§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill provides for the setting up of a Highland Development Board with effective powers to promote the economic and social advance of the Highlands and Islands. It is a Bill related to the special needs of this area, but it is one which is important also in the wider interests of the country as a whole. It is a Bill which, in its general substance and purpose, must commend itself to all hon. Members on either side of the House who are genuinely and wholeheartedly concerned with the welfare and development of the Highlands.
There is no part of these islands of ours that has merited or received more attention from this House than the Highlands and Islands, not always, I am sorry to say, with the success that the intentions deserved. It is just over 80 years ago since the time when the attention of this country was rivetted on what had been happening in the Highland area, when the Napier Commission reported, out of which came the first Crofter Commission and efforts to stem emigration from the area and to preserve the crofting communities of that time.
That was followed, years later, in 1897, by the Congested Districts Act and the Congested Districts Board—which, in 1912, was merged within the Department of Agriculture—more or less with the same aim, with greater powers, but not with the money to support those powers. These and other efforts met with some success, but never really succeeded in stemming the depopulation of the Highlands and Islands.
Since the two world wars there have been continuous efforts, financial and by various other means, to improve matters in this part of the British Isles. We have had the building and improvement of roads and bridges, the provision of water supplies, the improvement of farm buildings, and the drainage and reclamation of the land. Let us be clear that all 1080 this was at the expense of the taxpaper. There has been the development of road and steamer transport again with the support of Government grants, but I am bound to say that we have failed to stem the depopulation. A cynic may well say that in this great empty space all we have done by public effort has been to improve the value of the land rather than to improve the prospects of the people upon the land.
I am sure that the right hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur), who has been gathering information about the money spent in these last years, will agree that last year the amount was about£35 million from the Scottish Office and the Forestry Commission alone. This shows the financial effort which has been made, yet we have to face the fact that the gap is still there. Certainly, for the people who remain life is a bit better than it was, once again as a result of public effort through the Hydro-Electricity Board and what that has been able to achieve, and through Government grants and loans for the improvement of farms and crofting. But we must face the fact that we have still the same pattern of unemployment, of underemployment and of an ageing and declining population. As for the prospects for the children, for every child, a School Leaving Certificate is a visa for the South, and the road past the croft too often has been the road for a one-way traffic out of the Highlands.
It is regrettable that in this day and age, when we are placing so much emphasis on regional development, we have not faced this problem, which has been present for over 80 years, and used the powers that are in the special Scottish set-up, to experiment and to prove a successful way to do things, which could have been applied to other areas now suffering from exactly the same problems which started in the Highlands 100 years ago. There are the problems of Wales and the Borders. Now, however, we are making a start.
I think that it has become more and more obvious to everyone who studies the problem that after all the commissions, reports and surveys, and after all the money that has been put into the improvement of agriculture, what really has been needed is an authority with executive powers to deal comprehensively with 1081 the problems; not to deal one at a time, but comprehensively. For this reason we have decided to establish the Highland Development Board. It is only right to pay tribute to the people who have tried, with some success—but often with too little success—to improve the lot of the people of the Highlands and Islands.
The Highland Panel, started in 1947 under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) and continued under Lord Cameron, has done invaluable work. If it goes with the passing of the Bill, part of the build-up of work that it recommended to be done now can be clone by the authority to be created. I think, also, of a former Member of this House—it is regrettable that only a few days ago his death was presumed—Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton, the founder of the Highland Fund.
There are many people who scoffed at that Highland Fund when it was started, but it has shown, with its success with its limited resources, what can be done. There are other people and other institutions—S.C.I.D.T., the Highland Home Industries, for example—all of which have played their part and shown what can be done. We have cried out for this kind of Bill and this kind of powers. We on this side of the House came to this conclusion a long time ago that what was required was a Highland Development Board with this kind of authority and power, properly backed up, to deal with this problem.
I can remember, when the first Crofters (Scotland) Act, 1955, was going through the House, that we tried to strengthen it, to give it the power to do this kind of thing. It was quickly seen that the powers, limited as they were to agriculture, did not prove sufficient and we had to come back with yet another Bill. It is interesting to note what the Chairman of the Crofters Commission said in the Commission's Report in 1961. Even there he decided to limit their efforts to land improvement:We would not propose to abandon our efforts to encourage the development of tourism, the fuller exploitation of seaweed resources, the extension of weaving, and the revival and extension of fishing or the exploitation of any industry or resource already established in the Highlands; but even so we would regard them as secondary to land improvement if only because we have no executive power in that field …1082 Time and time again this has come up, that there has been no executive authority in those respects on which the success, the rehabilitation and the survival of the crofting communities depend. We make no apology for what we are now doing, because we were convinced of this a long time ago.
Before I come to the detailed provisions of the Bill, there are one or two general points which I should like to make on the subject of powers and of finance. We all have our own ideas as to the best way to develop the Highlands—fuller agricultural use of the land, more forestry, new industries, more tourist development, and so on. We may also differ in our estimates of how far the desirable objectives can be achieved by private enterprise. The mighty private enterprise has had a long run and has signally failed, for the figures of the moneys which the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble)willquote today relate to public money which has been poured in.
In the crofting counties we have an area of great diversity, constituting about one half of the whole area of Scotland—9 million acres—an area where there is land hunger. I wonder whether hon. Gentlemen opposite realise that we are dealing with 9 million acres. One of the first Acts applying to this problem was something called the Congested Districts Act, because people were ruthlessly driven to areas which were congested, to scratch a living. None of the movements in the Highlands were movements at the will of the native population.
If there is bitterness in my voice, I can assure the House that there is bitterness in Scotland, too, when we recollect the history of these areas. We have to put this aside, however, to do what we are all now determined must be done to redress history. We have 9 million acres, where 275,000 people live, and we are short of land. Surely, one of the first powers which must be given is a power related to the proper use of the land itself. To my mind, this is basic to any improvement in the Highlands. Anyone who denies the Board powers over land is suggesting that the Board should not function effectively at all. Let us appreciate what we are up against.
We have plenty of surveys and reports on this. There is the Report of the Hill 1083 Lands (North of Scotland) Commission, Command 9759, published in 1956. Paragraph 8 says:As regards specific schemes of development for particular areas our surveys were largely unproductive. This was due not to the absence of land suitable for development, but to the limitations imposed by existing rights of possession and occupation in regard to all land capable of agricultural use in any form.Paragraph 12 says:Our survey of privately owned lands revealed considerable possibilities of development, but we found our scope limited by the fact that the decision whether or not to undertake development rests with the occupiers. Generally we found little response to our suggestions.In its final recommendations, the Report declared:With capital and progressive management these difficulties could be overcome one way or another, and one view favoured special measures to make the land available to people willing to undertake development.This is the purpose of the powers in relation to land which the Board will have.
We have to tackle the problem on a wide front, and for that reason the new Board will require wide powers—powers to stimulate and assist others and powers to take direct action themselves. If we really want to develop the Highlands we must provide the means. So I make no apology for seeking wide powers for the Board. Without such powers, we could not hope to make the Board an effective instrument for the job which has to be done. We do not intend to supplant existing public authorities, local or central, or to relieve them of their present responsibilities. We do not want to create a dictatorship, nor do we want to dismantle or weaken existing authorities.
I may say that it was a temptation. We could have taken over all the existing authorities which are at present provided with money through my Departments and I could have had an authority with a tremendous sum of money at its disposal, none of which would have been new money. But in doing that we should have robbed it of the services of people in these other authorities, whose co-operation and participation is vital for the success of the schemes.
§ Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)
I am sorry to interrupt the 1084 Secretary of State at this stage, but I am seeking one piece of information. I understood him to say earlier that the Highland Panel might be disbanded. Could he confirm that that is so?
§ Mr. Ross
I shall be dealing with this later on, when I come to the provisions of the Bill. We want to make the work of these other authorities more effective and to be able, through the Board, to supplement their efforts and fill in the gaps.
The finance of the Board has been troubling many people. I know that there are misgivings and misunderstandings over this, and I should like to deal with them straight away. The Board will have its own financial powers. It will have money to spend and the Bill provides no limit on the amount of its expenditure. I have given in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum our estimate that the Board's expenditure will increase to about£1 million per annum by the financial year 1968–69.
This is the best estimate which we can make of the rate at which expenditure will build up. This is, of course, new money, additional to the considerable expenditure already being incurred in the Highlands, which is about£33 to£35 million per annum through my Departments and the Forestry Commission.
I want to assure the House that if this Board is successful and achieves the drive and, ultimately, the success which we want, it should not be through any lack of money as a result of the Bill. We have deliberately not set a limit to the amounts spent by the Board itself. It is our intention that this financial development along the whole front should be maintained, and, where necessary, stepped up. We are looking at the possibilities of increasing forestry. Indeed, we have already done something on these lines and have stopped the decline which has been taking place and which was foreshadowed in a statement by the former Minister of Agriculture. If we are successful here, this means further expenditure on forestry, not by the Board but by the Forestry Commission.
We have been looking into some aspects of the agricultural grants to 1085 crofters and small non-crofting occupiers in the crofting counties, and hon. Members may be interested to know that, as recommended by the Crofters Commission and the Highland Panel, I have decided to include grass—conserved as hay or silage—as an eligible crop grant. Grant for crops other than grass will be at the rate of£5, £8 and£11 per acre, depending on the quality of land, and grant for hay or silage will be at the rate of£2 10s.,£4, and £5 10s. respectively.
In addition, the limit on the grant for regeneration—at present£11 per acre in the first year—will be raised to£15 per acre. These changes, which will add about£75,000 to the present annual expenditure on crofters grant, will be of special benefit to the outlying crofting areas where grass is the predominant crop.
I mention this as an example of the constructive approach which we intend to make through existing means of development. This came from the Crofters Commission and from the Highland Panel. By stimulation, exhortation and encouragement arid by appreciation of what is required and what can be done by existing agencies, the Highland Development Board, through me, can greatly increase the amount of work which is done by these other agencies. The additional direct expenditure by the Board in the years immediately ahead is, therefore, not by any means the whole or the end of the story. Nor is it the measure of the impact which we hope to see made by the Board.
§ Mr. Ross
We have plenty of time. The hon. Member will have plenty of opportunity to intervene. I know that he is not here very often and that, when he is, he likes to intervene. Perhaps he would like to sit down and wait awhile.
If we can get a new sense of purpose and drive into Highland development policies—and this, of course, is what we 1086 are aiming at—existing appropriations will be spent to better advantage and new expenditures and investments will be made. For instance, any extension of the State forestry programme in the Highlands would mean additional expenditure by the Forestry Commission. Success in bringing in new industries would mean the inflow to the Highlands of fresh capital, whether private or public. As a result of public effort, I hope that we shall also see the flow of private effort and private capital into the Highlands.
As I have said, the Board must have power to act at its own hand and must have the necessary funds to do so. But it must also seek to inspire and direct a much wider attack on the problems facing the Highlands—an attack in which the co-operation of many organisations and agencies will be needed. Time will show what moneys can properly and profitably be channelled through the Board. But do no let us pretend that all that need be done in the Highlands is to wave a golden wand and all will be well. We have to be realistic about this. The Board will have no easy task. Imagination, patience and persistence will be needed and, above all, co-operation based upon confidence in the aims, powers and personnel of the Board.
I turn to the Clauses in the Bill. Clause 1 provides for the establishment of the Board and sets out its general functions. The Board will, of course, be concerned with seeking the means of achieving a reasonable standard of living for those working and living in the Highlands. But the Board's overall purpose, as the Clause states, must be to enable the Highlands to play a more effective part in the economic and social development of the nation. It has never been more important than today that all the country's resources should be fully exploited, and the Highlands have much to contribute. This is not a case of giving to the Highlands. This is a case of giving the Highlands a chance to play their full part in the future of Britain.
The Board will have the general function of preparing, concerting, promoting, assisting and undertaking measures for the economic and social development of the Highlands and Islands. Its field will cover the whole range of economic and social activities in its area. Conditions of living, amenities and welfare generally 1087 will be within its remit, as well as economic matters.
With regard to the composition of the Board, I think there will be general agreement that to be effective an executive body of this kind should be small in number. The Clause accordingly provides that the Board shall consist of a chairman and not more than six other members, who will be paid for their services. I have received a great deal of advice on the question of membership from strange quarters—indeed, from every quarter—and no doubt I shall receive more.
Frankly, I welcome this advice, and the extent to which I have received it so far leaves me in no doubt about the wide interest which has been taken in the Bill and in the Board. I have taken no decision as to the personnel of the Board, and I can only say at this stage that my aim will be to secure the best members possible for the job. The exact composition of the Board will be determined with this overriding consideration in view.
Clause 1 also provides that initially the Board's area will comprise the seven crofting counties—Argyll, Caithness, Inverness, Orkney, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and Zetland. This is the area traditionally and statutorily regarded as the Highlands and Islands and the area which the Government consider is in most urgent need of attention. We appreciate, however, that other nearby districts share some of the problems and characteristics of the crofting counties, and a case may well emerge for the Board's remit being extended to cover other districts. We have, therefore, made provision for that to be made possible by order. It may well be that some people will want to be "included out". I am looking forward to the Amendment by the right hon. Member for Argyll that Argyll should be left out of the Bill, judging by his initial comments. But I hope that he has got over that original bit of extremism.
Clause 2 provides that the Secretary of State may give general directions to the Board. It is, of course, the intention that the Board should work within the general context of the Government's plans for Scotland as a whole, and to this end I have already decided that the chair- 1088 man of the board should become an additional member of the Scottish Economic Planning Council, which was set up last week. It is also the intention that in carrying out its duties the Board should be kept informed of, and should pay regard to, public opinion in the Highlands and Islands.
The proposed Consultative Council will take the place of the Highlands Advisory Panel. I should like to take this opportunity of acknowledging the excellent work done by the Panel during the past 18 years.
The duties of the Board are set out in Clause 3. The Board will have the general duty of keeping under review all matters relating to the economic and social development of their area. Its two main tasks, however, will be, first, to submit to the Secretary of State proposals for the proper development of the area and, secondly, to concert, assist and undertake measures to implement any proposals approved by him.
In framing its proposals the Board will consult local authorities and other interested bodies, because, naturally, we want the Board to work in harmony and in co-operation with these organisations. Moreover, in considering proposals submitted to him by the Board the Secretary of State will wish to be assured that attention has been paid to the interests of those affected by or involved in the proposals.
As regards implementation, some of the proposals approved by the Secretary of State may be for the Board itself to put into effect. Other proposals may be of a more comprehensive character, calling for action by local authorities and other bodies, and, it may well be, by the Secretary of State and his Department. The local authorities or other bodies will undertake their part of the development: the Board will undertake any work which does not fall within the responsibilities of the other bodies. Clause 3 also provides that the Board will submit an annual report to the Secretary of State for presentation by him to Parliament.
Clause 4 empowers the Board to acquire land—by compulsion if necessary—and to manage it.
As I have already said, land is the basic natural resource of the Highlands and any plan for economic and social 1089 development would be meaningless if proper use of the land were not a part of it. This has been brought out very clearly in the Report recently submitted by the Highlands Advisory Panel. The Panel made recommendations about agriculture, forestry, recreation, sport and other uses, recommendations which can only be implemented by the use of the powers which we propose to give the Development Board; and it means that the Board will really have something on which to work.
There should not be any unnecessary delay in relation to surveys. This area has probably been more surveyed than any other, and we are grateful to the Panel for its authoritative Report. These proposals are based on a highly informed and skilled assessment of the position made by a Panel the membership of which is widely representative—and of which Karl Marx was not a member.
I should, perhaps, emphasise that this compulsory purchase power is subject to the normal safeguards—the lodging of objections, the holding of inquiries, and so on—and that there is no question of seeking unprecedented powers. Clearly, the Board must have power to acquire land by compulsion if necessary if it is to be effective. This does not mean that the Board will embark on compulsory purchase merely for the sake of compulsion. The favourable reception accorded to the Government's proposals leads me to hope that in the common objective of securing proper development in the Highlands the Board will also secure the general co-operation of landowners in the Highlands.
But if we are serious about developing the Highlands we must have this essential compulsory power. I do not know why hon. Gentlemen opposite should smile at this. We have had a welcoming statement from landowners in the Highlands about this and I have no reason to doubt their word. We seek and we expect co-operation, but we must be able to deal with obstruction if we get it.
It is not infrequently the case that the potential development of a place in the Highlands is not realised because of the lack of a particular enterprise or facility—such as a small factory or a motel—and because there is no authority or private undertaker willing or able to 1090 undertake it. So Clause 5 gives the Board power to erect buildings, carry out works, provide equipment and services, and it will enable the Board to use its discretion to fill any such gap.
The Board may also require these powers for other purposes, such as the equipment of agricultural land. The Clause also provides that the Industrial Estates Management Corporation for Scotland may act as agents of the Board. This will enable the Board to avail itself of the Corporation's experience and expertise in the provision and building of factories.
Clause 6 enables the Board to acquire or set up and carry on any business or undertaking. There is no question of compulsion here. Any acquisition must be by agreement. Nor is this a Clause to nationalise the Highlands. A considerable part of the area is already nationalised, about 1½million acres of it. The Secretary of State is one of the biggest landowners in the Highlands. The purpose of the Clause is to enable the Board to initiate or take over undertakings which it regards as essential but which would not otherwise be started or carried on.
The Board will, of course, strive to interest and assist others to maintain, introduce and expand industries in the Highlands. It will not seek to become unnecessarily involved itself in running industrial enterprises, but circumstances may from time to time require it to engage in industrial activities, in some cases as an emergency measure. We feel that the necessary powers must be available. The business or undertaking with which the Board may concern itself under Clause 6 need not be of a commercial nature. It may, for example, be something related to tourism; but if something is required, if it must be done and if no one else will do it and everyone in the area recognises that it should be done, the Board will have the power to do it. We must face this fact.
Clause 7 is, I believe, especially important because it confers on the Board power to provide advisory and other services to persons engaged in or proposing to engage in business in the Highlands. The special difficulties which such enterprises face in the Highlands—for example, remoteness from markets and from sources of raw materials—put 1091 a premium on efficiency, management, accountancy, marketing and other related matters.
Experience, particularly in recent years, has revealed that many Highland commercial enterprises suffer because of weaknesses in these spheres, so the necessary advice and guidance which is not always readily available in the area can now be made available through the Board.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether the powers in this Clause include powers relating to the fixing of rents? As I understand, the Industrial Estates Management Corporation has that power in relation to industrial estates. Since I am not completely familiar with the provisions of Section 8 of the Local Employment Act, I would he interested to know whether the Clause under which the Corporation will act in an advisory capacity would extend to the fixing of rents.
§ Mr. Ross
The Board will not be working through the Local Employment Act, but through this Bill. We have given wide enough powers to the Board to relate rents to the circumstances of the particular area of the Highlands, but I will be coming to that matter later. As I was saying, the necessary advice and guidance is not alway readily available in this area and it will be made available by the Board, if it considers it to be necessary.
The Clause empowers the Board to help with or undertake publicity relating to its area or functions. Thus the Board could stimulate publicity relating to the tourist attractions of the Highlands or stage, or participate in staging, exhibitions in industrial areas to advertise the facilities, services and amenities which the Highlands have to offer the incoming industrialist. In this connection, the Board will have a wonderful opportunity because it will have an identifiable area—an area which can be identified even by a piece of tartan. It probably has the finest source of publicity and, to my mind, although Scotland and other parts of the country have not done so well by the Highlands, they certainly use the Highlands for getting publicity for Scotland as a whole.
1092 There is also a provision in the Clause enabling the Board to engage in other activities to aid the introduction and development of industry, commerce and other enterprises in the area. This is a general and sweeping-up provision which is essential in case we have left something out. We have made mistakes in the past by sending people out to do things and not giving them the powers they need. This time we are making sure that the power is there. It may be that we err on the other side, but we can depend on the good sense of the Board, in the exercise of these powers, not to be oppressive.
Clause 8 deals with financial assistance, and the hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) will be interested in this part of the Bill. We propose that the Board should be able to offer assistance by way of grant and loan to persons carrying on, or proposing to carry on, any industrial, commercial or other undertaking or any activity which, in the Board's view, will contribute to the economic or social development of its area.
The development and expansion of industrial or commercial enterprises in the Highlands is a matter which will clearly concern the Board. A complaint frequently made by Highland applicants is that the criteria necessarily applied by B.O.T.A.C. in assessing projects are not flexible enough to enable full regard to be had to Highland conditions. In this case, the Board will have that flexible power.
The provision in the Bill is specially designed to overcome this difficulty, but it goes much further and is widely drawn so as to enable the Board to assist projects of whatever kind that give promise of contributing to the economic and social development of the area. This is vital in an area where the range of circumstance, need and opportunity is very wide. Every island has different circumstances. It may be that different criteria will require to be applied. This is not possible under existing legislation, but it will be possible under the Bill.
§ Mr. George Y. Mackie (Caithness and Sutherland)
Do I understand that B.O.T.A.C. will be replaced entirely?
§ Mr. Ross
No. B.O.T.A.C. will still be there, but I will be dealing with that 1093 to a greater extent in a later part of my speech.
We do not want the Board to find itself prevented by a narrow statutory definition from assisting worth-while projects outwith the usual run. The Board will have discretion to give assistance in accordance with arrangements approved by the Secretary of State and the Treasury, and in considering any arrangements which the Board may submit for approval we shall be concerned to ensure that they effectively supplement and dovetail with the Board of Trade and B.O.T.A.C. facilities under the Local Employment Acts, which will continue to be available in the Highlands. It will, of course, be for the Board in the first place to submit proposed arrangements, but for industrial and commercial projects it is envisaged that the assistance would, for example, be not less favourable than that available from the Board of Trade under the Local Employment Acts.
The arrangements will, moreover, have to be designed to meet the special circumstances of individual cases and the special difficulties of Highland conditions. For projects of a special character, the assistance would, of course, have to be "tailor-made". Crofters will, of course, be eligible to take advantage of the financial assistance offered by the Board, but experience has shown that they are often at a serious disadvantage compared with non-crofters in the matter of security for loans.
The Clause accordingly provides that the Board may take security over a crofter's permanent improvements when it makes a loan to assist him to erect building or other structures or works on his croft, or to carry on any business or undertaking in connection with his croft. It is hoped that this will be helpful in this particular case.
Clause 9 gives the Board certain ancillary powers which are, I think, self-explanatory—to make charges, and the like. Powers of entry for the Board are provided in Clause 10. It is essential that the Board, like other statutory bodies, should have powers of entry and it is necessary that they should be drawn to match the range of the Board's functions. If it is essential that we should give powers of entry in relation to the Deer Act, I see no reason why we should 1094 not have them in relation to this particular Bill. The other provisions in Clause 10 are all secondary to the main provision, and are well precedented.
In addition to the power of entry, it is also considered necessary that the Board should have the power to obtain necessary information. This power is included in Clause 11. I would draw attention to the fact that there is no question of giving the Board a general power of inquisition. The Clause relates only to information which the Board may reasonably require for the execution of any of its functions. I have no doubt that the Board will normally get the information it requires without difficulty. But it is possible, for example, that the preparation of a comprehensive scheme of development by the Board might be seriously delayed, if not jeopardised, by the refusal of an individual to provide vital information.
Again, there is nothing unusual about a provision of this kind. We find it in the Smallholders (Agricultural Holdings) Act applied to this very area; in the Town and Country Planning Acts, the Crofters Acts, the Harbours Act of 1964 and the Industrial Training Act, 1964. So—ancient and modern—there are precedents for this power which, I gather, has caused a little concern to right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
Clause 12 places restrictions on the disclosure of information obtained under Clauses 10 and 11.
I do not think that I need make detailed references to the remaining Clauses, which are customary provisions in a Bill of this kind. I would, however, draw attention to Clause 14(2), which deals with the question of planning permission in relation to development by the Board. This provides that where planning permission is required the Secretary of State will consult the planning authority concerned and that any approval which he subsequently grants will carry planning permission with it.
The two Schedules to the Bill relate respectively to the constitution, procedure and staffing of the Board and to the membership and procedure of the Consultative Council. As will be seen from paragraph 13 of the First Schedule, the Board will employ its own staff.
Paragraph 12 of the same Schedule provides that the Board shall have an 1095 office in the Highlands and Islands. I am sure that there will be general agreement that the Board's headquarters should be in Inverness. On the assumption that the Bill will be given a Second Reading, and that the Financial Resolution will be passed tonight, I would propose to arrange to incur the necessary expenditure on the provision of office accommodation for the Board in advance of the necessary Supplementary Estimate.
I ask this now because suitable and, I think, attractive accommodation for the Board can be made available at the Cameron Barracks, Inverness, provided that some fairly extensive internal adaptations and improvement works are put in hand forthwith. I am anxious to get this work started so that the offices will be available in time. We must not lose any time at all in this operation.
Whatever points of detail hon. Members may wish to discuss in Committee, I hope that they will be prepared to give the Bill a general welcome, and an unopposed Second Reading. For 200 years the Highlander has been the man on Scotland's conscience, and for this reason alone the progress of the Bill will be followed in our country with close attention and, perhaps, a degree of impatience. No part of Scotland has been given a shabbier deal by history from the '45 onwards. Too often there has been only one way out of his troubles for the person born in the Highlands—emigration.
No country can claim happiness if one of its most splendid assets—in this case, its unsurpassed landscape—can only be enjoyed in the dreams of the exiles. It would not be surprising, therefore, to any Scotsman, whatever his political association, to see the avidity with which the first intimations of the provisions of the Bill were seized on in Scotland. "It is high time", most commentators seemed to imply, "that a serious step was taken to redress history in this respect".
Against this background, I believe that people throughout the whole of Scotland, and not just those of Highland extraction, feel themselves concerned, and personally involved in this Bill. Those who are finally entrusted with duties on tile Board that will be set up may well find themselves involved in a date with history 1096 —themselves part of the history of Scotland.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Noble (Argyll)
The whole House is pleased that the Second Reading of the Bill is taking place in this Chamber and not in the Scottish Grand Committee because, as the right hon. Gentleman himself has said, the problem of the Highlands is one for a very much greater audience than the Highlanders themselves. We only have to move through the central belt to find a vast number of people whose ancestry is Highland, and who are as deeply interested in the problem of the Highlands as are those who live there.
Equally, it is true that those whom one meets in England, in Wales, in America—in all parts of the world—who have had the opportunity of spending some of their leisure time in the Highlands—an area of great grandeur of scenery—feel that the Highlands may well be in the future one of the few remaining places in this country where space and leisure can go together.
The right hon. Gentleman has said—I think quite fairly—that over the last 100 years there have been enormous numbers of reports and a great deal of thought about the Highland problems. He added that some successes have been achieved. I can believe that had he been on this side of the House he would not have been as generous even as to say that. Although the Highland Survey which I set up has not yet reported, it is true that the basic problems of the Highlands are well enough known. The right hon. Gentleman referred to depopulation which, as he said, has been going on for 100 years, or more. It is right that the House should realise that only in the last few years have there been one or two cases where it looks as though this steady depopulation is being arrested. The first one is in Caithness, where the great establishment at Dounreay, which we set up in 1954, seems to have created the sort of conditions that make it possible for the population to expand and grow.
The year before last we set up a similar operation at Fort William. I believe that this will have a similar but probably more widespread effect than the Dounreay establishment, because in this case 1097 the employment will not be all in and around Fort William, but will go right out through the glens wherever timber is grown.
Another aspect, which anybody who is acquainted with the Highland problem will have noticed, is that in the large burghs in the Highlands there is much less depopulation than there is in the rural areas. In Kirkwall and Lerwick, in the constituency of the Leader of the Liberal Party, or in Inverness, there is a population which is, if not increasing, at any rate growing a great deal through the infiltration of people from outlying areas to those burghs.
The second big problem which has faced the Highlands for a number of years is that in that area there has been for a considerable length of time under-use of certain of our resources.
§ Mr. Noble
The Minister of State says "Hear, hear", but he must face the fact, as must anybody who lives in the Highlands, that much of this is due to the fact that developing the resources there has in the past often been extremely uneconomic. I will return to this point later.
Of our natural resources I suppose that land is the one that is the most important. In the case of agriculture, we have seen in the last few years a considerable increase in the amount of reseeding which has been done. Credit should be given to some of the crofters' schemes. I was sorry to have to interrupt the Secretary of State, but I was not certain of his point about the grassland. This is the sort of good use of a natural resource which has been stimulated by Government action in the past.
I think that the House agreed that the considerable extra sums of money which we gave under the Winter Keep Scheme were likely to achieve some results in relation to agricultural land. The plain fact of the matter is—nobody in the House should shirk this—that agriculture today is becoming more efficient and is tending to use many fewer men to produce more food than it did in the past. As agriculture becomes more efficient, this inevitably throws a strain on the problem of depopulation.
1098 The attitude of the Government to agricultural development in the Highlands can be judged satisfactorily only when we see year after year the facts that come out from the Price Review. It is on this that Highlands farmers can judge their chances of success or failure.
The second use of land in the Highland areas tends to be forestry. Hon. Members opposite have in the past, I think rightly, spoken a good deal about the importance of the Forestry Commission to the Highland development plans. The right hon. Gentleman referred, I thought, to some intended cut-back of forestry in the Highlands. I can merely say that I was totally unaware of this in the Highland area.
§ Mr. Noble
The point I would make to hon. Members opposite, because it is an extremely important point and one which is accepted by everyone who has studied the problem, is that if the best use is to be made of land it should be through the proper and careful integration of trees and farming. The best examples of this are to be seen all over Scotland, not only in the Highlands, in some of the best run private estates. I believe that this is the model on which we should fashion our ideas.
Then there are other natural resources of varying sorts in the Highlands. There is mining and quarrying. The quarries which produce road metal have been having a fairly good time because a great deal of work has been available for them. However, there are other minerals which can be quarried and some of them are still being successfully quarried. In my own constituency there is a sandpit or sand mine—a hole in the ground—at Lochaline, which was developed because of a particular problem before the war, which has been kept going by private enterprise, and which has employed many people and brought valuable population to that local area of Argyll. At present, there is some boring going on at Strontian, opening up again the old mines which were believed to have been worked out. People hope that this will be successful and will in itself employ perhaps 20 or 30 people in a small area.
Then we have a useful natural resource in the form of our fishing. Over the last 1099 few years I suppose the biggest single improvement in the return to the fishermen round our coast has come from the much greater development of the shell fish industry, which has had quite a startling success. I believe and hope—I hope that the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) will agree with me—that the closing of the Minch to foreign trawlers will itself bring some help to our fishing industry.
Apart from these things, there is a considerable opportunity, and all the evidence goes to show that it is there, to have an entirely new type of fishing industry developed, particularly in the West Highlands, in fish farming. A great deal of experimental work is now being carried on and I know that many places on the West Coast are being very carefully studied to see whether this is not a new industry which could bring profit and employment to areas which previously have had little chance of that sort of development.
Then the natural resource which people recognise fairly easily is water. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the Highlands are making, or, I hope, will make, an enormous contribution to the whole success of the development of central Scotland by providing the water from Loch Lomond for use elsewhere.
I am not certain that the last one could be called a natural resource. The point I should like quickly to make on this is the potentiality in the Highlands for developing the tourist industry. As I see it, the future of Britain is almost certain to provide a great deal more leisure than many of us knew in the 1930s. This being so, I believe that we should take a great deal of care at this particular moment of time to ensure that we use our resources in the Highlands as best we can to cater, not only for the coach parties, not only for the private tourists in their motor cars, but also for the hikers, the climbers, the yachtsmen and the fishermen, whether they want to fish in fresh water or in salt water. The problem of how to fit them in satisfactorily with the Highland scene is one which, at the moment, is being very carefully studied by the Duke of Edinburgh's study team, which, I believe, is to report in the autumn.
The right hon. Gentleman said that some successes have been achieved. I 1100 turn for a few minutes to look at the problem as I see it. The State's main contribution to Highland development over the last 20 or 30 years has been through the Hydro-Electric Board and the Forestry Commission. Both bodies have had great successes. There is no doubt that the Hydro-Electric Board's ability to provide light and power up the Highland glens has been a very powerful factor in keeping the population there, as has the Forestry Commission though many of us who have watched the operation of the Forestry Commission since the 1930s have realised that, perhaps unguided by the Minister of State, its use of the natural resource of land in the past was probably the worst in Scotland.
I believe that this can be improved and developed, and that the Forestry Commission itself is now aware of the enormous waste of land that took place in the early plantations up to the end of the war. But the State is not always a perfect landlord. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, who is now the landlord of 1¼ million acres, may have the same feeling as I have if he goes round his estates. Nor is the State a perfect landlord in other respects. My experience is that some of the State-Management districts are some of the worst from the point of view of tourist facilities. Nevertheless, the State has contributed a lot, but industry has contributed a great deal more than the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to admit.
In my constituency and in Inverness the aluminium works which have been going for 50 years have created whole towns. The establishment of the pulp mill was not due to the State. It was due to the initiative of the paper company which wanted to go there. It is perfectly true that this could not have been done without loans from the State.
§ Mr. Noble
Or private interprise, because I know that the right hon. Gentleman would like to ignore the fact that 50 per cent. of all timber produced in Scotland at the moment comes from private forests.
These things are possible only by a proper combination of private enterprise 1101 and State help, and we must not overdo either. The textile industry, which employs a great many people in many parts of the Highlands, the whisky industry, which has the biggest distillery ever built in Scotland, at Invergordon, and a great many small industries and new hotels have all in the last few years created new employment and opportunities for people in the Highland area.
These industries have come and are being successful on the basis, as the right hon. Gentleman said, of confidence. Therefore, whatever we do in the Bill it is extremely important that we do not remove the confidence of industry, otherwise we shall not have its cooperation. Although the right hon. Gentleman may not agree with me, I do not believe that industry set up by the State, whether to run hotels, pulp mills, or other things, are likely to be successful from the point of view of either employment or the taxpayers' money.
The right hon. Gentleman also, perhaps deliberately and, I thought, very unworthily, entirely failed to mention that in the Highland area a great deal of improvement and development over the last 50 years has been done by the landowners themselves. I know perfectly well, and anybody who knows the Highlands can go round different areas and pick them out, that one or two have perhaps not done what they should have done, or have done things they definitely should not have done. But 90 per cent. of the landlords in the Highlands have been good landlords, and of the remaining 10 per cent. the great majority fail in some of their duties only because they have not the necessary capital to develop as they would have wanted to do.
I know many people not too far away from me who have not only spent money on developing forests and farms, but who have put in ski-lifts and provided hotels and other tourist facilities in order to bring more money into the area as a whole. The right hon. Gentleman also failed to consider the fact that the owner-occupiers of farms, and there are now a great number of them in Scotland, have themselves played a considerable part in development and in holding the population in the area.
The right hon. Gentleman said that all this money is public money. It is not, 1102 and he knows that perfectly well. Whether under the hill farming Acts or under the special Act to bring help to the pulp mill, the bulk of the money—50 per cent. in the case of the hill farming schemes—comes from the farmers or the landlords. I suspect that Wiggins Teape is backing its great project with, at the end of the day, a great deal more than 50 per cent. of the money. Therefore, it is not accurate to say that all the money that is coming to the Highlands is public money. The right hon. Gentleman will find if he reads his speech that he said that it was.
There are things in the Bill which anybody who has any knowledge of the Highlands can agree with, for example, the first four lines of the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, which say that:The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the further development of the Islands and Highlands of Scotland to enable that area to play a more effective part in the economic and social development of the nation.Nobody would quarrel with that, nor is it anything particularly new. I personally particularly welcome Clause 7 and will say a little more about it later.
There are, however, many Clauses, particularly those dealing with powers, which I personally dislike and which, in Committee, this side of the House will do all it possibly can to improve. Clause 2 gives all the power not to the Highland Development Board, but to the Secretary of State. This is not what the Highlands expected, and it is certainly not what the right hon. Gentleman told the House. All through his speech he laid stress on the great powers of the Board, but strictly, according to the Bill, the Board probably has less power than any other board set up at any time. If we look, as we should, at the combination of powers in Clauses 4, 6 and 11—
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Has the right hon. Gentleman any experience of any Government establishing a hoard to spend public money without retaining the Government's right to control it?
§ Mr. Willis
Is the right hon. Gentleman objecting to the powers of the Secretary of State, or is he agreeing that he should have them? Does he want the Board to have powers or the Secretary of State?
§ Mr. Noble
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to make my speech, he will find that these are exactly the points which I shall be developing and he will get his answer.
To return to the combination of powers in Clauses 4, 6 and 11, I agree with the Secretary of State that it is perfectly right and natural that the Board should have powers for taking over land for specific purposes. This sort of operation has been going on in Scotland for 100 years in various ways. Different authorities have had these powers, but the right hon. Gentleman said that the power to acquire businesses and other things in Clause 6 could be achieved only by agreement.
If my information is correct, this is not so, because if there is power to acquire land there is power automatically to acquire the buildings on it. Therefore, one could acquire any hotels or business or anything one liked, though perhaps one could not acquire the name of the hotel or the goodwill of the business. But then one takes it a step further and looks at the powers which have been given to the Board. This is the one respect in which, I think, the Board has unfettered powers under Clause 11 to go round and ask any questions. It is able to ask for trade secrets from a particular industry and to ask questions about its finances. It can do this in a far wider way than has ever been done before, and with no proper security or secrecy arrangements.
If my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) has the good fortune to catch the eye of the Chair later, he will be able to explain to the House in more detail the differences between the powers given under this Bill and those given under other Measures. He is the only qualified law officer on either side of the House.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain exactly where it is provided by Clause 11 1104 that the Board will have power to obtain trade secrets?
§ Mr. Noble
It has power to collect any information specified, and it is quite open and competent for the Board to specify to the people who are asked question that it wants to know who the customers are for a certain textile firm, what formulae or mixtures are used to produce a rare metal, or anything else.
§ Mr. Rankin
Is it fair to say that the right hon. Gentleman's statement is based not on the terminology of Clause 11, but on his own deductions from it?
§ Mr. Noble
No, that is quite wrong. Clause 11 gives the Board the necessary powers to do exactly that and to look at all the financial operations.
Before the election, writing in the Evening News of 28th September, 1964, the right hon. Gentleman said:For the Highlands, with their special problems, we will establish a Highland development authority with full executive powers and finance. And a Labour Government will not brook the obstruction of those to whom feudal privilege, deer and salmon are more important than the well-being of men, women and children.Splendid pre-election stuff, but the right hon. Gentleman has not, in fact, given this Board full executive powers and finance. Many people in the Highlands wanted a Board with teeth. This Board has not got one tooth, but the right hon. Gentleman has a most ferocious set of new snappers.
I believe that the Minister of State met the Scottish Landowners' Federation. Does he still believe that they are a bunch of people trying to obstruct any development in the Highlands? I am certain that he does not, and, if he does not, he should be frank with the House and say so.
A good many of us felt that the success or failure of the Bill would depend on the quality of the Board which was chosen.
§ Mr. Willis
The right hon. Gentleman cannot get away with this. We are still waiting for the answer to my question: are the powers which the Board is to possess too big or too small?
§ Mr. Noble
The hon. Gentleman must wait a little longer.
1105 As I was saying, many people felt that the success or failure of the Bill would depend on the quality of the people chosen for the Board. But the Board itself has no powers of initiative and it has very little money. It is unusual, even in a Scottish Bill, to find the Secretary of State mentioned 55 times in 13 pages. This is the measure of the control which the Secretary of State has deliberately kept in his own hands. He asked whether Argyll was likely to "want out". Perhaps Kilmarnock will "want in".
The right hon. Gentleman must be frank with the House and tell us which leg the Government are standing on. When I first criticised the Bill, I said that it gave the Government far too much power, and yet the money provided at the beginning— I take it that I can use the Secretary of State's own words—the £150,000 rising to£1 million in three or four years, was too little in relation to the powers and, therefore, it did not make very much sense to me. I was told by certain hon. Members opposite that there was no reason to be afraid of the powers—" We cannot use these great powers with only this amount of money"—and then a few days later—
§ Mr. Noble
I shall be delighted to tell the right hon. Gentleman afterwards, if he likes. They were hon. Members behind him. I did not refer to right hon. Members. I said that several of his hon. Friends said it, and I will tell him afterwards. They were talking to me in the corridors, not an unusual occurrence. As soon as this argument began to get about, the right hon. Gentleman said that the money was unlimited. If the money is unlimited, it is right for the House to look very carefully at the powers which he wants to give not to the Board but to himself.
Some of my hon. Friends are worried because, when the Bill was published, the Secretary of State said that it was a prototype for powers which would be given to similar Boards to be set up in other parts of the country. Writing in the Glasgow Herald on 12th February last year, the right hon. Gentleman saidIt may well be that the Highland development authority which we will set up will become a pattern for other areas.1106 We on this side have always considered the Highlands a special case and given it special treatment.
§ Mr. Noble
I shall come to that in a moment, if the Secretary of State likes.
We do not accept the idea that this Board should be a prototype for other areas, and, if we follow the right hon. Gentleman's request and do not vote against the Bill on Second Reading, it must not be argued against us if the same powers are asked for in respect of areas in other parts of Scotland. We shall reserve our right, when we return to power, to alter the composition, the powers or the functions of the Board as at present set out in the Bill.
§ Mr. Willis
We are still waiting to be told the right hon. Gentleman's view about the powers of the Board.
§ Mr. Noble
The hon. Gentleman must still wait. There is plenty of time.
I have to some extent criticised the way in which the Secretary of State has kept all the powers in his own hands and given none, except under Clause 11, to the Board, and hon. Members may ask what my intention was, what I should have done, and how I should have tried to meet this problem. I shall now give the House a quick resumé of what I think should have been done.
It is, of course, somewhat difficult for me in this case as I appointed a survey to look at many of these problems, and it has not yet reported. Equally, the Secretary of State has not waited for it. But in my belief, for the Board to be of any value, it must have a great deal more independence than the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to give it. He tells us—and in his view he has looked at this very carefully—that it would be wrong to take away any of the many functions of the great number of agencies that operate at present in the Highlands.
I do not agree with him on this. Possibly there are too many agencies. They are bound to be diverse in their various ideas. I believe that the capital spent by many of the agencies and, indeed, by many Government Departments in the Highlands, could and should be given to 1107 the Board to spend. For instance, there is the money spent on the planting of trees on the capital side of forestry, the capital side of money spent by the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board through loans and grants and money given by the Government to the Highland Fund.
I do not think that even the right hon. Gentleman wants to nationalise private contributions to the Fund, but the Government gave£150,000 to the Fund and this should go to the Board.
§ Mr. Noble
I am glad to hear it, but I wish that the right hon. Gentleman had gone a great deal further.
The money spent at the moment under B.O.T.A.C. loans, the global sums—I know that one cannot do this under the B.O.T.A.C. legislation—should be given to the Highland Development Board so that it has some real money to develop industry in the Highlands. In addition, perhaps at least some, if not all, of the subsidies we pay to transport in the Highlands could come under the new Board.
We have heard very little—indeed, I remember hardly a mention of them in the right hon. Gentleman's speech—about local authorities in the area. I must be careful here in what I say because I have not discussed it with the local authorities, but I believe that some functions of the local authorities could come within the functions of the Board. I think, for example, of special roads—the Balgy Gap, for instance—which could come very easily under the Board. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman may have consulted the local authorities but he has told us nothing about it.
Again, the provision of piers in the Highlands should be transferred from the local authorities to the Board and the county development offices might well be better used and more useful to the Highland area if they were under the Board's jurisdiction. In this way, it would really be possible for the Board to concentrate the efforts being made in the Highlands.
One lesson emerges from the studies I have made of what has been done in Nor- 1108 way and other places. It is not enough just to spend a great deal of money and let each agency decide where best to spend it. We must concentrate, and that it why I do not believe, merely to set up the Board and leave all the independent authorities to make their own plans of where they are, for instance, to plant trees or put piers and so forth, is the right course.
The first thing I would do would be to give the Board authority to spend up to a figure of about£50,000 on any one scheme without going to the Secretary of State. Under the Bill, however, any single scheme, whether it costs£50,£5,000 or£50,000, has to come to the Secretary of State for his approval. I do not think that this will give the Board either proper status or proper prestige to get on with its work.
The powers of the Board will have to be considered carefully. Under the Bill there is no genuine right of appeal. There are no genuine public inquiries because the Secretary of State is in the scheme from the beginning. Before the Board can make any scheme, it has to have his authority to do so. Therefore, even where compulsory purchases mean that public inquiries are necessary and the Secretary of State is the final court of appeal, he will be acting as both judge and jury and that is entirely wrong.
I promised to say something about advisory services. I welcome Clause 7. I think that it is the one really good Clause in the Bill, apart from many of the pious hopes expressed in other Clauses. There are three types of advisory service which very much need looking at.
The first concerns land use. In the past we have seen far too many small landowners, farmers and others who have not had the skilled advice on the best use of land. This has not been so on the farming side, but, on the issue of proper integration between farming and forestry and other things, the prospect of such a service should be looked at.
Secondly, one of the weaknesses of economics in the Highlands is that not enough advice is available to farmers on the costing of their operations. I have spoken in the past to the colleges about this and I believe there is considerable hope, if the colleges are given more money, of improving the quality of both 1109 agriculture and forestry in the Highlands in this way.
Thirdly, in the Highland area a great many small businesses have been set up over the last number of years. Some of them have failed. One of the things that small businesses need, whether in the Highland area or Glasgow, is advice, the sort of consultancy that big businesses get if they run into management problems. Business consultants in the centre of Glasgow are available but expensive and many small businesses will not use them. This is something in which the Board could use its powers under Clause 7 very well.
I believe that if this were the form in which the Board were set up it is possible that not only Argyll, but a great many other areas round about the Highlands would be only too glad to come within the scope of the Bill. This Measure gives me the impression that the Secretary of State is following precedents set, I know, by many of his colleagues, in acting first and thinking afterwards. We have a great many words here. The Bill will be judged simply by the deeds that the right hon. Gentleman does because it is he and not the Board who has the power.
In the last five months, the right hon. Gentleman's sole contribution to the wellbeing of Scotland that is visible to the public at least is that he has persuaded the President of the Board of Trade to put nine advance factories in Scotland. But where are they? There is not one in the Highlands, nor in the North-East nor in the South-West nor in the Borders. On this basis, why should the outlying areas of Scotland feel that he is particularly interested in them?
§ Mr. Noble
I was trying to do what I thought it was right for Scotland. If the right hon. Gentleman takes the same 1110 view and bothers less about the votes he may get, he may finish with a better reputation.
The Bill creates a separate type of individual liberty for those who live in the Highlands. There may be advantages, but if there are we should be told what they are. I do not believe that even the Liberal Party can accept all the powers in the form proposed in the Bill. The Secretary of State carefully confined his references to powers to take over land, but he did so because he thinks that landlords as a class are unpopular. However, he will also have power, if he wishes, to take over hotels, businesses, farms and everything else.
I suppose that I should congratulate the right hon. Gentleman in that, unlike his right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, his right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who are concerned with defence policy, immigration policy and taxation policy, he has not turned his policy clean upside down since the election and at least has not said that he wants to develop the Highlands by spending all the money in England. Perhaps that is something to be said for him. But until we see some action, we will have difficulty about believing that his heart is in the right place and that his rather smooth words introducing the Bill were genuine.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I have a certain amount of sympathy for the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) in his job as Leader of the Opposition for the day and having to criticise the Bill. He had great difficulty searching for reasons and justifications. Many of his arguments seemed contradictory. He began with a great tirade against the fact that the Highland Development Board was not to have any teeth, as he said. He proceeded from that to say that in Committee he would see that what teeth there were were extracted; in other words, that the Board had too many powers and not too few. His suggestion that the Secretary of State should give the Board power to do things without supervision by the nation which set up the Board was contrary to everything ever done by any Government in this country.
§ Mr. Noble
The right hon. Gentleman has missed the whole point of my argument. I know that it was rather long, but my argument was not that the Board had no powers but that the right hon. Gentleman had kept all the powers in his own hands. I am prepared to give the Board more powers, the right hon. Gentleman fewer.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The right hon. Gentleman should look at some of the Bills which he introduced when he was Secretary of State, when he will see that they do not differ from this in this respect. He knows very well that the Minister responsible for Scotland must necessarily be mentioned in these Bills. However, I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman. He had to make what sounded like complaints against the Bill. My right hon. Friend made the same sort of complaints when the right hon. Gentleman was introducing Measures, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that it is common form to complain about the powers of the Secretary of State. We need not pay too much attention to such criticisms.
I greatly welcome the Bill, because my right hon. Friend is implementing the pledge that a Board would be set up to deal with the Highlands. Whatever prophecies we may make are nothing to do with that. The first step has been taken and the Board, the Secretary of State, the Government and the people of Scotland are to have power to do things which ought to have been done before.
As one who has had formerly the job as Secretary of State for Scotland, I believe that it will take some time to show the fruits of this legislation. When we talk about the Highlands, we talk about a small country into which hundreds of millions of pounds could be poured with hardly any results. One of the things which struck me when I was tackling this problem and when I went to the north of Scotland was that I found a previous Government had granted money for instance for piers, but at least in one case had built in the wrong place, so that even now the fishermen could not use it. A great deal of money was wasted in the Highlands, because there was no proper plan for its expenditure. I agree with the right 1112 hon. Gentleman that the Highlands must be viewed comprehensively and that money must not just be put into one area because someone wants it and because it will satisfy a particular set of people.
Planning for the Highlands involves not only doing something in the Highlands but preserving something. There is the greatest danger that one of the Highlands' most valuable assets, the beauty of the landscape, will be destroyed, as the beauties of the Clyde were destroyed, merely for the introduction of some industry. There is plenty of room in the Highlands for industry to be introduced without despoiling beautiful areas. I hope that it will be part of the duty of the Board to comply with regulations which were laid down in my period of office, so that while there may be no national parks organisation in the Highlands, there will be some organisation, perhaps the National Trust, whose business it will be to watch over beauty spots and to call the attention of the Secretary of State to any danger of spoilation. There is preservation to be done in the Highlands as well as development, and I hope that that will be remembered.
I hope that the conduct of operations under the Bill will not be vitiated by the old Highland feuds between landowners and crofters. Until the time of the Labour Governments, the Highlands largely depended upon the patronage of landowners. The right hon. Gentleman was right when he said that a great deal of development in the Highlands had come about because people who had made millions out of ironworks in the Midlands, Boot's the chemists or Wills cigarettes, had gone into the Highlands with huge capital to become landlords with a fancy for developing the land.
In many ways they did great services. Boot was just on the point of solving the problem of bracken with his experiments when the war broke out, and many other people have done similar work in the Highlands. I should like to pay my tribute to many of those people. One of their hobbies was the cultivation of trees. A great deal of the knowledge which the Forestry Commission has today has come from the experience of such persons and the fact that they planted trees and experimented. While they may have been 1113 capitalists and may have made their money in the South, their hobbies brought great benefits to the North.
Where they went wrong was in trying to preserve the Highlands as a playground for themselves and to prevent development. For instance, there is a village half a mile from the main road without a road access, a village which the population is steadily leaving. When I was there no young man or woman lived in the village, because young people would not live in a place which could not be reached by a van bringing bread and other provisions. Development of that half mile was not allowed because a landowner wanted to preserve that piece of land and refused to allow a road to be built. I advised the local people to build the road themselves, in spite of the landlord.
That is only one example of what went on for years. Even hikers were prevented from going over a hill because a landlord wanted to preserve it as a quiet secluded spot on which nobody but himself was allowed. There are two kinds of landlords. One is the good kind who does a good job in the Highlands, and we pay him credit. Do not let us class all landlords together. There are good and bad, like the curate's egg. They are not all as tasty and delectable as the right hon. Gentleman said. I am willing to pay tribute to those who have done good in the Highlands. But this is not the right way to do it. The right way is for the community to do it. The matter should be dealt with publicly in the proper way, and democratically. It should not be that dealt with by vassals of a feudal character and of glorified patronage of wealth made in other parts of the country.
In case somebody says, "What did you do?", which is a very common question which is put to former Secretaries of State, as the right hon. Member for Argyll will discover, I should like to say that we carried out some experiments. The Highland newspapers stated that during my period of office and that of my predecessors going back to Tom Johnston more had been done for the Highlands than had been done in the previous 50 years. This can be verified by the fact that we stopped depopulation of the Highlands. We gave the Forestry Commission a programme for 50 years to bring people back to the Highlands. When the trees left the Highlands, the 1114 people left the Highlands. When the trees go back to the Highlands, the people will go back. I entirely agree that it is necessary to plan the Highlands by combining trees and agriculture, because only in such a way will they be populated.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that some depopulation of the Highlands is, to some extent, almost desirable as a result of efficiency in cultivating the land. I had to make a study for another purpose of the depopulation of Wales. I found that it was due to the fact that people, instead of starving in the valleys, had gone back and overcrowded the countryside. They left when they were able to go to other parts and earn a decent living. If through more efficient cultivation people can leave the land and earn a decent living elsewhere this is to be welcomed.
Unfortunately, that is not always the reason for the depopulation of the Highlands. There is a steady drift from the outer islands to the mainland, from the mainland to Aberdeen and Inverness. The creation of new industry provides a great attraction. We must do something to keep people on the land as well as provide industries for their sons and daughters to work in elsewhere. We tried to do some of this and we found a certain amount of obstruction.
I agree entirely with the right hon. Member for Argyll about the importance of grass cultivation. I should like to mention the experiments which are the result of Mr. Allan of Muirfad's study of the recovery of peat land by very simple and economic methods. This is being fostered by the Department in the western part of the Highlands. I gather that a large part of the peat land is being recovered. The Secretary of State may have to deal with obstruction which comes not entirely from the landlord. It is nothing short of a scandal that people in the Islands have to bring milk from the mainland. This seems absolute madness. People in Fort William bought their milk from a dairy in Edinburgh because they could not rely on getting pasteurised milk from anywhere else. People in Inverness got their cream from Cumberland and Dumfriesshire.
To overcome this we tried to establish a State milk farm near Portree in Skye. It was crofting land. An appeal 1115 against it was made to the Land Court, which refused to allow the experiment to proceed. I am all for supporting the crofters in their rights, but the idea that progress in the Highlands should be stopped because of some stupid regulation to the effect that an empty croft cannot be used to start a dairy farm is the height of nonsense. I hope that the Board will have power to deal with this kind of thing and to establish experimental farms. I hope that it will be able to show what modern science can do in agriculture and will show the crofters that there is the possibility of developing their land to a greater extent. It must be possible to go further than merely to have lectures by people from the College of Agriculture, although they are very valuable.
We had a whole valley scheme where we recovered grassland in Glen Oykel and compared it with land which had not been treated. To see 100 cattle grazing on lovely green sward where a very small number had grazed before on poor grass was an inspiration. But then a landlord—I am sorry to say it was one of the clan of the Secretary of State himself—raised considerable difficulties in our proceeding to deal with the whole glen. This delay went on such a long time that it frustrated what might have been a great development with the crofters, foresters and shepherds all living together in decent villages and the opportunity of social life. This proved possible in the Valley of Ay in the constituency of the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis). Enough shepherds, farmers and foresters were brought together to make a village. In another case, one landlord in the Highlands provided jeeps for his shepherds to come from outside to the village. This is the sort of thing that planning can do.
What can we do? Obviously, there are clear lines of development. First, the Government have the power, through the Board, to create development. It will be a long job if the Government try to do it themselves. The most important thing is to get private enterprise, where it is willing, to do the job. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] But this is no new policy for us. Hon. Members opposite vitiated public discussion of 1116 these matters by silly talk of nationalisation and the power of the State.
A Highland Member objected in the House on principle to the State doing anything even when private enterprise and everything else had failed. He would rather have nothing done in the Highlands than that the State should do it. This is absolute nonsense, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will stop it and get down to the practical problem of dealing with the matter. Private enterprise cannot save the Highlands. The only thing that can do that is an element of Socialism combined with private enterprise. Unless hon. Members opposite agree to that, they will condemn the Highlands to becoming a desert.
Is the Highlands to be an area occupied by a healthy population? If so, we must provide a viable means of bringing that about. The Government have taken over responsibility of doing that, as previous Governments did. The question is, how are they to do it? The first element is private enterprise. During my time in office, we created a development area in the Inverness-Ross and Cromarty area to try to bring in industry. It proved impossible. Even with all the inducements of the development area, private industry did practically nothing.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I am glad to see it. I do not object; I welcome it. The fact was that we could not get anybody to accept. That went on for years.
I tried to get Remploy to make use of the timber by establishing a factory at Cannich, so that instead of merely carting the timber over the road, some decent furniture would be made in a Remploy factory. We failed to get that. I do not blame private enterprise. One cannot expect industry to go there and lose money. Private enterprise is not a philanthropic institution.
To get industry into the Highlands, we require hothouse development to get it started. The former Secretary of State agreed to this in the case of the Fort William development of the pulp mill. There is no objection on the benches opposite to nationalised State enterprise taking part in the development of the pulp 1117 mill, is there? Why talk about this nonsense? The pulp mill would not have been there if the right hon. Gentleman's Government had not used Socialist power to establish it and to make use of the timber. Otherwise, it would not be there. That is a great development.
The Dounreay experiment, for which the right hon. Member for Argyll claimed credit, is entirely a State development in the Highlands which is in line with the suggestion which I am making.
§ Mr. Ian MacArthur
The right hon. Gentleman speaks of my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State having used Socialist powers to provide capital for the Fort William pulp mill. Surely, the point is that these are not Socialist principles. The principle of Socialism to which we object, and which was hinted at during the debate on the pulp mill, was the taking over by the State of that mill because part of it was being financed by Slate money.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The hon. Member might allow me to know more about Socialism that he does. What he is talking about has nothing to do with Socialism. Nationalisation is not Socialism. Socialism is the planning of the economic life of the community to provide the best well-being of the community by the best means available.
§ Mr. MacArthur
Has the right hon. Gentleman renounced nationalisation? Will he vote against the Bill to nationalise steel when it comes before the House?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)
Order. Second Reading debates are very wide, but not as wide as that.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Clearly, the hon. Member is so full of his prejudices that he is not approaching the subject in a reasonable way. He is trying to whip up his own hobbyhorses instead of facing the problem of the Highlands, which is what we are dealing with today.
The Government will first use private enterprise and give it every inducement. I would give it as much inducement as the previous Government gave to Malta, where they gave relief of Income Tax, financed the building of factories—
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
On a point of order. While I am interested in what my right hon. Friend 1118 has to say, would it be within your power, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to suggest to hon. Members that brevity is the soul of wit and that many hon. Members would like to express a point of view on this important Measure? I do not know whether you have any powers, Mr. Deputy-Speaker—I should like to know—to curtail the length of speeches of hon. Members.
§ Mr. Rankin
Further to that point of order. Will you rule, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) has now made his contribution to the debate?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The Chair has no power to curtail the length of speeches. It has often been said from the Chair, both in the House and in Committee, that if right hon. or hon. Members speak at length that inevitably means that some hon. Members will be cut out of the debate. That is as far as one can go.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I have provided several hon. Members already with the opportunity of making speeches and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) says, my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) has probably taken up his share of the time.
The Government start by using private enterprise. They also have something else at hand. If private enterprise fails, they have the possibility of using the public boards such as the Hydro-Electric Board, the Forestry Commission and the National Coal Board. Many of these bodies have been able to help in providing industry in certain areas. The Hydro Board went out of its way to try to develop even private enterprise industries in the Highlands by providing stone for the building of its hydro-electric station and trying to recreate the old stone industry in the Highlands. It has done a great deal in this direction and, in addition, has used some of the money to provide roads, which are a vital artery for any industries which develop in the Highlands.
The next thing is the local authorities. I hope that the new Board will use the local authority powers, because the local 1119 authorities have power to build factories and to help to create industry in their own area. They can create factories in combination with private enterprise to carry on the work.
In the long run, the State itself could come in. We have heard about Dounreay, which is an excellent example of the principle which we have often advocated that State research should be brought into Scotland to a greater extent and that this provides a basis for scientific industry, which is very important.
One advantage which the Highlands have is that they are a desirable place in which to live. We hear sometimes of business tycoons coming up to look for places to settle in Scotland. I have found that most of them wanted to know whether there were any pleasant places for their executives to live, where they can have the use of their car and do some hunting, shooting and fishing. There is no better place in the world than the Highlands to provide these amenities for the tycoons. If we get a Board with proper salesmanship, it might be able to get some of the American industrialists to come to the Highlands, because they do not pay so much attention to all the so-called obstacles of distance.
There are also the industrial estates, which are part of the Bill, and there is the possibility of experimental farms, to which I have referred. If all these things are brought together and planned in such a way as to be directed in location to the proper part of the Highlands, great steps forward will be taken.
We are dealing, however, with a country. It takes a long time to develop a country and to change direction for it. It takes time to alter a country's habits. Some Highlanders do not want a factory bell to get them to work in the morning. They have a much more pleasant life as it is. They are not anxious for everybody in the Highlands to be disciplined. They may do it when they go to other countries, but in the Highlands they like to have the leisure and the ease of the Highlands. The last thing they want is for someone to bring in factory bells at 7 o'clock in the morning so they must get on the job and work until 5 o'clock at night. I do not blame them for wanting to preserve some of the 1120 life which they have, but they must realise that in other parts of the Highlands we must provide the possibility of a greater population if we are to maintain the social services.
There are places like the Black Isle, where there is probably as good farming land as anywhere. There are places in Ross-shire which are more charming and delightful to live in than any other place in the world.
A Committee of this kind has a great opportunity to give an inspiration to the Highlands. Governments do not themselves do the job. They inspire others to do it, and I am sure that if the Government continue to give the kind of lead which they have provided in the Bill, they will provide an inspiration not only to Highlanders in the Highlands, but to those in other parts of the country, and indeed of the world, to come back and play a part in developing their own homeland.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. John Brewis (Galloway)
The right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), who is a former Secretary of State, speaks with great authority on many of these subjects. I do not propose to follow him through all the matters that he mentioned, but I would like to thank him for his reference to Mr. Allan of Muirfad, and his technique for reclaiming peat. Mr. Allan comes from my constituency, and he has made a great contribution both to Galloway and to the Highlands which have certain problems in common.
We are right to provide for the establishment of a Highland Development Board. We have had a long speech from the Secretary of State for Scotland dealing with the powers which the Board is to be given, but he gave us very little idea of what the Board is going to do with these powers. The last Administration set up a special Highland Survey, whose report will be published this summer, in a few months' time, and it seems that the Secretary of State has been in a great hurry to push the Bill forward without really considering what the Board is going to do. It seems that because no other Bills are ready to come in from the Scottish Office the right hon. Gentleman has had to hasten this Bill through to give the appearance that his Administration is doing something for 1121 Scotland. As a result he has given the Board inconceivably wide powers, but at the same time he has taken steps to see that those powers cannot be used without his approval. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) said, the Secretary of State is mentioned about four times on every page of the Bill.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
We should get the facts right. The setting up of a Highland Development Authority was mentioned in the Labour Party's election programme in 1959, and for some years before that. Surely the hon. Gentleman is prepared to give the Government credit for having carried out that promise?
§ Mr. Brewis
I am aware of that, but I think that the right hon. Gentleman should have awaited the result of the survey which is being carried out. Some of the powers which he is taking seem to be unnecessary, and some, like those in Clause 11, seem to be verging on the outrageous.
I think it has been said from the other side that the success of the Board will depend a great deal on securing the good will and the confidence of the people in the Highlands, and particularly of those who have anything to do with the land. I was pleased to hear the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire talk about fostering private enterprise in the Highlands, although the last thing that I want to do is to get involved in an argument about what should be done by private enterprise, and what should be done by State enterprise in developing this area.
There is one aspect on which we may be disappointed. I do not think that there is the scope for developing land which hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to think there is. Nor do I think that the policy recommended by the Highland Panel in its pamphlet, "Land Use in the Highlands and Islands", is likely to be particularly successful. It is interesting to note that compulsory powers for acquiring land for land settlement have existed since 1897.
§ Mr. Brewis
I am delighted to accept that correction. One of the difficulties in connection with land in the Highlands is 1122 that of getting a return for a farmer, crofter, or tenant, which is adequate for the effort which he puts into it, and commensurate with the return he would get from a holding of the same size in a different part of Scotland, or indeed in England. It seems to me that the view taken by the Highland Panel, that a return of£750 per year for somebody with a holding, is too low. It works out at less than£15 a week, and one of the difficulties in the Highlands has been that of people going South because they can get much better rewards there.
Some of these land settlements are likely to be utterly uneconomic. The pamphlet to which I have referred says, and I have no reason to disagree with it, that such a holding would require about£15,000 to£20,000 of capital spent on buildings and fixed equipment to secure a return of£750 per annum. If the sheep farm has been carved out of a deer forest, the fencing of about 3,000 acres will put one very much nearer the higher figure, but even taking£15,000 as the capital required for buildings, fencing, and so on, and adding much the same figure for the value of the land, one sees that the return is getting down to about 2½ per cent. This pamphlet issued by the Highland Panel says that the income from sheep farming is made up as to 60 per cent. of production grants, so the return of any moneys spent by the State on land settlement is likely to be extremely small.
I think that there are difficulties about the State going in as the landlord of agricultural or sheep farming property. There is always a push from the Treasury for State activities to be economic. In my area rents are higher in the Department of Agriculture's holdings than in the neighbouring ones. In one case the rent charged by the Department is three times the average rent in that part of the world. In many ways private land owners are in a better position to develop agricultural areas than is the State.
It may well be that we are chasing a hare on this question of deer forests and grouse moors, because not much of these areas is agricultural land. It may be that the real difficulty lies much more in the crofting areas, where there is a good deal of arable land. A holding of about 100 acres of arable land would be necessary to provide an income of 1123 £750 per annum, and I cannot help wondering whether the Board has its eyes on some of the crofting areas like the Isle of Lewis where there are more than 2,000 crofts of less than five acres, and only 19 of more than 100 acres. I hope that the Board will not resurrect the spectre of Lord Leverhulme in dealing with the small crofts.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
As I recollect it, during the debate on the Deer Bill, Lord Muirshiel, the then Secretary of State for Scotland, said that there were a quarter of a million acres which at present were deer forests, but which could be reclaimed.
§ Mr. Brewis
The hon. Gentleman will find the figures in Appendix C of the pamphlet on land use. My memory of the debate is that the figure was nearer 100,000 acres which could be reclaimed, and that the remainder of the area to which the hon. Gentleman referred was being used for some form of agricultural grazing.
With regard to forestry, here again our hopes may be pitched a little high, because there is a reference to about 1 million acres which could be planted in Scotland. Not all these 1 million acres will be good planting land, for various reasons, such as accessibility and climate. Furthermore, the Forestry Commission is likely to experience considerable difficulties in obtaining adequate labour. There was an interesting passage in a recent Estimates Committee Report on the Forestry Commission when the conservator for the Western Conservancy area was giving evidence about labour. It is a long passage and I will not quote it, but its general effect is that no trained agricultural labour is available, and that the labour has to come from the industrial areas.
In an industrial society many people have forgotten—if they have ever been taught—the correct way to plant anything, or even the correct way to use a spade. Considerable difficulties have been experienced in obtaining labour. The average wastage every year was 20 per cent. and in some years it rose to as much as 55 per cent. We should be deluding ourselves if we thought that the Commission could increase its pro- 1124 gramme very considerably in the next few years.
It should concentrate round areas where growth is possible—areas like that in which the Fort William pulp mill is situated, where we hope to get a growth point going. If it concentrated its efforts in this way, the Commission could make a large contribution to the development of the Highlands.
Few people have noticed that private owners, during the years 1959–63, planted just under 20,000 acres of woodland in the Highlands and in doing so employed many people. It is interesting to note that in reference to the Westminster estates in Sutherland the Taylor Report on crofting said that nothing it had seen had impressed it so much as the private woodland planting in that area.
§ Mr. Manuel
I agree with what the hon. Member is saying about the actions of some private owners of woodlands, but if it were not for the public money injected each year in the form of grant in respect of these private woodlands these advances would not be possible. It is public money.
§ Mr. Brewis
I shall probably be asking for more public money in a minute. There is a great deal of scope for planting not only by landowners but by tenants and crofters. It is extremely useful for a tenant farmer or crofter to have a small patch of woodlands, because he can cut his own stobs, and the wood can also be put to valuable use in the form of shelter for his stock.
Timber prices have fallen considerably in the last ten years. It may be that where there are no guaranteed prices landowners, tenants and crofters in remote areas such as the Highlands—where we want to foster development—should be given higher planting grants than are given to people in other parts of Scotland. When a tenant does do any planting, under the present agricultural legislation he is not entitled to claim compensation for improvements. This may be a small point, but we might be able to do something to encourage the further planting of trees.
A great deal of help could also be given in connection with natural resources. Surprisingly little has been done to find out the extent of our natural resources. The Scottish Council 1125 appointed the Elgood Committee, and a Chair of Natural Resources has been set up recently in Edinburgh University, but many natural resources in the Highlands remain to be properly charted. A survey party from the atomic station at Dounreay stumbled on large potassic deposits at Loch Eriboll a few years ago. I believe that these deposits have great commercial possibilities. Dolomite and other minerals are also found in the area.
I therefore ask the Minister of State whether the Highland Development Board, under the provisions of Clause 7, will be able to set up a committee to study the possibility of providing the necessary finance to carry out a proper survey of all these natural resources. We also need better grants for incoming industry. I was very disappointed when the Secretary of State said that the grants available to the Highlands from the Board would be no less and no more than those obtainable from B.O.T.A.C. For a long time I have felt that it is wrong to give the same grant for incoming industry to the Highlands as is given for incoming industry to Merseyside. The building grant is 25 per cent. all over the country, but it should be greater in the Highlands, because if a business is not a success the value of the secondhand factory there will be very much lower.
We could study what the Norwegians have done. They have been able to get an accelerated depreciation out of their Treasury, which means that instead of waiting for years for a profit to come they can receive a grant in respect of depreciation before the profits come in. B.O.T.A.C. is much too pernickety in considering applications. In Norway, the Small Industry Office is quite prepared to accept a failure rate of about 50 out of every 100. I do not suggest that we should go as far as that, but I do say that B.O.T.A.C. is far too inclined not to take a chance on some development which could be useful to the Highlands.
There is no doubt that the Highland Development Board will need much more money if it is to do its work properly. A figure of£150,000 has been suggested for the first year, but that compares badly with the£33 million that has been spent every year up to now, and will continue, we hope.
1126 As the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. George Y. Mackie) said, in a memorable phrase, it would be like taking a teaspoon to empty the Minch. Unless we can be assured of much more money for this Board it is likely to end up like a stranded whale without accomplishing very much for the Highlands.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) except to say that his contribution seemed to be based on the assumption that he and his hon. Friends should do all they can to extract any teeth that are at present in the Bill. He expressed fear about certain Clauses. I assume that he wants them weakened. But he then proceeded to give a long list of things that he thought needed attention—forestry, private woodlands, natural resources, and so on. He thought that more public money should be injected into schemes connected with them.
He must make up his mind how far he will support us. I imagine that there will not be many hon. Members opposite who, at the end of the day, will not be asking my right hon. Friend and the Highland Development Board to help certain interests in their constituencies as that Board begins its job.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) mentioned that a great many people are taking a great interest in the Bill, and that is so. Scotland has been throbbing with discussion. We have had whisperings, little murmurings and some small thunderings from Tory interests which fear that some of the powers that they have held too long will be wrested from them. The Liberal Party representative referred to a teaspoon and the Minch. The Liberals are under a misapprehension about the powers in the Bill and I shall try to enlighten the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. George Y. Mackie). Possibly he will need a much bigger ladle after I have finished, in order to be able to enjoy the rich soup which I hope will emanate ultimately for the people in the Highlands, and in Scotland generally, as a result of the provisions in the Bill.
I agree that great interest has been taken in this Measure. Many people have 1127 spoken to me about it, people living in Glasgow, Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and other places, whose ancestors lived in the Highlands but left them long ago; people who have never been to the Highlands but who have a great interest in that area and, if it were possible, would like to move to the Highlands. There are a fair number of English-based Highland landowning interests which are taking a fervent interest in the Bill. I hope that before the end of the debate the Minister of State, Scottish Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), will tell us something about those interests and how divorced they are from the actualities and the real life of the Highlands. I am not saying that there are no good landlords, but absentee landlordism is rife in the Highlands. Such landlords have not behaved as they should and their responsibilities have not been properly discharged.
In the main this Bill has been well received. All the local authorities affected are well pleased with its provisions. They may have some misgivings about this, that or the other, but they did not receive the Bill in a way to which hon. Members on this side of the House could object. There has been no actual hostility. It is generally recognised by the progressive forces in Scotland that a Measure of this character is long overdue and this is evident in the conversations of people interested.
Through the years we have had much legislation dealing with the Highlands. There have been inquiries and probes into the ills affecting the seven crofter counties. As I have said repeatedly in this House, the complaint about them all has been the same. They have failed because they had not enough power or teeth to do the job which they were set to do. Lack of money is lack of teeth and it is best that we should recognise it. I shall come to the money aspect in a moment, and possibly provide some education for members of the Liberal Party in that regard.
In 1955 when we discussed the legislation setting up the Crofters Commission, and in 1961, when we debated legislation relating to the crofters, I said that there was not enough power being provided and that we should fail in our objective. This Bill must have a different result. Its purpose is to provide for the further 1128 development of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland by the establishment of a Highland Development Board. That is laid down in Clause 1. Clause 2 states that a Highland Development Consultative Council shall be constituted to advise the Board on the exercise and performance of its functions. I should like the Minister of State to deal with that point and tell us more. It would appear galling that a Consultative Council should tell the Highland Development Board how it should perform its functions, and I think that could have been better worded. It would appear that the lesser body is dictating to the major body.
The Secretary of State may give directions to the Board of a general character about the exercise of its function. Clauses 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Bill are important, but Clause 3 is one of the most important. It deals with the duties of the Board. Subsection (1,a), states that the Board shall have the dutyto keep under review all matters relating to the economic and social well-being and development of the Highlands and Islands.Paragraph (b) of the same subsection says:after such consultation with local authorities in the Highlands and Islands and other bodies as appears to the Board to be appropriate, from time to time to prepare and submit to the Secretary of State for his approval proposals, whether general or specific in character, for the economic and social development of the Highlands and Islands or any part thereof.These are wide powers, as is said in paragraph (c)to concert, promote, assist or undertake measures to implement any proposals so approved.Paragraph (d) statesto advise the Secretary of State on such matters relating to their functions as he may refer to the Board or as the Board may think fit.In other words, there will be a two-way traffic for proposals and functions. Paragraph (e) lays down that at the end of each calendar year there will be a report from the Board to the Secretary of State. Subsection (2) states:The Secretary of State may approve In whole or in part, any proposals submitted to him. …Subsection (3) lays down that the Secretary of State shall submit a report to each House of Parliament.
This is much more than we have been able to do with the anomalies which have 1129 arisen in the Highlands in connection with private ownership. We can at least have these reports and debate them. The Secretary of State is to be the hinge on which we shall swing one way or the other; we shall either go forward or dodder along as we have done in the past. My right hon. Friend has a great opportunity to grow immensely in political stature. I am quite sure that he will seize the opportunity. If he is able to tackle this job, I do not mind how many times his name appears in each Clause of the Bill. If we mean to achieve things by this Bill we shall mention his name much more. I should imagine that he will seize every opportunity to create the motive power to get things done.
I know that the Opposition think that my right hon. Friend is getting too much power. I should like to know what the Liberal Party think about this. We shall hear from their representatives if they get called, but possibly not all will be called. It should be recognised that the Liberal Party can say, do and think what they like, because, in practice, they will never have the chance to do any thing. That is a fine position to be in. They have not to act with the responsibility which I have, for instance—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—in this connection as a back bencher solidly supporting my Government. Therefore, their task is easy by comparison.
It is interesting to hear what the Liberal Party think about my right hon. Friend having too much power over the acquisition of land under Clause 4, or the powers given under Clause 10 for entry upon land. The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) will speak later and, as he has legal knowledge, I should like him to devote some time to this question of acquisition of land and the power of entry. We have debated these powers on many occasions. They are no greater than the powers given to local authorities to acquire land for housing, roads, and many other purposes which local authorities are bound to carry out. They have a right to acquire land compulsorily in order to do these things.
Though it is said that too much power is being taken under this Bill, I did not hear any speeches from hon. Members opposite about similar powers given in 1130 other Acts passed by them. I could mention many, but I shall quote from just one short Measure, the Flood Prevention (Scotland) Act, 1961, in which I took an active part, along with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), who is now Secretary of State, and my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East, the Minister of State. Section 7 of that Act was supported by the hon. Member for Galloway who, like me, was interested in preventing the poor farmers and crofters and owners of smallholdings from being flooded out. The hon. Member for Galloway was enthusiastic about Section 7, which lays down:A local authority may be authorised by the Secretary of State to acquire by compulsory purchase any land (whether in their area or not) which they require for the exercise of their powers under this Act, and the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) (Scotland) Act, 1947,"—exactly similar procedure to that which is laid down in this Bill—shall apply in relation to any such compulsory purchase as if this Act had been in force immediately before the commencement of that Act.Section 8 says:…any person authorised by a local authority"—not the Secretary of State—shall, on producing if so required some duly authenticated document showing his authority, have a right at all reasonable hours to enter on any land (whether in the area of the local authority or not)…I could go on reading this Clause. I would point out that it says in Section 9:For the purpose of enabling them to exercise any of their powers under this Act a local authority may require the owner or occupier of any land (whether in their area or not) to state in writing the nature of his own interest in that land and the name and address of any other person known to him as having an interest therein.It goes on to expand this at greater length.
These extracts show that there is no great difference between the powers used in the past and those laid down in the Bill. It is common form. I wonder how the hon. and learned Member for Pent-lands will get round this and present the case which the right hon. Member for Argyll has instructed him to present. I should think that he will find it very difficult to make out a real case for the claim that we are going too far in 1131 the powers contained in this Bill. While, on the one hand, hon. Members opposite are saying that we are taking too much power, on the other hand they are saying that we will not do enough. They are travelling two roads at once, which is dangerous. If one goes too far, one gets split completely. One cannot go two ways at once for too long before running into great difficulty. They say that the figure of£1 million per year is a derisory figure and talk as if this is all that the Board will spend. They cannot have it both ways.
§ Mr. Manuel
As I see it, no definite sum is laid down in the Bill as a final commitment. I would assume that much of the actual work—I should like the Minister of State to deal with this point—entailing expenditure would not be undertaken directly by the Board. That would be silly. After all, we have in being the Hydro-Electric Board, the Crofters Corn-mission, the Forestry Commission, the Tourist Board, the White Fish Authority, the Herring Industry Board, the Highland Panel and so on. Coupled with them are seven county councils, all of which have great power, and into which we can feed any money as necessary. If any of the proposals of the Board authorised by the Secretary of State were brought into being, the Board would use existing machinery and organisation to do the job.
For instance, if the Board decided that fish farming should be brought into being on a large scale, it would not try to do the job itself. That would be ridiculous. It would not set up a new agency it would use the White Fish Authority. I say to my right hon. Friend, in passing, that I have been reading a great deal about the potentialities of fish farming, and I would think that the secluded West Highland sea lochs would be eminently suitable for this purpose. If we can make a go of this—there is no reason why we should not, because other countries have —we would bring immense economic strength, not only to the Highlands but to the whole of Scotland. We would create far more employment than is envisaged in this connection. I hope that we shall make a go of fish farming. I think that it has immense possibilities.
1132 Similarly, large tracts of land could be brought into cultivation in order to provide much cheaper winter keep. Even if the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, is a gentleman farmer, he knows that his cattle have to eat.
§ Mr. George Y. Mackie
The definition of a gentleman farmer is a man who is not much of a gentleman and less of a farmer.
§ Mr. Manuel
I know something of crofting, so I shall leave the matter at that. I only know that the hon. Member told me in the Tea Room one day that he was a gentleman farmer. The hon. Member said he was not a working farmer. I see that he remembers the conversation.
All of us who know the crofting areas know that one of the great stumbling blocks to getting a proper price for cattle is the fact that when the sales are on the cattle have to be sold, willy-nilly, because there is no way of keeping them. Anyone who travels to the Highlands is almost certain to pass lorries carrying straw—not even good hay—going up to the Highlands to eke out the feeding for the winter months for these poorer crofting areas.
If we could turn many of the large tracts of land into land producing hay or silage we could make a considerable advance. I know that there are weather difficulties about producing hay, but we could have silage, and in this way we could immeasurably strengthen certain of the crofting areas by producing on a Government-owned farm winter keep of some kind. This offers immense advantages.
If we were to do this we should not have it done directly by the Highland Development Board. The Department of Agriculture is surely the body to be used. I pay a tribute to that Department, which has excellent and most knowledgeable people who are devoting their lives to trying to make a success of agriculture in the Highland areas.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
I am following my hon. Friend's speech with great attention. There is a great deal of substance in it. But he should bear in mind that there is another factor—not only winter keep for the cattle but the transportation costs in taking cattle from, say, an island to 1133 Oban or some other sale. The cost of taking them back again is almost prohibitive, and therefore the cattle cannot be taken back from the sale. Does not my hon. Friend agree that we need a better transportation system, with more uniform freight rates?
§ Mr. Manuel
I agree, but I hope that ultimately we shall produce cattle on a much greater scale in the Highlands with many more sales points in the Highlands instead of having to take the cattle by motor vehicle, for example, to Oban.
The point which I make is that if these bodies were to be used to carry out the Board's proposals, their own expenditure would increase. In many instances this would also be true of local authority grant-aided expenditure, where a local authority was carrying out work arising from the Board's proposals. There are, therefore, many ways in which money will be spent as a result of the Board's proposals, and the Board would not itself directly budget to spend it. Many spending bodies can be used by the Board and by my right hon. Friend to carry out the work which they are already skilled in doing. What they have not had in the past is the opportunity to have actual proposals placed before them which would make this worthwhile. In this event it would be quite wrong to look at the£1 million which has been allocated provisionally to the Board as a hard-and-fast figure. I should he deeply disappointed if this were so, and I certainly do not think that it will be so.
Clauses 5, 6 and 7 are most important. I have not time to deal with them in detail, but I recognise their importance. I hope that the Board will not think that the be-all and end-all of Highland development will be achieved by the creation here and there of growth points. Certainly let us have growth points. The right hon. Member for Argyll was very enthusiastic about them, and he assumed that there would be enough activity radiating from the growth points to small areas outside. I have never thought that. I think that they will suck more into them than will go out from them, and if we adopted this policy it would be a cardinal error. I hope that, while we have growth points, if possible to attract people back to the Highlands, we shall 1134 guard against these focal industrial points sucking into their orbit the remaining labour from our more remote and isolated areas, thus creating more neglect and decay and further depopulation. But that is inevitable if the local point is to be the only point which employs labour.
I hope that the Board and the Secretary of State will recognise that we shall not attract private enterprise industry into these remote and inaccessible areas and that the only way to hold and expand the population in these areas is by the Government, of their own volition, sponsoring employment there or deliberately creating employment by setting up small factories and light industry of some character, allied, I hope, to those skills which used to be in that area. By such a thorough-going State enterprise we should strengthen the economy in the area.
But if we pin our hopes merely on growth points here and there, where it is considered that there will be suitable development and that industrialists will come up to Scotland because of the benefits in those areas, we shall create another problem in the Highlands, just as important as the old depopulation which led to people moving out of the Highlands altogether. It would be criminal if we were merely to suck people into these growth points and to create further depopulation in the poorer crofter areas. The county councils will not even have enough labour to look after the roads and communications if we do not pay heed to the note of warning which I am striking.
The Government are the only body who can feed employment into these areas. It would not need much, and I am not thinking of great and grandiose schemes, but I am convinced that by spending a comparatively small sum the Government could create a situation in which additional employment would be provided. In some areas it might take the form of afforestation. The Forestry Commission is running out of land. I do not know what the right hon. Member for Argyll intended to do about that.
The Board should show the way by creating a great new initiative in forestry development. This would result in more jobs for the advancement of forestry 1135 workers. At present there is not enough advancement and promotion and the workers in this industry are having to stick for far too long in junior posts. We need some new thinking about the whole salary and wage structure for the Forestry Commission.
I hope that the pay scales of forestry workers will not be tagging along much longer behind those of agricultural workers. Unfortunately, this has been the wrong basis on which to fix forestry workers' wages. I hope that it will be recognised that the time has arrived when a new wages structure should be hammered out for the forestry industry. The terribly low wages applicable in agriculture should not apply to forestry workers, because the jobs are quite different. There are other hazards in forestry and workers in the industry need more initiative than the ordinary agricultural worker. That is not to say that I am saying anything against the agricultural worker. I am talking about areas where costs and so on are much higher and about an industry which requires a new pay structure.
While I recognise the immense value of afforestation, it is not enough by itself. I hope that we will see located in the right places light industries sponsored by the Government. Action of this kind would represent a great break-through, and I hope that the Board will have the initiative, freedom and courage to take this long-awaited step forward.
Government-owned small factories in these areas, where private enterprise will not go, would be of immense value. I am sure that no hon. Member on either side of the House would object to a plan of this sort or would be prepared to allow further depopulation to take place. After all, if private enterprise is not prepared to go to an area, why should not the Government sponsor their own industries there?
I want to hear hon. Members opposite say that they want to see Government-sponsored factories in these areas. We are all bidding for advance factories. This is the same sort of thing. For heaven's sake, I urge hon. Members opposite to drop their hypocrisy about this business and to recognise that if we are to succeed in doing something for the High- 1136 lands we must have further measures of State enterprise.
§ Mr. J. Bruce-Gardyne (South Angus)
The hon. Gentleman asks what is the difference between the sort of proposals in this Measure and advance factories. The important difference is that advance factories are handed over to firms which must eventually be able to pay their way in equal competition with other firms in the same industries. The sort of enterprise which the Board might set up under the Bill, in relation to what the hon. Gentleman has been saying, would be able to fall back on the taxpayer if it ran into a deficit and, because it would have that advantage, it could drive competing industries in the Highlands out of business.
§ Mr. Manuel
I am sorry to learn that the hon. Gentleman has such little faith in the Highlands and in the Highlanders. I am not talking about factories going into areas where they will need to be supported by the taxpayer. I have more faith in the Highlands and the population there. I suggest that if we select the right industries we will make them pay, even in competition with private enterprise. I have no fear on that score.
I am sure that with the local authorities bolstering up the position by preparing amenities in the areas about which I am speaking, we can make a go of this. The Board will assist and provide solutions to many of the problems now existing, and I agree that there are many of them. They include transport, tourism and freight rates. The higher price of coal must be considered, particularly the extremely high price of it when it eventually reaches points in the Highlands. All these are questions which should come into the reckoning of the Board in arriving at the policies which it will put into operation in the seven crofter counties.
I conclude by wishing the Board and the Consultative Council well. May great success attend their efforts. I hope that they will create vigour and life throughout our Highland communities where at present we see, in certain areas, nothing but decay, depopulation and a gradually worsening situation. This trend can be reversed and I hope that the Bill will enable those concerned to go forward and to act in a realistic way.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. George Y. Mackie (Caithness and Sutherland)
I should like, at the outset, to apologise for the absence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), who has been ordered to bed. This is a great distress to him because he has been advocating a Highland Development Board—or authority, a central executive body—for many years and no one knows the problems of the outlying areas better than he does. I will set the mind of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) at rest straight away. We welcome the Bill, accept the powers and wish the Measure extremely well.
It is worth considering the history of the problem because certain illusions seem to be creeping into the minds of hon. Members. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) seemed to think that some of the landlords were splendid people who wished to do well by the Highlands in all things. There is a great illusion about landlords—good, bad, middling and other landlords. The whole point about them and about private enterprise in the Highlands is that however enterprising a man may be in a factory in Glasgow, the Midlands or any other part of the country, when he goes up to the Highlands he goes there for an entirely different reason—to get completely away from enterprise of any sort.
Such a man wants peace, quiet and the illusion of being a Highland laird. There is a prestige thing about having thousands of empty acres on which to stride about. I know a little about this, because these feelings may have entered my breast at times. However, they have been stamped down in favour of the development of the land I happen to own, with the help of the excellent banking system in Scotland—[HON. MEMBERS: "And subsidies."]—Subsidies are not enough. I trust that they will go up.
In the Highlands one starts off with a tremendous heritage of real distrust and betrayal to get over, because the clearances are not dead in the minds of people in the Highlands. They are there because people do not realise the tremendous hurt that was done to a family feudal system when the men were cleared off the land to make way for sheep and 1138 profit. The landlords at the time, the natural heads of the Clan, could come to England and ape the English. Since then this feeling of family distrust has transferred itself to the proprietors of the Highlands, who are there purely and simply because of their interest in sport, and their interest is to keep down development. I have no doubt that they are nice people, kind to children and good to dogs, but they do not have an interest in developing the Highlands.
§ Mr. Mackie
I am aware of Westminster Estates and I agree that it has planted some land. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well the immense advantages that exist for death duties and other things. I am glad to say that Westminster Estates has seen the common sense of undertaking development.
My point is that in the Highlands we have to produce conditions in which the good pupils of Golspie High School, which has the highest percentage of university entrants in Britain, can feel that they can stay here, develop in their own country and thrive. At present they do not believe that. They believe that the only road to prosperity is the highway to England or elsewhere. That is a situation that has continued for a long time in the Highlands.
We want the people of the Highlands to develop their own country. I have an example in mind. As I have said before, I was once a Highland landlord. I bought a sporting estate, and we proceeded to try to turn it into a farm. We had some success. We put cattle where cattle had never been before, and we did some good for the place. In this case there was a large commercial undertaking at the top, a club farm on one side, and next door to us we had a neighbour who owned his own land and had built up his own hirsel since the war. He had formed it into a single hirsel, and had improved the sheep. That was the only good unit in the glen.
There we had a Highlander with his own ground, his own hirsel and business, and doing a good job. The club farmers were not doing a good job, because of their set-up. We were making a moderate job at the top. But the Highlander made 1139 a good job of it because he was on his own land. It is the people in the Highlands who need the opportunities, and who need to be able to feel that they can thrive and progress in their own countryside as they have been able to do all over the world.
I congratulate the Secretary of State. He does not look very much like a cupid, but he has put the seeds of love into the hearts of many landowners. The effect he has already had on some landlords in my constituency is quite astonishing. He has been a catalyst for good in their breast. We have the owner of an estate in the west of Lochinver who would not even provide land for a public lavatory for tourists going up and down the sea front, and certainly would not allow a garage to be built for a local teacher. Now we find there is an offer of land for a fish works, timber, and so on. What an effect the right hon. Gentleman has had—we should make him Foreign Secretary at once and see what he could do.
We have to remember that all the good we hear having been done by the landlords has really been remarkably ineffective. We hear very much about the pulp mill, but I very much doubt whether, if another pressure group had approached the Tory Government to provide the money to deal with the pit props no longer needed from the thinnings of the forest, it would have had the same success as the landowners of the area. I do not say that it is a bad thing—it is a good thing. Again, the atomic establishment was built there because the site was technically suitable. I do not think that this sort of thing shows the intent that is needed, the will to do things for the Highlands, for which the Highlanders are looking.
We regard as completely necessary the powers of purchase in the Bill. Nobody can quibble about them. They appear to us to be right and proper, and a sufficient safeguard for the job that has to be done. I agree with the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) that the Secretary of State is mentioned rather too often in the document for our liking—and, even worse, the Treasury is mentioned several times, too. I am aware that this is necessary, but it fills me with foreboding.
1140 I would say to the hon. Member who criticised me for speaking of money in teacups, and so on, that if that was not all the money the right hon. Gentleman proposed to put in the Highlands it was very wrong of him to mislead simple people like me by saying in the Preamble to the Bill that £1 million a year for three or four years was the amount expected to be spent. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, he is dealing with simple people, and if he says something in a Bill they are inclined to believe it. I am glad to hear that what is said in the Preamble is not the fact, and that much more money will be available. We all know that major enterprises need a lot of money invested in them. The distillery at Invergordon, which is an example of local enterprise in the area, was already spending£4 million or£5 million in capital development. An expenditure of£1 million a year would not provide the kind of growth we shall need.
We all realise that in order to produce a Bill quickly—and I congratulate the Secretary of State on producing this one quickly—rather than writing in enormously complicated safeguarding Clauses, it is much easier simply to do it through the power of the Secretary of State. I have always said that any competent body with the power of the Secretary of State behind it, and with money, could do the job. That is why we welcome this Bill, although we view with some foreboding the return of a gentleman perhaps not as favourable to the Highlands as the right hon. Gentleman. We think that under this Bill a Tory Secretary of State could stop a great deal of development without coming back to Parliament, and that is a weakness of this Bill. However, I am aware that there is a remedy to this, and we will have to wait and see.
One point that must be made clear to the Treasury is that the right hon. Gentleman is not asking for money additional to the£33 million. He is asking for an entirely different kind of money. He will be investing in the Highlands instead of propping up decaying industries and public institutions. It is quite ludicrous that it should cost £650 or thereabouts to educate a child in Sutherland. That is the result of decay. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman 1141 will invest in something that will give a return and lower the cost per head as compared with the other public money that has been pumped into the Highlands—and it has been generously pumped—but has not done the good we want. It has not been so directed that the whole of enterprise and industry in the Highlands will start to grow. We must have money and planning in sufficient amount to reverse the whole of the past trend, so it must be placed properly.
I have some small criticisms of the Bill. I do not think that the Highland Fund has to account to the Secretary of State for every part of the£150,000 it gets from him, and the Highland Board should be able to lend up to at least £50,000 a year without taking every application to the Secretary of State and£ominous phrase£ "the Treasury". What is needed is a block grant.
I should also like to know whether this money will revolve. I hope that when the Highland Board gets back money it has lent it will be allowed to keep it and lend it out again, instead of the money going back to the Treasury. All money coming in should be put in a revolving fund. I cannot understand why the Board is not allowed to borrow. The Clause says that it shall not borrow, but it might at least say that it shall borrow only with consent.
Turning to Clause 7, I hope that the Board will by consulting firms make full use of available experience. That is very necessary if use is to be made of the experience available all over the country. I hope that the Board will be much more generous with money to tourist associations and for publicity than have past Secretaries of State and the present Secretary of State. Tourist associations are at present in a poor way. They need more money. I hope and trust that the Board will get money to conduct publicity in a proper manner.
I want to mention one or two things that I would like to see done. I should like to see the Board undertake really comprehensive development of land, whether for agriculture, sport or forestry. The present fault of the Forestry Commission, as the right hon. Member for Argyll must know, is that it must buy land in competition with spare money which is buying land for sporting or 1142 prestige purposes. When the Commission has bought land, it must make it pay, because it has an economic remit. It then plants all the best bits of the ground in the downland to make it show a profit.
It is obvious that this is a foolish way to pursue a national plan for forestry. It was all right in the days of extreme depression, when land all over Scotland could be bought far too cheaply. Now, when an area has to be planted, forestry should be spread over the whole area, not just one estate in it. One must go in and take a whole glen like this House, and one must plan where the trees are to go to fit in with agriculture. This cannot be done in estate boundaries. I can take the right hon. Gentleman over hundreds and thousands of acres in my constituency where the Forestry Commission has not planted a tree, and it never will until somebody forces it to do so or does it for the Commission.
This must tie in with agriculture and it must tie in with sport. Of course people enjoy sport in the Highlands. Of course it is a good draw for people coming to Scotland, but one does not need to own and keep derelict large areas of it in order to enjoy it. It will tie in with other forms of production, quite apart from being on its own.
I should like to see the Board go and look at things. I should like the Board to go over and look at the Tennessee Valley. There is a tremendous field there in an area the size of this whole country with 5 million inhabitants. The standard of the people living there has been enormously increased by a combination of enterprise, private and public. This is what we want to see in this country.
We want to see peat developed. At Dounreay there is a marvellous example of a new energy-industry. Right across the road there is a splendid opportunity for the old industry. The Irish Board is at the moment exporting peat to Glasgow in briquettes for use in a modern setting at about£10 a ton. I understand, though I am not sure of this, that it is a smokeless fuel. This is an opportunity which should not have been let slip. I hope that the Board will proceed with a practical scheme for using the enormous reserves of fuel in the peat bogs.
1143 I hope that we shall see lobster cultivation come in, because at the present moment we have the case of small local fishermen exploiting a particular shore and then along comes a pirate—I regret to say, very often from the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland—who slaps down 300 lobster pots, lifts the catch and goes off, leaving it bare for another six months. There must be some organisation in shell fishing, which is a very attractive industry indeed.
I want to quote one short remark by Franklin Roosevelt who, when speaking about the T.V.A. said this, that T.V.A. he wanted to bea corporation clothed with the power of government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise.This is what the Secretary of State wants to aim at with this Board. The whole thing depends on the Board. It is no good setting even the Secretary of State to fly a Comet aeroplane. It is a beautiful machine, but it is necessary to know how to fly it. The personnel of the Board are vitally important. I have said before—I make no apology for repeating it—that this is of extreme importance. I am sure that the Secretary of State will resist political pressures to elevate unsuitable people to the chairmanship of the Board. I hope that the chairman will be a man less than 50 years old. I hope that the Secretary of State will be willing to pay him more than he himself gets. I cannot see that we shall get a man of the necessary ability, unless we are prepared to pay the salary he can command in industry; nor can I see him having the ability unless he can command that salary. I am very glad that there was no mention of the salary the Secretary of State is willing to pay.
The Board's success will depend on there being at least three first-class full-time members, particularly the Chairman. I know that the Secretary of State has had offers from all over Scotland. The last figure of offers that I heard was 400. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider them. I hope that he will search far and wide to get the right chairman. I hope that he will be able to pay him the right sort of money. I hope that the man who is eventually chosen will be the type of man who will stand up to the 1144 right hon. Gentleman and will fight him for what he wants against the demands of the central belt. This type of man will not be found in a hurry. He certainly will not be found cheaply. I wish the right hon. Gentleman all success in his search for this paragon.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. George Y. Mackie). I must say that I listened with very great enjoyment. I am sure that I speak for all my hon. Friends in saying that we largely agreed with a very great part of his speech. It was indeed refreshing to hear such a speech from the Liberal bench, where sometimes the slant has been rather to the right than to the left, if indeed it has ever slanted left at all. Therefore, we are very glad to have this refreshing revival of radicalism in at least Caithness and Sutherland. We look forward to hearing it on many occasions in the future.
The hon. Gentleman became almost lyrical in his rhetorical passage about "seeds of love", as I think it was—a fine lyrical piece in which his rather unconvincing Romeo addressed himself to an equally unexciting Juliet in the form of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. At that point I thought the hon. Gentleman was about to cross the Floor. I have not abandoned hope that he may yet do so. Nor should he lose hope of this. If the hon. Gentleman wants to be poetic and lyrical, these word might occur to him:Over then, come over, for the bee has quit the clover","and the Tory honeymoon" —shall we say?—"is done". The hon. Gentleman will know the original verse. I am sure that the words are familiar to him. if he wants to make a radical speech and mean it in practical politics, the hon. Gentleman must realise that he is wasting his time sitting with eight solitary Liberals on that side of the House when he ought to be ensuring permanently a Labour majority on this side by becoming a good practising radical.
The thread which has run through the speeches made by hon. Members opposite, and indeed those made by hon. Members on this side, is a certain strain 1145 of disappointment which it is impossible to dissociate from any Measure brought before the House, however good it is. I hope that both sides of the House will regard this Bill as only one part of a pattern of development involving and including the Highlands, and including the Highlands and involving the Highlands more than ever before in the development of the country as a whole.
A very interesting warning not to expect everything immediately is to be read in a newly published book called Labouring Men by E. J. Hobsbawn. In the book there is this passage, which is a warning in that sense to hon. Members on both sides:A moderate revolution is a contradiction in terms. though a moderate putsch, coup or pronunciamento is not. However limited, the ostensible aims of a revolution, the light of the new Jerusalem shine through the cracks in the masonry of the eternal Establishment which it opens.When the Bastille falls, the normal criteria of what is possible on earth are suspended, and men and women naturally dance in the streets in anticipation of Utopia.I am sure that it is perfectly true that people in the Highlands, like others, did dance a little and would like to dance a little more enthusiastically for just a little more than we are getting in this one Bill. It is common experience to be disappointed by any one Measure, however good, in the course of a programme.
Whereas there was some criticism from hon. Members opposite, nevertheless from all speeches in the House there has been a note of acknowledgement that this is—at least—something new. Some Tories are frightened of it. Some tepidly welcome it; but at least they admit it is a new departure, and that there is some hope in it. Nobody condemned it outright and most hon. Members gave quite a long list of things, all definitely beneficial, which they hoped would come with the setting up of the Board.
The hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) ended up by giving a long catalogue of all the things which he hopes will yet be contained in the Bill. This is bound to be the later pattern—I am possibly putting some hon. Members off their speeches—on all sides of the House. The hon. Member for Galloway also gave what could be a rather interesting description of the speech of his right 1146 hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble)—without disrespect. Then the hon. Gentleman said of the Bill that it was "chasing a hare on a grouse moor". I thought that it was an interesting but rather mixed metaphor and that his speech itself was suffering from myxomatosis, if I may be allowed one pun. But his speech contained a good deal of implied criticism of his right hon. Friend's opposition points.
The Bill starts off with a Preamble dear to my heart and very familiar to me, because in almost every speech I have made in the House ever since before the war I have started by saying that I did not want to see money or resources put into the Highlands and Islands regarded as anything but an investment with the purpose of increasing the natural wealth of the area and increasing the utilisation of the resources of the Highlands and Islands in order that they might make a greater contribution in turn to the welfare of the United Kingdom.
We in the Highlands and Islands have made our contribution in other ways—in the export of manpower, of brawn and intelligence. In peace we have sent many of our best into the professions and, in war, to the world wars in which this country has been involved. In the Highlands and Islands we are also making our own contribution all the time in the many ways which the right hon. Member for Argyll listed. We are making it in economic terms as well as in export of men and capacity. Therefore, I do not look upon investment in the Highlands as being anything but productive and useful national investment. We are not asking for doles and subsidies.
We are at last in this Bill creating a lasting and firm foundation for the building of something more effective and better than anything that has been done in the past. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the powers provided in the Bill are additional. The Board itself is something new. It is wholly new in structure. I will not say that there are many new and revolutionary powers given to the Board; but there is a bringing together and concentration of powers in a responsible authority answerable to Parliament and subject to discussion in the House in the 1147 most democratic way. Many powers and responsibilities are brought together which are now scattered over many bodies, each in itself pretty ineffective.
I have had the privilege under both Governments of being Chairman of the Highlands Advisory Panel and I have worked with all sorts of people. I have worked with private landlords and with those who believe in nationalisation. It is not through lack of good will towards Highland progress among the people of the Highlands—because there is a tremendous amount among all social classes and political parties—that the sense of frustration has come about, but because of lack of action here in Parliament. It is here that action must be taken to see that recommendations, some of which go back to the first days of the creation of the Highland Panels, are made effective.
The proposals in the Bill should be regarded as a new pioneer effort, not a rescue of the remnants. Fresh minds and a new approach, and particularly young minds, should be brought to bear upon the problems of the new Board and its duties faced as a full-time responsibility. But the people involved must also have enthusiasm for Highland and Island progress. They must have humanity, and understanding and sympathy with the Highland people. As far as possible, they must identify themselves with the problems and aspirations of the people of the Highlands, while, of course, having regard to the best national interest.
I endorse with respect everything said by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland about membership of the Board. I said all these things at the time when the Crofters Commission was being set up. They still stand. Serious mistakes were made then and I hope that they will not be repeated in the case of the new Highland authority.
The right hon. Member for Argyll listed for the benefit and political sustenance of those of this party who might be listening some of the things now being produced in the Highlands for the world, He listed forestry, which I have mentioned in many speeches over many years. It occurs to him, as it does to me, that the afforestation of the Highlands on a grand scale is not an act of kindness to the 1148 Highlands. It is an act of national necessity and of Government policy. It was shown in two world wars, when we were almost utterly dependent on imports under convoy, that something had to be done to make us more independent of timber supplies from abroad. After each world war a great forestry programme was undertaken with the notable interruption of 1931 when under a Tory economy axe hundreds of millions of young trees which would be growing now were destroyed.
In the case of hydro-electricity it is obvious that when the nation has a choice between two places at which to generate electricity, between the Gorbals of Glasgow or the Highlands, the choice is not a real one. One has to go to the Highlands because it happens that the resources are there. This is a contribution which the Highlands are making and have been making for many years. The right hon. Member for Argyll listed textiles, including Harris tweed from my constituency, and tweeds with which he himself has been associated in past years, which have made a contribution in the dollar market and have earned American and Canadian hard currency.
Dounreay, too, is not an act of kindness or charity or done for social reasons by past Governments for the sake of the Highlands. The putting of the experimental station there was dictated by geography and nature. The special conditions were there, and nowhere else in the Highlands or the Lowlands. Each one of these things, with the exception of tweed and whisky, and to some extent of some private forestry, is an example of how the nation has to go to the Highlands to develop the resources which would not have been developed by private enterprise and to a large extent could not have been and certainly have not been developed by it.
All the examples were given by the right hon. Gentleman himself. They were all great national undertakings financed by Government money. These things would not have been done, any more than the Forth Road Bridge would have been built, without massive public investment, and the application of national resources to the problems. Private enterprise could have solved none of these great problems and recently it has been less anxious or less prepared or, let us admit, less able to do so—the choice of words does not matter very much.
1149 I emphasise that this is a Labour Government Bill. I accept for it the compliments of the Liberals. The thanks were conveyed very graciously by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland; but had there not been a Labour Government there would not have been a Highland Development Bill. There would have been a Tory Government and they would have been against promoting the Bill. We know perfectly well hat they would not have promoted it; nor could the Liberals have forced them to do so.
§ Mr. MacMillan
That was an aborted protest vote against the Tories, not against the Labour Party. The Highlands are in favour of many things which the Labour Party has been saying and doing day by day in the House, including the job we are doing now.
§ Mr. Mackie
With respect, the electorate had the opportunity of voting for the Labour candidates also.
§ Mr. MacMillan
Yes, but the hon. Gentleman must be very cautious. Every Liberal Member except the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) is elected on a substantial minority vote. This cannot be said about Shetland or the Western Isles. If the hon. Gentleman looks at his own election result, he will see, I think, that it is a minority of about 6,000. I shall not go over the others at the moment, but the figures are there to be seen.
I am very glad, however, to have the Liberals with us on this Bill. It is very nice to have them coming in behind the Government in support of a Measure which they acknowledge as giving excellent hope for constructive projects in the Highlands and Islands.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston rose—
§ Mr. MacMillan
I am prepared to take on both hon. Members, but I am sure that the Chair would not like it.
§ Mr. Johnston
We have repeatedly given credit to the Government for introducing this Measure, and we have been advocating it since 1928. I think that we ought to be given a little credit from that side of the House for a change.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I am ready to give the hon. Gentleman and his party full credit for having advocated many things which they failed to advocate when they had power to put them into effect. If this Bill had been produced by Lord Russell instead of being supported by Russell Johnston, we might have seen something done in long past years about a Highland development authority. We do not stop with the hon. Member at 1928. We must go back to 1908 and the days when the Liberals were answerable for what was or was not done. The Liberals have now had a very good share of interruption; but we should not forget what they left behind them after their long years of opportunity, years of almost unchallenged power in Government, in the Highlands and elsewhere. They left behind them promises about home rule, promises about Highland development, and that was about all they left. They did not even go nobly out; they gave in completely to the Tory Party, and that was the end of them. Slowly, they are emerging again now one by one from the maw of the whale which did not even have to swallow them, but into whose stomach they threw themselves at the end of the First World War and again in 1931. They did not learn by their first lesson. Let them not be too self-righteous about these things. It is all right to make promises when one no longer has responsibility for carrying them out. That is the easiest thing to do, and I am not saying whose traditional prerogative it is.
But the Liberals, at least, have their chance now to come out in full support of the Bill. I am sure that they will. I know the individual Members concerned in the Highlands and I have a great respect and regard for each one of them personally. I am sure that they will support us, and I hope that the whole Liberal Party will do the same.
The right hon. Member for Argyll, unlike the Liberal Party which has only its history to worry about, has both his party's history and his own personal record to worry about. Time after time, both as a private Member and as Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Gentleman went up the holy mountain of Tory policy and we waited many days for him to come down, believing that he would have in his hands the tablets of 1151 stone, but, instead, he came down with more sleeping tablets. Nothing creative happened about the Highlands. We had more Tory soporifics, and there was no greater expert than the right hon. Gentleman on these. He does it so well, so charmingly, and, for his own side, so convincingly. I am sure that he even hypnotises himself in the process.
Year after year, the right hon. Gentleman told us that the Highlands must be patient. Important things were happening in the Lowlands and in the South. Of course they were. A great number of new jobs was being created there and public and private enterprise was going ahead in the South. We were going a long way towards the start of a new prosperity with the help of massive public funds. Not only the Colville's strip steel mills, but all sorts of other interests were coming cap in hand and asking for their cup to be filled to the brim. The right hon. Gentleman was admittedly not slow to help private enterprise with national assistance.
On the other hand, in his first speech as Secretary of State, the right hon. Gentleman said that something immediate must be done for the Lowlands, but the Highlands would have "to be patient" and would have to wait. He will remember it. It was made in good faith, I have no doubt—the "waiting" part was, anyway.
§ Mr. Noble
The hon. Gentleman is having his fun, and I quite understand that he is entitled to do so, but he is not entitled grossly to mislead the House, which is what he is doing now. In the last 18 months of my period as Secretary of State, much was done for the Highlands, as he knows as well as I do. There were the loans of£150,000 to the Highland Fund. There was the pulp mill. There was the extension of the fishery limits, which neither his party nor any party had done anything about for years. There was the decision on Highland railways which was of great importance.
§ Mr. Noble
They were not put in jeopardy, but they were considered properly by the people concerned. With my right hon. Friend the Minister of 1152 Transport, I took the action which everybody asked us to take. There were the special arrangements for people travelling to hospitals, which the hon. Gentleman has forgotten, and there were many other things, too.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I remind the House that a large number of hon. Members on both sides desire to speak upon the Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time." We have wandered far enough and long enough from the subject.
§ Mr. MacMillan
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for reminding both of us. I only congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on being provoked into making a better speech by interruption than the one he made in opening.
I have never forgotten any of the things which were done; but, clearly, the measure of the task before us and of the need for this Bill is the failure of past Governments to promote these projects which should have been promoted had the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends made the best use of their opportunities over all these years.
The right hon. Gentleman's main criticism of the Bill seemed to be based on his objection to people representing the Board having powers to enter private estates or premises in the Highlands. Our trouble has been that people were driven out of the Highlands, not that officials were legally permitted to enter upon private properties in the Highlands for perfectly useful and legitimate purposes, as the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted.
§ Mr. MacMillan
If the right hon. Gentleman will look up his speech, he will find that he was extremely anxious about encroachments on private property, private rights and that sort of thing, and he went so far as to observe that the Board would be interested in discovering, if not disclosing, the actual manufacturing processes involved in the production of certain things by private firms. That is what he said. I will give him the rest of his speech later if he has forgotten it.
Apparently, the right hon. Gentleman is frightened that the Board will be ineffective—and he is equally terrified that it will be too powerful. He is afraid that 1153 it will be either a mouse or an elephant. At one moment, he was terribly afraid that the Board would not go far enough and could not do anything; and, at the next, he was terrified of being trampled underfoot. He cannot have it both ways, and neither can the hon. Member for Galloway, who was against the Board but who finished his speech by giving it about 50 desirable projects to carry out.
In his criticism of the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman must remember that under the Tory Government, the Highland regional plan was left to the very last. Why was that? Was it from force of habit or was it deliberate choice because the Tories felt they were going electorally out of the Highlands anyway, whether the Liberal Party or the Labour Party won? What was the reason? We were told to wait until the industrial areas were attended to first, and, on top of that, the regional plan was left to be dealt with last.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Highlands had not been developed by private landlords largely because the development would be uneconomic. This is no valid reason for preventing other agencies, including the Government, local authorities or a Highland development authority, from undertaking developments which private people are not prepared to undertake because they see no private profit in them. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite and their friends should be careful of their record on this issue when they criticise the Bill. They should remember some of their own activities and those of their friends, including noble Lords in another place. Every time a public agency in the Highlands wants to build a house, every time the Hydro-Electricity Board wants to drive a cable through a Highland area, an area scheduled as bog—and, presumably, very low-rated bog at that—that valueless piece of bog and water goes up in value many times over. Acres worth only shillings or supposed to be worth only shillings in private hands, the development of which would be, we are told, quite uneconomic, suddenly take on a soaring value and compensation is demanded on a colossal scale. This must he remembered in the account against the private landlords in the Highlands.
I will say this about the Highland local authorities. The town council of 1154 Stornoway circulated a questionnaire to 25 local authorities in the Highlands last year asking their views on a Highland development authority. They did not all reply, but 16 of the 25 did and came out in favour of the setting up of a Highland development authority. Whatever the landlords may think, therefore, it is obvious that the local authorities, representing the people of the Highlands, are strongly in favour of it.
Only the other week, the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) was much in favour of his constituency being brought into the Highlands area, knowing full well that the Government were to set up a new Board. Indeed, the nature of the Bill was reasonably well known to him.
§ Mr. MacMillan
It is no use the hon. Gentleman trying to dodge. I shall not let him make a speech by interruption, like his right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll. It is all in HANSARD. The hon. Gentleman asked the Secretary of State if Perthshire could be brought within the jurisdiction of the proposed authority. Other hon. Members opposite were clamouring to come under the jurisdiction and operations of the Board.
§ Mr. MacArthur
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to misrepresent me. Those Questions were tabled before the Bill was published. I went out of my way, in a supplementary question, to say that my enthusiasm had declined very much since I had read the powers proposed in the Bill.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I assume that the hon. Gentleman is now resiling from the position he took up earlier and now does not want Perthshire within the jurisdiction of the Board, nor within the defined Highland area. Under the Bill, adjacent areas can be brought into the defined area by order. I quoted the hon. Gentleman's own views. If he takes offence at that, he will take offence at most things. Most of those who are worried about the powers of the Board are people like Sir Francis Walker, Chairman of Inverness County Council. People like him and the right hon. Member for Argyll say that it is like nationalising the Highlands or destroying liberty. All that for a cost of£150,000! Some of 1155 the Highland landowners will not agree with these gentlemen when it comes to the purchase of their land and payment of massive compensation.
My young Tory opponent in the election—he is a very good friend of mine—said that the Highlands and Islands were getting their fair share of the money and opportunities provided by the Tory Government. But then he went on to fight his campaign on securing special measures for the Highlands and Islands because of long years of Tory neglect.
The Tories do not now speak for the Highlands. These counties are not nowadays represented in the House by the Tory Party. They were, however, and for far too long. It is unlikely that they will be back again. But even in those past days the Tories could not speak with one voice. We did not know whether they were in favour of a development authority or of anything else. Indeed, at one stage the constituency party of the then hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty, Mr. John MacLeod, sent him a message asking for the expulsion of the then Secretary of State—the right hon. Member for Argyll—for mishandling matters concerned with the Highlands. In another constituency, in Orkney, the Tory executive and candidate resigned shortly afterwards. Throughout the Highland area, it was not worth talking about the Tory Party's policy, because no one knew what its policy was, except that it was roughly to stabilise the status quo—and some Tories did not even want that.
There was a report in The Scotsman on 23rd February. One item in it worried me. I am sure that the Secretary of State saw it. I saw it when I was up in Inverness recently with two Liberal colleagues on joint action concerning the transportation of livestock. The report contains a very serious suggestion about the Board and Government policy. It involves reference to Ministers themselves and their servants at St. Andrew's House and bears directly on the Bill. I will read part of the report because it is extremely important that this matter should be cleared up. The report was datelined Inverness. It said:Development officers of the seven crofting counties have been told by the Scottish 1156 Development Department that the proposed Highland Development Board will not take initiatives in the industrial field.That is a serious statement to make, in view of this Bill's being before the House. The report went on to say that the officers were told.The spadework in attracting industry to the area will still be done by the local authorities, while essential roadworks will continue to be the prerogative of the Roads Department.The officers, whose appointment was urged originally by the Department, are dissatisfied because there is little evidence that the Highland problem will receive special priority. Indeed, at a meeting in Inverness, it was suggested by Department representatives that it might be ten years before real expansion takes place.Is that report correct or not? As it stands, it says that the development officers of the Highland counties were approached by Departmental officials and told these things and it is rather a serious thing, which should be cleared up. These officials must have been acting either with the authority of the Secretary of State; or in defiance of it.
The report has given rise to a great deal of misgiving in the Highlands and I hope that it will be cleared up before the evening it out. There is one more paragraph I wish to quote and I will pass the whole report to the Secretary of State later. The paragraph says:This fits the picture of the board's functions given to the development officers. It was indicated to them that the board would advise, assist and co-ordinate, but not initiate.If the Board is not to initiate in the Highlands as they are today, then it might as well pack up from the start. In any case, the Labour Party has been committed to initiatives by the Board by two of its Parliamentary leaders—Hugh Gaitskell and the Prime Minister. They have both said that not only would it initiate projects, but, if necessary, a Labour Government would set up factories and plants in the Highlands and Islands in areas where private enterprise has been manifestly shown to fail the nation. I hope that the Government are still committed to that policy. Indeed, they are so committed. Therefore, any such statement from St. Andrew's House, The Scotsman, Inverness or from anywhere else must be clarified as soon as possible; otherwise people will lose faith in the efficacy of the Board and the Government's good faith.
1157 The figure of£150,000 for the Board's administrative costs and the initial expenses of setting it up—premises and so forth—for the first half year, represents only a few months in time but it has nevertheless dismayed many people. It has caused misunderstanding, to say the least, because it is so small. Perhaps, it was a little unfortunate to have given an estimate at all, even of the figure of£1 million for 1968–69. Of course, that figure is additional to what is going on and being spent and it will not be taken from any other spending in the Highlands. It is, at least, additional; but most inadequate.
If we think in terms even of civil engineering costs alone in the Highlands at the moment, then—1 million will not go very far. Three miles of road in the Isle of Harris is costing£220,000 or so; and we must realise that the longer these projects in the Highlands and Islands have been put off the more expensive they have become. Figures and estimated costs must be related more realistically to them, and these two sets of figures are not.
One cannot but compare figures like£150,000, even for only a half year, or£1 million for 1968–69, with the expenditure on the N.A.T.O. base in my constituency, which is estimated to cost£3½million and the£45 million on one Polaris base at Gareloch. How many hundred miles of first-class roads, how many fine new schools, hospitals and houses, could we build with that money‡ However, as we know, put a thing under the defence umbrella and one can get away with anything. Even the known waste involved in these defence contracts would go a long way to meeting the money to solve our troubles in the Highlands and Islands. And I have not mentioned such cases as the wasted Ferranti millions. People are bound to contrast the £150,000, rising to£1 million in three years, for Highland and Island development, with the colossal expenditure going on in the area on military projects. The Highland people, inured to these high figures of defence expenditure, will nevertheless be staggered by the expenditure, largely on obsolescent waste.
There is one thing I want to emphasise, and I will finish with this. I hope that the Board will not be thinking in terms of the traditional idea of growth points, 1158 although they are part of a very important concept. This is a phrase and concept which has grown up in recent years and become more popular in recent months and it is a most dangerous concept as applied to certain areas. Growth points elsewhere in England, Wales and Scotland to draw away from the congested South-East and London and the Midlands and so on and to provide for a redistribution of industry and population are all very well; but growth points in the Highlands are a very different matter.
I hope that the economists will apply themselves a little more assiduously to the problems of areas like the Highlands and the Islands where the problem is not the congestion of the area, but the drifting away of population and the drifting away first of the most active, the best qualified and the best educated. Education itself is a depopulator in these areas. Talent, ability, skill, strength and intelligence are advantages themselves, but are depopulators also of the very people who should be applying themselves to the development of these neglected areas and to raising the standards of life of the people of their own communities and developing the resources of their homeland, in order to contribute ultimately more to the national wealth.
I hope that one of the general directives which the Secretary of State will give to the Board will be that it should forget about the growth points principle in its now accepted application. It is all very well to have a Fort William; but, as has already been said, Fort William will inevitably draw population away from the villages. I said so when debating the pulp mill legislation. Even a development in Stornoway affects the villages on the perimeter of the island.
I would leave the Board very free in its day-to-day work and even in its year-to-year work and I would give it a global sum of money and provide for limited amounts up to which it could spend without always having to refer to the Secretary of State, just as the House has given local authorities permission to undertake marine works, for example, up to£25,000 without provisional orders. I should like the Board to be much more flexible than is apparently envisaged; but I hope that the Secretary of State will give one general direction 1159 —that the growth point principle should be applied with the greatest possible care because of the great social problems of depopulation. It should stabilise population in the existing areas as far as possible and bring in light industries to the perimeter areas first of all—especially the islands—for the employment of young people in particular. The growth point concept could be most damaging to the Highlands, however advantageous it would be in other parts of the country, if unwisely applied.
With some minor reservations, which I am prepared to argue in Committee, I hope that the Bill will get the support of many hon. Members on both sides of the House and I hope that members of, the Tory Party will approach it with open minds and will give it support as individuals from the areas adjacent to the Highlands which are so anxious to come under the Board's jurisdiction. I am sure that the Liberal Party will, not least because of my appeal to it tonight.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. N. R. Wylie (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
I wish to say something as briefly as I can about the powers contained in the Bill and the rôles assigned respectively to the Highland Development Board and to the Secretary of State. I know that many hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate and that time is getting on and I shall be as brief as I can, but I hope that hon. Members will bear with me if I attempt to be precise, because it is important that hon. Members should know and fully appreciate exactly what the Bill says and what it provides. Having listened to a number of speeches, it seems to me that many hon. Members have a misconception and a misapprehension of what is involved.
The Bill begins by setting up a body corporate, and a body corporate is a piece of machinery well known to the law and peculiarly suited to functions such as those narrated in Clause 1. The essential feature of a body corporate is that it should have enjoyment in perpetuity, because it is a continuing body, of certain defined rights and powers, and unless the Board has rights and powers, in effect it is not what is properly regarded as a body corporate.
1160 My first criticisms of the Bill is that the Board, which is defined as a body corporate, does not have the necessary powers itself to fulfil the functions assigned to it and is merely a shadow of what a body corporate ought to be. All the effective power is entirely in the hands of the Secretary of State—Clause 11 apart and I shall have something to say about that later. The Board itself is in a straitjacket. I am not at all sure that it is proper for the Government to set up and describe a board as a body corporate, deprive it of the powers normally associated with a body of that nature and use it simply as a cloak, albeit a somewhat transparent cloak for the very wide powers which the Secretary of State is assuming.
The proper course, and I hope that it is not too late to induce hon. Members opposite to adopt this view, is to give the Board the kind of powers and responsibilities and freedom of action appropriate to a body of this nature. I do not wish to make points which will be elaborated in Committee, but in particular among the things which this body must have if it is to be a live body are built-in borrowing powers. It is not good enough to say that there is an oblique reference in the Bill to borrowing powers. It is quite clear that the Government do not wish the Board to have borrowing powers. I should like the Board to have built-in powers of borrowing, defined powers of borrowing, and, above all, a built-in claim on the Secretary of State to those funds which are essential if the Board is properly to fulfil its functions.
I will quickly and shortly consider the position in which the Board is to find itself. After the general introduction in Clause 1, we are brought up with a jerk when we find what is provided in Clause 2. In effect, Clause 2 provides that the Secretary of State is to have power to give directions to the Board, and the Board must carry those directions into effect. There is no suggestion of any prior consultation with the Board, as is to be found in corresponding provisions in other legislation of this kind. There is no suggestion of any restriction on intervention by the Secretary of State to matters which affect the public interest.
This is a wide power assumed by the Secretary of State to tell the Board 1161 what he wants to do and, from the point of view of the Board, this reduces the Board's status to that of an agency of the Secretary of State. That in itself is a serious inroad into the status of the Board, but when one considers that under Clause 2(2), read with Schedule 2, that the Secretary of State is to be the person to appoint the consultative council to the Board, one realises how powerless the Board is to be. Normally, boards of this nature, bodies corporate, have their own power to appoint a consultative council, or a whole series of consultative councils, but in this case it is the Secretary of State who is to decide "as he thinks fit", to use the words in the Schedule, who is to be on this consultative council.
That is a pattern which is scrupulously followed throughout the Bill. Clause 3 gives certain advisory functions to the Board, but the Secretary of State has complete discretion whether he accepts recommendations or proposals from the Board. If he rejects them, there is not even the suggestion that he has to state his reasons for doing so. The Board cannot purchase, lease, feu, or exchange even an acre of ground under Clause 4 without running to the Secretary of State and asking him whether it is all right for it to do so. It cannot give financial assistance by way of loan or grant under Clause 8 without going to the Secretary of State. It has virtually no borrowing powers and, as I have said, no built-in claim to funds from the hands of the Secretary of State.
The Board cannot even—and this seems to me to be going unnecessarily far—set its own scale of charges under Clause 9(1) for the services which it provides under Clause 7. It cannot pay any remuneration or allowance to its own members and it cannot even employ, let alone pay, its own officers and servants without going to the Secretary of State and asking permission.
In view of this, I am tempted to ask, what kind of body corporate is this? With what kind of independent body, so-called, are we dealing? It is so much under the control of the Secretary of State that it is very difficult to distinguish it from one of his own many Departments.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West) rose—1162
§ Mr. Wylie
I will give the hon. Gentleman a chance to intervene if he will allow me to finish this part of the argument.
The ultimate indication of this is to be found in Clause 13 which provides that the accounts of this body are not to be audited by an independent body of auditors, as in the case of every other board of this nature of which I know, but have to be submitted to the Secretary of State who then passes them on to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. I do not have the facilities to look up every piece of legislation which has dealt with this kind of thing, but I should be very interested if the Secretary of State could give me another instance of this kind of provision. I have been unable to find one. It seems to me unique.
The final blow at the status and independence of the Board is to be found in Clause 13(5), which provides that the Board shall inform the Secretary of State about its activities from time to time. It goes on to say that:… for that purposeitshall permit any person authorised in that behalf by the Secretary of State to inspect and make copies of their accounts, books, documents or papers and shall afford to that person such explanation thereof as he may reasonably require.In other words, the Secretary of State is not even prepared to accept the Board's report on its activities; he has to reserve a power to himself to send in one of his own people to make sure that the books are not being "cooked" and that the matter is above board. That is going very far indeed.
§ Mr. Buchan
I am wondering whether the hon. and learned Member is serious about this. Earlier, the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) referred to his anxieties about Clauses 4, 6 and 11 because of their widespread powers. Is the hon. and learned Member suggesting that such powers should be vested in an outside body which is completely outside the democratic control of the House of Commons and in which he may share?
§ Mr. Wylie
As the hon. Gentleman is well aware from what my right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) said, our criticism about those powers is that they are reserved to the Secretary of State and are not given to 1163 the Board. A body of this nature, if it is to be a development body, should have power of that kind with a reserve power on the part of the Secretary of State to intervene in the public interest.
§ Mr. Buchan
I am wondering whether the hon. and learned Member would be happy with Clauses 4, 6 and 11 if the powers were vested in an outside body.
§ Mr. Wylie
No. The powers contained in the Bill, whoever has them, go far beyond what is reasonably required to fulfil the functions of the body set up. What we say is that it should be the Board which has power to carry out its functions and that it should not be used as a cloak for powers reserved for the Secretary of State.
As has been pointed out, the Board has certain functions. It has powers which it can operate without going to the Secretary of State. It can exercise advisory functions under Clause 7. It has power under Clause 5 to erect houses and buildings without going to the Secretary of State, although presumably expenditure in that respect would have to be authorised before it did that. However, I cannot understand why the Secretary of State, having taken all the other major powers to himself, has left the poor unfortunate Board with the powers contained in Clause 11, which in the context of this legislation are odious and objectionable. The power to obtain information in the Bill goes far beyond what is necessary and desirable. I assume that the Secretary of State is unwilling to exercise those odious powers himself, so he leaves the Board to do so. However, that is the only part of the Bill in which the Board has power to act on its own initiative in any real sense of the term.
May I say a word about these powers generally? We all know that powers of compulsory purchase go back many years. The first examples of them go back to the Railway Clauses Act of about 1837. There are countless examples of that sort of thing, but when there are powers of compulsory purchase governed by the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, as we have in Clause 4, with no recourse to Parliament, there is something fundamentally objectionable because in this case the Secretary of State, either having given 1164 a direction under Clause 2 or having given approval at an earlier stage, is virtually a party to the proceedings on which he will pass judgment. It is in that situation where the Secretary of State is intimately connected with the developing body, as in the forestry legislation, that recourse to special Parliamentary procedure has been provided for in the past. This is certainly a case in which we should follow the precedents set in the forestry legislation of 1945 and 1951 giving recourse to Parliament before any compulsory purchase order is confirmed.
As I read Clause 14(2)—these are matters which will be examined in greater detail later—if the question of approval comes up on a matter in which planning permission would normally be required, the Secretary of State has a duty under the Clause only to consult the local planning authority, and the reference to Section 13 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, is, in effect, by the way the Clause is worded, confined to subsection (3) of that Section which provides that the decision of the Secretary of State is final. If that interpretation is right, as I think it is, it means that in matters of this nature, which would normally involve planning applications, planning inquiries, and so on, that does not arise. We should consider this matter very carefully.
The powers in Clause 6, for example, read with Clauses 4, 10 and 11, seem to me to constitute an amazing concentration of power in the hands of the Secretary of State. This is something which all of us in the House have a duty to watch. It is very easy in this day and age to give the Executive more and more power, but all power of this nature impinges on the liberty of the individual at some point in his life. It is our duty as a House of Commons to ensure that no unnecessary powers are granted. In my submission, the powers contained in the Bill go far beyond the point of what is reasonable and necessary.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I hesitate to make any great comment on the speech to which we have just listened. I have great respect for the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie), to whom we will listen with great interest in Committee. His speech this evening was essentially 1165 a series of Committee points. I want, however, to make one comment concerning borrowing powers. I should have thought that Clause 9(2) implied that the Board would have borrowing powers subject to the consent—quite properly, it seems to me—of the Secretary of State and the Treasury.
The hon. and learned Member made a valid point when he referred, as did his right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble), the former Secretary of State, to the evidence in the Bill of what I call the dead-hand of the Treasury at work. This, I think, was the price that had to be paid by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for getting the Bile before the House at this point. That, indeed, is the only explanation that can be given for the writing into the Bill of the specific figures of£150,000 in the first year and£1 million over three years. This is the hand of the Treasury at work, and I hope that in Committee we may be able to remedy it not a little.
In the speech, not only of the right hon. Member for Argyll, but of every hon. Member who has spoken from the Opposition side, there seems to have been a schizophrenic approach to the Bill in general. They do not say "Yes" and they do not say "No". We do not know whether they will go into the Lobby tonight. It will be interesting to know whether they do. The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) does not know whether he wants his own constituency inside or outside the area. All along, we do not know whether hon. Members opposite want the powers. They have been asked several times during the debate whether they object to my right hon. Friend having the powers, whether they want the Board to have them or whether they do not want to have the powers in anybody's hands at all. It has never been clear to us during the debate whether hon. Members opposite want these powers in the hands of anybody.
One of the depressing factors in this debate has been the entirely predictable alarms and fears of right hon. and hon. Members opposite. I should have been worried had it been otherwise. I should have been worried had hon. Members opposite said that the Bill was a very good one and complimented my right hon. Friend on introducing it. The 1166 measure of a good Socialist Bill is the opposition that it gets from the benches opposite.
Apart from the last few minutes of his speech, the right hon. Member for Argyll made a much more temperate speech than the one he made outside this Chamber as reported in The Guardian of either 1st or 3rd March. On that occasion, the right hon. Gentleman talked about the Bill as being of pure Marxist ancestry and he hoped that the Liberals would not support it. He said that they should beware of supporting Marxist doctrines as embodied in the Bill.
The right hon. Member went on to say that all the personal liberties of every Highlander were being threatened in the Bill. Let not the Tories talk about personal liberties of the Highlanders. In an interjection to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan), the right hon. Member repeated about the Tories retaining the Highland railways. This is rich coming from the Tory Party. Who the devil threatened them in the first place, and what was the opposition that caused them to back-pedal? It was opposition organised by the Highlanders, and that was one of the principal reasons why the Tory Party lost their three seats in the Highlands to the Liberals. They know this very well.
I wish to refer to one or two of the criticisms that the right hon. Member for Argyll has made of the Bill, both inside and outside the House. He referred to its disreputable Marxist ancestry. He and other right hon. and hon. Members have referred to what they describe as the measly sum of money that is involved—specifically the£150,000 in the first year and£1 million over three years—the attack on personal liberties and the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State did not await the results of a Highland survey which was supposed to be completed by the coming summer. Presumably, that survey has been going on for the last thirteen years. It is one of many over the last 200 years.
Let me refer to the question of Marxism. If by that the right hon. Member meant public enterprise, it is abundantly clear to us on this side that the very salvation of the Highlands depends upon public enterprise. The right hon. Gentleman himself mentioned 1167 the Hydro-Electric Board, the Forestry Commission, the Dounreay plant, the pulp mill and the public money that went into it, and in addition there are all the social services, education, medical, housing and roads. None of this is private enterprise; it is all done by public money.
The basic industry—agriculture—has millions of public money poured into it year by year. About£40 million a year goes into Scottish agriculture. So that private industry, such as it is, in the Highlands is underpinned by public expenditure of all kinds. The Conservative Government introduced the Highland Shipping Bill, which nationalised shipping in the Highlands. Not only has private enterprise failed to go in, but private enterprise in the form of the lairds has driven people out.
I wish to refer to the recommendations of the Highlands Advisory Panel, which my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles graced with his chairmanship for some time, in its recent Report published after the election. It made what I regard as a fundamental proposition, that land in the Highlands is of "absolutely basic importance" and that a good deal of it is under-used andin some cases grossly misused".Those were the words used by the Highlands Advisory Panel.
The Report went on to say that the Highlands and the nation require that the land should be better used. I will quote one or two of the Panel's recommendations. Let it not be forgotten that the Panel included two Conservative Members, who subsequently lost their seats in the election. It may be because of these Marxist recommendations.
Paragraph 121 refers to compulsory acquisition for forestry purposes and states that compulsory acquisition "should not be shirked". Paragraph 122 stated:We think that more attention could be given to the part which can be played by land and water held in the Secretary of State's ownership.Recommendation 9 suggested that the Secretary of State should acquire land for the creation of family farms and recommendation 14 proposed that the Secretary of State should acquire land for improvement by efficient farmers. Recommendation 19 stated that the Secretary of State 1168should use his powers of compulsory acquisition in the Highlands and Islandsfor forestry purposes and thatthe statutory procedure for compulsory acquisitionshould be amended to make it more flexible and less narrowly based. Recommendation 30 related to fishing rights and stated that the Secretary of State should have as an ultimate sanction "powers of compulsory acquisition".
Tory Members of Parliament made those recommendations—Marxist infiltrators in the ranks of the Tory Party. In the investigation of natural resources, they recommended that the new National Resources Council which is to be set up—I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will say something about this in winding up the debate—should stem from public initiative. This was strong Marxist "meat" from a highly respectable body which has done noble work in advising on what should be done in the Highlands.
When I read the former Secretary of State's speech outside the House, I began to wonder why his party had lost those Highland seats. Was this the mark of Highland ingratitude to a munificent Secretary of State or was it a kick in the pants for a wastrel Government? I think it was the latter, and that view was held not only by the Highlands, but by the rest of Scotland.
If I might paraphrase what the former Secretary of State said, he seemed to be afraid that the Bill would give the Government power to nationalise all the land in the Highlands. I hope that he is right in that interpretation. That would be infinitely perferable to the present system of ownership. During the course of the debate I have noticed English vested interests drifting in and out of the Chamber. I have seen a representative of the Lovat family, the fellow who was chairman of the 1922 Committee, one of the Morrisons, and other absentee landlords drifting in and out of the Chamber. I calculated that at one time during the debate about 1 million acres were represented on the benches opposite.
I recall a very interesting article in the New Statesman, published just before the election, entitled, "Who Owns Scotland?". It is very difficult to discover this, and I hope that Clause 11, which empowers the 1169 Board to get information, will enable it to discover the owners of the land. In fact, I hope to put down Amendments to that effect. That article listed some of the top landlords, ranging from the Duke of Buccleuch, with half a million acres, to the former right hon. Member for Saffron Walden, with a few acres in Mull—a wide-ranging property-owning democracy.
Perhaps I might put on record some of the owners of land in Scotland. The Countess of Seafield owns 216,000 acres; the Duke of Sutherland—200,000; Lord Lovatt—190,000; Colonel Cameron—160,000; the Duke of Atholl—120,000; the Marquess of Bute—117,000; the Duke and Duchess of Westminster and family—100,000; and Lord Thurso—100,000. The Leader of the Opposition is a tiddler compared with them. He owns a mere 60,000 acres. The same article said that less than 50 years ago the ancestors of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, on their Angus estates. levied 2d. a lb. on every lb. of butter, and 4d. a dozen on every dozen eggs, sold in Kirriemuir market place. The people I have listed are the people who want to retain their power in the Highlands.
The British Aluminium Company owns 105,000 acres in Scotland, and in a subsequent letter in the New Statesman Mr. Catherwood, the managing director, now an adviser to the present Government, explained the contribution which British Aluminium had made to Highland development. I think that this company is a good landowner. It employs 1,500 people in the Highlands, and this is one example of private enterprise having done a good job. We do not have a dogmatic approach to private enterprise. If it does a good job, it has nothing to fear from my right hon. Friend, who is a beneficent character. This is not so much a war, more a shot across the bows.
The brewers regard the Highlands as a great big bonanza. Colonel Whitbread owns sizeable chunks of the Highlands. This information is taken from the New Statesman. I do not know whether it is true, but, if it is not, the New Statesman will take the rap. It referred to the sale of an estate by Colonel Whitbread some time ago and said that in the course of the sale it transpired that the salmon and trout fishing on four miles of both banks 1170 of the Findhorn were rented from the Crown at a nominal £1 a year. Colonel Whitbread advertised the estate as a superb sporting estate of 60 square miles, controlling the entire mountain area surrounding the head waters of the River Findhorn, a deer forest, trout and salmon fishing, a grouse moor, and so on.
The best known Whitbread estate is at Loch Maree in Sutherland, and four years ago Col. Whitbread managed to stop a much needed hydro-electric project—
§ Mr. Hamilton
The hon. Gentleman will have to write to the New Statesman about that. Any errors of fact are not mine but the New Statesman's. The fact is that four years ago Col. Whitbread managed to stop a much-needed hydroelectric project capable of producing 200 million units of electricity per year, and I understand that it is still held up, largely because that irresponsible landowner had the ear of an irresponsible private ownership Government who believed in the justice of the preservation of the rights of private landlords.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
My hon. Friend thinks that the Bill will fundamentally change the picture that he has painted with regard to the ownership of estates in Scotland. Does he really expect the Bill to make a material change to the present state of affairs?
§ Mr. Hamilton
If the Amendments that I am going to put down are accepted, the answer is "Yes".
The article in the New Statesman concluded by saying:Not an inch of private land in Scotland will be given up without a fight. The power and influence of the landowners is still immense. Their federation is busy persuading all landowners, even the smallest, to take out membership and so avail themselves of the federation's influence in high places.I hope that it no longer has influence in high places. The battle is now joined, and warning is hereby given that people matter most. The Highlands are a national asset, and must be used in the national interest. In this age of increasing industrialisation and urbanisation, in an age of speed, noise and smoke, and duodenal ulcers and bronchitis, the Highlands represent the only major area of 1171 escape to solitude, cleanliness, and beauty in Britain. It is too precious for any Government claiming to represent the whole nation to allow this gem of delight to be monopolised by a few selfish feudal landlords, and if the Bill does the trick it will have the support of every decent human being in Britain.
§ Mr. A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
Sir Samuel, I wish to call attention to the fact that there are fewer than 40 Members present.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)
It is often quite easy, when considering the Highlands, to slip into a mood of romantic sentimentality. Like the reaction of the piper in Neil Munro's story, the heart leaps back over the years and yonder lies Glencoe. Romance and sentiment are very agreeable, but these emotions, which often cloud debate outside this House, distort judgment by obscuring reality with a tartan cloud.
The reality is that a Highland problem of one kind or another has confronted successive Governments for generations. Two centuries ago the Dress Act, the breaking up of the clan system, and other policies of oppressive pacification contributed to an upsurge in population, scraping a hard living from the thin soil. Then poverty, famine, disease and the clearances turned the people away and brought long years of drift, with a steady and unending erosion of the finest natural resource which the Highlands possess—the Highlanders themselves.
When we speak of the Highland problem today we mean the problem of depopulation, which should haunt the mind and conscience of every hon. Member. Today there are fewer than 300,000 people in the Highlands. Great stretches of land lie nearly deserted except for the memory of generations scattered around the world and more often than not, a stone with too long a list of names of gallant men who died for their country. Against this background, any Measure which sets out to develop the Highlands is to be welcomed, provided that it is designed to meet the problem and is not simply an essay in theoretical 1172 Socialism. This is where I find fault with the Bill. It may have good intentions, but too great a part of it consists of irrelevant, unnecessary and damaging Socialist doctrine.
On examining the Bill we find that it is very different from that which was described in very moderate terms by the Secretary of State for Scotland. For example, as it stands the Bill gives power to the Secretary of State, under Clause 2, to give the Board directions of a general character as to the exercise and performance of its functions. It places an obligation on the Board to give effect to any such directions.
The Clause becomes sinister when linked with later Clauses. Clause 4 empowers the Board to acquire land by agreement or compulsorily; Clause 6 enables the Board to acquire or set up and carry ondirectly or through an agent, any business or undertaking whether of a commercial nature or otherwise",and the enormous power or this Clause could be invoked after taking advantage of Clause 11, which empowers the Board to demand from any personcarrying on a business or undertaking …such information as may be specified in the notice with regard to the land, business or undertaking…These Clauses give the Secretary of State the power to lay down, for example, that a chain of State undertakings is to be established in the Highlands, and under the terms of Clause 2 the Board is bound to give effect to that direction. The Board can then require the management of any business to disclose whatever information it asks for about its books, its trading position and the general running of its business. The management must give this information or suffer a fine. There is no appeal. The Secretary of State, acting through the Board, can then buy the firm's land compulsorily, and so put it out of business or, having secured access to the firm's confidential records, set up a rival undertaking which can fall back on the taxpayer to make up the loss.
These powers will shock existing businesses in the Highlands. I was astounded to hear the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. George Y. Mackie)—a Liberal—say that he supports the Bill. He cannot fully understand the 1173 powers contained in it. If hon. Members opposite consider these powers and also what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) has said about them they will see that they will act as a deterrent to the establishment of new private undertakings in the Highlands.
Hon. Members opposite may say that this is a far-reaching argument, or that things like this will not happen. I do not believe that it is far-reaching, because these powers would be relished by a Secretary of State who is drawn from the large Left wing of the party opposite. If these things are not going to happen in the future, why have these powers in the Bill? The intentions expressed by the Secretary of State this afternoon do not require these wide powers. Let him, then, modify these objectionable Clauses in Committee, to match his declared purposes. He will then make the Bill very much more acceptable.
§ Mr. Ross
Does the hon. Member really mean what he is saying? If so, a far better speech can be delivered on the subject. It was delivered in 1949 by the then hon. Member who later became Secretary of State for Scotland—Jack Maclay. It is one he never forgave himself for making. The hon. Member's speech is its equivalent.
§ Mr. MacArthur
I am not sure whether or not that was the occasion when Lord Muirshiel—as he now is—followed the right hon. Gentleman and said that he looked forward to hearing him again—
§ Mr. MacArthur
—because he never forgave himself for saying that. Of course I mean what I say, because the powers are in the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman does not require them, why set them out here? It may be said that my interpretation of the powers is too wide, but I still think that it is the right one, and that the offending Clauses should be modified in Committee in order to overcome the objections which I have mentioned. So long as the party opposite has a large and powerful Left wing and is supported by constituencies which are extremely Left wing—
§ Mr. MacArthur
I will not smile, because this is a serious matter. So long as Clause 4 is contained in the Labour Party's constitution, Measures of this kind fill me with dismay.
Hon. Members opposite say that these powers will not be used in the future. The phrase "in the future" is the operative one, because the Board will have little finance in its earlier years. That is one of the disappointing parts of the Bill. I agree that it can perform a valuable role in filling some of the gaps which now exist in cur system, but it is ludicrous to start with a financial provision of only £150,000 in the first year—2d. per head per week—rising to about£1 million in three years' time. The Secretary of State said there would be no limit. Then why put this limit in the Financial Memorandum? If the Secretary of State feels that£1 million is about the order of expenditure which will be required in three years' time it must reflect the limit which he himself puts upon the activities of the Board. Whether£150,000 or £1 million, or a bit more, the figure is absurdly small when set against the powers that it is proposed to take by the provisions in this Bill and the large promises made by the party opposite before the General Election.
Just before the election the Scottish Council of the Labour Party published a pamphlet called, "Let the Record Speak". This, it was said, wasa background guide to Labour Scottish policies.Reference was made to the Highland Development Board. The pamphlet said:This new authority, well staffed, and with adequate funds, will provide an incentive to native industries opportunities for new industry and jobs with scope and future for all who have remained or who want to return to their native land.How on earth can£150,000 rising to£1 million fulfil this hope?
The Labour Party claims that this Board would provide jobs for all, for everyone in the Highlands and everyone wanting to return to the Highlands. Here again is another large election promise which has been shattered within a few months. The sum is put into perspective by the amount of investment already being made in the Highlands. Yesterday the Secretary of State for 1175 Scotland was good enough to give me figures to which he has referred today. They show that during the years of Conservative Government the total increased year by year.
Expenditure in the Highlands by the Departments of the Scottish Office increased from£13 million in 1954–55 to£31 million last year and to£33 million in the current financial year, to which may be added some2 million for forestry. Other large sums were involved, as the Written Answers in the OFFICIAL REPORT show. Among them was the£8 million loan to the Fort William pulp mills, and the remission of interest on that loan during the earlier years, and last year the record level of grants made under the Local Employment Act. If the argument of the right hon. Gentleman is that these tens of millions have failed to achieve the objective, how can a paltry additional £1 million succeed?
§ Mr. Hannan
If the case of the hon. Gentleman and all that he is claiming as success for the previous Conservative Government policy is true, how can he explain that at the Young Conservative and Unionist Conference a week ago a resolution was passed condemning the acts of the former Conservative Government as deplorable, and the lack of decision by the Conservative Party regarding the Highlands? Strangely enough, the mover of that resolution came from Maryhill.
§ Mr. MacArthur
I have the advantage of the hon. Gentleman in that I was present at the debate and I may say that the resolution was carried by a tiny majority.
The fact is that the Young Conservatives recognise, as is recognised by all who care for the Highlands, that there is a tremendous problem to be solved. What was recognised in their speeches was the fact that over the last years of the Conservative Government more has been done for the Highlands than ever before in the history of Scotland.
Instead of introducing this Bill in isolation, as it were, it would have been wiser to await the findings of the new Highland Study started by my right hon. Friend a year or so ago which was to 1176 be completed this summer. I do not want to make a great point about this, but it is the fact that special studies of other regions in Scotland outside the central belt are to be completed this year. Surely the Bill would have been better based had we awaited the findings of the surveys and the comprehensive knowledge provided by those surveys.
Earlier today my right hon. Friend outlined his approach to planning. I think that made more sense than this piecemeal thinking. I welcome his proposals that the Highland Board may be reshaped in future to have much larger powers and that it would have the authority to spend up to a given sum, it may be£50,000, without having to go to the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Treasury. We need a certain measure of autonomy of that kind. I welcome his proposal that the Board should take over—
§ Mr. Ross rose—
§ Mr. MacArthur
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish this point, because it is linked with my previous point, and then I will gladly give way to him.
I welcome his proposal that the Board should be the financial authority, as it were, in the directing of the enormous expenditure by other bodies in the Highland area. I believe that this would make it much more possible than at present to concentrate programmes of aid and development within the control of a national plan for Scotland. Instead of spreading this spending piecemeal about the country, we should use a policy of concentration to fulfil the needs of development of particular areas more completely than can any other system. I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman now.—If he does not wish to rise, I shall continue.
If the powers of the Board were reshaped in this way, I hope that my right hon. Friend might be able to consider a further step forward—the appointment of a Minister with specific and exclusive responsibilities for Highland matters. We have at the moment a Minister of State or an Under-Secretary of State in the Scottish Office team who handles Highland matters, along with other responsibilities. This is a case—one of those 1177 rare cases—where an additional Minister would be justified, particularly if the Board were to have these wider powers which ray right hon. Friend envisages. There would then be a greater sense of drive and purpose in the development of the Highland area.
I spoke about the gaps which certainly exist in our present system which a modified version of this Bill might help us to fill. Perhaps, when the hon. Gentleman winds up, he would be able to say whether, with these modified powers, the Board would be able to fill some of these needs. There is, for example, in tourism, a great need for the provision of amenities, which may seem very small to us here, but which are of great importance to the locality. At Glenshee, in my own constituency, there is a need for more car parks and lavatory accommodation. There is only one public lavatory there to serve I do not know how many thousands of people. A new agency of this kind could fulfil an important need. Then there were the advisory services, referred to in the Bill, and which my right hon. Friend welcomed. These have a special role to play. At the moment, I believe, the only advisory services available in terms of management consultancy are those made available by an organisation called, I think, the Scottish Country Industries Development Trust. Normally, only the larger firms can obtain those services outside.
I should like to know, too, whether marketing associations will be covered by the responsibilities of the Board. The right hon. Gentleman may know of the Marketing Association of Scotland Ltd., which was set up about two years ago, serving 24 very small companies scattered through Scotland, ranging from the far north to the borders. Seven of these are in the Highland area; eight are in development districts. They make an interesting list of firms employing perhaps two, three of four people, making woodenware, copper brooches and Celtic jewellery, largely for the tourist industry. They are firms which find it difficult to expand. They are not large enough to put up the sort of cover which banks often require. They find it difficult to run to the Bank Rate, especially at its present level, and they need access very often to fairly small loans. Some 1178 are covered by the Local Employment Acts, but many are not. I hope that co-operative ventures of this kind, the bringing together of small firms for a common selling or market research purpose would have the support and financial assistance of the Board. These are small things but it is just these small enterprises, employing a handful of people, which could make a world of difference to the glens.
The Highlands is a special area and special arrangements are required for its future. We have had rising expenditure over the years. We have had, in particular, enormous investment in the land. But there are still gaps which, I believe, the Highland Development Board and this Bill could fill. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider the dangerous breadth of the powers which they are asking the House to grant. I hope that, during the Committee stage, they will agree to Amendments which may fulfil the intention which the right hon. Gentleman set out in his opening speech, but which will remove from the Bill powers which are dangerous and which could act as a deterrent to development of other kinds in Scotland.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
On a point of order. May I call to your attention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the fact that fewer than 40 Members are present?
§ Mr. Hannan
Further to that point of order. May I point out to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) has just entered the Chamber? Is it not also the custom in the House not to call a count at this hour? I ask you to refuse to accept the Motion.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Samuel Storey)
The hour has passed during which a count cannot be called. There is no rule about how long an hon. Member must be in the Chamber before he calls attention to the fact that fewer than 40 Members are present.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;
§ House counted, and, 40 Members being present—
§ 8.41 p.m.1179
§ Mr. Woodburn
On a point of order. Are you aware, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke), who has just called a count, is leaving the Chamber?
§ Mr. Rankin
The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire seemed rather concerned about the fact that in the Bill we were seeking a great deal of power and not providing a great deal of money to pursue the ends for which the power was being sought. But he makes a big mistake. We are concerned not with money but with power. It is the power which is important. Once we get that the money will come all right. He can therefore sleep tonight in peace on that thought.
As I see the Bill, it seeks to make the Highlands a part of Scotland. The Highlands suffer under the great handicap that they never had the industrial revolution. I am doubtful whether they even had the agrarian revolution, because, as has been shown tonight, the landlord-servant relationship still exists in the Scottish Highlands. When Robert Burns visited Inverary he summed up his visit in these words:There's naething here but Hielan' pride,And Hielan' scab and hunger;If Providence has sent me here,'Twas surely in his anger.That was a true picture of the Campbell country under landlordism in Burns' day. People will tell me that that picture is no longer true. But I have had evidence of its existence because, during a period of my life, I worked in the Great Glen sailing between Banavie and Inverness as a purser on board one of the ships of a very famous line. One of my simple duties when we drew into the lock or into a pier was to offer my hand to assist ladies on the ship ashore. If those ladies were the wives of Highland chiefs they would not touch it. They refused to accept it. Later I became Labour candidate in West Renfrewshire. When I went into the hunting territory in that part of Scotland well known to most Scottish hon. Members to speak at meetings in the villages the workers on the estates sat at the back of the hall and the landlords sat on the seats in front. The landlord-servant relationship was still there, and that was not so many years ago.
1180 I mention these things to show that we have a sore which, in my view, has disrupted the Highlands and led to a sort of specialist treatment of the area, with little bits of good being done here and there. I do not quarrel with these things being done, but it has resulted in that part of Scotland being treated almost as if it were a distressed area; the special function of the Tories being to look after it.
I want to see a new relationship. The Highlands are as much a part of Scotland as the Lowlands and the Central Belt. Scotland is one country and the Highlands will not be excluded from the legislation we are considering tonight. In this connection, the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire referred to the years of investment with which the Tories had endowed the Highlands. I do not quarrel with that, either, and I recognise that there has been investment in the Highlands. Hon. Members may be interested in this quotation from Cmnd. Paper 785, "Review of Highland Policy", issued in June, 1959. It was part and parcel of the policy of the Tories:At the present rate of progress most of the major water supply works in the programme of the Highland counties should be completed in the next 5 to 7 years.If that part of the programme had materialised the problem of water supplies in the Highlands should no longer exist tonight and I ask my right hon. Friend whether that part of the Tory programme was consummated.
We were told in that Review that over£4 million had been authorised for educational building since 1950. How many buildings in Inverness and other towns of the Highlands represent that investment? Dealing with roads, the Review stated that the figure for the reconstruction of existing roads was£750,000 a year. Yet hon. Gentlemen opposite are talking about chickenfeed tonight. That Review stated that in 1962–63 the expenditure on roads would reach the level of£2 million; that was for old roads to be reconstructed, with£250,000 for new roads in the Highlands. That was their programme. What was the epitaph delivered on it not long ago? The epitaph is to be found on page 28 of the Report of the Highland Transport Inquiry to the Minister of Transport, the Secretary of State for 1181 Scotland and the Minister of Aviation. It stated:It cannot be too frequently stated that if the Highlands Roads System is to catch up with the development of road transport, and still more if road transport has to expand to fill the vacuum left by any contraction of rail transport, they substantial capital expenditure is needed on these main roads and at a much higher rare of progress and investment than is contemplated at the moment".That was stated in what the previous Government recognised to be their peak year; in 1963, when£2 million was to be spent. Yet the whole basis of their plan was condemned as being completely insufficient, although the plan was something about which they prided themselves at the time. But the Kilbrandon Report goes on:If it is accepted that road transport is to develop and particularly if road and ferry are to become the normal means of access to the Outer Hebrides then it would appear logical and appropriate that certain of the major islands should be included in the trunk road system.That was written in 1963. I doubt whether any of those islands have as yet been included in the road system of the Highlands.
We have been hearing a lot tonight about keeping the people in the Highlands or getting them into the Highlands, but there is the more important aspect of getting them out of the Highlands. We do not want to tie people to the Highlands—we cannot. We not only want people to come into the Highlands but to get out of them, and that is one of the major problems today.
That is where our air services come in. The Outer Hebrides and the far parts of the Highlands must be brought closer to the Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dundee conurbations. Residents must be able to spend a Saturday in the big towns as easily as do those persons in the little villages near the big towns. It should be possible, and must be possible, for people to fly to the big cities, see the game of football, go to the film show and return on the same evening to the far parts of Scotland. Distance is no longer measured in miles but calculated in hours. Stornoway is only 60 minutes from Glasgow and the people from the Highlands must be brought to realise that, because if they cannot use those 60 minutes to go to Glasgow they will leave the Highlands altogether, as they are doing now.
1182 In Argyllshire there were 78,477 persons in 1925; there are now 59,600. The population of Ross and Cromarty declined in the same period from about 68,500 to 57,568. The population of Sutherland fell from 16,568 to 13,313; that of Harris from 5,114 to 3,050; North Uist had 2,990 in 1925, knocked down to 1,850 and South Uist's numbers fell from 6,899 to 3,650 in the same period. In that period, too, the population of Lewis dropped from 23,287 to 16,300. In other words, where there were about 191,900 people in 1925 there are now only 155,331—a loss of 36,569 persons in 40 years. And that at a time when the population of Scotland grew from 4.880,000 to 5,200,000, and when the number of live births in the country exceeded the number of deaths. In the Western Isles alone the decline has been from 38,000-odd to 26,000 in that same time—a population drain of 30 per cent.
Would there not be the most serious concern if such a rate applied to the City of London? The placidity that marks our attitude to Scotland's problem as expressed in its northern counties would certainly not then be part of our make-up.
I turn now briefly to consider the cause of that drain. In my view, it rests on the concentration in the Highlands on the farming and crofting industry. For hill sheep farms, the net income per acre in the crofting counties is 4s. 6d. In the rest of Scotland it is 10s., with the result that production grants in the crofting counties are 66 per cent. to bring up the income to a living wage. In the rest of Scotland they are 60 per cent. In upland rearing, the net income per acre is£3 in the crofting counties, as against£3 5s. in the rest of Scotland. In livestock with arable farming, the crofting counties have an income of£7 per acre, as against£8 10s. in the rest of Scotland. In dairy farming, the crofting counties have an income per acre of£7, as against£9 5s. in the rest of Scotland.
It is almost impossible to increase income, because these farms are mostly remote. That is one of the drawbacks. Climatic conditions are inferior to those in lowland areas. On the whole, the ground is much poorer. Therefore, the young, active farmer working in those difficult conditions in the crofting counties says to himself, "In easier and better conditions down south I could make a far bigger 1183 income." So those thousands are draining over the years into other parts of Scotland and into England.
This goes on, but there is a gleam in the picture, because in Caithness there has been a rise. The population has risen from 26,345 in 1925 to 28,493 in 1964, an increase of 2,148. Wonderful, is it not? We glory in that, but generally that increase has been ascribed to the advent of the nuclear power station. This emphasises the need for further development along those lines so that this welcome, though petty, progress may be continued and expanded.
It also points a moral. Man must have bread, though he is told that he cannot live by that alone. But those who are fated to belong to the type of society where they must live by agriculture know that they earn a lower subsistence rate. They realise that industrial nations are the rich ones. The development of society in the north of Scotland requires a greater infusion of industry. The recent loss of the university was a disaster to the Highlands; though a blessing to Stirling. Perhaps what a friend gets is not quite lost. A university is more than a seat of learning. It is a great industrial gift. It brings people, houses, shops, jobs, status. It becomes a growth point. If Inverness lost the last one, it is to be hoped that the Government will take note of that fact and do their best to secure one in its place.
I also welcome the pulp mill at Fort William as being a step along the proper industrial lines. I suggest, finally, that one other thing we must face up to is the provision of cheap power. We must free the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board from the incubus of its debt to the Government. At the moment it has to pay about£6 million interest on Government debt. I am excluding the joint stock borrowings. On average, it pays£6 million every year. It may be said that comparison with B.O.A.C. is not pertinent because in the case of B.O.A.C. it was a revenue debt which the Hydro-Electric Board has not got. But the effect of a remission would be similar to what we hope it will he with B.O.A.C. At present the average cost of a unit of electricity is.937d. and, in my view, and according to the advice that I have received, a remission would reduce the 1184 cost to .5d. The result of that would be a supply of cheap power, and the Highlands would then at least be on the way to the industrial revolution which it so much needs.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The title of this Bill is the Highland Development (Scotland) Bill. This Bill does not seem to me to cover the whole of the Highland area of Scotland, and I respectfully suggest that this point should be noted at this stage in our deliberations. This Bill does not embrace the whole of the Highlands of Scotland. It deals with only the seven crofting counties of Scotland. Therefore, I suggest that the Bill should have been called "Part of the Highlands of Scotland Development Bill".
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think the hon. Gentleman will have to raise that point when the Bill reaches the Committee stage. Mr. Gordon Campbell.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. This Bill directly affects six constituencies. Can you tell me whether in such a case the Chair gives any particular consideration to the natural wish of Members representing those constituencies to speak?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Hon. Members must not criticise the calling by the Chair of hon. Members to speak. The only rule is that the hon. Member who speaks is the one who catches the eye of Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is that absolutely correct, that one must catch the eye of Mr. Speaker? Am I not to understand that there are other methods by which a Member can be called to speak, not by catching Mr. Speaker's eye but by getting one's name placed before him by whatever devious method one may adopt?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Hon. Members must not criticise the calling of hon. Members by the Chair. If the hon. Gentleman wants to criticise, he must put down a substantive Motion on the Order Paper. Mr. Gordon Campbell.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)
It appears that I have caught your eye, at least, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I sympathise with hon. Members who have been unable to take part in this debate. All I can say is that some of the speeches appeared to be rather long, and they were not all from this side of the House.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) and other hon. Friends have said, we shall judge this Bill by what the proposed Board is likely to be able to do for development in the Highlands. We intend to examine this Bill closely in Committee with this object in view. We want to find the best method, or combination of methods, to achieve this object of development in the Highlands.
We must remember that this Bill simply seeks to set up a new piece of machinery. In itself it achieves nothing in the Highlands and will not achieve anything until this new body, if the House agrees, is set up. Therefore, we have to consider whether the prospects of development in the Highlands will he improved by the existence of this proposed new Board.
I must point out straight away that the pulp mill near Fort William, which has been referred to in the course of the debate, was brought into existence without the need for a body of this kind and that the total amount of money involved in that was of the order of£23 million. A sum of£10 million was loaned by the Government at the time; the whole project cost£20 million, and at least another£3 million was involved in ancillary works such as housing, roads and other services.
I suggest that for years to come the initiative in setting up that pulp mill will be regarded as the most significant single event in the development of the Highlands because of its effect throughout the area and the north-west of Scotland, as well as the effect in the increasing possibilities of employment in the area near Fort William. But that required a Bill to be passed through Parliament.
As hon. Members on both sides of the House know, there has been general discussion for some time in the north of Scotland as to whether on balance a 1186 single body would have advantages in the operations of developing the Highlands over the several bodies which have been and are now operating in the Highlands. My right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll started about 1½ years ago the study of the Highlands, the results of which we are now awaiting. I must correct the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan), who I am sorry is not now present, who said that the Highlands had been left to the end. This, of course, is quite wrong. The Highlands and the three other regions of Scotland—in fact all the regions except the central area were the subject of studies which were initiated at the same time. These were the Borders, the North-East, and the South-West, and when we left office in October we understood that the results were likely to come out some time this summer.
The studies were started with no preconceived ideas of what the solutions should be, but they were initiated under the aegis of the Scottish Development Group with a view to studying all the problems and making a sincere search for the best measures to deal with them. I presume that results of the studies will become available in about three months' time. The Minister of State for Scotland will remember that, on 9th December, I asked him a Question about this in the House. I asked:Will the hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that the thorough studies and sincere searches for solutions carried out, and are being carried out, through the Scottish Development Group with the local authorities and other bodies concerned will not be prejudiced by ill-considered decisions and measures taken for purely doctrinaire reasons?I am glad to say that the hon. Gentleman immediately gave that assurance and said
In three months' time, presumably, the results of the studies will become available with suggested solutions. If those solutions were not to be a body of this kind, or a new single body with quite different functions and powers, what would the Government then do? Would they propose amendments? I 1187 gather from a Written Reply given by the Secretary of State that he will consider whether he will even publish the results, and if so in what form.
We published the conclusions of the study of central Scotland with the result that we have had the boost and growth area concept which has been of great assistance to the central area of Scotland. That area was given priority because it is the area with something like 70 per cent. of industry in Scotland and a very large majority of the population and also, unfortunately, of the unemployment. But the Highlands were not put at the end of the list, as has been suggested. They were equal second with the other parts of Scotland.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell us how this is consistent with answers given when questions have been raised about other areas. When my hon. Friends have asked questions about other parts of Scotland which are the subject of these studies, they have been told that the Government are awaiting the results of the studies. Presumably, therefore, the principle I have suggested, that is, waiting for the results and seeing what solutions are suggested in the reports, is being followed in respect of the other areas.
In the general discussion which has been taking place in the north of Scotland among all those interested in the prosperity of the Highlands, there has been talk of whether the new body should have teeth, and what sort of teeth they should be. Everyone has agreed that it should have some teeth. This is why we are so astonished at two points which immediately strike one on a reading of the Bill.
The first astonishing feature is the extent of the powers given under the Bill. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) has spoken with all his legal knowledge and experience about these powers. I merely say that the powers proposed in Clause 6, when taken with the power of compulsory purchase of land in Clause 4, appear to be excessive and unnecessary. They mean that a Government determined to take something over could purchase the land compulsorily and the buildings with it and then have power to run the business. It 1188 could become intolerable, if the Government wanted to make it so, for a person running a business, a factory or whatever it might be, if the land and the buildings had been taken over, not to allow the Government to purchase it.
Therefore, to say that Clause 6 provides for the Government taking something over by agreement is not good enough when the powers under Clause 4 are taken into account as well. There is the further power under Clause 6 for the Government themselves to set up in industry, if they want to, alongside some other industry which may well have been an enterprising pioneer in the Highlands, and to put it out of business, with the support of the Exchequer and the other advantages which they would have. I mention this because, plainly, if this is to discourage private industry from coming to the Highlands, it will be a great pity.
The second astonishing feature of the Bill is the amount of the powers, virtually all of them, which are reserved to the Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Permission for any project which the Board may have in mind, however small, must be sought from the Secretary of State. This makes the Board a puppet of the Government in office at the time.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Do I take it from what the hon. Gentleman says that this is a pledge on behalf of the Conservative Party that, if right hon. and hon. Members opposite come back to office, they will set the Board free from any control by the Secretary of State?
§ Mr. Campbell
My right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll made our position very clear in his speech, and he ended by saying that we should feel free to alter the powers, the scope and the general shape of the Board when we come into office.
§ Mr. Campbell
These powers, which are far more extensive than could be required, are all reserved to the Secretary of State and, therefore, the Government. It is not the Board which is given powers. My right hon. Friend pointed out that what we should expect in a Board of this kind would be a body with some powers, though not all the powers set out here, 1189 and a discretion of its own in order to be able to set in train projects within a certain limit of money without having to go to the Secretary of State each time.
I shall not go into the question of these powers because my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pent-lands went through many of them and we intend to pursue this in Committee, where we can examine them in detail. But this is not what those in the Highlands who have been discussing the possibility of a new board have had in mind. They certainly did not expect that it would be the Government who would be coming in under the cloak of a board and who might be taking over businesses and industries, setting up others and acquiring land and so on.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) spoke about the absentee landlords. The Bill opens up the possibility of having two absentee landlords on a vast scale—the Secretary of State in Edinburgh and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in London.
§ Mr. Manuel
The hon. Gentleman is dealing with the powers of the Secretary of State. Does not he agree that the Bill contains a provision for an annual report to Parliament and that, therefore, the ultimate safeguard will be the House on matters reported each year?
§ Mr. Campbell
The report is to be on activities of the preceding year, and those activities will not be able to be undertaken, however small they may be, without the Board getting the permission of the Secretary of State. We believe that the Board and not the Secretary of State should have more powers. In any case we think that the powers are much wider than required and could positively be dangerous in the wrong hands.
§ Mr. Ross
Does the hon. Gentleman agree or not with Clause 14(1), which says:Any approval or consent of the Secretary of State required by this Act may be given in relation to a specific act of the Board or in relation to all acts of a class or description specified in the approval or consent …".In other words, there is scope for the Board. I am surprised that neither a lawyer who was once a Law Officer nor the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell), with all his Parliamentary experience, could see it.
§ Mr. Campbell
I have seen that provision, but it refers to a class or category of project. The right hon. Gentleman's knowledge of the area we are dealing with cannot be very great if he does not realise that the kinds of project necessary and which have been carried out in the past are miscellaneous. They cover a very wide range, and authorising a certain kind of project in certain conditions in one part of the area cannot simply be applied as a whole category to cover other areas. That simply will not meet the point. We can consider this further in Committee, but we shall certainly not be satisfied by that kind of explanation.
§ Mr. George Y. Mackie rose—
§ Mr. Campbell
I must get on, otherwise I shall not be able to give the Minister of State time to reply. I do not know whether he hopes that that will happen or not, but I am determined to give him time. Perhaps hon. Members will assist us by not interrupting so much.
The majority of Highlanders, as hon. Members opposite will learn, if they do not know it already, are not in favour of nationalisation. There is a sturdy independence in the Highlands.
§ Mr. Campbell
I shall have more to say about that in a moment. This spirit is one which has to be invoked and enlisted by the Board in its dealings, and the idea of Edinburgh and London coming in and taking over will not be greeted with the co-operation that will be necessary in the Highlands if the jobs are to be done.
Surely the Secretary of State realizes—the right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) said that he himself did—that it will be the business of the Board to work with private as well as public enterprise and not to intimidate it with powers. I am surprised by the attitude of Scottish Liberals which was stated by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. George Y. Mackie). He said that he accepted these powers in their entirety. I cannot understand how anyone calling himself a Liberal can accept so casually this combination of powers over such a wide area.
§ Mr. George Y. Mackie
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. I did not say that I accepted the powers in their entirety. 1191 I specified the powers of compulsory purchase which I said were entirely necessary. I doubt whether the Board needs all the powers of asking for information and so on, but I agree about the necessity for the powers of compulsory purchase.
§ Mr. Campbell
I am glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman has at least those reservations, but I can assure him that he said that he accepted the powers in their entirety.
Then there is the question about the right of appeal. Because the Secretary of State is brought in right at the beginning, there is no right of appeal to him, or to some independent third party, against decisions of the Board and, therefore, of the Secretary of State, The Secretary of State said that these powers would not be used unnecessarily and that we could depend on the good sense of the Board In that case, why have them? Certainly this was not the view of his hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles, who was asking for an assurance that the Government would establish Government-run factories and plants in the Highlands. If the right hon. Gentleman is to satisfy his hon. Friend, that will not be consistent with what the right hon. Gentleman said about these powers.
We on this side of the House might agree when the Board is appointed that its members are such that they would not abuse these powers, but as the powers are in fact in the hands of the Secretary of State, it is the Government of the time who would be exercising them and we would be very doubtful about some Governments, particularly of the complexion of the party opposite, and the use which might be made of such powers.
Clause 3(1,b) provides for consultation with local authorities, but there is nothing to indicate that the Board need take any notice—and when I say "Board", it is the Secretary of State behind the Board the whole time who is really the prime mover—nor that the views of the local authorities will be taken into account if they disagree with some project, nor that the project will not be pushed forward none the less. It is not as straightforward as some hon. Members may think. A county council might have sincere objections, well founded on past local experience, to some scheme. In some cases it is a matter of judg- 1192 ment, of opinion, as to whether some new enterprise will succeed or be a damaging failure. A county council might have some alternative scheme which it regards as better. As drafted, the Bill contains no right of appeal for the county council and, in that situation, it could be ridden over roughshod.
What will happen to bodies such as the Highland Transport Board and the Highland Fund? We have heard that the Highland Panel will disappear and be reformed as an advisory council, but what about the other two and other bodies which are now operating in the field? Are some of them to be wound up?
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland seemed to enjoy attacking all landowners in general, a popular sport. Presumably, he was speaking of his own constituency. I sincerely believe that it is a mistake to generalise and in this way to condemn all landowners, as the hon. Gentleman appeared to do. The estate in his constituency, which was mentioned by my right hon. Friend, has, I understand, put millions of pounds into the development of the area. I understand that at least one harbour and one ice factory have been built, while trees have been planted and the population of the area is expanding largely because of the new fishing port and the projects associated with it which the estate has supported. How does the Liberal Party expect to get the co-operation of the community, whether it be the landowners or any other section of the community, if he condemns it in this irresponsible way?
§ Mr. Campbell
I will not continue with this now. I shall be glad to tell the hon. Gentleman about it afterwards. It is in his constituency. I will satisfy his curiosity later, and I will provide full details. I can assure him that what I have said is correct.
I have five minutes in which to deal with the important question of tourism. This can never be the first industry or the only industry in the Highlands, but it is 1193 one on which all the resources available should be fully used. My right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll mentioned what this term covers in the way of hikers, climbers, and those interested in fishing or outdoor holidays of any kind.
I should like to mention a particular example which has been a considerable success and which has transformed an area, the Cairngorm area. Those like myself who knew Strathspey in the 1930s and have seen it change since will remember that it was busy with visitors in the summer but very quiet in the winter. The result until about ten years ago was seasonal unemployment and depopulation. Now, activity in the summer has greatly expanded, and the Winter Sports Development Board has provided a second season and virtually solved the problem of seasonal unemployment.
This is an excellent example of local initiative and contribution to a common local cause. The Cairngorm Winter Sports Development Board was set up by subscriptions from hotels and the local community and with the assistance of Government grants under the physical recreation legislation. There was cooperation by various authorities such as the Forestry Commission and the county council, which helped with the necessary roads. There was a risk that this would riot catch on, that people in Britain would not be interested enough in winter sports to come. But it has in fact gone from strength to strength.
If the Secretary of State, through the new Board, were to try to take over the Cairngorm Winter Sports Development Board, he would meet a great deal of opposition, the fiercest probably from myself because its members happen to be my constituents. What has it experienced in the last five months of Labour Government—[Interruption.] The equipment and the chairlift are in the constituency of the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston), but the Board and its chairman and members and office have always been in my constituency, which is the centre of this area. But I am speaking generally.
What has been the Board's experience in the first 100 days of the Labour Government? It has had to pay a bill of nearly£2,000 extra because of the 15 per cent. surcharge on equipment for the extension of the chairlift which can be 1194 obtained only from abroad and could not possibly be made in this country.
My mention of the Board would not be complete without my saying that one of the difficulties which it has run into is an unexpected one. It has had to invoke the contributions and enterprise of the local community, but one of the difficulties about expansion is not the sort which Government Departments expect. It is because of a possible conflict with bird life on the hills and the possible extinction of, for example, a charming bird called the dotterel, which is so much a Highlander that it nests only above 3,000 ft. This sort of matter is important. After all, 26,000 visitors saw the ospreys in a period of about two months last year. This sort of thing plays its part in the prosperity in the area. It is important, therefore, that this kind of factor should be taken into account. It is because the Board, being a local board, understands this and has been paying the greatest attention to it that it has the respect and admiration of the local community.
I have made it clear that we will examine the Bill extremely closely. We will support any schemes which we are satisfied will help the Highlands. In judging the contents of the Bill, we will be actuated by what is in the best interests of the Highlands and Islands.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
Before the hon. Gentleman resumes his seat, will he tell the House exactly where the harbour has been built by this Westminster Estate Company?
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. George Y. Mackie
On a point of order. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to accuse an hon. Member of not knowing that an estate company had built a harbour in his constituency and then to refuse to name the harbour?
§ Mr. Willis
I hope to pick up most of the points made by the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell), excluding those that he addressed to the Liberal Party and also the sort of constituency interpolation at the end of 1195 his speech. This has been a rather remarkable day because, if I am not mistaken, we have witnessed a change of heart on the part of hon. Members opposite. To make that change of heart more acceptable to those on the benches opposite and, apparently, to those outside the House, we have had the unusual spectacle of three Opposition Front Bench speakers.
This is the third stage of the Bill. The first stage was when we announced in the Queen's Speech that we intended to introduce the Bill. Shortly afterwards, the former Minister of State, with his customery brash effrontery, made a statement claiming, or at least trying to claim, credit for the idea. After that, we also had from the former Minister of State, within a few weeks before Christmas, a statement to the effect that the party—one assumes that he was speaking for the Tory Party—was wholehartedly behind the conception of a Highland Development Board.
However, when we reached the second stage of this process through the House—namely, the publication of the Bill—the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) entertained us with some of his rather colourful fulminations against the Bill. We heard a great deal about loss of freedom, wholesale nationalisation, Marxian ancestry and all the rest. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have a colourful scriptwriter when he speaks outside the House.
Apparently, the right hon. Gentleman has not yet learned that most of the things which he and his party boasted about at the General Election as having been accomplished by the right hon. Gentleman were the product of Marxian ancestry. Most of them were produced by public enterprise. The figures to which the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) referred, the money spent on forestry, hydro-electric schemes, and so on, all related to public enterprise. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have boasted a great deal about Dounreay, but this is another example of public enterprise. In fact, there is very little about which hon. Gentlemen opposite boast which has not been the result of public enterprise or public money. The right hon. Gentleman 1196 ought to sort out his ideas before indulging in this kind of thing.
At one stage the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire was so keen about this that he wanted parts of Perthshire to be included in the area covered by the Highland Development Board. However, on 24th February he told the House that his enthusiasm had abated, not because of the powers in the Bill, but because of the paltry sum of money involved. In fact, he said on that occasion that so long as the money was being doled out he did not mind about the power. "Never mind the power, give us the money", seems to be his attitude.
Although hon. Gentlemen opposite consider that the sum of money involved is paltry, they have decided, with that curious attitude often adopted by them, that this Measure must be debated on the Floor of the House. This schizophrenic approach of hon. Gentlemen opposite has been most entertaining, and it has been exemplified by the right hon. Gentleman. He still has not told us whether he wants Argyll to be in or out of the Bill.
§ Mr. Willis
The right hon. Gentleman went on to tell us that the one thing that we must not do is to destroy the confidence of those operating in the Highlands, and he threatened that when his party was returned to power it would regard itself as free to alter the functions of the Board and to alter its shape. I can think of nothing more calculated to destroy confidence in the Highlands than that attitude of mind.
As I say, I am surprised at the schizophrenic approach of hon. Gentlemen opposite. For more than 10 years they have rejected the idea of a Highland Development Board. The Leader of the Liberal Party raised the matter in the House 12 years ago, and the idea was turned down. It has been raised time and time again, but it has always been rejected by the party opposite. I took the opportunity of looking up what the Conservative Party said about this in its election manifesto. It said:As promised in the White Paper on the Development of Central Scotland, a survey of the Highlands and Islands is now in progress. Whatever opportunities emerge from this investigation will be fostered by a Unionist Government.1197 I cannot think of anything more meaningless than that.
Dealing with forestry, the same document said:The Forestry Commission makes an important long-term contribution to the Highland economy, but private woodlands produce about 60 per cent. of Scottish timber. We shall give them every encouragement.I have never read a more clever piece of political dishonesty than that. Let us examine it. The implication is that private woodlands are the things which really matter, but the fact is that private woodlands amount to less than half the area of State forests in the area.
The pamphlet says:We shall give them every encouragement.Who is to be given this encouragement? The right hon. Gentleman was aggrieved this afternoon because he said that he had been accused of allowing the programme to be cut. The right hon. Gentleman agreed to a cut in the forestry programme. We could not get the figures last July, because the right hon. Gentleman refused to give them to us. I now have the figures. They show that the right lion. Gentleman sanctioned a cut of 20 per cent. in the Scottish programme, but he refused to tell the House and the people of Scotland about that. During his last two years in office the right hon. Gentleman allowed a cut of 12 per cent. to take place in the Highland planting programme. I tell him for his benefit that although he is strangely interested in private forestry he also allowed a cut to take place in the same period—from 1960 to 1963—of 3,500 acres per annum.
§ Mr. Noble
The hon. Member is indulging in a typical piece of political dishonesty. In the first place, the statement made in the manifesto is absolutely true. We intended to encourage both. The hon. Member went on to use a very curious phrase when he said that I allowed a cut to take place. These were the Forestry Commission's figures, and not mine.
§ Mr. Willis
This was approved by the Secretary of State. I will give him the facts that I have. I do not want to read them to the House. The right hon. Member has probably been discomfited sufficiently for my purpose without my reading extracts, but the fact is that he and his hon. Friend the Member for 1198 Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart), in the forestry debate in July and at Question Time on the Floor of the House, refused to say what the programmes were. He knew—or if he did not know he was not doing his job—that those programmes had been cut to the extent that I mentioned. That is the true position about forestry. The right hon. Gentleman has no reason to feel aggrieved when we complain of his having allowed this to take place.
The arguments about the Board have centred around its powers. Once again we have this amazing dichotomy of thought among hon. Members opposite. My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) drew attention to the fact that the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) commenced by talking about the unnecessary and outrageous powers of the Board but ended by asking that powers should be given to it to do half a dozen things that it was not already being given powers to do.
The right hon. Member for Argyll gave us a long list of the powers that he thought the Board should have. Having made a speech in which he cast a great deal of doubt upon the powers being given to the Board, he went on to suggest that it should be put in charge of forestry, the operations of the White Fish Authority, the Herring Board, the Highland Fund, B.O.T.A.C., transport subsidies, local authorities, county development officers, and I do not know what else. The right hon. Gentleman ought to make up his mind. On the one hand, apparently, we are giving the Board too great powers, but on the other, we should have included all these other things.
§ Mr. Noble
I know that the hon. Member does not want to mislead the House. The figures as given by his right hon. Friend in relation to forestry in Scotland and in the Highlands show that in the Highlands the programme rose from 1,400,000 in 1962, to 1,500,000 in 1963 and then to 1,536,000 in 1964.
§ Mr. Willis
Money is not production. It was producing less in terms of planting. The right hon. Gentleman should appreciate that fact. The figures that I have given are correct and they have been checked over and over again. Anyway, the right hon. Gentleman should come up to date in regard to what I am now discussing, namely, the fact that he demanded all these extra powers for the Board. He can take it from me that to have attempted to give the Board all these powers would have aroused an opposition which would have made the introduction of the Bill almost impossible. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, or if he does not, then he does not know the Highlands as well as I thought he did.
This is an amazing sort of split-mindedness among hon. Members opposite concerning the matter of powers. They cannot make up their minds whether the powers are too great or too little. I am not surprised that this discussion about the powers should have arisen, and I think it proper that there should be a discussion. All the powers given to the Board in this Bill are precedented by previous Acts of Parliament. The rather unusual feature of this Bill is that the powers are being combined in one authority. Usually these powers are given to an authority for a specific purpose. Here they are being given to an authority which has a large number of purposes. Because of this it has to have a combination of powers such as is provided in the Bill. I think it right that this should be discussed.
My first point is that these powers are all precedented. We gave a great deal of thought to requests repeatedly made to us that if we were to set up a board we should give it teeth to do the job. We found that all these powers were justified and we shall justify them during the Committee stage discussions. If any of these powers are withdrawn, the power of the Board will be reduced accordingly. The more we take from the Board the powers which we propose to give to it the less effective the Board will be in its operations.
The right hon. Gentleman and the law officer opposite, the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie)—who seems to be such a prize 1200 for the Tory Party that he has trotted out even in the middle of the debate—both raised this question of the combination of Clauses 4, 6 and 11 and how this would be nationalisation by the back door. There are safeguards in the Bill. The procedures in connection with the compulsory acquisition of land are the customary procedures and all are subject to proper public inquiry. In addition they have to be approved by the Secretary of State. That applies to the compulsory acquisition of land. If the Government or the Board were trying to acquire a business under these powers that would have to be approved by the Treasury, and the Secretary of State and the Treasury are responsible to the House of Commons. There are a number of safeguards.
§ Mr. Wylie
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is an entirely different situation where on appeal to the Secretary of State the right hon. Gentleman is holding the balance in the public interest between the promoter of the compulsory purchase order and the objector to it? If the Secretary of State is concerned in a compulsory purchase order he is sitting in judgment on his own action.
§ Mr. Willis
This happens in other spheres, I am afraid, with regard to compulsory purchase. The point the hon. and learned Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman made was, what could be done as a result of a combination of these Clauses. I am pointing out the safeguards. The Government as a whole would be doing this, and if the Government want to nationalise an industry they nationalise it without these powers. The Government of the right hon. Gentleman introduced, as their first Bill after 1959, a Measure which went a considerable way towards nationalising the shipping services. The right hon. Gentleman did that. He did not need to go round the corner. He did it in this House. These safeguards are, of course, in the Bill.
The second criticism, which has been rather widespread, is the criticism that the Board has no powers. Once again, hon. Gentlemen do not seem to be able to make up their minds. All the powers, they say, are in the hands of the Secretary of State. I understand that the hon. and learned Member for Pent-lands made a speech in which he 1201 developed this argument and asked why we should appoint a body corporate which had no powers. In fact, of course, all the powers rest with the Board. The Board buys and acquires land; the Board becomes responsible for its administration. The Board lends money, not the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Willis
Of course, I have read the Bill. Apparently the hon. Member has not read it, or, if he has read it, he has not understood it. That is the trouble.
The Board has the powers, not the Secretary of State. All the Secretary of State does is to approve a particular scheme; the Board puts it into operation. The Board owns all the land, not the Secretary of State. Therefore, the real power here is in the hands of the Board.
There has been a good deal of corn-plaint about the fact that the Secretary of State comes in rather too much. We do not agree that where we have brought in the Secretary of State, an undue requirement is placed on the Board. We are faced with a clear choice—either a large-scale, comprehensive authority such as the Liberal Party recommended, which would supersede and override existing authorities; or the course which we have chosen, that of providing a body which, while able to view the Highlands' problems as a whole and to initiate and co-ordinate measures for dealing with them, relies on the existing local authorities and other statutory bodies to play their full part in the process of rehabilitation. Once this choice was made, it seemed clear to us that, because of the statutory and administrative position, the Secretary of State should play a focal part in clearing with the Departments, statutory and local authority, matters affecting their interests in all projects and proposals.
Nevertheless, the Board will be far from circumscribed or hamstrung by the need to seek the Secretary of State's approval. In its special operations, such approval is obviously necessary, and I should have thought that it would have commended itself to hon. Members opposite. Amongst these operations are the proposals to acquire land or to run a business, particularly in the case of land, where compulsion is involved. Once having received approval to particular proposals and pro- 1202 jects, the Board will be largely left to get on with its work, such as erecting buildings, doing works on land, providing financial assistance within the generally approved arrangements and other matters of that kind. I might answer here the question raised by one or two Members about the financial arrangements for industry. In this connection, the Board will operate within the scheme drawn up and approved in the same way as, and probably in a more extended fashion than, the Highland Fund operates in connection with its Treasury loans schemes. It will have the freedom to give loans without running to the Secretary of State every time.
I will deal with the point relating to money. Several things have been said about the £150,000 which is mentioned. This is provided simply until the end of this financial year. The Board will not be established until August, September or thereabouts. It has a few months to run, during which time we expect that it will be occupied with engaging its staff and generally settling to its work. This is why we did not expect that the expenditure involved would be more than the sum mentioned. The other figure which has been frequently quoted is, of course, only an estimate. The fact is that if the Board draws up schemes of a satisfactory kind and can obtain the Secretary of State's approval for these schemes, and if we can afford the schemes in terms of our national economy, against which we measure everything, they will be approved whether they come within the £1 million or not. There is no limit within the Bill.
It has been said that we should have waited for the report of the study group. We do not think that we are prejudicing the report by acting now, because I understand that these study groups have been concerned mainly with the infrastructure, the type of industrial development which is appropriate to the area, the character and so on. As far as I know, study groups have not been concerned with the machinery of administration. The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn ought to know this better than anybody, because he was responsible for setting them up.
§ Mr. Willis
We are just learning this. We did not know. We are under the impression that the groups are concerned with the matters which I have mentioned. The setting up of a Board should not prejudice that consideration. In fact, it should be a help to have the Board set up now in order that whatever is suggested can be considered by the Board in conjunction with the consideration of the overall plan for Scotland, and the Board ought to be able to commence its work much more quickly as the result of the work of the study group. I do not think that we have prejudiced any issue. We have acted wisely in this matter and in a manner which should help rather than hinder development.
The question has been raised over and over again of the sums of money which are being spent in the Highlands. What we are doing will not limit the sums being spent in the Highlands. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, in the normal course of events the sums being spent in the Highlands through local authorities and statutory bodies are more likely to increase than to decrease. The sums involved this year total £33 million—the Answer was given in the House the other day£and next year, according to the published Estimate, they will total £35 million. There is nothing to stop that expenditure from continuing. My right hon. Friend pointed out that another £76,000 is being spent through the Crofters Commission in respect of grants. This will not be hindered at all. What we are proposing for the Board is new money. That is the important point to remember.
For many years the idea of a Highland Development Board has been discussed, and generally even those most disinclined to accept it have, with reluctance and qualifications, been compelled to accept the idea. I understand that the Opposition do not intend to vote against it tonight. For our part, we have long since accepted the idea that if the vast area which we call the Highlands and Islands is to be fully developed, if it is to provide its people with proper living standards and their children with opportunities, if it is to play its full part in the steady economic growth of our country, and if it is to be developed to allow all our people the fullest opportunity for the enjoyment of its unparalleled recreational facilities and its incomparable 1204 scenery, then a body such as is envisaged in the Bill is necessary, and from the general tenor of the debate we are encouraged to hope that the House will agree with us in this proposal.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).