§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Fred Peart)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
It is now almost an established tradition that from time to time we should have before us a Bill dealing with a number of miscellaneous but important agricultural subjects. Hon. Members opposite brought forward similar Bills, the last being an Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill in 1962.
I am not covering so many different items as there were in the 1962 Bill, but I shall also be speaking of a range of different matters which are linked only by their inclusion in the Bill. I make no apology for this. It seems to me sensible to get on as fast as we can with as many as possible of the agricultural problems which require legislation.
The Bill has four main parts. First, it will make possible new and better safeguards for the welfare of farm animals. Second, it will give a better deal to tenant farmers who lose their farms because their land is needed, for example, for urban development. Third, it will improve the methods by which river authorities raise revenue on agricultural land and will remove anomalies in the rating arrangements of the smaller drainage authorities. Those three major issues are covered in Clauses 1 to 32.
Fourth, the remainder of the Bill gives statutory authority for grants or schemes which have already been welcomed. For example, it covers in this way the stabilisation arrangements for the bacon curing industry and the new grants for field beans. It also includes in Clauses 37 to 40 miscellaneous amendments of existing legislation. That is the broad outline of the Bill.
I turn now to Part I, which deals with the welfare of livestock. For some time there has been public concern about the welfare of animals kept under intensive systems of husbandry. This led my predecessor to set up in June, 1964, a Com- 1266 mittee of Inquiry under the chairmanship of Professor Brambell. His terms of reference were to look into the conditions in which animals are kept under such systems and advise whether standards should be set in the interests of animal welfare.
We are deeply indebted to Professor Brambell and his colleagues for the valuable pioneer work which they did in this difficult subject. I would like to record my tribute. After considering the views of all interested organisations on the recommendations of this Committee, I reported to the House on 5th August, 1966, the conclusions which the Secretary of State for Scotland and I had reached. Our decisions in these matters do not imply any criticism of the attitude of the farming community to the welfare of their livestock. I fully share the opinion of the Brambell Committee that the great majority of farmers are concerned to ensure the welfare and health of their stock.
In my earlier statement I said that we agreed that a Standing Advisory Committee should be set up. I have already announced the appointment of the Committee under the chairmanship of Professor Hewer, and it is already at work.
The Brambell Committee stressed that there was a lack of scientific knowledge and need for research, and that it was likely that its judgments would soon call for revision as knowledge was gained. It will fall to the Standing Advisory Committee in the first place to consider and advise me on the nature and extent of research that should be pursued in this field. Meantime, it would be wrong to enforce any standards involving capital expenditure when those standards themselves might need early revision. I believe that this is a sensible approach.
On some matters mandatory controls would be justified, but for the most part we propose to make a more flexible approach based on codes of practice and on advice. Hon. Gentlemen opposite should not smile when I talk about flexibility. We cannot be rigid and dogmatic about these things. We need more research to achieve precision. This flexible approach is the basis of the Bill and the first three Clauses provide the essential mechanism for it.
Clause I will make it an offence to cause unnecessary pain or unnecessary 1267 distress to livestock. For the purpose of this part of the Bill livestock is defined as any animal, including birds, kept for the production of food, fur, wool or skin, or for its use in the farming of the land. The definition is related to livestock kept on agricultural land because in the Bill our object is to protect animals while being bred or reared. We already have legislation to safeguard their welfare in markets, slaughterhouses or in transit.
Our intention in this Clause is to cover distress resulting, for example, from prolonged periods of discomfort. I am sure that the House will see how difficult it is to define precisely what is meant by these terms when applied to animals. Nevertheless, we believe that along these lines we can best provide the necessary additional safeguards for farm animals.
Clause 2 will give the Government power to make regulations for livestock welfare, particularly by laying down standards for housing, environment and balanced diets. We shall also be able to take action in regard to any undesirable methods of restraining and marking animals or of interfering with the normal exercise of their senses and faculties. The powers we are seeking are wide enough to enable us to deal quickly and effectively with any new husbandry practice shown to be causing unnecessary suffering of any kind.
We think it right to have powers to deal with these matters by regulation, but for the time being regulations will be confined to one or two specific matters, such as the minimum iron content in calf feeds. We do not intend to make regulations laying down detailed standards of housing until much more research has been done.
Moreover, before introducing any regulations, the Bill requires us to consult fully, as is our normal practice, with all interested parties; and this will certainly include the farmers' organisations. This is an important safeguard, as is Clause 42, which makes the regulations subject to negative Resolution.
Clause 3 also enables the Secretary of State for Scotland and me to produce codes of practice containing advice and guidance for those responsible for looking after livestock on farms. It is on this 1268 power that we propose to rely for the present to deal with standards of housing. The codes will, in effect, work in conjunction with Clause 1. It will not be an offence to ignore the advice given in a code, but failure to observe a provision in a code could be used as evidence in a prosecution brought under Clause 1 for causing unnecessary pain or distress.
We have asked the Advisory Committee to consider what the contents of these codes should be. As the Clause stipulates, we shall consult widely before submitting them to both Houses for approval.
The Agriculture Departments will have an important rôle to play in advising farmers and others on animal welfare matters. Much of this advice can best be given on the farm by our veterinary officers. Some of it will be contained in the codes of practice and in other advisory literature. Clause 4 will give us authority to incur expenditure on this important function.
Under Clause 5 we are extending the scope of our powers to require anaesthetics to be used in certain farm operations. At present, our powers are limited to certain prescribed operations which do not cover some of the practices which have grown up in intensive husbandry; for example, the practice of docking pigs. If we decide that anaesthetics should be used in such operations, this Clause gives us the power to make this compulsory.
The Bill contains the usual provisions on power of entry. I stress that we intend, as far as possible, to confine inspections to visits by our own veterinary staff or, possibly, their technical assistants, but we must provide for police entry in the last resort. We provide for entry by local authority officers so that they can take samples of feeding stuffs if there is a suspected deficiency in diet—since they have staff qualified for this work—but not for any other purpose.
These are the main provisions for dealing with animal welfare and I commend them to the House as a fair, pragmatic approach to a difficult problem. We strike, I suggest, a fair balance. I know that there has been a lot of controversy about this. Farmers are not inhumane. We do not want to impose unreasonable or unnecessary requirements. 1269 On the other hand, there must be powers to prevent suffering and these powers we are taking in this part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)
Will the description "agricultural land" include any buildings used for the keeping of livestock? Will, say, an acre of concrete be covered by this term?
§ Mr. Peart
Yes, certainly, if it is used for an enterprise or business. I do not think that we need to worry about there being a loophole in this provision. I have been asked about the application of this to the individual who, for example, produces poultry for his own use—and, generally speaking, he would not be covered—but the sort of enterprise the hon. Gentleman has in mind would be covered.
Part II of the Bill will provide an important contribution to social justice for tenant farmers. More and more farm land is being taken up for new towns, for town expansions and for development of other kinds. Hon. Members know the speed of this development and the difficulties that arise in different localities. This has to be, even though we can and must go on arguing about which is the most suitable land to take. But on the main issue, the farming community accepts that development must go on in the national interest.
Nearly half our land is tenanted, and many tenant farmers in these cases have to leave all or some of their land. The acreage of rented land is slowly falling, and many of these farmers will have great difficulty in finding other land. Yet many will wish to continue in farming. There has been a strong feeling on both sides of the House that such tenants have been too poorly compensated. We are taking action to put this right.
The new measures which we are proposing will apply when agricultural land is taken for urban development, but also when it is taken for afforestation. This last is proceeding at a fair pace particularly in Scotland.
Under the Bill, landlords—whether private persons or authorities—will have to pay tenant farmers additional special resettlement payments when displacing them for non-agricultural purposes. Most hon. Members know that the present disturbance compensation is normally one year's rent but it may be up to two years' 1270 rent. The new extra sum is four years' rent. Tenants leaving land that goes out of agricultural use will, therefore, get five, possibly six years' rent. This is a substantial increase, which is fair not only to tenant farmers but to other interests also.
These new resettlement payments are covered in Clauses 9 and 10, 12 and 13 for England and Wales and in Clauses 11 and 14 for Scotland. This is the main provision for securing justice for the tenant in these circumstances. I promised to tackle it when I replied to my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell), on 21st February this year. He has taken a great interest and my right hon. Friend and I are proud to redeem that promise today.
A separate problem which we deal with in the Bill is the effect on tenants of certain tenancy agreements. These agreements contain a clause allowing the landlord to resume possession of the holding or part of it, for some specified nonagricultural purpose, at less than the normal notice. These early resumptions are often at two or three months' notice. Normal notice for an agricultural tenant is of course 12 months or more. We cannot abrogate these clauses. Development must sometimes be started quickly, and it is then wholly reasonable to use them, but we can improve on the present position.
At present, the tenant loses the chance of making a year or more's profit without having any claim to compensation for the loss. Clause 15 of the Bill provides that dispossessed tenants whose tenancy agreements contain early resumption clauses shall be compensated for loss of the profits they would have made if the usual period of notice had been observed. This applies whether they are displaced by acquiring authorities or by private landlords.
Next, land drainage. Though they may seem very mundane matters, land drainage problems are very important for the land of this country and they raise important problems.
§ Mr. Robert Maxwell (Buckingham)
I take the opportunity of thanking my right hon. Friend, on behalf of hundreds of tenant farmers at Milton Keyes, and on behalf of tenant farmers generally, for righting this injustice. As he has rightly 1271 said, tenant farmers find great difficulty in finding new farms. While they will be grateful to the Government for giving them this kind of compensation, could my right hon. Friend give some priority of assistance to help them to find alternative farms?
§ Mr. Peart
That would go beyond the Bill itself. It is a much wider matter. I could not do that in a Bill of this kind.
Part III of the Bill deals with land drainage problems. The drafting of some of the Clauses is at times intricate; hon. Members will find this when we get into Committee. But our objectives are clear and straightforward. This part of the Bill deals with two problems. The first concerns the river authorities and seeks to improve the machinery which river authorities may use for raising revenue on agricultural land. The second relates to the smaller drainage authorities and sets out to remove some anomalies in their rating arrangements. In neither case is any new payment being levied on those who contribute to land drainage operations.
I take, first, the river authorities. Those authorities draw the greater part of their revenue from the general ratepayer, by precepts on local authorities. Agricultural land does not pay general rates, but the Land Drainage Act, 1961, enabled river authorities to obtain a comparable contribution from it. This took the form of drainage charges based on Schedule A assessments.
Unfortunately, river authorities found great difficulty in raising charges on the Schedule A basis. The position has become worse since Schedule A tax was abolished. As a result, only five of the 29 river authorities have raised a drainage charge on farm land. In view of the importance of the work of these authorities, I find this a disappointing result.
Clauses 17 to 25 will remedy this problem by substituting acreage for Schedule A as a basis of assessment of drainage charges. A flat rate could be unfair to the poorest land, even though the charge is relatively small. We therefore propose to exempt rough grazing land from the charge and to charge commercial woodlands at only one-fifth of the full 1272 rate. All the interested parties are agreed that this is the most practical and equitable solution.
Clause 18 will make the general drainage charge more closely equivalent than at present to the contribution of the general ratepayer through the local authority precept. At the present rate of precept this general drainage charge will range from about 7d. to just over 1s. per acre. This change will be welcomed by farmers, particularly in North Wales, where the present method of calculation has produced an unduly high charge in their area. I am thinking, in particular, of the Gwynedd River Authority, which, I know, concerns my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. William Edwards), who, with other Welsh colleagues, has pressed me on this matter.
Secondly, the Bill deals with a similar problem affecting 370 internal drainage boards. These boards operate in low-lying areas such as the Fens. Their operations are financed by drainage rates, which are also levied on agricultural land on the basis of Schedule A values. The problem here is that most Schedule A assessments have not been revised since 1935. This has given rise to serious anomalies in the distribution of the drainage rate burden. Again, now that the Schedule A tax has been abolished, drainage ratepayers can no longer appeal against their assessment.
These drainage rates are often quite substantial. It is essential, therefore, to have a more exact basis than acreage in this case. An up-to-date revaluation of agricultural land in drainage districts would be the best way out. Unfortunately, this is not practicable at present, although I hope that it will be eventually. Meanwhile, Clauses 26 to 31 of the Bill give drainage boards powers to remedy anomalies. This they can do by determining a new annual value, where this is desirable in view of changes in circumstances since the last valuation.
The revised values will, of course, have to be in line with those of comparable properties in the district. They will be determined either on the initiative of the board or at the request of the owner or occupier. I know that the Association of Drainage Authorities and the representatives of the drainage ratepayers will greatly welcome these provisions.
1273 These, then, are the main land drainage provisions. They will, I am sure, be of considerable help to the river authorities and the internal drainage boards by increasing their resources and allowing them to provide still better service to the farming community.
§ Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)
While drainage boards will greatly welcome the flexibility to amend assessments, as the Minister says, could he say whether they will have any power of retrospective correction of assessments? There are some very severe anomalies, amounting to £10 an acre. It would be desirable, if possible, for the boards to have power to take retrospective action.
§ Mr. Peart
I recognise that there are anomalics—I have said so, and that is why I am doing this—but the Bill does not allow power of retrospection. We would get into great difficulties if we allowed it, such as the difficulty of knowing how far to go back. I think that in the circumstances what I have done is reasonable. I know that it will be appreciated by the bodies concerned. I recognise the point made by the hon. Member, but I could not put it into the Bill.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)
Could the right hon. Gentleman confirm that Part III applies to urban properties as well as to agricultural holdings?
§ Mr. Peart
No, only to agricultural holdings. If there is any difficulty here, I shall look at it in Committee. There may be difficulty where there is a semi-rural holding, but this applies only to agricultural holdings.
Part IV of the Bill deals with the remaining subjects. I should like to mention some of the more important proposals.
Last April, I announced proposals to stabilise the returns of the bacon curing industry. It was quite clear at that time that, if we wanted to have a bacon curing industry, something had to be done. Clauses 33 and 34 give statutory authority for the proposals I then made for dealing with the industry's problem. Broadly, these take the form not of a subsidy but of payments when returns on bacon are 1274 low and repayments when they are higher.
Our aim is that, over a period, transactions should be self balancing. This system of stabilising the returns of the industry is the best means of creating a strong and efficient bacon curing industry and these Clauses will, I am sure, be welcomed by the House.
Secondly, we are taking powers to pay grants for growing break crops for cereals. The Government announced their intention at the 1967 Annual Review to introduce a grant for field beans. We said then that the rate would be £5 an acre, beginning with the 1968 crop, and also that we would discuss with the farmers' unions the scope for development of other break crops.
The proposals for a grant on field beans have been welcomed by the industry. By taking this crop in a cereals rotation, the farmer reduces the incidence of disease and improves the fertility of the soil. The crop is also a valuable source of protein which saves imported feedingstuffs. Details of the new arrangements for field beans have been worked out in consultation with the farmers' unions. A scheme will be laid before the House as soon as the Bill becomes law. If we decide that other break crops should qualify for grant, this can be done by introducing further schemes.
Thirdly, we seek powers to amend the Agricultural and Forestry Associations Act, 1962. Our object is primarily to ensure that all the forms of cooperation which the Government wish to encourage under the Agriculture Act, 1967, will receive the benefit of the exemptions from the restrictive trade practices legislation given by the 1962 Act.
These exemptions will no longer apply only to agricultural and forestry associations registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies' Acts or incorporated under the Companies Act. They will also apply to any agricultural or forestry association carrying on the kind of business prescribed in the Clause, so long as it can satisfy the appropriate Agricultural Minister that it is genuinely co-operative in character.
Moreover, the exemptions will cover agreements made by these associations 1275 for the purpose of organising their production as distinct from their supply or marketing activities. Finally, we are making corresponding arrangements for fishing associations. We think it right to bring them into this.
There are some amendments to the legislation on plant varieties which have been shown to be desirable from experience of the working of the 1964 Act and which will help us to conform with the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. We deal with this in Clause 37 and Schedule 2. There is also an amendment of the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1958, so that marketing schemes and regulations can be more easily applied to the Northern Ireland export trade.
Finally, Clause 39 will interest those many hon. Members who appreciate Kew Gardens. Kew is now developing its country extension at Wakehurst Place. This Clause provides the necessary powers to make regulations for the admission of the public and is welcome evidence that these magnificent gardens will soon be open.
I have completed my outline of the varied subject matters of the Bill. I have no hesitation in commending it to the House as a workmanlike and useful Measure which will contribute to the wellbeing of British agriculture.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. J. B. Godber (Grantham)
I begin by congratulating the Minister on introducing the Bill. We have listened with care to what he has said. As he reminded us, it is a miscellaneous provisions Bill, the second of the kind he has introduced since taking office. On a previous occasion, he did not agree about that title when I applied it to his Bill. But the title applied then as it does to this Bill.
Certain measures in the Bill are useful and valuable. The first part is entitled, "Welfare of Livestock". Perhaps, therefore, I may be permitted in passing to express my personal sympathy, and I am sure that of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides, at the appalling outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
While I said something critical in the initial stages, I recognise that the rapid 1276 spread of the disease had nothing to do with the decisions the right hon. Gentleman took at the time. I agree with what he has said in a Written Answer. We sympathise with the losses farmers have suffered and appreciate the hard work that his staff have undertaken. I hope that the outbreak will rapidly be contained.
§ Mr. Godber
I thought that it would be right, as the Bill deals with livestock, to make these comments.
As the right hon. Gentleman has said, the Bill follows in at least some respects recommendations by the Brambell Committee, although he is not proposing, at this stage anyway, to go as far as those recommendations. But I was glad that he made it clear at the start that he agreed with one thing which appears in the Report which is not always remembered. This is the first of the recommendations, which says:…we have concluded that the use of"—intensive husbandry—methods should not in itself be regarded as objectionable and may often benefit the animals;We should remember those words because, on this subject, emotion sometimes overtakes logic. We should recognise that here is a perfectly right and proper way to bring up and house livestock, provided that certain rules of husbandry are observed, and that it is not a matter which should automatically evoke opposition.
It is important to say this because there are those who, from time to time, allow their judgment to become clouded in this respect. Without wishing to create controversy, I say this in order to confront the real issue the right hon. Gentleman has had to face and this was, I think, the purpose which led Mr. Christopher Soames to set up the Brambell Committee in the first place.
We have studied carefully the recommendations which came from the Committee, just as we have studied the statements of the Minister. But it is not much 1277 use studying the Bill, because it does not get us very much farther. It is a permissive Bill in this respect. Clause 2 is the key Clause in relation to the new provisions.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that he would rely for the most part on codes of practice, which come under Clause 3. But he is taking power to make regulations which could be of a sweeping kind. I am not wholly satisfied about the safeguards that there will be against the arbitrary use of that power, because he is proposing regulations which could, under this Clause, be very wide and could have the most sweeping effect on producers.
What concerns me very much is the fact that Clause 2 is subject only to the negative Resolution procedure. It seems quite extraordinary that this Clause, which has the great strength of regulations which could destroy a man's business if those regulations were harshly drawn— I am not suggesting that this is what the Minister will do—is subject to the negative Resolution procedure only, whereas Clause 3, the purpose of which is less restrictive, is subject to the affirmative Resolution procedure. It seems almost as if a mistake has been made here, and I ask the Minister to look at this again between now and the Committee stage. If one were choosing one of these two Clauses for the affirmative procedure, I would have thought Clause 2 would be chosen every time. I hope that if we do not get a reply today, we shall get a firm assurance in Committee.
If regulations are to come forward, even if they come forward under the affirmative procedure, when they reach the House we have to accept or reject them in the form in which they reach us. This is always a difficulty in our Parliamentary procedure. For those reasons we wish we had more precise factors in the Bill so that we could amend them if we thought desirable. However, I recognise the difficulties of doing that because, as the Minister himself said, a change in requirements could take place. Therefore, I should like to make a suggestion which the Minister may regard as somewhat novel but to which nevertheless I ask him not to shut his mind.
1278 The right hon. Gentleman will be having consultations with the various bodies concerned on any regulations which he may bring forward. He now has the opportunity to do something more than that. We have a Select Committee on agriculture. Is it unreasonable to suggest that that Select Committee might also have the opportunity of looking at draft regulations before they are finalised and brought before this House? This is not an unreasonable suggestion, as the interested bodies concerned with every aspect of agricultural life are entitled to see them, whereas hon. Members are not. We have not previously had this opportunity.
I am not suggesting that the Minister should now say "Yes", because this is something new, but I think that this is a reasonable and sensible suggestion which the right hon. Gentleman should consider. I take the matter no further than that at this stage, but I think it would make the acceptance of these regulations much easier and would remove some of the irritation which any Opposition feel when regulations relating to detailed matters of this kind come forward and when there is no possibility of discussing amendments to them.
We accept that it is necessary to have regulations of some sort, but we are glad that the Minister has made it clear that, for the most part, he will rely on the codes of practice under Clause 3. We shall await with interest the codes which he will be preparing, and we take note of what he has told us about the attitude which he is adopting in his general approach to the subject.
Two matters are fundamental when dealing with this question of intensive animal husbandry. First, if the right hon. Gentleman is to introduce restrictions on producers of any particular type of food in this country he must face the point which the Brambell Report stated id the sixth paragraph of its recommendations, thatSteps should be taken to ensure that the intention of this report is not prejudiced by imports of food produced under unacceptable systems.This point is basic. If restrictions are to be put on British producers, safeguards must be brought in against unfair competition from those who produce overseas by methods which are less satisfactory.
1279 This is essential, and I ask the Minister to give us an assurance on this point, for he did not mention it in his speech.
If the cost of food production is to go up as a result of measures which the Government may take, the consumer has got to be ready to bear the cost of that increase. The Minister must ensure that the farmer is not unreasonably placed in regard to the cost that he has to bear, and that he has the opportunity of recoupment. Those two fundamentals—the competition from overseas and a fair return to the British farmer—are the two basic factors which the right hon. Gentleman must bear in mind. Having said that, we now await the proposals of the powers which he will be seeking and the regulations which he will be laying before us.
Turning to Part II of the Bill, this, as the Minister said, implements the promise he has given about an increase in compensation to tenant farmers who are dispossessed. I welcome this proposal on behalf of my hon. Friends. We believe that this is right and fair. Generally, this part of the Bill will receive warm support on this side of the House.
I should like to raise two matters arising from Part II. First, I can find nothing in this part of the Bill which makes clear the undertaking, which I understand was given originally, that any such payments would be free of tax. I had hoped that this would be spelt into the Bill. In one document that I have read, prepared by an outside body, I observe that emphasis has been laid on words in Clause 9, at line 27, namely,…a sum to assist in the resettlement of the tenant…This may be the answer to the point that I have raised, but it seems a rather odd way of going about it. There are those who claim that the use of these words may complicate matters. I mention this in passing. We shall want to study it at greater leisure when we come to Committee. I think it is important that it should be made clear that these payments are free of tax.
My next point also is covered by Clause 9. Subsection (2) refers to the additional sum being four times the annual rent of the holding. The rent of the holding is not always a fair assessment. If the rent has recently been 1280 negotiated and a tenant has recently taken over, then it is a realistic rent. But there are cases where a tenant has been in possession for a long time and where the landlord has not chosen to raise the rent. Some landlords feel that they should look after their tenants, and they are reluctant to raise their rents. It is in such cases that the tenant has been in possession longest and, therefore, might suffer most if he were dispossessed.
The Minister, of course, could say that such a man has had some advantage in having had an unduly low rent. That may be so, but there is still an element here which needs to be covered. It could be covered by a provision whereby the tenant could seek arbitration to decide what a notional rent should be in relation to his holding, and he could receive his four years' rent payment on that basis. I throw that out as a suggestion as one way in which we could do what I believe the Minister wishes to be done. Perhaps he will think about it and tell us in Committee. Something of this kind should be done if we are to avoid any unfairness. Rents vary widely throughout the country and there should be some provision to ensure that this point is covered. Subject to that, and the somewhat complicated Clauses in this part of the Bill, it certainly receives our warm support.
Coming to Part III, the Minister told us that some of the Clauses were complicated. He need not have told us that. I read Clause 18 three times before I understood any of it at all, and I am not sure that I understand it all now. It is one of the most curiously drafted Clauses that I have encountered since the Slaughterhouses Bill many years ago.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do something to get a little redrafting done to Clause 18, because I find it very odd, particularly when he decides to multiply the quotient which he has from subsection (2,a) by a penny. That seems to be an extraordinary exercise for anyone to indulge in, because one knows the answer before one begins. I pick that out merely as one aspect of the oddness of the Clause. I ask him to try to find some way of simplifying it.
I may be sticking my neck out, but, as I understand, the Minister will have to produce a new order for every river authority every year because there will 1281 be a change in circumstances each year. It appears from Clause 18(2) that that will be essential, so he will have to produce an immense number of orders under the Clause to provide the fairness which he is seeking to create as between the agricultural land in these drainage charge areas and the other hereditaments.
What he is trying to do in Part III is unquestionably right, because the 1961 Land Drainage Act has not worked as satisfactorily as it should have. My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) can claim that he warned the House when that Act was passed that it would not work in relation to drainage charges, and he has been shown to be right. It is all hinged on the old Schedule A valuations. There was the hope, when the 1961 Bill was drafted, that we should have a reassessment for Schedule A purposes by 1965. Then a Conservative Government did away with Schedule A tax, which complicated these provisions. This Government, of course, never do away with taxes, but we used to. For this purpose, it is right to find some other way. I only hope that the way proposed here will provide a fair basis and one which will work.
As regards both the normal charge and the special charge, although we see provision for the special charge to be increased to 2s., there is one point about the general incidence of drainage charges to which I wish to draw attention. Having taken it away from the annual value and put it on an acreage basis, the Minister may say, as he has, that he is seeking to be fair in eliminating rough grazing and putting woodland only at one-fifth. Nevertheless, this is rough justice. Under annual charges, it was supposed to relate to the value of the land, but now all land will bear the same rate of charge and, the higher the upland land, the smaller its value. Therefore, the incidence is being changed, to some extent, from the lower land to the higher land.
Those of us who represent constituencies in internal drainage board areas know the importance and the high incidence of some drainage rates. Many of us have known for some time about the anomalies. The Minster was careful to refer to hon. Members who had made representations to him on drainage charges. He forgot to mention the correspondence which I have had with 1282 him about drainage rates, in which I have been urging him to do something along the lines which he is now proposing.
The right hon. Gentleman said that there is genuine unfairness at present in some of these assessments. Even now, it will take some time to iron them out. But there is the possibility here, and I hope very much that those concerned, whether they be the boards themselves or the individuals who feel hurt, will freely make use of the procedure which is laid down in Clause 26, because then there will be an opportunity for creating a fairer basis.
However, it will still not be wholly satisfactory until such time as we have the revaluation, which the Minister suggests will come along some day. That is what is really needed. Dealing with it piecemeal can remove the worst anomalies, but it cannot result in complete fairness. I hope that the revaluation will not be long delayed.
It is very important that every owner who makes a claim for a change in his valuation and who is refused a new determination should be aware of the opportunities for appeal. I do not think that the Minister mentioned the opportunities which are written into Clause 28. I hope that they will be made widely known, so that appeals can take place freely where necessary and that any aggrieved person can feel that his case has been considered by his board and by the panel set up under the general rating legislation. In that way, again this is a step forward.
Coming to Part IV, which is headed "Miscellaneous and general", I will leave for a moment the subjects of bacon and break crops and come back to them later, because I want to say a word or two on some of the other points first.
Clause 37 is concerned with amendments to the Plant Varieties and Seeds Act. One or two people have felt uneasy about the provisions outlined here. I do not propose to go into them now, but, when we come to the Clause in Committee we shall seek reassurances from the Minister.
Clause 38 refers to the Restrictive Trade Practices Act. I was encouraged by what the Minister told us. It seems sensible that he should take the powers which he is proposing. They can be a help both 1283 to agriculture and fisheries. When I rose to intervene earlier, he had not mentioned fisheries. I am glad that he gave us the reassurance that he did, and I welcome these provisions.
Reverting to the two subjects which I passed over, one dealing with bacon and the other with break crops, in general I would not disagree with either of his proposals. However, I am glad that beans are coming to the fore as a break crop. Ten years ago, I started to campaign for beans, not so much on the lines of a payment—and I am not sure even now whether this payment is the best way of dealing with it—but on the lines of getting new strains and varieties of beans and making bean cropping better understood by farmers.
A lot has been done by various bodies over the last few years, but the important factor is to get an effective yield. If one gets a good yield, the production of beans can stand on its own, without any grant. In the meantime, it would be useful to have a payment of some kind to get it off the ground. The production of home grown protein has a double factor in its favour, because it is a break crop as well, and I hope that it will be able to stand on its own feet eventually.
While Clauses 33 and 35 may be necessary at present, they are an indication of the way in which the policies of the present Government are not facing up to the needs of agriculture. What is needed is something much more fundamental than is provided for here. The Clauses provide a minor substitute, but what is really needed is an incentive for increased production, namely, the sort of policy which will give effective control over imports and enable agriculture to go ahead and produce the massive increase which is possible. While these Clauses help at present, they are really an admission of failure on the part of the Minister and the Government.
I notice in this weeks journal of the National Farmers' Union that,The burden of a £1,000 million a year import bill for temperate foods is too much.No other country accepts it; neither should we.It is because of this that these Clauses are or would be unnecessary if this Government had an effective policy in regard to—
§ Mr. Peart
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should be so churlish. After all, this was something that we decided upon at the Price Review. This was welcomed by the industry, and the legislation which I am putting before the House is to give it effect. We can have a wide discussion about wider policy, but that is not the purpose of the Bill. I would like to debate with the right hon. Gentleman our policies compared with Tory policies in the past.
§ Mr. Godber
I am not clear about the purpose of that intervention. It has not taken us much further forward.
Of course, these are the things which were produced in the Price Review and, in the context of the Minister's policies, we have to accept them as being the best, but it is because his policies in the larger sphere are failing so lamentably that we have to have these. This is my point, and until the Minister sees the light and produces effective policies we have to go along with these rather inept and small matters when in fact the industry and the country could benefit enormously from a wider view. The trouble with the Minister is that he has not got the vision. Otherwise, with those comments, we will seek to help his Bill on its way to the Statute Book, but we hope to improve and clarify it in parts.
§ Mr. Godber
I did not say anything of the kind. I referred specifically to two Clauses. I gave him the warmest commendation on Part II of his Bill. He cannot crawl from under it with that sort of intervention. What I said was quite clear. The Minister paid me the compliment of calling me the Minister. That is merely in anticipation, I know. However, the Minister, if he reads HANSARD, will see what I said.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. David Ensor (Bury and Radcliffe)
I hope that this Bill will be commended to the House and approved generally. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister for producing another piece of legislation relating to agriculture which, I am sure, will help the industry in general. On the other hand, 1285 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), when we talk about Part I of this Bill, is right in saying that we must look at it with our heads and not our hearts. This is the part of the Bill to which I want to address my remarks.
For some time there have been problems over what is called intensive husbandry. There has been a lot of comment, difficulty and nonsense talked about it. There have been allegations of cruelty and so on and so forth. We have to look at this from a practical economic point of view. We are a small island with a large population and we have to look at the agricultural economic situation in which we find ourselves. Therefore, I would remind the House of one great thing. The poultry industry fifteen years ago was practically at nothing. Today it is an industry which has a turnover of £320 million a year. Chicken today is no longer a luxury. It is food for everybody and a great deal cheaper than beef.
§ Mr. Ensor
My hon. Friend says, "A great deal worse." That is a matter of opinion. Be that as it may, it is a very cheap meal today. This has been done by an intensive economic business which has produced an industry from nothing to £320 million in fifteen years.
Why has it been done? It has been done because no one in his right mind will suggest that we should ill-treat our birds. [Laughter.] I thought possibly that might produce laughter. I am talking about the two-legged feathered variety. No one will ill-treat his birds or animals if he depends upon them for his livelihood.
I have taken the trouble over the last few months to see it in action. I have seen the birds coming in in crates and 40 minutes later going out at the other end into the deep freeze. There is no cruelty, there is no unpleasantness, there is nothing.
I have also been in a shed where there were 50,000 laying birds all happy, in light conditions, eating, warm and comfortable. Is it really suggested that that is a worse condition than the old days when I was farming when one had miser- 1286 able little birds under the hedge up to their crops in mud and snow and dying at the rate of about 25 per cent. a year instead of the percentage which we have today? I do not think that the present situation regarding intensive husbandry of chickens is wrong. I am sure that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) knows perfectly well that it is difficult to get an animal to produce, be it a cow, a beef calf or a chicken, unless it is reasonably comfortable and happy. They just do not do it. If this business is to be made into an economic one, we must have this situation. I agree with a great amount of the Brambell Report, but one has to look at it from a realistic point of view.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on bringing this Bill forward. I do not wish to take up the time of the House tonight on any other matter, but I did want to talk about Part I of the Bill. Provided there are safeguards, which there are in this Bill, we will produce a bigger industry and more food for our people than has ever been produced before. We do not want cruelty, and under this Bill we shall see that it does not happen.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I propose to confine most of my remarks to Part III of the Bill, because I have to recognise that, although in the famous Parliament of 1295 two hon. Members from Ely came to Parliament, Johannes Le Palfreneur and Nicolous Baret, the Isle of Ely consisted only of the so-called High Ground, not a square foot of which was more than 50 feet above sea level, the rest being swamp of various kinds. Today I am conscious that the vast majority of the area of my constituency would not be farmed at all were it not for land drainage and were it not for the work of the river authorities and the internal drainage boards.
I felt that the Minister rather passed over the work of the internal drainage boards in his opening remarks, because he referred to them as the smaller authorities. These boards in fact do a most magnificent amount of work. It is also worth remembering that it is not quite accurate, as the Minister said, to say that the majority of the precept levied by river boards falls on the local authorities such as the counties. It does not. 1287 It falls on the internal drainage boards to a greater extent than on the counties and county boroughs. The Minister will make a great mistake, certainly in the Fenland area, if he does not pay great attention to the work done by the internal drainage boards and recognise that without them the most fertile area in the United Kingdom would probably go out of cultivation altogether.
I want to divide my remarks into two parts, the first dealing with those Clauses relating to the internal drainage boards, and the second to those which deal with the right of the river boards to make a general charge, and a special charge.
The former is more important to my constituency, and here I ought to declare an interest, though it is only an honorary one, in that I am a Vice-President of the Association of Drainage Authorities, which is the collective body representing the internal drainage boards in this country. I know that the Association greatly welcomes what is contained in the Bill. For a long time it has been pressing for the opportunity to bring its rating more nearly up to date and make the incidence of it fairer as between one occupier and another.
This is a complicated piece of legislation. My hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) interrupted the Minister during his speech, perfectly understandably, but I think that the Minister gave a wrong answer. The Bill really stems from the Land Drainage Act, 1930, as amended by the 1961 Act in particular, but there was a clear distinction there between land which had a rateable value, and land which did not, and I think that this is what my hon. Friend had in mind. The land which had a current rateable value was normally not agricultural land, and the land which was agricultural was based on the Schedule A assessment. As a result of arrant cowardice over the years by the Treasury the Schedule A assessment became completely out of date, and is now a dead duck. It was inevitable, as long as the Treasury flatly refused to carry out a revaluation of the Schedule A assessments, that this would happen, and the unfortunate internal drainage boards were put in a difficult situation in trying to bring about equity amongst their rate- 1288 payers. I therefore welcome what is in the Bill because it is a major step in the right direction.
There are, however, still one or two misgivings in the mind of the Association. The Minister rightly said that under the Bill there will be an opportunity for those who considered that the assessment made on their land was out of line with that on comparable land in the district to have it rectified, and the board will be able to do the same thing the other way, but there is some anxiety about the opportunity which will be open to an occupier to get at information to enable him to assess for himself whether his land has been fairly assessed, in the light of valuations placed on other hereditaments in the district. I hope that the Minister will give an undertaking that there will be a register of some sort made available as soon as possible, and that any ratepayer will be able to consult it to enable him to assess for himself the sort of values which are to obtain in his district. I am glad that the N.F.U. welcomes this part of the Bill, and considers that it will eliminate long-standing grievances. I am sure that it will go some way to help, but there is one other assurance for which I ask.
I understand that up to now the rateable value figures have been provided by the district valuers, and rating valuation officers, to the internal drainage boards to enable them to have new figures on which to work. Now that the Schedule A assessment has become so irrelevant, I understand that both the Ministry and the Inland Revenue intend that the rating valuation officers should from now on advise the internal drainage boards about suitable apportionments which they should make under the relevant Clauses of the Bill, because under this Measure the boards will be given considerable discretion in making the new valuations.
It is important that the boards should be able to get this sort of information and advice from the rating valuation officers at their request. I am not suggesting that the initiative should lie with the rating valuation officers, but with the boards. I hope that we can have an assurance about this. I gather that it has been indicated through the usual channels which are explored in this sort of exercise that that is the intention, but it would be nice to have it on the record.
1289 I turn, now, to the other aspect of this matter, namely, the general charge and the special charge. My right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) did me the kindness of reminding the House that when we were in Committee on the 1960 Land Drainage Bill, which of course became the 1961 Act, I forecast that the general charge would not operate effectively because the cost of collection would be so great as to make it hardly worth while, bearing in mind the limitations put on the total to be raised by a general and special charge, and therefore many of the river boards as they were then—they are now river authorities—would think it was not worth collecting.
I have been trying to look at the annual reports of as many river boards as possible, and I have discovered that for some extraordinary reason the latest available in the Library are for 1964–65. I do not know why this should be so, but it is, except in one case. The Welland and Nene Report for 1965–66 is available, and by courtesy of this authority I have also received its report for 1966–67. I think that it is the Ministry's responsibility to make these reports available to the House. I hope that somebody will be given some ginger to ensure that these reports come to the House when they are published, and we do not have to wait a year or 18 months for them.
I have been looking through the reports of the two river authorities which affect my constituency, the Nene and Welland in the North, and the River Great Ouse in the South. I notice that in the first year when an amalgamation was about to take place between the old Welland Board and the Nene Board, to become the new Riser Nene and Welland Authority, they thought that in the light of the forthcoming amalgamation it would be as well not to make a general charge, so they did not, but, having come together, even in the latest report, that for 1966–67, the authority says that it does not think it has been worthwhile. I grant that for a great deal of their length these rivers run through the Fens, as opposed to high ground—and the Minister referred to North Wales as an area where the general charge and the special charge were of considerably more importance—but it is interesting to see what the River Great 1290 Ouse Authority has done in its area. In 1964–65 it levied a general charge at the rate of 8d. in the £, which produced £8,290. The total expenditure of the Board was £1,742,008, so the amount that came in through the general charge was not a significant one. No special charge was levied.
The right to levy a special charge was created by the 1961 Act. It was designed to get schemes financed in the upland areas, above the levels of land administered by the internal drainage boards and to try to improve upland land drainage. No board has levied a special charge, and only five of the river authorities—formerly river boards—have raised a general charge. The 1961 Act imposed a limit of 1s. on the sum of the general and special charges. The Bill raises the limit to 2s. In other words, it is an increase of 100 per cent. I hope that the Minister has consulted the Prices and Incomes Board about that!
I would have thought that in introducing the Bill the Minister would have seen fit to try to justify this substantially increased percentage if not substantially increased total amount. I had hoped that he would argue that by increasing the limit to 2s. we shall have some better upland schemes, which are really designed to improve the productivity of the land concerned, but he rather glossed over this. I hope that when we have a reply we shall be told what is the expectation from this increase. Are we to see more special schemes, and special charges relating to them, or are we to see a higher general charge which will enable a river authority to do more work on the main river and possibly include certain water courses which are not covered at present?
The Lincolnshire River Authority—a fairly new one, bringing together boards which existed separately in the past—has levied a general charge of 8½d. in the £ and its gross income was £19,306 in 1965–66, compared with £17,352 in 1964–65. The cost of collection was 21 per cent. In other words, it cost £4,093 in 1964–65 That is not a very economic exercise by any criterion.
I hope that the Bill will favour the special charge. I hope that it will lead to river authorities carrying out what I tried to get the Committee to agree to 1291 when we were debating the 1960 Bill, and what the present Minister supported me on. I attempted to oblige river authorities to carry out surveys in their areas with a view to getting special schemes going. The Minister supported me, but I was asked by the then Minister—Mr. Christopher Soames—to withdraw my Amendment, because it was faulty in its wording. The present Minister was not prepared to accept that, and voted for the Amendment against my advice. I was immensely grateful for his enthusiasm. It showed a very bonny motive. I hope that now that the right hon. Gentleman has the Chair of office in his Department he will continue to exercise this bonny motive and will get river authorities to promote special schemes. I hope that this increase from 1s. to 2s. will enable these schemes to go ahead better than they have so far.
I am grateful to the House for having listened to me. I enjoyed very much the speech of the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Ensor). I hope that we shall find a way to get the deep litter and broiler boys to produce a chicken which has some taste. As we are going on to discuss artificial sweeteners after this, let us leave the matter there for the time being.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Haseldine (Bradford, West)
I rise to convey a word of appreciation to my right hon. Friend for the consideration which he has given to the representations that have been made about exemptions from Part I of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1956. Clause 38 proposes to remove one of the several anomalies in that Act, and this is generally welcomed by the Agricultural Central Co-operative Association. The fact that it is now proposed to extend this to fishery co-operatives engaged in the business of catching or taking shell-fish is especially welcomed.
This proposed Measure recognises the interesting developments in fishery cooperatives organised through the Fisheries Organisation Society. I am sure that in this respect the House would like to know that at the end of 1965—the date of the latest published report—2,600 fishermen were organised in 46 societies among inshore fishermen in England and 1292 Wales, and that their total turnover in fish, fishing goods, ice supplies and special services amounted to £376,000.
This is only a small amount of the total industry. Nevertheless, it is a reason for us to say a special "thank you" to my right hon. Friend for recognising the increasing part that co-operatives are playing in this industry. I understand that in 1966 a further 11 new co-operatives were formed, and that this trend is continuing, so that the report to be published fairly soon will show an even greater improvement for 1967.
My constituency has a very remote connection with agriculture, if it has any at all, but I rise as a member of the Co-operative Group to say how much we appreciate the attention that the Minister has paid. I am sure that the inshore fishermen who are turning more towards co-operation are extremely appreciative of this. Because of their traditional weaknesses they are overcoming these by the marketing of fish to the best advantage when it gets ashore.
Some doubt has been expressed as to the extent of Clause 38. The Minister went some way to removing that doubt, especially in relation to federal activities by marketing groups and packaging societies. He will no doubt amplify this tonight. I hope that he will accept that I am in a position to convey to him our sincere thanks, from a co-operative point of view, for the attention that has been paid to this matter.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)
Like other hon. Members, I welcome the Bill and many of its provisions, although I hope to suggest some improvements, either now or in Committee, to make the Bill even fairer than it is now. I do not know whether I shall call down the wrath of the Minister on my head if I say that I wish the Bill had dealt with the abiding problem of the farming community and that we shall see a Bill before long which means a change from the subsidy system to a system of levies. Further expansion of home markets and home production is the pre-eminent concern of agriculture today.
Before turning to compensation to tenant farmers, which I know something about, I wish to deal with the welfare of animals. I hope that the Minister 1293 will bear in mind, as he said, that the vast majority of farmers, stockmen, feeders and others are intensely interested in the welfare of their stock. They are not cruel, but realise that badly treated stock cannot thrive. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge, therefore, that most stock is well looked after.
The people we must watch are the newcomers, the big boys moving in on something which they think will show a quick profit. Some of those in the broiler industry and the intensive production of calves should be watched, because many are industrialists moving in to agriculture with no proper ideas of animal husbandry. I hope that there will not be too many inspectors and regulations, because livestock keeping is not profitable at the moment and further burdens will only make it less profitable and drive some of the smaller men out of the industry.
I absolutely agree that the charges made by river authorities should move to an acreage basis, but, like my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), I am not sure that these charges have been doing any good; they are so small and the cost of collection is so great. The drainage rates levied by the internal drainage boards are of the greatest importance to anyone in low-lying areas like much of my constituency. Some rates in my area are as much as £3 10s. an acre and even higher in other districts. Rates vary from £1 to £3 10s. just across the road, although the land on both sides is just as good. There is a great sense of unfairness here between farmers.
I agree with the Minister that the method in the Bill is second-best. I know that, in 1963, the Conservative Government instructed district valuers to begin re-assessment of the drainage districts, because my firm was one of those asked to assist. Unfortunately, because of the heavy burdens imposed on district valuers by Capital Gains Tax and other Measures of this Government, that reassessment has had to be dropped. This method only tinkers with the problem. Although these assessments are horribly out of date and need altering, giving the I.D.Bs the right to assess outstanding anomalies on their own is dangerous. Despite the appeal procedure, it seems 1294 that no one with knowledge of land values will enter this process at any stage.
I give this a qualified welcome, but we should press for a complete re-assessment of all the land in drainage districts as soon as possible. In this respect, the Minister answered a question raised by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) inaccurately. About 18 months ago, I brought to the notice of his Department the case of a 10-acre field on which a drainage rate of £10 was formerly levied. Between 60 and 70 houses were built on it, on each of which a rate of between £7 and £10 now has to be paid. A man retiring from North London to Norfolk is surprised to learn that, in addition to his ordinary rate, he must pay this drainage rate, although the drainage board has done nothing more and spent no more money on draining the land. This is a great anomaly, and I hope that the Minister will investigate it.
Clause 20, I believe, provides that there shall be no drainage charge on land comprising less than half an acre and I hope that the internal drainage board rates on any house on such a piece of land will also be drastically reduced or done away with altogether. Land which was considered before the war unsuitable for building is now being built upon and these drainage charges, as in the case I mentioned—in which the board can collect about £600 or £700 in place of the former £10—bear hardly on occupiers of houses.
Compensation for tenant farmers is extremely welcome, and I wish that this side had introduced it long ago. This part of the Bill could be improved, however, in two ways. First, the upper limit should be raised. Previously, the minimum was one year and the maximum two years; now, the minimum is to be five years and the maximum will be six. If the same proportion had been applied, the maximum would be ten years' compensation. I do not ask for that, but it could well be raised to eight years, because, in some special cases, tenants suffer tremendous hardship. I ask the Minister to reconsider this upper limit; of course, it would have to be proved that the loss would reach that figure.
Another matter which I have discussed with one of the Ministers and about 1295 which I have had meetings with my professional body, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, is my contention that to base the compensation on the existing rent is the wrong yardstick. This will lead to many anomalies among different tenants and could be avoided if the definition in the Agricultural Holdings Act were applied, in other words, the rent properly payable. If that were taken as the yardstick, the anomalies would disappear.
I would ask the Minister to consider these examples of such anomaly. Consider the example of a farm let seven or eight years ago where the landlord, for various reasons—sometimes tax or death duty reasons—has never asked for an increase in rent. Perhaps the rent would be £3 10s. or £4 an acre. But if the farm were let only last year, the rent might be £8 or £9 an acre, so that on a 200-acre farm there would be a difference of £4,000 between the older tenant, the man who will need the compensation most, and the new tenant, who may well be a young man who has gained the farm by his outstanding ability and who, if he is turned out, will probably be able to get another farm. The older man, whose need of the compensation will be the greater of the two, will get £4,000 less.
Another example is that of the last year or two of the tag end of a lease—perhaps a 15-year or 14-year lease under which, 13 years ago, the rent may have been only 30s. an acre whereas today it may be £8 or £9 an acre. Consider the enormous difference which that will create on a 200-acre farm. I can foresee that hon. Members will have an almost impossible task in explaining to those tenants, whose land is comparable, that one will receive a small sum of compensation and the other will receive £10,000 more.
The Minister has argued that with a low rent the tenant has been able to salt away a large sum of money. I am sure that the Secretary of State for Scotland knows only too well that one does not salt away a lot of money. Tax takes care of a large amount of it, and in any case a good farmer generally ploughs back most of his money into the holding.
I turn to one or two other examples which are quite common. One tenant 1296 may have a full repairing lease, taking upon himself the responsibility of maintaining the landlord's buildings, the roofs and the main walls. Because he does that, he pays a lower rent. Another man may not have a full repairing lease; his landlord will undertake all the repairs to the main walls and roofs and the tenant will pay a higher rent. When those two tenants are compensated the one who is paying the lower rent, because he is paying for all his landlord's repairs, will receive a far smaller sum than will the other man.
Another case, quite common in the Fens in my part of the world, is where a tenant takes it upon himself to pay all the drainage rates, both the landlord's share and the tenant's share. The differential may be 30s. an acre—not as great as the other example which I have given, but it will mean a difference of £7 or £8 an acre in compensation between one man and another. There is also the case—I know of a few—in which a tenant has carried out large capital improvements to his landlord's property, has spent £10,000 or £20,000 and has agreed with the landlord that, as a consequence, he should pay a lower rent. I admit that he will probably have a claim for those improvements at the end of the time, but the basis of the rent in calculating compensation must lead to unfairness.
It is argued that this is a difficult matter to settle and that it is difficult to determine the rent which is properly payable. Yet the basis is laid down under the Agriculture Act, and I urge that that basis be considered. All that is necessary is for the tenant or his valuer to argue with the district valuer, who has great knowledge of the proper rents in the district, which he uses as a basis of valuation for death duties. If they cannot agree, which is usually only one case in a hundred, they can go to arbitration as laid down in the Act.
In order to achieve fairness and not to make a rod for our own backs in the future, I urge that this basis of compensation, the definition of rent, be reconsidered. I hope that I have not over-laboured the point, but I believe that many farmers will feel that they are being very hardly treated, and they would not understand that this point had not been considered in the Bill if I had not emphasised it to the House.
1297 There are good parts to this Bill, which I welcome, but they can be improved.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Dr. Shirley Summerskill (Halifax)
I rise to speak in the debate not as a farmer or even as a Member with a constituency predominantly of rolling acres, but as the Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Animal Welfare Group. I welcome the fact that this is one of the all-party groups in the House. It is clear that among hon. Members kindness to animals is unrelated to the political convictions of the hon. Members.
I warmly welcome Part I of the Bill, and in particular Clause 1, which makes it an offence to cause or to allow livestock to suffer unnecessary pain or distress. It often used to be said that if the fox had a vote it would vote Tory—at least, that is what the Conservatives used to say. But I think that at the next election, if livestock had a vote, then, as a result of the Bill, they would definitely vote Labour.
The British rightly have a tradition of being an animal-loving nation. We see this particularly when we travel abroad. I am sure that all hon. Members find that a large part of their mail from their constituents consists of letters from animal lovers. Public concern for animal welfare is undoubtedly very strong, and if the Bill is given sufficient publicity—and I hope that it will—then it will be warmly welcomed not only by farmers but by the public.
Parliamentry progress in connection with animal welfare has been extremely slow—too slow. From the mid-1950s there has been increasing public concern at the spread of intensive livestock husbandry systems and the conditions of animals subjected to them. It was not until November, 1960, that the late John Dugdale introduced a Bill to authorise the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland to make regulations for securing humane conditions and practices in connection with the rearing and keeping of animals for food production. That Bill was not even given a Second Reading in March, 1961. For many years successive Ministers have been asked to inquire into methods of rearing calves and chickens by the broiler and battery system with a view to ending unnecessary cruelty, but often they have 1298 replied that this was protected under the Animals Act, 1911. I am quite sure, therefore, that this Bill is not introduced too soon after the last Act.
During the 1960s public concern has increased even more at these intensified methods of husbandry. The public knowledge of these methods has increased and hon. Members have been subjected to propaganda on the subject, with the result that we all awaited the Report of the Brambell Committee with great interest, hoping that it would produce forward-looking suggestions on the matter. There is no need to remind the House of the purpose for which the Brambell Committee was set up, or of its findings. The members of the Committee were eminent men highly qualified to do their job. They were unanimous in their Report, and, more than that, they recommended that their suggestions be implemented with urgency, because they wereaware of the extent of public disquiet concerning the welfare of animals kept intensively".I very much regret that the House did not have an opportunity to debate the Report before the Bill was introduced. In such a debate, hon. Members would have had an opportunity to highlight its recommendations and add urgency to them. The Report was published two years ago, and specific recommendations were made which were as sensible and right then as they are today. My main criticism of the Bill, therefore, is that, in my view, it goes only a very little way towards implementing the Brambell recommendations, and it lacks provisions regarding specific animals, which was an essential recommendation of the Brambell Committee.
Now, a few questions of detail. There is a reference in Clause 1(1) to "agricultural land". What does the Minister mean by agricultural land, and what is non-agricultural land? Is half an acre or an acre of land around a dwelling classified as agricultural or nonagricultural land? Is any land on which animals are reared agricultural? This is an important question, because, if it were answered one way, there would be opportunities for cruelty to animals to be carried on, without control, on, say, half an acre or an acre of land.
In Clause 1(2) there is provision for the issue of licences for research by "the 1299 Minister". Will that be the Home Secretary or the Minister of Agriculture? Third, in Clause 2(1,b) there is a reference to balanced diets for livestock. I hope that, when the codes of practice are drawn up by the Standing Committee, special attention will be paid to the use of antibiotics, hormones or other drugs and additives given to animals in their food. There is a great deal of uncertainty and concern about the long-term effects on human beings who, over a period of time, eat the flesh or products of animals which have been fed with these substances. We know far too little about it, and too little research is being done.
I welcome the Bill as, I hope, a start on improving animal welfare, not the end. I hope that it will be brought into operation without delay and that the Minister will implement the other recommendations of the Bramball Committee, proceeding with urgency and not waiting too long for further reports from the Farm Animal Welfare Standing Advisory Committee. The whole subject of animal welfare is of developing importance and growing concern. In the words of the Brambell Report, conditions in which animals are keptwhich appear to us tolerable today may come to be considered intolerable in the future".
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Pearson (Clitheroe)
The Minister introduced the Bill with such sweet reasonableness that it would be almost churlish for anyone to criticise any of the points he made. In his opening remarks, however, the right hon. Gentleman almost apologised because this Miscellaneous Provisions Bill, the first since 1962, I think he said, covered extremely narrow ground. This is something which we all regret, although it may be understandable. When I sense the trouble which we shall all experience in rural districts as a result of the Measure which the right hon. Gentleman introduced last year, particularly in the setting up of rural development boards, and when I think of the difficulties in which we shall find ourselves when we come to grips with the setting up of a Meat Commission, I can well understand that the Minister was wise to limit the operation of this Bill to such a narrow and, probably, reasonably uncontroversial compass.
1300 Nevertheless, in all seriousness, I regard it as a great pity that the Minister has not taken this opportunity to bring in a Bill of much wider scope, a Bill which would deal with some of the real and worrying problems facing agriculture today. It is almost incredible that, three days after the Prime Minister said at Question Time that it was absolutely certain that we should go into the Common Market, the Minister of Agriculture has put to the House a Miscellaneous Provisions Bill in which there is not one provision which does anything to help agriculture to meet the difficulties which will arise when we do go into the Common Market.
I hope that every hon. Member who comes from a hill farming constituency realises that one of the most valuable things the Minister could have done for the industry at this time would have been to make a start at least on changing the system of support for hill farmers in order to create a pattern which would be acceptable within the Common Market structure. His failure to do that, his failure to give any indication of what future support for the hill farmer will be, is a grave omission from the Bill.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan (Cardigan)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the rural development boards, which he has been castigating, probably represent the very method which might be used to circumvent the restrictions in the Common Market against subsidies to hill farmers?
§ Sir F. Pearson
If that is to be the only reply on this great problem, I shall be only too glad to fight the next election on that very point.
Quite apart from the hill farmers, there is not a word of reference in the Bill to horticulture. No wonder the Minister apologised for having produced a Bill of extremely narrow scope.
I have not the expertise of my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) on the subject of drainage. Unfortunately—I wish I did not—I live on a hillside rather than in the lush fen country which he knows so well and where drainage rates are of the greatest importance. Nevertheless, in my part of the world, an incident occurred which highlighted the importance of the question of drainage and drainage rates. 1301 We had very bad floods. Many of the secondary watercourses should have come within the purview of the drainage authority years ago, and many people would have been only too willing to pay a reasonable drainage rate to have them put in order. Those watercourses flooded and caused damage to great that I visited the Ministry and saw the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who was most helpful. I pay tribute to the Ministry for the great help it gave the farmers of the North during those difficult weeks when we suffered very severe floods. I am glad to say that the drainage authority appears to be doing a first-class job in my part of Lancashire in tackling the problem of the secondary watercourses.
I should like to make a brief comment on the additional compensation for tenant farmers. It is a most valuable provision, for which I have pressed for quite some time, and I greatly welcome it. But one or two points about it slightly worry me. I am not certain that we should draw attention to all the difficulties that may arise owing to specialist tenancy agreements, as did one of my hon. Friends. I should be prepared to see compensation as laid down, but this is obviously a matter that can be further debated in Committee.
Where privately-owned land under tenancy is compulsorily purchased by a public authority, it is the private owner who will be primarily responsible for paying the tenant compensation. What is there to ensure that he gets an equal amount from the public authority? As far as I can see, no mention is made of this in the Bill. It is all very well for us to pass generous terms of compensation for tenants and make it incumbent on the owners of the land to pay it, but at the same time we should be clearly told how the owner will recoup the money from the public authority.
We want an assurance that the sums that will have to be paid to tenant farmers will be paid by the public authority, in addition to the basic capital value of the land. There is also the question of whether the payment will be subject to tax, and I hope that the Minister will clear up this point. If the owner of the property will be paid both the basic capital value and a sum equal to the tenant's compensation, will the whole 1302 sum be subject to Capital Gains Tax? The question of the development levy may also be very relevant.
I think that Part I of the Bill is very important, and I am dealing with it last for that reason. We all welcome provisions that will ensure that animals do not suffer and that we produce our food under the best possible conditions. The argument can be raised against the Bill's provisions that they are broad and permissive, and that in debating them we have not a clue about what the Minister really proposes to do. All those charges would be right, but I think that I prefer the Minister to have powers that look fairly strong and then hope that in the administration of a scheme there will be a grain of good sense which will keep the Orders that must be made on the right lines. That may be better than having the Minister present a large number of detailed proposals.
We must approach the subject carefully and work it out gradually, possibly taking action in some cases and leaving action elsewhere until later on. I am, therefore, not unduly worked up because, as on so many previous occasions, the Minister has presented purely permissive legislation. He introduced the Bill with eminent sweet reasonableness and we can perhaps take it that he will try to apply Part I with moderation and reason, and above all in consultation with the affected parties in the industry.
I have read the Brambell Report and consider that some parts of it are not very practical. As a Member representing a northern constituency, I felt that such an impracticable recommendation was that which said that whilst it was all right to tie up dairy cattle by the neck in winter, beef cattle should not be tied up in similar circumstances. That sort of proposal may sound all right, but it is totally impracticable. What will a man do who has a bit of grazing land and buys his cattle in January or February and ties them up for six weeks? Perhaps he cannot afford to build a court. What will the man do who has no straw? Farmers from the pastoral side of the country, in Wales and the North-West, do not grow straw, and in the market they must compete with the paper manufacturers and pay high prices. There are many people for whom the housing of beef cattle in courts, 1303 although it may look very good on paper, is not the practical answer.
I hope that in matters like this the Minister will use discretion, and particularly consult all the interests involved before he goes further. I regret that while the Bill tackles at least two vital matters reasonably, the Minister has not faced up to a whole area of agricultural activity which could have been dealt with at the present time.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
My principal reason for intervening briefly in the debate is my interest in the Brambell proposals. When I was in Opposition, I carried on a long series of arguments with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food then in power, Mr. Christopher Soames, asking him many questions. He was very friendly to many of my queries and suggestions. On the Government Benches then were one or two hon. Members who, like myself and some of my colleagues, wanted to see a change in the way in which animals were prepared for the table. Therefore, I congratulate my right hon. Friends the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Scotland for making one of their first Governmental decisions when we came to power, at the end of June, 1964—in the words of the terms of reference of the Brambell Committee—To examine the conditions in which livestock are kept under systems of intensive husbandry and to advise whether standards ought to be set in the interests of their welfare, and if so what they should be.We have moved some distance towards our objective and the next step is being taken in this Bill. By the Measure before us Ministers will be empowered…to make regulations … to safeguard the welfare of livestock generally, with particular reference to their housing, feeding or mutilation.They are also empowered:… to draw up Codes of Practice … containing advice on the welfare of livestock generally.These are two welcome decisions, but they are not yet effective and we will have, in due course, to discuss these regulations and codes of practice. Between now and the time when they are drawn up pressure will be brought to bear on my right hon. Friends to proceed as 1304 softly as they possibly can—both in framing the regulations and the codes of practice—so that they do not disturb certain prevailing methods of, for example, slaughter.
In the speech of the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson) I sensed a confirmation of this contention—that pressure will become active on my right hon. Friends. I hope that the Ministers will keep nearer to the recommendations of Brambell than to the advice which may be given to them from certain quarters.
While Clause 1 is merely the explanatory and financial memorandum, its wording sounds rather peculiar. It makes it an offence to cause or allow… unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress to any livestock…and, in theory at least, all hon. Members would agree with that. However, it provides exemptions in respect of research and experiment. These two provisions, taken together, would seem to mean that we will not allow livestock to suffer unnecessary pain or distress, unless for the purpose of research and experiment. I do not believe that the Clause as a whole is meant to convey that impression.
There is an attitude prevailing today among research people that, even when conducting experiments, pain should be mitigated as much as humanly possible. When we think of pain, even in connection with the application of the Brambell provisions—and I hope that they will be applied as fully as many of my hon. Friends want to see them applied—we tend to think in terms of pain caused as a result of the breeding or rearing of animals. However, we must consider what happens when animals leave the farm and come into the possession of commercial magnates, who turn the meat into food for the table.
A new system is developing today. While we are doing our best to see that animals are executed painlessly when they cease their period of life on the farm, we must consider what happens to them when they are marched, or are taken, to the factory, where they are executed, disembowelled, cut up, cooked and appear at the exist from the factory all prepared for the table. This new process represents mass execution, mass disintegration and mass production.
Within this system there is the possibility of great cruelty. Unless everything 1305 in the process is precisely synchronised—from the time the animal enters the factory to the time it leaves, cut up and wrapped ready for the table—something may go wrong. In this process of change from life to death, an animal might go through this food-producing cycle without having been completely and finally killed at the initial point, and that could lead to cruelty beyond conception. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friends will consider the application of the Brambell proposals with this and similar new methods of preparing food in mind.
Not long ago we had running about the countryside a little animal that was regarded as a pest. It caused trouble and spread disease, we were told, and we decided to exterminate it. We did. We wiped it out completely and with it went many of our troubles, we were told.
I am referring to the rabbit, to which a strange thing is now happening. The rabbit that we wiped out is back with us, although it is a different rabbit. The buck's coat is now very dark, nearer to the colour of the hare's coat. The doe's coat is slightly less brown. Today rabbits are beginning to thrive again—the rabbits which we were supposed to have exterminated because they were a danger to farm husbandry. Their habits have also changed in this reincarnation. No longer are they burrowing. They are living on the surface after the fashion of the hare. This is not imagination, because they have returned to the golf course on which I play when I am free.
§ Mr. Rankin
I am not thinking of the type of rabbit my right hon. Friend is thinking of. That type of rabbit never disappears.
This is a little problem of which my right hon. Friends may or may not be aware, but it shows how difficult it is to get rid of some of our friends, and I wonder whether this rabbit is going to be a pest like its predecessors or whether, during its period in another sphere, wherever that may have been, it has learnt to behave differently and, now that it has returned to earth, will be better for the period when it was not here.
I wish my right hon. Friends all speed and success in putting the Bill through all its stages, and I hope that when we 1306 come to deal with what they propose in the regulations embracing the recommendations of the Brambell Report they will cover all the points that I think most of their hon. Friends on this side of the House would like to see absorbed into the regulations and the codes of practice.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) in his natural history lesson about the rabbit. It is not one that we have learnt where we live, where the rabbit is just as much a pest as ever before and its habits are remarkably similar.
Many livestock farmers are apprehensive about Part I of the Bill. They are afraid that the regulations to control the production of livestock will add to the many difficulties which have been their burden in recent years. Parts of England are denuded of stock and one can drive on the roads of Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk mile after mile and not see a single animal in the fields or even in the yards. Yet this used to be an area famous for its stock.
The reason is obvious, certainly on this side of the House. Fatstock prices have tended to go down year after year. The food to the housewife has gone up by about 6s. 8d. in the £ in the last 10 years, but the price the farmer has been receiving for that food has gone down by 4d. in the £. This process will go on until we have a system of import control.
There is a crisis, and I use the word deliberately, in livestock production almost every year. Last year it was pigs and beef. This year it is eggs. Many egg producers are losing a great deal of money, yet they cannot gain the sympathetic ear of the Minister. It is understandable that they should fear that the Government will introduce regulations which will convert their existing serious financial losses into outright bankruptcy.
Lower prices for the farmer have forced him to intensify and to increase his yields. Methods now used in arable farming are irrelevant to the Bill but with stock these lower prices given to the farmer have been decisive. The livestock man has stayed with stock because and only because he has forced up his stocking rate. This has forced him to lay down concrete, with or without expensive 1307 buildings, to use new kinds of feeding stuffs and, one regrets, to resort to mutilation of his stock. I am glad, therefore, that Clause 2 divides up these three different activities and draws a distinction between them.
Modern methods of intensive housing demand a much higher standard of stockmanship. If that is lacking, there is no doubt that the animals suffer. That is why I welcome Clause 3 and believe that it will be invaluable in giving instruction and guidance to many farmers.
I am glad that no one in this debate has made the point which has been made outside that animals cannot thrive and therefore cannot grow if they are kept in bad conditions and that, therefore, the farmer has the discipline of either having to improve and maintain good housing or go out of business. That may well have been so in days gone by and it would have been a cogent argument even 10 years ago. But it is no longer so because the use of drugs on our farms is now so advanced that an animal even in discomfort and even in pain can still grow well.
Intensive feeding, the second matter dealt with in Clause 2, has introduced antibiotics, hormone additives and arsenical compounds. There is no doubt that these new feeding stuffs produce astonishing results. They can enable a pig, for example, to reach pork weight 14 weeks after birth whereas that same animal might have taken 20 weeks, a few years ago.
This has given to the housewife the cheap food demanded. Yet we do get what we pay for. Cheap it may be in the short term but many people have anxieties that it will be dear food in the long term, for health is largely conditioned by what we eat and the hazards to our own health must not be overlooked.
The hon. Lady the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) urged that there should be restrictions upon certain of these feeding stuffs and I think that most livestock producers would welcome such restrictions, provided that, if the Government were to impose any such restrictions, there was compensation in the improvement of prices for fatstock.
1308 The third feature is mutilation. The less done of that the better. There may possibly be a case for de-beaking in some of our battery houses but it is not a pleasant thought to have one man de-beaking 1,000 hens in the course of a day. Obviously, at such speed, there must be many mistakes and a good deal of suffering to the animals. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will deal with the docking of the tails of pigs as soon as he can. There can be no excuse for either of these mutilations and, in the case of pigs, it is bad stockmanship to dock them. Experts know that, if a pig resorts to tail biting, there is an indication that something is wrong usually in its diet, and should be put right.
There is one form of multilation to which the Brambell Report did not refer, and it is something which will come to the fore in the future, particularly with the accelerated growth of our fatstock. It is the age-old practice of castrating. Abroad, particularly in France and Germany, bull beef and entire pork is finding a place on the table, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider the system whereby those producing bull beef and boar pork are put at a disadvantage in losing their deficiency payments.
Reluctantly, I support the right hon. Gentleman's view that these regulations are necessary. Compulsion must be used, as the only way in which one can curb two particular types of farmer. The first is that small minority who are either woefully stupid or ignorant of the basic principles of good stocksmanship. If one accepts the need for batteries, as I suppose most of us in this House do, one recognises that the vast majority are kept to a high standard.
One can still find certain examples of thoroughly bad battery houses where chickens are kept in terrible conditions. I visited one not so long ago, and it was perfectly plain that the owner thought that all was quite all right. He did not know any better and he did not want to know any better. People like that must have the sanctions of the law operating against them if they are to conform to even a minimum standard of good stocksmanship. The second kind of farmer who must be curbed is the "in and out man."
1309 This is the man who goes to the market and hears that egg prices are up, or veal is a good thing, and then plunges in, off the deep end, committing himself heavily and little knowing what skills are needed. Every district has these farmers. Taking the country as a whole, they total a large number, sufficiently large to aggravate the cycles of production. They usually make a loss, they cause a glut on the market and, for the specialists who are trying to produce a commodity of a consistently high standard, year in and year out, they are a pestilential nuisance.
The existence of these regulations will act as a warning light to these "in and out" farmers and will have the effect of making them realise that keeping livestock is not necessarily a simple matter. They might deter some of them from plunging in where they are not wanted. As for the specialist livestock producer, he stands to gain from Part I of the Bill. I am convinced that he has nothing to fear and it will go some way towards removing the stigma of factory farming.
I find Part III almost incomprehensible, although I recognise that that may not be the fault of the right hon. Gentleman. The principle is to be applauded. Quite clearly, the present system of drainage rates, related as it is to Schedule A, is causing a number of injustices. I was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman say, in answer to a question from me during his speech, that he understood that this part related only to agricultural holdings. At a later stage I will try to convince him that those who own urban properties in areas where there is an internal drainage board can be subject to a high and harsh drainage rate.
There was only one occasion when I nearly had a heart attack and that was when I received my drainage rates for the first time, having acquired a house in the Fens. I hope that that matter will be resolved fairly and plainly in Committee. On the whole, I support the Bill and hope that it has an expeditious passage.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. William Edwards (Merioneth)
I want to make a brief miscellany of comments on this miscellaneous Bill. I will deal, first, with that part relating to the recommendations of the Brambell Com- 1310 mittee. I cannot see how we can comment or condemn the first part because we do not know what the Minister intends to do about this Report. The time to agree or disagree with the Minister's intentions in this respect will be when the regulations are published.
But I look at the scope which the Minister has given himself and succeeding Ministers to regulate the forms of modern husbandry. If one looks at the provision made under Clause 2, it covers any possible and conceivable kind of farming operation and every kind of activity relating to the production of anything on any farm. These are very wide powers indeed. We have no idea of what kind of regulations are to be introduced. Having said that we do not know what we are discussing, I will not hypothesise.
I want to comment upon the powers that the Minister has given himself and his agents. I listened carefully to what he said about the powers that he was conferring upon constables with regard to these regulations. I have heard Ministers doing this before. If he does not intend to allow the constables to exercise these powers why give the powers at all? This has been done by many Ministers—my right hon. Friend is not peculiar in this respect and I am not singling him out for attack. If the powers are not to be used, or should not be used, or are powers which he does not like to use, then he should not put them in the Bill.
I look upon this as a little bit of a pettifogging country attorney. If one gives these powers to a constable one has to decide who is to instigate the proceedings. I have read the Bill carefully, and I fail to see who will instigate a complaint. Who will send the constable to have a look at the farm? I speak now as someone from a farming area, from a farming family. In every country village there is a second generation suffragette who is worrying about the way in which each farmer looks after hens or cows or pigs. The village constable will be in a very difficult position if he is left as one of the people who can instigate a search and inquiry into the way in which a man is pursuing his farming.
My experience, as a farmer's son, is that the farmer does have his priorities right. In my part of Wales the farmer is 1311 more concerned about the welfare of his stock than he is about the amenities in his farmhouse. I speak as one who had to study by the light of a paraffin lamp while the animals languished in the modern amenity of electricity. This is generally the attitude of farmers. We must be very careful, when we are legislating for an industry, that we do not try to legislate good, liberal intentions, and in doing so seriously limit an industry which must keep pace with modern developments throughout the rest of the world.
The second part of the Bill deals with land charges. May I thank the right hon. Gentleman and his Department for their co-operation and consideration shown to the many complaints that I have received from 250 farmers who found themselves in court on a number of occasions for refusing to pay a levy made upon them by the river board.
Having said that, I speak again as a pettifogging attorney. I thought that when the excellent Leasehold Reform Bill was introduced the draftsmen of the Land Commission Bill had been given a long and well-earned holiday. I was sorry to see that they came back to draft Clause 18 of this Bill. It is an impossible Clause.
Again, there is a pattern. I do not blame Ministers; they are not the draftsmen. Perhaps it is difficult to get Parliamentary draftsmen. But surely no one can interpret the Clause and tell with certainty any farmer what he will pay or any river authority what kind of income it will get. The drafting reminds me of the inscription which I saw on a packing case: "This is the bottom of the case. It should be kept uppermost to avoid confusion."
The Minister said that the provision concerning drainage charges is to be only temporary. I know that he had very much in mind the difficulties in my area, particularly of the Gwynedd River Board, when he introduced this amending legislation into the Bill. However, whatever rate levy he makes and whatever rate assessment the Gwynedd River Board makes, the farming units in the area in which it operates are too small and too poor to give it any kind of income. Whatever may be wrong with the old system of making a calculation according to Schedule A, at least there is no difficulty about calculating the sum due. The difficulty there was in collec- 1312 tion. In the advice which I gave, I may have contributed to the difficulty in collection.
However, with this new provision, the Gwynedd River Board will face difficulties of expense in levying the charges and in collecting them. I know that the income which it will get will be cut by nearly 50 per cent. because of the cost of collection. This will be a continuing difficulty in this area. This may sound rather petty since the Minister has cooperated and give assistance to my area, but in my part of Wales a much more radical solution is required before the aspirations of the farmers and local authorities who look to river boards for drainage improvements can be met.
We need bigger river boards in North Wales. At one time I suggested that the two river boards in North Wales—the Gwynedd River Board and the Dee and Clwyd River Board—could be merged into one large authority. There is a great deal to be said for that and also for the complete devolution of this responsibility to a development or water board responsible for all of the water resources of Wales.
While I welcome the aims of the Bill with regard to particular anomalies, I must comment on the remarks made by right hon. and hon. Members opposite. I look forward not to another Miscellaneous Provisions Bill, but to a comprehensive Bill which takes a new look at the whole of agricultural policy, not a Measure based on an Act passed 20 years ago, the rationale of which was based on a situation forced upon us by the Second World War. The basis of that Act go back much further than 1947.
The time has come for a comprehensive review of agricultural policy to decide where we are going and what we want to achieve. Perhaps recent events which have confirmed the Minister's doubts about our entry into Europe will force on us a comprehensive review of our agricultural policy to decide what we are trying to do and why we are subsidising. Could it be that the Minister, because of his good intentions—and he has good intentions and a good deal of sympathy for farmers in my area—in trying to maintain farming as a way of life in my constituency has wasted a great deal of public money by giving subsidies 1313 to large farmers who can easily do without them? Three-quarters of the subsidies go into the pockets of a quarter of the farmers. Many of the subsidies in my county go into the pockets of large farmers who do not need them.
The time has come, not for another miscellaneous provisions Bill, but for a comprehensive Bill which takes a new look at agricultural policy.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
Both sides of the House have given approval to the Bill. I wish to add my support of it. I do not want to detain the House long, because I know that other Members wish to speak. I shall confine my remarks to Clauses 9 and 10. I shall take up one point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) and another point on Clause 10 which he touched on, but did not go into detail. I seek enlightenment from the Minister who is always anxious and able to enlighten the House on these matters.
The description in Clause 9 of the additional payment to tenants quitting agricultural holdings is curious and perhaps misleading. It refers to… a sum to assist in the resettlement of the tenant of the amount prescribed by subsection (2)…That makes sense when the whole holding has been taken away, but I should have thought that a large number of the cases with which the Bill attempts to deal would not concern the whole holding, but only part of it, and often a very small but perhaps important part. I take it that this phrase is used to ensure that the tenant in receipt of his compensation does not have to pay tax. If that is so, it simply implements the Government's pledge in this respect.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) drew attention to the anomalies which could arise if the rental was the sole basis of compensation. My right hon. Friend almost painted a picture of a tenant, who for years had enjoyed an artificially low rent because his landlord did not want to increase it, now scrambling to pay an economic rent lest he should be given notice to quit on the 1314 ground that his farm was wanted for a new town and his compensation would be less than that of his next-door neighbour who had paid an economic rent. This is a problem. It is like the parable of the labourers in the vineyard.
While Members on both sides of the House would wish to be entirely fair to a tenant who is dispossessed, if the rate of compensation is increased a great deal more—one or two hon. Members have suggested that it should be put up to 10 years' rent—there will be a greater disincentive on the part of the landlord to let any land at all in future. He would be tempted either to take land in hand whenever any became vacant or to sell it. Whether this is what the Government want is not out of order in this debate, but it is outside the scope of the debate. Whether they wish to squeeze out the landlord and tenant system still more, I do not know. I am merely uttering a word of warning about the direction in which things may be moving.
The point on which I wish elucidation from the Minister is how compensation to the landlord is to be treated. We know that compensation for the tenant is, rightly, tax-free, if I understood the drafting correctly. But what about the landlord? Suppose the landlord has a 200-acre let farm that is to be compulsorily acquired by a local authority for a non-agricultural purpose, perhaps for the building of council houses or some industrial purpose outside a new town. He has, rightly, under the Bill to pay fairly heavy compensation to the tenant whose land is be absorbed in the new town. From the acquiring authority he gets the non-agricultural value of the 200 acres. Will that capital sum be liable for Levy under the development charge or to Capital Gains Tax? I take it that it will not.
If compensation is to be tax free to the tenant, surely it must be tax free to the landlord, otherwise there could be a ridiculous anomaly by which, if the lump sum which the landlord received from the acquiring authority for having his land compulsorily acquired was subject to Levy or Capital Gains Tax, what was left after tax might be less than he had to pay in compensation to the tenant. I do not suppose that the right hon. Gentleman means that to happen. Perhaps he would enlighten me.
1315 I do not follow why Clause 10 is so complicated. It took me hours to read and understand it. Admittedly, I am a layman, not a lawyer. I concluded that the only reason it was drafted in this complicated fashion was that the Government insist on including private forestry. The National Farmers' Union has rightly been campaigning for a long time for increased compensation to tenant farmers who lose their holdings for non-argricultural purposes, but I do not think the union ever thought of forestry.
I was surprised to hear from the Minister that much agricultural land in Scotland was going back to forestry. I know nothing about Scotland, but, if I may say so with all due modesty, I know something about England, and it is very rare in England for a notice to quit to be served on a tenant under the Agricultural Holdings Act on the ground that the farm is wanted for re-afforestation. If such a notice to quit were served, the tenant would serve a counter notice. The matter would be referred to the Agricultural Lands Tribunal, and the notice to quit would not be valid unless the Tribunal decided that the farm in question was more suitable for afforestation than for agriculture. Furthermore, as far as I am aware, afforestation is not development under planning law. I do not know why the Minister specifically referred to afforestation when he introduced the Bill. It complicates the Clause more than is necessary.
Normally, a notice to quit is served in a very simple form and the tenant has a month in which to counter serve. Then it goes to the Agricultural Lands Tribunal. If it is served under Section 25(1) of the Agricultural Holdings Act, the Lands Tribunal will withhold consent except for the four reasons which are given—broadly, good husbandry, sound estate management, economic research and hardship. If, on the other hand, the notice to quit is served under Section 24(2) of that Act, no counter notice can be served. Broadly, Section 24(2) covers cases known as the deadly sins—non-payment of rent, bankruptcy, bad farming, or where the land is required for non-agricultural use for which planning permission has already been obtained or for non-agricultural use where planning consent is not necessary, for example, development.
1316 What worries me about the complicated drafting of Clause 10 is that unless the landlord, in serving notice to quit, gets the wording right under the right Section of the Act, he may find himself liable for four or six years' rent as compensation for a purpose for which the tenant is not meant to receive compensation at all. Conversely, if the tenant counter serves notice and words it wrongly, under the wrong Section, he would be debarred from the compensation to which he was fairly entitled.
To put it in a nutshell, my objection to Clause 10 is that compensation seems to depend far too much upon the technicalities of wording and assumes that both landlord and tenant always have the highest class legal advice available to them, when it ought to depend much more on what the facts are, which are easily ascertainable.
Subject to those queries about Clauses 9 and 10, I shall not detain the House further. I hope that in his reply the Minister will deal with those points, which are serious points. But I give full support and blessing to the Bill, which I think is a step in the right direction and which will do nothing but good for agriculture.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan (Cardigan)
The atmosphere of rural good humour in which the Bill has been received augurs well for its acceptance by the farming community in general. It is rather better than the curate's egg in that it is fairly good in most parts.
Dealing with Part I, it is proper to refute any suggestion which has been made by some hon. Members that, were it not for the scrutiny of administrators and the control of legislation, the farming community basically would consist of rather callous and perhaps sadistic people —at least in relation to their animals. The whole record of British agriculture gives a lie to such a suggestion. It is right that everyone who has spoken in rather emotive language of the difficulties should remember that there is already a fairly ample statutory structure which considerably restricts the possibility of cruelty.
Part III of the Bill is a substantial improvement in clearing up many of the drainage rates anomalies. Nevertheless, 1317 there is a case for considering whether much more finance should come from the central Treasury and less of the burden should be borne locally. Partly, this problem can be absorbed by the setting up of development boards and other bodies which are charged with the development of rural areas, but it is obvious that the local burden is too heavy in many cases.
I am horrified by the complex conundrums and calculations about drainage rates which are contained in Part III. This offers a lucrative paradise for lawyers and an affluent source of worry to hon. Members who will have to explain to distraught constituents exactly how their charge has been made up. I think that it would be very difficult to explain to some constituents who live in physically elevated positions and are never imperilled unless there be some flood of Old Testament dimensions that they should bear any such charge at all. There is some echo here of a feudal pattern of a former age when a liability was spread amongst the people at large on a per capita basis. I think that this is a crudity which our sophisticated society may be able to amend before very long.
I heartily congratulate the Minister on the scales of compensation contained in Part II of the Bill. Although these scales are not as munificent as certain bodies had advocated before the Bill was published, nevertheless, I am sure that most farmers in their innermost conscience would agree that they are just.
I would, however, make the point that I believe that the scope of increase is much too restricted. Is there any real case for saying that a high compensation should be paid for a tenant farmer who is dispossessed of land put to a nonagricultural use, but a much lower compensation should be paid if he still retains it as farming land? I doubt whether tenant farmers would be willing to make such a nice, fastidious distinction. If the case for raising the levels of compensation was need, then why is it there was no higher compensation paid, for example, in a case where the tenancy has been terminated owing to the death of the original tenant?
I think that this is the most deserving of all cases whether the consideration 1318 be need or justice. I had, indeed, hoped that the Minister would have gone very much further on this matter, and would have taken this opportunity to grasp the nettle, and would have brought about a reform of the law which would have been historic in this connection. I have raised this matter before. I mentioned it in my maiden speech in this House about 18 months ago, and the House, I am sure, is well aware of the anomaly which exists.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) has already alluded to the seven deadly sins in Section 24(2) of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948. The point must be stressed and restressed that six of the seven deadly sins cover cases where either the public interest clearly demands that the tenancy should be surrendered or where the farmer by his own default or by his own deliberate act has brought about his own downfall.
The seventh is a case of a totally different nature, and that is where the accident of death has occurred. I think that there is here a lacuna in the law of agricultural tenancies. Students of social history will remember with horror and with shock the cases in past times when it was possible for a tenant to be ejected from his tenancy at the merest whim of his landlord, sometimes for having shot a hare, sometimes for having refused to vote for a candidate of the landlord's choice.
The general belief is that the 1948 Act is a great charter for the tenant farmer and has completely changed the situation, and it has, of course, with this one exception of the case of a tenancy terminated by the death of the original tenant.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I am very interested in the hon. Gentleman's argument, which really rather reinforces mine. If the tenancy did not expire on the death of the tenant, no landlord would let any land: he would take it in hand or sell it.
§ Mr. Morgan
I concede that it might be very difficult here to do justice both to the landlord and to the tenant, but I will deal with the hon. Gentleman's point in developing my argument on this matter. After all, this is a matter which involves about one-third of the farmers of the 1319 United Kingdom farming about 45 per cent. of our total agricultural land. None of them has any certainty, like the rest of us, over his life.
I maintain that this case rests upon two grounds. First of all, there is the economic ground. It has been said that for a person who farms well he must farm in such a way as if he assumes he is to live for ever. If a person knows there is a possibility that all the toil, the capital and the hope that he has put into his land may all be lost at the instant of death, which can happen at any time, that is not conducive to the best investment on the tenant's part. Very often we get the situation of old men, in their seventies or eighties, or even older, being nominally the tenants of farms, when we know that the active farming is carried on by their sons or nephews or even perhaps their grandsons.
Secondly, I feel that there is here a radical case. After all, if we look upon the question of tenancies under the law of England—and Scotland, for that matter —we see that there is a progressiveness, which has been brought about by Governments of both Right and Left. In 1954, there was security of tenure won for the business tenant. In 1965, there was renewed and amplified the security for the ordinary domestic tenant for his own life and for the lives of persons of his near family living with him. In 1967, we passed the Leasehold Reform Act, and there again was security for the leaseholder.
I feel that the failure to protect the agricultural tenant in this respect does represent an anomaly, a blind spot, in the law. I also raised this matter, as the Minister will remember, at the end of our deliberations in Committee on the Agriculture Bill, and I was generously informed by the Minister that although that Bill was not the appropriate place for such a reform to be contained, nevertheless, the matter would be given his urgent consideration at a later date. I had hoped that he would have seen fit, as I say, to contain it in this legislation. It may be that he has in mind a new landlord and tenant Bill. I sincerely trust that that will be the case.
I ask my right hon. Friend to consider this as a matter of great urgency, a matter which affects over 150,000 1320 farmers in the United Kingdom. I am certain that I have not to stress what it means to them as farmers, as individuals, to have the whole of their families' livelihood in the balance, turning upon the absolute imponderable of life and death. I have had the experience during the past few weeks of having to discuss with many farmers the risks—the very remote risks—to their security brought about by the establishment of a rural development board.
Despite the very exaggerated language of the opponents of those boards, it is perfectly obvious that compulsory powers would only be used in the most unique situations, if at all, but, nevertheless, a very real fear has been manifested by hundreds if not thousands of farmers in Mid-Wales. The dangers that their tenancies face under section 24(2) of the Agricultural Holdings Act is a thousand times greater, and I hope that the Minister will consider that here is an urgent economic and a moral case for changing the law. I am sure that there will be opposition from sectional interests. No piece of pioneering legislation has ever been possible without such objections, but I am sure, too, that the Minister has a sufficiency of radical spirit to consider that this is his clear duty in this matter.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Sir John Gilmour (Fife, East)
I feel certain that the part of this Bill which will be with us and cause us the most trouble in the future is Part I.
In many ways, the underlying causes of the need for legislation come from the squeeze which is being put all the time on agricultural profits. For example, the reason people seek to put a number of birds into a poultry cage is because they have an urgent need to cut down the cost of supervision of their livestock; and it is not only with stock which is housed in artificial conditions that this happens. If the price structure for farming is such that a farmer must dispense with the services of one or two shepherds and run a hill farm with one where three did the work before, the supervision which the stock gets is that much less. There is cruelty in a squeeze on profits from the land just as there is in the case of animals.
Taking this year alone, wages awards since the review of prices have cost the industry £15 million. The extra cost of 1321 fuel, electricity, feeding stuffs and the Bank Rate have amounted to about another £18 million, which, as we have seen today, is now to increase. All this means that about £33 million has been added to farmers' costs this year.
It is this that makes people seek ways and means of keeping the maximum livestock with the fewest people. In general, farmers look after their stock very well, and, in looking at legislation under the Brambell recommendations, we must be careful not to allow emotions to come in too much. Animals are conditioned by their environment. I go to Australia quite a lot in connection with farming, and there is no doubt that the type of beef cattle which have to range in the Northern Territories have legs half as long again as the types one finds in counties like Leicestershire. Even in Britain, there is a similar variation. The types of cattle to be found in the hills of Wales and Scotland are different from those bred in the South. A hen is a bird which was expected to fly and walk about. If it is kept in such a way that it never goes out of doors, over many generations that will have an effect on the type of bird produced.
I have had a great deal of correspondence with the Scottish Office in past months about the impact of poultry farming in my part of Scotland. I was interested in the welfare of those other people who were keeping poultry and who were likely to be displaced. There, too, we have to be careful to guard against emotion when we are framing regulations, simply because an enterprise is very big. Unless we are careful, many of us tend to accept a farm with one battery house but to be rather opposed to a farm with 35 such houses. There can be no justification for it. There can be only one rule for the large unit and the small unit alike.
What is likely to happen is that, in framing regulations, with the rate of scientific knowledge available, a new type of enterprise will come into being and the buildings put up for it will be years in advance of those put up only a few years ago. What, then, is to happen to people who committed themselves to large capital sums for buildings which have become below standard compared with buildings put up to the right stan 1322 dard with the aid of a Government award? It is a difficult problem.
The Minister is in a real difficulty about the conditions of livestock abroad compared with this country. A few years ago, I went to Denmark, where practically all the breeding sows are tied by the neck in stalls. If the Brambell Committee recommends that dairy cows could be tied by the neck, but not beef cows, what is to be done about importing bacon from Denmark, where all sows are tied by the neck? We have no means of ensuring that the Danes change their methods of agriculture, and, in framing regulations, we have to be careful to ensure fair play.
However, I agree with what the hon. Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) said about the use of antibiotics in feeding. While it is right that we should use scientific advances to help feed our animals in the most efficient way, we have made a good many mistakes in the past and perhaps been given misleading information by scientists. As an example of that, recently I went to the Island of Rum, under the auspices of the Nature Conservancy. On the island, there are two or three pairs of golden eagles. It has been discovered this year that the eagles' eggs are infertile.
The main diet of the eagles is fish, and the antibiotic or whatever it is which has got into the fish must have been washed down from the land years before and is now present in the sea. [An HON. MEMBER: "Come, come."] I am told by scientists that this is so. The eagles eat the fish, the fish have eaten chemicals washed down into the sea, and the eagles' eggs are infertile as a result.
§ Sir J. Gilmour
Fortunately, my family has now grown up, so I am not unduly worried about that.
The Minister will find great difficulty in framing regulations, and the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) about trying to help in Committee is worth considering.
Everyone in Scotland connected with farming and land owning welcomes the provisions in Part II about extra compensation for tenants. I am not certain how it will affect forestry. Under the 1323 existing level of planting grant, it would be difficult for an owner to pay five years' compensation when repossessing land for afforestation if he proposed to plant the land and produce at a profit. Will the Secretary of State for Scotland consider adding provisions to the Bill which will allow tenant farmers to plant trees and claim compensation at the end of their tenancies?
If they were able to plant woods and shelter belts, which I suppose, could become the tenants' improvements under Section 1(2) of the 1949 Act, no doubt a tenant would have to give notice to his landlord that he wished to make such a planting. The landlord could object, and the matter could go to the Land Court for compensation to be fixed if the landlord suffered a specific ill as a result.
This is something which is of importance to Scotland, where the Prime Minister announced recently that he thought that it would be right for extra plantations to be made. This is reinforced by an article which I read in the journal of the National Farmers Union, which described an 185-acre farm in Sweden where the farmer spent two-thirds of his time working on the farm and one-third in the woodlands, but drew 60 per cent. of his income from forestry and 40 per cent. from farming. There are many parts of Scotland where the integration of farming and forestry in certain areas could go a long way to help, and if consideration could be given to the inclusion of a Clause which would allow attempts to do this it would be an advantage.
Another aspect which might also come into this section is whether the Secretary of State for Scotland feels that he is really certain that the sheep stock valuations, which were adjusted in the 1963 Act, are as good as they might be.
Part III does not apply to Scotland, so I can go on to Part IV. I said at the start that the squeeze against farming profits was apt to cause cruelty not only to animals but to the farm. This is really the reason behind the idea for paying a subsidy for a break crop, because people have been forced to continue cereal growing as the only way to keep their heads above water. This squeeze, therefore, forces them to run down the fertility of the land. In other words, the squeeze is 1324 causing a hardship on one of our basic assets—the land which we have inherited and have to pass on.
The introduction of the break crop is a step in the right direction, but I do not see that the growing of beans will be of any great help in Scotland, because much of Scotland where cereals are grown is not really suitable for the growing of beans. It may be that the growing of roots and rape will be included, because they are not specifically excluded in Clause 35, which governs the payment of a grant in respect of break crops. I ask the Secretary of State whether sugar beet should not be an exception in Scotland, because, in the opinion of the National Farmers' Union, this is one of the best break crops for Scottish conditions.
It is also something which fits in, because we have a sugar beet factory which is struggling for its acreage. Therefore, it fits in with the general pattern of what is necessary to maintain employment. The Secretary of State knows that the factory acreage in Scotland could be built up to about 16,000 acres and this would be a charge of, at most, £80,000 a year by way of extra encouragement for the growing of sugar beet in Scotland. This will ensure the jobs of the 300 or 400 people who are directly employed in the sugar beet industry in Scotland in an area which suffers particularly as a result of the Michael colliery disaster with the possibility of the loss of 2,000 male jobs. To replace this would cost a great deal of money, so I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to tell us what crops under Scottish conditions he thinks will qualify for the payment of the £5 per acre of break crop.
I also ask the right hon. Gentleman to give serious consideration to extending this for the growing of sugar beet as this is something which would be of real help to Scotland.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
I intervene briefly to commend the Bill to the House. We are all grateful for many of its provisions.
Part I deals with the treatment of animals and their preparation for market. We are all concerned that this treatment should be humane and that the animals should not suffer any cruelty, but there is a great deal of undue public agitation 1325 about what happens to farming stock prepared on the farm for market. Anyone who has experience of preparing cattle on the farms knows that if the animals are ill-treated and uncomfortable they will not thrive and will not bring much profit to the farmer. It is essential that a beast or poultry, to do well, must be living under reasonably content conditions.
I am concerned particularly about the movement of cattle throughout the country, and especially the export of live cattle. Whether trucked by road or by rail, cattle very often have a rough time and can arrive at the slaughterhouse or on the farm in a very bad condition. Bad conditions prevail more in the transport of animals than on the farm.
I am worried about the right of entry of a constable on to a farm at any time. Under certain conditions, a farmer might find he could not escape prosecution at some time in a year in the process of preparing cattle for market. There could be occasions of infringement of the law relating to batteries or pigs or dairy cows. We have to be very careful how we conduct our house. If we give too much freedom to constables or others, they could make a farmer's life very difficult.
I agree that we should take some measures, but there should be measures to protect the animal life from some of the maltreatment that some of us remember of 40 or 50 years ago. Very often, under that treatment, the food coming on to the market was of a very low quality because the farmer did not treat his animals well, and sometimes slaughtered them under conditions which were anything but clean and hygienic. These two things go together. Looking at it as a whole, I am very pleased with Part I dealing with the welfare of animals, but at some time in the future we may get some pretty nasty cases if constables have the right of entry at any time on to a farmer's property.
I agree with the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) about the break crop. This is important. I have always thought that in sustaining the farmer we are in effect sustaining the capital assets of the nation. We of this generation are not the owners of the earth upon which we are living. We are its tenants during our lifetime. We in- 1326 herited it from a previous generation and we have to pass it on to another generation. Therefore, it is our duty, whether we are farmers or not, to do everything that we can to sustain the value of that on which the next generation has to live, whether in this country or anywhere in the world.
This is a charge on all of us. We are tenants, but for our lifetime only. We are not the absolute owners of the earth on which we are living. Therefore, it is our duty to do all that we can to help the farmer to get the maximum production out of the land without having to improverish it. If any Government pursues any policies that force the farmer to bleed the land in order to make a living, to pay his debts to his banker and to pay all the charges on the land, we are doing a disservice to agriculture and to the maintenance of the value of land, and that is a bad thing to do. I would make considerable contributions to help agriculture to produce the best quality and the maximum supply of food while at the same time preserving the value of the land.
I think that I can speak for most of the Scottish Members in saying that farmers in Scotland will welcome Part II, which provides for increased compensation to tenant farmers. If I remember rightly, under the 1961 Act—and I am rather surprised that my right hon. Friend does not seem to have made any provision to amend it—tenant farmers were deprived of their security of tenure. If the farmer died, his son had no right to the tenure of the farm. I would have liked to see, coupled with the increased compensation to be paid to tenant farmers, that Act amended, and the son of a small tenant farmer in Scotland allowed to inherit the farm on the death of his father. I do not think that we should allow the farm to revert to the landowner and have it put out to auction as it were to be taken over by the man who can pay the highest rent.
Farming is not a matter of looking after land for one or two years. It is a long-term effort. When a man farms land, he puts all his capital and resources into it, and often works on credit from the bank. It is a long-term way of life. A man cannot nip in and out of farming, as one can nip in and out of shop premises in London or any other big city. It is important to give the maximum 1327 security of tenure to the good farmer. I remember, when we were discussing the 1961 Act, regretting that tenant farmers were to be deprived of the security which the 1947 Act had given them. I hope that my right hon. Friend will reconsider this matter.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)
I am not as happy as my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) was about Part II of the Bill which deals with the compensation to be paid to tenant farmers. I think that the House is aware that a new town is being built in my constituency. About 40 tenant farmers will be affected by it. We know the formula under which this compensation will be calculated, but I gather from the Bill that it will not be paid retrospectively. I do not know whether it is clearly understood that when a new town corporation starts developing an area it takes over the land gradually. It does not necessarily acquire all the land it needs at once, and it may be that some tenant farmers whose land has been taken over, or may be before the Bill becomes an Act, will not get this extra compensation. I hope that the Minister will consider this.
Under the terms of the Bill, compensation to a tenant farmer will be paid by the landlord. This does not seem to tally with the statement of the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish). Speaking during the Committee stage of the New Towns Bill, he said:I have been asked about the tenant farmers and I wish to put on record my respect for those who have spoken.The hon. Gentleman went on to say that one or two hon. Membersreminded us that we are talking not about huge landowners with vested estates but of humble men who have tilled the land and done a first-class job for Britain … The existing law, Section 22 of the Agricultural (Miscellaneous Provision) Act, 1963, provides discretionary payments to owners and occupiers and tenants on agricultural land on account of removal expenses … I want to put it on record that we do not know of complaints by owners that these payments are unsatisfactory, but we do know that tenants in particular are not at all happy. The Committee should know that this is one of the matters which is now being considered by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I undertake to ensure that the remarks which hon. Members have made today are reported 1328 to him."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th November, 1966; Vol. 735, c. 1752–3.]The hon. Gentleman then said that the Minister was having discussions and would make an announcement in due course. The hon. Gentleman said that he did not know of any complaints by owners, but I assure the House that there will be violent complaints if the compensation paid to the tenant is taken out of the compensation paid to the owner.
In paying compensation to the owners, will consideration be given to the amount which they will have to pay to tenants? If it will be, why not pay the tenant direct, and the landlord direct, and so avoid any confusion and argument? Will the landlord be allowed to deduct the amount which he has to pay to the tenant before he is assessed for improvement value? I hope that the Minister will answer these questions.
I do not believe that four years rent is adequate. I know that it is more than was provided in the past, but it is still not enough. After all, we will be dealing with men who, as the hon. Member for Bermondsey rightly said, have done a first-class job, but surely they have done more than this? They have devoted their whole lives to agriculture. In many cases their forefathers tilled the same land. They will suddenly find themselves without any land to farm, because, with the ever-increasing demand for land for the building of new towns and other developments, tenant farms are becoming scarcer and scarcer. In fact, it is probably true to say that no tenant farms are available now.
If a tenant farmer is kicked out through no fault of his own, he will have literally nowhere to go. What will he do if he is displaced from his farm? A man of 45 or 50 who has lived on the land for most of his life has a considerable amount of farming "know-how", but not much "know-how" about anything else. He will have to start again from scratch. It must be remembered, too, that he will have been his own master for many years. It will be extremely difficult for him to put the clock back and start working for somebody else.
I think that we ought to ask what compensation is adequate, because these people will be removed not only from 1329 their living, but from their homes. What compensation is adequate for them? Who can say what is an adequate sum for a man and his family who do not want the compensation anyway, but want to be allowed to remain on the land and pursue the life they have chosen?
I do not believe that four years' rent is anything like enough, because these men will have to start from scratch in an entirely different kind of job. We ought to cock our sights at paying far more than four years' rent by way of compensation. We are not dealing merely with acres of land. We are dealing with human beings who are being taken away from their land through no fault of their own. I believe that there must be a complete rethinking on the whole question of compensation.
The owner farmer who is displaced must be justly compensated, so must the owner of the land which is let to a tenant farmer, and the tenant farmer should receive compensation, not from the landlord, but from the Government who have a direct liability to see that he and his family are properly housed and put in a position to find employment suitable to his recognised abilities.
No one wants to halt progress, but that progress must take into account the problems which it generates. I find the Clause as it stands unacceptable to the tenant farmer, and unacceptable to the landlord or the owner of a farm if he has to pay compensation to the tenant farmer out of what he gets himself.
I therefore hope that during the passage of the Bill careful consideration will be given to the appalling damage which will be done to the man who has worked on the land for most of his life and suddenly finds himself cast out. Compensation of four years' rent is not enough. We have to do better for him, and I hope that during the passage of the Bill some better terms will be worked out.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
In dealing with a miscellaneous provisions Bill one is al ways in danger of making a very bitty speech. I am aware before I start that this is exactly what I shall do. There are just a few points that I want to raise. I join hon. Members on both sides of the House in welcoming the Bill and look forward to the improvements that can be 1330 made in Committee. I generally welcome the objects of the different parts.
I share the fear that has already been expressed about the vagueness of Part I concerning the welfare of livestock. I fear it because of the rights of entry associated with it and also the conditions that can be laid down under the powers provided. They are very wide powers, which will have considerable effects on businesses, and they could be put into effect by the Minister without the consent of Parliament. Nevertheless, I recognise that we are groping in the dark in this matter, and I cannot see that any other method than that laid down in the Bill could be employed.
I make a plea, however, that when any Regulations are made there will be full consultation with all parties who will have to work under those Regulations—the National Farmers' Union, the Country Landowners' Association, and any other body which is concerned. I also ask the Minister to be particularly careful about the way in which the Regulations are applied. It is often just those farmers who are most efficient and who are producing food cheapest who have gone in for factory methods of farming. It is they who will be regulated—not necessarily penalised—by the Regulations. It would be disastrous if by the application of the earlier Clauses we found that we were merely preserving what I would call the hayseed and smock type of farmer rather than the more efficient and competent farmer.
An interesting fact has been brought up by the definition which refers to buildings on agricultural land, which are referred to and dealt with in Part I. The definition includes a building on a smallholding or a small area, even though it might be a concrete building, if it consists of a series of broiler houses or an intensive unit. This is right, and that is the way in which a Bill like this should apply, but there should be a quid pro quo. Such buildings on smallholdings should also be regarded as agricultural holdings and agricultural land for rating assessment purposes.
I hope the Minister will make sure that legislation will soon be introduced to balance up these situations. We cannot define agricultural land in one way for the purposes of the district valuer and the Inland Revenue and in another way for 1331 the purposes of the Ministry of Agriculture when dealing with the implementation of its Regulations.
I now turn briefly to Part II, dealing with the additional payments to tenant farmers. This is excellent. I am delighted to be able to say that, as a landlord, I put a Clause with almost these exact terms into a tenancy agreement 12 months ago. They are necessary. But, again, we shall run into some problems. One problem that has been highlighted by two of my hon. Friends concerns the landlord who pays compensation to a tenant who will receive that compensation, rightly, tax-free, development charge-free, and free of other charges. Will this be offsetable by the landlord or the landowner against the development charge or Capital Gains Tax which he will have to pay on the land when it is purchased or taken over, compulsorily or otherwise?
In connection with taking over land for forestry, I suspect that the terms laid down are designed to compensate a Scottish Member who sits on the Government benches and who used to complain periodically from below the Gangway about people buying estates and putting them all down to forests for deer, and so on, in Scotland. I cannot see any justification for this change in respect of forestry, except in a limited number of cases. I again hope that there will be a quid pro quo in respect of forestry grants to compensate for this additional charge and—it will be a very heavy additional charge—on those people who were farseeing enough to plant trees in order to increase the area of forest land.
I want to raise two points about the drainage rights and the land drainage provisions. First, I hope that when this new method of raising revenue is applied it will be used for the large and important schemes. I hope that the Ministry will look benevolently at the larger schemes, and that the drainage boards will receive help in cases where land is going back into the sea. In my constituency there are cases where, if a certain amount of money is spent today, we can preserve from sixty acres up to a few hundred acres of land in different groups and produce good crops on it in the near future.
The other drainage point has already been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. 1332 Hawkins). It concerns the problem of agricultural land which is being built on and which attracts a drainage charge and drainage rate. I have one such case in the middle of Witham, where people coming from London bought houses in a new development which had a total drainage assessment of £10. The developer pointed out that it was only £10 for the whole of the area. That was all that was being paid when it was agricultural land, but as soon as it became built over the drainage board was able to levy a much higher rate on each plot. That is contrary to what the Minister said when he introduced the Bill.
I am delighted to see that so few Amendments are necessary to the Plant Varieties and Seeds Act, 1964. That is an Act in which I had a particular interest. I would be grateful if, within the confines of this debate, the Minister could explain how it is working and confirm that apart from these comparatively small amendments, it is working reasonably well.
These are small points which I have raised. As I said at the outset, I regret that they are bitty points in dealing with a Miscellaneous Provisions Bill. Generally, however, I regard the provisions of the Bill as sound and, with the reservations which I have mentioned, I welcome it.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. W. H. Loveys (Chichester)
My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Brian Harrison) began and ended his speech by saying that it was bitty. That was very modest of him and it was quite unnecessary for him to say it. He covered a large number of points and made an interesting speech. My hon. Friend will not, however, expect me to follow him in what he has said, as I intend to be brief because several others of my hon. Friends wish to speak.
I would like to say a few words about Parts I and II of the Bill which relate to the welfare of livestock and the payment of compensation to tenant farmers when all or part of their holding is taken for development outside agriculture. Both these matters have received thought and discussion in the farming world for many years and legislation to deal with compensation for tenant farmers is certainly very much overdue.
1333 With regard to Part I, the main conclusion of the Brambell Committee, of which we have heard a great deal today and which was set up by the previous Government, was that the great majority of farmers were concerned to ensure the health and welfare of their stock. Although we have, unfortunately, not had the opportunity of discussing the Brambell Report on the Floor of the House, by that conclusion the Brambell Committee did a very great service in removing the fear, which was expressed in certain ill-informed quarters, that widespread cruelty to animals was practised. There was a great furore about this some years ago and the Brambell Committee, by its final conclusion, did a great deal to remove that fear.
Even so, I certainly welcome this new legislation, which in Part I gives merely enabling powers. It is right that it should not go further at this stage. Not until the codes of practice which are mentioned in Clause 4 are detailed by, in some cases, affirmative and, in other cases, negative Resolution procedure are the Government likely to run into any controvery with the farming industry. One sees great difficulties ahead in that respect. There must be the greatest possible consultation. My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon stressed the need for the fullest consultation with everybody involved. I was a little disappointed that in his opening speech this afternoon the Minister did not mention consultation, but it will be necessary to have the greatest possible consultation before definite plans are produced.
One sees difficulties not because farmers wish in any way to condone cruelty, but, naturally, they will be most concerned to ensure that they are not forced into uneconomic methods of production which affect them adversely when compared with foreign producers. There is the particular point about entry into the Common Market and the need to see uniform regulations should we enter the Common Market. In a wider setting, I would like to see the Government take a lead in the world position as a whole concerning livestock. There is no doubt that many dreadful practices are followed in many parts of the world.
The main criticism of Part I of the Bill—and I know that the National Farmers' Union is concerned about this—is the wide powers of entry which are 1334 given to police and to any persons authorised by the Minister to inspect farms, although, if I understood him correctly, I thought that the Minister said that this would be confined to veterinary officers. I hope that that will be the case.
§ Mr. Loveys
I hope that that will be the case. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary appears to be nodding. I hope that we will hear definitely about this, because nobody wants hordes of snoopers descending on his farm.
Some people have expressed fears to me about this. I must, however, admit that reasonable inspection is necessary for enforcement, and reasonable inspection in this case would almost always be inspection simply by Ministry veterinary officers. I have been farming all my working life and if it is a choice between the filling up of innumerable forms and having an inspector visit my farm, as could be the choice in this case. I prefer the latter every time.
I therefore welcome Part I of the Bill, although I stress the need for the fullest consultation before definite proposals are introduced. Part II is very much overdue, and I know that the National Farmers' Union has been campaigning in this matter for four years. The Minister has based his proposals in the Bill on the method suggested some time ago by the N.F.U.: namely, a proportion of the annual rent. While welcoming the proposals, I feel that this basis will be altered.
Present-day rents do not afford a uniform pattern to make the system completely fair because many farmers pay a low rent, for perfectly good reasons. They may have invested considerable capital in their farms and on improvements on condition that the landlord pays the rent. They might have a full repairing lease, which could make a difference of £4 or £5 per acre a year in rent. Other examples could be given of charges being paid by the landlord, whilst in other cases they are paid by the tenant. This affects the rent. I feel, therefore, that another basis of compensation should be found. It should not be difficult to find another method of assessment. The best thing is to seek the assistance of my hon. Friend 1335 the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins), who gave a good example of how the matter could be dealt with.
Part I of the Bill should need little alteration because it is general in nature and permissive. There remains to be dealt with simply the question of consultation, on which I hope that we will hear something definite from the Minister when he replies to the debate. I welcome Part II in principle, but there is no doubt that a more fair basis of compensation and assessment will have to be found.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. James Davidson (Aberdeenshire, West)
I wish to make only a short contribution concerning three points. We on this bench welcome the Bill with slight reservations, one of which has been voiced by the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Loveys) concerning the possibility of excessive or wide powers under Part I. I am sure that when the Minister replies to the debate he will comment on that. It does not worry me tremendously because I am certain that in practice this provision will be wisely used and not in any way exploited or misused. The point must, however, be made.
In dealing with Part II of the Bill I should, perhaps, declare an interest in that I am not only a landlord but a tenant. I am my own tenant in partnership of land which I own. Whether, if the partnership were to end, I would thereupon have to pay myself compensation, I do not quite know.
One line in this part of the Bill worries me slightly. It says that the rate of compensation will be four times the appropriate portion of the rent at the rate at which it was payable immediately before the termination of the tenancy. I apologise for not having been here at the beginning of the debate for the introductory speeches—this was force of circumstance—and I do not know whether this has been dealt with.
It appears, however, to be possible for a landlord who plans to take over certain farms which he has let on an agricultural estate to reduce the rent over a period of years so as to decrease the compensation payable when he eventually puts the tenant out. Some tenants in my constituency have been given notice to quit 1336 and the land has subsequently been used for purposes which would have made them eligible for compensation under this Part. I am particularly interested in this.
It has long been the policy of the Scottish National Farmers' Union that security of tenure—I mean from father to son, where the son is deemed competent and able to farm the land—should be reintroduced. I hope that the Minister will comment on this, as I am disappointed that such a provision is not in the Bill. I look forward to hearing the Minister's comments.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Torrington)
I do not know why, but this debate has certainly emptied the Chamber. The House is not being used very intensively at the moment, particularly on the other side, whence all the broilers have disappeared.
I give the Bill a cautious welcome, but will not go as far as some hon. Members tonight. It clearly shows the Minister's wide powers, about which I am not happy. He says that he is reasonable, which is probably true, but I am not too happy about giving such wide powers.
Animal welfare is one of the main provisions of the Bill. Farmers know only too well that the fundamental law of good farming is that an animal thrives only if it is well cared for, with adequate food and protection. Live weight game per lb. today is the god of farming. If an animal does not thrive, a farmer will be out of pocket and even if he did not care for his animals—and by heaven they do—he would be foolish not to give them all the protection and help they require. Some people outside talk nonsense about farmers and how they treat animals. They have no idea of what goes on and should be told that farmers are sensible and love their animals; they have a vital interest in this, as it affects their pockets. That cannot be said too strongly.
Nonsense is also talked about how farmers house their animals. But Gran and Grandad are often not housed as well as some poultry and pigs, who have modern houses with underfloor heating, controlled ventilation and adequate meals. Some elderly people would like to be looked after as well as even my pigs and poultry. This needs saying, in view of some of the nonsense which is talked outside.
1337 The first Part of the Bill arouses emotion in many people. I often tell critics of my intensive production, "Which would you rather be—a hen outside in the farmyard, your feathers fluttered by the south-westerly gale, with no food, perching at night in a tree with the danger of attack by foxes; or inside in a warm house, secure and protected, plenty of food"? This is what we should tell people who get emotional about this subject.
Pain is also an emotional subject. Pain thresholds vary between and within different species at different times and in different circumstances. Visitors to my farm from urban areas who see a cow calving are horrified by what they think is great pain, but this is nonsense. A cow normally does not feel pain at calving, but she might anticipate pain if she saw the preparations for an injection. People ought to get their facts right it this respect before talking about what pain might be inflicted.
The Minister has something to answer for here. The Ministry has done nothing to eradicate the warble fly, yet an animal can have 20 or 24 great maggots on its back—
§ Mr. Mills
With great respect, that scheme is voluntary and not compulsory and animals with warble flies on their backs suffer considerably. This also should be eradicated.
The consumer should also think carefully in this respect. The implications of the Bill for him are increased prices. He cannot have it both ways. If certain standards, conditions and regulations are laid down, this is bound to make food dearer. The reasonably cheap food which we get today through intensive production would not be possible with regulations which meant that farmers could not produce so intensively.
Imported food has been mentioned often tonight. It will be rather strange if, in future, some of us eat "Brambell" boiled eggs while others eat Polish or Danish boiled eggs, subject to no control 1338 of production conditions. It could be grossly unfair if the British farmer had to do these things while cheap imported food "got away with it".
Something else which has not been mentioned very much is the provisions in Clause 33 to help the undue fluctuations in the bacon industry. I am very unhappy about this industry and its future. I am not certain that Clause 33 will help very much. In my view—I may get some dark looks from my own Front Bench now—my own party has made mistakes in the past regarding the bacon industry. Farmers have made mistakes, too. They have not produced the right sort of pig; they have not kept their contracts, and they have failed to supply the required number and quality of pigs.
Past Governments have made mistakes, farmers have made mistakes, and the present Government have made mistakes. The bacon curers have made mistakes, too. With few exceptions, they have not put their own house in order. And how sensitive the bacon curers are to any criticism. Yet these matters have to be looked into and must be dealt with. As I say, I am most unhappy about the future prospects for the bacon industry.
I have here some extracts from the report of an investigation into the British pig industry. Some of the comments are most disquieting. For instance,Generally, there is a weakness in the industry due rather to wrong policies and organisation than to any failure to implement policies".Then, it is said:Major reorganisation seems necessary at the processing level… "—how true that is—Rationalisation needs to take place as well".So I could go on citing instances where we have gone wrong in the past, where the bacon curing industry and the farmers themselves have gone wrong.
The help which the Government have given—it is a loan, not a subsidy, to the bacon curers—has, admittedly, done a fair amount of good. Indeed, it has kept them going. But, in my opinion, it should be used for rationalisation and streamlining of the industry, not as a prop, as I fear it has been used.
1339 I call upon the Minister to look closely at the report on the bacon industry which will in due course come from the "Little Neddy". I hope that he will be severe to me as a farmer, severe to the curing industry, and severe to himself, so that we may once and for all get the affairs of the industry sorted out.
The major mistake of the present Government in regard to the bacon curing industry is that they have not realised that it cannot be successful until we have further control of imports and levies. Danish bacon is subsidised. The industry is very well organised and the product is well presented over here. The Danes are strong challengers to anything we try to do in Britain.
§ Mr. Mills
I want the Minister to think a long way ahead, to prepare to get the business of control right. I want the control of bacon imports taken even further, with a levy system, for, unless we do that, faced with the subsidies paid on Danish bacon, our industry will not be viable. I want him to think ahead on those lines not only in regard to bacon but in regard to all the other imports, lamb and so on, which are coming in. I want him to take the forthcoming report on the bacon industry from the "Little Neddy" very seriously and act accordingly.
I have spoken mainly about bacon curing. I do not know whether other 1340 hon. Members share my concern for the industry's future, but I am most concerned. Mistakes have been made all along the line, by my own party, by farmers and by bacon curers, and things must be put right soon. I hope that the Minister who is to reply will give me a little encouragement and give the industry encouragement in regard to what he intends to do.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
I shall refer, first, to the powers given to the Minister to implement the Brambell Report, and, second, to the provisions for compensation to dispossessed tenant farmers. In my constituency there are two expanded towns, Basingstoke and Andover, and in both cases a good deal of dispossession of tenant farmers is taking place. This is, therefore, a matter of concern to tenant farmers and farmers generally in my constituency.
I turn, first, to the Minister's powers to make regulations for animal welfare. The whole House will join in the desire to prevent unnecessary suffering by animals. I say the whole House because a few minutes ago there was a Labour back bencher present, although he has now left the Chamber so that on the Government benches now we see only the Minister, his Parliamentary Secretary and the hon. Gentleman who is his P.P.S. We are delighted to see the hon. Gentleman here, but that is the extent of the attendance opposite. It is not as thick a House as one might have expected for a debate on this subject. As an aside, may I say that some of us would hope that the regulations which the Minister is to apply to the living conditions of animals should apply also to travellers on British Rail at times when the commuter trains are running.
I welcomed the Minister's flexible approach in introducing the Bill today, and I hope that he will bear in mind that, when he takes power to lay down regulations on building dimensions, layout and construction materials, he will exert a considerable influence on costs in the industry. If there are changes in costs as a result of regulations introduced by the Minister, I hope that they will be borne in mind at the following February Price Review, and I hope for an assurance on that from the Minister.
1341 I also hope that the Minister will take steps to see that similar standards apply to imports. I am not sure how he can do this, but I shall be interested to hear his views on the best method. I suppose that there is a method, because we can prevent knacker's meat being imported for human consumption. There is an inspection system, and presumably it will be possible to see that we do not cripple our own farmers by laying down regulations for them which do not apply to imports.
The Minister should also bear in mind the negotiations which we hope are about to begin for our joining the Common Market. If there are different standards in the Community, and if there is total free trade in agricultural produce between us and the Six, the conditions which limit us will be an important factor in the prosperity of British agriculture.
Why is Northern Ireland, I understand, exempt from the provisions of the Bill? Has consideration been given to the agreement on agricultural produce made by the Government with Eire 18 months ago? British farmers might be faced with unfair competition from imports from Eire. All that I am really asking is that we should not put good British farmers at a disadvantage compared with their foreign competitors.
I welcome the provisions for additional compensation for dispossessed tenant farmers, but I have a number of questions and should like to suggest some important improvements. First, why does the Minister choose the rent paid and not the rental value as the basis for compensation? Basingstoke is an expanding town and people have known about the expansion for some time, with the result that when an old lease falls in it is just allowed to run on, and the rent is not increased to the current rent. In the case of a farmer who was paying £3 10s. a year per acre rent the local council took over the land and allowed him to carry on in possession for a short term and increased the rent to £5 an acre. But the compensation to be paid to him will be based on £3 10s. an acre. It is quite illogical that a public authority fixes a fair market rent at £5 An acre and the Minister says in the Bill that compensation is to be paid at £3 10s. an acre. This is a serious point which should be considered care- 1342 fully, because it is in the expanding towns that cases such as I have quoted are most frequent and that compulsory acquisition by local authorities most frequently takes place.
There is a variety of variations in the current rent for a variety of reasons, including the "fag end" of a long lease or a lease with full repairing terms. A tenant may have a lower rent because he has added to the landlord's fixtures by electrifying the farm buildings and so on, or he may be a good tenant who has taken over a bad farm and is building up its fertility, which the landlord has taken into account in fixing the rent. In all such cases, it is the farmer who has a low rent because he is a good tenant who will get the least compensation, and this is illogical. I therefore ask the Minister to reconsider whether the market value or what the farmer must pay on an alternative farm are not the right basis for compensation.
The Minister or his Department must have recognised the validity of my argument, because under Section 13(3) the acquiring authority can appeal to the Lands Tribunal that the valuation is too high on the basis of the rent currently being paid. It seems to me that the Minister has given himself a one-sided option which is grossly unfair to the farming community. He will say, "We accept the basis of the rent being paid as the right basis for compensation, but we" —the Minister and the acquiring authority—" take power to question it and to refer it to the Lands Tribunal if we think it is unfair. But we do not give the same right to the tenant-producer." Apart from being a weakness in the Bill, it would be unfortunate if we were to allow the Measure to become law in this form. What is good for the goose is good for the gander, and what is good for the acquiring authority is also good for the tenant who is being displaced.
Do the increased payments contained in the Bill replace the discretionary payments which local authorities were previously able to make? I am not sure whether the Section 22 discretionary payments continue, with the payments under the Bill being an addition—and so partly replacing them—or whether the payments allowed for in the Bill totally replace them.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I take it that the payments under the Bill totally replace the discretionary payments. If that is the case, I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to appreciate the immense variations that appear between one farmer and another in different circumstances.
He may not be able to find another tenancy or he may be elderly and this might mean the total loss of his livelihood. Perhaps, if he cannot find another tenancy, he cannot buy a farm. A constituent of mine who was dispossessed by reason of town expansion could not find another tenancy and bought two small farms some distance away. The local authority had not paid him the discretionary allowance he was due. The credit squeeze came along and my constituent's bank told him, "We want your overdraft paid straight away". The unfortunate fellow had to sell one of the two farms to repay his overdraft.
There are immense differences between the problems facing one dispossessed farmer and another. For example, a man of 65 or older is in a totally different position from a man in his late forties. In instances of special difficulty, special expenses and special problems, the local authority, where it is the acquiring authority, should have some discretion. One does not want to see, as I have seen, cases of local authorities which want to acquire and believe it right to pay more than the district valuer or the regulations allow, but cannot do so because they know that they will be surcharged if they do. There should be some flexibility in these arrangements and I appeal to the Minister to keep this in mind.
Will the payments be free of Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Corporation Tax and the land levy? Farmers will want to know whether they will have to face these four taxes when they receive their payments. When local authorities compulsorily acquire this sort of land and owe money to farmers, is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to arrange for them to pay interest on the money that they owe? In one instance in my constituency a discretionary payment took from October 1963 to October 1964 to be agreed.
In the country as a whole, not only thousands but possibly millions of pounds 1344 are owed by public authorities compulsorily acquiring the properties of private citizens and farmers and on which they are paying no interest. This sort of forced loan to the local authority is grossly unfair to the farmer, who then has to borrow from the bank at Bank Rate—and it has risen again today—at a high level in order to finance his replacement elsewhere.
Why is the right hon. Gentleman not going to apply these provisions to negotiations now in progress? I am sure that this is unintentional and I make no suggestion that it is otherwise. But it so happens that, at Basingstoke and Andover, we were the pioneers of town expansion as opposed to new town development and it seems that my constituents are to be harshly affected by the position that negotiations already in hand will not be allowed under these provisions.
§ Mr. Peart
I would like to clear up at once what appears to be a misunderstanding. The hon. Gentleman has, quite rightly, put to me some important points. Many of them are Committee points. He has asked me whether the new payment replaces the discretionary payment. I hope that, at this stage, he will not press me further but I am not at present proposing to end discretionary payments which are there. After all, we are going into a transitional period. I hope that he will not press me too much.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I could not be more delighted. I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman has given this assurance because it is of immense importance and value for the reasons I have set out. I would not have troubled the House by setting them out had I realised his attitude. I am most grateful to him.
§ Mr. Mitchell
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Bill will cover, or whether he will amend it to cover, farms which are ruined by motorways being made across them? Here a compulsory purchase may be ruining a farmer by cutting through the middle of it. A byroad pattern may follow the motorway turning the farm into several segments and small shapes. In my constituency, 1345 where the M.3 is to run, there is the following case—and I quote from a surveyor's report—As the result of the proposed motorway and minor road, it appears your farm will be converted from a farm within a ring fence to a farm divided into 4 parts by motorway and minor road … with the additional difficulty of odd shaped fields and increased travelling from the two main parts of the farm by the closure of the existing minor road.Having regard to all the circumstances we would not be prepared to recommend the farm in its present state as a security for an advance by way of mortgage.This is a very important matter. "Ruined" may be too strong a word, but where a farmer finds that his farm is almost impossible to work as a single unit and has to go elsewhere and cannot raise the money on his old farm because it has been blighted by the approaching motorway, and since the right hon. Gentleman to my delight is thinking in terms of tenant compensation, I hope that he will give some consideration to this aspect as well.
I apologise for detaining the House longer than I intended, but in my constituency the question of compensation is very important and affects a large number of farmers, so I felt it right that these points should be drawn to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Stodart (Edinburgh, West)
It is five years, less 12 days, since we last had an Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and it is interesting to recall conditions as they then were. The right hon. Gentleman opened for the Opposition from this Box, and he gave a general welcome to the Bill, as I do now, but he said two things which I find particularly interesting in view of present events. He said:… if we go into the Common Market under a common agricultural policy, under Dr. Mansholt's régime … hill farming can be subsidised …Later, he quoted from an interview given by Dr. Mansholt to the Daily Telegraph, in which he said:These are, of course, problems for hill farmers and others in similar categories, but these can be dealt with by subsidies."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1962; Vol. 667, c. 1252–3.]These quotations confirm my recollection of negotiations then. I just wish that 1346 things were as simple now and I say that very seriously.
§ Mr. Stodart
The trouble is that it is not apparently so easy now. I wish it were. At that time, according to the right hon. Gentleman, there was certainty about it.
We have had a brisk and rather thoughtful debate. It is a pity that there have been, for such long spells, completely empty benches on the Government side. [An HON. MEMBER: "And on the hon. Gentleman's."] The difference between the Government benches and ours, mathematically, would be one of infinity, which would take a good deal of going into. One can certainly say that there is no fear of overcrowding or intensive husbandry on the Government benches.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his tributes to the livestock farmers. It is one in which I think hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have joined and it is thoroughly well-merited. It is one in which my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Loveys) joined, and there are not very many Englishmen who have managed to win prizes at the Perth bull sales, and, therefore, the remarks of my hon. Friend are well worth considering.
As to Part I of the Bill, I recall a debate which we had in the Scottish Grand Committee three years ago when, in the course of a reply for the Government of the day, I made three points. It was a debate about intensive husbandry and I remember saying that the spread of cities would eliminate farms all over the country most of them, alas, very good farms. It is an unfortunate factor of urban development that the best land so often lies close to the cities.
The result of this inevitably means that production of farming units is becoming concentrated and it is a fact that over and over again farmers have been told that they must become more efficient businessmen. This is all part of the 1347 same process. I went on to say that this was a matter upon which everyone, as we know, has views.
I do not particularly want to go in for intensive livestock husbandry merely because I prefer to see my animals running around in the fields. It gives me pleasure, and as long as I can afford to see calves running in a grass field rather than putting them on slats I shall continue to do so. That is very far from saying that intensive production as practised on the vast majority of farms causes any pain or suffering.
I have never believed that if animals in intensive conditions were in pain or were suffering they would look as well as they do. As my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) made clear, the profit margins in livestock husbandry are so fine that no farmer can afford to keep an animal which is not doing well or in conditions in which it will not do well.
However, I am worried—and the worry has been expressed on both sides of the House—about the wider field which is being opened up to right hon. Members opposite and their successors by the powers given in the Bill. There is one on which I should like to comment briefly. The system of tethering beef cattle in the North-East of Scotland, which, although I say it as a Scotsman, has produced the finest beef ever, is undoubtedly put in jeopardy by Clause 2(1,c). We have to take the Minister's word about there being no regulations on housing meantime, and probably tethering will come under the heading of "housing" rather than "nutrition". Very great caution is needed when interfering with systems which have worked remarkably well and which continue to do so.
I do not like the power of entry given toA person … authorised … by a local authority"—and that virtually means any person—in Clause 6. The Minister said that, generally speaking, his officials will be used; occasionally, it will be necessary to use the police. I do not think that great exception can be taken to that, because I accept that with regulations of this kind inspection must be of such a nature that it cannot be foreseen so far ahead as to make inspection completely fruitless. But it is going wide to allow any 1348person … authorised … by a local authorityto do it. Although the phrase is "a person", I suspect that it covers virtually anyone whom the local authority chooses to designate.
I come to the point made by one or two of my hon. Friends that there are no restrictions on those who send us a quarter of all the beef and veal we eat, over half of all the mutton and lamb we eat and two-thirds of all the bacon we consume. I noticed an expression of pain coming over the face of the Secretary of State for Scotland when the hon. Member for Halifax (Dr. Summer-skill) said that English people love animals.
In view of a certain event which happened last week, I thought that that might cause a good deal of anguish and discontent with a lady who will be coming to the House, I understand, next week. She said, "English people love animals. You see this when you go abroad". That is true: we do love animals. Remembering what one might call the unnecessary pain and suffering caused to the Celtic football team in the Argentine only a few days ago, in a country whence comes very much of our meat, one must be entitled to harbour quite a few doubts about the sort of treatment which animals will get from those in direct competition with us. It is extremely hypocritical for people to call shame on the heads of farmers in this country while searching the shops for meat from countries overseas where no controls exist.
On Part II, like hon. Members on both sides, I welcome the general principle of increased compensation, with reservations about the extreme complexity of Clause 10 and, perhaps worse still, Clause 11, which deals with the Scottish situation. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) is a considerable authority on the law of tenancy. I certainly take the point about the difference between two tenants on the same estate. I can think of two who live not far from me. One has been paying a rent of £2 an acre for 15 years and the other went into the next-door farm only two years ago at a rent of £7 10s.
I see the argument, although it is certainly a point worth arguing, that the 1349 man who pays only £2 has been getting a certain benefit through having his farm at less than market rent. On the other hand, one sees how it could happen that a man went into a poor farm seven years ago for which the rent should have been no more than £2; he improves it up to the level of a £7 an acre farm, at that precise moment it is taken over, and he is left with compensation of £2 because that was the rent he paid immediately prior to the takeover.
There is a strong case to be made against the present definition of rent in the case of tenants who pay a low rent and have undertaken to do all the improvements to the farm. This is a perfectly legal and normal feature of much of our landlord and tenant system. I know of any number of farms in the East of Scotland which are let at rents below market value but in which there is an agreement that the fences and buildings, for example, will be maintained by the tenant in return for getting the farm at less than market rent.
It is interesting to discover that the description of the rent, as given at lines 33 and 34 on page 6 of the Bill, is identical with that which featured in the 1948 and 1949 Acts. It is fairly characteristic of the progressive Government on the benches opposite that they continue to cling obstinately to the past and merely take words out of statutes nearly a quarter of a century old and do not keep up to date with present conditions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) asked for a clear statement about what I would describe as the process of compensation and how the local authority and the landlord operate when a takeover occurs. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland, in replying to the debate, will tell us this and will make the position as clear a, possible concerning the liability of the landlord to Capital Gains Tax and development charge on the compensation which he has to pay. I hope that we can get this from the right hon. Gentleman, who has a delightful lot of time at his disposal and must be feeling happy that he has so much time in which to answer all the questions put to him during the debate.
I certainly welcome Part III of the Bill on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends who represent English constituen- 1350 cies. I admired, as I always do, the lucidity of the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. William Edwards). It is always a pleasure to witness the clinical precision with which he "tears strips off" right hon. Gentlemen on his own Front Bench and to see the glint in his eye at the prospects of consultations over Clause 18, a glint which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elysian Morgan) not only showed, but also confirmed in his speech. I would only say that I find great relief in the fact that Scotland is such a civilised country that it has no drainage rates at all. I think it is an admirable feature.
I want to say a word about Clause 35, the production grant Clause. I was most interested in what my right hon. Friend said in his opening speech about beans, but I am bound to say that I think they are virtually of no use in Scotland. Climatically, they are just not a starter, and it is no use trying to pretend that they are, and when my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East was touching on this point I noticed that the Secretary of State smiled in what I hope was a benevolent manner.
Quite frankly, I think that in all fairness we must have a break crop suitable for Scottish conditions. I say that in common fairness to good husbandry, and I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman will be interested. I can think of no other instance in the whole list of production grants of Scotland's not getting a share, sometimes a very good share; it varies, but it always exists. I think I would be right in saying—and the right hon. Gentleman may, and I hope will, be able to confirm this—that all the prospects are that this crop will not be of any use at all in Scottish conditions. The right hon. Gentleman said that other crops could be brought in by making other schemes for them.
Some are quite firmly left out, but it seems to me that here is an opportunity —I say this quite seriously—for doing something which, I know, has caused both sides of the House great difficulty, and that is, helping the sugar beet industry in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary and I have scored our party points about what each side did to the sugar beet industry—the transport convention, lowering the 1351 fertiliser subsidy, and so on—but I am quite well aware that the Parliamentary Secretary is anxious to help in this if he can. It is an extremely difficult problem.
I know quite well that the right hon. Gentleman realises that if the Cupar factory were to close that would have much wider repercussions than merely agricultural ones. The yield per acre of sugar beet in Scotland makes it not a crop which is grown for cash profit, but one which is used as a green crop in the rotation, and it is thus doing precisely what this Clause is providing for. The Scottish Office in one of its publications, gives the average yield of sugar beet in Scotland as just over 11 tons an acre; therefore, a £5 an acre grant would, in simple terms, mean 10s. a ton, and if we take production as being 100,000 tons a year, which is about what the Cupar factory takes, the cost would be about £50,000 or £60,000.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can tell us what he anticipates spending in England and Wales on the production grant for beans, because I should have thought that this would be a useful step in Scotland and the North, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider it seriously.
Turning briefly to Clause 37, I dare say that other hon. Members have received representations from the rose growers. I recall that in the debate on the regulations the subject of roses was raised by the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis). As I understand, the Government have ratified the International Convention, and the effect of Clause 37 in Schedule 2 changes the 1964 Act so that it conforms with certain obligations which have been entered into under that Convention.
I do not want to go into details now because clearly it is a Committee point, but Mr. McGredy, who is a rose grower of considerable international repute, claims that if what is proposed in the Bill goes through and he is no longer allowed to use both the originally registered names and the popular fancy names which are preferred in catalogues, he will either have to give up all his British rights or lose his European exports and royalties.
I am not one of the Secretary of State's most ardent disciples, but I read a little 1352 time ago in a Sunday newspaper which has such an enormous circulation that one knows that every word that it utters is the absolute truth, that he is a very keen rose grower. Readers were told that, every morning when his roses are in bloom, one of his first acts is to go into his garden, pick a rose, and present it to his wife. So touched was I by this gesture that it is one that I myself have adopted ever since. However, as a result, I cannot think that the appeals of the rose growers will find the right hon. Gentleman unsympathetic.
This is indeed a Miscellaneous Provisions Bill. When one reads a single sentence which says, without any punctuation, that it is& to provide for payments in respect of bacon and grants in respect of break crops and the supply of water to certain buildings ",one could hardly get anything more miscellaneous than that.
There are one or two omissions which I wish had been in and which it may be possible to put in. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East mentioned one when he urged the inclusion of forestry as a tenant's improvement. It would do a tremendous amount of good for the integration of forestry and farming.
I hope that it might be possible to tackle the rating anomalies. It is very difficult to make real progress in a selective expansion programme when anomalies are so rife that, on the same farm, a farrowing house is derated but a fattening house is included on the role, or where even the smallest help to a neighbour is discouraged by the actions of assessors. We must tackle the problems and get them ironed out properly.
These are useful provisions, but it is not unfair to say that many of them are lightweight compared with what is really needed by an industry which is so genuinely and desperately anxious to play a major part in setting the economy of this country to rights.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) invited me to speak until about 10 o'clock. I would disappoint a lot of people if I did that. Genial as I am, I do not think that I should trespass too long on the time of the House. After all, there is 1353 to be a committee stage on this Bill and we want to leave some time for that.
My right hon. Friend has every right to be pleased at the general welcome that has been given to the Bill in so far as speakers addressed themselves to it. Whenever there is a good Bill that everyone agrees with, everybody wants to talk about another Bill altogether—something that should have been there. I think that this is an indication of the measure of agreement that there has been in this instance. We have struck the right balance in the Clauses relating to the welfare of animals. It is a tribute, too, to the Brambell Committee.
The tendency in this House is to accept the need for something to be done, but when something is suggested hon. Members say, "Ah, but not that". However, on this occasion there seems to be fairly general agreement that the way my right hon. Friend proposes to go about it is right. Knowing that the stock breeders and farmers of this country have regard to the wellbeing of their animals, we shall proceed on the basis of a code of practice for a start, and such regulations as are necessary will come later. This is by far the better way. If we had started to list in the Bill all the various things which we were to regulate we would inevitably have been forced to come back to the House in perhaps two or three years' time for new powers in respect of new practices that had been overlooked. This is the best way to do it. Whether or not we have covered them all is something we fully appreciate can be dealt with by (a) the code of practice and (b) the regulations.
Reference has been made to imports. My right hon. Friend spoke about this in August, 1966. Although he did not indicate that anything would require to be done he said that he would be having discussions about the import of white veal. That does not mean that is the end of the matter. We will continue to watch and ensure that there is fair play in regard to the regulations that we lay upon our own producers as against the nature of the competition that comes from abroad.
We were asked how all this was to be done and how was it to be policed. A few fears were expressed about the con- 1354 stable, but I am glad to say that many people who disapproved of his appearance in the Statute seemed to think it was just as well he should be there. With all due respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. William Edwards) who talked about the second generation suffragette, I think the second generation policeman in a village will be able to cope with the position. It is only very rarely that the constable will be called upon to accompany anyone. Generally speaking, it will be done by the vet and by the technical officers of the Departments, and that is as it should be. That is how it should be. I think that it was the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson) who said that we wanted sweet reasonableness and a certain measure of common sense in the administration of these provisions. I am sure that this is what we will get.
I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman saying that traditional practices in the North-East might be endangered by the kind of regulations which will be imposed with regard to tethering. The Minister has said that the only thing he will do is to ensure that they have space for grooming, and that he has no intention of introducing regulations to end what has been a traditional practice, and one which has not led to any deterioration in the kind of beef which has been produced in Aberdeenshire or in any other part of the North-East of Scotland.
The hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Loveys) talked about consultation. Consultation is inevitable when dealing with issues like this. There is a very good relationship between the Departments and the farmers, and if we want them to accept the reasonable standards which we will embody in the code, this must be done by consultation. We do not want to place unnecessary and trammelling regulations on the farming community. I have no fears about the outcome, and I welcome what most hon. Members have said about this.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West talked about local authority officers being given wide powers of entry. We are not giving them such powers. If he reads the Clause, he will see that these powers of entry are being given purely for the purpose of matters connected with feeding stuffs. I think that the hon. Gentleman will realise that he was mistaken.
1355 We have every reason to be satisfied with the progress which has been made by the House in response to a need which was mentioned by the late John Dugdale in 1961. I think that the moderate tone of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill), was an indication of her satisfaction that the Government have proceeded quickly to meet the aims of those who were concerned about this matter, and that we have struck the right balance.
I come now to Part II of the Bill, which deals with additional payments to tenant farmers. This provision has been widely welcomed by hon. Members, and it made me wonder why it was not introduced before. I think that it was the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West who wished that his Government had brought it in. We are very pleased that we have introduced this provision, because we are dealing with an issue which has affected farmers in all parts of the country. So far we have been able to get all the land that we require for forestry in Scotland by means of voluntary agreements, but, as we are making this new provision, for additional payments in respect of land required for development, we should extend the provision to include all those who might be affected in some way.
One hon. Gentleman suggested that this Clause had been drafted in a complicated way. I believe that it is simple, and that it has been drafted in such a way that the onus for taking action will rest on the person who should take it, namely, the landowner or developer.
If we started to list all industrial development we would have a long catalogue and would inevitably miss out something again. The best thing to do was to give the right to the person being dispossessed and then make it obligatory for the landowner or the acquiring authority to state the agricultural purpose. So we have it the back way round, but it is clear.
My hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth talked about pettifogging lawyers. If there were not so many pettifogging lawyers who twisted every single word that was put into a Statute the Statutes would be very much clearer and simpler. It is in order to safeguard the rights of the tenants, and, perhaps, the 1356 landowners, that we have had to resort to this language. It should not prove to be all that difficult. The hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) suggested that people would be caught out on the basis of the technical wording, but I do not think that that is the case. Those who will have to take action in respect of not having to pay four times the rent will be the landowners. They will be more able to support the burden of getting expert advice than will the tenant than if the boot were on the other foot.
The question arises whether we were right in taking the yardstick of actual rent. This point was made by the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins), in a very good and thoughtful speech. It does not matter very much which yardstick we take; there will be anomalies. The hon. Member instanced one. It is already there in respect of compensation for disturbance in the case of agricultural holdings. If we departed from it in this case we would be bound to depart from it in the other Acts in which reference is made to it.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I said that it will lead to many anomalies between one farmer and another, and that the method of arriving at the proper rent is already laid down in the Agricultural Holdings Act. As my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell) said, the Ministry or the acquiring authority can question whether the rent is too high, whereas the tenant cannot question whether the rent is too low. That is the point.
§ Mr. Ross
The search for fairness and the search for simplicity sometimes conflict. It may be that if it were thrown open to some other kind of formula it would lead to legal proceedings. Do not forget that the pettifogging lawyer is round the corner. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth has returned to the Chamber. I have a feeling that I shall be coming hack to him on some other point. When the Bill goes to Committee we may argue whether this is the best way or the simplest way of proceeding. I do not intend to announce any departure at this moment from what is now laid down in the Bill.
In framing Bills the question of complexity is always a difficult one. The 1357 landlord will have to state reasons in respect of all notices to quit and not just in reference to the Agricultural Land Tribunal, as is the case now, and if landlords given no reason for a notice to quit many more tenants will serve counter-notices than is the case at present, simply to discover whether the dispossession is such as would entitle them to a resettlement sum. The hon. Member who suggested that the phrase "resettlement sum" is designed to prevent the recipient being liable to tax is right. It is deliberate, because, if we had called it compensation, it would have been liable to Capital Gains Tax. Therefore, no one will object to this. One hon. Member said that they are not necessarily being resettled but may be getting the additional payment in respect of only part of the holding, but, even in that case, one must reshape the enterprise and to that extent it is still resettlement.
Someone suggested that there was nothing to indicate how the private landowner would be taxed, and if he settles with the tenant farmer, of course, he will be selling to the developer a farm with vacant possession, which no one will say is not a more valuable asset than a farm with a tenant. On compulsory purchase, however, it is the acquiring authority which will make the additional payment to the tenant.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for clarifying the position over one of the four taxes which I mentioned—Capital Gains Tax. Could he clarify that over Income Tax, Corporation Tax and the land levy, because farmers wonder which of these they will be caught by.
§ Sir Frank Pearson
The right hon. Gentleman said that, if a public authority acquires the land, it will then pay the tenant compensation, but the deal will be between the owner and the public authority. The tenant will not come into it directly at all. Is this still true?
§ Mr. Ross
When the acquisition takes place is a matter of time, depending on whether, first of all, the acquiring authority takes the farm over with a 1358 tenant in possession. It then becomes the landowner and will make the transaction and be liable in respect of it. If it is done in advance of compulsory purchase, however, and the transaction is between the landowner and the tenant, the responsibility is then the landowner's, who, generally speaking, if the acquiring authority is acquiring a piece of land with a tenant, would then have to make his settlement with the tenant when notice to quit is given.
In many new towns—I can think of one bordering my area—a considerable number of acres with tenant farmers will have to be taken over, but it does not necessarily follow that, when the land is acquired, notice to quit is given right away. There might be a considerable time before the development, which is why we must appreciate that it may not be the person who is now the landowner to whom this applies, since after the compulsory purchase, the acquiring authority will stand in relation to the tenant as the land-owner does at present—
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
The right hon. Gentleman has not answered my question, and perhaps he does not know the answer. It is neither here nor there whether the land is sold by compulsory purchase or voluntarily to the acquiring authority. My question was whether the sum which passes from the acquiring authority to the landowner is subject to either the development charge or Capital Gains Tax. That is all.
§ Mr. Godber
We want to get this clear. Surely, where there is a liability to pay this sum, the sum to be paid should be offset before liability either to 40 per cent. development charge or Capital Gains Tax 1359 arises. That is the point on which we need clarification.
§ Mr. Ross
That is an entirely different point. The hon. Member for Windsor asked me about liability for the whole sum. I am sure that it would be treated in the same way as any other straightforward deal. It may well be that in consideration of the price to be paid for a piece of land, the burdens upon the land will be taken into account.
I would not like to pontificate on a particular aspect of that kind—
§ Mr. Ross
I am sorry, I cannot go further on that as an Agriculture Minister. We are dealing with hypothetical cases. It will depend entirely on the nature of the deal. [Interruption.] I cannot give way again. I suggested that I would not speak for an hour. I know that we have time, but I have many things to answer.
My hon. Friend the Member for Halifax wanted to know whether licences for research would be issued by Agriculture or Home Office Ministers. It will, of course, be the Agriculture Ministers.
§ Mr. Ross
I want to press on. I was asked whether the inclusion of forestry had complicated the drafting of the Bill. It was stated that forestry is not development for planning purposes, but it accounts for a transfer each year of considerable areas of agricultural land to non-agricultural use. This is not as significant in England and Wales, but it is very significant in Scotland and it would be quite wrong to leave it out. It is fair that it should be included. Its inclusion does not, however, lead to the complexities of the Bill.
As to drainage provisions, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West said that he was grateful that this had nothing to do with Scotland because we had no drainage rates. The hon. Member's memory must be fairly short about the difficulties we encounter in Scotland with flooding, when, according to statute, flood prevention drainage and the rest 1360 are the responsibility of the owner of the land. The hon. Member knows the difficulties which arise in Scotland simply because responsibility for this does not rest upon an authority which has an obligation to do something about it. He must know that flooding in the Northern parts of Scotland last year cost the central authority a considerable amount of money.
One of the troubles about why we experience difficulty is the very point which was raised by two hon. Members from Wales about the nature of the land, the lack of population, the poverty of the soil and the difficulties of getting from those who will benefit the money to put into operation the various works of flood prevention and the rest and doing the necessary drainage, even of the secondary courses about which the hon. Member for Clitheroe spoke.
There have been difficulties here, and my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth, the "pettifogging lawyer", said that the central Government should pay more. This is always a good point to make, but it should not be forgotten that the central Government pay a considerable amount. My hon. Friend knows that they do. However, we are dealing with the question in the Bill, changing the formula to a certain extent so as to get rid of a considerable and unfair burden. Everyone has welcomed the change in the formula, and, despite its complexity, it is nothing like the formula for calculating the rate support grant or the old equalisation grant, which used to take a fortnight to work out, let alone understand. It is much simpler than that, and there is a considerable element of justice within it which has been widely welcomed. If there are complications here, my hon. Friend, as a lawyer, need not worry. They will keep him and his colleagues in employment for a long time.
My hon. Friend talked about the seven deadly sins with reference to notice to quit and the ability to resume a tenancy, and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) was concerned about what happened upon the accident of death, urging that we ought to do something far more radical for security of tenure, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) in speaking of Scotland. 1361 The Scottish law is different on this subject. Historically, it has been different Nevertheless, I assure the House that I am looking urgently into this question to see whether we can speedily do something about it in respect of particular farms and introduce a greater measure of security.
Now, the question of break crops. It was accepted by most people in Scotland—
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
Before the right hon. Gentleman goes to a new point, will he give the two assurances for which I asked, assurances which, I understand, have already been indicated in negotiations, one about the register and the other about the valuation officer helping a board in making a reassessment?
§ Mr. Ross
Yes. I am sorry that I was not here to hear the hon. Gentleman's speech, but I understand that the assurance is readily given and the Inland Revenue has agreed that local valuation officers may, if requested, give informal advice to internal drainage boards on apportionment of rateable values other than for public utilities. On the other question, the point was made that, if the new arrangements are to operate satisfactorily, it will be necessary for owner-occupiers to have access to the register or rate book, and this is a matter which we have in mind. We are considering adding an appropriate provision to the Bill.
§ Mr. Hawkins
Before leaving the question of drainage, will the right hon. Gentleman deal with the question I raised about housing estates being built upon land subject to drainage rates and say how the increase will come about in the circumstances to which I drew attention?
§ Mr. Ross
I am sorry not to have an answer to that. It is a point which can be taken up in Committee. It is a purely English matter, and it will not be overlooked when we come to discuss it.
I was about to discuss the question of break crops. The hon. Members for Edinburgh, West and for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) suggested that field beans would be of little use in Scotland, and they asked about sugar beet in this connection. Let us not deceive ourselves in talking about sugar beet in terms of a 1362 break crop. We want to do something about sugar beet, and I am as anxious as the hon. Member for Fife, East is to see a greater acreage in the part of Scotland which he represents which will give a better safeguard for the Cupar factory. He knows that we have not been inactive and have not only done something to help but last year gave a guarantee of continuing for a specific period. I should like to see a greater acreage of sugar beet in Scotland, but we should not deceive ourselves that that is the right way to do it. Crops other than those mentioned could be put in by means of an Order. Discussions are taking place with the farming organisations about that, but I do not hold out great optimism that we accept this and shall make changes straight away.
§ Sir J. Gilmour
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that at the moment there is no chance of a break crop in Scotland under the original Order?
§ Mr. Ross
Of course. we can grow beans in Scotland. The question is whether there will be as much use or finance from this in Scotland as in England and Wales, and there is the suggestion that in Scotland it will be another crop. The hon. Member mentioned turnip and rape as a possibility. I am saying that these things are under discussion and could be incorporated by the enabling powers in the Bill.
§ Mr. Stodart
The right hon. Gentleman must have had discussions with his officials on this matter. Is not their advice that beans are not a crop that can readily be grown in Scotland?
§ Mr. Ross
They can, but whether they can be grown as well as elsewhere depends on climate and everything else.
On the whole we can be satisfied that we have a useful Bill. There was a suggestion that it is very narrow but that is not so. We even have Mr. McGredy's roses—not to mention Mr. Ross's, though I do not think that I should be covered 1363 by Clause 37. We shall be glad to consider this point in Committee, but I understand that Mr. McGredy is mistaken on the effect of Clause 37 and that it will not deprive him of protection and royalties abroad. The Clause has been agreed with all the associations, including the Plant Breeders' Rights Association, of which Mr. McGredy is a member.
I am grateful for the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Haseldine) about co-operatives. With the fishing co-operatives it is not where they fish or what they fish that will be a determining factor; it is the nature of the co-operative association that determines whether it will have the particular exemption,
Every single one of the Clauses in the Bill is relevant to a problem of someone in agriculture. We are making an advance of additional payments for dispossessed tenants, a matter that has been a burning issue with people for years. It was wrong to use the words "small and inept" of the Bill. It is far from small and far from inept. It is very useful, and I think that we shall find that that is so as the days go on and even more useful things are suggested in Committee.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that the right hon. Gentleman has sat down. Did the hon. Gentleman, however, wish to intervene before he sat down?
§ Mr. Peter Mills
The right hon. Gentleman has not answered any of the questions that were asked about Clause 33, its effect on the bacon industry and the problems attached to that industry. Does he consider that the Clause will help the industry?
§ Mr. Ross
Clause 33 puts into statutory form something that we have already been covering and it is my belief that all concerned welcome it. The Government have done a lot for the bacon industry in this matter. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the scheme that will be laid down will be a fair one. One might call the arrangement "give and take" at this time. This arrangement has been welcomed by all concerned and I regret 1364 that the hon. Gentleman feels that it is in some way deficient. I assure him that the Government have been responsive to the needs of the bacon industry and I hope, therefore, that we shall have his support not only for the Bill as a whole but also for Clause 33.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).