Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £90, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the
year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Commissioner for Special Areas (Scotland) and the Expenses of the Commissioner under the Special Areas (Development and Improvement) Act, 1934, including Grants in Aid."—[NOTE: £10 has been voted on account.]
I am glad of the opportunity of giving the Committee some account of the work which the Scottish Commissioner for the Special Areas is carrying out. We have not yet received a report from the Commissioner and I regret that the Vote has to be taken before his report is in the hands of hon. Members. I, therefore, propose to confine myself to a statement of the actual activities on which the Commissioner has finally decided to spend money, and the amount which will be needed. I think it is better that I should confine myself to the projects which have actually been decided upon or begun, and not attempt to deal with anything further. The amount of the Estimate is £493,250, but without the Commissioner's report I cannot say how much will be spent in the present financial year. I may say, however, that the schemes which have already been decided upon involve an expenditure out of the income of the Commissioner of £750,000. Many of the Commissioner's expenses are combined with those of local authorities, and the total expenditure involved would be about £1,500,000.
The total sum allotted for the special areas was £2,000,000. The Commissioner has already decided definitely on a greater sum than that actually voted. But that will be allowed for. The total is not exceeded in this year's Estimate; it is £493,000. It is important to get a correct picture of the Commissioner's activities up to date. The expenditure that he has undertaken amounts to £750,000. I wish to divide the activities of the Commissioner under two main heads.
My hon. Friend will find it more convenient if, when someone else is giving figures, he listens to the recital of them. The figure in the Estimate is £493,000. There should, of course, be the fullest publicity given to the activities of the Scottish Commissioner. I was dividing his activities under two main heads: First, activities directed towards improving and assisting the day-to-day life of the people of the area; and, secondly, activities which would improve the economic, amenity and health conditions in the area, or assist in the economic rehabilitation of the unemployed. The first is social, for social well-being. These are schemes of a less permanent range and scope. Under the first heading is an arrangement for model occupational centres, for which the Commissioner has earmarked £36,000. One or two have already been started, and it is intended that there shall be model occupational centres in a long list of places with which I shall not weary the Committee.
I wish the Under-Secretary would do so. I do not want to burden him by asking him to give facts which he feels are unnecessary, but I would like to have at the end of his statement some idea in my mind of the geographical distribution of the different schemes.
I will do that. I understand the Commissioner proposes that there shall be model occupational centres in Kilwinning, Kilbirnie, Galston, in Ayrshire; Port Glasgow, Greenock, Paisley and Barrhead, in Renfrewshire; Alexandria and Kirkintilloch, in Dumbartonshire; Airdrie and Coatbridge, Motherwell, Hamilton, Wishaw, Bellshill and Cambuslang, in Lanarkshire; and Bathgate in West Lothian County. That is the first head. The second relates to health camps for women and young persons. The Commissioner proposes to give to the Scottish Council for Community Service a sum of £5,000. Out of that it is hoped to purchase a permanent site and ground. The third heading is assistance to district nursing services, for which the Commissioner has already given £1,200. It is interesting to note that this grant of the Commissioner to the local nursing services has had the effect of increasing the local contributions. The fourth heading is assistance in the development of recreational and cultural facilities by various youth associations among unemployed adolescents of both sexes. The amount that the Commissioner proposes to spend in that way is, for boys £15,000, for girls £10,750. The organisations include the Boys' Brigade, The Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides, Y.M.C.A., Scottish Association of Boys' Clubs and the Scottish Association of Girls' Clubs.
The next item is that, by arrangement with the Ministry of Labour, the Commissioner is to carry on physical training centres, to which purpose he is devoting £8,500. The centres will be at Hamilton, Motherwell, Wishaw, Uddingston, Kilmarnock, Kilbirnie and District, Kilwinning and District, Irvine and District, Greenock, Paisley, Port Glasgow, Alexandria, Dumbarton, Bathgate and District, Shotts and District, Kirkintilloch and District. The Commissioner has purchased the house and grounds of Carfin Hall for general recreation and social service purposes. Some 500 or 600 people are already taking advantage of this scheme. The cost is £4,000. That completes very briefly the first heading of activity. For that the rough total of expenditure earmarked is £75,000.
I turn now to the larger schemes, the object of which is to improve the economic, amenity and health condition of the area, or to assist in the economic rehabilitation of the unemployed. First of all I will deal with the activity in regard to the land. To give the Committee a proper picture I must recall to them the activities which are normally carried on by the Department of Agriculture. Ordinary land settlement is carried on by the Department, and that ordinary land settlement means settlement on holdings of economic size of men who have the necessary resources and experience. The second normal activity with regard to the land is a novel one. It is the development of plots, which are parcels of land from half an acre to an acre in extent, to be given to the unemployed men. Having these two normal activities in mind what does the Commissioner propose to do? To use a common phrase, he is filling a certain number of gaps. He is going to assist unemployed men who have made good as plot holders to get into an ordinary smallholding. He has on the stocks an experimental scheme whereby certain plot holders at Auchenheath in Lanarkshire are to be moved to neighbouring ground belonging to the Department of Agriculture at Stonebyres, and there to be set up in smallholdings.
Save in very exceptional cases you cannot, without assistance, set up an unemployed man who is without resources, even if he has been a successful plot holder for a year or two. The Commissioner proposes to give assistance in the transference of these men. He proposes to pay the first year's rent of the plot, to provide fences, to finance stock, seeds and equipment, and he is to do that by a sum of money which is 50 per cent. grant and 50 per cent. loan, repayable over a period of 10 years. That is a very important experiment indeed. The £750,000 includes provision for 70 men being thus transferred.
These are men who have been plot holders for some time and who want assistance to become settled as smallholders. That will be the first example of activity in helping unemployed plot holders to take the step over and become smallholders.
I have not said that the Commissioner is to grant plots. I have said that the Commissioner's activities are to include the removal of men from plots to smallholdings.
This is the first time we have been able to discuss the activities of the Commissioner, and it is all new and strange to us. I thought the Under-Secretary said that the Commissioner was to give assistance to plot holders.
I must be allowed to deal with one thing at a time. I am going on to deal with the assistance that the Commissioner will give to plot holders. Establishment and assistance are two different things. I have dealt with the Commissioner's proposed activities with regard to the transfer of plot holders to smallholdings. That is not the end of his activities in regard to the land. He proposes to give assistance to plot holders who are established by the normal activity of the Department. There are in fact at the moment 1,000 plot holders in the special area and the assistance which the Commissioner proposes to give is under the following heads. He proposes to give repayable advances of £10 to selected men who have successfully cultivated their plots for a year or more in order to help them with stock or seed or manures or whatever it may be, and he also proposes to assist in the provision of communal huts and other equipment. He allows a sum of £5,000 in that connection.
I ought to say that the interventions of some of my hon. Friends earlier when I was discussing the Commissioner's activities in regard to smallholders, led me to omit one fact. I told the Committee of the assistance that was to be given for the first year. In addition to that financial assistance they are to get assistance and instruction with regard to the development of their smallholdings, and for that purpose extra instructors are being appointed by the two agricultural colleges in the special area, and the Commissioner will pay part of the salaries of those special instructors. To return to the question of the assistance which is to be given to the plotholders, I think that assistance which I have indicated will prove valuable to the plotholders in the special area. I would also mention that in regard to other areas, although the Department cannot see its way to give extra loans, arrangements have been made with the Joint Committee of the Society of Friends and the National Union of Allotment Holders who look after allotments and give some assistance to plotholders elsewhere.
That is not all that the Commissioner proposes to do on the land side. He proposes to earmark money for the purpose of an experiment in what is called home-crofting, an experiment which has not been made hitherto in Scotland, though I believe there are already one or two examples in England. He proposes to allot in all £30,000 for this purpose. I think the Committee is familiar with the general idea of homecrofting. It is the establishment of a small community of people, placed upon the land, who are if possible to be self-supporting in their economic activities. He also proposes to have, as an experiment, an ordinary farm run by co-operative methods. I cannot give the Committee more details about that, but we shall all await with great interest the Commissioner's report to see the full details of the experimental farm, for the purchase of which he has allowed £25,000. That completes my review of the Commissioner's activities on the land side, and I think the Committee will agree that these proposals are interesting, valuable and to a large extent novel. I leave it at that, only saying that the initial expenditure on land schemes will total over £90,000.
The next question is, what else is the Commissioner doing apart from activities connected with the land? He is giving great assistance to water schemes and sewerage schemes. Schemes of sewage purification will require for their completion an expenditure of £1,088,000 and the Commissioner proposes to find £490,000 of this sum. Scottish Members of the Committee will be interested to hear the places where these sewage purification schemes are. They are Larkhall, Newarthall and Carfin, Motherwell, Hamilton, Irvine Valley, Garnock Valley, Blantyre and Bothwell, Holytown and New Stevenston, Uddingston, Stirling, Armadale, Dumbarton, Bathgate and Lanarkshire (Shotts and Dykehead). He is also giving assistance by way of grants in aid to two schemes of water supply—Bathgate and North Ayrshire. This will involve an expenditure in the case of Bathgate of £1,800, and in the case of North Ayrshire of £9,600, a total of £11,000. In addition to the money to be spent upon these purposes he is giving assistance with regard to the provision of public parks and open spaces.
Yes, both. As I say, there are also to be grants-in-aid of public parks and open spaces for amenities in the area, and for this purpose the commissioner has estimated a cost of £68,000. I may mention some of the items under this head. First there is the scheme which I think has already been mentioned in the newspapers of a promenade along the right bank of the Clyde, which will have the advantage of preserving that part of the river bank for all time in the same way as the Aberdeen planning scheme has safeguarded the banks of the Dee. That will involve £60,000. Then there is a recreation ground for Hamilton. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) will have more knowledge than I have of the actual physical conditions in connection with that scheme, but I understand that it takes the form of reclaiming some land by the river with a retaining wall and making it suitable for recreational purposes. This will involve a cost of £5,250. There is a public park for Airdrie in connection with which the Commissioner is providing £3,400 out of a larger total the balance of which will be supplied by the local authority.
Apart from the material activities there are the more imponderable efforts which are being made to assist in propaganda with regard to the special area. For that purpose the Commissioner has undertaken to grant £22,500 to the Scottish Development Council for intensive propaganda, and on the strength of that, the Council has formed a special section to deal with the matter. There has already been an exhibition in London to illustrate the products and resources of the special area. I cannot deprive myself of the pleasure of saying how glad I am that the Commissioner has called to his aid in this matter of propaganda the Scottish Development Council. It is a body which is doing most excellent work and is well fitted to help the Commissioner as he is well fitted to help it.
I do not think my hon. Friend will wish me to read through the list of names, I am sure with his knowledge of what has happened in Scotland, he appreciates—[Interruption.]
I am afraid the temptation to join in general conversation on this occasion seems to be irresistible, and I hope it has not developed from anything I have said.
I should have said that the Commissioner is also devoting a sum of £800 to research into the possibility of obtaining oil from certain classes of local coal. That is being done in connection with the Department of Scientific Research, which has been carrying on for some years an exhaustive survey in that connection. This is local research, and for fuller details of it we must await the Commissioner's report. I have tried to sketch the main activities of the Commissioner so far as they have reached the stage of having money allotted to them or of having final decisions taken upon them. I wish in conclusion to say that the Commissioner has been most active in getting into touch with the local authorities, and I think the local authorities have been very responsive to him in his efforts. I wish also to express to this Committee my sense of the tremendous field that Sir Arthur Rose has covered in his most important work. It may be said and no doubt will be said that more might have been done, but more might be done by almost every agency in the world. These activities, accompanied as they are by a flow of money into the special areas, must be of a stimulating and encouraging nature. Both in brightening the day-to-day lives of the inhabitants and in the long-range policy of recruiting the economic and health conditions of the area the Commissioner is doing good work. I submit that his efforts, so far, fully justify the language which I ventured to use upon the Third Reading of the Bill dealing with this matter, when I said that the institution of Commissioners for these special areas was a real enforcement of responsible government.
The report which we have just had from the Under-Secretary makes perfectly plain what the position is in regard to Sir Arthur Rose. I do not think that the House will object to the expenditure of money, providing always that it puts men in employment. I agree with the statement made by my hon. Friend that Sir Arthur Rose appears to be confining his attention to the counties which are really affected by unemployment. When I saw this list of works, I was rather inclined to think that he was spending his money over a greater area, and I am glad to find that he is confining his attention to that part of the country where the depression really exists. I cannot understand why £95,000 of the money should be spent on boys' and girls' organisations, experimental farms, physical training, and district nurses, as against £36,500 for plots and smallholdings. What advantage is there to be in these holiday camps for the people in the area which I represent? I should say that district nursing is the duty of the local authority rather than the work of the Commissioner. Personally, I take exception to any money that is being administered by the State for the provision of work for the unemployed being handed over to boy scouts and girl guides, and all that kind of tommy rot which exists to such a large extent in this country to-day.
This money is not going to put anybody into work. Why cannot the promenade which is proposed go further than is suggested? The Clyde as a river is much more beautiful from Motherwell Brig than it is in the upper reaches. In any case, I think that there is a right of way already on the right side practically down to Motherwell. I think that he very well could have extended that promenade. I was interested in the proposal as to smallholdings being set up in the constituency of the Noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass). That is where they started the plots and that is where most of the plots are. Now smallholdings are to be started there, but the division which he represents is not as bad as some others.
There is nothing sinister in this, in spite of the fact that my Noble Friend is good enough to be my Parliamentary Private Secretary. It is solely due to the fact that the Department of Agriculture already possesses land there. The plotholders there, as my hon. Friend knows, are anxious to get any larger holdings.
I should be out of order if I recounted to the Committee on this Vote the difficulties which the Department of Agriculture has had in finding suitable land. My hon. Friend knows the difficulty, but 1,000 out of the 1,600 plots in existence are, in fact, in the special areas.
I do not wish to pursue the matter further. There are any number of men for whom a plot is of comparative unimportance. They are fully qualified to take over reasonably-sized smallholdings. A larger proportion of the money might have gone to the provision of smallholdings. I should like to know whether men who have already acquired land for themselves, and who are using it as a sort of smallholding, but who have not sufficient capital to enable them to build a house, can be helped, and whether Sir Arthur Rose can be called upon to be favourably disposed towards granting them some portion of the money. There are some men who themselves can get smallholdings but who, because of lack of capital on the one hand, and inability to provide houses for themselves on the other, have been held up. I want to know whether it will be possible for Sir Arthur Rose to make any grants for that purpose.
Yes, smallholdings. I am very pleased about this portion of the money which is to be utilised in providing a breakwater at Hamilton. It is a very necessary expenditure, and I hope that the money suggested will be sufficient. I am very pleased that that is to be taken into consideration by Sir Arthur Rose. I wonder whether he has considered the advisability of spending some money on afforestation. I do not confess to be acquainted with the particular science of forestry but, knowing as I do, that the land that is being utilised in the North of Scotland is much higher above sea-level, I am rather inclined to think that it would be possible for some afforestation scheme to be set up there, and I am srprised that Sir Arthur Rose made no reference to it. It was one of the suggestions which was made to him.
I do not think there is anything further I can say on the matter except that I hope Sir Arthur Rose will get sufficient money for the purpose of making greater experiments and aiding the local authorities in this particular locality. Speaking for myself, I am not satisfied with the manner in which it is proposed to allocate the money. It should be allocated in a way that would give more men employment. There is part of a road from Tolcross to Mount Vernon which skirts a deep quarry. There is considerable traffic on the road, and in the event of a driver making a mistake a serious accident might occur. It has been suggested to the Special Area Commissioner that some money might be used for improving that road so as to do away with the danger of accidents at that spot. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will give us an indication whether the Commissioner proposes to deal with it. At the moment it is not possible to discuss the report further, and my chief criticism is that schemes have not been devised which will provide more work.
The Under-Secretary, perhaps partly because of, and perhaps as he would suggest in spite of, the assistance offered by some Members of the Committee, including myself, succeeded in giving us an admirable and lucid account of the work of the Special Area Commissioner in Scotland, so far as it has gone. I would like to put a question to him about finance because, like the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) I am not quite clear on that point. The original estimate given when the Act was going through the House was that £500,000 would be placed at the disposal of the Commissioner in Scotland for expenditure to the end of the financial year, that is, March of this year, if he required it. Will the Under-Secretary tell us how much of that money was spent? For the current financial year we are voting a further £490,000, but the Under-Secretary tells us that the Commissioner has made plans involving the expenditure from State funds of £750,000. Does that include the amount of money spent in the last financial year, and the amount which we are voting for this year, or does it exceed the sum of those two amounts? If so, I presume that the Under-Secretary will tell us that in due course there will be a Supplementary Estimate. I should be obliged if he would confirm that. He told us that the Commissioner has made plans for the expenditure by the State of £767,000, which will attract an equivalent provision by the local authorities, and that therefore, in accordance with the plans prepared by the Commissioner, there will be a total expenditure in the depressed areas of £1,500,000.
It is important for the Committee to know when that money is to be spent. Will it be spent this year, or will it be gradually dribbled out over the next two or three years? If that be the case, it will make very little effect on the unemployment problem in the depressed areas of Scotland. Indeed, the work upon which this money is to be spent, useful as I believe it is, and interesting as many of the objects are which the Commissioner has selected for his experiment, is not work by any means which will give a large measure of employment proportionate to the expenditure involved. The hon. Member for Hamilton pointed out such items as district nursing. I do not wish to question the judgment of the Commissioner on a point like that, and it may well be that there is a case for giving that assistance to district nursing. Obviously, however, it will not give very much employment.
It may be due to a defect of my opening statement that this point has twice been made. May I recall to the Committee that the functions of the Commissioners as laid down in the Statute are
the initiation, organisation, prosecution and assistance of measures designed to facilitate the economic development and social improvement
of the areas specified. It was repeatedly said in Parliament when the Act was going through that these were the main objects, and that the expenditure of money by the Commissioners was not to be judged solely by the number of men employed.
I agree with the Under-Secretary that the expenditure has not to be tested solely by the number of men employed, but he will agree that it is one of the tests which we must apply.
I am not making it the sole test. It is true that I am now applying that test to the plans of the Commissioner, but I am entitled to do that and to ask how much work these plans will give. The Under-Secretary is justified in pointing out that that is not the only test, but it is certainly a most important test, and one which will be applied, not only by Members of this House, but undoubtedly by people in Scotland. I hope that the Under-Secretary does not think I am condemning the assistance given to the district nursing scheme; I said that I would be prepared to defer to the judgment of the Commissioner, but I am entitled to point out that it will not give very much employment. Nor will the purchase of a holiday camp, which, I dare say, is a useful object and justifiable on social grounds. It is right to consider the social requirements of these deeply depressed areas, but, there again, do not let us suppose that much of that money which is going to the purchase of the title deeds of this camp is going to create employment. I think it is fair to ask how much employment will be given by this £1,500,000. If it were all spent on works which have a high employment-giving capacity, it would be equivalent to 6,000 man years, but I should doubt whether it is equivalent to 3,000. There are 330,000 unemployed people in Scotland. I agree that the Under-Secretary is entitled to say that that is not the only test, but it is a very important test.
The two tests are, economic development and social improvement. A bigger employment will be involved in the schemes for economic development, while social improvement will involve only a small amount of employment.
That is true. Now the Under-Secretary and I are about quits. We have interrupted each other about the same number of times, and we agree on the point that these are the tests to be applied. The Under-Secretary will appreciate that there is a difference between the character of the criticism I am directing against the Commissioner's scheme and that of the hon. Member for Hamilton. I agree with the Under-Secretary that these are factors which have to be taken into account, but I say that the test of the employment-giving capacity of the schemes is most important, and is one that will be applied by Members of Parliament and the public.
I want to ask how many of these schemes are actually being put into operation now? The Under-Secretary did not distinguish between schemes which are actually in operation, schemes which are to be put into operation in the near future, and schemes which are merely recommended.
They are schemes that have been finally approved, but some have not been started yet, while others, no doubt, are in operation. Will the Under-Secretary tell us how many of the schemes are now in operation and how quickly he hopes to get the whole of them into operation? Obviously, £1,500,000, if it is to be spent in 12 months, will produce a far greater effect than if it were dribbled out over a series of years.
With regard to the actual proposals, I wish to dissociate myself from the criticisms of the hon. Member for Hamilton as to the expenditure on these boys' and girls' organisations. I have the honour to be associated, in an honorary capacity, with the Boys' Clubs of Scotland, and only wish that I could give more time to that work, but, unfortunately, I pass most of my life in London, and when I go home I am at the other end of the country. But I am filled with admiration for the work which these young university students are doing among the boys, and I am sure that if the hon. Member would only go to some of these clubs—I do not know those in Lanarkshire, but I know them in Edinburgh—and see the work done and the admirable way in which these young men devote themselves, single-mindedly, sacrificing their time and their leisure, to the interests of these boys, he would not be talking about political or any other ulterior motives. He mentioned Boys' Brigades and the Boy Scouts. I know them well in my own part of the world, and to suggest that they go in for militaristic training is absurdly erroneous. The men who are doing such excellent work among the boys and girls in Caithness and Sutherland would feel insulted—it is the only word I can use—if it were said that they were trying to train them on militaristic lines. Up there we loathe war, and the ministers, the teachers and the others who are doing this fine work there would revolt from the suggestion that there is anything militaristic in the training.
I do not want to be drawn into a discussion of the training, but if the hon. Member wishes to have any information about it I can supply him with ample literature, or I can discuss it with him; but I would say, briefly, that the idea is to inculcate discipline, wholesome, healthy discipline, without any suggestion or intention of training for war. Then I see that among the other objects of the Commissioner is the promotion of physical training, to which £8,500 is devoted, but only 2,000 men are to benefit. Physical training is an admirable thing, and I hope that it will be given greater encouragement from the Commissioner throughout the whole area. A good deal of employment could be found in the construction of the necessary halls, because in Scotland we cannot always undertake physical training out of doors, certainly not in the winter months. There is great need in Scotland for halls for physical training.
I was very much interested in what the Under-Secretary told us about moving the plot holders on to smallholdings. He will appreciate that that proposal makes a very great appeal to me. It is the old idea of the agricultural ladder, to which the party to which I have the honour to belong has always attached the greatest importance—the idea of a man moving up from a plot to a smallholding, then to a larger smallholding, and so on to a larger farm. I know people who have mounted practically all the steps of that ladder, and I hope the experiment will be pushed on. There is another point, but as I know that the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Sir J. Wallace) is going to address us on it I will not say much about it. Broadly speaking, it is a proposal for helping plot holders who have no capital to tide over the necessarily difficult initial period by letting them off the rent for the first year and giving them other help in the equipment of their holdings. It is an admirable idea, and seems to be likely to be most fruitful, and it is capable of wider application. I feel that the hon. Member for Hamilton was a little mistaken in deprecating the experiment in home-crofting. It is an interesting experiment and one which is well worth undertaking. The Under-Secretary referred to water supply schemes. I cannot help thinking that it is unfortunate that these schemes should be undertaken in those parts of Scotland where there is least need of them and where the rateable value is such that there is least difficulty in providing them. I ask him to consider whether, seeing that under the Special Areas Act, it is possible to undertake work outside the special areas if employment is thereby given to people inside those areas he could not provide us with water supplies where they are so badly needed, in the Highlands of Scotland, working under the terms of that Act?
The provision of parks and amenities form another item of the work which the Commissioner is doing. I see that no less than £60,000 is being devoted to a promenade on the Clyde. I leave it to other Members who know the Clyde better than I do to eulogise that scheme, but it seems a large amount of money to apply to that purpose. I should like to have seen larger provision made for playing fields. In these modern days they are a necessity. People are realising more and more how important it is to have a proper equipment of playing fields in every part of the country. The work of levelling playing fields is just the sort of work for which these unemployed men are most admirably qualified. It is
work which is being undertaken by the unemployed in many parts of the country with great keenness. It will be more difficult to find playing fields in the future, after so much suitable land has been built over under the Government's building scheme, and now is the opportunity to make this provision. There are two or three big omissions from the list of works contemplated by the Commissioner. Among the recommendations which the Commissioner made in considering work on which the unemployed could be engaged were land reclamation and land drainage. He said:
I believe there are districts in Scotland—one or two in Lanarkshire have been carefully surveyed—where it might be possible, at a reasonable cost per acre, to reclaim land and make it suitable for the smaller type of smallholdings and perhaps also, for the half-acre to two-acre plots suggested above.
If that scheme were undertaken it would be possible, perhaps, to make arrangements in the constituency of the hon. Member for Hamilton and other hon. Members in Lanarkshire. The Commissioner mentioned land drainage. There are two kinds of land drainage, first of all arterial drainage. It is only a few weeks since we passed a Land Drainage Bill for Scotland, and we were told by the Secretary of State that it was being introduced at the express request of the Commissioner.
I am sorry to interrupt again, but I did say that I was going to confine myself to schemes which had been put in hand and leave anything further to be said about the Commissioner's report to the Secretary of State.
So much for arterial drainage. Then there is hill and pasture drainage. I am surprised that there is no mention of this in the Commissioner's report. On ordinary works of national development we agreed a few minutes ago that 4,000 men, get employment for every £1,000,000 spent, and that means that four men are employed for every £1,000 spent, so there would be 16 men employed for every £4,000 spent; but on hill and pasture drainage for every £4,000 spent, of which only £1,000 comes from State funds, 33 men are employed directly and 11 men indirectly, making 44 in all. As far as I know, there is no work which has such a high employment value, and I ask the Secretary of State whether provision for hill and pasture drainage will be included in the Commissioner's plans. But the most important point which I make, to which I have already referred, is that we should be told whether this £750,000 will be granted in full as soon as the work can be undertaken, and whether, at the same time, the Government are pressing the Commissioner to go forward and find other employment for the people in the depressed areas. I agree with the hon. Member for Hamilton that the account which the Under-Secretary has given us of the doings of the Commissioner does show that he is getting to work, and has suggested a number of schemes which are of great interest, the progress of which we shall all watch with close attention; but I must say again that the employment test—among other tests, I quite agree—must be applied to the plans of the Commissioner, and that by that test those plans will not yield results which can satisfy the Committee. I can speak only for myself, of course, but they do not satisfy me. When the plans are approved they ought to be undertaken quickly, and real drive ought to be put behind them, and the Commissioner ought to be urged to provide fresh plans and, if possible, plans which, while paying attention to the other factors to which the Under-Secretary drew attention, will have a higher employment-giving capacity than those which we are discussing.
In his opening statement the Under-Secretary said that the experiments of the Special Commissioner for Scotland were in the two directions of economic development and social improvement and betterment. From that statement I gather that the only way in which Sir Arthur Rose has been able to apply the experiment to the County of West Lothian has been on the social side, represented by the training centre in Bathgate. The Under-Secretary and the Committee may remember the profound disappointment which was experienced in West Lothian, and to which I gave voice, when, on the publication of the Special Commissioner's recommendations, it became known that in specifying particular parishes of West Lothian, he had omitted to include two or three of the areas, which are suffering the greatest amount of concentrated unemployment, such areas as Bo'ness and South Queensferry.
My hon. Friend may not have been present to hear me say that besides the central areas there was a sewage purification scheme in Bath-gate and that the total cost was £7,150.
I am very grateful to the Under-Secretary for bringing out that point, but that is not the point which I am making. When it was known that the Commissioner was to be appointed to investigate conditions in the distressed areas of Scotland, it was accepted that the whole County of West Lothian was one of the two depressed counties in Scotland. In one of the most depressed parts of that county, in the Borough of Bo'ness, the town council wisely decided to lose no time in preparing schemes to submit to the Commissioner at the appropriate time. To my mind, their schemes were well worthy of consideration upon an economic basis, as it provided for land reclamation and the improvement of the Port of Bo'ness.
When Sir Arthur Rose's recommendations were made known, it became apparent that Bo'ness, which had not been included among the special areas specified by Sir Arthur Rose, could not submit their draft schemes. I discussed the scheme with the town council, and I succeeded in inducing the Commissioner to receive a deputation from that borough. The argument adduced at the meeting was that if assistance were given by the Commissioners for the improvement of the port and dock facilities of Bo'ness, the chances of employment around Bathgate, Armadale and Whitburn, which are colliery districts or districts interested in iron and steel operations, would be improved. The Commissioner was not able to see that point, and the sound schemes drafted by the town council of Bo'ness were turned down. I wish to ask the Under-Secretary if there is any way in which the Commissioner can rectify in the near future the original error which he committed in omitting this really distressed area.
If I can keep myself within the limits of the Debate I will draw attention to one further point, which is that a factory for the manufacture of explosives has been situated for some time in the town of Linlithgow, and has for some time now been taken over by Imperial Chemical Industries. Notice was given to me many months ago that Imperial Chemical Industries, in the use of that double-edged sword of rationalisation, proposed to close down the factory and to concentrate their production at Ardear. Evacuation of the factory has commenced, and at the end of the year the factory will be empty. Is there no way in which the Commissioner could be of assistance in attracting industries to the vacant factory which is in every way up to date and to and from which transport facilities could not be more excellent? I bring this matter forward because it might be within the power of the Under-Secretary to call the Commissioner's attention to it. The situation which will arise at the end of the year will be of great gravity to Linlithgow, and will cause anxiety to a large number of highly skilled men who will find themselves suddenly out of employment. The town council of Linlithgow, still more so the men who will lose their employment, and myself, would be most grateful to the Under-Secretary if he could be the means of providing assistance.
I rise simply to ask from the Under-Secretary a question that arises out of the statement he made regarding plotholders. I wish the position to be specifically cleared up. If I heard him aright, he stated that the Commissioner had arranged to give £10 to the small plotholder who did well for the first year. If that be the case, why should there be any difference of treatment between plotholders in the distressed areas and others who are not in the so-called distressed areas, but who are doing the same work, are the same class of unemployed man and are equally deserving? They hate idleness, and desire to have the opportunity of cultivating their plots in their own way. When we had a Debate upon agricultural employment last Friday, I raised this question, and the Secretary of State for Scotland mentioned in the close of his speech my application for better treatment for the plotholders of Fife, and said:
In these matters I am a convinced believer that if these schemes are to succeed and to stand the test of time, they must in the long run stand on their own feet. They should not be subsidised in this way. Neither do I believe that the men themselves desire these free grants from many quarters."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th June, 1935; col. 1500, Vol. 303.]
I speak at first hand on this subject and from the first hand testimony of the plotholders themselves. I was surprised to hear the Secretary of State for Scotland say that he did not imagine these men wanted assistance.
The specific point upon which I wish to have an answer from the Under-Secretary is this: Is the Commissioner, in his administration of the finances of the plotholders, more generous than the Scottish Office, and if so, why? I would like him when he replies also to give the Committee the figures of the allowances made to plotholders by the Department of Agriculture and of the financial assistance given by the Commissioner, Sir Arthur Rose. It is very important that men who have a chance of training on these plots, and who are looking forward to becoming holders of much larger areas, should be given all the assistance that a National Government can well give. Rightly or wrongly, I feel that the Department of Agriculture have not looked upon the venture of the plotholders in the generous way in which they might have done, and which the men expected. I appreciated the clear statement made by the Under-Secretary, but I hope that at the end of another financial year we shall have a proper report from the Commissioner dealing with the different departments of his activity.
I have pointed out that the Commissioner will issue his report for the first six months up to 17th June. I believe my hon. Friend put a question in the House three or four days ago.
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. I was absent from the House during the few minutes of his speech. It is of the utmost importance that there shall be a clear statement of the activities of the Commissioner, which are much appreciated by us, because he has tackled a difficult and complex matter with the enthusiasm which we all expected from him. I would associate myself also with the attitude taken up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) towards the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham). I believe that the money is well spent on those organisations mentioned in the Commissioner's statement, of boys and girls in Scotland, and that the training which they receive is extremely useful, from the mental and physical points of view.
I understand that we on this side who are from Scotland have asked for this particular day for Scottish Estimates, and that it is two or three days too soon to make it possible for us to have a report from the Commissioner. It is not often that Scotland is in advance of the times, and you must excuse us for the one occasion on which we have gone too fast, but, undoubtedly, if we get an opportunity at an early date, I hope it will be taken for discussing not merely the Scottish position, but the comparative positions as between all the different areas and the work of the different Commissioners. I hope the fact that we have discussed this one to-day with rather insufficient information will not be used as an excuse for excluding us on a future occasion when all the information is available. The hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State was handicapped considerably in his statement of the operations of the Commissioner by the temporary nature of the information that he has in his hands. We are more handicapped still, because we could only grasp in a very casual way how these various schemes are distributed over the country. Like the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Sir A. Baillie), I did not grasp the fact that Bathgate was getting more than its share. I gather that Barr-head is going to be a model educational centre.
I was originally very sceptical about the whole Commissioner system, and I still am very sceptical, but I must admit that I was wrong in one aspect of my scepticism. I took the line when the Bill was before the House that the money would not be spent. Now I see that it is being spent, and spent at a somewhat speedier rate than I anticipated. Therefore, I have to withdraw my criticism along that line. But when I begin to examine how it is spent, I begin to think I shall have to go on to the side of the niggards and object to the amount. I understood the idea was that the Commissioner was not normally to take on schemes which would be carried out in the ordinary course of business by local authorities or by Government Departments, but in so far as anything practical is being done, it is precisely work that local authorities or Government Departments would normally do. All the agricultural plot-holding side of it is definite work of the Department of Agriculture—all the smallholdings, plots, allotments, additional agricultural instructors, and so on. That all belongs to the Department of Agriculture or the Education Department. Occupational centres, camps, etc., are definite functions of the Minister of Labour. Sewage purification, water supply, parks, and amenities are all normal operations of local authorities and are under the direction of the Minister of Health.
There are two new principles in the operations of this Scottish Commissioner which I feel would have to be watched in very great care, or vicious principles would arise in our public life. The one of these is that, while normally a local authority would have to find the where-withal to develop sewage purification schemes or water supply schemes, here we have some areas which will go forward and get a substantial amount as a free grant. I have been agitating in the country for years that money should be provided free of interest for the construction of houses. I have always been told that that was a bad and a vicious principle, but now money is being provided for sewage purification and water supply schemes out of the national Treasury to certain local authorities. One has to watch that new principle established by this man without any real legislative sanction. We appointed him with a very free hand to encourage schemes, but the Minister must realise that this Commissioner, by giving grants in these cases, is upsetting the normal financial relationship that exists between the Treasury and the local authorities responsible for carrying out these works. That is a principle I say that would have to be watched with the very greatest care.
The other principle is this: I see tremendous grants for holiday camps, for district nursing, for boys' and girls' organisations. The Minister did not make it plain under whose auspices Carfin Hall was going to be run.
That is very interesting. I gather that the information we have had to-day is that Carfin Hall has been bought by the Commissioner for the sum of £4,000. Doubtless it is a fine estate and a fine house, though I do not know the place myself. It is a bit of Scotland that wise politicians steer clear of, but it is a fine hall and a good estate, and I feel that the Commissioner has got a good bargain so far as the price is concerned. Probably the seller feels he has got rid of an incubus also. I do not know enough to say; but £4,000 is obviously merely a first cost. Now the Under-Secretary of State tells me that the Commissioner is going to run it.
That will involve an annual charge, a standing annual charge, but I am glad he is doing it directly rather than handing it over to voluntary organisations, because that is the point that I am coming to. There is so much for physical training. Then later on there is so much for homecraft, to voluntary organisations, and for industrial propaganda and research, some £22,000, again to a private organisation. This is the principle involved. It is all very well for hon. Members to say we all appreciate the good work of boys' brigades and boy scouts and all the rest of them. That is too easy a statement, because we do not all appreciate it. It is all very well to say that their purpose is only good, but we on these benches take the view that all these organisations that are so widely applauded by hon. and right hon. Members opposite are organisations which are subsidiaries of their own political and social points of view. We take that view very definitely, and our experience in practice bears it out. But in general these voluntary organisations of benevolent-minded people anxious to do something for the poor poor or the poor poor's children are homes of the political and social philosophy of the hon. Members opposite, and I question very much the propriety of any Government passing Treasury money into the funds of voluntary associations in which they are personally interested.
Put the boot on the other foot. Just swing it round, and imagine my hon. and right hon. Friends above the Gangway on this side coming into office and passing over tens of thousands of pounds of public money into social organisations of a voluntary nature which are in the same relation to their politics as these organisations are to the politics of hon. Members opposite. Let me put this specific question to my hon. Friends opposite. I am keenly interested in the organisation called the National Unemployed Workers' Movement. My party assists that organisation in every way it can, and that movement has got a political viewpoint to my own. I wonder if I suggested that the Commissioner might quite well grant substantial sums out of the money at his disposal for holiday camps, for boys' and girls' organisations, for model occupational centres, to be spent and directed by the voluntary association called the National Unemployed Workers' Movement, which has a more closely defined relationship to the unemployed than any one of those to whom you are handing over money. There would be an outcry.
My hon. Friend does not seem to realise that associations such as we support, boy scouts and boys' brigades, and so on, have nothing what-even to do with politics. Never in all the time I was in the Scouts, a matter of eight or nine years, was politics mentioned, but in the organisation of which the hon. Member speaks politics is always being mentioned.
The hon. Member says that the National Unemployed Workers' Movement is political, but that movement declares, just as he does for his organisation, that it is non-political.
That may be, but that, association expresses constantly, repeatedly, political views, whereas the boy scouts and boys' brigades and so on never express any political views at all.
I will tell the hon. Member what the politics of the National Unemployed Workers' Movement is. It is to do everything they can to improve the lot of the unemployed. That is their politics, and surely an organisation of that description is just as entitled to have the handling of public funds for the benefit of the unemployed as these other organisations which have, as the hon. Member says, no politics, no interest in politics, but are completely detached. One of the major political problems of this country is to be handed over to organisations which have no interest in and no knowledge of politics, and do not care about politics at all.
The sole purpose for which this money was voted by the House was the relief of the distressed people in the depressed areas. I know the legislation perfectly well. I was in constant attendance in the House while it was going through, I understand the whole business, and the money was to be spent on the depressed areas. What is being contended now is that this has nothing to do with the unemployed at all, but I say that it must have to do with the unemployed. An area is a special area because of the number of its unemployed. It was for the depressed people in these areas that the money was voted by the House. Glasgow and other places have been ruled out as beneficiaries under this legislation, on the ground that it is unnecessary for them. The whole purpose is to raise the general standard of life of the people in these depressed areas; and yet we are now told that it is not for the purpose of the unemployed.
The function of the Commissioners under the Statute is the initiation, organisation and prosecution of measures designed to facilitate the economic development and social improvement of the areas specified in the First Schedule to the Act, and it is under the heading of social improvement that I would venture to classify the items to which the hon. Member was referring.
Surely, the point is that this money which is being granted for the purpose of doing these things in the depressed areas is for the benefit of the unemployed, and that these voluntary organisations are not to be regarded as unemployed organisations, or as having suffered because of a large degree of unemployment among their membership, and, therefore, should not be entitled to any assistance.
Is it not the case that the boys and girls attached to these particular organisations in the depressed areas will in all probability be, as to 90 per cent. children of people who are unemployed? The Measure has no meaning otherwise. In a depressed area, unemployment is particularly high, and it is because I believe that these organisations are in the interests of the children of the unemployed that I support these measures.
Helensburgh and Cowall are both in what is called a depressed area, but is it suggested that any boy scouts or girl guides in either of those two middle-class business residential places in Dumbartonshire should receive money out of this fund? It is absurd.
I am merely trying, by quoting examples, to let hon. Members see the enormity of what they are approving of to-day—that the public purse is to be plundered to maintain private voluntary organisations. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart), who applauds the plundering of the public purse for organisations of which he has graciously deigned to approve, at once rises to show how improper it would be to plunder the public purse—
I do not want to be unfair. Let me try to put it fairly. The hon. Gentleman approves of the granting of public money to be used by these voluntary organisations for the furtherance of their own purposes—not necessarily, we have been told, to benefit the unemployed, but for the furtherance of their purposes; but he thinks it would be outrageous if money were similarly granted to voluntary organisations of whose purposes I approve. That is the view of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I say to them that, if I approve of a voluntary organisation of any kind, whether sporting, benevolent, or social in its objective, I go to my own pocket and, out of my own limited resources, give the voluntary contribution that a person is entitled to give to those organisations of which he approves. I have never come to the House to beg the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Health or the Chancellor of the Exchequer to subsidise my football club, or golf club, or any other voluntary organisation, and I do not think that, in decency, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite should act in any other way than I act myself.
Many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, imagined that, when these Commissioners got to work, factories and new industries would spring up all over the place—that we were to see the Clyde chimneys smoking and the men hurrying down to work again. There was going to be a scarcity of men. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I was told not to be cynical; I was told not to be sceptical, and all the rest of it. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Sir J. Wallace) is a business man, and knows that these things do not happen in the capitalist system, but no doubt some more ignorant Members did think that these Commissioners were going round to develop industries in the depressed areas, and to bring new ideas, a new point of view, a new inspiration, a new personality into them—different qualities from those of the ordinary civil servant or politician. This was to be a new type, of super-man, who was going to breathe life into the decaying parts of the body politic; and we have the Girl Guides and Boys' Brigade brought in. I knew the founder of the Boys' Brigade personally. He had two interests. One was a church, and the other was the Volunteers and Territorials. He was a distinguished officer of the Territorial regiment in which I myself served in a humble capacity. The Boys' Brigade was his attempt to combine these two interests in one organisation and pass it on to the rising generation, and he did it with a devotion and an earnestness and a fine character which is worthy of all commendation.
This is put before us to-day as the greatest height to which the National Government, through its Special Commissioner, can rise in revivifying the decaying life of Scotland. There is not a single new industry. Home crafts, small-holdings—how the Conservative party has played about with these things for years, getting people on the land, unskilled, semi-skilled or after short courses from experts getting them on to the land, when in every country in the world, including Scotland, skilled agriculturists with a lifetime of experience are getting off the land. The Special Commissioner is spending public money in getting unskilled men on, when the men who know, who have struggled for a lifetime, sometimes
for generation after generation, and who love the land and the life of the land have to give up a losing battle and get off. They think it is possible to make a successful, profitable agriculture on the basis of men who have fallen out of other works of life into agriculture. [Interruption.] I will not allow the hon. Member to interrupt me on this occasion, because it was disastrous on the last. I listened with very great interest to his explanation of the social gain that is achieved. The essential social philosophy of it is that everything we have done for the last 700 or 800 years has been a mistake. The factory is a mistake, the machine is a mistake, the skilled artisan as we know him is a mistake, modern commerce is a mistake, the great structure of banking and international exchange, the organisation of factories, the distribution of power—all that is a mistake that mankind has made. We have to get back to first things.
When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then a gentleman?
Back we go to primitive barbarism. I see one of the most recent additions to the Government Bench smiling. I can imagine him back in primitive barbarism. He plants potatoes in this field, while someone else grows leeks in another field, and someone spins cloth and someone else makes boots out of primitive materials. At night they gather round the village spring and quaff large draughts of pure water and exchange the products of their labour. It is a great picture of primitive country life. We go back to the simple toil and the simple barter between man and man, your labour exchanged for mine and mine for yours. I do not know what the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart) and I would get out of an exchange of one another's products. We get a good lot of fun out of the exchange of one anothers interruptions, but I question very much whether we should get much out of an exchange of the products of our manual labour. He may be optimistic as to what he would get from me, but I am very pessimistic about what I should get from him. That describes the basic principle of the home craft, that modern progress is a failure and that we have to go back to the primitive and find salvation there. It is a fad. There are a lot of nice people in every silly movement that grows up, but it is no solution for the economic and industrial
problems which the House is asked year after year to confront and which the population hopes at some time we shall solve. Of all the expenditure, which I think is largely wasteful, perhaps the most wasteful is the £22,000 that is handed to the Scottish National Development Council for propaganda and research divided in the proportion of £20,000 for propaganda and £800 for research. It is a strange allocation. I imagine that the Scottish National Development Council know better how to carry on propaganda—
I must have made a mistake. The research is not being carried on by the Council. It is being carried on locally in connection with the Department of Scientific Research.
I know that I shall get the full report, but £800 for industrial research seems to me quite insignificant and scarcely worth spending. In these months while this has been operating I received a letter from a constituent. He may be a faddist. I do not know. There are some in my division as in others. He wrote that there was mineral wealth in a certain district, I think in South Lanark—undeveloped minerals of one kind or another—and he thought investigation should be made there. A survey should be made with a view to opening it up. I sent the communication on to the Scottish Office, who might well have sent it on to the Commissioner for his consideration, and he might have produced some new exploitation of Scotland's wealth. They sent me back one of their polite letters saying in so many words, "Do not be silly." The essence of it was, "Do not waste our time on trivial things like that. Who is going to start nosing round to see if there is any mineral wealth there waiting to be exploited?" It seems to me that research along those lines as to the general resources of the country would have been something of value, whereas this general research into the possibilities of coal and oil is being very adequately financed and very expertly carried on. As to the £20,000 for propaganda—
The hon. Member has lavish ideas of spending money. I have seen this council functioning ever since it came into being on its own resources. I believe that it has had small grants on previous occasions for special purposes, but it has largely functioned on its own resources, and I cannot see a solitary thing it has done, unless some of its most prominent figures have been very actively engaged in that type of reorganisation of industry which is directed towards the closing down of industries rather than opening them up. I would refer the hon. Gentleman opposite to Shipbuilding Securities Limited and the prominent part played by certain distinguished members of the Scottish National Development Council. They were much more successful at cutting down than opening up.
These are my general criticisms of the temporary report which we have had here to-day. I do not carry it to extreme lengths because I have admitted that it is merely a temporary report, and that later on we shall have a proper review of the whole of the operations, but, if I am still in the same mood then as I am now, I shall certainly be unrestrained in my criticisms. The attitude of my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) and myself constantly in this House is that we should like to see £767,000 go into the pockets of the unemployed in the distressed areas of Scotland. We think that it would do them a great deal of good, and also the shopkeepers in the locality, and the voluntary associations in the area with their sports and social organisations. If they could have spent that sum of money in their area, with the intelligence they possess, it would have gone directly towards sweetening their lives and would have given them a greater confidence in living. It would have improved the general economic life of the locality if they had had a few more shillings or pounds to spend in the shops of their neighbourhood.
The sum of £767,000 poured into the pockets of the unemployed in these special areas would have created a new social economy and a new hope. Scarcely a halfpenny has gone into the pockets of the unemployed. So much to the boys brigade, to the landowner who owned the land at the summer camp, so much to the owner of Carfin Hall, so much to the owner of land for smallholdings for plot-holders, and so on right down through the list; so much to the owner of experimental farms, so much to the person who owns the land on which the home crafting experiments are to be carried out, so much for industrial propaganda of the Scottish National Development Council. How much of this is going to percolate through the pockets of the unemployed? A very trifling amount at a very distant date. The sum of £767,000 passing into the pockets of the unemployed would have had a big difference at once. Some of these things will make a difference, and I do not attempt to deny it. I see the sum of £1,200 for district nursing.
I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that a good proportion of the £490,000 for sewerage purification and water supply schemes will go to people from whom land has to be obtained, and a big proportion will go in profit to the contractor. We have to make a substantial reduction in the £490,000 before we find what is actually going to the men employed on these schemes. When we examined the million pounds spent on the Glasgow-Edinburgh road to see how much of it got through to the people employed on the job, we were astonished at the small fraction of the total. All the criticisms the Conservative party used in opposition to public works schemes are applicable to this particular item of expenditure which the hon. Gentleman defends. Oh, yes, the hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. When hon. Members were in opposition they attacked the expenditure of public funds upon public works by the Labour Government of the day.
Everybody here has stated time and again how appalled they have been at the maternal and infant mortality. Our minds have become easier about infant mortality because it has shown a tendency to decline, but our alarm about maternal mortality remains because the figure practically remains unchanged. I was speaking yesterday to a sanitary inspector in one of the districts which is a special area, and he told me that in some districts in that area it is almost impossible to get a certified nurse in cases of child-birth, and that the incidence of puerperal fever and the trouble that comes to infants through not being properly attended to was very marked and heavy. This is a thing upon which every Member of this House would at once be prepared to lavish money. What is the sense of shoving in a miserable £1,200 through the roundabout way of a special commissioner appointed to try and solve the unemployment problem? These are my criticisms. I withhold some for the next occasion, which I hope will not be unduly delayed.
We have heard an account of the activities of Sir Arthur Rose, and it fills me with admiration and envy—with envy because I greatly wish that his jurisdiction had been extended to Fife. With unerring instinct, he has placed his finger upon the flaw in the Government scheme of land settlement. These unemployed men are furnished with plots for a double purpose: first to enable them to find useful occupation, and, second, to provide a body of skilled agricultural workers from whom the more ambitious smallholders can be recruited. Here is the fatal defect. How seldom do these small plot holders receive promotion? When I heard that Sir Arthur Rose had furnished the means wherewithall to enable these men to stock their smallholdings it filled me with envy, and it was like touching an old sore, because for weeks and months I have been hammering at the door of the Department of Agriculture in Edinburgh.
Many a man has come to me and said, "Mr. Milne, I am a plotholder. Cannot you get me a smallholding." I have gone to the Department of Agriculture, and the answer has always been, "We can do nothing for these men because the smallholdings require to be stocked." I have in mind a man who came to me, I think a couple of years ago. He was a man of suitable age and reliable character, and he had some measure of agricultural training, but as far as I know to-day he is still without a plot. Here we have Sir Arthur Rose coming along like a fairy godmother. He waves his wand and provides these men with stock, or with the equivalent of stock, to enable them to establish themselves as smallholders. I can only hope that the Under-Secretary will follow the example of Sir Arthur Rose. I do not know whether I can see a blush coming on his face, but I hope to see in him a change of heart and attitude.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), in his interesting speech, said that his contribution to the Debate by way of criticism had been a restrained contribution. If that was a restrained contribution I certainly look forward to the next contribution, when he will not be restrained but will be entirely free to express himself. I do not know how much more critical he will be then than he has been on this occasion. As I listened to him destroying one after another the schemes of the Commissioner, I tried to remember a passage in the "School for Scandal," where I think Sir Peter Teazle was described as looking upon a problem with "an unforgiving eye and with a damned disinheriting countenance." The hon. Member for Bridgeton has an unforgiving eye in regard to this problem. I think that in this case his eye is not clear; or the spectacles he wears when he goes into that part of the country are dimmed. The picture he sees is confused, and I am going to try to put what seems to me to be a real picture of what is being done and what are the objects of the Commissioner.
The hon. Member began by saying that he had feared the money placed at the disposal of the Commissioner would not be spent, but he finds that more has been spent than he expected. At any rate, Scotland can claim something in that respect, because Sir Arthur Rose has succeeded in doing in his part of the country what the Commissioner for the special area in England has not yet succeeded in doing. The complaint made in England is that the Commissioner there is not spending the money that has been given to him. The hon. Member based his criticism on the introduction of what he called two new principles, to which he was altogether opposed. The first principle was that money was being provided out of this scheme to assist certain local authorities to do things which were within the ordinary scope of their responsibility, and he said that that was a very bad thing. It may be a bad thing in principle, but in practice it has been a very good thing. These local authorities and various other bodies to which the hon. Member referred certainly have these rights, but for some reason or other until the arrival of the Special Commissioner little was done. I welcome the arrival of the Commissioner, because on his arrival I find that these duties are now being performed. I do not know what criticism the hon. Member can make of that fact.
The hon. Member asked why certain areas got assistance from the State and. others did not. On that point I find myself in agreement with him. There are in all parts of the country—we have them in Fife and they exist elsewhere—little pockets, villages, it may be whole towns, where there is the most severe depression and the authorities are unable financially to do their proper duty. These districts need and deserve public assistance. I am entirely on the side of my hon. Friend in asking that that should be done. Having recognised the new principle that has been introduced, we might extend it.
One would need to consider that. It is a question of which one would like notice. I do not feel disposed to answer the question without further thought. The second principle to which my hon. Friend took objection was the principle by which the funds of the State were used through the special Commissioner and given to what he called private voluntary organisations, to spend. My hon. Friend detests voluntary organisations, and especially private voluntary organisations. At any rate, he does not like mine. He does not like the Boys' Brigade. When the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A: Sinclair) was speaking he said something derogatory about forming fours and saluting. The hon. Member does not like forming fours and saluting. Yet I wonder. I have always understood that his political views were very closely associated with those existing in Russia. He has often in this House praised Russia and the organisation there. The latest recollection I have of a picture from Russia, a few days ago, was of a whole regiment of little children marching through Moscow, having formed fours, with all the display of militarism that it was possible for children to convey. We know from reports that almost from the cradle the children in Russia are taught not only to form fours but to perform much more militaristic operations.
The hon. Member paid a high tribute to the founder of the Boys' Brigade. I am sure the hon. Member will not deny that throughout his whole work in creating the Boys' Brigade there was a profound Christian purpose. That has been my understanding of the Boys' Brigade. It is very closely associated with the Church. The hon. Member talked about the impertinence of those responsible for the Boys' Brigade in the distressed areas accepting assistance. For him to use the word "impertinence" in regard to that great body is a little more than we could have expected from him.
I must correct the hon. Member. He said in defence of this organisation that they have no political ideas and no political views, and I said that it was sheer impertinence for any body with no political ideas and no political views on unemployment to be taking money to spend on unemployment.
There may be a difference in the hon. Member's mind in that statement from what he said before, but he has merely confirmed my previous impression that he considers it is an impertinence on the part of the captain of the boys' brigade in the distressed area of Lanarkshire to accept money from Sir Arthur Rose.
The hon. Member tried to make something in his speech about the question of unemployment. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) also made some remarks about it. What is the position? I picture a distressed area in Lanarkshire from which all employment has gone and in which there are, shall I say, 50 boys and girls whose fathers are unemployed. The local boys' brigade or girl guides' association has an idea that they could do something to bring some happiness and usefulness into the lives of these children, and they make a suggestion to Sir Arthur Rose about camps or some other method of using up the spare time of these boys and girls. The hon. Member for Govan says it is an impertinence for the leaders of these organisations to accept assistance and an impertinence for the Department to give the money for these operations—
The hon. Member for Govan was interrupting very freely, and I am replying to him. The hon. Member for Govan suggested that Sir Arthur Rose would look around the country and see a prosperous boys' brigade in a place like Hellensburgh and would say, "Where is my £10,000; let me hand it over to these prosperous boys' clubs." What a travesty of the truth! I do not know, but I should imagine Sir Arthur Rose has given nothing to boys' clubs in the prosperous towns but has made it a condition that the money shall be spent for the benefit of the children of the unemployed in distressed areas. I should have thought that the hon. Member would have had sufficient generosity to have expected that from Sir Arthur Rose, who after all has done something for his native country and is one of the best known Scotsmen.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton dislikes the grant of £22,000 to the Scottish National Development Council. I want to make some observations on that matter because I have some connection with that council. It has a London Committee of which I am honorary secretary and I know a little about the £22,500 which is to be spent. I know what is being done. I do not know how much experience of business the hon. Member for Bridgeton has, but if he has had any he will agree that no business to-day in the distressed areas of Scotland, or anywhere else, can succeed unless it uses first-class modern publicity methods, and is prepared to spend not tens of thousands but hundreds of thousands of pounds in advertising.
I speak with first-band knowledge on this matter. Every article of common use is sold because of the amount spent on advertising. One of the weaknesses of Scottish industry is that it does not make its wares known to the world. This sum of £22,000, arrived at by experts after considering the circumstances, is to be used for advertising and publicity purposes not only in this country but in the Empire, and on the continent. The hon. Member rather ignores what the Scottish National Development Council has done so far. It has made the name of Scotland known on the continent to a far greater extent than ever before; it has failed to do so in the past because it has had no funds. It is an organisation, the members of which are representative of local authorities, trade unions, and there are Labour members on the executive committee.
It has representatives of public authorities, trade union organisations and its purpose is to extend the sales of Scottish products. This £22,000 will be used to extend the sale of the products of the whole of the industrial West of Scotland, and it is not a great sum but a paltry sum. If I had to sell all the goods of the West of Scotland I should need 10 times the amount, and then I would make some work for the hon. Member and his friends.
I can answer the second part of the hon. Member's question. The London Committee does not spend any money at all, we are only an advisory body. As to the first part, I think that the literature published is printed in Glasgow. Let me say a word about land settlement, on which the hon. Member for Bridgetown was scornful. He says that it cannot be done. He denied that success could possibly come to any scheme for settling unemployed men on the land. The Under-Secretary of State could answer the hon. Member any day of the week. He could take him to many holdings which the Department of Agriculture have set up where men who were idle before have been settled on the land and are making a fair income. He was equally scornful about home crofting. He said this scheme went further back than the cry of back to the land. It went right back to early days, before banking or any of the machinery of commerce was introduced. He condemned it because it tried to ignore all the developments of the last few hundred years, and we had the most surprising spectacle of the hon. Member shedding tears over the reversal of capitalism. He would like to have it all back. If the Bankers' Association want publicity I suggest that they should get the hon. Member to provide it, as he would do so with much vim and effect. The actual truth is that this is an experiment. It has been working in England for about a year and is showing signs of success. It is an exceedingly interesting experiment and I think we should be foolish if we set it aside.
I am sorry if I have detained the Committee too long, but the hon. Member said a few things upon which I have some knowledge, and I felt it was right for me to reply to him. The Special Area Commissioner deserves congratulation. Of course he has not done all that we hoped, but he has been at work for only six months, and I hope that at the end of a year from now, if we are all still here in the same places, I shall find the hon. Member for Bridgeton standing up and saying that not only has one of his scepticisms been blown sky-high, but that all the others have gone the same way, and that I shall hear him fully and proudly acknowledge that the Special Commissioner has indeed been very successful.
I should not presume to intervene in a Scottish Debate except to put in a plea for the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. From the remarks made by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) I must conclude that they are under a misapprehension as to what that movement really is. The movement is non-sectarian and non-political. The hon. Member for Bridgeton may be interested to know that in the part of the country where I am 70 per cent. of our Boy Scouts and 65 per cent. of our Girl Guides are children of the unemployed. Thanks to the Boy Scout and the Girl Guide movement they are able to have many happy evenings. I invite the hon. Members to come and see some of these children in camp. They would then realise that the money is not ill spent. There is one further point. Both hon. Members who have spoken are lovers of peace. They do not seem to realise that these two movements are the greatest movements for peace in the world. When you can get representatives of 40 or 50 nationalities in camp together, in pouring rain or sunshine, living in perfect harmony, you realise that the "net social result" is one of gain for the whole world. If everyone was a Boy Scout or a Girl Guide there would certainly be peace in the world.
We have had a very interesting Debate. Opportunity has been taken to criticise the activities of the Commissioner with a greater or less degree of conviction or of acrimony, but I think there is an underlying feeling that the very brief record I was able to give, pending the receipt of the Commissioner's Report on his first six months' work, shows, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Graham) said, that at all events the Commissioner has been working. That is a very satisfactory main result. I do not at all complain of the criticism that has been directed towards the particular items of expenditure that he has made. There must be a variety of opinions on the matter. It is for us who are responsible for this Estimate to defend the activities of the Commissioner.
We have had the most amusing and delightful criticism from one hon. Member opposite, but I think the Committee will feel, if they look at the full account of the Commissioner's activities, that he has distributed his efforts well. One critic may say that too much has been spent on social improvement and that the organisations selected to administer the money have not been well chosen, and so on; another may say that too much or a third may say that too little has been devoted to the land; but the fact remains that if we look at the Commissioner's various activities we find that he has covered a very large field and that his work is of a definitely useful quality. He has assisted what is a most necessary thing both for economic development and from the point of view of health and amenity—such things as sewerage works and water supplies in areas where the local authorities are specially heavily burdened.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) said that care had to be taken as to how far the Commissioner's activities cut into the normal activities of central or local Government. I do not think anyone would take exception to that statement as a word of warning, but where you have heavily burdened local authorities undertaking improvement of sewerage schemes and water supplies, you have a matter which is directly connected with economic development as well as with the amenities and health of the area. That is the answer to the warning that the hon. Gentleman gave. To some of the questions that have been put to me my proper answer is that I would be obliged if hon. Members would await the report of the Commissioner.
We propose not to close this Vote to-day, and it will be a matter for those who select the Vote to be discussed to decide that point. Meanwhile it is only right that I should leave the Commissioner to speak for himself on a good many of the points that have been raised. That is why I do not say anything now on the subject of afforestation, nor do I propose to discuss further the remarks that have been made on the object of the Commissioner's dealing with land. I was immensely entertained by the account given by the hon. Member for Bridgeton of the home crofting idea. Many a great new idea has been laughed at by its contemporaries, just as the hon. Member now laughs at home crofts.
It is always easy to find criticism of new ideas, but while I delighted in the wit of my hon. Friend's speech I did not feel that it was a serious criticism of Sir Arthur Rose in making this experiment. Like my hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart), whose admirable speech delighted us all, I did feel that the line developed by the hon. Member for Bridgeton, his glowing account of the improvements of the last 400 or 500 years, which were all being cast aside by this home crofting—I felt that the unequalled eloquence of the hon. Member was now coming to reinforce our puny efforts to support the present system of society. I refer only briefly to the note which has been struck again and again in the course of the Debate—"What amount of employment will be given by these schemes?" I know how the question of the amount of employment to be provided was laboured during the passage of the Resolution and the Act appointing the Commissioners. I ask hon. Members who have made that point to keep in mind the fact that the objects of the Commissioner's work are as set out in the Act, namely, the economic development and social improvement of the area. I am not going into the almost philosophical discussion which would be involved in the consideration of how far the amount of employment provided is a factor to be taken into account. I only say that the Commissioner would not be carrying out the terms of the Act if he were to spend large sums on schemes the sole object of which was to give employment. I think anyone acting in that capacity would have to keep most carefully to the language of the Act and would have to consider every scheme, having regard to its relation to the economic development and social improvement of the area.
Subject to the qualification contained in the criticism of the hon. Member for Bridgeton, that money spent on sewerage schemes, for instance, does not all go into the hands of the men who do the work, I suggest that where, out of a total of £750,000, some £490,000 are going to be spent on such improvements in the special area, one cannot say that the interests of the unemployed or of the wage-earners are being overlooked. I believe it to be the case that the Commissioner in dealing with these schemes has applied the test, "Will this expenditure help economic development or not?" The fact that the Committee is now being asked only to vote a total sum of £490,000 would not, of course, have been any excuse for me to have refrained from giving the details I have placed before the Committee. As a matter of fact, however, from the mere money-voting point of view, the Committee is only being asked to deal with the total sum in the Estimate and in the expenditure of that total the Commissioner has a free hand subject to the condition that on certain matters the appropriate Minister has to advise him. That, as I say, would be no excuse for withholding from the Committee the facts which I know about the Commissioner's activities.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) asked me how much the Commissioner had spent up to 31st March, how much he was going to spend in this financial year, and how much of the £750,000 would be left for a future Estimate. I am afraid I must await the Commissioner's report before I can answer those questions. The actual expenditure up to 31st March was small. I believe it was in the nature of £6,000. It is impossible at this moment to say how much of the £490,000 in the Estimate will be spent this year. In the case of such things as sewerage schemes, the actual works are to be done by local authorities and therefore the speed with which those works will be carried out is not directly under control. My right hon. Friend will also agree that, in regard to some of the other items which I have mentioned, such as the possibility of transferring plot-holders to smallholdings, we cannot, with the best will in the world say how much money is going to be expended during this year.
I cannot answer my right hon. Friend more directly than that but I give him the assurance that my right hon. Friend and I will work in the closest liaison with the Commissioner that nothing will be wanting on our part as I am sure nothing will be wanting on his part to ensure the maximum speed. Whether the actual amount to be spent in this financial year will become clear from the Commissioner's report I do not know but perhaps my right hon. Friend will await the report for further information on that point.
I think I fell into an error in one statement which I made earlier and I want to correct it now. I spoke rather too broadly when I said that the Commissioner was going to give a grant of £10 to each plot-holder who had successfully cultivated his plot for a year or more. Here again I would ask hon. Members to check what I say by the Commissioner's report but I understand that where the Commissioner feels that the first year's record of a plot-holder shows that that plot-holder has the lucky touch in agriculture and is a man likely to go on from strength, he is going to see that that man receives the assistance necessary to enable him to get on.
If my hon. Friend will go round these plots as I have gone round them he will find that there are certain plot-holders who are able to take 100 per cent. advantage of the opportunity. There are others who can take 90 per cent. advantage of it. I am afraid that if I were put on a plot the advantage which I would take of the opportunity would be about 10 per cent.
Not so. That is an easy way of putting it but it is not the right way. We want to make sure that the man who has the capacity for making full use of the land is not handicapped by want of means and it is in order to secure that the best use will be made of the land that it is proposed to give the maximum support to the man who, having little means of his own, has yet the capacity to bring about progress and expansion if he only gets the proper help.
I now turn to the point raised by the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Sir J. Wallace) who contrasted the actions of the Commissioner with the actions of my right hon. Friend and the Department in relation to plot-holders in outside areas. It would not be in order to go into that matter at present but I would say to my hon. Friend that one of the results of the Special Commissioner having these ample powers in the special area, is that things can be done in the special area which cannot be done in outside areas under the ordinary law or the ordinary practice. This is not the time or the place to put before my hon. Friend the considerations which have made us leave these outside areas to voluntary organisations, with further assistance to the plot-holders, but at a suitable time I shall be glad either in public or in private to go closely into the matter with him. I think he will agree that it is a very important thing that in this specially distressed area any gleam of hope should be pursued to the uttermost. As to the practice outside the area, I am, under the limitation of this debate, precluded from dealing with it.
I think that covers, generally speaking, the Debate as a whole. I welcome the Debate, and I am sure the Commissioner welcomes it, too. I think the brief record which I gave shows that the Scottish Commissioner has addressed himself to his task with the utmost zeal. Unanimous approval of the activities he proposes is impossible, though I do feel that there is unanimity here, that in the Commissioner we have a man who will buckle to his task, and who, to the best of his ability, is carrying out the onerous duties placed on him by the State.