§ Mr. G. EDWARDS
asked the Minister of Agriculture if he has received a request from the Norfolk Smallholdings Committee for permission to at once make a reduction in the rents of the smallholders to save them from absolute ruin; and, if so, what action does he propose to take?
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
Yes, Sir. I have received a copy of the resolution adopted by the smallholdings and allotments sub-committee asking for authority to make an immediate reduction of the smallholders' rents in the county. The copy resolution was not accompanied by any information or details as to the reasons why the sub-committee bad adopted the resolution, and it will be necessary for me to make inquiries into the whole of the circumstances before I can decide what action, if any, I shall take in the particular case, but on the information before me I see no reason to depart from the general policy which I have recently explained in this House.
§ Mr. T. GRIFFITHS
asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he has received a petition from the Bournemouth and District Smallholdings and Allotment Society protesting against the high rents charged for holdings; whether he is aware that, prior to the purchase of the land by the county council, the society rented the land at 35s. per acre, and now the average rent is £4 per acre; that this rent is vastly above the value of the land and that the rent paid by farmers for adjoining farms is still only 30s. per acre; and whether he proposes to take any action to secure a readjustment of the rents of these smallholdings?
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
Yes, Sir. I have received a copy of the petition which has been sent to the Hampshire County Council by the society in question, which consists of civilian smallholders. The 1227W rents referred to were revised a year ago to accord with the values then existing, and to correspond with the rents payable by the new ex-service tenants who were being settled on land adjoining, and it is not to be expected that the rents for small holdings should be at the same figure paid by farmers for their land, as small holdings invariably command a high rent per acre. I will, however, bring the hon. Member's question to the notice of the Hampshire County Council, but, as I explained to my hon. Friend the Member for South West Norfolk on the 13th instant, the Ministry is not prepared to agree to permanent reductions of rent until agricultural conditions are more stabilised. In the meantime, local authorities have been empowered to grant temporary abatements of rents to smallholders, subject to the approval of the Ministry's local District Commissioner.