HC Deb 11 February 1964 vol 689 cc284-99

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Denys Bullard (King's Lynn)

I have listened to a good many debates on the Second Reading of Private Bills and I know that one of the drawbacks which hon. Members have in following the debates is in not knowing just how the land lies and what the Bill is about. I do not want to give a geography lesson to the House, except to say that the Wash area is a pretty wide area, roughly 20 miles square, and that at low tide a great deal of this land is above water level and is marsh or sandbank.

Over many years there have been plans to drain this area. The Norfolk Estuary Company, who are the promoters of this Bill, were given powers in 1846 to reclaim some of this land, and, in return, they took upon themselves certain obligations in the shipping channels. Those obligations have been largely taken over by other people. This Bill would wind up the Estuary Company, they having sold their land to the Crown Estate Commissioners, and their rights of reclamation will revert to the Crown from which they originally came.

There are two or three short-term questions I wish to put on the Bill, and then I want to raise some very much larger questions affecting the economy of the nation. First, on what I call the short-term issues, is the question of the use of the land which has already been reclaimed or is at the point of being reclaimed. This, to my mind, is a form of enclosure. This is land which has been reclaimed from the sea after certain operations have been carried out by the company and to which there will never again be, so to speak, access for the public. This gives rise to my contention that at any rate some of this land ought to be devoted to smallholdings. I dare say that even the use of some of this land for this purpose would be difficult and perhaps expensive, and I am not sure that the Crown Estate Commissioners have power to develop it for smallholdings if the cost would be too great. This may be something which could be done in co-operation with the county council, the smallholdings authority; or perhaps some other means might be found of bringing about this object. However, I think that people would be happy if some of this land could be used for farming. It is land which is suitable for smallholdings and I hope that my hon. Friend will consider my proposition.

My second short-term question concerns access. A considerable area of coastline is involved. We know that very often when enclosures take place access to the coastline is restricted. It would be a pity if this were to be the case in this instance. I should like to think that it would be possible for people to enjoy the land which is being reclaimed. In particular, there should be opportunities along this stretch of coastline for the mooring of small boats. There are all sorts of difficulties about this in this estuary. There is a 25 ft. tide in the Wash and the conditions are very different from those which obtain in Holland. People who want to moor boats along this coastline and to have access to them should be catered for, but I am inclined to think that the effect of the Bill will be that to annex the land to neighbouring farms.

Thirdly, there is the question of the obligation of the Norfolk Estuary Company with regard to the shipping channel for King's Lynn. There is no doubt that originally it was a two-way obligation. They were to drain the land and, in return, they were to keep open the channels which shift about extraordinarily from time to time in the Wash as the great deal of research which has been carried out into this problem shows. There was no doubt that there was this double obligation.

The Preamble to the Bill says that these obligations have been taken over by the Great Ouse River Board—under an Order nude in 1931, the Great Ouse Catchment Board Transfer Order. I am advised that there may be some legal doubt about whether the repealing of the Norfolk Estuary Act—part of the Bill now before is—does safeguard the keeping clear of the King's Lynn Ship Channel. In any event, it is my contention that the only way to keep the King's Lynn Ship Channel in good order is to link it with land reclamation. Merely to say that there has to be consultation between the Crown Estate Commissioners and the various navigation and river board authorities is not enough, and I shall watch the Bill very anxiously in Committee to make sure that this linking of the two aspects is not overlooked.

I turn from the short-term considerations to my longer-term considerations. I am by nature as well as in politics a conservative If I had my preference I would not see one reed bed or one sandbank or one wild bird's nest in the Wash area interfered with in any way; I would not in any way deny my hon. Friends their opportunities for working small boats there and keeping them there; none of the other amenities or natural features of the Wash would be interfered with in any way.

Mr. J. M. L. Prior (Lowestoft)

What about the fishing?

Mr. Bullard

I shall come to fishing. That is very important. I am a great admirer of the East Coast fishermen and the King's Lynn fishermen, in particular. I can assure the House that none of my plans would in any way upset their interests. In fact, they would greatly help them in pursuit of their calling.

There are possibilities of much more extensive works in the Wash than can possibly came about if this Bill becomes law. There is also the question of the value of the reclaimed land to the community and the nation as a whole. In years to come, our population will greatly increase. We shall need opportunities not only for land settlements but for jobs and there are great possibilities of work being set afoot in the area of the Wash on a much wider scale than this Bill would allow.

I know all the arguments against rapid land reclamation in the Wash area. think that I have read every report on it. Many of them are very interesting, notably those presented by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. I know that this is a gradual process. I do not want to exaggerate the possibilities nor lead any hon. Member to the conclusion that if a mighty gang could be put to work immediately the land could be reclaimed.

As I have said, conditions there are not the same as they are in Holland because of the high tide. There is a tide of 5 or 6 ft. in Holland where the Zuider Zee was reclaimed, while the tide is more than 25 ft. in the Wash area. We have a much more gradual process of putting up embankments and of silting. However, the process could be hastened by modern methods. If all this could be formulated into a national plan for land reclamation then, over a period, it would not only provide us with land needed for our growing population but would do good to the spirit of the people.

It would be a new thing for us to do. We have done a lot of reclamation and development in other countries, but not much here. I would link this scheme with some kind of land settlement operation, perhaps on a similar scale to the proposals of the Land Settlement Association. It would be long-term. It could not realise quickly. But it would be something for people to study and take an interest in and, I repeat, it would do good to the spirit of the British people.

As soon as one envisages the possibilities of land reclamation of the Wash area there are other possibilities to be seen. Perhaps they are a little farfetched and Utopian, but nevertheless they are worth considering. I will give the House two examples of what I have in mind. First, if we could have road transport across the Wash it would revolutionise the nation's road transport system. Combined with easier access across the Humber and linked with the developments along the East Coast of England it would make an extremely important contribution to our economy.

Perhaps all this is Utopian, but I do not think that it does any harm to look at such propositions from time to time. We are now planning a Channel Tunnel, but I am not sure that it might not be better to divert the resources to be devoted to that to doing some extensive road development work of this kind.

Secondly, there is also the possibility of harbour facilities on a very extensive scale. It will not be long, even if the Crown Estate Commissioners go on with land reclamation, before there is left in the Wash a very deep channel, right in the middle of the East Coast, easy of access to the Midlands and accessible both to London and the North as well as being in a most strategic position facing Europe. It might provide us with facilities in the distant future from which we would very much benefit.

Those are some of the long-term possibilities. I go as far as to say that if these could be given reality they would alter the whole complexion of the Rochdale proposals and the Harbours Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) spoke of fishing. I believe that facilities for the fishermen would be augmented and improved by such measures.

I have drawn attention, as I had intended in my Motion which you, Mr. Speaker, were unable to select, to some long-term possibilities. No doubt they will be thought Utopian and even farfetched, but I am not ashamed of having done so. It is not a bad thing to look imaginatively at these problems now and then.

Mr. Prior

Would not my hon. Friend agree that the Utopia he has been putting forward is no more Utopian than the possibilities the Duke of Bedford must have envisaged when he employed Vermuyden to drain the fenland in the seventeenth century?

Mr. Bullard

Exactly. There does not seem to be any mechanism in our elaborate planning machinery for coping with problems like this. My hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will, I imagine, offer soothing words but he and his Ministry cannot possibly deal with the wider aspects I have been mentioning. Neither can my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, because so many other interests are involved. Nor can the Board of Trade, with all its interests in industrial development, Nor can the Minister of Housing and Local Government. Nor, indeed, can my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Science deal with all these aspects.

I wonder whether it would not be possible to look at the wider and more far-reaching aspects of the matter. In 1846 Sir John Rennie had a plan for draining the Wash, which was the origin of the Acts now being repealed. Nothing much came of his schemes. If something had been done about them, it would have been of great benefit to the country. But the thing fizzled out for lack of enthusiasm. A great deal could have been done if only some of Sir John Rennie's provisions had been adopted.

I know that my hon. Friend may pour cold water on my enthusiasm in broad terms, and I am sure that he will do so very capably. But I hope that he will say nothing that will debar the possibility of this matter being considered, because I would not like it to be said in years to come that he played a part similar to that which others played towards Sir John Rennie's proposals 100 years ago, thus missing a great opportunity which may be presenting itself and which would be of great benefit to the nation.

7.20 p.m.

Mr. A. V. Hilton (Norfolk, South-West)

Unlike the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard), I am neither naturally nor politically a Conservative, but he said certain things with which I agree. I do not agree with his suggestion about a road over the Wash. I think that is rather too much to expect. I should like, however, to take up his suggestion that this land or part of it might be utilised as smallholdings. He ended what I thought was a very useful speech on rather a pessimistic note when he suggested that the Parliamentary Secretary would pour cold water on his suggestions. I hope that he will not pour cold water on all the suggestions which the hon. Member has made, because I believe that no firm decision can be reached until a complete survey has been made, and the hon. Member for King's Lynn went over quite a number of the points.

I want it particular to refer to his suggestion that part of the land should be used as smallholdings because, as a member of the Norfolk County Council, I can tell the House that the council farms extensively—I think about 30,000 or 40,000 act es—and it has 1,200 or 1,300 tenants, the majority of whom are doing a good job, many in the constituency of the hon. Member for King's Lynn and in my own.

Although these tenants are doing a good job on this large acreage, we still have a very Long waiting list of potential smallholders, mainly ambitious farm workers and farmers' sons, and we know that at present it is virtually impossible for a small man to buy a farm. Many of these men are waiting the opportunity to take on a smallholding. Unfortunately, in Norfolk, and, I suspect, in many other parts of the country, it is mainly a question of waiting for dead men's shoes or for somebody to retire.

Most of this area is in the constituency of the hon. Member for King's Lynn, and many of the applicants to the county council live in the Terrington area where much of this land is situated. This is obviously the sort of land that could very well be utilised as smallholdings, especially as the present price of land prevents the Norfolk County Council from purchasing more farms to make into smallholdings. This is land which the sea is giving up—it does not actually belong to anybody, so it would not be taking it away from anybody. Some of it has been reclaimed and some of it is still being reclaimed, and there is a good deal in the suggestion that it would provide many more smallholdings to satisfy this long-felt need. To use some of the land for this purpose would be simple justice, because many potential tenants of smallholdings in Norfolk live in this area and actually work on this land for other people. They should be given serious and sympathetic consideration.

The hon. Member for King's Lynn said, quite rightly, that there would be difficulties in handing over this land for smallholdings. This is obvious. I hope, however, that the Parliamentary Secretary will take note that in Terrington St. Clements we have a very fine experimental farm that comes under his Ministry and which for many years, up to the present time, under a first-class principal and staff, has been doing a splendid job. I should have thought that at least a small portion of this land might be handed over to and come under the jurisdiction of this experimental farm. If some of the land were taken over and used as smallholdings, the experimental farm would be able to keep its eye on the smallholders and they would be able to look to it for advice, which, I am sure, would be readily forthcoming. Only a few months ago a farmer in a neighbouring county handed over to the nation, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, a farm for experimental purposes, and some of this land could very usefully be taken over and used in that connection.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not turn down out of hand the suggestions which have been made. I believe that there is a good deal of merit in them. Before finally deciding to hand over all this land to big business, I hope that he will give serious, sympathetic consideration to the suggestions which have been made.

7.28 p.m.

Sir Anthony Hurd (Newbury)

I am sure that the House is grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) for taking this opportunity to raise our sights a little beyond the scope of the Bill. It is always interesting to look back on what might have been a hundred years ago and to think of what might be achieved in the next one hundred years if we set about it the right way now. I shall listen with interest to what the Minister of Agriculture has to say about the wider visions which my hon. Friend has put before the House.

Like the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton), I was a little horrified at the idea of roads and industrial development over a part of the county which I regard as peculiarly lovely because of its isolation. I do not live in Norfolk, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn knows what would suit the people of Norfolk much better than I do, but I took a little trouble yesterday to inform myself about this Bill because I knew my hon. Friend's views. I also took the opportunity to have a word with the Crown Estate Commissioners and I found that they were not at all averse to putting a broad and wide interpretation on the responsibilities which they would take over under this Bill from the Norfolk Estuary Company.

My hon. Friend spoke particularly about the need for more smallholdings in Norfolk and the suitability of some of this land for intensive cultivation as smallholdings. That may be true, but, as I understand it, there are certain limitations under the Crown Estate Act, 1961, which rather bind the Commissioners in the scope of their operations. They have authority to do on behalf of the Crown all such acts as belong to the Crown's right of ownership". Under Section 1(3) of the Act, it is the Commissioner's general duty while maintaining the Crown Estate as an estate in land,…to maintain and enhance its value and the return obtained from it, but with due regard to the requirements of good management. I should think that that rather precludes the Crown Estate from any sort of philanthropy.

My younger son happened to be a tenant of the Crown Estate in a different part of the country. The Crown Estate Commissioners are good landlords, but they expect a fairly full rent. After all, Parliament requires them to manage the estate in a businesslike way.

Mr. Bullard

As I understand it, my hon. Friend's argument supports my Motion, namely, that the Crown Estate Commissioners are not likely to be in a position to do just what I think should be done. That is a reason, is it not, for opposing the Second Reading of the Bill?

Sir A. Hurd

I had not concluded my argument. I have looked up the 1961 Act and I have just given my interpretation of its provisions.

I was reassured a good deal yesterday when hearing that the Crown Estate is by no means averse to trying to do the right thing, as any big landlord should. I think that it already owns 13,000 acres of land in the fairly close neighbourhood of the Wash. I think that it takes its responsibilities seriously and fulfils them properly as a landlord. I have no doubt that on those 13,000 acres there are a number of smallholdings. I should have thought that if further land could be reclaimed it could suitably and with reasonable economy be dealt with as smallholdings. I should not think that that would be an impossibility.

My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn has reminded us that the Norfolk Estuary Company goes back to 1846. This shows what a very longterm job is land reclamation in the Wash and, indeed, anywhere else. I understand that since 1846 4,000 acres have been reclaimed, most of which have been sold, but that 1,000 acres have been retained by the company which are now being farmed by the company and which would be handed over to the Crown Estate Commissioners, who would pay for it. That is the payment which is covered by the Bill. It is mainly for this 1,000 acres of land which has been reclaimed and which is good farmland. It is the major asset of the company which is being acquired by the Crown Estate Commissioners.

I understand that there are another 21,000 acres of tidal land in the Wash which might be reclaimed over the years. However, this is a long-term job and it is thought that only about 1,700 acres will come to hand as farmland in the foreseeable future—perhaps in the next 25 years. The Crown Estate tells me that it is prepared to invest £50,000 a year in land reclamation in the Wash over the next few years. I hope that that would considerably speed up the process, because the Crown Estate has a deeper purse than, I think, the Norfolk Estuary Company. I hope that, with all the technical help which it will get from the various bodies with whom it will work in full contact and cooperation, it will be able to press ahead a good deal faster than perhaps would have been economical for the company.

However, this is bound to be a slow job for the very good practical reasons stated by my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn. It is not possible just to put up a bank one year and expect to get farmland produced behind it the next year. As I say, this is a slow job and I think that the Crown Estate Commissioners are just the right people to tackle it.

I therefore think that the House might well approve this Bill, which is brought forward, not by the Crown Estate Commissioners, but by the Norfolk Estuary Company, and entrust the Crown Estate with the obligations and duties as well as the opportunities which have been fulfilled and enjoyed by the company since 1846. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to tell us about the obligations and undertakings which will pass. The points which my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn raised about keeping the channels clear and the other obligations which could affect the business of King's Lynn as well as the interests of neighbouring landowners, whether they bought from the Norfolk Estuary Company or not, are important.

With those few words, I commend the Bill to the House on broad national grounds. The best way of tackling a difficult job is to entrust it to the Crown Estate, which will, I think, do it better than anybody else.

7.37 p.m.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

I may be the Member of Parliament for Twickenham, but I am an East Anglian by birth. Therefore, I was surprised and rather shocked to find that the Norfolk Estuary Company was to be wound up, because I still have a great affection for that part of the country.

The Wash is very important to our island, for two reasons. The first is because it has a very deep channel coming in from the North Sea which serves the ports of Boston and King's Lynn. Erskin Childers, as long ago as 1903, in "The Riddle of the Sands" pointed out that if the German fleet invaded Britain from Heligoland the best place at which it could do so was through the deep channel leading into Boston from the Wash. At that time, people became alarmed by the thought of the German fleet coming into the Wash. However, that book pointed to the importance of keeping that navigational channel open for those two harbours. Since the war King's Lynn has become a much more important port than it was before the war. It serves the Midlands. Anything which would derogate from its importance would be a real tragedy to the nation as a whole.

The second reason why the Wash is important concerns the reclamation of the land on the fringes of the Wash which has been undertaken over the years by the Norfolk Estuary Company. This company has had local directors who have known about local problems and it has probably served the county very well. Reclamation of land can be a great danger to navigation. Unless it is done well, it can block up harbours and channels. We have only to look a little further along the Norfolk coast to North Norfolk to see the harm done to navigation by the enclosure Acts of 1760 in the Cley channel and Blakeney harbour. Reclamation has led to the gradual silting up of those harbours. Any reclamation undertaken in the Wash without due regard to navigation could be extremely dangerous for the future.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) that this matter should be looked at as a large national problem. I hope that the Crown Estate Commissioners, in taking over rights and responsibilities for the Norfolk Estuary, will pay attention to the question of navigation as well as to reclamation.

I rose only to say that this is not just a light local matter which can be dealt with in a few minutes by the winding up of one company and handing its responsibilities over to the Crown Estate Commissioners. It raises some big issues. This is a very important part of our island from both the navigational and farming points of view, and I hope that we shall hear from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that all those interests traditional to this country and to the whole of East Anglia will be properly taken into account by the new estate owners.

7.40 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Scott-Hopkins)

Perhaps it will be convenient to the House if I intervene at this point and say at once that my right hon. Friend and I on behalf of the Government are glad to welcome this as a very sensible Bill. I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) for raising issues which, I hope, will give me the opportunity to satisfy some of his doubts and anxieties.

The Crown Estate Commissioners propose to buy the rights of the Norfolk Estuary Company in respect of reclamations in the Wash, and this will give the Commissioners the opportunity to undertake much useful work in an area where one of their very best estates is situated. I am sure that the Commissioners can be relied upon to press on with this reclamation as the land becomes ripe for this to be done.

One of the short-term considerations with which my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn and the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hilton) were concerned was that of smallholdings. The Crown Commissioners are not precluded from letting parts of their estates to smallholders, but, as the House will know, the whole question of smallholdings is being considered by a Committee, sitting under the chairmanship of Professor Wise. This Committee is examining the structure and future possibilities of smallholdings in this country, and my right hon. Friend would not wish to take any decisions of policy until he had received the recommendations of the Committee. I hope that hon. Members will not expect me to go further into this subject at this time.

The Crown Commissioners share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn that reclamation is a longterm venture which should be pressed forward for the good of the country generally. What the Commissioners are proposing to do by way of reclamation will not prejudice any issues of navigation or land drainage, and they propose to consult the land drainage and navigation authorities about their future reclamation proposals.

Mr. Bullard

I had not appreciated that my hon. Friend had left the subject of smallholdings. I am rather worried that we should have to wait for the Report of the Wise Committee, because it is the favourite occupation of Governments to wait for Committees to report. I should have thought that it would be possible to say something rather more positive now and not to have to wait for the Report. Could not this consideration be put to the Wise Committee so that it could consider the possibility of the land being so used?

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I am sure that the Crown Commissioners will note what my hon. Friend and others have said about this matter, but my hon. Friend must understand that when we are considering whether new smallholdings should be created in this area, as he is proposing, it is only reasonable to wait for the Report of an expert Committee which is examining the subject in all its aspects and in the round before taking a conclusive view. I hope that I carry my hon. Friend with me about that.

Mr. Bullard


Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Various issues concerning safeguarding navigational rights and so on were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke). These considerations are important and have been mentioned by other hon. Members. On acquiring the Norfolk Estuary Company's reclamation rights, the Crown Estate Commissioners will arrange for the Great Ouse River Board to act as consulting engineers for any reclamation scheme in their area, and I understand that that river board and the King's Lynn River Board are together being advised by the Hydraulics Research Station on works in the Wash which are required as part of flood protection schemes. The Crown Estate Commissioners will similarly wish to be guided by these authorities in carrying out reclamation works in future so that all interests may be properly safeguarded. I hope that my hon. Friends will accept that the Crown Commissioners have every intention of consulting and safeguarding the interests which have been mentioned.

My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn has drawn an exciting picture of the use to which a fully reclaimed Wash could be put and he said that this might be a Utopia. I would not go so far as to say necessarily that it would be a Utopia, but, taking the long-term view of total reclamation, I have a very great deal of sympathy with my hon. Friend's ideas. However, the economics involved are tremendous. My Ministry's engineers have never attempted an accurate estimate of the cost of reclaiming the whole of the Wash, but it would probably entail many miles of embanked channels for the several rivers draining into it and also providing protection and drainage for the reclaimed land. Nevertheless, we think that the cost might well be about £150 million which, as my hon. Friend has said, is the cost of the Channel Tunnel. I accept that, but my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has pointed to the commensurate economic advantages which that expenditure on the Channel Tunnel would bring, and I cannot see such economic advantages for the Wash.

As the reclaimed area would be about 80,000 acres and the cost could be anything up to and more than £150 million, the cost would be about £2,000 an acre, and for many years the land would be unproductive, certainly for agricultural purposes, as it would be mainly sand. Hon. Members may not be aware that tests have shown that much land underneath the Wash is composed of sand, which is valueless for agricultural purposes. Therefore, from the agricultural aspect such reclamation would be uneconomic.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir A. Hurd) was rather horrified with the idea that one might have some sort of industrial development or some form of other development in the Wash, and I can appreciate his concern. The hon. Member for King's Lynn was also concerned about transport facilities. However, if we are to consider draining the Wash at a cost of £150 million, the only proposal which would provide an economic justification for so doing would be the establishment of a major industrial enclave. Even supposing that the major problems of fresh water. which is in very short supply, could be overcome and such a project were found to be acceptable or even practicable as part of the Government's general planning policy, the acquisition by the Crown Estate Commissioners of reclamation rights in the Wash would facilitate and not hinder the establishment of such a comprehensive scheme, if at any time in the future it were found to be practical and desirable.

My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn spoke about amenities which might be provided in this part of the country as part of the reclamation. He mentioned access. Access will in no way be changed by the Crown Estate Commissioners obtaining possession and continuing the reclamation. If we are thinking of large-scale reclamations, that still applies; but if we are considering amenities in the context of reclamation schemes on the scale which the Crown Estate Commissioners are undertaking then, in spite of what my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury said about acceleration of these processes, progress would be relatively slow and the impact of the expansion on amenities would also be only limited.

I conclude by commending the Bill to the House as a sensible and progressive Measure aimed at eliminating some of the more archaic aspects of land reclamation around the Wash and giving the Crown Estate Commissioners a chance of extending the very useful work which they are already doing in the area. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn will he partially if not completely satisfied that I have not poured cold water on these proposals.

Mr. Bullard

indicated dissent.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Far from it. I am glad that my hon. Friend has had the opportunity of putting such exciting ideas before the House. I am sure that they will receive the consideration they deserve, and at some time in the future my hon. Friend's prophecies may come true.

Mr. Hilton

Would the hon. Gentleman comment on my suggestion that at least part of this area might be linked up with the experimental farm at Terrington St. Clements?

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I thought that there was no need to comment on that because, if the Crown Estates Commissioners retain it, and if at some time in the future this was thought a desirable development, and if sufficient land had been reclaimed—and I ask the hon. Gentleman to remember that we are talking about a relatively small acreage—the point he made will be borne in mind.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.