HL Deb 24 May 1976 vol 371 cc8-10

2.50 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether provision of additional allotment plots and water supplies to allotment sites are exempted from the present stop by local authorities on growth projects pursuant to Government policy.


My Lords, the provision of allotments is one of the local authority services where councils are free to determine their own capital programmes and priorities within the limits of an annual capital allocation for those services.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that some local authorities seem to be using Government policy as an excuse for doing nothing, whereas in point of fact if the need is urgent they can supply this services, including water?

Baroness BIRK

Yes, my Lords. The point is that there is no question of directing local Councils to make provision in their annual programmes for additional allotments. On the other hand, the Government have stressed to local authorities the importance of maintaining their efforts to meet the increased demand for plots. This must depend on the extent to which suitable land is available and current financial constraints permit.


My Lords is the noble Baroness aware that Department of the Environment statistics show that the number of applicants on allotment waiting-lists had risen to 83,804 by 30th September, 1975, from 56,730 one year earlier, an increase of 48 per cent. In one year, and that during last year the total acreage fell by 360 acres, equivalent to 6,093 plots? Is it not time that the Government reviewed the legislative proposals of the Thorp Committee which reported seven years ago, and in the interim will they grant-aid local authorities to provide more allotments?

Baroness BIRK

Actually, my Lords, the noble Lord is slightly out of date. In March 1976 there were 100,000 people waiting for allotments. In the 1974–75 financial year over £4,500,000 was paid in Government grants for reclaiming derelict land. We also do not see why parts of such reclaimed land should not be available for allotments where the land is suitable for spade cultivation. I very much hope the local authorities will hear this in mind. In addition, the Manpower Services Commission has allocated over £106,000 to convert land, some of it derelict, into allotments. At the present time there would really be no point in legislation; unless legislation is going to result in something positive I do not really think we want any more.


My Lords, while recognising what the Manpower Services Commission is doing in this regard, would the Government agree that the efforts made by one local authority, Lowestoft, mentioned in the Thorp Report, is noteworthy and worth while repeating in other areas?

Baroness BIRK

Yes, my Lords; we are always anxious that any scheme should be copied by other local authorities, but it is within the right of local authorities to make their own decisions. This is the point.


My Lords, before we conclude this excellent mini-debate, will my noble friend refer to water supply? She did not do so specifically. May one assume that what she said about allotment sites will also apply to water for present allotments?

Baroness BIRK

Yes, my Lords. Where it is possible to allocate the land, and the authorities are prepared to do so, then they must provide—they usually provide—the necessary water supply.