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Agricultural Workers

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 13 May 1943

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11.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is now in a position to make a statement regarding the Government's intentions to schedule agricultural cottages which are at present occupied by agricultural labourers, so that these dwellings shall remain available permanently for the agricultural community who are working in the vicinity of the dwellings; and whether he will consider setting up a Departmental Committee to look further into the matter?

I promised my right hon. and noble Friend the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) in the Debate on 4th May that I would look again at the suggestion that agricultural workers' cottages should be scheduled, and I am not yet in a position to make any further statement.

Does my right hon. Friend realise it is no longer a question that it should be done? It must be done. Does he not realise further that the delay has gone on too long in this matter, and will he really get on with the matter? These cottages are urgently wanted for the agricultural labourers.

I have said that I am not in a position at the moment to make any further statement.

16.

asked the Minister of Health when he expects to receive the Interim Report of the Sub-Committee of the Central Housing Advisory Committee upon the Design and Planning of Post-War Dwellings?

I have already received interim recommendations from this Sub-Committee on the planning of rural cottages, and type plans recommended by the Sub-Committee are being used in the war-time scheme for 3,000 agricultural cottages. I expect to receive the Sub-Committee's final report covering all phases of their present investigation by the autumn.

17.

asked the Minister of Health, in view of the erection of only 26 cottages for agricultural workers in county Durham, when and what number, a further supply will be initiated?

Thirty-six cottages are allocated to the County of Durham. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and I regret that mole cottages cannot be allotted to the county, as all the 3,000 in the Government scheme have now been allocated.

That is not an answer to my Question. I asked when we shall have a further supply in order to supplement the needs, which are very urgent.

As there are 9,000 agricultural workers in the County of Durham, does the Minister consider that 36 cottages are adequate, and in any event has he proceeded with the erection of these cottages, and, if not, when does he propose to do so?

On the first point, the Minister of Agriculture has said that the allocation of cottages under the present scheme was based essentially on the agricultural needs of the counties in the light of the facts at present available.

When does the Minister propose to proceed with the erection of the cottages?

What does the Minister mean by "the earliest moment"? What is the Government's interpretation of "the earliest moment"? Will he explain?

Arising out of that reply, is it not a fact that the difficulty in this matter of these emergency houses is due to the fact that the Minister of Labour refuses to release sufficient building labour?

22.

asked the Minister of Health whether any rural district council has refused to build cottages for agricultural labourers under the 3,000 scheme; and what action he proposes to take?

Five rural district councils have expressed a disinclination to build under the conditions which attach to this scheme. As their objections are being discussed or are about to be discussed with them, it would be premature to regard them as having refused to build. All the other of the 382 authorities concerned have agreed to build. In the five cases in question, the first course is to discuss the councils' objections with them, and, as I have indicated, this is being done.

In view of the fact that this was not an ordinary housing scheme but that the cottages were carefully allocated by his Ministry, does the right hon. Gentleman propose to set any time limit for these negotiations, and, when this time limit has ended, to take more drastic action?

We have, as my Noble Friend knows, statutory powers of default, but the question of exercising them has not yet arisen.

How many of the authorities have agreed to build, and how many of the cottages which the councils have promised to build have been built?

Is it not a fact that the vast majority of rural district councils are anxious to help in every way? Will the Ministry help by cutting down its cumbrous procedure?

I agree that they have done very fine work, and I am doing my best, in the present conditions, to make the procedure as simple as I can.