HC Deb 26 May 1949 vol 465 cc1451-2
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture (Mr. George Brown)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, who regrets that he is unable to be present, regarding Part IV of the Agriculture Act, 1947, relating to smallholdings.

My right hon. Friend has received a comprehensive report by the Smallholdings Advisory Council on the administration of Part IV of the Agriculture Act. Copies of the report are available in the Library. My right hon. Friend is in general agreement with the Council's recommendations, which in his view afford a satisfactory basis for developing the Government's policy of providing smallholdings so that experienced agricultural workers may have further opportunities of advancement. Part IV will be brought into operation on 1st October next and guidance as to their functions under the Act will be issued to county and county borough councils as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, councils and their officers will wish to study the report and make preliminary arrangements for operating the new policy. While, owing to the continued shortage of certain building materials and to the necessity of keeping the capital investment programme within reasonable limits, it may not be possible to proceed with the creation of additional smallholdings as rapidly as many would desire, nevertheless the bringing into operation of this Part of the Act will enable a start to be made. My right hon. Friend is sure that he can count on the full co-operation of smallholdings authorities in the administration of this important part of the Government's agricultural policy.

Major Sir Thomas Dugdale

While my hon. Friends will welcome the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary that Part IV of the Agricultural Act will commence on 1st October, he will realise I am sure, that we cannot make any detailed comment until we have had time to read the report to which he refers. I should like to ask him two questions. The first is, will the report of the Small holdings Advisory Council be available to hon. Members in the Vote Office, and, secondly, will the hon. Gentleman remember that there is a very big demand for smallholdings throughout the country today, and that my hon. Friends, from what we heard of his statement, will be disappointed at the rate of progress envisaged in it?

Mr. Brown

With regard to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's second question, I am surprised that there should be any suggestion about disappointment. I think that the feeling in the country, among agricultural workers in particular, will be one of great satisfaction that we are now taking this step forward. With regard to his first question, the report will be published tomorrow, and will, I understand, be available to hon. Members on request.

Mr. Turton

Will the Parliamentary Secretary reconsider that part of his statement which says that the progress in the establishment of new smallholdings will have to be slow because of the capital investment programme? If it is a question of producing more food, surely we should have more smallholdings? At the present time the labour in agriculture is insufficient for the number of smallholdings available.

Mr. Brown

Nothing is ever quite as simple as that. It is very much a question of balancing this against that. We believe that the rate at which we shall be able to go forward and the very great amount of work needed to be done in order to bring many existing smallholdings up to standard will occupy all our available resources for some time ahead.