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Land Reform

Volume 463: debated on Monday 21 March 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why the Land Reform Law, passed by the Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia, was rejected by the Governor of this Land.

The Bill to which my hon. Friend refers was refused assent by the Regional Commissioner because it involved a serious loss of agricultural production, and because it was ultra vires in that it attempted to take retrospective action stretching back beyond the date of Military Government Ordinance No. 103 which is the legal basis of action by the Land Government in this matter. My right hon. Friend is fully aware of the necessity of pressing on with the carrying through of land reform, and in these circumstances our authorities in Germany have themselves prepared legislation, based on the law passed by Schleswig-Holstein, which will be applicable in those Laender which, like North Rhine-Westphalia, have failed to pass the necessary legislation themselves.

Does not my hon. Friend consider that German agricultural experts as are competent as British experts to decide what constitutes a loss of agricultural production?

I can only say that this was very carefully gone into with our own experts, with the conclusion I have described. I cannot recall for the moment the estimates of the German experts on this matter.

In view of the fact that it is of the utmost importance that the maximum amount of food should be produced in this territory, does not the Under-Secretary think it is very important that these estates should not be broken up into smaller units, thereby militating against maximum food production at the present time?

I do not accept the implication that all schemes of land reform decrease food production. On the contrary, there are other factors tending to the opposite conclusion, but I have it against this scheme that it would have seriously reduced food production.

Is my hon. Friend aware that this scheme was agreed to by all the major parties, and does it not make a farce of democracy that all parties having reached agreement, outside experts come along and over-rule them?

On one of the important subjects I have mentioned, the question of the retroactive nature of the proposed scheme, there was a wide measure of support for our scheme, including the support of the Social Democratic Party.

Can the hon. Member confirm that this scheme was supported by any party other than the Socialists in North Rhine-Westphalia?