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Orders Of The Day

Volume 530: debated on Tuesday 20 July 1954

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Isle Of Man (Customs) Bill

Considered in Committee; reported, without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

10.13 p.m.

My hon. Friends on this side, much as they were distressed with some of the provisions in this Bill, felt that the needs of the Isle of Man were such that the Bill should have an unopposed Committee stage. The House would be failing in its duty, however, if it did not consider for a few moments whether we ought to pass at all a Bill of this nature.

If I can put the thing in a nutshell—[HON. MEMBERS: "Impossible."]—the issue is that a certain amount of money is required to carry on the affairs of the Isle of Man and how best it should be raised. If we are to tax the people of the Isle of Man less—that is a question in which my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) will also be interested—why we should decide that the one thing to tax less than anything else is beer? That seems to me to be a curious proposition, and it is a curious proposition that the House should endorse it automatically.

The prosperity of the Isle of Man depends upon the tourist industry. There are in the Isle of Man a great many unemployed. It is not possible in this country to do much for the unemployed, because of very high defence costs; but that does not apply in the Isle of Man. We know that the Isle of Man pays only £1 14s. per head defence costs against about £32 in this country. If they did not have to pay for defence why should they not pay a better rate for the unemployed? Why should they not start a pilot scheme for the unemployed by seeing that they get rather better rates in the Isle of Man. or, alternatively, if there is a need for better social services in the Isle of Man, why should the British people who visit the island not get a corresponding advantage?

Why should there be a Bill which does nothing other than allow beer and dried fruits to go into the Isle of Man rather cheaper than they come into England? What is the reason for this discrimination? What is the principle upon which the Tynwald decided that the only two items which should be a bit cheaper were beer and dried fruits? Why, for instance, are a lot of tourists who might be attracted overlooked?

It is not only the beer drinkers who are wanted as tourists in the Isle of Man—and here I part company with my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North—but why not spirit drinkers as well? After all, if people wish to have alcoholic refreshment in the Isle of Man they might wish to have whisky, so why should they not get it at a cheaper rate? Why should there be a cheap rate for beer? Why should there be this discrimination against Scotland? Why should Scotch whisky have to pay the same duty in England while beer from Burton gets in at half the rate?

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman realise that the best Scottish beer, like Younger's, is better than any in the world and that it goes into the Isle of Man on the same terms?

I appreciate what the hon. and gallant Gentleman says, but that particular beer has a great family tradition behind it. I would not think that the influence of the Home Office in past days had anything to do with that particular discrimination, but I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be with me when I say that Scotch whisky is almost as good as Irish whisky. I hope that in this I shall have the support of hon. Members from Northern Ireland. Why should Northern Ireland be penalised in regard to the Isle of Man? After all, Northern Ireland, with the rest of Ireland, has paid a tribute for many years—

The reason why the duty is the same is because the people would want to smuggle Irish whisky out if there was a difference, and they would not want to smuggle beer.

I think there is a great deal in what the hon. Gentleman says. The only way to get some English beer drunk is to smuggle it into a tied house.

After all, Ireland, and Northern Ireland in particular, has a special call on the Isle of Man because it fell on Northern Ireland, as the most prosperous part of Ireland at that particular time, to pay the greater part of the annuity of £2,000 which was fixed on Ireland on behalf of—

I do not see anything about that in this Bill.

That is quite true, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Unfortunately, the whole history of this matter is not set out in the Bill because otherwise it would not be passed, but what I was trying to deal with was the general principle which this Bill embodies, which seems to me to be entirely mistaken.

Why should we decide to reduce the duty on beer and not reduce the duty on whisky? Why should it be one of the activities of the party opposite to impose the full duty on one kind of drink and half duty on another kind?

May I draw your attention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to the line in the Bill on which I am addressing the House? You will find that line 31 of Clause 5 (1) re-enacts Section 3 of the 1950 Act which fixes the duty at approximately half the rate here. I was also referring to line 11 of subsection (1) which re-enacts Section 2 of the Act of 1948. That, of course, is the Act which imposes the full English duty so far as whisky is concerned, and which merely imposes half duty so far as beer is concerned.

I do not see the Patronage Secretary here but, if he comes, I hope he will not move the Closure tonight before his right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has had an opportunity to speak or we have had an opportunity of some observations from our own Front Bench. I cannot believe that Tynwald, without assistance or suggestion from the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends, would on their own initiative have enacted Clause 4 (1), which deals with the duty on chicory.

If one studies the accounts of the Isle of Man, one sees that they have done comparatively well in the last year out of chicory because it is the only item in which they are in credit. In some mysterious way the last audited accounts of the Isle of Man show that £1 was credited to the island in the sense that the drawback on chicory was greater than the amount of duty. If that is indeed so, it is a fortunate position in which the Isle of Man is placed, and how it arose no doubt the Minister will explain and why, therefore, there was no reason that they should enact this Clause.

The only reason why it has been enacted is that they were persuaded by the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends in a policy which will be familiar to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McKibbin) and which is known as the policy of step by step, which means, in regard to Northern Ireland at any rate, one step forward, two steps back. This is an idea of adapting completely the legislation of the Isle of Man to the British Customs legislation. If that is so, we are entitled to know the policy before we finally part from this Bill and this, we are told, is the last time we shall be allowed to discuss the policy upon which the Government approach the idea of the Customs of the Isle of Man.

One of the reasons we have for rejecting this Measure is that we think we should consider the Customs of the Isle of Man in relation to the condition of the people in the island. So far as we are concerned on this side of the House, we believe we should consider not the condition of the wealthy people of the island but the people who are in a poorer condition there, who have not gone there as foreigners from outside, but who were born and bred there. We think it is the duty of this House drastically to reduce all the duties in the Isle of Man because it would force the Isle of Man Government to put up the Income Tax to balance their budget.

Why should we not force them to put up their Income Tax to balance their budget? We would then provide for the people who are as much in need of holidays as anybody else, the workers in Lancashire and in the North-East corner of England and in the North of Ireland. We would provide them with a really cheap holiday resort, because Customs duty in the Isle of Man would be far lower. Why should we in this House merely cater in the Isle of Man for the beer drinkers?

Does my hon. and learned Friend not realize that Manx cats drink milk, which is non-alcoholic?

That is one of the reasons why they are encouraged. They, at least, have learned sense.

The Bill, in effect, states that in relation to taxation we will give the Isle of Man cheap beer and nothing else and that that will make the Isle of Man a holiday resort. I do not think that that makes for a balanced holiday resort. If it is accepted in principle that there should be a reduced beer duty in the Isle of Man I see no reason in principle why there should not be a reduced duty on spirits or wine. I should like to know on what grounds beer has this preferential character, other than the principle that the party opposite should always support the brewers. Why should we not consider a reduction of the tax on cosmetics and of the Purchase Tax on sporting equipment?

The provisions of Clause 5 (2) continue all the existing duties and if we are continuing the existing duties that is one reason for rejecting the Bill. We ought to have placed on the Order Paper a series of Amendments, but my hon. Friends and I decided against that because we did not want to take up too much time of the House. Looking at the matter as one of principle, why should people who have a sporting holiday in the Isle of Man have to pay the same Purchase Tax on sporting equipment as they have to pay in England while they can buy beer at half price? Surely we should consider what are the things which the poorest people in the Isle of Man need.

There is no duty on kippers. All that the Customs duties provide is £5 a year for the admiral of the herring fleet. To raise that salary an argument might be advanced in favour of raising these duties.

This is the last debate that we shall have on the Bill and we ought to have from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury a considered statement of the principles upon which taxation is decided in the Isle of Man. The principles that would be endorsed on this side of the House are those which would ensure that those items which form the staple of the budget of the least well off people should be those which should be first relieved of tax. Why have the Government not pursued that policy?

It may be said that the Tynwald has not pursued it. If so, we should be told why the Tynwald came to this decision. We do not want the Isle of Man to become merely a kind of retreat for people who want to avoid Income Tax and have that happen with the connivance of the party opposite. We want to see that the poorest people in the Isle of Man benefit from the fact that the level of taxation there is not so high as here.

On that, perhaps I might be allowed to quote to the House a letter which I have received from a very frank gentleman who says that he does not wish his name to be given. He is living in Jersey, and he apparently thinks that the views which I express rather imperil the position of Income Tax payers in Jersey. He says:
"It is true that Jersey has a large population of people who retire here to benefit from the lower taxation."
He then goes on to say:
"To prevent the citizens of the United Kingdom from settling in Jersey is the legal prerogative of the British Parliament."
Of course, it is not.

With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, it arises in the sense that it is not the job of the Government to prevent citizens from going where they want to go, but to utilise the powers which belong to this House to see that people who wish to avoid Income Tax are not provided with a place to which they can escape, but to use the powers of the House to relieve suffering and distress wherever they exist, and where we have the legal right so to do.

Therefore, it seems to me and to many of my hon. Friends that this matter has been approached in the wrong way. I make no party point about it, because, perhaps, we on this side have been at fault, too, but the party opposite were at fault when in Opposition for not raising the question before, because we know that they are deeply interested in the old-age pensioners. But the Tories, when in Opposition, never even thought of them in the Isle of Man.

Why did we not recast the whole type of legislation in regard to the Isle of Man when we had power so to do in order to see that the worst off people get the benefit of any alteration in taxation which may take place? It seems to me a scandal that we should pass a Bill which puts Customs revenue at such a level as to enable the Isle of Man to have a very low Income Tax. That is what we are being invited to do.

We ought to pause before we do that, because whether or not this is the last Bill which will be discussed by the House, it is obvious that the Government will dictate the form of taxation in the Isle of Man. When we come to dictate it, whether it is discussable in this House or not, it should surely be based on the fact that the Isle of Man should pay the same Income Tax this year, and that whatever relaxations in taxation are given should be in direct taxation and in reducing the price of things which the poorest people in the island require. Secondly, we should reduce the duties on the commodities which the holidaymakers going to the island require to buy.

It is upon those broad principles, I suggest, that it should be the duty of this House to proceed if we have any Isle of Man Bills in the future, or if there are any negotiations with the island to do away with the Bill. I think that we are entitled to an explanation from the Government as to why they have singled out dried fruit and beer on which to impose a lower duty than on anything else. I hope that this time we shall get that explanation.

10.34 p.m.

The researches of the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) always fill me with admiration, even though, at times, he advances views about beer and spirits which are more in conformity with his own tastes than with mine. I dare say that a good deal will have to be said about that before I finish with the proposal before us. He has made clear to me that the Government have certainly stimulated the Isle of Man at some point into making preparation for its scheme of taxation. If left to itself. I doubt whether it would ever have thought of it.

I am astonished to learn of the arrangement about the repayment of duty on beer suggested by these proposals. I do not believe that public opinion in the island would have been likely to have arrived at that proposal. It certainly would not want to arrive at the parallel suggestion that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch presented, namely, that something should be done about spirits.

In the Isle of Man there is a strong and effective temperance movement, represented in the churches and elsewhere, which would not be likely to have put forward any such proposals as these. I do not believe that the Tynwald, whose rights I had the privilege of defending when the Customs duty of the island came up for discussion in the House, 30 years ago, would have pin them forward.

Unless the Financial Secretary to the Treasury can show the House that there is a case for this, based on evidence from the island. I do not believe that any proof can be offered to show why there is a desire for a Measure of this sort. I can guess at some reasons, and I believe I would be right in saying that in this instance it is the brewers talking through the Tory Party, and looking for an opportunity to sell beer more cheaply in the island although he may not be able to get round the stricter licensing laws in this country.

On a point of order. Is not the hon. Gentleman the secretary of the Temperance Society, and should he not declare an interest?

Do not the majority of the members of the Parliamentary Committee of the Brewers' Society sit on the Government side of the House?

Is not the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) free to make a speech alone the lines he has indicated in his intervention? So far as we are concerned we shall be happy to hear him.

If the hon. Member tries to talk about that I shall rule him out of order.

The hon. Gentleman's intervention was intended to be insulting and may have been received as such. I accept it in that spirit. I am known in this House to be completely on the side of those who are struggling against beer drinking habits. I am on the side of the residents of the Isle of Man, and the members of the temperance movement in that island, in what I know would be their protest when this proposal comes before them.

Can the hon. Gentleman give any Biblical or other authority to support the argument that temperance and teetotalism are the same thing?

On a point of order. Is it in order to discuss the ethics and morals—or otherwise—of temperance or anti-temperence? And, if it is, can we not discuss the whole question of the gravity of beers sold in the Isle of Man?

Discussion is going on about my right to speak on the fundamental objection to allowing beer to be sold anywhere—whether in the House of Commons, the Isle of Man or other privileged places—at a cheaper rate than our licensing and financial arrangements allow.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch has made it very clear that the main part of the proposal before us is concerned with the selling in the Isle of Man of beer at cheaper rates, because of the lower tax provided for by this Bill. I was saying that that is an indication not of what the Isle of Man could be expected to want but, as I have frequently said, of the running in harness of the Tory Party and the brewing interests.

I object to such an arrangement not only for the sake of the residents on the island but of those who take their holidays there. One of the things that delights me is to discover that people who used to find their pleasures in drunkenness at holiday times at places where drink was too readily provided are now being turned to beauty spots and other places where drink is not the consideration at all. It is because I think that the Isle of Man ought to have protection against the drinking habit which is, in part, provided by the rate of tax imposed that I want to see a continuance of that rate.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite can be expected to keep up a running commentary, but on this matter I have a case, as the House well knows. I have just as much right to put it, even though I do not do so with the same blatant voice as the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) who is causing so much of the interruption in the hope of preventing me completing my argument. I shall complete it, none the less, with this statement. There should not be made at this moment—

I shall not give way in any circumstances. The hon. Gentleman must make his speech in his own way and not try to prevent me making mine—as I am trying to do. He must observe the ordinary rules of the House if he wishes to put forward his argument.

There should not be either in the interests of the Isle of Man or of those who go there from this country, the encouragement that is undoubtedly offered by the proposals here made. I dare say that there is one class of persons in the Isle of Man, the type of people who would be expected to run in harness there with the brewers.

I am, of course, referring to certain types of hotel keeper and lodging house keeper who, with greater facilities in the Isle of Man, because of different legislation, make available to visitors the beer and other intoxicating drinks which come their way. [An HON. MEMBER: "And they are open all day."] Yes, I know that from having visited the Isle of Man, and I expect it is still the case. That sort of arrangement operates to provide certain types of hotel keepers with this greater facility, although I know it is not the desire—and I know this beautiful island very well—of the general majority of the people there, nor is it in keeping with public opinion of the island.

I should like to know, therefore, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch wants to know, what has led the Government to put this proposal forward. We put the responsibility entirely on the Government, and we say that the Government have used this opportunity, as they have used every opportunity, if there is a loophole, to let the liquor interests improve their conditions. That is what the Government have done ever since they have been in power, and tonight we have another step which the Government have taken for the assistance of the brewers, and the interests which the brewers know so well how to exploit.

I object most strongly to the proposal. My hon. and learned Friend takes a very different view from myself on the actual rights and wrongs of the drink question, but I am very glad that he has pointed out so clearly what is really being done under this measure.

10.47 p.m.

I intended to intervene in the debate on Friday, during the Second Reading, because I thought then that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing), in his otherwise well-informed speech, had been somewhat ungenerous to the Younger Pitt. But the sudden incursion of the Tory Party which led to the termination of the debate means that my historical observations would now be out of order, and contemporary historians must rely on what my hon. and learned Friend has said. I would, however, warn them that they will be led into grave error should they attempt to publish observations based upon recent interpretations and before I am able to speak during next year's Second Reading debate on this Bill. I then hope to give the true facts to the world.

The termination of the discussion on Friday means that we are now limited to debating only what is in the Bill; and, furthermore, discussing that in terms which may seem a little unfair to the Isle of Man. There are those of us who wanted to develop the case from the point of view of the island as well as from the point of view of this House, for here we are dealing with the rights of two sovereign States. But we can only talk about that in a way which affects us and we cannot do justice to great difficulties on Third Reading; we cannot do justice to claims which ought to be made.

However, I can say this before the Third Reading is passed: that when we discussed the matter about two years ago the Financial Secretary was rather coy on the subject. Hon. Members may recall that it was a discussion to some extent in vacuo because we had not then the relevant information and it was because of the protest which some of us made two years ago that there has been some improvement and documents are now available in the Library from which we can get some information.

It was only in the course of a long discussion that we got the information given reductantly by the Treasury that the payment from the Isle of Man was still of the order of £10,000 a year as their contribution out of the moneys that we are now levying and the tax that we are now paying, while the revenue of the Isle of Man under this Bill was about £2 million a year. Of course, those figures are incomplete. They do not take into account any of the expenses which the island has to bear in making provision for education, and so on.

That the situation bristles with anomalies no one can doubt. The very considerable variation in Income Tax has its own anomalies. It means that the Isle of Man can offer better terms to teachers, police officers and others because they are subject to less tax on the appropriate Burnham scales and the appropriate police scales, and so we have an unhappy form of differentiation. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch has dug out several instances of differentiation in the Customs connection and in the rates of levy of tax, to some of which my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) has referred.

We were told by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury two years ago that it was hoped that these long negotiations were being brought to a conclusion. They had been initiated in 1949. The relevant accounts now show that there is kept in suspense account for the four years of negotiation £260,000 as compensation which the Isle of Man passed back to us for passing this Bill. If we pass this Bill under the temporary arrangements which are still in suspense, we shall receive back a certain sum for the Customs that we collect for the Isle of Man.

We collect them not merely on the population of the Isle of Man but on the estimated holiday population, too, a notional figure; they are computed on that basis. They come to about £2 million, and we are told that the figure which has been computed on the basis of a 5 per cent. levy on the amount involved in this Bill, after making allowance for the cost of collection of £27,000, would come to £98,000 this year. We should then have £358,000 in suspense account.

The relevant figures were given in answer to Questions that I put down on two occasions in the last 12 months. I put a Question on the relative figures of taxation on the basis of the cost of defence—the contribution to the existing cost of defence to the nation. The answer, which was given by the Financial Secretary, I think—or the Chancellor—was that the cost per head of defence in this country was about £31, and the contribution per head in taxation from the residents of the Isle of Man was £1 14s. When we looked at that figure of £1 14s. and multiplied it by the exact population of the Isle of Man, we found that the Financial Secretary had based that £1 14s. on the assumption that he was going to receive this £98,000 and the money in suspense account.

In other words, if we take the exact payment that has been made per person, we find that the actual taxation that is being borne at the moment by the inhabitants of the Isle of Man is more in the nature of 3s. per head. That is manifestly a very tremendous difference. As I say, we are limited to making the points of criticism and not to making some of the answers which are available, because they are, unfortunately, out of order.

The Isle of Man maintains a very high standard of education. It maintains an effective police force—

Order. The hon. Member should follow his own injunction and stick to those points which are in order in the Bill.

I am obliged, Sir. I was merely trying to explain to the audience across the Gangway the precise purport of my remarks, and perhaps I strayed for a moment outside the narrow ambit which I had carefully set myself, in order to elucidate the more difficult passages of the observations which I was making.

At any rate, that is the position. We have to consider year by year whether we should pass the Bill in this form, or whether these constitutional negotiations ought to be brought to a head before we pass the Bill again.

I want to say to the Financial Secretary that, if this unhappy Government remains in office for another 12 months, which, in view of recent events, appears singularly unlikely—we are losing them one by one instead of collectively, as we would like it—there will be very serious concern, if he comes to the House again, in 12 months' time, and says that these negotiations cannot be completed. We are hoping that by midnight the Prime Minister of France will, within a month, have done something of a very much more difficult nature than what this Government have tried to do over five years. Negotiations between two friendly Governments should not have taken five years.

It was rather alarming to have been told on Second Reading that a deputation was coming to this country to talk about it. When the Treasury, or the Home Office, or whoever it is that deals with this, sees the Isle of Man (Customs) Bill on the diary and decide they ought to think about it—

Order. This is not in the Bill. It may have been remotely in order on Second Reading. It certainly is not on Third.

I speak under difficulties, Sir, because my memory is taking me back to my intended speech on Friday. But I dismiss it now completely from my mind.

I say to the Financial Secretary, as a lone voice of the unofficial opposition, that I hope we shall vote against this Third Reading. Many hon. Members will desire to reconsider it next year, if something is not done, and important constitutional negotiations are not brought to a conclusion and the House informed.

10.58 p.m.

I do not wish to detain the House for long, but, as I am a newcomer to these matters, I should like to take the opportunity in case this should be the last opportunity we have. We have had so many promises about this matter being finally disposed of, that we really have no grounds for thinking that this is the last time we shall discuss it.

I have one or two points to raise because I am still confused about some of the matters which form the background to the Bill. The impression was created that this Bill depends upon the resolution of the Tynwald. Obviously, that is not true in any real sense. It is quite clear that the Tynwald resolutions are merely reflections of the decisions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think it is quite wrong to create the impression that the Isle of Man Legislature has a responsibility for what is being imposed on the people of the Isle of Man. I hope that the Financial Secretary will make quite clear that the Bill is a result of the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

I emphasise this, because it should be widely known and the Tynwald should not be embarrassed. It was for that reason that I urged that more information should be provided by the Government. I think we should know rather more about the discussions which are taking place, because it is quite clear, if we look at the OFFICIAL REPORT for last Friday, that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department was closured before he finished his speech. I should like to know just what the Joint Under-Secretary was going on to say when he was interrupted by his colleague on the Front Bench. I hope that it will be in order for the Financial Secretary to complete the remarks the Joint Under-Secretary was then making, because we are all interested in what he was saying. I certainly want much more reassurance that we are giving a Third Reading to such a Bill as this for the last time.

I should like something more than a resort to the maxim "Time enough." I have carefully re-read the speech of the Joint Under-Secretary, and it comes down to no more than that somebody is saying to someone else, "Time enough." The country is telling the Government, "You have had time enough," and it will see from what has happened today that, no doubt before the year is out, we shall be rid of them. But we should have something definite and explicit about the intentions of the Government in relation to this type of Measure.

It would not be in order to reply to the hon. Member's point in a Third Reading debate.

Then I shall immediately turn to the provisions of the Bill, Sir, and raise a few points upon them. We did not raise these matters during the Committee stage because we wished to expedite the progress of the Bill. Surely the provision with regard to chicory is a bad one in principle, when there is no prospect of raising any real revenue. This is carrying similarity with conditions in this country too far. It would have been far better to have disregarded this provision so far as the Isle of Man was concerned.

Can the hon. Member explain how it is possible to raise taxation when there is no prospect of any revenue?

The hon. Member had not the advantage of being with us on Friday last, and he has evidently neglected to read the OFFICIAL REPORT, because the Financial Secretary made it clear that no real revenue was to be raised from the Isle of Man in regard to this provision. I do not think I am being unjust to suggest that the purpose of the provision was to make something which we had imposed upon ourselves applicable also to the Isle of Man. I should have thought it would have been better to say that it was not worth while worrying about it, rather than to impose something which will have a negligible effect upon the Isle of Man.

The other point, which has been emphasised by previous speakers, is the question of the differential Customs duties. I think that that is also bad in principle. I can put, equally validly, two points of view upon this matter. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) that it is bad to attract beer drinkers to a particular locality by differential duties. It is equally bad, from the other point of view, to siphon off the beer drinkers from the Lancashire seaside resorts, because many people believe that beer drinkers add a note of conviviality to those resorts which may favour such places in catering for the tourist trade. In either case it is bad. I suspect that it is also bad in another respect, and that where such a differential is provided one gets bad beer. I have not had the experience of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North of going to the Isle of Man—

so I have not had an opportunity of seeing whether the beer is worse there than in the rest of the United Kingdom, but I suspect that it is. I suspect that it would be rather like the "near-beer" which is sold. Certainly, it will not be such good beer as that which bears full Customs duty. But whichever point we take, I think it is bad in principle. I do not think that we should any longer tolerate a differential in Customs duties applying to different parts of the United Kingdom.

Finally, I would merely mention that it is quite clear, from the financial arrangements, of which this Bill is a part, that there is an opportunity for Income Tax evasion. It is absolutely wrong to have different provisions for different parts of the United Kingdom. I hope that in the discussions which are taking place there will be a frank realisation of this difficulty on both sides, and that if those discussions are energetically pursued the hope expressed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Horn-church may be borne out.

11.5 p.m.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;

House counted, and 40 Members being present

11.6 p.m.

Surely we are to have a reply from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to the very cogent speeches which have been made from this side of the House in the last three-quarters of an hour.

The speeches of my hon. Friends were very brief, and, considering how difficult it is to keep within the rules of order on the Third Reading of a Bill of this kind, I formed the impression that what they had to say was very much to the point. A great many of the arguments which they brought before the House do need a reply from the Financial Secretary. That is doubly so when one remembers what the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department said when we last debated this Bill, namely that this may be the last time that a Bill of this kind is before the House.

I intend, like my hon. Friends, to be commendably brief. I have no desire to detain the House, particularly as I know there is another Motion on the Order Paper, and I have not the slightest doubt that my hon. Friends on this side of the House, as well as hon. Gentlemen on the other side, will want to speak to it. It would be a pity if we stood too long between them and the Motion in the name of the late Minister of Agriculture.

We have laboured throughout this very short debate under the fear that the Patronage Secretary might be ordered in by the 1922 Committee to attempt to move the Closure. On Friday, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) was robbed of the opportunity of making what I think would have gone down in the annals of Parliament as a very historic speech. I say nothing about my own, which I afterwards had to tear up.

I regret to have to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but Friday is past and done with, and we cannot discuss that on the Third Reading.

That is what we on this side of the House complain of, Sir, because a great deal was said on Friday which was very germane to the Isle of Man. We have now lost all opportunity of commenting on the very important speech which was made by the Joint Under-Secretary. I, however, bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I should like to reiterate before I sit down that very cogent points that have been put by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), and my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). I think that the right hon. Gentleman should reply to them.

My memory of previous Sessions of Parliament does not go back as far as that of some other hon. Members whom I see in the Chamber now, but it goes back far enough for me to remember more than one occasion, when hon. Members who now grace the other side of the House, and who then sat on this side, kept us up hour after hour discussing similar Bills to this. I can assure them that they then insisted on replies being made to points put by them during our discussions, and I think that the least the Financial Secretary should do tonight, and the courteous thing for him to do, is to reply to the arguments put in all seriousness from this side of the House, and which do demand an answer, in the interests of the taxpayers of this country and of those who reside in the Isle of Man.

11.11 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) need have no anxiety lest I fail to reply to this debate. I did not rise a moment ago because I wished to make sure the House had the privilege of hearing him, and I am sure the House is duly grateful. The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing). during his entertaining canter around the perimeter of the rules of order, concentrated on that subject which, in the strictly Parliamentary sense, never fails to attract him, the subject of beer, and he, perfectly legitimately, as it is dealt with by Clause 5, referred to the continuation of the existing level of the beer duty which, as has been pointed out, is below that ruling in the United Kingdom.

I think, however, he made, perhaps rather unnecessarily, heavy weather about this. The proposal in the Bill is in the terms proposed by the resolution of Tynwald, and the House must also face the fact, of which, I think, one or two hon. Members were quite unaware, that this proposal does not reduce the beer duty. One or two hon. Members, I think, suggested it did. It merely maintains it at the existing level and at the level proposed by the Tynwald. We are, in passing this Bill, of course, exercising the final responsibility as to what Custom duties in the island should be, but it has been the custom of this House for many years to see to it that the proposals of the Tynwald are given proper weight, as those of the representatives of the island. For that reason, I do not think it is necessary for me to detain the House with a lengthy argument why the beer duty should be maintained at this level.

I think the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), who, I am sorry to see, is not in his place, got unduly and unnecessarily excited when he suggested that the maintenance of the beer duties at this level was due to some alliance between my hon. Friends on this side of the House and the brewing interests. If that is proved, it is a rather curious reflection that the state of affairs, to which he objected, with the beer duties at a lower level on the island than on the mainland, has been the state of affairs for a good many years, including all the years in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley was responsible for conducting identical Bills through this House. Therefore, if my hon. Friends are in this curious alliance, so is the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. and right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench. I think that deals with the delusions that appear to affect the hon. Member for Ealing, North.

When the hon. Member goes on to say that this differentiation embodied in the Bill was not the wish of the people of the island, I must confess that I think that the views of the inhabitants of the island are better expressed in the resolutions of Tynwald, their Parliament, than by the views, however honestly held, of the hon. Member for Ealing, North.

On the other hand, the view of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), that the contribution of the island to defence costs is inadequate, seems to me to be a reason for passing the Bill and for securing the continuation of these duties in the island for the year that is to come.

The House is now at Third Reading. It has the decision of commending the Bill or throwing it out, and the only effect of throwing it out would be to deprive the island of a large part of its revenue. To do that, as suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Horn-church, in order to force the island to put up its Income Tax, would be a breach of all the understandings that have existed as to our treatment of the island and its say in the management of its own affairs, and I cannot believe it was intended seriously.

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) suggested that this Measure was imposed on the island. The Bill embodies the resolutions of the island's own assembly. His other point related to chicory, and he took the line that there was no point in imposing taxation where, in fact, the revenue would be negligible. As I said on Second Reading, he is quite right in suggesting that the revenue would be negligible, but it is a highly convenient and sensible arrangement, where no particular interests of the island are involved, if they see fit to adjust their Customs Duties to the same level as in the United Kingdom. In any case, the collection of this duty is undertaken by the United Kingdom Customs, and different rates of duty merely cause unnecessary inconvenience, and I should have thought he would have welcomed the helpful suggestion of the Tynwald that the island's duties should be brought into line with those of the United Kingdom in our own Finance Bill.

For those reasons, it does seem to me that the House would be well advised to follow the established practice, now that these proposals are embodied in the Bill after consideration of the resolutions of Tynwald—although we may differ as to the precise steps we would have taken in this direction had we initiated the matter—and give effect to the island's proposals and secure by the passing of this Bill the grant of these Customs revenues for the coming year.

Would the Financial Secretary care to explain, in the case of chicory, what has been the procedure followed by the Tynwald? Does it not show that it does not pass these resolutions and does not act on its own initiative but at the instigation of the Treasury, as in the case of chicory? Does that not make a farce of the argument that this Bill is based on the resolutions of Tynwald?

I really cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that, because a friendly body such as the Tynwald in this friendly island takes helpful action, it is only doing so because it has been told to do so. I have a much higher regard for the desire to co-operate and be helpful which they have displayed for several years.

11.18 p.m.

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.

Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time," put accordingly, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

Agriculture Act (Extension Order)

11.20 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries
(Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)

I beg to move,

That the Agriculture Act (Part I) Extension of Period Order, 1954, dated 6th July, 1954, a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th July, be approved.
This is a formal matter—

On a point of order. This Motion is down in the name of a Minister of the Crown, and, indeed, it is moved on those grounds. But we were told today that the Minister in question had resigned his office. In these circumstances, it would surely be quite wrong, Mr. Speaker, that an order which can only be moved by virtue of its being moved by a Minister of the Crown should be so moved in the name of a Minister who is no longer a Minister.

I have the grasp of the hon. and learned Member's point, but there is nothing in it, because what I have heard is that the Minister has submitted his resignation to the Prime Minister who has forwarded it to Her Majesty, and we have not yet heard that it has been accepted. There is another point, which is that any Minister can move a Motion standing in the name of any other Minister, and I called upon Mr. Nugent to move it.

You have just said, Mr. Speaker, that it is competent for a Minister to move a Motion standing in the name of any other Minister, and "any other Minister," I should have thought, were the operative words. It is officially announced on the tape machines that the Minister of Agriculture has resigned. He is no longer a Minister, and, therefore, in the terms of your own Ruling, Sir, another Minister cannot move a Motion standing in the name of someone who is no longer a Minister.

I have dealt with the point. I have no knowledge of what is on the tape machines, and I am not bound by it.

May I put this further point to you, Mr. Speaker, and through you to the Government Front Bench? Would it not be much more seemly, in view of the fact that the responsible Minister has resigned—whether or not Her Majesty has yet accepted the resignation—that the Government should not rush to pass an order of this kind before, as it were, the body is cold? Would it not be better to leave the Motion over for another time?

That has nothing to do with me. The Motion is quite a proper one. I have called upon Mr. Nugent to move it.

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, though you have no knowledge of what is on the tape machines, may I recall that on a matter of privilege which I raised on 19th December, you found it possible to have knowledge of messages which had come from Nairobi. There seems to be an inconsistency regarding the Ruling which you gave then, and the one which you have now given.

There may appear to be an inconsistency, but the circumstances in the two cases are entirely different.

May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on this point? If it is true that the right hon. Gentleman's resignation has been accepted, it then follows that this Motion is not down in the name of a Minister of the Crown, and, therefore, it cannot be moved. I should like to ask your guidance as to whether my reasoning is correct on that point.

The hon. Gentleman is asking me to answer a hypothetical question. That I must decline to do.

As I was saying, this is a formal matter. The purpose of the Order is to extend for a further year the operation of Section 4 of the Agriculture Act, 1947. The Act originally provided that the life of Section 4 should be limited to three years unless it were extended from year to year by an Order of this kind. Such Orders have been made annually since 1950. The last of these extended the period of operation of the Section until 5th August this year, and we propose that it should be continued until 5th August, 1955.

Section 4 of the Act is concerned with the making of arrangements for providing guaranteed prices or assured markets for the products included in the First Schedule to the Act. It gives the Minister the power to modify the existing arrangement if they are not entirely suitable for the purpose, or to make new ones if there have been none before. In practice, these powers are in use for one product, wool, which was included in the first Schedule of the Act in 1950. At the same time, the Wool Marketing Board was set up under the British Wool Marketing Scheme, and the guarantee arrangements were given effect to under the Wool (Guaranteed Prices) Order, 1951, which was made under Section 4. This Order provides for the board to pay producers an average price which shall not be less than the guaranteed price fixed at the Annual Review. The Order now before the House will enable the 1951 prices Order to continue in operation.

11.28 p.m.

We certainly agree that this Order should be passed and that the British Wool Guaranteed Prices Orders should be continued for a further period. I am not going to enter into an argument whether the Order ought to be presented in the name of the Minister of Agriculture, but certainly I would say that it is not to his discredit that the last thing to be presented here in his name is something which continues the guaranteed prices and market stability started by the Labour Government. That continuation is all to his credit and he shall not lose it.

11.29 p.m.

I do not think the House should pass so quickly from this Order, and I agree with my hon. Friend who has just spoken in what he said about the Order and about the Minister. I hope that I am in order in saying that we all have a great personal regard for the right hon. Gentleman, and deplore the circumstances in which he has left his office. We all regret that he will no longer be able to deal so courteously and efficiently with the various problems we have to put to the Ministry.

The House would be setting a wrong principle if it agrees to pass this Order tonight. It may be that it does not deal with matters of consequence, but we ought to safeguard the rights about affirmative Orders. If the legislature has sanctioned that such Orders shall be made these are matters for Ministerial responsibility and it is wrong, when there is a change of Minister, that we should proceed, before a new one is appointed, to agree with the views of the former Minister. We do not know who will be appointed, or whether his views will be different from those of the former Minister. He may not wish to continue the policy of the late Government. I think it would be a mistake—

Those are all very hypothetical considerations. The House is now dealing with the Motion which is before it, and the hon. and learned Member should confine himself to that.

I was hoping so to do. The argument which I was hoping would be in order is that it does not seem to me to be very fit and proper to pass this Order tonight. It is an affirmative Order, and it is surely in order to say that there is, after all, a certain amount of time still in which this Order could be set down. Presumably hon. Members opposite can find someone to take on this thankless task, and there will be another Minister who may suffer the fate of the last. Surely that is the time to consider this Order. I submit that it is unfair to the House as a whole to have to deal with this when the Minister has gone out of office and there is nobody with Ministerial responsibility. Then again, we may have to address questions to the Minister in regard to the operation of this Order. How can we do so if there is not a Minister?

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have given your Ruling that, for the purposes of this Order, we are only dealing with the possible resignation of the Minister. Is it right and in order for the hon. and learned Gentleman to proceed as if the thing were a fact when you have already ruled that it is not?

That apart, the position is that the Motion has been moved and placed before the House by the Parliamentary Secretary, and the House must consider the Motion on its merits. All the considerations which the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) is advancing seem to be very remote from the merits of the Motion. The Motion, on its merits, must be considered, and not what may happen in the future.

In those circumstances, I would ask your permission to move that this debate be now adjourned. I think, with great respect, that that would be a course consistent with the dignity of the House. It is quite true that this may be only a trivial matter, but I do not think that there are any other cases on record—perhaps the Joint Parliamentary Secretary can tell the House if there are—of a Motion standing in the name of a Minister who has resigned being debated as though the Minister had not resigned.

In those circumstances, all I can do is to express the hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who always treats the House in the most courteous way, will feel that on this occasion it is not really proper to proceed with this Order in this way.

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, and agreed to.

Highland Development Crofting Areas)

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith.]

11.33 p.m.

I should perhaps begin by giving some explanation as to why I, a Clyde Valley Member, should poach on these Highland preserves. The reason is that a number of my hon. Friends and I have been considering the general problems of the distribution of industry in Scotland and it has been brought home very clearly that this Highland problem is quite apart and distinct from those of other areas. Quite different considerations are involved. I believe that there may be a case for rather more clear definition of precisely what we are trying to do, who should be responsible for doing it and how it should be done.

May I first try to define the rather strict limits of the problem with which I want to deal. "Depopulation" is a word often used in connection with the Highland problem and very naturally it arouses strong emotions. But, looking at it objectively, I think one has to go back to the phrase made famous on the wireless and ask, "What exactly do we mean by 'depopulation'?" It is always sad when villages decline, when townships decay and people move from one area to another. It is always sad, but it is often inevitable. Even in the prosperous And expanding economy of America there are decaying villages in the agricultural areas of New England and deserted "ghost" towns in the Middle West.

To some extent, these things are inevitable. Natural resources become worked out; methods of production change, social habits alter and populations move. The right population for an area is not necessarily that which has been there in the past, but the population which, in present circumstances, is that required to get the most out of the area; that is, the greatest production and the fullest advantage for the nation as a whole under modern conditions.

For some time the tide has been running away from the Highlands area. That tide may turn. Hydro-electric power has done a lot already, and we have heard of the possibilities in the utilisation of peat, and the more distant but dramatic possibilities from the creation of nuclear power at Dounreay which may ultimately transform the whole life of the area. But I am not tonight concerned with these great possibilities for the future. I wish to deal only with the building up, and holding, of the population in this area necessary effectively to maintain and develop the occupation which for several decades, if not for several generations, must remain the mainstay of the Highlands—and that is agriculture.

What, in the opinion of the Government is the right level of population in order to get the best agricultural production out of this area—the population which is needed for the country as a whole? Are there enough people there to get it now? If not, how can the people be got back, or how can those already there be kept? Obviously there cannot be a precise figure, but if there is a rough working estimate, can we be told what it is? Without some such estimate, we do not know, so to speak, the object of the exercise. We are moving in a world of generalisations and of strong and natural emotions, rather than in a world of such facts as can be ascertained or assessed. Obviously, no such estimate can be precise, but I should have thought that the agricultural experts could give at least some rough working hypothesis that in this area, say, we need so many hundred people, and in that area so many thousands.

Having got a rough idea of how many people are required, area by area, we could then consider what special measures, if any, may be needed to keep them there; what ancillary employments are needed to underpin agriculture in order to maintain a reasonable level of population and prosperity. Here I would ask if development of afforestation is likely to prove enough to serve this purpose. In the Crofting Commission Report just published there are some interesting and encouraging facts about the contribution which afforestation can make to the problem. But if it is thought, as seems probable, that by itself is not enough, what light industries do we need in order to offer part-time or alternative employment and to help to get more money circulating and to raise the general level of prosperity?

In the present circumstances, the distribution of industry in this area, as in all others, is a responsibility of the Board of Trade. But the Board of Trade, I submit, can see only one side of the picture. It is rightly concerned with exports, and the need for foreign trade, and the promotion of efficiency. But looked at purely from that point of view, it is hard to think of anything more inefficient than dotting industry in penny packets round the Highland glens with all the transport and managerial difficulties which that entails. If we are going to do it at all, if we are going to try to scatter such tiny industrial units through remote areas, it can only be because the industrial disadvantages are more than offset by the agricultural advantages. Now the only people who can see both sides of such a profit and loss account—the people who can see what is worth doing and what is not—are those who are responsible for the welfare of the area as a whole; that is to say the Scottish Office. Most certainly it is not the Board of Trade.

Perhaps the Royal Commission have already considered this point. If so, I hope we shall have particular attention paid by the Government to those sections of the Report that deal with it. If not, I hope the Government themselves will make the necessary inquiries and consider very seriously whether there is not a case in these particular areas for transferring the responsibility for industrial development, and in particular the development of small industries—possibly factories limited to a certain number of square feet—from the Board of Trade to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

So far I think I have conerned myself only with the general problem of strategy and responsibilities. I now move to the more difficult matter of tactics in tackling the problem. I am confident that it can be done. Indeed, both the Crofting Commission and the Secretary of State for Scotland in his speech last week referred to a small experiment which had been made at Inverasdale. That was done by the local authorities, with money and powers provided under the existing legislation, and inspired by the drive and enthusiasm of one Scottish industrialist, Mr. Rollo. A small but successful engineering works has been started. The Crafting Commission Report states that, working in such small units, men can earn about £300 a year and continue to maintain their agricultural holdings as well. But on a small unit with four men, that means £1,200 a year circulating in an area. In a small village, that money circulating in and out of shops and so on, can make all the difference between a lively community and a decaying community. It may also go some way towards meeting the difficulties mentioned in the Crafting Commission Report with regard to the difficulties met by many crofters in getting the necessary capital for the efficient equipment and maintenance of their crofts.

The first question is to decide how much such expansion is needed, and what steps are required to encourage it. In various replies to correspondence with the Departments concerned, I have been repeatedly told that the need is for initiative, enterprise and all the rest of it from individual industrialists. But time has shown only too clearly that there are not many Rollos about. Quite naturally, if an enterprising business in an area like my own constituency wishes to expand, they build an extension to their works on the other side of the fence. They are not going trekking off to Wester Ron to do it. Without special inducements they are obviously not going to take the action necessary to meet this special case.

Now I want to make one suggestion and I put it forward tentatively to give an idea of the sort of thing which might contribute to the solution of the problem and which I believe certainly ought to be considered more carefully than has been done hitherto. If these factories are needed, could not Scottish Industrial Estates be given the powers to build them with money provided by the Development Commission, on similar lines to the arrangements instituted for the north-east coast? Could not these factories then be managed on a fee basis by existing big industrial concerns which would be better than having them under Government management? I have discussed the matter with one or two concerns and I have been told that it would be difficult, that it would obviously mean a lot of extra travel and other tiresome complications, but that if the Government really want it and are prepared to pay for the extra effort involved, the firms see no particular reason why they should not take it on.

Could not these factories, in addition to any other work, also be given Ministry of Supply contracts, or the managing firms use them for sub-contract? The Ministry of Supply need a large quantity of small engineering products, and as much is for stock there is no hurry and the work could be done mainly in the crofting off-season and eased off when the men are employed on the farms. As I say, these things could be explored more fully than they are at present. There is no new principle involved. We give special help to the marginal farms. This is no more than an extension of the same principle. It may cost a bit. It may indeed cost a high percentage in terms of a unit, but from the point of view of the Treasury the units are so small that the total sum involved would be practically negligible. Moreover, I have already made the case that we should only consider doing such things where and when we are quite certain that the effort and expenditure of money involved is more than counterbalanced by the gain in agricultural output that the nation needs.

The questions that I want to put to the Government are these. First, we should have a clearer definition of the point that we want to reach—that is to say, the level of population in general terms which is considered desirable for the agricultural welfare of the crofting areas. Secondly, we ought to consider a redistribution of responsibilities among the Departments concerned in achieving these aims. So far as the location of industry is concerned, in the case of the Highlands I believe it should be the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland rather than of the President of the Board of Trade.

Finally, we want reconsideration of the tactical methods of getting these results, either by means such as those I have tentatively suggested, or others which may occur to the responsible authorities.

I would end by saying that under the present system we are getting nowhere. Such replies as I have had from the Departments are all concerned with proving that, under the present allocation of responsibilities and priorities, anything that one suggests is impracticable. If we want to get results in these crofting areas I believe that we have got to change the channel of administration and responsibility, to be more clear about our objectives, more rational in our allocation of responsibilities, and more flexible and more energetic in the methods we use.

11.45 p.m.

I think the House is indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Brooman-White) for introducing, even at this late hour and in a commendably brief speech, a topic of fascinating interest and very substantial importance to the Scottish economy.

It is true that the Highland problem is not quite the same as the problem for the rest of Scotland. But, I think it would be equally wrong to suggest that the Highland problem is just one problem and that one could properly say the Highlands were depressed or the Highlands were prosperous. The fact is that the Highlands themselves are made up of many quite different parts.

Inverness, for example, is a sizeable industrial town which contains at least one firm of international repute that exports highly important products to many parts of the world, and there are other parts of the Highlands that are playing an equally prominent part in the national economy.

What, I think, my hon. Friend is concerned about, is not so much the Highlands, by and large, because he knows what I have been saying is true, but with those parts of the Highlands, particularly the glens and rural, out of the way, quarters, which one might call crofting areas, which now depend, for the most part, on agriculture, fishing and forestry. He is asking if it is possible that these somewhat isolated areas could have some ancillary industries imported into them. He is asking if we have thought that out and what sort of future these areas have and what sort of population we feel is necessary and what action we should therefore take.

I cannot answer my hon. Friend when he asks questions about the sort of population that, roughly speaking, we have in mind for the Highlands, looking a few decades ahead. I do not know. I will try and find out for him, but I do not think we can easily answer that ques- tion, because it is a very swiftly moving economy in which we are now living.

The hydro-electric schemes may revolutionise the Highlands and it would be rash to try to concoct figures as to the future population in these circumstances. Similarly, the great peat project might have a remarkable effect, and I do not think any human being could at the present time arrive at the figures which my hon. Friend desires. With his wish to see small industries brought into the Highlands, I am in complete agreement. I think, therefore, that my hon. Friend can feel easy upon that score.

The only other major question that arises from his speech is whether it would be wise, bearing in mind the need for bringing new industries into the High- lands, somewhat to change our administrative machinery. My hon. Friend says that industry and its location, by and large, is technically a matter for the Board of Trade, and he says to himself, "The Board of Trade is stationed in London. It is concerned principally with exports and imports. How can it be expected to take a keen interest in the development of small industries in isolated parts of the Highlands?" I must tell my hon. Friend that, although the Board of Trade is stationed in London, it has very admirable and active people representing it in Scotland, and that there is in Inverness a representative of the Board of Trade who is constantly moving about the area, in touch with what is happening there and looking for opportunities of development.

That representative of the Board of Trade in Scotland is in regular contact with the Scottish Departments, and he attends the Highland Panel meetings. At St. Andrew's House, where we have a joint committee almost constantly in session, composed of representatives of the various Scottish Departments, whenever it is thought necessary and useful, the Scottish representative of the Board of Trade is invited to attend. Therefore, although the Board of Trade is the body responsible for the development of industry, in fact there is close and continuous consultation between the Board and the Scottish Departments.

It may be that the Report of the Royal Commission may suggest some further devolution of administrative authority. I do not, of course, know what may be recommended, but, as my hon. Friend has said, it is a possibility. Certainly I shall undertake to bear in mind—speaking on behalf of my right hon. Friend—the case which my hon. Friend has put so cogently.

It would never do if we were to assume that the present organisation is splendid and is incapable of improvement—that it is perfect, flawless and adequate. It is by a constant flow of new ideas, such as have come from my hon. Friend, that progress may be made. I therefore wish to thank him for the stimulating suggestions he has offered, and I undertake to examine them.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Six Minutes to Twelve o'Clock.