§ 52. Mr. Thorne
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he can give any information in connection with the dismissal 977 of 200 Suffolk farmers for bad cultivation; and what action he intends taking about the matter?
I assume that the hon. Member refers to statements appearing recently in the Press that 200 farmers in Suffolk had been turned out of their farms by the county war agricultural executive committees. This statement is not correct. In fact, I understand that the total number of cases in East and West Suffolk where owner-occupiers or tenants of farms have been dispossessed of their farms owing to failure to cultivate their land in accordance with the rules of good husbandry is not much more than half the figure stated. In all these cases the action of the committees was taken with my consent, and, therefore, the last part of the Question does not arise.
§ Mr. Thorne
Even if only a certain number of the farmers had been dispossessed, what has become of the land which was being cultivated?
It was because the land was not being properly cultivated that the committee took possession of it. They are taking steps to see that it is now cultivated and brought back into production.
§ Mr. Loftus
Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of these area committees in Suffolk are composed of men of the highest character and agricultural capacity, who are carrying out their difficult and disagreeable task only from a sense of public duty?
Yes; and I have already borne witness to the Government's appreciation of their efforts. In view of the food situation, we must back them up in everything that they do to encourage proper cultivation of the land.
§ Mr. Maxton
Why has this county such a very large proportion of inefficient farmers as compared with any other county in England and with any in Scotland?
We must remember the difficulties of farming in East Anglia during the last 20 years. We are now trying to bring back the land into cultivation.