Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £336,647, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1933, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, including grants for land improvement, agricultural education, research and marketing, loans to Co-operative Societies, a grant under the Agricultural Credits (Scotland) Act, 1929, a grant in respect of the Hebridean Drifter Service, and certain grants in aid."—[Note. —£140,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Members who have the interests of agriculture at heart, and Scottish Members in particular, have seldom, if ever, met to consider the problems of agricultural administration at a time when farmers were contending against so many and such powerful adverse factors; but at this late hour it would be impossible for me, and the Committee would not expect or desire me, to enter upon a discussion of the broader aspects of agricultural policy, nor do I think that is necessary after the very full and clear explanation of the Government's policy which has been given in successive statements by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. I would only say this, that while the main battle for the revival of agriculture and industry generally will be fought on a wider than a purely agricultural front, the immediate agricultural objectives of the Government are particularly appropriate to Scottish conditions, and, indeed, we in Scotland have already undertaken a considerable amount of pioneer work in these directions. In accordance with this policy the agricultural departments of the Government, and particularly the Department of Agriculture in Scotland, have been concentrating upon such measures as may be taken immediately to help the farmer in his present distress and to improve his prospects. Nor do we feel that we are engaged upon a hopeless task or even a doubtful enterprise. On the contrary, we are confident that agriculture is destined to play a great and an increasing part in the economic life of the country, and that it will not be 1202 the last of our industries to emerge from the gloom of the present depression.
Nevertheless, while we are anxious to do our utmost to help the farmer in every way in which a Department of State can, no part of the machinery of administration can be immune from the overriding necessity of economy at the present juncture. On account of the financial crisis through which we are passing, and passing, I think, more successfully than hon. Members would have ventured to prophesy only a few months ago, expenditure—and, let it be quite clearly understood, useful, valuable and productive expenditure—has had to be cut in every Department. But for these considerations, I should have found it impossible to justify the heavy reductions which have been made this year in the Votes for important agricultural services in Scotland. Taking these considerations into account, I realise that the Committee will rightly call upon me to justify every shilling of the expenditure which I am asking them to approve.
Let me begin by asking the Committee to consider the broad totals of the economies which have been effected. The provisional Estimates for 1932, which I inherited, amounted to £757,045. The May Committee recommended that this figure should be reduced by £75,000, apart from economies of an unspecified amount on Land Settlement. The Government made it clear to the House at the time when the report of the May Committee was under discussion, and to the country at the General Election, that they would not be satisfied with the economies which had been indicated by the May Committee, and that further economies would be sought in every direction. In pursuance of the decision of the Government we have sought in every direction for every possible economy in these agricultural services. To summarise what we have done in this direction: We have reduced the Estimate by £175,000 to £581,613, that is £142,000 below the Estimate for 1931.
The Committee will want me to deal with the particular items of expenditure on these accounts. I propose to take them in the order of size. The largest single item is the Estimate of £220,000 for the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund, which includes a grant-in-aid, of £125,000, for land settlement, and £15,000 for rural 1203 housing. The remaining £80,000 represents a proportion of the cash loss in respect of smallholding properties during the previous year, which is applicable to schemes financed wholly or partly by means of loans from the Public Works Loans Commission. After the War, at the high-level of prices, funds were borrowed by the Board of Agriculture, as it was then, at the prevailing commercial rate of interest, in some cases over 6 per cent., which we are still paying. The inevitable heavy loss on the settlements was undertaken at that level of prices, and we paid the full commercial market price of money at the time for the financial accommodation which we received from the Public Works Loans Commissioners. The whole of that money is being paid off by annual payments, decreasing in amount year by year. I say decreasing in amount year by year although, no doubt, some hon. Member will have spotted that there is an increase this year of £1,000. That is merely a matter of accounting last year. It remains true that the general trend over a series of years is steadily downwards. About five years ago it was over £100,000.
These figures represent a reduction for this year, in the grant-in-aid for land settlement, of £50,000. The normal grant is £175,000, but, as a result of the crisis last August, and of what is known as the standstill order on land settlement, which prevented us from moving at all in the direction of acquiring properties for settlement, we are able to make these economies this year, without for the remaining part of the year, retarding progress on adaptation work on properties already acquired. There could be no more false economy than to slow down that process of adaptation. The more quickly properties once acquired can be passed through the machinery of the Department, the more economical the settlement will be. To slow down the work of adaptation of properties, especially where a certain amount of work has been done, is to run the risk of involving the State in far greater expenditure than would be saved by withdrawing a portion of the staff. Nevertheless, as I have said, the share of the economy measures of the Government to be borne by this service amounts to a figure of £50,000, and it is for me to justify 1204 the ground on which I am asking for £125,000. I do not think there will be many voices raised against this grant, for never was there a time when the settlement was more justified, whether we look at the records of the past or at the needs of Scottish agriculture or rural economy in the future.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
May I ask the Minister whether that £50,000 is going to affect the position this year.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
That is the economy we are effecting this year. If we look back at the past we find that the policy of land settlement has been justified by the resistance that those who have been settled on the land have shown to the adverse economic influences which have overwhelmed so many larger farmers. There are few industries in this country which can show so small a proportion of failures, during the recent years of heavy depression, as the smallholders of Scotland. Moreover, looking to the future, it is apparent that modern tendencies in agricultural development towards labour-saving devices and mechanisation must inevitably have the effect of aggravating still further the problem of rural depopulation. There is, however, a compensating tendency—of equally natural and sound economic growth—to concentrate upon those lines of production for which this country by the nature of its soil and climate and by the position of its land in relation to its consuming centres, enjoys the greatest natural advantages, such as livestock, dairying and fruit farming, poultry and market gardening, for all of which small holdings are admirably adapted.
We must not forget the unsatisfied demand which exists for land all over Scotland. Apart from the arrears, amounting roughly to 3,000 applications for new holdings and 3,000 applications for enlargements, the number of fresh applications in each of the past five years has been between two and three times the number settled in any of those years. Experience shows that there is a latent demand which is awakened by the initiation of a scheme in any district. Many of the applicants have been waiting, and especially ex-service men, for holdings since the War. The Under-Secretary for Scotland said, on the last Vote that we were discussing, in reply to the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham), that 1205 whereas, in the case of housing there was no definite policy and no special pledge given to ex-service men, it was true that ex-service men, as a result of speeches that were made by leaders of public opinion at the end and just after the War, came home under the impression that there had been a pledge given them by public opinion generally that they would get a chance of owning a bit of land. We ought not to forget our duty to them, merely because, owing to circumstances which it is impossible to control and which it has been impossible for some time to control, we are slow in discharging that duty.
It is a remarkable fact that, in spite of the great difficulties of agriculture, in spite of the bankruptcies and the hard times, this active demand for smallholdings still persists and increases. It is true that smallholdings cost money. To settle a man and his family on a 50-acre holding or family farm costs on the average about £1,187. To make a similar settlement upon a 10-acre market garden costs £685; while a 10-acre holding with pigs and poultry costs the State—these are actual net costs to the State—about £602. On the other hand a five-acre market garden costs only £453. A five-acre poultry holding costs only £444. If those holdings are constituted in suitable places near good markets, the smallholder, even on the smallest of those holdings, even on the five-acre poultry holding, and particularly if he gives half an acre to a market garden, has every prospect of success.
In the last 10 years there has been spent in Scotland from the Road Fund, from local rates from Unemployment Grants Committee money, upon schemes —which however valuable in themselves give at the best only temporary employment and afford no hope of permanently establishing an unemployed man—no less than £25,000,000, while on land settlement, which provides a permanent means of livelihood for a man and the family, there has been spent in the past 12 years only £2,250,000. Every man settled on a smallholding relieves to that extent the pressure upon the labour market. Let it not be supposed that it is only the country-bred man or woman who does well on the land. Of just under 4,000 men settled on the land by the Department, 2,600 came from agricultural employment, but 1,314, or almost exactly 1206 one-third, came from other occupations. A tailor, for example, who was settled in 1921 now keeps over 800 laying hens and raises 5,000 chicks annually. He values his present stock and plant at £4,000. A miner who was settled on five acres in 1923 was transferred to a holding of 49 acres in 1927 and he now has 19 dairy cows and 500 poultry. A cabinet maker with £150 of capital, who entered a five-acre holding in 1923, has twice attained the premier award in the Scottish official egg-laying contest, and is now among the foremost poultry breeders in the country.
There are many townsmen with a flair for country life who may be quicker and more ready than the country-bred man to adopt and adapt intelligently the latest development in science. In the present condition of unemployment, it is well worth while to get men removed from the congested labour markets or from being a charge on the State or the public assistance committee and planted firmly in secure, wholesome and productive employment on the soil. Lastly, there is that menacing problem which occupies the mind of all of us who know the Scottish countryside, namely, rural depopulation. In recent decades every rural county has registered a decline in its population at each successive census. No part of the country has been a worse victim of this tendency than the Highlands of Scotland. To check the depopulation and restore a balance between town and country must be one of the primary aims of a constructive policy for the countryside.
Land settlement must inevitably play the chief role in these efforts, and its effectiveness as an instrument in repopulating the countryside is amply illustrated in the third section of the report of the Department of Agriculture. These and many other equally powerful considerations can be urged in support of the policy of land settlement. In that way alone can we redress the balance— now, I suggest to the Committee, in dangerous disequilibrium—between our urban and rural population, and maintain in the countryside in Scotland men and women concentrating on those lines of production for which our agricultural conditions are best adapted, while preserving a vigorous and healthy country-bred stock from which men and women may be recruited either for the intel- 1207 lectual and industrial life of our great cities, or for Imperial migration and development.
To turn to the next largest item of the Estimates, which is the money required for the maintenance of the whole administrative structure of the Department, let me say frankly that the figures, as given in the Estimates in the summarised form in which we are bound to present them to the Committee, are unavoidably misleading in the sense that they convey a wholly inadequate impression of the economies that have been effected and of course none at all of the results which will automatically flow from them in the future. Hon. Members will naturally look at Item A, which shows a reduction of only £796 from the figure of £130,000 for last year. They will probably be a little puzzled and almost certainly disappointed. Let me therefore ask them to follow me in an analysis of that figure. First of all, I would ask them to give attention to a series of increases in expenditure with which I was faced and over which I had no control. The largest item consisted of annual and automatic increments of salary of the staff and bonuses—increases to which they were entitled by the ordinary rules of the Civil Service, amounting to no less than £3,245. While there is nothing exceptionally generous in the treatment of the staff, which is under the same rules as other Departments doing similar work, there is one peculiar circumstance affecting it which I would ask hon. Members to bear in mind, and that is its comparative youth. It has barely attained its majority, and the result is that while at one end the staff is gradually climbing up the incremental scale of salary, at the other end it will be a number of years before a corresponding number of the staff are dropping off by reason of death and retirement. Meanwhile nothing short of a revision of the pay of the whole of the Civil Service could affect that figure which I have given the Committee.
The next largest item is the additional cost of services not brought fully into operation during 1931; in other words, inescapable commitments inherited from our predecessors amounting to £940. The next item is clerical vacancies filled at a higher cost than last year, amounting 1208 to £983, under an arrangement which is universal throughout the whole Civil Service. If there is a vacancy for a clerical officer in one Department another officer may come in from another Department who may be at a higher level in the increment scale than the officer which the Department is losing or at a lower level. In some years the arrangement works out to the advantage of a particular Department, and this year it is working out to our detriment to the extent of £893. Lastly, there is a new and valuable service recently inaugurated by an Act of the last Parliament—the inspectorate appointed under the Licensing of Bulls Act. For this purpose two inspectors and one part-time advisory officer have been appointed at a total salary of £754. Add to these items a number of similarly quite uncontrollable increases amounting to just under £200, and we reach a total increase of £6,026.
Now let us turn to the reductions which we have effected. The first item is the abolition of posts to the value of £4,154. The next item is the economy cuts in salaries amounting to £1,624, and the third is the reductions due to retirements, transfer and death, amounting to £1,044, or a total of £6,822. If I mention these facts and ask the Committee to give my Department some credit for this gross figure of reductions, I do so without any of the complacency of which the hon. Member for Hamilton accused us in the Debate on the last Vote. Economy is not a matter of complacency, but a matter for firm and careful handling, and it is my constant endeavour to seek means of economy in every direction in which it can be effected without detriment to the efficiency of the service. For example, in addition to the economies referred to, and to those which hon. Members may be able to trace in the Estimates, I have refrained from filling two of the higher posts in the Department, although they appear on the Estimates, and additional economies in respect of these posts will duly accrue in the course of the year. These efforts to economise without impairing the efficiency of vital services will not be relaxed; we shall continue firmly on this course so long as the present financial emergency exists. I cannot conclude my remarks on this Vote without expressing my own sense, and I believe that of every other Mem- 1209 ber of the Committee however keen an economist he may be, of the loyal, zealous and ungrudging service which the public in general and agriculture in particular receive from the officials of the Department over which I have the honour for the time being to preside.
The next subject to which I desire to refer is that of agricultural research and education. In recent years, when prices have been falling catastrophically, successive Governments have realised the urgency of calling in the scientists to help in attacking economic waste, and thus enabling farmers to reduce both their risks and their costs. The value of the work in this direction performed by the agricultural research institutes has already put into the pockets of Scottish farmers an amount equal to many times the cost of those institutes. There is no more profitable investment that the State can make than scientific research. It is proving its value to agriculture in directions too numerous to mention to-night, but of which recent and striking examples are the prevention of rickets in pigs, of diseases in chickens, and particularly chickens hatched in winter and early spring, and of diseases in sheep which have inflicted heavy losses on Scottish flockmasters. The improvement of temporary pastures through the work of the North of Scotland College of Agriculture was recently calculated by one of the Governors to have resulted in an increased return, to Aberdeenshire farmers alone, of £30,000 a year, while the control of leaf stripe, one of the notable achievements of the West of Scotland College of Agriculture, is estimated to add £l an acre to the returns of oat growers in the districts where that disease is prevalent. These are only some of the obvious results from research. It may be asserted with every assurance that investments in agricultural research return, not five or 10, but hundreds per cent. on the capital invested.
The latest addition to the chain of agricultural research institutes in Scotland, the Macaulay Institute of Soil Research, has now come into operation. It has been established in good quarters at Craigie Butler, in Aberdeenshire, and is being equipped for the performance of its important duties. It has already undertaken work of an interesting and instructive nature into the possibilities of reclaiming and cultivating peat land in 1210 Lewis. The results so far obtained from the cropping of the reclaimed land have been encouraging, and the experiments are being continued with the object of securing still more satisfactory results. An important feature of the work of the institutes in recent years has been the co-operation between a number of institutes, each pursuing the particular line of research for which it is specially adapted, but working towards a common goal. For example, an investigation into the relation between deficiency in the mineral constituents of soils and the occurrence of disease due to malnutrition is being undertaken by the Macaulay Institute for Soil Research, aided by the Rowett Institute for Animal Nutrition at Aberdeen, and the Animal Diseases Research Association at Edinburgh. Each of these Institutes approaches the problem from its own special angle, and facilitates the progress towards the common goal of its fellow institutes.
Another example of team work is the research which is being carried out on the nutrition of pigs, in which the Rowett Institute, again, is collaborating with the Animal Diseases Research Association in Edinburgh and the Animal Breeding Research Department of the University of Edinburgh. The results of this work should be of immense practical value to farmers in Scotland, and should greatly facilitate the development of the Government's policy for the encouragement of the pig industry. I hesitate to detain the Committee any further on this subject, but there have been such remarkable developments in research on the diseases of sheep that I think the Committee would like to be informed about them. Under the auspices of the Animal Diseases Research Association, during the past year over 30,000 doses of vaccine for innoculation against braxy were sold by the Association to farmers throughout the country, and it is a striking testimony to the efficacy of this treatment that, while in the untreated animals on the farms where carefully controlled large scale experiments were conducted the death rate from braxy ranged from five per cent. in some lots to 14 per cent. in others, the death rate from the disease among the treated sheep was only one-half of 1 per cent.
Still more important and gratifying were the results of the issue by the Association of 50,000 doses of serum for 1211 the treatment of lamb dysentery. The treatment was entirely successful, and I think the Committee will agree that this is an achievement which only a few years ago would have seemed almost visionary, but which will put scores of thousands of pounds every year into the pockets of sheep farmers in Scotland; and I think the Committee will also agree that the grateful congratulations of us all are due to Dr. Russell Grieg and the brilliant staff of the Animal Diseases Research Association. A vaccine for the treatment of louping-ill has also been prepared by the Association, and has been tried this season upon 4,000 sheep. Strong grounds exist for anticipating favourable results, and the preliminary reports, which I only saw yesterday, indicate that the experiments are being conducted under good conditions, and are yielding promising results so far. I should like to refer also to the very valuable work which is going on at the plant breeding station on the production of types of oats which will be early ripening and at the same time productive—work which will be of particular interest to Members for Highland constituencies. Very remarkable results have been achieved with the "Bell" and the "Elder" varieties of oats, named after two of the founders of the Plant Breeding Association, and these two varieties are now on the market and are giving good results,
I must also refer briefly to the work which is being undertaken by the Hannah Dairy Research Institute. This work is of great value to milk producers, and also to the general community. There is no more important branch of agriculture than the dairy industry, nor one with greater possibilities of expansion. It has been estimated that the average consumption of milk per head of the population in this country is less than half a pint per day; yet, if the average consumption per head in Scotland were raised by a quarter of a pint per day, we should need 100,000 more cows and 10,000 more workers on the land to look after them. Even then the average consumption of milk in Scotland would be about half that in Sweden, and only three-fifths of that in the United States of America. If we increased our consumption to the level of that in Sweden, it is doubtful if, under the present conditions of agriculture in Scotland, there 1212 would be enough land in the whole of Scotland to carry the cows that would be required.
The supreme importance of milk as a food, and especially as a food for growing children, has been demonstrated by a series of experiments carried out in different parts of the country, notably that which was undertaken by the Lanarkshire Education Authority in 1930. But, if the industry is to be developed to its full capacity, it must be enabled, on the one hand, to banish from the public mind the fear of unclean milk and, on the other hand, to lower its cost of production by attacking diseases such as tuberculosis, contagious abortion and mastitis. The Hannah Research Institute and the Animal Diseases Research Association are already working on the eradication of tuberculosis and the prevention of milk fever, and we are now laying our plans for attacking other diseases which impose heavy charges on milk producers. All this work is an important part of the Government policy for the encouragement of the great dairying industry.
The importance of research is great, but no less important is it to convey the results of research to the farmers. The first stage is the pure research in the laboratory. The next stage is experiment on the farm attached to the Institute. Then experiments on a larger scale may be carried out by the agricultural college and finally, when the value of the experiment is proved, it is the duty of the colleges, by means of arranging visits to farmers, to see the results of the experiments and, by any other means in their power of which, of course, the chief is the employment of the county organiser, to get that information to the farmers of the country. The main agent of this dissemination at the present time is the county organiser who has done such admirable work in every part of Scotland. As, however, agricultural research develops in range and complexity it becomes increasingly difficult for the organiser to keep himself up to date in every department of the work, and it may well be that almost every branch of agriculture is included in the county for which he is responsible. In many cases he may find that the farmers themselves, whom he is anxious to help, know as much about the results 1213 of research in the particular line in which they are interested as he does himself.
It is, therefore, for consideration—on this I should like hon. Members to favour the Committee and the Government with their views—whether we ought not to depend more for the dissemination of this knowledge obtained by research institutes upon specialists in particular branches. Of course, conditions vary in different parts of the country, and in scattered districts like the Highlands it is hardly possible to contemplate in any predictable future that the services of the county organiser on the spot could be dispensed with. In counties less remote it is for consideration whether, with the improved facilities for communication which now exist, a more specialised service, based directly upon the agricultural colleges, would not yield more satisfactory results.
The last subject on which I desire to say a few words—I wish I could spend more time on it—is that of agricultural marketing. Scotland has not been backward in making use of the Agricultural Marketing Act. Already two schemes have been submitted for my approval. The first is the raspberry scheme, which was submitted to me on 6th April, and I am now considering certain representations and objections which have been put to me by parties affected. The second is the milk scheme, which was submitted to me on the 3rd of this month and which has been published for the information of all concerned in order to give an opportunity of making representations or objections. This milk scheme covers the greater part of Scotland, the whole of the country south of the Grampians. There has also been a strong demand among Scottish farmers interested in livestock for the preparation of a marketing scheme for fat stock, and I am arranging, accordingly, for the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society to inquire into the subject and prepare a scheme. From indications that I have received it is apparent that ample support will be forthcoming in the not distant future for the preparation of similar schemes for eggs and potatoes. These schemes will undoubtedly have the effect of eliminating wasteful and out-of-date methods of marketing in some of the commodities of the greatest importance to Scottish agriculture. I should not like to pass 1214 from this subject without paying a tribute to the imaginative and vigorous lead which has been given by the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, which will long and gratefully be remembered by generations of Scottish farmers as the pioneers, unsparing in their labours, of scientific methods of marketing.
The time at our disposal is so short— I hope we shall have a further opportunity on some other occasion—that I feel that the best service that I can render to the Committee and to Scottish agriculture is to bring my remarks to a close and give opportunities to others to speak. I assure the Committee that we in the Department of Agriculture are resolved that no efforts shall be lacking on our part to support the Scottish farmer in maintaining, as he has been gallantly doing during the worst years of depression, the high reputation of Scottish farming. The Scottish farmer has always had his eye on the future. Never have Scottish farmers supported and helped forward research and marketing reform more than they are doing to-day, and I feel confident that, when prosperity returns, as it will, to the agricultural industry, Scottish farming will once again be not only the admiration, as I believe it is to-day, but also the envy of the world. But every Department must conform to the general policy of the Government and to the imperious demands of the financial situation. I have, therefore, thrown myself into the task, which I will not disguise from the Committee has been a distasteful one, of effecting economies in services which I believe to be not only important to agriculture but essential parts of the administrative and economic fabric of the State. I have done so because I believe that the policy of the Government is right and is adapted to the needs of the times, that it is idle to go on tinkering with the problem of agricultural development with our reserves of financial power depleted, as they were last autumn, almost to the point of exhaustion, and that, the more rapidly and the more thoroughly, though not carelessly or recklessly, we effect the necessary economies now, the sooner we shall be able to resume our forward march and tackle effectively the problems of social reform and economic and agricultural reconstruction.
§ Mr. LEONARD
I hope it will not be taken amiss if I compliment the right 1215 hon. and gallant Gentleman on the way he has presented a most interesting case in a manner that befits one coming from the part of Scotland from which he comes. I hope it will not be assumed that, because I represent a congested district of Glasgow, I have no interest in agriculture because, just to the extent that density exists in our town areas, so does it become more important that the question of food supplies should be looked at and understood. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that agriculture is destined to play as important a part in our national life as many other aspects of activity, but I am rather at a loss to understand why, if such importance is going to attend this national conference, certain aspects displayed in these figures present themselves as they do to us. I know that in the initial part of his remarks, as in the latter part, we were informed that the overriding demand of economy was a determining factor, but I am sometimes at a loss to understand what economy really means. It may be that a person himself may think that, if he refrains from spending something, he is saving, but, in so far as the nation is concerned, I think economy can be viewed as increasing the production of the thing required, and it is that category of saving that we have to look into and tinkering, a word that he used later, is something that we should not do even in the holy name of economy.
I was especially interested to hear the concluding remarks which the right hon. Gentleman directed to the activities of research and experimentation, and because of that reference I am the more surprised to see the decrease of expenditure as shown in the accounts before us. I am surprised to see that in regard to this Department which in the past has been so beneficial to the farming community of the country, and incidentally, I hope, to those who live on the produce of the farms, there is a decrease of no less than £19,564. I should have thought that the results were so beneficial that the Department would have been allowed to carry on as before. While it may be stated, as an offset to that, that a certain amount of co-operation has taken place with regard to the various institutions which are functioning, notwithstanding the co-operation dis- 1216 played in that way, I think that there would be a genuine advantage to be gained from extending the work of research. Scientific tests and experiments are also subject to a reduction, although the amount is not so large. I am reminded of the protests made in previous years regarding the lack of power and opportunity to experiment, and to apply the results of the Research Department. If we are to have a research department we are bound to see to it that they have large and comprehensive fields in which to apply the results of research, and not leave the results to be applied by people who are not so conversant with them.
Agricultural marketing is down for a cut of £4,800, which also does not conform to what I would conceive to be the requirements of this country with regard to the marketing of produce, so essential to our well-being. I was interested in reading a report recently presented by the veterinary surgeon to the city of Glasgow. It may be within the knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman. In that report he tells us of the details given to him and others at the International Dairy Congress in Denmark in July of last year. Among the details of interest contained in the report were the following: For every 100 persons in Denmark there are 46 cows and 148 pigs; in Germany, for every 100 persons 16 cows and 34 pigs; in Holland, for every 100 persons 14 cows and 25 pigs; but in Great Britain, where our needs are as great as those of any of the other countries, for every 100 persons there are only seven cows and six pigs. We should foster education along the lines of marketing and research in the way in which it is being done in Denmark. The outstanding feature of the co-operation which takes place in Denmark is in regard to marketing and the organisation of marketing, including co-operation and the technique of the whole of the problem. It is fostered by Government inspection and control. A Government guarantee of soundness and quality is as essential in this country as it is in Denmark, so as to keep everyone up to concert pitch and cause people to have confidence in regard to the quality of the produce purchased by them.
The principle of co-operation covers 90 per cent. of the Danish creamery pro- 1217 duction, and in the control of their great co - operative organisations they are sufficiently democratic to allow the representatives of the workers a share in the control. Until we get towards that point there can be very little hope of the idea permeating throughout this country. Piggeries are regarded as one of the byproducts of the creameries in Denmark. The production of pigs is scientifically carried out. There are 53 co-operative bacon factories in that country. They are not confined to the handling of bacon. They also engage in egg production and the grading of eggs, and quite recently they entered into a method whereby the production of chickens is dealt with in a scientific manner. Something should be done in this country by keeping intact the research organisation and the 'application of research, because of its great advantages. Co-operation is the keynote. Until the farmers of this country are educated in the advantages of co-operation they will not achieve the desired object.
I do not propose to touch upon land settlement, because I have heard an interjection which causes me to believe that it is to be dealt with by another hon. Member, but with regard to allotments, I am of opinion that the demand for them has not been met to the extent I would like to see it met. There are in many depressed areas in the country men who are keenly anxious for work of this description. I am especially insistent upon this because of the examples given by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to inexperienced people with adaptability going into chicken and egg-raising. I think that with an extension of allotments some similar advantage might accrue in that direction. I am informed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) that there have been a number of applications for allotments in his area and that no response of a suitable or satisfactory character has been given. Therefore I hope the demand for allotments will be looked upon a little more kindly, so that the possibilities of allotments will be as great as those displayed with regard to egg farming. The advances made in research and the application of research do not warrant a reduction of the Estimate, but rather an extension of work which should not in any way be limited.
§ Sir SAMUEL CHAPMAN
My right hon. Friend was generous in his tribute of praise to those who work so loyally under him, and I am sure that the Committee will want, if I may presume to voice the opinion of the Committee, to be most generous in their praise of the right hon. Gentleman and the vigorous and encouraging speech he has just delivered to us. We look forward to many years of excellent work from the right hon. Gentleman. Those of us who know a little of Scottish history know that our present Minister of Agriculture for Scotland—I prefer to call him that rather than the Secretary of State for Scotland —occupies a hereditary position, and that his great-great-grandfather was the individual who, through his own efforts in this House in 1793 established the Board of Agriculture for the United Kingdom. I am quite sure that during the next four years, when the right hon. Gentleman ruminates amidst those "castellated shades of Thurso, "as Disraeli, in Edinburgh in 1868, called his palatial residence in the far north of Scotland, when be thinks of what his family has done for agriculture, and when he looks at that Raeburn of his great-great-grandfather, he will be able to say at the end of his career, "I, too, have done something for agriculture."
I want to speak for only two or three minutes on two points upon which the right hon. Gentleman has not touched. On page 63 of the Report there is mentioned for the first time in the history of Scotland an animal which is not a native of Scotland. We all wish to encourage new industries, no matter where they come from, and in the establishment of silver fox farming in Scotland there has been considerable success. There is another little animal which is being imported into Scotland, the breeding of which we hope will also be a great success—the musk rat. No one wishes to throw any obstacle in the way of those enterprising gentlemen who are introducing this new industry, but as the musk rat is an animal which does not like captivity, and which when it gets into its native haunts breeds at an enormous rate, I do desire to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it will be most necessary for his Department to keep an eye on those who are engaging in this enterprise.
1219 I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has ever seen a musk rat. This particular musk rat comes from Alaska, but it is the same musk rat which is in various counties of Scotland; and as some have escaped from these confined areas in Scotland, where they are breeding them to a large extent, I would point out that if they once get into the rivers of Scotland, whether it is the Erne or the Tay or any other river, they will burrow 100 yards under the soil right into the bank, they will enter under the water, and it is always very difficult to detect the damage they are doing, but when there come floods, down go the banks, and great havoc is caused to agriculture. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman is keeping his eye on this particular little rodent, which is not quite so profitable to breed now as it might have been six or seven years ago, as hon. Members will appreciate when I tell them that I have ascertained to-day that furs of this nature can be secured in the right quarters, with the duty paid —and I call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to those new duties, of which he is one of the distinguished authors—for the price of half a crown. All I desire to say to my right hon. Friend is "Keep your eye on the musk rat."
Earl of DALKEITH
Having regard to the destruction caused by the musk rat all over Europe, is it desirable to encourage the industry in Scotland?
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
In order not to take up any further time I did not wish to go into that matter, but I desire to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this: That where they are bred, and where people have the enterprise to put down a good deal of money for the purpose of breeding them, the Department should see that they do not escape from the large enclosures in which they are encaged. Just this one other thing: The right hon. Gentleman at the commencement of his most excellent speech said that he would not go into any details with regard to agriculture, because the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture, who, I am glad to see, has just come into his place —[HON. MEMBERS: "He has been here all the time!"] I am sorry; I was observing so closely the Secretary of 1220 State for Scotland that I did not look beyond him to anybody else. The right hon. Gentleman said that as his right hon. Friend had so admirably described the policy of the Government with regard to agriculture he would not add anything further to that. Therefore in the presence of these two right hon. Gentlemen I wish to quote a sentence from a speech which was delivered in this House on the 7th April last by the Minister of Agriculture himself; and it is a passage to which I wish to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland. What the Minister of Agriculture said was:One thing perfectly clear is that whether it is arable farming or stock-raising, if the prices which the producer gets for his product do not pay for the cost of production, it is impossible indefinitely for him to carry on."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th April, 1932; col. 433, Vol. 264.]That is the crux of the question. All I desire to say to our popular Secretary of State for Scotland is that he will have to back up the Minister of Agriculture in the spirit and in the letter of that sentence which I have just read. He has to face it. We who are Members for town constituencies have to go quite boldly to our constituents and to say to them clearly, exactly as the Minister of Agriculture has said to this House, "We have got to give the agriculturists of Scotland and of these islands a good price for the products which they produce." The Ministry is there for that purpose. The Minister of Agriculture has pledged himself in this House that that is the policy of the Government, and I am sure the Secretary of State for Scotland will, as a loyal individual, back him up through thick and thin.
Town and country hang together. An old Member of this House, Sir Josiah Child, said over 300 years ago that they are twins; when one thrives the other thrives; when one decays the other decays. We town Members, as well as the country Members, have to be equally keen in backing up agriculture, and we shall look to our present popular Secretary of State for Scotland to take the lead, so far as Scotland is concerned, to forget for a moment some of those doctrines which I have heard him talk about on the other side of the House, and give a lead to Scotland, and put agriculture once more in a proper state of increasing prosperity.
§ Captain ARCHIBALD RAMSAY
I wish only to raise a point which has been raised on several occasions and in several quarters by hon. Members. I refer to the dates of maturity as laid down in the Schedule to the Import Duties Act. We have invited the attention of the Secretary of State for Scotland and of the Minister of Agriculture to these points: how gooseberries in Scotland are not nearly ripe on the 30th June; how we cannot possibly hope to sell strawberries by the 15th or the 25th June; how we have no hope of ripening tomatoes either by the 31st July, when the two penny duty obtains, or even in any quantities by the 31st October, when the penny duty obtains.
§ Captain RAMSAY
I thank you for your Ruling. May I invite the co-operation of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Agriculture? I would like particularly to plead with, the Secretary of State for Scotland, because in a matter of this kind not I alone but many other Scottish Members have bitterly complained that we find ourselves up against an extremely difficult situation. We go to the office of the Secretary of State, and either he or his most genial Undersecretary, after we have put forward our case, tells us that it does not come quite within the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State for Scotland and that we must apply to the Minister of Agriculture. We go to the Minister of Agriculture and we are told that this matter does not rest entirely with him, and that we must go back to the Secretary of State for Scotland. We are rather like Alice with Tweedledum and Tweedledee. They have their arms round each other's neck, and one says "contrariwise," and the other "nowise."
This matter is, we understand, in the hands of the Minister of Agriculture, and now that we have the good fortune of having the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland present, I do appeal to the Secretary of State that he will make the strongest possible representations to his colleague. I ask that he would make this representation, perhaps one of many, and that he would ask him, or take steps in consultation with him, to issue an Order-in- 1222 Council that will enable the Scottish horticultural producers of tomatoes to have the date of the duty post-dated for three weeks. That would help us out, and a longer period would help us more. Scotsmen who know anything about the growing of tomatoes or strawberries—I could mention several other items—earnestly request that this matter should be dealt with now. We have put questions in the House, we have lobbied outside the House and done everything we possibly could, but month after month has gone by and already several valuable advantages under the Act have been lost to us.
Therefore, I hope that he will use his good offices to see that an Order-in-Council is issued promptly giving the Scottish horticultural producers the same advantages, or something near the same advantages that are now enjoyed by producers in the southern latitude by postdating the maturity dates under the Schedule by three or four weeks. That would enable the Scottish growers to enjoy the benefits of a period wherein one is able to get enhanced prices, which is a very valuable thing. People may make light of the fact that there is only a small advantage for a short time, but whether it is in agriculture or any other industry an extra 1½ per cent. is a very valuable sweetener to the yield over the whole year. Therefore, I beg my right hon. Friend to do something at once to put this matter right this year and not to leave it over.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The Secretary of State can flatter himself on the speech he has made to-night. He has shown that he thoroughly understands his subject, just as the Minister of Agriculture thoroughly understands his subject. Therefore, he can take it from me that all that he has said to-night from his place at the Box, unless he delivers the goods, is going to be used in evidence against him. It is no use his standing at that Box and displaying all his oratorical abilities unless he is going to put into practice something which will be of benefit to Scotland. Scotland needs someone who will do something, not somebody who is only going to talk at that Box. I have listened for 10 years to Secretaries of State making similar speeches, perhaps not just as good as that of the right hon. Gentleman, but just as promising. Agriculture in Scotland is at a very low ebb. 1223 When I challenged the Under-Secretary of State about Scotland being depopulated to the extent of 42,000, he explained that it was not in the industrial areas but in the rural areas. Think of that. This depopulation is in the agricultural areas.Oh, that mine enemy would write a book.Out of his mouth we condemn the Government again. The most important part of Scotland is the agricultural area. Once a noble peasantry is destroyed it can never be replaced. That is what is going on in Scotland. Our noble peasantry is being destroyed year after year. Formerly they went across the seas, but now they are not being produced because conditions are so bad. The Under-Secretary of State also spoke about 2,000 who are getting smallholdings. We used to worry the Minister of Agriculture when he was Secretary of State for Scotland and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury when he was the understudy of Lord Novar, the Secretary of State, about getting our folk back on to the land, those men who will no longer work in the mines and in the engineering and shipbuilding yards. Tonight the Secretary of State comes forward with a nice flowery speech. You would think that the Government were going to do wonders, and that all is better than well in my native land. I know that such is not the case. No Government have made any attempt to carry out what the speech of the right hon. Gentleman indicates.
I want the House to remember that we bring from Denmark millions of pounds of dairy produce which we could produce ourselves. Our climate is better, our soil is better, and it was instilled into me in my youthful days whether it is true or not I cannot affirm, that the Scottish farmer is the finest farmer in the world. Here you have the finest material in the world on which to work as against Denmark. You have the soil, the climate and the men. But what do we find? Only 2,000 put on smallholdings. [Interruption.] Well, only a little over 2,000, and you have over 300,000 unemployed. On the evidence of the Secretary of State himself these men who are unemployed to-day—miners, engineers, even tailors—have been a gigantic success on the land where they 1224 have had a chance. Why in the name of all that is good does he not put more of those men on the land? Why leave them with nothing to do while you are paying them 15s. 3d. a week? We are told by the right hon. Gentleman that they can be put on the land to earn a decent livelihood, but nothing is done.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not go on with these proposed economies. My colleagues and I have opposed every cut. We do not believe that cuts are necessary or ever were necessary. You will never get good results by reducing expenditure. There is no reason for this idea of economy which is abroad throughout civilisation to-day. Every country has it and every statesman in every clime and every government—even here—are anxious to reduce wages and salaries and to reduce the standard of life. But my colleagues and I stand for the very opposite. I want the right hon. Gentleman to take another view of the situation. We must spend money. There is no shortage of the necessaries of life in the world to-day. If there was a shortage in any article all the investors in the House of Commons would be investing their money to produce that article. There is no real call for economy, and this question ought to be approached from another point of view. The right hon. Gentleman ought to remember that the race which he is supposed to represent here, the Scottish race, the common people of Scotland, are of more value than money. Let him give them a chance instead of leaving tens of thousands of them with nothing definite to do and no hope in the world of being able to earn a decent livelihood.
To-day the mothers of Scotland are crying out to Heaven, "What am I to do with my boy? Where am I to get him a job?" The Secretary of State has a glorious opportunity to put his own ideas into operation and to put those men on the land, and what a land. Think of the Highland glens and vales, where tens of thousands of a hardy and intelligent race have been reared. Now those glens are depopulated and the houses have been left roofless, though there are not so many of those ruins now. The people have been driven from the glens to the uttermost parts of the world, where they have made good in thousands of cases. Why can we not do something for the folk at home, 1225 instead of driving them away across the wild Atlantic Sea? I could tell a different tale from the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman), of forbears of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who drove the Highlanders out of Scotland, and especially the Duchess of Sutherland, one of the worst we ever had. I am not blaming him, but I want to put it to him that he has the opportunity now to remove that blot on the escutcheon of his name, because there is no doubt that it matters to the people of Scotland.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has the opportunity to do the opposite of what the Duchess of Sutherland and Gordon did in the Highland clearances. He can establish again a race of people that would be a credit, instead of their being up against it. They are living under terrible conditions, which are even worse than in our big industrial centres, with tuberculosis rampant among them because of the bad housing conditions and because of poverty; and nobody knows that better than does the Secretary of State for Scotland, even in his own constituency. He used to stand here, speaking as a Liberal, and attack the Government, even the present Minister of Agriculture, on the very same point, so I hope that he will not let go the good name that he has made to-night. He has made a good reputation for himself, and I hope that he will go to Scotland and to the Scottish Office and put all those good resolutions and all that fine, flowery speech that he made into practice, because action is far better than words, though the words be never so fine.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I certainly should not wish to go so far as the hon. Member in denunciation of what I thought was an extremely interesting speech, but I thought my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland was unduly optimistic in regard to the prospects of men going on the land and rearing poultry. He said that the man who was going to put five acres under poultry had every chance of success, especially if he put half an acre under vegetables, but I think that statement entirely ignored the handicap under which the poultry farmer labours owing to the very low prices that he is getting for his poultry, to which reference has 1226 been made by the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman). We ask the Ministry to put the best minds that they can on to the study of the facts, and the facts are that Russia for the last two years has been our main oversea supplier of poultry and that in May of this year she was sending us poultry at about 6½d. per lb., whereas in May, 1931, her price was only 7d. per lb. That is a distinct fall, though I admit that her price in April, 1932, was a little lower than in May, 1932. The price in April was just below 6d., whereas in May it was about 6½d. But you have there, in spite of the fact that we have an import duty, this fall in price of imported poultry, which is bound to have its effect on the prices of the home birds.
I know that in an answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture a day or two ago, he pointed out that the quantity of poultry coming in from Russia was smaller than in May last year. On the other hand, the quantity that came in in April was very much larger than in April, 1931, or April, 1930. My right hon. Friend also said that he believed that a considerable number of the birds imported in May were elderly hens. No doubt he has a good source of information, but it is quite impossible for any country to have sent us the quantity of poultry that Russia sent us in 1930 and 1931 if she had only sent us old birds. I cannot believe that the birds sent from Russia are only of the type that should be sold at a very low price. Again, Russia had not been sending us eggs in recent months, but in May she again came on to the market at a price of 7s. 3d. a dozen as compared with 9s. 1d. in May, 1931.
It is not possible to discuss any remedy for this state of affairs, but I submit that it is most inadvisable for a responsible Minister to encourage men with the idea that they can make a decent living mainly out of poultry, and ignore entirely the very poor price that can be obtained for either poultry or eggs. In the case of butter, the right hon. Gentleman was again very optimistic. He spoke about the valuable work of research and marketing methods, and I do not deny the value of them, but they all rest on an insecure foundation so long as the home farmer has to compete with either the prices I have mentioned for poultry or eggs, or with the prices I 1227 will mention for imported butter. Russian butter came in at 79s. per cwt. in May, 1932, as compared with 100 shillings in May, 1931. That is a drop of 21s. per cwt. in the course of this year. The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned pigs and the desirability of rearing pigs. I entirely agree. I long to see more pigs and poultry reared in Scotland. They are eminently suitable for a smallholder when he is in a safe position.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has studied the prices at which bacon has been imported from Russia since 1929. In that year the average price of bacon from Russia was 91s. per cwt. In 1930 it was 82s. and in 1931 it had dropped to 46s. For the five months of this year it has not been higher than 41s. If we compare Russian prices with the prices of bacon coming from our chief suppliers, we see that every time the Russian price is below the others. Although the quantity of bacon imported from Russia last year was very small, still, to quote an old Scottish farmer, "A dumped market is a market with no bottom in it," and the Russian bacon imported in the first five months of this year exceeds the total quantity for the whole of 1931 The effect of the imports of bacon, more especially those from Soviet Russia, merits the most careful examination by the right hon. Gentleman and his colleague the Minister of Agriculture. I believe that the Russian Five Year Plan, of which these increased exports are a very important feature, has influenced prices, not merely because of the increase in the exports but by reason of the fact that they are sold at prices much below those of Russia's competitors.
I think the Plan has also influenced prices through the great limitation which Russia has placed on the importation of certain commodities. That is a side of the question to which even less attention has been paid. Personally I have only begun to study that side of the question quite recently. There is the very important commodity wool, of enormous importance to Scottish farmers. It is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that the immensely restricted consumption of wool and woollen clothing in Russia, plus the beginning of exports of wool, has had a very considerable influence on the price 1228 of the commodity. In 1930, according to official Soviet figures, Russia imported not much more than a quarter of the woollen manufactured and partly-manufactured woollen goods that she imported in 1913. That is a tremendous drop. Between 1930 and 1931 again, there was a drop in Russia's importations of woollen yarns from 5,500,000 lbs. to only 77,000 lbs., and if we look at the imports of raw wool we find, according to the official Soviet figures, that they were some 1,200,000 centals in 1913, that by 1928, before the Five Year Plan had begun, they were only about three-quarters of that amount, and by 1931 were only half that amount.
Therefore, in manufactured woollen goods, in woollen yarns and in raw wool there is a tremendous reduction of the importations into Russia; and that is a surprising feature when we remember the climate of Russia and that Russia was a great country for importing wool. Russia was not, I believe, a country which exported wool at all before the War, and yet in 1930 we find her exporting 113,000 centals of wool and in 1931 exporting 50 per cent. more than that amount. But, the most striking thing of all is the price at which Russia exported this raw wool. In 1930, according to the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics Chamber of Commerce Bulletin, of which I have a copy, the average at which this raw wool was exported was not more than 42s. a cental. That compares with an average price of 83s. 6d. per cental for the cheapest form of unwashed wool imported into our markets in that year. The average price of the Russian wool was just about half the price of the raw wool we took into this country, which came chiefly from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In 1931 Russia dropped her price for the raw wool she exported to less than half, namely 17s. 6d. per cental. I do not yet know what was the average price of our imports of wool from all countries in 1931, but it cannot be anything like that figure. In any case, for the country that had exported at half the average price at which we imported, to drop to less than half of their price in one year, is something that seems to be absolutely without parallel, and something which I hope that my two right hon. Friends on the Front Bench will take into most serious consideration.
1229 We have heard of the depression in sheep farming, and I am sure the Secretary of State for Scotland knows something about that question. He must have some idea of it. If I may I will give an instance. The other day I was told by one of the best-known farmers of Scotland of a hill-farmer neighbour of his who had told him that he had lost 12s. on every one of his 500 or 600 sheep last winter. That will give you some idea of the losses that sheep farmers are experiencing. When one mentions the loss on sheep farming, the reply is, "Oh, that is because the price of wool has gone down so much." I should never have believed that Soviet Russia had done anything to influence that so much if I had not found figures like these, and I cannot resist the conclusion that it has been a factor, and probably an important factor, in the fall of prices of wool, which has meant so much loss to the sheep farmer here and overseas. Moreover, that may be one reason why the sheep farmers in Australia and New Zealand are sending their mutton to us at such cut-throat prices—prices which the Scottish sheep farmer will tell you are the severest handicap that he has to meet. If the Minister will look at these figures and have them worked out, or if I may send him the figures which I have worked out from the Board of Trade returns, he will see how very much below all other mutton prices are the prices of mutton imported from Australia. I see I am mistaken in regard to New Zealand.
The average price of frozen mutton and lamb in 1930 was 66.4s. per hundred. That dropped in 1931 to 47s. per hundred. The Australian price dropped from 61s. per hundred to 55s. per hundred. There was a further drop in the Australian prices, from 55s. 6d. per hundred in 1931, to 45s. per hundred in the first four months of 1932; that is, in recent months there was a fall of 10s. in the Australian prices. I do not doubt that the price represents a heavy loss in Australia, as it represents a heavy loss to the farmers in this country. I cannot help thinking that the fall in the price of wool, which we know has occurred, must have made Australian farmers ready to send their mutton over here at those very low prices, which constitute one of the greatest difficulties in Scottish farming at the present time. It is outside the scope 1230 of this Debate to suggest any remedy. I do not want to say anything about that; I want only to bring the facts forward, some of which I have only just learned and some of which I believe are not generally known. No correct solution of any difficulty is possible until all the facts are faced, and that is why I have ventured to bring the facts forward. I beg my right hon. Friend to give them his earnest consideration.
§ Lord SCONE
One of the commonest charges levelled against hon. Members is that they pay great lip-service to economy, but that when the proposed economy affects anything in which they are personally interested, they immediately fight against that economy with all their might. I do not intend to lay myself open to that charge to-night. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the economies that he has effected, although I very much regret the necessity for any cuts at all. At the same time, although I certainly share the admiration of those who have spoken for the Minister's very lucid speech, I do feel a certain sense of disappointment that we have had very little mention of specific items of agriculture particularly affecting Scotland. I refer particularly to the oats and barley crop. We know that barley does enjoy at present an import duty of 10 per cent. The Minister of Agriculture, in reply to a question I put to him recently, seemed to think that that was all we could hope for, and that we ought to be satisfied. Honestly, it is not enough for the barley grower of Scotland. An enormous amount of land has gone out of cultivation of barley, especially in North-East Scotland, and unless that land can be brought under the plough, there is bound to be a permanent diminution in the number of farm labourers employed there.
I should like to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to one idea which he might follow up in the matter of assisting the barley industry. We are told by the brewers that it is impossible to make decent beer unless they employ a large amount of foreign barley in practically every year. We are told that in only one year in 10 in which the British barley is sufficient to make really excellent beer. A few days ago I was talking to one of the biggest Scottish brewers, and he told me that although it is quite true that the prohibition of the use of 1231 any foreign barley would certainly be a very great nuisance to the brewers, he did not for a moment believe that if they were put to it they could not find a way out of the difficulty, namely, the difficulty of clarifying beer made entirely of British barley. I believe that chemistry has reached such a point that a series of experiments at a comparatively low expenditure would prove that we could produce British beer made entirely of British barley just as good as it is produced to-day by using a large proportion of foreign barley.
I wish to refute certain arguments adduced by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), who talked about clearances which he said had caused the depopulation of Scotland, and suggested that it would be a very simple matter to repopulate all the glens. In my own part of Scotland an enormous amount of rural depopulation has been going on in the last century, but there have been no clearances whatever. The whole cause has been economic. Take the position of the crofter or the smallholder of 100 years ago. He lived practically entirely on the product of his own land, on his own grain and meat and he produced his own wool and made his own clothes, but the material position of himself and his family was such as hardly any farm labourer in the British Isles would tolerate to-day. When the hon. Member suggests that we can quite easily repudiate the glens merely by setting up smallholdings, that is a suggestion which would inflict a condition of life on thousands of people, the like of which does not exist in this country at the present day.
I will cut my remarks very short, though I should like to have spoken at much greater length. I will conclude by Baying that I hope the Opposition will see that when we have the next day of Scottish Estimates, next Tuesday, they put down agriculture again, or the Secretary of State's salary, so that we may discuss agriculture, because I do not think hon. Members would consider a discussion lasting only a very few minutes over an, hour is at all adequate to deal with the needs and problems which affect Scottish agriculture to-day. In some ways I am rather sorry to have spoken, because I imagine I shall not be permitted to 1232 speak next time. If I can, so much the better, but even if I cannot, I should be only too glad to think that any words of mine might induce the Opposition to let us have more time, so that others may draw attention to the many urgent and pressing problems of Scottish agriculture.
§ Mr. BARCLAY-HARVEY
At this late hour I cannot deal adequately with all the points that I should have liked to put forward, but one or two remarks have been made to which I should lake to refer. In the first place, I would like to recall the Committee to the question of economy, which was raised by the Secretary of State. I was very glad to hear him say so emphatically that he was a believer in economy, even in these important matters, and I hope he will continue the pursuit of economy even in the matter, which we know is so near to his heart, of land settlement. I am not going to pursue him along those lines at present, because it would take too long, but I heartily agree with what he said about another part of the activities of his Department, namely, agricultural research and education. There is no branch in which I would less willingly see economy practised. One of the bright features of Scottish agriculture during the last 30 or 40 years has been the increased production per acre, which I believe is largely due to the efforts of those who have been looking into the research and educational side of agriculture in Scotland. I hope that that will be the last subject that the Secretary of State will tackle in the matter of cuts, but at the same time, I hope I shall not fall into the error of shouting loudly for economy and then squealing when economy is suggested in a matter in which I am interested. While I shall view any further cuts in this matter with great regret, yet, if the Secretary of State finds it necessary to make further cuts in these services, I shall feel compelled, in the national cause, to follow him and give him my support in anything that he may have to do in that direction.
I should like to call attention to certain of the increases which have taken place in the Department of Agriculture, and to which the Secretary of State did not refer in his speech. He referred—I have no complaint to make about it—to the fact that he has been able to reduce the personnel to a certain extent this 1233 year, and has not filled two important posts which are due to be filled at the present moment. I am sure that the Committee have heard that with a certain amount of satisfaction, but I should like to call their attention to the history of the personnel of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland. The Department was set up, as the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, in 1912, and the first figures which can fairly be taken are those for the year 1913, when the total staff was 83. During the War, of course, and the immediate post-War period, the question of land settlement and other matters had to be dealt with by the Department, and it flourished like a green bay tree, so that by 1921 it had increased its numbers to 392.
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.1234
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.