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Volume 526: debated on Tuesday 6 April 1954

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Wind-Blown Timber


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a further statement on the progress made in dealing with the gale-blown timber in the North-East of Scotland; and whether he expects it all to be dealt with by January, 1955.

Extraction is still proceeding at the rate of about 2 million cubic feet per month. As the statement of progress is rather lengthy, I shall, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Will my hon. Friend answer the last part of the Question and say whether the timber will be dealt with in the time originally anticipated?

My right hon. Friend cannot give a specific date because certain of the timber is in inaccessible places, but if my hon. and gallant Friend will read the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow morning, he will find a full report of the progress.

Does the hon. Gentleman think that his Government will still be in power at January, 1955?

In view of the present situation, is it the policy now to authorise the Forestry Commission, where possible, to issue felling licences in respect of standing timber?

Following is the statement:

Arrangements have been made for working all but approximately half a million cubic feet of the 47¾ million cubic feet of gale-blown timber in the North-East of Scotland. The rate of felling and extraction has been maintained at 2 million cubic feet per month and the volume extracted to roadside is now estimated at 26 million cubic feet. Approximately 3 million cubic feet of round logs have been transported to mills outside the affected area under the transport assistance arrangements. Further increases in the rates of assistance took effect as from 1st March and it is hoped that this will result in the increased movement of the remaining blown timber. Transport to England and Wales of mining timber surplus to the requirements of the Scottish coalfields continues, also under freight assistance arrangements made by the Government, and to date orders have been placed for about 2½ million cubic feet.
If the present rate of progress is maintained, it is estimated that the vast bulk of the windblown timber will have been cleared by the end of January, 1955. Although there will probably be some exceptions, as work on some blown areas is still behindhand, broadly the situation is that the material then remaining on the ground will consist largely of larch and hardwoods which have been deliberately left until last as they are less liable to deterioration, and small lots which are inaccessible or of indifferent or poor quality. Work will, of course, go on to clear the saleable timber as quickly as possible.

Atomic Energy Research (Industrial Development)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland for a detailed statement as to his plans for industrial development in Scotland flowing from the projected atomic energy reactor station at Dounreay, Caithness.

The Dounreay reactor will be experimental, and it would be premature to try to forecast at this stage what other industrial developments may take place in Scotland as a result of the presence of this station.

Does not the hon. Member realise that this may be a great opportunity to bring industry and population to the North of Scotland? Is it not astounding that he is not in a position to give some details about the plans which will flow from this expensive work?

As the hon. and learned Gentleman will know, it will be several years before there is sufficient development to enable us to take action, but we are fully aware of the potentialities.

National Records And Archives (Indexing)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to have the national records and archives of Scotland indexed and made readily accessible to the poets, historians, biographers, economists and other scholars in Scotland.

The responsibility for indexing the national records and archives of Scotland is placed by statute on the Keeper of the Records of Scotland, and my right hon. Friend is informed that this work is progressing steadily. A considerable proportion of the records is already indexed, and all, whether indexed or not, are readily accessible to lawyers, scholars, and students in the General Register House.

I referred in my Question to "archives." There are a great many archives and records in the Record office in Chancery Lane, London, which are badly needed by the scholars of Scotland. Will he take steps to have them properly indexed and made available to Scotland?

I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member for his correction of my pronunciation of the word "archives," which I accept.

Fishmeal And Oil Factory, Peterhead


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that no further progress has been made with the construction of the fishmeal and oil factory at Peterhead; and what is the cause of the delay.

The Herring Industry Board are in process of obtaining the necessary local consents and will commence work on the factory as soon as these are forthcoming.

Very soon. There is a certain amount of plan drawing to be done, and the local council has to give its final consent. Apart from that, it will not take long.

I am glad to see that the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire has now come back to the House again.

The local council gave its consent long ago. It is very urgent that this factory should be set up in time for the summer fishing. Cannot my hon. Friend give a better assurance about it?

My hon. Friend is wrong. Consent is required from three parties, the third of which is the town council. That consent cannot be given until the detailed plans have been prepared. That is now being done.

Damages Awards (Interest)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that under Scottish law relating to actions for damages for negligence interest at 5 per cent, on the amount of damages awarded runs only from the date of the decree awarding damages; that it would be in accord with both justice and expedition that such interest should instead run from the date of either the accident or the summons; and if he will introduce legislation to enact this change in Scottish law.

I am aware that in Scotland interest on damages awarded in actions for negligence runs only from the date of decree. Amendment of this long-standing rule of Scots law would require very careful consideration, and my right hon. Friend can hold out no hope of early legislation.

Is not the Minister aware that this has for long been carefully considered and recommended by the Muir Society, a body representative of lawyers in Scotland, and will he consult them on the advisability of adopting their recommendation in the matter?

We are aware of that, but the hon. and learned Gentleman will know even better than I that this is really too complicated a question for discussion at Question time.

Raemore Grazings, Lairg (Use)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that Raemore grazings on Gruids Farm, Lairg, Sutherland, are to be used by the Forestry Commission for growing trees; and, in view of the scarcity of agricultural land in Sutherland and the abundance of non-agricultural land suitable for growing timber, if he will take steps to ensure that these pastures should be used by the crofting community to produce food.

The Raemore grazings are to be used for forestry in accordance with the Strathoykell plan which was approved by the Highlands Panel. My right hon. Friend cannot see his way to alter the arrangements made for the planting of this area. I have today written to my hon. Friend about this matter.

Is it not wholly wrong that grazings which have provided food for over two centuries should be used for growing timber, when we have so much land in Sutherland which is not suitable for food production but is suitable for timber production?

I have written to my hon. Friend fully on this matter, but I would remind him that the land was originally secured for forestry, and we have to take into account the fact that afforestation will provide work for crofters not fully employed. The general effect in the area has also to be taken into account, as well as grazings.

Potato Harvesting (Mechanical Aids)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what research is now being carried on for the purpose of producing an efficient mechanical potato harvester.

In addition to research and experimental work being carried out by commercial firms, research is being undertaken by the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering and its substation in Scotland to find efficient methods of digging potatoes out of the ground and of separating potatoes from extraneous matter.

Is the Minister aware of the dissatisfaction expressed recently by farmers in Scotland about the lack of an efficient potato harvester, and also of the suggestion that the big potato merchants should be levied in order to get money for this research?

This is a very complicated question of the separation of earth and stones from the potatoes. One machine has been produced, but it was found to be faulty in one respect, and the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering has devised a different principle. At this moment, consideration is being given to putting it into production.

River Forth (Pollution)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made in the prevention of pollution of the River Forth; whether he is aware that oil and tar discharges are threatening to destroy all life in the river; and whether, as a first step, this particularly destructive effluent can be prevented.

The prevention of pollution will be primarily a matter for the River Forth Purification Board, which was established last October and will shortly be functioning. If the right hon. Member will supply particulars of the oil and tar discharges to which he refers, I shall make inquiry.

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that hundreds, if not thousands, of fish have been destroyed by this pollution, and that it would be much more efficient to deal with the pollution quickly than to prosecute fishermen for taking a few fish from the Forth?

Monkland Canal (Report)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made towards meeting the representations of Coatbridge with regard to the Monkland Canal.

As my right hon. Friend stated on 30th March in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan), a report by technical experts on the Monkland Canal in Glasgow is being considered urgently. With regard to the Coatbridge position, I am sorry that, at the moment, I cannot add to the answers that were given to the hon. Lady on 9th February.

Does that mean that only the representations of Glasgow have been considered, and that only the Glasgow part of the Canal will be filled in and not the Coatbridge part?

I do not think that would be quite right. We are well aware of the hon. Lady's case, but we think it is better to settle the Glasgow problem first, because that will enable us to reach a proper decision with regard to the other.

Anti-Haemoglobin Serum


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied that surgeons operating on haemophiliacs in Scotland are fully informed on, and have accessible supplies of, anti-haemoglobin serum for the treatment of patients during emergencies.

Yes, Sir; I am, however, informed that fresh blood would usually be preferable to the serum in such circumstances.

New Hospital, Peebles


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when it is intended to replace the present War Memorial Hospital in Peebles.

A site was obtained two years ago at Hay Lodge, where the existing premises are used for out-patient purposes. My right hon. Friend regrets that, in present circumstances, he cannot say when it will be possible to start building the new hospital.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this hospital is very badly sited beside the River Tweed, and that, when the river is in flood, the whole hospital has to be cleared out?

I am aware of that fact, but there are other serious and priority matters to be dealt with by the Regional Board.

Legal Aid (Old-Age Pensioners)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will introduce legislation to amend the Legal Aid Act so that old-age pensioners in receipt of National Assistance can be defended in cases where they are sued by landlords for increased rents.

Unless they have considerable capital, old-age pensioners in receipt of National Assistance already come within an income range which would make them eligible to apply for legal aid in defending any action brought against them in the Sheriff Court.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are quite likely to be a large number of cases coming before the courts, and does he think that the legal aid system will be able to cope with them?

If the hon. Lady will give us examples, we shall very carefully and sympathetically look into them.

Old People's Homes, Glasgow


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many elderly people are presently resident in homes provided by Glasgow Corporation with his financial assistance; and what additional accommodation is scheduled for the immediate future.

About 240 elderly persons are resident in 10 homes provided by the Corporation with Exchequer assistance under the National Assistance Act, 1948. The Corporation are in course of providing two additional homes, one of which will be opened soon.

Is the Minister satisfied that, in view of the large number awaiting admission to homes such as these, two more homes will be satisfactory to meet the situation?

My hon. Friend will remember that the Corporation provides homes for a great many other people at Foresthall and elsewhere.

Approved Schools (Costs)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the main reasons for the increase from 54s. to 66s. in the weekly contribution payable by education authorities in respect of a child or young person sent to an approved school.

The cost of the schools is shared equally between the education authorities and the Exchequer. After the rate of the authority contribution for 1953–54 had been fixed, the numbers in the schools fell, but expenditure on staff and overheads did not fall correspondingly, and the contributions from education authorities, which are based on the numbers of pupils, were not sufficient to meet half the cost. The rate of contribution for 1954–55 has been fixed to recoup the Exchequer in part for the larger share it had to bear in 1953–54 and to take account of the higher cost per head which results from the smaller numbers in the schools and from increases in salaries and wages.

That means, of course that between the Government and the local authorities it is costing £6 12s. a week to keep one child in an approved school. If the number of pupils has fallen, why are the Government not taking steps to reorganise the schools and to reduce the number?

I think the figure which the hon. Gentleman gives is about right, although I should like to check it.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the estimated weekly cost of maintaining a child hi an approved school for the year 1954–55; and what percentage increase this shows over 1954–53.

The estimated weekly cost for 1954–55 is £6 10s. 5d., which represents an increase of 23·6 per cent, over the figure for 1952–53.

Is not this a shocking example of how the Government fail to control expenditure, and to stop this rise in costs?

It is easily explained. There are two reasons: (1) the number of children attending the schools has fallen, and (2) there has been a rise in salaries. To neither of them, I think, can the hon. Gentleman raise objections.

Civil Defence (Hydrogen Bomb)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, in view of the fact that the new hydrogen bomb is 600 times more powerful than the atom bomb, what new instructions he proposes to issue to Civil Defence authorities, especially in regard to air-raid shelters.

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department said on 1st April, in reply to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), instructions to Civil Defence authorities are being reviewed in the light of the development of atomic weapons of all types.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Civil Defence authorities in Glasgow have pointed out that in the event of a bomb attack every hospital in Glasgow could be destroyed? What steps is he taking in the matter?

This is too big a question for me to answer across the Floor of the House at Question time.

Would the hon. Gentleman consider sending a delegation to Dublin to see why Dublin is not in so much danger as Glasgow?

Mental Hospital Patients (Financial Assets)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how far his regulations permit the superintendent of a mental hospital in Scotland to assume responsibility for the financial assets of one of his patients and to disburse such assets without court warrant.

It is an established practice for medical superintendents to undertake the disbursement of small sums placed in the custody of hospital authorities, for the benefit of individual mental patients. This is done without formal authority where the medical superintendent is satisfied about the capacity of the individual patient to instruct or consent to the disbursement. My right hon. Friend sees no reason to forbid this practice.

Air Survey


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will arrange for a comprehensive aerial survey of Scotland with modern micro-magnetic instruments as well as photographs in order more fully to investigate raw material resources above and below ground, to determine accurately cultivable and grazing areas with easiest access to them, to see with greater certainty the extent of bracken growth, and to investigate any other items which aerial surveys have shown elsewhere to be capable of development for economic benefit of the country

I understand that the possibility of an aero-magnetic survey for geological purposes is receiving consideration. A photographic survey for the other purposes suggested by my noble Friend would not be likely to add to the information already available.

Does not the Joint Under-Secretary of State think that if an aerial survey is to take place it might just as well be comprehensive? Does he not think that the results of what we would learn from a photographic survey might be surprising?

We think we have all the information that could be got from such a survey, but I have no doubt that the suggestion will be borne in mind.

Slaughtering Facilities


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied that there will be adequate slaughtering facilities in the North of Scotland when the new system of meat marketing begins.

The Slaughterhouses Bill at present in another place requires local authorities to satisfy themselves that slaughterhouse facilities are adequate. They may provide and operate slaughterhouses themselves and may register others who propose to do so. A circular has been sent to local authorities explaining the proposals in the Bill, and I have no doubt that, as they have been advised to do, they will consider, in consultation with the interests concerned, the slaughterhouse accommodation required to meet the situation resulting from the decontrol of meat.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his reply. May I impress upon him how important it is, especially in the North of Scotland—and time marches on—that these slaughterhouses should be ready when the new system comes into force?

"Galloway Mazer" (Export)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what submissions have been made to the Waverley Committee on the future of the "Galloway Mazer."

Representations have been submitted to the reviewing committee on the export of works of art by the Keeper of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland with regard to the proposed export of the "Galloway Mazer."

Is it in the power of that committee to make representations? For the benefit of the House, may I ask the Minister to make it clear that this is a most valuable and unique piece of Scottish silver and that it would be a disaster for it to leave Scotland.

Crofting Commission (Report)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when the Report of the Crofting Commission will be published.

My right hon. Friend hopes to be in a position to publish the Report after the Easter Recess.

Norwegian Factory Ships


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any information to give the House regarding the use of factory ships in Scottish waters for converting surplus herring into oil and meal.

The Herring Industry Board is endeavouring to secure the use of two factory ships. I cannot say more at present.

Can the Minister assure the House that the use of these factory ships will not be to the detriment of the establishment of shore-based factories of an economic size? Can he tell the House who owns these factory ships?

They are Norwegian ships. I do not think that there is any likelihood of the one prejudicing the other kind of production.

Can my hon. Friend assure me that these factory ships are not the real cause of the unwarrantable delay in erecting the factory at Peterhead?

Can the Minister assure the House that the taxpayer's money is not toeing used for the benefit of a foreign country and to the detriment of our own people?

The House knows that the processing of herring is an urgent matter. It needs expansion. The Herring Industry Board is considering the best and most economical ways of achieving that purpose.

Why cannot this work be undertaken under British auspices instead of being given to the foreigner?

All these matters are considered, but here is a proposition—and we have gone no further than this—which the Herring Industry Board is examining.