HC Deb 14 April 1965 vol 710 cc1388-9
20. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the names of all owners of more than 50,000 acres in the Highlands area.

Mr. Willis

As the public registers do not generally give the acreage of large estates, it is not possible to identify with any accuracy or precision those holdings which, in aggregate, exceed 50,000 acres.

Mr. Hamilton

Does my hon. Friend recognise the very unsatisfactory character of that answer? Will he not take steps to get this information, because otherwise we cannot intelligently discuss the Bill now before the Scottish Grand Committee? Will he consult the Leader of the Opposition, because if we get a list of the subscribers to the Tory Party in Scotland, that will be nearly accurate enough for us.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The last part of that supplementary question does not lie within the realms of the Minister's responsibility. The other part of the question is in order.

Mr. Willis

I do not agree with my hon. Friend that the lack of this information prevents us from discussing the Highland Development Bill in Committee. I know that it would be interesting to have a list of these owners, but I think that the more important thing is to continue with our work of giving the Highland Development Board powers to see that the land is used in the best way possible and in the national interest, no matter who the owner may be.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Would the Under-Secretary of State think of giving in HANSARD the acres owned by British Railways and possibly by some other nationalised industries?

Mr. Rankin

Is my hon. Friend aware that no return of this nature has been published since 1873, and that, since such a return was then possible, it is reasonable to ask whether it is not possible to do so now? Will he notice that I have a Question down within the next few weeks asking for this?

Mr. Willis

I have noted that Question. I am also aware that there has been no return since 1873. It is true that it would be possible to get this information, but as I pointed out in my previous answer, we feel that it is more important to get on with the job than to gather this information.

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