§ 101. Sir R. WINFREY
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has been informed of a petition presented by a number of ex-service smallholders at Ten Mile Bank, Norfolk, to the small holdings committee of that county asking for a reduction of rent; and whether, seeing that these men are being charged £4 per acre for land which was let in pre-War days at 42s. 6d. per acre, and that the value of agricultural produce has fallen at least one-half since these rentals were fixed by the committee and with the approval of the Ministry, he is prepared to advise a substantial reduction of these excessive rentals?
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I have no information as to a petition presented by the smallholders in question for a reduction in rent, but on the general question of 614 reduction of smallholders' rents the Ministry has informed the County Council, as I explained to the House in the Debate on the Address, that while it might later be necessary for rents in certain cases to be permanently reduced, the Ministry considers that the present position can best be met by temporary abatements of rent, having regard to the circumstances of each individual case, leaving the permanent reduction of rents to stand over until agricultural conditions have become more stabilised. The County Council have authority, with the consent of the Ministry's local district commissioner, to agree to abatement of rents where the circumstances of a particular case warrant it.
§ 102. Sir R. WINFREY
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has approved the proposal of the Norfolk small holdings committee to increase the rentals of the pre-War small holdings, consisting of 9,695 acres, from £20,028 to £25,029, an increase of 25 per cent., seeing that the original rent was so fixed as to cover not only the interest on the purchase money of the land but also the annual repayment of the loan charges plus 15 per cent. for management expenses; and, if he has approved this increase, will he take into consideration the recent fall in agricultural prices and the partial failure of many crops on the light lands last season and reconsider the matter before the next increased rents become due?
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I am aware that the Norfolk County Council have recently increased the rentals of their small holdings acquired prior to the War in order to cover the increased tithe rent charge, drainage rates and cost of repairs. In reply to the last part of the question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I have just given him regarding the rents of small holdings generally