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Private Estates (Ownership)

Volume 439: debated on Monday 23 June 1947

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what method is contemplated for dealing with the ownership of large private estates in the British zone of Germany.

A draft ordinance on Land Reform has just been referred to the German Zonal Advisory Council for advice. While it is not possible, therefore, to give details of the measures which will take effect, it is generally expected that the Ordinance will provide that land in excess of an area to be specified should be expropriated. This step in the view of the Moscow Conference is necessary in the interest of future security.

In the case of extensive farms which are planned, as many are, for operation as one unit with large central buildings, will the hon. Gentleman consider turning them into State concerns so that they can still be operated as one unit under public ownership since that would be much more efficient than breaking them up into a number of small units?

That is perhaps rather a large question for Question time, but where large experimental farms are concerned, it is the intention of the draft ordinance to make special provisions.

Can the Under-Secretary tell us under what principle or under- standing of international law this kind of re-allotting of landed property is being done?

This is done by the same procedure as other acts of the Control Commission in the British zone, and, of course, the Germans are taken into consultation. This ordinance is at the moment before the Zonal Advisory Council for their advice.

Is the Under-Secretary aware that this announcement has caused widespread concern, particularly among the social democrats of Germany? Can he say why the maximum size of an estate under the new law is to be fixed considerably higher in the British zone than it is in the Russian or American zones?

The ordinance is, I must repeat, in draft. The actual maximum is now subject to the advice of the Zonal Advisory Council, and I do not think I can make any further comment at this stage.

What is the attitude of the United States on this question of the expropriation of private lands? Have they been consulted now that we are working together in the Western zones?