§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Debate on Second Reading resumed.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, we have had a rather disjointed debate on the Highlands and Islands Bill to-day, but I hope that we shall now have a clear run for the twelve or more speakers who are to follow me. I am sure that all of us will welcome the Bill in so far as it helps in the social and economic development of the Highlands and 757 Islands. I do not propose to deal with the Bill itself in detail, but rather to touch on two points, namely, forestry and tourism, which I think are of considerable concern to the Highlands and Islands.
So far as forestry is concerned, the Eighth Special Report of the Estimates Committee on the Forestry Commission refers to the fact that, in order to assist in the handling of questions of liaison, organisation and so forth, the Commission's headquarters is in Southern England. The headquarters of the Commission being in Southern England, I wonder why the draftsman did not say that they are in London, in Mayfair, and in the heart of Mayfair. Was he trying to cover it up'? Anyhow, we all know that the last Government and the present Government have been anxious to get offices out of London. Here, it seems to me, there is a really outstanding case for moving the headquarters of the Forestry Commission from London to somewhere else in the country; and I should hope that that somewhere else would be in Scotland.
My Lords, that would achieve two things. First, it would remove considerable anxiety about just what is going to be the position of Scotland under the new reorganisation of the Forestry Commission. On that, I would say that Scotland is well equipped, because not only do we already grow more trees than England and Wales put together do—or if we do not do so now, we are certainly going to very soon, and shall therefore be leading in production—but also, on the accounting side, there are no better accountants than the Scots. So I hope that that may be possible. Perhaps one of the first activities of the Board, if the Government have not done it before, might be to consider moving the headquarters of the Forestry Commission and their offices out of Mayfair and into Scotland.
My second point is on the hardy annual of Turnhouse as it affects the tourist industry. I am not going into detail about the Turnhouse runway. We all know that it is a disgrace, and the extent of the disgrace will no doubt be a point developed in the debate that is to come very shortly on a Motion by my noble friend Lord Selkirk. But I want to touch on the angle of how 758 difficult it is for any tourists from Europe to visit Scotland—unless, of course, they travel via London. The figures are interesting. Of the number of people who start from or break their voyages in the United Kingdom, one-half do so in Scotland. In the case of those going to the United States or North America, the proportion is 12½ per cent. But when it comes to Europe, it is only 5 per cent.; and, of that 5 per cent., I think all, or almost all, are carried by foreign airlines, in which case they go to Prestwick.
My Lords, it really is very difficult for the people of Europe to regard Scotland as a natural place for them to come to, to enjoy the scenery and other things, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, mentioned. As I say, the only way they can do it is to come via London. If they are coming from Norway, it is twice as far, and presumably twice as expensive; and it takes more than twice as long. For those coming from Holland or Belgium, or those parts, it is about half as much again. If we look at other countries—for example, France—we find that they do all they can to encourage the tourist trade. You can fly to Nice direct: you do not have to fly to Paris. And if you want to go to Southern Portugal, it is not necessary to go via Lisbon.
I do not understand why, so far as the tourist trade in Scotland is concerned, people have to get into a plane which arrives in London, and then either take a chance on whether they can get a connection to Scotland—which is often very difficult—or travel up by train. I am quite sure that this makes a very great difference to the chances of attracting people to the Highlands, or to Scotland generally. I often wonder what is tile real value of something like the Forth Bridge, which has recently been opened, if, at the same time, half its use is negated by the fact that people have to come, as I say, via London. It is not only a question of the tourist trade: it is also, importantly, a question of ordinary trade. I believe I am right in saying that no less than £130 million worth of exports from Scotland go direct to the Continent. The only thing which does not go direct is the tourist. I hope that that state of affairs can be changed, and changed quickly.
§ 4.15 p.m.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I should like to say how strongly I support the last remarks made by my noble friend Lord Perth. It is a fact that, so far as the services from the two aerodromes in Glasgow and Edinburgh are concerned, the only services overseas are foreign. There are no services by British airlines which go directly from either Turnhouse or Renfrew to a foreign destination.
If I may turn more directly to this Bill, may I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that we welcome the way he explained this Bill? I do not think he will find any opposition to the purposes for which this Bill is designed—that is to say, that the Highlands should play a full part in the economy of this country. Very bluntly, what we are doing is hoping to encourage those who are living in the Highlands and Islands to continue to live there. We are hoping that they will continue to live there in rather a higher quality of life, and that they will increase and multiply in their life there. I am not going to say I am against emigration. Indeed, I have a forbear who at the end of the 18th century wrote a book on encouraging emigration from the Highlands. I think he was right then; and, indeed, the emigration of Highlanders to different countries has played a very conspicuous part in the Commonwealth in different places, and certainly not least in Canada.
This is a very specialised question, and I should just like to remind your Lordships of the first sentence in the Crofters Commission Report of 1963. It says:Agriculture alone will not support viable communities in many crofting areas".In other words, as the Member for the Western Isles, Mr. Macmillan, said, "What you want is a second job." This is one of the problems; and one of the reasons why I welcome the tenor of this Bill is because of its emphasis on variety—that is to say, it realises that it is not simply an agricultural problem; it is a problem covering a very wide range of activities which, as the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, said, are certainly beginning in various parts. I particularly welcome the emphasis on trading, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has referred. This is very important and, indeed, a great deal more can be done in that way.
760 Now I turn to transport. Before I deal with transport, however, may I say that I believe it is right that the Transport Board will be taken over eventually by the Highland Development Board? I think this is something on which we should get some information. I would say, slightly in parenthesis, that I understand that the Highland Panel will be taken over, and I also understand that the Transport Board will eventually be taken over. I am not clear whether the Highland Fund will or will not be taken over.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, perhaps it would be to the convenience of the noble Lord if I answered these points straight away. The Highland Panel has just been wound up because its function will largely be served by the new Consultative Council. It is intended that, at the least, the Highland Transport Board will continue with its present remit, but whether it will continue in existence after that must be determined in the light of the circumstances. It may well be that its functions will be taken over by the new Board; it may be that it will prove to be of greater advantage to give the Highland Transport Board a new lease of life. The Highland Fund will revert to its original function of disbursing only its own private moneys. It will not receive further disbursements of public funds, which can be more appropriately applied through the new Highland Development Board.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I am grateful to the noble Lord. I think it is important that we should know. I think I am also correct in saying that the Crofters Commission will continue as it is at the present time.
My Lords, I was just saying a word about transport. We have heard a lot about this Board having teeth, but I am afraid that, so far as transport is concerned, the teeth are pointing in the wrong direction. They will largely clench on people in the Highlands, depending on whether they are coming or going. But what the teeth will be required for will be for people outside the Highlands; and there, I am afraid, the task will have to fall to people other than the Board itself—unless one gets a rather remarkable man as Chairman.
On the general question of recreation and tourism, I would point out that an 761 enormous development is taking place. I can say from my own experience that the quality of Highland hotels, and of Scottish hotels generally, has improved very greatly over the last twenty years. That is something to be grateful for. I do not wholly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, in saying that this is excessive. I think it is splendid; but we should put this emphasis on the development of tourism at the present time.
I should like to say a word or two about ski-ing. I wonder whether people realise the significance of ski-ing as a recreation in Scotland to-day. In the Spey Valley, where I was recently, there are 135 ski instructors. This is quite a large number. There is no problem of lack of snow at the right time of the year; there is no shortage of people; there is no shortage of hotels. What is urgently required is means of access to the snow. This may not be, or may be, something that the Board can undertake. There are a variety of people. including The Nature Conservancy, with different interests in these problems. Perhaps this is something that the Board can take on.
I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, need worry too much about industrial development. I think there are a number of natural primary products which can be used, like peat, seaweed and minerals. I do not think it is any good putting an artificial industry in the Highlands. I do not believe it is necessary. There are a number of perfectly natural developments which can take place. What I am sure is important is the co-operation of the people concerned and, indeed, the emphasis placed upon coordination. I must ask this question: why have the Government adopted this form in order to achieve it? We are told that it is good Socialism. It may well be; I do not know.
Somebody said that it may be a pattern for use in other parts of the country. I hope it will not be. In Scotland we gave up boards of this type as an anachronism, about thirty years ago. They were given up because they "fuzzed" the responsibility and because there is not normally any room for the high-grade administrative civil servants who play such an important part in the administration of this country. Why have we gone back to this form of develop 762 ment? This new Board will not be a public corporation, in the sense that B.O.A.C. and the B.B.C. are. This is really a façade behind which the Secretary of State can do anything he wants. Indeed, it is said on behalf of the Government that "We can do anything under this Bill". That is literally true. Anything can be done, even, as the noble Lord said (although I am not sure about this) to the extent of compulsory purchase outside Scotland. But why is this being done? I do not know. The noble Lord may say…it is excellentTo have a giant's strength; but it is tyrranousTo use it like a giant.The noble Lord, Lord Hughes was cooing and dove-ing us and saying how gentle this Board would be and how un-tyrranous it would be in all its actions. If this is really so, put it in the Bill, instead of leaving it to the kindness of heart of whoever may be appointed to this position.
He was talking about compulsory purchase as a last resort. Let me take him up on one point. He said that, in regard to information, the Board had to show what it reasonably required. My information is the other way round. It is that the people who are objecting must show that it is unreasonable. If the noble Lord is prepared to put it in the positive sense, I shall be only too glad to welcome it. My objection to this is that it is, in fact, what has always been the problem of the Highlands—long-range administration. I should prefer to see this Board in the Highlands with its own powers, perhaps more precisely defined; and I do not mind its having great power. But here we have the Board in Inverness and the Secretary of State in London. This is long-range administration; this is absentee landlordism; and it is a pity. It was that absentee control which made the original mistake, as I recall it in history, in which the traditional tenure of land was misinterpreted into the documents and charters by which land was held. This has been the basis of trouble for a long time; and it was only partially rectified by the Crofters Act, 1886.
I suppose it is fair to say that while this Board has, in fact, an independent existence, there is nothing it can do 763 which will not be subject to Parliamentary question. I cannot think of anything which cannot properly be subject to Parliamentary question. I rather object to that. Why should it be so? It means that decisions will be made which sound nice in this House or in the other place but which are not necessarily exactly what is required for the Highlands. To my mind, this is a danger; because things look and sound differently here from what they do when presented in the Highlands. If we pass this Bill—and we probably shall—we must recognise that it is not a Board in the ordinary sense; it is a façade. I hope that it will never be quoted again as a precedent of the powers which should properly pertain either to a Board, or particularly, as I think, to a Secretary of State over that Board. The Board can do nothing without getting the Secretary of State's authority.
My anxiety is not merely on Lord Lothian's point, that these great powers may deter people from going there; it is that the Board may not gain the cooperation in the Highlands which is essential. I hope it will. I should like to know whether we are really going to spend more money. It is well to have powers; but you cannot get far with powers unless they are backed up with sinews of strength, which I am afraid is money. Is it merely a demonstration or is something really coming out of it? Is this, in fact, to be a catalyst for development in the Highlands or the establishment of a gauleiter? I hope it will be the former.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I should like to start, like other speakers, by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on the lucid and concise way in which he has expressed the purposes of this Bill to the House. I am sure that it is generally recognised that the Highlands, no matter what point of time we take, started well behind the rest of the country in economic wealth and importance; and they have never caught up. Indeed, in parts, and in some respects, they have fallen still further behind in relative terms. Yet it is equally true that the Highlands have all the time received specially favoured treatment.
The noble Lord was good enough to let me have details of Exchequer equalisa 764 tion grants given to the Highland counties. The amount of Exchequer equalisation grant available on expenditure of local authorities, after taking into account general grant, has ranged from 42 per cent. to 86 per cent. of the residual expenditure. When we take into account also recent developments, such as the Fort William paper and pulpboards mills, we are bound to agree that the Highlands have received favoured treatment. Yet they are still falling behind. The justification for this Bill is to try to do something to enable them to catch up.
I hope that we shall see a considerable acceleration of expenditure in the Highlands; because this is what is needed. Basically, one wants more rapid acceleration in the tree-planting programme, acceleration of the opening-up of the Highlands by roads, still further assistance to local authorities to enable them to provide, for example, for the crofters the services they need. I have been told that in Inverness alone, on current programmes, it will take thirty years before the crofter townships are linked by satisfactory roads to the road system. These are the basic things which require to be done.
The Highlands and Islands have been well served by the Highland Panel, and I am sure that we should take this opportunity, now that the Panel has ceased to exist, to express our appreciation of the service which it gave. There has been no lack of advice and surveys. There has been no lack of reports. What is needed, as I say, is an increased tempo in putting the advice into effect. New initiatives are needed to create new opportunities and to take advantage of them when they are created.
In the past, as has been said, there has been a great lack of capital for the crofters. It is not much good giving them a loan as a proportion of their expenditure if they cannot find the rest. Recently new capital has been coming in, particularly in the Cairngorms area. The question is: can that kind of development be intensified where it is already taking place and also be introduced in other places? This Bill seeks to provide a new source of initiative and a new driving force for development. As was said by my noble friend Lord Selkirk, what is required is capital. Given the fuel, in the form of Exchequer capital, the 765 driving force has a good chance of accelerating the provision of new opportunities. The first question must be: can we have an assurance that, where sound practical proposals are put up by the Development Board, the necessary money will be provided over and above, in real terms, what is now being provided, and that it will not be a mere switching of expenditure?
The second question is: what will the Board be permitted to do? The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, if I understand him aright, said that it would not be allowed to do things that are within the function and responsibility of other bodies. Does this mean that the Board will not be able to do social planting and planting of shelter belts? Will it not be able to build crofter roads? Will it not be able to build tourist roads such as the Glen Feshie—Braemar road? Does it mean that it will not be able to build ski-roads or run air services, or provide a helicopter service, if satisfactory plans are put up? Does it mean that it will be unable to build piers and harbours? Will it be able to join with other bodies in helping to finance the provision of these facilities, or accelerate their provision, or will it simply do what other bodies, be they private or public, have no power to do?
There is, of course, the danger that some of these other bodies, which, out of a desire to help the Highlands, have undertaken projects and operations which are marginal—or even likely to incur a loss—may be less willing to do so when there is in being a body such as the Development Board. The noble Lord may say that what the Development Board is to do will be decided in future in the light of what it thinks is needed for economic and social development. This is really one of the troubles, is it not? Surely the Government started with the drafting of this Bill to implement their Election promise—we do not blame them for doing that—before they had really thought the problem through. One can draft a Bill and set up a Board, if one knows what the Board is to do.
I had hoped to see the noble Lord, Lord Reith, in his place. He was present earlier, and I understood that he was to speak after me. The noble Lord gave great service in the Commonwealth as head of the Commonwealth Development Corporation. When that organisation was 766 set up there was at least an idea of the sort of things that it would do, and there was far less in the way of compulsory powers. But it is a very different matter if the powers are based merely on the pious aspiration ofenabling the Highlands and Islands to play a more effective part in the economic and social development of the nation.That brings one to the composition of the Board. Until one knows what the Board is to do, one cannot rationally decide its composition. The Minister of State, in Committee in another place, said:Quite clearly the Government have in mind a mainly full-time Board.He introduced an Amendment to the effect that the majority of the maximum of seven members, including the chairman, should be full-time. If any member of the Board is to be full-time, it should be the chairman; and I believe that he should be full-time. But this is quite a different kind of Board from the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board which has one main function—the generation and distribution of electricity. What are the other full-time members to do all the time, unless they are functional? If so, what are their functions to be? Unless we know what the general functions of the Board are to be, how can we determine that there is to be a majority of whole-time members?
Surely the Government must at least have decided what sort of Board they want? For example, is there to be one full-time member having knowledge and charge of land, including forestry and loans to crofters? Is another to be in charge of industrial development; another to be in charge of tourism and communications, and another of personnel and organisation, and so forth? I do not say that this is the necessary pattern. T do not say that it should be in the Bill; but at least the Government should have some idea and should be able and willing to tell Parliament what are their intentions.
I come now to the question of powers. There has been criticism of the powers conferred on the Board, powers which, as has been admitted, are without precedent in width and scope. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, thought them not excessive. I agree absolutely that the Highlands and Islands present a special 767 case. For that reason I should have said that Parliament would have been willing to grant more powers than normally. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State claimed at the outset that this was the sort of Bill which would be introduced later for other parts of the country. What is the real reason for the unprecedented width and scope of the powers? If one knew what the Board was to do, the powers might be related to its functions, but that has not been done.
I believe it to be incumbent upon the noble Lord to give us more information than he was able to do in the course of his very concise opening speech. The idea of a Development Board may be all right, but how to carry it into effect has not been fully thought out. I am willing that exceptionally wide powers should be granted to meet the special problem of the Highlands and Islands, but I should resist very strongly any attempt to treat this as a precedent for other parts of the country. It is true that in the past there have been compulsory powers for the Highlands and that the existence of those powers has been accompanied by a marked reluctance to use them; but that is not a sufficient defence for giving the Board such a wide range of compulsory powers.
Then there is the criticism that the Bill places the Board too much under the control of the Secretary of State, and that its discretion is unduly affected. It seems to me that, unless we first define what the Board is to do, it is essential that it should first obtain the approval of the Secretary of State for its proposals, including the proposal to acquire land. Therefore I would not say that the Government are wrong in stipulating that the proposals should obtain the prior consent of the Secretary of State. As the Bill stands, the compulsory powers to acquire land can be exercised anywhere in Scotland. That seems extravagant, even though the approval of the Secretary of State is required. No doubt the Government intend that the powers should be exercised only on land in the crofter counties, or land close to them, without which some project for the Highlands and Islands would be frustrated or incomplete. If so, surely the Minister's advisers could find some form of words to carry out that intention.
768 I turn now to assistance for industry, which is dealt with in Clause 8. Most applications for assistance under the Local Employment Acts (as the noble Lords will be aware, the crofter counties are a development district for the purposes of the Local Employment Acts) are on a small scale. In many cases people are not very adept at making their applications, and as a result there is considerable loss of time, and in some cases loss of patience, and even of temper. That remains true even though applicants can now state their case in Glasgow. Is the consideration of applications for assistance to be transferred from the Board of Trade Advisory Committee to the Development Board? I am aware that the Local Employment Act expires in 1967, and is no doubt already being reviewed. Is it the intention that this should be done, because, in the long run, it hardly seems tidy or sensible to have at least four sources of Exchequer assistance for those in the area: Clause 8 of this Bill, the Highland Board, the Rural Industries Board and the Board of Trade Advisory Committee—and there may be more, for all I know.
I would say a brief word on accounts, and I turn to Clauses 6 and 13. It has been agreed in another place that because the Development Board will have activities from which no return can be expected, activities for which it would be unreasonable to expect normal commercial accounting, therefore it should not have to produce commercial accounts for its commercial undertakings where that would be unreasonable. While the Development Board may from time to time engage in undertakings which have little prospect of becoming economically viable, I would suggest that the taxpayer should at least know what these are costing. The Development Board will neither inspire confidence in the Highlands and Islands nor encourage development if it shrouds the results of its commercial operations in mystery, or if it gives the impression that it is competing unfairly with ordinary commercial concerns whose losses are not underwritten by the taxpayer. In time, no doubt, when these undertakings have been set up and have become viable, they will be hived off and become completely independent.
The next point that I want to make clear concerns information. I would pick 769 up what the noble Lord said on this matter. If I understood him correctly, he said that the Board would not be able to obtain any information which would enable it to set up in opposition—which, I take it, means competition. But I do not find in the Bill anything that says it would be impossible for the Board to do so, and f think that the least that we can ask, in the interests of the Development Board itself, as well as of the Highlands and Islands, is that the Board should not be tempted, backed by its compulsory powers, to demand information which it might subsequently use to the detriment of the person concerned.
§ LORD GREENHILL
My Lords, would the noble Lord give a possible example of that kind of betrayal of information?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I cannot give an example, because the powers have not yet been set out. But what I have in mind is that the Board might think it desirable to expand some kind of production in the Highlands, and might acquire information from an industry already carrying on activities there, and then enter into competition with it, on the basis of the information obtained originally under the Board's compulsory powers, or, at any rate, backed by its compulsory powers. If it is intended to start a commercial section of the Board, it should not make use of these compulsory powers to acquire information. It would be wise for the Government to reinforce what the noble Lord has said to-day by amending the Bill to make it clear that the Board is debarred from using its power under Clause 11 in connection with its proposed activities under Clause 6.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, in case this point should be overlooked in the many points to which I am asked to reply, I think that it would be reasonable if I remind the noble Lord of what I said on this point. I said specifically that it would be impossible for the Board to seek information from a firm to set up another business which would work in competition with that firm, because the Board's right is only to seek such informationas the Board may reasonably require for the execution of any of their functions under 770 this Act in relation to the land, business or undertaking.I am advised that this specifically excludes them from seeking information in connection with land, business or undertaking, for the purpose of a totally different business undertaking which they may wish to carry on. I am assured that this provision gives all the legal safeguard which is necessary.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, while we are grateful to the noble Lord for that explanation, I understand that all the noble Lord is saying is that the Board could not use its powers to obtain information to enable it to compete with an undertaking; but, as I read the Bill, it could still use its powers with the object of taking over an undertaking. I think that we should have a look at this point in Committee.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I may also remind the noble Lord that, in relation to the taking over of an undertaking, the Board has no compulsory rights. It can take over a business only where the present owners are willing sellers. So there can be no point in acquiring information about the business to be used against it, if in fact it is the owners themselves who wish the business to be taken over by the Board.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, what the noble Lord has said has made it even more clear that we should discuss this in Committee, but I will not press it further.
May I conclude? There are to my mind obvious advantages in having a body located in the Highlands whose sole and constant study and responsibility is the whole of the Highlands and Islands, in contrast to a co-ordinating Committee in the Scottish Office, whose senior members, at any rate, must have many other responsibilities. There are advantages in providing that the body which plans should have to carry out its plans, whether by co-ordination, by providing assistance or even by operating on its own account. On the other hand, there are dangers, dangers of friction with local authorities and other suitable bodies and with private enterprise, which could retard progress.
Personally, I am in favour of anything that will help the regeneration of the 771 Highlands. The granting and flaunting of excessive powers would have the reverse effect, and we shall have to look closely in the Committee stage at the powers proposed. But if this Bill is an earnest of a real determination on the part of the Government to accelerate existing programmes and to initiate new ones, and of the Treasury to find the requisite money, then I believe it is worthy of support. I give it my wholehearted support, because the Highlands and Islands are a special case demanding special treatment, and not as a prototype for the granting of similar powers elsewhere.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I should like to re-echo what my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn has said about giving this Bill support. I regard this Bill as evolutionary to all the other acts of the past. Some of them have been more effective than others. But this is the next logical step which would have to be taken in order to secure the betterment of those who live and work in the Highlands and Islands. I was particularly impressed by what my noble friend said about what the Board was to do, because in the debates in another place there has been a singular lack of information given about the actual job of work that the Board was going to do.
The Report of the Advisory Panel on the Highlands and Islands, of which the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, is Chairman, was published, unfortunately, at the end of last October and did not receive in Scotland as much publicity or study as it certainly deserved. There are about forty recommendations for action in that Report, and one would have thought that the Government in producing this Bill would give some indication as to which of these recommendations were to be specially favoured and which could be put into operation fairly soon. That has not happened; but we can hope that we may get some more precise information about the immediate objectives of the Board.
In the other place, the former Secretary of State for Scotland gave some interesting figures upon the need for action in the Highlands. He compared the employment of persons in the whole 772 of Scotland with the persons employed in the Highlands and Islands, and whereas 4.3 per cent. of the population in the whole of Scotland are employed in primary industry, in the Highlands and Islands the figure is as high as 17.3 per cent. That is a big difference and one which requires attention—and, indeed, it has been given great attention in the Advisory Panel's Report. When we come to the manufacturing industry, we have 34 per cent. of the population of Scotland employed in manufacture, whereas 10 per cent. are so employed in the Highlands. I think the figures given were for 1962, and there had been a decrease on the previous 25 years of 1½ per cent. of the numbers employed in manufacture in the Highlands; though I think there is reason to believe, in view of recent measures over the last few years, that the numbers employed in manufacture may have gone up a little since 1962.
One of the most interesting of the figures which my right honourable friend quoted was the proportion of the population employed in constructive industries. For Scotland as a whole the figure was 8.4 per cent., whereas for the Highlands and Islands it was 15.7 per cent. For services in general, for Scotland as a whole, the figure was 49 per cent., and for the Highlands and Islands, 56 per cent. These two last sets of figures indicate the amount of money that has been spent in recent years on developing the infrastructure of industry in the Highlands.
I am concerned, like other noble Lords who have spoken, as to whether the Board have sufficient powers. They are dominated by the Secretary of State for Scotland; and, in certain aspects, the Treasury loom too large. I would refer especially to Clause 6, which deals with the carrying on of business. That clause says:The Board may, with the approval of the Secretary of State and the Treasury, acquire by agreement and carry on and set up…Decisions in business have to be made speedily. The standpoint of the Treasury is economic. This, in any business enterprise which the Board are likely to take up, would probably be a secondary consideration. As the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, pointed out, so often in the Highlands and Islands it is the social problem that is the major one. The Treasury are remote and notoriously out 773 of touch with this kind of problem. There is always a delay when the Treasury have to consider and give approval. I should hope that when the Bill is studied in Committee we might be able to delete the words "and the Treasury" from Clause 6, and so justify the statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, when he said that the Board must be, and be seen to be, an effective body. He also said that the Board are not to be subjected to day-to-day supervision, either by the Minister or by civil servants.
I would repeat that I welcome the Bill, but I think there is an imbalance about it. It vests practically all the power in the Secretary of State. While it may be interpreted (as my noble friend Lord Selkirk said about his giant) generously and gently, one cannot always be certain of this. My noble friend Lord Selkirk said that the Board was a facade. I am not certain that that is altogether the right word. It could be, with all the power that rests in the Secretary of State, that the Board is rather an expensive "dogsbody" to the Secretary of State, and that the Advisory Council is going to be just the blotting paper to soak up the smudges and generally hold the can when anything goes wrong; and standing up beside it will be the Treasury, the incomprehending governess who has allowed the mess to happen and is determined that it shall not happen again.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I am going to speak very little about the Bill. I shall devote what I have to say mainly to what I consider to be the parent of the Bill—namely, the Report of the Advisory Panel on Land Use in the Highlands and Islands. However, I should like to say that I agree with the many noble Lords who have criticised the powers conferred by Clauses 4, 6 and 11 of the Bill, and particularly Clauses 4 and 11, which are far too wide, and I only hope that they are not the thin edge of the wedge for complete acquisition and nationalisation of land throughout Great Britain.
I want to say something about the depopulation of the Highlands, because there appears to be some misunderstanding about this subject. We have had greater depopulation of the farmlands in England, but nobody appears to worry 774 about this to any great extent. We call it "the drift from the land". If we take a farm in England before the war employing twelve people, that same farm would now employ only four people; it might possibly be five, but I doubt it. One does not notice the depopulation in England, because when the people go off the land all they do is to go a few miles away to the nearest industrial town. So the actual population of the area does not fall.
In the Highlands they have had the same drift from the land, perhaps not to quite the same extent as in England, because agriculture in the Highlands and Islands is not so mechanised. When people drift from the land in the Highlands they cannot go to an industrial town in the area because there are none. They have to go to Glasgow, to Edinburgh or down to the South. Therefore, we have this depopulation, owing to completely economic factors, Those factors are really out of the control of the landowners. Sections of the Press are inclined to blame the landowners, but it is extremely unjust, because it has not been their fault at all.
As the Report points out, the other problem which has helped depopulation is that of remoteness. Very few people are now prepared to live in a house up at the head of a lonely glen which is six or seven miles from the nearest road. I have one or two such houses, and the Department of Agriculture in the area also have some such houses which are unoccupied. It sometimes happens that I am out on the hills and I come across hikers. The other day I came across a man and a woman, and the man said to me, "It is absolutely disgraceful to have this empty house here. There ought to be a couple living there rearing a large family". So I said to him, "All right, you can start right away; it is yours. You can have the house and 200 or 300 acres round it". But, of course, he did not accept my offer.
The Report on Land Use in the Highlands and Islands mentions agriculture, forestry, sport and recreation, including tourism. From my experience, I do not believe that agriculture in the Highlands can make any vastly greater contribution to the Highland economy than it already does. It can perhaps make some increased contribution in the crofting communities. I agree that in the crofting 775 communities husbandry and cultivation can be improved. Also, I think that crofts in certain areas can be enlarged. I am perfectly sure that any landowner would be only too pleased if the crofting communities could be enlarged, and that the average landowner would be prepared to grant the necessary land. But we have to remember that the main agriculture in the Highlands is sheep ranching, and the hills are already fully stocked. I have always thought it unsatisfactory, but it cannot be helped, that Highland agricultural economy is almost totally dependent on sheep farming, which is, of course, unhealthy. But I am afraid it is inevitable, since 90 per cent. of the grazings are rough grazings, that you have to depend on sheep.
The Report says that it is desirable to have more cattle. That is true, but the whole trouble in the Highlands has always been the production of fodder for cattle; and although the Report speaks of reclamation, it is possible to reclaim only fairly flat areas of land. In my experience, those areas are extremely few and far between. Even with the financial help to be granted under this Bill. I do not see sufficient crops being grown to support a large head of cattle in the Highlands. Where the hill grazings, from the point of view of sheep, could be improved is if we were able to control the grazing of the sheep for grass conservation. The great trouble with sheep ranching is that in the spring the sheep all go for the early grasses and eat them out, with the result that, over a period of years, the grass deteriorates. If we had a great deal more fencing in the Highlands for the control of grazing on the hills, that would probably help. One hears about spraying the hills with fertilisers. I think that is quite impracticable because in time of heavy rainfall it will all go into the sea in a very short time.
I should like to be a little parochial for a moment and talk about my part of Scotland, the Isle of Mull. I was rather annoyed to see it called in this Report a depressed area. I will quote certain matters in this Report which show that the Report contradicts itself. First of all, in the Report the Department of Agriculture, which has an estate in Glen Forsa, which is on my boundary on Mull, was advised against dividing the 776 estate up into five tenant farms. The reason given was that if they did that they would not increase the population carry of the estate at all. At the present time, the estate is farmed by the Department of Agriculture, and they employ more people than or as many as if it had been divided up into the tenant farms.
Of course, there has been a tendency in the Highlands for the landowners to farm their estates themselves owing to the fact that tenants, on the whole, have become rather a financial embarrassment. To a great extent the reason for that is the appalling climate, especially in my part of the world. We have these tremendous hurricanes. Two years ago, we had a hurricane of 130 miles an hour, and owners are liable to have the roofs of their buildings blown off. And the cost of repair in that part of Scotland is absolutely appalling: I would say that, on an average, it is about three times as high as further South, on the mainland. If this Bill becomes law I hope that the Government will be able to organise building organisations to repair buildings in the Islands especially; because at the present time it is impossible to get repairs done. Everything has to come from the mainland.
May I now turn to Appendix E of the Report? Here the Report has got the facts the wrong way round. It claims that large areas of the Island have been taken out of farming and made into sporting estates. That is completely untrue—in fact the reverse is the case. It is true that in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century a great number of estates were taken out of sheep and put to deer, but in the last war the whole position was reversed, and all the deer forests returned to sheep. I cannot understand how that mistake came to be made in the Report. There are no sporting estates in the Island, apart from fishing. There are now only a few deer on my land, 15 per cent. of what there were before the war.
The Report, having called Mull a "depressed area", then points out that the agricultural production is surprisingly high. The Report states that the total number of sheep is just under 80,000 on 188,000 acres, which is one sheep to every 2¼ acres; and for the Highlands that must be the highest stocking rate in Scotland. It is also pointed out in the 777 Report that, compared with the year 1938, cattle have increased by 50 per cent. and sheep by 55 per cent., but agricultural labour has declined by 40 per cent. Presumably not all those men were single; indeed, possibly the majority of them were married and had children. The whole population of the Island has declined since 1938 by about 70 per cent. So it can be seen that the decline in population has been due to more efficient farming methods, thus creating greater production, in spite of the fact that 13,000 acres of land have been acquired for planting. I do not want to labour this point, but I should like to point out that it is inaccurate to call this Island a depressed area. It must be borne in mind that, for every man employed now, it was possible to employ six before the war, because wages were then about 30s. to £2 per week, whereas to-day they are £12 a week.
Having said that, I should like to return to my point that I do not think one can expect a great increase in population through agriculture. However, the question of forestry is a very different one. I have always been a strong advocate of forestry; indeed, I have sold land to the Forestry Commission. In forestry the employment ratio is one worker to every 120 acres or so, whereas in sheep farming the ratio is one worker to every 3,000 or perhaps even 5,000, acres of hill land. I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of Government action in regard to forestry, but if they are going to use their compulsory powers under this Bill, when it becomes law, they must pay a fair price, and in that price will have to be included other values apart from the purely plant able value. The Forestry Commission are rather inclined to beat one down in price. It is possible to sell land to private individuals at a higher price than that paid by the Forestry Commission.
The other point I want to make in regard to forestry is that the Commission have been inclined to plant in too large areas, with the consequence that the high ground is completely shut off from the seashore or the valley, and any stock or deer or wild animals in the high hills are reduced to starvation because they cannot get down to the shore or to the valleys. Therefore, I hope that in future 778 the Forestry Commission will endeavour to plant in smaller blocks.
I should now like to say a word or two about tourism and sport. The Report rather underestimates the income that can be derived from the sporting amenities. They quote figures, especially regarding deer-stalking, that are quite unrealistic. I will not bother your Lordships with the figures, but compared to my experience they are far too small.
With regard to tourism, there is, of course, a great future in that. But the trouble in my part of Scotland has been that they have this new car ferry which everybody thought was going to be a great help to the area. But, of course, all that happens is that the tourists drive on to the island in their hundreds, and they bring their tents and tinned foods. They drive around the Island and they camp on it, but they do not spend a penny there. So that this form of tourism has not helped the economy of the local inhabitants. I would also point out that since we have had the car ferry the fares for all the residents have jumped up by 30 per cent., which has naturally been a great blow to the local inhabitants.
There is, I think, one aspect where improvement can be made, and that is in trout fishing, from the point of view of tourists. Owing to the absurd Scottish law that we now have, that anyone may go and fish brown trout in any little loch, no proprietor ever troubles very much to improve the trout fishing in those lochs. If we can have some form of protection for brown trout fishing, some agreement through the Board, or through the local authorities, proprietors will improve the fishings so that tourists can take tickets and go and fish there; and this will be a great help for the tourist trade. The Report ought to have been discussed in Parliament because it has a great many inaccuracies in it which have not been aired at all. I am sorry to air even a few here, when we are supposed to be discussing the Highland Development Bill; but as plenty of other noble Lords are going to discuss the Bill, I thought I would change the subject a bit.
Before I end I should like to say with regard to these compulsory powers that I hope the powers concerning the acquisition of land will be more clearly defined, 779 because, after all, the Secretary of State could come along and compulsorily acquire, say, somebody's grouse moor or somebody's salmon fishing just for the enjoyment of civil servants. Perhaps that is stretching the point, but I am making the point that the powers should be more clearly defined. As the Bill is now worded, the Secretary of State, so far as I can see, has complete power to do anything: he can take your house, he can take your estate, anything he likes. I hope that when this Bill is in Committee the Government will clear up the point regarding powers. Obviously they intend to use these powers responsibly and fairly, but Governments change and power tends to corrupt, and if they are once provided for in the Statute book they remain for ever. There is always a precedent. I do not like this aspect of the Bill. I hope that we shall get some satisfaction on Committee stage.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ LORD FORBES
My Lords, I do not think that any noble Lord has yet congratulated the Government on doing something which they said they were going to do. It is a rare occurrence these days, so perhaps I might give congratulations. Possibly the Steel Nationalisation Bill will suddenly drop out of the pipe-line—who knows?
The Bill deals with the making of further provision for the economic and social development of the Highlands and Islands, and I am glad that the words "further provision" have been used. I take it that this is a recognition of the really constructive measures that have been taken in the past. We on this side of the House, when in Government, took active measures to encourage the development of the basic industries in the Highlands—forestry, fishing, farming and, more recently, tourism. There is no doubt that these measures were the correct ones. Unfortunately, some of the results, at least on paper, especially the depopulation figures, have not been impressive. It is only fair to say that if the measures I have referred to had not been taken the figures would probably have been very much worse. However, it is only right that we should now ask ourselves, as I have done, why the measures that have already been taken have not proved more positive.
780 Having had, in the previous Administration, responsibility for the Highlands, and having lived on the fringe of the Highlands all my life, I am tempted to put forward a number of reasons. I am not going to do so because, after much thought during recent years, I am now completely convinced that there is one reason which stands out above all others. The reason development has been slower than some may have wished is due to the fact that, to use a modern expression, the Highlands have not been exactly "with it". I say this in no insulting way—in fact very much the reverse. I have the greatest admiration for those who are not "with it". Their moral standards, their religious standards, are usually far higher and much more to be admired than those of a great number of people who class themselves as being "with it".
However, to-day we are dealing with future development of the Highlands, and in this context it must be admitted that social and economic progress will develop only slowly unless people can be said to be "with it". If people wish to be "squares", then all that any Government can do is to say, "We admire you for your decision". If, on the other hand, people in the Highlands are determined to achieve social and economic development, then the Government of the day must create the conditions to enable the people of the Highlands more easily to be "with it".
In the past I myself gave much thought to the desirability of setting up a Development Board, and I found that, although the concept had many possible attractions, it had also two great possible dangers. The first was that the Board would remove the few remaining teeth from the local authorities, so that they could no longer bite, but could only suck. And the second was the danger of creating a special area inhabited by people who become unlike others—in other words, "squares". I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, spoke of these matters. He obviously recognises their importance. Quite frankly, I still see these dangers in this Bill, and I only hope that the Board, when it is set up, will be alive to them.
The well-being of the Highlands is dependent upon the vigour of the rest of 781 the country, and this vigour must somehow be spread into and revitalise the Highlands. Here, again, I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, recognised this point; it is a point which cannot be stressed too much. It would be a disaster if the Highlands were to become an ageing limb or, worse still, an artificial limb attached to a vigorous body, the remainder of the country. The main reason why the Highlands have not shared to the full in the social and economic development of the rest of the country is their remoteness—whether it be actual or fancy does not matter. The Highlands are still looked upon as being the other side of the curtain—not an iron curtain in this case, but a lot of people think that there is an ice curtain. Sometimes even the Highlander himself is looked upon South of the Border as somebody who has just arrived from Mars. This will not do. So that the people of the Highlands can be "with it", the distance barrier has to be broken, it has to be demolished once and for all; then we are going to find that the vigour of the remainder of the country will flow into the Highlands.
How is this distance barrier to be demolished? To do this means that we have to have really good communications and transport. Not only that, but transport has got to be cheap. People in the Highlands must not only be able to reach London or the Midlands as easily as anyone else in the country can but also be able to do it cheaply. I admit that this is a call for an element of subsidy, but only until such time as people become accustomed to travelling from, say, Ross-shire to London just as much as people travel from Glasgow to London. Of course, travel should not be encouraged just one way. The more the harassed individual, tired and exhausted by the "rat race" in the South-East and the Midlands of England, goes to the Highlands, the better. Any interchange will not only help to stir up something in the Highlands, even though it is only a "mouse race", but also give some much needed relaxation to those in the South engaged in the fierce battle of competition.
I do not think that the word "transport" appears once in this Bill. Be that as it may, I am certain that the Board should put at the head of its list of 782 requirements the word "transport". Of the various forms of transport to-day, the most telling one is the air. I am utterly convinced from what I have seen in other parts of the world, notably Canada, the United States and Pakistan, that air transport can make a greater contribution than anything else towards the economic and social development of remoter parts of the country. It is only too obvious that the new Board must have money; without money the Board is going to be useless. I can assure the Government that the Board's most profitable investments will be in the direction of greatly increased and cheap air services for the Highlands. Greatly increased air facilities would provide not only the quickest but also the surest way of opening up the Highlands, so that the vigorous lifeblood of the whole country can flow into the Highlands and speed up the economic and social development of the whole area of the Highlands and Islands.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, it is evident from this debate that there are some criticisms of the Bill which may perhaps be discussed further in Committee. But how much good or how much harm this Bill will do to the Scottish Highlands will depend on the long-term policy which is applied by successive Governments, not by any one Government. I think it is most desirable that we should get general agreement between Parties and between Governments about the main features of our future Highland policy. I think it is highly probable that we shall get such agreement; I think it largely exists. Whenever you read of a particularly violent partisan speech about the Scottish Highlands you always find that it is based on the most abysmal ignorance of the subject. When you hear a more moderate or co-operative speech you are far more likely to find that the speaker knows a little of what he is talking about.
The four main pillars of our Highland policy are agriculture, tourism, new industries and forestry. On agriculture, we have made good progress, but we must never forget that progress in 20th-century agriculture always means greater productivity, more output but with fewer people. So that if your purpose is to stop the exodus of young people from 783 the Highlands, it is manifest that agriculture cannot be your chief instrument for achieving that particular objective.
On tourism, which several of your Lordships have mentioned, I agree with what was said by my noble friend Lord Selkirk. I do not know whether Lord Hughes would agree with me—that it was a great tragedy last year that the representatives of the hotel proprietors would not agree to the necessary legislation which would have had to be passed to impose the hotel surcharge like that which exists in so many Continental countries, and upon which the hotel industries there have largely been built up. I think that was a short-sighted act which is deeply to be regretted. On the other hand, there are encouraging signs too. One of the most encouraging is what is happening at Aviemore—not only the Rank Hotel which is now finished, but the great new hotels the building of which has just been begun by the Cairngorms Development Company. It seems quite likely that, in a few years' time, Aviemore will be one of the most notable tourist centres in Europe.
So far as new industry is concerned, I think we are agreed pretty well on the kind of things we want. If I were going to criticise this Bill now, which I am not, I think it would be because although the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has told us that the inquisitorial powers in Clause 11 will probably hardly ever be used, they may nevertheless have the effect of scaring away quite a few industries which might be inclined to settle in the Highlands. Industries have to be tempted there; they are not all that easy to get.
As for forestry, I do not think there is any disagreement at all between the parties on this. But there is, of course, some disagreement among all kinds of people on the question whether forestry is incidental or fundamental to our Highland policy. The great disadvantage of forestry is that it takes so long. If one plants forests now, by the time they come into full production, with all the ancillary industries and all the benefits which they will bring to the Highlands, the people who have planted them will not be here any more. Those forests will not be in full production for another fifty years. Although, naturally, we are all inclined to 784 look for quick results, any realistic student of the Highland problem will probably agree that Highland repopulation and regeneration must take place, as it can only take place, gradually. That is why we must have a long-term policy.
There have been many surveys in the Highlands, national, local and regional. One which is going on now is being carried out by the Highland Development Group, and I look forward to reading their report when it is published. Some of my honourable friends in another place were apt to complain that this present Bill has been introduced before that survey is completed.
My chief reason for intervening in this debate is to call your Lordships' attention—and I hope that I do not need to call the Government's attention to it—to much the most thorough and comprehensive survey which has ever been made in the Highlands, although it applied only to the Western part. It was carried out in the period 1944 to 1951. It began under the wartime coalition Government and was financed by public money from the Development Fund. It was carried out with the help of the Department of Agriculture and the North of Scotland College of Agriculture, and a great deal of the groundwork and field-work was done by relays of active young Gaelic-speaking Highlanders who were most devoted and thorough in their work. There were experts of every kind on population and every other subject. The President of the Survey who edited the results was that great ecological scientist, Dr. Fraser Darling, who is now, to my great regret, in the United States. The result of the Survey was so voluminous that although it was finished in 1951 it was not published until 1955, and then only in an abridged form. No Government are committed by it—not the wartime coalition Government, nor the post-war Labour Government, under which most of the expenditure and work took place, nor the Conservative Government under which it was published, nor the present Government. None of these Governments was committed in any way, but I hope that the vast amount of scientific material and carefully worked out conclusions are not ignored in the thinking of St. Andrew's House.
785 I will quote only one passage from the Survey, a passage which epitomises the Survey. The passage is as follows:… the Highlands as a geologic and physiographic region are unable to withstand deforestation and maintain productiveness and fertility. Their history has been one of steadily accelerating deforestation until the great mass of the forests was gone, and thereafter of forms of land usage which prevented regeneration of tree growth and reduced the land to the crude values and expressions of its solid geological composition. In short, the Highlands are a devastated countryside, and that is the plain primary reason why there are now few people and why there is a constant economic problem. Devastation has not quite reached its uttermost lengths, but it is quite certain that present trends in land use will lead to it, and the country will then be rather less productive than Baffin Land.That is the reason for my own belief that afforestation is fundamental and not incidental to any Highland policy which hopes to achieve our long-term object. The passage which I have just quoted was probably written about 1950, and since that time a great many trees have been planted in the Highlands, but not nearly enough—in fact not much more than half enough—to do what is required. I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, the other day say that the English have not managed to plant 12,000 acres of land which the Forestry Commission was authorised to do in England, and that it has been agreed that the planting should now be transferred to Scotland, which is a very welcome thing. But that is only a drop in the bucket, for something much more extensive is needed. My noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard referred to the Report of the Highland Panel, and my own admiration for that Report is not any more unqualified than was his. It is not in all respects beyond criticism—
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, the noble Earl recommended a Report to the House, of which I confess ignorance. Could he give us its official title?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
The West Highland Survey. I am so glad I have at least achieved the result of bringing it to the noble Lord's attention; it is a book that ought to be studied. It is a semi-official Report, but is not one to which any Government are committed.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
No. If the noble Lord will get it, he will find in a preface how it is published. Dr. Fraser Darling is its editor. I am now talking about a rather less scholarly document which was referred to by the noble Viscount: the Report of the Highland Panel. I know that the Government have a high opinion of it, because the Secretary of State quoted it with approval in the Second Reading debate in another place; I think that Lord Hughes also referred to it to-day. It contains one recommendation which I wholly support, and which is well founded. It is to be found in paragraph 74, and suggests that in the seven counties—which is the only area with which the Panel were concerned—the planting programme of the Forestry Commission should be increased from 12,000 to 20,000 acres a year. I believe that to be a practical recommendation. It would involve a very much less cautious policy of land acquisition by the Forestry Commission than they have been pursuing up to the present. That must be understood from the beginning.
The Panel say that they estimate that private forestry in the area will be reduced, although they do not give any reason for saying so. In my view, private forestry ought to be increased. We should encourage it to increase in the same proportion as public forestry is increased. This, in my view, is the minimum target necessary to achieve what we ought to do in the next fifty years. I am not now going to press the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, to say what is the Government's attitude to this recommendation. I will only say that I will give full marks to any Government, Tory or Labour, or even Liberal, which both accepts and successfully achieves this target.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CROMARTIE
My Lords, my speech will be short for the very good reason that I have already expressed my views on much that this Bill contains during the debate on Scottish Development and Industry, which took place in your Lordships' House on November 25 last year. I admit that on that occasion I fully covered the Highlands area, being unaware that it had been decided to confine the debate to a part of Scotland much further South. However, with your Lordships' usual courtesy you allowed me to make my 787 points, and the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, opposite, with his characteristic kindness, went out of his way to give consideration to the matters which I raised.
To begin with, I welcome this Bill, as do the majority of people in my part of the Highlands, including the county council to which I belong. However, some of us in the North have felt a little uneasy over the very sweeping powers to be conferred on the Board. Powers are, of course, essential, provided that they are used only when really necessary and not as a means of playing Party politics; neither must the democratic power of the county councils be overruled. The situation is far too serious for that kind of thing. What is wanted is the maximum co-operation of all who care about the Highlands and Scotland, the kind of cooperation we got when fighting to save our railways when they were threatened with extinction.
I welcome the realisation that at long last has come to our Southern legislators, that there is a need in the Highlands for many things other than tourism. This, indeed, is a very important industry; it is not the most important, nor would it benefit Scotland if it were the only industry, as seemed to be envisaged at one time. The natural resources of our country—agriculture, forestry, fishing and sport—must be utilised to the full. Tourism must be encouraged, especially for the specialist—the climber, the skier, the real country lover and those who seek peace and quiet which now can be found in so few parts of Britain.
Every encouragement must be given to light industry in suitable localities, but for this to succeed I would remind Her Majesty's Government that cheap transport is an essential. At present, North of the Grampians transport costs are high, whether they be rail, road or sea freight charges. In this respect, Messrs. David MacBrayne could benefit from a reminder that their subsidy is given to enable them to serve at reasonable cost the islanders of the Hebrides and people on the Western seaboard. Cashing in on the tourist trade is not their main function, especially if it is at the expense of those they are paid to serve.
The success of this Bill will depend on co-operation, not compulsion. The Board must not be just another Department of 788 the Scottish Office, itself too often a prolongation of the long and depressing arm of Whitehall. It must consist of men of good faith who want to help in the rehabilitation of the Highlands—not to score Party points. Finally, let us have men who know what they are talking about, with sufficient financial backing to turn their words into actions.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, unlike most noble Lords who have taken part in this debate I am an exile from my native land, and I visit Scotland now for only about two weeks in the year, during part of my annual holiday. I feel that that is my loss, but I still have a number of close relatives and friends in the Highlands of Scotland, ranging from Perthshire to Morayshire and Ross-shire. Therefore there are just a few things which I should like to say about this Bill which, in general, I welcome.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, moved its Second Reading with the clarity, restraint and courtesy with which we always associate the noble Lord, who has clone so much for public services in Scotland. I should like to approach the Bill primarily from the point of view of the tourist, because there are few more beautiful parts of the world than the Highlands of Scotland, and to-day there are few parts of the world which can offer as much as the Highlands can offer, particularly in spring and winter. Mention has been made of the ski-ing in the Cairngorms. I know a number of people who go ski-ing there. The hotels run special courses at very reasonable rates, helped by British Railways who make reduced charges during weekdays. I think that this Cairngorms scheme is an example of how private enterprise has done a real service to the Highlands, aided to some extent by the State.
I am quite convinced in my own mind that the future of the Highlands is going to depend very much on close co-operation between private and public enterprise. I do not think that the Highlands or the surrounding islands will benefit by any class political war between the two factions. I should like just for a moment to refer to the Advisory Panel on the Highlands and Islands. I believe that the right honourable gentleman the Member for Argyll, as Secretary of State for Scotland in the last Government, is to 789 be congratulated on setting up this Panel, because it has made a number of very sensible recommendations which I hope that this Bill, when it becomes law, will embody. I should particularly like to refer to paragraphs 106 and 110 which refer to the recreational facilities. Pony trekking and hill-walking have now become very popular forms of holiday recreation, and here, again, the Highlands hotels have co-operated and continue to co-operate admirably.
So far as the Bill is concerned, I agree with other noble Lords who have spoken of some of the rather sweeping powers in it. I am particularly concerned with the composition of the Board. I hope that the Government can give an assurance that the members of this Board will be Highlanders, because the Highlands, both in terrain and in populace, are a very special consideration. The transport problems which have already been mentioned, the climate among other things, merit very special consideration. It is therefore vital that very careful consideration should be given to the right kind of Chairman, whatever his political views may be and from whatever walk of life he may come, and to his colleagues on this Board. It is vital that, when decisions have to be made, there is the swiftest possible liaison between Inverness, where I understand this Board will be situated, the London office and the Edinburgh Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland.
As regards industry in the Highlands, there are already a number of admirable small industries which give a great deal of employment, and I was encouraged to see from the latest Ministry of Labour Gazette that the unemployment figure for the Highlands and Islands is currently in the region of 5.8 per cent. This, of course, is far higher than the national average, but is a good deal lower than it was two or three years ago. I hope that this trend will be maintained. I should particularly like to mention one factory which I visited in April when I was on holiday in Nairn. It is the very well-known factory of W. A. Baxter at Fochabers, in Morayshire. Here is an example of the best type of family concern, built up from humble origins, building up its business, the whole time carrying out tremendous researches into new products, and now providing soups, jams 790 and other canned foods which are the envy of any other similar firm. Having sampled a number of these products at the factory, and having met both directors and workers, I can say that this is typical of the enterprise which the Highlands can show. I hope that this Board will encourage small private enterprise firms of this kind, because these are not big, rich monopolies; these are small firms which have a great export potential, and benefit not only the Highlands but the country at large. There are now a number of these smaller firms throughout the Highlands which are giving the very best of services.
I should like to turn for one moment to Clause 7 of the Bill. Paragraph (a) states that the Board shall have powerto provide or assist in the provision of advisory, training, management, technical, accountancy and other services to persons engaged in or proposing to engage in business in the Highlands and Islands".I hope that this does not mean that there is going to be too much direct competition with organisations already doing this work. And the position under paragraph (b) of this clause is similar. It is only natural that a Board of this kind should have some powers in this direction, but it would be a pity if the two factions conflicted.
Quite a lot has been said about Clause 11, and Clauses 4 and 6. So far as compulsory purchase is concerned, this was debated at some length in another place. I would not quarrel with the need for compulsory purchase, but, of course, compulsory purchase of land in the Highlands is really very different from a compulsory purchase order in a town, where perhaps 6 or 60 houses have to be pulled down for a road-widening scheme. It is going to be very necessary to give the most careful consideration to all aspects of the situation where a compulsory purchase order is made.
During the Committee stage of this Bill we can no doubt examine the more controversial clauses, such as the one I have just mentioned, but I do feel that this Bill is a genuine effort to bring new life to the Highlands. However, it would be quite wrong to think that the Highlands to-day are a decaying concern. As my noble friend Lord Cromartie, in his admirable speech, said, so many people tend to regard the Highlands with some 791 cynicism (I paraphrase his sentiments). This view of the Highlands is quite untrue, and visiting those parts confirms my view. My Lords, I hope that this new Board will have every success, but I hope, too, that its power will be carefully watched.
§ 6.7 p.m.
My Lords, I should like first to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for the careful way in which he explained this Bill, and for the courteous manner in which he introduced it. I wholeheartedly welcome the purpose behind the Bill. I think the setting up of a Highlands and Islands Development Board and of a Consultative Council is probably an excellent thing, but I should not like the choice of who should be on that Board to be limited. What is required is the best brain available. That has nothing to do with politics, and it also has nothing to do with nationality; therefore I disagree with Lord Auckland's point of view.
The noble Earl, Lord Perth, has told us that the first job of this Board is to prise the Forestry Commission out of their Mayfair armchairs and establish them in Inverness or somewhere else in Scotland. I should like to point out what, in my view, ought to be their second job. They should analyse the problem of the Highlands and Islands, and decide what population we are aiming at and what number of jobs it is feasible to produce in this district. It is true that certain people, ill-advised though they may be, have left the Highlands and Islands because they no longer wish to live there. This is a point which has not so far been mentioned to-night, and though it is probably very unpopular, it is nevertheless true.
I think I am right in saying that the population figure in 1841 (and I am indebted to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for it) was 396,045, which was the highest population there has ever been, according to these figures, in the Highlands and Islands. In 1961, according to these same figures, it had dropped to 277,900-odd, which gives a difference, or a loss, of rather more than 118,000. I know that all forms of industries must be taken into account, and that all the things we have discussed will have to be considered. But, merely to try to get the 792 matter into proportion, let us suppose that one tried to produce jobs for that number of people, 118,000, through forestry. If we regard 100 acres of forestry as producing a job for one man, it means that to do it would require 11 million-odd acres (and there are only 9 million acres, I am told, in the whole country); it would take 500 years to do, at the rate of 20,000 acres a year, and somebody would have to inject well over £100 million. We should bear in mind that, for one new job for a man, somebody has to find about £1,000 to start the thing off. That is a lot of money, and I do not see the Treasury liking that.
There is, on the other hand, one success story. The success story is that of Dounreay. Dounreay, in Caithness, has turned the population drain, which for the previous ten years was roughly 3,000, to a gain of roughly 4,000. I think this is significant; and it has been done in ten years. I know that forestry is a long-term project; I am merely pointing out that it has its disadvantages. In the case of the Hydro-Electric Board, which operates in all these counties, the drain has gone on just the same. While we are thankful and grateful to the Hydro-Electric Board for providing greater comforts and better living, their contribution towards producing the extra jobs for men has been insignificant.
The Forestry Commission are complaining of the difficulty of acquiring land. They are not always completely flexible; and I should like to quote an instance of a case which occurred where I live, on the edge of the Highlands, in which I think the Forestry Commission could have been more flexible, to their own advantage. I have a piece of land, roughly square, of 150 acres, which penetrates into Forestry Commission land, and is thus contiguous with theirs on three sides. It is also right away from any roads of my own. So I suggested to the Forestry Commission that we should fence off the fourth side of this particular piece of land and thus avoid having, to go round three sides with the fire-brake and fence. I said, "We need not fence all the way round that particular area; we will only fence and fire-gap this one side and I will plant trees on this area inside your fence." The local Forestry Commission officer was delighted 793 about this suggestion and we drew up maps and so on. The matter then went to Commissioner level, and the answer was, "We have never heard of this kind of thing before." It was then sent off, I suppose, to the "Mayfair armchairs"; and they would not do it. Their reason was that I had said that, before I was willing to spend a large sum of money in planting this particular area, the Forestry Commission must say they would allow me to get my crop out through their roads in twenty or thirty years' time. I wanted a guarantee that they would allow this; but they would not agree to this suggestion.
The idea, to my mind, was one of plain common sense. I am still trying to find some way of working this land to our mutual advantage. I said that I would let them have it on a long lease. They said, Fine." But I said that a long lease like this would go on for probably seventy or eighty years. Therefore, while we were agreed on the price of, say, 5s. or 6s. an acre to-day, we must agree to revise the figure every five years, perhaps, and tie it to the purchasing power of sterling as it exists to-day: if the purchasing power of sterling should rise or fall we could then adjust the rent accordingly. This seemed fair to me. But they would not agree. This is what I call inflexibility. It might even be called armchair philosophy. So it is not always the wicked laird who does not try to give the Forestry Commission extra land. I still have the land available and I should still be delighted to let the Forestry Commission have it on those terms. But, as I have said, it must be tied to to-day's money value. I have a son; maybe he will have a son. I do not see why, he should not have a reasonable rent for this land.
There is another point. We have been told that we could sell more land to the Forestry Commission and use the money to start a forestry programme. If you were allowed to put the cash you receive from the Forestry Comission on the credit side of your Schedule D account, to your own advantage, that would be fine. But by the time you have received the money from the Forestry Commission, have paid your capital gains tax and so on on it, there is usually no money left to start a planting programme. I feel that this should be looked at when the Forestry 794 Commission grumble too much about not being able to acquire land. This grumbling does not occur at the lower level of the Forestry Commission. The foresters and officials are all first-rate people. It is more on the high management level that things become unstuck.
While I am on the subject of the Forestry Commission, there is one other point. It is that care should be taken in planting up places with a view. The French pay particular heed to this. Again, on my own little cabbage patch we have—or, rather, we used to have—a glorious view from the head of the road looking up Deeside. This was particularly charming on fine days. But we do not have that view now because an acre of trees was planted there which never should have been. About an acre of land sterilised from planting would have preserved that view for all time. I think that is not too much to ask. I think the Forestry Commission should be very careful about their overall planting arrangements.
A certain problem exists also in winter feeding in the Highlands. I feel that the experiments of wintering on cattle cobs should be pursued. You can keep a cow outside in the winter grazing on nothing hut heather and grass provided that you feed her with 4 lb. of cobs per day which could be made—in fact, are made—in Scotland. It would cost something in the order of £9 per winter per animal. One can feed ewes on the hills in the same way. You could then breed from that animal and this would get you over the difficulty of being unable to make sufficient silage and hay in those parts. I think it would be a good thing to have more research into these matters of shortage of foodstuffs, and into sheep monoculture.
The tourist industry is not entirely new to Scotland, although it is much advanced. I remember an old and very solemn minister who, when he was asked in the small town where I live, which has certain holiday attractions: "What is the main industry of Stonehaven?" replied without a flicker of a smile, "Taking people in". That goes on to-day. People are still taken in the houses for the summer holidays; and I hope that practice will continue all over the Highlands. Although I must admit that I sympathise with my noble friend, Lord Greenhill (I hope he does not mind my calling him my noble friend), I would 795 suggest that a third job for this Board would be to send a representative to America to see how not to put up motels and how not to wreck a countryside. I believe that would be quite an inexpensive thing to do. I think that motels are very necessary—motels more than hotels—but one must be careful how they are sited. I would say that, as most of one's viewing is done when driving around or walking around, motels should be sited at existing towns and growth points of that sort. The same applies to industry.
One other point I wish to make relates to the Fort William pulpwood factory, in which we have great faith, but there is one query relating to the specification for timber. It relates to logs or sticks about 10 feet long with certain tolerances. The logs have to be reasonably straight. What does "reasonably straight" mean? If a string is drawn from one end of the log to the other, and if the bow between the string and the log extends to six inches, is that "reasonably straight"? This term should be defined.
One of the difficulties arising from the first thinning—not only my first thinning, I am glad to say, but that of the Forestry Commission next door—is that it results in the sort of sticks one used to see carried by comic singers like Harry Lauder. They were frightfully twisted. An enormous amount of damage to the wood is caused by wind, birds and hares, and quite a few trees get hacked by the scythe. All this results in the production of a lot of bulk timber which is far from straight, and there will be a considerable amount of anxiety in the minds of a number of people unless a definition is given of the expression "reasonably straight". I know that the noble Lord was not given warning that this point would be raised, but I hope that he will think it worthy of a reply—if not on this occasion, perhaps a written reply.
§ 6.22 p.m.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for introducing this Bill in such a concise, clear and explicit way. I hope that I shall be able to follow his excellent example. Anyone who has the interests of the Highlands and Islands at heart will, I am sure, welcome any Bill which may bring more money, more 796 people, and a greater diversity of employment into that area. Because I think that this Bill, although not perfect, may have that effect, I hope that it will be given a Second Reading, but I feel that it will need a few Amendments at subsequent stages.
The Bill is based on a good idea, but it suffers from the defect of having been drawn up to conform with the theory that most of the assets in the Highlands, if used at all, are grossly under-used; that their present owners do not want to use them, or, if they do, do not know how to use them. Although many of the people concerned have lived in the area all their lives, it is thought that "the man from Whitehall"—or in this case Dover House or St. Andrew's House—knows best. The proposed Board will not be able to move unless the Secretary of State for Scotland is in agreement with its proposals. Not only is the Minister to nominate all the members of the Beard, and its Chairman, under the provisions of Clause 1(4) but, not satisfied with this, he can give the Board directions as to the exercise and performance of its functions—that appears in Clause 2(1).
The Board, moreover, must submit to him any proposal it makes, and he may or may not approve it; or he may approve part of it and disapprove the rest. That is in Clause 3. Under Clause 4 the Board may buy or sell land only with the approval of the Secretary of State. This may well be a correct procedure. Then, under Clause 6, the Board can carry on business with the approval of the Secretary of State, but not otherwise. It can give grants with his approval—. that is in Clause 8—and any charges made for its services must, under Clause 9, have the approval of the Secretary of State.
Surely it would be better to have a Board composed of reasonable individuals, with local knowledge, who may be trusted to get on with the job, and not have to run to the Secretary of State every time they wish to put forward a proposal. Many talented people, who would be delighted to serve on the Board, even though they might have to serve full-time (I am not sure how they would occupy their time), will be put off from doing so by the fact that the powers of the Board, if the Bill means what it says, 797 are to be so controlled by the Secretary of State. If this Bill is passed unamended, I shall wait fascinated to learn what will be the first direction of a general character that the Secretary of State will give. Perhaps it will be to repopulate the Highlands—a somewhat dangerous general direction, I should have thought.
We can put the uses of land in the Highlands into four categories—I am excluding sea fishing, not because I do not consider it an important industry, but because, so far as I can make out, it will remain virtually unaffected by the proposal to form a Board. These categories are agriculture, forestry, light industry and the tourist trade. At present, agriculture is probably the most exploited—in many ways, I think, too exploited—of the four. There are many places where, in my opinion, land should be used for forestry but where attempts, which have proved to be thoroughly uneconomic and inadequate, are being made to grow crops. There are other places, where at present the land carries a few sheep, of indifferent value and it would be better occupied by deer. I may say that the sheep do not provide employment for anyone, because these are places where people could not possibly afford to employ a shepherd on present wages, and therefore, it would not be a question of reducing employment should ground occupied by sheep be turned over to deer. In fact, it would probably have the opposite effect, of increasing employment.
I hope that the Board will help agriculture in the Highlands in a number of ways. Many people suffer from lack of capital, and I hope that the Board will make loans to enable people to equip their farms properly. At the present time it is exceedingly difficult, even if one is a farmer, to obtain loans from commercial sources, and I trust that the Board will be able to assist in overcoming such temporary difficulties.
I should like to see the Board start pilot schemes of land reclamation, both from the sea and by extensive drainage operations. This is something which no private individual or organisation would have sufficient capital to undertake. Such operations might prove fairly uneconomic, and I am doubtful whether any private individual or organisation, even though feeling benevolent and having the money 798 to spend, would have the legal right to carry them out. I should also like to see experiments carried out with fertilisers. In my view, we still have a lot to learn about the right fertilisers to use on peaty land. Most of the experiments which are conducted commercially are, naturally, carried out with a view to the eventual selling of the product, and are therefore confined largely to the richer land in the South of Scotland and in England. The Board, therefore, should be in a position to conduct experiments with fertilisers on what is essentially peaty land. I believe that such experiments are being carried out in Ireland at the present time. Then I hope that the Board will co-operate with the Crofters Commission regarding the rationalisation of crofts. It may have to buy some farmland and lease it to a crofter where there is no chance of his croft being amalgamated with other crofts in order to form a viable unit.
I wish to refer only briefly to forestry, not because I consider it unimportant, but because I expressed my views extensively on that subject during our debate in February. I hope very much that the Board will make capital available, in the form of long-term loans, to private individuals who wish to plant trees in the Highlands and Islands, and that it will be instrumental in putting people in touch with those who give professional advice. The lack of such advice is one of the greatest difficulties facing small landowners who undertake forestry. But I hope that the Board will not itself go in for forestry on any appreciable scale. That is the job of the Forestry Commission and should not be undertaken by the Board.
I should like to make one other suggestion—namely, that some form of subsidy should be given for extracting timber from extremely remote places. There is land in Scotland which should be suitable for planting, but, because there are no roads and all the timber has to be extracted by water and then transferred at great expense to road transport, it is not so used. I wonder whether the Board might turn their minds towards starting some form of incentive, so that people would see some economic return eventually from planting such land.
In regard to light industries, I would suggest that the Board should set up a 799 sort of sales bureau in order to sell suitable sites in the Highlands to people who are thinking of moving there or expanding their factories. The difficulty is that these factories are over 400 miles away from the people who build them and they have not the time to come rushing up to the Highlands if the contractor falls down on his promises, as contractors frequently do. I would suggest that the Board should act as a body to supervise the contractors, see that they are keeping to their schedule and that their work is of the standard it is supposed to be from the specifications. All this may seem obvious but there have been cases where the standard of work has been nowhere near high enough. I am sure that many people have been put off coming up to the Highlands, and to other parts of Scotland, because of the difficulties of the initial settling-in period, when they have to try to organise it from a great distance and waste a lot of time in so doing. I feel that the Board should be able to help them over this. I also hope that the Board will make sure that the local authorities concerned supply houses for the key workers in these new industries. This could be a burden on the rates of the particular county, but I imagine that the Board would have power to recommend that special provision should be made by St. Andrew's House to subsidise that county while they are actually building the houses until they start collecting from them the rates which would accrue in the long run.
I also hope that the Board will undertake a geological survey. I am certain that in the Highlands there are certain deposits of minerals which at the moment are not worked or probably not even known. I feel that the Board is the only body which could undertake this survey. Before undertaking it, the Board would have to come to some arrangements with the landowners concerned over potential royalties where it was successful in finding some mineral. In such a case, it would also have the hope of recovering in the long run some of its expenses. I do not think that this is insuperable. Most landowners, if they think that gold, or even some more common metal, is going to be found on their land, will be only too delighted to co 800 operate and come to some arrangement over any royalties that there may be.
The last of the land uses are those connected with tourism. I should like to see the Board taking over the functions which the stillborn Tourist Development Board was intended to carry out but which, owing to the opposition of the various interests, it was not given the chance to do. I should like the Board to go further and be able to give grants and land for new hotels and hotel extensions in suitable cases, as I gather from the Bill they will be able to do. I would recommend the members of the Board to go to the Continent and see, in the tourist areas of Germany, Switzerland and France, how well they organise such things as picnic places, camping sites and information centres. I think it would be an eye-opener to many people who have never been out of Scotland. I believe I have made clear the type of body I hope the Highland Development Board will be—a sort of benevolent oligarchy and not an Advisory Committee to an unsympathetic dictator, as I fear the present Board, if the Bill is not amended, might well be.
I intended to draw attention to one or two clauses in the Bill and to criticise them. I think that most of them have been dealt with already, so I would just ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, a couple of questions. So far as I can see, there is no time limit for the members of the Board, except that it says in Schedule 1 that every member, when he is appointed, will be given an instrument in which there will be written a time limit. I should like the noble Lord to make clear that this will be sufficiently long to give a member a chance of getting to grips with the problems, and yet not so long that he will remain on the Board until his dying years. I am rather nervous about paragraph 5(d) of Schedule 1. Under this paragraph can the Secretary of State dismiss any member of the Board who irks him? This would be a pity, as we want the Board members to be independent of any interference by the Secretary of State, anyway so far as their advice is concerned.
I would reiterate what others have said about its being essential, if the Board is to be a success, that it should co-operate and consult, and not fight, with the other bodies 801 concerned with land use in the Highlands—the National Farmers' Union, the Scottish Woodland Owners' Association, the Scottish Landowners' Federation, the Forestry Commission and the Deer Commission. I am sure that they will do this, but it is something that cannot be said too often, as it is the absolute corner-stone of their future. They should establish this co-operation and then they will be able to advance more rapidly and achieve much more than they ever would if they did not carry these bodies along with them.
I had intended to say something about Clause 4. All I would say is that on Committee stage I propose to move an Amendment deleting salmon fisheries from the definition of land in Clause 18. It seems to me that, with the Hunter Committee sitting, it is entirely unnecessary to give the Board this power. It would be much better to wait until the Hunter Committee have reported and bring in legislation for the whole of Scotland enacting what they recommend. I had intended to say something also about Clause 10. I would give the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, notice that I shall put down an Amendment to extend the period of 48 hours' warning which has to be given. At certain times of the year this would be entirely inadequate. No one would want an inspector and his minions pussy-footing over his farm when ewes are lambing, or over his grouse moor when he has just let it to a rich American for an enormous sum and it is essential that the American should have an enjoyable and successful fortnight. I think this power would seldom be used, because, on the whole, it would pay inspectors to consult with the landlords and the tenants concerned, who, after all, are the people who know the local conditions and will be able to give many of the answers which the inspectors wish to find out.
I hope that Clause 11 will be omitted from the final draft of the Bill. I am sure that it will be a great deterrent to industry going into the Highlands and Islands if industrialists find that they may have their books inspected at almost any moment for almost any reason, if (so far as I can gather from the Bill) the Board wish to set up as a competitor. But I do not think that this is the moment to discuss that. I 802 welcome the Bill, and even more the ideas behind its actual phraseology. I think that several points need to be threshed out in Committee, but I hope that the Bill will get a Second Reading to-night, and I wish the Board, when it eventually starts its work, every success.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, whatever my noble friend Lord Forbes may have said, I have not arrived from Mars, however belligerent I may appear. I think there are only two Members in your Lordships' House who actually live within the area which is proposed should be controlled by this Bill, and I am afraid that, at least openly, I may be in a minority here, in that I feel that this Bill is a bad Bill. Though it may have good intentions, it starts at the wrong end of the problem. A Board is to be set up apparently to deal mainly with items not already covered by other bodies, but yet it will be allowed to overlap on to what other bodies are already doing. It is intended that the Board should deal with various individual particular projects, but from what we have heard it seems that it will be leaving the fundamental roots of the Highland problem untouched. Many difficulties in the Highlands would sort themselves out if the infrastructure (as I believe the civil servants like to call it) was put in order first. By this I mean trunk roads, transport—road, sea and air—cheap electricity (and I emphasise "cheap") and the like.
I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, specifically mention transport, because I feel that this is one of the items which is not fully covered by the Board. The Minister of State on Second Reading in another place stated that as the study group—that is, the study group set up by the last Government to look into the Highlands—was mainly concerned with the infrastructure, it was therefore not necessary to wait for the findings of this body. Obviously the new Board is not expected to deal with the infrastructure, as this is already a matter for St. Andrew's House, and their powers are not likely to be touched. As infrastructure is, I think, by far the most important thing in the Highlands, it seems to me that we are starting entirely at the wrong end.
803 There are already 30 Government Departments and other public agencies employed on particular aspects in the Highlands, and the Highland Panel reports that it cannot believe that such a multiplicity is necessary or effective; and anyone who knows the Highlands must be in complete agreement with this view. But what do the Government do? They abolish the Panel, but they intend to replace it with an Advisory Council and, in addition, a completely new Board. So we abolish one agency and we set up two new ones. Can this be a wise policy? Further, the new Board will have extensive powers of confiscation and interference with the liberty of the subject. The proposals of the Bill have caused me deep concern, because I have invested a a great deal in the Highlands in recent years. In exactly the same way as this Government shook the confidence of the country on a national scale, so they are shaking the confidence of anyone who has invested, or may consider investing, in the Highlands.
This interference with the liberty of the subject is at complete variance with the principles of the Government spokesmen a few days ago on the Protection of Birds Bill. In that Bill they were reluctant to make the lot of the police easier by allowing the search of vehicles belonging to suspected egg stealers. Now they are proposing that civil servants can search one's whole property, including one's house, and make any property or business owner liable to large fines or imprisonment. I am afraid, my Lords, there is some lack of continuity in Government thinking—or do they believe in protection of the thief and victimisation of the landlord?
The Highlands are like a volcano. They consist mainly of hard ground; and there are periodic rumblings and constant puffs of hot air from the top; but the most important thing is that they are surrounded by an aura of fear of the future. The Government and the Liberals seem to think that this situation can be sorted out by dropping a bomb down the crater; but, with Mr. Wilson as the pilot and Mr. Ross as the bomb-aimer, you can imagine that this has caused some considerable apprehension. There is always a risk for anyone who lives on the side of a volcano, and it is only 804 assurances from the Ministers that this is only a small bomb which seem to have allayed some of the anxieties.
It has been said that this is the last hope for the Highlands. There has been a tendency to clutch for the last straw; but by the time it is found to be a nettle it will be too late. This cannot be the last hope: at least, if it is, we are indeed in a sorry plight. For this Bill can do little good, but it may do much harm to the crofting counties. It is openly admitted to be an experiment. I suggest, my Lords, that it is a dangerous experiment. For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, it seems that we in the Highlands are to be wed to this surreptitious advance of Socialism. If one's daughter falls in love with an unattractive young man, we all know that to oppose the association may only make matters worse. All we can do is frankly to say that we do not like him and then hope for the best, and trust that good sense will prevail. Thus, with this Bill: we have just got to try to make the set-up work.
It has been repeatedly alleged that the rejection of the Tories by the Highlanders at the last Election came about because they had done nothing for the Highlands. The inaccuracy of this does not really require any elaboration, but there are such items as a £23 million pulp mill, Dounreay, the new car ferries to the Islands, loans of £150,000 to the Highland Fund, extension of the fishery limits, the Technical College in Inverness, hospitals, schools and so on: in fact, a rise in expenditure from £13 million in 1954–55 to £31 million last year. Whatever may be the reason for the change in the Highland representation at the last Election, perhaps one of the main reasons was that the Highlanders wished to record a protest. They strongly object to being used as a political shuttlecock. If every elector in the Highlands had read the Hansard report of this Bill so far, I am certain that many would not bother to vote at all at the next Election. The manner in which all Parties have played politics with this Bill has been horrifying. The honourable Member for the Outer Islands, Mr. Macmillan, openly admitted that this was the only real Socialist measure passed by this Government; and yet both other Parties have allowed it to go through, 805 and, indeed, some welcomed it on Second Reading.
Some of the other Government spokesmen, however, have shown their colours. One stated:We are not concerned with money, but with power.Yet another said:I want to destroy the landowner in the Highlands.Another showed his ignorance by stating that:Local authorities have failed to do anything for the benefit of the Highlands.Is this the way in which confidence is to be instilled into the Highlands? The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, as many other noble Lords have said, has been so reasonable that it is difficult to be too outspoken in this House. But, my Lords, he is such a wise tactician that I have no doubt that with such a battery ranged against him he has deliberately avoided presenting a target. I wish we had heard rather more from the noble Lord.
Probably the most frightening thing is the enormous ignorance of the Highlands which has been displayed in many quarters; and one only hopes that some of these apparently ill-informed remarks have been made for political reasons, and not through a real belief in them. It does appear, however, that far too much attention has been paid to the Land Use Report of the Highland Panel. That such a Report has issued from an officially sponsored Government body is indeed a terrifying thought. The best that can be said of it is that some members of the Panel openly admit that they never read it until the brickbats started flying. They do, of course, now regret that their names were ever associated with it. But it shows how dangerous it is for the whole of the Highlands to be in the control of a Government body.
I feel it is a great pity that this Report was not discussed in this House before this Development Bill had advanced so far and before the Panel was abolished. When my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard asked a Question on this subject on March 11, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said:I am not aware of inaccuracies in the Report.He further stated:The Highlands is a very unusual place.806 And even to-day the noble Lord referred to the Panel. The Minister of State, on the Second Reading in another place, referred to the advice of the Panel and its "authoritative" Report. That, my Lords, shows the danger of this Report.
I am loath to attack the Report of a body which no longer exists, but I feel that so much credence has been given to it that I must weary your Lordships with certain details from it. It seems that the Crofters Commission was consulted, but apparently the views of certain other bodies who could have provided useful and accurate information were never sought. On page 5, the number of crofting units in 1964 is given as 16,409. If, however, we turn to page 13, we find there that the total number of crofts is given as 19,276. I wonder where the 2,867 crofts—the discrepancy between these two figures—have got lost.
The Report states that, where a landlord is willing, much can be done to reorganise through amalgamation and enlargement. This is just not true. I have tried every kind of device to get round the Governmental restrictions placed in the way of reorganisation and amalgamation. I have even had one 12-acre croft sub-divided by the Commission, against my wishes, into two 6-acre holdings. The Report states that it would be of great help to the Commission if landlords were prepared to keep crofts vacant for a period. But, my Lords, the Commission do not allow us to do this. I took over a 6-acre croft and reclaimed it, intending to amalgamate it with the croft next door, when the existing tenant, who was over eighty, gave up. But the Commission forced me to re-let the 6-acre holdings instead of making one unit of 12 acres.
It may be, of course, that over the years the Crofters' Commission have seen the error of their ways, but it is no use the Panel's insinuating that landlords are to blame for this position. They suggest that where the Department of Agriculture are the landlords the position is better, but the figures show that the Department have a larger percentage of small crofts than any other landowner. It is suggested that all crofts be taken into the ownership of the Secretary of State. This is a most amazing suggestion. It would lead to enormous complications 807 and to the complete fragmentation of many existing properties, to the detriment of everyone, and more especially the crofters themselves. At present a crofter is heavily subsidised by the State; he is subsidised by the ratepayer, and he is subsidised by the landlord, though it must be admitted that the position of the crofting landlord is better now than it was before the 1955 Act.
The Panel report that only a minority of crofters are improving their land, that only one-third avail themselves of the grants available, and that there is a considerable waste of resources. Yet they recommend that the area of this type of bad land should be increased by adding to it non-crofting areas. This is an amazing recommendation. The policy which I have adopted is to get as much land as possible out of crofting tenure and into the hands of good agricultural tenants, provided that this does not cause any undue hardship. This must be a better idea than that proposed by the Panel, and I am pleased to say that the Department of Agriculture appear to support me in this. It seems, however, that the Department face opposition from the Crofters' Commission who are, of course, losing part of their domain by this policy.
The Report advocates land settlement. Between the wars a number of good farms were purchased by the Secretary of State and broken up into small holdings. This move was, of course, contrary to the national trend, but it was, I believe, done with the best intentions, for social reasons, at that time. The Department, it appears, now realise with what a burden they have been landed, and they are now breaking up some of these small holdings near Muir of Ord and feuing them off as industrial sites. It will be seen, therefore, that the Panel's recommendation in this respect runs contrary to sound practice adopted on a national basis.
It is suggested that the Government should set up holdings capable of producing an income of approximately £750 a year. I think perhaps the folly of this proposal can best be illustrated by the example of one of my best tenants, a go-ahead young man, who farms 124 acres of arable and 110 acres of rough, at a rent of merely £265. We approached him as 808 we considered that his farm should pay double this rent. He had taken full advantage of the management and bookkeeping facilities offered by the College of Agriculture, and his net return, without allowing any interest on his capital, was a mere £800. How, therefore, was he to pay any more rent? It shows the depressed state into which these small agricultural holdings have been pushed in the Highland area, and the suggestion that this state of affairs should be extended is an unusual recommendation to find in a Government report.
Throughout the agricultural section of the Report there runs a trend which constantly attacks sport. In later paragraphs sport is recommended, provided of course that it is for the general public. But it is suggested that agriculture has been seriously affected by sport. It is said that sport is causing agriculture to suffer on big owner-occupied farms. I own what is probably one of the best pheasant and partridge shoots in the crofting counties, and I must strongly refute this allegation. The Report states:There are large areas of uncultivated or under-cultivated land used for private sporting purposes.If this land was capable of cultivation, it means that the Panel are saying that the agricultural executive committees were not doing their duty when they were in existence a few years ago. I suggest that the author of this section is allowing his or her political views to colour his or her outlook.
So far as reclamation is concerned, it is suggested that only limited individual schemes have so far been undertaken. Jointly with another owner, I took part in the reclamation of 400 acres in one block in Easter Ross. On another scheme I reclaimed 200 acres from the sea, and in another area 200 acres from the hill above Inverness. These are only my own personal reclamation schemes: I know of many others on extensive scales. But with agricultural economics in their present state reclamation schemes must inevitably be a poor investment, and it appears that the Panel have never considered this.
Fortunately, other sections of the Panel's Report are not quite so inaccurate as the agricultural one, but even in the Forestry Section there is an attempt to run down the private woodland owner. 809 On page 36 the Report states that the forestry programme has been running at about 14,000 acres of new planting each year. In fact, for the last five years the Commission have been planting annually an average of 12,500 acres, and private woodland owners 4,000 acres. So that over the last five years the total planting programme has averaged out at 16,000 acres a year, and not 14,000, as stated. Why it should be suggested that the private planting programme should be a mere 3,000 acres is hard to understand. The average over the last five years has been 4,000 acres. In 1964, the figure was 5,300 acres, and the prospects for 1965 are at least another 4,000 acres.
The Report seems to expect a decline, yet it states that the area coming under dedication agreement continues to increase. These statements are contradictory. Of course, the Panel may have anticipated the introduction of this Bill, and consequently the fall off in confidence and the lack of security inevitable on the change of Government. It is possible that this may reduce private planting in the future, but one very much hopes that it will not. Perhaps I am being too pernickety, but there is one paragraph which states that private planting does not form a major part of the total forestry operation in the Highlands. As it does in fact consist of one-quarter of the total operations, this seems to be just another attempt to denigrate the private landowner.
Deer stalking is alleged to encourage foxes, rank heather and bad drainage, and prevent or limit tree planting. I do not think I need elaborate on this, as these statements are so inaccurate. It is said that deer stalking makes no obvious contribution to the economy. In fact, at least £250,000 worth of venison was sold last year, mainly for export. It is recommended that the shooting and fishing land purchased by the Forestry Commission should not be let to the seller. This seems to me a very stupid suggestion, for it must make matters worse and make it very much harder for the Forestry Commission to acquire land. The suggestion that tourists should be allowed at large on the hill to shoot deer shows a complete lack of knowledge of deer management. We have had experience of hotels occupying deer forests, and this form of deer control, though it may be desirable from the tourist 810 aspect, is most unsatisfactory from the deer management point of view, the tendency being to shoot off the best heads and to continue stalking far too late in the year. The result of inexperienced shooting has been many wounded beasts, and this would not be tolerated on any privately owned forest.
Finally, if we turn to Appendix A it will be seen that the figure for common grazings of agricultural ground, including croft ground, is 168,907 acres less than the figure of common grazings for croft land alone. Something is, consequently, very wrong with these figures. In Appendix C the stocking figures are given as at June 4, 1957. Why we should be subjected in a Report like this to seven-year-old figures, when we have to make returns to the Department of Agriculture twice a year, seems incomprehensible, unless these figures were those which suited the Panel's book best in a very biased Report. It will be seen from this Appendix that it is alleged that there are no sheep on deer forests in Caithness, and only three cows. This cannot possibly be a correct figure. I am informed—though I do not know the area well—that there is no question of this being correct.
As regards the cattle on deer forests in Inverness-shire the adjoining forests of Glenquoich and Barrisdale alone have nearly as many cattle as stated in the Report for the whole of Inverness-shire; and if one were to add Knoidart, the next-door forest, I believe the figures would be nearly double those shown, though I have not accurate details of the stocking of Knoidart. I hope from this I have more than demonstrated that, in considering the Highland problem, this Report of the Highland Panel should be entirely discounted, and I hope the Government will take note of that.
Should we give greater control of the Highland area to London and Edinburgh? Is it not the remoteness of this area from the centres which has been one of the biggest bugbears of the Highlands? It is not absentee landlords—as the Member for West Fife and certain of his friends would have us believe—which has been the curse of the Highlands, but absentee land management. I cannot conceive why this has never been publicly brandished about before, for it is common knowledge in the Highlands that enormous damage has been done to 811 the management of properties by lawyers sitting in their offices in Edinburgh or, slightly better, in Inverness or Dingwall. This type of management, fortunately, has never crept into England. The lawyers South of the Border seem to keep largely to the law, but in Scotland they seem to think that they can run estates. I say without fear of contradiction that this type of management has done more harm to the Highlands than anything else.
There are large estates in the South of Scotland, some indeed so large that they do not see their landlord for long periods at a time. These estates are beautifully managed because they have resident factors who have been trained to do the job. In recent years the advantages of this type of management have become more widely realised and a rash of competent young factors has broken out all over the Highlands, with the result that landlords have realised their worth and, as so often happens in the country, the example spreads; with the further result that there has been in recent years a most marked improvement of estate management throughout the North.
Now the Secretary of State is the largest Highland landlord, owning over one-eighth of the 9 million acres in the Highlands; and I suggest that he spends most of his time either in London or in Edinburgh, with the result that he is an absentee landlord. His estates have the dead hand of St. Andrew's House upon them. That is why, in general, they are as badly run as almost any other estate in the Highlands. I know of one Highland estate, beside the Road to the Isles, which, after having the heart picked out of it by the Forestry Commission, was allowed to get in a deplorable condition under the Secretary of State's management. Whether or not it was on account of his shame at the state of the property I do not know, but it was eventually sold. It has now changed hands again and the new landlord is making a splendid job of reclaiming the farm. I know of other places also belonging to the Secretary of State where the landlord's fittings have been allowed to fall into a deplorable state. There is no doubt that the Forestry Commission, under the Secretary of State, is making a very good job of growing trees, but they are practising a type of monoculture to the exclusion of all else, 812 and this must be considered a bad fault with any landlord.
It is intended by this Bill to extend the powers of the Secretary of State over land management. It may be argued that the Chairman of the Board will be acting as his resident factor, but this factor will have to compete with problems far in excess of any ordinary estate management problems. He will indeed have to be a superman, and therefore it is not surprising that there seems to be some difficulty in finding such a person. If one looks around even well run estates one will find that there is usually a tendency for each estate to have its bias, toward either forestry or agriculture, or sometimes sport. It is usually a matter of the opinion of the particular owner. There are of course extreme cases of this, as has been revealed by the Forestry versus Agriculture controversy in the Northern Press recently. However, over the country as a whole the one probably balances out the other, but it is difficult to see how the Secretary of State's supermen will be able to strike a reasonable balance not only between forestry and agriculture but between these and industry and tourism, and possibly other things as well. Indeed, "difficult" is probably not the right word, for it must be well nigh impossible for any Board to be expected to keep this balance; and apart from the practical problems they will also be subject to public and official pressures, which no ordinary factor has to bear.
May I now turn to some items which may affect the Board? For instance, there is fishing. I was most pleased to hear my noble friend the Duke of Atholl say he was planning to move an Amendment in regard to the compulsory acquisition of salmon fishing. I can see no reason for this to be written into the Bill. I gather there is already a precedent in regard to the Hydro-Electric Board, and the Land Drainage Act has this in it, but those are two specific purposes and I can see no good reason why we should have it in this Bill, because there can be no other good reason for nationalising it. Furthermore, to have salmon fishing in the hands of a nationalised body is a bad way of controlling it. Apparently it is thought that all one has to do is to take the maximum out, and this has been amply demonstrated recently by the town council of Inverness, which tries to get 813 as much as possible for its fishings. The same thing happens regularly with the Crown Commissioners. But I think we can leave that to the Committee stage. So far as trout fishing is concerned, I hope that something can be done about this, but I think it will arise on the Hunter Committee. I do not see why the miners of West Fife should be allowed to come up and steal our fish, leaving their broken bottles and litter behind them in exchange.
So far as forestry is concerned, I am afraid that the battle of forestry versus agriculture has probably only just started, and if we extend and step up the programme of forestry planting too quickly the battle will become much worse. The answer may well be that agriculture should be made more profitable, so that there will be less desire to plant some of the arable ground with trees. However. timber prices are now only about half what they were in 1948. Furthermore, transport costs are always rising. Until recently we were sending timber to the mines in the South of Scotland—we have now given it up—and one-third of what we received for the timber we had to spend in transporting it. The hauliers have just had a 5 per cent. increase on their costs, so that the proportion they receive will now be rather more than one-third.
As regards cases where grants or loans are given by the Board to a tenant, I hope that on Committee stage we shall have it written into the Bill, as it is in Crofting Acts, that landlords shall be notified.
I was pleased that my noble friend referred to the question of inspectors wandering about. It is important that these inspectors should see the owner or the occupier, before they walk about the grounds. At the moment, livestock inspectors can come whenever they like and look at the cattle. I have had them wandering about looking for my cattle. If only they would come to us first, we could show them where the cattle were, and much valuable time would be saved. But they will not even telephone to say, "We are coming out this afternoon". They always walk in and start poking around by themselves. I am sure that this is not necessary, and it is in order to avoid that sort of thing happening that 814 I should like to see an Amendment made to the Bill.
So far as landowners, who have been so reviled in the North, are concerned, I would point out that in recent years they have poured an enormous amount of money into the Highland areas. Indeed, the Secretary of State has sold some property because so much money was being lost on it, and though it is outwith the crofting counties the Glasgow Corporation, even recently, sold a considerable amount because it was such an uneconomic investment. The trouble with the Bill is that good landlords and bad seem to be treated alike, and even if an owner looks after his property well it appears that the Board may have equal powers to deal with him as they would with a bad landlord. The attack here appears to be concentrated on the few of us who live in the North of Scotland, whether our stewardship has been good or bad. I believe that it is just as good as anywhere else in the country. If one travels through the country one sees large areas of waste ground. Even just outside London there is a good deal of waste ground—even more than one can find in the North of Scotland.
The Secretary of State referred to the unspoilt landscape of the Highlands. Is it not a fact that this has been preserved by the landlords? They have been responsible for keeping the country in this order. In this respect I should like to mention the tourist facilities which were previously mentioned, in regard to hotels. The Crofters' Commission came to the Inverness County Council the other day with a most awful shack which they wanted crofters to put up—a sort of chalet. I hope that this will not he allowed, and that if any accommodation is to be put up for tourists it will be good accommodation.
My Lords, the landlords have been "kicked around" in the North rather like footballs, yet they are expected to be public benefactors. One Member in another place—I think he was a Liberal Member—mentioned that a landlord would not allow a local teacher a site for his garage. If it is the case I have in mind—and I think I am not mistaken—the teacher had stirred up endless trouble, had reviled the landlord and kept up a quite unwarranted attack upon him, 815 and then was surprised that he was refused a site for a garage. Mr. Willis in the other place stated that private enterprise does not have to take social considerations into account. I feel this is hardly worth mentioning. Of course, every landowner has to take social considerations into account, probably more so than the State.
So far as tourism is concerned, this has for a number of years been considered the great god, the salvation of the Highlands. It is a useful thing and a useful industry, but it must be put into its correct perspective. This is a parasitic industry. But do not let me be taken wrong; there are good parasites and bad parasites, but one bad parasite can do a great deal of harm, whereas a good, healthy host can support a large number of harmless parasites, though even with a healthy host there is a limit to the number of good parasites that can be supported. The fact remains that there must be a good, healthy host, and the proper conditions must exist for the host to be in this condition. This means that unless the Highlands are kept financially sound and there are reasonable safeguards, the tourist industry cannot exist.
I would mention indiscriminate camping, which occurs all over Scotland, and there are no means by which the landlord can shift someone fouling his property at the roadside. We are told what a financial benefit tourism is to the Highlands, worth £100 per head of population, or £20 million. I think this is perhaps not quite accurate, but it comes forward as part of the excellent publicity from the Tourist Board; and their publicity is good. Let us take, for example, one of the main commodities, petrol. A gallon costs, say, 5s.—there can be variations, plus or minus. But 4s. 6d. of this will go out of the area altogether—to the petrol companies, in royalties, tax and so on. Only sixpence or thereabouts remains for wages, depreciation, profit and the like. Only one-tenth will remain in the area. Against this there is no mention of the expense the tourist causes, the considerable amount spent by local authorities. During the season we suffer congestion on the inadequate roads, delay on the telephones, which get overloaded; there is expenditure on firewatching, disturb 816 ance of stock, litter and the like. This industry must be kept in the right perspective.
In the other place there was mention of piers as being one of the things this Board would deal with. There was much criticism on this subject on the Committee stage of this Bill in another place. There were complaints attributed to delay caused by the Inverness County Council, and it was suggested that the proposed Board would deal with the matter in a far more satisfactory manner. I feel that perhaps (if they do not already know it) the Government should look for the trouble at St. Andrew's House. It is merely another example of the unsatisfactory nature of bureaucratic control, how the Government of the day, of whatever political colour, can be landed with an unsatisfactory Department.
So far as roads are concerned, we sometimes wonder if the officials in St. Andrew's House deliberately keep our trunk roads twisting and slow. There may be two reasons for this, one for the benefit of the scenery for the tourist, and the other, to make it as difficult as possible for us to get to Edinburgh and pester them too much. There can be little doubt, however, that the key to all Highland development is the improvement of trunk road communications. The A9, our main artery, is apparently not scheduled for any major improvement for at least eight years. As this is the main artery, this seems to be something to be tackled urgently, which it is not within the Board's powers to deal with. What happens is that much money is wasted on fiddling, small schemes, some of which will become obsolete when the larger works take place.
§ LORD GREENHILL
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting. I was wondering whether he would agree to hand his manuscript to the reporters, so as to enable us to read it and follow it better in Hansard to-morrow.
§ LORD BURTON
I have just about finished. I am afraid I have been very long, and I apologise to your Lordships for this, but it is a subject on which there were only two of us from the area to speak, and the other noble Lord had 817 already made a good deal of his speech on a previous debate. It is something which affects us very materially.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I will try not to detain your Lordships longer than is absolutely necessary. Although it is some considerable time ago since the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, presented this Bill to us this afternoon, I remember very vividly what he said. In common with other noble Lords, I would congratulate him on the clarity of his presentation of this Bill. I may say that I was so much soothed by what the noble Lord said that some of the objections that I had when I came down to this House were very nearly wafted away. But fortunately older friends and associates of the noble Lord, like my noble friend Lord Selkirk and others, recalled that perhaps there was an iron hand behind the velvet glove.
I think we have to remember what it is that we have been discussing at such great length this afternoon. We are simply discussing a piece of machinery, nothing more—a piece of machinery which it is hoped will be for the benefit of the Highlands. And, of course, in common with other noble Lords, in so far as this piece of machinery is able to achieve this objective—an admirable objective—I am entirely in support of it. But it is nothing more than a piece of machinery, and in my own submission it is an imperfect piece of machinery, rapidly assembled, and I, for one, regret bitterly that this piece of legislation should have been brought forward before the Highlands Survey, set in motion by my right honourable friend the former Secretary of State, had seen the light of day. I should like to know from the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, whether in fact we are going to have the benefit of reading this survey when it is published. I understand that it is due quite shortly.
As my noble friend, Lord Drumalbyn, I think so cogently pointed out, it would be much easier for us to consider intelligently this Bill had it been made clear what the purposes of the Bill are to be. It seems to me a pity that there is no indication, nothing definite at all, about what this Board is going to do—nothing more, really, than pious hopes. I do not 818 want to pour cold water on the whole thing, but for 100 years or more the depopulation of the Highlands has been continuing. Of course we are delighted and very pleased if it is possible to arrest this. I think my noble friend Lord Stonehaven was on to a very wise point when he said that perhaps we ought to consider at what figure the population of the seven counties should stand. This seems to me to be a perfectly rational and sensible way to approach the problem.
Here we have this piece of legislation, and in common with my noble friend Lord Forbes I should like to congratulate the Government on at least having fulfilled this one election pledge. But I think they fulfilled it too soon; they have rushed it through, and it is a piece of legislation not properly thought out, where you are giving to the Secretary of State very wide powers indeed. And really I cannot accept what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said, that there is admirable precedent for all this. There is no admirable precedent. There is no precedent, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for Clause 11. Here you propose to give to the Board powers which are not at the moment held by the police or by any authority at all. This seems to me to be a thoroughly objectionable clause, and I, for one, here and now, should like to give clear notice that when we reach the Committee stage I will strongly oppose this clause. I can see no necessity for it whatsoever. I do not believe that Clause 11 needs to be there at all. I think it ought to be dropped.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, himself, being a most reasonable man, as I think all noble Lords in this Chamber would agree, presented the Bill in a most reasonable way, and said, "I doubt whether these compulsory powers will ever be used at all". Let me tell the noble Lord that it is most dangerous to give unreasonable powers to Ministers. It is wrong, and certainly if this Bill is going to be effectively carried out it is quite certain that the good people in the Highlands must he co-operated with and not compelled. This has been said throughout the course of this debate and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has taken good note of it.
I should like to say that although I welcome the sentiments behind the Bill, 819 I am afraid I cannot say that I consider it to be a good Bill. I think that many of the powers given to the Secretary of State are excessive and unnecessary. I regret to say that I think that the powers given to the Board in respect of Clause 11 are entirely obnoxious and should certainly be opposed. I took a good deal of trouble in reading what took place in another place, and I am satisfied that no satisfactory answer whatsoever was given to the opposition which was put up to Clause 11. I earnestly hope that when we come to the Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will have a careful look at this, along with other points which have been raised by other noble Lords this afternoon.
Having perhaps started off in a rather aggressive tone, I should like to say that obviously I wholeheartedly support anything that can be achieved for the betterment of life in the Highlands. I support the views expressed by my noble friend Lord Dundee, that more should be done in regard to forestry; and I was most interested to hear him say that he hoped that the recommendation of the Panel that the acreage should be increased from 12,000 to 20,000 a year would be accepted. There seems to be a lot in this. I was also most interested by the suggestion put forward by my noble friend Lord Perth, that perhaps the headquarters of the Forestry Commission might be better sited somewhere other than in Mayfair, and perhaps even North of the Border. This seems to me an interesting idea which might be looked into further.
I should like also to give my support from these Benches to those noble Lords who have referred to the importance of transport in the development of the Highlands and Islands. This seems to me to be something which we should all be well advised to look at, and no doubt when Her Majesty's Government come to consider how these powers which they wish the Secretary of State to have shall be used, the Secretary of State will apply his mind to it, in company with the members of his Board. Certain noble Lords have expressed anxiety lest this Board should prove to be nothing more than a further adjunct of the already quite large Scottish Department. I must say 820 that I share this view. It seems to me that, excepting in this one respect of Clause 11, where I think the Board has been given too many powers, in other respects it has been given too few—that it has always to run to the Secretary of State and, on many occasions, also to the Treasury. That seems to me a great weakness, and I sincerely hope that if we are to have a Board of gentlemen who are permanently employed, they will be men of experience of the district.
I could not help thinking, while the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, was speaking, what an admirable chairman he might make. He seemed to be full of ideas. But I doubt whether the noble Duke, or anybody of honesty and character, would really be prepared to serve if he was going to have placed upon him the limitations which appear to be imposed by this Bill. I think this is a great pity, and I would urge the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, with his great love and knowledge of Scotland, and with his understanding of human nature, to have a look at this also.
I promised that I would not weary your Lordships longer than I could possibly help. I should like just to say one word about tourism. I remember vividly, a number of years ago, travelling with my father-in-law, first to Glasgow and then to Cumbernauld to visit the great new Burroughs factory there, a factory which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, knows so well. My father-in-law, an American, was a director of this company. We visited both the factory sites, and then we decided to return to my home in Perthshire via Crianlarich and Aberfeldy, through the beautiful country which noble Lords know so well, past many lochs and through beautiful glens. When we got home we considered the day, and we remembered how it had started in the jostling Glasgow streets and how it had continued on the factory floor; how, further, we had visited this great new town of Cumbernauld and been vividly impressed by the able planning of the houses. Then we considered the long and beautiful drive that we had undertaken, where we had seen practically no one, and in regard to which on more than one occasion my father-in-law said to me, "How strange that there is nobody on the lochs, that there is no activity, that there is no life."
821 Then, when we got home, having discussed all this, we recalled a visit that we had made together many years before to the great National Park in California, the Yoshemite Valley. I think I would agree with my noble friend Lord Stone-haven that, alas!, many of the great scenic beauties of America have been spoiled by inadequate planning, by motels and other hideous things, by posters and so on. But so far as National Parks are concerned, in my opinion we have much to learn from them. This great and magnificent piece of country, the Yoshemite Valley, is enjoyed by many hundreds of thousands of Americans every year and by people from all over the world.
Must it be that the seeing and enjoyment of natural beauty inevitably spells its doom? I do not believe that this is the case. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, in hoping that the Highlands will not be industrialised. I feel that this great and beautiful area of country must surely be enjoyed by many more people than it is at present. Since the time about which I am speaking a great deal has been done. This I welcome. But I believe that we have to think big and try to work out big schemes, so that these beautiful areas may, somehow or other, still maintain their charm, still maintain their peace, still sustain the natural animal life which is there, and also be enjoyed. I understand that the Duke of Edinburgh's Study Party is actively engaged on this very question at present. I look forward with great keenness to seeing the result of the Study.
I believe that what we have to achieve is an act of reconciliation. This seems to be the whole nub of the thing—not preservation and conservation alone, but reconciliation. I believe that possibly one of the important futures of the seven counties of the Highlands and Islands may be in this direction. But, of course, money will have to be spent. Fortunately, we have not had in this House a tiresome wrangle about "the wicked landlords". We have had nothing of this sort this afternoon, and I regret that there was in another place something of the sort. Nor have we been wrangling about the rival merits of State versus private enterprise. We all accept that in this difficult problem—and it is a prob 822 lem which has not been solved—there must be a combination of efforts between private enterprise and the Government.
Much has been achieved. I cannot help reminding the House that something has been done in recent years, and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will give credit where it is due. Dounreay has been a great success: and something has been done there to stabilise the population, and even to achieve growth. With their great pulp mill, Wiggins Teape have made a great effort in putting up some £10 million out of the £20 million expenditure, and something has been achieved there. But it is only a beginning. I do not believe that agriculture, by itself, can possibly do the trick—it cannot. As agriculture grows more efficient, so the labour force goes down. The noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, produced some interesting figures about forestry. They may appear ridiculous, but there is a great deal of sense behind them.
Perhaps we shall have to turn our minds to the small industries. I hope that fish-farming, on which great research is now being carried out, will be something to which the Secretary of State will give a great deal of thought and help. There would seem to be a great opportunity in that sphere. There is a great scope for tourism done in a clever, inoffensive way—for it does not have to be offensive. Many of us have been fortunate to travel to Austria, Bavaria, countries which are not dissimilar from the area about which we are speaking. They are not ruined, because the thing is carried out with imagination; but a great deal of money has been spent as well.
My Lords, we have before us a small piece of legislation which is designed to do a great thing. I wish it well; I hope that it will succeed. I cannot agree with my noble friend Lord Lothian that it is a very important Bill but, as I say, I hope that it will achieve success. We will most certainly support the Second Reading, but I give notice that we reserve the right, when we return to power, if we think fit, to make alterations both in the Board's functions and in its constitution. In the meantime, I give notice that certainly I will oppose points in Clause 11, and will support noble Lords who wish to table other Amendments 823 regarding the powers of the Secretary of State for Scotland or, alternatively, the lack of powers on the part of the Board itself.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, we have now been debating this Bill for more than four hours, and I am afraid that the length of time we have spent on it will prevent my replying as fully as I would otherwise have wished to have done. But had that been the case, I am sure your Lordships would have been unduly wearied by the Highland Development Board even before it got into existence.
It would be fair to say that, with the single exception of the noble Lord, Lord Burton, the Bill has been given a fair wind by your Lordships. The criticisms in detail, except for those of the noble Lord, Lord Burton, have been fears as to the Board's powers to acquire land, to acquire and/or set up businesses, and to receive or acquire information, whether willingly or unwillingly, from the people concerned. But the noble Lord, Lord Burton, went much further than that. He attacked the Bill root, branch and stalk. I would suggest to your Lordships that what he has done is quite unjustified. It could be justified only if we were to accept the proposition that we find in the Highlands a situation which either has already reached a stage which is completely acceptable or which we are certain will reach that stage in the near future without any further measures being taken by Parliament. No one—other than possibly Lord Burton—has suggested that this is the state which exists.
I went out of my way to say in my opening remarks that I did not think any useful purpose would be served by going over all the ills of the past. The Highlands have much to complain about, but their complaints cannot be laid at the door of any single Government or of any single Party. In this matter we are all guilty. We are guilty in that up to the present we have failed to find a complete solution of the Highlands' difficulties. I am not suggesting—Her Majesty's Government are not suggesting—that this legislation will guarantee to solve all the difficulties which exist. I agree entirely with the noble Marquess when he says that this Bill is just a piece of machinery. 824 We hope that it will prove to be a better piece of machinery than some of those on which we have relied in the past—but only time will tell. So many of the things which were launched in the Highlands in the past were launched with excellent hopes by those who put them forward. But instead of being useful pieces of machinery, they have, in many cases, turned out to be only broken reeds. None of us can claim to be able to foresee the future with complete accuracy. We can only say what we want to do and hope that we shall be successful in our objectives.
I am very grateful to all the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and who have associated themselves with the objects of the Bill, even though they are not completely convinced that it is the right piece of machinery, or is equipped in every way with all the gears and wheels turning in the right way, and necessarily in the right direction. Speaking in general terms, I would suggest that some of your Lordships' fears will prove on detailed examination at the next stage not to be justified.
The noble Marquess said that Clause 11 was not precedented at all. I did not anticipate that anyone would go so far as that, but I did anticipate that somebody would ask me, "What precedent is there for it?". I have before me four and half pages of precedents from legislation: from the Small Landholders and Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1931; from the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1947; from the Sea Fish Industry Act, 1951; from the Crofters (Scotland) Act, 1955; from the Industrial Training Act, 1964; from the Land Drainage (Scotland) Act, 1958; from the Flood Prevention (Scotland) Act, 1961. These are a number of the precedents, some of which are quite sweeping in their requirements.
For instance, the Sea Fish Industry Act, 1951, says:…the Authority may from time to time give to any such person a notice requiring him…to furnish to the Authority such returns and any information specified in the notice as the Authority may require for the discharge of their functions.The Crofters (Scotland) Act says:The Commission may by notice served on the owner or the occupier of any building require him to furnish them with such information as may be specified in the notice 825 with regard to the acreage, the rent and the tenure of the holding.The Industrial Training Act, 1964, says:When an Industrial Training Board has been established, the Minister may require employers in the industry to furnish such returns and any information and to keep such records and produce them for examination on his behalf as appear to the Minister to be necessary for the purposes of this Act.It is obvious from the reaction that there has been to this clause that the Highlands are indeed a remote area, because things which have been happening throughout the years with various Governments in this particular direction have never penetrated the consciousness of noble Lords, simply because they are in the Highlands. They are now discussing something in the Highlands. "It looks new", they say. "Therefore it must be bad; it must be terrible. Let us oppose it."
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would allow me to interrupt. I was very interested by his list, but I think that the noble Lord will agree with me that all these so-called precedents which he has quoted apply to specific circumstances. Clause 11 does not.
§ LORD HUGHES
Clause 11 does apply to specific circumstances. It applies to the specific circumstances that the Board is exercising its functions to advance the economic and social needs of its area. It is not asking it for the purpose of nationalising the steel industry in Wales. It is not asking it for the purpose of determining whether grants in the South of England should—
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I merely mentioned this because the noble Marquess started off in such a very hopeful way. He said that I had almost soothed away his doubts. I went into this little detail, because I am not without hope that as the noble Marquess started off with these kindly sentiments, he might at least come to the next stage prepared to have his remaining doubts soothed away by detailed answers, rather than by general ones.
One of the advantages of a discussion such as we have in your Lordships' House 826 is that, particularly on Scottish matters—maybe it is because I am so alone, with the support from time to time of my noble friend Lord Greenhill—your Lordships take pity on me and are kinder to me than you otherwise would be. Long may it be that way, even though I shall eventually acquire the ranks of Tuscany around me. But, in the meantime, I should like to say that, in general, it is true that we can discuss Scottish affairs without getting terribly hotly political about it, and, no matter what may have been done in another place in regard to this Bill, I do not think it is necessary to emulate their actions in every detail here.
So many things said by noble Lords opposite I find myself in agreement with that I wonder whether they are in danger of crossing over to this side or whether I ought to be yanked over there. But it is not that at all; it is just that we tend to look at things from a Scottish point of view, and if we do it that way—and I hope that we always shall—it blunts the weapon of political controversy. We have enough controversy in the Highlands without seeking to import the controversy of politics into our Scottish debates.
It is right that I should refer to some of the things which have been said. The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, asked whether the Board's compulsory acquisition of land powers could be exercised anywhere in Scotland and he asked about their purpose. That seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable point of view to put forward, because we undoubtedly seek powers in the Bill to acquire land beyond the area of the Board, and I admit quite frankly that it might seem to be very difficult to justify. But it is capable of complete justification, because it is not expected that the Board would ever need to acquire land outside its own area, except in the contiguous area. Everyone would expect that there might be cases where it was absolutely essential to do this, to complete a scheme, but one might have said, "Why not confine it to the Board's area and the immediately contiguous area?"
The explanation—and there is nothing sinister about it; nor is there anything sinister in the Board's power to do things under Clause 6 outwith their own area—is that it arises simply (and noble Lords on the other side have been members of 827 the Government so much longer than I have been that they must be much more aware of this than I am) from the care with which the Civil Service and the drafters of legislation look for all the possible things that may happen, and then seek power to cover them. Sometimes these are minor solutions, but if people are suspicious they do not think of them as being minor, and the ability to do things outwith the area covers such simple things as, perhaps, the need to open an office in London—I would hesitate to say Mayfair—for publicity purposes. The Board may, in fact, never do that sort of thing but this is a possibility.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, if we have that power, I suppose an office could be opened in New York, too, could it not?
§ LORD HUGHES
Yes, my Lords, that is possible. But I should like to say that I am not necessarily accepting the advice which I have received so liberally from the other side of the House, that I should despatch the Board to all quarters of the world seeking information. Quite frankly, I think that it will have enough on its plate in the Highlands without going to New York to seek information, to California to look at developments, or to the Continent to see the way they arrange camping sites. As a matter of fact, at the present moment in Scotland jumping abroad at public expense is not unduly popular, and who am I to seek to bring that one upon my innocent head?
The next point, which was raised both by the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, and by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, was approached by them from slightly different points of view. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Henley, very much for the very generous welcome which he accorded to the Bill. It did not surprise me, because I had the benefit of taking part in a discussion, on Grampian Television on Friday night, with Mr. Michael Noble and Mr. Jo Grimond, and one of the things I found was that it was very difficult for Mr. Grimond and myself to disagree at all on Highland development. Considering the fact that we have been advocating more or less the same solution in the Highlands, with slightly different machinery, that is not surprising. Never 828 theless, I was very grateful for the wholehearted support which the noble Lord accorded to the Bill, both on his own behalf and on behalf of his Liberal colleagues.
But the suggestion made was that the Secretary of State was taking too much power, and that not enough power was being given to the Board. But this followed from a general principle. If your Lordships look at the things over which the Secretary of State has power and the Treasury have power, you can go through almost any Act of Parliament which has been passed in the last forty years and you will find exactly the same practice. General principles, broad general policies, are controlled by the Minister responsible to Parliament. The devolution of detail must be something for the instrument which he creates. I had thought that in my opening remarks I had cleared up that point; that the Board would be a body with power to act. If it did not have power to act, then, obviously, no self-respecting person would draw a salary for sitting on it.
We are not seeking to set up in Inverness half a dozen stooges who would be there only to be shot down because they were failing to get the Secretary of State or the Treasury to do this, that or the other thing. We are setting up a body which will work, because it will be given powers to work. The powers which the Secretary of State and the Treasury have reserved to themselves are the sort of powers which any Government in the past found (as I venture to suggest any Government in the future would find) it necessary to reserve to itself. But that does not mean that the Board will be incapable of exercising power on its own behalf.
More than one noble Lord has made reference to the transfer of the headquarters of the Forestry Commission, and suggested that this was the sort of thing which could usefully he done and the sort of thing which would be very helpful to Scotland. At the risk of getting myself into difficulties, I would say that this is the sort of thing which commends itself to me enormously. As I said on Friday night (and there is no harm in my repeating it here when I have already said it to the population of the North of Scotland), I spent a very large part of my first two months in office trying to get the Forestry Commission headquarters transferred to 829 Scotland; and, like the Member for the constituency, I thought Perth would be an ideal location. But I found, as he apparently has not found, and as the former Secretary of State, Mr. Noble, had not recollected until Friday night, that the previous Government, in March of last year, firmly decided that it was to be transferred to Basingstoke. I spent two months trying to get that decision reversed, but the previous Government had been so firm in their decision that they had even encouraged the Commission's staff, in advance of the transfer, to go and live in Basingstoke; and the position at this moment is that fifteen members of the headquarters staff of the Forestry Commission, on the basis of the then Government's instruction, have bought houses in Basingstoke.
Although it is now a much smaller body, the grief which descended on the head of the last Administration over the transfer of the Post Office Savings Bank to Glasgow would be like a peaceful haven in comparison with the manner with which the much smaller numbers of the Forestry Commission would regard any proposed decision to transfer now. They would regard it as nothing but downright sharp practice, and the fact that there had been a different Government in the interim would not affect their minds in the slightest. So I regret to say that, because of what took place in March, 1964, what I would regard as a very desirable thing for Scotland has been made impossible.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? Would he consider it possible to split the Forestry Commission into two, into a Scottish and an English one? Because, after all, the problems with which they have to deal are not the same in both countries.
§ LORD HUGHES
No, I do not think it would be a good thing, because one of the things to which the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, referred was that we have been able to get some 12,000 extra acres which the English and the Welsh are not able to take up in the next two or three years. If we had been completely separated, that manna from heaven might not have been possible for us.
The approach of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, was, I think, the nearest to that 830 of the noble Lord, Lord Burton, in attacking the conception of the Board. I do not think he attacked the principle, but he thought that the Board was not going to have power, and that it would be a façade. I would direct his attention particularly to the powers which, under the Bill, the Board will have. Clauses 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 all set out powers which will be exercised by the Board in detail, as to which the Secretary of State will give approval only on the broadest general terms—and we must remember that the Secretary of State's approval will come from the proposals submitted to him in the first instance by the Board.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, may I take the noble Lord up on that? I would accept that proposition entirely, but will the noble Lord put it into the Bill? Will he say, somewhere, that the day-to-day administration will be in the hands of the Board? As it stands, in every one of the clauses he has mentioned the approval of the Secretary of State, in whole or in part, is necessary.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I would not put this into the Bill, because, as soon as you put in some specific item of this kind, then you carry with it the implication that, where you do not specify, the powers are not there, and you have then to detail them item by item.
§ LORD HUGHES
I should like to finish this point, if the noble Duke will permit me. I was for twelve years the Chairman of a Regional Hospital Board, and very early on in my occupancy of that position I was taken to task by a civil servant because the Board proposed to do a particular thing and I had not received specific permission from the Secretary of State to do it. I drew his attention to the conditions under which the Regional Board was appointed, and I informed him that, if I was to continue as Chairman, and if my colleagues were to continue as members of the Board, we were going to operate on the basis that we had power to do all the things which the Secretary of State did not specifically exclude us from doing. The Secretary of State had ample opportunity, if he wished, to see that nothing I did was in conflict with the policy of Her Majesty's Government. We operated on that basis 831 quite happily for twelve years, although during the greater part of the time Her Majesty's Government had an entirely different political complexion from my own—and I would venture to suggest that the same will apply to the Highland Development Board. I will now give way to the noble Duke.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but Clause 3(1)(b) says:…and submit to the Secretary of State for his approval proposals, whether general or specific in character…".Perhaps the noble Lord will tell me why the words "whether general or specific in character" are in there. And would it not be better just to say, "…for his approval general proposals …"?
§ LORD HUGHES
No, because it is conceivable that there might be a very big project which the Board could undertake and on which it would be reasonable that they should seek the consent of the Secretary of State, simply because of the vastness of the money that was involved. For instance, one would not expect a Board of this kind to be able to authorise a project of the size of, say, the pulp mill without receiving the specific approval of the Secretary of State. In fact, the pulp mill at Fort William was not permitted, even as it stood, on the "say-so" of the Secretary of State for Scotland: it was a decision taken by the Cabinet. So there are always the exceptions that must arise. In fact, a whole host of general pieces of business might well be exceeded by one single item.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
Does that mean that we can ask Parliamentary Questions on any aspect of the work of the Board?
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, it has proved impossible, both in this House and in another place, to prevent Members from asking Questions, but it does not follow that it is proper for them to get Answers. I would suggest that, when this Board is in existence, Members will find exactly the same thing. They will ask Questions, and experience will soon direct their attention to the sort of Questions to which they will inevitably get the answer, "That is a matter for the discretion of the Board".
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
That is true, surely, if I may say so, where the Board has statutory power, such as is the case with B.O.A.C., B.E.A. and bodies of that sort, which have power to deal with things and have no interference with day-to-day affairs. But that is not so here.
§ LORD HUGHES
I suggest, with respect, that if the noble Earl looks at the powers of these bodies and at the powers of this Board he will not find that we are erring on the side of giving the Board too little power. In fact, running through this debate are two parallel lines, one saying that the powers are too wide and the other that they are not wide enough. It could be that, in particular cases, both of these assumptions might be correct; but they cannot both be correct all the time. It seems to me that on this matter the discussion which will be possible in Committee on particular proposals will enable me to clear away reasonable doubts. I cannot, of course, undertake to remove unreasonable doubts, because unreasonable doubts are held for the purpose of not getting anywhere.
The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. asked one particular question which I think I should mention because it is typical of a number of things. He asked whether BOTAC assistance is to be transferred to the Highland Development Board. No, it will not be transferred; because I said at the beginning that we were not going to transfer to the Board powers which were being exercised by local authorities in the Highlands or by bodies which were operating in a field much' wider than the Highlands and Islands. But the sort of thing we envisage as a possibility is that there might be occasions where BOTAC, operating the ordinary standards which would be suitable in more populous and more prosperous areas, might find it necessary to say that they could not give support to the project because they were not satisfied that it passed their stringent tests of viability. If it were not improper for me to do so, I would venture to put forward, as an example, an industry which is existing in the Highlands and which is going on under great difficulties but which did not receive support from BOTAC because they were afraid that it would not succeed. I think it will succeed, but its success could have been 833 guaranteed if a body like the Highland Development Authority on the spot had said, "There is a certain element of risk, but we believe that if we inject into this the loan which the Board of Trade cannot give its success will be guaranteed". So we think there will be occasions when we can supplement the assistance of the Board of Trade. But just as we do not intend this to be a body to relieve local authorities of their existing responsibilities, no more are we accepting it as a body to relieve the Board of Trade of their responsibilities. We must still remember that we are Scots; and we want all we can get in every other way, with this added. That is what the Highlands will be looking for. It is what so many noble Lords have asked. You have come back to this question: Is what the Highlands Development Board will be doing to be additional to what is going to be done?
I am afraid that the clock is beating me and I am not going to be able to answer any more of the points that were raised although I have here a massive file of information. But I will undertake to write on the more important of these points to noble Lords before the Committee stage so that they may have an answer which I otherwise should have made here. I am sorry that they will be the only ones to receive an answer, and I know that it is not fair to the other Members of your Lordships' House to deal with matters in this way. But, after all, it is now 8 o'clock. I am being reminded that I am undertaking a big commitment because the Committee stage will be on Tuesday. However, I am still here in London to-morrow without, to the best of my knowledge, an obligation to come along here.
May I say, in concluding, that the debate has been very much worth while. It was the sort of debate which I had expected. It has been constructive and has raised a number of points on which there are doubts. It would be wrong if doubts legitimately held were not expressed. I hope that on Committee stage a reasonable explanation may enable noble Lords to agree with the conclusions arrived at in another place after lengthy consideration. Finally, I should like to come back to the noble 834 Lord, Lord Burton. I think he rendered me a service. I had heard a lot about the noble Lord before he and I came here, and it was not all to his credit from my point of view, although he would consider it to his credit. I had been surprised to find in conversation and correspondence with him that he was such an eminently reasonable man to deal with. But that is not the picture of him in the Highlands. If he had given the sort of praise to this Bill that some other noble Lords did, I am afraid that for me in the Highlands it would have been the kiss of death.
§ Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.