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Derbyshire Holding (Disposession Order)

Volume 440: debated on Monday 21 July 1947

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asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will inquire into the case of a farmer, details of which have been forwarded to him, who was evicted from his farm by the Derbyshire A.E.C., although he had arranged for his land to be ploughed in accordance with an order issued by the committee; if he is aware that, although the contractors instructed to carry out this work were told by the district executive officer that there was no hurry, this officer immediately had the ploughing carried out by another contractor and a dispossession order sent to the farmer; and if he will arrange for the farm to be restored to the farmer and for reparation to be made to him.

I have made inquiries into this case, the facts of which are as follows. On 8th November, 1939, the Derbyshire War Agricultural Executive Committee directed the owner to plough up three of his fields, comprising 14½ acres, by 1st December, 1939. On 9th December the district officer, finding that the owner had not started the work, tried, without success, to persuade him to do so. Proceedings for the default were taken on 15th February, 1940. The owner's defence was that the land was useless as arable, but expert witnesses proved that it was quite suitable for ploughing and would, if properly cultivated, produce good crops. The court convicted the owner and ordered him to pay £25 and £10 costs.The directions were repeated, and two of the fields were then ploughed up by the owner. In October, 1940, it was noticed that these two fields had not been touched s1ince the harvest, and it was agreed with the owner that they should be cropped with corn. Directions were served accordingly and also requiring the ploughing up of a further four fields, comprising 26.8 acres, by the end of November, 1940. Members of the executive committee visiting the farm on 24th February, 1941, found that the two stubble fields had not been prepared and sown as directed, and that none of the additional ploughing had been done. The owner's excuse was that two contractors he had asked to do the work had disappointed him. There is no truth in the allegation that the district officer told these contractors there was no hurry about the work. The contractors themselves have affirmed that he made it clear to them that he was anxious for them to get on with it.Possession of the holding was subsequently taken with my predecessor's consent on the grounds that the owner had failed to comply with directions, and also that the holding was not being cultivated in accordance with the rules of good husbandry. It is now let under a contract for occupation determinable at 25th March, 1950, and it is not practicable to give up possession at present. The compensation payable for taking possession of 'and is laid down in the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, and the claims which have arisen have all been settled.