The Government are not convinced that it is necessary or desirable in the interests of Highland development to appoint such a body. But I am considering further representations which have been made to me on this subject.
I am glad to hear that the Secretary of State still has an open mind on this subject—[An HON. MEMBER: "Or half open?"]—or half open. If he comes down on this proposal, will he at least have a look at the existing bodies concerned with Highland development and consider whether they too have financial or general powers sufficient to carry out the many admirable recommendations that have been made? Will he also have a look at the overlapping which now exists?
One of my main concerns with the proposal is that it would be adding yet another body to the very large number of bodies already existing for this very purpose. Certainly, I will look into the question of overlapping, but it has been examined, and I do not think that at the moment it is too serious.
Surely, that is the very point—that there are far too many bodies in the Highlands looking into the question of Highland development? Is it not time that they were co-ordinated into some such body as the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) suggests?
Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the annual rate of depopulation in the last few years has considerably exceeded the rate of the previous hundred years? Does not that show that present policies for the Highlands and Islands are inadequate and that some new policy is perhaps needed?
I am by no means convinced that adding another body to those already existing would be the solution to our problem. Indeed, I think it would be adding to our difficulties.