HC Deb 10 May 1968 vol 764 cc145-7W
Mr. Godber

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will now state his plans for action on the Wise Committee's final Report.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

I have carefully considered the Report of the Wise Committee on the Land Settlement Association. I agree with many of the Committee's specific recommendations, in particular that the structure of the L.S.A. scheme should be improved by concentrating on horticultural production. It follows that those estates which cannot readily make this their main activity should be withdrawn from the scheme. But I do not share the Committee's doubts on the continuing national need for the scheme. The scheme has achieved a striking success in the marketing of the produce grown by some 500 smallholders on widely scattered estates and I consider it is in the public interest to maintain this unique form of co-operative organisation. I therefore propose, subject to the changes set out below, to continue the present form of organisation which in my view offers better prospects for the tenants than the Wise Committee's alternative of creating independent co-operative units.

I am glad to say that the Association are willing to continue to act as my agents in managing the estates on this basis. The Association's Executive Committee has proposed certain administrative changes which will among other things, I hope, meet tenants' wishes for closer ties with the management. They will be discussing these proposals with the tenants and will seek any necessary amendment of the Association's Rules. It is intended that tenants will have increased latitude in the use of several of the centralised services now provided, including the supply of requisites; but subject to this they will continue to be under a contractual obligation to purchase requisites through the centralised services and to use those services which are essential to the centralised marketing, packing, grading and propagating of the horticultural produce.

My predecessor withdrew from the scheme four estates in the North of England which were mainly dependent on small scale livestock production. Of the remaining 14 estates, 11 are suitable for intensive horticulture and will remain in the scheme. This includes four estates which have been the subject of expert examination as recommended by the Wise Committee (Abington, Andover, Fulney and Snaith); some of these estates have still a substantial livestock interest but they are turning to horticulture with increasing success.

I accept the Wise Committee's assessment of Oxcroft, Elmesthorpe and Harrowby and their recommendation that these estates should be withdrawn from the scheme. All the tenants on these estates will be interviewed and the terms of notice and compensation to those who wish to leave their holdings will be discussed with them. Those who wish to keep on their agricultural tenancies will of course have the right to do so; and any tenants who wish to remain within the L.S.A. scheme will be considered for vacancies on other estates. Every effort will be made to meet the wishes of those who are prepared to give up their agricultural land but would like to remain in houses on the estates. These three estates will revert to the Ministry for management and possible disposal of unoccupied holdings.

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