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Scotland

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 12 July 1949

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Mastitis (Cure Claim)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why a registered medical practitioner, who claims to have a cure for mastitis and has made offers to his Department, is not allowed to demonstrate this cure without submitting in advance information which might prejudice a fair examination of the claim; and if he will take steps to remedy this situation.

The medical practitioner referred to is free to demonstrate his alleged cure for mastitis, but it plainly cannot receive official backing until it has been thoroughly tested by impartial scientific experts. For this purpose details and methods of treatment require to be disclosed. I cannot accept the suggestion that disclosure of this information in advance might prejudice a fair examination of his claim.

The right hon. Gentleman will have in mind that Dr. Jenner had the same difficulty in impressing the value of his cure upon officialdom in his day?

Yes, Sir, except that today, of course, we have scientific methods of testing cures that were not in existence in those days.

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action has been taken on the evidence submitted to the Milk Committee of Inquiry for Scotland, showing that the milk output might be increased by 15 per cent.; and if any investigation is being made of the validity of this evidence.

I assume that the evidence to which the hon. Member refers was that submitted to the Committee by the medical practitioner mentioned in the hon. Member's Question to which I have just replied, and was based on his claim to have found a cure for mastitis. I have accordingly nothing to add to what I have already said on this matter.

Is it not the case that this reputable medical practitioner is prepared to have experiments made at his own expense, if the Department do not insist on disclosing the formula in advance?

The Department has to be rather careful. There are a lot of people who think they are wonderful inventors. We have to be rather careful how far people can experiment without getting scientific approval.

Would the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the scientific dignity of the Department is more important than a cure for mastitis?

Is not the disclosure of the nature of a remedy the necessary hall-mark of a reputable medical practitioner?

Yes, Sir, and in some cases where private practitioners are involved the Department has to be rather careful.

Pier Scheme, Portnaguran

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether sanction has yet been given by the Scottish Department concerned to proceed with the proposed pier at Portnaguran; and when the work is likely to commence.

The scheme for a pier and boatslip at Portnaguran submitted by the county council in April has been examined by technical officers of the Scottish Home Department and the county council were asked on 8th June to consider some modifications.

Road, Isle Of Barra

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what the Department of Agriculture's plans are for the construction of an adequate road to serve the tenants of the Department's estate at Eoligarry, Isle of Barra; and when the work is to begin.

Investigations are at present being made in this matter, and I shall communicate with the hon. Member when I am in a position to do so.

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind, particularly as this is one of the very oldest permanent estates for which the Department are completely responsible, that the work in question does not need to be held up for consultations with other authorities?

As the hon. Member knows, the territory in this part of the country is not such that it is easy to make roads without taking into account all the questions of drainage and access for the various people concerned, which are making it rather difficult to construct a road.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also remember, on the other hand, that this territory without roads is an extremely difficult territory in which to live, and will he therefore treat the matter as all the more urgent?

Alleged Salmon Poaching, Helmsdale

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that salmon are being captured illegally in Helmsdale by gill nets which blockade the river, where Boyd Brothers, fish merchants, are buying the stolen fish and consigning it to David King, Birmingham, as white fish, so that British Railways are transporting the fish for account of the Ministry of Food at the taxpayers' expense, particulars of which have been sent to him by the hon. Member for Streatham; and whether he will take action to prosecute those concerned and to ensure the enforcement of the law in future.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask for your guidance with regard to this Question? Is it in Order to impute criminal acts to named persons, as this Question does, who have not been convicted, or even charged, without giving those persons an opportunity of defending themselves; and alternatively is the doing so, as is done in this Question, a breach of the traditions of this House?

No, not if an hon. Member thinks that some misdemeanour has been committed. He is entitled to bring it to the notice of the Minister concerned. An hon. Member is always responsible for the particulars which he puts in a Question. I have ascertained, in regard to this Question, that in matters of this kind there is some responsibility on the Secretary of State for Scotland, and therefore the Question is in Order.

Further to that point of Order. Where there are other ways and means whereby the alleged offence could be brought to the notice of the Lord Advocate in regard to Scotland or the Attorney-General in regard to England, would not that course be the better course to adopt, instead of making, as is here made, clear criminal charges of consigning salmon as white fish?

Oh, no; I remember in days past that any number of hon. Members raised Questions of this kind and asked the Government to prosecute. They are entitled to do so. They are responsible for statements in the Questions, but that is all. They are entitled to put the Questions.

Is it in Order to refer to a poached salmon as a "stolen" salmon? I always understood that poaching was quite an honest occupation.

Might not this be treated lightly and simply described as the normal course of private enterprise?

Further to that point of Order, and by way of explanation, may I say that I brought the facts of this case to the notice of the Secretary of State for Scotland a month ago. I waited for him to act; he did not do so; I went to Helmsdale myself, I saw the illegal nets blocking the river, and I was able to catch the receivers—

I would like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, if it is within the Rules of this House to make definite charges of breaking the law against certain people who are named, without giving them a chance to establish their innocence?

The reply to the Question is that I am aware that poaching of salmon is reported at Helmsdale. Inquiries are proceeding into the matters referred to in the Question, and I regret that I cannot at this stage make any further statement.

Is not that a most amazing answer? Why did the right hon. Gentleman discount the statement made by the Lord Lieutenant of Sutherland which I passed to him a month ago? Why did he mislead this House on 21st June by stating that these complaints were exaggerated? Is he aware that I caught this stolen consignment in boxes in the guard's van at Inverness?

First of all, the hon. Member raised allegations concerning practically the whole of the county, and did not specify Helmsdale as a single item in the last Question—

So far as the whole county was concerned, the allegations, it was reported to me, were exaggerated. I do not deny that such things can take place in the Highlands; it has been known in the past. The matter had to be considered. The hon. Gentleman has now reported a specific case and that must be investigated by the legal authorities. I think he will agree that once the case comes into the hands of the legal authorities, it would be improper for me to comment further.

May I ask whether this House would not have been saved a great deal of trouble if the questioner had made clear that it was the landlords who "pinched" the salmon rights first?

Whilst safeguarding the rights of legitimate poachers in this area, will the right hon. Gentleman take the most severe measures to ensure that political poachers do not come up to Caithness from Streatham?

Highlands Resettlement

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will consider making a grant to the Society of Clann Albhinn for the work they are doing in undertaking the resettlement of the Highlands on a practical basis.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to the fact that I put down this Question to the Treasury as the only possible people who can answer, and that they have passed it on to the Secretary of State, who cannot possibly give an answer?

I have not received any application from the Society for a grant, and while I would be prepared to consider any representations they may wish to put before me, I can hold out no hope of a grant being made available for the general purpose indicated by the hon. Member. Might I add that the proper authority for the making of grants is the Secretary of State for Scotland and not the Treasury?

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, and drawing his attention, with great respect, to the fact that he gets no money except from the Treasury, may I ask whether, if we give £770,000 for a fun fair in Battersea, a very practical proposal such as that made by this society should not have a similar grant?

As members of this society acquired land in Wester Ross, would the Secretary of State see that the local authorities are consulted before any decision is taken to give a grant?

The society did send some people to Wester Ross, but that was not the responsibility of the Secretary of State. Land settlement in Scotland is within the province of the Secretary of State, but it is possible for people to do it privately, as the hon. Member is aware, without consulting either the county council or the Secretary of State. In that particular case I have seen the report in the Press that there was some resentment among the local people at this "invasion," as they called it, and that the people concerned have now retired.