§ 91. Brigadier-General COLVIN
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that the filling in of the trenches made for the defence of London, which was ordered in November, 1918, is still very far from completion, and that 1738 agricultural work is consequently much hampered; whether the restrictions preventing occupiers from carrying out the work themselves will be withdrawn; and if they may be allowed to proceed with this work under the supervision of their county war agricultural committees, who will decide on the compensation which the occupiers are entitled to?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
It was originally contemplated that the work of filling in the London defence trenches might be carried out by military or prisoner of war labour, but this method has not been found practicable owing to the non-availability of personnel and to difficulties as regards housing, billeting and subsistence. Instructions have therefore been issued under which a sum, not exceeding 75 per cent. of the amount which in the opinion of the War Department expert adviser represents the actual cost of reinstatement may be paid to the persons concerned to enable reinstatement to be put in hand at once, subject to prior War Office authority being obtained where the total estimated cost of reinstatement exceeds £500. There is therefore no objection to the work being carried out by the owners immediately the War Department expert has estimated the actual cost. The question as to who will decide the total amount of compensation finally payable depends on the circumstances under which the land was taken. If it was taken under agreement the amount will be determined under the conditions provided in such agreement. If it was taken under Defence of the Realm powers the final determination rests with the Defence of the Realm Losses Commission, but special arrangements are being considered with a view to local expedition of the settlement of claims of this character, having regard to the importance on agricultural grounds of the need of early reinstatement. It is not proposed lo utilise the agency of the War Agricultural Committees to decide the amounts of compensation due to owners in this connection.