HC Deb 17 February 1953 vol 511 cc1058-60
5. Commander Donaldson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what major land drainage schemes for Scotland are under consideration; and in what areas it is proposed to implement them.

Mr. Snadden

My right hon. Friend is aware of a number of major land drainage projects which it would be desirable to undertake, but he is not at present in a position to carry them out. As he informed the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) on 10th February, my right hon. Friend is discussing with the interests concerned the lines of possible amending legislation to enable such problems to be dealt with.

Commander Donaldson

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether his right hon. Friend is also in close consultation with the Treasury on these matters?

Mr. Snadden

At the moment we are discussing with the interests concerned the legislation that may be necessary. I would not commit myself to saying that we have yet reached the stage of approaching the Treasury.

Mr. Manuel

Is the Minister aware that we have had this promise for a very long time and that there is great agricultural loss through ground being continually flooded? Can he give some promise as to when the necessary legislation will be brought forward?

Mr. Snadden

I am aware of the potential reclaiming of many thousands of acres which we hope to get under a major scheme. But this is an extremely complicated piece of legislation involving long discussions and very technical questions. I can assure the hon. Member that we are getting on with it as fast as we can.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

If it is a matter of finance, will the Minister consider, if necessary, changing over finance made available to certain schemes not of the same priority in favour of these very important drainage schemes?

Mr. Snadden:

That is a matter which would have to be considered with the Treasury.

21. Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how much of the 400,000 acres of agricultural land which could be reclaimed in Scotland by a comprehensive drainage scheme has been reclaimed during the last 12 months.

Mr. Snadden

According to the Report of the Duncan Committee, it is estimated that some 200,000 acres of agricultural land in Scotland could be improved by arterial drainage works. I regret that information as to the number of acres actually improved during 1952 is not readily available, but 156 voluntary schemes proposed by owners and occupiers of agricultural land, and affecting a total area of 9,000 acres, were approved during the year.

Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Secretary of State for Scotland told me about a year ago that there were 400,000 acres which could be reclaimed in Scotland by comprehensive drainage schemes? Is he aware further that by mechanical drainage it is possible to reclaim from 50 acres to 70 acres a day? Is he further aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he would do his best to listen to the Secretary of State for Scotland in so far as Scottish developments were concerned, and would he approach my right hon. Friend to ask him to do his best in this respect?

Mr. Snadden

The figure I quoted of 200,000 acres is the most recent official figure given to us by a committee set up to examine this question—the Duncan Committee. With regard to the second part of my noble Friend's supplementary question, we are very much aware of what can be done by major drainage schemes, and we are hoping to get legislation in due course to give us power to carry them out.

Mr. John MacLeod

Could my hon. Friend say what co-operation there is from local authorities?

Mr. Snadden

We have been consulting with the local authorities in regard to this question, and they have been very good in coming forward to give us their views.

Mr. Boothby

Is it not a bit late for views now? Does my hon. Friend not agree that this is about the most important capital expenditure we can undertake? Is not 9,000 acres a miserable total in relation to the amount which he himself says could be reclaimed?

Mr. Snadden

Of course, the 9,000 acres to which I referred really cover minor schemes. We require legislation to carry out major arterial drainage.