My right hon. Friend's next official engagement with representatives of agricultural workers' unions is on 29th June, but, as he said on Monday at the biennial conference of the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers, he takes every opportunity to consult them.
Will my hon. Friend lend his weight to initiating further discussions with the trade unions on the possibility of extending the abolition of the tied cottage system to Scotland as well as to England and Wales? Will he speak to the Secretary of State for Scotland about this? It will be seen as unjust if farm workers south of the border receive the full benefit of this fair piece of Socialist legislation while Scottish farm workers continue to be treated like medieval serfs.
There is no disagreement between my hon. Friend and me, or between Minister in the Scottish Office and me, that the insecurity caused by the agricultural tied cottage system, whether in England and Wales or Scotland, is unacceptable and inherently unjust. The Scottish Office Ministers with responsibility for agriculture have made clear that the commitment stands in Scotland and that we shall fulfill our pledge. The timing is a matter for the Secretary of State for Scotland.
If the hon. Gentleman took the trouble to talk to Scottish farm workers and their families in his constituency and explained precisely what this measure involves I am sure that they would support it. There has been misunderstanding about the Government's plans, particularly in Scotland. Neither farm workers nor farmers have fully appreciated what we have in mind, and I suggest that the Scottish National Farmers' Union should look carefully at the reaction of its counterparts in England and Wales.
Is my hon. Friend aware that I am disappointed, but not surprised, at the attitude of the Scottish National Party? Does he agree that the main difference between workers in tied cottages in Scotland and England is that there are many more of them in Scotland? Is he aware that Scottish trade unionists are now coming round to the same view as English trade unionists? I hope that my hon. Friend will continue discussions with the Scottish Office so that this medieval system in Scotland can be abolished.
The fact that the Government have come forward with a practical method of removing this injustice without in any way threatening agricultural efficiency must arouse further interest in the issue in Scotland.