HC Deb 22 February 1940 vol 357 cc1523-5
50 and 51. Sir P. Hannon

asked the Minister of Agriculture (1) whether special instructions have been issued to local authorities for the encouragement of active interest in the extension of allotments wherever land can be made available; and whether he will call public attention to the success of allotments in the promotion of schemes of food production in the last war;

(2) whether he has taken, or is about to take, measures for co-operative action with the Ministry of Agriculture for the promotion of schemes for the cultivation of allotments in boroughs and urban districts wherever land can be made available; whether expert instruction will be provided for allotment-holders; whether seeds and manures will be made available on favourable terms; and whether organised effort is being undertaken at the instance of the Government to increase, through allotment- and small-holders, the food supply of the nation?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

The Government are anxious to see the utmost possible extension of allotments in war-time, and early in the war I made a public appeal for a further 500,000 allotments. All statutory allotment authorities were circularised by my Department and urged to acquire land to meet the increased demand which I believed would arise. Simultaneously, the Ministry initiated a campaign for supplying the necessary expert guidance, this campaign being based administratively on the establishment of horticultural committees in all the larger urban areas. These efforts, backed up by the work of voluntary organisations, particularly the National Allotments Society and the Society of Friends, have made considerable progress and I feel that the time has arrived when the various aspects of the movement should be fully co-ordinated and organised. I have, therefore, decided, in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food, to set up a Co-ordinating Council with the following terms of reference: To advise and assist the Minister of Agriculture on the development in war-time of the production of vegetables and fruit in allotments and private gardens, and of such other forms of food production as may be appropriate to the home; to organise, where necessary, supplies of seed, fertilisers, stock or equipment; and to advise as to such measures as may be practicable for the effective use of produce found to be surplus to the producers' home requirements.'' I propose to invite organisations concerned with this important aspect of increased food production to nominate representatives to sit on this council, and I am glad to be able to announce that my friend the right hon. Lord Bingley has accepted my invitation to act as chairman of the council. Meantime the urgent need is for the turning over of as much allotment land as possible during the next two months, to secure vegetable crops during the coming season.

Sir P. Hannon

While thanking my right hon. and gallant Friend for the very interesting statement he has made to the House, may I ask him whether it is now the definite policy of the Government, by every means possible and through this special organising committee, to encourage allotment work in all our urban and rural areas throughout the country?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

Yes, Sir.

Mr. T. Williams

To what extent has Birmingham so far responded to this appeal?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

I cannot say without notice.

Mr. Paling

Has the general demand for allotments up to the present been such as to be deemed satisfactory?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

It has been slow but there are reasons for that, and we hope that now it will really go ahead.

Sir Herbert Williams

May I ask whether the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Mr. A. Herbert) helped my right hon. Friend to draft that answer?