HC Deb 05 June 1947 vol 438 cc556-9
Mr. T. Williams

I beg to move, in page 91, line 37, to leave out "two months," and to insert "one month."

Paragraph 3 of the Seventh Schedule amends Section 11 of the 1923 Act, which deals with a tenant's right to claim compensation for damage to crops from game. Section 11 provided that, in order to substantiate a claim for compensation, a tenant must give notice to his landlord as soon as might be after the damage had occurred. Paragraph 3 amends Section II so as to provide that the tenant shall give notice within two months after the tenant of the holding has become, or ought reasonably to have become, aware of the occurrence of the damage. It was suggested, during the discussion of the Schedule in Committee, that two months was too long a period, and that if should be reduced to 14 days. I promised to look at this point, and undertook to consider a concession to the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane). I now make that concession of, at least, one month. I hope, therefore, he likes it.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 91, line 42, leave out "two months," and insert "one month."—[Mr.T.Williams.]

Mr. T. Williams

I beg to move, in page 92, line 43, at the end, to insert: (4) Where under section thirty of this Act the effect of a notice to quit part of a holding depends on the Minister or the Agricultural Land Tribunal consenting to the operation of the notice, the period within which, under the proviso to subsection (1) of the said section twenty-seven, the tenant may accept the notice as a notice to quit the entire holding shall run from the time at which it is determined that the notice has effect instead of from the time at which the notice is served. Section 27 of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1923, provides that, where a landlord serves on his tenant a notice to quit part of the holding, the tenant may, within 28 days, elect to treat the notice as a notice to quit the entire holding. If, under the provisions of Clause 30 of the Bill, the tenant objects to the notice to quit part of the holding, he may wish to reserve his right, in the event of consent being given, to treat the notice as applying to the whole holding. But he will not know whether or not consent is being given until the Minister has decided the issue or the agricultural land tribunal have taken a decision. The purpose of this Amendment therefore is to provide that the period of 28 days allowed under Section 27 of the 1923 Act should run from the date on which consent is given by the Minister or tribunal.

Amendment agreed to.

1 a.m.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

I beg to move, in page 93, line 27, to leave out from beginning, to end of line 33, and to insert: "arbitration under the Act of 1923."

In agriculture you never know when you are going to come on the snags. Here is a matter tucked away almost unostentatiously and which, but for the vigilance, of my friends, might almost have escaped notice. It is really of importance. It appears in paragraph 3 (3) of the Seventh Schedule. The purport of that is to amend Section 30 (2) of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1923. To put it as briefly as possible, it provides that if the tenant exercises his rights in any such way as to cause grave injury to the holding then the landlord has certain remedies, included among which is the remedy of obtaining an injunction, or, should the case so require, of restraining the tenant from exercising his rights under the Section.

The paragraph of the Schedule which we are proposing to amend provides that instead of having an ordinary straightforward application by the landlord for obtaining an injunction to restrain the tenant, the Minister shall butt in on the action in order to decide as a question of fact whether or not the tenant has injuriously affected the land by the cropping operation he is entitled to pursue under the Section generally. This is a question of principle which ought never to be brought into a matter of this sort at all. What business has the right hon. Gentleman to intervene in a legal proceeding such as an injunction? The courts are well aware of how best to obtain the requisite evidence to decide whether or not an injury to the land has been sustained. They have been doing it for centuries long before there was anything such as a Ministry of Agriculture. They are perfectly well able to continue to do it and I urge the House not to accept this principle. I know perfectly well that the right hon. Gentleman will seek to show that the object of the Bill is to try to operate machinery by the industry for the industry within the industry. I would forestall his argument, knowing perfectly well what it will be. I would venture to say that in this case it is not a question of the industry governing itself. It is a question of the settlement of a dispute of a highly technical problem for which the law courts are the proper place, and it is not for the right hon. Gentleman acting through his agents in the area, who are likely themselves to be involved in the dispute, to decide questions of fact which should come before the courts.

Mr. Baldwin

I beg to second the Amendment.

We merely ask that the dispute shall be referred to arbitration. These men have practical technical knowledge, and we think they are better able to judge than the amateurs proposed by the Minister. Arbitration has been called in at least six times previously in this Bill, and we do not think that an additional occasion or two will make that much difference.

The Solicitor-General

Paragraph 7 (3) of the Seventh Schedule makes certain Amendments to Section 30 of the 1923 Act. That Section makes it quite clear that produce may be disposed of at the tenant's discretion except in the last year of tenancy. But it goes on to provide that if he exercises his right in such a way as to injure or deteriorate the holding the landlord should be able to obtain an injunction against him. It has been thought however that the court is not a suitable body to determine a technical farming matter of this kind. Paragraph 7 (3) therefore provides that, in such cases, the landlord should obtain a certificate from the Minister and that this shall be conclusive proof to the court of the effect of the tenant's action. The effect of this Amendment, if it were accepted, would be that arbitration would be substituted for the Minister's certificate. The Opposition apparently thinks that the county agricultural executive committees are not so competent as to deal with such a case. I can only say that we think the opposite to be the case. If, unfortunately, the lack of faith in the executive committees which is shown by hon. Members opposite were justified, the whole machinery of the Bill would fall down. But we think that the committees can be left to do their job in an efficient manner, and I regret, for that, as for other reasons, that I cannot accept this Amendment.

Amendment negatived.