HL Deb 04 July 1944 vol 132 cc646-8

My Lords, I beg to ask the question standing in my name.

[The question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government, whether, in view of the statement in paragraph 19 of "The Control of Land Use" (Command Paper 6537), that "land which to-day is used for agriculture may to-morrow be required for housing or industry," they will give an undertaking that they have reserved the minimum area of agricultural land necessary for the maintenance of a healthy agricultural industry at home and of national security; and, if so, whether they will state the extent of that area.]


My Lords, it is not thought necessary to reserve the minimum area of agricultural land for the purposes mentioned by the noble Lord. Such an approach ignores the variation in quality of land which is at least as important a factor as the quantity of land required for housing or industry. The principle that the Government are seeking to establish is that land should be put to its optimum use, and in this connexion I would refer to the statement made by Lord Reith behalf of the Government in this House on the 11th February, 1942, which included the following: The Government … will seek to avoid the diversion of productive agricultural land to other purposes if there is unproductive or less productive land that could reasonably be used for these purposes. Effect is being given to this policy through the Minister of Agriculture's rural land utilization officers, who are consulted, together with other Departments concerned, on proposals to develop agricultural land. I would like to pay a tribute to local authorities and planning authorities who have welcomed the advice of rural land utilization officers, and who are constantly seeking their services. Sporadic and uncontrolled development in the past has affected a much greater area of land than that occupied by actual buildings; this has been a principal source of damage to agriculture and has led to the waste of much land. It can be avoided only by effective planning control such as would be facilitated by proposals contained in the White Paper to which the noble Lord has referred.


My Lords, I beg to thank my noble friend for the answer, which I think is as satisfactory a one as I could expect. No doubt my noble friend is aware that there is considerable alarm among some of the most important agricultural organizations in the country concerning the paragraph to which I refer in my question, in view of its relation to the formation of any future agricultural policy.