HC Deb 08 December 1927 vol 211 cc1555-7

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the Lancashire County Council, having an opportunity of securing four well-situated farms for the purpose of establishing cottage and small holdings, requested the land valuer, in connection with the Inland Revenue, to value the property; that the property was accordingly value at £14,000, and the county council agreed to purchase at this price; and that, although three independent valuations of the property arrived at a figure in excess of £14,000, the Department have refused to give sanction for the purchase on the ground that the real value is only £12,000; and whether, in view of the importance of encouraging county councils to promote small holdings, he will have the Departmental decision reconsidered?


I would invite the attention of the hon. Member to the answer given to a similar question put to me on Monday last by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), to which I will only add that the statement that three independent valuations of the property were in excess of £14,000 is not in accordance with the facts as reported to me. While I entirely agree as to the desirability of encouraging local authorities to provide small holdings, I do not consider that it is necessary to attain this object by approving purchases at prices in excess of current market value.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the tenants were already promised the occupation of holdings on this estate by the county council, and that they have made arrangements to enter, and will he expedite a settlement?


It is very unfortunate if the county council have been exciting further expectations before the scheme was finally approved, but we are doing all in our power to encourage a settlement on the basis of a fair valuation.


Did the right hon. Gentleman reject the valuation of the Inland Revenue officials in this matter, and on what ground has that rejection taken place?


The usual practice is that we get two valuations, one by the Inland Revenue and one by our officials. The Inland Revenue valued this farm in October, 1926. It was then in the hands of a syndicate, who, apparently, had not kept up the cultivation very satisfactorily, and when the farm was valued in June of this year, nine months later, it was found to have decreased considerably in value. The last value, which was £2,000 below the original one, was owing to the further letting down of the land.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the price would come down from £14,000 to £12,000 quickly enough if the owners had to pay their rates and taxes on their land value?


Would the right hon. Gentleman state definitely whether his attention is being kept on this piece of land, and are they trying to come to a settlement for small holdings?


Very much so; I have been bombarded with questions on the subject. But I do not think it desirable, while negotiations are going on, for me to intervene, because I am quite convinced, on the advice of the officials of the Department, that the value which we have put before the County Council is a fair one.