HC Deb 27 November 1945 vol 416 cc1062-4
26. Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what specific schemes for hydro-electric development in each of the islands of the Outer Hebrides have been prepared.

Mr. Buchanan

The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board have surveyed and prepared schemes for the distribution of electricity in Lewis, Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay and Barra. In Lewis and Harris five waterpower projects have been surveyed, but some technical, economic and fishing difficulties remain to be overcome. In the other islands, there is very little water power available and some of the necessary power production may be from oil engines.

Mr. MacMillan

May I thank the Scottish Office for this commendable exhibition of getting on with the work?

27.Mr. M. MacMillan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware of the bad condition of many roads serving agricultural communities, including Department of Agriculture settlements in the Outer Hebrides, and which were built partly by the free labour of the tenants and left to them for all future maintenance; and whether, in view of modern needs and traffic, it is the intention of the Department to reconstruct these roads; and if he will state the financial arrangements.

Mr. Fraser

As in other parts of the country, road work in the Outer Hebrides has necessarily been held up on account of war conditions, and I am aware that some roads serving agricultural communities there are not in good condition. Improvement works on the Secretary of State's properties are being undertaken as conditions permit, and, in regard to roads serving other properties, the Secretary of State is prepared to consider applications from the County Council for assistance.

Mr. MacMillan

May I ask if my hon. Friend is aware that I have been asking for 10 years, and previous hon. Members for the Western Isles have been asking for many more years, that this should be treated as a matter of extreme urgency, and if he is aware that we are tired of this suggested danger of continuity of policy from the last Government, of free labour by the local people and other vicious practices applying to labour conditions?

Mr. Fraser

I am aware that these conditions leave much to be desired, but we have not been a Government for very long—[Laughter]—though much too long for the comfort of many hon. Members opposite. The position surely is that I had to report the conditions as they exist today, and I had to state that, so far as roads other than those on properties owned by the Secretary of State are concerned, the county councils have some responsibility.

Mr. MacMillan

Will the hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that he will bring every pressure to bear wherever necessary upon reactionary Conservative local authorities?

28. Mr. M. MacMillan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the inconvenience and hardship endured by the people of Bernera Island, Lewis, through having to leave the local omnibus at Earshader Sound, ferry their goods and themselves to their home island and carry their goods for miles to their homes, owing to lack of a short viaduct; and whether the Department of Agriculture is prepared to assist in the provision of a viaduct.

Mr. Fraser

As my hon. Friend is aware, the provision of a viaduct was the subject of correspondence between the Department of Agriculture for Scotland and the County Council of Ross and Cromarty in 1939. On the outbreak of war the Council decided to defer further action, and so far have not again approached the Department.

Mr. Macmillan

May I ask the Minister to look upon this case as possibly the most urgent case in the West of Scotland in regard to transport, and as one most deserving of assistance from the Scottish Office and the Ministry of War Transport? Will he look most carefully into it and urge the local authority that it is most urgent that they should get on with the job?

Mr. Fraser

I would like very much to see something being done, but I am not so sure that, since we are not the highway authority, we can ask the local authority to get on with the job. If they make a submission, we will be very pleased indeed to look into it.