The Cabinet Papers banner

End of the war

Productivity gains

Towards the end of the war, the area under arable cultivation was around 18 million acres. Production of wheat, barley and oats had all increased substantially. Productivity gains were achieved by increased use of mechanisation, particularly tractors. Although food had been strictly rationed during the war, the requirements of the population had been met. In 1944, the government considered the post-war dispensation for agriculture. It offered a four-year guarantee of markets and price levels.

Overall, agriculture emerged from the Second World War in a strong position; it had prevented much starvation and was held high in public regard. Subsidies, marketing boards and the government's commitment to food production had all contributed to the well being of the agricultural sector. Overall, agriculture and food production had become central to government policy. In the post-war period, the scarcity of foreign exchange continued to motivate the expansion of production, while the subsidies and marketing boards established during the war provided a legacy of state intervention.

The Scott Committee

At the same time that William Beveridge was writing his famous report on post-war social policy, the Scott Committee was set up to review land use in the post-war countryside. Just as Beveridge's report went much further than its original remit, so did this. The Scott Committee's vision for the post-war countryside was one in which centralised government planning would reduce poverty and the free market excess' of the inter-war years. Through its blueprint for town and country planning, reconstruction and the establishment of National Parks and nature reserves, the Scott Report proved a strong influence on the countryside after 1945.