Land Cultivation.

Oral Answers to Questions — Ex-Service Men. – in the House of Commons on 11th May 1922.

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Photo of Mr John Swan Mr John Swan , Barnard Castle

81.

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware that 830,000 acres have gone out of cultivation in this country during the last three years; and if he will state the number of agricultural workers thrown out of work due to the same; the loss of food production due to the diminished cultivation; and what cost the importation of food of the same amount from other countries entails.

Sir A. BOSCAWEN:

According to the latest returns the reduction in arable land in Great Britain in 1921 as compared with 1918 was 885,000 acres, and in the total area under crops and permanent grass 875,000 acres. On the other hand there has been a large increase in land returned as "rough grazings" and land used for allotments. As the hon. Member is aware, special efforts were made in 1918 to increase the area of land under the plough in order to meet the position created by War conditions, and that year is not properly comparable with 1921 as regards area of arable land, the labour employed, or the quantity of foodstuffs imported. The area of arable land in 1921 was still 670,000 acres greater than in 1914.

Photo of Mr John Swan Mr John Swan , Barnard Castle

Will the hon. Gentleman reply to the second part of my question?

Sir A. BOSCAWEN:

I have already said in the main answer that you are comparing the present year with an absolutely abnormal year. If the hon. Member will ask for a comparison between the present year and 1914 I will give it.

Photo of Mr John Swan Mr John Swan , Barnard Castle

The question I asked was the number of men who have been thrown out of work due to the diminishing acreage under cultivation during the last three years.

Sir A. BOSCAWEN:

I could not possibly give the figures. As I have said, it was an abnormal year and I have not the figures to give to the House.

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY:

Is the hon. Gentleman arguing against the basis of his Agriculture Act?

Photo of Mr George Lane-Fox Mr George Lane-Fox , Barkston Ash

Is the result of my hon. Friend's reply that the statement that 830,000 acres have gone out of cultivation is entirely inaccurate?

Sir A. BOSCAWEN:

Yes, quite inaccurate. It does not in the least follow that because land ceases to be arable, therefore it ceases to be under cultivation, and the statement that I see is frequently-made on the platform is quite untrue. There is naturally a small diminution in the amount of land cultivated in every year due to the encroachments of buildings, railways, factories, houses, and so on, but otherwise there is no decrease whatever.

Photo of Mr Ronald McNeill Mr Ronald McNeill , Canterbury

Inasmuch as the state of affairs suggests the desirability of protection for agricultural products, will my hon. Friend consider legislation in that direction?

Photo of Mr George Barnes Mr George Barnes , Glasgow Gorbals

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what is the increased acreage for allotments?

Sir A. BOSCAWEN:

I should like to have notice, but it is very considerable.

Photo of Major Murdoch Wood Major Murdoch Wood , Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire Central

Is not the Government giving a preference to uncultivated land by the Budget of last week?

Sir A. BOSCAWEN:

Certainly not. I never heard before that allotments were uncultivated land.