64. Lieut.-Colonel BELL
asked the Minister of Agriculture if the plight of the ex-service men who have been settled on the land has been brought to his notice; if he is aware that, in addition to the adverse conditions that have affected agriculturists generally, may of these men were involved at the outset in very heavy loss owing to the great fall in prices that occurred between the time that their valuations were assessed and the date when they actually obtained possession of their holdings; is he aware that in many instances county councils are now threatening legal proceedings to recover the balance still outstanding on these valuations, which in most cases the small holders are genuinely unable to pay; and 1715 what steps does he propose to take to prevent the ruin of these men and the collapse of the Government's land settlement scheme?
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
While I cannot agree with all the statements contained in the last part of my hon. and gallant Friend's question, I fully realise that the drought of last summer and the fall which has taken place in agricultural values has seriously affected the prospects of many ex-service smallholders. As, however, I explained in the replies I gave to the hon. Member for Heywood and Rad-cliffe on the 5th and 11th inst., cases of special hardship have been met by an abatement of rent, and where exceptional circumstances demand it, I shall be prepared to consider proposals submitted by smallholding committees for permanent reductions of rent as from Michaelmas next. Where, however, tenants have agreed to take holdings on condition that they pay their proportion of the tenant-right valuation, I cannot agree to the Exchequer meeting any part of such liabilities, especially as smallholding committees are usually willing, whenever the circumstances warrant it, to allow the amount due to be paid by instalments.
Would the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of anticipating the revaluation of these Government properties?
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I have had it under consideration, but I do not think that would meet the present emergency.