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Dispossession And Supervision

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 8 July 1954

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85.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if, in view of the revelation in the Crichel Down case, he will order an investigation presided over by three Queen's Counsel to investigate all cases of dispossessed farmers.

No. Farmers whom county agricultural executive committees, as my agents, propose should be dispossessed under the Agriculture Act, 1947, on grounds of bad husbandry, have the right to make representations to the committee concerned. If the proposal to dispossess is confirmed, a case can, if the farmer so desires, be referred to the independent agricultural land tribunal. I am satisfied that these arrangements provide adequate safeguards.

86.

asked the Minister of Agriculture to state, at the latest convenient date, the number of farmers and smallholders who are in process of being dispossessed by his authority or are under supervision, respectively.

Dispossession orders on grounds of bad husbandry relating to 13 farmers are due to take effect in a matter of months, and I shall make two further dispossession orders shortly. Compulsory acquisition of land on grounds of bad estate management under Section 16 (1) of the Agriculture Act, 1947, is proceeding in the case of 10 landowners and in one other case a certificate enabling me to acquire the land will shortly be made. Nine hundred and thirty-one farmers and 379 owners are at present under supervision.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will take steps to see that citizens have the right to appeal to a traditional court of law on matters of law, fact and merit, in view of the disclosures made in the Crichel Down inquiry, and the disclosures revealed in the Odlum v. Straton case; and if he will take steps to ensure that opportunity shall exist for appeal against the judgment of the Executive.

I assume my hon. Friend has in mind the exercise of powers of dispossession and compulsory purchase on grounds of bad husbandry and bad estate management respectively under Part II of the Agriculture Act, 1947, and powers of compulsory purchase of requisitioned land under Section 85 of that Act. Parties materially affected by a proposal to use those powers have the right to refer the matter to the independent agricultural land tribunals, who consider the facts de novo and make a final decision. The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act which received Royal Assent on 4th June will allow parties to request that questions of law arising before these tribunals should be referred to the High Court. These provisions will come into effect at an early date. I consider that the tribunals are more appropriate bodies to deal with matters of fact and merit.