§ 22. Mr. Mathers
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the number of applicants for small-holdings in the county of Ayr at present unsatisfied; why he granted the owners authority to destroy the subjects of the statutory small-holding of Hillend, on the Lanfine estate, Galston, as a separate holding and divide it between large neighbouring farmers; and whether, before granting such authority, he consulted the land court or offered the holding to any of the applicants on his list?
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ernest Brown)
There are 762 outstanding applications for holdings in Ayrshire, but it is doubtful whether as many as half of these remain effective. The holding in question extended to only 13 acres in grass at 800 feet above sea-level, the grazing of which had been sublet during the whole of the last tenant's occupancy to an adjoining small farm of 136 acres. In these circumstances it was agreed with 787 the landlord that the needs of food production and also of economic farming of the holding would best be served by combining its land with the neighbouring farm and adding the cottages to another farm for the much needed accommodation of a married ploughman. The consent of the land court was not required to this course, and in view of the situation and quality of the holding it was not considered desirable to risk the delay entailed by offering the subjects to applicants on the list.
§ Mr. Mathers
Does not the Minister consider that it was a wrong action on the part of the Department to ignore the strong opinion of the land court that this was a suitable estate to remain as a smallholding; and is it not wrong also to destroy small-holdings, in view of the large demand for them?
§ Mr. Brown
I cannot discuss the general conclusion of the last part of the hon. Gentleman's Question, and, of course, I shall do all I can to extend small-holdings, but the facts in this case do not bear out this general conclusion, because the tenant of the farm with which it was proposed to amalgamate the land had had the grazing as sub-tenant during the whole of the late tenants' occupancy of the holding and had broken up more land because that grazing was available. This arrangement has been approved by the agricultural executive committee. It is my object to get the maximum production in war-time.
§ Mr. Mathers
Is not the Minister aware that the landlord previously tried to have this small-holding destroyed as a separate holding and that the land court took a definite line against him?