§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 12.55 p.m.
§ Sir David Robertson (Caithness and Sutherland)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
My first duty should be to pay tribute to Governments representing both sides of the House, beginning with the Coalition Government which passed the first important Act in 1942 that brought into being the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. They also passed another very important Measure, the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945. These were of great moment to the Highlands, as I shall show, and so were all the subsequent Measures passed since 1945 which have brought about a transformation of the Highlands.
I want to make that perfectly clear, because I am asking for more and it would be most ungenerous if I did not acknowledge, for example, that agricultural Acts put our land in better heart and that our farmers and crofters are now more secure and our farm workers better paid and have greater security. The Crofters Commission, formed during the lifetime of this Parliament, has been in existence for eighteen months, and I have already seen benefits flowing from it. The Forestry Commission, too, is bringing great benefits to the Highland crofters. The fishing industry has benefited. Agriculture has made an almost spectacular success in the quality of its products, which cannot be beaten, and in their quantity, which is increasing every year.
I am sure that there is no doubt in any hon. Member's mind that all these Acts since 1942 have played a great part in bringing well-being, prosperity and employment to the Highland area. The Bill which I now place before the House restores a hitherto missing link in the chain to complete the work of all those Acts. What is the background for the Bill? It is depopulation. The seven crofter counties of Scotland have a tragic history. It has been alleged, though I have never seen it proved, that a good many years ago one-third of the people 1494 of Scotland lived in the crofter counties. Since records have been kept, there is certainly no doubt that in the late eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century over one-fifth of the population of Scotland lived in the Highland counties. Now only one-twentieth live there.
During that period when the population in the Highlands has been going down steadily, the populations of Scotland and of England have increased many times over. This has resulted in a complete imbalance. Scotland does not represent a happy picture, with 80 per cent. of its population concentrated in the Forth and Clyde area and this great and lovely territory in the Highlands so under-populated.
The Bill is designed to bring about the introduction of industry into the Highland towns. I am not seeking industry in the glens or anything that is not practicable. I have been living with this problem, not since 1949, as I was about to say, but since 1942 when I spoke on the Bill which created the North of Scotland Hydro-Electricity Board although I was then a London Member, because I urgently wanted power in the Highland area. We were by-passed in the Industrial Revolution because we had no coal, except for small pockets in Campbeltown at the tip of Kintyre and in Brora in Sutherland. People flocked from the Highlands into Glasgow, Edinburgh and the lowland area and into England and overseas. They made their contribution to the new countries which were developing. I make no complaint about that, but I complain very bitterly about the economic compulsion imposed on Highlanders. Nineteen children out of twenty in my constituency, in Caithness and Sutherland, have no chance of staying there.
When I was a London Member, a boy or girl leaving school in my constituency could choose from a thousand different vocations, with a thousand vacancies in every one. There is no hope of that for a child in the Highlands, unless there is a farm to inherit, or a croft, or a job on a farm, or a job in a fishing boat—but we do not all want jobs like that.
What is the alternative? Hydroelectricity—power. That has brought us into the picture, and I should like to pay tribute to the Hydro-Electric Board for 1495 what it has done. It is the only Board dealing with the Highlands—other than those connected with agriculture—which has made progress in its works. Hon. Members will probably recall that in Section 2 (3) of the Act which created the Board there appear these words:The Board shall, so far as their powers and duties permit, collaborate in the carrying out of any measures for the economic development and social improvement of the North of Scotland District or any part thereof.In my judgment, it has done that, and here I must speak of something in which I have an interest. The Brora Coal Mine would not be in existence today were it not for the generous support which the Hydro-Electric Board have given in accepting the mine's dross. The problem of selling dross in a non-industrial area was a hopeless one, but the Board accepted our dross; and when we got to the stage when penal rail freights made it impossible to sell at other than a loss, the Board again supported us financially and helped in the erection of the buildings and plant.
The Distribution of Industry Act of 1945 has been very successful in the Lowland Development Area, with Glasgow as the centre; in West Cumberland, where a most notable success was achieved in almost a rural area; in South Wales, and in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Success had attended those efforts, but not the Highland Development Area created under that Act in 1949.
On Tuesday of this week I asked the President of the Board of Trade:… how many new factories or industrial plants working full time all the year round have been established in towns in the crofter counties since 1st April, 1949, to the latest convenient date, giving the number in each town.The reply to that was:According to the latest available information, eight new factory buildings each of over 5,000 square feet for manufacturing industries have been completed in the crofter counties since 1st April, 1949. The towns in or near to which these factories are situated and the number in each town are: Muir of Ord 1, Lochy Bridge 1, Tomatin 1, Wick 1, Stornoway 1, Inverness 2, Uig, Skye 1.On the same day, I asked the Minister of Labour:… how many persons are in regular full-time employment in such factories and industrial 1496 plants working full time all the year round as have been established in towns in the crofter counties since 1st April, 1949.The reply I got was:About 770 people are now working full-time in establishments engaged in manufacturing industry and normally open all the year round."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March. 1957; Vol. 566, cc. 152–9.]Eight factories in half of Scotland in eight years—770 people employed in half of Scotland. That is not success. It is complete and utter failure, and I would be failing in my duty as a Highland Member if I did not make that fact abundantly clear to this House.
The six counties of Northern Ireland, which are very similar to the seven Highland counties of Scotland, have made great progress. I, least of all, would begrudge it. I rejoice that this very serious problem of unemployment, which arose so clearly after the war, has been dealt with so efficiently. My Bill is modelled on the North of Ireland Development Council, a body of men who are selected by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, and who work in conjunction with the Department of Commerce and other Government Departments there.
They are greatly helped by five Acts passed by the Northern Ireland Government which offer much greater facilities and inducements to industrialists to open plants in Ulster—and they have taken full advantage of it. There are over 120 plants. Only a few of them are in Belfast. The rest are in Lurgan, Limavady, Portadown, Londonderry, Coleraine, Ballymena, Ballymoney and places like that.
These are very much smaller places than many of these old Highland towns, and when I speak of Highland towns I mean such places as Campbeltown in Argyll, Fort William, Inverness itself, Invergordon, Tain, Dornoch, Wick, Thurso, Stornoway, Kirkwall and Lerwick. They have been there for centuries, and most of them are steadily declining. There may be exceptions, but all are in need of light industries if they are to retain their people.
No country, and no large area of any country, can ever hold its people on a purely agricultural and fishing economy. Industry is the natural twin. If one looks at the map of England one sees, from 1497 the Cheviots to the Channel, one of the finest distributions. Wherever one goes there—with the exception of two blots, London and Birmingham, which are too big—one finds industry and agriculture. One does not find that in the Highlands.
To return to the Irish scene, the names of some of the firms that have opened plants there are household names. Great companies like the Dunlop Rubber Co.; General Motors; Bovril; Blackwood Morton's—making carpets and floor coverings; the British Thomson-Houston Company—building a plant costing millions to produce turbine blades and turbines; Courtaulds, making continuous viscose filaments and yarn, the English Sewing Cotton Company—I do not want to go on retailing names, but these are firms which have gone into an area very very similar to the one about which I am speaking. That area is much more handicapped because the Irish Sea has to be crossed. We have no barrier like that in the Highlands, yet our contribution, in these terms, is eight small factories with 770 people in them in eight years.
Of all the blessings that the Government gave to the Highlands, the greatest of all was the decision to site the atomic energy plant at Dounreay. I will be forever grateful to the Government for that, and so, I think, will everybody in Scotland, because it was a most courageous step to place the greatest and latest atomic energy plant in a remote place like the Pentland Firth.
We have no unemployment at present in my constituency. That is mainly due to Dounreay, and to the Shin Hydro Scheme at Lairg, but construction must soon end on the latter scheme. I imagine that it will end in twelve months or may be a little longer. When that happens, a large number of local men who have found lucrative and regular work will be idle. When Dounreay ends, the same thing will happen. Nearly 500 men are now being transported from 50 to 60 miles a day between Wick and Dounreay. What will they do when the work there comes to an end? There is no alternative industry for them in Caithness. The same will apply in Thurso.
We hope that the electronic industries may be attracted to work alongside the atomic energy station at Dounreay, in exactly the same way that the early industrialists clustered round the coal 1498 mines, the old source of power. That view has been expressed to me by some of the very fine officials at Dounreay. They feel that such firms cannot afford to be far from Dounreay because of the experimental work which will probably be carried out there, probably for the first time in the world.
We have failed. I include myself as one of the principal failures, for I have been living with this problem ever since 1949. I sympathise greatly with those others who have been failures in this business, while I deeply regret the failure. I know the problem is difficult, but it is not insoluble. One of the main causes of failure is the Board of Trade, which in other ways is so competent and helpful. When an industrialist considering expansion goes to the Board of Trade, in Glasgow, or Edinburgh, or Inverness or London, he finds competent officials willing to give the best possible advice and information to the incoming industrialist. I am certain that the Ministry of Labour does the same thing.
This problem of ours in the Highlands, however, is not one which can be solved so easily. It would be a miracle if it were. It is one which has to be fought. The solution has to be worked for. It is not a job any Government Department is set up to do. It is a commercial job. It means going out and selling the possibility of Highland development to an industrialist in Govan or Bridgeton, who has a factory in a slum area, and who wants business expansion but cannot expand his business there.
It is Government policy, supported, I believe, by the Opposition, to remove 300,000 people from the City of Glasgow. Nothing would make me rejoice more than that were it to be accomplished. I was born in the City of Glasgow, and I know its problems. I know the high price Scotland has paid in ill-health and in preventable disease because of overcrowding. I hope that my Bill, if it becomes law, will make some small contribution towards remedying that. There are many Highland people in the City of Glasgow and many of them would be glad to find employment in the North if they felt there would be security for them there. We cannot expect people to go to an area like that without industry. Industry must be there first. No man, married and with children, can give up 1499 his job in Glasgow and take the road to Inverness without first being sure that a livelihood awaits him there.
The Bill calls for the missing link to be supplied: industrialists. One of the troubles has been that in Scotland the men who could have done the job have not been present. They have not been on the various bodies concerned with the problem. I am asking the President of the Board of Trade, whose writ runs in Scotland as in England, to select a few men for the body I propose, a chairman and a deputy-chairman and not fewer than four and not more than ten other members. A body of six others may well do, or one of seven or eight or nine, but not more than ten.
There are many fine industrialists in the Lowland belt and in the central part of Scotland, men who are working in industry today, men who are successful in industry, men who know other people in industry, and who will be able to select industrialists to canvass, to induce them to take the road north and start new plants and enterprises there, or to transfer plant there.
I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Pollok (Mr. George) last night, "Do you think it would be difficult to get seven or eight or nine or ten men of this calibre, men untramelled and unburdened with other public affairs, men who are occupied with earning their livelihood, could devote themselves to this task, and men with devotion to their country?" They must have devotion to their country to inspire them for this job. The answer I got was, "A hundred times more than that." I could have answered my own question myself in the same way, but my hon. Friend has come out of Scotland more recently than I and I thought it desirable to get his opinion.
The Corporation will be based in Glasgow, because that is the capital of industry in Scotland. For this job there must be an executive machine. There must be men to advise and direct. My suggestion is that the machine should consist of four persons, a manager, an assistant manager and two girl secretaries.
The manager must be an unusual chap. There are plenty of unusual fellows. He must be a fellow of good character and ability. He must be imaginative and must have creative ability. There are 1500 not many people of creative ability, but there are some, and we have to find that type of fellow. We must put a stout heart to a stey brae. This man will probably have to call on twenty before he gets one to make the venture. But what does that matter? Eventually he will have success, and nothing succeeds like success. I know this work can be done. I am connected and my hon. Friend the Member for Pollok is connected with heavy industry. I am not asking anybody to undertake heavy industry. We have been in heavy industry and have survived, in mining coal, in manufacturing briquettes, ovoids and bricks.
Experts tell us that these bricks are the finest common bricks in Scotland and are selling at half the cost at which bricks were selling before we started to manufacture them, thus reducing the cost of houses.
I do not ask people to do that. I am asking people to follow their own trades, but to take them to the North. I say to them "Go in with your own capital, and with your experience and with your key men. We will provide the rest." When the second generation comes, we shall supply everything.
The Provost of Campbeltown is recorded in this week's newspapers as saying:We cannot rely on Governments to help us. People are leaving the town in droves. We have got to enter industry ourselves.That, I think, would be a tragic mistake. We have tried that in various places in the Highlands, and we have failed, for the very good reason that in the Highlands we know very little about industry. We have not got industry and we have not had industry. How can we be expected to know about it? We must find elsewhere the people who have the experience, the know-how, and the money, public spirited and commercial people, to move into the North.
My Bill asks for a sum not exceeding £20,000 a year to pay for the executive. I think that this is where the Government and I fall out. I know, of course, that one cannot in a Private Member's Bill ask for Exchequer funds without Government approval. Unhappily the Government have not given their approval.
1501 An article appeared in the Scottish newspapers last week. It was contributed by "the political correspondents", that anonymous body here; and we do not know them. There appeared this article on 8th March.
§ Sir D. Robertson
It appeared in the Glasgow Herald under these headlines:Highland Plan Unsupported. Government Attitude. From our Political Correspondents. Westminster, Thursday.The article said that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade was going to give the reasons why the Government could not support this Bill.
I have been regularly in communication with the Board of Trade for months on this matter—and also with the Scottish Office—and I was a little surprised that before the House was told, a Government announcement of opposition to a Private Member's Bill should be handed out to anonymous political correspondents and widely published in Scotland. I wrote to the President of the Board of Trade to express my surprise and dissatisfaction. I got a telephone message from him on Monday morning saying that he had taken no decision in this matter with the Ministers concerned.
I take very great exception to this kind of thing, and I think the whole House will support me, for my Bill had been read the First time and had been published and was due for Second Reading, and that notice could only be damaging to my Bill. There are many people, in addition to those in Inverness, willing and anxious to jump on the Government band waggon, unthinking, foolish people, who might succumb to this. I have been inundated with letters from many people commending the Bill and hoping that it will pass into law. But I do not need that to be convinced of how essential the Bill is. I know it, and nobody can seriously challenge it.
In my talks with the Ministers concerned, the President of the Board of Trade, the Parliamentary Secretary, and the Secretary of State for Scotland, to all of whom I am grateful, I have received nothing but courtesy. But all the time I have had the feeling that the attitude has been, "Let the status quo remain. 1502 For goodness' make do not change it; we might trample on somebody's toes." We can go on trampling on the people of the Highlands, depriving them of the benefits of Acts of Parliament passed by this House in the last fifteen years, but let us not do anything about it lest we upset somebody. Apparently, I have upset the Inverness County Council; but it has no cause for complaint, and I do not envisage using its area at all. The Provost of Inverness town, a place which I do intend to bring within the scope of the Bill, is enthusiastic.
I am told that another objection is that there are organisations in Scotland already doing the job. This is wholly untrue. There are other organisations, but not one of them is doing the job in the Highlands. The Scottish Council for Development and Industry has done very well in the Lowland and central area, but it has done nothing at all in the Highlands. Years have passed since 1945. Does the House expect me and my Highland colleagues to stand by any longer?
Money is the reason for the first Government objection. The second objection is that the Scottish Council-cum-Highland Panel is doing the job. The Scottish Council reorganised its Highland committee last year. Why did it reorganise it? Was it because it was making a flaming success of the job? Was it not because it was making a shocking failure? The reorganised committee has no industrialist of note upon it. It has, I believe, some retired men as members, and I am sure they are all good men. They have had two meetings in the last six months. At the first meeting the committee never discussed industry at all but went into the greatest of detail about the building of a ring road round the north-west of Scotland, which is mainly in my constituency. No ring road round the north of Scotland can be justified today, when we are killing thousands of people on the roads in the South where new roads are badly wanted. In the North-West, we have only scattered communities, and the roads we have are adequate though they could be better, and when money is available and could justly be claimed for the purpose, improvement could be carried out. I do not know what happened at the second meeting of the committee, but it certainly has not produced any effect. It is ineffec- 1503 tive; the machine is no good, and we must have a new one. The machine I am suggesting is bound to be effective. It will be concerned with the people who know how to do the job and with those who have the time and ability to carry it out.
It is amazing to me that a Government which I am proud to support and which I have been elected to support cannot see their way to using the taxpayer's money for this purpose. Those were the words—"using the taxpayer's money." I ask for a sum not exceeding £20,000. In fact, I believe that less than half that sum would amply cover it, but, naturally, in introducing legislation I have to look forward to expansion. The taxpayer's money cannot be used, they say. One wonders how much of the taxpayer's money has gone into development in Northern Ireland. What a wonderful return it has given, taking thousands of people and putting them into productive and creative industry, creating wealth and employment instead of letting them rot on unemployment benefit and National Assistance. It is all right for Northern Ireland, all right for Cardiff and the Glasgow area and elsewhere. Why is it not all right for the Highlands?
What a debt Scotland and Britain and the rest of the world owe to the Highlands! The Highlands have been a human stud farm for generations. My father, who was born in a croft schoolhouse, never saw his parents again after he left, nor did his brothers and sisters. This has been the lot of Highland families for generations; the best of them have gone. But there is a chance of keeping them. Children will stay if they have a chance. Some will go, and we must aid them to go, but to those who want to stay we must give a chance. This Bill will do that.
I know the Bill is supported by hon. Members on all sides of the House. Everyone who knows the Highland problem realises that every word I have said today is true. This Bill is the result of eight or nine years of intensive work, thought and reflection. I have come to the conclusions embodied in the Bill, and I greatly regret and resent any action by the Government which may kill this Bill today.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
I beg to second the Motion.
This is a historic occasion, because as I look round the Chamber it appears to me that a Scottish Parliament has at last come into being. Because of that, I want to offer a very warm welcome to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade and assure him that we do not regard him as at all out of place as the solitary Englishman upon either Front Bench.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) and I are in the same boat today. In moving the Second Reading of the Bill he was not speaking for his party, and in seconding it I am not speaking for my party. He did not like relying wholly on Governments to help him, he said. In making a short reference to that remark, I shall not be contentious.
This is an occasion on which we want both sides of the House to speak for Scotland, not because we necessarily agree thatNever but by Scottish handsShall Scottish wrangs be rightedbut because we realise that, in bringing this Bill before the House, we are seeking to use money, however small the amount, which does not wholly belong to Scotland. It is somewhat illogical for the hon. Gentleman not to rely on Governments when he is asking a Government to give him £20,000 to further the progress of his Bill and its purpose. We would qualify his statement by saying that there are some Governments on which one cannot rely. In so far as the hon. Gentleman was critical of what his own Government have not done to assist the development of industry in the Scottish Highlands, he has the full support of the Opposition.
What he said about the Scottish Council for Development and Industry has been reinforced by certain criticisms which I have observed in the Scottish Press. The Glasgow Herald of 12th March, while paying tribute to what has been done by the Scottish Council in the way of development in the Lowlands, pointed out that in the past ten years over 30 million square feet of new factory space had been built and occupied, providing jobs for 130,000 men and women. 1505 We all join in paying our tribute to the work which the Council has done. The Glasgow Herald, however, goes on to point out, I hope with a note of regret, that now thatthe Distribution of Industry Act is a dead letterMr. W. S. Robertson, the Secretary of the Council, is about to leavefor the United States and Canada to seek new firms prepared to establish plants in Scotland. At the same time, the Council is attacking the problem of how to secure a wider distribution of industry, and so of jobs in the expanding mining areas and in the Highlands.Here we have at least one voice of the Tory party in the west of Scotland supporting the contention of the hon. Member that the Scottish Council has failed in the matter of industrial development in the Highlands.
The following day, in a leader, the same newspaper pointed out thatThe only points within the Highlands proper at which Government money has been spent on the erection of factories to rent are the Longman industrial estate at Inverness and at Inverasdale, in Wester Ross, which is now the site of a small tractor plant run by Mr. John Rollo.It should be pointed out, however, that those factories, made possible by Government money, are being run very successfully, and in paying tribute to the Council for its work we should also pay tribute to the work which has been carried out on industrial lines as a result of Government-sponsored factories.
The hon. Member said that it appeared that one of the main objections was that the Government were being asked to provide the money to finance the commencement of this project. Money is not really a Government objection. If they have that objection it justifies the comment which is being made in many circles that the Government have found no difficulty at all in setting aside £12 million for the creation of a rocket range in the Hebrides, where military interests are concerned, but it seems that when it comes to providing the wherewithal for domestic development even a poultice will hardly draw the necessary money from the Treasury.
As the hon. Member said in introducing the Bill, we should look at the general picture which now exists in the Highlands. Unlike the hon. Member, I 1506 do not look to private capital alone for a salvation of the Highlands problem. I think that that must come from a wider sense of public ownership and a wider investment of capital from public sources although, like good Scotsmen, we are not prepared to refuse money from whatever source it comes.
There is a need for an overall development plan. In producing it we should look at what has been accomplished. I shall not go into detail in any of these matters, but the main sources of employment are fishing and its ancillary industries. These have not been sufficiently exploited. Then there is agriculture. We have over 3 million acres of deer forest in the Highlands, only half of which is at all suitable for grazing, with a great deal of marginal land. There is the problem of the balance between sheep and cattle. In many quarters it is claimed that there are too many sheep and too few cattle in the Highlands, but there we are up against the problem of winter feed, which will largely determine the amount of cattle that the land can carry.
Then there is forestry. It is probably true to say that the development of forestry is one of the great assets of the Scottish Highlands. It is anticipated that about 20,000 people will eventually find a livelihood in that industry. Tourism is another profitable source of income for the Highlands. And there we must never forget to pay tribute to "Nessie", because she has a most remarkable foresight. She times her initial appearance on the surface of Loch Ness with the advent of the tourist season. I hope that we shall always be able to drink a toast to her health and her continued long life.
Having looked at these sources of wealth and employment, we come to the problem with which the hon. Member has dealt—of getting industry into the Highlands; because it is industry which fixes a population. It is industry around which the amenities of civilisation grow, and the people in the Highlands want those amenities as much as anyone else. As the hon. Member recognises, my hon. Friends have long been concerned about this problem. Some time ago the Scottish Trades Union Congress pressed for the creation of a Highlands development corporation which would have had much 1507 wider powers than those provided for the body to be set up in the Bill, which is largely advisory.
The creation of any body, advisory or otherwise, is wholly dependent upon the provision of the necessary capital. The Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party took the view that the corporation should be assigned the definite overall job of surveying the Highland scene and bringing forward the necessary plan for its development, with the proviso that the corporation would not be a permanent body but would disband itself as soon as its job had been completed, so that it would not interfere with the functions of local authorities.
We all know that one of the great problems in the Highlands is the scarcity of wealth. Minerals are few; the soil is not rich, and, as I have already said, cattle raising is not easy. In considering all this, however, we must realise that the problem is not peculiar to the Highlands; it is the problem which faces people in many other parts of the country and, indeed, in other countries all over the world. It is the problem of underdeveloped areas. The desires of the Highland people are the desires of people all over the world. They want to know how they are to get work; how they are to get houses and enjoy the amenities of life and obtain education for their children.
As the hon. Member pointed out, if these things are not to be obtained in the Highlands then the people in the Highlands will simply move steadily away from the area into those parts of the country where they can find them. If we are to assure them of these things then we come back every time to the need for the capital, which is essential to provide them. My view is that it should come largely from the public purse, because we must have control of the necessary development.
It is, therefore, simple to state the issue: how are we to get people to remain in the Scottish Highlands? Over the years many of them have come to Glasgow. That emphasises the point that we do not escape from paying for a solution of the problem, for if we do not solve it in the Highlands we have to solve it in the City of Glasgow. There are now 1508 300,000 people too many in that city. The steady flow over the years of people from the Highlands has contributed to that.
Since it takes about £50 million to build one new town, then we shall be faced with an overwhelming bill to build the six which are necessary to deal with this overspill of 300,000. If we do not pay to solve the problem in the North, in the Highlands, we shall pay in the Lowlands. If capital is to be found to deal with that and to keep people in the Highlands, it must come from outside the Highlands, because they themselves are short of capital.
In helping towards a solution of our problem, the Bill seeks to create the work and to provide the homes. I want to refer to a suggestion which I made in the House nearly ten years ago, on the question of education. I have said previously that one way of helping to keep people in any area is to educate them in that area. The job and the home will help to keep them there, but even if the job and the home are available, if the growing generation has to leave the Highlands, as it does, for Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen to finish its education, then in very many cases these young people will not return to the Highlands.
I asked nearly ten years ago that we should think of a fifth university for Scotland, that it should be built in Inverness and that it should be residential. It would be the first university of its type in Scotland. As a residential university it would perhaps help to bring people from all over the world to Scotland to counterbalance those who, despite all the amenities and facilities we provide, leave the Highlands. After all, we do not want people to remain there all the time; we want them to move about the world. If we had a university of that type, not only would it be able to train the technicians, technologists and others necessary to staff the industries we want to put there, but in my view it would help to bring more Scots people from other parts of the world who might remain as permanent residents in that part of our country.
I believe that civil aviation has an important part to play in providing the amenities. If we expect people to stay in Stornoway and other places where 1509 surface transport to the South is not fast, then we must provide transport by other ways—and transport by air is the method which lies to hand. If it is possible for a married couple in Glasgow to arrange their Saturday so that the husband attends a football match, the wife goes to see the shops, they meet for tea, then to the pictures and back home, we should try to make that possible, too, for the couple living in Stornoway. The instrument in this case is the aeroplane. They could fly down in an hour. The husband could go to the football match in the afternoon, the wife to see the shops; they could meet for tea, go to the pictures and then fly back to Stornoway the same night.
That can be done now, but it will be done only if we bring the fare within the pockets of the people living in the Highlands. That means subsidies. I am sure that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, who is appealing for a subsidy, will not turn down the idea of a subsidy to meet that natural human demand, particularly when he wishes to see the amenities of life improved in the Highlands.
§ Sir D. Robertson
I must make it plain that I am asking for no subsidy. I am relying on the Distribution of Industry Act, the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act and the Development Corporations funds, which are available. I have a very great hope that private enterprise will play its part substantially.
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)
Before my hon. Friend builds any more universities and subsidises any more air flights, will he not agree that these things are an outcome of an industrial basis having been established in the North? They come after the benefits of this Bill, if it is to have any effect, have been achieved in practice.
§ Mr. Rankin
I will not argue at this stage whether the hen or the chicken comes first. The fact is that the Highlands are deficient in capital. No one will disagree with that. If the Highlands are to be developed, they must get capital and it must come from outside. If that capital is to be found it will be used in industrial development, and if we are to try to keep people living there, then 1510 together with the industrial development must come the amenities. That is why I suggest that if we have all the big football matches in Glasgow people will come to see them somehow; and that we should make it easy for them to do so and not isolate the family in the outermost parts of the country. This is a point which we must keep before us.
We want four things for the people in the Highlands, if they are to remain there—work, homes, amenities and education. If those things are not provided, and if their provision is not to be helped by us, we shall be faced with the continuous, slow depopulation of that part of the country, and in the end, if we have not paid the bill in the northern part of the country, we shall have to pay it in the Lowlands.
I do not know what will happen to the Bill, but I am sure that, whatever its fortune may be, hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that not sufficient capital development on industrial lines is being carried out in the Highlands of Scotland. I am sure that today we in this House will unite in pressing the Government to remedy that defect, and, if we succeed in doing that, it will have been worth while bringing this small Bill before the House.
§ 1.50 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. F. J. Erroll)
It might, perhaps, be helpful if I were to intervene at this stage to state the Government's attitude towards the Bill. My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland hopes to intervene later for the purpose of dealing with some of the wider matters raised during the debate. For my part, I shall concern myself more with the Bill itself. I might say that I feel reasonably at home in what the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin) described as a Scottish Parliament, surrounded as I am almost entirely by Scottish Members.
The promoter of the Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson), made what I am sure we all agree was an extremely moving and passionate appeal for industrial development in the North of Scotland. His words command especial respect, because we know that he has 1511 always practised what he is now preaching to us. His advice is not the empty advice of a man of theory, but the advice of a man of practice who, by his own efforts, has brought some important industrial enterprises to the North of Scotland.
As worded, the Bill would make the North of Scotland Development Corporation apply to any enterprise and not exclusively to industrial enterprises. But I understand from the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland that, nevertheless, he intends that the Corporation should be concerned primarily with industrial development in the North of Scotland and, particularly, with private enterprise industrial development. He made it plain that he does not seek subsidised enterprise for the North of Scotland.
The purpose of the Corporation, as stated in Clause 2, isto assist and encourage economic and industrial developmentin the North of Scotland. However, I must point out that, according to the Bill, the Corporation isto tender advice and make recommendations to the Minister … as to the rendering of any financial or other assistance which appears … to be requisite or desirable…Therefore, the Corporation would, in fact, have powers considerably wider than those suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland.
With the general objective of securing suitable development in the North of Scotland, I am sure that we all agree. The proposed aim of the Corporation, to assist and encourage further development, is, therefore, most laudable. The Corporation would be essentially an advisory body, or, possibly, a "ginger" group. It would not, as I understand from the Bill and from the introductory speeches, be a body actually carrying out industrial or other development work itself. It would be a piece of advisory or consultative machinery, and I feel that I should, therefore, explain briefly to the House the machinery in Scotland which is already charged with the general duties which the Bill proposes to give to the now Corporation.
In the first place, the Board of Trade is responsible for securing the proper distribution of industry throughout Great 1512 Britain and for guiding new industry, so far as it can, into those areas which are most suitable in the national interest. As hon. Members will be aware, a new factory exceeding 5,000 square feet in area may not be erected without an Industrial Development Certificate having previously been granted by the Board of Trade.
All proposals for industrial expansion must, therefore, be made known to the Board of Trade at an early stage, and the Department is extremely active in persuading firms to consider locations where there is most need for industrial development. Secondly, the Board of Trade has special responsibilities for industrial expansion in the Development Areas, three of which are located in Scotland—as hon. Members well know, a large area around Glasgow in the lowlands, a small district around Dundee, and a large area in the North of Scotland which has Inverness as its centre.
The hon. Member for Govan spoke as though the Distribution of Industry Acts under which Development Areas are developed were dead. I can assure him that they are far from dead and that we at the Board of Trade are still operating them.
§ Mr. Rankin
I am sorry if I did not make it clear. I was quoting, I thought I said, from the Glasgow Herald, which said:for the present the Distribution of Industry Act is a dead letter.
§ Mr. Erroll
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but I am very glad to have a chance of correcting the Glasgow Herald in this case.
The Board of Trade, in pursuance of its policy, has a Controller in Glasgow who is an extremely capable and hardworking Scotsman. He has an expert office staff to cover the whole of Scotland, and there is also an office in Inverness to give particular attention to the Highlands. The Controller and his staff have a detailed knowledge of industrial sites, labour supply and all other facilities for industrial development, and, in my view, are doing an excellent job.
The Government have made considerable efforts to interest industry in the North of Scotland, and here I should like to quote some figures which, although 1513 different from those mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland, serve to show the amount of development which is taking place. Since 1945, over 50 industrial projects have been established in, or are planned for, the Highlands and Islands. Twelve of these factories have been assisted with Government finance and, together with some 40 privately-financed projects, are already providing about 1,300 jobs between them. We estimate that over 1,300 further jobs can be expected to be provided when all these developments are fully manned.
§ Mr. Erroll
I could not say exactly, but, obviously, they will come into operation over a period—each one separately.
§ Mr. Johnston
I do not ask the Minister to say exactly when, but could he say whether they will be fully manned before 1960, 1965 or 1970?
§ Mr. Erroll
I should not care to give an exact date at this stage.
Some of these factories are admittedly small ones, and some, such as the herring meal factories, do not operate all the year round, but I think that the record shows that the efforts of both Governments are slowly but surely bringing results.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
The Minister said that 12 of the factories came under Government assistance. Is he aware that the Government have stopped this assistance in Scotland against the advice of the excellent Controller of the Board of Trade, to whom the hon. Gentleman paid very proper compliments?
§ Mr. Erroll
I am aware that that is an opinion which has been put forward, but it is not necessarily the case.
§ Mr. Erroll
The case would really be the subject of a separate debate, but I may say, briefly, that we consider on their merits projects put forward at the present time. It would, I think, however, be wrong to look for any spectacular changes despite the development which has taken place in the area, the atomic energy project at Dounreay always excepted.
1514 As my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland referred to the project I should like to explain that although, of course, there is a large body of labour employed at present on construction it will not, in fact, be the case that the total numbers employed will go right down after the construction is completed. I have been supplied by the Atomic Energy Authority with some figures which, I think, are of particular interest in this matter. By March, 1958, the A.E.A. expect the total staff employed at Dounreay to be 1,300, of whom 700 will be locally engaged and about 600 brought in from elsewhere. Four years later, by 1961–62, they expect about 2,500 total staff to be employed, of whom 900 will be locally employed, and about 1,600 imported staff. The figure of 2,500 looks like being a permanent figure, and together with the families, represents about 5,500 immigrants altogether. All these people will require the provision of services which, in turn, will provide additional local employment.
The hon. Member for Govan mentioned education. I think that in this connection it is worth pointing out that the Caithness education authorities are already embarking on a programme of school building not only for the purpose of housing immigrant children, but also to provide technical education for the local children with an eye to their employment by the Authority in the future.
§ Mr. Erroll
I will leave that to my hon. Friend to deal with later.
Apart from Government Departments, there are several voluntary advisory bodies which are actively engaged in fostering industrial development in Scotland and which are particularly concerned with development in the North of Scotland. I should like to mention these in some detail, as they have been referred to, perhaps rather unkindly, by my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland. There are two particularly concerned with industry. The first is the Scottish Council.
Last year the Scottish Council examined the problem. In agreement with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's Advisory Panel on the Highlands and Islands 1515 —I expect that most hon. Members in the House know that this body effectively co-ordinates the efforts of all the agencies which work in that area—the Council took steps to strengthen its organisation not, as suggested, by reappointing but by appointing a Highland Industrial Committee, with a special staff. This Committee sits under the Chairmanship of Lord Clydesmuir, who is a director of Colville's and other companies and the Committee includes members with wide experience both of industry and of the Highlands.
Secondly, there is the Scottish Board for Industry with a Highlands and Islands District Committee. This Board was appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and includes representatives of both sides of industry, which I think is important, and meets regularly each month. My hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland said that these and other bodies are ineffective for the purpose of bringing industry to the North of Scotland. This must be a matter of opinion, but I would point out that the Highland Industrial Committee was appointed only last year and that, in view of the excellent record of the Scottish Council in Scotland as a whole, there is every reason to hope that the Highland Industrial Committee will succeed in its task.
The House will appreciate from what I have said that there is already in existence both official and voluntary machinery for performing the very tasks which this Bill would give to the proposed corporation. In addition, the Board of Trade has special responsibilities for the Development Areas in Scotland, including the provision of factories to let, and we are actively using those powers.
In those parts of the Highlands outside the Development Areas local authorities may build factories and in some cases they may get financial help from the Development Fund. Hon. Members may, therefore, well think that it would be wrong for the House to impose upon Scotland a further piece of advisory machinery. I think, too, that it is only right to point out that opinion in Scotland is not unanimously behind the proposed corporation.
The Inverness County Council has already been quoted by my hon. Friend. 1516 It was reported as saying on Friday last that it had decided not to support the proposed corporation and would so inform Members of Parliament. Although my hon. Friend may say that this Bill is not intended to apply to the County of Inverness, the fact remains that it is the county that is named in the Bill, so I think that the county council is quite entitled to express an opinion on the merits of the proposed corporation.
I do not want to make too much of newspaper cuttings, but in the short time that the Bill has been published we must, to some extent, rely on opinion as expressed in the newspapers. I might refer the House to the Glasgow Herald, of 14th March. A brief quotation is as follows:What is now proposed is, in fact, a duplication of services. In the past year the Scottish Council have added to their Committee structure a group with almost exactly the same remit as that which Sir David Robertson would give to his new and separate corporation. Parliament may well prefer to leave the task to the organisations already in the field; it would prevent a deal of confusion and, possibly, disagreement.
§ Mr. Rankin
I think that the hon. Gentleman, if he is fair, would agree that the Glasgow Herald has given a modified blessing to the Bill.
§ Mr. Erroll
I should not like to weary the House by reading all of the quotation, but I think I should pinpoint opinion that is being formed against the corporation, as hon. Members will doubtless make the most of the opinion which is favourable to the corporation.
So that I can try to maintain my reputation for fairness, such as it is, I should like to read out one more sentence:But the gesture was worth making, and no other Highland M.P. could make it with such a flourish or command more attention.
§ Mr. Erroll
The Scottish Daily Express of Wednesday, 13th March, under the heading "This Won't Help", said:… a Bill to set up a North of Scotland Development Corporation will merely duplicate the work being done by half a dozen other bodies… Together, they cover every aspect of Highland needs. There is nothing left for Sir David's proposed Corporation to do—except compete for funds, which are scarce enough as it is.1517 As I said, I do not want to make too much of these expressions of opinion. I merely mention them to show that there are other views to be considered.
Clause 4, as hon. Members will have noticed, is printed in italics because it is dependent on a Financial Resolution being tabled by the Government. The proposal is that the Government should provide money to pay the salaries of a small staff to be employed by the corporation and, if I have read the Bill correctly, it should also pay the travelling expenses of the members of the corporation itself. There is no suggestion that the members of the corporation should be paid anything apart from their travelling expenses. A maximum figure of £20,000 in one year has been set for all expenditure.
At a time when it is essential to watch carefully all forms of public expenditure, it would be impossible, in view of the existing machinery to which I have already referred, to justify paying out more public money for servicing a further organisation such as the corporation proposed in the Bill. From what I have said, therefore, I hope that the House will accept the Government's decision that, on the information before it, they cannot see their way to tabling a Financial Resolution in connection with this Bill.
The Government desire to see suitable industrial development wherever this is practicable and they will continue to do what they can to set up factories in the North of Scotland. I have examined the existing machinery for providing advice and for acting on it. I believe it to be adequate for the task and that no useful purpose would be served by imposing a further advisory body on the existing structure.
§ 2.10 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
The debate has been extremely interesting, but the effect of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said is that since the Government are not prepared to move the necessary Financial Resolution this Bill cannot become an Act of Parliament. We must therefore return to discussing the problem of Highland development as outlined by the speech of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson).
1518 I think that he has done a service to this House and to the Highlands by once more focusing attention on the Highlands. He has done another service, incidentally, because the Parliamentary Secretary, in replying, while he has not blessed the Bill, has given a succinct and clear outline of what organisations exist to contribute to the solution of this problem. The trouble which faces the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, and indeed all those who have ever examined this problem, is that the multiplicity of organisations have not achieved the result for which people hoped. While the Board of Trade has done all that lay within its duty in this matter, this problem is one which does not fit in with the duties laid on the Board, for these reasons.
The Board of Trade has to be fair to all the constituencies and must act in the national interest. The Highland problem cannot be settled in competition with Cheshire or with the Lowlands of Scotland in the selection of industries. So long as we have private enterprise and no direction of industry, it would be impossible for the Board of Trade to compel any industrialist to go to an area where he would lose money, and if it would be to his disadvantage to go there, it would be unreasonable to expect an industrialist to do that.
The problem raised by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland is the quite special problem of the Highlands which cannot be settled in the ordinary way of allocating industry to different areas. There must be a quite special approach. The rehabilitation of the Highlands is a separate and comprehensive job. The hon. Gentleman has tried to think out a practical solution and to formulate a proposal which would give this job to a specialised body with the duty of giving advice to the Government. I think that such a body would fail if it had to rely merely on private enterprise. The logic of the hon. Gentleman is correct. The Government must be called on to take a hand. I think that the question must be solved by the Government as a whole, and not by the President of the Board of Trade or the Secretary of State for Scotland. Eventually this problem of the Highlands must be taken out of the realm of ordinary industry and considered as a separate problem. We must ask what we can do. 1519 As has been said, half of Scotland, 47 per cent., is involved. We could pour millions of money into the Highlands without lasting effect.
I came across the case of a harbour built in the constituency of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland. Thousands of tons of cement were used to build a harbour which the fishermen say is of no use to them. That was one of the results of the kind of haphazard policy, of saying, "Give the Highlands a grant, give them a harbour." And a harbour was put in a place where it was of no use to the fishermen. If we are to tackle the Highlands, it must be done comprehensively. It is not a question of just pushing industry in here and there. It means making the Highlands a viable entity so that the population may grow and develop.
Some idea of the magnitude of this problem can be gathered from the example of one project which was considered. It was the making of a road to a peninsula where a few families would have been able to live. It would have cost £500,000 for the road alone. There must be tens if not hundreds of places in the Highlands where £500,000 could be spent in that way in order to make transport easy. Clearly that is not practicable and a great deal of money spent on such projects would have no permanent effect. Therefore we must consider every proposition, not by itself, but from the point of view of whether it would make a contribution to the creation of a new community.
I examined this problem, as did my two predecessors, as Secretary of State for Scotland. The Inverness Courier was gracious enough to say that no one had done more for the Highlands than we three during that period of free planning. But we all were conscious of the fact of how little we were able to do. I was fortunate enough to be the Parliamentary private secretary to Tom Johnston during the war, when other development was going on. He started a great many bodies like the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) the Scottish Tourist Board and similar bodies.
§ Mr. Woodburn
There were two bodies, and Mr. Johnston brought them together in the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) of which Sir William Darling became the first chairman.
§ Sir J. Henderson Stewart
Actually, the Scottish Council originated from a body of a similar name, I think it was in 1932. I know, because I was one of the founder members.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Yes, but he brought them together to do this more comprehensive job. There were the industrial estates and I pay tribute to what was done regarding the development of the industrial estates before the war. But it received its greatest impetus after the Scottish Council was formed.
Two things seemed necessary in the Highlands. We had to give temporary assistance to keep life going there and to stop depopulation. We also had to consider the possibility of the Highlands becoming a prosperous area. We were successful in the first duty. The provision of hydro-electricity, forestry schemes and the benefits of the tourist trade stopped depopulation. But there were greater difficulties surrounding the second duty. Instead of considering haphazard development, I set up a Departmental Committee to find out what it was practicable to do in five years. A great many things that were suggested were simply not practicable. Even the building of houses is not practicable unless there are people to build them, and we found that throughout the Highlands there was not enough population to do even the basic jobs such as the development of water supply and drains. We had to phase projects in such a way that they progressed with the growth of the population.
I am sorry to say that eventually it proved impossible to do much, even in five years. The plan is not fulfilled yet, and it is now nearly ten years since the Committee completed its work, and produced the Highlands Development Plan. It was published just after I left office in 1950. I recommend hon. Members to study that plan again, for it was the result of considerable departmental and scientific investigation.
It is one thing to measure what one would like to do, but it is necessary to get down to the practical facts of what can be done in the Highlands. That plan 1521 is on record, and I hope that it will not be forgotten. I hope that hon. Members will keep it before the notice of the Government until something is done. For the benefit of hon. Members who may wish to examine the plan, it is Cmd. Paper 7976 of 1950.
Development seemed possible under four heads, namely, basic services, industries like agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism, which are, so to speak, native to the area; the exploitation of natural resources, like minerals, seaweed and peat, and the encouragement of new industries. We gave grants for roads, for drainage and water supplies to cover development over sixty years. That is the time it will take to do the work with the labour and material available in the Highlands.
We also had a great programme of trunk and crofter roads which are most necessary. There was also a plan for piers and other facilities. The Highland Panel did a great deal of work, under my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan), by way of surveying what was needed. In the Scottish Office there is plenty of advice available from the Highland Panel about what ought to be done. It remains for somebody to do it.
I agree with the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland that forestry is most promising from the point of view of returning population to the Highlands. When the trees went, the people went; when the trees come back, the people will come back. We established a fifty year plan for forestry. I do not think it is going as fast as it ought to go; nevertheless, it wll gradually raise employment and eventually there will be about 7,500 people employed in the woods alone. If one considers the industries ancillary to forestry, it is possible that that number could be considerably increased. I believe that the estimate has been put as high as 50,000, but I speak from memory.
The House is at present considering a further Measure to help fishermen in the Highlands, and I am sure that that Bill will be given unanimous approval. Peat is another possibility. I appointed a committee under Sir Edward Appleton, which studied the possibilities of peat use. The results of his Report are now starting to bear fruit. The Committee studied various methods of extracting peat here 1522 and in other countries. Work is now proceeding in the constituency of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, which indeed has almost become a laboratory for experiments in Highland development. Research was also done on seaweed which produced good results. I think the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) will agree that his was a town which benefited from the discovery of new textiles.
It is the encouragement of industry which is the main purpose of the Bill. We ought to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland for showing personally that this can be done if somebody with sufficient energy and enterprise is willing to tackle the problem. But there are not a lot of people like the hon. Member. Most people have not got the interest which he has in doing this work for the Highlands. They find it much easier to do similar work elsewhere. I think that if he were in charge of the inspiration of new business he might be able to persuade other people to assist.
He almost persuaded us all to support the Bill, whatever may be the practical difficulties; but I come up against this factor which is one that the Scottish Council and every body that has sought to tackle the problem has met. This problem cannot be solved by private enterprise alone. Even in Southern Ireland, where there is a similar problem, I understand that the Government have finally resolved that they must tackle it, and they themselves are beginning to establish new industries.
I do not see how it is possible for the Government to compel industry to go to these areas. Unless industry is able to make a profit nothing can keep it in existence. If it is to be handicapped by distance and the other handicaps suffered by the Highlands then even the Board of Trade cannot induce industry to go there to lose money if it can go elsewhere and make it. It would be the height of nonsense to expect such a thing.
Can anybody here put his hand on his heart and say that it is possible for people to start a manufacturing industry in the Highlands and to make a profit on any large scale? The answer must be, 1523 "No." The hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George) tried with the slate industry, but I think that, even that, where the raw material was on the spot, has not been able to survive very well. Unless there are natural circumstances to help industry in the Highlands, it cannot succeed under private enterprise principles of profit and loss.
We persuaded the Board of Trade to agree that the Inverness area should be a Development Area. Perhaps I might explain one of my reasons. The Hydro-Electric Board had built a lovely village at Cannich with houses and other amenities. It seemed a tragedy that this should disappear immediately the scheme was completed. Before I left office it was necessary to take over Glen Affric in order to prevent its woods from being cut down. That is one of the biggest forestry areas in Scotland.
Lord Robinson, who was head of the Forestry Commission at that time, told me that there would be a tremendous quantity of wood available—not all wood which could be brought out in the form of timber, but of all kinds of wood. We agreed that it might be a good idea to start a Remploy factory in Cannich, where people could live in a lovely district without danger from traffic. Factories there could make furniture and other equipment. The Forestry Commission was prepared to co-operate and Sir Stafford Cripps, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, was prepared to back the scheme with money.
We were to get help from the Development Area which included the area round the Cromarty Firth. We had one offer from a big organisation, but it wanted such a large subsidy to go there that it was cheaper for us to go to West Africa for our material than to get it in that way from the Highlands. We had to scrap that idea even although it had certain advantages from a defence point of view. In spite of all the advantages of a Development Area, it still cannot attract or make private enterprise pay.
We agree with the hon. Member. All our best efforts to attract private enterprise have failed. I do not think that even he could hope from his Bill that he would be able to induce any great quantity of private industry to start up in the High- 1524 lands and to take all the risks involved if such industry could start elsewhere with a fair guarantee of success.
We pay tribute to the Scottish Council for Industry. No one could do more than that body is doing. It has great influence over private industry, as we have seen from the success which it has had in moving industry into other parts of Scotland. It cannot succeed everywhere. There is a Development Area in my constituency, but nobody has been able to persuade any industry to come to it. It is within a few miles of Falkirk. We cannot force industry, and it would be ridiculous to try to do so.
The Crofters Commission has been established and it has been given great powers—powers which I am sure the hon. Gentleman would like to give to the organisation which he suggests. I was pleased to hear the tribute which he paid to the Commission. It is carrying out some of the ideas of the Highland Plan which was based on practical possibilities. When we are dealing with a Bill such as this we have to consider what is practicable as well as what is desirable.
The question then arises, should the Government promote industry in the Highlands on social grounds? Should they take action on social grounds to create industry in the Highlands? I agree that Highland people have proved their worth wherever they have gone. They have shown what they are made of. As the Parliamentary Secretary said, they have almost created an industry of pro-clueing fine men for the armies of the past and their record in the Commonwealth is probably second to none.
This Bill proposes an instrument to give them a chance to show their qualities in industry at home. There are dramatic possibilities which sometimes pass through one's mind. A population of 300,000 in Glasgow needs to be moved out with its industry. Populations are to be moved a few miles, to Kilmarnock and around that area. If that process goes on there will be no agricultural land left in the West of Scotland. It will be like Lancashire where the towns are so joined that one continues on a road which is built up all the way.
Instead of that, populations could be moved into the Highlands holus bolus, as was done when a whole industry moved from Coatbridge to Corby. In 1525 that case the whole industry and the population serving it were shifted to the middle of England. In Corby one finds a community like an area of Lanarkshire in the Middle of England. It would be of great benefit to the people of Glasgow to move into the Highlands where they would get the advantage of fresh air and a much better type of life than that in a great city.
It has been suggested that the Government might give a tax-free holiday to these industries, that an industry and its workers which went to the Highlands would pay no Income Tax for ten years. That might promote a few experiments in moving industry out to the Highlands. It would cause a lot of interest anyway. [Laughter.] That might sound amusing, but it would not make such a drain on the Treasury as some people might think. I question whether in the long run the Treasury would not gain by such a procedure. What it lost on the swings it would gain on the roundabouts, because it would not have to make so many grants to Highland communities if the Highlands were able to sustain themselves.
It seems certain that some spectacular, unusual action must be taken by the Government and that the Highlands must be treated differently from other areas. I suggest that this should be done in three stages. First, we should exhaust the possibilities of private enterprise. I am not advocating Socialism in the Highlands as a fetish, but if, having exhausted the possibilities of private enterprise, we cannot succeed in that way we should adopt a new line of thought and utilise the public corporations, the Atomic Energy Authority, the Forestry Commission, the Hydro-Electric Board and organisations of that nature. An experimental station was shifted with great difficulty from the South to East Kilbride where part of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research was established. There was not great enthusiasm over that, but it is now taking root and becoming successful. Through public corporations and other public bodies the Government should tackle this question of industries in the Highlands.
The third stage would be to consider direct Government enterprise. If we are to have a population in the Highlands it must be given the means of living there. If private enterprise and semi-public 1526 enterprise fail in this respect, the Government must themselves develop industry in the Highlands. Here I make two suggestions. I am quite willing that the possibilities of private enterprise should be exhausted. Therefore, I think the Government should consciously direct orders to the Highlands because then existing industries can develop there them selves. Small engineering works have been established at Fraserburgh and Peterhead, and the local children wanting to be engineers could go to those smaller works instead of flocking to Glasgow. At Brechin the Coventry Tool and Gauge Company was established during the war and is making most wonderful instruments. It has taken root there. At Fraser-burgh a couple of fellows took over an old fish factory and established a new industry which is becoming successful.
There is a great germ of an idea in this Bill, but the Government must take responsibility for helping it to grow and getting the job done. The Scottish Trades Union Congress and the Scottish Labour Party have been thinking this matter out on the lines of having a Highland corporation with a little more power than has been suggested by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I agree with my hon. Friend. It comes to this, that unless the Government of the day have the will to do this job nothing at all will be done. If the Government have the will, it is their job to find the means. Whether this is done by a corporation or by the Government themselves, the problem is, have the Government the will; are they prepared to treat the Highlands as a special, separate problem? Are they prepared to look at all the means of giving life to the Highlands? If so, I think they might succeed, but if they go on doing little bits of work here and there I am afraid that the hope of the Highlands becoming a great prosperous area is doomed to failure.
I think there is nothing more interesting than this problem of the Highlands. There is nothing I should like to have done more than to make some really lasting contribution to the wellbeing of that area. I hope that as a result of 1527 this debate which the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland has stimulated the Government will be inspired to do something really dramatic. Even though we do not like their politics, we will give them our support in really constructive work.
§ 2.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
I am sure that we must all have listened with the very greatest interest to the rousing speech delivered by the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), a former Secretary of State for Scotland. I would only say that he tended a little to diminish the possibilities of individual enterprise and rather to concentrate on the necessity and, indeed, inevitability, of enterprise carried out by the State. Far be it from me to enter into a barren argument of State enterprise versus private enterprise this afternoon, because this is a non-party debate and we are reviewing a problem which, admittedly, is one which will tax the energies of Governments in the future as it has taxed the energies of Governments in the past.
We are indebted for the occasion of the debate today to a singular piece of private enterprise, the private enterprise of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) and the energy and persistence which he has devoted to this problem over a number of years. He has, in fact, been a one-man Highland development board in the North. I think it no exaggeration to say that if we had a hundred men of his energy and drive we should not be faced with so intractable a Highland problem as we are faced with today.
My only criticism of his speech would be that whereas he said that he and my hon. Friend the Member for Pollok (Mr. George) would agree that 900 men of equal ability could easily be found to tackle these jobs, it was that abounding enthusiasm and optimism—a very good thing when going out for results—which requires a very careful chartered accountant to figure out where one is likely to get the staff and energy that his figures suggested.
It is an interesting fact that we are debating this problem with a Gaelic-speaking Speaker in the Chair. It is a very good omen for the project which 1528 my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland has brought forward, and your presence in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, justifies much of the argument which has been put forward about the necessity to preserve the Highlands as an area from which the rest of the country is repeatedly replenished. On few occasions have we had the Houses of Parliament with both the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons Scotsmen, and I only hope that this is a precedent which will be followed on more than one occasion in the future.
I should like to quarrel with my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling-shire, if I may so call him, about some of the emphasis which he placed on the inevitability of Government enterprise in this matter. I well remember that when I held the position of Secretary of State for Scotland a most promising attempt at development, the carbide factory in Fort William, was destroyed by an unholy alliance of the huntin', shootin' and fishin' men and the Labour mining Members.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The right hon. Gentleman will be interested to know that a similar development would have cost the nation very much money and would have provided very little employment. The expenditure was not justified.
§ Mr. Elliot
This seems to justify my case. Here was a private enterprise undertaking which was perfectly willing to go into this question and to undertake this development without a penny of subsidy from any quarter.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The point was that it would have utilised all the hydro-electric power without providing employment in the Highlands and while providing little benefit; yet, in the long run, it would have required a subsidy from the State. I do not know about the position before the war.
§ Mr. Elliot
The right hon. Gentleman is neglecting the whole argument which I am bringing before the House. On a previous occasion private enterprise, without any subsidy whatever, was willing to undertake this development. It certainly would not have consumed all the electric power of the Highlands. It was, however, destroyed by this unholy alliance, partly on grounds of huntin', shootin', and fishin' and partly on the 1529 ground that the Members from the industrial areas thought all industrial development ought to be concentrated in the industrial areas, and voted down this very promising development.
There have been occasions when State enterprise was of value to the Highlands, just as there are occasions when private enterprise is of value to the Highlands. I need go no further than the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland; both the Brora mine and the brickworks would not be in existence today but for the energy and drive which he put into them.
It is not always the case that Government support is fruitful in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman quoted the example of the Republic of Ireland. It is an unhappy fact that the Republic of Ireland has been most unsuccessful in tackling this problem. There are those who say that the whole Highland problem is due to political neglect of the Highlands and that if we had home rule for Scotland that problem would be transformed, but the Republic of Ireland has gone the whole length along this line——
§ Mr. Elliot
The hon. Member must not raise his King Charles' head of partition here. I am talking about the simple fact that there are 95,000 unemployed in the Republic of Ireland, that there is emigration from the Republic of Ireland, not to Northern Ireland but to this country, of about 40,000 persons a year—in other words, 1½ per cent. of the population emigrates every year. Moreover, in one of the fundamental problems of life, the development of agriculture, the Republic of Ireland is stationary. It is the only place in Europe where the output of agriculture is stationary.
§ Mr. Elliot
The hon. Member must not neglect the fact that it is and has been increasing here and that it is 1530 stationary in the Republic of Ireland; and that the political independence of Ireland has not assisted Ireland in developing that industry nor has the considerable assistance which the Government of that country have given to their people for so doing. If we consider an aspect of life in which certainly neither subsidy nor Government has a determining effect, family life, we find that the marriage rate there is far below the marriage rate in England, far below that in Scotland and even below that in Northern Ireland.
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
It would be a fair parallel if the right hon. Gentleman were to cut off the industrial basis of Scotland and then consider these problems in the Highlands. That is the parallel with the Republic of Ireland. I am trying to follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument, and to fortify it he should address himself to what Ireland would be like if there were unity.
§ Mr. Elliot
Not at all. In answer to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), I pointed to the simple facts of emigration. Emigrants are not leaving the agricultural areas of Ireland and proceeding to the industrial North, but leaving Ireland and proceeding to the United Kingdom.
The argument is perfectly valid—that political independence has not transformed the Irish position as many people say it would transform the Scottish position and that the difficulties which we see in developing the Highlands are difficulties which, as the right hon. Gentleman said, are encountered by the sister island across the Irish Channel.
It is a perfectly fair argument and the final figure that the marriage rate is so low that it has been reckoned that 25 per cent. of the population of the Republic of Ireland can never succeed in getting married at all is a devastating figure. It justifies to the hilt the desire which we have repeatedly expressed during this debate, that industry should be developed in the Highlands, and also justifies the contention of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland that the industry will not be developed solely or even mainly by State agencies, but must be developed by the initiative and drive of individuals.
1531 If that be true, and I think it is, we must look at the future of the Highlands as a problem which has taken on an entirely new light in view of the industrial developments of the last few years or almost of the last few months. Not only have we the existing developments of atomic energy, of which the station at Dounreay is a striking example, but we have the new problems which the recent expansion of the nuclear energy programme is bringing forward. I refer to the programme explained within the last few days by the Government.
§ Mr. Elliot
The argument is that the development of the atomic energy programme will bring with it many ancillary industries of one kind and another which it is impossible to expect the State wholly or even mainly to develop and carry out.
§ Mr. Willis
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about that, but surely this fundamental impetus to development is the result of State action and not of private enterprise. Action by private enterprise in this case is ancillary to the fundamental of the State entering the area.
§ Mr. Elliot
The whole thing developed out of military endeavours to find a useful explosive. If it had not been for that, nothing would have happened at all. The whole of that development arose purely and simply out of the desire of one part of the human race to blow up the rest. If the hon. Member takes that as an example of State enterprise he is quite welcome to it.
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
Surely the right hon. Gentleman, as a man of science, must recognise that long before the State considered the value of this as a pursuit of war it was discussed in academic circles by Niels Bohr and others. All this development has resulted from the work of those men rather than the explosive tendencies of the military.
§ Mr. Elliot
I know a little about this subject, The academic discussions of 1532 physicists were getting nowhere until they were reinforced by the State placing its enormous economic power behind an enterprise which was capable of destroying human life. However, I suffer a little from the fact that I can never make a speech in the House without all the rest of the House wanting to join in. I feel highly complimented by that, but it tends to lead one away from the immediate subject under discussion.
The immediate subject under discussion is whether my hon. Friend's Bill should be read a Second time, and I am supporting the contention that it should be. I am supporting it because the technique which my hon. Friend is advancing seems to me to be a useful one for eliciting the enterprise and drive of private individuals by which, at the end of the day, I believe alone will the matter be solved. The difficulties before us are difficulties of finding individuals and giving them a reasonable amount of free scope. It has been said again and again today that admirable as the programme of the Board of Trade is, it is fettered by difficulties which I do not think will allow it wholly to solve the problems that we have to encounter.
There is no man more individualistic in the world than the Highlander, and more particularly the Highland crofter. The difficulty of getting something done in these areas is the difficulty of prevailing upon his individual choice. Time and again when we think that we have done everything necessary, individual choice goes against us and we do not succeed in getting the result we wish.
I remember that a predecessor of mine in office, Sir Godfrey Collins, not being Gaelic-speaking, went round the West Highlands with a Gaelic-speaking inspector. When he approached a little croft he said, "Now this man has only one field and there beside it is some land that might be used to extend his field. Explain to him that if he extended his field and planted more oats he would have larger harvests and thereafter be able to enlarge his house and perhaps improve his living conditions."
This was explained to the crofter at some length and it was evident that the conversation was not going very well. Sir Godfrey Collins asked, "What does he say?" The inspector was a little loath to translate what the crofter had to say 1533 but, finally, pressed by his official superior, he replied, "He says that he has no inclination to do any of these things." That is one of the difficulties which one encounters. I am sure that the heavy-footed machinery of Government is not always the best means to approach the Highlander or to get the best out of him. Today, we see the well-meant efforts of State enterprise in Uist.
§ Mr. Elliot
State enterprise, which, I suppose, will have the enthusiastic support of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire. I believe that there again the enterprise will require a good deal more explanation than it has had.
§ Mr. Elliot
It ought to be thrashed out in public. Unless we can carry the Highland population with us in these matters we will not succeed in our efforts. I do not think that a State Department is always the best means of approach to the Highlander, with his extremely individualist way of looking at things. It is quite true, as the Parliamentary Secretary has said, that there is a most capable officer in Glasgow and a subordinate officer in Inverness.
My hon. Friend also pointed out that the Scottish Council and the Highland Industrial Committee have quite recently appointed sub-committees to foster industrial development in the Highlands. In a way, that is itself a justification for this Bill. It is time that these things were done. They should have been done sooner. I sympathise with my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland in his fear that, with the best will in the world, these committees do not have that personal touch which is desirable if this problem is really to be solved.
The Government have said that they cannot see their way to table a Financial Resolution. It is quite true that without that Resolution the Bill will not be operated. In spite of that, I think that my hon. Friend has done a great service in bringing it forward and in initiating this discussion. I am sure that further discussion of this matter, in the Scottish Grand Committee or elsewhere, would also be an advantage, because Highland 1534 problems are not solved or dispersed by one afternoon's debate, even in the House of Commons.
I revert to the point which I made a little earlier, about the new possibilities which the development of atomic energy offer for the Highlands. I was about to point out that Sir John Cockroft has said that this development would have to take place in areas remote from the big centres of industry. Here is an opportunity for Highland development which I think we have not fully understood so far. The new development will require to be surveyed and will require to be explained to the population. We have seen in the case of Uist the difficulties which arise when a development, however advantageous to an area, reveals new aspects to the local population which they had not foreseen and which upset them very much and may lead to a certain amount of hostility. The area which this Bill covers is an area of nearly half Scotland and this is the first time that industrial development has looked for remote areas rather than for areas contiguous to great centres of population. That offers an entirely new prospect of Highland development which I am sure we have not so far fully appreciated.
Our difficulty this afternoon undoubtedly is that the Government do not yet see their way to supporting my hon. Friend's project. That is a pity, but I can see their point. They say, "Here is new machinery which has only just been set up." They refer to the industrial committees, and to the new development which, I understand, the Board of Trade itself hopes to obtain; I understood from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that he hoped to extend and develop the inquiries which his office has been carrying out in Scotland.
The Government are naturally anxious to see the best chance given to existing machinery. But for all that, without the impatience, the vigour and the drive which my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland has shown, I do not think that we should have got even as far as we have. Without the drive he has exhibited, in his private as well as in his public capacity, I am sure that we would be far further behind than we are in Highland development.
1535 Therefore, I have every sympathy with his desire that the House should give this Bill a Second Reading, even though it may well be impossible to place it on the Statute Book without a Financial Resolution. I would not in any way consider it a breach of faith on the part of the Government if they do not set down a Financial Resolution, since it is their expressed intention not so to do. But I still say that this germ of development is a germ worth further examination, and I hope that today, and on further occasions this will be possible.
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacPherson (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)
With most of what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) has just been saying I have no quarrel. I found the earlier part of his speech perhaps a little and in connection with this actual project, but once he got off the argument about public and private enterprise his words seemed to be relevant and interesting. One of the essential features about the project that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) has in mind is just that this specific approach may well uncover possibilities of development that have not previously been uncovered. If that leads to the possibility envisaged by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling-shire (Mr. Woodburn) that eventually private enterprise must be followed and supplemented by public development, it does not seem to me a point that we need argue about a great deal just now.
The point with which the Bill is concerned was very well put by my right hon. Friend, with whose speech I found myself in very considerable agreement—not always the situation between back bench and Front Bench. He pointed out that what really matters here is not so much machinery as the will of the Government—expressing, I may perhaps add, the will of the country. If a Second Reading is given, it will be simply part of an exercise in persuasion. The hon. Member wants the Government to get on with it, and suggests a highly desirable and admirable means of doing so, but, in the long run, what must happen is that he must engage the good will and, indeed, the energy and drive of the Government.
1536 I was somewhat disappointed when the Parliamentary Secretary put the Government's point of view. One could not help noticing the very decided difference between the drive, enthusiasm and strong interest of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland and the Government spokesman. One could not help noticing, also, the difference in the point of view. The Parliamentary Secretary summed up his description of what has been done, and of the Government policy behind what is being done, by saying that the Government were ready to encourage what he called "suitable industrial development wherever practicable." I do not know that there is a word in that phrase which does not beg the whole question. What is "suitable" industrial development? What is "practicable" in this context? The Government start from assumptions which are not necessarily the assumptions of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland or of many of us who support his point of view, and that is one of the difficulties which any of us driving along this road encounter.
It seems to me that the Government lack drive. There is a tendency in our Western civilisation to work towards the centre. It inclines to be centripetal. There is no possibility of considerable development in the Highlands until there is the reverse tendency. The interesting suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove that developments in defence science may produce that reversal of tendency is, I think, reasonable. I suppose that in these days, though one does not altogether like such scientific developments, they may provide a reasonable and hopeful alternative to that alternative which we have had for so long, namely, that the Highlands could subsist on the tourist trade.
I subscribe to the sentiment which was expressed by an hon. Gentleman opposite, who deplored the idea of a great country resting much of its economic life on the attractions of the tourist trade. I am not against the tourist trade. I am all for it, but one feels it should have a subsidiary place in the economy of Scotland. I should prefer a drive from the centre, to set up individual industries and a big development of industry in general in the outer parts of this country of ours.
1537 I would observe, in passing, that, in spite of the furnishing textile industry in parts of the Border, there has been in recent years some sign that the Border is beginning to suffer the general decline from which the Highlands have tended to suffer. That has come in recent years, since the war.
It is perfectly true that the general decline in the Highlands to some extent has been arrested. I think the Government, no matter which party has been in power, have been aware of the desirability of not letting the Highlands run down, as it were, and a good deal has been done. Nevertheless, I think that the argument of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland that not nearly enough has been done is a sound one.
Just recently the Chairman of the Crofters Commission has been trying to stimulate the very sort of activity for which the hon. Gentleman is asking, some initiative on the part of the industrialists and merchants of Glasgow in building industry in the Highlands. So the hon. Gentleman is by no means alone in the plea he has made today.
I shall not attempt a lengthy speech at this hour, because the ration of time for each of us in this debate is now short, but there are one or two observations which can still validly be made. I gather that there is a consensus of agreement that now is the time to do something like this. The setting up of the Scottish Council's new committee illustrates the fact that this Bill comes at about the right time. The hon. Gentleman may be a little behind the Council in time, but now does seem to be the hour. If the Crofters Commission and the Council and this House are all moving in the same direction there may be some possibility of persuading the Government to make the necessary moves.
There is not, I think, any great danger of duplication of the work, and the argument about duplicating the work seems to me to be quite irrelevant. One does not actually duplicate the appearance of a factory on a particular spot, and one does not actually duplicate the setting up of an individual industry in an individual place. That, after all, is the end which is aimed at. If the machinery appears to be duplicated, it is only very limited 1538 machinery; and the results are, in fact, what matter.
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, in moving the Second Reading of his Bill today, has at his side opinion in Scotland generally. There is a good deal of difference about the kind of machinery, but I do not believe that there is any difference about the end in view. The Parliamentary Secretary seems to be doubtful about what sort of point of view opinion in Scotland was taking. I have no doubt that, shorn of any argument about which kind of machinery is best, the ultimate end which the hon. Member has in mind would be subscribed to by practically everybody in Scotland who takes any interest in these things, and that would mean, in fact, practically the whole of Scotland.
There is one specific point made by the Parliamentary Secretary when speaking about building factories to let on which I take issue with him. He said that his Department was at the moment actively using its power to build such factories. I am not at all sure that he is right in his facts. If he looked at what is happening in Scotland just now, he would find that he was not. I thought the hon. Gentleman missed what seemed to me to be a significant and important part of the argument of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland when he made no reference to Northern Ireland. It seemed to me that the speech of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland was loaded fairly strongly with practical argument when he began to adduce the actual achievements of a corresponding corporation in Northern Ireland. They are substantial achievements, achievements, indeed, on a scale which one could hardly believe possible in the Highlands of Scotland. Big firms and major undertakings are concerned in what is being established in Northern Ireland.
One asks, what is the difference between the two? Why do these things take place in Northern Ireland and not in Scotland? There are, of course, other differences besides those indicated in the presentation of this Bill, but one would have hoped that the Parliamentary Secretary would have addressed himself to that point. There is considerable force in the analogy cited by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland.
1539 We are, in discussing this matter, going over ground which has been argued in one way or another again and again. It is ground well worth arguing, but we ought to be prepared to do a good deal more than argue. We must remind ourselves that, broadly speaking, the economy of this country since the war has been not merely a successful economy but a booming one. That was true until comparatively recent times, when, for reasons I will not go into now, there has been some change—a temporary change, one presumes.
Broadly speaking, this country is in a situation in which it can, if it ever will be able to, take some sort of initiative which involves experiment and a little risk in an attempt to spread its industry over those parts of the island which are not now developed. I very much hope that, as a result of the discussion we have had today, the Government will feel that they can put more energy behind their policy than seemed to be reflected in the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary this afternoon.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Sir James Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
I join in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) upon his good fortune in the Ballot, and in thanking him for the opportunity which he has given us, in the comparative quiet of a Friday afternoon, to discuss this fascinating and exceedingly important problem of Highland development. I shall show in a moment why I do not believe that the object which my hon. Friend has in mind will be served by the Bill, but had we not had the Bill we should not have had the debate, and we should have missed the chance to examine this matter for which we have all cried out for a long time.
I am like other hon. Members in that I am in almost entire agreement with the main objects that he set out in his vigorous speech. As he said plainly, he wants to bring new industries and extensions of industries to the old-established towns of the Highlands. He is concerned not with the countryside, but with the towns. He wants their economies to expand, and their services—such as water and houses—to be fully used. He wants the Highland people to 1540 be given fuller employment so that they can stand more firmly upon their own feet.
All those are admirable aims; indeed, they are inescapable aims, to which every Government, as well as all private enterprise, must give attention. Therefore, to some extent I am in agreement with the case which has been made from the Opposition Front Bench. In looking at the matter, however, we must be realistic. This is a very practical matter. We must acknowledge that for the past thirty years every Government have, according to their lights and their resources, endeavoured to do what they felt was right by the Highlands.
No doubt we could hear from the Opposition benches what the two Labour Governments have done in that time, but I want to remind the House of what has been done by the National and Conservative Governments in my time. They saw the establishment of the Hydro-Electric Board, a string of Acts dealing with the fishing industry, many agricultural Measures, the establishment of the new Crofters Commission, a steady though admittedly inadequate extension of the roads, an ever expanding housing drive, and the extension, not long ago, of the benefits of the Distribution of Industry Act to the Inverness area.
Taken together, all these varied activities, with the vast sums of money involved—I believe that the Scottish Office alone is spending £20 million a year on Highland services—demonstrate the Government's desire that the Highlands should share in the prosperity of the nation and it is the will of the House of Commons that that should be so. It must be admitted by every fair-minded person that the Highlands have gained clear advantages by that action. I do not believe that the record of this Government in any way falls short of those of their predecessors. In fact, I think that this Government may well claim to have done more than any that has gone before.
Nevertheless, I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that although the Highlands do not form a depressed area, although many of its towns are prosperous, all that we have done up to now is not sufficient. We have to go on. We have to do more, and we have to start doing it now. To 1541 be precise, somehow we have to introduce more new and diverse means of livelihood to those historic Highland burghs, so that they may improve their own lot and their people may contribute more fully to the national welfare.
The operative word is "somehow." How is it to be done? In particular, how is it to be done in the strained financial circumstances in which we now live? There is little difficulty about agreeing upon the aims, but there is profound difficulty about determining the means. I am sorry to say that it is here that I begin to part company with my hon. Friend. He seems to be pinning his faith upon a simple solution. He believes, as I understand—and he would like us to share his belief—that by the creation of another new, all-embracing advisory body, and only by that means, real advance could be made. I wish that I could believe that, but I do not.
I flirted with the idea of a Highland corporation myself. Long years ago, in this House. I propounded such a scheme, because it seemed to me then so obvious, so simple and so direct a solution to our problem; but I must confess frankly that after five years' close experience of the character, the conditions and the administrative set-up of the Highland counties, I have come to realise that the problem is far too complex in every way to be susceptible of a solution as easily as that.
Let us see what my hon. Friend proposes. He wishes to set up a corporation composed of about a dozen part-time, unpaid persons, mainly, I gather, businessmen and probably mainly Scotsmen. They are to be appointed by the President of the Board of Trade. They are to be wholly dependent upon him for both their authority and their finance. That strikes me as an odd proposal coming from so perfervid and independent a Scot as my hon. Friend.
The House will note that although the corporation is to operate only in Scotland, the Secretary of State for Scotland is to have no part whatever either in its constitution or in the exercise of its functions. As another Scot, I find that a very unpalatable pill to swallow.
§ Sir J. Henderson Stewart
When the corporation is set up, I ask myself what it will do. We see in Clause 2 (1) that itshall have power…to investigate and formulate projectsandto tender advice and make recommendations to the Minister"—that is, the Minister in England—or other interested parties or bodies…For these purposes, itshall have power either alone or in association with other bodies or persons or as agents or otherwise on behalf of other bodies and persons.When we examine subsection (2) and discover that the projects that the Corporation would undertake includeindustry, agriculture, fisheries, minerals, housing, or otherwise",we realise that the new advisory body will be tendering advice and making recommendations to virtually every public and semi-public body or committee now operating in the Scottish Highlands.
§ Sir D. Robertson
That is not so. My hon. Friend did not quote the material words of subsection (2):This section applies to any enterprise whether connected with industry, agriculture, fisheries, minerals, housing or otherwise except an enterprise…The Corporation is not going into those trades, but it might have, for example, a fish cannery, a cold store, or something of that nature. It would not be in conflict with anything else. Its specific job would be to bring industry into the seven crofter counties—no more, no less.
§ Sir J. Henderson Stewart
I know that my hon. Friend does not mean the corporation to undertake any enterprise. What I am saying is that it would be formulating schemes and making recommendations which, sooner or later, must go down to almost every body now operating in Scotland.
My hon. Friend thinks that that would lead to co-ordination and co-operation. My experience suggests that it will have precisely the opposite effect. I say this with great respect to my hon. Friend, and in the most friendly way, from the experience that I have had. I believe that the injection of yet another outside body, with no financial inducements to offer to any of the local authorities or anybody else, appointed, financed and 1543 authorised by a Minister in London and, with all those deficiencies, in effect telling those many authorities what they ought to do, would lead only to trouble and resentment and, far from advancing, would actually hold up development throughout the whole area. I am sorry to have to say it, but that is my profound belief.
My hon. Friend sought to buttress his argument by reference to the Development Council in Northern Ireland. I have taken the trouble to find out what is happening there, and I say, in all friendliness and with respect, to my hon. Friend that it is no analogy whatsoever. The essence of the organisation in Northern Ireland, as I think every Irishman will agree, is that the Development Council which has been set up there has tangible, really worthwhile inducements to offer to incoming industrialists.
I have here an official document from that Development Council, but I will not tire the House by reading it. Here is a string of clear financial inducements which the Ministry of Commerce in Northern Ireland offers to incoming and local industrialists. It offers to build factories, to make grants and loans and other concessions, and, as I shall show in a moment, it says publicly that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this country recognises Northern Ireland as being in a different economic position and, therefore, entitled to altogether different treatment.
Compared with that string of most attractive financial inducements, the position in the Scottish Highlands is, of course, utterly different. Except for the small Development Area in Inverness, and the theoretical, but scarcely ever used, power of the local authorities to build factories, we have no financial inducements of any kind to dangle before the eyes of either established enterprise or incoming industry.
Northern Ireland quotes the fact that the Capital Issues Committee here was told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in August last year:It is considered to be in the national interest for industrial development in Northern Ireland to continue unchecked and that the Treasury is ready in principle to consent to proposals to raise money exclusively for investment in Northern Ireland, provided that the proposals are otherwise acceptable to the Committee.1544 It is unfortunate, of course, that one has to be so materialistic in considering this matter. But we have to be realistic, and the plain fact is that unless and until the Government can offer some material inducement in the form of grants, loans, factories or the like in this peculiar area of the Highlands, no propaganda, publicity or inducement will really help very much.
I suggest to the House and, with great respect, to my hon. Friend that it is to that side of the problem, the provision of financial inducements, that we ought first to direct our minds. What can we do? In my opinion, it is not reasonable to expect the Government at this time to make available to the Highlands all the financial assistance at present enjoyed by the Government of Northern Ireland. Unemployment in Northern Ireland is of such a nature as to justify exceptional assistance and measures which, on the figures, we could not possibly justify for the Highlands.
There is, however, something which we could and ought to do without greatly straining our resources and for which there is administrative machinery available to our hand. As my hon. Friend said a moment ago, in Buckie and Peterhead we recently set up what I might call an ad hoc arrangement by which, in selected cases, the Development Commission advances funds to the non-profit-making Scottish Industrial Estates Limited and that body, in turn, builds factories to let either at rentals or on amortisation terms to incoming industrial firms. That plan when introduced—and I had something to do with it at the time—was pooh-poohed by many and even by some hon. Members in this House, but it has proved to be a success.
In the small Development Area near Inverness the same kind of facilities are available, but nowhere else in the Highlands can this fruitful partnership between the Development Commission and the Scottish Industrial Estates be applied. I think that that system ought to remain available to the Board of Trade in co-operation with the Scottish Council in any Highland county—I am coming to a view which I think my hon. Friend may find reasonable—where there is a case for exceptional treatment. That would require legislation of this House and I am virtually asking that we should have 1545 that legislation to extend the range and facilities of this twin machine.
I know that the Treasury will not like it and that the Board of Trade will not like it because they will be afraid that there will be so many people queueing up to take advantage of this, and that will encourage others in other parts of the country to do the same. From my experience I would say that such fears are groundless. If only because of the distance of the Highlands from the main markets, it will never be easy—I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn)—to attract new industries to the North of Scotland. It will always be difficult and even with the inducement which I propose I do not think there will ever be hundreds of people wanting to come in.
There may not be even scores of firms ready to line up in the queue, but with this inducement and some additional drive and propaganda, I believe that the Scottish Office of the Board of Trade and the Scottish Council together, strengthened in their personnel, would be able to attract a number of worthwhile enterprises to suitable places throughout the Highland area, which, in time, might make all the difference to the economy there and achieve the purpose which my hon. Friend has in mind.
I agree with my hon. Friend entirely that a new drive in this matter is necessary. I agree with him that there are patriotic Scotsmen available and ready to offer their services for this great purpose. I also agree that there is need to strengthen the Executive on what is called the propaganda side of these operations and I think that these objectives could be obtained by two means. First, perhaps, by the infusion of new and more vigorous blood into the new committee set up by the Scottish Council. I suggest, with deference to the Council, that it might find out whether some of those first-class men that we have heard of in Glasgow might not join with it in this new development in the Highlands which the Council has taken up.
The other suggestion I would make is that the staff of the Council and of the Scottish Office of the Board of Trade should be strengthened by the addition of one or two first-class executives of the calibre referred to by my hon. Friend 1546 in order to put "pep" into the whole business. That could be done within the framework of the present administration and without causing umbrage to anyone.
The Scottish Office of the Board of Trade is highly regarded. The Scottish Controller is respected throughout the country. His office and organisation is woven into the fabric of the Scottish Office under my right hon. Friend, and into the whole of the Scottish organisation. The Scottish Council is an institution of first-class standing, with a well-trained, experienced staff which has offices in London and America and is trained in this very business of bringing new enterprises into the country. It has a magnificent record of achievement in other parts of Scotland in the matter of new enterprises such as we are discussing today.
With those twin organisations, the Board of Trade and the Scottish Council, with strengthened personnel, at our disposal, I believe that we could work out a programme for a great advance in Scotland in an evolutionary and natural way which would from the start have the co-operation and good will of the whole country. In those circumstances, and while recognising with gratitude the good work done today by my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland I appeal to him, as one of his friends, colleagues and admirers, to be content with what he has done today, and the initiative he has taken, and not to press this Bill to a vote. In that way he would enable hon. Members on both sides of the House to work together in a united fashion to achieve an advance in the Highlands.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I have always been in favour of a Development Corporation, but I think that it should be something wider than is suggested in this Bill. I recognise that this is a Private Member's Bill and we know the limitations under which such Bills are drafted.
The hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson Stewart) has paid same compliments to the promoter of the Bill and has criticised the Bill itself. We should like to hear what the Government propose to do about the solution of this problem. If the Bill is not the right way 1547 to deal with the problem, let us hear how it should be done.
A Development Corporation should be something wider than is envisaged in the Bill, because it must have money. A private Member cannot legislate for the provision of money in his Bill, but a comparatively small sum would make a lot of difference in the initial moves of industry to the Highlands. I think it right that agriculture, fisheries, and so on, should be brought within the scope of this Bill, because it is not the bigger towns in the Highlands which are losing their population but the smaller towns and the country districts, and it is impossible to divorce the glens from the town.
I suggest that the Government should tell us quite clearly what they propose to do about this problem and to face the fact that the present advisory bodies, excellent though they are, are not meeting it. We wish to know how it is proposed to integrate the public money and public enterprise, which is available, with private enterprise. It seems to me that the Distillers Company and other distilling companies might take a further interest in the Highlands from which they draw much of their revenue and in which they already do so much good. The company might be prepared to set up subsidiary industries. It is, after all, a chemical company.
I support the suggestion that executives from the Lowlands, people who are operating in big industries, should be taken into whatever body it is decided should act as the Development Corporation. I hope that we are not proposing merely to compliment the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson), which, of course, we should do, and say how necessary all this is, and then go away and leave the matter in its present state. I agree with the hon. Member that it is not satisfactory. There are a great many bodies, but they need some "pep," some executive power, some money and some co-ordination.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Niall Macpherson)
Perhaps it would be convenient if I intervened in the debate at this stage to put one or two points on what is actually being done. We have had a fascinating 1548 debate, but I appreciate that it is not words that my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) wants but action. I want to convince him that action is being taken.
This has been a noteworthy debate, because two ex-Secretaries of State have intervened and my distinguished predecessor, the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson Stewart), has also spoken. One former Secretary of State supported the Bill because he thought that it would result in private enterprise coming to the Highlands, and the other seemed rather to discard it because he did not think that it would do what he thought ought to be done, and he made a most interesting review of the whole of the Highland problem. We shall certainly consider the imaginative suggestions he made.
The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson) said that the proposed Corporation might uncover possibilities which have not been uncovered. That is a question of probabilities. Is such a Corporation more likely to do so than existing bodies? The Highlands and Islands, he said, were not entirely in a category by themselves, because there were some signs that the Borders were moving in the same direction. He went on to say that there is a consensus of agreement that now is the time to do something like this. He mentioned that it had already been done, that the Scottish Council had already set up an Industrial Committee. He said that there was a good deal of difference about machinery, but there was no difference about the end in view. If we are to vote today, we shall be voting on machinery and not about the end in view. Let us be quite clear about that.
I should like to make plain what is being done for the North of Scotland at the moment. It is estimated that in the current financial year of all the expenditure of the Scottish Office throughout the whole of Scotland, 11 per cent. will be spent in the Highlands and Islands. Yet only 5½ per cent. of the population of Scotland lives in those areas. The Scottish Departments are spending about f19 million in the crofter counties out of a total of between £176 and £177 million. In addition, as my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of 1549 Trade said, about 40 privately financed industrial enterprises and 12 Government-aided or Government-financed enterprises have been set up since the war in this area.
Some comparison has been made with Northern Ireland. Perhaps I should say that since the war about 27,000 jobs have been created in Northern Ireland, mainly as a result of special inducements. This represents 5¾ per cent. of the insured population. In the Scottish Development Areas the corresponding total is of over 90,000 additional jobs, or 8 per cent. of the insured population. There is this essential difference. Reference has been made to the major undertakings set up in Northern Ireland. There are great centres of population in Northern Ireland. I do not think it could be contended that, with the exception of Dounreay, which is always a noteworthy exception, it would be possible, or even desirable, to set up that sort of large-scale industrial organisation in the Highlands.
Indeed, the sort of organisation set up of recent times is not in that category at all. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade spoke about the assistance which his Department gives for industrial development and he referred to the part played by two noteworthy voluntary bodies—the Scottish Board for Industry and the Scottish Council. He mentioned that already 1,300 jobs have been created and there is the likelihood of 1,300 more. Reference was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland to the number of new factories constructed, but of course it is not only a question of new factories. Old establishments, such as those set up during the war, have been taken over and adapted.
All this was done before the Highlands Industrial Committee of the Scottish Council got into its stride. That Committee was set up after careful consideration as to how best the Scottish Council could help in solving the intractable problem—and we all agree it is an intractable problem—of the Highlands. Its establishment followed on a strong appeal by the Chairman of the Crofters Commission addressed to industrialists of Highland origin working in the Lowlands to bring industry to the Highlands. A close liaison has been established between that Committee and the Crofters Commission and the setting up of the 1550 Committee also had the support of the Highland Panel, a body whose remit goes very much wider than industry.
The Highlands Industrial Committee is concentrating at present on the special problems of four towns, all of which are especially affected by particular circumstances, Campbeltown, Invergordon, Lairg and Wick. In the Highlands Development Area around Inverness three factories have been built with Government funds under the Distribution of Industry Act, two medium-sized and one small. Four enterprises have been privately financed and set up in Inverness and two privately financed in the area outside Inverness.
At other places nine factories have been set up with Government assistance. Five have been established by the Herring Industry Board, two at Stornoway, and one each at Wick, Lerwick and Mallaig. The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board has established the experimental peat project at Altnabreac. A clothing factory at Campbeltown, which is to employ 150 people, has been built by the local authority with help from the Development Fund, which help is still available. There is also that gallant little enterprise to which reference has been made which is established at Inverasdale. That was also mentioned by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin). It was built by the local authority with Development Fund assistance.
Among the privately-financed industries there are such things as fish packing and fish processing in Lerwick, a hosiery and tweed factory there, tweed factories at Stornoway, and a diatomite factory at Uig in Skye. The person responsible for that is serving on the Highlands Industrial Committee. There is seaweed meal production at Lochmaddy and Gairloch and a seaweed products factory at Barcaldine, production of frozen lobsters at Thurso, where concrete blocks are also made and brick works at Thurso and Brora. Timber milling was set up in Strachur with the assistance of the Forestry Commission by means of debentures.
So, in the Highlands at present there is a combination of public and private enterprise. I pay tribute to the public corporations and boards. Most of these enterprises have not been set up as a result of the operations of any committee, but by individual enterprise, by 1551 men who saw the possibility of working local resources economically and who in most cases sought and obtained the advice and approval of the Board of Trade. They are men whom the Scottish Council seek to assist in selling and marketing.
The Development Corporation which is proposed implies a body whose functions would go very much wider than industry alone, certainly in the Highlands. The economy rests primarily upon agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism. I would echo what the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire said. Government expenditure has been largely directed to establishing in the first place the basic services upon which any future development must be founded. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East has dealt with aspects of the Bill, and I agree with him that, as I am advised, the Bill goes much wider than my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland intends it to go.
§ Mr. Macpherson
I quite agree that it could be amended, if that were thought desirable, at a later stage. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Very well; there is obviously a difference of opinion. I would draw attention to the fact that this is the same difference of opinion as that which arose between the two ex-Secretaries of State, the wide difference in the powers which it is thought such a body should exercise. I recognise that my hon. Friend primarily means industrial enterprises, otherwise he would not have designated the President of the Board of Trade as the Minister to appoint the Corporation. Nevertheless, it seems inevitable that a body such as this would cover much the same ground as other bodies. For example, it might recommend the establishment of a fishmeal factory or a housing corporation. If it recommended a fishmeal factory it would come up against the responsibilities of the Herring Industry Board.
§ Sir D. Robertson
Is it not a fact that there is a Clause in the Bill stating that nothing covered by any other Acts of Parliament should be done? There is no thought of competing with the White Fish Authority or anyone else. It is simply a Bill to get industry into the Highland area.
§ Mr. Macpherson
But the Corporation is also given power to advise on what should be done, and it might tend to advise things which cut across the responsibilities of other bodies. It is a development corporation which is being set up.
§ Mr. Willis
The argument that it must not advise anyone is rather a "phoney" argument. The hon. Gentleman's own Government have already given the Crofters Commission power to make similar Regulations under Section 2 of the Crofters (Scotland) Act.
§ Mr. Macpherson
The remit of the Crofters Commission is defined in the Act, but it is rather narrower than that.
§ Mr. Macpherson
The remit of the Crofters Commission is to advise, and it is more or less confined to the crofters themselves. The words are:To keep under general review…the need for industries to promote secondary occupations for crofters or work for their families; and to make…recommendations…It is agreed that the Corporation would not itself have power to set up or run any industry, to finance any industry or to spend any money beyond the £20,000 per annum required for the expenses of the members of the Corporation, the salaries of its staff and other general administrative expenses, and, as far as I can see, it could not even advertise.
All this work seems to be already well covered, and the questions which one has to ask are these. Is there anything which this body would do which other bodies are not able to do as well? Would the proposed Corporation necessarily be a better advisory body than those which at present exist? My hon. Friend has criticised the bodies which are already in existence on the grounds that they are ineffectual. I say to him that the Highlands Industrial Committee has hardly had time to show its paces. If it is half as effectual as the Scottish Council has proved in Scotland as a whole, it will be doing a very good job.
In any case, it is clear from what I have said that much has been accomplished and is at present being accomplished. My hon. Friend also took exception, to some extent, to the membership. I would say the same exactly 1553 as my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East has said—that if my hon. Friend knows of people who would be willing to serve and could help and reinforce the committee, people with knowledge of the Highlands and with the time to spend on the work, I am certain that the Scottish Council would be glad to hear of them. But it is not easy suddenly to set out and find even four let alone ten men who could do this work.
I hope that I have shown that the need for a corporation such as my hon. Friend proposes is at least not proven. I would go further and say that the implication that the Government and the various voluntary bodies are not doing all they can to help the Highlands is unwarranted. I repudiate it. We would all, of course, like to see flourishing Highland towns and growing populations—and not growing at the expense of the countryside—but I suggest to my hon. Friend that he has given a great lead himself to private enterprise in the Highlands and it would be entirely wrong if he were now to seek to add an additional body which would be purely advisory, as this body is to be.
There is no great popular demand for such a body. It has not been widely canvassed or demanded in the Highlands. While my hon. Friend has done a magnificent service to the House in providing occasion for this debate, which I am sure will stimulate us all, I hope that he will not press his Motion to a Division.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Mr. C. N. Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) will feel after the debate that it has not been worth while. [Laughter.] I am sorry, I meant to say that he will feel that it has been worth while. I sense that he will be disappointed because, although we have spent nearly a whole Parliamentary day in discussing the Bill, it seems unlikely that he can obtain a Second Reading this afternoon. I am certain that the whole House will join with those who have spoken in paying tribute not only to my hon. Friend's enterprise in introducing the Bill but his enterprise in the Highlands in doing what he can to bring employment to the country that he knows so well.
Government spokesmen and others have pointed out that the machinery 1554 which my hon. Friend proposes duplicates machinery which is already in existence, the organisation of the Board of Trade, the new Highlands Industrial Committee, the Scottish Council and so on.
§ Mr. Rankin rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be DOW put; but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
The point that I was making was that the machinery already exists for doing the fine things which my hon. Friend wants done. I suggest that there are other means——
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
The right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), in a speech which I am sure the whole House enjoyed, pointed out that a Bill which will shortly come before the House would provide machinery for helping development in Scotland. There is also——
§ Mr. Rankin rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put; but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.
§ It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed on Friday next.