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National Land Fund

Volume 436: debated on Tuesday 15 April 1947

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Before I leave 1946–47, I think that I should report briefly to the Committee on the first year's working of the National Land Fund, which we established last year. None of the principal of this Fund, which amounts to £50 million and is safely and properly invested in Government securities—it is a proper Fund, not just a bookkeeping entry—and a large part of which, as I told the Committee last year, I regard as a nest egg for national parks and similar projects in the future, has yet been spent; and our commitments up to date will be well covered by the interest on the capital—which is sound finance. But these commitments already cover payments to the Inland Revenue from the Fund in respect of five properties which have been accepted in satisfaction of Death Duties. The first of these five properties consists of 33,000 acres—a large acreage—nearly half the county of Merioneth, including Lake Bala and some adjacent mountain slopes, an area of great beauty in the heart of Wales, and in the heart of Welsh culture. I contemplate that this estate will be most sympathetically owned and administered, I hope, as a whole and as a unit, with a special care for increased food production, for the welfare of the present tenants of the estate, and also for improved facilities, hitherto rather neglected in this area, for visitors and holiday-makers.

The second and third properties are both in the Lake District, 1,800 acres including Lake Brotherswater, a beautiful lake, and a smaller area of 800 acres, not far away at Troutbeck, including a picturesque 17th century farmhouse among the fells. Both these properties, it seems to me, could best be handled by the National Trust, which has an ever-growing holding of land, of course, in the Lake District. The two remaining properties are in the West Country. One is Cotehele, the medieval mansion of the Mount Edgcumbe family, 12 miles up the River Tamar from Plymouth. This is one of the oldest inhabitated houses in Britain, and is a very fine example, both in its exterior and its furnishings, of one of the great periods of English architecture. It would have been a great pity if it had been lost. It will be held, together with 1,300 acres, on behalf of the nation by the National Trust. Finally, I am handing over to the Youth Hostels Association a modern seaside house, with three acres of land, on the North Cornish cliff, near Padstow. This house is specially suited to be used as a hostel, for the enjoyment of young people with not much money to spend, and it completes the chain of hostels held by the Association in this part of the country. I hope and believe that this is only the first of a series of such arrangements which we shall be able to make for the benefit, not only of these bodies I have named, but for other non-profit-making bodies of the same kind. England and Wales have made a good start in this first year. Scotland, I hope, is going to give us something in the second year.