HC Deb 09 October 1946 vol 427 cc203-20
Mr. Scott-Elliot (Accrington)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 1, after "proposed," to insert: having special regard to the need for re-seeding and regeneration of grazings. The purpose of this Amendment is comparatively simple. It will require the Minister, when he is considering a scheme, to see whether reseeding and regeneration of grazings are practicable and desirable and, if so, to insist on this being done. It may be asked why I move this Amendment at all, in view of the fact that the words "reseeding and regeneration of grazings" appear in the First Schedule. The point is this. Most of the items in that Schedule are items which will be carried out, whether by the landlords or the tenants, of their own volition, but this is not such an item. It is one normally performed by the tenants, and—I think I can speak with some knowledge of tenants, at any rate in the South of Scotland— while it may be that the tenant would go in for draining, for bracken cutting or even for the rather radical process, as it may appear to him, of liming his land, he will not go in for something he does not understand, which, he thinks, will be very troublesome, and about the outcome of which he is not quite sure.

I admit that reseeding of hill land throughout the Highlands is in many cases quite impracticable, but there are parts where it can be of very great value, and as one who has seen some extraordinarily interesting work within the last month, I should like to give an account of it. The farm in question is at the altitude of something under 1,000 ft. and contains some 300 acres of pure hill land and about 250 acres of rough grazing, which was formerly cultivated by crofters. Indeed, at one time I believe it provided a livelihood for no less than four families. When the present tenant of the farm took it over, it would support 20 or 25 cattle for about eight months in the year. He went in for a vigorous process of reseeding, combined of course with drainage, and he has so far reseeded about 100 acres. The farm will now support 100 head of cattle with, say, 60 followers. The tenant is proposing to reseed the entire 250 acres, and when he has done so he is expecting to be able to carry, on that farm, between 250 and 300 Highland and cross-Highland cows with their followers—in other words, more than 10 times the stock carried on the land when he first took it over. I would add that the hill land has benefited enormously owing to the increased number of cattle. Perhaps I should point out that, although this sounds a very great number of cattle to be kept on a comparatively small acreage, they are only kept there for eight or nine months in the year, during the remaining part of the year being driven to lower ground where they are fed on baled straw.

Of course there are difficulties in this kind of work; in the first place, the cost. It is estimated that quite apart from drainage—the question of the subsidy for drainage is a rather vexed one into which I will not enter—it will cost some £14 per acre, inclusive of fencing, because, of course, it is necessary to fence. Very often, it is necessary to plough with a caterpillar tractor, which may have to be hired from the war agricultural committee, and finally, it is necessary, after taking a catch crop of rape, to sow it with a good mixture of grass seed containing a certain amount of wild white clover, which is a very expensive item. Next the cost of the drainage to which I have referred is very considerable, and, finally, there is the cost of the additional stock, because if the land is to be reseeded and to be worth a lot more at the end, obviously a great deal of money will have to come out of the tenant's pocket to pay for additional stock. Reseeding has to be done efficiently if it is to succeed. It is a tricky business and will need careful supervision. I ask the Minister to treat this Amendment sympathetically, because if he does, he will be benefiting not only the tenant-farmers of Scotland in particular, but the whole people of Britain, who so sadly need an increased supply of meat. It may well be—and I am probably understating the case rather than overstating it —that if we can procure this reseeding on a sufficiently wide acreage, a considerable additional supply of home-grown meat will be provided for our people.

Mr. Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)

I beg to second the Amendment.

Mr. T. Williams

While I agree with almost every word uttered by my hon. Friend with regard to the importance of reseeding, and that reseeding ought to figure prominently in any rehabilitation scheme where it is possible, I am also reminded of the fact that special mention is made of reseeding in item 18 of the First Schedule, line 31. There was, therefore, in the promotion of the Bill, general appreciation of the necessity for reseeding where possible. It may not, of course, always be the most urgent item in any particular rehabilitation scheme; none the less, I could not agree more with my hon. Friend than I do when he stresses the importance of reseeding where it can take place. However, if these words were inserted I do not see how, to be logical, we could avoid inserting other items in the Clause, which would end by duplicating the First Schedule in Clause 1. That in no way detracts from the validity of my hon. Friend's arguments, and I can assure him that as the Minister has the right to approve every improvement scheme, due attention will be paid to reseeding, where it is a possibility in any rehabilitation scheme. I can assure him that assent will not be given where reseeding does not form a part of the scheme if we believe that it ought to form a part of it. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend will not feel disposed to press the Amendment.

Mr. Scott-Elliot

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.0 p.m.

Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 5, to leave out "excessive", and to insert "unreasonably high."

At an earlier stage we had a discussion upon this subject. As the Bill is now drafted, we feel that it will deter applicants from going in for schemes, because they will know that the costs of the work are bound to be high, and they will think therefore that the Minister will regard them as excessive. The speech which we heard from the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Scott-Elliot) in moving the last Amendment will show the House how expensive is this business of reseeding and fencing. We believe that the words "unreasonably high" will give a shade of meaning which is slightly different from the word "excessive," and that it will protect us against what I think we must take great care to be protected against, and that is the contract which is swollen by reason of a grant attaching to the work. One finds where there is a 50 per cent. grant, the cost tends to be increased. Therefore, I think that the words "unreasonably high" make an improvement to the Bill. If the House will agree to this Amendment, I would point out that there is a consequential Amendment to Clause 6, in page 5, line 34.

Mr. Snadden

I beg to second the Amendment.

I think that this is a very important point, because on page 2 of the Bill we are told that the Government really desire comprehensive schemes. I know that in my part of the country many people will be prepared to put forward large schemes costing a good deal of money. It may be that roads and bridges will have to be put right, and it would be a pity if anything were done to discourage the submission of large schemes which is one of the prime objects of the Bill. We think that there is some danger in retaining the word "excessive," and for that reason I support my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton).

Mr. T. Williams

As I explained in Committee, I can scarcely see the difference in interpretation between the word "excessive" and the words "unreasonably high." It was explained that very few schemes would have to be rejected on account of excessive costs, because it is quite unlikely that those who are promoting the schemes would promote them at high cost, unless they were going to provide at least a reasonable return for their personal capital outlay. However, if hon. Members lay so much stress on the difference between the words "excessive" and "unreasonably high," in spite of the shortage of paper and the necessary addition of one more word to the Bill, I really have no objection to the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 12, to leave out from the beginning, to the end of line 15, and to insert: heath and upland grazings or mountain, hill, heath and upland land which by improvement could be made suitable for grazing purposes. We have put down this Amendment because there was considerable discussion in Committee on the definition of "hill land." We see considerable difficulties arising owing to the fact that this single Bill covers England and Wales as well as Scotland, instead of our having, as in a normal case, a separate Bill for England and Wales. When the matter of hill farming was examined in the days of the Coalition Government two separate committees were set up, one for Scotland and one for England. Anyone reading the reports of those committees will realise that there are in the very nature of the circumstances of the two countries, appreciable differences in conditions.

Although it may well be that the definition as it stands in the Bill covers conditions in Scotland, my experience as a Minister leads me to doubt whether it will be sufficiently wide to cover the much greater variety of circumstances with which we are faced in the case of England and Wales. We found, in the administration of the hill sheep subsidy, very considerable difficulties owing to the fact that conditions were quite different in Cumberland and Westmorland as compared for example with Dartmoor or Exmoor. We think that there will be considerable administrative convenience if the Minister, so far as England is concerned, merely took powers to define the different areas by regulation. That did not meet with the approval of the Government, but during the discussion the right hon. Gentleman promised to have another look at the problem of definition and see whether anything could be done on Report stage. He has not put down any Amendment, and we have accordingly put down this Amendment for the purpose of giving him an opportunity to explain why he has not succeeded in getting a better definition, or explaining, if he can, why he thinks the existing definition wide enough to cover the different variations of conditions in the United Kingdom.

Major Sir Thomas Dugdale (Richmond, Yorks)

Before supporting this Amendment, may I ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on one point? Is it in the interest of the House that we should discuss, on this Amendment, the other Amendments on the Paper dealing with the same subject, namely,, the definition of hill farming?

Mr. Speaker

I think that all four Amendments on the Paper run together.

Sir T. Dugdale

With that knowledge I should like to support the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson). We are still anxious about the definition, and we still think that as far as England and Wales are concerned the position is not satisfactory. There are two points to which I should like to draw the attention of the House. First, there is the question of including in this Clause cattle as well as sheep, because in our view, if we are really to improve hill farming land in this country, we shall be able to do so only if we have cattle and sheep grazing together on the hill land. As the Bill reads at the moment there is no mention of cattle, and for that reason we have put down an Amendment to include in the Clause "sheep or cattle," and later to leave out, in line 19, the word "sheep" so that the Bill will read "hill farming." I think that this is a point of major substance in the Bill, because as we get more prosperity in hill farming in this country, it must be in the interests of food production and of the land itself that there should be an increase of cattle on hill land.

The other point to which I should particularly like to refer to is that of winter fodder. We discussed this in Committee, and I will not weary the House with the arguments which were used upstairs. But it seems to me that the real crux of the problem of improving hill farming is to ensure good winter fodder for sheep and cattle which are grazed in summertime on hill farms. In Scotland, the definition may be much simpler, because it is a question of black and white. It is easy to define what is a hill farm and what is not, whereas in England, particularly in the dales of Yorkshire and on the borders of Wales, there are marginal farms where half the stock which has been grazed in the summer months has been grazed on the hillside, comes down in the winter, and is fed on fodder at a lower altitude on ground which might easily feed sheep other than sheep of the hardy kind. It is for that reason that we put down these Amendments, in the hope that the Minister may be able to comply with his promise in Committee to look into this admittedly difficult problem of getting a good definition of "hill farming"

Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, Northern)

I support this Amendment very warmly. I entirely agree with what has just been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale). In many parts of the North of England cattle are already a vital part of the economy of farms which are really hill farms, and they ought to be, on many farms, a much more vital part of the farm economy than they are at present. I ask the Minister to consider the system in Westmorland, in the Lake District. There, dairy shorthorn cattle go up to great heights on the hills, and in order that these hills should be farmed well, this should be so. In another part of the country, the Border area along the English side, black Galloways are the chief fat stock. There, also, they go up among the hill sheep. If those upland pastures are to be improved farmers should be encouraged to keep more cattle. It may be said that, later in the Bill, there is a subsidy provision which does encourage the keeping of cattle on these lands. But it seems a roundabout way of giving that encouragement to define the land as land on which hill sheep of the hardy kind are kept, and then to give a subsidy for keeping cattle on those farms. It is not in keeping with the actual facts of the situation. The farms are sheep and cattle farms, and they ought to have more cattle on them.

The Minister may say that the alterations suggested will extend the operation of this Bill to too much land, that the intention of the Bill is to help only the very high hill farms, and that it may be that by altering the definition, the assistance will be spread further down the hills to land which is commonly described, in the North of England, as marginal land rather than hill farm land. To that, I would say that there are many farms, and most successful hill farms, which combine real hill land with lower land, some of which is marginal and which is sometimes good, even arable, land. It is of farms of that sort which are at the present time most successful, and it seems very unfair that they should be excluded from assistance under this Bill, because in addition to their hill land, they have some marginal land and some land which is better than marginal land.

It may be that not enough money is being devoted to this purpose. The Minister may use that argument, but one thing is certain: If you want to produce more food as the result of this Bill it is marginal land which will give the greatest return for the money spent. Where you have a high hill along with some marginal land, the economy of the whole farm, including the high hill, will be best strengthened by improving more easily the lower land. That will react to the advantage of the hill sheep and cattle in providing more winter keep, perhaps even better summer grazing too, and give what those farms so badly need—a better balance between what is available for livestock in the winter and in the summer. For this and other reasons, I hope the Minister will be able to accept the alteration in the definition.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Paget (Northampton)

I too have been a little worried by the definition in the Bill. After all, this Bill is primarily intended to provide for expenditure which is uneconomic for the individual, but is of benefit to the agricultural community as a whole. The real reason why this expenditure is of benefit to the agricultural community as a whole is that the hill farms provide the stock which will then come down to the lowlands. The time will come when the lowlands' animal stock will have to be increased. I feel that that will probably apply to dairying more than anything else and hill farms, especially in Cumberland, of which I have a good deal of experience, are breeding the highest quality of dairy shorthorn heifers. That should be encouraged in order to provide that supply which will be needed in the fairly near future.

Great emphasis was laid by my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Scott-Elliot) on the question of reseeding. I have experienced reseeding only at lower levels, but I am very doubtful whether sheep could really cope with re-seeded land. It comes so quickly that I should have thought that it would get too high for the sheep to get real benefit out of it. To be able to work reseeded land properly, and to get the best benefit from it, you want to be able to interchange cattle and sheep. I hope the Minister will be able to include some high level cattle land within this scheme. He has the last word with regard to a scheme and if he does not think that any particular scheme involving cattle land is really within the intention of the Bill, then it is open to him to reject it.

Mr. Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)

I should like to support the Amendment very strongly, because I am sure that in sheep-rearing circles it is not sufficiently realised how much grazing is improved by cattle. Perhaps I might briefly give my personal experience. I keep a certain number of sheep on a high mountain, so high that a few years ago I bought hill grazing considerably lower down to winter some of the flock. In the first year I proposed to put on 60 cattle in the summer in the hope of improving the grazing, but my shepherd very strongly objected, and said that it would ruin the winter flock. Last year I put on 120 cattle, and he now admits that the grazing is considerably better than it was before.

I support what the hon. and gallant Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) said about definition. I feel that this Bill is going to be very helpful in many ways, but I would suggest to the Minister that it falls down on this question of definition. May I give an instance in my constituency, which I expect is common to many other parts? I know six hill farmers who used to keep sheep. Five of these six, all of whom had a common stray on to the common moor, have given up keeping sheep, because it does not pay them to do so. The sixth farmer tells me that he will have to give up keeping sheep unless the fencing question can be dealt with. As the Bill now stands, I can see no hope of these five farmers qualifying and fences being put up. Unless there is a greater improvement in this matter, we shall not achieve the object of this Bill, which should be to encourage people to keep sheep on the hill grazings, instead of the sheep disappearing as is happening in my case in Yorkshire.

Sir John Barlow (Eddisbury)

All of us who have considered this Bill realise the difficulty of defining adequately exactly what hill farming is. The more we study this question the more we are convinced that the emphasis is wrongly placed on sheep and sheep alone, in the Bill. We think it most important to emphasise the cattle side. It has been repeatedly pointed out this afternoon that more cattle on the hill will benefit agriculture in these parts very considerably indeed. For that reason, I should like to see cattle included in the definition. Although there has been a great improvement in production in agriculture in recent years, many of us feel sure that the increase could be far greater on marginal and hill land farms than on the lowland farms. For that reason we welcome this Bill, but we wish to see it well-balanced in the definition of what it is intended to do, and we wish, therefore, to see cattle emphasised in the Bill, and more cattle on the hills.

Mr. McKie (Galloway)

I do not often find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts), but it gives me great pleasure this afternoon to support every word he has said, and to support nearly every word that has been said by other speakers on this side of the House. Of course, conditions throughout Great Britain vary from county to county. I am speaking almost entirely of the purely hill farms, or what under the terms of the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson), would be called mountain farms. I would stress particularly the necessity for increasing the number of cattle on this kind of holding—I am thinking almost entirely of Scotland—and the necessity of increasing the permanent stocks of cows. I am glad to have the support of my hon. Friend the Member for North Cumberland who spoke about the black Galloway cattle in his Division. He knows the increasingly important part which we hope, in the future, these cattle will play not only in his Division but in the southern counties of Scotland as well. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) indicated that he thought that if cattle were encouraged for summer grazing only, that would be sufficient. I was discussing this matter with a very large stock farmer in Scotland as recently as Saturday last, and I must disagree with my hon. and gallant Friend.

I should like to stress the necessity of making these stocks of cows on the hill farms permanent. It is quite true that a higher subsidy is given for cows than bullocks, but the increase in cows has not been nearly as marked as we would like to see. I think the reason is probably to be found in the fact that the average price of calves from this kind of holding has dropped from £15 in 1944 to £10 in 1945. The reason for that is to be found in the fact that there is no encouragement given by this Government, and not very much was given by the late Coalition Government, to the beef factors. Unless there is a proper balance of economy in regard to beef producers, we shall not have raised on hill farms, or any other kind of farms, the proper amount of beef cattle. It seems to me that if the Minister accepts, as I hope he will accept—he has shown himself in a reasonable mood this afternoon and has already allowed us one crumb of comfort—the wider definition which my right hon. Friend has proposed, it will go not a very long way but a little way towards bringing about an increase of cattle on the hill or mountain farms, particularly stocks of cows, which I for one and many other Members on this side of the House wish to see. I eagerly await the words of the right hon. Gentleman, and, looking at his face, I feel sure he is going to accept this Amendment.

Sir Hugh O'Neill (Antrim)

I would like to support what the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) has said. I look upon his constituency as being the next one to mine. We are separated by a very narrow strip of water, but I regard Galloway and Antrim as being neighbouring constituencies. In my constituency we go in largely for Galloway cattle. I would emphasise what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir T. Dugdale) and other hon. Members regarding the necessity of providing a definition for hill farming land so as to carry cattle on that land. The Balfour Committee, which dealt with the question of hill farming in Scotland, and this Bill emphasise very strongly the necessity of providing sheep and cattle on hill land. For that reason the two should be taken together. We know that cattle grazing on hill land improves that land, and I hope that in view of what has been said on all sides of the House, the Minister of Agriculture will see his way to alter, in the sense we desire, the definition of hill farming land.

4.30 p.m.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross. Perth)

I support the Amendment, which I hope the Minister will accept. I have no doubt that an immense increase of cattle on the hills of Scotland will be the safeguard and salvation of Scottish agriculture. The incessant sheep feeding which has gone on has resulted in the land deteriorating over enormous areas, and the addition of cattle will put that right quicker than will anything else. One has only to consider the bracken menace, which in my opinion is entirely due to cattle having gone off the hills and sheep being put there in their place. In front of my own home there is a long stretch of hills which should be perfect grazing, but they are absolutely sheep-sick from end to end. Anything that will encourage the putting of cattle on to those hills and similar hills will bring untold benefit to agriculture in Scotland. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, who, I feel sure, is sympathetic to Scotland, will do his best to meet us in this respect. This is a very reasonable Amendment, and it would be a very valuable one if it were incorporated in the Bill.

Mr. T. Williams

Nothing would give me greater joy than to be able to say that I agree with every word uttered by every hon. Member opposite who has spoken, and also the words spoken by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). There are occasions, however, when an Amendment may be misconceived. It is true that this Amendment is almost a replica of one that was dealt with in Committee— [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."]—when an effort was made to extend the definition of hill farming. On that occasion, I quite properly promised hon. Members in all parts of the Committee that the question would be re-examined. The question has been fully re-examined, but I am satisfied, after all our consideration, that it would be undesirable to widen the scope of the Bill as limited by the definition in Clause 1, (3). Let me say at once that the omission of the word "cattle" from the definition has no meaning in that cattle are normally associated with hill farming, and, of course, if hon. Members will look at Clause 12, they will see that the right is taken by the Minister to introduce hill cattle and hill sheep subsidy schemes. That being the case, I ought to make the further observation that this is a Hill Farming Bill and not a marginal land Bill. If it had been the latter, I am sure the observations of most hon. Members would have been infinitely more pertinent than they are with regard to this Bill.

I will give the reasons why I think my decision is the correct one. First, no satisfactory definition of marginal land can be devised, if only for the reason that the conception of what is marginal land will be bound to vary from time to time in accordance with changes in the economic situation of agriculture. Even in the case of farms at present generally accepted as near marginal in character, no hard and fast line could be drawn, because between the marginal and the non-marginal they tend to merge one into the other almost imperceptibly by degrees. Therefore, without a satisfactory definition of hill farming land, administration would become well nigh impossible. Secondly, if marginal lands were included, it would be impossible to set a hard and fast rule between marginal lands in the hill farming districts and marginal farms in other hill districts, such as the chalk downs in the South of England. This Amendment would actually apply to any rough grazing in any part of the country. The rough heath land which is found, for instance, on Thetford Heath in East Anglia, and the sandy areas in Surrey, could hardly be excluded if the Amendment were adopted. Thirdly, in point of fact—and here, I believe, there is some misunder- standing—a good deal of marginal land in hill farming areas will come within the scope of the Bill as at present constructed. Clause 1 (1) provides that the Minister may approve schemes for making improvements for the benefit of hill farming land as defined or of other land suitable for use therewith for hill farming purposes. I am afraid many hon. Members have failed to read those words and get the right significance of them. The term "hill farming purposes" includes many other activities carried on in conjunction with hill sheep farming. Clearly, this will include improvements to intakes. It is also possible to carry out improvements where sheep walks are several miles distant from the holdings proper, provided, of course, they are designed to facilitate activities which are usually associated with hill farming. It may include even the keeping of a dairy herd, and certainly it will cover the rearing and maintenance of hardy cattle. On the other hand, marginal farms in hill areas where no sheep walk is attached would be completely excluded. The problem of purely marginal farms is admittedly an extremely difficult one, but it is not necessarily related exclusively to hill farming. I have reached the conclusion, therefore, that to widen the scope of this Bill would tend to defeat the object which we all have in mind. After all, the object of the Bill is to provide for the improvement of hill farms.

There has been some criticism that Clause 1, Subsection (3), lines 3 and 4, might be employed to exclude land which by improvement could be made suitable to carry sheep of less hardy kinds. I can say that there is no such intention. Actually the phrase is used in the Bill to cover certain lands, such as the deer forests in Scotland, which carry no sheep at all, but which could be made to carry sheep if appropriate improvements were made. To sum up, it seems to me that the Bill as drafted will enable us to achieve the object we have in mind—the rehabilitation of hill farms. To accept the Amendment would widen the scope to an unacceptable extent, and for that reason, and the fact that there is a limitation on the cash made available for this Bill, I hope that hon. Members having had this fairly comprehensive explanation, will not feel disposed to press the Amendment to a Division.

Mr. Turton

I am not at all satisfied with the Minister's reply. I think he is under a delusion that this Amendment is the same Amendment as was moved in Committee on the subject of marginal land. What actually is this Amendment? We have used in it the wording of the remit to the Balfour Committee and the De La Warr Committee that dealt with hill and upland sheep farming. Their terms of reference were to investigate the present position of hill and upland sheep farming and suggest measures which might be taken to improve the condition of hill and upland grazing. That was the remit on which were founded the reports which is the origin of the Bill, and we suggest that this wording should be used for the definition. The Minister has admitted that his definition is not satisfactory. He has had to pray in aid different Clauses in an effort to show that his intentions are honourable, although they do not succeed.

It may be that our wording, based on the remit to the Balfour Committee, is not satisfactory. We have not had an argument from the Minister that it is not. He says that we were under a misapprehension because we had forgotten that in Clause 1, he has brought in other lands suitable for use for hill farming purposes. He says thereby that intakes are brought in only if farmed together with a sheep strain. I know that the position in Scotland is that 100 per cent. of the farmers will qualify, so that there is no real worry in Scotland over this definition. It is when we get to the unfortunate English farmers that we find it is not a question of 100 per cent. or even 50 per cent. As has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) fewer than 20 per cent. of the hill farmers in England will qualify because unlike those in Scotland they are not big men owning large acres of land for winter fodder. They are small men; most of them, through force of circumstances, have given up their strains and they are living on intake from the moorland that their forefathers took that is not fief but that is on the slope of the hill. Unless the Minister, by this definition, can alter the position, they cannot improve that intake land.

What is that intake land? At the present time it is covered with bracken. I have here the De la Warr Report which I thought we were trying to carry out. What does it say under paragraph 65 about this? It says: Over large areas, including intakes and useful lower hill slopes, bracken now causes serious restriction of grazing, interference with shepherding, and a habitat associated with infestation by the tick, blow-fly, and chafer beetle. That is a great problem which we in Parliament have to help to solve by this Bill. It is these small men who have not the capital who need the help of this Bill to improve their intake holdings and to eradicate the bracken. This House can help by altering this definition—or we can be helped by another place. While Scotland is to receive its full value for money, England is to receive only a very small proportion. This affects Yorkshire, I know full well, and it also affects our sister county of Lancashire. Why are these men to be excluded by this definition? With our limited resources we have gone back to the definition which the Government themselves used when they tried to define the problem. I must say that I regard the Minister's explanation on that point as entirely unsatisfactory. Then he goes on to say that he has not included cattle because the word "cattle" was used in Clause 12. But Clause 12 is an entirely different point; it does not deal with these schemes for improvement of hill farming land but with the scheme for subsidies. No court will hold that because in Clause 12 cattle are included a definition of hill farming land in Clause 1 that excludes cattle can be regarded as including cattle. Here Parliament is saying in Clause 1 that hill farming land means certain types of land that is used for the maintenance of sheep of a hardy kind, not of cattle, and even if the Minister cannot give us our main point on upland grazing I do hope he will have second thoughts on this question of cattle.

There is no party division in this matter, all of us who have knowledge of hill farming know that the cattle are its salvation. Let us therefore put them in. Let us not describe it as "hill sheep farming." It is not hill sheep fanning but hill farming. It would not hurt the Minister to give way on this; it would not cost a penny and would not mean that England received very much more money than Scotland. It would mean that England would receive equal treatment with Scotland. I realise the Minister's difficulty. He does not wish to see English farmers get an undue proportion; he would have the Secretary of State for Scotland watching him closely in that respect. But let us be fair about this and try to help the English hill farmer as well as his Scottish counterpart, an aim in which with the best of intentions, the Minister is not at present succeeding.

One other small point is that the Minister has told us that land is included "which by improvement could be made so suitable," and that this is meant to include the Scottish deer forest that now supports deer but could be improved to support sheep. He may intend that, but the construction a court might place upon it might be entirely different. In an earlier stage the Secretary of State for Scotland gave a different interpretation. He said that it was not really meant to exclude land that could be improved so that it could support sheep that were better than a lot of the hardy kind—the half-breed. Could not we have it clear? The definition that the House is considering now says, "Upland land which by improvement could be made suitable for grazing purposes." That makes it quite clear, but it is not clear as drafted by the Minister.

Finally, may I revert again to the great controversy in Scotland: What is meant by "sheep of a hardy kind?" It really comes down to the Scots and therefore Scotland will always win although in Yorkshire we have better sheep than the Scots. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] If hon. Members want confirmation they should go to the markets and see the prices they make. That is the answer. I am not going to enter into an argument, but the argument can always be tested in an auction ring. We have improved our land so that it will support sheep that will carry more flesh. Why should we in Yorkshire and in England as a whole receive less justice under this Bill than those in Scotland. I hope the Minister will reconsider his decision.

445 p.m.

Mr. Snadden

I should like to say a few words in case anyone should imagine that we in Scotland are to get away with 100 per cent. under this Bill. I think the Minister's fundamental difficulty is that he is up against the very acute difference between Scottish physical conditions and those obtaining in England and Wales. That is a very good argument why we should have a separate Scottish Bill and why our friends South of the Border should have a definition applying to their particular regional circumstances. It is quite true that in Scotland our problem is much simpler. We have our sharp pointed hills with their black faced sheep, the round ones with the Cheviot sheep, and their crosses breed quite the best sheep in Britain. The buyers come up from my hon. Friend's county and take them back to feed them off the pastures of Yorkshire. I feel that quite apart from the difficulty in getting a definition— which could be done only by Regulation which itself would be difficult—I think the right hon. Gentleman should take into account this question of identifying cattle with the hill farm. I happen to be connected with what is, I imagine, perhaps the largest enterprise of its kind in Britain today owning many sheep farms and thousands of sheep, and we look upon our cattle as part of our sheep economy. Since we have increased the head of our cattle we have increased the stock carrying capacity of our sheep because they bring the pastures for the sheep to eat. Sheep and cattle go together and cannot be separated, as my hon. Friend has said. I have talked about this business of cattle in the hills in this House for the last 10 years. The object is to increase the stock carrying capacity of sheep and at the same time preserve or supply a reservoir of cattle from the hills down below. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree to insert these words, in order to identify cattle with the Bill, because cattle, to my mind, are just as important as sheep.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for his explanation. I cannot say that it convinced either me or my hon. Friends. After all, the Bill is experimental, and time will show. We have not convinced the Minister by our arguments, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.