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Clause 8—(Reorganisation Schemes)

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 5 July 1961

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I beg to move, in page 7, to leave out lines 39 to 41 and to insert:

(b) if he so wishes, be of a value not less.
The Taylor Commission, when dealing with reorganisation schemes, stated in paragraph 141 on page 45 of its Report that a reorganisation scheme
"should give to every bona fide crofter resident within the township and able and willing to cultivate the soil at least a fair equivalent to the holding which he originally had."
This recommendation was written into the Crofters (Scotland) Act, 1955, which provided that under a reorganisation scheme no crofter ordinarily resident in the township who was able and willing to cultivate a croft should be provided under the scheme with a croft of less value than his original croft.

In the Bill we sought to make it clear that the crofter's ability to cultivate in this context should not be judged in relation to his personal ability, but should take account of the fact that in accordance with the statutory conditions a crofter may cultivate the croft by himself or with his family with or without hired labour.

In the Standing Committee the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) moved an Amendment to delete "and able" from Clause 8 (2), and I undertook to reconsider the whole matter. I have done so. I have given careful thought to this question, and have come to the conclusion that the important thing about a reorganisation scheme is to ensure that the land in the township is reallocated among the crofters in a sensible way.

The Amendment has, therefore, been tabled to ensure that each crofter involved in a reorganisation scheme shall, if he wishes, receive under the scheme a croft of not less value than his original croft. Clause 8 (2) also provides that the new croft shall, if the crafter wishes, include his existing dwelling-house.

On behalf of my hon. Friends and myself, I thank the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Amendment. We had a considerable discussion in the Standing Committee about the words "willing and able". We appreciate that "willing" meant that the crofter was just willing to have a croft, but we doubted very much the ability of any authority to decide the ability of the crofter to cultivate the crop. Therefore, we did not think that "and able" had any real meaning. At least, we thought that those words would be completely inoperable in the administration of the Clause.

In the circumstances, we were grateful to the Joint Under-Secretary for moving the Amendment in fulfilment of a promise which he made to see how best be could get rid of the words "and able".

Amendment agreed to.

9.45 p.m.

I think that it would be convenient to take with this Amendment that in page 9, line 13.

In Standing Committee we had a very long but, I think, helpful discussion about what was a reasonable length of time within which a crofter could be expected to say whether or not he favoured a draft reorganisation scheme. The major factor in this consideration was the possibility that some of the crofters involved in any scheme might be employed in jobs which necessitated some period of absence from their crofts. Hon. Members gave various examples of this—such as a crofter being away fishing.

What we have tried to do is to devise a reasonably expeditious procedure, on the one hand, but, at the same time, to give a reasonable time to the crofter, on the other. The extension of the voting period from two to four months as contained in the Amendment effectively achieves a fair balance between these two considerations.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 9, line 13. leave out "two" and insert "four".—[ Mr. Leburn.]