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Volume 486: debated on Tuesday 10 April 1951

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Deer (Killing And Wounding)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the depredations during the past winter of gangs of unauthorised men armed with rifles who fire at night-time upon herds of deer from cars whose headlights illuminate and dazzle the animals; that considerable numbers of deer are thus wounded and die on the hillside; that doubt exists as to whether either the rifles or the lorries and cars used are licensed; what reports he has had on the matter from the police; and what action he proposes to take.

Police reports which I have obtained from the Highland areas show that in some places there is some killing and wounding of deer in the manner described by the hon. Member, but information as to the numbers killed or wounded is not available.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the considerable anxiety on the part of public opinion in Scotland about this? Is there not a case for an inquiry into this somewhat revolting form of commercial poaching?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, a Committee is inquiring just now into cruelty to wild animals. This is part of their remit, and their Report is expected shortly.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that very often on these expeditions sheep are killed or wounded, and that this causes a great deal of worry in the Highland areas?

I am aware of that, and the police are similarly aware of it. The police use mobile forces to try to cope with it.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries of local owners of deer forests and from the police force to find out exactly what has happened? Damage and cruelty are not confined merely to the Highland areas but are far more widespread.

As I have already indicated, I have called for the fullest reports from the police. While I do not want to minimise the distressing extent of this practice, it is possible to exaggerate it.

Hospital Accommodation, Fife


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the increasing shortage of hospital accommodation in Fife and of the anxiety caused to patients, medical practitioners and the East Fife Hospital Board on account of the delay in proceeding with the building of the new general hospital at Cameronbridge; and what steps he is taking to deal with this matter.

I am fully aware of the need for additional hospital accommodation in this area, and I have already given the hon. Member particulars of the steps that are being taken towards the erection of the new hospital.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the particulars to which he refers have not been considered by the authorities in Fife and are not regarded as satisfactory? Does he realise that for a population approaching 250,000, no more than 200 beds are available for acute cases.

I am not certain about the figures, but the hon. Gentleman must appreciate that when one proposes to erect a hospital of 500 beds, most careful planning must take place. I am in the closest consultation with the local people concerned.

Houses (Allocation)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to what extent guidance is issued by him to local authorities as to the methods they may adopt in allocating State-subsidised houses.

Local authorities are responsible for the letting of their own houses. I have, however, drawn their attention to the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee's report on "Choosing Council Tenants," and from time to time I have asked local authorities to give special consideration in the public interest to the claims of certain groups such as miners, agricultural workers, key workers and tuberculous families.

Is the form of guidance which the right hon. Gentleman has given merely to direct attention to certain published documents?

I have drawn their attention to a published document which is available also to the hon. Gentleman.

Will the right hon. Gentleman issue some guidance to local authorities about the allocation of hats?

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that local authorities in Scotland are very jealous of the central Government impinging on their duties?

I will, Sir. I take the greatest care to ensure that I give no cause for alarm.

Will the right hon. Gentleman impress on the local authorities the importance of facilitating the transfer of people from houses larger than they require to smaller houses?

I very much sympathise with that point. I know that the larger authorities do exert themselves in this direction.

Development Plans


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are the names of the planning authorities in Scotland which have submitted development plans in accordance with the Town and Country Planning Act.

One Scottish local planning authority, Clydebank Town Council, has so far submitted a development plan under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1947.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why there is this diffidence to submit the plans to him for inspection?

The hon. Gentleman is drawing an unwarranted conclusion. There is still a considerable time to go before the plans need to be presented.

Will the Secretary of State consider in what way he can make public to Members of Parliament and others those particular cases in which, under the Act, he has allowed an extension of time after 1st July next, and how long is the extension?

Speaking from memory, my recollection is that I have only indicated one authority which has asked for the necessary extension. I shall be glad to give extensions wherever there is reasonable cause.

School Meals (Price)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has considered the objections of the Fife County Council, transmitted to him by the hon. Member for Fife, East, to the recent decision of the Government to make a further increase in the price of school meals of 1d.; and what action he proposes to take, in view of the likelihood that if parents of the children are required to meet the extra charge the numbers of children benefiting by school meals will seriously decline.

The recent decision was taken because of the need for economy in the Votes for public education. The Government are anxious that no serious decline in the number of children benefiting by school meals should result from the increased charge, and I am sure that education authorities will endeavour to prevent any such decline by making the advantages of the School Meals Service to children and parents fully known in their areas.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that on the last occasion when a similar regulation to this was passed, the number of children benefiting fell by six per cent. in Scotland? Surely he does not want a repetition of that?

It was a very unusual pattern. Some places showed a decrease and some showed an increase. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will use his influence in the area to see that no drop takes place.

In view of the amount of money which will probably be saved by this economy, will my right hon. Friend undertake to look at it again, because the amount of money is out of all proportion to the probable hardship which might be involved?

Freight Charges


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how far the proposed increases in transport costs were taken into account in the recent review of agricultural prices; and whether he will discuss with the Minister of Food the possibility of bearing the freight charges from the outer islands of Orkney and Shetland to Kirkwall and Lerwick.

The proposed increases were not taken into account at the recent price review because a review cannot deal with cost increases which are both prospective and unascertained. The question of freight charges from the outer islands of Orkney and Shetland to Kirkwall and Lerwick could not be dealt with by itself. As the hon. Member is aware, the whole question of transport and freight charges in the Highlands and Islands is one which is constantly under examination, but it is not one, I fear, that lends itself to easy solution.

While this matter is constantly under examination, will the Secretary of State bear in mind that these additional charges will bear heavily and unequally on farmers? Can he see whether he cannot get some help given to farmers in remote areas who will be seriously affected by these charges?

Has my right hon. Friend considered the representations which were made by the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce as to the prejudicial effect which the increase in freight charges will have on industry generally, and will he consult with the Minister of Transport on this matter?

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the case in the Highlands and Islands was for a reduction in freight charges before the rise last year? Is the recommendation of the Cameron Committee to be taken into consideration in the near future, and must any revision always be upwards?

As my right hon. Friend indicated yesterday, the submission of the Cameron Committee is one of the primary submissions of which account must be taken.

When the Secretary of State says that freight charges are constantly under review, does he mean that the grant towards the subsidy for freight charges for the Highlands and Islands is liable to be changed at anytime?

No, I meant no more than I said, which was exclusively that this question of freight charges in relation to the Highlands and Islands constantly concerned us and was constantly examined.

Peat (Sulphur Content)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will in vestigate the sulphur deposited in peat bogs, especially in Shetland, to see if it could be economically worked.

I am advised that the sulphur content of peat bogs is very low and I do not think, therefore, that an inquiry such as the hon. Member proposes would be likely to yield useful results.

Although in normal times, no doubt, sulphur deposits in peat bogs are not economically workable, since we are so short of sulphur would not the Minister think it worth while to hold a further examination now?

I am fairly satisfied that the sulphur content of dried peat is as low as 0.5 per cent. We are making inquiries into scientific methods of using peat for other purposes.

Could the Minister say when the report will be issued regarding these deposits and the inquiries that are being made?

I could not do so with any exactness. One half of the experiment is well advanced. I do not mean that the other is unduly delayed, but I could not say precisely.

Swedish Houses (Windows)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what would be the cost of supplying double windows in Swedish houses.

The construction of the outer wall in Swedish houses makes it impracticable to substitute double hung sash and case windows for the casement type at present fitted. The additional cost of installation in a new house is calculated to be about £20.

Can the Secretary of State say whether he has discovered any other methods of curing the faults in these windows which he admits exist?

I shall be glad to let the hon. Gentleman have the technical report on the subject.

Livestock (Statistics)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what increase has taken place in our livestock numbers in Scotland since the commencement of the agriculture expansion programme in June, 1947.

There has been an increase of 157,786 cattle; 1,312,581 sheep; 102,542 pigs and 2,156,304 fowls in the period referred to.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the huge success of the expansion scheme has created undoubted satisfaction throughout Scotland, and that in the rural areas, in particular, there is a new sense of security and well-being and complete happiness, which is in direct contradiction to what hon. Members opposite are promulgating throughout the country?

Will the Minister ensure that these additional animals are furnished with liver, kidneys and other accessories which are markedly and strangely deficient in all present animals?

Is the Secretary of State aware that, although the figures for cattle have risen by 25 per cent. since before the war, the production of beef is still 14 per cent. less?

Milk And Egg Production


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the extent of milk and egg production increase in Scotland since the commencement of the expansion programme.

Compared with 1946–47 it is estimated that milk production in Scotland in 1950–51 will have increased by 53 million gallons and egg production by 291 million eggs.

In view of this tremendous increase in milk yield, could my right hon. Friend—[Interruption.] Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, if the noble Lord the Father of the House could contain himself, I could go on with my supplementary question. I was asking my right hon. Friend if he could inform me, in view of the tremendous increase in the milk yield, what proportion of that milk is now being used for—[HON. MEMBERS: "Cheese."]—food aids such as powdered and evaporated milk?

I could not give the exact figure. The processing of milk is at the limit of our capacity and is substantially higher than it was before the war.

Agriculture (Subsidies)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to state, to the nearest convenient date, the total amount of subsidy paid in the Highland counties in respect of sheep rearing and cattle rearing, respectively; and the amount of subsidy which has been paid in the above areas in connection with hill farms and which is outwith the ambit of the sheep and cattle subsidies.

As the answer is necessarily long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

The total amounts of hill sheep and hill cattle subsidies paid to hill and upland farmers in the seven crofting counties of Scotland from the inception of the subsidy schemes until 31st March, 1951, were £3,964,000 and £2,650,000 respectively. I append a table giving this information in detail.

In addition, £559,000, £1,050,000 and £580,500 were paid to farmers in these counties up to 31st March, 1951, in marginal production assistance, ploughing-up and calf rearing subsidies, respectively. Most, though not all, of these payments would go to hill and upland farmers in the area; I regret, however, that records do not show separate figures for these categories.

With regard to certain other forms of assistance, e.g., the lime subsidy, the information for which the hon. Member

Scheme YearGrassland Ploughing SchemeHill Sheep SubsidyHill Cattle SubsidyMarginal Agricultural ProductionCalf Rearing Subsidy
194142,507113,000Say 2/3rds of 28,600*
Grand Total of payments shown above, £8,791,608.

* Separate figures for various counties not available.

Agricultural Land (Conservation)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he has taken or is proposing to take to conserve good agricultural land in Scotland.

Every proposal to divert agricultural land to another use which comes before me is thoroughly examined in order to avoid any unnecessary loss.

Can my right hon. Friend tell us the outcome of his discussions with Kilmarnock County Council with reference to agricultural land on the outskirts of Kilmarnock?

Tuberculosis (Swiss Treatment)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he can yet make a further statement about the use of Swiss sanatoria for patients from Scotland.

Parliament will shortly be invited to consider legislation enabling arrangements to be made under the National Health Service for giving treatment outside Great Britain to persons suffering from respiratory tuberculosis. For this year, from 150 to 200 beds in

asks could not be extracted without a disproportionate amount of work.

Swiss sanatoria will be made available for patients from Scotland, with the necessary transport facilities.

To minimise the travelling involved, the selected patients will normally be persons in need of at least six months' sanatorium care, but unlikely to require any major surgical operation. Treatment in Switzerland will be offered to persons recommended for sanatorium treatment in the ordinary way, where on medical grounds this is considered appropriate by the responsible tuberculosis physicians.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health asks me to say that he is making similar arrangements for patients from England and Wales.

Radiology Service, Kilmarnock


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what changes have recently been made in the radiology service at Kilmarnock Infirmary; and what has been the effect of these changes.

To secure improvement, the radiology services in Ayrshire are being reorganised. The reorganisation provides for a consultant radiologist stationed at in place of the senior hospital medical officer formerly employed there.

Does my right hon. Friend think that his reorganisation is very successful when it takes away from Kilmarnock a full-time radiologist and leaves a part-time one? In further considering this matter, will my right hon. Friend realise that he proposes to open a new radiology service station there shortly?

The number of first-class radiologists is limited and I must exert myself to see that they are employed to the maximum. I will watch the situation carefully, but I assure my hon. Friend that I think everyone in the area will benefit from the change.

Can I take it that my right hon. Friend's reorganisation is not complete or final?

Dogs (Sheep-Worrying)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in view of the large number of cases of sheep-worrying by dogs, he will consider increasing the penalties for infringements of the law.

The suggestion that the penalties for infringements of the law in these cases might be increased has already been considered, along with various other suggestions as to measures that might be taken to reduce the incidence of sheep-worrying by dogs. The penalties that may be imposed are already substantial and I do not consider that merely to increase them would have the effect desired by the hon. Gentleman.

Is the Minister aware that last year in Inverness-shire alone 132 sheep were killed and 53 injured by dogs, and does he not think that something urgent ought to be done to prevent these severe depredations?

I shall be very anxious to look at any practical consideration, but I do not think that an increase of the maximum penalty would achieve the purpose desired.

Has the right hon. Gentleman conferred with the Home Secretary in this matter, in view of the fact that English Members have complained that this matter is becoming a national scandal of the greatest magnitude?

I know the interest on the benches opposite in this subject, and my right hon. Friend and I have had consultations.

Development Charge (Personal Case)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why was Mr. I. C. Macrae, Eilean Donan, Cradle Hall, Inverness, required to pay a development charge of £130 for a house he has built on scrub land of no agricultural value.

I regret I cannot undertake to answer Questions about individual cases involving payment of development charge. This is a subject within the day-to-day administration of the Central Land Board and I have asked the Board to communicate with the noble Lord.

Does the Minister not think that the position in this case is monstrous? Is it not in the interests of the country for the right hon. Gentleman to encourage all the house building he can? The house in question is built on land which is of no agricultural value.

Perhaps the noble Lord will discuss the matter with the Central Land Board when he is on the spot.

Will the Minister do his best to ensure that anything which hinders development in Scotland is put right?

Is the Minister aware that, instead of being charged development value, a builder who wants to build on scrub land should be paid for building on it instead of using agricultural land?

Spey Valley (Survey)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement in regard to the proposal for an up-to-date survey of parts of the Spey Valley, with a view to reclaiming land from flooding for agricultural or other purposes.

The general purpose of the survey is to determine the best utilisation of all the land in the Spey Valley. Particular attention will be given to the possibility of reclaiming flooded areas and to the effect of such reclamation on the land utilisation problem.

Does the Minister realise that this road proposal is causing very great interest in the area, and will he ensure that all the interests in that area are fully consulted?

I think that that will be taken care of. In the three units already affected, we have done that on the site, and I am hoping for quick and good results from the south.