Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £96,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, including grants for land improvement, agricultural education, and research, agricultural marketing, agricultural credits, expenses in respect of regulation of agricultural wages, management and use of land acquired for forestry, agricultural training and settlement schemes, certain grants in aid and remanet subsidy payments.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser
The £96,000 we are asking for falls under several heads. We are asking for the sum of £50,000 to meet a proportion of the cost for the improvement of agricultural land by drainage. I make bold to say that a good job of work has been done during the war in the way of draining land for agricultural purposes and it is as a result of that that we need this extra sum of money. We also want a sum of £12,000 for the establishment and maintenance of an agricultural machinery station for the testing of agricultural machinery. I venture to suggest that the agricultural community will welcome this provision. We furthermore want £20,000 for a grant in aid to the Scottish Women's Land Army Welfare 1117 and Benevolent Fund. On 16th May last, I believe, the Government's intention to make this contribution was announced to the House. We further want a sum of £20,000, less £10, to meet the expense of managing and using land acquired by the Secretary of State under the Forestry Act of 1945 and not yet placed at the disposal of the Forestry Commissioners. A further sum of £5,000 is required for the re-settlement in agriculture and horticulture of persons released from the Services and for the re-settlement in agriculture and horticulture of persons disabled by war service. This seems to be a very creditable venture on our part.
§ Mr. Snadden(Perth and Kinross, Western)
I do not want to detain the Committee long. I welcome the large increase on the original Estimate, but I am a little concerned, looking ahead, in regard to the supply of suitable machinery to carry out land drainage. I wonder if the Under-Secretary, whom I congratulate on the way he has dealt with this matter to-night, can give us a little more information in regard to the acreage covered by this sum; and also if he can tell us what proportion is due to hill-drainage, and what proportion is due to arable land.
I would also like to ask him whether the Balfour Report will be turned into legislation and in order to carry it out will he acquire certain equipment, not easily obtainable, in the form of tractors for hill drainage? I am told that in Scotland the Canadian Forestry Corps has a large number of these particular machines, and they are going to waste. I wonder if the Under-Secretary can tell me whether, in the £50,000 referred to in the Estimate, any provision is made for the purchase of this type of tractor, which will be needed in the Western Highlands if we are to overcome the drainage problem there. I shall be glad if he can tell these people that this type of machinery, which is necessary to carry out hill-drainage, is going to be taken over by the Department of Agriculture from the Ministry of Supply; and, if any of the money in the estimate is earmarked for that part of the scheme.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
None of us wants to keep the Committee late, but owing to the congestion of business, it is very seldom that we Scottish Members 1118 have a chance of discussing Scottish affairs. We would be failing in our duty to our constituents if we did not take this opportunity of asking questions and extracting from the Government statements of interest to our country. I want to ask a question on Subheads "R" and "S." Subhead "R" refers to the new Forestry Act under which the Secretary of State for the first time becomes responsible for land for use for forestry in Scotland. How much land is involved here? The Estimate says it is land which is acquired by the Secretary of State and not placed at the disposal of the Forestry Commission. What land is it? How much is it? That is the problem.
As regards Sub-head "S" which relates to settlement grants, how many men or families are concerned here? The sum is only £5,000, and I cannot conceive that many families can have been settled with such a small figure as that. One knows from all the records that the demand for small holdings, agricultural and horticultural, is exceedingly great. It amounts to many thousands. On the records of the Scottish Office, thousands of people have put in demands and will the Secretary of State tell the country what is the position in regard to land settlement here.
Mr. Malcolm MacMilian
I would like to press the Under-Secretary for a statement with regard to land settlement, as it seems to be that the release of men from the forces is out of all proportion to the increased sum provided under this Supplementary Estimate. I cannot imagine that it will meet the demands from the very large number of men requiring small holdings. This affects our part of Northern Scotland and the Islands very directly, and I would like the hon. Gentleman to do us the courtesy on this occasion of paying some attention to the claims and inquiries about our part of Scotland. There is one other point. I would like to know whether it is possible for him to give us an idea of what proportion of the Supplementary Estimate is to be spent in the Highlands and Islands area. Land drainage is very important from the point of view of the reclamation of land for the purpose of assisting us with the resettlement of these men coming back from the Forces who are referred to under Subhead S. If he can give us some guidance on these points I think the Highlands would be very grateful.
§ Major McCallum
This is an opportunity which we Scottish Members must take, to try to obtain information about our own country. It has been, more or less, an unwritten law in this House that if English Members on these occasions do not like the subjects or speeches or are bored, they need not necessarily listen to them. I would like to ask the Joint Under-Secretary this question about operations under the Forestry Act. There is a £20,000 Supplementary Estimate for them and a £10 receipt he has mentioned for money coming back to the Government. Does that £10 represent all that is coming back to the Government for forestry land maintained as agricultural land under the Department of Agriculture? I know a farm in my own constituency bought in 1945 where surely the revenue is more than £10. Really, the West Highlands are becoming rather suspicious of these establishments run by the Department. We had a lamentable spectacle the other day of land sold at—
§ The Chairman (Major Milner)
I ought to point out that the item to which the hon. and gallant Member refers comes under appropriations in aid.
§ Major McCallum
I want to elicit whether this £10 is all that has been received as revenue from this type of land.
§ Mr. Gallacher
We always get these Estimates for Scotland introduced at the last minute. There are very important matters here for Scotland. When we consider the first item in the Estimate for land drainage, we are faced with the fact that all kinds of Sassenachs are coming and buying Scottish land. I want to know—it is a question which has been concerning Scottish people quite a lot, and if I talk about Scottish people I know what I am talking about—I want to know if some of this money is being spent on drainage for land for agricultural purposes and if the land is sold to some of the companies which are buying up Scottish land at the present time and using it for other purposes than agriculture. That is going on at present.
§ Mr. Gallacher
It has been going on quite a lot in Scotland. The original thief sells the land to a fellow conspirator South of the Border and it be- 1120 comes a legal transaction. The fact remains that the land was stolen. What I want to know from the Minister is that the money is spent for draining for agricultural purposes, and that the land so drained cannot be sold to these companies from the South for use for other purposes.
§ The Chairman
I must ask the hon. Member to keep his remarks relevant to the Vote before the Committee.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I have been relevant all along or if I have been irrelevant I wish you, Major Milner, could advise me. No one is more ready than I am to take advice from the Chair, and no one gives more attention to the Chair than I do. However, I want to ask the Minister also whether this grant is concerned with agricultural machinery and if that machinery will be available all over Scotland for supply to the farmers—
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
There is also the important question of afforestation. It is one of the most important developments in the Highlands of Scotland. There are several schemes of afforestation and money could not be better spent than in repairing some of the terrible damage that has been done to the Highlands. Is any of this expenditure to be used to help families engaged in forestry work, and to give them amenities. They are tucked away in the Highlands far away from shopping centres. Is this money to be used to supply such amenities? The Minister must know as well as I do that many of these people in charge of afforestation have long distances to travel with very indifferent bus services.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member has had a great deal of latitude. This is not really relevant to the question of managing and using land.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The Under-Secretary is not managing the land. He has somebody there managing it. What amenities is he supplying? How is he treating them? Is he giving them proper housing and the recognised proper conveniences? How are they getting on for clothing, food, and all the rest of it? That is important. 1121 It is unfortunate that only at this late hour, when everybody wants to get away, and I want to get away, we should have to discuss these questions about Scotland. We ought to have a chance of discussing the management of these areas, and the conditions under which those who are managing them are being employed. There are many more matters I could deal with, on these Estimates, but it is quite obvious I have worn out my welcome.
§ Mr. Steele (Lanark)
There is one point I wish to raise. In connection with the settlement grants for the re-settlement in agriculture and horticulture of men and women released from war service, I am rather perturbed in connection with this because I have some knowledge of what has happened to men given smallholdings in Scotland, and I would like some information as to how this money is to be spent. I would like to know whether any grant made to these men who are coming back from the Forces will give them a reasonable assurance of being able to make a real livelihood.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser
Several hon. Members have raised points and, of course, they are perfectly entitled to do so, and I will do my best to reply to them all, but I am afraid I shall not be able to give complete satisfaction to all hon. Members who have raised points. The question of drainage was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden), who asked if I could tell him the relative acreage of hill land and arable land we want to drain with this money. I am afraid I cannot give him the figure for the hill land as against the arable land. I will do my best to get whatever information I can for him, but I, perhaps wrongly, had not foreseen I would be asked to supply this information this evening. He also asked me if we would be supplying the best kind of machinery for this job. As he is aware, the Department of Agriculture do provide machinery at the present moment of various types. We do supply many different implements at our various stations up and down the country. Of course the supply of machinery must, inevitably, be included, although I would call attention to the fact that this is rather a limited grant, and if I should allow myself to be drawn into discussion I might commit the error of saying that we were doing something that we do not 1122 propose to do at all. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) asked me if we were draining land and then selling it back to private interests to be used for purposes other than agriculture. The answer is in the negative. We are not doing any such thing. He also asked if we had machinery stations. Of course we have machinery stations up and down the country, but these are not provided for under the Estimate. That provides for a testing station. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) asked me some questions about forestry land.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I asked the hon. Gentleman whether he could give any idea of the area of the land concerned.
§ Mr. Fraser
I am afraid I cannot give my hon. Friend that information this evening, but I will see that he gets the information as soon as I can have it looked up for him. He and several other hon. Members raised the question of resettlement grants and said this seemed altogether too small a sum to do very much in re-settling in agriculture and horticulture men who were coming back from the Services. Several hon. Members also mentioned smallholdings, but the present Government have not stated their policy so far as smallholdings are concerned. We have not said yet whether there is going to be a great extension of smallholdings or not, but in any case it will be appreciated that little or nothing can be done at the moment in the way of providing smallholdings. We have had I do not know how many applications for smallholdings. The point is that we are not asking for a sum of money this evening to permit of going forward with a bold scheme of land settlement. Nothing of the kind. We are asking only for the sum of £5,000 to enable us to assist in resettling in agriculture and horticulture men and women who are at the moment in His Majesty's Forces. Part of the money will be spent in training men and women to put them back into agriculture. Some of it will be necessary to enable us to re-settle them in holdings, but it is very seldom nowadays that a holding falls vacant. The cost of settling new smallholders in existing smallholdings is not considerable and we should not complain about that. This amount for which we are asking for Settlement Grants is a very limited thing. I ask hon. Members to 1123 bear in mind that we are not dealing with the broad general question of opening up small holdings in a planned settlement scheme.
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Fraser
I have said we must have a certain amount of money to enable us to train workers—ex-Service men and ex-Service women—for resettlement in agriculture and horticulture.
§ Commander Galbraith
May I just put a question? Is it not the fact that this sum is to enable the Government to give a grant of £150 which is available to set up people in business, or people going into agriculture? Is not that the point? That was what was explained, I understand, previously, when the same item came up under the English Estimate.
§ Mr. Fraser
That is one of the ways in which we shall assist ex-Service men and women when they come back to agriculture and I am obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend for assisting me to clarify the matter.
§ Mr. Scollan
I am still rather vague with regard to this sum for training people to go back on the land. If it is the policy simply to replace someone who has left a smallholding I want to be clear about it. Does it mean that the Government are settling them on new smallholdings, or old smallholdings? What is it for?
§ Mr. Fraser
We have no new smallholdings. Everyone knows what we are giving them the £150 for. Everyone knows why we are giving a blacksmith £150 when he comes out of the Services—to set him up in his own industry. We are doing the same thing in agriculture. It is, I think, a grateful thing for this or any other Government to do.
There were not many other points which were raised by hon. Members. The hon. Member for West Fife did ask me, with regard to forestry, if we were taking into 1124 consideration the needs of the forestry workers. Of course we are taking into consideration the needs of the forestry workers, but again we are not having a Debate this evening on forestry in general. We are just asking for this extra money which is required for the use and management of land we have acquired for forestry purposes and which has not been given up to the Forestry Commissioners. We are very much alive to the need for all possible amenities for these workers, but it is not particularly easy at this time to get houses built for forestry workers, just as it is not easy at this time to plan a very ambitious programme of house-building for any other workers. At least one can plan, but one cannot hope to be very successful in the course of a few months. This is only a supplementary grant that we are asking for to enable us to manage the land.
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £96,000, be granted to His Majesty to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for salaries and expenses of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, including grants for land improvement, agricultural education and research, agricultural marketing, agricultural credits, expenses in respect of regulation of agricultural wages, management and use of land acquired for forestry, agricultural training and settlement schemes, certain grants in aid and remanet subsidy payments.