§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
TER EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, I think the case for an active afforestation policy in this country is generally conceded. During the last twenty-five years numerous inquiries have been held into the subject, 222 not to discuss the necessity, but to discuss the best methods to adopt. Little or nothing has been achieved, and the position in this country gives grave cause for apprehension. Many of your Lordships are aware that only one other country in Europe is so sparsely wooded as Great Britain. Only 4 per cent. of our area is under timber, whereas in Belgium 17 per cent. is wooded, in France 18 per cent., in Germany 25 per cent. Portugal alone has a smaller area than ourselves. Moreover, the woods we possess yield only about one-third per acre of that harvested in countries where sylvicultural science is developed, so that in contrast with other countries we have insignificant areas under forest.
To begin with, we have enormous areas suitable for planting, and we have an abnormal high percentage of woodlands which urgently demand reproduction. Even so, the depletion of our woodlands has been going on apace. Before the war Ireland had a net loss of something like 1,000 acres a year, and my impression is that the same process was going on in Scotland, and I think in England as well. Then came the war. It found us unprepared. There was an immediate short age of timber. Our home market became disorganised. We had no labour timber policy, and at one time the actual continuance of coal-mining was gravely threatened owing to the absence of pit props. A great tonnage effort was successfully made. But timber is almost the most bulky of cargoes, and we paid a very heavy bill in our mercantile marine for the timber we had to import. We added to our debt, we burdened our exchange, and in the first two years of the war, 1915 and 1916, the increased price that we had to pay for the timber compared with the prices of the two previous years amounted to £37,000,000. That is what we paid extra to foreign Producers during the first two years of the war. I have no figures for the years 1917 and 1918, but prices continued fabulous.
The Bill that I present to your Lordships asks for £3,500,000 to be spent during the next ten years to begin to repair out losses and to provide for the future. I desire briefly to describe the scheme in the Bill. It is based, broadly speaking, upon the Report of the Forestry Sub-Committee presided over by Mr. Francis Acland. It was a strong and experienced body of men, representative of the three 223 Boards of Agriculture—Scotland, Ireland, and England—the Development Commission, the Labour Party, and including persons very well acquainted with finance, and other members with large technical experience of sylviculture. I remind your Lordships that this Report was unanimous. All the public Departments concerned signed it, with the exception of one very proper reservation which was made by the representative of the Treasury—a proper and, I suppose, an inevitable reservation. It is a very remarkable document. Clause 1 of the Bill constitutes a small Central Authority—a Forestry Commission—consisting of seven members, of whom one shall be Chairman to be appointed by His Majesty, and of whom three may be salaried. Clause 2 gives them power to employ staff, to sue and be sued, to become a Government Department in fact. Clause 3 recites their powers and their duties. Generally, they are to promote and develop forestry and the production of timber; specifically they take over the powers and duties of the Boards of Agriculture, with the right to devolve back if necessary any function that may be agreed between themselves and one or other of the Boards of Agriculture.
The Commissioners are invested with the power (in Clause 3) to take land by lease or by purchase, to sell or exchange land, to buy or sell standing timber, to make advances by way of loan or by way of grant with a view to promote re-planting. They can undertake the management and supervision of woodlands, promote woodland industries, collect and compare statistics, make inquiries, experiments, and research. Under Clause 4 they are invested with power to prevent damage by vermin. Under Clause 7 they receive the power compulsorily to acquire land, and under Clause 9 power of entry in respect of lands for the purposes of survey, and for investigating vermin or forest pests. These powers are certainly comprehensive. Under Clause 5 three assistant Commissioners will be appointed, one for England and Wales, one for Ireland, and one for Scotland. Under Clause 6 four Consultative Committees are set up, one for England, one for Scotland, one for Wales and one for Ireland.
The organisation, therefore, will be briefly as follows. At the head will be the Forestry Commission. Below the Forestry Commission come the three Assistant Commissioners. They will have divisional 224 officers. The divisional officers in charge of a large tract of country will have a district officer in charge of a smaller area, who in turn will be responsible for the forester, the foreman, the woodman, and so forth. It sounds perhaps formidable at first sight, but I have studied the matter with some care, and I am sure that the organisation proposed is not excessive, when you take into account the work that has to be done. And with a centralised authority, as is proposed under this Bill, I am confident that there may actually be an economy in staff.
Mr. Acland's Committee estimated that the plantable area in the United Kingdom was between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 acres, which I think is a conservative figure. The broad outline of the planting policy proposed is set forth on page 39 of the Report. The general idea is that during the first eighty years 1,750,000 acres shall be afforested, and during the first forty years 1,180,000 acres. The scheme of this Bill extends over ten years only, and it is hoped that during the first ten years afforestation may be achieved as follows:—150,000 acres by direct State action; 25,000 acres by proceed sharing; 25,000 acres by local authorities and private individuals; and 50,000 acres of existing woodland or cleared woodland replanted—total 250,000 acres.
I am bound to admit that the scheme was made when prices were considerably lower than they are now, and either the money must be increased or the scheme must be curtailed. Clause 8 guarantees finance for ten years' time. I notice that Lord Haldane complained that Clause 8 places a very large expenditure of public money outside the supervision of Parliament. All I can say is that that is not the desire or the intention of those responsible for the Bill. Clause 8 says that during the next ten years £3,500,000 shall be paid out of the Consolidated Fund into the Forestry Fund, but it also says that year by year annual Estimates have to be presented to Parliament for the money to be spent during the financial twelve months. It also states that the Commissioners have to present their accounts to the Comptroller and Auditor-General every year, and finally, that the Treasury has to regulate the whole method of handling their finance. If more control is wanted I shall be very glad to give sympathetic attention to any amendment to 225 that effect. The one essential thing to my mind is that some guarantee of continuity should be given, otherwise it is almost hopeless, as so many of your Lordships know, to enter upon any serious planting policy.
Now I wish to say a word about the centralised control which is proposed in this Bill. It is a point which arouses interest, and in some quarters controversy. At the present moment we have four or five different authorities who control forestry, and we have several times as many policies. The first essential of sylviculture is a single and a consistent policy, and in order to acquire this in my opinion an ad hoc authority is necessary. At the present moment forestry is a subordinate and a casual adjunct of our Boards of Agriculture. It is frankly so regarded. In the Board of Agriculture Act, 1889, passed by Lord Chaplin, I think (I am not sure) forestry ranks pari passu with agriculture. But for every pound and every hour devoted to forestry a thousand are devoted to agriculture. Forestry does not enjoy the position which the terms of the Statute guaranteed it thirty years ago. In Scotland it is much the same thing. In your Lordships' House Lord Pentland announced in 1911 that forestry would have a vital and integral Department. Well, it has not. And in point of practice in Scotland practically all demands for finance on behalf of forestry have had to be refused.
Again, since 1909 the Development Commission has only been able to spend 10 per cent. of its money on afforestation—that is, grants and loans taken together. And during the five years before the war I doubt very much if more than 200 acres a year were planted. I think that this is natural, and, indeed, almost inevitable. It is not the fault of the Department. They have to look to immediate settlement. The Boards of Agriculture have to look for immediate returns. They are accustomed to reckon in the short rotations of farm crops. They have to satisfy individuals who are waiting upon their doorsteps. In forestry one has to look very, much further ahead. For forestry one wants a mental telescope; for ordinary husbandry one may be content with a microscope. It is no good blaming public Departments, Boards of Agriculture, because progress in afforestation has been so distressingly slow. Where a single authority has to divide its funds between the highland and 226 the lowland you may be sure that the latter is going to win all the prizes; the valley, which has roads and railroads and canals, will always outbid the hillside. And I say, therefore, that it is inevitable that the agricultural side of the work should have obtained complete priority over the sylvicultural.
The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Haldane, thinks it is a mistake to have a Forestry Department, because it divorces it from small holdings, and so on. I think I may say with some knowledge of the facts that in the creation of small holdings by Boards of Agriculture and by county councils, in 98—certainly in 95—per cent. of the cases the small holdings have been established without giving one thought to the question of afforestation. I do not know whether I exaggerate, but there is a quite different side to the question. If we establish a strong Forestry Department and if it is successful in its operations, I feel confident that small holdings will be irresistibly attracted to that neighbourhood by the forest. If we establish small holdings for a thousand years they will in themselves and by themselves never establish a forest. I therefore think that this centralised authority is really essential.
The administrative advantages are very marked indeed. In the first place, for uniformity of survey a central authority is clearly necessary. Survey was first advocated by a committee in 1787. Since then a county has been done here, a hundred has been done there; systems differ, results conflict, effort is wasted. Until we get a centralised authority we shall have no business-like survey of the British Isles. That argument equally holds good about statistics; indeed, it is quite unanswerable. It is also true about research. If one takes forest entomology, for instance, it is very important that it should be directed from one central headquarters and, indeed, with the requirements of the whole of the United Kingdom in view; otherwise there is sure to be overlapping and waste. Again, in laboratory tests—for instance, the tension and resisting tests of timber. Unless the method is uniform the results are going to be illusory and, from a commercial point of view, worthless. We do not want a Scottish test of timber, or an Irish test, or a Welsh test; we want a British test; and without a centralised authority I do not see how we are going to get it.
227 From the financial point of view the great advantage of a centralised authority is that it permits a well-defined and a far-reaching policy to be laid down. It avoids the annual wrangle and struggle with the Treasury about quotas; so many hundredths for Scotland, so many hundredths for Ireland, and so on. That is a contentious system of equivalent grants which is probably more obnoxious to a forestry policy than anywhere else in the public service. I should now like to say why I think that, from the point of view of a forestry staff, a Central Department has incontrovertible advantages. You get one large staff instead of four or five little staffs. That means large and rapid promotion; and that prospect opens up a real future for the clever man. He will realise that there is no danger of stagnation for him; that he will not get into a groove, into a cul de sac, because the service will be expansive offering him good prospects and therefore encouraging a high standard of candidate. It is exactly the same with education. With a central service there will be one big strong educational service instead of three or four little ones. It is like a University instead of some isolated and detached colleges. You will not get it under detached and isolated authorities. In order to get this really powerful and really living system of education you must have a central authority. It will then allow the interchange of students. The Scottish student will have a prescriptive right to study where you please—the Alice Holt woods, or Tintern. The English student will equally have a prescriptive right to study conversion in Wales or entomology in Ireland. All will enjoy equal claims for the bursaries and for the travelling scholarships. The student will get a greater variety of training; he will have a wider experience of soil, of method, and of climate. This spells income to the forester and profit to the woodlands in his charge.
I think that the weight of opinion supporting a centralised scheme is really overwhelming. Here in England the proposal has been very well received. In Scotland every one I have been able to come across with large personal experience and knowledge of the subject agrees—including, I should like to say, the Scottish Arboricultural Society, which is the strongest body of its kind and which speaks in the name of landowners of factors, of seedsmen, of merchants, and of the working foresters 228 and woodmen of Scotland. I should like to add this about Scotland to dispel the fallacy which I cannot help thinking has been stimulated more for political than for sylvicultural reasons—namely, that Scotland is going to be badly treated or dispossessed of rights under a centralised authority. Scotland is not going to be run or ruled from England under this Bill. It will have its own officers, its own administrative staff, its own local executive, its own local advisory committees, and its divisional organisations. Speaking as one very much interested and concerned in Scottish forestry, I greatly trust that our Scottish system may be combined with that of England and with that of Ireland.
In conclusion, I wish to say a word about the Interim Forest Authority. Two or three days before the Armistice, after Mr. Acland's Committee had reported, the Government appointed what was called an Interim Forest Authority to make inquiries, to investigate, and, generally speaking, to prepare the ground for the Bill which I now present. This authority, of course, has been able to proceed only On tentative lines, to make informal and unofficial inquiries; but it is really wonderful what has been achieved during these last few months. They have devoted themselves to establishing friendly relations with bodies interested in forestry and to considering the preliminary machinery which will be necessary if forest development is sanctioned by Parliament. Conferences, therefore, have been held in London, Edinburgh and Dublin with the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, the officers of the Timber Supply Department, arboricultural and forestry societies, surveyors' and land agents' societies, the Timber Trades' Federation, and educational bodies. They have been considering the general organisation which will be required. They have been going through many hundreds of applications which have reached the Government in anticipation of a Bill being passed. They have been considering the organisation of a uniform system of land survey, both with regard to the supply of timber and with regard to the sylvicultural possibilities of land. They have examined schemes for developing woodmen's schools. They have actually purchased and have sown about £5,000 worth of forest seeds. They have been considering schemes of proceeds sharing and they have made inquiries as to whether, and how, land can be purchased or leased 229 for afforestation. They have also made arrangements in connection with a Conference, which is to be held here during the coming October, with the Overseas Trade Department on questions of imperial forestry.
The Authority is working through the Board of Agriculture in Scotland and through the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction in Ireland, and it is in consultation with them constantly as to general questions of policy. By agreement with the President of the Board of Agriculture for England and Wales the Forests staff of that Department has been transferred to the Authority. It will, therefore, be seen that this Interim Forest Authority, which advocates a central scheme, is working in perfect co-operation and amity with the Departments whose work it is going to take over. It is really remarkable what has been done in these few months, and it is still more remarkable how keen the public response has been to the fact that, at last, it knows an Authority exists which is devoting its whole time and its entire energy to this question of afforestation, centralising experience and technical knowledge on this all-important subject and not distracted by other questions which have made it so difficult for existing Departments to pay adequate attention to it. A feeling of confidence and expectation has been aroused. People who have been waiting, very patiently waiting, for five and twenty years at last realise that a great opportunity is now offering itself. This Bill which I present to your Lordships gives a permanent status to the Forest Authority from which great things are expected. I earnestly invite your Lordships' support.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Crawford.)
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE had given notice, on the Motion for the Second Reading, to move to leave not all words after "That" fur the purpose of inserting the following Resolution: "this House, while fully recognising the importance and urgency in the national interest of the reform of afforestation, declines to approve a measure which seeks (1) to withdraw the subject from control by the departments of Government already entrusted with it in England, Scotland, and Ireland; (2) to divorce it from the local development of agriculture and of small holdings and the social surroundings 230 they require in order to make any system of afforestation effective; and (3) to place the very large expenditure of public money contemplated outside the supervision of Parliament."
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in rising to move the rejection of this Bill I wish at the very outset to make perfectly plain the grounds on which I proceed. That the matter for which it proposes to provide is urgent, no one can hold more strongly than myself. I do not think, even in the Report on which this Bill is founded, that the authors of that Report have fully realised the tremendous seriousness of the question. It is completely true, as the noble Earl has said, that in the development of our forests we have fallen far behind. At one time we were much better than we are to day. There was some stimulus given when ships were built of wood instead of steel. But of late years things became so bad that not only has he in no way exaggerated in the account he gave of the condition of things before the war, but the course of the war was almost to deplete our resources. If the war had gone on for much longer they would have been depleted. Not only was that so, but we are dependent to an extent that perhaps no other nation is upon the import of wood for our industries. Our coal, our building, fifty other industries, are dependent on large supplies of wood which ought to be produced, as far as possible, at home. But this side of things has been almost wholly neglected. Before the war steps were taken to which I will allude in a moment. I think I made it plain that I recognise, as much as any one in this House, that there is an evil which requires a remedy.
§ My case against the Bill is the utter inadequacy of the Government plan. This Lilliputian scheme, with its notion that by setting up a bureaucracy in London you can stimulate into life the people of Scotland, Ireland, and England and can create those communities through whom alone afforestation develops—well, I think it is a delusion which, unfortunately, has had its parallel in many other attempts of the kind which have been undertaken in the past. You cannot separate the kind of population you require for the development of afforestation from social conditions. You must combine in the lives of these people not only their occupations, but the life which they live, the amenities 231 which surround them, the encouragement to settle. If afforestation is to be undertaken on a large scale in this country, it must be undertaken in such a fashion that you will encourage people to settle down more or less in small communities in regions which will often be very remote, and there you must make sure that they find the social surroundings and the stimulus which will induce them to accept the new conditions. In other words, you cannot build up afforestation a part from social conditions. That means that you must not divorce it from agricultural considerations.
§ The noble Earl spoke of this Bill as a Bill upon which there was something like enthusiasm, and I was struck with this reflection as I listened to what he said—Where is the President of the Board of Agriculture, who was in the House a short time ago? Is he showing his enthusiasm for the Bill by his presence? Where was the applause of the Secretary for Scotland who was responsible for this subject when, in its earlier stage, it came before the other House? Where are the representatives of Ireland? Official Ireland has been vocal upon the subject, so that we need not ask the question. The noble Earl has every part of the United Kingdom, the official Voice, and the voice, too, of many of its best experts, against him on the matter.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I dare say he will support you in the Lobby, but I should like to hear him support you in the House. Perhaps Lord Ernle is here. I should like to see a little enthusiasm for this Bill elsewhere among other colleagues of the noble Earl. The Bill is one which proposes to take the mediæval method of recalling devolution and decentralisation as it exists to-day and substituting for it the control of England, Scotland, and Ireland in London.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
Yes, it is in the Bill. There is a body to be set up which is under no Minister responsible to Parliament. That is the answer about expenditure. It is a body set up independent of every other Ministry, and the only local conditions which will obtain in Scotland, Ireland, and England will be that the 232 central body will appoint a sub-commission to go down and minister to the desires of the people to whom they are sent. No wonder that the leading organs of Unionism in Scotland have been denouncing this Bill. The noble Earl, perhaps, reads the Scotsman. If he does so he will have noticed the pained articles endeavouring to say as much as they can for the Government they support but pointing out the outrage that is being done to Scotland by recalling the provisions that exist.
It is quite true that matters are in a very rudimentary and insufficient state. It is quite true that the Boards of Agriculture in England, Scotland, and Ireland have powers which are far too feeble for the task they have to discharge. It is quite true that the Development Commission has not been able to do nearly enough up to now. But it is also true that these bodies were endowed with powers as regards afforestation only within two years antecedent to the war.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
And they got to work in 1910. Between 1910 and the period of the war a good deal of work was started, not on as large a scale as it could be, partly because of the attitude of criticism by the very society of which the noble Earl spoke. But when the noble Earl tells us that, guided by the inspiration which is to come from London, there is to be a much better system of testing, training, and education, under the auspices of this afforestation body than can be given by local Universities or by local bodies set up consisting of those who are keen and anxious to make progress with the subject, he is making a great demand on the credulity of those countries which have been looking for more devolution.
The three great objections I have to this Bill are these. First of all it divorces small holdings and agriculture from sylviculture; secondly, it recalls devolution, so far as it already exists, and proposes to centralise matters; and, in the third place, it is an utterly inadequate conception of the amount of training and research necessary as a preparation for this great industry. Only a trifling percentage of the money which is to be voted is to be applied to research. The noble Earl spoke of research as being something which should be centralised—that you should have a 233 standard test. I entirely agree; only that is not the way. The way to get research is not to put it under a little body of people who are not trained to research. In the United States, where the Federal Government does not administer these things at all, there is an enormous amount of research done in Washington, because it is found that when you put the question of research into the hands of those who are not concerned with particular interests in administration you get the thing done on a larger and finer scale. The finest research' in the world is going on in the bureaux of Washington, which do not touch administration. So it ought to be here.
I am surprised that the noble Earl the Leader of the House listens to the suggestion that the general research which is wanted for sylviculture should be put into the hands of a small technical body like this. His duty is to preside over the general purpose of applying research to industry. He has departments under him, and powers of increasing those departments; and the right place for research in sylviculture (as for anything else), if it is not to be a farce, is that it should be under s Minister who is responsible for it. The noble Earl is the Minister responsible for research, and the noble Earl is the person to whom we look to organise it on a wide scale. It is not a matter to be left to the tender mercies of a small body like, this—a body not fitted by their training to deal with this subject, and not qualified to deal with it on anything like that scale. If you want knowledge and the spirit of high training you must look to the Universities and to those departments which are concerned with research as such. If you want to have high teaching in agriculture you must turn to a body which is not named in the Report—the Imperial College of Science and Technology, of which the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, knows a great deal.
The whole of this plan, so far as it is based and deals with training and research, is Lilliputian. It is safe to prophesy that the remedy for the serious state of matters has been totally misconceived by the Government in producing this Bill, and that it is totally inadequate for the solution of the great problems with which they are charged. The Bill, of course, is only a skeleton. For its flesh and blood you have to look to the Report of the Reconstruction Committee to which the noble 234 Earl referred. Against the early part of that Report I have not a word to say. It is a most instructive document; it gives details. It tells how the 3,000,000 acres which we had afforested in this country was only one-third of what it should have been. It tells how home production was only one-eighth of the total, and how that 2,000,000 acres, and probably 5,000,000 acres, are still available for development and planting. It then goes on to say—and I entirely agree—that long views are necessary in dealing with this problem. It also suggests that in the first ten years there should be an expenditure of close upon £3,500,000, and that in the next period the expenditure should rise to £15,000,000. The noble Earl admits that these are prewar prices; it is therefore a proposition to spend something between £25,000,000 and £40,000,000 out of public funds that we are dealing with at this moment.
I think it is a very serious thing in these days that the Government should propose to spend what may be £40,000,000 out of public moneys and take it entirely out of the control of Parliament. The proposition is not that this money should be produced year by year from the Estimates. It is to come out of the Consolidated Fund; and no doubt as it is doled out of the Consolidated Fund by the Treasury, Parliament will have a right to deal with the matter, but there is no Minister responsible to Parliament, and there is no means by which Parliament can get that efficient criticism which it would have if the matter came, before it on the Estimates,
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
Where does it come on the Estimates? How can money which comes out of the Consolidated Fund be made a matter of discussion on the Estimates? This is a charge on the Consolidated Fund.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
May I read the words of the Bill? They are "Provided that the amount to be so issued and paid in each year shall be such as Parliament may determine." Parliament cannot determine except, in my opinion, by means of Estimates.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
And pray who is the Minister who is going to present the Estimates, and who will be responsible to 235 Parliament to explain them? He does not exist, and it is intended he should not exist. There is a most illuminating Report, by way of being a dissenting Report, by Lord Lovat, a most able Peer who has given great attention to this subject and has great knowledge of it, and who might have said things which would have been very valuable if he had not been under the influence of preconceived notions. From the Report it is quite plain why this was done. It says—The creation of a single forest authority for the British Isles is required—firstly, and principally, to make a definite break with the past, to get, out of the welter of conflicting authorities, and to escape from the arena of party politics—And then it goes on—Thirdly, to constitute a body who can…decide on purely forestal grounds the conflicting claims of the various countries, unbiassed by local or political pressure.In other words, you want to keep this out of the hands of the House of Commons and to leave it in the hands of those who are not accountable to Parliament, with the result which we all know when anybody is put in that position for a certain number of years and begins to think of himself as irremovable. He is not under the same sort of obligation that people are under who have to be accountable at every turn, and you find the break-down of that which goes with adequate supervision.
The Bill transfers to this new body all the powers relating to forestry possessed by the Boards of Agriculture in Scotland, Ireland, and England, and it confers upon that new body the powers of purchasing and leasing land, dealing in timber, and so on. It enables them to grant loans for afforestation to private persons and public bodies, and there is a curious provision that if there is a profit it is to be taken by the Commissioners. How that is to be ascertained does not appear. It also says that provision is to be taken for the prevention of damage by rabbits and vermin, including squirrels. Nothing is said about deer and black game. Would it be unfair to ask the noble Earl what is the meaning of this? Does it not seem odd that the greatest enemies of trees—namely, deer and black game—are not mentioned, when you find that provision is made against rabbits and vermin, including squirrels?
To sum up the objections to this policy, I will ask your Lordships to contract the scheme of the Bill as I have described it 236 with what the Bill might have been. It might have been a Bill setting up research on the real footing it would have been had it been developed as some of the heads of research have been developed under the noble Earl opposite—research into topics connected with forestry available for the whole of the United Kingdom. You would have taken the Universities and recognised them. In this Report there is great ignoring of the real work done by the Universities. It is said that two University centres are enough—two centres of higher instruction! Is Oxford to be one?—Oxford, which is conspicuously devoid of everything that goes to make for complete conditions for the study of sylviculture. Cambridge has a real School of Forestry, and is doing fine work; it is the only one of the two Universities which is, so far as I know. No mention is made of Edinburgh, where there has been established a special degree for forestry, and where fifty students were working just before the war. Unless you take the thing in hand seriously, and encourage the training of those who are to go into this great branch of applied science on a high level—as high as that which a well-equipped University provides—you are sure to fail. This Report only devotes two pages to the question of education, and I see at once why, because looking about amongst the names of those who are responsible for the Report, though they are admirable men, eminent in every department of life, the academic flavour—the flavour of the kind of research which goes to the making of efficient and thorough practice—is wanting.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
That is most unjust to persons like Mr. T. H. Middleton and Professor Sir William Schlich.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I am talking at this moment of the sort of men who have been developing, and developing enormously, the whole body of our knowledge with regard to the growth of trees.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
Dear me, no! You have not got anything like what you require on the educational side, and when you look into the Report it is obvious that it is so. This Report is conceived, as we 237 are all apt to conceive things in England, on the notion that you can act first and think afterwards. The thinking side is most wanted, and anybody who observes the contrast between the way in which these things are worked out on the Continent and here, cannot fail to be struck with the difference. Then I come to another thing. How can you hope to develop the population which you want for sylviculture if you proceed on the footing of denying to those districts what they regard as their local authority? Why do you not take the Departments in England, Scotland, and Ireland and develop their powers? You may carry this Bill—possibly it may be carried by the other House—but of this I am certain, that there will be an agitation for its repeal, of a most violent character, very soon after it is passed. If you had not taken away from people what they are thoroughly capable of doing if they are given the necessary power—the Development Commission has given more attention to the scientific side of this matter than the whole of what is put in that Report together—you would have been further on than you are at the present date. The noble Earl knows that I allude to the conflict that has taken place on matters of administration, and so on, which gave rise to a most unseemly controversy.
What is wrong is that the whole matter has been initiated on too narrow a basis. "You ought to have brought together your great Landowners, your great men of science, and your great teachers. You ought to have brought together along with them those who are interested in developing the local communities which are required for the development of sylviculture, and you ought not to have been led away by false analogies. It is all very well to speak of France, but the case of France is totally different from the case of this country. In France the State possesses and has possessed great State forests, and all that has to be done is to maintain and look after them and take care of the population associated with them. For that reason the Department of the Government in France which deals with them is charged not merely with forestry but with a multitude of other things—for instance, with the water supply of the neighbourhood. The result is that in and around the French forests there is a population which has grown up and is maintained there. 238 There are many other occupations to engage these people.
If sylviculture is to flourish here, you will have to produce your forests first. That is true; but you will also have to find occupations for your people at the time when they are not engaged on forest work. The work of agriculture does not go on, so I am informed the highest authorities, at just the same time of the year as the work of sylviculture. The work of the sylviculture side is done in the main the winter and spring, and the agricultural work is done in the main at other times. By organisation you can find a certain continuity of employment. Moreover you can develop a considerable number of industries among the smallholders whom you have there, such as the making of wooden goods and a number of other things. How is that to be done by a sub-commission going down from London and taking charge of the affairs of the people in Kerry, or wherever the region may be where these, operations are demanded?
You cannot solve these problems in that fashion. You can only solve them if you will work your authority on a larger, wider and more thorough-going basis than anything which this Bill seems to dream of, so getting into the life and minds of the people the sense that what is being done is part of their national development and not something done merely at the instigation of a body sitting somewhere in Whitehall. The broad objections which I have to this Bill, therefore, go to the root of the whole matter. The evil to be redressed is so serious that I shrink very much from putting difficulty in the way of anything that is attempted to be done to remedy it, but so convinced am I that this attempt, based on the narrow grounds, will fail, and is bound to fail, that I feel the best course is to take this objection to it at the very beginning. If this Bill goes forward I am sure that it will not only give rise to disappointment, but will throw back the progress of the very cause which it was designed to further, and it is because I think that, and because I think it is a thoroughly retrograde and bad Bill, that I ask your Lordships not to assent to the Second Reading.
Leave out all words after "That" for the purpose of inserting the following Resolution: "this House, while fully recognising the importance and urgency in the national interest of the reform of
afforestation, declines to approve a measure which seeks (1) to withdraw the subject from control by the departments of Government already entrusted with it in England, Scotland and Ireland; (2) to divorce it from the local development of agriculture and of small holdings and the social surroundings they require in order to make any system of afforestation effective; and (3) to place the very large expenditure of public money contemplated outside the supervision of Parliament."—(Viscount Haldane.)
§ LORD CLINTON
My Lords, I feel certain that those of your Lordships and those in the country generally who are interested in afforestation welcome very much the introduction of this measure, and will accept it as an indication that at last, after a great number of years of discussion, a Government has seen for itself the very serious nature of the timber position in this country, and is bringing forward a Bill on adequate lines to deal with it. We have had in the last thirty years a very large number of Commissions inquiring into this matter. Nearly all of them have recommended some form or another of education. In a certain number of those cases Governments have taken up the matter, and education has been advanced a stage. It has not gone very far, but at the same time it has laid a very important foundation upon which to build a forestry scheme in the future. There were two Commissions at least which put forward practical schemes of afforestation, the Commissions of 1907 and 1908, but in both cases the Government of the day shied at the cost, and no action was taken. My noble friend has told your Lordships of the enormous sum that we had to pay during the first two years of the war in consequence of no scheme having been carried out—a sum which would have financed many times over probably the most extravagant scheme of afforestation which has ever been before Parliament. Because we lost the opportunity in those days we have suffered very seriously.
The noble Viscount who has opposed the Second Reading of this measure has agreed regarding the very serious nature of the position. It needs no words to tell your Lordships what that position is. It is not only at the moment that we are dependent on abroad for nine-tenths of the timber used in this country, but the demand for that timber is always increasing, so much so that in the last fifty years, I believe, the amount of timber used per head in this country has increased from 3 cubic feet to 10 cubic feet per head, and that in spite 240 of the fact that every sort of substitute I has been brought and used in the place of timber. Our demands for timber are always increasing, and there is little prospect of an additional supply. The supply of the world is not increasing. We know that the main supply of the Empire in Canada, vast reserve as it is, is disappearing at a rate very much greater than its annual growth. It is not only the lumber companies, which are doing a great work in the forests of the West, but the ravages of fire. These fires burn not only the undergrowth but they even attack from time to time the larger timber, and I believe it is a fact that in Canada alone three times as much timber is destroyed by fire as is brought into use. Last week in The Times newspaper your Lordships may have seen that a fire was raging in Alberta, and that it has already destroyed 30,000,000 cubic feet of timber in that province.
The country from which we are mostly dependent for our supply is Russia, and the same position in regard to fire exists, we believe, in that country. There is no intensive cultivation, and no scientific regeneration. And it is clear that there, as elsewhere, the consumption of timber is greater than the annual supply. Secondly, we are bound to come to the conclusion that a time must come when, owing to the increasing demand and the lessening supply of timber, the demand will exceed the supply, and we shall not get what is required for our use. All our large industries are dependent upon a proper supply of timber. We have cut very largely into our resources. We see comparatively little prospect of getting an increased supply from the countries which have already provided us with timber. If this conclusion that I have come to is correct, it is clear that the Government is absolutely bound to take such steps as may be necessary to create a supply without delay, The noble Viscount opposite, although he is agreed as to the real danger of the timber position, considers that we may fairly trust to those methods which we have adopted in the past of obtaining that supply.
§ LORD CLINTON
That is to say, put it into the hands of these same Boards and Commissions and Departments as have been carrying on the work of afforestation 241 in the past. I think most people in the country will judge those. Departments by the practical results of what they have done. Can the noble Viscount say that the work of those Departments has had any serious effect whatever on the timber supply of this country?
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
No. I did not say that. I said that you ought to aim at improving those Departments and at building them up, and I tried to explain how you could do it, instead of taking all their work away and putting it into different hands.
§ LORD CLINTON
We have been trying to build up these Departments for twenty-five years, and the result is that we are no better off for timber than we were before. We are still the worst timber-producing country, with one exception, I think, in the world. And I am very much afraid that practical people will not agree with the noble Viscount and think it is wise to go back to those Departments which have failed us in the past. It is not my arty to criticise the work of those Departments. They may have had—they undoubtedly have had—great difficulties, more perhaps than I have any knowledge of. But the reason why the noble Viscount thinks that one of them, the Development Commission, has not carried out the full work of afforestation is that it has not the full means for the purpose.
§ LORD CLINTON
The noble Viscount nods his head. Now, may we go into those figures? There have been considerable means placed at the disposal of that Commission. I think since their institution about nine years ago, either by grant or by way of loan, they have had to spend something like £2,500,000. Will the noble Viscount remark that when that Development Commission was brought into being it was for the purposes of afforestation and agriculture? Afforestation, I think, came first. When that measure was introduced the present Prime Minister said that he hoped that it might bring about a large and increasing extension of the timber supply of this country. But what the Development Commission spent on agriculture out of that £2,500,000 is £1,500,000—considerably more than half of the whole. What they have spent on afforestation, including 242 loans, is under £250,000. On that I do not think the noble Viscount is entitled to say that if the Development Commission had larger funds they would have been able to do more. They have not used the funds at their disposal for the purposes of afforestation.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
The Development Commission said you must get knowledge before you expend your money, otherwise it would be thrown away, and they did that. They have had an educational policy at their very front.
§ LORD CLINTON
Every one will agree with the noble Viscount that it would be very unwise to start the work until you have learnt how to do it. There was a good deal of knowledge in this country already. There was much less scientific knowledge than ought to have been collected by the people concerned. But you cannot begin and end with education; you must carry on your work in these very difficult times alongside your education. And I am quite certain that if the noble Viscount found nine years hence that the Commission which will be appointed under this Bill had done nothing but educational work he would say they were very much in fault.
We complain of the Development Commission and of these other Boards because they have not got down to practical work, and they have had no effect on the timber supply of this country. There is, I think, quite sufficient reason why they have not got down to practical afforestation work. I think my noble friend below me dealt with the question slightly, but I should like to say one word about it. It is because with not one of those Boards or Commissions has afforestation been their primary work. It has always been a matter to them of secondary importance. It has been tacked on to them after they were formed. It is not work for which they were ever constituted, or in which they were interested. And all those bodies have had enormous pressure brought to bear upon them from thousands of people interested in the main duties for which they were constituted in order to obtain assistance in carrying out those duties, but the pressure for afforestation—which after all, unfortunately, does not interest many people—was not brought to bear, and quite naturally they spent their funds upon other purposes. The fact that the Board were not interested in the subject has been the 243 death of afforestation in this country. To carry on afforestation properly you want not only knowledge and energy, but you want interest and enthusiasm. Unless you have that you cannot have the driving force behind you which will make you carry out an afforestation scheme. And unless this work is given to a body whose main and full duty is afforestation I do not think you will ever get it.
In connection with the finance of the Bill my noble friend has pointed out that this financial clause was framed before the present great rise in cost had come about, and consequently the whole scheme would not be covered. It has been suggested that grants or arrangements may be made with private owners for carrying on the work. It will be of enormous importance to the State if they can persuade owners to do some part of the work. We must have timber in the country in some way. We must have it profitably if we can, and I am afraid it is quite clear that with the present cost, and, above all, the present value of money the most profitable way of growing timber will be to persuade somebody else to do it for you, even if you have to give him a considerable cash inducement to do so.
The proposal in the Repast in Mr. Acland's Committee was that a grant should be made to owners to encourage them to go on with the work. It was a very small grant, small even in relation to the cost of planting at the time it was proposed, but insignificant in proportion to the cost of planting at this moment. But under this Bill there is a proviso, I think, to Clause 3, saying that when there is a profit upon growing any crop of timber which has been grown with the assistance of the Government grant so much of that profit as may be attributable to the particular grant shall be returned to the Government. I would like to point out to my noble friend, first of all, that we are very anxious to know what is the meaning of profit. Does it mean what remains over to the owner after he has spent his first capital, and then accumulated at 5 per cent. compound interest on that capital, his annual cost of management, of supervision, of rates and taxes, and death duties when they occur up to the period of maturity? If that is what you mean by profit, then I do not think that the Government is going to get very much.
244 My objection to it, however, is not because the Government will get very little but because of the immense trouble there will be to owners and also to the Commission in arriving at what really has been spent year after year upon a few acres of woodland which may be, and will be, separated over many different parts of the country. I really think that the trouble in getting out these calculations will stop altogether any possible encouragement there may be in connection with this grant, and you will not get the assistance of owners in planting which I think it is of very great importance to the State that it should get. I think my noble friend may drop that particular proviso; and I think it is worth his consideration whether it would not be sufficient to say that when an owner had accepted a grant from the Commission the State itself should have a lien over the forest, and should be entitled to purchase it any time for its own purposes. That would give the State sufficient control over the spending of this money, and at the same time do away with these difficulties in accounting as between the private owner and the State. In conclusion, I hope that the Bill will receive a Second Reading. It appears to me to be a measure under which we shall get some amount of timberland planted in thin country, and I trust that it may be obtained without any undue delay.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
My Lords, I confess that I address von with some doubt and trepidation though I am one who in a small way has attempted to plant trees—sometimes with some success and at other times with very poor success. At the same time I am only too anxious to learn what I can; and to-night especially I should like to ascertain with regard to this Bill exactly what it is wished to do.
The noble Earl who introduced the measure drew a very gloomy picture of the state of our woods—I ant afraid none too gloomy—and also of the enormous bill which we have had to pay during the war for timber imported from overseas. I listened very carefully to his opening remarks in order to hear how this was to be remedied in the future. I heard his explanation of the Bill, and I was much interested in his remarks on the question of training and investigation. I also paid close attention to the remarks of the noble and learned Viscount who moved the rejection of the Bill. But during all those remarks 245 I confess that I heard very little about what the Government, proposed to do to make up for the sad deficiency of timber. After all, the chief point we have to consider is that at the beginning of the war we had a very insufficient, supply of timber in this country. The noble Earl said that we had to import, a great deal, and he hoped that this would not occur again. I should imagine that the immediate answer to that on the part of the ordinary man would be, "If it is thought to be for the nation's good that we should be self-supporting in the matter of timber, and be ready for another great war, the first thing to do is to plant the trees as quickly as possible." It is much the same sort of position with the housing question. I am not quite certain that there has not been more talk about housing than about building houses.
If it is necessary that we should have a sufficient supply of timber in the event of another war, surely the chief thing to do is to plant the trees at once. But we get headed off from that and plunged into questions of research, commissions, investigations, education, and a great many other points. I lay no claim to be a timber expert, but the thing is surely not so extraordinarily difficult as to make it necessary for all these scientific gentlemen to meet together to set up commissions, and to have so many learned discussions on the subject. If we are going to supply timber for this country the wood which is chiefly required is the soft wood of fir trees. There is no particular mystery about the growing of fir trees. No doubt a great many people differ on the subject of planting. Some think that larch is planted on land suitable for spruce; others think that spruce should be planted where fir ought to grow. From my small experience I should say that there are as many opinions as there are scientific people who tell you about the matter. The people who know the particular locality can generally tell you what trees will grow there. It seems to me that if there really is a genuine desire to make the country self-supporting in the way of timber the principal thing to do, instead of setting up commissions and appointing lecturers and professors, is to set to work and employ people to rear the trees and then to dig the holes in which to plant them.
There have been failures, of course. When you have set up all these colleges for 246 research and appointed these teachers you will have as many failures in the future. I will give a small example which, perhaps, has been one of the saddest things in connection with timber in this country. I refer to the larch tree. We all know that before the war the only timber out of which there was any chance of making a profit was a larch plantation, and, if properly managed, it did just pay. Suddenly a large number of people spent big sums of money in planting larch plantations. Then the larch disease appeared. In many districts in England, Scotland, and Wales all the larch trees were destroyed by a pest. I am the last person to run down research and investigation, but there have been marry learned people dealing with these matters and many have looked into the' question of the larch disease; I have received hundreds of pamphlets on the subject; and although I have unfortunately now forgotten them, at one time I was-very learned about the life history of the pests which destroyed the larch. Yet I never found out what I chiefly wanted to know—namely, how the pest was to be killed and how the disease was to be overcome. I am one of those who believe that however many centres of research you have, however many Chairs you have at the Universities to find out these matters, there are things which defeat the scientists, and we suffer from these various plagues with the consequent grave losses. I mention that question because in this debate I think a little too much stress has been laid on the questions of training, Of education, and of scientific research. I for one certainly think that though greater grants should, perhaps, be given to our Universities to assist in this matter, the main principle of any serious effort to make this country self-supporting in timber is to plant trees.
Now we come to the question of the Bill—how the trees are going to be planted. I am subject to correction, but I understand that a sum of £3,500,000 has been laid aside for this purpose in the next ten years. That is not going to do much. It is going to do very little indeed if, out of the proceeds of that £3,500,000, you are going to pay three Commissioners, probably the expenses of four more Commissioners, the expenses of Assistant Commissioners and the large staff of which the noble Earl spoke when he moved the Second Reading. In fact, one of the chief arguments in favour of this Bill was that 247 there was going to be a large Department and consequently people would have a chance of rising in it; that people who entered this Department would have a great future before them. In addition to that you have to set up a superannuation scheme to pension these gentlemen when they are no longer wanted. Personally, I think your £3,500;000 is going to be frittered away and that precious few trees will be planted.
If you come to the crucial point, first of all do you want the individual owner to plant? If you do, I think you will have to make different provisions than there are in this Bill. The noble Lord who has just spoken referred to that very complicated proviso at the end of Clause 4 which I confess I do not understand. I, do not know how the profits, it any, are to be divided. I think there should be a special red line placed under the words "if any" The proviso is not intelligible. It is not clear from it how the profits are to be divided. As far as I can see there are, only two methods under which trees are going to be planted. They are either that the Commissioners will make grants to private owners to help them plant woods again, or else they will buy land and plant woods themselves. Personally, I should have preferred a Bill boldly stating that you were going to set up a small Commission which would buy land and that the money would be devoted to planting trees. I think that could be worked with a training school and that it would be a practical proposition.
I am very much afraid that this Bill is "neither flesh, fish, fowl, nor good red herring." I do not know whether it is a Bill fur teaching foresters to go in for research and science or whether it is a Bill to supply this country with timber in the next forty or sixty or eighty years. As I said before, I am not one in time least to belittle the advice of people who have made forestry a great study, but I have been singularly disappointed in the past by Government efforts to assist in any way private persons in this matter. We heard a great deal at one time about the Government having purchased an estate in Scotland. I think it was about the year 1909. We heard that they had planted a tract of country there and that we were going to learn how we ought to manage our woods. I eagerly took up the Report of the first year's proceedings under this re-afforestation 248 scheme. Having read a good deal about the difficulties there, I finally read that in the first year the rabbits had eaten up a good many of the trees. Really one need not employ a Government Department and scientific people to teach you that rabbits eat trees. Yet that was the only information which was contained in the first Report which we had of this great scheme set up in Scotland. If noble Lords like to turn up the Report they will find that that is the information they receive from it. I may be quite wrong and I should be only too pleased, if any other noble Lord speaks from the Government Bench, to learn that I am wrong in my conception of the Bill, and that by this Bill millions of acres will be replanted, that private owners will receive every encouragement and that the State will purchase land and plant trees itself. But certainly, from listening to the speech of the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading, I confess I thought a great deal of the money was going to be spent on a new Department that was going to be set up and that we were going to have a considerable number of officials.
I do not quite know how far their powers will go, but it seems to me doubtful whether they will not be able to enter upon our land as they like, to inspect. all our woods and tell us what we ought to do, whether we like it or not, and whether we know better than they or they know better than we, or whether they will interfere with anybody who is doing his best for forestry. During the past four and a-half years I have had experience of Government control. If the Government are going to help I should be very pleased that they should do so. But I will say this, I do not think there is any particular mystery in planting the Scotch fir and larch trees in this country. If it is really necessary that as speedily as possible we should try to restore our forest-growing areas in this country, the first necessity is that the Government themselves should set to work to plant trees and also by every means in their power help private owners to do so.
I will say only one other thing in conclusion. I believe far more help could be given to the production of timber in this country and the encouragment of private owners to plant trees if something further was done in connection with the taxation of woodlands. After all, that is the main crux of the question. The moment a thing gives the least promise of being 249 profitable private people will step in and plant trees, and I believe they will plant them successfully. So long as they think the Government of the day is going to treat timber, which is a very uncertain thing, in an unfair way as regards taxation, so long, I am certain, will the planting of timber in this country be hampered. I may speak with some little pride on this question, because I think I was the first person in another place who got the Government of the day to agree, in an Amendment under the Finance Bill, that trees should pay only one lot of estate duty—that is to say, when they are cut down and realised. Up to that time it might happen that growing timber might pay Estate Duty three or four times over before being cut down. I pointed out the extreme unfairness of it and it was recognised by the Government, although a good many societies interested in arboriculture have taken a good deal of the credit in the matter. It was an Amendment that I moved several years ago in another place which, for the first time, secured from the Government recognition of the fact that if you wanted trees to be planted you must deal fairly with the owners as regards taxation.
Though I know that at the present moment concessions have been made under the Finance Act as regards the occupiers of woodlands and than woodlands are no longer assessed under schedule B at double income tax, I still think those concessions ought to go considerably further, considering what an extraordinary risk there is about the growing of timber. After all when we come to deal with this question, it is not only a scientific question as to whether you always put in the right tree or lop off the right branch. There are a good many things which the scientists cannot help. They cannot help a sudden pest which kills the trees; they cannot help snow storms or gales and, considering the hundred and one enemies which face the person who plants trees, I say it is only fair and right that the Government should give every consideration to that person as regards taxation. In my opinion, still further recognition of that fact in future Finance Bills would have a greater effect in getting trees planted in the country than the setting up of this body of Commissioners who are to spend a good deal of money in teaching experts and scientific people to find out what is, perhaps, known already.
THE DUKE OF SUTHERLAND
My Lords, it is not my intention to detain your Lordships more than two or three minutes, but I should like to take the opportunity of saying that the present situation has become, a rather serious one. Any one who has during the last few months travelled, through our once wonderful woodlands in any part of this country, either in England or Scotland, cannot fail to have noticed the terrible barrenness, almost devastation, that is apparent in all directions. In places where before noble trees reared their heads there is now nothing but barren wastes. This is a sacrifice that has been made by this country to the war, and we gladly and ungrudgingly have made this sacrifice in the same way that we have in money and in lives. But now, my Lords, the time has come to repair these great wastes and to bring forward some measure that will co-ordinate the action of the various authorities.
For many years various authorities have-been responsible for afforestation, and during those years precious little has been done. We have now before us a Bill in which I know for a fact that two or three very energetic and eminent men are going to take a leading part as Commissioners. Even before the war there was a great need for some co-ordination, and I think the time has far passed when the matter was last taken up. A great many years ago the so-called deer forests of the Highlands of Scotland were really great forests amongst which wandered the early Picts and Scots. These trees have gradually fallen down and perished, and now form the great peat beds upon which every Highlander depends for his fuel for all purposes. Now other animals, such as sheep and deer, wander over these desolate wastes, and except for the small clumps of trees in the sheltered valleys there is no attempt to utilise these great stretches of country by planting. I am not one to suggest that trees will grow on the tops of mountains, but there are great tracts of country where woodlands could be satisfactorily established, and where a great and growing industry could be carried on for the betterment of the Highlands.
I shall not attempt to enter into the practical details of this Bill. I am only attempting to show that its general principle is right. It is important to see that all young trees that are planted anywhere near tire deer forests are thoroughly and 251 safely wired in. I do not consider that deer come under the head of vermin. Rabbits and vermin must be ruthlessly destroyed in the proximity of any young timber. The replanting of our woodlands is an all important matter and we cannot leave it to private initiative. Private landowners in Scotland, at any rate, would be faced with a great deal of opposition if they attempted to enclose for replanting woodlands which have been used for the grazing of stock by farmers and crofters. For a time it must mean a reduction in the grazing areas available, but later it will fully repay any loss on this head, and it is essential for the nation to possess a great reserve of timber for another national emergency such as the last one and thus be self-supporting in this direction.
Afforestation should, if properly conducted on these lines, be a great source of wealth to the nation and as much a staple trade as farming and food production, more especially in view of the coming world shortage of timber and the consequent enhanced prices. Timber in Sweden is practically exhausted, and as time goes on we shall have to go further and further afield for our requirements. We shall have to go to Newfoundland, Western Canada, East Africa, and to the Central African forests, with the consequent great cost of marketing and shipping freights. Another reason why private endeavour is not more marked in the direction of planting on an extensive scale at the present day is that the period between planting and cutting would in most soils be a very long one, and the same man who sows could never reap the crop. The landowner's future is such an uncertain one in this country that he naturally hesitates before embarking a large amount of capital in a scheme of which he himself will probably never see the fulfilment. It is therefore a matter that must be taken up by the State on the lines of the Bill before your Lordships' House.
My Lords, I would like with your permission to deal with one or two points which have been raised by noble Lords on bath sides of the House and also by the noble Viscount. I think the Government may be satisfied because they have been criticised, on the one hand that research and education is dealt with it such a liberal manner, and on the other that too much money is going to be spent in research and education and not enough in the planting of trees. If the Government have 252 arrived at the happy medium I congratulate them and also congratulate my fellow members on the Committee who put certain views before the Government on the subject.
May I assure the noble Viscount—I do not know what the Government's intentiors are—that as far as the discussions went on the Reconstruction Sub-Committee and the Interim Authority it has been made clear, and the noble Viscount will see it if he reads that Report, that we unanimously arrived at the opinion that the time had come when some trees should be planted. If he will read further in that. Committee's Report he will see that the amount of timber which it was suggested should be planted in the first ten years is 250,000 acres, of which a portion will be planted by the State and a portion it is hoped by private enterprise, aided by the State and by expert advice.
As to the question of personnel, which the noble Viscount raised, may I assure him, as one who has gone closely into the question, that it is quite certain you will have a smaller number of officials if you have a central authority than if you had uncontrolled research and education going on in three different parts of the country with no connection one with the other. It is one of the central ideas that if you have one organisation which will give a lead and indication which way research is to go, you will necessarily have the ground covered in a better way than if you have three different departments, all running on uncontrolled lines. The noble Viscount took the Earl of Crawford to task for saying there was a chance of promotion. Surely it is better to have one single forestry service right through the country, so that there may be billets going which will attract the best brains. I at once join issue on certain remarks of the noble Viscount. In America and France they have one service, and so you get this promotion, and having a large organisation you are able to pay good salaries to the men at the top. Unless you have attractive billets to offer you will certainly not attract the best class of men, and you will not have those billets to offer if you have three smaller organisations for the three countries.
So much for the points which the noble Earl raised on the speech of the noble Viscount. I have no authority to speak for anybody but myself, but I should like to say that the speech of the noble Viscount 253 was a most unfair one. He put intentions into the Bill, and he made statements about the Reconstruction Committee, which I think when he reads them in cold print to-morrow he will see had no justification. I will further say that the noble Viscount had not really read his brief very carefully. I will come to one or two matters shortly. The noble Viscount reads into the Bill intentions which I do not believe exist, unless the whole policy thought out by the Reconstruction Committee and acted on by the Interim Authority is to be thrown over by the permanent authority when created. For instance, such matters as research, which the noble Viscount says is viewed from a niggardly point of view. May I assure him that the very first action of the Chairman of the Interim Authority was at once to put himself and the Interim Authority in Communication with the Imperial College of Science.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
Did he communicate with the noble Earl, who is the Minister responsible for this?
I cannot say His Majesty's Government and the members of the Front Bench have for the past six months had their time fully occupied. The Interim Authroity has surely got a right to carry out the work for which it is appointed. In the same acts one of the first acts of the Interim Authority was to go to Edinburgh and get in touch with the work that was being done there. At Oxford and Cambridge we have had frequent meetings with those principally concerned with education, and work has been done in certain inquiries which was not done in the whole of the ten years when the Development Commissioners held the reins of office. I submit that the noble Viscount makes a very unjust criticism if he thinks the Interim Authority and the, future authority are not going to carry on this research work. The research will be done by the Universities, but guided from a centre, instead of having the work duplicated in half a dozen directions as it is to-day. You will have one ad hoc body seeing that these important schemes are thoroughly carried out.
I do not want to say anything in criticism of either the Board of Agriculture or of the Development Commission, but really if one 254 compares what has been done here in Great Britain with what has been done in France, where you have a single authority and a single control, the difference really speaks for itself. In this country, until the Interim Authority had a report made On the question of the devastation of woods I do not know that there had been any report. I would submit that there should have been a definite programme on this question, such as they have in France. If you had a single authority thinking out schemes for the whole of Great Britain you would save tens or hundreds of thousands, and probably millions, of pounds. Then, again, if the noble Viscount chooses to read the Report of the Reconstruction Committee he will see what the Development Commission actually did. In the planting of trees they did practically nil, and the amount of construction work done in the ten years is also not great. No survey was made. One of the first actions of the Interim Authority was to collate and bring together the surveys of Great Britain, including. such matters as what trees would grow in various areas. None of that work had been done, though it ought to have been the first work of any authority which had been running for ten years.
Therefore, my Lords, for the noble Viscount to say that the Interim Authority or the Reconstruction Committee approached this subject from a narrow-minded or small-minded point of view is unjustified. The next point to which I would like to refer relates to the remarks of the noble Viscount on the subject of small holdings in connection with forestry. I would like at once to join issue with him on the statements he has made. I would like to point out that in the Report of the Reconstruction Committee, at page 28, he will find that we have laid it down that small holdings must go hand in hand with forestry. That is not true of Great Britain only. It is equally true of forestry in France, where you will see around every large forest a very large number of small holdings. In this connection may I put it quite clearly how simple is the distinction between what is really forestry work and what is the small holding work of the Board of Agriculture. The Forestry Authority is concerned with land which cannot be ploughed. The land which is under 5s. value per acre, which is either so poor for grazing purposes or cannot be ploughed, primarily is the interest of the Forestry Department. The agricultural land or heavy grazing land, 255 which is worth over 5s. an acre and therefore is too expensive to plant, is primarily the concern of the Board of Agriculture. In the purchase of any estate or piece of land in which the two are concerned there will naturally be an interchange of ideas between the forest authority and the local Board of Agriculture, and it would be decided which land should be taken for forestry and which should be for agricultural purposes. The forest Authority will merely concern itself with the planting of trees and with those individuals who are permanently occupied in forestry—that is to say the forest officer, or the local woodman, and the planters and sawyers and so on. The rest of the land will be handed over to the Board of Agriculture to create that number of small holdings which will give permanent employment throughout the year to the men. There is no overlapping. You will have agriculture for the Board of Agriculture and forestry for the ad hoc Authority. The matter is perfectly simple and it is being done every day in Scotland. There, if more small holdings are required, the agent deals with the question of small holdings, while the forester deals with all arrangements under which the forestry will be done. The noble Viscount stated that a Sub-Commissioner will go down from London to settle the small holders' affairs. I do not think the noble Viscount has read the Bill. The Sub-Commissioner is a resident person in each country. There is a Sub-Commissioner for England, for Scotland, and for Ireland. To say, therefore, that a Sub-Commissioner will come down from London is either ridiculous, or is a wilful statement of what is not in the Bill.
I beg the noble Lord's pardon. I do not wish to be taken from my point. Your Lordships will bear me out when I say that the noble Viscount stated that "the Sub-Commissioner would come down from London to settle the smallholders' affairs."
I do not think the noble Viscount's words convey exactly what is in the Bill. The other point dealt with by the noble Viscount was that it would be most advantageous that the existing bodies should carry on the work. I do not wish to say more than a word on this. Existing bodies have had from ten to forty years' control, and they have not done the work. If your Lordships will return to the Report of the Committee you will see that pages 7 and 9—practically two and a-half pages—cover the Committees which have sat—Departmental Committees, Royal Commissions, local inquiries and I know not what else. Yet nothing has been done. The first date goes back to 1833. I was reading a day or two ago that we had inquiries even before that. In the previous century—in 1700—an inquiry was undertaken, but no action has been taken. Money has been spent, as was pointed out by Lord Clinton. For Scotland it was voted under two heads—under the Reconstruction Committee and under the Small Holdings Act of 1911. Still the sum total of action in Scotland at the time the Reconstruction Committee reported is represented by only some 100 acres planted. In view, therefore, of the failure of the past we think it is worth while to consider whether a body should not be appointed which has the time and the driving power to put the matter through.
May I assure the noble Lord that after seeing three or four weeks' work of the Committee I am appalled at the amount of work to be done before forestry can be put in a position in which an orderly start can be made. I am sure that the intention of the Board of Agriculture and the Reconstruction Committee has been excellent throughout, but I am quite certain that a very much greater work requires to be done in view of the reconstruction programme that is before them. They have not had the time in the past to do all that was required, and they certainly cannot have the time in the future to put forward a forestry policy on adequate lines. I think that is the strongest argument in favour of a central authority with local executives. That will provide the driving power which is necessary. I should like to take exception both to the noble Lord's speech to-night, and also to the statements continually made in the public Press, that 257 there is no real local executive. The central authority as is seen by the Bill will be a small controlling body. It will lay down the broad lines of policy in order to make it one worthy of the big purpose in view. The control of this authority is subject to review annually when the Vote comes up in the House of Commons. The local executive work will be done entirely in the various countries and. I do not think it can be contended that Scotland is not going to be better off that it would be if it had its own control. It is quite obvious that Scotland according to the Report of the Reconstruction Committee will be very much better off than it was going to be under the usual grants made by Parliament. For these reasons I think we must hold that a single authority is required if you are to have a real forest policy, and to avoid the dual control which would necessarily come if you had an ad hoc authority governing the broad principles of forestry. You must have some control.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, I shall only stand one very brief moment between the House and the Division. As the Forestry Sub-committee on whose Report this Bill is based was appointed by Mr. Asquith on my recommendation when I was President of the Board of Agriculture, I should like to say something. In the first place, very soon it was impressed upon me, when I held that office; that the present provision for dealing with forestry was wholly inadequate. I will go further and say that I became personally convinced that without a centralised authority it is quite impossible that forestry could take its place as a national industry. In the second place, when we had, at war, to deal with the question of timber supply, we found at once that it could be dealt with only through a central authority. All the peace arrangements for dealing with forestry separately in the three parts of the United Kingdom were scrapped, and the whole thing was put in the hand of a central authority. Thirdly, we became absolutely convinced, if this country should by any great and terrible misfortune be caught again by a great war within the next half century, that unless the forests had been developed in this country in the meantime our position would be most parlous, because the supply of timber for the country's need for military purposes or for the coal mines could not possibly be calculated on in the future, and this 258 country would have been exhausted. Therefore this question of afforestation became part of the national problem of defence. Then the Forestry Committee was appointed. You have the Report before you, and I want to say in conclusion that I think the country owes a debt of gratitude to my right hon. friend Mr. Francis Acland, who presided over the Forestry Committee. He has been doing the work of the Interim Authority and if forestry is put in its true position as a great national industry the statue of Mr. Franics Acland ought to be put in the entrance hall of the Office.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.