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Requisitioned Land (Disposal)

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 1 July 1954

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asked the Minister of Agriculture how many properties or estates of any description are still held under requisition by his Department; if he will order a new investigation into the circumstances of all these cases; and if he will direct that the interests of the original owner, or owners, shall receive prior consideration whenever a sale is contemplated.

Some 23,900 acres of land are still held under requisition by my Department, most of it either common land or plot land held in a multiplicity of ownerships, many of the owners being unknown. About 10,000 acres of this land are being bought under Section 85 of the Agriculture Act, 1947, in order to maintain the land in efficient agricultural use. The remaining 13,900 acres are under continual review and a large part of the acreage will be released to the owners this autumn. I have no powers to sell land held on requisition, and the latter part of the Question does not, therefore, arise.

Will the Minister kindly address himself to the second part of the Question, about the possibility of a new investigation into the circumstances of all these cases? Will he bear in mind that, while most of us in this country still believe that we have the finest Civil Service in the world, nevertheless people have been deeply shocked by the recent case? Will my right hon. Friend, therefore, seriously consider this suggestion? Can he tell the House whether any progress has been made in derequisitioning?

There is so much misunderstanding about derequisitioning that it may interest the House to know that the requisitioned area has been reduced from 61,030 acres in April, 1951, to the figure I have given of 23,900 acres at the present time.

When every kind of inquiry is being held under the 1947 Act, will my right hon. Friend not have them in an open court, where the public can be admitted, under the chairmanship of an independent Q.C., and with evidence taken on oath. That is what we want—to get rid of all this dictatorship of the Civil Service.