HC Deb 15 May 1980 vol 984 cc1724-5
4. Mr. Major

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied with the working of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, so far as it relates to succession to tenancy.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Jerry Wiggin)

It is clear that the family succession provisions in the 1976 Act have not been in the interests of tenants or landowners. The procedure itself has been working as the Act intended, but, as I forecast during the passage of the Bill, it certainly does nothing to preserve the system.

Mr. Major

Does my hon. Friend agree that amendments to the Act are necessary and that to be successful they must enjoy the support of the National Fanners Union and the Country Landowners Association? Will my hon. Friend invite them to a series of meetings under the auspices of the Ministry, to ensure agreement with a view to introducing the necessary legislation during this Parliament?

Mr. Wiggin

I am satisfied that the presidents of both the organisations understand the implications. It is important that any alteration is acceptable, so that it is used.

Mr. Buchan

Will the Minister please examine the workings of the Act in Scotland, where it has been operated since before 1976? Is he aware that it has worked satisfactorily, especially for the small tenant farmer? Does he accept that he must not listen to the big boys in the NFU or the Country Landowners' Association? The provisions should, and must, be maintained.

Mr. Wiggin

I am not responsible for what happens in Scotland. However, as in England, few farms are to let in Scotland for new entrants to the industry.

Mr. Colin Shepherd

Is my hon. Friend aware of the marked fall in the number of tenancies coming on to the market, and that that is causing great anxiety to young farmers, who cannot see their way ahead?

Mr. Wiggin

Any change in the law should provide opportunities, which do not exist at present for young men to enter the industry.

Mr. Strang

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the answer that he gave earlier will cause dismay to the families of tenant farmers? Is he aware that the measure of security which the last Labour Government gave to the sons of tenant farmers was supported by the NFU, and was long overdue? Is he further aware that any attempt by the Government to undermine that legislation will be resisted ferociously by the Labour Party?

Mr. Wiggin

As the hon. Gentleman was one of the authors of that dismay, it is strange that he should criticise us. There are no farms to let, and rents are soaring as a by-product of the previous Labour Government's legislation. There must be a new look at the position if young farmers are to be able to take over farms within their means.