HC Deb 08 February 1945 vol 407 cc2229-30
54. Sir W. Smothers

asked the Minister of Agriculture how many farmers have been dispossessed since the war began; and will he give the particulars by counties.

Mr. Hudson

In order to give a proper picture of the position in the matter of dispossession of farmers under war emergency powers, the answer is necessarily long, and I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Sir W. Smithers

Whilst thanking the Minister, may I ask if he is satisfied that no undue pressure or unfair means have been used in the exercise of these powers; and will he withdraw these dangerous powers as soon as possible?

Mr. Hudson

The answer to the first part of the supplementary question is "Yes, Sir," and to the latter part "No, Sir."

Mr. Stokes

Will the Minister tell us the total number?

Mr. Hudson

Perhaps my hon. Friend would look at the statement, which is very long.

Following is the statement:

Up to 31st December, 1944, the tenancies of 2,897 holdings in England and Wales, covering an area of 248,826 acres, have been terminated by notice under Defence Regulation 62. In addition, possession has been taken under Defence Regulation 51 and retained at that date of 388,094 acres, affecting 6,739 separate cases. It has been suggested in some quarters that these figures mean that something like 10,000 farmers have been turned out of their holdings under war emergency powers. This is a complete misconception. The first figure of 2,897 includes numerous instances where the tenancy of the holding was subsidiary to some other occupation and covers such cases as off-lying fields and land occupied by persons engaged in some trade or business which prevented them from farming the land properly. The second figure of 6,739 includes a great many cases where part only of a holding was taken or where the land was not occupied by a farmer but was being used for some unimportant non-agricultural purpose or not used at all, e.g., undeveloped building sites, golf courses, parklands and extensive areas of derelict land.

While it is not possible to state the umber of such cases without a detailed examination of the records, I have obtained information as regards one county in which 1,133 of the 6,739 cases of taking possession have occurred. Of the 1,133 cases 600 comprise derelict land, building sites, marshes, etc., 60 comprise empty houses requisitioned for hostels and accommodation for agricultural workers, while in 280 cases only parts of the farms were concerned. In 940 cases out of the 1,133 cases in this county therefore no question arose as regards farmers being turned out of their farms and houses. Accordingly while it is not possible to state the exact number of cases in England and Wales which have involved the dispossession of a farmer from his farm, the number is far below the figure of 10,000 which has been incorrectly quoted.