HC Deb 07 July 1965 vol 715 cc1577-8
24. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will initiate an inquiry into the reasons for the rising rents which are being demanded of tenant farmers.

Mr. Peart

I see no reason for special inquiry in view of the arbitration machinery available for disputes between agricultural landlord and tenant.

Mr. Hamilton

Does my hon. Friend realise that there have been quite outrageous increases in rents for tenant farmers whom we on this side of the House are very anxious to protect from the rapacious landowners? Can he produce any figures comparable to those produced in Scotland which show, for instance, that rents in the last three years have been quadrupled in some cases? If he can, will he advise my right hon. Friend the First Secretary to refer this matter to the National Board for Prices and Incomes? Unless and until tenant farmers get help in this respect from the landlords the taxpayer should not be asked to subsidise the landowner.

Mr. Peart

I accept that my hon. Friend is anxious to protect tenant farmers against abuses. Figures affecting Scotland, in particular, are obviously a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. As to the future in relation to arbitration machinery, I shall be considering the rent provisions of the Agriculture Act, 1958, and the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948, as part of my general review of agricultural landlord-tenant legislation. I know that the previous Administration did things in the 1958 Act which we quite rightly condemned.

Mr. Peter Mills

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there is another side to this coin? Is he aware that four or five years ago, particularly in the South-West, rents were so low that landlords could not carry out the improvements which the tenants demanded?

Hon. Members