HC Deb 23 May 1949 vol 465 cc873-5
33. Mr. Hugh Fraser

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the serious inroads which have been, and are being, made by Government Departments into agricultural land; that, on average since 1945, 50,000 acres are being lost annually to food production; and whether he will consider appointing a Cabinet committee to review land use and censor departmental demands.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)

The needs of Government Departments necessarily involve taking land, of which some must be agricultural. It is, however, misleading to ascribe to the demands of Departments or other causes a net loss to food production amounting to 50,000 acres annually since 1945. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the answer given to the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow) on 12th April, which gave the latest information available on this subject.

I see no need for the appointment of a special committee to control land use, which can be adequately done under existing departmental machinery.

Mr. Fraser

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the loss of food production in this country has been very grave and amounts, probably, to something like a quarter of a million acres since the war, which is the equivalent, I think, of something like 28 million dollars a year in food production; and is he further aware that the Ministerial machinery which was set up—on the one side, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, and, on the other side, the Ministry of Agriculture's Central Land Advisory Planning Branch—seems to have broken down completely and to have had no effect whatever?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member is mistaken in both regards. If he will look at the reply which was given to the hon. Member for Eddisbury, he will find that his figures are quite mistaken. On his other point, there is, as a matter of fact, the fullest co-operation between the Departments concerned.

Mr. Bramall

Is it not a fact that by far the greatest of these demands by Government Departments is for Service training, the need for which the Opposition are continually pressing?

Mr. Fraser

If there has to be this inroad into agricultural land, will the Prime Minister consider whether use could be made of the 16 million acres of marginal land still undeveloped in this country?

The Prime Minister

Of course, every effort is made to see that the best agricultural land is not taken. It is not always possible to avoid taking some, however, and I am afraid that very often the land that is suggested as being suitable is in remote areas and cannot be useful.

Mr. Emrys Roberts

Would the Prime Minister circulate this information in the OFFICIAL REPORT, so that it may be available to all hon. Members rather than to one hon. Member alone?

The Prime Minister

The information was contained in the answer to a question. If the hon. Member will refer to the answer which was given to the hon. Member for Eddisbury on 12th April, he will see the information.