HC Deb 25 February 1920 vol 125 cc1675-7
45. Colonel WEDGWOOD

asked the Prime Minister whether his atttention has been directed to a resolution adopted at the recent annual congress of the National Union of Allotment Holders, a self-supporting body, protesting against the Agricultural Organisation Society, which is in receipt this year of £45,000 as a State subsidy, using taxpayers' money to make propaganda against the union; whether he is aware that the continued payment of this subsidy to the Agricultural Organisation Society is creating grave dissatisfaction among allotment holders; and whether he will take steps to discontinue the part of the subsidy stated to be given in respect of allotment work, seeing that the work of organising allotment holders has been, and is being, done by the National Union without recourse to public funds in such a manner as to have elicited the praise of the Agricultural Organisation Society?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. I am not aware, however, of any such grave feeling of dissatisfaction among allotment holders generally as the hon. Member refers to. I cannot accept the statement that the particular work for which the Agricultural Organisation Society is assisted by the Ministry is being done by any other body without assistance from the State, and I am not, therefore, prepared to take the steps suggested in the last part of the question.


Is it not a fact that the Agricultural Organisation Society is a rival organisation to the Allotment Holders' Society [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"], and that there is no reason why one Society should be assisted out of public funds in order to ran down the allotment holders of the country?


It is quite true that the Agricultural Organisation Society receives support from the State for doing work which no other body can do, and is doing it very well, but I should like to add this, that a conference took place yesterday, presided over by an officer of the Ministry, with a view to trying to arrange some scheme whereby the two bodies could work together amicably. I hope that that conference will prove successful and that nothing will be said in this House in the meantime to prejudice that prospect.


Will that mean a larger subsidy from the Exchequer than the £45,000 a year?

46. Colonel WEDGWOOD

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the increasing concern among allotment holders throughout the country in consequence of the great number of notices to quit allotments; whether his attention has been directed to a resolution adopted at the recent annual congress of the National Union of Allotment Holders protesting strongly against the evictions of holders, and asking him to set up a committee to hold a public inquiry into the serious position which is arising in regard to this matter; and what action he proposes to take?


I have been asked to answer this question. A number of allotment holders are receiving notice to quit land which was used temporarily for allotment purposes during the War, but in the large majority of cases the notices have been rendered necessary by the fact that the land is required for housing by Local Authorities, or for building by private owners. Building land cannot be retained permanently for allotments owing to its high capital value, but the Local Authorities possess ample powers under the Small Holdings and Allotments Acts, 1908 to 1919, to provide alternative land for the dispossessed allotment holders wherever such land exists. I have received a copy of the resolution referred to in the second part of the question, but in view of the fact that the Land Settlement (Facilities) Act, 1919, was passed as recently as the 19th August last, I do not consider it necessary to take action of the kind suggested.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that land suitable for allotments cannot possibly be got at any price which the allotment holders can pay under these Acts, and will he take steps to see that they are supplied with land as cheap as they have been using hitherto?


No, I am not aware of that, because if my hon. and gallant Friend will look at the Act of last Session he will find that by the most drastic and summary procedure land can be compulsorily hired at agricultural rents. I think that very often demands are made by local authorities for fresh legislation before they have put into operation the legislation which is already available.

Lieut.-Colonel MALONE

May I ask the hon. Gentleman if he is prepared to make a statement as to his policy in regard to the specific case of the Wan-stead Flats allotments; is he prepared to bring in a Bill?


The hon. and gallant Member should give notice of that question.

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