HC Deb 20 January 1953 vol 510 cc11-3
12. Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer his reasons for refusing to make use of International Bank facilities for development in the Highlands of Scotland, in view of the urgent social and economic needs in this area.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I do not consider it desirable to add to our external debt by Governmental borrowing for development in the United Kingdom.

Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton

In view of the fact that several European countries have received large loans from this source, and since loans have to be made through the Government, according to Bank rules, is not my right hon. Friend saying, by inference, that Scotland is penalised in this respect by not having a separate Government of her own?

Mr. Butler

No, I would not say that. Scotland is extremely well looked after by the Secretary of State for Scotland. I can assure my noble Friend that I will do my best to listen to the views of the Secretary of State in all matters in which Scottish development is concerned.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is it not a fact that there is no need to go to the International Bank and that there are Scottish banks which made enormous profits last year as a result of the increase in the Bank rate? Is not one of the great difficulties of local authorities in the Highlands and the Lowlands the great increase in the rate of interest which the people of Scotland have had to pay as the result of this policy?

Mr. Butler

The hon. Gentleman may be surprised to hear that the policy has had some very beneficial results.

13. Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will now detail his proposals for the financing of development projects in the Highlands of Scotland, in view of the undertaking which Her Majesty's Government have given to finance development projects in Commonwealth countries overseas.

Mr. R. A. Butler

The existing facilities for financing suitable development in the United Kingdom, including the Highlands of Scotland, are adequate to provide for such investment as we can afford.

Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton

Will the Chancellor bear in mind that the Highlands of Scotland contain at least 10 million acres of the most under-developed land in the Empire and that if it were developed by modern methods this land could very materially relieve the food situation in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Butler

I am fully aware of this, and that is why the Government have engaged in marginal land and other schemes, and have done their best with the Scottish Hydro-Electric Board and in scheduling a development area in the Highlands all for the purpose of helping this area.

Mr. Grimond

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that, in spite of what has been done, one of the most serious handicaps on all forms of Highland development is still lack of capital? Can he give us some indication that further steps are being taken, and that the Government will consider the setting up of a development board to supply this capital?

Mr. Butler

I cannot go further today than to say that the needs of the Highlands are always in our minds.

Sir D. Robertson

My right hon. Friend referred to Highland development. Can he say why no single firm has been introduced into that area since the Government came into power and can he tell the House whether the Government have the will?

Mr. Butler

The reply to the latter part of my hon. Friend's vehemence is "Yes, Sir" and the answer to the former part is that no firm has yet applied.

Mr. John MacLeod

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the crofter counties are reaching a situation where they are unable to accept the 75 per cent. grant because they are unable to raise the extra 25 per cent. through the rates?