Hill Farming Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st December 1950.

Alert me about debates like this

Order for Second Reading read.

3.3 p.m.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

During the debate on the previous Bill, which had the good fortune to obtain its Second Reading, we have been dealing with what I might call spiritual matters. In moving the Second Reading of this small Bill, which I hope will have the same success as the previous Bill, I propose to bring the House back to more earthy matters. This Bill seeks to amend in a very small way the Hill Farming Act, 1946. Owing to the luck of the Ballot, it has had to take second place in the proceedings today, so there is not much time to develop the argument which I should have liked to develop, but I will quickly put before the House the reasons of my hon. Friends and myself for bringing the Bill forward.

We seek to amend one paragraph in the 1946 Act. That Act was introduced during the last Parliament, when the Government had their steam-roller majority. By means of that majority they introduced, on second thoughts, the provisions in Section 10 to which I am referring. When the Bill was first printed there was no word in it of this condition. When the Bill came up for Second Reading the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland declared that the Government had had second thoughts and intended to introduce this provision, which imposed certain conditions on the giving of financial grants to any hill farmers or proprietors of hill farms who applied for grant for the reconditioning and improvement of what are known as service cottages, or even for the building of new service cottages.

My hon. Friends and I feel that this may be an opportunity, in a more evenly balanced Parliament, for further reflection on this matter. We hope that hon. Members on all sides of the House will show that great spirit of toleration to which they have been referring so much in the debate on the Fraudulent Mediums Bill, and will show the same toleration to this Bill. It is customary in this House, when an hon. Member is speaking on any particular matter, to declare if he has any interest in it, and I must declare that I am a hill farmer in my own constituency, and hon. Members might well think that I might be able to benefit from the provisions of this Bill. May I say right away that, in view of certain conditions which have already come about, I cannot possibly, even if this Bill has the good fortune to become law, derive any benefit from it.

To make it more explicit, by means of this Bill we hope to amend Section 10 of the Hill Farming Act, and we also hope that the Government will agree to the Bill in order that the improvement or modernising of certain cottages in the hill farming industry, for which applications for grants have already been made, shall not be subject to the condition of what is known as "untied cottages." In my case I have a personal interest because I have certain of these cottages, on which I have already completed the improvements and have not applied for a grant. They have been modernised, and therefore there is nothing that I can now ask from this Bill by way of benefit.

I want to make that quite clear, because, in the last three days, I have received a most extraordinary bombardment of letters. I have been receiving them from an organisation which the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch) will know—the National Union of Agricultural Workers—[Interruption].

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

On a point of order. Is it right and proper for an hon. Member to throw these letters into the air, so that they fall on the benches around him, and to treat with such obvious contempt, letters which he has received from a well respected workers' organisation in this country?

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

That is a matter for the hon. and gallant Member himself.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

If the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) had waited, he would have found that I was proposing to refer, and not in any disrespectful manner, to the letters which I have received.

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

A very contemptuous gesture.

Photo of Mr Edwin Gooch Mr Edwin Gooch , North Norfolk

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether, if these letters had come from the National Farmers' Union, he would have treated them in the same contemptuous manner?

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

Yes, I certainly would; I am merely trying to show the numbers I have received.

A great deal of reference was made in a previous debate this week to the lobbying on the part of the Lord's Day Observance Society and such societies—

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

Further to that point of order. Certainly, we were lobbied by the Lord's Day Observance Society, but I know of no one at all who treated with that contempt letters from the Lord's Day Observance Society.

Photo of Mr Douglas Clifton Brown Mr Douglas Clifton Brown , Hexham

That is not a point of order. It may be a point of dispute, but it is not a point of order for me.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

Since hon. Members have referred to the letters I have been receiving and to my treatment of them, I can assure them that I have read every one. I want to bring out that point, because it was obviously an organised propaganda move that these letters should be sent to me. I have not received one letter from the same organisation in Scotland; nor have I received one letter from a hill farming area in England. I should like to draw the attention of this House—

Photo of Mr Edwin Gooch Mr Edwin Gooch , North Norfolk

I should like to have more information on this matter, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

I cannot give way any more. I have very little time in which to introduce this Bill, but I wanted to point that out.

It seems to me a very significant fact that in connection with this Bill, which has nothing to do with normal farming in the country—it is purely a Hill Farming Bill—I have not received one letter of objection from the real hill farming areas. All I have received in these letters are threats that if I refuse to withdraw the Bill I condemn my party as oppressors of agricultural workers. I want to draw attention to that fact because it is significant of the ignorance that exists among that Union of Agricultural Workers as regards the real conditions in the hill farming industry.

One of the reasons why we have introduced the Bill at this moment is that four years have now elapsed since the Hill Farming Act was passed, and we have now had time to see what sort of progress has been made in improving the hill farming industry. I refer particularly to the improvement in housing. My hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) asked the Minister of Health a month or two ago if he could give the figures for the new cottages which had been built since 1946 under the Hill Farming Act. The figures given are, I think, significant.

The figures for new cottages in England are one completed and three under construction out of 28 approved since 1946. The figures for Wales are one completed and four under construction out of 17 approved. I am afraid I have not the same details for new cottages completed in Scotland, but I have an idea that the figures are considerably better than those for England and Wales. I know of at least nine new cottages in my own constituency which have been built on hill farms—built, incidentally, by private enterprise—which, so far as I know, have not received grants under the 1946 Act.

I know that one of the arguments which will be put forward by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will be that it is not so much new cottages for which one is looking in the hill farming industry as the improvement and modernisation of cottages which already exist. I expect he will also tell us that up to the end of 1949, according to the figures of the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, hill farming improvement schemes have been put forward to the total of about £2,750,000, out of which farm cottages represent £484,941 or 17.8 per cent. of the total sum allocated.

In view of the tremendous importance to the prosperity and progress of the hill farming industry in Scotland, I feel that that figure is not nearly big enough. Therefore, we hope that if this Bill receives its Second Reading and becomes law, we may, by changing that condition, induce a bigger drive towards improving housing on hill farms. This is not the time to go into all the details which were gone into at the time of the passage of that Bill on the subject of the service cottage and the grants. I know quite well that hon. Members opposite always say they do not see why public money should be allotted towards the improvement of private property. It seems to me extraordinarily inconsistent that, in this same Act that we seek to amend, public money is allotted for the improvement of farm houses, farm buildings, fences and every other part of what is called the permanent equipment of a farm.

I know that hon. Members opposite would prefer that agricultural workers should be housed in cottages subject to tenancies and built, wherever possible, by the local authority, in order that the tenant may have security of tenure. Nobody wants more than we do the greatest possible measure of security for agricultural workers, and I speak in particular of hill farming workers. These letters say, one after the other, "You stand for ejecting workers out of their cottages and turning them out on the street." I ask any hon. Member opposite, or the Joint Under-Secretary for Scotland, if he is going to intervene in the debate, to name one case in the last ten years in which any agricultural worker has been put out on the street.

Photo of Mr Edwin Gooch Mr Edwin Gooch , North Norfolk

There have been hundreds of them.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

I do not know whether the hon. Member means in England or in the hill farming districts.

Photo of Mr Edwin Gooch Mr Edwin Gooch , North Norfolk

All over the country. I will give the hon. and gallant Member a long list of them if he wants it.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

I live and move very much among hill farmers and I do not know of one case. The position is rather the other way round. It is the farm workers who, far from being turned out, now and again finds he can go to a better job. He leaves the hill farm and goes to another farm. Agricultural workers are not so plentiful that any farmer would like to see one leave his service. I am certain every farmer does his best to see that a farm worker has the best possible amenities in his cottage, and he hopes that he will stay and work for him. Hon. Members opposite repeat, time and time again, that they can quote cases of farm workers in the hill farming area being turned out of their houses. I do not know of a single case since the 1946 Act was passed where a farmer has been to the sheriff and sought the ejection of a worker out of his cottage.

Photo of Mr Henry Hynd Mr Henry Hynd , Accrington

If a farmer does not want to eject a farm worker from his cottage, after that worker has left his employment, why does the hon. and gallant Member want this Bill?

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

It is not a question of wanting to eject a farm worker after he has left employment. The whole point is that if he leaves his employment and decides to remain in the cottage, what is the farmer to do for the man who gets that man's job?

Photo of Mr Henry Hynd Mr Henry Hynd , Accrington

That is admitting that the worker is ejected.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

A workman does not leave his job unless he knows full well that there is another job to go to with house attached to it, and the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) knows that very well. I should like to have particulars of any case in the hill farming area of a worker who has been put out of a cottage, or has left his cottage to go to another job without knowing that he has another house to go to.

There are three reasons why this problem has become more acute in recent years. One is the increasing development of forestry. Planting and other work is now going on in remote areas and some shepherds and other workers in those areas might be offered better prospects as forestry workers. As the Hill Farming Act, 1946, now stands, these people quite easily can go to work on forestry and yet stay in the cottages which they occupied when they were employed on the farms. As I have said, the farmer then has to find some other accommodation, which does not exist. Therefore, it is necessary to build another cottage. That is happening with forestry particularly in my constituency.

There is also the growing development of hydro-electric schemes to take into account. The same thing is happening in the glens of Inverness-shire, Ross-shire, Argyllshire and all over Scotland. Big schemes are being developed, and quite rightly the Hydro-Electricity Board is seeking to attract to itself as much labour as it can possibly employ. I could quote a case within the catchment area of Loch Sloy of a man who was a shepherd on a hill farm and who is now working on the Loch Sloy scheme. If the cottage in which that man was living had been improved or built under the 1946 Act, the Hydro-Electricity Board could have insisted that that man remained in the cottage close to Loch Sloy and so prevented the farmer putting another man into that cottage.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

Could not the farmer have sought possession of his cottage?

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

I know that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends always ask whether the farmer could not have gone to the sheriff and sought possession of his cottage. The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that no farmer in Scotland wants to go to the sheriff in order to put a man out.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

I only know that a lot of them do.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

I do not know of one such case in my constituency. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give me a case of a farmer who has been to the sheriff to put a worker out.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

The Advisory Panel have also recommended to the Secretary of State schemes relating to the far North of Scotland which may tend to take away workers from the hill farms, thereby hindering the development of the sheep industry there. I do not wish to take up any more time because I know other hon. Members wish to speak, but I hope that in this spirit of toleration of which we have heard so much today, the House will consider this very small Bill and give it a Second Reading.

3.23 p.m.

Mr. Vane:

I beg to second the Motion.

I am very glad to support the Bill which has been introduced by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum). After a great many speeches on toleration, the House has given a Second Reading to a Bill seeking to amend two outworn Acts, one over 120 years old and the other over 200 years old. In this Bill we are attempting to amend a law which has proved ineffective and which is only four years old. I am sure the House will see the force of that point. I hope that when the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland replies he will be able to express the same benevolent neutrality as was expressed by the Government during the debate on the last Bill, and, at the same time, give the House a very clear indication that he thinks hon. Members are right in supporting this Bill.

Today, we are judging the working of the Hill Farming Act by results, and I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that the Minister's second thoughts in introducing the particular limiting provision to Section 10 of the Act which we are now asking the House to amend, has not contributed very much to the urgently needed houses in hill areas. That problem falls into two parts. We have the important question of improvement and repair but, most important of all, is the question of new houses. Speaking in the House on the Bill on 9th October, 1946, after referring to the need for improvement to farm houses, the Minister of Agriculture said: It is equally true that there are far too few houses for shepherds and other employees. Therefore, we felt that if we wanted to attract young men on to hill farms, the first thing to do would be to erect houses for workers." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th October, 1946; Vol. 247, C. 264.] I am sure that no hon. Member will disagree with that.

The schedule of improvements for which grant aid can be given under the Act is wide and generous, but everyone will understand how the value to be derived from these improvements will be very much reduced if adequate manpower is not available in the districts to take advantage of them. I am sure the Minister agrees with that, otherwise he would not have used the words which I have just quoted.

When one talks in the House of the service cottage in any shape or form there is always the danger of the debate falling into the trough of sentiment, based on personal hard cases. Any law which we may make results in some hard cases. I should like to think that we could pass a law which guaranteed that there would be none, but I doubt whether that is possible. Today, I ask hon. Members to treat this question entirely on its general merits, because we are not now discussing something new or even more or less new. as was the case when the Hill Farming Act was before the House in 1946; we are discussing how this Act has worked in four years of practice.

In 1946 the Government view was that the original draft was not in accordance with their general housing policy, which is a rigid view. It was said from their Front Bench that they were sure the limiting words which it was proposed should be inserted would not be a deterrent. They hoped that more and more houses in the hill farming districts would be built by the local authorities and that workers on hill farms could go to their work from those houses by some form of transport if it was too far for them to walk, and this has been echoed today. We all know that little enough council house building has taken place in the hill areas. I do not know of any such area about which satisfaction can be expressed so far as housing is concerned.

As I wondered how this was working out, I asked the Minister a Question: How many new houses had been built in England and Wales up to a few months ago. My hon. and gallant Friend has quoted the figures and I would not quote them again. Even if a few more houses have been built since that date, I am sure the total cannot amount to as much as one house per hill farming county per year during the course of the operation of this Act.

From the complacency on the other side of the House, one would think there was no urgency in this question. Hon. Members will not complain if I point out that the Opposition to Clause 10 of the 1946 Act did not come only from the Conservative side of the House. The hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Gooch), and his partner, the then hon. Member for Thornbury, argued very strongly against the Minister's new Clause. They said that it did not give the security which he considered the occupant of any such cottage ought to have because, even if it were not a service tenancy, it was open to the farmer, the employer, to go to the county agricultural executive committee, to obtain a certificate and, armed with that certificate, to go to the county court and obtain possession. I hope the Minister will understand, therefore, that there is dissatisfaction with Section 10 of the Hill Farming Act not only from one side but from both sides of the House.

The Conservative view was, first, that the Minister's hopes were entirely unreal and, second, that Government policy contained a good deal of humbug.

Photo of Mr Percy Daines Mr Percy Daines , East Ham North

Mr. Daines (East Ham, North)rose

Mr. Vane:

I cannot give way.

Photo of Mr Percy Daines Mr Percy Daines , East Ham North

The hon. Member is asking us to accept the Bill.

Mr. Vane:

The hon. Member will have plenty of opportunity, with other hon. Members, to put his point of view. I do not want to speak for long and the more I am interrupted the longer I shall take.

We have no objection whatever to the general conditions in Section 10, such as were written in to the Housing (Rural Workers) Act, but we believe that the real interests of the workers in these districts, and particularly of the shepherds, take a place in the Government's policy a very long way behind their determination to maintain this rather outworn principle.

My hon. and gallant Friend has drawn attention to the fact that public money is available for grant aid for improvement of the farm house. The farm house is, in a sense, a tied house, because if the occupier is a tenant and leaves the farm, he leaves the house as well. Grant aid is available for repair or new construction of cow houses, and is available for repair and new construction of pigsties, but it is not available for improvement or construction of workers' houses, if they are to remain part of the fixed equipment of the farm.

I think it is an absolute shame that at any time—and at this time particularly, when housing is so urgently needed—the worker's housing conditions should come after improvements to the buildings for the stock which he tends. That is not only so today in hill farming districts. Every hon. Member, as he goes about the country, must surely see that there are more improved and new cowsheds, up to T.T. standards than there are new farm cottages. Perhaps we should be thankful that the Minister of Health is not responsible for issuing licences for the building of cowsheds, or else, perhaps, they would be reduced in numbers, too.

I mentioned an element of humbug. There is only one industry which competes in hill farming districts with farming for the manpower available, and that is forestry. The Forestry Commission, as an employer, is surely the Government's direct agent. In the recent Report of the Forestry Commission, which came out the other day, we see on page 109 that the Forestry Commission, at the moment, own 1,450 foresters' and woodmen's cottages, but it very carefully does not say, among all the other mass of details in this Report, on what terms and conditions those cottages are occupied. However, we know from answers previously given in the House that the great bulk of them are occupied as service or tied cottages. Therefore I maintain that the present attitude of the Government does contain a large measure of humbug. Perhaps, the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) is now satisfied—

Daines:

This is grossly unfair.

Mr. Vane:

—because what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander and should be sauce for the Government.

We are judging this question today in the light of four years' experience. Experience has shown that this Section has contributed virtually nothing towards providing new houses for the urgent needs in the hill districts. I am confident that if hon. Members will look at the question in that light they will see that my hon. and gallant Friend is right in bringing forward this Bill, and will give it their wholehearted and most generous support.

3.33 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

I think it would be for the convenience of the House if I were to say what the Government's attitude is to the Bill. Earlier today we were discussing a Private Member's Bill which sought to amend two old Acts of Parliament, one of 1735 and another of 1824. Some little time has been given to consider the effect of those enactments. This Act which it is proposed should be amended by this Bill is four years old. Of course, it is very proper to amend an Act after four years' experience of it if those who propose that the Act be amended can bring forward evidence to show that the provisions of the Act which they seek to amend have not been of value to the community as a whole or have been disadvantageous to that part of the community which it was sought to benefit by the provisions of the Act; but, in fact, we have had from the hon. Members who have moved and seconded the Second Reading of this Bill only a repeat of the general doctrinaire arguments that were used by them four years ago.

Mr. Vane:

Nonsense.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

There has been no new evidence at all.

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton

My hon. and gallant Friend who moved this Bill did give figures of how many hill cottages had been built. There was an answer that there were three. The Minister said they had not got later figures available. The last record is three.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

That was a record of the number of houses completed, but not a record of the number of houses included. [Interruption.] Oh, but this is important. The regulations were made only in 1948. Hon. Gentlemen have complained that it has taken years to have these comprehensive schemes worked out. It is only after the comprehensive schemes are worked out that the work proceeds on the building of the cottages, and it takes a little time to build a cottage. The hon. Gentleman was dealing with the number of cottages completed in England at a certain date, but many new houses are included in the schemes which have been approved or under consideration at the present time.

In the constituency of the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) there are proposals to build 25 new cottages, and in schemes that we have under consideration, or have already approved, there are proposals to improve 60 existing cottages. He did not take the trouble to find out whether there have been any such activities among farmers, although when he looked at the report of the Department of Agriculture he had to concede that on a certain date of all the works proposed to be carried through under hill farming improvement schemes, the construction or improvement of farm cottages accounted for 17.8 per cent. of the total. Yet he said nothing had been done.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

If the hon. Gentleman will read my speech in HANSARD he will find that I did not say nothing had been done. I said that 17.8 per cent. had been improved, but that in view of the importance of this part of the scheme it should have been far more.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

In 1946 he, the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane), the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), and many others sought to convince us that no owner or farmer would include in an improvement scheme the provision of a new farm cottage or the improvement of existing farm cottages if Section 10 remained in the Act. That was their contention then. Notwithstanding their belief at that time, that no farmer would include the construction or improvement of cottages in the scheme, the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll now says that 17.8 per cent. of the cost of the schemes as a whole is not enough to set aside for farm cottages. I invite him to look at the First Schedule to the Hill Farming Act to see the different kinds of works that can be included in a hill farming scheme, such as the construction of roads, bridges and farm buildings, fencing, ditching, bracken eradication, and many other kinds of works. Yet he now thinks that for 17.8 per cent. of the cost of the schemes to be devoted to the improvement and provision of cottages is hopelessly inadequate. He really is not being a realist in this matter.

The Balfour Committee and the De La Warr Committee did not have in mind that the hill farming of this country would be rehabilitated merely by the provision of new farm workers' cottages. Indeed, I think it fair to say that all those who have made a study of the depression that set in in hill farming in the 'thirties thought it was work that was really necessary, and it is an incidental to the scheme that Government finance should be offered to assist in the construction and improvement of cottages.

The figure 17.8 per cent. is perhaps misleading, and I want to let the House know the real position. I mentioned the number of new and improved cottages in the constituency of the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll. In Scotland as a whole there are proposals to build 161 cottages and to improve 466 existing cottages. For the United Kingdom the figures are 250 new cottages and 662 cottages which it is proposed to improve. These figures are not inconsiderable. Indeed, the total expenditure on cottages in the United Kingdom schemes at present before the Departments accounts for £830,500. If anyone is going to say that £830,500 being spent on the provision of cottages is nothing at all and insignificant I ask them to be realists.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Is that an up-to-date figure.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

Yes. I have been making inquiries to find out in how many cases owners of farms in England and Wales and owners of farms in Scotland with schemes put up have been unwilling to continue to include cottages in the schemes under the provisions of Section 10 of the 1946 Act. In England and Wales there were six cases of the farmer-owner being unprepared to untie his cottages and in Scotland there have been 12 cases. In those circumstances they have proceeded to build or improve their cottages without any assistance from State funds. They get a 50 per cent. grant on all other works included in the hill farm improvement scheme, and they may have done very well as things are.

The hon. and gallant Member for Argyll said he had not heard in the whole of Scotland of any farmer applying for a certificate with a view to getting the Sheriff to give him possession of his cottage. I have got the figures since 1947 for England and Wales and Scotland, and I see that in England and Wales there are on an average 1,000 certificates issued each year.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

The hon. and gallant Gentleman talked about farmers not hill farmers.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

The principle is the same.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman understands hill farming as well as I think he does, he knows there is no need for a hill farmer to go for a certificate because his cottage has been a tied cottage. The hon. and gallant Gentleman was talking about farmers, not hill farmers.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

The hon. and gallant Gentleman talked about farmers in Scotland in general.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

In England and Wales each year 1,000 certificates are issued, and the complaint made by my hon. Friends on this side of the House, when we were discussing Section 10 of the 1946 Act, was that these people ought to be better protected than they were. They still think that it is unfair to have 1,000 farmers getting certificates and then becoming possessed of their houses.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

This is quite outside the scope of the Bill we are discussing.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Why did the hon. and gallant Gentleman mention it?

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

The hon. and gallant Gentleman does not know his Bill. He is objecting in this Bill to the certificate procedure and that these cottages should be tied and not untied.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

In so far as the hill farming industry is concerned.

Mr. Vane:

Let us have the real figures.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

I find in the constituency of the hon. and gallant Gentleman for Argyll that last year three farmers applied for certificates, three the year before that and one the year before that, making seven in all. I checked the figures and found that two out of the seven were hill farmers who got certificates and went to the sheriff to get possession.

Photo of Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe , Windsor

Could the hon. Gentleman tell us how many certificates have been applied for, and how many granted in respect of the Forestry Commission for Scotland and the Scottish area of the National Coal Board?

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

That would be a very interesting discussion, but between now and Four o'Clock I doubt whether we shall be able to go into the whole of the ramifications of the National Coal Board and the Forestry Commission. I am not sure that it would be entirely relevant to a Bill proposing an amendment to the Hill Farming Act.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

I should advise the hon. Member to get some statistics on the National Coal Board and the Forestry Commission so that we can have a discussion upon the housing administration of those departments—it would not be relevant to the Bill—to find how many certificates have been applied for by the National Coal Board and the Forestry Commission.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

It is not relevant. I am trying to satisfy the House that many farmers in England and Wales and in Scotland are able to get possession of their untied cottages. Hon. Members on that side of the House have tried to convince us that if a cottage is untied the farmer will never get possession.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

Yes, he gets it already, and far too easily in the view of some of my hon. Friends. I played some little part in the passage of the Act of 1946. I remember having to appeal to my hon. Friends, while we were resisting hon. Gentlemen opposite, to steer what appeared to us to be a middle-of-the-road course. We can be confident that up to now our middle-of-the-road course has been well justified, inasmuch as we have got farmers and owners to include in their schemes proposals to build new cottages and to improve existing cottages, and we have not had one complaint in the whole of the country that this untying of cottages has proved any serious disadvantage to farmers in the country.

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton

A minute ago the Undersecretary of State said that there had been 18 complaints. Now he says he has not had a single one. Which figure is correct? The other was six in England and 12 in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

I am very surprised at the hon. Gentleman. I did not say anything of the kind. I said that six farmers in England and Wales and 12 in Scotland were not prepared to untie their cottages. That was not a complaint that they could not get possession of their cottages; not at all. It was not a complaint. It was just that they were not prepared to untie the cottages. They were prepared to pay for the houses themselves and keep them tied rather than have them untied.

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

In how many of these schemes have cottages actually been built or improved?

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

That is a complete red herring. I repeat that the regulations were made only two years ago. May I try to remind hon. Gentlemen that, with the best will in the world, it takes a little time to work out a comprehensive scheme and that after you have a comprehensive scheme worked out, it takes a little time to build cottages?

Photo of Major Sir Duncan McCallum Major Sir Duncan McCallum , Argyll

The Under-Secretary said that he had had no complaints.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

The hon. and gallant Member, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, was completely unable to give us one instance where the schemes had not worked. He has not given us any justification for the doctrinaire argument used in 1946 and repeated this afternoon. All he did was to liken—and his hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) followed him—the farm worker's cottage to a pig sty. That was what the hon. Member for Westmorland actually did. He used the word. He said: "We treat the pig sties better."

Mr. Vane:

Yes, and the cow sheds.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

I would ask the hon. Member to have a look at the Schedule—I think he takes a great interest in the Hill Farming Act—and point out to me the pig sties—

Mr. Vane:

And farm buildings.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

He thought pig sties were in the Schedule. He said that farm workers' cottages should be treated on all fours with pig sties. I should have thought there is a difference between the pigsty or the cow shed and the cottage of the farm worker.

Mr. Vane:

Yes, one is treated worse than the other.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

Well, according to what the hon. Gentleman said, the farmer treats the cottage of the farm worker worse than the pigsty.

Mr. Vane:

I said nothing of the sort. I said the Government did.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

No, the hon. Gentleman said that the farmers of this country were building new cow houses but not new farm cottages.

Mr. Vane:

I said they were permitted to by the Government. May I also add that in the country generally one can spend £500 on improving a cow shed without a licence but only £100 on improving the cottage of the farm worker, and even then, if one applies for a licence, it will probably not be granted.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman also tried to tell the House that the reason why work proceeded on cow houses and not on farm cottages was that the Ministry of Health had nothing to do with the cow houses. He must be slipping up very badly indeed, because it is the health department of the local authority who instruct the farmers that they must improve the cow houses.

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton

No, it is not the inspector. The law was changed about four years ago. It is the Ministry of Agriculture, not the Ministry of Health, which can improve the cow houses.

Photo of Mr Thomas Fraser Mr Thomas Fraser , Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate, of course, that I know a little more about the administration of Scotland than the administration of England and Wales, and it is still the sanitary inspector in Scotland who not only permits this work to go ahead but instructs that it shall go ahead. The hon. Member for Westmorland seemed to overlook the fact that this was so.

Really there has been no case made out for this amending Bill. I have a lot of statistics here which I gathered, thinking we might have a lengthy debate and that I might be able to give some information to the House. However, it is clear that the farmers who have untied cottages which are essential to the better working of the farms do get possession of the cottages. We have had long experience of this in both countries. I have figures for each year for some years back, both for England and Wales and for Scotland, from which that is clear.

It is also clear that those who have taken advantage of the Hill Farming Act 9f 1946 have, in the main, not been reluctant to come forward with improvement schemes, including the construction or improvement of farm cottages. The work on farm cottages amounts in all to over £830,000 out of a total of £8,300,000, so that 10 per cent. over the country as a whole of the money proposed to be spent on hill farming improvement schemes is to be spent on farm cottages.

I submit to the House that this should be enough to satisfy hon. Members on all sides that the Act of 1946 is working, and that so far as the provision about cottages in Section 10 of that Act is concerned, there is no Amendment necessary at this time, and that no case whatever has been made out for amendment.

3.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Scott Mr Robert Scott , Penrith and The Border

In the few minutes that remain, I must start by saying how very disappointed I am, and I am sure other hon. Members on this side of the House are, with the reply we have heard from the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.

We had a whole host of figures rattled off at great rate. Most of them were concerned with the County of Argyll, an excellent county, which had the good sense to send my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) to the House. I would remind the Under-Secretary that very few figures indeed were given as far as England and Wales are concerned, yet they are very important from the point of view of hill farming.

I had something to do with the Hill Farming Act before it was even a Bill, because I had the honour to be the chairman of the advisory committee set up by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) before the end of the war. Later, I had the honour to be a member of the statutory committee set up under the Act. I have always had great faith in that Act because I believe it was founded, in the main, on very sane and sensible ideas and realised the enormous value of hill farming to this country. But I must confess to a great sense of disappointment in these later years because not sufficient land has been rehabilitated in the time which has elapsed since the passing of the Act. We cannot get away from that, and we have figures which prove my case.

The problem of rehabilitation of our hills and upland districts is not just a problem of providing buildings, making roads, eradicating bracken, building sheep pens, and planning shelters. It is essentially a very human problem, but it has not been properly approached from that angle. One cannot have a good flock of sheep unless one has a good shepherd and one cannot have a good shepherd unless one can give him good accommodation. As things are very few proprietors, in spite of what has been said on the other side of the House, will put down 50 per cent. and receive the other 50 per cent. as a grant in aid for the building or alteration of existing houses, unless they are sure that those houses will be available, either for their own employees, or for their tenants' employees. That is something on which we have to gel busy.

We have heard the arguments, not only today but time and again in this House and outside, for and against the tied cottage system. There may be a case, although I have never heard it properly argued, for the other type of tenancy in thickly populated lowland districts, but there is not a single case which has ever been properly put forward against this type of tenancy on a hill farm—not one case. Even when the glad day arrives—and hon. Members on both sides of the House hope it will be soon—when there will be sufficient houses to have consumer choice in the countryside and sufficient houses to allow a man to decide whether he will live in a tied cottage on the farm at a low rental, or in the village a long way from his work, with a higher rental, there will still be a perfect case for the tied cottage on the hill.

I ask hon. Members on both sides of the House to try to forget party for a moment and look at this in a realistic frame of mind. I ask them to give the Bill a Second Reading for the sake of British agriculture, and especially for the sake of the farmers on the hills—and above all, for the hill shepherds, so that the present Act can be improved and they may be enabled to play their proper part in the betterment of the eternal hills.

3.59 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edwin Gooch Mr Edwin Gooch , North Norfolk

When I first read the Bill I had real difficulty in coming to a conclusion about its real objective, but I gave it a "Second Reading" and it was very plain to me what hon. Members opposite had in mind in promoting a Bill of this kind. In plain language, what they want to do is to facilitate the erection of more tied cottages. That is bad enough, coming from a quarter that boasts about freedom, but they are whole-hoggers in connection with this business. They not only want more tied cottages, but want the State to pay for them.

I have been compaigning against tied cottages on farms for 30 years. The principle is vicious and anti-social and I shall never rest content until a Bill is—

It being Four o'Clock the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.