HC Deb 17 December 1912 vol 45 cc1294-6

asked if the attention of the President of the Board of Agriculture has been drawn to the complaint of Mr. Firley, a small holder on the farm at Winterborne Zelston, Dorset, in a letter to the Dorset County Council, that the schedule sent to him on 28th July, 1909, stated that the land he was applying for on the farm would be rented at from 30s. to 40s. per acre, and asking why he was charged 74s. per acre; whether he also stated that as a tenant on the Farquharson estate his house was rented at £4 10s. per year, including rates, whilst now under the County Council he is paying for the same house £6, in addition to rates; and whether he will take steps to secure a more equitable agreement?


asked if the right hon. Gentleman paid a visit to the farm let out in small holdings at Winterborne Zelston, Dorset, in January last; whether he found the buildings, including the cottages, in a state badly needing repair; whether he found leaking roofs, smoky chimneys, walls and ceilings furred with damp, windows that will not open on account of leaning walls; whether in the sitting room of one cottage he found a thistle flourishing eight feet high; whether he found one house which, together with the outbuildings, was supported by fifty-seven props; whether the repairs had been executed badly and at charges upon which the tenants are charged 6 per cent, interest; and whether he is prepared to order an inquiry, with a view to revaluation and rebatement?

70. Mr. BARNES

asked if the President of the Board of Agriculture is aware of the circumstances under -which the farm of Winterborne Zelston, Dorset, was taken over by the county council from the trustees of the late E. G. Farquharson; is he aware that the land was in a neglected condition, the buildings bad, and in some cases unrepairable owing to rotted timbers, mud walls, and sodden foundations; is he aware that, although the previous rent was £755, the county council took the farm at £950 on a thirty-eight years' lease, with rotten buildings, and proceeded to spend £3,500 in adapting it for small holders, who are now paying, or are expected to pay, rents ranging up to 74s. per acre, such rent being in consequence of the bad bargain and non-productive expenditure; can he take steps to instruct the county council and other county councils as to the spirit and intention of the Smallholders Act, so that the small holder may be protected from such rents; and, in the meantime, can he give some money assistance to such small holders as have been ruined in consequence, from the same fund as was drawn upon for the relief of the sufferers from flood on the East Coast?


It is impossible to deal adequately in an answer to a Parliamentary question with all the details of the case to which my hon. Friends refer in their questions, but I may say generally that the Board received from the small holders at Winterborne Zelston a number of complaints, which after a personal inspection of the farm I considered to be well founded. I had interviews with both the tenants and representatives of the county council, and a scheme has been drawn up in co-operation with the Board with a view to remedy the serious defects to which attention has been called. This scheme has been accepted by the county council and is to be carried out forthwith.


What length of time will elapse before the tenants get the benefit of this scheme?


There are improvements to be carried out, and as soon as they are completed the tenancies will of course commence immediately.


Will the cost fall on the county fund?


Was not the original scheme framed by the Board of Agriculture?


Yes; there was nothing wrong with the original scheme; the only thing wrong was the manner in which it was carried out.


What increase has been caused in the rates due to the expenditure of £3,500?


I cannot tell.


Have I understood the right hon. Gentleman right that no cost will fall on the tenants at all in regard to these suggested improvements?


I hope the improvements will be carried out without additional cost.