HC Deb 25 July 1938 vol 338 cc2700-1
51. Mr. De Chair

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has undertaken any detailed survey of agricultural land with a view to seeing how much of it is in a poor state of cultivation and is capable of greatly increased production; and by how much the national food output could be increased if every available acre was brought up to the maximum economic production?

Mr. W. S. Morrison

As regards the first part of the question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the replies I gave on 4th July last, to the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) and my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir P. Hurd). Any estimate of the kind suggested in the second part of the question could only be made on the basis of a large number of arbitrary assumptions which would make the results of no practical significance.

Mr. T. Williams

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he gave me no reply to my question on the date mentioned. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House exactly why he is not prepared to have a survey to ascertain to what extent the land is being used?

Mr. Morrison

I thought I gave the hon. Member a full reply to his question. As regards the question of a survey, the answer I have just given indicates that we should have to make a number of assumptions as to what is the best and most productive use of the land, and that in itself is a matter of opinion; it varies from time to time. One result might be that if we had a survey now it would be out of date and useless at the time when it was called upon.

Mr. Williams

Is it not the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman that if the land of this country were surveyed by thoroughly practical inspectors, it would provide him with much information as regards the usefulness of many thousands of acres?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, if we had no information about the state of the land I would agree, but, as I told the hon. Member and the House on a previous occasion, we have a large amount of useful information on this subject and have sources of information which we can call upon at any time.

Brigadier-General Clifton Brown

Has the right hon. Gentleman any figures as to how much it would cost per acre to bring second-class land into full production?

Mr. Morrison

That is a matter which varies between land and land.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that since his previous reply figures have been issued indicating that land under production has decreased by thousands of acres?

Mr. Morrison

I am aware of the figures which are frequently issued in regard to agricultural production, and I would refer the hon. Member to the remarks I made on the agricultural Estimates the other day.