§ Considered in Committee under Stand-Order No. 69.
§ [Mr. HUBERT BEAUMONT in the Chair]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make provision for promoting the rehabilitation of hill farming land; for the payment of subsidies in respect of hill sheep and hill cattle; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid (in this Resolution referred to as 'the Act'), it is expedient to authorize—
(1) the mailing out of moneys provided by Parliament of—
(2) the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of—
(3) the payment into the Exchequer of any sum recovered under any provision of the Act from any person by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Secretary of State or either of them or retained by them out of the proceeds of any sale of sheep or cattle forfeited under an Order made under any provision of the Act relating to sheep or cattle imported or brought into the United Kingdom."—[Kings Recommendation signified.]—[My. Thomas Williams.]
§ The following Amendment stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. ALPASS:
§ In line 7, leave out "grants," and insert "loans."
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Alpass (Thornbury)
With regard to the Amendment in my name, I am advised that the question of substituting the word " loans " for " grants " with regard to certain items in the Schedule could be more effectively dealt with in Committee. [Laughter.] I do not see any cause for laughter. I thought that this was regarded as a serious Bill. With the assurance that we shall be able to discuss this point fully in Committee, my hon. Friends and I do not desire to press the Amendent.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Chairman. May I ask what is the Question before the Committee?
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I want to raise one or two questions. The first question is one that has been asked on the Second Reading but to which no effective answer has been given. We are asked to vote some £4 million to be spent during the next five years for the rehabilitation of hill farming land, and that sum may be increased by a further £1 million if this House desires it and should the appropriate Ministry sanction it. How is this sum to be apportioned between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales? The Minister in his reply made to me the rather astonishing statement that this matter had been debated, but that no decision had been arrived at. It seems to me to be a most reprehensible thing in a Bill of this nature, with four parts of the United Kingdom anxiously competing for the benefits from this sum, that no decision should have been arrived at as to how that sum should be apportioned between the countries concerned. We have heard this afternoon that 70 per cent, of the land of Scotland is in rough grazing. Therefore, 70 per cent, of the land of Scotland will be competing for part of this £4 million, and I say it is a very serious thing for Scotland that this decision has not been made, because I have no faith in the Secretary of State for Scotland being able to go before the Chancellor of the Exchequer and make claims for sufficient money for Scotland.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I feel that the hon. Gentleman would agree with me that it is most unsatisfactory that this decision was not arrived at before the Bill was brought before the House. The second point I want to ask is, what is to be the ceiling under each scheme? Is there to be a ceiling under each scheme? A great many people in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be competing for grants. Is any owner to be able to claim more than a certain amount? Are there to be so many applications to be received from a certain region? We have not been told anything about this, and I think the Committee is entitled to have an answer to these questions before it decides to give the 1728 Minister this large sum of money. There is no doubt about these grants being needed. I could talk a great deal about the history of the hill farm land in Scotland. Suffice it to say that these lands have been impoverished and have been deteriorating under the extractive farming of the more prosperous years, the years before the importation of the Marino wool, the importation of mutton and the demand for the smaller joints.
The Deputy - Chairman
The hon. Gentleman is now delivering a speech he might have desired to deliver earlier in the evening on the Second Reading. May I ask him to keep closely to the Money Resolution?
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
You are absolutely right and I would not for a moment dispute that, but I was most anxious that my constituents would not be disappointed. I could not get past you, Mr. Beaumont, but I thought there was a little that I might slip in on this Money Resolution. The next thing I want to say is that we are told in the Explanatory Memorandum to this Bill that it is designed to facilitate the rehabilitation of hill farming land throughout the United Kingdom. In order to do that, these grants of 50 per cent, are made, but the Bill is based on the recommendations of the Balfour Committee, as far as Scotland is concerned, and on the recommendations of the De La Warr Committee, as far as England and Wales are concerned. The Balfour Committee came to the conclusion that a 50 per cent, grant—
The hon. Gentleman is again straying from hill farming. He must keep to the Money Resolution.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
With great respect, Mr. Beaumont, I have tried to confine myself merely to the question of the 50 per cent, grant. My point is that the 50 per cent, grant is not adequate to the purpose for which it is required. I want to see a bigger grant, and I support the argument for a larger grant by reference to one passage in the Report of the Balfour Committee. The Committee said:The most fundamental consideration is that the expenditure which is needed to restore the industry to economic independence within1729the framework of a reasonable agricultural policy involves an element of arrears of maintenance and improvement which is too onerous for a generation of farmers and landlords which has no experience of large profits. In our view, a contribution by the State of less than 60 per cent, of the cost would not secure the necessary measure of support from the industry.I rest myself on that, and I say that I am deeply disappointed that a larger grant is not being given for this purpose.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
There are only four questions that I wish to ask the Minister First, I understand that this grant works out at is an acre a year on the hill farming land. I should be obliged if the Minister would tell us whether the proportion will be based on the acreage or on the ewe population of the two countries, or, if one takes the minor countries of Wales and Northern Ireland, the four countries. In England, we have many more hill ewes than there are in Scotland, the numbers being 3,500,000 in England and 2,750,000 in Scotland, although it is true that in barren acres Scotland has a very considerable advantage. Secondly, as the Minister is aware, there is in operation now a marginal grant scheme under which a 40 per cent, grant is given for similar purposes to those of this Bill. It was begun in 1942, and is being carried on in hill land now. Does the Minister intend to continue that scheme so that it will be in operation at the same time as this Bill or, if it is not to be continued, will it be merged in some way with the Money Resolution we are now discussing? This is of great importance, since in my area there are a number of schemes under the marginal grants scheme and land is being reseeded. The third point arises from paragraph (2, a) of the Money Resolution, which reads:Cost incurred by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries in doing work required for making improvements for the benefit of hill farming land that is subject to rights of common of pasture.I do not know whether the Minister appreciates that, in regard to common lands, we are in a difficulty. If we are to improve common land, we have to see that it is properly fenced. While in the case of ordinary land the obligation of fencing is on the man who owns the stock, when one comes to common land 1730 the obligation is not on the man who own the stock on the common land, but on the adjoining occupier. Will the Minister tell us whether paragraph (2, a) of the Money Resolution covers grants for the improvement of the boundary fences that are tin obligation of adjoining occupiers and no of the man who owns the common stock; That is a point which goes to the root 0 the Bill. To the best of my knowledge there are some 400 square miles of the North Riding where there are no sheep a the moment because we cannot get the adjoining occupiers and owners to fence the inter-walls. Unless the Minister car give an assurance about this matter, it is a pity we ever gave the Bill a Second Reading. Fourthly, I wish to ask the Minister whether he is paying any attention in the Financial Resolution to the recommendation of the De La Warr Committee, which reads as follows:The increasing volume of motor traffic on unfenced hill roads has led to a rising death rate among sheep and lambs. In addition where roads are crossed by boundary fences, gates are continually being left open "—
The hon. Member is placing me in a dilemma. I cannot find out how he relates the high death rate of sheep and lambs to the Money Resolution.
§ Mr. Turton
I assure you, with great respect, Mr. Beaumont, that it is germane. In paragraph (1, a), the Minister asks for power to make a grant not exceeding one-half of the cost of work done in accordance with schemes submitted to the Minister of Agriculture. I am trying to elicit whether the Minister, in those schemes, will include the recommendation, in the Report on which this Bill was founded, dealing with the fencing of roads. There is considerable point in it, because we are dealing usually with adjoining owners and occupiers, but in this Report it is recommended that the local authorities should be included. Therefore, I suggest I am entitled to make reference to that important matter.
The hon. Member can find an answer in the first Schedule to the majority of the. questions he is putting. He must deal now with the Money Resolution.
§ Mr. Turton
That is the point, Mr. Beaumont. It would be out of Order for me to ask, on' the first Schedule, whether 1731 a local authority could fence the road since it is not included under that Schedule. Surely, I am in Order in asking the Minister what is to be the relationship in finance between the Exchequer and the local authorities in this matter? After all, the De la Warr Committee attached great importance to it. It is important because every year the farms in my constituency lose 20 sheep each which are killed by motorists going too fast along the unfenced roads. Will the Minister say therefore whether he is going to have these roads fenced, whether he will pay a grant towards them under this Financial Resolution, and what steps he is taking to get the local authorities to make a new contribution since it is not the fault of the farmers that motorists go too fast along unfenced roads?
I hope the Minister will answer my four questions. With regard to this Financial Resolution, as I have said, unless we can get some better arrangement it is going to work out very unequally in England. I do not think there is the same inequality in Scotland because all land in Scotland counts as hill fanning land whether at sea level or several hundred feet above. I believe that Scotland is perfectly satisfied with this Bill, but when we come to consider England it is going to work disproportionately rather like the case in the Bible of the two women grinding at the mill; one of whom was taken and the other left.
The hon. Gentleman has gone extremely wide. The definitions he seeks he will find in the Bill and not in the Financial Resolution.
§ The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Thomas Williams)
If I may reply briefly to the three or four questions—[Interruption.]
§ Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)
On a point of Order, Mr. Beaumont. I understood that the hon. Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass) did not move his Amendment but I have been looking 1732 forward to learning the difference between " grant " and " loan "In this case.
§ Captain Crookshank
I presumed that the hon. Member had another speech prepared, since under the rule about repetition he could not have made the same one. I should have been interested to hear his argument in this case. He did not move his Amendment, I understood him to say, on the ground that he had been advised that the matter could be raised on the Committee stage. I should like to ask you, Mr. Beaumont, whether that is so because the Money Resolution deals entirely with grants, as indeed does the Title of the Bill. Would it therefore be competent for the Committee to discuss loans instead of grants and, if they so wished, to substitute " loans " for " grants " for the purpose of the Bill?
The right hon. and gallant Member is asking a question to which he knows full well I cannot give an answer. This Bill will go to a Standing Committee and I cannot predict what will take place there.
§ Captain Crookshank
How is it that the hon. Member has been advised that the question can be raised elsewhere?
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman should not suggest that the Chairman should know either who gave the hon. Member advice, or the value of that advice.
§ Sir J. Barlow
There are two or three questions which I should like to put to the Minister. It seems to me that this is a substantial grant to cover 21 different items set out in the First Schedule to the Bill. There is a great variety of items in that Schedule but there has been nothing from the Government to show how the money would be distributed between the different items. I have seen no estimates made of work to be done whatever, which seems to me, as a businessman, a rather important error. We know that the cost of building in the hill land is infinitely different—
I am sorry to have to stop the hon. Gentleman. What he is discussing now would be relevant in Committee but not on the Financial Resolution.
§ Sir J. Barlow
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Beaumont. I should like to ask the Minister to give us some more information as to how this large sum of £4 million is to be spent in a general way and not in any particular way. We have been told that it is to cover a period of some four years and about 15,000,000 acres. It would seem to me that the amount involved is all too small for us to meet the situation and to put hill farm ing in any way on its feet. It is to deal with fencing, drainage—
The hon. Member cannot go into the subject of drainage. We are dealing with the Financial Resolution. The hon. Member is dealing with matters which will have to be brought up in Committee.
§ Sir J. Barlow
I wish to make my remarks very brief indeed. I hope that the Minister will, in all sincerity, try to show in some small way how this very small sum is to be applied to such an enormous amount of work.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Perhaps I might reply briefly to the questions which have been put. The hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow) has just asked me to tell the House how this money can be used to rehabilitate 16,000,000 acres of land. He is asking for the impossible. We never claimed that the Bill would do it. We only said that it would make a start. I hope that the answer will satisfy the hon. Gentleman. I would also ask about the subdivision of the money. I said definitely that there would be no subdivision. The hon. Member knows that there is just about as much hill land in Scotland as there is in England and Wales. [An HON. MEMBER: " No."] I said just about as much. It does not matter very much what the subdivision of area is. It will be a question of the number of schemes produced and submitted. If it is felt over a period of time that the money is running out more quickly than was expected, one can always come back to Parliament to ask for the money to be extended, if the scheme is found worth while. I see no point in tying the Minister to any absolute subdivision of funds that may be made available by Parliament.
The answer to the question whether there is any ceiling is " No."There is no ceiling. The hon. Member for Thirsk and 1734 Malton (Mr. Turton) asked about fences on common lands. I commend to his attention Clause 11, where he will find there is ample power to deal with fences on common land. He asked about the marginal land scheme produced in 1942, and whether it was to be continued. Yes, it is being continued for the present, but it will have to be reconsidered later. The hon. Member asked a further question, to which I know he did not expect an answer, whether we could do something to prevent motorists driving so fast that they killed his sheep in Thirsk and Malton. I cannot tell him what I am going to do with motorists.
I have no desire to detain the Committee unduly. I am very much surprised and disappointed at the speech of the Minister. I have been in the House as long as—
This is not the occasion for the hon. Gentleman to make remarks of that character, which have nothing to do with the Financial Resolution.
§ 10.30 p.m.
Therefore, Mr. Beaumont, may I ask you whether I am not allowed to say that I am disappointed with what a Minister has said? I was disappointed at the somewhat curt way in which the Minister of Agriculture replied to the points raised in this Debate on the Financial Resolution, particularly to the points raised by the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton Kemsley).
I think the hon. Member should understand that the Minister, in making his reply, pointed out definitely that these were matters for the Committee stage and not for this Debate.
With great respect, surely so long as the Committee is considering a Financial Resolution, hon. Members are entitled to express their views and disagreement unless this is to be turned into a Fascist assembly [Interruption.]
I think that remark was entirely undesirable, and I should hope that the hon. Member will withdraw it.
I certainly withdraw anything which you, Mr. Beaumont, occupying the great position you do, consider undesirable, but I would ask if this Debate is to be entirely stifled.
The Financial Resolution is being considered now, and hon. Members are not allowed to go off at a tangent. We are now discussing the Financial Resolution, and no other aspects of the Bill should be discussed.
I was not attempting to do anything of the kind. I was merely asking if we could not have a little further elucidation. We are in Committee of the Whole House and it is perfectly in Order for a Minister or other Member on the Treasury Bench, who may be asked by the Minister to reply, to make a further reply to any point which I or any other Member may raise. I am dissatisfied, and I think we ought to have some further explanation of why the Minister has not seen fit to give a more detailed and adequate reply to the very germane points raised on how the £4 million plus £1 million is to be allocated; in other words, how is Scotland going to fare? It has been said on the Second Reading of the Bill and in this Debate on the Financial Resolution that the interests of Scottish hill farming are very much greater proportionately—I do not say it in any offensive sense—than those of hill farming in England and Wales or Northern Ireland. I think we are en titled—I say this in all seriousness— to a further reply and to be told how this sum of money is to be allocated. May I, with your permission, Mr. Beaumont, give the Committee my reason for saying that? It has been said already but I have a perfect right to say it again, with your permission. This sum of money for the whole country, England, Wales and Ulster, commonly known as Northern Ireland, is £5 million instead of the £15 million which was recommended in the Balfour of Burleigh Report to be spent on Scotland alone. I hope therefore that you, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, will realise the very serious apprehensions which I and all of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, whether they are representing Scotland or any English or Welsh or Northern Ireland Divisions, entertain as to the inadequacy of this sum of money so far as—
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will realise also that he is in great danger of committing the sin of repetition.
I was merely asking for a more adequate reason than we have yet been given. The Minister has given no reason at all. He has sought to allay our fears and to calm our doubts with soothing and comfortable words. I want to have a more reassuring assurance than he has seen fit to give as to why in this Financial Resolution the sum of £5 Million—
The Deputy Chairman
I shall have to ask the hon. Member to resume his seat if he continually repeats himself. I think we are all conscious of what the hon. Member desires to know and is attempting to say.
With great respect, Mr. Beaumont, I hope we shall have a further reply. Part of this Financial Resolution authorises payment out of moneys provided by Parliamentof an amount equal to the cost of work done in accordance with any such scheme in so far as it is rendered abortive by the revocation or variation of the scheme in the public interest.I would like to have an explanation of that. I have read this carefully and it seems to me to be a very involved paragraph. I think the Committee is entitled to an explanation. So far as I am aware no hon. Member has yet raised this point on this Financial Resolution. I wonder if there is any connection between this paragraph and the hesitation of the hon. Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland this afternoon to inform the House of the Government's intentions. The hon. Gentleman made some rather unfortunate—from his point of view—references to possible nationalisation of the land of Great Britain. He fell among thieves, or into a lions' den and found himself between two fires.
I would point out to the hon. Member that whether the Joint Under-Secretary for Scotland was between two fires, or falling into the lions' den or falling among thieves, none of these matters is within the purview of the Financial Resolution.
May I help the hon. Member by asking him to look at the words of Clause 5 of the Bill? He will then see the answer to his question.
With great respect, Mr. Beaumont, this does not arise on the Bill. I think I am only entitled to discuss this on the Financial Resolution.
The difficulty is this. If I permit the hon. Member to ask the question I shall not be able to permit the Minister of Agriculture to answer it.
With respect am I not entitled to ask for an explanation of this paragraph? I ask in all seriousness, Is there anything here which in any way relates to the kind of suggestion which the Joint Under-Secretary threw out this afternoon? In other words, what is the definition of the public interest to be? I think we have a perfect right to know, and in that I am reinforced by the hilarity of hon. Members on the other side of the Committee.
I now appreciate why the hon. Member has not kept to Order. We are in Committee dealing with the Financial Resolution, and not in Committee dealing with the Bill.
With respect, Mr. Beaumont, we are in Committee of the Whole House dealing with the Financial Resolution. Surely an hon. Member is entitled, so long as this is the House of Commons, to ask for an explanation of anything in the Financial Resolution. No one else has raised this point, and I think we are entitled to an explanation. The words are cloudy and misleading. Certain suggestions were made by the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland this afternoon. I ask him now—or some one on his behalf—to have the courtesy to tell the Committee what is envisaged by this paragraph.
§ Mr. T. Williams
I should hate to be discourteous to the hon. Member, and I will answer his points. There has been no figure fixed for the sub-division of the 1738 £4,000,000 to £5,000,000. Paragraph 1 (b) of the Money Resolution provides for paymentof an amount equal to the cost of work done in accordance with any such scheme in so far as it is rendered abortive by the revocation or variation of the scheme in the public interest.If a scheme has been approved and work commenced and some money has been expended, and it is then in the public interest that the scheme be varied, a sum will be paid.
§ Mr. T. Williams
A thousand and one things may be in the public interest, but the State would be able to return to the owner of that land any money expended before the area became a matter of public interest.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
May I ask how the right hon. Gentleman thinks Scottish interests will be looked after? There is £4,000,000 to £5,000,000 to be subdivided between the four countries. I do not see that Scotland will get much out of that. I cannot see it being done. May I have an answer?
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Major Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
I would like to ask if there is any limit on the time during which the money may be expended under paragraph 1 (a). The provision of money is to be given in respect of schemes submitted within five years, but I would like to know the amount of time thereafter during which it may be spent. There is no limit. One can understand that it would be difficult at present to carry out any new schemes because of shortage of labour, and one cannot foretell what the position will be at the end of five years. I would like the Minister to give the Committee an answer to that. Now, on the subject of paragraph 1 (b), provision is mace for the revocation of schemes when the work has been badly done by the person who has carried it out. But, in the Bill, also, there is provision for the Minister to carry out the work. It is quite conceivable that the Minister may not carry out the work well—it is possible that he would not. What is the position then? I think that there should be some reciprocity in this matter. If the tenant or the landlord does 1739 the work badly, and if, in that case the grant is revoked and he has to pay back that sum, surely in the same way if the scheme carried out by the Minister is unsuccessful—as it might well be—the Minister should be prepared to pay back. He should be prepared to pay back to the person interested, be he landlord or tenant, or both, the share that has been contributed by that person to the scheme.
The next point I have to make is in respect of cattle pastured on hill land. While it is very desirable to get as much cattle on the hills as possible and while summer grazing is to be encouraged, the main object, if fertility is to be improved, is to get hill cattle on to the hills—Galloways and Highland crosses and the like. For that reason I feel that a longer term policy is required, and not merely subsidies to cover summer grazing only. I hope the Minister will be able to say what is in his mind as to the regulations to be made governing the subsidies for hill cattle.
§ Resolution to be reported Tomorrow.