§ 2.47 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR SCOTLAND (LORD HUGHES)
My Lords, in many ways this Bill is the most important Bill with which it has been my good fortune to be associated, and it is a very great pleasure to me to have the opportunity this afternoon to commend it to your Lordships for Second Reading. This Bill establishes, for the first time, a development body with wide executive powers and with finance to enable it to undertake the rehabilitation of a remote, declining area; and provides for effective, urgent rescue action for the Highlands and Islands. Notwithstanding that, it is not an inward-looking measure. The underlying purpose is not only, in the opening words of Clause 1, to assistthe people of the Highlands and Islands to improve their economic and social conditionsbut also to enable that area to play its proper and effective part in the economic and social development of the nation.
The Highlands and Islands have special difficulties; they have special needs. These special difficulties and needs must inevitably call for special treatment, but we must never forget that that treatment is accorded to enable the Highlands and Islands to play their proper part as a share of the United Kingdom in which they represent one-sixth of the whole land area. I believe that the Highlands and Islands have much to offer in human and material resources as a contribution to the economic wellbeing of the whole nation. I would remind your Lordships that in times of crisis the Highlands and Islands have never failed the nation. I do not think that we have any right to continue further to fail the Highlands and Islands. To do so would be a criminal waste of human effort. It would be even worse; it would be a criminal waste of the gifts of Almighty God.
The Bill which we have introduced implements an Election pledge of Her Majesty's Government. During the last 731 nine months, in discussions both in Edinburgh and in the area in which the Board will operate with people living and working in that area, I have found overwhelming support for the ideas which lie behind this Bill and an overwhelming measure of good will for its success in tackling the problems of the Highlands and Islands.
Before speaking, however, about the main provisions of the Bill, I should like to refer to the basic principles upon which the Government have acted in framing the Board's functions, powers and duties. In the first place, the activities generally must not cut across the existing responsibilities of local authorities nor take over the responsibilities of other statutory bodies. There are sound reasons for working from this first base. Local authorities in the Highlands, as anywhere else in the country, are jealous, and rightly jealous, of their powers and duties and any cutting into them would be regarded as an interference with democratic local government. Furthermore, it would be a useless exercise, because it would cause far more trouble than any good result which could possibly come from such an interference.
There are other statutory bodies which operate in the Highlands and Islands and which also operate over a much wider area, and which, in the exercise of their responsibilities and duties, have acquired an experience and expertise in particular tasks. It would be pointless and unnecessarily costly, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, for the Board to seek to provide parallel services to those already provided by these organisations which are doing a worthwhile job. The vital need is to secure the co-ordination of all activities in a planned overall development, and this will be one of the Board's main tasks.
Secondly, the Board must be, and must be clearly seen to be, an effective body for dealing with needs beyond the powers of existing organisations. The Board must have sufficiently wide powers to meet these needs. It must be able to fill the gaps where private enterprise is either unable or unwilling, in the existing circumstances, to supply essential needs. There will be many vital and essential developments to be carried out. Unfortunately, there will be cases where 732 there is no appropriate authority to carry out the Board's proposals or where, for one reason or another, an appropriate authority could not reasonably be expected to do so. The wide powers conferred upon the Board will enable the Board itself to carry out development which in less difficult areas might well fall to be executed by private enterprise.
Thirdly, the Board will be responsible to the Secretary of State. It must be so, because it will be financed from the Exchequer, and constitutionally it must be responsible to Parliament for the expenditure of these monies through a Minister, and that Minister must of necessity be my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. Nevertheless, in this Bill we have tried to keep the need for approval from the Secretary of State to the absolute minimum.
Having made these general observations. I should now like to consider the clauses of the Bill in more detail. I think that it would be convenient if I spoke on Clauses 1 and 3 together because the two clauses set out the constititution of the new Board, the area in which it will operate and define the general functions and duties which will be placed upon it. I think that it is generally recognised that in a task of this kind the most effective and efficient body must be a small one. For that reason, the Bill limits the membership of the Board to a maximum of a chairman and six other members. All these members will be paid for their services. As your Lordships will see, in Schedule 1 it is laid down that at least half of the members of the Board will devote their full-time activities to the service of the Board.
The area to be covered by the Board is the seven crofting counties—Argyll, Caithness, Inverness, Orkney, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and Zetland. These counties have for long been a well-recognised area for special statutory purposes, and it seemed right to us to start with these counties, where there is the widest range of problems—problems of remoteness, of land use, of land quality, of social history and conditions, and the ever-present problem of depopulation. There are other districts which share some of these problems. It may well be that there are other districts which share 733 all these problems. Therefore, it has been thought wise to make provisions in the Bill to extend the area of the Board to these other districts if and when it is found necessary and desirable to do so.
In Clause 1 the Board is given the general function of concerting, promoting, assisting and undertaking measures for the economic and social development of the Highlands and Islands. Clause 3 gives the Board the general duty to keep under review all matters relating to the economic and social wellbeing and development of the area. These are wide terms of reference, but the effective development of the Highlands and Islands can be carried out only on a comprehensive basis. It is important, therefore, that the Board's field covers the whole range of economic and social activities.
I would particularly draw your Lordships' attention to paragraphs (b) and (c) of Clause 3(1), which set out two major tasks of the Board. The first is, after consultation with local authorities and other appropriate bodies, to submit to the Secretary of State proposals for economic and social development of the area. And the second is to concert, promote, assist or undertake measures to implement such approved proposals. I would emphasise that once the proposals have been approved by the Secretary of State, the various authorities concerned will all play their part. This is essential. Where no authority is available to execute a proposal, or part of a proposal, the Board will do the job itself.
In Clause 2 there is the customary provision in legislation of this nature to enable the Secretary of State to give the Board directions of a general character. The clause also provides for the establishment of a Consultative Council to advise the Board on the exercise and performance of its function. Schedule 2 shows that the Council will be representative both of local authority interests and other appropriate interests. We believe that the Council will have an important role in providing a forum for the exchange of views and ideas between the Board and the representatives of the people whom the Board will be serving.
Clause 4 empowers the Board to acquire and to manage land. I doubt very much whether anyone would cavil at the statement made by the Highland Panel 734 in their Report, Land Use in the Highlands and Islands, thatwe regard land as of absolutely basic importance to the economy of the Highlands.And they go on:…clearly there is a good deal of under-used, and in some cases grossly misused, land in the Highlands. Much of this land could be better used.This better use of a basic resource must be one of the Board's main concerns. To achieve this the powers proposed are absolutely essential. I hope that the good will to which I have referred, and which already exists, for the new Board for the proper development of the Highlands and Islands will enable all this to be done by agreement.
But even in the Highlands all is not always sweet reasonablensss, and we must have a reserve of power of compulsory acquisition, if necessary. We cannot allow an important development, on which the livelihood of many may well depend, to be frustrated by individual obstinacy or individual selfishness. Of course, these powers of compulsion will be subject to the Secretary of State's approval, and to the normal procedures and safeguards. I do not think that many of your Lordships will need to be reminded that the best inducement to get results by agreement is the agonising slowness which attends the compulsory acquisition machinery. Because of all the safeguards which are imported into it, there is a built-in inducement to anybody to try to get agreement, if possible. It will, therefore, be only where it is almost beyond the bounds of human endurance to carry on any longer without compulsion that it will be resorted to.
I have already mentioned the Board's duty to do the job itself when necessary. Clause 5 gives the Board powers for this purpose. It is given power to erect buildings, to carry out works or other operations, and power to provide equipment or services. Clause 6 is far-reaching, but very necessary. It enables the Board to acquire any business or undertaking and carry it on, or to set up and carry on any business or undertaking, which will contribute to the economic or social development of the Board's area. When it was first seen, this clause gave rise to a great deal of needless apprehension. It was seen as a charter to nationalise the whole of the Highlands. But I would 735 draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that any existing business can be acquired only by agreement. There are no powers of compulsion to acquire a business. The Board, I may say, is also, and quite properly, empowered to dispose of any undertakings, because where the Board. in order to get something going, had used its funds to set up an undertaking, it may be that the appropriate thing in due course will be to make offers to dispose of that undertaking to private enterprise to continue and expand it.
Clauses 7 and 8 are important, and will help the Board to expand industrial and commercial enterprise in their area and assist in the development of a well-balanced economy. One of the special difficulties attending private enterprise in the Highlands is that of securing efficient management and accountancy services. In many cases, businesses are of such a size that it is difficult to justify their carrying themselves skills of the sort which are necessary to make certain of success. We hope that Clause 7 will remedy this. It gives the Board power to provide or assist in the provision of advisory, training, management, technical accountancy and other services to persons engaging in business in the Board's area. It is very much the hope of my right honourable friend that this is a part of the Board's functions which will be much used by business enterprise in the area.
Clause 8 will give the Board power, under arrangements agreed by the Secretary of State and the Treasury, to give grants and loans to industrial, commercial or other undertakings which will contribute to the economy and social development of the area. I should like to emphasise that, once the general arrangements are approved by the Secretary of State and the Treasury, the individual detailed application of these powers is a matter for the Board and solely for the Board. It is not to be subjected to detailed day-to-day supervision either by Ministers or by civil servants. The Board is to be appointed to do the job. Given the powers, it will be expected to exercise them in the way which seems best suited for the area and best suited in the exercise of the Board's judgment. The clause, incidentally, will enable the Board—and there is special provision made to this end—to take security over 736 a crofter's permanent improvements when it makes a loan to assist him to erect buildings or works or to carry on his business in connection with his croft. It is an unfortunate fact that at the present time the crofter is at a considerable disadvantage in comparison with the non-crofter in getting loans to carry on his work. This particular part of the clause will remove that disability from the crofter.
§ LORD HUGHES
I will go back and read it once again. I do not think it is for me at this stage to say, "Yes" or, "No" to that question. I would draw the attention of the noble Earl to the words I used, which were, "or to carry on his business in connection with his croft". I think the noble Earl, on reflection, will be quite happy to leave the interpretation of that within the general provisions that will be allowed to the Board itself.
Clause 9 provides certain ancillary powers. Clause 10 gives the usual powers of entry. I do not think I need say any more of these two clauses, because they follow the usual pattern. Clause 11 I think I should speak to particularly, because this gives the power to obtain information. I think it is right to say that at first this clause caused a certain amount of misgiving. The clause has to a certain extent been altered in another place, and I think the alterations which have taken place through the workings of both sides of the House in another place have produced a clause about which no one need have any fears. There is, of course, and was right from the outset, ample precedent for such powers. But because the Board has such wide functions to undertake, the power to obtain information is necessarily also in wide terms.
I am sure that the Board will receive the fullest co-operation, and I should be very much surprised if much use of the powers of compulsion to obtain information would ever be necessary. But, just as I said in relation to the acquisition of land, we cannot permit a comprehensive scheme to be jeopardised because vital information is withheld. I should like to stress to your 737 Lordships, however, that the Board can ask for information only if it reasonably requires it for the exercise of its function in relation to the business or undertaking from which the information is required. Thus, the Board could not seek information from a firm to enable the Board to set up a business in opposition to that firm. There is also provision for an appeal to the sheriff where an individual does not think the Board is entitled to the information it seeks. Furthermore, in Clause 15 it is provided that any notices for the purposes of this Bill must be served in writing.
I think the only further reference I need make to the remaining clauses is to Clause 14(2), which provides that where planning permission is required the Secretary of State will consult the planning authority concerned and any approval that he subsequently grants will carry with it planning permission. I have already in my remarks referred to the two Schedules. On speaking on this Bill, I do not think I need to apologise for looking all the time to the future. In too many of our discussions of the Highlands in the past far too much time has been spent on the sad, tragic wrongs of the past. While that might well be appropriate to anyone who is writing the history of the Highlands, we are not writing that history. I suggest to your Lordships that what we are doing is helping to make the future history of the Highlands. We are seeking to plan a future for the Highlands and Islands in which its people will be happy and prosperous.
The Board which this Bill creates will be a multi-purpose machine to fashion and mould the future of the Highlands, whose proper working will be ensured only if the Board casts aside all old grievances and prejudices, and to create a determination on the part of all living in or concerned with the Highlands and Islands to work with each other and with the Board. It was in that spirit that I approached the original drafting of this Bill. It was in that spirit that and my colleagues had discussions with many people before the Bill took its final form for presentation in another place. It is in that spirit that I commend the Bill to your Lordships for Second Read 738 ing, and I hope that it is in that spirit that your Lordships will receive it.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Hughes.)
§ 3.13 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
My Lords, I am sure the whole House will be indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for the clear and concise way in which he has introduced what is undoubtedly a most important Bill. Any Act of Parliament which claims to improve conditions in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland is rightly deserving of the support of your Lordships' House. But, having said that, I must also suggest that your Lordships should be as careful in anticipating what I think are some of the dangers in its provisions as you are in appreciating its advantages, which the noble Lord has outlined to us this afternoon for I am bound to say that there are certain aspects of the Bill about which I and, I believe, my noble friends have justifiable misgivings.
I think the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and myself at any rate start off with something in common, namely, that neither of us is a Highlander, and that accordingly we can possibly take a broader view of this Bill. In any case, many of my noble friends, whose knowledge and experience of the Highlands is first hand and more specialised than mine, will be speaking on the broad problems of their area. So, if I may, I would draw your Lordships' attention to three of the main issues upon which I believe this Bill should be judged. They are, first, progress up to date in the Highlands; secondly, how best to create the right climate to develop fully the Highlands potential; and, thirdly, the machinery which this Bill sets up to deal with the future of the Highlands.
I am quite sure we are on common ground in wanting the best for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. This is something which cuts across all political ties. Indeed, much has been done—it cannot be denied—over the past few years, and large sums of money, both private and public, have been spent. To take a few examples, there is the new pulp mill at Fort William, to which the late Government contributed £10 million. This, I think it is agreed, will revolutionise the forestry industry in the Highlands and, 739 indeed, in the adjacent areas; and I think its effect will be felt wherever trees are grown in the North of Scotland. It is a major development in the Highlands economy.
In the same way, the Atomic Energy Establishment at Dounreay has brought a stable population and great economic benefit to the extreme North. The quiet and solid progress of the Forestry Commission (though in fact some of my noble friends would have liked it to be even quicker than it has been; and in this connection one must not forget the contribution of private planting) is bringing new life to formerly barren areas. So also are the great hydroelectric schemes. We should not, I think, forget, either, the Government's support which was given in so many different ways to farmers, fishermen, crofters, and the like. The remarkable success of the shell fish industry and the development of the fish farming industry are also, I am sure noble Lords will agree, most welcome and encouraging. Tourism is benefiting from the increased road building programme, and the opening up of the new ski-ing areas is a great tribute to the skill and vision of private enterprise. In passing, I think, that in an even greater expansion of the tourist industry lies one of the Highlands' most hopeful prospects.
This, I think, is a good record, but we all recognise and agree that it needs to be better. There is much more yet to do, and it was for this reason that my right honourable friend the former Secretary of State set up an inquiry into the Highlands which was intended as a guide for future legislation. But, as noble Lords are well aware, unfortunately this important Report was not completed before he left office. I mention these examples because it is sometimes suggested (although not to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes) that the late Government neither did nor planned much to solve the problems of those areas. I do not know what the inquiry of my right honourable friend the former Secretary of State would have recommended. It might, I think, have been an extension in some form of regional planning, based partially on an increased integration of farming, forestry, amenity and tourist interests, but I believe myself that the best sort of 740 expansion is achieved by distilling the right balance between such competing alternatives combined with the maximum encouragement for individual enterprise, investment and initiative. This would be the best climate for Highland development, and I believe the Bill to-day must eventually be assessed by whether or not it succeeds in creating such a climate.
Before discussing some of the more detailed points of the Bill I should like to refer to one of the risks which I can foresee. Vigorous, broad planning has its dangers, and I think that one example is that industrial development is sometimes achieved at the expense of other priorities. For instance, it can destroy natural beauty and amenity. I do not think that any noble Lord will disagree that one of the greatest commercial assets of the Highlands lies in their beauty and their wild life, which draw tourists, and indeed sportsmen, from the world over. Although I do not know what the Board's views will be on this point, I urge that it will pay particular attention to it. It is a great temptation to set up industries and to forget about amenity. We have seen what happened on Clydeside.
May I now mention one or two further problems raised by the Bill iself? The new Board which is being set up will have, as the noble Lord has explained, wide powers under the Secretary of State, ranging, for example, from the giving of advice, in a variety of ways, to assisting business and commercial enterprises, the buying of land, the running of factories, and possibly even hotels. Much of this is to be welcomed; indeed, I am sure that it is welcomed. But there are drawbacks. In the first place, I am afraid that there may be a risk that the Board, however able and efficient its members, may tend to adopt too authoritative an approach. I hesitate to go so far as to talk about "planning for the sake of planning", but if this is a likelihood it will, in my view, weaken one essential factor; that is, the need to trigger off the the industry and enterprise of the Highlanders themselves. I am a little uneasy as to how far the Highlanders will have a real say in their own problems. But the noble Lord has to some extent eased my mind on that point this afternoon.
This Bill has been described in another place by one of the noble Lord's honourable friends as the only really Socialist 741 measure of this Parliamentary Session. That is a judgment with which I do not quarrel. It gives excessive powers to the statutory authorities and, however well-meaning and sincere the protests are to the contrary, I think it is true that Socialism always tends to create monopolies and government by remote control. From this can follow the elimination, to some extent, of competition. That is a point which I think we have seen illustrated recently on the domestic air routes to Scotland. I hope that I am not being pessimistic about this, but I felt that I should point it out to your Lordships.
I have many noble friends who want to speak this afternoon, so I will turn, briefly, to one or two other aspects of the Bill. The first concerns the compulsory purchase of land by the Board under Clause 4. I think that we shall agree on the need for the Board to have compulsory powers in this respect. It is quite normal for statutory authorities to have these powers but, as I understand it, the Board can, if authorised by the Secretary of State, buy land compulsorily anywhere throughout the length and breadth of Scotland. If this is true, it is surely much too sweeping. It is, in my view, unjustified, and I should like to know why the Government consider that these wide powers are so necessary and how they believe they might be used.
I accept, of course, that it may be necessary to have compulsory powers in an area adjacent to the crofting counties. For instance, I can think of such things as drainage schemes which might need to be continued on into the surrounding areas, but I am not convinced that anything very much wider than that is necessary. Nor do I yet understand why the Government regard it as appropriate that the Board, admittedly by agreement, should be able to set up and carry on business anywhere in the United Kingdom, if this is considered to be in the social and economic interest of the Highlands. As the noble Lord explained to us, this is the position under Clause 6. I may say, in parenthesis, that it struck me that possibly this Bill is being considered as a prototype for other regions, and I confess that, as a Borderer, I shall be glad to have an answer to this point. It may explain the reluctance of the noble Lord's right honourable friend to publish 742 the Interim Report of the recent Border Survey.
While still on the subject of powers, I must mention Clause 11, which on my understanding of it gives the Board almost limitless authority to obtain any type of information it wishes from anyone, be he an industrialist who may have trade secrets which cannot be divulged without commercial risk, an agriculturist or an hotel proprietor. I know there has been a great deal of discussion on this clause in another place, but so far as I can see no one can feel quite free from the attentions of the Board, a situation which I think is quite unparalleled, even by the Inland Revenue; and, more important, I think it is most likely that this will discourage potential industrialists from going into the Highlands. I believe this to be a real danger.
Here again the Government have gone a little too far in taking these rather exorbitant and unnecessary powers. Of course I quite accept that the Board must be able to obtain information, particularly from firms applying to it for loans and grants, but I personally find it hard to know how to define the phrase "may reasonably require" which comes in subsection (1) of that clause. Nor am I "altogether convinced by what I imagine is intended as the individual's safeguard of an appeal to the sheriff. I do not see how any sheriff, however able and efficient, can really he expected to know what is to be considered reasonable in each individual case. I think it is putting him in a difficult position and I would ask the noble Lord to think about this matter again. Certainly the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is a most reasonable man, so T hope he will have second thoughts on this point.
There is one general point which I should like to raise. On reading the Bill as a whole one is struck by how much of the ultimate power and authority is reserved to the Secretary of State and the Treasury. It seems to me that when positive action is needed the Secretary of State and the Treasury nearly always have the final word. Obviously, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, pointed out, the Secretary of State, who is responsible to Parliament, must retain a good measure of control over major development and spending, but surely it would be wise to allow the Board to have rather more 743 financial independence and to be able to spend at any rate limited sums of money—I am thinking of something up to the figure of possibly £40,000 or £50,000—without always having to get permission from the Secretary of State. I can think of cases when land suitable for development, in the opinion of the Board, might come on the market suddenly, when speed of action will be necessary to clinch the deal. Long administrative delay involving getting into touch with St. Andrew's House and waiting for decisions might well be fatal in such cases. I have known of such a case in the last two years in my own area of Scotland.
It is also discouraging for members of the Board to feel that they can act so little on their own initiative, and I do not think that too much control from Edinburgh is really the best thing for the Highlands, so I hope the noble Lord will also reconsider this point. There are many other matters which I could raise in the Bill, but I think my noble friends will be bringing up some of them.
Having said what I have said, I should like to add this. We recognise that this Bill represents a sincere and a genuine attempt to help the Highlands and Islands and we shall therefore support its Second Reading. At the same time, as I have indicated, we think it can be much improved. I have made some suggestions and doubtless my noble friends will be making others. I suppose it could be argued that many of the tragedies of the Highlands, such as depopulation, can be attributed historically to arbitrary decisions and solutions imposed from above by whatever authority was able at that particular time to call the tune. Those days are, happily, by and large, over, but that is an added reason why the new Board and the Secretary of State will, I hope, use their very considerable authority with discretion, wisdom and humanity, for only by doing so will they gain the respect and co-operation of those who are living in the Highlands and Islands and others who we all hope will be persuaded to go and live and work there. The improvement of the Highlands will require 100 per cent. joint effort from all political Parties and all interested parties, and I think it is the fundamental chal- 744 lenge of this Bill to attract and achieve this.
§ 3.32 p.m.
My Lords, it is with diffidence that I rise to speak in this debate. Like the noble Marquess and the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, I am not a Highlandman; but, unlike them, I am not even a Lowlander. I am only an Englishman, and, I rather suspect, very nearly the only Englishman speaking in this debate. But I do so for three reasons. First of all, I live in an area which has many similar problems to those of the area we are discussing—high-lying, wet, poor land, with a rather thin population, the various problems that go with a beautiful district, such as those of tourism, and very little industry. And although the problems of the Borders, where I come from, are far less acute than those in the Highlands, they are, none the less, problems of a kind which I hope give me some understanding of what we are talking about. My second reason is that, of the six constituencies affected by this Bill, four of them are held by my right honourable and honourable friends in another place. My third reason is that my many noble Highland friends are not available to speak on this subject.
I welcome the Bill very strongly. I was rather interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, was saying about trying to use existing local authorities and similar institutions, because I am not sure that, in some ways, this Bill is not an improvement on our own proposals. I say that with great diffidence to my own friends here. But it seems to me that, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, says, it possibly co-ordinates and uses the existing authorities more than the plan which we had, which I think to some extent possibly relies more on overriding, and even superseding, existing authorities. If my noble friends feel that I am wrong here, at any rate I can plead that I am not a Highlandman and therefore do not know what I am talking about. But I do want to make it absolutely clear, in view of the fact that there is such a tremendous battery of Opposition speakers to-day and so few from the Government Benches, that we welcome this Bill very strongly indeed.
At any rate, both our scheme and the Government's Bill seek a comprehensive 745 authority and a Board with really effective powers to deal with this problem comprehensively. It seems to me that all the earlier attempts to do this—and we have been going at it now for getting on for a hundred years—have failed because they have not been sufficiently comprehensive. I feel also that private enterprise cannot do this job, or can do it only in conjunction with large-scale Government planning, for the same reason: that the effort could not otherwise be comprehensive enough. I believe that this is a very useful experiment in combining public and private enterprise, rather on the same sort of lines as the Tennessee Valley Authority, as has already been suggested. It seems to me that increasingly we have to tackle this problem from the point of view of trying to integrate public enterprise with private enterprise, and that this sort of action will prove to be the pattern of a great deal of what we do in the future.
A number of miscellaneous criticisms have been put forward by the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian. First of all, I think he feels that the Board is going to be too authoritative, and that this may to some extent inhibit the Highlanders themselves from developing their own resources. I do not myself think that this is true. In my view, what has been done in the last 100 years of trial and effort, in a number of different degrees, to bring some help to the Highlanders has shown that it is impossible for them to do anything without massive help from the Government and massive co-ordination. The noble Marquess did not actually suggest that what is proposed was under-cover nationalisation. He quoted the three specific clauses which I think are bothering a good many people: Clause 4, which deals with land acquisition; Clause 6, which deals with carrying on businesses, and Clause 11, which deals with extracting information. I do not see that there is any danger here at all of under-cover nationalisation. As I see it, this is the only way to get that degree of—not nationalisation, but integration of public and private enterprise. And it seems to me that there are adequate safeguards at every point.
So far as the power of compulsory purchase is concerned, this in no way differs, so far as I can make out, from what we already do. Acquisition will be 746 by the normal channels, and there are safeguards. If you have not got very wide compulsory powers in a Bill of this kind, which is, after all, dealing with land, you are not going to get anywhere at all. So far as information is concerned, I should not have thought that that need bother an industrialist and dissuade him from going into the Highlands. Again there are safeguards. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said that Clause 15 provides for an appeal to the sheriff to prevent a man or a firm from being forced to disclose trade secrets. So I do not feel at all that the Board has too much power.
Again there is a certain dichotomy in what the noble Marquess said with regard to his feeling that possibly the Secretary of State has too much power. Again, I do not feel there is any danger here. The Secretary of State must, of course—in so far as Parliament is going to be answerable for a scheme of this kind—have the ultimate power. The Secretary of State must also have an absolute co-ordinating power in a venture of this kind. I think the noble Marquess suggested that the Board, in addition to the Secretary of State, might possibly have a little more criticism.
There are a great number of speakers to-day, so I do not want to speak for too long. In conclusion, I want to say very strongly that if we are going to make this project work—and may I repeat that we have been trying to solve this very difficult problem for 80 years?—we must have a Board of this nature with wide and far-reaching powers. May I, lastly, say that this is not a measure of charity to the Highlands; this is an attempt to make the Highlands play their proper part in the whole overall scheme of our national economy.