HC Deb 07 April 1960 vol 621 cc537-8
7. Mr. Owen

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether, in order to avoid exploitation of the farming community, he will introduce legislation to prohibit the sub-letting of land, leased by foreign interests, at rents substantially higher than the leasehold price.

Mr. Godber

My right hon. Friend has no reason to think that the transactions which I understand the hon. Member to have in mind give rise to the problems he describes. The leasing and sub-letting of land is a matter tor free negotiation between the parties concerned and my right hon. Friend sees no grounds on which he could intervene.

Mr. Owen

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that some 6,000 acres of National Coal Board farmland in the County of Northumberland have been sub-let to a foreign interest at a rental of 26s. an acre and that this foreign interest has sub-let the land at 65s. an acre? This is surely a challenge to the business acumen of the National Coal Board, and is a matter of considerable local public concern. Will the Minister call for a report from the National Coal Board and place it in the Library, or institute a public inquiry into the transaction?

Mr. Godber

I am not certain that the facts are as the hon. Member has stated them. I have seen a Press report which gives a somewhat different view of this matter. In any case, I do not think that this is a matter in which my Ministry can properly intervene. It is a matter between landlord and tenant, and I do not think it would be proper for my Ministry to take any active part by intervening in the way in which the hon. Member suggests.