HC Deb 29 April 1958 vol 587 cc184-5
40. Sir D. Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will consider reclaiming 1,000 acres on the causewaymire in Caithness, using the 50 per cent. grants which are now available and the savings which will result from the employment of men who are now among the 7.2 per cent. of unemployed in Caithness and Sutherland; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maclay

No, Sir. It is the Government's policy to provide incentives by means of various subsidy schemes to encourage landowners and farmers to reclaim such land as they are satisfied can be successfully reclaimed and worked. In the present financial situation, I could not consider carrying out, wholly at the Government's expense, a large-scale scheme of capital works, such as I know my hon. Friend has in mind.

Sir D. Robertson

But is it not within the compass of the Government, even though we are rather hard up at the present time, to construct one farm of 1,000 acres in an area which once carried a large number of people and which has now gone back to the moor? Is it not particularly desirable, when our unemployment is running at the rate of 7–2 per cent. and, further, is it not within the full approval of the House, that something like this should be done?

Mr. Maclay

As my hon. Friend knows, I examine with the greatest care the various propositions he puts forward from time to time to deal with problems in his part of the world, but I could not at this moment say that I could entertain this particular proposal.

Mr. T. Fraser

Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that much of this land in the Highlands is not held by individuals who themselves could, or would be willing to, proceed with reclamation schemes, and that if this land is to be reclaimed to provide farming opportunities for people in the Highlands it will have to be done by the Secretary of State? Will not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his decision and see whether, in the case mentioned in the Question asked by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) and in other cases, he could himself initiate the reclamation of large tracts of land in Highland areas?

Mr. Maclay

As the hon. Member knows, many schemes of this kind have been examined in the past, and some were carried out. I shall go on looking at all these proposals very carefully to see whether they would be economic and would really result in the effective reduction of the unemployment figures. But I am not satisfied that the particular scheme put to me would meet these requirements.

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