HC Deb 25 March 1946 vol 421 cc25-7
58. Mr. R. S. Hudson

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is now in a position to make a further statement on the reconstitution of the county W. A. E. Cs.

Mr. T. Williams

As the reply is rather long I will, with permission, read it at the end of Questions.


Mr. Williams

Yes, Sir. After discussions with representatives of the industry, I am proposing to reconstitute the War Agricultural Executive Committee in each county in England and Wales on the following basis: Three members appointed from a list to be submitted by the National Farmers' Union; two members appointed from a list submitted jointly by the National Union of Agricultural Workers and the Transport and General Workers' Union; two members appointed from a list submitted by the Central Landowners' Association; together with the chairman and not more than four other members to be appointed independently by me. In addition the representative of the Women's Land Army will continue to be a member. The purpose of my direct appointments will be to add to the members selected from the lists submitted by the various organisations a number of persons with general or special qualifications, knowledge and experience, such as would be of value in improving the efficiency of the Committees. I shall for example have in mind the claims of persons with appropriate scientific, technical or professional qualifications; persons with experience of commercial horticulture and other special types of food production that are of importance in a particular area; persons qualified to represent the point of view of working owners or owner occupiers of small farms in those counties where such farms are of special importance; agricultural workers where there are suitable men available who have not been appointed from the Unions' lists; and persons of any class who have served with distinction on the wartime Executive Committees and whose continued service is desirable. This reconstitution, which I hope will take place in June, will be for the interim period until legislation providing for the permanent Committees is on the Statute Book, and will be without prejudice to the basis of constitution of the permanent bodies.

Mr. Hudson

Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to instruct the new executive -committees to reappoint of bring up to date the district committees also? Will he consider issuing instructions to them to see if they can make a start towards restoring good husbandry?

Mr. Williams

It is my intention to invite all the new county executive committees to reconstitute the district committees in their various areas. I hope that the question of putting more life and vigour into their activities than was apparently the case until quite recently is taking place, in view of the recent demand for the maximum amount of food for 1946.

Mr. Boothby

Is similar action being taken with regard to Scotland?

Mr. Williams

I presume so, though, as the hon. Member knows, county executive committees take a somewhat different form in Scotland than in England and Wales.

Wing-Commander Millington

Will the Minister reconsider the reconstitution of these committees, because with three farmers and two landowners to every two workers' representatives, the workers cannot be expected to carry out the policy of increased production per manhour?

Mr. Williams

I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member will not forget that the new county executive committees will have power to dispossess any farmer who fails to rise to a standard of good husbandry—not only to dispossess him of his farm, but of his household too. The same remark applies to landowners who fad in estate management. The same thing does not quite apply to agricultural workers.

Colonel Ropner

Will the Forestry Commissioners be represented on these committees? Will they be among the representatives appointed by the Minister?

Mr. Williams

Not necessarily.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

Since this policy applies in the same way in Scotland as in England, will the Leader of the House inform us when the Secretary of State for Scotland intends to make a similar announcement regarding committees in the North?

The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

I understand that the Secretary of State for Scotland will, in all probability, follow on much the same lines, in due course. That will not be delayed.

Mr. Mitehison

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that there will be sufficient representation on these committees for the small dairymen, the producer-retailers of milk?

Mr. Williams

I should imagine that the various categories to which I referred in my reply will include all sections of the agricultural community, differing according to the nature of the products in any particular county.

Colonel Clarke

Will the Minister state if among those he nominates to these committees there will be representatives of county council agricultural committees?

Mr. Williams

Not necessarily.

Sir W. Smithers

Will the Minister make certain that smallholders, with three to 12 acres, who grow strawberries and vegetables, especially in North-West Kent, should have adequate representation? Secondly, will he also ensure in these new provisions that the dispossessed farmer shall have right of appeal to an independent tribunal?

Mr. Williams

As the hon. Member has already been informed, this afternoon, any farmer is allowed from this moment forward to have his case of threatened dispossession submitted to a dispossession tribunal. That tribunal, I hope, will continue to function.