low grade slag. The Secretary of State told us to-day that he hoped in the immediate future to be able to announce the new mutton prices, which may have an important bearing on the prices to be secured in the next week or two at the lamb sales in Scotland. Farmers on the Border have pressed me to find out when these mutton prices are to be made public, because on them depends largely what the feeders will pay the breeders in the lamb sales. It is a general belief that last year the date when the new mutton prices were given out was so late that any benefit that was secured—

The Deputy-Chairman

Mutton prices are a matter for the Ministry of Food and not for the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Minister of Agriculture

Lord William Scott

I will leave that point, but I hope the Secretary of State will press the Ministry of Food for an early announcement, because it will be of very great interest to our Scottish hill farmers. The Secretary of State told us frankly that the question of an increased subsidy for hill farmers is a very difficult one, and that if it was a fixed sum it was certain to be too much for one or too little for another. If there is that risk, I trust the Secretary of State will run the risk of making it too much rather than too little. There is no question that during the last ten or 15 years the consuming community in Great Britain have been getting their food extremely cheap from the agricultural interests, and if there is any risk of any hill farmer receiving a slightly too high subsidy for the year 1941, the Secretary of State can rest assured that even if he does receive too much it will in no way compensate him for the losses he has borne for the benefit of the consuming public in the past. I hope that the Secretary of State will really stand up for something which will not only benefit the hill farmer in 1941 but will create the possibility of his being able to do a great deal more for the output of mutton in the years to come. I hope we shall know our mutton prices fairly soon and that the Secretary of State will insist upon a really decent subsidy.

Captain W. T. Shaw (Forfar)

War brings its changes, and I think the present occupant of the office of Secretary of State for Scotland is the third during the past two years. I do not know that these frequent changes tend to improve the administrative efficiency of the Department, but from what I have seen of the present occupant of the office, I hope he will continue there for a fairly long period. Looking back over the history of Scottish agriculture, I get the impression that it makes very little difference to agriculture in Scotland who is the Secretary of State. I am very sorry that the Minister of Agriculture has just gone out of the Chamber. It is the first time in my experience that the Minister of Agriculture has attended a Debate on the Scottish Estimates, and I should like to tell him if he were still in his place that what we suffer from is that our agricultural policy in Scotland is dominated by the agricultural policy of England; that it is the English necessities which are first considered and that the agricultural policy of Scotland is a sort of postscript to that of England. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will put up a strong fight for an independent Scottish agricultural policy, and that the united efforts of the right hon. Gentleman and those who are assisting him will succeed in reaching that end.

We should no longer have our policy tied to the apron strings of English agricultural policy. Our conditions differ materially from those of England. Reference was made to oats; we know that in the past the price of oats has not been fixed in Scotland upon a basis to give a fair return, in comparison with the price of wheat, which may be of importance to England but is of only secondary importance to the Scottish producer. We want to get rid of what the Secretary of State called the criminal folly of allowing agriculture in Scotland to fall into a bad state, and we must get Scottish agriculture upon a basis which will be satisfactory to the Scottish producer. I hope that the Secretary of State will set up a national agricultural committee in Scotland, composed of first-class farmers—not the most talkative farmers but those who get the best return for their farming. With such a committee to assist him, he will be in a much stronger position. I hope that he will consider that suggestion.

I was very pleased to hear what the Secretary of State said about production. I have no doubt that agriculturists in Scotland will do their utmost to maintain and improve that output, but we must not take too short a view of this matter. We must not exhaust our land in endeavouring to get immediate production. We must proceed on the basis of preserving the fertility of our soil. We should see that there is a good supply of store cattle in Scotland in order to make farmyard manure. There are not enough store cattle to go round, and the slaughtering of calves which was permitted should not have been allowed to go on as long as it did. I admit that it might not have been an economic proposition to continue to feed certain classes of calves, but that should not weigh too heavily at the present time, and the question of allowing the slaughtering of calves for veal should be reconsidered immediately in present conditions, not only from the point of view of production but also from that of keeping the fertility of the land at the highest possible state. We need all the agricultural manure we can get, partly because it is difficult to obtain artificial manures at the present time. It is necessary not to take too short a view of these matters, and we have to look even beyond the end of the war. What would be the position of this country if the Lease and Lend Act policy of America were to stop immediately after the war? It would be very difficult for us to provide all our food, and our difficulties in that respect might increase when victory had been won.

I listened to what was said on the question of labour. That is an important point. Last year we were very fortunate in our weather in Scotland: it is seldom that two such seasons succeed each other, and I hope that we have sufficient labour to gather in the great crops that seem to be coming into maturity. I would like the Secretary of State to tell us whether his soldier labour, which will be available for the harvest, will be paid, and whether the soldiers will be allowed to retain any extra remuneration given to them by the farmers. It is essential that agriculturists should not be disgruntled. In my constituency there have been several cases of first-class agricultural land being taken by the Air Ministry or the Admiralty. I do not complain, because I recognise, and so do my constituents, that the first necessity is that the war effort should not be impeded and that everything possible should be done to assist it. We might, however, have an assurance that the Scottish Department of Agriculture is keeping a sharp look-out upon other Departments to see that they do not unnecessarily take high quality agricultural land when other land is available.

In my constituency there are two highly cultivated farms in the vicinity of Carnoustie, producing sugar-beet and other crops in large quantities. It is proposed to take them over for the Admiralty. I do not know whether it will be essential to do so, but I hope, before that policy is proceeded with, that careful inspection will be made to see whether other land is not available. I hope that care will be taken to see that no unnecessary injury is done to the crops that are now growing. Within the last fortnight there has been a survey which has, I believe, done a great deal of harm to growing crops upon local farms and I want to be sure that in this case, and other similar cases, no wanton injury will be done to the agricultural industry.

Mr. Sloan (Ayrshire, South)

It is unfortunate that when there are so many people waiting to give advice there should be such a short time to devote to this Debate, and I wonder what the farming community will think about our having to discuss this subject in the course of a short Sitting. There is, however, one thing the farming community in common with others have learnt by this time, and that is that they are very important people during a war. They spring right into- the limelight and become very important people indeed. One of the reasons for the parlous state of agriculture in Scotland is what happened in other times, when the miners and other industrial workers, working long hours for very low wages, found their production exported sometimes at even less than the cost of production, low as it was, the exchange so acquired bringing in food produced by ill-paid farm workers. I want to say to the Secretary of State for Scotland that it will be indeed a pity if he is legislating only for war-time and is not attempting now to accomplish something to remove the evils from which Scottish agriculture has been suffering during the course of the years.

I remember that we had an intensive Debate on agriculture during the last war. The Secretary of State has given us some figures and has said we are producing one-third more potatoes than we did in the last war. As a matter of fact, I do not think we are doing nearly so much as we did in the last war; at least, speaking from this bench quite recently, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who is a specialist and who speaks with considerable authority on agriculture, stated that we were not doing nearly as much as was done in the last war. At any rate I do not think it can be argued that we are doing any better. There are some directions in which we are inevitably doing considerably worse. Because of the wild attacks upon our merchant shipping, we are unable to import the necessary feeding-stuffs, and cattle have had to be reduced, so that although it is unpreventable, in that aspect of agriculture we are doing very much worse than we did in the last war. I think it is very questionable even to-day whether we have as much land under the plough as we had in 1916, after two years of war. Without attempting to disparage anything which the Government or the agricultural community have done —I think they have done wonders—we hope that a great deal more will be done, because it will all be necessary in the coming winter. I know the immediate requirement of the present moment is food and still more food, but I think we also ought to make provision for the future, so that agriculture will never again have to go through the phase it has gone through during the last few years.

What guarantee are we offering the farming community that we shall not throw them overboard immediately the war is over? I am a miner, and I had some experience after the last war when the Government immediately decontrolled the coal industry. They carried it on through the war period, but immediately the war was over they decontrolled the coal industry and threw the mining and industrial communities of this country into a state of semi-starvation. We would like to know the attitude and the programme of the Government in regard to agriculture in Scotland when the war is over—not merely for present needs, but immediately the war is over. I would also like to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what provision will be made for security of tenure. I know that the landlords' interest is very well represented in this House. I do not think many speeches will be made to-day from the opposite side on behalf of the tenant farmers. I should like to ask the Secretary of State what steps, if any, have been taken to provide security of tenure for the farmer after the war is over. We know the ramp that took place in farms after the last war.

The Deputy-Chairman

I am afraid the hon. Member is now going into questions concerning legislation after the war is over. That, of course, is out of Order to-day.

Mr. Sloan

I accept your Ruling, Colonel Clifton Brown, though I am very sorry, because I have something very important to say on this matter regarding something that is taking place to-day, and not something that will take place after the war. As leases expire or are broken to-day, tenant farmers are being faced with demands for violent increases in rent. I do not know whether that comes into the question, but so far as the farming community is concerned it is a very serious business, and surely the Government should be able to take some steps to prevent any ramp in regard to the question of raising rents during the period of the war. I have had it brought to my notice on many ocasions that attempts have been made to impose increases of rent on tenant farmers even where the lease cannot be broken. It is necessary to instil confidence into the farmers and prevent the landlords from working their dirty dodges. I cannot find any excuse for allowing the landlords to take advan- tage of the war to feather their own nests by increasing rents.

I would also like to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his intention regarding smallholders in Scotland. I know that the Secretary of State for Scotland has a warm heart for this type of people, and had long before he came to the House of Commons. It is a tragic situation in which they find themselves. It goes without saying that they have been badly treated, and it appears to me that that is so because ample and sympathetic consideration has not been accorded to them. Many of them are dependent, to a considerable extent, on their pigs and poultry, and the restriction on feeding-stuffs is rapidly rendering them bankrupt. These are the type of people who were encouraged to go into farming. Many of them are ex-Servicemen, relics of the last war, people who expended their all in establishing themselves in these small holdings. Now, through this sudden decision on the part of the Minister of Food and the Minister of Agriculture, to cut off feeding-stuffs from them, they are placed in a parlous condition. As regards the relation of this decision to shipping space, if anyone can explain tome the reason why it is better to bring in a cargo of rotten eggs to the exclusion of a cargo of good feeding-stuff to produce good eggs, I would like to know it. By this decision, eggs are thrown completely off the breakfast table, and we have these smallholders of ours, anxious to produce eggs, who have lost their livelihood through this decision on feeding-stuffs and who are now in a state of bankruptcy.

Before I finish I wish to say a word regarding the wages of agricultural workers. We have had speeches made on behalf of the sheep farmer. We know that subsidies are handed in every direction to the farmer; it is a tremendous figure. But I do not hear from the other side of the House—and they should be interested in the agricultural worker as much as the farmer—any demand being made for a better status for the agricultural worker. Unless you have happy, satisfied, agricultural workers on your land, I do not care how much machinery you may have, or how much capital you have invested in your land, how much sunshine and rain you get, you are still in the same difficulty. We hear a great deal about munition workers. Is the farm labourer a munition worker or not?. Is the man who produces the material to feed the guns a munition worker, and a man who produces food to feed the man who feeds the guns not a munition worker? The scandalous wages that are being paid to agricultural workers in Scotland to-day are a shame and a disgrace-to the industry. If the Minister of Labour says that £4 2s.6d. is a fair minimum wage for a docker, ought not the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Minister of Agriculture also be prepared to say that £4 2s. 6d. is a fair wage for an agricultural worker? I say to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and he can pass it on to the Minister of Agriculture, that in relation to wages they are badly out of step with the Service Ministers. Employees under the Ministry of Aircraft Production, the Admiralty, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Mines all have far higher wages than the skilled workers on the farms; arid I hope something will be done, apart from providing' subsidies for farmers, to deal with this question.

Sir R. W. Smith (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Central)

A suggestion was made earlier in the Debate that the Scottish Standing Committee should sit in Edinburgh to discuss Scottish questions. It seems a most unsatisfactory way to discuss Scottish agriculture on an Estimate, because we are precluded from dealing with anything which requires legislation, while one hon. Member has been advised that he could not raise the question of the price of an agricultural commodity because it was a matter for the Ministry of Food. It is of enormous importance that we should be able to go over the whole field of Scottish agriculture. Unfortunately, the speech of the Secretary of State had to be short. He told us what had happened, but he gave us little idea of what was to be the policy of the Department in the next twelve months. That is the one thing that the farmers want to know. The Minister may not have settled the prices for agricultural commodities, but surely, as the Minister responsible for Agriculture in Scotland, he is able to approach the Minister of Food about prices. There is a great danger that the Minister of Food may look at this matter more from the point of view of England than from that of Scotland. Surely it is correct to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to press certain points in regard to prices in Scotland?

When the prices of cattle were settled it was decided that there should be a fall in price between July and November this year. I understand that that reduction amounts to over 10s. We were told that this was an ordinary seasonal reduction. I have figures here showing the seasonal reductions for the years 1934 to 1938. The greatest seasonal reduction in that period was one of 6s. That occurred between the third week of July, 1937, and the third week of November, 1937. In all the other cases the reductions were quite small, amounting in many cases to only a matter of pence. A reduction of 10s. means that the farmer will get £5 less for each 10 cwt. beast put into the market, and it will be hard for him to carry on in that case. Reference was made to farm workers' conditions. The Secretary of State opened his speech with some remarks on that subject, with which I agree; and I agree with what the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) said about it, too. But it is impossible for the farm worker to receive higher wages unless the farmer has higher profits.

Another point is that the farmer likes to be taken into the confidence of the Ministry. There is nothing worse for agriculture than a feeling of uncertainty. I would like to draw attention to what took place with regard to the culling of herds. Farmers were told in June that they must cull their herds very drastically.

Mr. Johnston

By whom were they told that?

Sir R. W. Smith

This appeared in many Scottish papers. It seems to me that the Department ought to read the Scottish papers in order to be aware of what is being said, and when the papers are wrongly informed they ought to draw attention to the fact. I have here the "Scottish Farmer" for 5th July—but perhaps I had better not take up the time of the Committee in reading it. I will take the matter up with the Secretary of State. I will only say now that it is most necessary for farmers to know where they stand. With regard to wages, the cost of labour to farmers has gone up considerably. Men are being called up, and there are only a few obtainable; and naturally the farmer has to pay higher wages. It is a very serious thing for him. As he has so few men and as farm labour is so difficult to get, he has to pay much more. It is all a question of funds. If the farmer gets good enough prices to pay higher wages, nobody is more willing to pay them.

Then there is the question of the ploughing-up of the land. Many Government Departments are large landowners. Extraordinary difficulties have arisen where, after a compulsory order to plough up certain land has been made by the local committee, the land is then sold to a Government Department. The Department cannot be ordered to plough up the land. That seems very unfair. I appeal to the Secretary of State to impress upon Government Departments that they must not put the local committees in such an awkward position, and that they must not let the country down. This point is of vital importance. I would ask the Secretary of State to see that we get the land ploughed up where it is required, and that the orders of the local county agricultural committees, which were set up by him, are obeyed.

Major Thornton-Kemsley (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Western)

At the end of last week there was a meeting of the joint: labour committee of the agricultural executive committee of the counties of Aberdeen and Kincardine to discuss harvest labour. The committee had before the requisitions for extra harvest labour from 1,364 farmers in those two counties. These requisitions were those that had come in up to 24th July. They are still coming in. Those farmers in two counties asked for 2,100 more labourers than they have at present for getting in the grain harvest. That is making no mention at all of the potato harvest. It is a rather serious position, but I am glad to say that, under the terms of a War Office letter which was issued by the Adjutant-General's Department during the last few days, the position is very much better than at one time seemed likely. There are still, however, a great many farms in Scotland around which there are no military units. So military labour will not be the only solution, and my first hope is that the Secretary of State will find some means of gathering in the harvest which Parliament and the country have begged farmers to raise.

We are debating to-day the affairs of a country which has an area of 30,000 square miles, by far the greater part of which is producing timber or food which is urgently required to help our war effort. We have more than 600 square miles of inland lochs and rivers which contribute to the nation's larder, and we have a long sea coast from which for generations seafaring men have dared the dangers of the deep in order to get for us our fish. Here is a vast productivity. Are we stimulating and encouraging this productivity as we ought? I am bound to confess that I have felt for a long time that we are being held back by what is, fortunately, an easily-remedied weakness in our political organisation. Scottish rural economy is so important to our national war effort that it ought to have the undivided Ministerial attention of one man, charged with the duty of answering to the Secretary of State and to the House of Commons for every aspect of our rural production. Instead of the Joint Undersecretaries of State that we have at the moment, I want to see two Parliamentary Secretaries of equal importance, but with different but well-understood functions. One might be Parliamentary Secretary for Scottish Education and Health and the other Parliamentary Secretary for Scottish Rural Production.

I am well aware that this may be the intention of the present division of responsibility but whatever the intention may be the position in effect is not what is desired. Rightly or wrongly, the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, which contains, as every one in this Committee will admit, some very able men, has been gaining the reputation of being autocratic. I am afraid that this is a prevalent tendency in these bureaucratic days. Parliament has ever been the people's safeguard against powerful factions. The monarchy, the monastery and the military—each has found its check in this Assembly of the people's representatives. The remedy has usually been to increase Parliamentary control. I am sure that must be done here. The Department lacks the inspiration and control of a Parliamentary head, and the country is beginning to sense an absence of vision and direction in our rural policy. Let me give three examples of the kind of thing I mean. I have taken them almost at random. They seem to me to be matters upon which concentrated study ought to be directed and in some cases vigorous action taken.

First, there is the question of hill sheep. The Secretary of State has recognised that hill-sheep farming is the one exception to the healthier trend of Scottish agriculture. It is a fact that we are failing to use the hills of Scotland to anything like their full capacity as sources of food supply. My right hon. Friend has spoken with great sympathy and understanding about this aspect of our affairs, and other hon. Members have referred to it. I spoke at some length on the question of hill sheep in the Food Production Debate on 3rd April, and every word that I said then applies to-day. I hope my right hon. Friend will do me the honour of referring back to what I said at that time.

The second thing I want to speak about is garden produce. I know from my own observation how well Scotland's gardens have responded to the appeal for increased production made by the Scottish Gardens and Allotments Committee of the Department of Agriculture. They have done so well that in many cases there are indications that there will be a considerable surplus of perishable green vegetables. The planning has been good, but it has not been good enough, and it seems to me that we must build something better for next year. What I would like to see is the formation of a Scottish Garden Produce Association working under Government aegis, through a Director-General, with a small advisory council, with an Assistant Director in each county or each group of counties, who would co-ordinate the work of existing Garden Produce Committees and encourage the formation of new ones. An association of this nature would establish its own preserving, packing, and grading centres, arrange for the collection and distribution of produce, and for its direct disposal or for its sale on a percentage basis through existing trade organisations.

My third point is the question of youth service camps. I am sure that we need someone to take his coat off and get down to a detailed examination of the possibility of youth service camps for Scotland, camps at which town and country lads would spend six months—

The Chairman

I am afraid that is not in order on the Vote now before the Committee.

Major Thornton-Kemsley

I apologise for introducing the matter, which is very near my heart and which I had hoped was in Order in this Debate. Let me say, in conclusion, that there is on general grounds an overwhelmingly strong case for the creation of a separate Ministry of Scottish Rural Production. The Select Committee on National Expenditure, in Part I of their Sixth Report, correctly appraise the importance of realising that the present opportunity is not merely to produce short-range results of immediate value to the country's war effort, but to effect a lasting improvement in the position of British agriculture. This can be achieved only with forethought and planning ahead. For this planning, as well as for the continued expansion of rural production, Scotland's importance demands the whole-time Parliamentary direction of the whole of her rural economy.

Major McCallum (Argyll)

The Secretary of State gave us a very rosy picture of the state of agriculture in Scotland as a whole, but I am afraid the state of agriculture in that part of the country which I have the honour to represent does not show that same rosy picture. One of the greatest difficulties with which we have to contend is shortage of labour. I was very pleased, and I am sure my constituents will be very pleased, to hear that there is a possibility of using university students and, maybe, Italian prisoners of war for work on the land. I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that the prisoners of war might very well be used to carry out the work of national importance in the Highlands about which we all know, but cannot speak. Why not let the prisoners of war get on with that work, and leave the men who have been born and bred on the soil of the Highlands to do the farming? At present many of the men who have been born and bred on the soil, who, by virtue of their loyalty before the war, joined the Territorial Forces, have now been called up as well as the men who have registered.

We are told that the agricultural committees are forming gangs or squads to go about the country and do work here and there, but in that part of the Highlands which I represent farms are far too widely scattered for gangs to be able to cover even as few as 10 or 12 farms. On most of the farms the farmer and his wife work all day with the assistance of one man. That extra man has in many cases now been taken away, and the farmer has to have some substitute, such as a member of the Women's Land Army. Volunteers from the Women's Land Army have been very successful in the big farms in the Lowlands, where you can easily replace three men by three women. But in Argyllshire a woman cannot carry out the work of that one man. It is physically impossible for her to lift great weights and do those other necessary jobs. I beg the Secretary of State to make some special arrangements for districts like Argyllshire. It has been done by the Minister of Food, who, for the purpose of the egg rationing scheme, has classified the district as a special area. Would it not be possible to treat the area as a special area from the labour point of view? It is shortage of labour from which the hill sheep farmers and dairy farmers are suffering. If it could be arranged, my farming constituents would be doubly grateful to my right hon. Friend. Last spring, when we were short of tractors, I sent a telegram to the Under-Secretary, and within a few days those tractors were forthcoming. We are grateful for assistance of that sort, but it is labour that is the all-important question in the constituency that I represent.

The Joint Under Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Wedderburn)

It is not surprising that a good deal of attention should have been paid to the position of the hill-sheep farmer. It is the branch of Scottish agriculture which is least remunerative and the only one of which it can be said that its present condition is unsatisfactory. The problem is a long-term one. My Noble Friend the Member for Roxburgh (Lord William Scott) said that for some years conditions and the state of the pastures in hill-sheep country had been deteriorating. I believe, in fact, one might say it has been deteriorating for the last 100 years, during which the land has been continuously drained of its fertility and very little put back into it. It has been over-stocked with sheep and denuded of cattle. Its reconstruction, or the establishment of a better kind of agriculture in those districts, is a matter which will take a long time. Measures designed to that end will involve questions of policy and possibly of legislation which cannot well be discussed in Committee of Supply. I can only speak now of measures which are being taken to mitigate the unhappy condition of the hill-sheep farmer. You cannot give a price for mutton and wool which will be sufficient for the products of the hill-sheep farm without making those prices excessive for other kinds of sheep. Therefore, it was decided last year to pay a subsidy of half-a-crown on every breeding ewe. My right hon. Friend has explained that we are not yet in a position to say what the nature of this subsidy will be this year, but the trend of prices as shown by lamb sales must be fully taken into account. High prices may be created by the scarcity caused by the general death rate in the storms of last winter.

We have also this summer introduced a long-term measure designed to increase the numbers of hill cattle, not only for the sake of having more cattle and producing more meat, but also putting back a little more fertility into Highland grazing and helping to keep down the bracken. The subsidy is to be paid at the rate of £2 on every breeding cow that grazes on the hills for eight months of the year. It is confined to Galloway and Highland cattle and their first crosses with a Shorthorn bull. It will take time to re-populate those districts with cattle. We have so far received 268 applications for this subsidy, and they cover between 4,000 and 5,000 cattle.

With regard to the clearance of bracken, a measure has this year been introduced for paying one-half the cost to everybody who is willing to undertake the cutting of bracken either by hand or by means of the bracken-cutting machines of which the Department has ordered 150. So far, owing to supply difficulties, I do not think that more than 50 or so have been delivered. We have applications this year for the payment of grants for the cutting of 43,000 acres of bracken, and I hope that the figure next year will be considerably improved.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) asked me a number of questions about our settlements in the Highlands and deer forests. We have not made any new settlements since the war began. Eighty-seven old ones have been enlarged, but no new ones are being made during the war. With regard to the chief technical officer who was engaged in land settlement services, instead of filling the vacancy when it occurred 10 years ago a new organisation was set up. Three additional land officers were appointed, each of them with a salary not far short of that which was paid to the chief officer. Each of these officers is the chief technical officer for purposes of land settlement in his own area. With regard to deer forests, I cannot give the figure for June for which the hon. Member asks, but, taking the deer forests as a whole, they are carrying 95,000 sheep and 3,000 cattle, which is about double what they were carrying before the war.

I should like to turn from the Highlands, which provide us with most of our troubles, to the Lowlands, which provide us with most of our food. The hon. Member for Linlithgow asked us to make representations to another Department about the price of tomatoes, which will certainly be done. In fact, the other Department has expressed its willingness to consider the matter, but the growers of tomatoes must submit a statement about their costs, and they have been a little dilatory in doing that. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir C. MacAndrew) was very much up in arms because he thought he might not get any basic slag.

Sir C. MacAndrew

No, the higher grade basic slag.

Mr. Wedderburn

The higher grade basic slag is all produced in the neighbourhood of Bilston. This is not a question between Scotland and England, it is a question between those parts of the United Kingdom which have the good fortune to be in proximity to Bilston and those other parts of the United Kingdom, including Scotland, which are unlucky enough to be at a far distance from that centre of industry. This is a question of transport. We are as anxious as we can be to get the 20,000 tons of high grade slag we got last year, but it is a matter which must be discussed with the Ministry of Transport. We must discuss the difficulties our transport system has to bear and try to arrive at the best conclusion in the general public interest. In regard to my hon. and gallant Friend's question about veterinary surgeons, I would refer him to the Parliamentary answer which I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) last week.

My hon. Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen (Sir R. W. Smith) said a number of things about beef cattle. I think there has been perhaps some confusion about Press statements on this matter in recent months. What the Secretary of State has often said was that next winter there would probably be no rations at all for the beef cattle, and I think there will be no rations for beef cattle this winter. Therefore farmers must keep only as many cattle as they can grow food for on their farms. That is the sort of statement which has to be repeated, because it is one to which some farmers are apt to pay not as much attention as they ought, and if anybody kept on a lot of beef cattle in the hope that he would get as much cake as last year, he would be badly landed.

Sir R. W. Smith

I was unable to quote my reference. May I say that it was from the "Scottish Farmer" of 5th July that I took the statement, and there was no question of this only being surplus?

Mr. Wedderburn

I am telling my hon. Friend what our policy is and always has been, but subject to that we want arable farmers to keep as many beef cattle as they possibly can. I think possibly they will be able to keep more than they have, on account of the largely increased fodder crops which they are growing, but this year we are faced with an acute shortage of Irish stores because of foot-and-mouth disease. Of the 260,000 store cattle normally required for feeding in Scotland in any one year 120,000, or nearly half, have been imported from Ireland. Since this foot-and-mouth disease has been raging in Ireland and imports have been banned since January, it is not surprising that our beef cattle population this year shows a decline. I wish I knew what was going to happen in Ireland about this foot-and-mouth disease, how much longer it is going to last. If it is stamped out soon we may expect a very rapid increase in the number of our beef cattle. If not, it will take time to make up the deficiency by the increased breeding of home-raised stores.

I was glad to hear that some of my hon. Friends were interested in preventing the slaughter of calves. I have consulted the Farmers' Union about this, and we have also consulted the Ministry of Food, and it may perhaps Be possible to arrange some combination between the store markets and fat stock markets by which calves brought to be slaughtered may be found a home with farmers who are able to feed them as store cattle. It is considered that calves are not being slaughtered to an undue extent, but if there has been any increase it has been because the number of dairy cows is increasing so much.

In regard to feeding-stuffs, something was said about them last week by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, during the Food Production Debate. We do not propose to give any ration to arable farmers for their beef cattle, although, as the Minister indicated, it is possible that we might issue a ration in certain cases in exchange for the sale of oats. We expect to be able to give a generous ration for dairy cows. The details have not yet been finally worked out, but I think it will be more favourable than was the case last year. Most of our dairy farmers are this year growing an immensely increased quantity of food for their own cows, and the number of cows has increased since the war began by 13,000. It is not unreasonably optimistic to hope for a rise in our milk production next year.

Before I conclude, I would like to reply to the question about Italian prisoners. The fact is that most parts of Scotland are either prohibited areas or districts where it is not considered desirable, for military reasons, to have Italian prisoners of war, and on these and other grounds we may not be able to make extensive use of this source of labour. I am sorry if I have not been able to give longer replies, but it may be said generally that the production of food in Scotland is very much greater this year than anybody expected a year ago. If harvest prospects are realised, the increase will be very considerably greater, and this production of food in time of war should enable us to pursue a way of life resulting in greater prosperity and greater stability in peace-time.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.— [Major Dugdale.]

Resolutions to be reported upon the next Sitting Day.

Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.

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