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Volume 416: debated on Thursday 12 April 1945

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether the pre-war offer by the Department of Agriculture to the Ross-shire County Council of a 75 per cent. grant towards construction of the proposed pier at Portnaguran, Isle of Lewis, is now available, or will be renewed at the earliest date, in view of the importance of this project to the restoration of the island's fishing industry.

The prewar offer was for a grant of 75 per cent of the cost of the construction of a harbour at Portnaguran subject to a maximum of £10,500. As a similar harbour now would cost: a very much larger sum a renewal of the former offer would not meet. the case. The possibility of revising the plan with a view to reducing costs is being examined.

Do I understand from the Under-Secretary that the offer of the previous Tory Government is far more generous than that of the present Government?

I said that it will be understood that a 75 percent. grant of the former cost will not now meet the case.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware of the hardship endured by crofters in the Outer Hebrides and by their wives because of the increasingly long distances over which they have to carry their peat fuel on their backs, because of the exhaustion of the nearer peat banks; and if the Department of Agriculture will take steps to have the peat roads extended and widened for the motor transport of peat.

I appreciate that as nearer peat banks become exhausted it is more arduous for crofters to transport their peat supply. So far as estates owned by the State are concerned, assistance has been given towards the construction of peat roads in a number of cases, and any further applications for this purpose will have sympathetic consideration. My right hon. Friend has now power, however, to assist in extending and widening peat roads on private estates.

In view of the fact that no particular authority seems to have any funds at its disposal for this purpose, will the Under-Secretary undertake to consult the Ministries to see whether any powers can be acquired?

I will undertake to inquire of the other Ministries, but some of these roads are on private estates, and I am not so sure we have power to intervene there.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether special consultations on specifically Hebridean questions have taken place between him and the Minister of War Transport in recent weeks; and if they have developed a co-ordinated scheme of road construction work embracing roads serving Department of Agriculture estates, as well as county highways, in view of the need of improved transport for all island developments.

My right hon. Friend has had no special consultations with the Minister of War Transport on specifically Hebridean questions in recent weeks, but the two Departments are in frequent touch on these matters. The planning and construction of public roads other than trunk roads, however, is a matter for the county councils.

In view of the complete failure of the Tory county councils in Inverness-shire in the past to undertake their obligations, will some action be taken by the Department acting jointly with the other Departments?

It may be that some action will be taken by the electors in this particular area today.