HC Deb 27 October 1949 vol 468 cc1517-8
52. Brigadier Medlicott

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware of the growing concern felt by the agricultural community over the amount of agricultural land which is being taken for the building of factories, houses, schools and roads; and if he will make a statement as to the steps he proposes to take to prevent this reduction in the total of agricultural land.

Mr. T. Williams

Yes, Sir, I am aware of this. Under existing procedures my Department takes all practicable steps, in consultation with other Government Departments and the local planning authorities to see that losses, particularly of good agricultural land are kept to the minimum. Nevertheless, I am concerned at the effect these losses must have on our agricultural production and, in conjunction with my colleagues, I am carefully examining the position to see whether any steps can be taken to reduce the losses still further.

Brigadier Medlicott

Is the Minister aware that there is a feeling that he has been a little too kind to his colleagues in this matter, and that it is quite inconsistent for us to go on appealing to the farmers to increase production if we take from them the land upon which they rely for that increased production?

Mr. Williams

I do not think it is excessive kindness; it is the fact that I have a lot of colleagues.

Mr. Dumpleton

Could the Minister say whether he has any reason to believe that there is any greater absorption of agricultural land now that we have town and country planning control than there was when it was subject to the scramble of private interests?

Mr. Williams

I agree with my hon. Friend that, in the inter-war years, literally millions of acres of land were allowed to be taken from cultivation for ribbon development.

Mr. Wilson Harris

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will make no difficulties about the allocation of small quantities of land for the building of schools?

Mr. Williams

The building of schools plays its part with other forms of non-agricultural production. We are trying to divert all sorts of building to less useful agricultural land.

Mr. Parkin

Would my right hon. Friend make a special point of seeing that the provincial land commissioners are brought into the picture at the beginning of negotiations, and not right at the end, as sometimes happens now.

Mr. Williams

As far as we are concerned, provincial land commissioners are brought in at an early stage, once an intimation is made that building is required for non-agricultural purposes.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's answer, will he take some steps now, which he has failed to take up to date, to prevent the city of Cardiff sprawling over good agricultural land in Monmouthshire?

Mr. Williams

As a good Welsh agricultural Member, no doubt the hon. Member will use his influence in the matter.