asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that three tenant farmers on Saltoun Estate, East Lothian, have been evicted on the grounds that the landowner intends to work the farms himself; that these evictions are causing a feeling of insecurity amongst tenant farmers in South Scotland; and whether he will take steps to have enacted that tenant farmers shall have security of tenure for the duration of the war and for some time afterwards?
I understand there are some few cases in which proprietors have given tenants notices to quit at Martinmas, 1942, in order to take the farms into their own hands, but I have no detailed information regarding the three instances mentioned in the first part of the Question. The National Farmers' Union and Chamber of Agriculture of Scotland have asked for a meeting with the Scottish Land and Property Federation and my Department to discuss the questions relative to the security of tenure of tenant farmers, and this meeting will be held shortly.
Will the right hon. Gentleman see that those farmers who have worked their farms through the lean and hungry years are not turned out now when guaranteed prices and subsidies have been introduced?
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether before he allowed the eviction of the tenant of Saint John's Farm, Berwickshire, he consulted the Berwick County Agricultural Execu- tive Committee and with what result; and, as the buyer of this farm owns another farm, why was the protection against eviction provided in Defence Order 62 (41) not granted to this farmer?
I consulted the agricultural executive committee for Berwick-shire and fully accepted the favourable report which they gave me of the existing tenant's management. But there was no evidence of land speculation in the purchase, and food production interests were not adversely affected by the proposed change of occupier. The purchaser of the farm is at present the tenant of a small-holding, not the owner of a farm. He has proved his farming capacity and he is giving up the tenancy of the smallholding when he takes over the farm. In my opinion, therefore, there were inadequate grounds for refusing my consent under the Defence Regulation.
The only ground upon which my consent can be refused under the Defence Regulations is if there is evidence of speculation. There was none in this case.
Is it not the case that the outgoing farmer was farming the land usefully and well, and why is it therefore that another farmer can come along and supplant a farmer who has already proved his worth to the community in war-time? If there is no power under the Defence Regulation, cannot something be done to protect farmers who are making good use of the land that they are farming?
As I have already said, the Defence Regulation gives the Minister power to refuse his consent only if there is evidence of speculation in the rents and price of land, and there is no such evidence whatever here.