HC Deb 15 March 1961 vol 636 cc1564-689

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time. —[Mr. Maclay.]

11.1 p.m.

Mr. Harold Lever (Manchester, Cheetham)

On a point of order. Is it in accordance with the procedure of the House that the Minister should not outline a Bill on Second Reading? Does he not owe it to the House to do so? Many of us who are not from Scotland have stayed here especially in order to have some explanation of the Bill outlined to us.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

That is not a point of order. It is perfectly orderly for the Minister to move a Second Reading as he did.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)

Before I move my Amendment, may I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he might do the House the courtesy of explaining what the Bill is about? That would be a very small thing to ask and it is his bounden duty to do so. If he will do so, I shall be glad to postpone moving my Amendment so that hon. Members who have not heard a word of discussion on the Bill or any explanation of it shall have some idea of what the Bill is about before they are asked to agree to its Second Reading.

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

As the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) knows, I have already made two speeches on the Bill when it was considered in principle upstairs for three mornings. That fact has been reported to the House and HANSARD is available to everyone and I am sure that the hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever), who is interested in the Bill, will have studied HANSARD. In fairness to the hon. Member for the Western Isles, who has made only one speech while I have made two, I should give him an opportunity to develop his arguments.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the purpose of such a matter being reported to the House is that the whole House should be able to discuss it and should be able to hear the arguments? If everything is settled in the Scottish Grand Committee, would there be any point in bringing matters back here? The whole idea of having a Second Reading is that the matter should be discussed. Will not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his decision and start the debate in the normal fashion by putting his case?

Mr. Maclay

I am only too anxious, as I always am, to be courteous to the House and to give every facility to hon. Members to understand what is going on, but I do not want conceivably to be guilty of tedious repetition, which is something which I have tried to avoid for the twenty years I have been in the House—although I have not always succeeded. The proceedings upstairs have been formally reported to the House and it would be wrong—

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

On a point of order. The proceedings upstairs have not been reported to the House. All that has been reported is that the Scottish Grand Committee somewhere upstairs in this building discussed something. There was no Second Reading of the Bill; nor was such a Second Reading reported to the House. That is the first time that the Second Reading of the Bill has been moved anywhere in the House—or elsewhere. I have never heard a Minister moving a Second Reading without addressing himself to his Motion.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Nothing disorderly has arisen of which the hon. Member can complain. It is a matter for debate and discussion. Nothing disorderly has arisen.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

Further to that point of order, Sir William. It is quite wrong for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that it would he permitted by the Chair to report to the House what he called the proceedings of some body outside the House and ask us to assume that a Second Reading debate had taken place.

Mr. Maclay

This is only a further point of order. We are in an interesting procedural position. The fact that the Bill has been considered in principle in the Committee upstairs has been reported to the House. I did not say that the Second Reading had been reported. Therefore, the proceedings upstairs are properly available for any hon. Member to study. As hon. Gentlemen opposite are interested in this subject, they can read those proceedings. It would be wrong and discourteous to take up the time of the House by going over ground which I covered upstairs in two fairly lengthy speeches.

Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

We must get this point clear. The House must be told what is happening. The Bill was sent upstairs to be considered in principle, and we discussed the principles embodied in the Bill. It has now come back to the House for a Second Reading, which is a separate and distinct stage. I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not do what is normally done when a Bill is introduced on Second Reading. I am surprised that he did not explain and outline the conditions which would operate if the principles of the Bill were accepted.

Mr. H. Lever

I do not know whether it is improper for me to intervene. I do not want to raise something as a point of order if it is not one. The Minister has come to the House, and, without troubling to offer any explanation, has thrown the Bill at the House for a Second Reading. There have been considerable protests. In the light of that departure from all traditions, I wonder whether you would accept a Motion to report Progress?

Mr. Speaker

I have just arrived in the Chair. I have very little idea of what is happening. I cannot report Progress. I have no one to report Progress to. I am the summit of Progress. I must inform myself of what is happening before I receive any more points of order.

Mr. Maclay

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think the position we are faced with is that, according to Standing Orders, the Bill has been considered in principle upstairs. The point I was on was that the Bill was considered in principle upstairs, and that fact has been reported to the House. That being so. I was pointing out that hon. Members who are interested in the Bill have full access to the record of the discussions upstairs. For that reason I felt that it would be discourteous to the House, having made two speeches upstairs, to make another speech which could only go over the ground I covered before. That was the point.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

With respect, Mr. Speaker, I would remind you that you have already ruled that you are in no way cognisant of any of the proceedings which have taken place upstairs. Therefore, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may or may not have said upstairs is not material to the position which now faces the House. Already we have had a Ruling that when we reach this stage in Scottish Bills and an Amendment has been tabled, that Amendment is within the rules of procedure in being suitable for discussion and debate in the House.

Mr. Speaker

As far as I know what has happened—limited owing to the fact of my physical arrival at this moment—I understand that the Minister has moved the Second Reading of the Bill and that the Question has been proposed. I hope I am right in thinking that that is the stage which has been reached, and no other. If I pick up the matter from that point, I call Mr. Malcolm MacMillan to move his Amendment.

11.11 p.m.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof this House, while welcoming the extension of compensation to certain permanent improvements and of financial aid to some landholders of the economic status of crofters, declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which applies to crofters bureaucratic compulsion, not applicable to other agricultural tenants or to landlords; which provides for the imposing upon crofters for periods of several years and at short notice of arbitrarily selected subtenants on their holdings; denies crafting communities the right of majority or of any decision in respect to schemes for radical reorganisation of their townships; fails to make any provision to assist crofters with the transporting or marketing of their produce; and fails to give the Crofters Commission any powers, responsibilities or resources to stimulate, assist or promote local industries and enterprises, without which crofting itself cannot survive. That reasoned Amendment embraces a great many of the main arguments against the Bill, and against the Motion that it should be given a Second Reading. They are all widely drawn, so that they address themselves to the Motion and to this stage of the consideration of the principle of the Bill which, whatever the Secretary of State may say, is the stage at which we are now. I regret that it should fall to me to have to explain what the Bill is about. If the right hon. Gentleman will not do that courtesy, especially to his English, Welsh and loyal—none more loyal—Irish friends, does he mind if it is extended to them from this side of the House? Among us, we can assist his hon. Friends to understand what the right hon. Gentleman was committing them to in asking them to accord the Bill—which they have only now seen for the first time—a Second Reading.

The Bill covers an enormously wide field. It does not deal alone with crofting as such—the spade and the hoe and the plough and the tractor it deals with and affects the social conditions of those living in the crofting areas, because the Crofters Commission will have to take into consideration in all its activities the impact of its work and the effect it may have upon every aspect of the lives of people living in the crofting counties. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the Commission has many wide duties laid upon it. The Bill is by no means as narrow as the right hon. Gentleman perhaps wanted to suggest that it is.

There are different opinions about the Bill on both sides of the House, I imagine, and within the parties. It all depends on the distance one is from crofting how strongly one feels about crofting problems. If minor differences emerge among hon. Members on that side of the House or on this, I think that most people will understand the reasons for them. Different hon. Members will give different emphasis to their points of agreement or points of difference. I hope that hon. Members opposite will speak with the freedom which some of the Highland Members at least normally exercise in the House and outside. Some of their speeches on the Bill have been extremely critical of the Government. One would have expected them to follow their criticisms to a logical conclusion and vote for the Amendment tonight. I do not know whether any of them will, but I very much hope that they do.

It is important to explain a little of the background of the Measure which the House is discussing. The Highlands and Islands area comprises more than one-sixth, possibly nearer one-fifth, of the total land area of Great Britain. It comprises nearly half the area of all Scotland. Yet within the Highlands and Islands area there is a population of only 250,000, or a few more or less according to the drift inwards or outwards for casual employment or for other reasons, and this population is to be set against the total population of the United Kingdom which I understand now to be 52 million or 53 million.

The area is suffering a continuous drifting away of its population such as no other area in relation to its population experiences. I shall in a few minutes give an illustration to bring home to hon. Members the force of this when I tell them of what is happening in some of the smaller places.

If it were not for the fact that older people in the Highlands, thanks to the advances which have been introduced under the Welfare State in recent years, are living a little longer, the population would be dropping even more dramatically and frighteningly than it is now. The people who do drift away from the Highlands are, generally speaking, the younger people, the ones with enterprise, the people who want to launch out; and the result is that the population which remains, which is holding the statistics for us for the time being, is an ageing population.

We are losing roughly 1,000 people a year from the Highlands. While that is bad enough as a general figure, in the smaller areas the drift away is very much worse. It is best illustrated in terms of the real test of population loss, that is to say, taking it at school age. In the island of Eriskay, the population as a whole has fallen since 1931 from 420 to 330. In another of the islands it has fallen from 240 to 150. Taking all the smaller islands of the Hebrides, the loss is about 23 per cent. on average over that period of twenty years. For the school population, the loss is even more alarming still. School after school is either coming down from being a two- or three-teacher school to being a one-teacher school or being closed down.

This is the human background against which we ought to consider the Bill and the Motion for its Second Reading. It has no meaning unless it has a meaning in these human terms.

I have been through the Answers which the right hon. Gentleman gave to my Questions on 20th December when he showed, with official figures, how alarming is the drop in school population, and while general depopulation in itself is alarming, the loss of the children and their non-replacement in the schools is the final test of survival. That is the test which least satisfactorily meets our scrutiny.

The Highlands and Islands have reacted badly to this Bill. This is partly because, broadly speaking, the Highlands and Islands are anti-Tory and anti-Government. I am sure that the Secretary of State agrees that that is so.

Mr. Maclay

indicated dissent.

Mr. MacMillan

The right hon. Gentleman apparently does not agree. Let him look around the constituencies. Orkney and Shetland is represented by a Liberal. The Western Isles is represented by a Socialist. Caithness and Sutherland is represented by an independent. The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod) will agree that he was elected on a minority vote. I am sorry to say that Inverness is represented by a Conservative, but he, too, was elected on a minority vote. Only in Argyll can it be said that there is an honest Tory majority and a Tory Member. Taking the five Highlands seats, we find that the Government had 51,000 votes and that 64,000 votes were cast against them. The right hon. Gentleman will accept those figures because his Department published them not long after the General Election.

In 1950, for the first time in a generation, we saw a halt to depopulation. That was after five years of work by the Labour Government. There were many reasons for it. There were the great hydro-electric schemes which affect all the work of the Crofters Commission and without which most of its work could not go on. Local industries, farms and the crofters' homes for the first time saw and used and enjoyed electricity. Water schemes were brought into operation, roads were driven where no roads had existed before, harbours were built in Stornoway and in other ports all round the islands, fish processing plants were erected and extended, and jetties were built. The work on many jetties has been stopped since then and never re-started—as is the case with some roads; I make that comment in case the right hon. Gentleman does not know what is going on in his Department.

Taking all these things together, for the time being we halted the apparently endless drift of population from the Highlands. In 1950 for the first time we were holding our own. It was not simply a matter of the numbers of older people being sustained by the Welfare State; people were moving back into the area and the younger people saw for themselves a new hope and opportunity in the Highlands.

What has happened since 1952 is creating one of the greatest problems facing the Crofters Commission. It is making it difficult for the Commission to operate in the area and is making it difficult for the Hydro-Electric Board and other agencies to operate in the area.

Since then we have come up against one economic squeeze after another. This area, which has a history of neglect over many generations, is always at the end of the queue for development in trying to catch up with other areas, and it is always the first to be cut and squeezed in any economic squeeze. The Secretary of State shakes his head, but I can give give him any number of examples if he is prepared to sit at my feet and take some instruction.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

Give him some.

Mr. MacMillan

I expect that many will be given later by my hon. Friends. I am sure that there are many contributions scattered among them in the House. With this new enthusiasm which they will bring to bear to Second Reading, they will give examples.

The right hon. Gentleman cannot dispute anything I have said. He knows that since 1951–52 the rate of depopulation has taken such a turn for the worse that the Crofters Commission and everybody else have been startled and frightened. Since 1951–52 the rate of depopulation in the Highlands and Islands has been the worst since the turn of the century. I do not think that anybody can deny that.

The Highlands and Islands have possibilities for adding considerably to the wealth of this country, and it is criminal to neglect that great source of underdeveloped wealth. Hon. Members give careful consideration to the underdeveloped countries of the world; provided that they are 2,000 miles away, hon. Members come to the House to discuss them and everybody is interested in them. People want to do something to help them.

Lying within the borders of our own country is a great undeveloped area which I should have thought it was our first duty to develop. One of the obvious things that the Highlands provide is food—including the speciality of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever), white fish—herring, beef and mutton. Then there are timber, a considerable amount in the way of textiles, and, of course, whisky, as well as opportunities for tourism on a great and expanding scale. Several of these are valuable dollar earners. For example, whisky is our most reluctant export but one of the most profitable in earning dollars. So are textiles profitable exports, and tourism is an excellent dollar earner.

The Crofters Commission has a responsibility in relation to every one of these, and we would like the Commission to have powers to do a lot more in the development of these things than is given in this Bill or in the 1955 Act which it amends. There is much undeveloped territory within our own country over which the winds of change and progress blow almost unnoticeably, except at election times.

Mr. John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Crofters Commission is asking for these powers?

Mr. MacMillan

No, unfortunately, these are the very things that the Crofters Commission is not asking for. These are the powers that we want to give to the Commission. I am sure the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty too, wants to give it these powers.

Mr. MacLeod

No, I do not. I have always said that. I do not want to give it these powers at all. It has quite sufficient powers.

Mr. MacMillan

I hope that the hon. Gentleman understands what he is saying. The Commission has a duty under existing legislation to collaborate with all those public agencies, and indeed with private firms and persons, in any development whatsoever in the Highlands, whether they are concerned with economic or social development. The Crofters Commission has extremely wide responsibilities. The problem is that it has not got power but it has responsibility. One is reminded of that old and well-known association of power and lack of responsibility, although I think it might be a little indelicate if I were to continue with that particular reference. It has got all the responsibilities, but it has not got the power to carry them out.

The Highlands are waiting to make a greater and ever-growing contribution to the national wealth. We are not, as is so often misrepresented, asking merely for subsidies and grants and all the rest of it for the purpose of pouring them into the Highlands without giving anything back again. Obviously, no responsible spokesman of Highland constituencies would want that to happen. At the same time. I must make it clear that that one way traffic is not the situation now.

What special subsidies do the Highlands and Islands get that are not equally shared in almost every case with the most prosperous agricultural areas in the whole of the United Kingdom? I do not think there is very much. I think I heard an hon. Member say "Housing grants." These are not payable through the Commission; they are paid through the Department. But, if I own a town house, I can get a grant for modernisation and improvement equal to anything that the crofter gets by way of grant. He contributes also towards the building of his house, very often with his own labour, his own hands and those of his family. No farmer in the south of England or in central Scotland can say that he is getting anything less—indeed, he is getting rather more—in value for the development of his farm than the crofter is getting for the development of what is too often his marginal patch of bogland. This Measure does something which runs against the tide of past legislation and the intention of this House in its legislation since 1886. Every relevant Act that has come along since 1886 has enlarged the liberties of the crofter, has made things easier for him and has tended to make him more secure in his tenure, and, therefore, more enthusiastic about what production it is possible to get out of his croft. That potential is greatly exaggerated by those who do not have to work a croft on the edge of the Atlantic.

This Act, however, runs right across that tide. Here the crofter's sense of security of tenure is being diluted and debased. I thought I saw the right hon. Gentleman shake his head, but as I do not hear any sound I must have been mistaken—

Mr. Maclay

My head occasionally wobbles, but the hon. Gentleman must not make too much of the way it wobbles. It may have something to do with the hour.

Mr. MacMillan

Perhaps I should attribute the weakness to the right hon. Gentleman's spine, not to his head.

These proposals for compulsions should have been resisted by the Secretary of State. Where does this legislation come from? We know that no crofter asked for it, nor did anyone speaking for the crofter either in this House or elsewhere. No Highlands local authority asked for the Bill. The Crofters Commission, a group of paid officials, was the only body making any demand at all for this legislation. It is insupportable that a group of paid officials should have the power to be able to say to the Secretary of State, "We know that the crofters, in general, are against this—." At least, the Commission should know that. If it does not, then the Commission is not sufficiently in touch with those whom it should serve.

No hon. Members opposite asked for this Bill—though they may support it now that the right hon. Gentleman has introduced it; it would be difficult for them not to, but I know that they will do it with heavy hearts—and lighter majorities, or minorities, after the next election. I cannot trace any demand for this legislation anywhere, except by the Crofters Commission. That is the only place—and it is wrong that legislation should be brought in merely to gratify a desire for increased bureaucratic power on the part of a body that is responsible for its own failure, which it wants to attribute to the crofters and the other people on the land.

The powers and duties of this Commission are broadly on the lines of reorganisation, development and regulation of crofting. That, broadly, covers its purposes and duties. The Commission has two full-time and three part-time members, and a panel of local assessors to advise it. I have to go through all this kind of thing because the right hon. Gentleman did not do the House the courtesy of explaining what the Bill is about. It is extremely difficult to do the Secretary of State's homework first and then put it before the House for examination, but I do not think that it is any the worse for that; I do not think that it is done any worse than the right hon. Gentleman would have done it.

The Crofters Commission will continue, under this Measure, in a slightly modified way, to have review and advisory functions in respect of the following important things; land settlement; the improvement of land and livestock; the planting of trees; the supply of agricultural equipment; the marketing of agricultural produce; experimental crofting methods; demonstration crofts; the need for public services of all kinds—the House should note that, the need for public services of all kinds; the provision of social amenities; the need for industries to provide supplementary employment for crofters or work for their families. Further, by Section 2 of the existing legislation which is to be amended if the Motion for Second Reading is carried and the Bill finally goes through, the Commission also has a duty to collaborate— that is the word: so far as their powers and duties permit with any body or person in the carrying out of any measure for the economic development and social improvement of the crafting counties … That is a pretty wide range, and these are very considerable duties, and if they were carried out, if the Commission had the money to carry them out, they could make an immense impact on the whole standard of life of the crofting areas.

The trouble is that the Commission has not asked for the finance necessary to carry out those duties and make them effective. It has asked the right hon. Gentleman only for an extension of its bureaucratic powers to lay new disciplines on crofters, to allow new compulsions against them which we no longer impose on farmers, landowners or any other section of the community. Only this working tenant section of our agricultural population is it proposed to discipline and compel in the way that this legislation does.

Reverting for a moment to the duty to collaborate, the Crofters Commission is under obligation, I imagine, to collaborate closely with the county councils, the Forestry Commission, the Tourist Board, the Hydro-Electric Board, the Transport Commission, the Herring Industry Board, the White Fish Authority and bodies like the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society, I.C.I., MacBrayne's, the sea transport company, and British European Airways, and with individual persons wishing to undertake economic or social betterment in the Highland areas. These are extremely wide obligations and it is important that the Commission should have the resources which we alone can see that it gets while ensuring that it does carry out those duties.

The Commission has obligations only. It does not have the power. What, therefore, has the Commission been able or unable to do that has compelled it to come to this House—or, at least, to the Secretary of State in the first place—to ask for greater powers because the powers that it had were, in its view, inadequate? The Commission has been able, unfortunately, to do very little. It has done a sort of proxy Santa Claus act on behalf of the right hon. Gentleman. It has passed on grants to the crofters which the Department of Agriculture would have paid out in any case. It has been a message boy delivering the grants on behalf of the D.A.O.S. Beyond that, it has helped to administer cropping and grants in respect of fencing and certain improvements of that kind. It has had little impact otherwise upon the area and it has not had the powers in the right directions to have made any real impact.

The Crofters Commission should today be coming forward asking, not for an extension of the wrong powers, as we see it, but asking that it be given the right powers to carry out the real jobs of work which it has not been able yet to contemplate. Its last Report, upon which the Bill is largely based, was a shrill cry of despair. From beginning to end, it had given up hope, given us the attempt and almost given up the ghost.

Mr. H. Lever

Will my hon. Friend assist those of us who have been deprived of the conventional assistance which normally we get on Second Reading from the Minister who is responsible for the Bill? Could he help those of us who are not familiar with the position? I understand that there is power in the Commission to try to reorganise crofting townships and to prepare schemes. Under existing law, this requires, apparently, the approval of a majority of the crofters. The Bill takes away the requirement of the approval of a majority. Before passing from the point about the use of the Commission's powers, could my hon. Friend tell the House what has been the experience of these schemes? Have any been prepared? Have they been valuable? Have they been turned down by a majority? Does my hon. Friend think it safe to abandon that safeguard of majority assent and the like? Perhaps he will enlarge on that.

Mr. John MacLeod

On a point of order. The rule, I understand, is that a Bill of this kind can be sent to the Scottish Grand Committee. It has now come back here for Second Reading. Is it in order to have a complete Second Reading debate again? The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) has, I admit, made new points this evening, but he is making virtually a lot of the points which he has already made in the Scottish Grand Committee upstairs.

Mr. MacMillan

indicated dissent.

Mr. MacLeod

If that is the case, will it be in order for all Scottish Bills to be treated in this way?

Mr. Speaker

That is governed by the Standing Order, which is applicable in a case where an Amendment is put down to the Motion on Second Reading. I have not heard anything out of order yet.

Mr. MacMillan

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for safeguarding the rights of, I hope, the majority of Members of this House who are concerned with those rights. If the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty wants to deprive himself of any rights, he can make application in the right place.

Mr. MacLeod

Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Accusation has been made that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not given the House a speech on the Second Reading of this Bill. But he has already, upstairs in the Scottish Grand Committee, made two or three speeches—certainly two—on the Second Reading of the Bill—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—well, on the principle of the Bill. That has been done on many occasions. Is it now being argued that no Bills should he sent to the Scottish Grand Committee? Is it argued that Bills should come back here and that Second Reading debates should virtually he repeated on the Floor of the House?

Surely my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is not obliged to make a Second Reading speech again? This is a very interesting discussion, but do I understand from your Ruling that this can be done with every Scottish Bill?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that that was a point of order. Could the hon. Member indicate to me the point of order he wishes to raise?

Mr. MacLeod

My point of order is this: can this procedure take place on every Scottish Bill?

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Member will look at the Standing Order I do not think that he will find it complicated. I do not want to read it to the House again. Circumstances differ according to whether or no there is an Amendment to the Motion for Second Reading. This is a case where that is so. The matter of whether the Secretary of State behaves with propriety in this respect or not is not a matter for me.

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, Am I to understand that some of us who represent Welsh or English constituencies which have small farmers who may be treated in this way, should not be allowed to have a debate when public money is being spent, because the Scots have had a debate upstairs? This House knows nothing of what goes on in the Scottish Grand Committee.

Mr. Speaker

For the second time today I want to repeat my request that all hon. Members will combine to help me to put a stop to this practice of rising to points of order which are not points of order.

Mr. Davies

I only asked for help.

Mr. MacMillan

I welcome this indication that the delayed action mechanism of the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty is coming into operation. I hope that he will apply it later to what is the first Second Reading debate we are having on this Bill. I was asked a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham. Perhaps I may reply a little later if he will remind me of it. The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty has diverted my attention, though I am sure that was not his intention.

The Crofters Commission has a duty laid upon it, and quite a number of responsibilities in connection with that duty, on land settlement. I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) who pointed out on one occasion, to which I am loath to refer in this House again, that in the five years since it came into being, only five new land settlement holdings have been created. That is part of the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheetham regarding the speed at which the Commission has been able to work. I hope to answer the rest of his question later.

The Commission has its difficulties, and among the greatest is the problem of where to get suitable land for land settlements. That is where we are up against a problem which in its day the old Liberal Party had to face and which every Government since has had to face, though I will hand it to the Liberal Party, or rather the rebel element—the Land League element—of it, that it faced up to it better than its successors on the other side of the House have done.

This is where the Crofters Commission comes up against a difficulty. As soon as it looks around for any suitable land on which to carry out land settlement, what does it find? It finds that all the land is booked up already. It knows that the Duchess of Westminster has 70,000 acres of land, much of which is very desirable for land settlement but is not available to the Commission.

An Hon. Member

For sport?

Mr. MacMillan

My hon. Friend may call the Duchess a sport if he likes. All I said was "the Duchess of Westminster".

Mr. Maclay

I am sure that the hon. Member will also say that those behind the Westminster estates have been some of the most advanced landowners in Scotland. They have done better work in that part of the country than any others have done.

Mr. MacMillan

I have not said anything so far that the right hon. Gentleman need contradict. If that is a statement by him, let us accept it at the value at which we always accept statements from him. If that does not sound too nice, it is not meant to be too critical either.

The Duchess of Westminster retains the 70,000 acres, and her daughter another 30,000, part of which is excellent land for the purpose of development for land settlement. The fact that the Westminster Estate has been able to do such excellent work agriculturally only proves my point that the land is suitable for agricultural development. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for underlining some of the argument. There between the Duchess and her daughter there are 100,000 acres, much of it good land, highly suitable for agricultural purposes which are in the meantime used very largely for purely sporting purposes. I understand that 120 stags per year are shot on the 30,000 acre estate and that either the crofters have already been shot or have disappeared because there are no crofters, but only stags and duchesses. There is another area there which is very tempting for any development body.

Then there are Lord Lovat's estates—200,000 acres, and I do not think that really accounts for it all. There 150 stags are shot annually, and there are 150 crofts—one stag for every croft, if that has any particular relevance.

There is also an odd coincidence in figures, in that for each of the 200,000 acres Lord Lovat was not so long ago able to collect £1 in so-called "compensation" from the North of Scotland Hydro-Electricity Board. The Board was anxious to develop hydro-electricity in order to help the crofters in the Strathfarrar and Kilmorack area. That attractive estate, that beautiful pastureland with wonderful shelter, is all generously subsidised by myself and the crofters and everybody else, including the English and Welsh Members who were to be debarred from the debate by the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty and the Secretary of State. Lord Lovat flourishes in his 200,000 acres with the £200,000 that he has collected from the Hydro-Electricity Board in respect of disturbance to his salmon fishing and so on.

Then there are Lord and Lady Rootes. They have an estate of 10,000 acres, much of which is excellent agricultural land. That is in Glenalmond. In fairness, one must say that there are on that land anything up to 3,000 sheep and 150 cattle, but a very large part of the estate is reserved for sport. They also hold between them deer forests in Sutherland, which run to about a further 13,000 acres.

Then there is the Duke of Atholl with 120,000 acres, all earmarked and duly laid title to, allowing of no Crofters Commission or anybody else who might want to disturb the ancient rights of the ancient Duke.

In all, there are about 196 deer forests embracing over 3 million acres of Highland land and there are 1,400 grouse moors all reserved for sport for the least useful section of the population, and a section that contributes least to the production of wealth in the Highlands or anywhere else. There are hundreds of other areas which are sterilised for agriculture or any other develpoment as long as these people are left in control. No wonder the Crofters Commission throws up its hands in despair about doing anything about land settlement and that it has to show for five years' activity only five land settlement holdings to its credit.

One cannot blame the Commission, for it has no power to deal with these great land monopolists and sporting landlords. This will go on until something is done by the House of Commons to enable the Commission to carry out its duties in crofting development. Until we do that the Commission will be frustrated, as will anybody who attempts to do anything.

The Commission gave birth to the idea of this Bill in a spirit of frustration, in an atmosphere almost of panic. After five years it is not pleasant for a public body which is charged with these duties to have to come back to Parliament for a renewal of its appointment and for amending legislation and say that it has only five new holdings, that it has only been able to do part of the registration of crofts, that it has distributed grants on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, but that it has done almost nothing else to show for its five years of existence.

The Commission covers its own confusion and its many failures by demanding additional bureaucratic powers for itself, instead of powers and resources which would enable it to do something about the assistance and promotion of industries suitable for a crofting area and ancillary to crofting and fishing. The Commission is ingrowing and shrinking into itself and is conscious now only of one responsibility, and that is to deal with crofting in the narrowest sense. Everything else has been abandoned. The attempt to venture boldly into collaboration with other people in industrial activities has gone. The attempts to devise ways of marketing or transporting or of reducing fares—all those have gone. The Commission asks for no more than the power to extend its bureaucratic authority to discipline the crofters, out of the whole agricultural population.

Crofting development clearly depends a good deal today on electrification. The Hydro-Electric Board has connected during the years since it came into being a very large part of the population of the Highlands and Islands. It has connected not less than about 90 per cent. It had intended that by 1949–50 it would have connected 100 per cent. of those who indicated that they wanted to be supplied in the Islands. Unfortunately, costs have risen against the Board and various political decisions in the last few years have made it virtually impossible for it to carry out its work, especially in the remoter areas with which the Commission is most particularly concerned, because of the lack of basic services with which in those areas to extend and modernise agriculture and crofting.

On the social side of the Board's responsibilities there is another difficulty which the young people particularly are clamouring about. They have, I think, approached the Commission for support, and they have certainly come to me and to other people.

I want to know how it is possible to get T.V. by gaslight. This is a question which the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty raised in the House another time. One cannot get T.V. from a gas tap. This is a matter which concerns the Commission.

Mr. Speaker

I have some difficulty in connecting T.V. and gaslight with the subject matter of the Bill.

Mr. MacMillan

I admit that it is difficult, but my point is that the Crofters Commission has a duty laid upon it of concerning itself with the provision of social amenities. I am not trying to get away with anything and this is a serious point. The Commission is expected to collaborate with the right hon. Gentleman and, through him, with the Post Office and the B.B.C. and with everybody else concerned, and there are consultations from time to time.

Mr. Speaker

It may be that I am wrong, and if so, I am sorry. A difference of view exists as to whether T.V. is a social amenity or not, perhaps in the context of this Bill.

Mr. MacMillan

I am afraid that I share that doubt and view. I would not have it inside my door, and that is the majority decision of my family, too. But there is a demand for it and I am merely conveying that demand which, I know, has reached the ears of the Crofters Commission. In the Commission's view, I believe, and in mine it is, perhaps, unfortunately, one of the things which have an attraction for young people and the lack of it results in speeding depopulation. It is connected with the problem of keeping young people in areas which do not have the social amenities of the city areas and the fewer of these things young people have, for better or worse, the more the bright lights of the city attract them, adding to the depopulation problem.

I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that this lack of electricity in the islands, in places like Barra and North Uist, is having the effect that the people of those areas cannot look forward, first, to electricity until 1975, according to the chairman of the Board, and, secondly, cannot look forward to the things which electricity makes possible, ancillary industry and, therefore, employment. Without electricity, they cannot look forward to the ancillary industries to provide jobs in the areas. Not just as important as that, is T.V. which is relatively a side issue, but which is important in the eyes of many people—the correct phrase, taken literally—and which I have mentioned in passing.

The Commission and the right hon. Gentleman are up against the frightening problem that every time they try to develop almost anything in the Highland, somebody is ready, either in a Highland castle or mansion, or on a city board in London, to leap out with an immense claim against them for compensation. Compensation for what? One does not normally hear of many of these people. They are quiet, retiring people who have never had it so good and who, by keeping quiet have had it good for a long time. But, as soon as a public agency like the Crofters Commission or the Hydro-Electric Board tries to develop anything, they come out from their mysterious corners in the Highlands and the woods and claim against the Commission, or the county council, the Department, or the Forestry Commission—against anybody who is rash enough to try to develop almost any of the neglected areas and resources of the Highland area. Their whole aim seems to be not to help the Commission, but to try to drain out of the community every last pound and penny they possibly can.

You would almost swear, Mr. Speaker, that there was a conspiracy to prevent hydro-electric development; but I would not go as far as that. They are satisfied if they get a handsome piece of compensation. They can be bought off. I doubt whether that is much to their credit: indeed, it would be much better if they objected in principle and were not so keen on the cash. That is what the Hydro-Electric Board, as well as the Crofters Commission, is up against.

One example is the Kilmorack—Strathfarrar hydro scheme. For the benefit of my English and Welsh friends I should say that some of my Scottish friends and I talked about this matter on the Bill in another place—meaning "another place" not in the strict Parliamentary sense of the term. The Crofters Commission no doubt was closely interested in the Kilmorack estate. In that case, a scheme was held up while the landlord demanded his compensation. Month after month went by and every month that went by the Board's work of generating electricity was delayed and yet another month's revenue was lost to the Board, a loss of revenue which made it more difficult for the Board from its profitable schemes to carry the uneconomic schemes and provide electricity further into the remoter areas.

The thing goes round in this vicious and expensive circle. At the end of the day one of the landlords—and I am sure that he will not mind if I mention him because he has been mentioned before—Lord Lovat of the 200,000 acres was awarded £100,000 in cold cash and at the same time enjoyed improvements on his estate worth more than £100,000. He came out of that well over £200,000 to the good.

While that scheme was held up, and while I was being told in the House and by the Hydro-Electric Board that the Board was so hard up for cash that it could not afford to bring electricity to the crofting communities of the Outer Hebrides, the Board was paying thousands of pounds in compensation for interfering with the fishing which providence at some time had, it seems, awarded to his lordship and others. The Board apparently could not afford to provide electricity for the people on the spot, the people for whom the whole hydroelectric scheme was—

Mr. Speaker

I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member. I can understand that as a preamble to some proposition related to the Bill, but I think that the preamble is getting rather long and I must require the hon. Member to relate it reasonably to the subject matter of the Bill.

Mr. MacMillan

I am merely illustrating how the supply of electricity, which is one of the duties which might fall on the Crofters Commission in certain circumstances and in certain places, will affect, and is affecting, the work which we have instructed the Commission and Hydro Board to carry out for us. So far I have given only one compensation case example. I will not refer at length to the other beneficiaries of this system of, shall I call it, hold-ups. I will quote only two other cases. Sir John Stirling collected about £50,000, and Sir Robert Spenser-Nairne also held up a scheme for several months; but I am not sure how much he received.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This may be my stupidity. I am very willing to listen to the hon. Member, but at the moment I do not understand how he can relate this reasonably to the subject matter of the Bill, and that I must require, even on Second Reading.

Mr. MacMillan

On that point, Mr. Speaker, before giving those examples perhaps I should have explained what I was anxious to point out. All this work of the Crofters Commission, which is laid on it directly by legislation, and which it is proposed to amend now, is related to the supply of electricity. The work of developing the crofts and modernising agriculture in collaboration with the various authorities and improving social conditions is tied up with the supply of electricity. It is fundamental to all agricultural development in the Highlands. That is my explanation.

Mr. Speaker

If I might assist, I will explain what is in my mind. I understand that point, and it may be legitimate, but I think that matters not arising in connection with the provisions of the Bill, or near them, which result from other reasons in the frustration of electricity supply or distribution are beyond the fine of order.

Mr. Manuel

Mr. Speaker, this is very important, and I should like your guidance because some hon. Members are very keen on this aspect of the argument.

For the past six years the Crofters Commission has been operating under the 1955 Act, and under that Act the onus is placed on the Commission to work with the Hydro-Electric Board. The Bill we are discussing will to some degree alter the 1955 Act, but not that aspect of it. Many of my hon. Friends who are interested in the Highlands are disappointed that there has not been greater co-operation between the Board and the Commission, and that more electricity has not been provided in the remoter areas.

Mr. Speaker

I will hear the hon. Member if he has the good fortune to catch my eye. What he is saying to me now appears to be in order, but what the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) was doing was going a good way away from the Bill.

Mr. MacMillan

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, we are concerned with the frustration of the work of the Hydro-Electric Board, which is collaborating with the Crofters Commission, or trying to, and unless something is done to end this frustration the work of the Commission cannot go on. It is admitted that that is so. We know that it cannot help to promote industries without electricity, and the activities of certain people in frustrating the supply of electricity are also frustrating the activities of the Commission.

In a Second Reading debate we are under some duty to propose alternatives to the present method of supplying electricity, and I was about to do that. When the 1955 Measure was in Committee upstairs an Amendment was moved providing that in certain areas where the Hydro-Electric Board, for no good reason, was not able to extend electricity to certain parts and crofting townships, the Commission should be given powers to do so. That is something that we must discuss in more detail in Committee. Electricity is one of the basic services, without which we cannot hope to modernise or reorganise and develop crofting agriculture in the Highlands and Islands.

We must find some way round this obstruction, in order to make it possible for the Board to assist the Commission in getting on with its work. Unfortunately, the prospect is getting worse instead of better. I am sorry that the Secretary of State did not have in mind the duties he laid upon the Commission, and which he is now amending and extending, when he made himself a party to putting further difficulties in the way of that Board, and therefore the Commission, in the electrification of the crofts. That is something with which the Commission must concern itself, day in and day out, in all its duties. And I am not merely talking in connection with television. Power is fundamental to the economic and industrial development we hope to see in the crofting areas.

Now, one more scheme—the great Glen Nevis scheme, a £4 million undertaking which, once in operation, would help to carry the uneconomic schemes in outlying crofting areas—is to be held up month after month while an Aims of Industry committee of investigation is going on with its inquiries. That is a further great frustration of the work of the Hydro-Electric Board and the Commission, and I am sure that it would have something to say to the right hon. Gentleman if it were free to do so. Commission members lecture hon. Members on this side of the House and other critics in their reports. They speak of our "fulminating against the Government". Those are odd words to find in a Report of a Government Commission—a report on which this very legislation is based.

They appear to be content to go on doing—as they say—"a little here and a little there", thinking in terms of decades, while the Highlands are dying by the month and the year. The right hon. Gentleman should give the Commission the same freedom to attack him as he gives it to attack us in respect of any criticisms we have about the failure of its endeavours. I am sure that the Commission would now have much more to say about how it has been made impossible for it to do its work, because he is helping to make it impossible for the Hydro-Electric Board to do its work.

I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman receives further letters from me he will not hide behind the new inquiry, as he has tended to hide behind all the others in the past.

Mr. H. Lever

Will my hon. Friend deal with the point he has just made about the Crofters Commission's Report? In the first place, it would assist some of us if he would give the reference in the Report to the passage where the Commission criticised Members of the House, and, secondly, will he tell us—because it may be relevant to this Second Reading debate—whether the Report was made available to Members of the Scottish Grand Committee? Was the debate in the Scottish Grand Committee held without the Report being available?

Mr. MacMillan

This is hardly for me, I think, but my hon. Friend is quite right to draw attention to that point. It is a non-Parliamentary Paper for which hon. Members have to apply on a green form which is then sent to some distant quarter, possibly to Inverness. Copies of the Report had to come back through the post, within the rather short notice of the Second Reading debate on the Bill. Therefore, many hon. Members will have no copies at all unless they sent for them themselves some days ago—and that goes for some other highly relevant documents without which it is not possible to conduct this debate as it should be conducted.

As for the reference to the advice which the Commission, which is the inspirer of this legislation, gave, my hon. Friend will find the relevant passages on page 15. The Commission says: Britain is in no mood for daring innovations; she is in a period of rueful stocktaking rather than of expansion. So we see no prospect of any comprehensive measure to reduce those restraints on Highland development which are imposed by existing difficulties of communication and marketing, and by the high level of freight charges. It serves no purpose for anyone to fulminate against the Government, or the Crofters Commission, or any other body striving for progress"— one would hardly recognise the Government in those terms— in face of those ancient disabilities, because responsibility rests on the country at large. The Commission goes on to say: As things are, we shall all have to be content with the present tempo of improvement"— the expression "present tempo of improvement" is an excellent description of "regeneration," is it not?— a little here, a little there, and an excessive amount of discussion — and so on. One notices that in the Report every reference to criticism or discussion always describes it as "fulmination", "excessive" or "unreasonable". The Commission has adopted a strangely free vocabulary in dealing with both Members of Parliament and others, people whose duty it is to criticise its work and make sure that its work is going on as it should. We are told that we should not criticise the Government or fulminate even against the Commission itself. That goes beyond even what the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty said about limiting the right of discussion. I hope that my hon. Friend will now agree that I was not misleading anyone in any way in what I said.

The Secretary of State will have to address himself to the problem of helping to bring electricity to the remoter areas. Clearly, the Board has no intention of doing it under its present disabilities. It claims it is not able to do it in its present position. This is not a reason for running into the arms of Aims of Industry and knuckling under, as the right hon. Gentleman has done, to the pressure groups which have been parading about this place for several months. It is a reason for his devising ways and means of doing what the Board is unable to do, largely because of policy decisions and actions of the Government themselves, for instance, by making it dearer for it to borrow money and restricting its work by an economic squeeze every two or three years so that the Hydro-Electric Board, like other development authorities, has had to curtail or delay its programme.

The other day, in answer to a question from the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry), when we were discussing the setting up of the Aims of Industry committee, the right hon. Gentleman gave an assurance, or what appeared to be an assurance, though it was cagily worded, with a great deal of hedging and equivocation. It may have been force of habit or it may have been intent. Anyway, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to indicate that local distribution schemes in the remote areas to which reference was made would not be affected adversely by the Glen Nevis inquiry or the Aims of Industry inquiry. That was the impression with which the hon. Member left the House—smiling. I do not know whether he is smiling now. Perhaps he is snoring. At any rate, he is not here.

The following day I received a letter from the Secretary of State about the supply of electricity to two islands which have been denied supplies all these years. I have had voluminous correspondence about the electrification of these islands. On electrification depends all modern development of crofting and ancillary industries, jobs, supply schemes—and television too. In 1954 the Hydro-Electric Board almost invited tenders for these. What has happened since? There has been one so-called economic squeeze after another, and more and more difficulties have been put in the way of the Hydro-Electric Board as a result of deliberate Government action and policy. Right up to 1961 the Hydro-Electric Board has not been able to bring electricity to those crofting communities on the islands of North Uist and Barra. Recently the chairman of the Board said that things were so difficult for them that he could not promise electrification of those islands—which means industry, jobs and all the rest of it—until 1975.

The right hon. Gentleman wrote to me on 6th December about the supply of electricity to North Uist and Barra. He began, I have been unable to write to you before now —I am sure that it is his own reply— because I have been considering the desirability of appointing a committee of inquiry to review the general arrangements for generating and distributing electricity in Scotland. All this in relation to a tiny local distribution scheme in the Outer Hebrides. He continued: I have now announced to the House the setting up of a Departmental Committee with the following terms of reference … I am sure that all hon. Members, even English and Welsh hon. Members, have had vouchsafed to them the terms of reference of that Committee. The letter continues: You will recall that in previous correspondence I have drawn attention to the difficulties confronting the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board in meeting the capital cost of connections in remote areas and the annual cost of providing a supply, and since the needs of the remoter areas raise important social and economic questions I feel that the issues involved should he fully examined by —believe it or not— an independent body. I cannot think he meant independent of the Aims of Industry; but I am not sure.

This is farcical, and a feeble excuse for avoiding for another year—and who knows how many years after that?—the necessity to do anything about the special needs of these special areas and their special problem of unemployment. There is no part of Great Britain with a worse record of persistent unemployment than the Western Isles. I say that not just because the statistics published by the Ministry of Labour show it but because, in addition, there is much under-employment concealed by various local factors—for example, the fact that crofters are self-employed, even though they depend mainly on other jobs, as they must. They cannot live from four acres and a cow, which is still quite an average crofting equipment in that area.

When the right hon. Gentleman writes a letter of that kind he is running away from the problem and he is taking the Crofters Commission with him, because the Commission is quite helpless if he insists on making it impossible for the Hydro-Electric Board to get on with its work.

The right hon. Gentleman may be content to have said of him when he dies, as Keats said, Here lies one whose name was writ in water. But while he is still alive—as I believe he is—he still has a certain responsibility for hydro-electricity and for developing and making available water and power to the crofters. At present what we have in him is mainly water and very little power.

I am going to pass on to him a letter from Inverness County Council which is vitally concerned with crofting development in co-operating with the Crofters Commission and is demanding electricity for outlying areas. I am going to pass on to him what, so far as I know, is the unanimous protest against the setting up of a committee of inquiry following the Minister's yielding to the pressure of interested parties who want to frustrate what they regard as the spoliation of areas in the Highlands in which they are interested—areas which, to a large extent, some of these people are only concerned in keeping as sporting areas, deer forests and grouse moors. That is their only interest in the areas.

Outstanding among these people is Colonel Whitbread. I do not think anyone would say that he has any particular interest or investment worth mentioning in the Highlands of Scotland. He has anything up to 26 or 27 directorships, and not one of them, so far as I am aware, is in the Highlands of Scotland. There may be some in Scotland, but not one in the Highlands. Yet he is concerned and has distinguished himself in leading the agitation in the lobby to which the right hon. Gentleman has now yielded for this inquiry and the further delay and frustration of the electrification of the crofting counties.

I am sorry that that should be the case, but the right hon. Gentleman has asked for it, and just as Mr. Cutbill, that professional grouse creator, sent by the Aims of Industry to the Highlands to raise all sort of complaints about this work, has come to be known as "Whitbread's tout," the right hon. Gentleman has put himself in a very unfortunate relationship with a body of this kind whose concern clearly is not with the development of the crofting areas.

Let us look at the Commission's attitude to its responsibility for transport and for freights. The Commission has given up all hope. It has said that much as it would like to see something done about reducing the cost of marketing the crofters' produce and transporting it at more reasonable rates, it regrets that it can see nothing in sight that can be expected to lighten the burden of increasing freight rates within living prospect. That is not much of a living prospect for the crofters, especially in Shetland and the Outer Islands, if they have got to put up with the excessive burdens of freight charges, delays, irregularities and all the rest for the reminder of their lives.

I do not know if it was the chairman of the Commission, who is in his sixties, or one of the younger members of the Commission who wrote that, but at any rate it is not intended to cheer us up. What it does indicate is that the Commission is completely barren of any suggestions or ideas regarding the lightening of the burden of freight charges. But it still has the duty of thinking around that problem and making recommendations to the Secretary of State.

I do not know whether it has made any recommendations, but here is a body asking for an extension of powers and of its rights to discipline and to compel crofters. I want to know what that body has been doing. I should like to know what it has said to the Secretary of State and what his answer was. Nothing has happened, except that the situation has got worse, and once against the freight charges have been increased by another 10 per cent., in an area where it costs already more than 10 per cent. more to live than it does even in the region of Inverness, let alone Aberdeen, London or Glasgow.

Something has to be done if we are to retain the population, which it is ostensibly the policy of all Governments to do. Answering Parliamentary Questions and Adjournment debates they all say that. If it is their purpose to retain the population in the Highlands and Islands; and to raise their standards roughly to those of the rest of the country, the Government must obviously tackle the additional cost of living in those areas. Instead of that, they pile on 10 per cent. upon 5 per cent. upon 10 per cent. in higher freight rates until it becomes quite impossible to do business there, to develop enterprises or industries in the area, or to live with any comfort and bring up a family—not at the present cost of living.

There is a different sort of body that asks the right hon. Gentleman to set up an inquiry—not Aims of Industry this time, but a body representative of the Highlands—the Ross and Cromarty County Council. That council wants an inquiry now, not into hydro-electricity but into the question of freight charges, into the MacBrayne Company's affairs and the running of its services, and into the whole question of the cost of the carriage of goods in the North-West Highlands and Islands.

It has asked the Inverness County Council to join with it—as I know the Inverness County Council will—in this demand. It has asked the Argyll County Council to join with it in an approach to the Secretary of State for an inquiry into ways and means of doing what the Crofters Commission should be advising the right hon. Gentleman about. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will yield as willingly to the pressure of the elected local authorities as he did to the pressure of unrepresentative and obviously financially interested people. So much for freight charges.

Then the Crofters Commission talks just a little bit—may I modestly say, unlike certain hon. Members—about the fishing industry; but I am afraid that it has given up fishing, too. The Commission has made no continuing attempt to do anything about freight charges, and has given no new thought to ancillary industries without which, as the Commission itself say over and over again, crofting cannot survive at all. Now the Commission seems to have given up any interest it may have had in the fishing industry and shows no intention of interesting itself in a practical way in trying to develop it.

The right hon. Gentleman, without further legislation, could be helping the Commission and the crofter-fishermen to solve their problems in that particular field—if "field" is the right word in the context of the fishing industry. I have been speaking so long on crofting that when I come to fishing I still have one foot ashore, but I am sure that my hon. Friend who is such an expert on white fish and anything connected with it, even in the early hours of the morning, will forgive me if I do not use the right figures of speech or figures of rhetoric—

Mr. H. Lever

The facts are so important, and so helpful coming from my hon. Friend, although we did not get them from the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. MacMillan

I am having to do the right hon. Gentleman's job for him. Indeed, being a member of the clan to which I belong, I am extremely lucky not to be on the Treasury Bench as one of the Macmillan family. We have our little difficulties among our friends and Cousins in the Labour Party, but the right hon. Gentleman, the Prime Minister, has solved all his little local differences with his cousins and friends by putting them all on his Front Bench. Not that there are no more difficulties there. I am not ashamed of the clan, but I am ashamed of the achievements of my fellow clansman's right hon. Friends—particularly the Secretary of State for Scotland—

Mr. Rankin

The right hon. Gentleman is not listening—he is seeking advice.

Mr. MacMillan

He is not even grateful to me for explaining what I can of the purpose and the intention behind the Bill, and of the Commission which inspired it. I do not blame him wholly for the Bill. I do not blame him completely for the contents of this Bill or for these proposals. I know that he was almost bludgeoned into it by the Commission and by nobody else at all. There was no insistence for this Bill in the right hon. Gentleman's Department or among Ministers, Members of Parliament, local authorities or anybody else.

It came from only one place. That is why, in some respects, it may be such a bad Bill. [Interruption.] I was saying something complimentary to the Secretary of State. That is, perhaps why he looks so surprised now. I shall thank him, as I did once before somewhere else which is unmentionable in this House, for having served as a buffer between the crofters and the Commission; because I am afraid that the Commission had originally much more sinister aims and designs against the crofters by way of compulsory amalgamation of their pitiable small crofts into larger units with the almost inevitable displacement of population that may still be effected under the Bill. It has been modified, and to that extent I thank the right hon. Gentleman. It may again have been force of habit that made him take the middle course rather than the extreme left or extreme right. We can in that case thank his force of habit for it.

The Commission has duties in connection with crofter fishermen and the development of the crofter fishing industry in the crofter counties. One of the difficulties about all this is that, to my knowledge, the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends have never carried out a single one of the important recommendations that have been made in respect of the fishing industry by, for example, any of the Highlands and Islands Members of Parliament, the local authorities or, as is to a large extent true, the Neven-Spence Committee of 1945. One of the things that I recommended then, although the Neven-Spence Committee did not accept it, was the closing of the Minch around the islands and north-west Highland area. Unless that is done, it will be impossible for the Commission to carry out its duties of raising the standard of life of these crofter-fishermen by collaborating, as it should, to the full with the Herring Industry Board and with the White Fish Authority. Those are two of the bodies with which it has a duty to collaborate.

Unless the Secretary of State gives greater protection to the inshore fishermen and to the livelihood of the crofter fishermen, there will be an increased drifting away from that industry and, therefore, from crofting itself. The Commission pointed out over and over again in the early stages of its existence that it is vitally important that fishing should continue to be one of the few bases of local economic life, particularly in the outlying places and the Outer Islands.

I should like to know in what way the right hon. Gentleman will help the Commission or the Commission is to be empowered under the Bill to do something practical about the marketing of the livestock, of the lobsters, of the fish and all the rest from, say, the Outer Islands or any of the other fishing and stock-rearing areas. What proposals or powers does the right hon. Gentleman have in mind for the Commission? What will the Commission be able to do under the Bill that it is not able to do now? Will the Secretary of State be prepared to amend the Bill under pressure or in co-operation with us on this side or with his hon. Friends in such a way as to make possible the planned transporting of livestock in particular, especially from the Outer Islands?

What powers will the right hon. Gentleman give the Commission to do a little more about the construction or assistance with the construction of jetties and piers, since he is not prepared to undertake this himself? Will he place this duty upon the Commission firmly, once and for all, with the resources, the finance and the general equipment to do it? Or, will things drift on just as they have been doing? I cannot see anything in the Bill to lead us to hope for anything else.

What is to prevent the Secretary of State, on the advice of the local township committees, practically every one of whose members are fishermen, in collaboration with the Crofters Commission and other local bodies and local authorities, having a more efficient system of fishery protection around the islands and the crofting villages throughout the area?

Why should he not organise what we have proposed for the Islands—a continuous preventive patrol, pursuit and arrest service, with a fleet of armed, powerful speed boats with all-weather capacity, based on the local fishing bays? What is to prevent the Secretary of State operating such a service for the protection of the livelihood of the inshore fishermen, with the collaboration of the Commission, local township committees and local authorities. We have asked for this time and again? But there is no sign of a response from the right hon. Gentleman. I think that he is taking advice from the Lord Advocate at the moment, but it is not the quarter to which I would turn for it. The Secretary of State must know that crofting can be destroyed—I wish I could have his attention. It is early yet, and he should not be so washed out.

Mr. Maclay

The hon. Member will understand that in my present job I find it necessary to be able to listen, talk and do ten other things simultaneously without doing any harm to any of them.

Mr. MacMillan

I wish the right hon. Gentleman also had the capacity to understand as well, because then we might have some response. He can destroy crofting at sea as well as on land. If he destroys the inshore fishing industry he cannot keep crofting on its feet.

This is a problem that many countries are facing. It is a basic problem not only for the Crofters Commission but for the Government and everybody else. It is the problem of the second job in the countryside. Almost everywhere, the small holding, the small farm, and the croft have failed as a means of providing a livelihood up to modern standards, especially when compared with standards in urban areas. Cities have attracted the population of the countryside. That is true of most countries.

If one looks at the studies made by such organisations as the I.L.O. and F.A.O., one finds that in almost every country in Western and Central Europe, including Finland, Norway, Southern Germany, France and Southern Italy, the central problem of study and research in connection with agricultural areas is that of the second job. In Southern Germany there is the problem of the man with the small, inadequate farm, who turns to the town for ancillary work. In the Highlands it is the problem of the man who has to have a fishing boat as well as his croft, or a weaving loom, or a job in a local textile mill. The central problem is the second job.

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) is listening carefully, because he has said this so often. Indeed, on the occasion when he tried to do something about it here by introducing a Bill to set up a development body in the Highlands, it was his right hon. and hon. Friends opposite who frustrated him, but he had the support of my right hon. and hon. Friends, to their credit.

This, then, is the problem of the second job—in other words, the problem of introducing light industries, based first of all upon indigenous resources and, secondly, even upon some artificial method, directed by the Government as a conscious effort to industrialise. This will have to be tried if the Secretary of State is to sustain crofting and small farming in the marginal areas. Why should the Commission not now be encouraged, assisted and empowered to encourage light industries—even to sponsor and promote them. We have, after all, adopted the principle of equalisation in relation to local authorities and rating deficiencies and the provision of basic services and development of many kinds. Is there any reason why we should not be able to extend the principle, of what I might call equalisation of costs, to enterprises willing to go into crofting areas by compensating them for the additional cost of doing so?

If the Secretary of State is prepared to think about that he might find it a better way of doing the job than by the devious and unsuccessful method which D.A.T.A.C. tried to operate in the Highlands, and which is now being operated by B.O.T.A.C. If the Government were themselves in co-operation with bodies like the Crofters Commission, the local authorities, the Hydro-Electric Board and the rest to induce industries to go into the outlying areas on the clear understanding that they would not be penalised in the way of costs by doing so, and were prepared to equalise costs for them and give them other incentives, I cannot imagine that some Scottish industrialists would not respond.

But, failing such a response, and in the absence of private enterprise doing it, is there any reason why the Government should not themselves, through the various public agencies, both promote industry and guarantee to purchase its products? It seems to me not an insuperable problem at all if the Government were willing to tackle it. But if the Government do not do either of those things, we shall not get industry there, and on the argument of the Crofters Commission itself, if one does not get industry there, crofting will not survive; and then we shall be right back where we started.

I could give the right hon. Gentleman many suggestions about how he could sustain the crofting side of the crofter-fisherman economy by doing a great deal more to develop the fishing side. Obviously, the protection of the waters in which the inshore fishermen make their livelihood, or try to, in competition with illegal trawling of all kinds, both home and foreign, is one of the most important directions in which the right hon. Gentleman and his Department can help the local people. We have suggested the provision of full-time locally-based and to some extent locally-manned speed boat services, based on the local fishing bays, instead of the old-fashioned and cumbrous fishery cruisers which can be seen miles away and whose movements are radioed from one illegally trawling vessel to another. The right hon. Gentleman has it in his power to take a number of steps if he wants to and to get legislation, which the whole House would support, to try to protect the livelihood of the inshore fishermen. Many suggestions have been made to the right hon. Gentleman along these lines, and so I will not take any further time on that particular point.

There are other problems facing the Crofters Commission. One of them is the difficulty that many of the jobs which are available now to crofters are jobs in which there is not any Class 1 insurance. The Crofters Commission, like everybody else, is no doubt anxious to try to ensure that any development of industry and provision of jobs will be on an insurable basis as far as possible. It is well aware of the difficulty that when a weaver in the world-famous Harris tweed industry becomes unemployed as an out-worker, weaving this world-famous cloth in his own home on the croft for which the Commission has a direct responsibility, the man gets no unemployment benefit. He is an able-bodied man. Therefore, he gets no National Assistance. If he leaves the area, there is no guarantee that a Hebridean weaver will get a job in a factory on the mainland which requires, for example, skilled engineers. The usual thing for him is, in desperation, to go into the Merchant Navy and give up weaving altogether. So it goes on.

The crofters are all self-employed as a class. The Harris tweed weavers, the textile weavers, are all self-employed as a class. They are grouped together with bishops and judges and Mr. Cotton and Mr. Clore and the right hon. Gentleman, if I may take the liberty of grouping him with those characters. Nobody has done a single thing about the problem of the crofter and the crofter-weaver. Time after time I have written to Ministers, including the right hon. Gentleman, who was good enough to reply fully about it but never have we been able to get them to accept a single suggestion to improve the insurance position and the social security position of this already depressed class. Why should we leave out of all our benefits the people who are trying to hang on on the fringe in the marginal areas and making a go of it at crofting, fishing and weaving?

Why should they be left out of the benefits of unemployment insurance in hard times and of payments for industrial injury and all the other things to which they are just as liable as any factory worker? The Secretary of State for Scotland has no answer to that, except that they are left out now and therefore there is nothing that we can do about it—which is an extremely unhelpful attitude and not uncharacteristic of him. Surely the right hon. Gentleman must have some ideas about this? Otherwise we shall not get the young crofter or weaver to stay in that area. The weaver often is a crofter and the right hon. Gentleman has responsibility for him just as has the Crofters Commission.

All these men are just as dependent on an employer for jobs as any factory worker is. When the raw material is not delivered to their doors for weaving and processing these men are just as unemployed and just as poor as any worker unemployed anywhere else in the country. Yet the right hon. Gentleman sends me bland letters telling me how sympathetic he is and that he is considering this with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance—a bonny pair—and we end up by getting no result whatsoever. Is it not time that we considered this along with the problem of jobs? It is no use having a Crofters Commission without crofters and we cannot get crofters to remain and sustain themselves without industry.

If we do not provide them with insurable employment we throw them on the mercy of the National Assistance Board. They will not even be allowed to draw National Assistance, since the Board will not take responsibility for them while they are able-bodied men who can register for other employment, which, in turn, is not available to them.

One could say many things about the many responsibilities of the Crofters Commission.

I will say no more than one sentence in passing about the additional burden which people in that area have to carry when they fall ill through industrial injury or otherwise—perhaps injury on the croft, or in the fishing boat where the crofter-fisherman is concerned, and injury at the loom where the crofter-weaver is concerned.

If that man has to travel to a hospital at any great distance away in his area, he has in many cases to pay to go into hospital for treatment out of his own pocket and do it over and over again if he requires a number of journeys. This is a particularly heavy burden in an area where the wages and the standard of living are much lower than they are basically in almost any other part of the country.

The Commission appears to have taken obliquely some credit for one quite dramatic improvement and change which has been going on in the island of Lewis. This is the new pasture regeneration or reseeding schemes in the island. There has been reseeded and virtually reclaimed from moorland up to 3,000 acres of land which was formerly a brown bog of no value to anybody. Suddenly there is this dramatic gesture of green throughout that area and one sees beautiful, green, lush grass growing and in a year or two years the cattle population gradually increases and everybody is very happy about this demonstration of the capacity of crofters to work, co-operate and respond when they are given the right leadership.

The Crofters Commission has never actively frustrated any scheme. It does not promote schemes itself. It pays grants which the Government make available to the Department and for the rest takes a certain paternalistic interest in all that is going on, which I am afraid is slightly characteristic of the chairman of the Commission after many years in Colonial Territories, and it says "This is excellent."

I should like to pay my trbiute to the people who really did the work and who inspired it—the local people, with the help of the advisers of the College of Agriculture, particularly the local adviser on the island of Lewis, although these men hate being mentioned, especially by name, and the lands officers from the Department of Agriculture. They all worked together magnificently with, let it be said to their credit, the local merchants, who gave extended credit, and, in certain cases, the banks. There was an excellent response and it was again demonstrated that there will be a good response to any scheme which can be shown to he practical and of advantage and suitable to the locality. The crofters will co-operate in any sphere in which the necessary capital, which neglect and poverty through the generations has prevented them from accumulating for themselves, is made available to them, and when the right technical advice and co-operation are offered.

None of these things is tackled in the Bill. Nobody asked for the Bill. No crofter is demanding it. No landlord is demanding it. It is neither wholly good nor bad. No farmer, or fisherman, or local authority, or Member of Parliament is asking for it. Only the Commission has asked for the Bill, which does only one thing and which will result in only one thing, however far ahead we look—an extension of the Commission's bureaucratic powers. The crofters are already smothered by regulations and Acts of Parliament, hedged in with all sorts of restrictions which would not be tolerated for one minute by any landowner, by any farmer, in this country, and which none of those classes is even invited or asked to tolerate. Why should the House impose on the most helpless and poorest and most depressed section of the agricultural industry disabilities and disciplines and compulsions which it dare not, and, in any case, would not, impose upon the much more powerful and influential elements in farming and land-owning?

What do the Government expect to get out of the compulsions and disciplines? For instance, what do they expect to get in the way of additional agricultural production? Supposing they increase the crops in all the crofts on a lot of difficult and rocky marshland and add the lot together; what would the total extra production be in an island like Harris or Eriskay? It would be very little indeed. Have the right hon. Gentleman and the Commission any way of marketing the surplus, if a surplus is created? The experience with surpluses over the last years has been that they have had to rot into the ground, or the crofters have been frustrated in their enterprise by not being able to compete in the inland markets because of the cost of and delays in freight to the mainland markets.

The sum total effect of these so-called re-organisation schemes is that they will not work under compulsion and that all the compulsory sub-letting will not be allowed to work in any areas where the clan system is still strong and where personal and township and family loyalties are extremely strong.

The sum total effect achieved by the Bill will be a sense of disturbance throughout the croft lands caused by this bureaucratic body's attempts to enforce its powers. English and Welsh Members may not know that crofters are already compelled to reside one the croft, wherever it is and however uncomfortable it is—or at the most within two miles of it—if they are not to be booted out of even the small and inadequate patch of ground that was probably won from the heath or picked out of the rocks by their ancestors when the landlords were busy pushing the Highlanders to the edge of the Atlantic.

Along comes the right hon. Gentleman and his Commission with this miserable Bill and asks us solemnly to consider it on Second Reading, without even any explanation. It would be almost an act of faith to accept this document without explanation; and that is asking a lot if we bear in mind our experience of the right hon. Gentleman's legislation.

The Bill is asking for power publicly to discipline and humiliate the crofters for failing to do what no hon. Member of this House would find himself any more able to do than the crofters, and that is to wrest a living out of many of the miserable patches of bogs in the West Highlands. The Bill is in danger of diminishing the security of tenure and of further loosening the old attachment to the land, which is a valued and precious thing in an area where they have had to fight for every square inch of land. The results will not, in terms of productivity or human happiness, justify an Act of Parliament being passed on the lines of this Bill with which we have been confronted.

The Crofters Commission should come before us today and say: "Look, we possibly made the wrong approach to the crofters. We were clumsy and tactless. We showed inconsistency in matters of assignation and other matters. When it came to reorganisation schemes, we failed to carry them out on the voluntary basis because we sold the people the prospect of something really dramatic and profitable to them before we explained to them that they would have to pay higher rents and carry additional burdens. That is to a large extent the reason for the failure of the reorganisation schemes. The people did not know the snags. They did not know in good time of the new impositions, taxes and burdens, financial and otherwise, until the schemes were well under way. Suddenly they were confronted with them and they refused to go on".

Had the Crofters Commission told them frankly that there were certain snags and that there would be certain burdens and consulted them about this at the beginning, much of the work that was wasted on the schemes would not have been wasted, and the time of the Commission would have been saved.

Some time ago tonight I was asked about compulsory reorganisation. May I relate it in passing to something in which this House and my party in particular takes great pride, that is, to the majority right of the local people. That is extremely important. It plays a part in our debates on Central African Federation and in many other colonial discussions, but here in this legislation it is proposed for the first time in the reorganisation of the crofting villages that the will of the majority shall not only not operate but shall be no more than merely consulted. In other words, even if there are up to 100 per cent, of the crofters in the community against it, subject only to the discretion of the right hon. Gentleman, subject only to that one frail and unreliable safeguard, the Crofters Commission can impose its will on that whole township, or group of townships, as to its radical reorganisation in all its aspects. The will of the majority of the people can be flouted and set aside by a group of paid officials.

That is something about which the House ought to be anxious. Even the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) might show some small sense of responsibility in relation to this filching away of the rights and liberties of that section of the electorate, the agricultural population. I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman regards this is a matter of levity, but he has some concern in the passing, if it is passed, of the Bill. I ask him to treat the matter more responsibly.

Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)

How does the hon. Gentleman know that my aside to my hon. Friend had anything to do with his speech?

Mr. MacMillan

I am sure that it had nothing to do with my speech.

Mr. Gower

It was a private matter.

Mr. MacMillan

It is not a private matter when a public matter is being discussed. It is an offence to giggle and laugh like a silly schoolgirl in the corner of the House.

Mr. H. Lever

Can my hon. Friend enlarge on that point? He said that the hon. Member for Gower would take an interest in the principle involved in the Bill. Why should we expect the hon. Member for Gower, in particular, to take a special interest in it? Is there something in the hon. Member's contributions to the House which shows his interest in the subject, or which justifies the belief that he has a special interest in it? I do not mean to be disrespectful to my hon. Friend or to the hon Member for Gower.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

Is my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever) entitled to call the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) the hon. Member for Gower? There seems to be some misapprehension about it. Barry is a different constituency from Gower. If the hon. Member represented Gower he would take more interest in the farming population.

Mr. MacMillan

I am obliged to my two hon. Friends for their interventions, and I apologise to the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. I. Davies). The reason for my paying special attention not to him but to the hon. Member for Barry is not that his interest is any greater, but that his ignorance is greater than that of some other hon. Members on this subject. The reason for that is the failure of his right hon. Friend to explain the Bill to us. I have the difficult task of trying to bring home to the hon. Member what I am saying; I am trying to register my words in his understanding, or at least in his hearing. I am obliged to do the work of his right hon. Friend. Perhaps he will lay the blame at the door of his right hon. Friend for not explaining the matter in even simpler terms than I am trying to use for the hon. Member's benefit.

In the past these schemes were on a co-operative and voluntary basis. The people had to be carried along by the organisers. It could have been a very exciting experiment if the Commission and the crofters themselves had been given the right incentives and resources to carry out the schemes. But they were never equipped properly, and the Commission was tactless in its handling of the situation. The whole operation was badly conceived.

But that is no reason for destroying the principle of the majority decision in the crofting townships and imposing two things upon the crofters by compulsion—first, the sub-letting of their crofts for periods up to seven years, with the humiliation, in full public view, of their having strangers imposed on them on their own back doors, to cultivate the land because, in the view of the Commission, they were not doing the job the right way, and, secondly, the humiliation of having imposed on them reorganisation schemes which can achieve very little in these areas where production is such a marginal thing at best.

If the Secretary of State says that no Secretary of State would dream of imposing a scheme in an area if the people were against it, why give the Commission these powers? Why put these provisions in the Bill, instead of enshrining the majority rights of the crofters in it? The right hon. Gentleman must face the fact that on 26th November, 1958, the Chairman of the Commission said, publicly, that the number of crofts must be "drastically reduced." That can be done only in one way. In relatively congested areas like the Western Isles, if the number of crofts is reduced and the area of each enlarged the people are displaced—and the people are much more important than the crofts, at the end of the day. We are concerned with human problems. The Government have said that they are concerned with maintaining a thrivng population in these areas, and are trying to raise the standards.

That is the purpose of the legislation passing through the House. That is the purpose of every agricultural or fishing subsidy. Yet, at the end of the day, we are to allow the Commission or anyone else to pursue a policy which must inevitably result in a drastic reduction not only in the number of crofts but in the number of crofters because the number of crofts has gone down.

The right hon. Gentleman must address himself, and he must insist upon the Crofters Commission addressing itself, to the second job. The Commission has stated that, unless other employment, industrial employment or sound employment in fishing with an income is available, crofting itself cannot be sustained. That is the view of the Commission. What will the Commission do, what will it be enabled or instructed to do, about the second job, on which depends in turn the maintenance of crofting? What does the right hon. Gentleman himself propose to do about it? It is important to have answers to these questions, and I hope that they will be asked over and over again tonight, because there is no reality in crofting without the job which makes crofting possible.

There are parts of the Bill which could have been introduced and taken together, quite logically, as I see it, in order to produce a Measure which would have been welcomed by the crofters and by all of us here. There are in the Bill several proposals which we strongly welcome and which my local Labour Party in the Western Isles, after critical and careful study, still welcomes. It is such a pity that the Government should bring into the Bill provisions which are utterly indigestible to crofters and which run so counter to their whole sense of self-respect and the whole idea of democracy, majority rights and all the rest that they cannot take the Bill as it stands.

The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. N. McLean), the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty, and, I am sure, other hon. Members, would have been kicking up a furious fuss if it had been a Labour Government who introduced this Bill. After all, the Tory Government went out of their way to remove the last compulsion, the last discipline, almost the last obligation, from other people in agriculture, the ones to whom they pay the biggest subsidy. The last supervision was removed from the farmers not long ago. Now, they impose those very disciplines which they removed from their more influential friends and supporters upon the poorest, most helpless section of the agricultural population. What a wonderful democratic decision. No wonder they do not have support for it on their own side of the House any more than on this.

The right hon. Gentleman certainly has no support in the Highlands for his Bill. The Highlands do not all vote Labour. As I have shown—I will give the figures again at some time, if it would help—most people in the Highlands do not vote for the Government, but, more than that, I can show that the Government could not marshal majority support for themselves anywhere on this Bill, because their own supporters as well as their opponents in the Highlands are against it. What possible justification can there be for introducing the Bill at all?

We believe that it is a good thing that there should be a Crofters Commission. We think it should be effective. We think that it should be armed with resources of finance and democratic power, subject, of course, to scrutiny, and subject, I think, to a large extent, to very considerable answerability through the Secretary of State in this House. Such a Commission should have on it what it does not have now, that is to say, several practical people who know something about crofting, who have had mud on their boots and mud on their hands, people who have actually done this sort of thing.

On the Commission there should be members who could not only talk directly with people, particularly in the Outer Islands, in their own language, but also talk in practical, knowledgeable crofting terms in the village meetings. The Crofters Commission is now going to the villages under the pressure of criticism from the Western Isles. It has begun to consult people, but, unfortunately, it is now consulting people about destroying their majority rights to take decisions about their own future and their own industry.

We want to see economic holdings of reasonable size carved out of the land which is available—not out of other crofts we do not want what has been condemned as "croft cannibalism," with one croft eating up another and intensification of depopulation and people being forced out of crofting. We want to see an extension of crofting into the neglected estates in the Highlands. We want to see a limit put on multiple farming in the Highlands and we want to see an end to week-end farming.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

Hear, hear.

Mr. MacMillan

I am glad that I have the hon. Member's support.

Sir D. Glover

I was congratulating the hon. Member on having spoken for two hours.

Mr. MacMillan

I congratulate the hon. Member on having been able to listen to me for two hours, which is much more of an ordeal. My difficulty was, and still is, that I am doing two men's jobs. Strictly speaking, I should be collecting a salary of about £7,500 at the moment. I should be collecting the right hon. Gentleman's salary and my salary at least for tonight's work, because I am doing a double shift—his and mine.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I hope that my hon. Friend is not going for a salary of £24,000 a year.

Mr. MacMillan

To get back to the Crofters Commission, never mind my having to do two men's work, I am in a difficulty which the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) can share; he is hanging on to every word, for he has not heard one of these words before in Committee upstairs. He has not heard this whole speech before, as one hon. Member put it. I can tell him what the Bill is about, what our objections are to it, what is the background to it and all the things which his right hon. Friend should have said had the House, and his hon. Friends in particular, insisted on him saying them. The right hon. Gentleman should have made a Second Reading speech. He would then have done half my job for me and would have earned his salary, instead of leaving me to do his job for him.

In the Western Isles we are anxious to see larger holdings. We should not in the last object if the 50-acre limit were removed, provided that it did not lead to cannibalism of crofts. There are hundreds of thousands of sterile acres in the Highlands. There are some deer, admittedly, forests and other areas which are sterile and never will be anything other than sterile, but there are very few areas in which nothing can be done with the land. We could do what is being done in Lewis and the Outer Hebrides—regenerate the areas with grazing and an increase in the cattle population. That can be done almost anywhere in the Highlands.

We also know that the black-faced sheep can go almost anywhere that the red deer can go up to quite high altitudes. There should be very little waste land in the Highlands and there is now a considerable waste. On the one hand, we have hon. Members who speak of 3 million acres of deer forest and of the need to fill them with sheep and cattle. On the other hand, we have hon. Members who say that the 3 million acres of deer forest are not worth an argument, and that we can get nothing out of them. But there are very few areas in which we could not do something useful with some of the land, through regeneration.

Mr. Manuel

Does not my hon. Friend agree—and we both know something about deer forests—that within the deer forests there are many acres of good summer pasture which could be made available to crofting townships, which would conserve the tillage which is now being eaten so bare, with consequent loss of milk in those areas?

Mr. MacMillan

My hon. Friend has gone full cycle to the redevelopment of an old idea—summer shieling. Few people are familiar with it, except the people in North Lapland and people in the Outer Hebrides. The custom was in the summer—and to a limited extent still is in the Island of Lewis—to drive the stock out in May to the moorland pastures, which are rich, where they spent the summer, and to bring them back in August, sleek and well fed.

That is the point that my hon. Friend has in mind. The old summer shieling idea was on those lines. The cattle were brought back in first-class condition, and then they went on to the village grazing once again. That system could well be carried out in other islands as well as on the Isle of Lewis. It probably originated with the Scandinavian occupation of about 300 years. It may well have been imported from Sweden. It is still practised with the reindeer herds in Northern Lapland. The herds are taken up to the high altitudes away from the flies and all sorts of pests, and are grazed on the distant pastures. Then they are brought down again in the winter to the more sheltered areas.

The important point to bear in mind is that if re-seeding schemes can be carried out as they are in the villages in the Outer Islands, co-operating in terms of some thousands of acres, the same system can be applied to the fuller regional development of regeneration. It can be done on a regional basis, employing a large number of people full time—everybody from the man who is doing the sowing and the liming, right through to the man who is doing the haulage and all the other jobs. All the people who are employed on those regional schemes could be given insurable employment, which they are not getting in the smaller schemes under the present arrangement.

The Crofters Commission, instead of trying to amalgamate holdings, ought to be working on the basis which my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) mentioned the other day—on the co-operative village unit basis—so that unnecessary capital is not spent, but working in a planned, sensible and economic way as a village co-operative unit. A great deal could be done in that way, under the supervision of the Crofters Commission, with the help of the Department of Agriculture with all its experience, and of the College of Agriculture.

This suggestion has been made time after time. I have often done so, and so has my hon. Friend not long ago in a rather different way. But we never get any response. The Minister says that the crofters will not co-operate. I say to the Minister: why not try to co-operate with the crofters? Why not offer them the right incentives and try to carry them with you, as we have done in the lobster marketing schemes and in these successful re-seeding schemes? If the Minister will carry the people with him, he will have some success. But merely to compel, bully and discipline them is to discriminate against one section of the community and create a loss of self-respect and public humiliation which they will not tolerate.

What is the view of those Members of the Scottish Committee who, I understand, had an opportunity of discussing this Bill before it was allowed to come to the attention of my English and Welsh hon. Friends? With one exception—the Secretary of State himself—hon. Members on the Government side as well as on the Opposition side of the Committee were highly critical of many parts of the Bill, and indeed were critical of many things of which my local Labour Party—the members of which know something about crofting, as crofters—was most critical.

I quote now my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) when he spoke on this Bill in the Scottish Grand Committee. I will not quote my own speech because that would be immodest even for a Member who has now spoken for over two hours this evening. My hon. Friend said: No one in the Committee or outside it who has paid any attention to the problem of the Highland; could take the view that the Bill goes any way towards tackling that problem. We would all agree with him there: No matter how fully its provisions are implemented it cannot make a substantial or worth while contribution towards the solution of the manifold problems of that area. My hon. Friend also quoted these words from some of the comments of the Crofters Commission: We see no alternative to pressing on towards the limited objective, the rationalisation of crofting agriculture, and we propose to ask for powers to that end. My hon. Friend's point was that these are, in fact, all the powers in which the Commission is interested. It is not even interested in using the powers it already has, let alone ask for powers to enable it to do what is essential if crofting is to survive—to help to provide ancillary industries and second jobs.

My hon. Friend went on to say: I repeat that this will not deal with the cancer of depopulation; it will merely intensify it. It is to that very point that my present arguments are addressed.

My hon. Friend went on further to say something with which I feel every hon. Member will agree: This is a fiddling little Bill which nobody wants or supports. My goodness—how I agree with him. He asks, too, what we do when faced with this situation, and answers: We get down to considering a Bill which goes no further than the Napier Commission recommended in 1887, no further at all. My hon. Friend is absolutely right there.

I am sorry to say it, but I am now talking the language of the witnesses, the crofters, in 1883 and 1884 who gave evidence before the Napier Commission upon which the 1886 Act was based. I am still talking that language here—about second jobs, inadequate crofts, lower standards, depressed conditions and insecurity—here, the new insecurity introduced by the right hon. Gentleman—lack of amenities, and transport. We are still talking the language of 1886 and 1887.

My hon. Friend went on: I do not think that the Secretary of State would claim that the Bill is for the protection and conservation of the population of the Highlands and Islands. It is not; not at all. And, of course, one can only agree with what he said. He went on: I know that landowners would want the Bill. But I would add that even the landlords have not blessed it so far. They may be keeping quiet in the hope that it will slip through its Second Reading with discussion at all, which is the hope of the right hon. Gentleman when he does not do us the courtesy of explaining and discussing the Bill.

My hon. Friend also said: What about the crofters' organisations? … One gathers from Press reports that they have been against the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 16th February, 1961; c. 119–25.] That is absolutely correct: I have not seen one report in support of it.

My hon. Friend also said, and it is important, that he would have thought that the local authorities would have been interested in it. The reason why the local authorities have not shown interest in the Bill is the reason my hon. Friend himself gave when he described it as a "fiddling little Bill." It can achieve so little, yet it can do so much harm in creating dissension and resentment amongst neighbours that it is not worth the support of the local authorities who, in any case, were not properly consulted about it.

While there are parts of the Bill which we would have welcomed had they been taken together in logical sequence and which would have made a helpful and useful Measure, that is no reason why we should swallow the bad with the good. I believe that the offensive parts of the Bill will poison its acceptable parts and frustrate its operation if it is forced through by the Secretary of State with these compulsions and humiliating and selective disciplines still imposed in it.

The Labour Party has its own way of dealing with some of these problems. In 1945, it put into operation for the first time in the Highlands things which had never before been tackled. Had the Labour Party remained in office, I believe that these things would have continued at the tempo and pace which they had attained by 1950, when, for the first time in generations, depopulation had been halted and there was throughout the Highlands and Islands a new note of hope and, among the people, a sense that the Government and the House of Commons were interested in them.

Almost every development that we have seen in the Highlands since then, even in Tory days, has been based upon public enterprise, everything from afforestation to the Dounreay reactor. There has been hardly any new private enterprise, with the honourable exception of the efforts of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, who is such an uncharacteristic Tory that I am amazed that he has not developed a sense of shame at being a Tory. At least, the hon. Member tries to create work and he invests and believes in the area. Had private enterprise done what he exceptionally did, it would not be so necessary for us to tackle the situation as we are doing today.

But the hon. Member is a lone voice and a lone example. The very exception proves the case that we have been making against the failure of private enterprise and the necessity for the State to come directly into the regeneration of the Highlands. Who else will do it? All the private interests have worked to the frustration of every attempt at development. I have illustrated that in connection with the Hydro-Electric Board. I could illustrate it in relation to the efforts of the Forestry Commission to acquire enough land to be able to plan a few years ahead. One could give any number of illustrations of the frustration of all development by the sporting landlords and what I can only honestly call the spiv classes, who have no interest in the Highlands except as a pleasant retreat from their City interests. The Aims of Industry is frustrating the work of the Hydro-Electric Board and, therefore, the work of the Commission, which requires electricity for all the work on the crofts. All these people are interested in only one thing: that is, their own financial and material investments in the City and elsewhere and, secondly, in retaining for themselves whole sterilised areas of the Highlands and Islands where agricultural production could, even now, be expanded, but which they want to keep and reserve for themselves as grouse moors, deer forests and sporting grounds.

We could argue about this until the cows come home or, in the deer forests, until the deer come home, but these are still the facts of the matter. There may be no evil intention consciously behind this sterilisation of hundreds or thousands of acres of Highland soil. Those people may simply accept it as being their inheritance in the natural order of things.

Mr. Manuel

It is not.

Mr. MacMillan

Every clansman is a cousin of the chief, even if the Prime Minister does share my clan name. Whether the inheritance of any chief is to a nouveau riche stockbroker from London or of one of the hereditary lairds of Sutherland or Inverness-shire, their claims can be equally asserted by the ordinary clansman and the ordinary Highlander. The ordinary Highlander has never admitted, whether before the law, before Parliament or before the chief, that he has less right to take a deer off the hill or a salmon from the river. He has always treated that as his natural right of inheritance. Who would dare to look him in the eye and say, "You have less right to this freedom of the hill, loch and stream than I have. I have a right to 100,000 acres; you must pay me for renting three or four"? A man cannot look at his neighbour in a clan in the Highlands and especially in the Islands and say that and get away with it He would be laughed at.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I hope my hon. Friend is excluding from his indictment Members of this House. Is he not aware that the Home Secretary has shown an interest in Mull? I hope that my hon. Friend will not assert that the Home Secretary would be entitled to take a deer illegally.

Mr. MacMillan

If the Home Secretary acquires an interest in Mull, deer will not be taken illegally by him, but any attempt by a native of Mull to take a deer would be regarded as illegal.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

Order. I think that the hon. Member for the Western Isles is being encouraged to stray off the Crofters Bill.

Mr. MacMillan

I agree, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) put the tempting target of a red deer in front of me, and I am sure that you will excuse my following it from instinct. I shall follow deer no longer on Mull, but leave it to the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary is fortunate in that he is not known on Mull, whereas the Prime Minister is known in the Isle of Arran and, therefore, would not be so welcome to go back there.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

My hon. Friend should have some respect for historical accuracy. The Prime Minister's ancestors did not come from Arran but from Mull of Kintyre.

Mr. MacMillan

I was dodging that because the rest of our clan also came from the Mull of Kintyre. But I am trying to leave the problems of consanguinity of clanship and return to the subject of the Bill. The Prime Minister's grandfather was expelled, for sheep rustling, from the Isle of Arran, and the Prime Minister has been wool-gathering ever since.

We believe that the Crofters' Commission could still serve a very important, useful and protective function in the Highlands and Islands if it were given the finance, equipment and staff to do it, and if it had the experience, the local knowledge and the will to do the things that I am sure every hon. Member for a Highland constituency, and every local authority in the Highlands, wants it to be able to do for the Highlands. If local authorities were given the opportunity and the finance, I doubt if many of the Commission's powers would be needed; but, unfortunately, they have got problems of their own because of de-rating and the soaring costs which most of them find in borrowing for their services and development projects. As the party opposite is apparently not prepared to let any other body encourage industry to go to the Highlands, the Commission should be given the power to assist industrialists, through the provision of capital from a global sum which the House would be glad to vote to it, and should be allowed to use its initiative in looking for suitable people, prepared to develop local industries, whether in textiles, or other things, ancillary to crofting and fishing—even mineral development.

If the Government were prepared, where private enterprise is not normally prepared to do it, to offer special inducements to enterprising people wishing to go out into the outlying areas and to guarantee them against any disadvantage from going to those areas compared with areas nearer the main sources of supply and the markets, we might hope to see some industrial development. But merely to look to the Commission, with its bureaucratic powers of compulsion against a selected group of agricultural tenants, while not imposing any duties upon it to develop the essential second jobs on which everything depends, is to take no step at all in the direction in which we should like to see the Government go.

Mr. H. Lever

My hon. Friend has on more than one occasion referred to the Crofters Commission as being a bureaucratic commission. Presumably he uses that expression to indicate to the House that in some ways he is thinking of the fact that it has full-time officials. Could he perhaps outline to the House what alternative possibilities he thinks preferable to the present system—perhaps a mixture of full-time officials and part-time ones?

Mr. MacMillan

I am only sorry that my hon. Friend is asking me to do so much of the work of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State. I do not mind doing a certain amount of his work, but it is asking quite a bit that two men's jobs should be done by one man. That is not the sort of second job that I have been talking about up to now. I have been talking about a second job for somebody else, not myself, and a profitable one, not an unprofitable one of this kind.

Mr. Harold Davies

I have taken the trouble to slip into the Library, because of the importance of my hon. Friend's views on small farmers, to look at the 1955 Act and what the Minister at the time said about the Crofters Commission. He said: This Commission will devote its entire energies to promoting the welfare of the crofting communities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th January, 1955; Vol. 536, c. 431.] In the Schedule we were told that there were to be six members, some of whom were to be part-time. I consider that this is one of the things to which my hon. Friend for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever) was referring.

Mr. MacMillan

To some extent the Commission is something like the Ministerial side of the Scottish Office. It has about six members, some of whom are part-time. As must be painfully obvious to my hon. Friend and the people of the Highlands, that is one of the difficulties in the Government under which we are labouring at the moment.

Mr. Rankin

But is it not the case that the Government discovered one gentleman on the Commission who knew a great deal about crofting and so they sacked him?

Mr. MacMillan

It is, in fact, true that there was a gentleman there who, first of all, spoke most fluently and eloquently the ancient language of Scotland, the language of Scotland in the days when English was unknown or had not been properly developed. He was first-class in the sense that he was a practical man and knew something about crofting, knew the West Coast problem area, and knew farming and agriculture. Then he disappeared; and in his place we now have the defeated Tory candidate for Orkney and Shetland, a landowner. I am not saying anything against the gentleman concerned—I do not know him very well—but there it is. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman knew him very well, and that was all that was necessary.

For the rest, the position is that there are two full-time members of the Commission. The chairman would, I think, by now have been completely retired from the Foreign Service. His last post, I think, was at the Embassy in Venezuela. The conditions there being so similar to those of the Western Isles, he was regarded as the most suitable person to exercise a sort of colonial maternalistic supervision over the Western Isles, as I have no doubt he has done in many disappearing British colonies.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I am sure that my hon. Friend does not wish to be unjust. Surely this gentleman was appointed because of his experience in Venezuela as there was an impression that oil might be discovered in the Isles?

Mr. MacMillan

I do not know but I would hope that oil might be discovered. It would be of the greatest assistance in creating ancillary industries.

Meantime, that is the composition of the Commission. At the moment there are two full-time members. Another one is well-known and able. He was a member of Argyll County Council, who has considerable knowledge of the area and who speaks the language. There are three part-time members and a staff of officials, of whom I am offering no criticism whatever. They are doing their job under the orders of the Commission as well as they possibly can and conscientiously. They are assisted and advised very well indeed by officers of the Department of Agriculture and various other people.

I do not want to say much about individuals, because they are hampered and hamstrung by inadequate powers. But they are hamstringing themselves as well as the crofters by asking for the wrong kind of extension of disciplinary powers. They will find themselves more and more up against local people and the community's traditional way of life.

I have quoted many other people. May I quote a rather long sentence which I spoke elsewhere on another occasion? It is: If we demanded now that public ownership and responsibility for the development of the land in the crofting counties be made the foundation of a real security of tenure for the working tenant crofter, buttressed by a programme of modern re-equipment, with guaranteed fair prices, planned local markets and planned transportation of stock, at fair freights, particularly, in these days, for store cattle and if we launched out on a regional programme for reclamation, regeneration and land settlement in the Highlands, with State promoted ancillary industries, I am sure that the Labour Party would sweep the Highlands."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 16th February, 1961; c. 101–2.] That was my view a few weeks ago and naturally that is my view now. We were able in the years 1945–51 to move towards some of these objectives through the work of the Labour Government and by that Government's inspiration and enthusiasm.

We suggest that there should be created now a body to assist the Crofters Commission, to supervise its work to some extent—though not to interfere with its routine work unnecessarily. That was the idea behind the Labour Party's proposal for a Highlands and Islands Development Authority. Such a body should be armed with adequate powers and financed adequately and given a considerable amount of freedom to co-operate with local authorities, existing executive bodies and other agencies in promoting the economic and social development of the Highlands.

I am putting that suggestion forward only briefly. The reason why I do not go into detail is that we have not yet completely worked out the details. We want things worked out, but not necessarily to be adopted as permanent gospel, because we want to be a little free to negotiate and adapt ourselves. We do not want to go into the fullest details at the moment. We want to consult with people and get their cooperation and not impose compulsions through a development board or any other kind of body.

I think that I have answered the questions of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheetham and have made a speech for the Secretary of State. I am sure that I have said at least some of the things that the right hon. Gentleman would have liked to have said.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Could my hon. Friend explain how his plan would assist the tourist trade in Scotland?

Mr. MacMillan

The Crofters Commission has spent a good deal of time discussing the tourist industry, but I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire will not expect me to go into the whole of the Commission's Reports up to 1959. I am sure that the Chair would take a very opaque view of that exercise and I shall therefore spare the House.

The Commission has been very enthusiastic about tourism. At one stage, the chairman visualised such a development of summer tourist chalet-based industry that the picture was drawn for us of crofters earning a net income of £1,000 a year. The maximum number of chalets to the croft was to he about six and, with, say, 30 crofts on either side of the road running through a village, that gives some idea of what the average crofting village was to look like—its six times 60 chalets added to the 60 houses with their T.V. sets which are coming in 1975 when hydro-electricity comes to the area and with the houses sprouting little antennae all over the area. To me the picture seemed a little sad and unreal and it was unacceptable to the Islands community, at least, as a main basis of livelihood, and we were all highly critical of it. Since then, it has been less enthusiastically advanced by the Commission and by other people. The criticisms were reasonable and they were understood by the people and even by the Commission.

While tourism plays its part in the crofting areas, I am afraid that we still have to solve the problems of the cost of travel to places like the Outer Isles for people travelling with families, who are probably the people who most need a holiday in these areas. Tourism will take a long time to develop as a major industry in the outlying areas.

In the meantime, my hon. Friend may be satisfied with that partial reply and I am sure that the right lion. Gentleman when he comes back to the Chamber, if he comes back, will be prepared to answer my hon. Friend's questions. Will hon. Members kindly now address their questions to the right hon. Gentleman opposite? I have done enough of his work for one night. He, not I, is supposed to be answering the questions.

We have suggested another way and another agency, another way of dealing with Highlanders as mature human beings, our fellow citizens, a way other than that of the Crofters Commission which imposed this Measure on the Secretary of State who is now trying to impose it on us, without even explaining the Bill to the House. We have suggested the other way, the way of cooperation, of comprehensive development through a body equipped for the job, instead of this poor, frustrated, little group of officials, hungry to justify their failure and trying to satisfy that hunger by increasing their disciplinary power and their powers of compulsion and just a little afraid of asking for them and desperately frightened of being given the duty of bringing ancillary industries and the "second job" without which, as they themselves say so often, crofting cannot hone to survive.

Mr. H. Lever

I beg to move. That the House do report Progress—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is not the correct formula. The House is a House. Were we sitting in Committee, we could report Progress.

Mr. H. Lever

I beg to move, That the debate be now adjourned. In view of the lateness of the hour, I hope that such a Motion will be acceptable.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I cannot accept that Motion.

1.50 a.m.

Sir David Robertson (Caithness and Sutherland)

The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) knows more about crofts than any hon. Member, and in his marathon speech tonight he exploited his knowledge at some length. I took note of one or two important things he said. I consider that his remarks on reclamation and reseeding are most appropriate. The Western Isles have shown commendable activity in re-seeding.

There has been a great decline in fishing, not only in the Western Isles, but in my constituency, because of over-fishing, and now that Britain has conceded to Iceland and Norway the twelve-mile limit, it is high time that we had the same limit. The Minch has been closed to British trawlers for years, but any foreigner can come in. The sooner we take steps to protect our fisheries, the better it will be for the crofting communities which live by agriculture and fishing. Not many live by fishing nowadays.

The hon. Gentleman's remarks on industry are correct, as are his observations on depopulation. I thought that the hon. Gentleman gave a graphic description, and a truthful one, of the depopulation which has occurred in the Highland area which once carried one-third of the population of Scotland, but now carry less than one-twentieth.

I did not share the hon. Gentleman's view on the method by which industry should be compulsorily brought into the Highlands. I never have, and I do not think that I ever shall, because the Government have performed miracles in Northern Ireland where we had the will to introduce industry to the six Northern counties and great successes have been achieved. Over 70,000 new jobs have been created since the war, and if a fraction of that will were demonstrated in the Highlands great progress could be made. I do not share the view about industry in the glens, but in the towns and large villages where communities live and want to go on living industry would be of tremendous help.

I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman in his condemnation of the failure of the Hydro-Electric Board to introduce electricity to the Highlands, because without electricity we cannot have industry. A similar thing, but to a lesser extent, is happening in my constituency. The Board is not fulfilling the obligations imposed on it by the House to connect consumers in remote areas. It says that it cannot meet the cost, but the truth is that if the Board stopped plunging from one new scheme to another costing millions of pounds and consolidated and settled down to run its operations properly, it would have no difficulty in meeting its obligations to connect up the remote areas.

The Board has carried on for years with millions of pounds earning nothing. It takes years to complete the schemes, and interest has to be paid on these vast sums of money.

Mr. Harold Davies

I am interested in a hill district and this question of electricity supplies. May I ask the hon. Gentleman if his experience is similar to that which we have met in other parts of the country where there are National Trusts or planning areas? If there is a National Trust or a National Park in an area, the authorities are reluctant to allow the electricity board to erect poles in the area, and consequently the problem of uneconomic underground cables arises. Does that problem arise here?

Sir D. Robertson

No, Sir; that does not arise. I know the problem very well. I took part in the debate on the original Bill, about twenty years ago, when nationalised electricity was first brought in by Mr. Tom Johnston, then Secretary of State for Scotland. I believe in electricity and I am most anxious to have it, but we cannot have it so long as the Board is compelled to pay its way and find millions of pounds to pay the interest on borrowings for projects which are wholly unremunerative. The Secretary of State has appointed a committee to investigate this matter, but I can assure him that no committee is required to justify my remarks; they are economic facts, which no one can challenge.

I support the Bill, as I supported the 1955 Act, because it confers incalculable benefits on our Highlands constituents, especially on the men who were not brought in to the Act although they had the status of crofter, and who are now brought in. We now give benefits by way of generous grants, and it is also a good thing that tenants who are unable, for one reason or another, to carry on working their crofts properly should be able to lease them to somebody else who can, and to give them legal tenancies for a period, thus enabling them to get into a position to run their own crofts later on.

I spoke in the debate in the Scottish Grand Committee on the principle of the Bill, and for the sake of those hon. Members who are not present at the proceedings of that Committee I should like to quote what I said about the Commission. I said: The Commission should now concentrate on the job of rehabilitating crofting agriculture. It spends far too much time in publishing its grievances and difficulties instead of getting down to work to overcome them. A first-class commercial man should be appointed manager to provide the drive so badly required. The Commission talks an awful lot, and writes letters galore, instead of getting down to the job it has to do. Someone said at our last sitting that only three reorganisation schemes have come about. That is correct. What a shameful record for five years"—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Might I ask—

Sir D. Robertson

Not just now. The Chairman and his colleagues must regain the confidence of the crofters, and that can only come about by hard work and integrity. Their decisions as between man and man must be taken without fear or favour, and in the knowledge that any crofter has a constitutional right to bring a legitimate grievance directly to the Secretary of State, or to him through his Member of Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 14th February, 1961; c. 58–9.] I gave those words great consideration. I wrote them down, as I seldom do, and I felt that I was fulfilling my duty in the highest traditions of the House in saying something that was necessary and true. But for some reason or another the Secretary of State, in winding up the debate two days later, said, of the criticisms expressed generally: On the whole they have been couched in moderate terms, but one speech, that of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson), went a little far in what appeared to be an attack on men whom I and most hon. Members know are devoted to their task and are doing everything in their power in what is not an easy job. I replied to that. I disagreed with the right hon. Member and he disagreed with me. He asked me to withdraw and I said that I refused to do so. I said: I know the Commission very much better than the right hon. Gentleman. That is not his fault because he carries many burdens … but I have already given the Scottish Office and the right hon. Gentleman the evidence on which my remarks were based … He asked me to withdraw, but I did not do so.

I said further: if the right hon. Gentleman dares to continue in Committee his pitiful apology for the Commission I will have a great deal to say, because even corruption comes into this."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 16th February, 1961; c. 129.] Since then, the Secretary of State has been very active in publishing his views to the Press. I have not done so, and I am taking this first opportunity now to speak on the matter. All this has a background. Early last year, the Sutherland Crofters' Union was formed in Brora in my constituency as a result of acute resentment against the actions of the Commission. I was invited to come up to address a mass meeting of crofters, but I refused to do so. I wrote to them and told the Crofters' Union that I would not come, and also I wrote well of the Commission. I spoke in favour of it. I have always strongly supported it ever since the Commission was formed.

Another cause of resentment, a very reasonable cause, arises in the Crofters Commission's Report for 1959. At the end, in Appendix X, there are two diagrams, Plan A and Plan B, and the explanation is: We have selected a typical township to illustrate what the present conditions are and how they would be modified by long-term re-organisation. The present position in township 'A'"— which is in Brora, is then given. There are 22 crofts held by 15 tenants, with the arable land subdivided into about 100 separate pieces. There are four absentees. I imagine that the land of the four absentees has been sublet and is worked by others.

Plan A shows the crofting area as it is now, and Plan B shows it as it will become. Instead of there being 22 crofts with 15 tenants, the number of crofts is to be reduced to three, giving each about 30 acres of arable land and a considerable quantity of hill. It looks to me as if there is about the same amount of hill and grazing. The new, larger holdings will be small farms. It would be a very good thing to do if there were the land to spare; but what is to happen to the other 12 tenants? What about security of tenure? In all the crofting legislation from the very beginning, security was given. It was given in the 1886 Acts. It was given in the 1955 Act, and we have it again in this Bill. But this which is set out in the Appendix from which I have quoted is an indication of what the Commission intends to do, and the Crofters' Union has taken very great exception to it, quite rightly. There is great apprehension in Brora about who is to be kicked out and who is not. The hon. Member for the Western Isles talked about the cannibalisation of crofts. Here is an example of it, and this is exacty what the Commission has in mind. There should be no doubt at all in the Secretary of State's mind about the resentment which is felt.

Mr. Rankin

Has not the Commission two ways of achieving its objective: one, by agreement, and the other, by legal sanction? Is there any indication, or can the hon. Member tell us, whether there has been or there will be agreement?

Sir D. Robertson

I am coming to that.

Last summer, shortly after the Crofters' Union was formed and this Report was published, two crofting families appealed to me for help against the Commission. The first case concerns Robert Sutherland, who is the tenant of 62 Dalchalm. He was born in the croft. His father died in the croft in 1943. The family have been there for generations. Robert was a typical Highland lad. He went to Aberdeen and qualified as a Master of Arts, and today he is a headmaster in Aberdeen.

When the father died in 1943 the croft was assigned to Robert and, like a good son, he took it over, not for himself—he knew that he could never use it—but for his younger brother, W. D. Sutherland, who was on active service with the 5th Seaforth Highlanders and who had a grand war record, becoming regimental sergeant-major of the 5th Battalion in the 51st Division and serving through the whole of the North Africa campaign, the Sicily campaign and the campaign in North-West Europe.

When he came back it was to his old job as a postman. It is typical of the Highlands that one brother should become a Master of Arts and the headmaster of an important school in the City of Aberdeen while another brother should become a postman—jobs which are very different in income and status.

The postman-brother had worked in the croft part-time. He had helped his father in the days before he went to war. When he came back, although he had married and had young children and lived a long way from the croft, while his widowed mother lived in the croft house he struggled on for two years keeping the croft going on his own. But at the end of that time he had to give it up. One can imagine the difficulty of a rural postman who had to walk miles every day in his work and then had to work on the croft in his spare time.

Robert, the brother in Aberdeen, sublet the croft to a Mr. Coghill, who carried it on efficiently and well and cultivated it 100 per cent. When he died, it was sublet to Mr. MacDonald.

That continued until the summer of last year when the family decided that in view of the impending retirement of the postman-brother, Robert would transfer the croft to the postman-brother, who had a young son who was also old enough to work on the croft. But the Crofters Commission refused the assignation.

That goes against all the fundamentals in crofting legislation. The first principle which runs through all these Acts is security of tenure. There was no just reason for this refusal. The Commission sent out an official who told the postman that he was too old for the croft—despite the fact that he is still on the Reserve of Officers. The official told him that he was too old for the job. He is a fine fellow and certainly is not too old for it. His son, aged 18 or 19, has a clerical job in the road surveyor's office, and he was to have succeeded his father on the croft. This is a fine family. The mother, who is a trained nursing sister, but who abandoned that profession when she married and had children, is still working to earn enough money in order to carry out the family's share of the improvement in the old croft house, such as putting in a new bathroom.

The Crofters Commission official decided that he would not allow this assignation to the younger brother, although succession was guaranteed after his death to the younger son. At a meeting of the full Commission on 4th July the Commission upheld that decision. The family were to be dispossessed of a croft in which they had lived for so long.

At this stage they appealed to me for help. I wrote to the Commission and set things in motion. Before that I did something which the Commission could have done, either through one of its members or through one of its assessors; I visited the family. I went to the office where the son worked, only a few hundred yards from the croft. He would be the ultimate successor after the postman-brother gives up the croft. He is a bright and intelligent man. I questioned him and asked him whether he was keen on crofting, and he said that he was. He has a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job and does no work on Saturdays, so that he has plenty of time in which to help his father and ultimately he will marry, settle in the croft and carry on crofting with the help of his wife.

It was suggested that the family should go and see the Commission, and so Robert the teacher, and W. D. the postman and his wife, went to meet the Commission. At the interview, in my judgment the chairman of the Crofters Commission acted like a prosecutor in a criminal trial. He said to the teacher, "How dare you make a profit rental?" Since when has it been a crime in this country for a landowner or a farmer to make a profit rental? But according to the chairman of the Crofters Commission, it should not be done. However, the decision was reversed, and the family are now in possession of the croft. I wish them good luck, and I am sure the House does too.

It was a shocking decision. It was not just an error of judgment. There was something rotten about it. I am not suggesting it was corrupt, but it could have been corrupt if that croft had been given to a multiple crofter. I wonder if the Secretary of State can tell me if that was the intention. Who was to get this croft? To take it away from a family with whom it had been for all these years was a rotten decision, and it was not far from corrupt.

There was another case, and it is even worse. This concerned a man, John Smith, and his wife. His wife is a daughter of the famous Addie Tom Sutherland, the miners' leader from Brora, who received a silver cup and 250 guineas from Lord Attlee at the Dorchester Hotel when Brora Mine took first place as the best small mine in Great Britain. He was a crofter as well as a miner. There is a lot of strength in what the hon. Member for the Western Isles said about ancillary jobs. He was a full-time miner and a very good crofter as well. When he got past the age of using it, he bequeathed it to his daughter who married a John Smith, and they are doing a splendid job. He learned in some strange fashion that a vacancy existed at the croft next door, but for some extraordinary reason the Commission had made up its mind that it was to go to a Councillor George McIver who already holds half a dozen crofts with 36 acres of arable and a substantial share of common grazing.

Here is a young couple with very little, and well capable of using more, and the adjoining croft becomes vacant. Time and again the Commission has said in the Press and on television that the policy of enlargement must be carried out on adjoining crofts. Here was a perfect example where that could come about. The multiple crofter, Councillor McIver, did not have a croft adjoining the Smiths' croft it was some distance away. But he had cropped it for some ten or twelve years on a sub-letting.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

What sort of councillor was he?

Sir D. Robertson

He is a first-class councillor.

Mr. Hughes

Was he a county councillor?

Sir D. Robertson

He is a county councillor, a vice-convenor of the County of Sutherland, a member of the Highland Panel and a member of the Northern Regional Hospital Board, a most outstanding public man. He is a coal merchant, too. He is what I would call a gentleman crofter. He spends much of his time going to Inverness to see the Crofters Commission and going on deputations to meet the Secretary of State. This vacancy was created for him, and I have here the evidence in a letter that I received from the chairman of the Crofters Commission, dated 1st July: When the Technical Officer was interviewing the crofters one by one in East Brora Muir township, he found that Mrs. Baillie, the tenant of No. 12 was an elderly widow with none of her family wishing to succeed to the croft. He explained the provisions of Section 18 and she readily agreed that she should give up her land while retaining her house. She emphasised that George McIver had been cultivating her croft since her husband died ten or 12 years ago, and that it was her wish that he should continue to have the use of the land. She was warned that this result could not be guaranteed but, in fact, it did suit our plan"— Here are the material words: it did suit our plan"— the Commission's plan: to earmark this croft for George McIver, and the landlord agreed. If ever anything was in the bag, that scheme was in the bag at that stage. The landlord has the right to apply for a new tenant, and to nominate him—although the Commission can over-ride it—but this was fitting in with the Commission's plans, in spite of the fact that the Smiths were so much more deserving and better able to take over the croft. This vacancy was all arranged for; the Commission was creating a vacancy that would go to Councillor McIver.

That seemed a very wrong thing to do, but it took on a more sinister aspect. I got a letter from Councillor McIver dated 18th August. That was a very material date, because it was on that date that a letter reached the Commission from the landlord saying that the Smiths were going to get the tenancy. On 18th August, the plan, or the plot had become unstuck. I had been pressing the Commission to come to a decision, and on 3rd August—five days later—I got a letter from the Secretary saying: In this case we are awaiting the landlord's application containing his formal proposals for the reletting of the croft. The Commission had them in its office on the morning of the 18th.

When the landlord wrote to the Commission he wrote also to the Smiths. I learned it from the Smiths, and they were very pleased that they had got the croft, and that the landlord had nominated them. Four days later, however, a letter was sent to a Member of Parliament which was completely untrue—completely untrue. I immediately telephoned the Secretary and said that I had had a letter from Councillor McIver, saying that he had learned that I was interested in the case. He said: I was then informed that the croft, of which I had had the sub-tenancy for over twelve years, would be allocated to me. The Commission told me that, too.

So there is the full circle, clearly proving what was going on; a vacancy created and with no competition, advertisement or notice, and, in complete defiance of the fact that the Smith croft was adjoining, it was to go to a multiple crofter who was farming far more land than the average crofter, who has five acres. Mr. McIver says that he has 36 acres, plus the arable grazing effeiring to the various crofts—

Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

The hon. Member has given the House two cases relating to something on which we are asked to vote extra powers to the Crofters Commission. In one case, he alleges corruption, or the smell of it, and in the second case he says that the Commission was mendacious to him by writing a letter giving false information. He has told us that there was something sinister. Would he tell us what action is being taken by the Commission itself against those responsible for these misdemeanours?

Sir D. Robertson

I read out the letter, and it is here for the hon. Member or anyone else to see.

Mr. Swingler

But what action is being taken against those who, in one case, told lies to the hon. Gentleman and about whom, in the other case, he alleged a stink of corruption?

Sir D. Robertson

I am alleging in this case that there is corruption. That letter got in on the 18th. I said that the letter written on 16th August went to Smith from the landlord. I saw the landlord last week in Edinburgh and he showed me the letter to wrote to the Commission on 16th August, but he also showed me an application form which he filled in and dated the following day. But they went together on the 17th. They arrived, a day later than the Smith one, in Inverness on the 18th.

Who suppressed the information to Mr. McCuish? What object was there in doing it? There was a very material object. It was to enable Councillor MacIver to put the screw on me, which he did in writing that letter dated 18th August. He was appealing to me. I am certain that Councillor MacIver knew I had intervened in this matter before, but up to that vital day when the landlord's application and recommendation came through, there was no need for Councillor MacIver to do anything, because the Commission had told him that he would get the croft and that the landlord agreed.

Hon. Members will imagine how I felt. I felt highly indignant that such a thing could happen. The Commission reversed the decision once again. It had to reverse it. It had no alternative. I wrote a firm four-page letter to the chairman of the Crofters Commission and on the same day I sent a copy of it to my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland who looks after crofting and agriculture. Hon. Members can thus imagine my feelings when I had made a tactful speech upstairs in the Scottish Grand Committee, a shot across the bows of the Commission, without disclosing any names or anything but calling on the Commission to do its job with integrity and fairness as between man and man.

Then, this kind of thing happens. Is this fair as between man and man? If the Secretary of State had been a wiser man, he would not have said what he did. There were an awful lot of things in my speech upstairs that he did not like, but he picked out this one. Here was the big hero coming along to defend his officials. No official need fear any harm at my hands. Had the Secretary of State any sense, he would have kept quiet. He could not find the evidence, and he wrote to tell me so.

Before I got the letter, however, the whole of the Scottish lobby had been alerted. People telephoned me at home and came to see me. I did not have the letter. It was on the board. The Press officers had been alerted and had been given this information and the substance of the letter, and headlines appeared next day in the Scottish Press giving the readers the impression that my allegation was untrue. It was only the slightest allegation. I said "even corruption."

That is corruption. If anyone doubts it, let me quote the two greatest dictionary authorities available in this House. The first is Webster, in which one of the meanings of "corruption," a many-sided word, is Impairment of integrity … or moral principle; … influence that corrupts. From the Short Oxford Dictionary, Volume One, third edition: Perversion of integrity by favour. The Secretary of State called on me to withdraw and I did not withdraw. Under no circumstances would I ever withdraw. I was sent here, like all of us, to do my duty as I see it in this House, and I have done it like that for twenty-two years. As long as I am in this House, I will go on doing it.

I come to the point raised from the benches opposite. Corruption would have ensued, as I have indicated, if the Commission's scheme had succeeded. Councillor MacIver was much too close to the Commission. I say that with regret, but I believe it to be true. The local people in Brora tell me that he is constantly hanging his cap up—that is a Scottish expression—in the Commission's office. After the headlines in the Press, he opened a debate in the county council. I had been pressing the council from the day the Bill was published. I sent the council a copy of it and asked for observations upon it, because most of the council's ratepayers were crofters or agricultural workers.

I had no information from them at all until a day or two after the publication of the report that the Secretary of State had rebuked me—with all my long record of public service—for doing my duty. The Secretary of State knew so little about it—indeed, nothing about it—while I knew so much.

I have nothing against Councillor MacIver. I am full of admiration for him. He is an excellent local councillor. He began by declaring to the Council his interest in that he was a crofter, but it did not need to be told that, his claims for compensation went in every day of the week, because most of the time he has worked on public duties. I do not mind that. But it is a shameful thing—and this proves my case again—that a man who is far too close to the Commission gets a resolution passed saying that the Commission consists of good people doing a good job.

I have long experience in dealing with crofters in the two counties of my con- stituency. It is the only constituency in Britain with the sea on three sides. Three Members of Parliament represented it up until 1922; now there is only one. That is the effect of depopulation, which the hon. Member for the Western Isles talked about, which I have talked about, and which the Government talk about but do so little about.

Crofters are easy to get on with. If the advice I gave to the Commission in my speech in the Scottish Grand Committee is carried out, the Commission will succeed in the difficult task of reorganisation, and I will be glad to help it in Brora or any other crofting area in my constituency.

2.27 a.m.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

It is not my business to try to pour oil on the troubled waters opposite. Nevertheless, I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson), because the topic with which he has been so largely dealing is one on which I, too, have had some correspondence.

My correspondence, like his, comes from a county councillor. It deals with exactly the problem that he has been detailing to the House, although, of course, the letter which I have does not involve any of the very serious charges to which he has referred. But he said that vacancies are never advertised.

Sir D. Robertson

I did not say "never," but that this one was not advertised.

Mr. Rankin

In some cases they are not advertised. I am sorry if I carried his words a little too far. In view of what I said, I want to refer to what is in the letter. It tells me that since the war almost all the crofts which became vacant have been swallowed up by the large farms and estates, I am speaking now of Inverness-shire.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. N. McLean) is not present, because I am certain that if he was he would be prepared to join in the debate and perhaps support—I see that the hon. Gentleman has now returned. I am glad to have drawn him out of his retirement. I am certain that he will be able to support, to some extent, perhaps from his even closer knowledge, what I am saying. It is a remarkable thing that this letter from a gentleman of responsibility, who himself is a farmer and is also on behalf of his sister cultivating a croft, should tell me that the crofts have become vacant because they are being swallowed up by the large farms and estates. He says that this is still continuing and that the Commission has done absolutely nothing about it.

He goes on to say that not a single croft is advertised for letting and that the first that they know about a change of ownership is when the landlord—he says that the landlords are mostly hobby farmers—is seen cultivating and grazing the croft himself. That is an alarming state of affairs. I hope that the Secretary of State is taking note of this; I will give him the letter if he wants it. My correspondent says that only last year three crofts near where he lives went vacant and went to the landlords. They are not even going to other people in the farming world; they are going back to the landlords. It is because of things like this that people around where he lives in Inverness have absolutely no confidence in the Commission.

I find that attitude supported by letters which I have received from the constituency of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland. Therefore, the view expressed in the letter to which I have referred is not a view which is peculiar to an individual. From all the information which I have been able to gather, it seems that there is a lack of confidence in the impartiality and fairness of the Commission; and the sooner the right hon. Gentleman looks into that the better.

I interrupted my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) to point out that Mr. Mackenzie, who was a member of the Commission, was discovered to have a good knowledge of crofting, and evidently that was regarded as a disqualification for membership, and so he has been removed from the Commission. Is is for that reason? I hope that the Secretary of State will unseal his lips at the end of the debate and give us a little more information about these things than we have at the moment. He will have an opportunity. I have an appointment at 9.30 a.m., and because of that I shall be time-limited. The "guillo- tine" will automatically fall upon me, because I cannot go beyond that hour.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

A lot more than a "guillotine" is likely to fall on my hon. Friend.

Mr. Rankin

My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles set an admirable lead. He spoke for, I think, two hours and 45 minutes—a remarkable record—and I hope that some of those hon. Gentlemen opposite—if not the right hon. Gentleman—who knows so much about crofting will try to emulate my hon. Friend's example.

I was fascinated by what my hon. Friend said and I should like to touch upon one or two points he made. He spoke of electricity supplies. I do not want to remind the House of the industrial and social importance of electricity but of its importance from the point of view of the woman in the crofter's house. The crofter's wife is the most important part of the croft. She has a great deal of work to do. I know many crofts where the only other worker apart from the owner is the wife. If wives of hon. Members were living in houses where there was no electricity hon. Members would find it very difficult to keep them for very long.

Mr. H. Lever

I hope that my hon. Friend is not under the illusion that this is an exclusive disadvantage experienced by crofters. Many of my constituents are similarly placed and have no access to electricity.

Mr. Speaker

The difficulty about that is that the constituents of the hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever) may be rather remoter from the provisions of this Bill.

Mr. Rankin

If my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever) inquires into those cases he will find that they are people who are on the waiting list for new houses built by local authorities.

Electricity is particularly important in a croft where so much outside work and other work associated with the croft is laid upon the shoulders of the woman. There is a pressing need from that point of view for electricity supplies in the households of the Highlands.

My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles also dealt with research and referred particularly to forestry research. That again is a most important matter for crofting. It may or may not be news to the House that today in the whole of Great Britain only one station deals with forestry research and that station is in Hampshire in the south of England. All the research knowledge that comes from there is, of course, immediately available to those who are engaged in forestry in that area, but very few are, because one of the great forestry areas in the United Kingdom is in the North-West and in the centre of Scotland. And in Scotland there is no major forestry reesarch station at all. There is a minor one in Edinburgh but that has to give the benefit of its knowledge to the north, east and west of England. Therefore in Scotland, where there are great forestry areas, all we have is part of a minor station in Edinburgh, while for England there is one major station and part of the minor station in Edinburgh.

I hope that the Secretary of State is taking note of that fact, because we shall not have a sufficient development of forestry in those areas of Scotland where it is so necessary unless there is research knowledge which is easily available and quickly applicable. Its importance derives from the fact that the crofter today cannot live by his croft alone. He has to be a postman, a driver, a labourer, a fisherman and do several other jobs as well as be a crofter if he is to make a living.

What size should a croft be to be an economic unit? That is a problem which the Commission does not face. To discover the view of a practical man about what size would make an economic unit I wrote to one engaged in the industry. He told me that a croft should carry seven to ten cows and 100 to 150 breeding ewes. The minimum size would earn between £300 and £400 a year, plus free house, milk, potatoes and so on. He said that there were such places around where he lived and that they were getting along fine without other work having to be done, but he went on to say that there were very few crofts of that size. That size of croft is essential unless other work is available, as it would be if proper use were made of the land available—"wasted land" is what my correspondent called it.

That brings me back to the root of the problem which we are facing. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) was quoted as saying that this was a fiddling little Bill. That is the truest description which can be given. It is a fiddling little Bill because it does not face the root problem—the lack of land. The Bill does not make more land available. It may give more land to Peter, but it does so by taking land from Paul. In doing this, it displaces crofters and that is bound to lead to the further depopulation of the Highlands.

The land is there. There are 3 million acres available and although it may be said that not all of it is arable, even that is doubtful. I quote the views of an authority on this matter who was laird in the area of Glasgow where I live, Sir John Stirling Maxwell, of Pollok, who was chairman of the Departmental Committee which was appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1919 and which reported in 1921. He was a liberal landlord in many ways. He said: It may be true that a deer forest employs more people than the same area under sheep. It certainly brings in a larger rent. From a purely parochial point of view, it may therefore claim to be economically sound, but from no other. It provides a healthy existence for a small group of people, but it produces nothing except a small quantity of venison, for which there is no demand. It causes money to change hands. A pack of cards can do that. I doubt if it could be said of a single deer forest, however barren and remote, that it could serve no better purpose. The view cannot be lightly dismissed because he was a deer forest owner. He owned more than 56,000 acres in the County of Inverness. He doubted if it could serve no better purpose.

In the same Report it states what could be done with land which is reserved today for deer. As a result of two years' inquiry the Committee estimated the production, assuming that the 3 million acres in 1920 had been under sheep and said that these acres would have carried 604,000 ewes, rams, and so on, with 205,000 lambs. They would have marketed annually mutton worth £419,000; wool to the value of £188,000, and skins worth £83,000, a total yearly increase in wealth of £691,000.

On the other side of the balance sheet, taking the forests as they were in 1920, we get 630 tons of venison worth £59,000, skins worth £2,000, mutton priced at £58,000, beef worth £20,000, wool fetching £26,000 and skins worth £14,000, making a total market value of £180,000.

By the simple process of subtraction, there is an annual loss to the community of £510,000, and that has gone on for forty years. We have lost a lot. I do not understand the joke, and if there is anything funny in that I should like to hear what it is.

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)

There is no joke. Your hon. Friend was smiling at what you were saying so I smiled back.

Mr. Rankin

That is no reason for you being provoked. I can stand my hon. Friend smiling because I cannot see him but I can see you.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that it would be better if hon. Members addressed their observations to the Chair.

Mr. Rankin

That was a dead loss to the community of £510,000. We could have been producing food of that value now, but we cannot get it. That is one reason why the Commission is suspected by the crofters.

The right hon. Member knows quite well that a far bigger Bill is required to deal with this problem. He knows that in Inverness-shire the land of which I am talking is owned largely by four persons—Cameron of Lochiel, Lord Lovat, the Countess of Seafield and the Mackintosh of Mackintosh. Crops and food are actually in the hands of people who are using the land for sporting purposes, and that is why the crofts are not able to become the economic units I have already indicated, but are kept down to a level which is causing some of us to think that the whole problem will have to be approached from an entirely different angle. We must think not merely of the croft as a unit, but will have to regard the whole township as the unit.

We have to try to make the township a balanced community, comprising industry and agriculture, because under present conditions of land ownership a croft cannot possibly become an economic unit. Many years ago, when I was starting to hear my own voice in public, I remember being at a meeting of a debating society of the Young Men's Christian Association. Once a week, in the evening, we had debates on various topics, and one night we were dealing with the ownership of land. Since nearly all the speeches were maiden speeches, some of them were not very long. I have never forgotten one speech by a member who had never spoken before. It was one of the truest speeches I have ever heard, and I shall give that speech to the Committee tonight. I shall quote it all, because I know it by heart. The speaker said: Mr. Chairman, landlordism is the curse of this country. There was his introduction, his argument and his peroration, and every word was true. The Secretary of State knows it to be true, and landlordism is a greater curse in the Highlands of Scotland.

That is the root problem facing the right hon. Gentleman, and it accounts for his serious look at the moment. It is giving him much concern. He knows that he cannot solve the problem that faces him now so long as this land remains in private hands.

In the constituency of hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland 400,000 of 1,200,000 acres go to deer forests and one quarter of that area is in the hands of the Duke of Sutherland. That is an enormous amount of land to own. It is all being abstracted from community use in order to provide private profit and private pleasure.

Sir James Duncan (South Angus)

The hon. Member is advocating the nationalisation of land. Will he say whether that is the policy of his party?

Mr. Rankin

The hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) must not lead me away into realms which he knows quite well would be out of order.

Sir J. Duncan

On a point of order. The hon. Member is now admitting that what he has been saying recently about the nationalisation of land has nothing to do with the Bill. As he has admitted that it is out of order, would it not be right for him now to bring himself within order?

Mr. Speaker

I am not governed in my judgment by the admissions of hon. Members, nor did I think that what the hon. Member said amounted to an admission of that proposition.

Mr. Rankin

I am not easily distracted from my objective by the feeble attempts of the hon. Member for South Angus.

I was saying something about the loss in food, but the loss in money is equally disastrous because the crofter Buffets indirectly from the possession of these animals by the private landlord. The gentleman who wrote to me says that in Strathnairn, where he farms, 90 per cent. of the holdings adjacent to the deer forests annually lose £50 to £100 because of the red deer which raid them. This is one way of keeping the crofter continually living on the margin of poverty.

The crofter has no protection from the marauders which not only eat the rich grazings he might have for his cattle but invade his territory and destroy the foodstuffs which he grows. In 1953, for instance, deer did damage to the tune of £200 on one farm alone. In the 10-mile stretch of Strathnairn about sixteen holdings are involved, and deer cause an annual loss of £1,000. It is little wonder that a crofter cannot make of his croft an economic unit when, in the first place, he cannot get the richer grazings necessary for the well-being of his croft and, in the second place, what he grows is attacked by the deer which are not fenced in. The whole of the North of Scotland is one great deer forest and fencing is not permitted. An acre of turnips left growing in a field will feed 100 sheep for a month. In one night a herd of 40 or 50 deer can destroy that acre of turnips. I ask hon. Members, particularly those who represent English constituencies, to consider what that means to men who are trying to live in places where that sort of thing happens.

The crofters feel no confidence in the Commission because it is restricted in the work which it can do.

Mr. J. M. L. Prior (Lowestoft)

Has the hon. Member got his facts right? If 100 sheep can feed on an acre of turnips for a month, how can 50 deer destroy an acre of turnips in one night? My recollection is that deer are not more than twice as big as sheep, so 50 deer should last for a month on an acre of turnips.

Mr. Rankin

The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me, It is not that the deer eat all the turnips. They leave the place in such a mess that after one night they have destroyed what should have been food for the sheep for weeks. If the hon. Member had seen marauding deer he would know how they can do such damage.

In discussing the Bill we are not talking about a handful of people, for there are 20,000 crofters and their dependants. To a large extent we are considering their future. All told, with those who are dependent on them, the crofters are at least half of the population of the Highlands. They are seeking to earn a livelihood in a job which in present conditions provides little chance for them to do so.

This has led to a lack of confidence in the Commission. We cannot wholly blame the Commission, because it has only the powers which the House has granted it, and basically the problem resides with the Government. Not only is the Bill not comprehensive enough but the Government are not investing sufficient money in the Highlands. I hope that the Bill will be strengthened in Committee.

On page 11 of the Report of the Commission we read, Payment of cropping grant for cultivations carried out in 1959 was completed before the end of the year and a total of 6,004 claims was paid as compared with 5,477 claims paid in 1958. The total amount of grant paid was £269,300 in respect of 29,930 acres under cultivation. It happens that I am at the moment engaged on another Bill dealing with co-operative production. During the proceedings on that Bill it has been made clear, and accepted on both sides of the Committee, that the annual expenditure on feeding stuffs, seeds. fertilisers, fuel and machinery on a farm of 100 acres is £1,750. Every one of those requisites is needed on a croft, too. If we compare the number of acres and the rate of investment in a general farm with that in a croft, the difference is nearly £250,000 to the disadvantage of the croft. Therefore, there is inequality of investment. Yet there is no difference between the needs of the crofter and of the general farmer. After all, crofting is farming, but on a very small scale, though I agree that in certain respects it has its own peculiarities and to that extent it is different from general farming.

Crofting is different from farming in that we still have in parts of the Highlands balloting for the strips, so that a crofter with a strip near his house may get in the ballot another strip several miles away, and he may have a good deal of moving about from one strip to another. He may have his strips all over the place. That makes his problem rather different from that of the general farmer, who would not tolerate that sort of thing. But basically, the common problem is the cultivation of the land. Yet the Government are prepared to give far more support to the general farmer than to the man who is farming a few acres in the Highlands. There is thus an alarming deficiency of Government investment in crofting.

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland referred to the Act of 1886. Before that Act, the crofter suffered from another great disability, rack rent. He had no security of tenure. He could be turned out of his croft at a moment's notice. Part of the area represented by the hon. Member today had 15,000 people earning a comfortable living from the land. In one single night they were evicted by the landlord and left on the shore to starve, or to earn what they could from fishing. That is true. The people who today tell us that these lands could not carry any more people do not know the history of the country about which they talk. These lands carried thousands of people fifty or sixty years ago where today they are scarcely carrying hundreds. It is noteworthy"— says Thomas Carlyle: that the nobles of the country have maintained a quite despicable behavour from the times of Wallace downwards"— the nobles—the people supported by the party opposite; although I exempt from that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland: A selfish, ferocious, famishing and unprincipled set of hyaenas—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

On a point of order. Is that a Parliamentary expression to use about noble Lords?

Mr. Rankin

Further to that point of order, this is a quotation from HANSARD: A selfish, ferocious, famishing and unprincipled set of hyaenas, from whom at no time and in no way has the country derived any benefit. The day is coming when these our modern hyaenas—tho' toothless, still mischievous and greedy beyond limit—will, quickly I hope—be paid off. Ye do-nothing dogs, what are ye doing here?".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1959; Vol. 599, c. 274.]

3.12 a.m.

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

Hon. Members


Mr. Maclay

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) spoke a little time ago, and I felt that it would be wrong if I did not reply fairly soon to that speech. I will then, of course, have to deal with the debate so far as it has gone. There are reasons why I should make my speech now.

I do not want to dwell more than I must on this matter which, at the moment, lies between the hon. Member and myself, but he referred to the rebuke I gave him in Committee. He quoted me as saying that he went a little far. That seems a very mild rebuke compared with what one hears in this Chamber from time to time. But in a reference to the Commission in a subsequent intervention he used a phrase which he has repeated tonight. He used the phrase, "Even corruption comes into this".

Those of us who heard the hon. Gentleman's speech tonight have heard as much about the charges of corruption as I have, either this evening or at any other time, and I cannot see that anything he has said tonight carries with it any justification for the use of the word "corruption" in any sense of the word. I will deal briefly with the two cases he mentioned, but I do want to give my version of the facts.

The hon. Gentleman's first specific case concerned a crofter called Mr. Sutherland. The complaint seemed to be that the Commission was wrong in its original decision not to approve the crofter's proposal to assign the croft to his brother. As the hon. Gentleman explained, this crofter, on being tackled by the Commission about being an absentee, sought the permission of the Commission to assign the croft to his brother, a postman, in Brora. The Commission at first refued consent on the ground that it would not be in the crofting interests to introduce to this small croft an assignee who would soon retire and whose sons, it seemed to the Commission, were not inclined towards the crofting way of life.

The applicant enlisted the support of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, perfectly rightly, and the hon. Member perfectly rightly took up his case. The Commission arranged for a hearing to take place in Inverness, where the Sutherland brothers were able, with their lawyer present, to state their case in full. The new feature, I am advised, which emerged from that meeting was that the proposed assignee's son, aged 18, was said to be sincerely interested in crofting although in the meantime he was working as an unqualified assistant in the county engineer's office in Brora. In the light of this information, the Commission considered a fresh application made by Mr. R. Sutherland to assign the croft to his brother and eventually consented to this proposal, thus reversing its previous decision.

That is the story. I can see nothing in it savouring of corruption in any sense of the word in any dictionary.

Sir D. Robertson

The right hon. Gentleman is distorting this. I said with the utmost clarity that the Commission sent an investigator, who said that the postman was too old to succeed. He was told clearly that there was a younger son in a job in an office, working from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.—and I said so in my speech —who was able to devote his spare time to helping his father, the postman, and that when the father passed on he would succeed him in the croft. These facts were known to the Commission. After the investigator came along, the Commission took a decision to dispossess the family. The Commission confirmed that, as I said in my speech, at a full meeting on 4th July. It is absurd for the Secretary of State now to say that any new evidence came up. No new evidence came up. All that happened was that I found it out.

Mr. Maclay

I am sorry to dwell on this, but a grave charge has been made by the hon. Member, who used the word "corruption" involving a public body. I must try to get this straight. I have given my version as I understand it and I cannot see that it varies in any way from what the hon. Member has said in substance, even if what he has just said is more accurate in detail. I still cannot see that the word "corruption" comes in.

Sir D. Robertson rose

Mr. Maclay

I am sorry, I cannot give way. I have done so once already. I shall deal now with the second case, in which the name of MacIver was brought in. Number 12 Fast Brora Muir is the name of the croft and I do not think that except in minor detail my version will disagree in any way with the hon. Member's version. When the croft fell vacant, the Crofters Commission and the estate had a number of consultations about its re-letting. One point that I should make clear is that there is no requirement to advertise. If anybody advertises, in those cases it is the landlord and not the Commission.

The Commission and the estate had a number of consultations about the re-letting of the croft. Mr. George MacIver, who occupies another croft nearby, had worked 12 East Brora Muir, as the hon. Member said, for a number of years by arrangement with the previous tenant. The Commission's long-term plans for the township had envisaged that when the croft fell vacant, it should be re-let to Mr. MacIver. This would have been a perfectly normal procedure, but there were other local applicants for the croft, and in the event the Commission consented to a proposal by the estate to re-let it to Mrs. Smith, who, like Mr. MacIver, had another croft nearby.

Sir D. Robertson

After I intervened.

Mr. Maclay

The hon. Member intervened, but that is what hon. Members do the whole time. I spend a lot of my time on letters which ask me to reconsider decisions, taken either by me or by somebody else, but I have never charged anybody with corruption.

The hon. Member should not use the word "corruption" loosely like this in the House of Commons when he talks of people outside who cannot defend themselves. I defend them now. I feel more strongly about this than about anything since I have been in this House—the abuse of privilege to make a charge of corruption. I withdraw the phrase "abuse of privilege", because it is not for me to say that. I consider it absolutely wrong, however, to use the word "corruption" on the evidence that the hon. Member has put before the House tonight. I am sorry to speak with feeling, but I would be quite wrong if I did not do so when that is how I feel.

The hon. Member raised two points in confirmation of the charge of corruption. One was that the Secretary of the Commission, as I understood it, gave information on 22nd August saying that formal proposals for re-letting the croft were awaited by the Commission, whereas such proposals had already been received on 18th August. The chairman of the Commission has himself explained to my hon. Friend that this was a misunderstanding which arose because the Commission's staff is divided between two offices, and, what is more, that the dates in question ran over a weekend. Those are the facts, as the hon. Member can see by looking up a calendar. The hon. Member has himself referred to this one occasion as an administrative failure. It was not a very serious one, and there is certainly no evidence of corruption. That is the version given to me, and nothing that he has said tonight has thrown any different light upon this matter.

The hon. Gentleman said this gentleman was on too close terms with the Commission. I have never known that that was evidence of corruption, and nothing has been produced either in this debate or in the hon. Member's letters to me or to my Department which would bear out the use of the word corruption.

In any job of this kind, where judgment is involved, there is bound to be questioning as to whether the right decisions have been made. Nobody takes exception to that, and occasionally the question can be put in fierce terms. But it is a different matter to accuse individuals of acting with lack of impartiality for what are corrupt reasons. I, too, have the definition of the word "corruption" here, and I, too, got it from Webster's, which is one of the dictionaries which my hon. Friend quoted. That definition is: Impairment of integrity, virtue or moral principle…inducement (of a person) by means of improper considerations to commit a violation of duty. All I have to say about this sorry matter is that I listened to my hon. Friend and have considered the other things he has made available to me, and I can find no evidence of that in anything I have before me now.

Sir D. Robertson

Is it not apparent, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the Secretary of State will not see—is not prepared to see—that this administrative failure was raised to explain the delay? The chairman of the Commission wrote to me and said that he blamed the Borough of Inverness for having unsuitable accommodation. He said that the Commission had one office on one side of the river and another on the other side. That means perhaps a distance of 400 yards between them, with a bridge crossing the river.

There are dozens of firms in this great City of London whose offices are in half a dozen different places, because they have not been able to find accommodation in the same building. Yet it is suggested that a letter which arrived on 18th August—I was notified on 23rd August by a letter written on the 22nd —was held up because of the distance between the two offices. It was not an administrative failure. The letter was deliberately held up on the vital day that Councillor McIver wrote to me. Somebody told him that this letter had arrived.

I thought that I had made it clear that this was the vital day. If the letter from the landlord had been in Councillor McIver's favour, there would have been no need to communicate with me, but on that day he wrote to me and put the screw on me to support him and not the Smiths, which I was unable to do. I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I have had to go over this ground again, but HANSARD will show all this in the morning. The Secretary of State does not want to see in this case.

Mr. Maclay

The hon. Gentleman knows quite well that that is utterly untrue.

Sir D. Robertson


Mr. H. Lever

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. However enjoyable, intrinsically, it is for Members on this side of the House to hear the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland in effect calling the Secretary of State a liar, and the Secretary of State saying that what the hon. Member said was untrue, can you say whether either of those expressions is Parliamentary language or not?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir G. Touche)

"Untrue" is not, strictly speaking, in order.

Mr. Maclay

Did I say "untrue"? I do not know what I said "untrue" about. I am sorry if I said something which is not in order, and, of course, I withdraw it.

The point I am making is that, even if the timing is what the hon. Member says, I have pointed out to him that the dates in question run over a weekend—from a Thursday to a Monday—and I have no reason to believe, nor has any evidence been produced to me, that this was in any way a corrupt procedure.

Mr. Swingler

Has this complaint been independently investigated? I am making no imputations about it. Obviously, the Minister has been informed of this matter by people who are parties to the dispute, as it were, but I draw no inference from that. I am merely asking the Minister whether he has taken any steps to have the allegations which have been made by the hon. Member independently investigated.

Mr. Maclay

I do not think the hon. Member can have followed carefully what I have said. I do not consider that there has been any evidence of a charge of corruption to investigate. I have been giving the version that I was given of what actually happened. What more can be done? I recollect that at one stage the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland referred to this as an administrative failure, which it was, but I did not think that it was an administrative failure, involving the holding up of a letter over a weekend in this instance in which two buildings were concerned, which was going to have these very strange imputations attached to it. There must be many more instances occurring which could lead to equal trouble. However, there is no evidence on which I could proceed on the basis of corruption. If the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland reads HANSARD tomorrow he will have great difficulty in seeing that there was evidence of corruption.

If I might turn to the Bill, the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) made a long and interesting speech. I will not deny that. At moments my interest lagged, but it came back from time to time. I am not sure what the hon. Member was aiming at in a good deal of his speech. He must not be sensitive about this. He said some fairly firm things to me, and I shall say some fairly firm things back to him. Compared with the whole length of his speech, he spent very little time on the two points which I know are causing him genuine concern. I know that there are other points which concern him, but there are two major ones. I want to spend a little time on them—

Mr. Harold Davies

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Might I have your guidance? May the House now be informed whether the Minister considers that he is replying to the whole of the debate? Some of us on this side of the House feel—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Harold Davies

Then may we have some information from the Minister?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Maclay

I explained what I was going to do. I said that I was going on to deal with the debate as it has gone so far. I cannot tell what happens with the debate before it finishes. That is quite impossible. I have not a clue. I wish I had. The hon. Member has now put me out of my stride: and I was well away, too.

I will deal with the two points raised by the hon. Member for the Western Isles in due course, but I should like, first of all, to get rid of those parts of his Amendment which deal with transport, marketing and the promotion of local industries. He dealt with the last subject particularly at very considerable length. These matters are not in the Bill. I have always known it, and I said straight away when the Bill was being considered in principle upstairs that it is not intended to deal with them. Other powers exist. I do not believe that he or his hon. Friends who put their names to the Amendment think that the Bill is the right place in which to deal with these matters.

All sorts of suggestions were made, many of them interesting, including the comprehensive one that we have heard so often, of a new Highlands and Islands Development Corporation, but that would not have gone into a Crofters Bill and I do not believe that that is a serious part of the Amendment. Even in local marketing the hon. Member knows how bodies like the Development Fund have been able to give help to organisations such as Outer Isles Crofters Ltd. and Lewis Crofters Ltd.

The promotion of local industries is not a simple matter. None of us thinks that it is, although some speeches are made to sound as if industries would grow all over the place provided the Government would only give some help. The hon. Member for the Western Isles must not take exception to what I am about to say. I have been accused of being complacent about things. As hon. Members know, I am not complacent. But the charge that possibly could be made against hon. Members opposite is that of over-enthusiasm to make their points, which is the opposite of being complacent but which makes things look so gloomy that it makes it frightfully hard for them and for us to get things done.

The hon. Member said that transport charges made it difficult if not impossible for industries to develop in the Islands. But, without underestimating for one minute the undoubted difficulties, we have only to consider the record over the past few years to see how, given the necessary initiative and the right kind of industry, and with the forms of Government assistance that are available, industrial projects can be and have been successfully developed.

Since the Local Employment Act came into operation last April, £459,000 in financial assistance has been recommended by B.O.T.A.C. for 17 projects in the Highlands and Islands, with an estimated employment potential of 460. In addition, £253,000 of assistance for 29 projects was recommended by D.A.T.A.C. during the 20 months during which the Distribution of Industry Act, 1958, was in operation. Taking these successful B.O.T.A.C. and D.A.T.A.C. projects together they should on the applicants' estimates provide about 976 extra jobs.

Development Fund assistance has also been going into the Highlands, made available through the county councils, and that money has gone towards the cost of providing four small factories with an estimated employment potential of over 200. The Industrial Estates Management Corporation is building on behalf of the Board of Trade a glassware factory at Wick with an employment estimate of 56, and there is also the Board of Trade Industrial Estate in Inverness of 23,000 square feet, provided through the Corporation and its predecessor, Scottish Industrial Estates, Ltd.

In all, Government-assisted projects in the Highlands and Islands—excluding Dounreay where over 2,000 permanent workers are now employed, about half of them recruited locally—have a total employment potential of 1,280 workers, which is a really significant contribution, bearing in mind that the average number of unemployed in 1960 throughout the whole area was 5,419. I am not saying that this is the whole answer but it is absolutely wrong throughout debates of this kind to talk as if nothing was happening. It creates an absolutely wrong impression.

Mr. Manuel

In case the right hon. Gentleman is levelling that accusation against me, I would point out that I devoted some time in a speech in Committee to this matter. I feel strongly about it. The right hon. Gentleman ought to tell us how many of the 17 or 19 projects which he has indicated are operating and also give more information about the total of jobs. It is apparent to all of us—and I do not like saying this—that, in order to secure aid, many people are over-assessing the employment capability of projects when they actually get going. That is well-known.

Mr. Maclay

I do not have the figures in my head, but going back to 1945, when this kind of operation began—it was a little after that that accurate records began to be kept—it is true that some of the applications have undoubtedly turned out to employ fewer than was estimated, but for every one of those, there have been many which have employed more than was estimated. I have taken the trouble to get the figure worked out for the whole of Scotland, although it has not yet been broken down into individual areas, and it is a long way up on the estimates, although individual projects may have fallen below.

Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)

Has the right hon. Gentleman in his head the figure of the average capital cost per job in these projects?

Mr. Maclay

I do not have it in my head.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that the area I was talking about and which is facing a special difficulty is the Outer Islands area? I was not talking about the Highlands and Islands as a whole, because one cannot deal with the Highlands and Islands as a whole and it is nonsense to talk that way. I was talking of the Outer Hebrides and the difficulties of working there. That was why I spoke of compensating firms going to the area.

Mr. Maclay

I am glad that the hon. Member has made that clear. The Outer Islands are getting special developments. This is a question of solid work by the hon. Member, by myself and by organisations which are interested in trying to find the right people to bring the right industry into the right place. It is impossible to put in and make permanent something artificial and completely unsuitable to the area, and no one is suggesting that we should. The means are available and various forms of grants and loans are available, given the right initiative and the right project.

There are parts of the Bill which are causing concern in certain parts of the crafting areas and I should like to get them into perspective. The crofting problem has been with us for many years and no one—certainly not the hon. Member for the Western Isles, who knows it very well—believes that it can be solved overnight by anybody. This is a very big problem for geographical and many other reasons. One of the most important things is that those whom we are trying to help to a more effec- tive and more modern way of living should have confidence in the tools which we are trying to put into their hands and into ours to help them.

In spite of what has been said about arbitrary decisions which, it is said, we are to ram down people's throats, the only points on which the hon. Member for the Western Isles, and those who think like him, and I differ are on the majority decision being removed in reorganisation schemes, and the possibility of compulsory sub-letting. It is generally recognised that, unless there are some compulsory powers somewhere in the background, it is very unlikely that a scheme can be made to work. In Committee we can examine all sorts of ways of trying to meet those worries, although I cannot promise to find a formula which will satisfy hon. Members opposite. It is very largely a matter of finding words to ease the situation.

I remind the House what a reorganisation scheme is. It is a scheme for the reallocation of the land in a township in a way which will lead to better use of that land and to the general benefit of the township. This may mean, for example, re-allocating small, scattered pieces of land into more viable units so as to help those crofters who are able and willing to cultivate the land to make a better living. It would be wrong to imagine that reorganisation schemes involve wholesale dislocation of the lives of crofters, especially older crofters. Indeed, with the exercise by the Commission of its other powers in relation to absentees, assignations, re-letting and sub-letting, the reorganisation scheme may more and more come to give formal shape to developments which have already largely taken place.

There are, however, specific safeguards of the crofters' interests. Clause 7 makes it clear that every crofter will, if he so wishes, be able to retain his house as part of his croft and that every crofter willing and able to cultivate a croft will get at least as good a croft as he had before.

I submit that these are reasonable and clear provisions. The trouble was that the procedure for dealing with reorganisation laid down in the 1955 Act was found by experience to be hardly workable. Only a handful of schemes have gone through, and there are many reasons for this. The main stumbling block has been the provision in the Act which requires a formal majority decision in a township, following a long series of discussions, before a scheme can be confirmed.

I understand the real fears of those to whom the possibility, whether real or imaginary, of something being imposed on them, even with the support of a majority of their fellow crofters, can be a cause of genuine worry and misgiving. These fears and misgivings can, I am sure, be largely met by a fuller understanding of the procedures in the Bill and the safeguards they contain.

Let me make it clear, however, that I do not think it would be sensible to retain reorganisation provisions in which, at the end of various stages of a long and protracted procedure, a scheme can be vetoed by people without knowing, exploring and assessing their reasons for disagreeing when these reasons might well be found to be due to misconceptions and misunderstandings, or to arise from particular matters which—I ask the House to note this—could be put right without undue difficulty. That is what can happen under the procedure we are proposing. It was not possible under the previous procedure.

We are, therefore, proposing a procedure by which both the overall merits of a scheme will be fully explored and assessed, and detailed objections considered and dealt with, so that the risk of misunderstanding is minimised and opportunity can be taken to meet particular difficulties by means of modifications to the scheme. In short, it is not only a question of knowing who or how many are against a scheme, but we must also know why they are against it. I must emphasise this. There must be provision for listening to objections and also for weighing objections and for comparing benefits and drawbacks.

We have come to the conclusion that a much better way of doing this is to rely on the well-tried procedure of the public inquiry of which there is great experience throughout the country. In these inquiries every relevant consideration comes out and is reported on by an impartial person, and the final de- cision can be taken in the light of circumstances which all can see and all can judge.

I am not suggesting for one moment that one can in a matter of this kind ignore the weight of opinion in a township, or force a reorganisation scheme through in the face of the hostility of the people mainly concerned. What I do say is that we must find an effective way of ensuring that the full facts are brought out and that interested opinion is tested. I agree that there may be points of detail in Clause 7 which we could usefully discuss in Committee and I shall of course consider what has been said tonight, but experience has proved that we cannot make effective progress with reorganisation schemes with the existing provisions.

I think that the hon. Member for the Western Isles—I refer to him particularly because he raised these points—may feel that the need for reorganisation is less pressing in some parts of his constituency, but I am sure he recognises that conditions in some other areas outside the Western Isles are very different and that reorganisation is the only hope of enabling the community to survive.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

I am not against reorganisation schemes. I am not against the Crofters Commission taking the initiative in recorganisation scheme. The point is that we are now, for the first time, doing something from which we believe all other sections of the agricultural community, that is, exercising special selective compulsion. We are not against reorganisation schemes as such.

Mr. Maclay

On what knowledge I have it is improbable that it is exactly as the hon. Member says. Certainly some areas in his constituency are not suited for it.

I want to say a word about subletting, which was the other main point raised. The provisions of the Bill are designed to encourage and effect the orderly subletting of crofts which are not used, or not fully used, so that crofters who are anxious to make a better living from the land may be helped to do so. The sponsors of the Amendment object to there being any element of compulsion in this matter, but there are two reasons why we feel this element is necessary.

First, though I should hope that the provisions in Clause 10 would give rise to a great deal of voluntary subletting on an orderly basis approved by the Commission—and the offer of grants to approved sub-tenants should help this development—there will inevitably remain a number of crofts not properly cultivated, where the crofters are not able, or are not sufficiently interested, to effect sublets themselves. One can visualise people who, for a variety of reasons, just never get round to doing this, and there would have to be some outside stimulus.

Secondly, the existence of a compulsory power, though exercisable only in the last resort, will underline the importance of subletting as a means of improving the crofting economy and should serve as a stimulus to crofters to take the initiative themselves. This is a more difficult argument, but it is borne out by what has happened in relation to absentee crofters. While the Commission has taken action against absentees in a considerable number of cases, there have been many other cases where absentees have, on their own initiative, assigned or renounced their crofts. These subletting provisions are novel in character and they will no doubt merit detailed consideration in Committee, but they are of cardinal importance to the whole scheme.

We are proposing to give up the power to dispossess the crofter who does not work his croft in accordance with the rules of good husbandry. I wish that the hon. Member for the Western Isles would not say that the Bill removes more and more the feeling of security of tenure, because it is reinforcing the crofters security.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

That is not the point I made. In fairness, the right hon. Gentleman will not want to misrepresent my argument. I said that it has created a sense of insecurity by its dilution of the right of tenure of a crofter, by threatening to have a subtenant, not of his choice, at his back door, possibly for seven years.

Mr. Maclay

In practice it will often be less than seven years. The worry here is out of all proportion to the effect of the Bill. Here again, however, we will see if we can remove that fear. I know that we cannot make these things work if people in the area do not believe in them. We could not force this down their throats, even if we were foolish enough to want to. But there may be cases where some element of compulsion is essential to keep the thing going.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) asked whether I could give him the figures of capital investment. I do not have them with me, although I had them last time. If he wants them I can send them to him, but he must be careful: he will have to read them, and they may cause him trouble, because they are very comprehensive, and in great detail, and conclusions are difficult to arrive at in the end. But they do not bear out the hon. Member's case that other areas are getting disproportionately large amounts of capital investment. I will send him the figures.

Mr. Rankin

Is that all?

Mr. Maclay

That is all about that, yes. The hon. Member and the hon. Member for the Western Isles went back over past speeches, and I suggest to hon. Members opposite that unless they can bring themselves up to date they will never get back to power. Both hon. Members were quoting speeches made 40, 50, 80 or even 100 years ago. They are completely out of touch with what is going on in matters affecting land. It does not help anybody, including the crofters, whom I know hon. Members opposite are most anxious to help, to convey the impression that there is still lots of land in Scotland waiting for cultivation and development of this kind. We have been over this time and time again. The Forestry Commission has the greatest difficulty today in finding land to develop which is not already used effectively for agricultural subjects. As for the so-called deer forests and the grouse moors, we have heard about these so often, but how many of those areas could carry new crofts or extensions of crofts?

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

What about regeneration?

Mr. Maclay

The hon. Member knows that regeneration is a long, slow business, and it must be done close to the right crofts; it is no use doing it away up in some corner of the hills. I do not know, and I have never heard, of any shortage of land suitable for regeneration of the very interesting kind which has been done, and which I have seen, in the hon. Member's constituency. But to talk as if all the land is available for everyone to be happy with is to talk distorted nonsense.

Mr. MacMillan

Nobody does that.

Mr. Maclay

Hon. Members opposite convey fiat impression. They have been conveying the idea that we have only to remove the deer from the land and everything will be all right. Is it to be sheep or crofters? All the stories which the hon. Member for Govan was telling—heart-rending stories, it is true—related to the advent of sheep, and he spoke about people living in large numbers in the Sutherland area. The hon. Member must realise that the world has moved on since then, and a standard of life which it was possible for people then to accept simply would not be acceptable today. It was a very hard life. I admit that people may derive contentment from a hard life, and I say nothing about the merits or demerits of that time, but—

Mr. Rankin

The right hon. Gentleman is misrepresenting what I said.

Mr. Maclay

I cannot give way. I am running dry now and I shall not stay on my feet much longer.

I want hon. Members opposite to try to help us to do the job we all want to do for the crofters. Let us keep things in their proper perspective. I believe that, before it has passed through all its stages, the Bill will be seen to be an effective instrument for doing what we all want and will receive the unanimous support of all hon. Members.

3.52 a.m.

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)

It may seem strange that a Welshman representing an English constituency should wish to take part in this debate and should take the trouble to follow it through to this point and note carefully the terms of the Amendment. There is nothing frivolous about the interest of some of us who represent constituencies in which there are small farms where problems very close to those dealt with by the Bill arise in a similar context.

The Secretary of State has told us that we must look forward, that the old days have gone. We know all that. But our crofting legislation, from the 1955 Act going right back to the days of Gladstone—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

And before that.

Mr. Harold Davies

—and before that, had a purpose. There has been no answer given to the question raised by the provisions of Clause 9 of the Bill, which provides: Section twenty-one of the Act of 1955 (which relates to the duty of a crofter to work his croft in accordance with the rules of good husbandry), shall cease to have effect. Section 21 (1) of the 1955 Act provides: It shall be the duty of every crofter to work his croft in accordance with the rules of good husbandry and to provide such fixed equipment on his croft as may be necessary to enable him to do so. I do not want to enlarge the debate by a mass of verbiage, but it is interesting to notice that, at a time when we speak of helping agriculture, we repeal one of the Sections relating to the need to work the croft in accordance with the rules of good husbandry. There is more in this than meets the eye. I link it with a tendency which can be seen all over the world.

The Economist always refers to agriculture in an off-hand way.

Mr. Hughes


Mr. Davies

It patronises British agriculture.

Mr. Hughes

Especially Scottish agriculture.

Mr. Davies

Including Scottish agriculture. If hon. Members read what it said at the time of the introduction of the Bill they will see that it wrote scornfully about small farmers as "problem children" and about "peasant myopia". It said that the Bill was good and that we should have an open market value for land.

Mr. Hughes

Is my hon. Friend sure that "peasant myopia" is a quotation from the Economist? It sounds like a quotation from Mr. Khrushchev.

Mr. Davies

I can assure my hon. Friend that it is from the Economist. It asks what the Bill does and says that infirm and inactive crofters can retain the houses but can be compelled to sublet the remainder and to give up the tenancy. I do not want to bore the House by reading extracts from the report of the Crofters Commission; all Scottish Members—who do their duty, on both sides of the House—have read the Report. But I did not like the reference to the open market value as the key to the crofting land problem.

I raise this problem because it is exactly the same as in other places where there is a Green Belt, a National Park organisation and Commissions and county councils making plans. We see land which is no longer to be cultivated and tenanted by farmers being made available at market value. The House must watch this. I guarantee that when the Bill becomes an Act it will not be many years before there will be great speculation in land values in this remote part of Britain, such as we are having on the verge of urban districts and towns in my area, where land from small farms is being released—in some cases good agricultural land—and bought for building

Mr. H. Lever

I have an open mind on this whole question, as I know has my hon. Friend. It is not a party question. Perhaps he will take the opportunity of this intervention to explain who will speculate in this land and where. I can understand that such speculation would occur in his constituency, but would it occur in the Outer Isles?

Mr. Davies

Under Clause 9 of the Bill it is no longer necessary for the rules of good husbandry to be maintained in crofting. That is the first point. The second point, as is stated distinctly in the Economist, is that the key to the value of this land will now be the open market. The open market value of crofting land will be higher than present-day values of land. Now I come to the key point in my answer to my hon. Friend. Who is going to speculate? England is becoming increasingly urbanised. More and more people travel by car to the quieter areas, and Southern Ireland and Scotland are becoming the mecca of the motorist.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

And of the Americans.

Mr. Davies

Yes. The crofters are being moved, and there will be a tendency for big business to take over those areas for the hotel and tourist industry. It may be said that that is a good thing. So it is, but the point is that this situation is being compulsorily pushed on to these people who are being given no chance of developing.

In the Jack Committee Report on Rural Bus Services—[Interruption.] This Report, which came out at 4 o'clock yesterday, is very relevant. May I refer hon. Members to the Amendment which states that the Bill …denies crofting communities the right of majority or of any decision in respect to schemes for radical reorganisation of t heir townships; fails to make any provision to assist crofters with the transporting or marketing of their produce; and fails to give the Crofters Commission any powers, responsibilities or resources to stimulate, assist or promote local industries and enterprises, without which crofting itself cannot survive. It is no good calling us on this side of the House Luddites, stick-in-the-muds and old-fashioned. The Agriculture Act, 1947, which was introduced by a Labour Government, was the most progressive Act ever brought before the House to help Scottish, English and Welsh agriculture. If the Commission had had real powers, it could have done something years ago to implement the Jack Report on Rural Bus Services.

Let us see what the Report says about Scotland. At page 8 it speaks of the decline in the number of bus passengers and states: It has been suggested to us that other contributory factors have been changes in the geographical distribution of the population, the increase in bus fares and the increasing number of mobile shops. We consider each of these in turn. Changes in the geographical distribution of the population which are relevant to our problem take two farms: an increase in the larger villages and towns of the countryside and in the rural areas which surround the larger cities, and a decline in the remoter parts of the country. This latter process of decline has been continuous over a long period and has been most pronounced in the upland areas of the north and west, especially in mid-Wales and in the Western Highlands and Islands of Scotland. In these areas the number of births no longer equals the number of deaths so that on the basis of present trends a further decline in population is inevitable. The Report goes on to show how impossible it is to develop rural bus services in these areas. Here is a constructive job that the Commission could have done. Had the Government not done such wicked things to our nationalised transport system, the Commission could have introduced mini-buses in these areas. In the Report there is a suggestion that the introduction of mini-buses, which are not so expensive as the larger vehicles, would have been one way of helping the people in the rural areas, including crofters.

The relevance is that this could happen in my own constituency where, in some of the rural areas, there are declining populations. Some of the small farmers have incomes of only £5 16s. a week. In the Zuckermann Report on natural resources, with special reference in this case to agriculture—the title is "Scale of Enterprise in Farming"—there is an analysis of the earnings from crofts and small farms. The average income of crofters—in cash —is given as £3 a week—

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

Further to that point

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)

Order. The hon. Member has already spoken once.

Mr. MacMillan

But this is a point. Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

No, the hon. Member cannot repeat himself.

Mr. MacMillan rose

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

No. The hon. Member is entitled to speak only once, unless his speech has been misunderstood.

Mr. MacMillan

I do not want to speak again, but to ask a question, which has been commonly done in this House.

Mr. Manuel

Further to that point of order, do I take it that when one hon. Member gives way to another in order that he may be asked to expand some point in the speech, the hon. Member intervening, who may have already made a speech, is then out of order in intervening?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

An hon. Member is entitled to speak only once, unless his speech has been misunderstood or there is some special ground like that. He is then entitled to intervene, but he is not entitled to go on intervening.

Mr. H. Lever

Further to that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, surely it is an important right in this House than an hon. Member should be able to make a brief intervention, and that that right depends, not on whether or not he has spoken earlier but on the courtesy of the hon. Member who has the Floor in giving way. I think that this is so on the other side of the House. Surely, it would be flouting the established usage of the House to allow, without protest, the principle that an hon. Member, having spoken once, is forbidden to make a brief intervention by courtesy of the hon. Member who is then speaking.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

He can make a brief intervention if his speech has been misunderstood. The rule is quite clear.

Mr. Lever

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. If I may seek guidance from the Chair, whence comes the point about intervening only for a given purpose? Surely, it has been the established usage of the House that hon. Members can always, at any time, intervene as often as the courtesy of other hon. Members permits, and, with great respect, the Chair should not rule away, without there being protest, an established right of hon. Members.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The normal rule is that an hon. Member can speak only once on a Motion.

Mr. Swingler

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. In answer to my hon. Friend you said that an hon. Member is not entitled to go on intervening. That implies that there is some sort of limitation on the right of an hon. Member to intervene, other than the courtesy of the hon. Member who holds the Floor in giving way. Surely, that is not so. If an hon. Member is in order in the question he puts or in the character of his intervention, and the hon. Member who has been called has given way, there is no arithmetical limitation on the number of times an hon. Member may intervene.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I was explaining that, normally, an hon. Member can speak only once. If his speech has been misunderstood, or something like that, he can intervene, but the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) has intervened quite a number of times, and his speech was not then being misrepresented. Therefore, he had no right to speak again.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

Is not that a new Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) has, of course, made a speech in this debate. As I understand it, he was not endeavouring to make a second speech but was merely proceeding to ask a question of my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies). I have been about this place for quite a long time now, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I have not hitherto heard the Chair rule that an hon. Member who had addressed the House could not thereafter intervene in the speech of another hon. Member, who has done him the courtesy of giving way in order that the first-mentioned hon. Member, who has spoken, could ask a question. That is common usage.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member may intervene in certain circumstances, but he cannot make a second or third intervention unless he is called.

Mr. H. Lever

Further to that point of order. You ruled, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that my hon. Friend could make an intervention for the purpose of clearing up a misapprehension in connection with his speech. Can you assist the House by telling us what authority there is for imposing such a restriction upon the right of an hon. Member to intervene?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The authority will be found in Erskine May at pages 448 and 449.

Mr. Harold Davies

I always understood, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that an hon. Member was allowed to intervene. The point I want to make—

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

Further to that point of order. I should be grateful, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if you would tell me—it possibly weakens my position in some ways—why I was not ruled out of order on previous occasions, or why the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) and some of my hon. Friends were not ruled out of order on the same basis. Is this a new Ruling? What is the difference between this proposed intervention and the many others permitted by the Chair earlier?

Mr. Speaker

I must decline to rule in circumstances like this. I do not know what has been happening. I have just reached the Chair and I cannot refer back to what I have not heard.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

Am I in order, Mr. Speaker, in asking my hon. Friend one short question arising out of some comments he has been making about the low incomes in agriculture in the crofting areas, which we have been talking about for a considerable time this morning? I wanted to ask my hon. Friend—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member will have to assist me, because I do not know. I assume that the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) was addressing the House.

Mr. Davies

Yes, Mr. Speaker, and I was prepared to give way for the question.

Mr. Speaker

Certainly, the lion. Member may intervene if the hon. Member for Leek is prepared to give way.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

I would not call it argument with the Chair, because I do not want to be disrespectful, but that is what the whole discussion with the Chair has been about. I am glad that you have given that Ruling, Mr. Speaker, which is extremely important for the rights of hon. Members. I wanted to ask my hon. Friend whether he is aware that in the area to which he has been referring and which is referred to in the Report, there is probably a higher number in proportion to population of people who have had to claim exemption from the general social security contributions because they fall below the minimum level above which they become payable.

Mr. Davies

Yes. This is the whole problem of small farming and crofting in the British Isles. I was quoting the Government Report by the Natural Resources Technical Committee entitled "Scale of Enterprise in Farming", which came out only a few weeks ago. There, one gets different figures of the incomes of farms and crofts and an income as low as £3 a week for the Scottish crofter.

There are certain principles in the Bill which I do not like. Nobody has yet answered the first question on the Bill, which arises on Clause 9. That Clause states that Section twenty-one of the Act of 1955 (which relates to the duty of a crofter to work his croft in accordance with the rules of good husbandry), shall cease to have effect. I do not want to be accused of repetition, but if one looks at that Section of the relevant Act, there are certain standards and tenets of farming which we know under the 1947 Act.

Why is Section 21 of the 1955 Act being withdrawn? I say that it is being withdrawn because, as the Economist said, the open market will now be the criterion upon which the value of the crofting land, when it is released from the needs of good husbandry, will be charged.

The Economist of 21st January, 1961, gaily welcomed the fact that this land was to be put on the open market. I have seen that sort of thing happening in Leek and other areas where Green Belt development takes place. We know the speculation that is going on. I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever) how there could be speculation in this land if there had been depopulation and no farming was being carried out on it.

The urbanisation of Britain which is now going on is throwing up problems. The prices of this land will go up four, five or six times on the open market, because the motorists are looking in Eire and Scotland for quiet areas. This Bill will result in the development of tourism, which nobody objects to, but we want to keep a balance and to learn that there is something more in life than arid efficiency.

Farming and crofting is a way of life. People from this walk of life have, for generations, served the Royal Navy and the fishing fleets. Yet these fine, virile people are to be swept aside because of this cry for efficiency and economy. Of course we want efficiency and economy, but not at the price of human happiness. That is not the way to true efficiency.

In the White Paper of the Report on Talks between the Agricultural Departments and the Farmers' Unions in 1960, it is stated that the National Farmers' Union asked that any procedures in agriculture should not prejudice the purposes of the 1947 and 1957 Acts. But this Bill prejudices those purposes. There is a tendency to squeeze the little man out of existence.

In my constituency, and in other parts of the country, big business is tending to break into farming and crofting and to work farm units and their marketing in groups. A new type of take-over bid is coming into agriculture, resulting in agricultural land being sold for building. The knowledge of that leads to speculation which no decent nation should allow and which, I am afraid, will be the result of this Bill.

Half the production of our agriculture comes from farms with 50 acres or less, and one-eighth of that half comes from crofts and holdings of 20 acres and under. Even if these people are unsubsidised and keep themselves by part-time work, it is still a way of life. I would have suggested that a constructive job for the Commission—it could have been done all over Britain had we not had such a vicious attack on the nationalisation of transport—would have been to have invested £50,000 in a minibus pilot scheme—vehicles carrying 10 to 12 people—in some of the Highland and hill farming areas. Such a scheme would bring fresh life and hope to some of the rural areas, and even the crofting areas and areas like those in the Leek constituency. That is one of the things brought out by the Jack Report on Rural Bus Services.

The Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society deals with this issue of farm economics in respect of small farmers and crofters on page 93 of volume 120. It says that we have justified our continued support of agriculture on the need to safeguard our food supplies in the event of war—God forbid that it should happen; there would again be a rush to open up the crofts, and even allotments —and to help our balance of payments. Every time we cut out a certain section of agricultural production we are increasing our indebtedness overseas and our balance of payments problem. This month's Economic Review shows that we have the largest balance of payments problem since 1951. We must remember that British agriculture—that includes Scottish agriculture and the crofters—contributes £300 million a year to our balance of payments.

The Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society says that agriculture not only saves imports and helps our balance of payments but also brings a certain stability to our way of life. It then mentions the question of the Common Market—this will be relevant, Mr. Speaker, and I trust that I shall not be ruled out of order—and the European Free Trade Association. The tendency now is for the City of London and big industry once again to revert to the old cry of between 1870 and the First World War, that being the shopkeepers of the world, we can import cheap food. The House of Commons has never fully discussed the argument about the Common Market and the European Free Trade Association—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Despite the hon. Member's plea, I must require him to relate his observations to the Bill.

Mr. Davies

I shall not mention it again, Mr. Speaker. It links them with the closing down of small-scale enterprises. People are worshipping at the shrine of vastness and big enterprise. But there is no guarantee. No farmers in the world are as efficient as ours and produce so much per acre as do ours at present in the commodities that are relative, naturally, to our climate. I do not expect us to grow bananas, but this part of the world can grow—

Mr. Prior

The hon. Member says that we have the greatest output per acre of agricultural produce of any country in the world—

Mr. Davies

I said that we have the most efficient output.

Mr. Prior

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the size of farms in this country is considerably larger than in the rest of Europe?

Mr. Davies


Mr. Speaker

Order. All this must be related to the Crofters (Scotland) Bill and exciting attempts to grow bananas in Devonshire and so forth are not relevant.

Mr. Davies

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

I consider that the Bill will deny to the crofting communities the right to make their own decisions. The time will come when we shall be debating the possibility of amalgamation in British agriculture. This is the beginning of a Conservative plan of amalgamation and collectivisation of some of these areas. The connotation of "collectivisation" is not very pleasant to some hon. Members, but "amalgamation" is used openly to indicate the goal in British agriculture. This trend is already apparent. According to the Royal Agricultural Society, the number of farmers in the United States fell by 22 per cent. between 1940 and 1954, but the acreage of farms increased by an average of over 70 acres.

This is the trend which it is being attempted to introduce increasingly into this country. This Bill is the first example of it that the House of Commons has had since the present Government came into power. This is a new muddling with the Crofters Commission and the Commission is giving up the ghost as far as any constructive approach to agricultural problems are concerned. We have listened with great pleasure to the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson). On the Committee stage of the Bill he asked questions about ancillary employment.

Mr. Speaker

As far as I know, there has not been a Committee stage of the Bill. If there were there would be difficulty about quoting it to me. That is why I have to stop the hon. Member.

Mr. Davies

When the principle was discussed by the Scottish Grand Committee it was suggested that a first-class commercial man as a manager of crofting agriculture might solve the problem. I hope to heaven that if the Government are looking for such a person he is not one who will receive £25,000 a year and a golden handshake. That is not the way out.

These people need roads, a decent little transport service, and a good electricity supply. These are matters which ought to be undertaken as a military operation to raise the standard of living so that the crofter might earn more than the £3 a week which he earns at the moment. When the Commission which we are now discussing was set up in 1955 we were told that: This Commission will devote its entire energies to promoting the welfare of the crofting communities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th January, 1955; Vol. 536, c. 431.] We were told that the crofter would be given security of tenure and compensation for improvements, and that the Commission would see that he paid only a fair rent. But I see from Clause 9 that he will no longer have security of tenure. There is no guarantee that he will pay only a fair rent. That will ultimately react throughout Britain and we shall see its results in all the small farming areas. It is right that someone who is not a Scot should raise this issue, and I am grateful for the opportunity to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.

4.31 a.m.

Mr. Harold Lever (Manchester, Cheetham)

I follow my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) this far—that I agree with him in lamenting the doctrinaire obstinacy, blindness and destructiveness of the Government's handling of a nationalised transport undertaking. As I proceed with my argument, I hope that hon. Members will not hesitate to intervene, because I do not think that this is a party matter and the House may gain if someone with an altogether undogmatic approach gropes in a somewhat empirical way towards a proper understanding of the problem and how to deal with it. I hope that in the course of this groping I shall not give offence to my hon. Friends if I tread on any of their pet prejudices. They will have every opportunity to correct me, as I shall speak with great candour.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leek claimed the right to speak because, by analogy, a Welshman representing an English constituency, he had problems similar to those posed by the Bill. Oddly enough, being a Lancashire Member, I cannot even claim to have hill farmers in my constituency, but by a much nearer analogy I can state my views.

In Lancashire, where I was brought up, we had a declining industry, the cotton industry, in which many thousands of people could not make a proper living for many years. We were besieged by much counsel and advice, and there were many debates in the House about how we should comport ourselves and conduct our economic life so as to make our export trade return and enable cotton workers to earn a good livelihood once again, even though it was obvious that that was not possible in the new world in which we had arrived.

The people who rendered the greatest service to the Lancashire cotton workers were not those who deluded themselves and the workers that it was possible to have a state of affairs in which the cotton industry could provide an adequate standard of living for its workers. By analogy, I warn the House that it is not necessarily those who have the most intimate knowledge of their problems and who are most deeply devoted to them and to their retaining their present way of life who are the greatest friends, in an objective sense, of the crofters.

The greatest friends of the crofters are not necessarily those who persist in arguing that in this day and age the crofter can be provided with a standard of living acceptable to the modern man in the United Kingdom. I am the last person to urge that these matters should be approached on a strictly financial basis and I sympathise with my Scots friends who have an intimate knowledge of the crofter and his determination to succeed in his traditional way of life in spite of adverse circumstances, just as I had sympathy with those who knew the strength of the Lancashire cotton worker and his genuineness of character.

But it is all very well to talk about preserving a sturdy way of life here and there by one subsidy after another in what my hon. Friend the Member for Leek called a military operation. The crofter is to be subsidised by cash, by minibuses, by hydro-electric schemes, by confiscation of the deer parks—presumably after due compensation has been paid at the public's expense—and so on.

The ordinary workers of this country are being asked to subsidise the sturdy way of life of film makers, white fishers, crofters in Scotland, cotton mill owners in Lancashire, farmers, spinners, weavers, breakers of machinery, creators of new machinery, steel masters, motor manufacturers—

Mr. Emrys Hughes


Mr. Lever

I do not think that they have applied for a subsidy—shipowners, shipbuilders, and so on. All these sturdy ways of life which are being heavily subsidised by the Government by the most elaborate methods are very fine, but we ought to ask ourselves whether some of these sturdy ways of life ought not to stand on their own sturdy feet or perish under the impact of economic development.

When I am told that the crofter's average income from his efforts is £3 a week, my reaction is that it is about time somebody considered reducing the number of crofters instead of making elaborate and expensive attempts to perpetuate the present number, and even to increase them.

Mr. Harold Davies

I think that my hon. Friend has missed the point. If a man wants to earn £3 a week, that is the income from crofting. Some of this is part-time, and I am justifying crofting even as a part-time existence. I made that clear. It is not being argued that we want to keep this so-called sturdy way of life and expect them to live. We want to develop it with electricity. If a man wants to be a part-time crofter, no one has the right to say that it is uneconomic because he earns £3 a week and he could earn £5 or £6 somewhere else. He has the right to live that way of life.

Mr. Lever

I am not clear how my hon. Friend thinks that his intervention in any way negatives what I have been saying. I gather that if a man feels like doing part-time crofting at £3 a week, the community owes it to him to drive hydro-electricity schemes through the remoter parts of Scotland, to ensure that minibuses are there to transport him for such recreational and commercial activities as he is minded to pursue, and to ensure that an adequate supply of electricity is there because television does not work by gas—though one is sometimes under the impression that it does.

Mr. Manuel

Is my hon. Friend aware that crofters in the Highland crofting counties sometimes have to pay more for electricity because of the remoteness of the areas in which they live?

Mr. Lever

My hon. Friend rightly points out that the crofter is a sturdy man who pays for his electricity, but, on the basis of paying its way, if there is not enough electricity to provide the charming part-time institutions which my hon. Friend the Member for Leek is so anxious should be provided for those who want the sturdy way of life, it is suggested that they should be subsidised by more conventional and modern activities.

The fact is that unsubsidised electricity will not arrive in Scotland to support the industries, nor will the industries arrive in Scotland to support the would-be part-timers unless the House digs its hand firmly into the fragile pockets of the unsubsidised workers in that diminishing number of industries where no subsidy is expected from the Government. All these sturdy activities will not be maintained unless we put our hands deeply into the public purse to support them.

It is all right talking about sturdy ways of life. I am always moved by my hon. Friend's natural gift of buoyancy, but the fact is that we ought to be asking ourselves quite honestly whether the purpose of hon. Members on both sides of the House is the preservation of picturesque poverty rather than the provision of modern amenities which can be honestly supported by the House in the interests of the people themselves. I again emphasise that it was no service to the people of Lancashire when various romantics went round explaining to them how with a little zeal, effort and modest Government subsidy the world's cotton markets could be brought back. In the same way I, a non-Scotsman, with little or no hill farming in my constituency, am entitled to say that hon. Members should consider whether the crofter is necessarily going to be benefited if we encourage in him illusions of what awaits him in the future if he persists in maintaining his croft.

I hope I am not being offensive to anybody, but as the debate went on it struck me that it was taking a somewhat odd course. If a couple of Maltese moved from Malta and set up lucrative brothels in the West End of London, anybody who opposed their move would be called a racialist and a fascist, whose point of view ought to be deplored, since it interfered with the free migration of citizens of the Commonwealth, but if a crofter proposed to leave his croft, where he earns £3 a week, and go south to England, where he will be welcomed; where no psychological or social problems would present themselves; where he could earn a somewhat better living, and where he would merely be following the traditional route, he would be helping in the depopulation of the Highlands, and that ought to be deplored, and the public purse should be raided once more to ensure that this depopulation ceases at the earl Lest moment. I submit that if crofters wish to transfer themselves to the southern parts of the United Kingdom it is not quite as great a disaster and tragedy as has been represented.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Has my hon. Friend ever enjoyed the amenities of the Scottish Grand Committee? If not, will he become a member of it?

Mr. Lever

If I may reminisce briefly, in an innocent moment shortly after my arrival in the House, when it was my purpose to attend everything with great zeal and continuous application, I was asked if I would consent to become a member of the Scottish Grand Committee. I did so, and my zeal then abated somewhat, because I found the proceedings quite incomprehensible. Members representing Scottish constituencies speak with a different accent in Committee than when they are speaking on the Floor of the House, where they have to make themselves intelligible to the English.

Mr. Hughes

Members of the Scottish Grand Committee, in their turn, found my hon. Friend's arguments equally incomprehensible.

Mr. Speaker

These reminiscences are intriguing, but are not strictly relevant to the subject of the debate.

Mr. Lever

I will try to keep more directly in tune with the Bill. The essential problem is how far the population of the Highlands should be preserved, even if strict financial calculations are against it, and how far it is normal progress by the Scots to the South, where richer land and better industrial opportunities are available. I know with what sincerity and affection my hon. Friends defend the right of the crofters to persist in their present way of life, but it behoves us all, including those most emotionally affected, to consider the supplementary question: at what point should we cease to subsidise the present population in the Highlands?

Mr. Manuel

My hon. Friend is misleading the House. Is he aware that the crofter could move south—although he would not like to—through the normal process of depopulation, and might go into the car industry, or the cotton industry, or into shipbuilding. He could have periods of unemployment, when he would be a drain on the State. But if he remains a crofter, working at some other ancillary job as well, he gets no unemployment. He stands on his own feet, and is not a liability, as he is if he moves south.

Mr. Lever

I do not think that my hon. Friend is facing the problem which I am urging him to face. The difficulty at the moment is that this is an idyllic dream —widely spread crofts in the remote areas of Scotland, each crofter with readily available part-time work in, presumably, some suitable light industry, which is not there at present, with machines powered by electricity, which is not there at present but which they are to have, and with several other amenities and facilities which exist only in the more hopeful minds of Scottish Members who, very understandably, want to see this sturdy, proud and inspiring way of life preserved.

Hon. Members must ask themselves whether it is really possible to give even the present population the standard of life which modern man requires. If we try to keep crofting going in some form in those areas, shall we condemn crofters, as it were, to fighting against the tide and condemn them to a level of poverty which is not acceptable to most modern people? As I think the elder Pitt said, poverty is no disgrace, but it is damned annoying. I think the same would apply to the crofters if we kept them there.

I wish to be perfectly frank. I am not being either progressive or reactionary. I have had this argument before. The facts are the facts, and one is entitled to recapitulate them without being charged with bias. I hold no brief for hunting of any kind, and still less do I hold a brief for the Duchess of Westminster or any of the great land owners of Scotland; but we must be careful that we rehearse the grievances of the present day rather than the bitternesses of the century gone by. I have no doubt that a great deal of the ruthlessness and terror which arouse the ire of hon. Members, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin), who quoted Carlyle, did exist. But the very power and vehemence of the quotation made me ask myself whether my hon. Friend, to be strictly honest and objective, was recapitulating grievances of the past or reciting relevant grievances of the present.

Mr. Rankin

My hon. Friend will concede what the Secretary of State refused to concede to me, that, while I quoted Carlyle, a voice from the past, I read also letters written to me a month ago by people farming in the area he is talking about?

Mr. Lever

I could not help observing that my hon. Friend seemed to be more alert than any other hon. Member in arithmetical computation. He very effectively floored the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) who intervened and spoke about the number of turnips which a certain number of deer would eat in competition with the number of turnips which a certain number of sheep would eat in the same period. I am very loath to compete in these calculations, but I noticed that, at the end of my hon. Friend's computation, the loss as a result of depredations caused by these various aristocratic play-boys—and, apparently, play-girls—amounted to about £500,000 a year. It is perfectly plain that £500,000 a year will produce an income of £500 a year for 1,000 people. That is all. We cannot say that that will have more than a fractional or marginal effect upon the lives of the people we are discussing. We are discussing the livelihood of 20,000 people, and, however anxious we may be to take the deer parks away from the people who, apparently, have no right to them, we should be under no illusion that we are solving the fundamental problems of the crofter.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

It should be made quite clear to my hon. Friend that we are not talking about 20,000 people. It is 20,000 crofting units, with the families on them. One can multiply that figure by at least five.

Mr. Lever

That reinforces my point. I say to my hon. Friend at once that I have never hunted in my life and I have no intention of doing so. I do not know any of the personalities concerned, and I have no wish to defend them. I do not like the idea of these areas being a playground for the rich; they ought not to have such a large playground. But we are not entitled to confiscate the property even of the Duchess of Westminster without compensation. If we are to acquire their deer parks, we shall have to pay for them, and before we accede to the proposition we should make sure what their deer parks will contribute to the problem. My hon. Friend has multiplied my argument by five by pointing out that 100,000 people are involved. It will be affected only to a minute degree by an extra £500,000 being made available to agricultural activity.

Mr. Rankin rose

Mr. Emrys Hughes rose

Mr. Lever

I will give way to my hon. Friends in the order in which they rose.

Mr. Rankin

I agree that I quoted a Departmental Report and that the chairman of the Committee was Sir John Stirling Maxwell and that I referred to 1920. The figure which I gave was material to 1920. With the new techniques and the great change which has taken place in agriculture, production is much higher and the figure for that land, if put to proper use, would be higher.

Mr. Lever

I ask my hon. Friend to consider conscientiously and carefully, as I am sure he will, whether he thinks that a major contribution to the problem of preserving the way of life of the people of this area will be made by compulsorily acquiring the deer parks. If he thinks it will, well and good; that is a point of view.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever) refers to a deer park, whereas my other hon. Friends referred to a deer forest. A deer forest is not like a deer park. My hon. Friend seems to be thinking of a place like Richmond Park where there are tame deer. A Scottish deer forest goes over thousands of acres of mountain and loch, and there is no comparison between it and a deer park.

Mr. Lever

My experience has not extended over the wild areas of Scotland, which offer these forests for the convenience of aristocratic hunters and huntresses and where deer run the range wild. I was using the wrong word. I had in the back of my mind, from the statistics which Lave been quoted, that millions of acres were involved and that it was rather different from Richmond Park. The fact remains that each of us must ask in all conscience whether a substantial contribution will be made by compulsorily acquiring the deer forests to the problem of preserving the way of life of 100,000 people in this area. A number of people would find some employment in the deer forests—

Mr. Harold Davies

I am tired of hearing this argument for preserving the way of life of a small group of people. We hear about this sturdy, industrial system of ours, and loans for Cunard liners, and about private enterprise in industry coming with the begging bowl far more than does agriculture or crofting. This is £50,000, not £50 million—which is the sum which private enterprise demands.

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Davies

It should be said.

Mr. Speaker

But it may not be said in this debate, because it is out of order.

Mr. Lever

I accept your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, that it ought not to be said in this debate, but I have already said something of the kind in a way which I hope was relevant to the issue without any demur from the Chair. The difficulty is that in an intervention one is often protesting about something which has been mentioned in a speech. One is speaking of doors which have long since been opened and shut.

I know that hon. Members, and particularly Scottish hon. Members, feel strongly about deer forests and are very knowledgeable about them. I am tempted to quote the German philosopher who remarked that the more one knows, the worse one observes. I have the advantage in my powers of observation, having an almost limitless ignorance on the subject of crofting in Scotland. All that I am doing is to try to bring honest observation to bear upon it and to use such logic as I can to examine the problem in a way which will stimulate discussion in the House. This is an important topic, and no one must be alarmed by the fact that is is five minutes to five, because we only started the debate close upon midnight and my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan), to whom we are all deeply indebted, led off the debate in a splendid speech which was stimulating to us all and widened our range of concepts as to what would and would not be relevant to this Bill.

I must confess that I do not recall a Second Reading of a Bill in which the Minister came along and merely said "I beg to move" without explaining the Bill. If I am ignorant of the subject, there is the culprit—the Minister. It was his duty to enlighten us. This concept, that the Bill concerns a small minority of Scotsmen and a few Welshmen in England, is complete nonsense. Any money required under the provisions of this Bill has got to be found by the country as a whole, and the House of Commons as a whole is responsible.

My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles at one point talked about the Commission's responsibility and lack of power. He was too delicate to remind the House that a Conservative Prime Minister once said that power without responsibility had been the prerogative of the whore throughout the ages. In this case, if we are to follow the advice of some hon. Members and leave this to the Scottish Members alone, who, after all, are only a handful in this House, this House will have responsibility without power, and that surely is the prerogative of the eunuch. We should take our responsibilities seriously, and when we have responsibility we must exercise our power.

I want to deal with some of the points in the Bill which seem to have aroused feeling. One relates to good husbandry. I share with my hon. Friends the opposition that they have to a Commission sitting and taking power to evict tenants because in the opinion of the Commission the land is not being properly looked after according to the rules of good husbandry. These questions cannot be decided in the abstract. It is quite right that in war time a nation desperately anxious to preserve its food supplies would take such powers, and perhaps continue them into the shortages of the peace, but it is unjustifiable that in 1961, so long after the war is over, the Government should seek to exercise a power of this kind in relation to these humble men in Scotland.

It seems to me that this can be justified only if we accept it as a sort of principle that the Government have the right to ensure that the national resources are everywhere fully utilised. Therefore, I cannot see how a Government who do not take to themselves such rights in far more important areas than the crofters' humble homesteads and crofting grounds in Scotland—I hope I am using the right word—are entitled to demand the right to expel these men on the ground that they are not farming a particular area of rock and heather in a way which pleases the Government. It is tyrannical, and I hope that the Minister will consider this point in Committee.

The Minister indicated a certain uneasiness of conscience, and here I want to acquit him of deliberate discourtesy to the House. He made a grave error in not explaining the Bill. I think he fell short of what was required of him, but I think he did it in error and not out of intentional discourtesy, because when he addressed the House later he did so very fully and was obviously concerned that we should have his views on the matter. I must confess that he struck me as being as open-minded as one is entitled to expect of any Conservative Minister, and I hope that he really meant that in Committee he will consider putting in the safeguards.

Roughly speaking, I understood the Minister to mean that this Commission had bamboozled him into putting this obnoxious Clause into the Bill, that he is now rather ashamed of it and wishes it were not there, and that, in Committee he will join with us in trying to find wording that will save his face and everyone's honour by rendering this Clause nugatory. I hope that we will achieve that purpose.

I will go so far as to say that I was tempted to enjoy the speech of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson), because it is always very comforting to see the Government attacked from their own side, especially when charges of untruthfulness or corruption are freely banded about. I must, however, play the role of trying to reconcile the Minister, who was very perturbed by what he heard from the hon. Member from Caithness and Sutherland.

The hon. Member was, I gathered, making a charge of corruption against the Commission, and produced documentation in support of the use of the word "corruption" obtained from two well-known dictionaries. Apparently, he did not refer to the same dictionary or dictionaries that the Minister had concentrated on, because the right hon. Gentleman used other definitions to attack his hon. Friend. There was a certain confusion in the use of language, particularly lamentable when coming from Scots Members, from whom we tend to expect the highest standards of education and the greatest possible care and precision in the selection and use of words.

I must say that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, whose sturdy independence is much admired on this side, as also is his proclivity for attacking the Front Bench on his own side, used the wrong word, judging by any quotation he gave to the House. Even granted the truth of what he said, there was no justification in using the word "corruption" as it is understood by the ordinary man in the street—implications of bribery and dishonesty and intrigue.

I would say that, at most, the hon. Member himself felt that there had been a certain tactlessness in one case and administrative inefficiency in the other, but, after all, if we were to use the word "corruption" for every administrative or political inefficiency of this Government where would the charges stop? The world outside this country would certainly conclude that our famed reputation for integrity and freedom from bribery had long since been lost.

It is sad enough that we have so much inefficiency, and sad enough that we have this Government, and sad enough that we should have to hear a Minister say, "No, my office is not corrupt—it is merely thoroughly incompetent". That is sad enough, without making matters worse by using words like "corruption". I hope that it will not go out from this House, at any rate on anything we have so far heard, that there is anything that would implicate the Commission, the Minister or his office in corruption.

I am not yet persuaded that the fundamental principle of this Bill has been properly considered. It has rather been taken for granted, because the Scots have had charge of the matter, that we should preserve the Scots way of life, and that to preserve a Scotsman in his existing croft and in his existing job must necessarily be what is called in the book 1066 And All That a "good thing", and must justify the expenditure of almost unlimited money, effort and intelligence.

At the risk of being tediously repetitive, I assure my hon. Friends that it is not callousness for them, their feelings or the people they represent so gallantly and well that makes me question the principle of the Bill and of extending still further the subsidies which have become so important a part of our national economic life. It is not lack of sympathy for them, but a feeling that their ultimate and enduring protection can derive only from finding a genuinely independent way of life which is not dependent upon debates of this sort repeatedly occurring in the House. We have had this with so many industries, a sort of triennial subsidy Bill, as it were, for fish, films and a whole range of matters. It is not good for people who work in the industries or even for the people at the receiving end of those industries. We cannot afford to run our country in that way.

At the same time, I emphasise again that I am not a person who sees only the strictly gainful calculation aspect of these matters. It is right that we should preserve farming within reason. It is right that we should try to ensure some of our food supplies. I often think, however, that it is wrong to justify these by the somewhat spurious argument about the need to feed ourselves in war and how useful this all was in 1898 in preserving the country from famine at a crucial point of the Boer War or even of later wars in which the country was engaged. It is plain that, in a serious war, the state of affairs will not be such that material advantage will result to our nourishment from the activities of the crofts, even in my hon. Friends

Division> No. 112.] AYES [5.10 a.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Allason, James Berkeley, Humphry
Aitken, W. T Atkins, Humphrey Black, Sir Cyril
Allan, Robert (Paddlngton, S.) Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Bossom, Clive

constituencies. I am sure that they will do their best for us, but that will not be very relevant if we get involved in a major war.

In the circumstances, how do I stand on the Bill and on the Amendment? I am bound to declare myself in fairness to the Minister, who in the end, however slow a starter, eventually showed great concern for this matter. I have no enthusiasm for the Bill, although I believe that it is welcomed on all sides. I should have voted against it and for the Amendment had I thought that the real objection to the Bill was only the question of compulsory action against those crofters who were not carrying on their activities with due regard to good husbandry and all that sort of thing.

I hope that my hon. Friends will not resent it if I say that I cannot vote against the Bill. I am not able, however, to give the Bill my support, for the reasons which I have indicated. In all seriousness, late as it is, I beg the House, even if we allow the Bill to have its Second Reading, to give a little thought to the important matters which are at stake.

To conclude on a rather sour note, I think also that it is wrong that we should be asked to debate this subject at this hour of the morning. I am tempted to test even now, before sitting down, whether I could move, "That the debate be now adjourned" and that the House should sit again. I am not sure when one is allowed to move that if it is not a point of order, and it is somewhat add to do it at the conclusion of one's own speech. I was once told that it was in order in the middle of my speech, but I am not so sure that it would be so well received at the conclusion. However, I submit these considerations for the House. I shall abstain from voting on Second Reading and I shall await the Committee stage with interest.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Martin Redmayne)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 131, Noes 8.

Bourne-Arton, A. Hendry, Forbes Pilkington, Sir Richard
Box, Donald Hill J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Pitman, I. J.
Boyle, Sir Edward Hint, Geoffrey Pitt, Miss Edith
Brawis, John Hobson, John Pott, Percivall
Bullard, Denys Hocking, Philip N. Prior, J. M. L.
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Holland, Philip Proudfoot, Wilfred
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Hopkins, Alan Quenneil, Miss J. M.
Channon, H. P. G. Hughes-Young, Michael Ramsden, James
Chataway, Christopher Hutchison, Michael Clark Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Irvine, Bryant Cadman (Rye) Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Roberts, Sir Peter (Healey)
Cleaver, Leonard Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Roots, William
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Kaberry, Sir Donald Scott-Hopkins, James
Cordle, John Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Shaw, M.
Corfield, F. V. Kershaw, Anthony Skeet, T. H. H.
Critchley, Julian Kirk, Peter Steward, Harold (Stockport. S.)
Currle, G. B. H. Kitson, Timothy Stodart, J. A.
Dalkeith, Earl of Langford-Holt, J. Studhoirne, Sir Henry
Deedse, W. F. Leavey, J. A. Olney, John (Wavertree)
du Ferranti, Basil Litchfield, Capt. John Turner, Colin
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh van Straubenzee, W. R.
du Cann, Edward MacArthur, lan Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Duncan, Sir James McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Wall, Patrick
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Ward, Dame Irene
Elliott,R.W.(Nwcatie-upon-Tyne,N.) McLean, Nell (Inverness) Watts, James
Emery, Peter Maddan, Martin Webster, David
Farr, John Maginnis, John E. Wells, John (Maidstone)
Fell, Anthony Markham, Major Sir Frank Whitelaw, William
Finlay, Graeme Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Fisher, Nigel Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Mawby, Ray Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Gammans, Lady Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Wise, A, R.
Gibson-Watt, David Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Glover, Sir Douglas Mills, Stratton Woodhouse, C. M.
Goodhew, Victor Montgomery, Fregus Woodnutt, Mark
Gower, Raymond More, Jasper (Ludlow) Woollam, John
Grant, Rt. Hon. William Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Worsley, Marcus
Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R. Neave, Airey
Green, Alan Noble, Michael
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Pearson, Frank (Citheroe) Mr. Chichester-Clark and
Harvie Anderson, Miss Pell, John Mr. Gordon Campbell.
Hasting, Stephen
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)
Hart, Mrs. Judith Manuel, A. C.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Lever, Harold (Cheatham) Rankin, John Mr. Swingler and Mr. Harold Davies.

Question put accordingly, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:

Mr. Speaker

I think the "Ayes" have it. Bill read a Second time.

Mr. Malcolm Macmillan

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am not sure whether you heard a number of hon.

Division No. 113.] AYES [5.20 a.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Channon, H. P. G. Elilott,R.W.(Nwcstle.upon-Tyne,N.)
Aitken, W. T. Chataway, Christopher Emery, Peter
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Farr, John
Allason, James Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Fell, Anthony
Atkins, Humphrey Cleaver, Leonard Finlay, Graeme
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Fisher, Nigel
Berkeley, Humphry Cordle, John Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)
Black, Sir Cyril Corfield, F. V. Gammans, Lady
Bossom, Clive Critchley, Julian Glover, Sir Douglas
Bourne-Arton, A. Currle, G. B. H. Goodhew, Victor
Box, Donald Dalkeith, Earl of Grant, Rt. Hon. William
Boyle, Sir Edward Deedes, W. F. Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.
Brewis, John de Ferranti, Basil Green, Alan
Bullard, Denys Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. C.
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nalrn) du Cann, Edward Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Duncan, Sir james Harvie Anderson, Miss
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Hastings, Stephen

Members saying "No." A number did, however.

Mr. Speaker

I did not hear a number of hon. Member say "No." If in fact they said "No." I withdraw what I have done. They are entitled to a Division.

The House divided: Ayes 128, Noes 6.

Hendry, Forbes Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Stodart, J. A.
Hirst, Geoffrey Mawby, Ray Studholme, Sir Henry
Hobson, John Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Hocking, Philip N. Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Turner, Colin
Holland, Philip Mills, Stratton van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hopkins, Alan Montgomery, Fergus Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W)
Hughes-Young, Michael More, Jasper (Ludlow) Wall, Patrick
Hutchison, Michael Clark Mott-Radolyffe, Sir Charles Ward, Dame Irene
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Heave, Airey Watts, James
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Noble, Michael Webster, David
Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Kaberry, Sir Donald Peel, John
Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Pilkington, Sir Richard Whitelaw, William
Kershaw, Anthony Pitman, I. J. Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Kirk, Peter Pitt, Miss Edith Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Kitson, Timothy Pott, Percivall Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Langford-Holt, J. Prior, J. M. L. Wise, A. R.
Leavey, J. A. Proudfoot, Wilfred Wolrige Gordon, Patrick
Litchfield, Capt. John Quennell, Miss J. M. Woodhouse, C. M.
Lucas-Tooth. Sir Hugh Ramsden, James Weodnutt, Mark
MacArthur, Ian Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin Woollam, John
McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Ridley, Hon. Nicholas Worsley, Marcus
Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
McLean, Neil (Inverness) Roots, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Maddan, Martin Scott-Hopkins, James Mr. Chichester-Clark and
Maginnis, John E. Shaw, M. Mr. Gibson-Watt.
Markham, Major Sir Frank Skeet, T. H. H.
Hart, Mrs. Judith Manuel, A. C. TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.) Mr. Swingler and
MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Rankin, John Mr. Harold Davies

Bill read a Second Time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).