asked the Minister of Agriculture if, in view of the amount of agricultural land which has been taken for other purposes in recent years and the fact that this loss of food-producing land is continuing, he will set up a committee of inquiry to examine and report on the possibility and practicability of reclaiming the Wash from the sea.
Certain areas adjoining the Wash have already been reclaimed since the war by the owners concerned and further areas are now ripe for reclamation. I am considering what steps can be taken to promote further reclamation and see no advantage in appointing a committee of inquiry for this purpose.
Is the Minister aware that it has been estimated that in the last two years we have lost good agricultural land to the extent of the size of a small county, and that this process is continuing? A really large-scale scheme in regard to the Wash would add many hundreds of thousands of acres to the already good land of Lincolnshire and Norfolk.
From the research which I have made I think the figure which the hon. and gallant Gentleman gave is slightly high. I have had the advantage of visiting that area in recent years and I do not think it is true to say that we have lost large areas of land. In point of fact, the area won from the Wash in the past three years totals some 4,500 acres. But I agree that there is more to be done.
Would the right hon. Gentleman have discussions with the Chairman of the Nene Catchment Board about this? That Board have done a lot of work in these matters. Has he any idea of the extent and the ownership of the land that might be reclaimed?
I should not like to tie myself down to a figure, but I think that there is a considerable amount of land which is recoverable. It is a question of recovering it at the right moment. If one recovers it too soon one does not get the greatest benefit from it and if one leaves it for too long one also fails to get the best results.