HC Deb 05 November 1956 vol 558 cc1933-4
21. Mr. Gurden

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much agricultural land has been lost in Great Britain for building during the past five years.

Mr. Amory

Precise figures for the loss of agricultural land are not available. The only information is derived from the agricultural returns which are collected for other purposes and which exclude holdings of one acre or less and those parts of agricultural holdings not used for agricultural production. Subject to these reservations, the agricultural returns suggest that the net loss of agricultural land in Great Britain to building has been 177,000 acres over the five years 1950–51 to 1954–55. Figures for 1955–56 are not yet available.

Mr. Gurden

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate the seriousness of this loss of home-produced food, and the importance of ensuring that land taken from agriculture for building is used economically by having a higher proportion of taller buildings?

Mr. Amory

I agree about the importance of making sure that we do not lose a single acre of good agricultural land if that can be avoided. On the other hand, we cannot stop this development, and therefore the aim must be to make sure that development proceeds on other than the best agricultural land.

Mr. Stokes

Will the Minister never realise that if he wishes to bring about the minimum use of agricultural land for building purposes and the best use of town land, all he has to do is to introduce a tax on land value and then everything will fall into place?

Mr. Amory

I am afraid there will be no time to do that during the present Session.

Mr. K. Thompson

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the figures he has given are the net figures taking into account new land made available for agricultural purposes by cleaning, drainage and reclamation? Will he consider making an order that when land is lost through road building or town development and the like, some effort must be made by the responsible authorities to replace that land with land reclaimed?

Mr. Amory

I agree in general with what my hon. Friend has said. These figures are net. As we have inevitably to face some loss of agricultural land year by year for development, I believe that we must redouble our efforts to see that we are making up that loss in other ways, and I believe that it can be done.