HC Deb 01 March 1960 vol 618 cc1009-10
16. Mr. Manuel

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how much land he estimates could be reclaimed for agricultural production if proper flood prevention and drainage schemes were carried out.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

The only estimate I have is the estimate made by the Duncan Committee in 1950 that some 200,000 acres of land were adversely affected in varying degrees by inadequate arterial drainage.

Mr. Manuel

Does not the Secretary of State agree that his Answer merely shows a gross waste of what could be good agricultural land? Will he not now show some vim, vigour and initiative and bring forward some proper drainage legislation? For example, could he not have a blue-print prepared for Scotland showing proper drainage schemes that could be carried out over a good number of years as his finances allow?

Mr. Maclay

The hon. Member will appreciate that it is necessary to keep this matter in proportion and that 200,000 acres represent .046 per cent. of the total area under crops and grass in 1959. As I have explained in the past, the introduction of drainage legislation of a comprehensive character has not yet been found possible, as no acceptable method of financing major works has been found. But we are still examining the problem.

35. Mr. Willis

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimates have been made by his Department of the acreage of land in Scotland that could be reclaimed for agricultural purposes.

Mr. Maclay

It has not been found practicable to make any such estimates as the extent to which land can be improved depends on the balance of economic and physical factors which is bound to change from time to time.

Mr. Willis

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that a number of estimates, including one by one of his hon. and gallant Friends running into millions of acres, have been made? Does he think that the present rate of progress is satisfactory? Will he look at the matter properly and ensure that the best use is made of the land in Scotland?

Mr. Maclay

As I said in answer to Questions on a previous occasion, I consider that the Government offer a reasonable range of incentives for reclamation. I repeat that there must be some balance between economic and physical factors.

Mr. T. Fraser

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he and his right hon. Friend are also producing a disincentive to reclamation by the withdrawal of marginal agricultural payments which are payable almost exclusively in respect of land after it is reclaimed?

Mr. Maclay

The hon. Member knows the position about M. A.P. grants. The phrase which he used is not a correct description of what is happening.

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