House Of Commons
Thursday, 6th June, 1946
The House met at Half past Two o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Dundee Corporation Order Confirmation Bill
Read a Second time, and ordered to be considered Tomorrow.
Glasgow Corporation Order Confirmation Bill
Read a Second time, and ordered to be considered Tomorrow.
Oral Answers To Questions
Clerical Grades (Outdoor Work)
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what arrangements exist to enable established members of the clerical grades in his Department who, because of war service, are recommended for health reasons to seek outdoor work, to be transferred to appropriate duties without loss of pay or prospects of promotion.
The Assistant Postmaster-General (Mr. Burke)
When a member of the Post Office staff is recommended for health reasons to seek a particular type of duty every effort is made to comply with the medical recommendation. The number of clerical duties containing outdoor work is, however, very small and it is not always possible to provide this type of duty for members of the clerical grades who may be recommended to seek it. Where it is possible, there would be no loss of pay but restriction to outdoor duties might lessen prospects of promotion. The ques- tion of transfer to other grades employed on outdoor work would also be considered for officers having the qualifications required for the work.
Postal Services, London
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when the 7.30 p.m. and 9 p.m. collections in London will be resumed; and whether he intends to restore the midnight collection.
The 7.30 p.m. and 9.00 p.m. collections will be introduced in London oil weekdays, excepting Saturdays, towards the end of the year. The midnight collection will not be restored.
As regards the first point, is the Minister aware that the improvement was promised for this summer and, secondly, does the non-resumption of the midnight service mean that the Government are asking the people of London to accept permanently a service inferior to that which existed before the war?
With regard to the first part of the question, the statement was that there would be a considerable improvement in many places during the summer, and generally by the end of the year. As to the second part of the question, I do not think it would be either in the public interest or in the interest of employees if postmen collected letters at midnight.
Why not in the public interest?
Because I think it would encourage the public to go back to the old late hours from which we have got away during the war.
asked the Assistant Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the withdrawal of the Saturday after noon delivery in Greater London has resulted in letters posted in London after the last collection on Friday evening being withheld from delivery in Greater London until Monday morning; and whether he intends to restore the Saturday afternoon deliveries.
Letters posted in London on Friday evening after the last collection are collected on Saturday morning and I regret that it is not possible to arrange for them to be delivered on Saturday afternoon in the area contiguous to London. After the reintroduction later in the year of the 9.00 p.m. collection in London, letters posted in time for that collection will be delivered in this area on Saturday morning.
Does this again mean that there is to be a permanent deterioration, and is it not exceedingly inconvenient for the people of Greater London?
No, Sir, there is no deterioration at all. It means that the nine o'clock collection will allow sufficient time to enable people. to post on Friday for delivery the following morning
National Insurance (Regional Staffs)
Sir Waldron Smithers
asked the Minister of National Insurance if he will state, in convenient salary and regional categories, the number of staff required under the National Insurance Bill, in London, Newcastle, Wales, Scotland, and the nine regional offices, respectively; and what will be the total cost in salaries and in office rent and equipment.
The Minister of National Insurance (Mr. James Griffiths)
I regret that I cannot at present add to the statement I made on 30th May last at the close of the Debate on the Third Reading of the National Insurance Bill.
Sir W. Smithers
Is the Minister saying that although he is setting up this great organisation he does not know how many officials will be required; and is he aware that the estimate is about 8,000․that 8,000 more drones are to be added to the hives, 8,000 more impediments to our export trade?
I would remind the hon. Member that insinuations and imputations in the form of a question are out of Order.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons in each of the priority categories have applied, or had application made on their behalf, for admission to the United Kingdom up to 31st May, 1946; how many of such applications have been granted; and how many of such persons have entered the United Kingdom.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
Owing to pressure of work in passport control offices abroad, detailed statistics have not been kept of the numbers of applications made and of visas granted, and the information asked for in the first two parts of the Question is not available. With regard to the third part, up to 31st May 979 foreigners arriving in the United Kingdom had been identified as coming under this scheme.
Is the Minister aware that this works out to a total of about 20 or 30 a week since the scheme was announced last November, can he declare himself satisfied with that situation and, if not, will he take steps to speed up the admission of people who have made applications?
The hon. Gentleman's arithmetic appears to be correct. With regard to whether I am satisfied or not, the reply is that I am not satisfied, but the matter is not entirely within my control. The flow is steadily increasing and I hope that the full stream will very soon be flowing.
Mr. Sydney Silverman
Does my right hon. Friend know that it is being widely said that since he announced this scheme last November not a single person in a displaced persons camp in Germany has benefited by it, and can he say whether that statement is true?
I have not heard the statement and would not, therefore, like to contradict it without having an opportunity of going into details.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the number of applications for naturalisation now awaiting decision; and what prospects there are for these requests to be granted.
Over 22,000, Sir; these applications will be dealt with in accordance with the arrangements announced in my statement of 28th February as rapidly as is possible consistently with the need for making' full inquiries as to the applicants' suitability for naturalisation.
Sir T. Moore
Would the right hon. Gentleman say if there are any priorities in selection and, if so, what priorities take precedence over the others?
I would refer the hon. and gallant Gentleman to the statement I made in the House when I announced it, which indicated that certain persons who have rendered notable service to the country during the war, in the Forces and in trade, and certain other classes, have priority.
Is the Minister aware that very considerable delay has taken place in the case of people who are good citizens and would be good citizens, and can he do something to expedite decisions in such cases?
No, Sir. The grant of British citizenship is a very considerable privilege․[HON. MEMBERS: " Hear, hear."] ․and it is essential that one should establish beyond all doubt that the person to whom it is granted is worthy of the receipt of so high an honour
Could the priority granted to those who have given service in this war be extended to persons who saw service in the 1014–18 war?
They were not included in the priority classes.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of the 22,000 cases have been allotted priority?
Not without notice.
Women (Entry For Marriage)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what were the circumstances determining his decision to grant an entry permit to Frau Maria Holy; whether at the time of granting such permit he was aware that it had been applied for to enable this lady to marry a British Regular Army officer; and if equally sympathetic consideration will be given to applications for an entry permit made for the same reason by other Austrian women of equally good character.
When a British subject who is resident in this country wishes to marry a foreign woman, it has been the settled practice not to refuse her admission to the United Kingdom, provided there is satisfactory evidence that there is no legal obstacle to the marriage and there is an assurance that it will take place as soon as possible after her arrival. There have been several cases in which members of the Forces after returning to this country and being demobilised have applied that a German or Austrian woman may come here for the purpose of marriage, and such applications have been granted; and the same policy is followed in respect of men still serving in the Army, whatever rank they hold, provided they are serving in this country and not merely on leave from the Occupation Forces.
Am I to understand from my right hon. Friend's reply that in the case of a Serviceman being demobilised and returning to this country, his Department will look favourably upon an application from that demobilised ex-Serviceman for a permit for an Austrian or German woman to enter this country for the purpose of marrying the demobilised soldier?
I have to be satisfied that both parties are free to contract a marriage. A gentleman recently applied to my office who was obviously intending to perpetrate bigamy, and I refused permission for the woman to come to be made the victim of such a conspiracy. When I am satisfied on that score, and with the fact that security considerations are also safeguarded, permission is granted.
Kent County Constabulary (Motor Cycles)
Sir W. Smithers
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, when replacements are necessary, he will ensure that the Indian motorcycles now in use by the Kent county constabulary are replaced by machines of British manufacture.
As the hon. Member appreciates, this is a matter for the Kent police authority. I am informed, however, that the majority of motorcycles in use by the Kent police are of British manufacture, but that during the war it was found necessary to acquire a certain number of Indian motor cycles. It is the intention of the authority to replace these in due course by British machines.
Sir W. Smithers
May I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his answer?
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in his review of existing criminal justice administration, he will consider the abolition of the death penalty.
All the subjects which might properly be included in a Criminal Justice Bill are now being actively considered by me.
Mr. John Paton
Is the Home Secretary aware of the proposals of the Select Committee which considered capital punishment, and reported in 1931, for the experimental suspension of this penalty for five years, and will he keep that under consideration?
I am well aware of the report to which the hon. Gentleman has alluded, and that is one of the things which is being considered.
Lighter-Petrol, Liverpool (Conveyance)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why permission to move lighter-petrol by road, from its place of manufacture, Liver pool, to wholesale and retail purchasers throughout the country has been with drawn; if he is aware that with the shortage of matches, the decision of his Department will cause great hardship; and whether he will reconsider the decision.
I have no knowledge of this matter. The enforcement of the Petroleum Spirit (Conveyance) Regulations, 1939, to which some forms of lighter fuel are subject, is a matter for the local authorities and if my hon. Friend will send me particulars I will have inquiry made.
House Possession Actions, London
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many possession orders have been granted by the court in the Metropolitan Police district on the ground of greater hardship for each month in 1946.
The available information relates only to the Metropolitan magistrates courts in which 17 possession orders were granted between 1st January and 31st May, 1946, none of them on the ground of greater hardship.
British Fascists (Subsidies From Mussolini)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on the evidence found in documents captured from the enemy that a foreign government was subsidising the British Union of Fascists.
Yes, Sir. Letters from Count Grandi, the Italian Ambassador in London, to Mussolini, have been found among the latter's papers. The relevant portion of one such letter dated 30th January, 1934, is as follows:
The relevant portion of a further letter dated 1st March, 1935, is as follows:"Mosley has asked me to express his gratitude to you for sending him the considerable sum which I arranged to hand over to him today. … He also spoke with gratitude of the simple generosity with which you accepted as a future commitment his requests for material aid…"
""At the moment you are spending a great deal of money in England. At any rate until a few days ago, you were giving Mosley about 3,500,000 lire a year in monthly instalments of about 300,000 lire. All this money, believe me, Duce, even on the best supposition simply goes down the drain. At the present time we should concentrate our efforts in a different direction. With a tenth of what you give Mosley, that is, with a monthly allowance to the Embassy of 35,000 lire, I feel that I could produce a result ten times better.
Using the 1935 rates of exchange, can my right hon. Friend say what that payment represents in terms of British money?
On 1st March, 1935, the rate of exchange was 569/16 to 57 lire to the pound. At this rate 3,500,000 lire is equal to £60,403.
Mr. H. Hynd
May I ask what action the Home Secretary proposes to take in view of this very startling exposure?
Unfortunately, it was not illegal for Sir Oswald Mosley to receive this sum of money. I can only hope that this will be an instructive foreword to the book he proposes to publish.
Would my right hon. Friend say, humorous as this subject appears to be to some hon. Members, that there is evidence here of traitorous activities?
Mr. Wilson Harris
Does the right hon. Gentleman know of any other sums of money being paid by other foreign Governments to any other parties in this country?
No, Sir. If I come across anything like that․and I am not compelled to disclose the source of my information in certain cases․I will certainly acquaint the House.
In view of the statement the Home Secretary has made, will not he follow it up by publishing the names in the book found in Captain Ramsay's flat?
I do not think there is very much connection between these two. I have no evidence that Captain Ramsay received money from outside this country.
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why official cognisance was not taken of this transaction at the time?
No, Sir. I was not responsible at the time.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when legislation is likely to be introduced to give effect to the recommendations of the Departmental Committee on Justices' Clerks.
I regret that it is not possible at present to say when legislation on this subject is likely to be introduced.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Departmental Committee has already reported to his Department, and cannot move now until his Department moves in the matter?
Yes, Sir, but, unfortunately, this is not the only matter that requires legislation.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department in how many cases have the recommendations of the Departmental Committee on Justices' Clerks, to pay part-time justices' clerks a personal salary, and for their staff and office expenses to be paid by the local authority, been complied with by standing joint committees: and if he will take steps to see that those authorities which have not done so, implement the report.
The existing law requires that the salary of a clerk to justices shall be an inclusive sum covering both his personal remuneration and the expenses incurred by him in the performance of his duty, including the salary of his assistants and other necessary disbursements. To alter this? requirement legislation will be necessary. A Home Office circular of 1935 recommended that specific provision for these expenses should be made when the clerk's salary is fixed, and that this provision should be adjusted from time to time to changed conditions.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Roche Committee of 1944 expressed an opinion that this method of payment is very unsatisfactory, and should be changed as quickly as possible?
I am aware of the Roche Committee's report, and I hope the answer I have given today will be some indication to the standing joint committees and others of the proper course they should pursue.
Civilian Prisoners (Letters To Members)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether prisoners are permitted to write letters to their Members of Parliament in addition to their regular letters; and if such letters are subject to censorship by the prison authorities.
The primary purpose for which prisoners are allowed to write letters is to keep in touch with their friends and relatives. In view of the ample facilities which are given to prisoners to make representations to me on matters connected with their trial, conviction or prison treatment, it is a rule that prisoners are not permitted to make such representations to judges, public authorities or Departments, or Members of Parliament. Accordingly a prisoner would only be permitted to write to a Member of Parliament in special circumstances, e.g. if he were personally acquainted with the Member or if the Member had written to him. Any such letter would be scrutinised by the prison authorities in the usual way before despatch.
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether, in view of the extremely job lot of people who seem to get into Brixton Prison nowadays, this regulation applies to them? Surely these people have no hope whatever unless they are able at least to write to a Member of Parliament?
No, Sir. Any letter that is written by a Member of Parliament addressed to me is brought to me with the utmost despatch.
I meant from the person in prison to a Member of Parliament. I have received such letters, and they have not been stopped, I am glad to say.
I speak subject to correction, Mr. Speaker, but is there not an absolute constitutional right on the part of a citizen to communicate with his Member of Parliament on any matter, and does not the Home Secretary's regulation seem to limit that right?
Sir Ian Fraser
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if the only ultimate sanction is for the citizen to be able to write to his Member of Parliament and not to be intercepted by the Executive?
Mr. Speaker, I understood the remark made by my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) was directed to you on a point of constitutional practice. Without further instructions I should not be prepared to answer it. However, I can assure hon. Members that every letter addressed to me receives my attention at once. With regard to the question as to whether prisoners should be allowed to write to Members of Parliament, I can only say that from the numbers of letters I receive from hon. Members, I am convinced that somehow or other, prisoners have discovered a way of communicating with hon. Members.
May I have your Ruling on this point, Mr. Speaker: Does a question of Privilege arise here?
I should certainly have to take time to consider a matter of such constitutional importance; but the Speaker should not be asked to take part in supplementary questions.
Ministry Of Pensions
asked the Minister of Pensions whether he has now any statement to make regarding the establishment of pensions appeal tribunals on assessment.
The Minister of Pensions (Mr. Wilfred Paling)
I have considered this matter in the light of the views expressed by my Central Advisory Committee and in consultation with my Nobie Friend the Lord Chancellor and the other authorities concerned. It is proposed to seek an Order in Council appointing a date on which Section 5 of the Pensions Appeal Tribunals Act, 1943, shall come into operation as regards both those interim assessments and the final decisions or assessments against which that section gives a right of appeal. I anticipate that the appointed date will be some time in July. In the course of the discussions with my Advisory Committee stress was laid on the need for early provision for the hearing of appeals against interim assessments and in the early stages priority will probably be given to appeals of this type.
Lieut.-Commander Clark Hutchison
:Is it proposed to have these tribunals in Scotland?
In the course of time, I think that will be so.
Hospital Cases (Treatment Allowances)
asked the Minister of Pensions why a disabled ex-Serviceman who is admitted to a Ministry of Pension's hospital for observation prior to the settlement of his pensions claim is refused treatment allowances for himself and family; and whether he will take steps to put such men on the same basis as those admitted for treatment.
Mr. Wilfred Paling
Normal treatment allowances are payable in respect of a condition which has been accepted as due to war service. Where a married ex-Serviceman is admitted to hospital in order to determine the nature of any disability from which he may be suffering and whether or not it is due to war service any National Health Insurance Benefit or other payment to which he is entitled is brought up to at least 42s. a week. This is the rate which is proposed in similar circumstances under the new National Insurance Bill. In addition an allowance of 5s. a week is given for each child. No deduction is made for maintenance and if the condition is subsequently accepted as connected with war service normal treatment allowance rates are paid with retrospective effect.
While appreciating the fact that the grants may later be retrospective, docs not my hon. Friend think that the actual operation of the arrangement causes an interim condition of hardship? Is he aware that I have sent him particulars of a case where a man who is in hospital for observation is given anxiety by the knowledge that his wife and two children are having to manage on just over £2 a week?
My trouble is that I have not any power to pay him full rates until he is actually admitted for pension. When he comes in for observation, he is actually a civilian but if, as a result of observation, he is admitted for pension, then we pay full rates, and we pay them retrospectively.
asked the Minister of Pensions what decision has-been reached in the case of 3608154 Private Henry Rush, particulars of which were sent to him by the hon. Member for Newcastle, Central, on l9th March and 17th April last.
Mr. Wilfred Paling
As the hon. Member is aware, inquiries, which were unavoidably protracted, have had to be made in this case. I am glad to say that as the result of the additional information now available Mr. Rush's condition has been accepted as pensionable.
Requisitioned Premises (Rents)
Sir W. Smithers
asked the Minister of Health why he has sent a series of circulars to local authorities to increase rents, when the local authorities do not receive the rents but account for them to his Department.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Key)
I would refer the hon. Member to the letter of 2nd April to local authorities, which was published in HANSARD of 8th April, and which set out the basis on which the rents of requisitioned premises should be assessed. In this matter local authorities act as agents for the Government. In some cases they had been charging too little, in other cases they had been charging too much; there were, therefore, both increases and decreases of rent.
Sir W. Smithers
Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health is a party to the rent racket? May I have an answer?
Local Authority Proposals
asked the Minister of Health how many local housing authorities have submitted proposals under Circular 92/46; and how many new houses such proposals cover.
My right hon. Friend regrets that his records do not distinguish houses provided under the arrangements being made with small builders or with private builders owning their own land, from houses built following competitive tenders.
Workers Houses, West Sussex (Repairs)
asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the effect of regulations recently made by him is to suspend indefinitely the long term plans for the repair and modernisation of numerous workers' houses in West Sussex; and what steps he proposes to take to prevent the consequence of houses becoming uninhabitable and the housing shortage in rural areas being accentuated.
My right hon. Friend is afraid that with the present shortage of building materials and components, priority must be given to the building of new houses and there will inevitably be less available for the improvement of existing dwellings. Special arrangements have been made to ensure that materials can be obtained, where required, to comply with a statutory notice, or to avoid risk to health, or danger to the structure.
:Does the Minister appreciate that houses are falling into an uninhabitable condition? Will he not consider the advisability of preventing them becoming uninhabitable as a quicker expedient than building new houses?
As soon as materials are in such supply as to make it possible to allocate them for repair, that will be done, but we regard the use of materials for building new houses as having the priority claim.
Possession Orders, London
asked the Minister of Health the number of families rehoused by local authorities as a result of possession orders granted by the courts in the Metropolitan Police district for each month in 1946; and the number of families for whom local authorities had no other accommodation than rest centres and institutions on the date such orders became operative, respectively.
My right hon. Friend is aware that difficulty is being experienced in such cases, but he has no figures distinguishing families for whom occupation has had to be provided as a result of possession orders granted by the courts, and other families.
Mr. S. Silverman
Can my hon. Friend explain how it comes about that, since these orders can only be made if greater hardship on the landlord is established, orders have been made in cases where the family have no accommodation at all, other than a rest centre provided by the authority?
Mr. George Wallace
Would my hon. Friend look very carefully into this problem, because a very serious situation is developing, which is handicapping local authorities in the development of their housing programme? I would refer him to HANSARD of yesterday's date where he will see figures which will give him great anxiety.
We are very much concerned about the number of cases that are having to be dealt with in rest centres. We are undertaking an investigation to find out the causes.
Does not my right hon. Friend appreciate what is happening? How can there be greater hardship on a family than to have no home to go to? Ought there not to be some inquiry as to how this is working out?
Dispossessed Families (Furniture Storage)
asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the difficulty experienced by families in securing storage accommodation for their furniture, when compelled to enter rest centres and institutions as a result of court orders for possession made against them in the Metropolitan Police district; and if he will give powers to local authorities to make arrangements for the temporary storage of furniture belonging to such families until they are able to be rehoused.
General allegations have been made, but my right hon. Friend has no direct evidence. If my hon. Friend has any evidence that he can give him, he will be happy to consider it.
I do not quite understand that reply. I do not know whether it is really in reply to my Question, which refers to the granting of powers to local authorities temporarily to store furniture of families who have been dispossessed from their homes and who have to resort to rest centres. Will the Minister give the local authorities power to store the furniture of these, families until they can get rehoused?
We know of no case, after investigation, in which people turned out as a result of a court order, have had difficulty in storing furniture as a result. As I have said, we have no direct evidence that there is a need for this, but if there is any evidence, we shall be glad to consider it in dealing with the problem.
Mr. G. Wallace
I submit that the reply my hon. Friend has given, which is obviously Departmental, is utter nonsense. I have evidence with which I can convince him that that is so. I would like to refer him to Sidcup Council where we are at our wits' end to obtain accommodation.
Is not the Minister aware that people are continually coming to hon. Members and drawing attention to the fact that their furniture is going to waste where it is stored, and that it will be almost impossible for them to get new furniture when they get new houses?
That is not dealing with the problem with which we are asked to deal here. We are asked to deal with the problem of families dispossessed, and for whom furniture storage accommodation cannot be found, and we have been unable to find any such case in the London area.
Is my hon. Friend aware that his regional officers have declined to allow some local authorities to undertake the temporary storage of furniture of families made homeless by court orders?
The truth is that the local authorities have no power to store furniture in the ordinary way.
Mr. S. Silverman
Is not the important question how such a family comes, under existing legislation, to be dispossessed at all? Will not the hon. Gentleman make an inquiry to see how the legislation is being worked, when it results in families being dispossessed of their homes and having to put their furniture in store and go to rest centres?
I repeat that we have not had particulars of such a case.
What is the objection to giving the local authorities such power?
Repairs (Priority Certificates)
asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that his circular 100/46, dated 13th May, which prohibits the issue of priority certificates for materials for the repair and maintenance of houses, is making it impossible for householders to comply with statutory notices to remedy defective sanitation; that in consequence some local authorities are proposing to discontinue the issue of such notices, which could not be enforced; and whether, in the interests of health, he will arrange for priority in supply to be given when the local authority gives a certificate of urgency.
No, Sir. As my right hon. Friend explained in answer to a number of hon. Members on 9th May, builders merchants have been instructed to meet demands for materials and components required for specially urgent work, or for repairs and other work required by statutory notice; and, as he further explained in answer to subsequent Questions on 23rd May, arrangements have been made whereby merchants who supply materials in good faith for urgent repair work can obtain priority for the necessary replacements. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the instructions, and if he knows of cases which have arisen since the issue of these instructions, in which householders have been unable to obtain materials required to comply with statutory notices, I should be glad if he would let me have particulars.
Has not the Minister seen representations which have been sent to him from the Town Clerk of Twickenham and the Town Clerk of Westminster․ both very important places? Is he aware that whatever the instructions were that were issued some weeks ago, the machinery for obtaining supplies for replacing such things as broken lavatory pans and broken waste pipes has, in fact, broken down?
Our information is quite contrary to that; that since the issue of the instructions to which I have referred, things have gone quite well.
Would the hon. Member be so good as to look into the matter, because it is the experience of a large number of hon. Members that it is not at all satisfactory at present?
I should question that. In the first issue of the W.B.A. priority arrangements, there were misunderstandings. But since the issue of the instructions of which I have spoken, things have been put on a right basis, and are working satisfactorily. But, as I have said, if there are any instances brought to my notice which can be investigated, they will be investigated.
Is the Minister aware that recently plumbers have made official representations to his Department that that they cannot get the necessary materials for local sanitary repairs, and, therefore, it looks as though his intentions have not percolated to the merchants who are wanting to use these materials?
I think the complaints to which hon. Members are referring were those which originated before the issue of the subsequent instructions to which I have referred, but I can only repeat that, if specific instances are given to us, we will make every inquiry and see that they are dealt with.
Is the hon. Gentleman referring to repairs which are necessary as a result of a statutory instruction or which become necessary although there is no statutory order, but which are just as important in many cases?
In my reply I stated that these were things arising either from the issue of statutory notices, necessities for sanitary repairs or the necessities to prevent danger to the structure. Those three categories were covered by the answer I gave.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware there are other things, for example, a lock which was broken by a burglar, and for which it is impossible to get a replacement? There is no sanitary difficulty arising there.
Is my hon. Friend aware that a serious situation is arising in Birmingham on this particular point; that there is a considerable number of houses which cannot be put into a proper state of repair because several builders now say that they are not able to obtain the necessary materials in order to carry out statutory obligations?
Is not the Minister aware that this House was asked to vote £100 million so as to make ordnance factories capable of making these special parts, and are we to understand that the ordnance factory proposals of his Ministry have failed dismally?
asked the Minister of Health whether his Department has given approval to the use of Maycrete, with its special form of construction, in the housing drive.
No, Sir. The system is however being investigated further.
Could the Minister look into this with considerable care? The matter has been greatly revised since it was considered on the last occasion.
Yes, Sir, we have asked the firm concerned for fuller details and we await their arrival.
Mrs. Jean Mann
Could I ask my hon. Friend to get into touch with the Secretary of State for Scotland before he comes to any decision in regard to Maycrete houses? Is he aware that this house has been the subject of a great many complaints from hon. Members on these benches; will he take every one of them out of Scotland and give them to England, and then give us some habitable houses instead?
Infantile Mortality, Bath
Dr. Stephen Taylor
asked the Minister of Health why the infantile mortality rate of Bath rose from 28 in 1938 to 53 in 1944, while the national rate fell from 53 to 46 over the same period.
Within such a small number of cases․74 infantile deaths in Bath in 1944․annual variations are not very significant. Between 1938 and 1944 the Bath rate exceeded the national rate only twice, and both rates were fluctuating.
Mr. I J. Pitman
Is the Minister aware that the latest figures are as low as 2 and that the figures before the war were 42 in the five years in which the figure of 28 is quoted, and 43 in the other five years?
Those figures confirm the statement I have made.
Ems Beds (Closing)
asked the Minister of Health how many beds in E.M.S. hospitals had been closed by 31st December last; how many will be closed down by 30th June and 30th December next; and how many beds in E.M.S. hospitals will still be available for use after that date.
I think there may be some misunderstanding here. Most E.M.S. beds have been beds reserved in the country's ordinary hospitals, supplemented by additional accommodation. As E.M.S. reservations diminish, the beds are normally left available for ordinary use. Reservations were 47,344 on 31st December last, 35,000 at 31st May. I cannot forecast future figures, but they will go on diminishing.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this decision is likely to cause a great shortage in hospital accommodation in the coming winter? Is it too late to urge on the authorities responsible the grave danger of closing down hospital beds?
I can assure the hon. Member that we shall take every step to prevent the premature closing down of hospital beds, which are so much in demand. Our great difficulty in providing the hospital beds, is not so much the availability of beds, as the availability of staff to deal with them.
Queen Charlotte's Hospital (Out-Patients)
Mr. Frank Byers
asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that at the Queen Charlotte's Hospital, Stamford Brook, all maternity out-patients are ordered to appear at 8.45 a.m.; that many of them are kept waiting in uncomfortable conditions for two to three hours; and what steps he will take to ensure that a system of appointments is instituted at this and other similar hospitals.
As the hon. Member will appreciate, my hon. Friend has no jurisdiction in the voluntary hospitals at present, but he has drawn their attention to this Question.
Ex-Servicemen (Training Facilities)
Mr. Kenneth Lindsay
asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the shortage of training facilities for ex-Servicemen in agriculture, building, teaching and the professions, he will cause a general review to be made of this problem.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
Training facilities in agriculture, building and teaching have been or are being considerably expanded. Progress is kept under constant review in the light of future requirements. While the provision of training for the professions is primarily a matter for the professions themselves, the Government recognise the importance of training facilities being available to the maximum absorptive capacity of the various professions.
Would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider this matter, in view of the list which I have taken from recent copies of HANSARD of the numbers who are waiting? Could he treat it equally as a matter of urgency as were radar technical colleges during the war? There is a six year congestion of people waiting for these various colleges.
The Prime Minister
I quite realise the difficulty, but the hon. Member knows as well as anybody that before training facilities can be provided there have to be premises, teachers and the rest. The matter is being pressed forward.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that a considerable number of men have only their Service experience to equip them for their future careers, and will he do something to enlarge the training facilities which are at present available for them?
The Prime Minister
Perhaps my hon. Friend would put that Question down to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour.
asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the large number of men who went straight from school into the Forces and who have been unable to find suitable employment since demobilisation, he will consider expanding the scope of the facilities available for training in the professions.
The Minister of Labour (Mr. Isaacs)
The number of young men who enlisted straight from school and who cannot find suitable employment is not large, but I am aware that it may tend to increase as demobilisation of the younger age groups proceeds. As regards the expansion of training facilities on the professions, I would refer him to the answer given today by the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay).
Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the many difficulties is that these young men went into uniform before they had obtained the essential basic educational qualifications, and if some attempt is made to get over that difficulty and to expand the training facilities in the professions, suitable employment will be found for a large number of them?
I think my hon. Friend will find that that point has been covered in the answer given by the Prime Minister.
United Kingdom War Casualties
Mr. J. P. L. Thomas
asked the Prime Minister whether he is now in a position to lay before the House a White Paper giving figures showing the strengths and casualties of the Armed Forces and auxiliary services of the United Kingdom during the war.
The Prime Minister
Yes, Sir. A White Paper is available in the Vote Office this afternoon.
Demobilisation(Ophthalmic Lens Workers)
asked the Minister of Labour how many more ophthalmic lens workers have been offered Class B release since 7th May; and what is the total number of releases so far completed.
Since 7th May the number of ophthalmic lens workers for whom offers of release in Class B have been authorised has increased from 74 to 80 and a further 40 names have been forwarded to the Service Departments within the past week. The number reported as released in Class B by 31st May was 27.
In view of the urgent need for the production of lenses, can my right hon. Friend say whether all men of this kind known to be in the Forces have had the offer of Class B release, or has the offer been restricted to certain groups?
No, it has not been restricted at all. We rely on the firms engaged in this type of work to give us the names of the men. We have been given 120 names, and we are anxious to get another 30 as a minimum.
National Service (Statistics)
asked the Minister of Labour how many young men. 18 years of age, have been called up and joined the Services; and how many men of that age have been deferred or excused from serving between 1st October, 1945, and 24th May last.
It is estimated that the number of boys reaching 18 in the period 1st October, 1945, to 24th May, 1946, was about 220,000. Of these, about 146,000 have joined or were joining the Services either as volunteers or under the National Service Acts. Of the remaining 74,000, about 14,000 have been rejected on medical grounds and the great majority of the remainder are reserved or deferred by reason of their employment in the Merchant Navy, agriculture, building, coalmining or railway service or as apprentices or students.
Do not these figures disclose that a large number of young men are escaping their obligations of national service because of their position in life, or because of the fact that their parents can provide for them? When national service is introduced as is suggested, will everybody be treated alike and will no one be called upon to give national service because of the inability of their parents to prevent it by giving them something else to do?
I think my hon. Friend's questions are based on a false assumption. If he will look at these figures he will see that they did not disclose that any of these 220,000 are dodging their responsibilities.
I did not wish to say that they were dodging their responsibilities. I wished to ask my right hon. Friend if he realised that certain young men are allowed to have the opportunity of deferring their national service and others are not; and to ask whether, when national service is taken into consideration more fully, this preference will be avoided in future?
I ask my hon. Friend to look at the answer I have given him Those who are given deferment are those genuinely engaged in schemes of national importance.
Properties (Local Authority Purchases)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that the present limit of prices to be paid by local authorities for the purchase of properties for their needs sometimes puts them to a disadvantage compared with private purchasers; and whether the permitted percentage of increase over 1939 valuations is likely to be increased.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Dalton)
Generally speaking, local authorities have powers of compulsory acquisition of land which they require for statutory purposes, the price being fixed, in the absence of agreement, by the arbitrator. In view of this, I am not clear where the disadvantage to which my hon. Friend refers lies.
Has my right hon. Friend, in fact, had any representations made to him on this matter by the local authorities?
I have no record of it with me. It would be convenient if my hon. Friend would send me any actual cases into which I could look.
Matches (Destruction, Liverpool)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why the Customs and Excise Department had millions of matches destroyed in the incinerator of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board at Dukes Docks, Liverpool, on 30th and 31st May and 1st June last.
I am told that these matches- were destroyed, not by the Customs but by the salvage authorities, because they had been so damaged by sea water as to be useless.
Is the Chancellor aware that this is one of the boxes, which was given to me by one of the workmen, who were very much disturbed at the number destroyed? I am assured that over half of them were all right. Will my right hon. Friend make further investigations with a view to avoiding this kind of action in future? I will give him the box of matches if he will go into the matter.
I intended to ask my hon. Friend to give me the box of matches. I am rather short.
Gold Reserves (Dollar Balances)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total of gold reserves in dollar balances held by His Majesty's Government at 1st June, 1946, or, alternatively, as at the latest date for which information is available.
I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to my answer on 15th February last to the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson).
Yes, Sir, but the figures given in that answer referred to those shown in Cmd. 6707, published last December, quoting the situation nearly a year ago; and can there be any reason of security to preclude the publication now of those, at least, for December, or is the Chancellor afraid of giving an account of his stewardship?
No, Sir; but I think we might wait a little longer.
Blocked Sterling Balances
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total of blocked sterling balances at 1st June, 1946, or, alternatively, as at the latest date for which information is available.
Three thousand five hundred million pounds at 31st March, 1946.
Ex-Internees (Income Tax Concession)
Sir Arnold Gridley
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement concerning the Income Tax position of individuals working abroad who were interned by the enemy and came to this country to recuperate.
Yes, Sir. I have decided to authorise a further wartime concession under which an individual working abroad, who was interned by the enemy and came to this country to recuperate, will not be regarded as resident in this country for the current Income Tax year if he returns to his work abroad before 6th April, 1947.
Sir A. Gridley
I thank the Chancellor for the concession that he has made in accordance with his promise to look into this matter some months ago. May I ask him if he will consider how the widest publicity may be given to this concession, because a great many people will not hear this Question or answer or read about it?
I will do my utmost to give publicity to this concession. I regard the group of persons referred to by the hon. Gentleman as worthy of the most sympathetic treatment.
Loans (Local Authorities' Repayments)
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why a premium is demanded from local authorities by the Public Works Loans Board for premature repayments of sums loaned to enable authorities to make advances under Section 59 of the Housing Act, 1925, when no such premium is de manded for repayments of advances made under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act.
I understand that the hon. Member intended to refer to Section 89 of the Housing Act, 1925. Borrowers under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Acts have a statutory right to repay the local authority at any time. Borrowers under the Housing Acts have no such right, but if a borrower's mortgage allows him to repay, the normal premium payable by the local authority on repaying the Local Loans Fund is in fact reduced by 75 per cent., or, in cases of special hardship, waived altogether.
Would the Chancellor of the Exchequer consider waiving all questions of premium in these matters and in similar cases in order to encourage thrift on the part of those who may in time repay the local authorities concerned?
We are operating, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, under an Act of 1925. The general principle is that when loans are made by the Public Works Loans Board and when they are repaid before the due date, an amount sufficient to liquidate the liability incurred by the Local Loans Fund in respect of the advance should be paid. Otherwise, it is difficult to keep the accounts in balance. We do now waive this claim wherever hardship can be shown, and I think I can give an undertaking that hardship will be interpreted not ungenerously.
asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury if he will give a list of the parliamentary missions, delegations and parties which have visited various countries abroad in the past year; and what has been the cost to the Treasury, respectively.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)
This information is not readily available, but I will circulate a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT as soon as possible
I appreciate the nature of the reply. Does not the Financial Secretary agree that this money could be better spent at this time—
The hon. Member is asking for an opinion and not for information.
Will my hon. Friend also indicate the Members of Parliament who have gone abroad during the sittings of Parliament?
I will look into it and see the extent to which we can give the utmost information on this matter. The Government have nothing to hide.
Mr. George Thomas
asked the Minister of Education what are the latest figures available of teachers registered with the Appointments Board as having been unemployed for a period of two months or longer; and what proportion comes from Wales.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Hardman)
The National Union of Teachers Appointments Board informs me that on 28th May there were on the register no teachers who had been unemployed for two months or more, of whom 40 came from Wales. I am glad to say that by 3rd June the number had been reduced to 80, of whom 33 were from Wales. Some of the teachers cannot be immediately placed until vacancies arise in particular localities where they desire to serve for domestic or other reasons.
Is the Minister aware that a considerable proportion of these teachers are lads who qualified before entering the Services but never took up an appointment, and now when they come out they are finding exceptional difficulty? Will he take special steps to help that category?
I am glad to be able to inform my hon. Friend that we are issuing a circular to local education authorities on the whole question of recruitment of teachers and we are discussing the whole problem with these bodies.
Mr. Hopkin Morris
Can the hon. Gentleman say how many graduates are included in the number he has given?
No, I do not think I can break up these figures without notice.
Mr. Hopkin Morris
asked the Minister of Education how many qualified teachers are at present, unemployed in the county of Carmarthen.
I understand from the Appointments Board for Teachers, which is conducted by the National Union of Teachers in conjunction with the Association of Education Committees, that on 3rd June there were four teachers on their books who were resident in the county of Carmarthen.
Will the Minister circularise local authorities which have very large classes, to see if they can make use of these unemployed teachers wherever they are?
I think I have already answered that point in reply to an earlier question.
Emergency Training Scheme (Rejected Candidates)
Mr. G. Thomas
asked the Minister of Education what are the difficulties preventing her Department from giving unsuccessful candidates the reason for their rejection by the interviewing boards held in conjunction with the emergency scheme for teachers.
The interviewing boards are made up of members with wide and varied educational experience and their recommendations are based on a balanced assessment of the many factors which affect a candidate's suitability. In these circumstances it is not possible to give unsuccessful candidates any detailed reason for their rejection.
Is the Minister aware that people with considerable experience are astonished at some of the fantastic decisions taken by the interveiwing boards, and could he make it possible for some second chance to be given?
I can only say that I have myself personally investigated many of these decisions which have been in question and I confess that I have found that the boards who have dealt with these appointments have, in my opinion, done their work extremely well and taken into consideration all kinds of personal factors.
Is my hon. Friend aware that in the Circular which defines the obligation, the phrase appears, " As this decision is based on the results of a personal interview "? May I ask if the result is based only upon a personal interview, and also whether this Circular may be reworded so as to be a little more pleasant to those who receive it, and that the words " Your obedient servant " may be deleted, because they give neither obedience nor service?
Mr. Hopkin Morris
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in some cases some of these people who have been rejected by the interviewing board have been accepted subsequently?
No. I was not aware of that but I should be very glad to have some facts to prove that statement.
Can the Minister say whether copies of the proceedings are available for the Minister to see at a later date if he should so require?
Yes. The Minister can see a detailed report which gives the details of the particular interview that has taken place. We have all the information that we require.
Air Services, Northern Ireland (Advisory Committee)
The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Professor SAVORY.
No. 105. To ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether he has any statement to make with regard to meeting the needs of Northern Ireland in respect of civil aviation.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Mr. Ivor Thomas)
My Noble Friend recently discussed with Sir Rowland Nugent, the Minister of Commerce, matters affecting civil aviation in Northern Ireland, in order to decide how her interests and needs in regard to air services could best be met. As a result of these discussions, and in agreement with Sir Rowland Nugent and the Chairman-designate of the future British European Airways Corporation, Sir Harold Hartley, it has been decided, when the Civil Aviation Bill becomes law, to establish a Northern Ireland Advisory Committee, which will be appointed under the terms of Clause 3 of the Bill. After consultation with the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Commerce for Northern Ireland, my Noble Friend also proposes, with the full agreement of Sir Harold Hartley, that the Chairman of the Advisory Committees for Scotland and Northern Ireland should be appointed to seats on the British European Airways Corporation. I take this opportunity of adding that it is my Noble Friend's intention that Northern Ireland shall be given air services and aerodromes in every way commensurate with the needs of her business community and of her travelling public. Her geographical position renders such services of vital importance to Northern Ireland, and, indeed, to ourselves.
While expressing my deep gratitude to my hon. Friend, may I ask him to make it quite clear whether there is going to be representation of Ulster on the joint board of the company of Eire and Great Britain, on which Eire has a 60 per cent, control?
I did not understand that the Question raised that point. I think that would be looking for trouble.
Mr. Edgar Granville
May I ask the hon. Gentleman, as he has referred to the Chairman of the Scottish Advisory Council, whether that means that he will consult the Secretary of State for Scotland on that appointment?
That would naturally be the case.
Sir T. Moore
Can the Minister say if the advice to be tendered by these advisory councils will be acceptable?
Full attention will be paid to it.
Business Of The House
Mr. Oliver Stanley
May I ask the Leader of the House if he will state the Business for the week after the Whitsun Recess?
The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
The Business for the week after the Whitsun Recess will be as follows:Tuesday, 18th June․Supply (11th Allotted Day); Committee. Debate on Food Production. Wednesday, 19th June, and Thursday, 20th June․Committee stage of the Finance Bill. Friday, 21st June․Second Reading of the Burma Legislature Bill [Lords]; Committee and remaining stages of the Railways (Valuation for Rating) Bill; Second Reading of the Superannuation Bill; and, if there is time, Second Reading of the Diplomatic Privileges (Extension) Bill [Lords].
When the right hon. Gentleman says Committee stage of the Finance Bill on the Wednesday and Thursday, I hope he does not mean that it is intended to complete it on those days, but merely to make a preliminary approach to it?
I should be very glad if we could complete it. I was even optimistic enough to believe it possible, but I fully realise that we must see how far we go, and go as far as we can.
Can the Lord President give us an assurance that the printing of a new Order of Questions up to the first fortnight in August does not mean that the House will sit until then?
No, it does not follow. We hope that the House will continue to make such excellent progress with its work that it may not be necessary to sit as long as that, but that does not prejudge the issue.
Mr. Rhys Davies
Is the right hon. Gentleman still considering the point I raised last week in regard to the request for a Debate on the White Paper about the call-up?
I did suggest last week that, if it was to be debated, it would be convenient if it were done on a Supply day, because this is adminstrative action, but I am bound to say that that is primarily a matter for the Opposition, and no doubt they, as well as the Government, will be influenced by how far there is a general feeling in the House for the matter to be debated. I am not sure about it.
On the question raised by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), in view of the well-known fact that the Conservative Party are much more keen on conscription than we are, why should it not be on a Supply day, which is in their province?
I cannot give Supply days to the supporters of the Government, and I cannot readily give other days away. I am under the impression that there is no extensive alarm about the announcement which my right hon. Friend made as to the administrative action to be taken. After all, it is administrative action that he is taking within the existing law.
If the right hon. Gentleman's supporters are so anxious to show that they are not keen on accepting the Government's proposals with regard to conscription, could not the Government provide them with an opportunity other than a Supply day?
If the right hon. Gentleman will be so good as to leave my supporters and myself to argue it out between us, without his intervening, it would be better, but, if he wants to help the Government's supporters to criticise the Government, the course for him is open and clear. He could put it down for a Supply day.
Mr. Rhys Davies
The right hon. Gentleman must 'be aware that there is strong feeling about this issue of conscription. [HON. MEMBERS:" No."] I am addressing the Government, not hon. Members on the other side. Will the right hon. Gentleman really consider this serious matter of debating conscription again?
I will never refuse to consider anything again, but I must say that, on my own estimate, I did not gather that the feeling was sufficiently widespread to warrant that course.
Sir T. Moore
Could the Lord President indicate when the Debate, such as was promised, will take place on the Air agreement with Eire?
I am afraid I have no idea. This, again, is a matter about which I do not think there is widespread alarm and despondency. [HON. MEMBERS: " Oh."] No, not widespread, but this, of course, would also be a matter which could be debated on a Supply day
Would the right hon.Gentleman bear in mind the desirability of an early Debate on Colonial affairs, as it is some time since we had one?
That would be acceptable to the Government It is another subject for a Supply day
Mr. S. Silverman
Can the right hon. Gentleman hold out any hope that the Government will be making an early statement on, or, alternatively, offering art opportunity for the House to discuss, the Report of the Anglo-American Committee on Palestine, and, particularly, its recommendations for urgent action? Does he realise that it is now, or will be by the time we meet again, nearly two months since the Report was issued, and that 100,000 people are waiting very anxiously for the Government's view?
I am not in a position to make any statement on policy. That would be for the Minister concerned. We still do not think it would be wise, and I think this is the general feeling of the House, that we should seek to Debate it until the discussions in which we are engaged have reached some more definite stage.
Mr. G. Wallace
Would the right hon. Gentleman indicate to the House whether he is prepared to consider the possibility of a Debate on the increase in railway fares?
This is what Supply days are for. They really are. It is not for the Government to choose them. It is for their critics. It is eminently in order on a Supply day, and I do not see why the Government ought to be asked, and I do-not think they can concede it, to give up special days for this purpose.
Sir Ronald Ross
Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggest that the Opposition should sacrifice Supply days in order to assist squabbles between the Government Front Bench and their supporters? As regards the question of the Eire Agreement, is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is a matter of great importance to all parts of the country which are affected by it, and that, therefore, we should be given an opportunity of discussing it?
On the first point, it is not for me to decide the tactics of the Opposition. I am bound to say that, if I was in their place, and I thought there was a material possibility of a squabble or struggle between the Government and their supporters, I should put down a Motion for a Supply day quickly. But, coming to the other point, it is, again, administrative action taken by the Minister of Civil Aviation on the Air Agreement, and, therefore, it would be a proper matter to discuss on a Supply day, or on the Motion for the Adjournment on such a day as tomorrow, if there were time and Mr. Speaker were willing.
Mr. Michael Foot
On the question of the proposed Debate on Palestine, as the Arabs and Jews are to be consulted about the Anglo-American Committee's Report, does not the Leader of the House think it right that this House should be allowed to consider the matter before a final decision is taken?
I had contemplated that, at some time, the House would wish to discuss the matter, and that that would not be an unreasonable request, but whether we should be at an advantage in discussing the matter before the Jews and Arabs discuss it, I am exceedingly doubtful.
Mr. S. Silverman
While everyone appreciates that it will be better to have a discussion in the House after the Government have made up their mind on what they are going to do about the unanimous recommendation of this Committee, does not my right hon. Friend realise that if it is going to take the Government a prolonged or indefinite time to make up their mind, that they must not expect the House to wait so long?
I have not said anything about prolonging indefinitely; that is descriptive language imported into the discussion by my hon. Friend.
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that we on this side of the House agreed with him that we should much prefer to postpone this Debate until the Government were in a position to say what line they propose to take. But we have now postponed it for something like six weeks and we hope, therefore, that the Government will shortly be able to make an announcement and enable us to have a Debate for which many people are anxiously waiting.
Both the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend have raised a-perfectly reasonable point, and there is no unwillingness on the part of the Government to meet it as soon as we can. But we must see how we go on. I would wish to meet the convenience of the House as soon as it is expedient and practicable to do so.
War Decorations (New Medals)
The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
The House will be interested to learn that His Majesty has instituted two new medals for service in the war, a War Medal and an India Service Medal. The first is intended for the full-time armed Forces for non-operational as well as operational service. The second is for three years non-operational service by members of the Indian Forces. This latter award will not be given to anyone qualifying for the Defence Medal. The ribbons are now being woven and will be issued as soon as possible, the medals themselves cannot be ready for some time. I have placed specimens of the two new ribbons in the Library.When the present qualifications for the Campaign Stars were drawn up the war still continued. The service which they were intended to commemorate had not been completed. It has now been possible to examine the whole matter in retrospect and some of the qualifications have been made less onerous. For instance, the time qualification for the France and Germany Star has been reduced to one day, as in the case of the Africa Star. The King has also approved a recommendation that the bronze oak leaf emblem signifying a Mention in Despatches should be worn on the ribbon of the new war medal. The plastic oval badge given to those awarded a civil King's Commendation for brave conduct is to be replaced in due course, by a more permanent emblem of silver laurel leaves. When this civil award has been granted for service in the war, the silver emblem will be worn on the ribbon of the Defence Medal, should the recipient have qualified for this latter distinction. In addition a small silver badge is to be instituted for those granted civil King's Commendations for valuable service in the air. A White Paper dealing with all these matters is available in the Vote Office. It also contains in an appendix a summary of the conditions of award of the campaign stars as they will now stand.
Would the Prime Minister consider an emblem for anti-aircraft service being placed on that new war medal in order to meet a very widely felt grievance that the anti-aircraft service has not been properly recognised?
The Prime Minister
We cannot properly debate that at the moment. Perhaps the lion. Member would look at the White Paper, and then I should be prepared to answer any supplementary questions on it.
Lieut. - Commander Joynson - Hicks
Can the Prime Minister say what progress is being made with designing the Defence Medal and when that medal may be expected; also, whether he has taken into consideration the question of the granting of clasps for war medals?
The Prime Minister
I should like to have that question put on the Paper.
Orders Of The Day
[10th ALLOTTED DAY]
Considered in Committee.
[Major MILNER in the Chair]
Civil Estimates, 1946
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That a further sum, not exceeding £40, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the charges for the following services relating to Scottish Agriculture, Transport Services to the Western Highlands and Islands and Education for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1947, namely: ․
|Class VI., Vote 21, Department of Agriculture for Scotland||10|
|Class VI., Vote 22, Department of Agriculture for Scotland (Food Production Services)||10|
|Class I., Vote 25, Scottish Home Department||10|
|Class IV., Vote 13, Public Education, Scotland||10|
․[ Mr. Glenvil Hall.]
The Chairman (Major Milner)
It may be for the convenience of the Committee and may facilitate Debate, if the first three subjects are discussed together, leaving the Vote in respect of public education to follow
Agriculture And Transport (Scotland)
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Westwood)
I am aware that from time to time in the past, the suggestion has been made that the party to which I belong is not interested in agriculture. Actually, this is wholly untrue. We fully recognise the fundamental importance of this industry and consider, as I believe Members in all parts of the Committee would agree, that an efficient and prosperous agriculture is an essential part of the wellbeing of the State. That this is the Government's view is borne out, I submit, by the course of action which we have pursued since we came into office.By announcement on 15th November, 1945, the Government indicated the principles of their long term policy for food and agriculture. The cardinal point in this is the adoption of a system of assured markets and guaranteed prices for the principal products, milk, fat livestock, eggs, cereals, potatoes and sugar beet. By this system, not only are actual prices fixed well in advance of the periods to which they relate, but, in the case of livestock and livestock products, for which it is necessary that the farmer should plan well ahead, minimum prices will be fixed biennially. Farmers will thus know the prices for cereals, potatoes, and sugar beet well before the time comes for sowing those crops. For fat livestock, milk and eggs, they will know the minimum prices several years in advance and actual prices some three to 15 months ahead. A feature of the procedure under this system is the annual prices review, which has, for convenience, been fixed in February of each year. At that time, the Agricultural Departments, with the fullest possible record of the economic position of the industry before them, will confer with the representatives of the industry with a view to reaching, if possible, agreed inferences from the data available and agreed conclusions as to the detailed adjustments of prices desirable. It will be clear to hon. Members that this procedure involves freely sharing the official sources of information with the farmers' representatives. That the farmers appreciate this frankness is indicated by the fact that on the occasion of the comprehensive review last February it was possible to reach agreed conclusions. I am aware that thoughtful farmers attach great importance to the system and the procedure which has been adopted, and realise that goodwill and a cooperative spirit, together with the adoption of a national rather than a sectional outlook, are essential to its full success. There is another side to this policy. For one thing, with the State committed to a guaranteed market and price, it is clear that sooner or later it may be found necessary to set limits to the quantities of particular products to which the guarantee will apply. That does not arise now, in these days of general scarcity, and, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture indicated in the statement to which I have referred, due notice would be given of any such intention. What I want to mention now very briefly is the machinery which I propose to set up in Scotland to secure the highest possible degree of efficiency in the industry. As hon. Members are aware, the agriculture executive committees have done splendid work during the war period. I have pleasure in taking this further opportunity of witnessing to their devoted labours. They have raised the standard of efficiency in their counties, and it is clear that if the gains are to be consolidated and increased, some organisation of broadly similar type will be desirable in the future. Accordingly, as I informed the House recently in reply to a question by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) I intend in November next to set up new area executive committees to take the place of the existing agriculture executive committees. The new committees will each consist of about 14 members to be appointed by me after consultation with the representative organisations of landowners, farmers and agricultural workers. They will take over the whole of the executive functions arising under the Government's agricultural policy. So long as it is necessary to continue certain local services, these will be carried out by sub-committees with local headquarters in the districts of the present agriculture executive committees. When the cropping programme for 1946 was under review at the beginning of last year, it was hoped that a return to something like the tillage acreage of 1941 would be possible; that meant roughly equivalent to a drop of 10 per cent. from the peak cropping figures of 1943 and 1944. A restoration of the livestock output was envisaged from 1946 onwards, with a consequent reduction in the production of crops for human food. Later in the year, however, it became evident that it would not be possible to allow so much freedom of cropping as had been earlier expected, nor particularly in relation to potatoes and sugar beet. The final programme allowed a reduction of about 5 per cent. on the total area which had been under crop in 1945. With the continuing deterioration in the food situation early in 1946, we found it necessary to go out for the maximum acreage of wheat and other cereal crops, and Agriculture Executive Committees were asked to take whatever steps might be practicable to that end. Later, a further appeal was made to Committees and to farmers to secure the same cropping acreage as in 1945, and to repeat the 1945 potato acreage. As an incentive to farmers to plough up grass, it was decided to extend the £2 per acre grassland subsidy to grassland three years old or over, ploughed after 5th February, 1946. Previously, as hon. Members are aware, the subsidy had been paid only in respect of grass which had been down for seven years or more. Concurrently with these arrangements, a call was made for the cropping in 1946 of all land on golf courses, recreation grounds and policy parks which had not yet been sown back to grass, even though permission to sow out might already have been given. Despite the many difficulties which farmers were up against, including the un-certain weather in the winter and early spring․and that is something over which not even the best planning can take complete control, or any control․and the reshaping of a cropping programme determined many months beforehand, it is estimated that Scottish farmers will have under the plough in 1946 a tillage acreage of some 50,000 acres above the target originally set. This result is a very commendable one, and much credit is due to the agriculture executive committees and the farmers themselves who responded wholeheartedly to the various appeals made to them, although they had been looking forward to․and I think they had every reason to expect․some relaxation after their strenuous war years. The total tillage in Scotland in 1946 we estimate provisionally at 1,950,000 acres, including about 1,285,000 acres under wheat, oats and barley, 213,000 acres under potatoes and 12,000 acres under beet.
Mr. Snadden (Perth and Kinross, Western)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, could he say what is the actual acreage of wheat for June?
I will try to get those figures when the Under-Secretary is replying. These totals show some fall from the 1945 level. We shall be compelled, in view of the gravity of the international food situation, to call on farmers for even greater efforts in 1947.As regards the important question of milk production, notwithstanding the difficult feeding stuffs position, and the loss of dairy farms required for housing sites, there is a continuing upward trend in milk production in Scotland. For the year ended last March, the increase in production compared with prewar was 5 per cent., and as much as 12 per cent. compared with the record low production in the year 1941–42. Winter production, about which we have been so much concerned, also shows a steady improvement, last winter's figures being 17 per cent. above those for the winter 1941–42, and 4½ per cent. above prewar winter production figures. Farmers know that, commendable as these results are, the call is for still further efforts to step up production, particularly during the winter, until supply meets demand. Pride of achievement under present conditions also extends to the quality of the milk supply in Scotland where milk of certified and T.T. grades represents about 53 per cent. of the total liquid supply. I am not yet satisfied with that, but it is some achievement, particularly under wartime conditions. In the Debate on agricultural policy last February I referred to the new arrangements which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture was making, in association with me, to strengthen his headquarters veterinary staff in Edinburgh, so that I might be more advantageously placed to consider, in future, the veterinary aspects of policy in relation to all other aspects for which I am responsible, which are many. In pursuance of these arrangements, one of the Minister's deputy chief veterinary officers is now stationed in Edinburgh, and I have arranged to provide accommodation for him and his headquarters staff in St. Andrew's House alongside my own Department. If I am to secure the fullest advantage—
Whereupon, The YEOMAN USHER or THE BLACK ROD being come with a Message, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair.
Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.
Message to attend the Lords Commissioners.
The House went; and, having returned․
Mr. SPEAKER reported the Royal Assent to:
Again considered in Committeee.
[Major MILNER in the Chair]
Question again proposed,
"That a further sum, not exceeding £40, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the charges for the following services relating to Scottish Agriculture, Transport Services to the Western Highlands and Islands and Education for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1947, namely:
|Class VI., Vote 21, Department of Agriculture for Scotland||10|
|Class VI., Vote 22, Department of Agriculture for Scotland (Food Production Services)||10|
|Class I., Vote 25, Scottish Home Department||10|
|Class IV., Vote 13, Public Education, Scotland||10|
Agriculture And Transport (Scotland)
As I was saying before we were called to another place, in pursuance of this arrangement․I was dealing with the veterinary service․one of the Minister's deputy chief officers is now stationed in Edinburgh, and I have arranged to provide accommodation for him and his headquarters near me in St. Andrew's House alongside my own Department. I was pointing out that if I am to secure the fullest advantage from the new arrangements, I consider it essential that the Minister's staff, and my own, should work in close proximity to one another. I can assure the Committee that this meets with the cordial approval of my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Agriculture.I should like to refer shortly to some other factors affecting agricultural production. Let me take the question of machinery. The use of machinery for agriculture increased enormously during the war. We all realised the benefits of this advancing mechanisation, and it is unfortunate that, at this critical period, progress has been temporarily checked. Much of our agricultural machinery came from overseas, and with the cessation of Lend Lease and mutual aid arrangements imports had to be drastically reduced. Now, owing to labour difficulties in the United States, fulfilment of our reduced import programme has been affected, and machines on which we relied may not be delivered in time for this year's vital harvest. There is, also, difficulty at present in obtaining spare parts for American tractors and other farm machinery already on our farms. This shortage is due to abnormal world-wide demands, coupled with the present production difficulties of the American factories. Some time must elapse before production and supply of parts become normal again, and while much has been done to arrange for manufacture in this country of parts in considerable demand, it is not practicable to cover the whole range of spares involved. Meantime, the utmost use will have to be made of available facilities for repairing broken and worn parts. A Scottish machinery station is being established, where field testing of agricultural machinery will be carried out under the varying conditions of Scottish farming. All this is designed to lead towards the production of an increasing supply of first class agricultural machinery suited to British conditions and requirements While we must face up to some difficulties in the field of mechanisation for the present, these will, I feel sure, be only temporary. We can look forward with confidence to increased mechanisation improving the efficiency of our farming and providing our farm workers with better conditions. I should like to say just a word or two in connection with fertilisers. To ensure the continuance of the high level of cultivation during 1947, it will be necessary to arrange for a distribution of fertilisers, probably, in greater quantity than has been possible during recent years. I think all Members of the Committee will agree with me. The supply of the raw materials required for the manufacture of fertilisers, especially potassic fertilisers, is still inadequate to meet the known world demand, and the allocation of such supplies as are available is made․I am sure it is within the knowledge of the Members of the Committee․by the Com- bined Food Board. The Government have asked for an increase in the allocation of nitrogenous, phosphatic and potassic fertilisers as compared with the quantities which were made available to us during 1945 to 1946. Even, so, it is unlikely that the quantity of potash provided will warrant the removal of the restrictions on the use of potassic fertilisers, though there may be a better provision possible for use on potash deficient soil. The world-wide shortage of grain, and the continued decline in our imports of all kinds of animal feeding stuffs, such as oil seed, beans, etcetera, necessitated a very severe reduction in the ration scales for pigs and poultry last May. A further ration cut for these and other classes of stock, which comes into operation in July, has resulted from the world shortages and from the reduction in our supplies of wheat offals following upon the increase in the extraction rate of flour. The rationing arrangements for all classes of stock during the coming winter have just been announced. The effect of these reductions in the issues of rationed feeding stuffs is difficult to estimate, and will depend, to a large degree, upon the extent to which home grown feeding stuffs on the farms will be available, and upon the use made of supplementary feeding stuffs, such as kitchen waste.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question? He has mentioned kitchen waste. Is it his intention to initiate any campaign in Scotland to get people to preserve kitchen waste as much as possible? I should like to point out, also, that one would have expected the Scottish Labour Party to be better represented here this afternoon during the right hon. Gentleman's interesting speech. I see only one Member of the Scottish Labour Party here.
Major Guy Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)
Surely, during this most interesting speech, there should be more than four Labour Members, to show their interest in this subject?
I am not going to deal with that question at the moment. I myself might be accused of absence at a later stage when I shall have to attend to some other business, although I intend to come back and resume my place here. We do not know what duties hon. Members may have outside the Chamber, and sometimes duties outside the Chamber are just as onerous as those in the Chamber.The question of labour is fundamental. I refer to the post-emergency problem of building an adequate permanent labour force capable of carrying the burden of the agricultural production which we have in view, after the present supplementary forms of labour, such as prisoners of war and others, are removed. In the first place we must look for recruits from within the industry itself, the youths and girls who would normally fill the vacancies. I am conscious of the necessity for retaining these youths in the industry, and the Government have, as the Committee will be aware, given to agriculture the preferential treatment of not calling up the young men for service with the Forces. But it is doubtful whether this step, in itself, will be sufficient to build up an adequate regular labour force;. This is emphasised when we consider the low ebb to which the regular labour force had fallen in 1939. Again, we anticipate that some men will leave the industry when labour controls are removed. Recently we have announced a scheme for the formation of a resettlement force from men in Polish units,, and we hope that a proportion of these men may pass into the body of regular agricultural workers. The Government desire to attract British workers to the industry, and would welcome a movement of men and women from the cities for this purpose. What are the impediments to such a movement? The main one, I think, is the altogether erroneous conception that agricultural employment is something of a back-water, and a dull back-water at that. That may have been an apt description at one time, but it is not so today. Today the industry is calling for higher degrees of skill than ever before from its workers․it is a skilled industry․ by the progressive stages of mechanisation, and from the higher standard of technical knowledge required in the handling of stock. The term farm labourer, at one time in common use,.is really a thing of the past, and the more we can emphasise that fact, the more will we be doing justice to the industry and opening the door to a flow of workers from urban areas, which will be to the good of the country as a whole. The attraction of workers to the industry is more than a question of money wages, important as these are. It raises the whole question of the amenities of life in the countryside, better housing, piped water supplies to dwelling houses, electricity supplies and so on. These are not matters which I can enlarge on today, as they go far beyond the Estimates before us. I do, however, wish to make the point that when we are considering the general well-being of agriculture, and the attraction of the labour force necessary to maintain it, these wider questions must be in our minds Their importance is certainly recognised by the Government. I will now say a word about prisoner-of-war labour. At the end of 1945, there were over 19,000 prisoners of war available for agricultural work in Scotland. Of these, over 10,000 were Italians, and 9,000 Germans. Having regard to the expected reduction in the Women's Land Army and in other sources of labour hitherto available, I estimated that to meet labour requirements in 1946, a total prisoner of war force of approximately 40,000 would be required. Application was therefore made for allocations, out of the 1946 intake of German prisoners of war, of approximately 30,000 prisoners․ 10,000 to replace the Italians, and 20,000 additional prisoners. Actually, having regard to the number of prisoners expected to arrive in Britain this year, it has not been possible to meet this demand in full, but a provisional target of 26,000 has been fixed. Assuming deliveries to be made as expected, there will therefore be a German labour force of 35,000 available for agriculture in Scotland this year. So far the number available is over 20,000. Accommodation has been secured for a further 8,000, and arrangements for the provision of accommodation for the balance of 7,000 are being pushed forward with all speed. It may now be confidently expected that over 31,000 German prisoners will be at the disposal of farmers by the grain harvest, and the balance of 4,000 by the potato harvest. Of course, while the services of these prisoners will be invaluable in securing the harvests, they will also be required and made use of throughout the year. In addition to the prisoners of war, the supplementary labour force will comprise men from the Polish forces, civilians, including men and women from the employment exchanges. and, for the potato harvest, school children. We are all aware of the importance of research, and of the great need to extend. research work into the problems of agriculture. The Agricultural Research Council, in conjunction with the Technical Committee of the Scottish Agricultural Advisory Council and the Agricultural Improvement Council for England and Wales, are just concluding a comprehensive review of the whole field of agricultural research, and considerable developments, involving a large expansion of staff and resources, are being considered. Indeed, in many directions schemes of development have already been approved, and only the shortage of trained staff and temporary difficulties in obtaining buildings and equipment are limiting the progress that can now be made. At the moment I have under consideration the recommendations of the Committee, presided over by Lord Alness, which recently reported on the future development of agricultural education, and I shall shortly be having discussions on these recommendations with the universities and the three colleges of agriculture. While I am content with a division of interest between three universities and three colleges, I am anxious to secure coordination in advisory and extension work of such a kind that the service will, in real effect, be a national service even though it continues to be based on existing institutions. I will now say a word about public works in the Highlands. Under the Congested Districts (Scotland) Act, 1897, powers were given, among other things, to aid the provision or improvement of piers, boatslips, public roads and bridges, footpaths and footbridges and, subject to the consent of the Treasury, harbours. During the war it was necessary for the Secretary of State to limit expenditure on matters of this kind to projects which were needed for war purposes, or which were vitally necessary for the maintenance of communications. Now that the war is over, it is possible to take a less rigid and more constructive view. In the past, the biggest sum ever voted in one year for the purpose of this scheme was £30,000. For the current financial year a provision of £60,000 is included in the Estimates. This increase is necessary to take account of the new level of costs. On the basis of this provision, I have asked Highland county councils to submit details of the schemes they wish to undertake, and to let me know the order of priority in which they place their various schemes. Proposals are now coming in, and, on the basis of the information provided, decisions will shortly be taken as to the schemes which can be put in hand this year. The information provided will also assist me to determine the financial provision which should be made in the years.ahead. The question of communication facilities is of the very first importance to the life of the scattered Highland and Islands communities, whether it. be the pier or boatslip on which a whole island or district depends, or the township road which is the sole contact between a crofting community and the outer world. I am well aware of the many deficiencies which exist, and of the claims which can be advanced very legitimately and with every right to sympathy. I can only say, with the aid of the advice of the county councils, I will endeavour to see that priority is given to the most urgent projects, taking account, as I must, of the situation, with which hon. Members are familiar, as regards labour and materials. In regard to communications in the Highlands and Islands, the Committee will, no doubt, wish to know what is the position of the two subsidised steamer services run by Messrs. MacBrayne and MacCallum Orme. During the war, eight of MacBrayne's fleet have been on war service, and five of these are no longer available. The company were also handicapped by the closing of the Sound of Sleat, which cut off direct communications between Stornoway and Mallaig, and involved alterations in the steamer services in the Sound and to the Outer Hebrides. Special traffic, connected with the war, also placed a heavy burden on the services, and, in December, 1941, with a view to their more efficient operation, the Ministry of War Transport requisitioned the remaining vessels of both MacBrayne and MacCallum Orme, and the whole of the services were, thereafter, run as a single undertaking. Generally, it was found possible to maintain, with minor modifications, the passenger and mail services and cargo services operated by the companies before the war, except the Portree service, which had to be abandoned when the Loch Nevis was requisitioned, but has now been restored. The vessels of the two companies were de-requisitioned on the 2nd March; and the prewar services have, I think it would be true to say, been substantially resumed. However, although it has been possible to do this, MacBrayne are still short of boats, and relief of vessels requiring overhaul presents considerable difficulty. The company are laying down a new vessel for the Stornoway service, which will release the existing vessel on that service for use elsewhere, but it will inevitably be some time before she can be commissioned. During the period of requisition, the freights and fare charges on the services generally were retained at a level only 10 per cent. above those-in operation before the war, and now that the vessels have been derequisitioned, it is necessary to consider how the greatly increased expenses of running the services are to be met. Before the war, MacBrayne received from the Government an annual payment of £60,000, and MacCallum Orme, a payment of £4,000. These figures included payment by the Post Office for the carriage of mails of £26,000 and £500 respectively. The extent to which the loss on the services should be met by an increase in fares and freight charges, and an increase in subsidy is, at present, under consideration by the Government, and it is hoped that an early decision may be reached. Such decision will require to be embodied in a new contract between the Government and the companies. In the meantime, it is obviously necessary that the services should be kept in operation, and, consequently, advances are being made, as necessary, to the companies to meet their current requirements in anticipation of the conclusion of a new contract.
Major McCallum (Argyll)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the House of Commons will be given an opportunity of debating the subject before the contracts with Messrs. MacBrayne and MacCallum Orme are renewed?
I cannot say that off hand. I am not the Leader of the House and am not responsible for determining the time to be given for Debates, but I have no objection to any action which I take being debated, if there is time. Hon. Members may have points that they wish to raise in connection with the steamer services, and these will receive sympathetic consideration. I would, however, ask them to bear in mind the difficulties․and I know that those hon. Members who represent the Highlands and Islands recognise them particularly․under which the companies are at present labouring, as the result of the war.Time is short, and I have not attempted to cover all the ground as I know that there are many hon. Members who wish to take part in the Debate. There is room for many speeches in the realm of Scottish agriculture. I would add this, my first word as Secretary of State in dealing With this particular problem—although it is not the first time that I have replied to Debates on agricultural subjects․that the world food situation as we find it today brings out clearly one thing. In the matter of winning food from the land, we do not work for ourselves alone
Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I was trying to follow the figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave with regard to prisoners of war. He also talked about children being employed in connection with the harvests. Can he give us any idea of the number of school children he is hoping to use in this way? Is he also aware that there is a big body of educational opinion against the use of children for this purpose?
That point, no doubt, will be raised during the Debate, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it will be dealt with by the Joint Under-Secretary when he replies.The threat of famine in large areas of the globe brings it home to us that the national interest and the general human interest are not, in the long run two, but one. I am not sure how far the conclusions of international conferences, right though we may know them to be, would have carried conviction, if we had not had the experience which we are now living through. As it is, it stands out clearly, as one of our first national and international duties to produce from our fertile acres all the good food that we can. The formation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the first of the organisations of the United Nations to take shape, expresses the approval of Governments to the idea of ever-increasing world production, and a new level of nutrition for all men. It is a most interesting development that the producers of many nations have, within the last few days, at their London Conference, banded themselves together in a parallel organisation. With these organs of international thought and discussion in being, we must surely have put behind us, for all time, the parochial view of agriculture which has been its bugbear in the past.
Mr. Snadden (Perth and Kinross, Western)
I think everyone will agree that the right hon. Gentleman has given the Committee a well-considered and comprehensive survey of Scottish agricultural affairs. He also spoke on the Scottish transport services, but I can leave that subject to be dealt with by others of my hon. Friends. I should like to digress for a moment to pay my tribute to the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, Mr. Thomas Johnston. He took a keen interest in Scottish agriculture when he was in this House, and I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman and the Joint Under-Secretaries are resolved to follow in the footsteps of one who, I think, earned not only the respect and confidence of the Members of this House but of the agricultural community throughout the country. Mr. Johnston laboured here for the good of agriculture at a critical period, and I, personally, wish to pay my tribute to him for the work he did in cooperation with the right hon. Gentleman. That job may be over, but I think it is true to say that the good work which they then did still lives on. I think in that work Mr. Johnston enjoyed the able, wholehearted cooperation of the farmers and farm workers in Scotland. He would be the first to acknowledge it, and I think the farmers also would acknowledge the help they received from him and also the valuable help they received from the city workers volunteers and others who came out into the country to help us in the vital business of garnering the nation's food. Looking back over the war years, I think we had a good administration at the top, supported by the genuine effort of alt concerned right down to the land itself. It is a story of cooperation in which our country played a not unworthy part.Whereas many other industries are now turning from war to peace, agriculture has had to go back into khaki. There is to be no let-up for the food producer. The Lord President of the Council told us from the Government Front Bench not long ago, that if we do not get on top of famine, famine will get on top of us. We are facing a world shortage of food the like of which has not been known for a century. The immediate problem seems to be to do what we can in these islands to alleviate the conditions with which we are confronted and so assist not only our own sustenance but the national morale as well. The intensive cropping of the war years must be continued and even stepped up as against 1946. The continuous cropping of corn crops and heavy extractive potato-growing, must be carried forward to the debit side of our national agricultural account. Now, after six years of strenuous and prolonged effort there is no doubt which of our land is showing definite signs of wear. In some areas it is not particularly apparent, because of the good seasons we have enjoyed, but on the whole, in my own experience, I consider that soil fertility has been materially lowered. Much of the poorer land and the lands which have been well cultivated are now in a semi-exhausted state. Many of our fields are very barren, partly because of the shortage of labour, and also because of the severe handling to which they have been subject for six years of war. The problem of soil fertility was always important, but now in view of what the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Boyd Orr) has said to the effect that the food shortage may continue for several years, perhaps beyond 1950, the question deserves the closest possible attention of the Government and their expert advisers. Exhausted land cannot be restored without a very much heavier application of limes and phosphates because, as we all know, farmyard manure is in very short supply. A survey made by the Agricultural Department in 1943 seemed to indicate that no less than 1,500,000 acres badly need fertilisers. How much more is needed today? Probably our lime requirements are not much less than 4,000,000 tons. The right hon. Gentleman gave some indication of the urgency of this problem. I wish to emphasise in the strongest possible manner that it is absolutely vital, the country having come through the strain of war and being faced with the problem of increased production on top of that, that the right hon. Gentleman should get down with his expert advisers, should go very thoroughly into this question of the maintenance of soil fertility. We want to know, for example, is lime to be in proper supply. I can imagine the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland who is in charge of housing․and who has just gone out․wanting a supply of lime for housing requirements.
An Hon. Member
He is still here.
Mr. McAllister (Rutherglen)
When the hon. Gentleman was referring to hon. Gentleman "who has just gone out " did he really mean the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Guy Lloyd)?
I saw the Joint Under-Secretary on the other side a minute ago, and then he disappeared. I thought he had gone out of the Chamber. I quite realise that this question of the lime application to our land is of the very greatest importance. We have a pool for lime requirements for housing purposes. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. Gentleman, who will wind up for the Government, to elaborate a little bit on what the Secretary of State said in this connection. We want to know if supplies are to be adequate in order to step up the application both of lime and of phosphates to our land. We want to know if these manures are to be made available in the proper quantities to meet the present extreme circumstances. We also want to know whether any steps are being taken to give publicity to this important matter throughout the country. It is obvious that we cannot continue on full production much longer without doing harm, and, in view of the urgency to produce everything we can. the maintenance of soil fertility has become priority No. I. I hope myself that this will not be lost sight of by the. Scottish Department.I see our tillage acreage has gone up from 1,480,000 acres in 1939 to 2,011,000 acres in 1945, but, according to what the right hon. Gentleman said there has been a fall during 1946. We expected that because of the normal transition from war to peace. Owing to the food crisis, of which we are all aware, it would seem to me to be inevitable that we shall have to step up our production in 1947 to at least the 1945 level, causing a very heavy drain upon our fertility resources. If we are to step up our wheat production, which would seem essential in view of the world shortage of bread, it would seem to me that the Government must take immediate steps about encouraging the people in Scotland to grow wheat. There is room for a vast expansion of wheat production in our country. I understand our wheat acreage has fallen by over 80,000 acres; I think the figure is 87,000 acres since 1943. That is equal to a production of about 75 tons of wheat. If we are to get increased production of wheat in Scotland it is necessary to go back, I think, to the previous acreage payment of £4 per acre instead of the present payment of £2 per acre. I am told that is. 9d. per cwt. has been added to the price, but I do not think that will meet the case because our yield per acre is less than it is in this part of the country, and is. 9d. will not bring in wheat in sufficient quantities. I am also concerned about potatoes. Our potato acreage will, no doubt, have to be stepped up beyond the 1945 figure. I understand that there will be a total acreage of 225,000. The Secretary of State said that success will, in the main, depend upon the available labour supply. He talked about policy for 1946. I am interested, not only in 1946, but, much more, in 1947. I want to know what the policy for that year will be in this respect. After all, executive agricultural committees cannot be expected to serve directions unless an adequate labour supply is guaranteed. Will the Government guarantee that supply of labour? The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities said in London, I think last week, that 1947 should see the greatest harvest in the history of the world. I think it is vital that we should concentrate on our labour supply during that year. We now have German prisoners of war and Polish troops working on the land, but everyone realises that we cannot hold these German prisoners for ever. We cannot tell when they will go, but when they do go, where will the labour come from to gather the enormous potato crop of approximately a quarter of a million acres? My hon. Friend below the Gangway mentioned school children. Personally, I would rather that school children were not required for this kind of work, but the alternative is that we shall starve in 1947 if we do not produce the labour to lift this enormous potato crop. My own county of Perth is now the largest potato growing county in Scotland. It has ousted the county of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Forfar (Major Ramsay) from first place, and we are proud of that. This is an important question, and we want to know what the Government intend doing about it in 1947. It is only fair that our farmers should be told, because the expense of this crop is very great and the risks they run are almost unlimited. I would like to refer to long-term labour policy. Do the Government in that policy․to which the Secretary of State referred today in words most of which we heard last time․intend to assume continuing responsibility for the future supply of labour? In my experience, mechanisation has produced a rather curious change in the style of working an ordinary agricultural holding. In the old days, a farmer was able to work on his farm with little outside help. But the balance has changed. Things have speeded up; tillage has vastly increased; one operation tumbles on top of another, and few farmers are now able to get on with their work without considerable help from outside. Is this problem of the continuing responsibility of the Government in regard to the pool of labour to be left to solve itself, or has the Minister a long-term plan, more detailed than what he gave us today, to meet the case? If he has a plan we should like very much to be told about it. Before I leave the question of cultivation, I would like to say a word or two about another matter which is of vital importance to the maintenance of a high tillage acreage. I refer to the general condition of agricultural machinery, which is essential if we are to grow the crops we must try to grow in 1947 Just as the land has been overworked in our war effort, so also have our tractors and machines. Today, we need more tractors, we need replacements for those which we have worn out, and we need more spare parts to keep in running order the machines we have working at present. I was a little taken aback when I heard the Secretary of State tell us of his difficulties, in this matter This is important, because you cannot produce food without this machinery, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to do his utmost to see that adequate machinery and spare parts become available because of the intense efforts made by our machinery during the war. With regard to the livestock position, owing to the tragic cut in our rations through the raising of the extraction rate of wheat to 90 per cent., and other causes which I will not go into at the moment, the situation will be felt very severely in Scotland. It will be felt most severely, in my opinion, by the small producer-retailer of milk, because he has not a big arable area on which he can keep his cows going. He cannot grow sufficient fodder without getting rations from outside. The cut will hit him, and it will hit our country very hard, because we are a livestock country. Although we are livestock country, and although all we could do during the war was to maintain our livestock population, it is rather interesting to look at the effect of the cuts in imported foodstuffs which we have had to suffer during the war. We could not expect anything other than a fall in the numbers of sheep, pigs, and poultry. My fear always was that a devastating fall would also take place in other spheres of livestock, but we can congratulate ourselves that our cattle, both dairy and beef, have stood up to it very well. Scotland, in addition to contributing to the nation's food supply, is, after all, the great reservoir from which other countries replenish their supplies. Our reputation today is enormously high, and we should leave nothing undone to strive after even greater efficiency, and even higher quality. My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) represents an area which has built up a reputation on the supreme quality of its cattle. We have for long, in Scotland, produced the world's best beef. Now, we lead Great Britain in respect of milk from tuberculin tested cattle. Thanks to the great work of Ayrshire breeders, South-West Scotland is ahead of any other area in Great Britain in the cleaning up of herds. In the main Scottish Milk Marketing Board area, more than half of our milk is tuberculin tested, and of our dairy cattle 22.3 per cent. have actually been attested. The time is obviously ripe for a final assault on bovine tuberculosis in Scotland. Our objective should be a tuberculin tested country, with milk and beef alike free from tubercle. We should have a national plan, and, since Scotland is already leading the attack, let us have, at all costs, an all-Scottish plan. The prize would be of enormous value to us, but up to date there is no clear indication of Government policy in this respect. A progressive policy, proceeding area by area, in Scotland․and we are all ready to adopt it․should be announced as soon as possible. When circumstances permit․if it cannot be done at once, perhaps it could be two or three years hence ․the reactors from those areas should be wiped out and adequate compensation paid. Farmers other than dairy farmers should be allowed to come into these attested schemes. Before the war, the Government made a payment per head for all the attested animals; I think it was £1, but I have not been able to check that figure. Now, no payment is made in respect of those cattle. There is no inducement to the beef producer to free his cattle from infection, and become an attested producer, and there is therefore hardship on the dairy farmer, who, in order to protect his licence, must double fence his farm, look after his water supply, and in a number of ways protect himself and his licence against his non-attested neighbour. So I urge the right hon. Gentleman to bring all cattle into the attested scheme. On this very important point farmers want to know what policy is to be pursued. They are ready to cooperate, but the expense of double fencing and so on is great, and they cannot be expected to go ahead unless it is made worth their while to do so. Now is the time for an all-out drive against bovine tuberculosis in Scotland, so that the whole country may give a lead in becoming clean and free. The right hon. Gentleman may say that the Department of Agriculture is not responsible for animal health and the running of the attested herds. That is true, but the answer is that it is a state of affairs which should be ended at once. In my view a change in this direction is long overdue. Scotland should control its own animal health. I am a " home ruler "In this matter. The present position does not make sense. The Department of Agriculture in Scotland, the one Department which should be responsible and which is qualified to do the job, has nothing whatever to do with it. Whitehall is responsible for animal health; the Department of Health looks after milk grading and the approval of dairy premises, then the various local authorities have different methods of carrying out the regulations, and they in turn send out armies of sanitary inspectors to urge on and ginger up the dairy farmers. The Department of Health for Scotland is the one Department really qualified to look after this business. The miserable dairy farmers pay so many pipers, and hear so many tunes, that they do not know which to dance to. It is a silly, untidy, unsatisfactory position, and the right hon. Gentleman should get down to it and clear it up. I would like to say a word on the committees to which the Secretary of State has made reference. I see that in the Estimates a large sum is required to finance the work of the agricultural committees. By and large, I believe that during the war these committees have performed a very valuable service to the community. Their activities in the exercise of their powers have, in my experience, varied somewhat from district to district. To the progressive farmers they have sometimes been rather a nuisance; to the middle farmers they have on the whole been very helpful, and to the bad farmers they have been a perfect horror. On the whole, they have done a good job of work, and in the interests of the industry and of the country it is right that they should continue. The Secretary of State told us something about his plans for the future, and I know that another opportunity will arise when we shall be able to debate in detail what powers he should exercise, but I should like to ask him to consider very carefully, in the preparation of his plan, the vital question of the right of appeal on dispossession. Because these committees were composed․quite rightly․of first rate farmers and expert officials, I have always felt that there was danger of creating a false standard of efficiency. Perhaps false is not the proper word; I mean an unduly high standard. One is always inclined to say, "If I can do the job, so can all the others."It does not work out that way, because we do not all possess the same degree of skill, the same amount of capital, nor do we possess the same quality of land. During the war farmers accepted the rigid discipline imposed by the war, but, if I know them, they will not tolerate it in the peace. Hence it is imperative that, where a case of dispossession arises, there should be a. right of appeal to an impartial tribunal such as the Scottish Land Court. It may be that that particular body would have to be strengthened in some way, I do not know but considering that only some 80 farmers were dispossessed in Scotland throughout the whole war, I should not imagine that this work would be too onerous for them in peacetime. I hope the Minister will bear this important point in mind when he is framing the necessary legislation. My last point is this. Everybody knows that the greatest problem with which we are faced in the countryside is housing, as the Secretary of State has said. I know I must not talk about housing in this Debate, but there is one aspect of it which has a bearing upon cultivation to which I would like to draw the Government's attention. I refer to the procedure followed in regard to the allocation of agricultural land for housing purposes. I can see my hon. Friend looking at me with great interest, because I know that he is vitally concerned in this business. My experience up to date is that the development of the services for housing schemes constitutes a very heavy drain on agricultural land in Scotland. The agriculturist is as keen as anybody on housing, but development today is causing anxiety in the countryside. In my view it is going far beyond the erection of houses on prepared sites, and the result is that we are losing quite a lot of valuable agricultural land which we can ill spare, and which could have been used for this year's crop.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Buchanan)
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me․it is a very interesting point, but I suppose that to build houses you must provide the services. There must be drainage, sewerage, water. That frequently means cutting across other land. I wonder if the hon. Gentleman could give me any kind of suggestion as to how I could build houses without laying the services as well. If he could I should be grateful.
I cannot solve that problem; it is one which the hon. Gentleman has to solve. What I mean is that there does not seem to be very efficient planning in this connection. Work is going on now on land where no houses will be started for a very long time and which could have been used for this year's crop. I am only suggesting that where these plans are being carried out there should be efficient cooperation in regard to food production.The other point I wish to make on this is that the agreement whereby the arrangements of local authorities are to be submitted to agricultural executive committees does not seem to be carried out as we had hoped. I have information․ and it is pretty good information․that the very first notice some of the secretaries of the agricultural committees get is from the farmers themselves when they hear or see the contractors entering upon their land. We want to know what procedure is followed. We would like to have this cleared up. What sort of cooperation is there between the Department of Agriculture on the one hand and the planning authority on the other? I would like the Secretary of State to tell us. Is the land utilisation branch of the Department of Agriculture consulted in this matter? Have the agricultural interests been consulted and taken into account?
I can assure the hon. Member that there is the very closest cooperation between all the Departments. There could be no wise planning in connection with the placing of houses and with safeguarding the interests of agriculture unless there were the very closest cooperation. Fortunately, or otherwise, I am the Minister responsible for all these things, and it makes it easier in Scotland, even than in England itself, to have that cooperation.
I could give the Minister instances from my own constituency in which the agricultural committee knew nothing of what was going on, until the farmer was told and the land was actually taken. Scotland has a very small arable area. We have only some 4,500,000 acres of arable land, out of a total area of some 19,000,000. We want our arable land to be of the highest possible quality and we can ill afford to lose any. It is our duty to protect it. I am asking the Secretary of State for Scotland to be literally the policeman for agriculture in Scotland.Hon. Members who represent agricultural and rural constituencies on this side of the Committee welcome the opportunity of expressing their views in these matters. Scottish farmers realise that they face a period of fairly prolonged and sustained effort, and if they are taken fully into the confidence of the Minister and are told the truth about what is expected of them, they will be able to plan more intelligently for the days that lie ahead. They want us to help them to maintain the fertility of the land I ask the Minister to give them the labour they require and the machinery to work the land. Let him give them a milk production target which will act as a goal to strike at, and give them an incentive to achieve it. With the cooperation of the Departments concerned I am sure that the agricultural community in Scotland will give to the country their best in peacetime, just as they did during the war.
Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
It would be an impertinence if I were to try to elaborate the speech of the hon. Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden). I venture to compliment him upon an excellent and authoritative speech upon agriculture. Many of us on this side of the House have had the feeling for many years that the trouble with the Department of Agriculture in Scotland lay partly in the fact that it has had only a very small part of the attention of one Minister. In the Gilmour Report of 1937 appears a description of the functions of the Department of Agriculture and of the Secretary of State for Scotland, which helps to explain a good deal of the neglect of, or of the incapacity to cope adequately with, agricultural problems. That Report stated:
The Report ended by saying:"There are questions in which the Scottish Office and the Department of Agriculture have a common interest. These include questions relating to transport in the Highlands and Islands. … The Departments of Health and Agriculture are both concerned with milk and housing questions, and other matters relating to health generally. The Department has a community of interest with the Fishery Board in the matter of piers and harbours in the Highland Counties. Broadly speaking, he [the Secretary of State] exercises all the functions which in England and Wales are discharged by the Home Secretary, by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, by the Minister of Health and by the President of the Board of Education. He has in addition duties corresponding to those of the Minister of Labour and the Lord Chancellor."
In the inadequacy of the attention which has been given to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Scotland lies a good deal of the cause of the neglect from which it has had to suffer, and because of which the people in agriculture and in fisheries have had to suffer, up to the present day. It will not, therefore, surprise the Committee if I should get slightly mixed up between the transport and agriculture of the Highlands and of the Islands. Even if I were the Secretary of State himself I probably would not, in view of the description which I have just read, be able completely to disentangle them. I would like to ask Members of the Cabinet to come to that part of the country which I represent in the Western Isles. I recognise that it is necessary for all Highland Members to be, to a large extent, constituency Members in this House. It is a criticism of them which it is very easy to make, but it is a criticism which brings home to this House․or it should․the necessity for such Members to give practically their full time to what are distinctive and special areas, even in the sense of distressed areas. Let a leading Cabinet Minister come along, if that is conceivable. Let him leave Glasgow at 10 o'clock at night, or preferably at 5 o'clock in the morning, on the Highland train, setting out for the wilds of Perthshire. He would go through Inverness town and through Inverness-shire itself. He would try for hours to get a cup of tea in the morning at Inverness station if he went on the 10 p.m. train. He would come up by Dingwall, through Ross and Cromarty to the coast. He would reach the Stornoway steamer at Kyle. But to reach the Harris steamer he would have to come up overnight to catch it at 6 o'clock in the morning. If hon. Members cared to go by road they would go through all those places which, to English Members and certain Lowland Members generally, are so romantic. They would see the beauties of the Perthshire Highlands and the unmatched majesty of the hills and lochs of Ross and Cromarty. On board the steamer they would see a brass plate, which ought to interest all members of the Cabinet, and especially the Minister of Agriculture. On this little brass plate are these words:"The Secretary of State is peculiar in that he discharges an assortment of heterogeneous and disconnected functions within an area which is territorially delimited."
"The deck forward from this mark X on both sides to the forward screen bulkhead, contains 801 square feet and is certified to accommodate 89 passengers, when not occu-
The " other encumbrances " are not specifically mentioned but I wondered whether it might apply to the late famous cockroaches․[An HON. MEMBER: "Or to the Ministers."] The logic of the notice is that if there are sufficient cattle, animals and encumbrances to make the voyage profitable no human beings are permitted there at all. They are allowed only 800 odd square feet by this standard where these things nevertheless take priority. To a large extent that has expressed the attitude of the company to the people of the Western Islands and the North-West coast and their problems. I want to say a few words about what I think can be done to deal with the problems there. To me this is not a new subject; if it bores hon. Members, it ought to bore me much more, because I have been saying these things for the last 10 or 11 years. I have seen Secretaries of State and Under-Secretaries of State, and their heel-followers and caddies sitting on the Front Bench and on the foothills of consolation below me to the Parliamentary Private Secretary's bench. I have prodded, persuaded and insulted them even to the loss of my own dignity, if not of theirs. I have seen the Collins, Browns, Elliots, Colvilles and Johnstons, and the rest, pass in this flashy and somewhat futile procession along the Front Bench and out into oblivion at Election time, or sometimes with more dignity shortly before Elections. What have the crofters of the Highlands, the fishermen and the people of our constituencies had as a result of this agelong, smug, official blarney from the Front Bench in past years? To my knowledge and experience they have had 10 years of increasing discomfort, depopulation, poverty, unemployment, bad housing, lack of water supplies, and lack of the means to make agriculture, fishing, or anything else a success in an area where it is already difficult enough, for climatic and other reasons, to live and make a living. What are the things that prevent the making of a living or a success of agriculture and fishing? At the head of the list, I put the abominable transport facilities in the area, the exorbitant freight costs, and all the other things on the agricultural and domestic side, such as lack of water supplies, electrification, sanitation and domestic comforts of all kinds for the womenfolk, and prospects for the children. What has been done in those 10 or 11 years in drainage, in pasture improvement, in afforestation, as ancillary things to agriculture itself? What has been done in transport improvement, in technical education and advance in connection with agriculture and ancillary activities? What has been done in electrification, in water and sewage schemes, in the provision of facilities for leisure, village halls, adult education, and so on, without which we cannot keep the young people in the Highlands and Islands any more than we can keep them lacking such advantages, in any other part of the country? The answer is, just about next to nothing. I feel that, as far as pleading, writing and interviewing Ministers are concerned, I have practically wasted 10 years, and I am sure that, quite apart from all questions of political feeling, hon. Members of the Conservative Party who represent constituencies in the Highlands and Islands must have the same feelings about the last 10 years. Yet, in spite of all that, the Government say, as past Governments have said, that they have as their policy and intention to keep the Highlands and Islands fully populated and stocked with fine, virile men and women, and all that sort of blarney. What have they done? The answer is the sort of thing one gets in a Ministerial letter․nothing. We have had bland and meaningless Ministerial evasions. I am not a new boy․or should I say? a new honourable boy․in the House. I recognise nowadays when a Minister is telling me " No," even if he does it in the polite and hard way in a whole page of phrases instead of in one word. I know also when the county councils are saying "No" and not discharging their responsibilities․and they are very largely to blame as far as Ross-shire and Inverness-shire are concerned. These county councils have a large responsibility for making life liveable for the people in agriculture and fisheries in those areas; but they are slowly strangling the life out of the Outer Hebrides and the rest of the area for which they are responsible because of their niggardly " rates-consciousness."I make allowances for the fact that they are heavily de-rated areas. I am not any longer exonerating the Government from taking the initiative in promoting active schemes for the better- ment of these areas so as to make them places liveable-in for the people whom I represent. I do not know how long the Government are going to tolerate these cabals of benighted and knighted backwoodsmen who run the county councils of Ross and Cromarty and Inverness-shire retarding progress; but I do not want to see the pace of a Socialist Government set by the convenience of reactionary Tory and Liberal local authorities. I am not going to wait for roads to make agriculture possible in my area, and for other essential transport improvements, until a Tory or Liberal county council says, " We are prepared to put a ½d. on the rates and play our part and do our duty as the elected representatives of the people."I want to see the Government, as the central authority, take the initiative in these matters. If they can do it in regard to trunk roads, there is no reason, in principle or otherwise, why they cannot do it in regard to secondary roads and village roads as well. It is not along the great trunk roads that the people live, although those main and tourist roads in themselves are vitally important; it is along the village roads that the people live their live, practise their agriculture and bring up their families. If the Ministers of the Cabinet conceivably had come on that journey to the delectable Highlands and Western Islands, across the waters of the Minch with me, one of the first things they would have been told in Stornoway or Uist or Barra would have been that, in the Isle of Lewis alone, there are today over 2,000 men unemployed. In all the Outer Hebrides there are about 2,500 unemployed, and that in my view is a conservative estimate based on the end of April. The position has been getting worse, and there are men who are still on their 56 days' demobilisation leave. Many things have served to depopulate the Highlands and Islands. The curious thing is that while they are expected to do their full share in looking after the nation in wartime, the nation and the Government have not faced their responsibility of looking after them as a national responsibility, in time of peace. That is a generalisation, which is proved by all the facts of depopulation and poverty, and the despair of many of the people of the Islands, numbers of whom stay there only because they are too old to go away and have no prospect of anything else- where, or are too old to learn new skills and be employed elsewhere. Let me illustrate the devastation of that area with one or two figures. In 150 years of war, there are two examples which show what has happened. In the Napoleonic campaign, one man out of 23 of Wellington's troops at Assaye was from the Isle of Lewis; and one in 20 at Maida. In the 1914-18 war, out of a population of 29,600, no fewer than 6,100-odd men were in the Services, and of those 1,100 did not come back, heir losses in this war were twice those, in proportion, of the rest of Great Britain, and this includes civilians who were killed in the bombing raids. These figures are checked by the Lewis Association. When a nation makes such a demand upon a small area in wartime to take its part in shouldering a national responsibility, it is the nation's duty in peacetime, and the' first duty of the Government that represents and governs the nation, to recognise the rights of that area and its people. After unemployment, disenchantment and disillusionment comes depopulation. In the period from 1921–1931, the population of that one island alone, Lewis, declined by 11.2 per cent.․-not 11.2 per cent. of old, young and middle-aged together, but 11.2 per cent. of the most virile and healthy stock. Thousands of the reproductive people have gone from that area, leaving behind them older people, an aged population, with a declining birth rate, and marriageable population. The inevitable further result is that more and more people come on to public assistance in one way and another; and are further regarded then by an uninterested Government as being a bigger nuisance than they ever were before. The Government say they intend to keep the Islands fully populated. They say that, and then they offer the able-bodied people there jobs as furnace men in Kinlochleven or industrial work in Dumfermline and other places; and even suggest that they might go to work in the mines. If the fishermen and all the agricultural workers in this part of the country went into the mines or industrial work elsewhere I wonder who would do the fishing and the agriculture and who would feed the rest of the miners and others? Yet I have heard that mentioned on a fairly high level as a partial solution. I want now to return to the question of the steamer service. That is a service which, more than any other, affects the Western Isles in. their economic life. I recognise that the masters and crews and staff in general have been splendid; and I have no criticism of them to offer. In my own locality I think they have given first class service and have been courteous and extremely efficient. I wonder if any hon. Member has ever travelled on this service as much as I have. I remember on one occasion arriving at Oban, and going on board one of these ships at 6 a.m. on Monday and starting off for Castle Bay in Barra that morning, in a vessel with pretty rotten engines and intestines generally, finally to reach Castle Bay on Wednesday at 8 o'clock. It took from 6 o'clock on Monday morning to 8 o'clock on Wednesday night because they could not risk forcing the pace with a vessel which had more repairs and new parts on board than it had of the original engines. The engineer kept her going. Days went by till one imagined the engine oil flavoured the tea; while the bread and bacon got staler; and so we edged slowly on. And the weather got worse as we went. When we finally arrived I had to turn back on the next steamer because my meetings had to be cancelled; and arrived back on Saturday, on the same type of steamer, on my way back South. The thing which concerns us most so far as the steamers themselves are concerned is the accommodation. I am not one of the fanatics for speed and I think even "an hour, lost is well lost if one has better accommodation as the result. Both arc desirable; but one does not feel the voyage nearly so much if one has a certain amount of comfort. I should like to draw the attention of the Minister of Transport to one or two points before I finish. There is a Government director on the MacBraync Company board whose fee is paid by the company. He receives £400 a year and meets twice a year with the company, I understand. Whether he ever makes a report or not is extremely doubtful. I will not mention his name but his age is about 76; and his salary or fee works out at £200 an hour twice a year. Even Members of Parliament justify their salaries a little more than that. I suggest to the Minister that there should be at least two representatives, either from the local authorities, or two in- dependent people who know the problem, the place, and the people, and who would look after the people who use that service and report upon the conditions of the crews, upon freight charges and such matters. They should also report on the catering and other provisions on board and ashore. For instance, at Kyle and Mallaig passengers go ashore on their way to and from the Isles, and they need a rest and a cup of tea or breakfast. I think that is little enough to ask the Minister to undertake to try to make arrangements of that kind and not to leave them in the hands of the rather elderly gentleman who collects £200 an hour twice a year and does, evidently, nothing effective about it. Why is it necessary for the new Stornaway․I should say the foreshadowed and still very shadowy Stornaway steamer․ to take 18 months to complete? Why did MacBrayne's place that contract with Denny's Yard, already cluttered up with so many other orders? Why, since they were supposed to build the ship in 1939 did it take them until this year even to complete the arrangements for placing the order? The people of the Outer Hebrides will have to wait for another year before she is on the water. I want the Minister to answer that and tell me whether it is still possible for that contract to be switched over to a yard which will be able to undertake the work and complete it a little more quickly. I should like to know from the Minister what provisions, apart from the switching of the Stornaway steamer, are to be made for increasing the frequency of the services and their regularity in the islands of Barra and the Uists and Harris. The Minister of Civil Aviation throughout the Committee on the Bill now under discussion, has said that the Government recognise that the Western Isles need special treatment; and that they are prepared to average out the cost over the rest of the country and the Western Isles; and to treat them, if need be, as a nonprofit bearing area. I do not think that any hon. Member will quarrel with my saying that if we intend to keep that area populated, then we should make life liveable for the people there by providing the essential basic services of transport in the islands as non-profit services; and good transport is essential to all economic progress today. MacBrayne's have the mail contract now, and a virtual monopoly; and are well subsidised, and I do not see why the Minister should not go a little farther and try to make the service a really efficient one on a nationalised basis. Quite frankly, I have found one Minister after another․and here I am coming right up to the present time․rather passive in this matter, but some action is necessary now to improve that service. I am speaking of people who know their own conditions and I am one of them and I go for long periods and live with them. It is much more difficult for right hon. Gentlemen 700 miles away to appreciate the difficulty than it is for someone on the spot. I am in full support of the advocacy of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir B. Neven-Spence) in his-demand for better services there; and I believe they should have sweeping improvements in the services up there. I also agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) that there should be an adequate service in his area. We are at one on this need, whether Tories or Socialists or anything else. We have all recognised from sheer persona] experience on the spot that the people will not stay there unless there is made available to them what is part of the essence and economic life blood of an island and coastal districts of Scotland, namely, good, adequate and regular transport. On freights, I have just to underline once again my long advocacy of flat rates within that area; and I hope the Minister will give that, not only sympathetic, but practical consideration. In a longish statement today, the Secretary of State mentioned the intention of the Government to make available an additional £60,000 for roads in our area of the North-West. Sixty thousand pounds does not go a very long way. The viaduct between Ben-becula and South Uist alone cost us well over £40,000. We might be able to build another half viaduct with the other £20,000, but why do the Government not face the facts and base their finances on the need of the people, and not on an arbitrary decision of the Treasury, who say, " Here is £60,000; we do not want any arguments; and it will have to do for a year. Manage on it the best way you can." We then watch it flung piecemeal to several scrambling county councils. Unless, as a Socialist Government, we relate our financial policy and the provision of Treasury grants to the needs of the people and a definite social and economic plan, we shall be in the same spot as we were under the Tories and the National Liberals before the war. I want to know what the policy of the Government is about connecting up by viaducts and bridges the islands of the Outer Hebrides, which would solve many of the inter-island difficulties of intercourse and communication; and thereby make more attractive to any industrialists with new industries who want to go out there an area which is at present discouraging and difficult because of bad transport. I want the Minister of Transport to tell me what is going to be done about reconstructing the main road from Tarbert to Rodel in Harris. Before the war that road was supposed to have been going well ahead; but war broke out and the road ceased to go ahead and seems by present indications unlikely to do so for a good long time to come. I want a definite statement on that and if Sir Donald Cameron of Lochiel and his county council are wrong in this connection, let the House have a statement from the Minister saying so, because the local people need to know. We had a tragic accident on that road recently. A young man and his fiancee in a vehicle, because he moved perhaps a matter of inches, with no safety margin from the middle of the road, went over a cliff and both of them were killed. That can happen at almost any point on that road; and there are many other roads on the islands, especially in Harris, which are equally bad and dangerous. I do not think the Minister has any conception of our roads on the islands. If General Wade had gone there in his day, he would have made a better job than the Ministry of our Highland roads. Let the right hon. Gentleman stop saying the problem must be left to the local statutory authority, which is the local authority and without whose sanction he cannot act. Perhaps an official road-dictator would be an idea for the Isles and North West if he could keep to his own job strictly. I have been given no hope as yet from the Scottish Office or the Ministry of Transport about the North Ford bridge which is the logical complement of the viaduct bridging job which started with the bridge between Benbecula and South Uist. It would link the four islands to- gether and bring the populations into closer proximity and permit intercommunication much more cheaply than now. I have not had an answer from the Ministries, giving any immediate hope about the Ness-Tolsta Road, which would open up the best land in the Island of Lewis. This would be of benefit to those wanting small holdings and it would complete a main circular road round the whole Island of Lewis. It would also be very much a tourist road; but it would be of great practical value to the prospective small holders. It may be under consideration; and I urge an early decision. We must recognise that the islanders go in for part-time agriculture. The crofter has not a full living from the croft. There are other things the crofters have to do to live; and it is essential that they should have good roads and good transport. One especial appeal now. The Minister is keen about ferries. Let me present him with one on the Island of Lewis. Between the Island of Lewis and Bernera we have for years been pressing that a viaduct be constructed. For many years a community of several hundred people in Bernera have been isolated and cut off from the parent island of Lewis and inconvenienced generally. I hope I may have touched the Minister's heart although I have not touched successfully the Chancellor of the Exchequer's pocket, about this project, which in Lewis is the most deserving priority of all the many deserving cases. When people come to the end of the road on Lewis they have to get out of the car or the bus․and local people have to travel 30 miles on a miserable road․carry their goods down the rock and into a little boat. They are ferried across the Sound. On the other side they go through the same process, humping the goods up the rocks and then marching for two or three miles. The weather is not always midsummer in the outer Hebrides. I wish the Minister would go up there and see this miserable business for himself. The Secretary of State has complained that the council have not asked for a grant. That is now remedied. The local authority, I understand, has now applied: and all that stands between the people and satisfaction of this demand is the financial help we have asked for so long. As for this miserable, inadequate grant business, if I believed we are going to measure the convenience and comfort and the whole future and prosperity of the people against money only, and not think in terms of human values and the gratitude we should all owe to the people who manned the Merchant Navy and the Armed Forces so gallantly and in such high numbers, then I would give up the struggle. But it is because I have some hope even now that the Minister of Transport, the Treasury and the Scottish Office will get their heads urgently together and take some action, that I make this one more appeal.pied by cattle, animals, cargoes or other encumbrances."
Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)
What does the hon. Member consider to be the main cause of the very high percentage of unemployment in the Western Isles? I must apologise to the hon. Member for the fact that I was not here at the beginning of his speech, but he gave very remarkable figures about the unemployment in the Western Isles Could he give the actual reason?
There was unemployment long before the war. During the war itself, apart from employment on the aerodrome and Government works for the older men, there was still heavy unemployment. Since the war that has increased. In 1936 the House agreed that the conditions in the Isles were conditions of distress and the resolution before the House was unanimously approved and accepted. That was the situation then. Since then the necessary public works schemes have never been properly undertaken. Such schemes are still waiting and would give us a short term employment programme and a breathing space in which to develop a long term policy. Another thing has been the failure over the last 20 years of the fishing industry; and a further reason, the neglect of the agricultural industry of the islands.
Major McCallum (Argyll)
I am sorry that the Minister of Transport has departed. I was hoping to say a few words which might interest him in connection with what the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. MacMillan) has already said about Cabinet Ministers going on an imaginary journey. A report I sent to the Minister of Transport the other day extended an invitation to him to partake of a journey with me․an actual invitation which I hope will be accepted. It is now six years since the House had an opportunity of discussing this transport Vote for Scotland. I well remember the last occasion because it coincided with my entry into this House and this was the subject I chose for my maiden speech. That was in June, 1940. This․June, 1946․is the first occasion since then on which we have been able to discuss the same urgent problem of transport facilities, or lack of transport facilities, in the Islands and Western Highlands of Scotland. On Monday last we discussed very thoroughly a phase of agriculture which is the main agricultural industry of the Islands and Western Highlands․hill-farming. I do not therefore propose to go into that part of the island industry this afternoon, except to say that the question of steamer freights and steamer services have a very vital effect on our hill farming.By question and by report to my hon. and right hon. Friends of the Scottish Office, and to the Minister of Transport, I have raised various points in connection with these steamer services, but we do not get much forrader. Two of the greatest handicaps on our farmers in the Islands and Western Highlands are the highly rated freight charges and the uncertainty of the sailings of the steamer services. I was dismayed to hear the statement by the Secretary of State this afternoon. It will be heard with the greatest dismay throughout the Highlands. He is considering the question of raising still further the freight rates for our steamer services. They are high enough in all conscience, even though they may be only 10 per cent. above the prewar rates. Yet now the Highlanders have been told that the Government are considering raising the freight rates still further. I do not see much point in spending a whole afternoon on Monday on the Hill Farming Bill, when the principal areas to which that Bill will apply will be unable to operate it because these increased freight charges will be an overwhelming obstacle. The hon. Member for the Western Isles and many other people interested in this question, and indeed the late Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. Tom Johnston, are firm advocates of flat rates for all commodities, but principally agricultural commodities, for the coastal steamer services to the islands of Scotland. I hope that the Scottish Office will consider this question of flat charges for farm produce. It has been said that the subject is too difficult, that it must be done regionally, and cannot be done completely for the whole area of the Highlands. Whichever way it is done, I implore the Secretary of State to cooperate with the Minister of Transport, to see if they can arrive at some form of flat rate transport at reasonable charges for the farming community. The other great handicap is the uncertainty of the steamer services. The Secretary of State referred to the two companies․the MacBrayne Company and the MacCallum Orme Company․ which serve the Western Islands. Every year since I have been in this House I have had experience of the difficulty of travelling about between the mainland and the Islands. During the war years, quite obviously, some of the boats were wanted for the war effort, and we had to put up with whatever came along, but if we grumble at the bad accommodation on the boats still running, we grumble still more about the uncertainty of whether you can leave a certain island on a certain day, or whether you can embark on the mainland with the knowledge that you will sail on a certain day. Time and again would-be passengers arrive at Oban or other ports of Argyllshire intending to take the boat for one of the Islands. Time and again, either the boat has not arrived, or the sailing is put off for some unknown reason, and yet no notification is ever given to those intending passengers. They arrive at the port of embarkation with no possibility of getting accommodation for themselves and, what is worse, no possibility of feeding the stock they are taking back to the island until a boat sails. I implore my hon. Friend to take that up with the shipping companies concerned. If they have old boats, let us have a slower schedule, but one to which the boats can keep. I had an experience only the other day when I wanted to embark for the Island of Colonsay. I was recommended to go and wait in Glasgow until the' boat sailed but I had not the time for I was too busy here and in my constituency I went to the Island of Islay and waited there for a boat which I was told before I left London would sail on a certain day. When I arrived at my home, I was told it would not sail until the day following that originally given. I made all my arrangements to sail on the revised date but I had no sooner got down to other work when I had a telegram to say that the boat would sail on the original date. So everything had to be cancelled again, and I set off post haste intending to take the boat at midday on the Wednesday, only to receive another telegram to say it would sail at 6 o'clock in the morning and not at midday.
Mr. McKinlay (Dumbartonshire)
Would not the solution be for the hon. and gallant Gentleman to cut the telegraph wires?
The confusion would be even worse.
Mr. M. MacMillan
What telegraph wires?
What happened when I wanted to come away from the island? I made arrangements to be picked up from the island two days later, on the Saturday. When I arrived in my constituency from London a telegram had been received saying that I could not be picked up on the Saturday but on the Monday. I was not picked up either on the Saturday or the Monday. In fact, I was picked up on the following Wednesday. That sort of thing may be a joke for a Member of Parliament but it is no joke for a farmer taking a number of cattle or several hundred sheep across to market on the main land when there are no facilities for himself or for looking after the stock at the embarkation point. I was rather dismayed when I heard the Secretary of State say that the boat which is now on the Stornoway run will be replaced by a new boat and that the present vessel will be available for service elsewhere. I have a vision of the old boat being sent down to Argyllshire to run another uncertain service down there ․but perhaps it will sink on the way. I wish next to refer to the Island of Lismore. I must apologise for going into details about these various islands but unless.we make these matters public nothing is ever done. My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles seemed to apologise for being what he called a constituency Member—
Mr. M. Macmillan
If I might interrupt, I did not apologise; I said that hon. Members were inevitably driven to be so, and that it was to their credit that they made themselves a nuisance in order to put this case across to the public.
I am glad of that correction because I agree that if it were not for Members of Parliament representing those remote constituencies saying what they can in the House of Commons, nobody would pay the slightest attention to these matters. Everybody says how thrilling is the song, "The Road to the Isles," but if hon. Members and the greater part of the British public knew how uncomfortable are the roads to the Isles, they would not be so fond of singing about them. The Island of Lismore is one of the most fertile on the West coast of Scotland. It raises a large quantity of livestock and its nearest point to the mainland is only just over a mile, while the distance to Oban is about seven miles. In a small boat it can be reached in a little over an hour. It has a service of one steamer per week. The reason why there is only one steamer a week is because the inhabitants of Mull say that if the boat which goes to Mull and Oban called at Lismore every day of the week, it would have to start an hour earlier from the Island of Mull. There may be technical difficulties as well, but Lismore is an important island, with 240 people living on it, engaged in very successful agriculture, and some attention should be paid to providing an adequate steamer service for that island. I see that the Scottish papers arc advertising that Mac-Callum Orme and Company are to run pleasure excursions to the Island of St. Kilda. That island was eventually evacuated simply because of neglect and the lack of steamer services. Instead of steamers to run tourists to the island of St. Kilda why not send them to Lismore and the other islands for the sake of the farmers and their produce? It would be of far more value to the country and, unless something of that sort is done, there will not only be St. Kilda but many other islands which will become only historical relics.
Mr. Hoy (Leith)
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that these services are run by private industry; and would he and his party agree that, in the interests of the people in the islands, they ought to be put under public ownership with a view to providing these services?
I am coming to that, but I wanted to draw attention to the one or two islands which get the worst possible steamer services one could imagine. All the other islands․Coll, Tiree, the mainland of Ardnamarchan․ all these I would mention too, but Colonsay and Lismore I mention particularly, because both are about the same size, both have good agricultural soil, and yet they have the most appalling steamer communications. The Joint Under-Secretary will, I am sure, know that there is a scheme to adopt a vehicular ferry between the North point of Lismore and the mainland. I implore him to get on with that. Let us have the ferry instead of discussing the matter and laying it on one side. We shall never get any forrader if we do that.In the course of a question to the Minister of Transport in the House not so very long ago, I mentioned that the services today to the Islands are far worse than they were in 1914. I think it is inexplicable. Hon. Members have said to me often, " Why make these complaints to the Labour Government? Why did you not make them to the previous Government? " All I can say is that since I have been in this House there have been three Governments and I have made the same complaints to every Government with exactly the same results. I am against nationalisation of industries which are thriving concerns, and which I feel would be ruined by it, such as iron and steel; but there are one or two public services, particularly in remote parts of the Highlands and Islands, such as these steamer services which I would be quite pleased to see brought under some public corporation, such as the London Passenger Transport Board. I am dealing with these matters in no party spirit, for no party could make the sufferings of these people a matter for party slogans. The Secretary of State has referred to reviewing the subsidy to MacBraynes and to MacCallum Orme & Co. No private concern could make this steamer service around the West coast of Scotland an economic proposition. The situation is such that only by Government help could the service be developed. It might be that if it were properly developed and people went to live on the Islands, instead of leaving them, traffic and freights could be increased and it could be turned back to a private organisation, but I feel that this is a question which should be dealt with in the same way as the trunk roads. After all, these steamers are nothing more than glorified ferries from the mainland to the Islands. I gather that the Minister of Transport has set up a committee of inquiry to go into the whole question of ferries, and this is a question of rather luxurious ferries. I have been speaking so far about steamer services and what we consider are deplorable conditions not so much from the point of view of accommodation․although that is bad enough, but that we recognise is owing to the war․but from the point of view of uncertainty. I support the hon. Member for the Western Isles in what he says about the captains and crews of the boats. No one could praise too highly their courage, courtesy and skill. It is also a question of the uncertainty of charges made for freights. There is a solution to this transport problem, and that is the air. There is no doubt that air transport must be the solution of Western Islands transport. I am not going into detail about "approved routes"In civil aviation. What must be dealt with by the Scottish Office is the provision in every inhabited island with a sizeable population, of a landing ground of some sort. Such a landing ground could be made on the Island of Colonsay and one could be made on the Island of Coll. Last year there was a fatal case on that island because the patient could not be got to hospital. These islands do not lie on what the Ministry of Civil Aviation call "approved routes." Nevertheless they are centres of population which require communication with the mainland, and I am quite convinced that for mails, passengers, and light goods, an air service must be brought in to supplement, and in many ways take the place of, the steamer services. Although I may not live to see it, I believe that in 10 or 20 years' time all our livestock will be carried by air instead of undergoing the appalling conditions on some of the cattle boats which serve farmers for the markets on the mainland. There is no question but that air transport is coming. Many people laugh at the idea, but the carriage of livestock by air has already been done in Australia for more than seven years, and there is no reason why it should not be done in the Western Islands. Only yesterday, or the day before, I heard on the wireless the report of a new amphibious machine, a twin-engined machine with a seating capacity for seven. That is a machine which would suit the island traffic extremely well. In places where it is not possible to make landing grounds, such machines could land in harbours, or off the coast, in good weather. I am certain that both steamer and air communications will have to be thoroughly speeded up and developed if we are going to prevent the constant departure of the inhabitants from the islands. Many people would ask, " What do we get from the islands? What is the good of bothering about the islands at all? " Besides cattle and sheep we get a very fine breed of men and women. In the Outer Isles and throughout the islands in times of national emergency, we look for provision of reservists for the Royal Navy and other Forces from them but I am certain that unless something is done to remedy these transport difficulties we will lose that very fine body of men and women, and all the sentimentalism of "The Road to the Isles " will become a complete farce.
Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I would like to ask hon. Members to take a trip with me from the Islands to the Kingdom of Fife. There they will find not only a widespread coalmining industry, but quite an important agricultural industry. Today, the Secretary of State spoke highly of the agricultural committees, and the work they have been doing. I want to refer to a question which concerns the agricultural committees, the Secretary of State and a man engaged in agricultural production in Fife. Regulation 62 (4, a) was directed towards preventing speculation in land, but at the same time was intended to provide a measure of security for farmers who were being encouraged to put everything they had into production during the years of the war, to bring the country out of the difficulties with which it was faced. It would be a shameful thing if we encouraged farmers to put everything they had into the production of food, and if at the first opportunity someone bought the land and threw the farmer off his farm. Obviously that is something which should not be tolerated. If there was anything necessary in the way of further developing the land, it should be the job of the agricultural com- mittee to encourage the farmer, or farmers, and to assist them if necessary with any capital they may need for that purpose.In the case to which I wish to draw attention, there is quite a possibility of a loss in production, although the Minister says, in a very long correspondence I have had with him, that as a result of putting the farmer off his farm and allowing a new tenant to enter, he expects to get greater production. I will consider that in a moment. In general, I would lay it down that in our land it should not be possible for anyone to buy " our land."The land should be under the control and direction of the Government acting in the name of the people and that the best of the land—
On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the hon. Member to discuss land nationalisation proposals, which would require legislation?
The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
The hon. Member appears to be only illustrating his argument and therefore is not out of Order.
Then I would say that the land should be under such direction as would ensure that the best of it is used for agricultural purposes and the rest for other purposes essential for the community.In this case, a farmer by the name of Thomas Ramsay worked for 10 years as manager of a farm on the estate of Mr. Dalgleish, where he had gone to work as a boy. When he had been manager for 10 years, Dalgleish began disposing of his land and asked Ramsay to take over part of it on lease and farm it for himself, which he did. He has now spent 10 years as a farmer, 10 years of the hardest possible work, cutting up and developing new land. When war came there was a demand for further cultivation. Ramsay is not only a farmer but a stock breeder, and he had used a considerable part of the land for raising stock, using another part for agriculture. As a result of the request made by the Government during the period of the war, a considerable amount of grazing land was put under the plough, and considerable agricultural production resulted. This man, who is now 54 years of age, is assisted on the farm by his wife, a son aged 23 and a daughter aged 20. Another daughter has just returned home after demobilisation from the A.T.S. This man and his family have been working on this land for 10 years, building up the farm and a home. Then the land is disposed of, and a lawyer in Edinburgh buys this particular section of the estate. Apparently the good lady of this lawyer takes an interest in agriculture, and is anxious to have her own farm. So last year Ramsay received notice that he has to leave the farm this season.
Sir Basil Neven-Spence (Orkney and Shetland)
On a point of Order. With what part of the Estimates is the hon. Member dealing?
If that question is addressed to me, I am of the opinion that the hon. Member is in Order.
As I have already pointed out, the Minister, in presenting the Estimates, drew attention to the urgent need for agricultural production, and to the services rendered by the agricultural executive committees. I am dealing with a situation that came within the purview of the agricultural executive committee and of the Secretary of State for Scotland. In my view, it affects very seriously the question of agricultural production. I am absolutely convinced that if a man with the experience that Thomas Ramsay has had as the manager of the farm, and then as a farmer and stock-raiser himself, is put off the farm to allow a lawyer from Edinburgh, however competent he may be in the courts, to take possession of the land and leave that experienced man without occupation, it will not be to the advantage of agricultural production or stock raising in Scotland.Of course, it is the business of the agricultural committee to see that farms are worked properly. The agricultural committee has never at any time found cause to complain of this particular farmer, but he is ordered off the farm, and the owner is proposing to take possession. The tenant makes an appeal to the Minister not to give sanction for his removal. The Minister says that action was taken on the report of the agricultural executive committee. That report is not divulged but it is quite clear that the committee has not at any time found anything wrong with the husbandry of this farm. But for some other reasons․I do not know from whence they come or what they are․the Minister thinks he will get better production from the new tenant. Will anyone tell me how it is possible to displace a man and his family who have the experience of this man and his family, and replace them by a lawyer and his good lady, however intelligent they may be, and by that means to get better agricultural and stock raising production?
Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
The hon. Member displaced from his constituency a much more experienced Member of Parliament. Is he suggesting that he is not as good as his predecessor?
I did not catch the gist of what the hon. Member said.I do not think that anyone could seriously argue that it is possible to increase agricultural production by a process of that kind, unless it is argued that the new tenant can put in cash․extra capital. Perhaps they can say something like that. But, surely, if there was a case for changing the method of farming that land, if there was the need to increase the productivity of that land by supplying new capital, it was one of the duties of the agriculture executive committee to see that that was done, where there was good husbandry. In this case nothing has been said against the farmer, no directions have had to be given to him at any time, he has always carried out his work and has achieved good production, as can be testified by those who have had to deal with him. Yet we get a situation of this kind. Let me give just one testimonial by a neighbouring farmer, one who has known him for a considerable time. This neighbouring farmer claims that Ramsay is one of the best agriculturists in the country. There are so many documents that I have some trouble in finding this letter.
Sir W. Darling
On a point of Order. Need we trouble the hon. Gentleman for the testimonial from the neighbouring farmer?
It says here:
That is from a neighbouring farmer—"In sympathy with Mr. T. Ramsay regarding the unjust treatment he has received at the hands of the Scottish Secretary, I hereby state the following facts. I have known Mr. Ramsay for the past 30 years and I can guarantee he is a first class agriculturist in all branches, especially stock. One has only to look round the steading at West Grange and note the trophies he has won at the leading agricultural shows in Scotland. I am safe to say there isn't another display like it on any farm within a radius of 10 miles at least. Further, I have known West Grange intimately for the past 30 years, my late father having grazed stock there at that time. I can testify that said farm has improved beyond all measure since that time, especially the arable land; the grazing my father had was a rabbit infested poor pasture indeed. I can truthfully say West Grange has doubled its value under Mr. Ramsay's management. He was reared on one of the worst farms in Clackmannanshire, his forebears having farmed the Feerings Farm for over 300 years. In short, he belongs to the body of men who have made Scotland famous as the stock farm of the world. I am, yours truly, (Signed) John J. Kirk."
Sir W. Darling
Is he a member of the agricultural executive committee?
Ramsay has other testimonials from those who deal with stock as well as those concerned with agricultural produce.
This point is very interesting and I have a great deal of sympathy with what the hon. Member has said. Would he agree that all he has said is a most typical example of Socialistic bureaucratic tyranny?
No, far from it. This is one case where what is called Socialist bureaucracy has not functioned. It is not Socialist bureaucracy when a man has given his life to the building up of a farm and the owner of the land sells it, that someone else can turn him out lock, stock and barrel, and leave him without employment. What has that to do with Socialist bureaucracy?
Sir W. Darling
It is confiscation.
What I demand is that we have a little bit of Socialism, so that a man like that can be secure in the farm for which he has worked so hard. This is the point I want to make. It is not merely a matter of cash. It may be said that the incoming tenant will pay him for the farmhouse and the materials and so on; but the incoming tenant cannot pay him for the life he has put into the soil. That is a thing for which he cannot be paid. Here is a man who has toiled, ripped up the green land and brought it into cultivation, given year after year feeding it and caring for it. After he has done all that labour someone comes along and says, " Put him out and let me in and I can give you more production than you are getting from this man."This is not a question of taking over new land and tearing it up, ploughing feeding and cultivating it, but taking over the life-blood of another man and his family. Is it possible that we should tolerate that?I say to the Minister that there can be no justification for that, and if ever there was a case in which a farmer should have been given security, it is the case of Thomas Ramsay, of West Grange Farm in Fife. I ask the Minister to go into this matter again and ensure that this farmer with his long experience and great knowledge will be allowed to carry on the valuable work he is doing in the 54th year of his life, after working from boyhood as an agriculturist. He should not be thrown on to the streets but should stay in this useful employment. It will be a shame to the Scottish Office if he is turned out and I hope something will be done about it.
Mr. Spence (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Central)
There is one aspect of this Debate which has been touched on both by the Secretary of State and by my hon. Friend the Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden) which I want to go into in a little more detail. It concerns the value of research to agriculture. At present we are spending in Scotland on research and education in agriculture something like £450,000. I think that every penny of that money is well spent. The point to which I wish to draw special attention is the work that is being done in my own constituency and in Aberdeen. I hope I shall be forgiven if I seem a little parochial but we have a remarkable set-up there of three great institutes which are concentrating on research into the troubles of agriculture. These institutes have been built up over the years by Government grant and private endowment They have rendered a great service to the nation, and indeed to the world, as a result of their discoveries in matters of nutrition and of food production.They are the Rowett Institute, the North of Scotland School of Agriculture, and the Macaulay Soil Research Institute. Belonging to these establishments are the Duthie experimental stock farm, the Craibstone experimental farm and the Glensaugh hill sheep research farm. These establishments, together with the team of experts who are running them, form an organisation of chemists for biological and organic research which is unique in Great Britain. The work includes research into both human and animal dietetics, into the effect of mineral deficiencies in the soil, into animal and plant diseases and into maximum productivity of crops. Alongside this work, of course, is the work of training those who are to work on our farms. I suggest there is one lesson in particular to be learned from what has been achieved. The scientists and experts and the members of the governing boards of these establishments are practical men. They approach all problems of agricultural research with three things in mind․the interest of the producer, of the consumer and of our own national economy. That is why the work that has been done"In Aberdeen has been of tremendous value nationally, because it is not academic dilettante work but practical research which gives practical results․results which can be translated into £ s. d. on the farms. Hon. Members probably know that at the Rowett Institute a great deal of the trial and error of experiment was done to settle the basis of the diet on which this nation had to live in the war years. There was also a notable discovery which was perfected there. That was the introduction of iron into pigs' food in order to overcome anaemia which was proving a great scourge amongst pigs. The development and application of the Australian discovery of the introduction of cobalt into the fertilisers which are put on grazing grounds for sheep has had remarkable results. There have been a number of other researches including the successful one of the prevention of virus disease in potatoes. Probably one of the best known discoveries has been the evolution of what is called " college mixture."This is a mixture of grass seeds which has been found of immense value and has produced for the nation thousands of pounds' worth of extra fodder. But perhaps the most valuable thing produced by the Rowett Institute is my hon. Friend the Member for Scottish Universities (Sir J. Boyd Orr) who is now head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation. He has given a lead to the world today in food, and I wish to draw the attention of the Secretary of State to the fact that his spirit still lives in Aber- deen, and the tradition he set up of cooperative work and coordination between those three great organisations is still carried on today. I want to refer briefly to the economy of our farms. On our Scottish farms, 75 per cent. of the food value produced is in the form of livestock or animal products. Therefore, the recent cut in animal feeding stuffs is to be regarded with grave misgiving in relation to what the future economy of our farms may be. So I appeal to the Secretary of State to direct that the whole of the brains and skill of these research establishments should be directed to finding ways and means of mitigating the impact of this restriction of feeding stuffs on the day-to-day economy of our farms all over Scotland. The stock we breed must be healthy, and it must be kept properly. We must see that the risks of infection from various diseases are minimised, and I feel that there is a great future for these colleges in the training of stock-keepers, of whom there is a great shortage on the farms. If we take a long-term view of our future standards of life, the first thing we think about is what our diet will be, and, in our diet of the future, when the standard of living has risen, the first requirement will be more meat. That is one thing which will be essential to a standard of living higher than our present level So we ought to envisage a stock production in Scotland of nearly twice as much as that of today, provided that it can be balanced with the economy of out farms. It must never be forgotten that animals put fertility into the ground, while wheat and cereals take it out. The more animals we have on the farm, the more productive and fertile the land will be. I should like to end on this note. Food is our greatest problem. I therefore hope that the Secretary of State will allow no financial considerations to stand in the way of our experts harnessing science so as to bring aid to humanity.
Major Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
The Secretary of State started by referring to the necessity of building up a labour force, and I was disappointed that he did not elaborate that point to a greater extent. He does not seem to have very clearly in mind exactly how this is to be done. In the Balfour of Burleigh Report the possibility of building up a flying squad to carry out improvements on hill farms was visualised, but the right hon. Gentleman made no reference to that. I hope the hon. Gentleman who is to reply, will develop the point a good deal more so that we may see how this labour force is to be built up, and how it is to be housed, because, for the future of agriculture in this country, an enormous amount depends upon the restoration of the fertility of the land.The right hon. Gentleman said that, today, there is no such thing as an agricultural labourer; they all are or should be experts. Mechanisation is certainly turning agriculture into an expert science, and I was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not go on to say something more about the remuneration of these experts. It seems to me that, if we are to get a good labour force, we must be prepared to pay them as skilled men. Not only that, but other members of the community must not continue to insist upon the margins between agricultural wages and their own wages being maintained. The dignity and importance of the agricultural labourer must be emphasised and brought home to the community at large. On the other hand, the calling of agricultural worker does entail certain responsibilities. After all, a man who joins up as a soldier does not expect to work exactly an eight hour day. The conditions of work in agriculture are more varied and healthy than conditions of work in a factory. The same rigid rules cannot be applied, and I therefore hope that we shall encourage the agricultural worker not to insist on a rigid hourly basis, but to be prepared to work for longer hours in summer, and for shorter hours in winter on an elastic system, and to be prepared, if necessary, on smaller dairy farms, to give almost his whole time to his calling. There is another subject to which the right hon. Gentleman did not refer, but which I consider is extremely important, and that is the position of women in agriculture. He did not mention at all the Women's Land Army, which has done such splendid work. There is an old Gaelic proverb which says that, where there are cows, there are women, and, where there are women, there is strife, and that has always been alleged as the reason why cattle went out of popularity in the Highlands. The fact is that, in these days, much of the loss of labour from the land has been due to the fact that there are fewer women interested in agricultural subjects, and fewer who are prepared to work on the land. During the war, quite naturally, the men who served in the Forces very often went away and married wives in the towns. I suggest that, in cases where these men intend to come back to the land, provision should be made for training these women in agriculture. There should be institutes available for the purpose. There is one at Craibstone in Aberdeenshire, and others could be set up to train women not only for the Women's Land Army, but as future wives for farmers and farm-workers. I suggest that the Government should give serious consideration to that idea, because I am convinced the suitability of their wives is an important consideration to the success of men engaged in agriculture. It is on the devotion of the wives to the land that the future of agriculture, to a very large extent, depends. At the same time, it is necessary that we should look further into the future. At present, the county organisers have been doing a very good job of work with the young farmers' clubs. The use of the county organisers, obviously, must be developed to a very great extent, and I hope that, in the next few years, we shall see a great development of demonstration farms linked with sub-committees on a county basis. It cannot be expected that farmers should go long distances, shall we say, from the Border to Cupar in order to see demonstrations. There should be a development of farm institutes on an area basis. Provision is made in the Estimates for about £100,000 for the training of ex-Servicemen, part being for rehabilitation and part for training of men who have not been in agriculture before. I would like the Minister to say something about how that training is to be carried out, what hostel accommodation is available, what the length of the courses is to be and what response there has been so far. Looking to the future again, it seems to me that it is necessary that short courses should be run in these institutes. After all, with progressive mechanisation of farms, it is essential that this training should be kept up, and that it should not only be a question of young men going for a year or six months' course, or even for a course of three or four years. There must also be facilities for farmers and farm workers for renewing their knowledge from time to time, just as we propose providing facilities for doctors to have refresher courses from time to time. In the past—looking back, perhaps 100, or even 50, years—a great part was played in agriculture by the schoolteacher and even by the minister. I wish to speak particularly of the schoolteachers, who very often, even today, take a great part in assisting farmers. It seems to me that, for two reasons, schoolteachers who wish to devote their lives to rural areas, should not only have a rural background, but a certain agricultural training. In the first place, it is essential that they should be able to give the correct country slant to teaching and, in the second place, there is every advantage in maintaining sympathy with the parents in the areas. They should show that they are masters of the subject and are men of the country. The Hamilton Fyfe Committee suggested that there should be a four-year course, including a practical course for specialist teachers in agricultural subjects, but that would be unsuitable for teachers in rural schools. I hope that consideration will be given to shorter courses being incorporated into the training of teachers, not primarily to equip them to bring students up to the higher certificate stage, but simply to enable them to "Teach the land " so that the children will remain interested in the land and will not constantly be seeking to go to the towns. I would remind the Committee that the Constable Committee recommended that:
" Very little implementation has been given to that policy over the past 20 years, and I would very strongly urge the Government to concentrate on teaching country children in their own rural districts. The Secretary of State referred to the possibility of training men from the towns. It is indeed necessary to get an adequate labour force on to the land quickly, and it may be necessary, and advisable, to take men out of the cities and to train them as agricultural workers. But it is plainly not the right way, in the long run, to set about it. In order to develop a healthy agriculture, we must take children from towns and teach them rural economy, and increase the number of agricultural institutes such as the Wallace Academy in the country for teaching them. Some deplorable figures were given to me in an answer by the Secretary of State regarding the number of children who take the school leaving certificates in agriculture. There are only six schools in Scotland equipped to bring children up to the higher leaving certificate standard in agricultural subjects. That is deplorably low, and, last year, there were only 14 pupils who took the examination. What is more, the lower leaving certificate has been suppressed for the period of the war. I hope that we shall see it brought back very speedily into operation. May I say a word very briefly on the question of grants for hill cattle? The present arrangements are far better than the ones which existed before. They consist of a subsidy of £5 for breeding cows and 3os. for bullocks and heifers. The condition is that these cattle should be 16 weeks in the year on the hill. If we are going to build up a healthy hill farming industry, it is essential to have hill herds, and for the future prospects, referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen (Mr. Spence) in a most able speech when discussing the breeding of cattle on the hill for consumption in this country and for export, it is essential that we should start now, and encourage hill cattle herds in the interest both of hill sheep farming and of breeding stock. For that reason, I urge very strongly that the basis of this subsidy should be reviewed so that more incentive may be given to the hill farmer to have herds, not simply for summering, but throughout the year. There is only one other subject to which I wish to refer and which is worrying farmers a good deal at the present time. It is the question of advertising for labour. We on this side of the House realise the necessity for the Essential Work Order. It is possible--and it may not be worth the risk—that, if the Essential Work Order were taken off, shepherds and workers on the more' remote hill farms would wish to relinquish their present situations and seek jobs nearer the towns. That is a possibility, but the present advertising rules are difficult to.justify The position at the moment is that 28 days must elapse before authority is given to advertise. The man who is going to leave the place, and has authority to leave, has to give three weeks' notice. It very often takes a considerable time before the advertisement gets into the paper at all and a further time before it is answered. The man who 'accepts the job advertised has to give three weeks' notice and, of course, has to get permission to leave, if he is not a man coming out of the Forces. It will be seen that the net result, however well this rule is administered, is that it is possible for a farmer to be without a replacement altogether for at least a month which is, roughly, the intervening period. On the whole, this order has been sympathetically administered, but it is impossible to avoid errors, and I very strongly urge that there should be closer coordination in this matter and that where, especially in the case of shepherds, there are vacancies, the farmer should be allowed to advertise right away, as soon as the vacancy occurs. In conclusion, I would support very strongly the argument put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden) regarding the necessity for having an appeal board to review the decisions of the war agricultural executive committees in cases of dispossession. I have a good deal of sympathy with tenants in a position similar to that of the case which the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has referred to. That, however, is a matter of security of tenure —a subject which is in need of careful review, but as it requires legislation is outside the scope of this Debate. I hope the Government will give it their attentionIn so fat as may be consistent with 'these objects, it is desirable to foster the rural. school and undesirable to concentrate country children in urban schools.
Sir Basil Neven-Spence (Orkney and Shetland)
I am sorry to see that the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan) is no longer in his place. He gave us a most lugubrious rendering of the " Skye Boating Song."I was under the impression that there was an undertaking that we were only to have a ten-minute version on this occasion, not the half-hour one. I am also sorry that, on his own showing, he has not been a completely successful representative of the Western Isles, and I rather gathered that, although he had been their Member for the last 11 years, he has achieved nothing in that time. I do not think that was very fair to the Ministers with whom he had to deal, because I think if he counted his blessings he would find than quite a lot had been achieved.
Mr. Steele (Lanark)
The hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) also made the same admission.
Sir B. Neven-Spence
I am now about to give a rendering of the Ballad of Sit Patrick Spens, and although I am sure it will not sound more cheerful than the contribution of. either of the hon. Members, it will at least be briefer. It was the hon, and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) who referred to the fact that it would be very doubtful if the Highlands and Islands would get the full benefit out of the Hill Farming Bill unless the transport problem were tackled. That is true, but the problem goes deeper than that. This question of transport in the Highlands and Islands has occupied the attention of a number of Committees in recent years, including the Hilary Committee in 1938, the Watson Committee in 1944, the Balfour Committee in 1944, and the White Fish Committee in 1945. Every one of those Committees drew attention to the profound effect which heavy freight transport rates have on the economic life of the Highlands and Islands. It has been conclusively proved that the steamer freights which producers in the Islands have to pay on imports and exports are the greatest handicap they have to contend with in the field of competition. When these freights are as high as they are now, they amount to a virtual tax on existence, and the more remote the area the higher the tax becomes. I myself live in the most remote Island of all, Unset, on which an airman was stationed in the course of the war. He wrote to his parents and said:
This state of affairs is a most serious obstacle to the development of agriculture, fishing and other industries like weaving in those distant places. The margin of profit in agricultural enterprises in places like Orkney and Shetland is very small, at the best. We have quite enough handicaps to deal with, due to matters like latitude and climate, and what very small margin there is often becomes eaten up in freight transport charges. I remember what happened in 1931 when I myself suffered. When we sent our store lambs to the Aberdeen markets we got bills to pay instead of receiving cheques, because the lambs did not fetch enough to cover the cost of transport. I remember Shetland ponies being led to the edges of cliffs in 1931 and shot, because the prices they fetched in Aberdeen did not cover the cost of transport. I could give endless details of the same kind. The handicap we have with regard to fishing, due to distance from markets, is already big enough without having to pay excessive freight charges. Freight charges must not be larger than the traffic can bear; otherwise enterprise is strangled at birth. One other point which I do not think anybody has mentioned is the tremendous handicap on building due to the high transport charges, which are so great that we are prevented from reaping the full benefit that we ought to get from Acts which are passed to help us solve these problems. All this has a depressing effect on the population, and it makes it very difficult to get any good system of land settlement going. People tend to leave the land, and in Shetland alone the population has gone down since 1871 from 30,000 to 20,000. The general conclusion of the- Committees which have examined this problem is that there ought to be a scaling down of these charges, and that is urgently called for. It is impossible for the companies to do this on an ordinary commercial basis. They give us good steamers and good services, and we do not complain about that for the most part, but it cannot be clone commercially: of that I am sure. One or two hon. Members have suggested that we should have a flat rate. That suggestion ought to be considered because it might prove a solution. It is a point which requires careful examination by experts. We already have a kind of flat rate for commodities like flour, coal and artificial fertilisers. An hon. Member suggested that nationalisation might be the answer to our problems, but that would not make the slightest difference. If we nationalised the steamers tomorrow, we would still have this problem of the high rates to the Islands. it is a question of redressing the inequality which exists. It is essential to make some effort to harmonise the cost of living in these remote rural areas with the cost of living in the more thickly populated areas. We cannot afford to let these Islands become depopulated. They make quite a big contribution to the country's larder in the way of store lambs and cattle, large quantities of eggs, fish, lobsters and so on. As one hon. Member pointed out. a great many of the men who live there are regular seafarers and served the country well in time of war. Many of them go abroad to the Colonies and the Dominions and do extremely well. What I have said about the effect of the freight rates on the population of the Islands refers to the period up to a few weeks ago. Since then, so far as Orkney and Shetland are concerned, a very serious thing has happened because the transport rates have suddenly been pushed up as high as 77⅔ per cent. That produces an absolutely impossible state of affairs, and let it be remembered that we have not the advantage of the enormous subsidies which the Western Islands have; £60,000 a year was the figure quoted, I think. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take note of the fact that all the local authorities have written drawing attention to this urgent problem. He may not be able to cope with it within his existing powers, but I ask him forthwith to set up a departmental committee to go into this question of the freight charges as they affect the counties of Orkney and Shetland. I wish to say a few words on another subject which has been referred to; the right hon. Gentleman himself referred to it. That is the question of township roads. These are vital to the community. Along these township roads come the supplies which the people have to get and the produce they have to send away. Children have to get to school along those roads as well. I say "These roads," although, in point of fact, they do not exist at all in many places. Arterial roads arc all very well, but arterial systems are of no use unless we have capillaries, and the township roads are the capillaries of our road transport system. The more isolated the community, the greater the need for access to the main roads. I think nothing has contributed more to the depopulation of some of the remoter rural areas in Scotland than the lack of roads giving access to the main road system. I have here a list of 83 township roads wanted for the county of Shetland. Judging by the rate at which help has been given in the past in making these roads, 30 years would elapse before the programe could be completed. If we wait for 30 years there will be no people to whom to give the roads; they will have left the land. The right hon. Gentleman knows the size of the problem. I would ask him to consider the possibility of having a five years' programme. Let us attempt to get this problem settled once and for all. The hon. Member for the Western Isles pointed out that far too much of our time in this place which we ought to spend on broader matters is in fact spent in dealing with local problems. It is one long battle to get the people we represent provided with the amenities which most people in the country take for granted, without ever being aware that they exist. These township roads are the concern of the right hon. Gentleman. In the past, the usual custom has been to make a 75 per cent grant, the remainder being found locally. It is becoming impossible to do that. These roads cost far more than they used to. A 1d. rate in the county of Shetland raises £60; a is. district council rate never raises more than a few pounds. not enough to keep up the existing roads. Better roads are needed now because of the road transport. I do not think it is fair to get the men who make the roads to contribute to their cost by accepting something below the prevailing wage. This is a problem which wants tackling basically. We might well consider giving a full grant of l00 per cent., and get the road question out of the way once and for all My to minutes is up. I have 16 other points with which to deal, but it would take me at least four hours to develop them fully. In view of the undertaking not to speak for more than 10 minutes I will continue this speech on the next occasion, only hoping, Major Milner, that the prospect will not prevent me catching your eye."I always knew we had a far-flung Empire, but I never knew that any of it had been flung as far as this."
Mr. Steele (Lanark)
I am very happy indeed to take part in this discussion. I agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir B. Neven-Spence) in what he said at the beginning of his speech. I also agree with the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) in the great tribute he paid to the farmers and farm workers of this country. I associate myself with that tribute and I leave it at that, because I have no intention of taking the amount of time that the hon. Member did in paying that tribute. I represent a. constituency which has within its boundaries the most famous fruit-growing area in the whole of Scotland, namely, the Clydeside. I want to say something in regard to horticulture and horticultural research. We have had from the Government a statement on agricultural policy, and this afternoon we have heard from the Secretary of State for Scotland something of that policy and how it will affect agriculture. Those who are engaged in the horticultural industry remember that this policy does not affect them. In fact, so far as prices are concerned these are only maximum prices; they are not fixed prices such as are accorded to the agricultural industry. We do want from this Government some pronouncement with regard to horticulture. Those who are engaged in this industry remember the period between the wars, and are perturbed at the moment that nothing has been said regarding their future.The principal point with which I wish to deal is that of research in connection with horticulture. The Clydeside area has become famous for certain fruits, for instance, apples, pears, plums, gooseberries and strawberries. It is,true that great quantities of strawberries have been grown in Lanarkshire for many years. In 1927, out of a total acreage of strawberries of 2,670 in Scotland, 1,193 acres were grown in Lanarkshire. Certain hon. Members this afternoon have drawn attention to the decline in the Highlands, and the depopulation of the Highlands in relation to agriculture. There has been a steady decline in fruit production in Clydeside for a number of years. In 1927, 2,670 acres were under strawberries in Scotland; in 1945 there were only 1,026 acres; with 282 acres of strawberries in Lanarkshire as against 1,193 acres in 1927. That decline has not been due to war circumstances. In 1932, out of a total acreage of 1,824, 515 acres were grown in Lanarkshire, and the 1932 acreage represented a steady decline from 1927. The reason for this decline in the growing of strawberries is because of disease which has affected the plants. One other feature emerges, namely, not only is there a decline in the acreage but a decline in the yield. At one time it was possible to get six tons per acre; now, the average yield per acre is down to roughly 3o cwt. That is very important, and calls for a great deal of research. We must pay tribute to the research already done in Auchencruive so far as strawberries are concerned. The main point with which fruit growers and horticulturists are concerned is that soil research is done at Auchencruive. They feel that the research ought to be done on Clydeside where the soil conditions might be very much different from those at Auchencruive. The difficulties are not confined merely to strawberries. There is a great deal of disease in plums and apples, and now it is also affecting the raspberries. While we recognise that the centre of Scotland is chiefly concerned with the growing of that type of fruit, many acres are grown on Clydeside. What has the fruit grower been doing? Prior to the war he was going over from the production of outside fruits to the production of fruits grown under glass. In 1942 there were 320 acres of glass in Scotland; of that approximately 200 acres were in Lanarkshire. That proves conclusively, I think, generally speaking fruit growing is concentrated in Lanarkshire. Some hon. Members have questioned the statement that Lanarkshire is the most famous fruit growing area in Scotland, but there are records which prove that fruit has been grown in that area since the year 845. I think that fact is important, because it proves that this area is eminently suitable for the growing of fruit. The fruit grower, as I say, has been leaving outside crops and producing under glass. Clyde-side, during apple blossom time, is one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland and many tourists visit it at that time of year, but I do not think the fruit growers ought to be expected to have this show merely for the benefit of tourists. They look for some other return, and that is why they have been turning to production, mostly of tomatoes, under glass. This practice was followed a great deal in Scotland prior to the war. I welcome the Government's proposals regarding the research stations which, I understand, are to be built, but I press that the research station for fruit ought to be on Clydeside. My figures have proved, I think, that it is the area in Scotland where fruit is grown extensively. Farmers in general do not want merely to accept instructions, or advice, on paper. They want to see results in practice. It is much better, I feel, for the farmer to go along to agricultural research stations to see how things are done. A farmer going to a research station and seeing the produce might say, "That is all right in your part of the country, but how would it be in my part? "Therefore, I want to see the fruit research station on Clydeside. Large areas of Clydeside have yet to be developed, as far as fruit growing is concerned. There are still many acres which could be taken over for the growing of fruit, and which, at the present time, are not being utilised at all. There is, further, the point that Clydeside is very near the two main markets, being less than 30 miles from Edinburgh and Glasgow. Lanark shire itself is a development area. We can look forward to an unfortunate unemployment problem in Lanark shire for the next few years. Here on Clyde side, which has a fairly large population round about, we have something which could be used for—if I may say so —fruitful production. We are concerned at the moment to bring in light and heavy industries. Here is something lying at hand, which could be done. But before it can be done properly, a good deal of research is necessary. I want the Minister to realise the special importance of research in this case. Soil fertility was mentioned by the hon. Member for West Fife. I can assure him that, to this industry, the soil is very, very important. I am sure that the industry, with its own good intentions, and with the support the Government can give it, can look forward to big prospects in the future.
Mr. Thornton-Kemsley (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Western)
It is sometimes not difficult in Committee of Supply, when we are precluded from talking about anything which involves legislation, to become involved in the details of administration, and to forget the background against which the particular Estimates are being discussed. The background to the question of our Scottish agriculture tonight is darkened by two factors of immense importance which ought to govern and condition all political action. The first is a world problem, the problem of the universal shortage of food. The second is a domestic problem, although its repercussions reach, or may reach, far beyond these Islands: the lamentable failure of His Majesty's Government to grapple with the realities of the postwar, problems; the reckless way in which they are adding, immensely and improvidently, to the burdens which have to be carried by the taxpayer, burdens which are so detrimental to the encouragement of enterprise and initiative; their refusal to face the need for a wages policy—all these are drawing us inexorably and with increasing momentum into the outer eddies of the maelstrom of inflation. We are sowing the wind. He would be a bold man, or a very foolish one, who would say, with any degree of confidence, that we can avoid reaping the whirlwind.Side by side with these factors, which few would deny and none can ignore, is a feeling which is widely held throughout Scotland that the Northern Kingdom is not getting its fair share or receiving its proper recognition in the arrangements which are being made for the rehabilitation of Britain. Far more than in England, a flourishing agriculture is the basis of the prosperity of Scotland. If agriculture can be developed and brought to a high pitch of prosperity and efficiency, the effects of that prosperity will be felt throughout the land; and against the gloomy background of a world food shortage and the imminence of inflation the need to make the most of our own natural resources becomes the more apparent. Here, then, is a golden opportunity, an opportunity such as has never occurred before, to bring these three factors together, and to wring from the Government such assistance as may be needed to revitalize our countryside. Here is a heaven sent chance for bold planning and imaginative administration. Now is the time, if ever there was a time, to ensure for those who live by the land an honoured place in our national economy. Let