HC Deb 08 March 1962 vol 655 cc557-8
1. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many acres of land are now in the Charge of his Department; and what are his plans for a further reduction of this acreage.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Christopher Soames)

Of 154,000 acres in my charge, 74,000 acres are being sold. Thirty-one thousand acres are held by my Department for research, experiments and other Departmental purposes. This leaves 49,000 acres which will be sold or transferred to the Forestry Commission as opportunity offers.

Mr. Digby

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the progress that has been made in the last two years, but may I ask whether he will continue to get rid of land that is surplus to his requirements and that of the Forestry Commission?

Mr. Soames

Yes, Sir. It is our intention to proceed with this as is right and proper in the appropriate circumstances.

Mr. Peart

Will the right hon. Gentleman resist any doctrinaire approach from his back benchers—an approach which could do harm to land like Forestry Commission land which is held for good public reasons?

Mr. Soames

There is nothing doctrinaire about the approach to this. It is merely that we wish to return those areas of land which Departments have no good reason for holding. I do not see anything doctrinaire in that.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

As good agricultural land is continually lost, much of it to essential development, will my right hon. Friend keep a careful eye on that and which is held by other Ministries and try to persuade his right hon. Friends in those Ministries to keep their requirements down to a minimum?

Mr. Soames

My right hon. Friends are well aware of this problem.

Mr. Peart

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I was not accusing him of being doctrinaire, but some of his hon. Friends who support him from time to time?

Mr. Soames

I have had no evidence of that.