HC Deb 23 April 1913 vol 52 cc343-4
39. Captain CLIVE

asked the President of the Board of Agriculture if he will state the grounds on which, after the Herefordshire small holdings committee had obtained leave from the county council to spend up to £22,000 on the purchase of certain land for small holdings which had been previously gone over and valued by three members of the committee, of whom two were expert land valuers, a telegram was sent from the Board of Agriculture declining to sanction bidding beyond 80 per cent. of the Committee's valuation; and if he is aware that this action is not only a check on the creation of small holdings, but discourages members of the committee from devoting their time and expert knowledge to inspecting and valuing land with a view to purchase?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Runciman)

The telegram to which the hon. and gallant Member refers was sent after careful consideration of a detailed report upon the property in question submitted to the Board by the Small Holdings Commissioner for the district. One hundred and seventy-six acres out of a total of 698 are woodland, the buildings are in a very bad state of repair, and generally it appeared to the Board that, as considerable expense would have to be incurred in adapting the property for small holdings—expense which would have to be made good by heavy annuity charges on the tenants—the Board would not be justified in authorising a purchase at the figure suggested by the county council. The Board are anxious to encourage the acquisition of land for small holdings, and to avoid any action which would be likely to discourage local authorities in providing them, but every proposal submitted to them must be considered on its merits, and it is the duty of the Board in all cases where it appears to them that failure would be likely to result to withhold their approval.