HC Deb 03 November 1947 vol 443 cc1337-8
52. Earl Winterton

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that there are in Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire large stretches of common land remote from large centres of population which were closely grazed within living memory but are no longer owing to police prosecutions for allowing animals to stray on the highway; and if in view of the national need for the utmost possible stock production he will introduce legislation to override the power of local authorities and the police to prevent such commons being grazed.

Mr. G. Brown

No, Sir. Neither the local authorities nor the police have any power to prevent the exercise of grazing rights over common land, and Section 25 of the Highway Act, 1864, which lays down penalties for allowing cattle to stray on any part of a highway, does not apply to highways over common land. There does not, therefore, seem to be any substance in the suggestion that action by the police or local authorities is preventing the exercise of rights of grazing over this common land.

Earl Winterton

Is the Minister aware that there are thousands of acres of common land in the South-West of England which were once grazed without interfering with the amenities of the nation? Does he agree that it is not right that there should be so much land performing no useful purpose?

Mr. Brown

If the noble Lord will give me any instance of land which could be brought into food production, I shall be very happy to look into it.

Mr. W. Fletcher

Will the hon. Gentleman find out how this matter is handled in France, where common land is put to the best possible use?