HC Deb 22 July 1976 vol 915 cc2066-98
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Gavin Strang)

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 9, at end insert 'and livestock keeping and breeding (whether those activities involve the use of land or not)'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we may take the following amendments:

No. 2, in page 1, line 9, at end insert: 'pig-farming, poultry-farming and the rearing and breeding of other animals (excluding game) for the production of food or wool'. No. 3, in page 1, line 14, at end insert— '(iii) the extraction from land of any produce which is derived from plant matter'. No. 4, in page 1, line 19, at end insert— '(vi) Fish-farming'. We may also take Government Amendments Nos. 5 and 6.

Mr. Strang

These amendments are basic to the central purpose of the Bill. The purpose is quite simply to give agricultural workers and their families a right to the roof over their heads comparable with the right which has long since been taken for granted by the majority of workers in other industries. The legislation applies only to agriculture because farm workers as a group have been especially disadvantaged by the insecurity of living in tied cottages. It means that agricultural workers who occupy tied cottages will have a security of tenure which other workers living in tied cottages do not have.

There are few things more important to a worker and his family than the security of their home. It follows, therefore, that it is important that we get the definition of "agriculture" right. There is an additional reason why the definition of "agriculture" is important. That stems from the fact that the Government have always recognised that there is a need for both an assured roof for a farm worker leaving the farm and accommodation for an incoming worker. This is likely to be best met by putting a formal responsibility on the local authority to provide suitable alternative accommodation. That is what the Bill does. It is therefore essential that we look closely at the definition of "agriculture".

There was a lengthy debate in Committee on the question of the coverage of the definition of "agriculture" in the Bill. I undertook to re-examine it closely, particularly in respect of intensive farming systems. I said then that it was our firm intention that workers in enterprises of this kind should be covered by the definition. On examination it appeared that such significant changes had taken place in agricultural technology and practice since the definition we are using was drafted that it was probably wise to bring ourselves up to date and spell out on the face of the Bill our intention to cover such new systems. We have done that by means of the three Government amendments in this group, Nos. 1, 5 and 6.

The group includes two amendments tabled by some of my hon. Friends. One of those amendments seeks to cover all kinds of animal husbandry. I hope that I shall be able to show that the amendments we have tabled fully meet their concern. My hon. Friend's other amendment deals with fish farming. Here, I am afraid. I must disappoint my hon. Friends. Also in this group there is an Opposition amendment, the purpose of which I think hon. Gentlemen will want to explain, as I am not sure that I have grasped it.

Amendment No. 1 adds to Clause 1(1) (a)(i) a reference to livestock keeping and breeding (whether those activities involve the use of land or not)". A definition of "livestock" is given as part of Amendment No. 6

This definition of "livestock" is basically that contained in the Agriculture Act 1947. It covers any animal kept for its products either when alive—for example, eggs or milk—or dead, for example, meat, skins or fur. It also covers animals kept for use in connection with agriculture, such as working horses. The definition covers poultry, but fish are explicitly excluded to remove any doubt on that score. I shall say a little more about that later. However, in view of what I have just said, I hope that my hon. Friends will agree that Amendment No. 2 would probably not achieve their purpose with such certainty as it does not specifically refer to the fact that there need be no connection with agricultural land.

There is no need for an amendment of this kind to exclude game. As game is reared primarily for the purposes of sport, such activity would not be considered agricultural. As the Government have tabled Amendment No. 1, I hope that my hon. Friends will agree to withdraw their amendment.

The position on fish farming is different. I am afraid that we cannot accept either the terms or the intention of my hon. Friend's amendment. Fish farming is not at present regarded for any legislative purposes as part of agriculture. It would be inappropriate to introduce it in this context.

In spite of what happened in another place on 8th June—the carrying of an amendment to the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill—the Government believe that when the current consideration of the report of the departmental working group on fish farming has been completed, it would be appropriate to think about reviewing fisheries legislation. It is subsequent to such consideration that any legislative measures on fish farming would have to be taken. I regret that I cannot move from that position. The issue goes much wider than this Bill. I hope that my hon. Friend will be willing to withdraw his amendment on the understanding that we are looking right across the board at where it is appropriate to apply agricultural legislation to fish farming. I ask my hon. Friend to withdraw the amendment, and I make this statement without prejudicing our eventual decision on the review we are carrying out on the legislative and administrative arrangements covering fish farming.

Amendment No. 5 is purely drafting and deletes the words which reappear, modified to deal with intensive horticulture, as part of Amendment No. 6. Amendment No. 6 itself modifies the definition of "consumable produce" by referring to— land or other growing medium instead of just to "land", which appears in the Bill as drafted. There have been many developments in this field in recent years, and the amendment ensures that the growing of crops by such modern methods as hydroponics or in plastic bags is regarded as part of agriculture even though there may be no connection with the land.

The purpose of Amendment No. 3, which refers to— extraction from land of any produce which is derived from plant matter", is not entirely clear to me. It may be an attempt to cover some aspect of horticulture. If that is the case, I believe that the point is adequately met by the definition of "consumable produce" in Government Amendment No. 6. If the movers have some other intention, I have no doubt that they will so inform the House.

Amendments Nos. 1, 5 and 6 honour a commitment which I gave in Committee and represent a considerable improvement in that they clarify our intentions with regard to an important group of agricultural workers whom it would be indefensible to exclude from the benefits provided by the Bill.

Mr. Jopling

I do not agree with all that the Parliamentary Secretary said in introducing Government Amendments Nos. 1, 5 and 6. However, I strongly agree with some of his earlier remarks. He said that we must get the definition of "agriculture" correct, otherwise the agricultural industry could find itself in endless difficulties in the years ahead. Bearing in mind the unreasonable guillotine which is hanging over us, we have to go a little quicker than, perhaps, we would like to go, but, at the same time, we must look closely into the definition of "agriculture". As the Parliamentary Secretary will recall, in Committee I took part in the debates about the need to bring the definitions up to date.

The amendments which the Government have brought forward do not altogether clarify the position. There are still several areas which are extremely hazy.

Amendment No. 1 refers to— whether those activities involve the use of land or not)". Surely any process of the kind referred to involves land in one way or another.

The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the raising of crops by the hydroponic process. Although plants grown by that process are not grown in the soil, they are suspended above land and the use of land is involved. The Parliamentary Secretary repeatedly referred to "agricultural land", whereas the Bill refers to "land". The definition of "agriculture" in Amendment No. 1 is very wide.

In Committee we discussed at some length the production of single-cell proteins and we did not receive a very satisfactory answer from the hon. Gentleman. All he said was that the production of single-cell proteins is an industrial process. Even though it is an industrial process, it still makes use of land, because the factory in which single-cell protein material is produced is situated on land and, therefore, makes use of land. We are still in the difficulty we were in in Committee, despite the definitions which the Minister has introduced.

The definition of "agriculture" includes the growing of bacteria in a hydrocarbon environment—about which the Parliamentary Secretary knows a good deal—to provide animal feeding stuffs in large quantities. Some of our large industrial companies are on the point of deciding to go into large-scale production of these new materials. I understand that the definition of "agriculture" includes the industrial production of substances based on single-cell protein, and I think that that is wrong.

6.15 p.m.

I agree with the sentiments expressed by the Parliamentary Secretary in Committee. This is an industrial process and it should be outside the Bill, but the definition with which he has presented us today does not deal with that. I ask the hon. Gentleman again to get his Department and advisers to consider this matter before the Bill goes to another place so that, if necessary, a further amendment may be moved in the other place.

I do not want to refer at great length to Amendment No. 2, tabled by the hon. Members for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann) and Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard). I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that the purpose of the amendment is fulfilled by the existing definitions and those which the Government have tabled today.

Amendment No. 4, also tabled by the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden, deals with fish farming. The Parliamentary Secretary said that fish farming is not regarded in any agricultural legislation as part of agriculture, and he hinted that, after the review of fishing legislation, new legislation might be presented to the House to deal with fish farming.

The other place seems to have spent an inordinate amount of time in recent years debating fish farming. I cannot remember a debate here on fish farming, but we shall have an opportunity to discuss that subject in a few weeks' time when we consider Lords Amendments to the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. That debate will have a wider application to fish farming, so it would be premature for us to include fish farming in this Bill. Before the other place finally decides what to do with this Bill we shall have debated fish farming on the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, and there will still be an opportunity for the Government to think again about fish farming when this Bill goes to another place. My advice is to leave aside Amendment No. 4 and, after our debate on fish farming on the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, to invite the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister to make suitable amendments in the House of Lords.

The reason for our tabling Amendment No. 3 is that we have not so far properly discussed why agricultural tied cottages were singled out from all the other tied cottages throughout the country. Figures in the Shelter report published in 1974 show that about one in 10 tied cottages is occupied by an agricultural worker, and that people in many other trades and professions occupy tied houses. I am told that workers in the mining industry occupy 96,000 tied cottages, whereas agricultural workers occupy about 100,000, hotel and restaurant staff occupy 70,000, the clergy—Church of England clergy alone—occupy 13,000, and Forestry Commission workers occupy 36,000.

The purpose of the amendment is to give another definition of agriculture as the extraction from land of any produce which is derived from plant matter". That includes coal mining, because coal is a substance derived from plant matter. We wanted an opportunity to find out from the Government why they had singled out agriculture for this pernicious piece of legislation while leaving out other sections of our national housing resources.

The fact that we are considering the amendment with an amendment on fish farming makes a hotchpotch of the debate, but as we have no control over the selection of amendments—I make no criticism of the Chair in saying this—we have no alternative but to debate that with coal mining.

I could see no way in which we could have this debate in Committee. It took a little time to dawn on me how we could initiate a debate to inquire of the Government why agricultural tied cottages had been picked out for their special treatment. I understand that the amendment will also cover the extraction of oil, but I doubt whether there are many tied cottages in that industry, and therefore I think that we can safely forget it.

I believe that it is generally agreed that only 10 per cent. of tied cottages are occupied by agricultural workers. We have had no satisfactory answer when we have constantly asked the Government why they have picked out agriculture. The nearest to an answer was the statement in the Government's consultative document published about a year ago, in the preface of which they said: Thus we are consciously distinguishing agricultural from other tied housing. There is no other major industry where the fact of unfurnished accommodation provided by the employer/landlord enters so extensively and so controversially into the relationship between employer and employee. That is a strange argument. It implies that in the coal industry, the only other industry we are at liberty to discuss tonight, the fact of tied cottages does not enter extensively or controversially into the relationship between employer or landlord and the employee. It implies that all is sweetness and light between the employer and the employee sides of the industry.

As in the previous debate, the Government have not been doing their homework very well. My attention was recently drawn to an extract from a newspaper published in the part of the world from which the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment comes. On 10th September last year the Sunderland Echo reported that 10 physical evictions were carried out by the National Coal Board and 13 other evictions were notified. That is just one example. It would not be difficult to find more to show that physical evictions are going on in other spheres.

That makes nonsense of the Government's assertion in their consultative document that it is only in agriculture that controversy arises. I agree that a certain amount of controversy arises there, mainly because of a minority of people such as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside who have built their political careers on stirring up such matters.

The Government's philosophy is nonsense. There is no case for picking out agriculture. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to ask them how they can justify not extending these provisions to coal mining. Perhaps they were not able to find a way to include coal mining in the Bill. I think that I have found a way. I am disappointed that there are no representatives of the coal mining industry present, although I suspect that the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) represents coal miners. I do not know whether there are still any in his constituency.

Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Jopling

Apparently all the pits in the hon. Gentleman's area have been closed down. I am sorry about that, but the hon. Gentleman comes from the area I have been talking about, and I am sure that every now and again he reads the Sunderland Echo.

This is a good moment for the Government to explain themselves. They have not done so properly yet. When we have heard their explanations we shall have to decide whether the House should use the amendment to include coal mining in the provisions of the Bill.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

It is rather a shame for the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) that the grand ceremony of unlocking the Pandora's box of Amendment No. 3 should take place at the same time as a party meeting, so that the House was empty. But I congratulate him on his ingenuity. He could probably extend the meaning of the clause still further. As I am sure his hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) would confirm, "land" includes premises and, therefore, those working in catering could probably be deemed to come within the definition.

I share the view that it is high time we tackled other forms of tied accommodation. I dissent from the statement in the consultative document that it is in agriculture that there is the most intense problem. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary may disagree. But I have rather more experience of the treatment meted out to many people working in catering or as managers of launderettes. I am acutely aware of the hardship suffered by many other categories in tied employment. I sincerely trust that the Bill will be the forerunner of further extensions. However, the hon. Member for Westmorland cannot be seriously suggesting that we should not tackle one aspect of an evil because there are other aspects which we have not yet been able to deal with. It is my hope that we shall be able to deal with those other aspects in the future.

6.30 p.m.

I found it difficult to follow the arguments both of the hon. Gentleman and of my hon. Friend the Minister in relation to the definitions contained in the Bill. I do not see the complete necessity of ensuring that the definition of "agriculture" for the purposes of the Bill should be precisely the same as the definition of "agriculture" for the purposes of other Bills. I would remind the House that the definition of "land" is different in different pieces of legislation, and there is no particular harm in that.

I accept that Amendment No. 1 is preferable to Amendment No. 2, which I shall not move. However, I would be sorry if Amendment No. 4 was not accepted, and I am not happy about the last few words of Amendment No. 6 because we find that hydroponics is more commonly carried on in areas which are remote from alternative accommodation. It would be sad if the protection in the Bill was not available to workers in the fish farming industry living in tied accommodation. Fish farming is developing in remote regions and there is a considerable case for ensuring that the Bill gives protection to people who will work in that industry in future. I hope that my hon. Friend will reconsider the issue of fish farming.

I welcome the extension which is being brought about by Amendment No. 1, and because of that I shall not seek to move Amendment No. 2.

Mr. Peter Mills

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) in respect of Amendment No. 3. I am grateful to him for exposing the nonsense which is going on, but I must tell my hon. Friend that his list is totally lacking of a great many people living in tied cottages or tied accommodation. The figure is over 1 million people who are now living in tied homes.

The House might be interested to learn about the list. It includes miners, firemen, policemen and au pair girls; that is something about which the House might not have known very much. The list also includes clergymen, farm workers, hotel workers, forestry workers, the domestic service and the Armed Forces. It would be interesting to find the Government coming forward with legislation to deal with the accommodation of Service people, who are so vital to our country and so important to the economy of the South-West and other places.

The list of tied accommodation also includes the ambulance service and prison officers. Many of my constituents are prison officers on Dartmoor who are doing a first-class job and living in homes and accommodation tied to their job. Also included in the list are teachers, caretakers, nurses and even waiters. My hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland did not go far enough in his list of people who are concerned in this problem. It seems to me to be discrimination of the highest order simply to pick out agriculture and agricultural workers.

The National Coal Board is probably one of the largest organisations so far as tied accommodation is concerned. I understand that in 1947, when the coal industry was nationalised, there were 140,000 tied homes, cottages or houses. Of course that number has been gradually reduced to about half, but the interesting thing is that at a time when the Government are bringing the Bill forward the National Coal Board is building more houses. I understand that over the last several years 23,000 new homes have been built by the board. That is an interesting position, I would have thought.

If we look at the problem carefully, we will see that agriculture is being discriminated against. I simply do not understand why the Government have singled that industry out in this way, and it will be interesting to hear the Minister's views about this.

A recent report from Shelter, which is not to friendly to the Conservative Party, pointed out that It would be regrettable if any proposed legislation embraced only agricultural cottages simply because there is so little information about other industries where tied housing exists". The Minister has a duty to explain why agriculture is being discriminated against in this way. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland for bringing forward his amendment, and I fully support it.

Miss Maynard

I welcome the fact that the Government have brought forward an amendment to include intensive farming, because it would have been quite wrong to leave it out. It is a developing part of the agriculture industry, particularly in relation to poultry and pigs, and many people work in it. It is also closely connected to other parts of the agriculture industry. Many people who work in intensive farming live in tied cottages or tied bungalows, and their wages are closely related to those of the more typical agricultural worker.

While I welcome the fact that the Government have brought forward an amendment to cover intensive farming, I hoped that the Bill would cover estate workers and gardeners. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will say something about that, because in a later amendment mention is made of people who work in activities "incidental to agriculture". I suggest that estate workers and gardeners are engaged in work incidental to agriculture. They work in a rural area and in similar circumstances and conditions to farm workers. Their jobs are related to agriculture, they nearly always live in tied accommodation and their wages are closely allied to those of farm workers.

We have again heard the usual argument from the Opposition that agriculture is being singled out. We have been told that the service man is very important to the economy. I suggest that nobody could be more important to our economy than farm workers. But the fact that we are legislating in respect of farm workers does not mean that we on this side of the House are opposed to legislating in future in respect of other people living in tied accommodation.

For example, the catering industry comprises workers who suffer under the present system. Like farm workers, they are a group which is badly organised. One of the reasons why farm workers have been singled out is that because of the scattered nature of their employment it is more difficult to organise them in trade unions. They therefore need protection which other workers are able to get through trade unions.

Anyone who considers the history of our industry will see that this issue has created great bitterness. Conservative Members have made much of the good relations and co-operation in the industry. That co-operation has come all from the workers' side. The good relations fall flat on their face as soon as a worker becomes too ill to work, has an accident or dies and leaves his widow living in the tied house. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] It is all very well to shout "Rubbish", but I could relate many hundreds of cases concerning people who have suffered in that way.

Coal miners have been mentioned. It they had suffered anything like farm workers have suffered, their union would have put pressure on the Government long ago for legislation on their behalf. Farm workers are asking that they should have security of tenure like other people. That seems a reasonable request.

The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) said that I had built my career on campaigning on this issue. He should read his history. This campaign was going on long before I was born. It is true that when I came into contact with the problem I could not stand living with the injustice that this issue does to farm workers. That is why I have campaigned so hard to get rid of the tied cottage system and why I welcome the Bill so much.

Mr. W. Benyon (Buckingham)

The hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann) has it all wrong. He says that he would prefer to legislate for all tied accommodation but as that is not possible it is all right to legislate for agriculture alone. When that is done, the difficulties arise of which these amendments are examples. Definition can go on ad infinitum.

When I first read Amendment No. 1, I thought that it could include an organisation in my constituency which is one of the largest breeders in the country of white mice for experimental purposes. However, Amendment No. 6 defines livestock more closely. I do not want to be facetious, but some people—I think the Chinese—actually eat mice. If mice were produced for eating, they would come within this definition.

Mr. Rees-Davies

What about snails?

Mr. Benyon

That is another example.

As the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden said, fish farming is not being considered because it takes place in very remote areas. The same considerations are being applied there as are applied to forestry—the Government want to take another look at the matter.

We heard this argument in Committee over and over again. How the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard) can say that it is possible in some areas for workers dealing with complicated processes involving large amounts of money, and generally with livestock, to find houses outside the farms, I do not know. She must live in a different world from mine.

The tied accommodation with which I deal in my constituency is totally different. I have been a Member of Parliament for six years and have not come across one eviction involving agricultural workers. However, I have come across two cases involving stewards of workingmen's clubs. When I asked the management of a club to hold off for a while and let the man stay in his house, I was told that he was sitting on top of £40,000 worth of stock and that had to be protected. Yet £40,000 is about the value of a herd of Friesian cows. So this argument does not wash.

Miss Maynard

Is the hon. Gentleman saying, in effect, that money is more important than people, that people should not necessarily have a roof over their heads for themselves and their families and that £40,000 is more important?

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Benyon

The whole purpose of the Bill, I understand—I know that the hon. Lady objects to some of the things that the Government are doing—is to persuade local authorities in these circumstances to rehouse the person in the tied accommodation so that someone else can come in to do the job. She says that the co-operation has been all one way and that the balance must be rectified. We say that agriculture has been unfairly singled out, and that these businesses simply cannot go on without someone living on top of the job. That is the whole argument.

We are not saying that there should not be a process for examining the matter. We have accepted the Agricultural Advisory Committee. We rather like it. We think that it will be a good organisation which will operate between the local authority and the applicant for accommodation, but once the decision has been made, that the accommodation is considered vital, the whole basis of our argument is that accommodation should be granted.

Therefore, my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) has done a great service in making clear the unfair treatment of agriculture under the Bill.

Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)

I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) has said. He is right to draw attention to the fact that the difficulty into which the Government have got themselves, and which is expressed in these amendments, and the problem of trying to define agriculture, flow entirely from their selection of agriculture as the one activity in the whole nation for which service tenancies—let us use the proper term—are regarded as socially unacceptable.

My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) read out a list of other occupations which have service tenancies. My hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) has done us a great service by his ingenious definition in Amendment No. 3, which clearly would bring in coal mining. But this is not just an amusing Committee point. It is worth considering coal mining to see whether we can learn any lessons from it.

Some years ago, when the National Coal Board was trying to persuade miners to move from the West Durham coalfield to the East and West Midlands where the coalfield was expanding, one of the key factors was that it could offer accommodation for the miners' families. The noble Lord, Lord Robens, who was then the Chairman of the NCB, carried out an active programme of visits to the Midlands by miners' families from West Durham before they were asked to decide whether to accept transfer. Thus they were enabled to come down and have a look at what life was like in the Midlands. I am told that in many cases it was the offer of a house that clinched the deal. I wonder whether it would have been socially better to have done what the hon. Lady the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard) suggests—that they should have remained in their miners' cottages in those old villages in West Durham, when the main economic vortex, the pit, had been closed. It was the existence of service tenancies which enabled those miners and their families to move.

I have myself come across similar cases in my own constituency. I have talked to farm workers who have moved from other parts of the country; and what clinched their decision to move to farms in my area was their wives coming and seeing the accommodation offered. This is not possible with local authority housing. I defy the hon. Gentleman to tell me how it can be done, because people have to wait on a housing list. Let me cite the case of a family which came from Lincolnshire to the Test Valley. The man came and looked at the accommodation then he brought his wife, who had a look at it. She said "Yes, I like it here, and I like the house being offered by our potential employer." Does any local authority offer that service?

As my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) said earlier, if this country were flush with accommodation in the countryside it might be the right thing to abolish service tenancies, but with the tight rural housing position this Bill seems to me to be wrong. Therefore I feel that the more narrowly these definition clauses can be drawn the better, because that will limit the harm.

I see no reason for fish farming to be brought in. It is not yet an industry. It is still at an experimental stage. At one point in my career I was marginally involved in one or two of these experiments. Fish farming has been really successful only in Japan, and in relation to shrimp, prawn and shellfish farming. We all know the work done for years by the Torry Institute, but I do not know of any successful scheme on a permanent basis in the United Kingdom suggesting that fish farming has come to stay.

Finally, let me remind the House that the planning authorities are entitled to apply only environmental considerations, not social ones. We have all had experience in our constituencies of farmers needing to find temporary or permanent accommodation. Take the example of a countryman who is not a farmer, who wants extra accommodation, or a mobile home, or a wing added to his own house. Such applications are turned down on environmental grounds when the social grounds are overwhelming. Often the social grounds are accepted by the district council but are overriden by the county council, which is the senior planning authority.

Everything points to the desirability of making these definition clauses as narrow as possible; and I again congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland on his great ingenuity.

Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Kinross and West Perthshire)

It may be inappropriate for a Member for a Scottish constituency to which the Government have not, thank heaven, dared to apply these frightful provisions to intervene in this debate. Since, however, it is a Scotsman who is pushing through this particular piece of dictatorship, it may not be inappropriate for a Scot to come to the rescue of the English at the hands of invaders.

One of the effects of the provisions we are considering which should not be overlooked is that once we separate the home of the agricultural worker from his work we destroy the very foundation of agriculture. I do not have a great deal of experience of agriculture in England, but if those who work in such agricultural units as I know had to leave their place of work for their midday meal or go away in the evening during harvest time, hay time or lambing time for their evening meal, and had then to be brought from the local town or village at the expense of a farmer, and in his transport, so as to do their job, the diligence, application and interest which they have in their work would disappear.

One thing which seems to me to be inevitably true of the Labour Party is that its Members have no principles. If they had principles, and if this proposition was based on principle, as one of my hon. Friends has said it would apply to all service houses. If it was based on principle it would apply to the whole nation, and Scotland is still, thank heaven, and will for ever, I trust, be part of the whole nation. What is more, the hon. Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Phipps) would in that case apply his principles to his own farm workers, whereas he will vote for the Bill tonight but at the same time he is exercising his right to evict an agricultural worker from his tied house. I find that hypocrisy of the worst, most scandalous kind. I do not believe that Labour Members have any principles. They simply wait until things suit them. Can the Minister advise me what is the difference in Scotland, except that the Government do not dare do this in Scotland because they believe that it would be too unpopular? They dare to do it in England, but what is different in Scotland? In Scotland we have local authorities which can provide the houses. Normally there are agricultural workers who do not live on the farm. I know the reason. It is that both the Transport and General Workers Union in Scotland and the National Farmers' Union have objected to it and the Government dare not offend the union. In England, however, that is not the case. Here they are not interested in what happens to the agricultural worker or to their beloved consumer. Farm prices and food prices will go up if this legislation goes through, but the Government do not care about that.

There is a kind of Socialist fantasy that it is a terrible thing for somebody to be in a tied house from which he can be put out. I should have thought that the reverse argument might appeal to the Socialist: that it would be thought a very good thing that a person who does a job can automatically be supplied with a house.

I cannot speak for England, but certainly what will happen in Scotland is that a person wanting a house will have only to apply for a job on a farm and, the moment he gets it, keep the house, give up the farm job and go back to some other occupation for which he was trained or which he wants to follow. That is a perfectly simple way of obtaining a house in a particular area when someone is unable otherwise to get one.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The argument that the hon. and learned Gentleman is putting forward is a good debating point. I am not sure that it is related to the amendment.

Mr. Fairbairn

I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Whether related or otherwise, it is all the better for being said. Perhaps I shall be able to relate it to every amendment until Labour Members, even though they cannot understand it, at least will have heard it time and time again.

Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)

The hon. and learned Gentleman seems to be anxious that the supply of housing should be available on such a scale as to make the provisions of the Bill unnecessary. May we take it that he is opposed to his own party's policy of selling off council houses?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will not go down that road.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Fairbairn

Indeed I shall not.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Price) said that fish farming was only a small industry. Nevertheless, it is an industry with enormous potential capacity and is on a par with agriculture, creating rather than merely harvesting food. It is important to remember that if agricultural workers are to be deprived of residence at the place where they work, all that the Government will be doing is to put artificially into houses on farms and into agricultural communities people who work at something else. That will wreck the spirit of agriculture. The basis and intention of these proposals is to destroy the spirit of the agriculture industry.

Mr. Rossi

This has been an interesting and wide-ranging debate, as is inevitable when we consider the definition of the subject matter of the Bill. I wish to comment on some of the arguments and to deal with the amendments.

Taking Government Amendment No. 1, I find it extremely disappointing that the Government feel it necessary to extend the scope of the Bill to cover livestock keeping and breeding. It was clear from the discussions in Committee that in dealing with animals the greatest harm would be done if a farmer was denied the possibility of placing an employee near to his animals in order to look after them.

We discussed at some length the problems of dairy farmers in the instances where stockmen or cowmen leave a farmer's employment to work in a nearby town where the prospects, the kind of work and the wages paid are different. We envisaged a situation in which a farmer would then find that he could not replace a stockman because he had no alternative accommodation available for him. A modern dairy herd may consist of as many as 100 cows and cost between £50,000 and £65,000 to build up—that is, about £35,000 for the cattle and an almost equivalent amount for housing, milking equipment and all the rest. Therefore, since we are dealing with considerable sums of money, it is surely the height of imprudence to leave such a valuable asset even two or three miles away from the nearest person who is able to attend and look after it. For example, there could be a sudden fire involving combustion from stored hay for silage, or even from an electrical fault. If there was nobody on the spot to deal with the situation, considerable loss could be sustained. A caretaker in an urban office block or factory can be described as being in tied accommodation. There is nothing in the Bill to deal with that situation. There is no suggestion that a former caretaker in a block of flats or on factory premises should obtain the protection of the Rent Acts so that the owner is unable to have somebody on the spot to look after safety aspects and all the rest of it.

Mr. Lee

Is the hon. Gentleman being serious about this matter? Is he trying to equate the situation of a farm worker with that of a factory night watchman or a member of the fire brigade who may have a duty room near his work but who otherwise would have totally separate accommodation? If that is what he is suggesting, it is palpable nonsense.

Mr. Rossi

Why should it be nonsense for a farmer to have an employee in accommodation so that that employee is able to look after the dairy herd?

Mr. Peter Mills

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that it is not only the farmer who is concerned to have the farm worker near to the stock? The farm worker himself is equally concerned. Having been a cowman in my time, I would not want to live away from my stock. Farm workers have just as much concern for their animals as have farmers.

Miss Maynard

Who gets the cheque for the stock when it is sold? Whose stock is it? It is certainly not the stockman's. We get a little fed up with all this mythology. We all know who gets the cheque when the stock is sold.

Mr. Rossi

It is surely of interest to the whole nation to see that our food supplies are properly protected. Farming is one of our most important interests and it is folly to put it at risk. That is what will happen if we follow through the argument of the hon. Lady the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard).

Since the hon. Lady has chosen to intervene, I shall tell the House that in Committee I listened to her arguments with utter amazement. She spoke in a bitter, warped and perverse way. She suggested that there had been provocation between the farmers and their workers. It takes two to make a quarrel. The hon. Lady should not make statements of that kind when there is no evidence to back them up. She has made generalised observations that are quite unsupported by evidence, and she has tried to stir up strife and trouble in an industry that has worked well and happily for generations.

Mr. Fairbairn

The hon. Lady suggests that farm workers are not interested in their stock and do not care very much what happens.

Miss Maynard

I did not say that.

Mr. Fairbairn

She certainly gave the impression that farm workers regarded themselves as serfs. That is an offensive suggestion to make, because farm workers throughout the country do the same job as the farmer and are equally interested in it.

Mr. Rossi

I am obliged to my hon. and learned Friend for that intervention. The hon. Lady has propounded a monotonous and singular argument. She quoted the situation of a widow who had fallen sick and was unable to work and said that she would be threatened with eviction by the farmer. She implied that that was the pattern of behaviour in farming. That is a gross slander on the industry for which the hon. Lady has not adduced a shred of evidence.

I give the hon. Lady the lie by quoting the Government's consultative document published after they had carried out thorough research into farming activities. On pages 6 and 7 of that document, consideration is given to the position of those who cease to be employed following injury, illness or retirement, and also to the position of widows. It states: It is very much to the credit of the agricultural industry that 14 per cent. of its stock of farm cottages is now estimated to be accommodating persons of this kind. That is a creditable record for any industry, and I would have thought that Labour Members would accept that as an impeccable source which cannot be gainsaid. It gives the lie to the hon. Member for Brightside. She comes here without evidence, merely to spread dissension and bitterness and promote class warfare. Nothing else motivates her. She does not care for the farmer, the farm worker or the animals.

My hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling), with great ingenuity, introduced Amendment No. 3, which would widen the whole scope of the Bill to include National Coal Board houses and afford to miners or ex-miners who have fallen sick or retired, and their widows, the same kind of protection as the Bill proposes to give to farm workers. I say at once that the record of the National Coal Board is as good as that of farmers in dealing with retired workers, the sick and widows.

A report prepared by Shelter called "Tied Accommodation", in which that organisation deals with tied housing in the coal mining industry, makes clear that it is the policy of the NCB not to evict, even in areas of expansion and development. Evictions do, however, take place. My hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland quoted figures showing that it is necessary in some circumstances for evictions to take place, as, indeed, it is necessary in the farming industry. Here we have two comparable situations in which the employers have similar attitudes, yet one is selected for special treatment in the Bill and the other is overlooked.

The hon. Member for Brightside said that farm workers needed the protection of the Bill but that coal miners did not because the farm workers' union is weak and the coal miners' union is strong. We know that the farm workers' union is weak. It represents less than one-quarter of the total number of farm workers. The other three-quarters have the good sense not to join. I am sure that when the Bill becomes law even more farm workers will have the good sense to stay out of the union, because they will see the damage which has been caused. Of the 406,000 full- and part-time regular farm workers, only 90,000 are union members.

Let us assume that the farm workers' union is as strong as the NUM. Does it necessarily follow that the farm workers would be more protected? The NCB follows a policy of non-eviction, allowing the retired, the infirm and widows to remain in possession of their accommodation. But the Shelter report states that the NUM takes an entirely different view. It says that the union is conscious of the problem of growing waiting lists and that the pressure from union members is forcing the officials to review their policy.

The report states: At one pit it was stated by union officials that they, unofficially, put pressure on some non-serving miners to leave 'voluntarily' the colliery cottages. They would not say exactly what form of pressure was used, but clearly they felt strongly that cottages should be for active miners only". That is a curious situation, because the protective union body is putting pressure on workers living in tied cottages to move out even when the landlord is happy to allow them to remain there. I do not see, therefore, that having a strong union is such a protection to the workers in some circumstances.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Colin Shepherd (Hereford)

Does that report indicate the policy of the NCB on miners who leave the industry and take up jobs in agriculture, for example, without relinquishing the tenancy of their houses?

Mr. Rossi

The report indicates that the NCB is prepared to allow former miners to remain in their cottages. It is the union that is forcing them out. That destroys the case made by the hon. Member for Brightside, and I am grateful for the opportunity of exploding that myth.

To talk of farm workers wanting the abolition of tied cottages is a nonsense. The study carried out on behalf of the J. Arthur Rank Centre shows that, whether or not farm workers belong to a union, over 5 per cent. of those sampled believe in the abolition of tied cottages and 60 per cent. think that it is necessary for some kinds of agricultural workers to live in tied cottages. We know that 29 per cent. think that it is necessary for some farm workers to live near their work, if not in a tied cottage.

That we should proceed along the Government's line is against the national interest. From the figures I have given, because of the need for men to be near livestock for its protection we find that there is no need, no request and no demand for bringing the tied cottages within the purview of the Rent Acts except in the mind of the hon. Member for Brightside, whose motives are dubious to say the least.

Will the Minister explain the exact effect of Amendment No. 6? I refer to the first part, in which "consumable produce" is defined. During discussions on that definition in Committee, we were concerned that "agriculture" included. the production of any consumable produce which is grown for sale or for consumption or other use for the purposes of a trade or business or of any other undertaking". There was a direct relationship between land and growing something on land for consumption or other use for the purposes of a trade or business". The relationship between the produce and the land was a perfectly clear one, and the ordinary understanding of the word "agriculture" clearly applied to that definition.

The Government have departed from that definition and have produced a different one in Amendment No. 6. Here there is a severance from "grown from land" because the new definition speaks of "consumable produce" as meaning something grown for consumption or other use after severance or separation from the land". Therefore, we keep to the agricultural concept in the old-fashioned or strict sense. But the Government's amendment goes on to say or other growing medium on or in which it is grown". That is an entirely new concept.

In Amendment No. 3 my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland was able to use the phrase the extraction from land of any produce which is derived from plant matter". He did so to bring in the tied cottages of coal miners. Has the Minister considered that he would seem to have enlarged the definition of "consumable produce" so widely that he has brought in publicans? Every publican of every public house which is selling real beer is now caught by the Government's definition, because the yeast which is consumed is in fact grown within a "growing medium". It is grown not on the land but within a "growing medium".

Therefore, it would seem, if it is not stretching the language too far, that the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords may have an interesting exercise on this new definition which the Government are putting forward for our consideration at the eleventh hour. I wonder whether the Minister can tell me whether it is the intention of the Government now to bring all public houses within the ambit of the Bill in the same way as my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland is trying to bring in all colliery cottages. If that is not the Government's intention, will they consider their definiton and tell me how pubs are not covered?

Mr. Lee

The hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) has shown considerable ingenuity. I have considerable respect for his knowledge of the law, and on quite a number of matters I have found myself in agreement with him. He has been very helpful to me in some matters which I have long pursued, the questions of pyramid selling and the difficulties of secondary mortgages. He knows that I bear no personal animus towards him, but if I may say so he has let slip a Poujadist animus against the National Union of Agricultural Workers which I think the leaders of his party, if not he himself, will have cause to regret. His remarks about the union can only mean one thing—that he does not want a strong union because he does not want the interests of the persons it seeks to represent to be properly protected.

Mr. Rossi

I did not say that. I was trying to say that the claim of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mrs. Maynard) to represent the farm workers was ill founded because the union she represents represents only a small proportion of the totality of farm workers.

Mr. Lee

We would like to know whether the hon. Gentleman would like to see all agricultural workers in the union. If they all became members of the union, its representative capacity inevitably would be the greater and they would also be stronger. Does he want the union to be strong or weak?

Mr. Rossi

I would like it to be the absolute free choice of the individual farm worker to belong to the union or not to belong to it.

Mr. Lee

That is clever but it does not quite answer the question. I would have thought that anyone who does not really want all members of an occupation to belong to the appropriate union must be regarded as not having a considerable regard for the welfare of those persons. The trade unions, like all other bodies, have their faults, and no doubt the National Union of Agricultural Workers has its faults too. But the hon. Gentleman has adopted an odd reasoning.

Those who support Amendment No. 3 are having their fun, and it may well be that in certain circumstances we could arrive at some peculiar results in interpretation. What is behind the Bill and the Government's attempts to improve it? Everyone, I would have thought, ought to be entitled to protection as far as possible if he occupies tenanted accommodation. It is strange that it is only in recent years—the Labour Party probably bears some of the responsibility for this—that we have extended to council house tenants in many ways much of the protection that private tenants have enjoyed through the accumulation of the Rent Acts over the years.

That is an anomaly which many of us felt very dissatisfied about. Indeed, we are by no means entirely satisfied with the law as it stands. But such law now applies to almost every occupation one might wish to name in which there are people who, by virtue of their occupaton, find themselves living in accommodation which, for historic reasons or reasons of occupational convenience, is associated with their work. One might include lighthouse keepers; they seem about the only odd exception not to have been mentioned so far.

What we want to hear from those who seek to limit the scope of the Bill or to ridicule it because it may produce one or two bizarre anomalies is whether they are prepared to see that we have enough rented accommodation available so that the Bill will not be necessary. In an ideal world in which we had all the rented accommodation, including council house accommodation, that was necessary, particularly in the remote parts of the country—places where, unfortunately, the Labour Party does not show itself in much strength so that we do not get much council house building—the Bill would perhaps become unnecessary or have only marginal importance. But we have not reached that situation.

The people who are engaged in agricultural occupations are probably more vulnerable by virtue of the remoteness in which many of them live in the physical sense, and for that reason the Bill, for all the peculiarities that it may produce, is necessary.

Mr. Fairbairn

I do not quite see how the hon. Gentleman's argument proceeds. If he is working on the premise that there is insufficient rented accommodation, he must accept that if anyone is responsible for that situation it must be the Labour Party, because it has tried to kill the private rented sector. It does not help the situation if people who are not agricultural workers are in agricultural cottages while people who are agricultural workers are in other rented accommodation. It merely makes the situation bad for the agricultural workers as well.

Mr. Lee

Of course it produces difficulties, but the hon. and learned Gentleman knows that the rationale behind the Bill is to prevent people from suddenly finding themselves, because of the ending of their occupation, out on their ear. It may be for a variety of reasons. It is bad enough for a man to lose his job, but if he loses the roof over his family's head as well it is a double misfortune. I take issue with the hon. and learned Gentleman when he claims that the Labour Party was responsible for the drying up of rented accommodation, which has been going on since the First World War. It is important to replace the lost accommodation, and certainly more quickly than of late, by a massive increase in public rented accommodation.

My hon. Friend has not suggested that the majority of farmers will cruelly take advantage of the law as it stands. Most farmers behave decently and compassionately, just as the National Coal Board is a decent and compassionate landlord. But we must make provision for the minority of malevolent people and the minority of unfortunate people. That is why the Bill is necessary and, in my view, long overdue.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. Strang

When I opened the discussion on these amendments I said that they were central to the purpose of the Bill. I did not realise that the debate on them would be the occasion for a discussion on whether the Government were right to tackle the problem of insecurity in agricultural tied cottages only, as opposed to tied cottages generally.

The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) mentioned industrial production of single-cell proteins. We discussed this in Committee. It is not our intention to cover basically industrial processes. Similarly, the Bill refers to agricultural land. The hon. Member for Westmorland was quite right: we have made this important departure in the definition of "agriculture". We have disengaged the link with land in the previous definition. There is no question of our being constrained and confined by previous meanings of "agriculture", because we are writing a new definition which is different from all previous definitions.

There is no question of the definition of "growing" involving the production of beer or whisky, for example. It is not our intention that the Bill should apply to tied cottages in the brewing and distilling industries. The fact that the product has to grow excludes beer and whisky. I am not sure to what extent beer and whisky have been grown in the sense of agricultural or horticultural products.

Mr. David Price

In the production of beer malt grows after it has left the land, and the fact that it grows is one of the first processes of turning barley into malt.

Mr. Strang

I do not think one can talk about beer growing or whisky growing. Beer and whisky are the products which are consumed, not the malt.

Mr. Rossi

But "growing" means "increasing in size and volume", and this happens as a result of fermentation.

Mr. Strang

I am a biologist and I am not sure that I regard that as an adequate definition of "growing". Growing involves a lot more than just increasing in size and volume. We shall look at this and then explain the position to hon. Members. If we find that it applies to the whisky distilling industry, we shall inform them accordingly.

Mr. Fairbairn

The ripening of a banana in a factory is regarded under the rating regulations as growth. Surely the Minister is putting the matter very narrowly.

Mr. Strang

As we continue this debate I am sure that we shall have more ingenious suggestions about the tied cottages which should be encompassed by this legislation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann) mentioned fish farming. We do not rule out the subsequent application of this legislation to fish farming. A report is being prepared on the whole question of the extent to which legislation applied to agriculture should be applied also to fish farming. Until we have considered representations on that report, we shall not apply this legislation to fish farming any more than we intend to apply other legislation concerned with agriculture to fish farming. The possibility of our doing so lies open in the future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard) discussed estate workers. I think we have gone a long way to meeting the points she raised. We have made it clear that all intensive livestock production is covered by the Bill and that new forms of intensive horticultural production are also included. We have not been able as yet to come up with a satisfactory definition of "agriculture" which would cover the pure estate worker—the man wholly employed in estate work. However, my hon. Friend has acknowledged that in a subsequent amendment we have gone a long way to meeting her in practice, because we have made it absolutely clear that where a worker does agricultural work as well as estate work he is covered by the Bill.

The central question asked by Conservatives today has been why the Government have applied this legislation solely to agriculture. There can be no argument but that the scale of injustice associated with tied cottages in agriculture has been much greater than that in other industries. Surely hon. Members have read their history books and are aware of the social history of the development and organisation of agriculture and the long-standing campaign on this issue. Hundreds of farm workers have taken time off work, and sometimes have even lost pay, to come to London to lobby Members of Parliament and to urge them to bring forward legislation to free them from the insecurity inherent in the tied cottage system. It is preposterous to suggest that somehow the tied cottage in agriculture is comparable with anything in the Armed Services, mining, or catering.

Mr. Shepherd

The Minister has not explained why Scottish agriculture has asked not to be included. If the Government consider that there are injustices in the system in England, why not in Scotland, too?

Mr. Strang

The hon. Member should give me a chance. I shall come to that.

There is a long-standing grievance—a very deep grievance—which stems from the injustice of the agricultural tied cottage. In the industries which hon. Members have cited, mining particularly, there is nothing like the proportion of workers in tied cottages. Only a very small minority of miners live in tied cottages. There is a major difference between the position of a miner and his family and a farm worker and his family, and that difference stems from the power which the miners' organisation has over those houses.

Hon. Members must surely know about the committees that allocate tenancies in these houses. They must realise that decisions about the future occupancy of National Coal Board houses are not taken unilaterally by the NCB in the way that a farmer takes a unilateral decision. They must appreciate how great is the difference between the situation in which a workers' union predominates in the decision making and the position on the farm where the farmer alone is left to decide whether a worker remains in a cottage after ceasing to work on the farm.

When the farm worker ceases to work on the farm, he and his family have no legal right to live in the cottage. If the farmer goes to court, the court is obliged to give him vacant possession, allowing only a limited period of occupancy for the farm worker. It is therefore monstrous for hon. Members to suggest that somehow this Bill is not wanted by agricultural workers.

I am sorry that the Rank Organisation document has been quoted again. It contains the question Do you think there are any categories of worker who need to live in tied cottages to do their job? In the course of replying to that question many agricultural workers answered in the negative and actually volunteered the suggestion that tied cottages should be abolished.

The Bill will give farm workers and their families an element of security equivalent to that enjoyed by other workers. It removes the fear of eviction—[Interruption.] Because the Bill does not apply to Scotland the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) has not troubled to read it. The Bill gives the farm worker and his family security, which is only right in the second part of the twentieth century.

It also requires the local authority to provide alternative accommodation for that worker and his family when they cease to work on a farm. The Government have therefore written that provision into the Bill. The reasonably constructive attitude taken by the NFU on this issue stems from the fact that the Government have included that provision. It is recognised that it makes sense for farm workers to live on the farm.

Mr. Fairbairn

I enjoyed the lecture from a biologist to a lawyer telling me that I had not bothered to read the law. But I want a simple answer. If this longstanding grievance has occurred, why is the Bill not being applied in Scotland?

Mr. Strang

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for raising that issue because I am just dying to tackle it.

Mr. Fairbairn

Well, die then.

Mr. Strang

The argument in favour of having this legislation in England and Wales applies equally to Scotland. Farm workers there have been evicted from accommodation and on many farms there is a basic insecurity for tenants of tied cottages. If legislation of this nature is applied to Scotland, it will give the farm worker and his family the security to which they are entitled.

The Government are committed to implementing a Bill tackling the problem in Scotland. But there has always been separate housing legislation for England and Wales and Scotland. Housing in Scotland is always tackled separately. We have made clear that the manifesto commitment to agricultural workers and their families in Scotland stands, and it is the Government's intention to honour that commitment. The details of the legislation and its timing are matters for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Lee

If we incorporated legislation that impinged upon Scottish law in a Bill dealing with English law, there would be one hell of a row from the Scottish Members, and not only from the SNP.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Strang

One thing on which the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire and I agree is that we want to continue to debate these basic issues in a United Kingdom context. I support devolution, and one thing we do not want is for Scotland no longer to be part of the United Kingdom.

The basic purpose of the amendments is to make absolutely clear the definition of agriculture. I think it is sensible and I am confident that the definition will cover all bona fide agricultural workers, and I therefore commend the amendments to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made:

No. 5, in page 2, leave out lines 1 to 4.

No. 6, in page 2, line 10 at end insert—

'( ) For the purposes of the definition in subsection (1)(a) above— consumable produce" means produce grown for consumption or other use after severance or separation from the land or other growing medium on or in which it is grown; livestock" includes any animal which is kept for the production of food, wool, skins or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the carrying on of any agricultural activity, and for the purposes of this definition "animal" includes bird but does not include fish'.—[Mr. Strang.]

Mr. Strang

I beg to move Amendment No. 7, in page 2, line 22 leave out 'and'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we may also discuss Government Amendments Nos. 8, 22, 28 and 29. We may also discuss Amendment No. 23, in Schedule 2, page 36, line 31, after 'employment', insert: 'under a contract of service as defined in the Agricultural Wages Act 1948'.

Mr. Strang

This group of amendments deals with a number of matters affecting the definition of "agriculture". Amendment No. 29 covers the contract of employment. In the debate in Standding Committee on 25th May the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) pointed out that the Bill might be defective in failing to specify that employment in agriculture should be on a contract of service. I hope that on that basis the Opposition will withdraw Amendment No. 23.

I could deal with reducing the number of hours from 40 to 35, but if the Opposition are happy, I shall leave the matter there. It is my understanding that it is the desire of the House to move quickly to subsequent amendments as time is limited.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made:

No. 7, in page 2, line 22, leave out 'and'.

No. 8, in page 2, line 24, at end insert: 'and ( ) Part III contains supplementary provisions'.—[Mr. Strang.]

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