HC Deb 08 July 1982 vol 27 cc439-41
2. Mr. Maclennan

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is now in a position to make a statement on his policy towards making available more land for agricultural tenancies.

6. Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to complete his consideration of the action required to encourage new lettings of farms; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Walker

I have nothing to add to the replies that I gave to the hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler) on 10 June.

Mr. Maclennan

It is many months since the Minister first gave that stalling answer. Does he intend to introduce legislation, or has he simply rejected the arguments put forward by both the Country Landowners Association and the National Farmers Union that measures are urgently needed to increase the supply of tenant land?

Mr. Walker

It is not months since I gave that "stalling" answer. It is slightly less than one month. I have since then made it clear that we approve the basic principles of the NFU-CLA agreement. We shall consider when to introduce legislation.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

In addition to legislation, will the Minister consider discussing with his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the tax concessions that might encourage landlords to let more land instead of taking it back when old tenants leave?

Mr. Walker

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Heddle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, notwithstanding the answer that he gave, the proposals of the Labour Party to nationalise agricultural tenancies will be disastrous for the farming industry and expensive for the taxpayer and consumer?

Mr. Walker

Yes, completely disastrous.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Why does the Minister not forget his deep prejudices about selective public ownership of land and introduce a land bank, using land that could be made available, by capital transfer tax settlements with the Treasury in lieu of payments in cash?

Mr. Walker

Because my deep prejudices are based on the appalling record of nationalisation.

Mr. Pollock

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the provisions in last year's Finance Act and in this year's Finance Bill regarding Scottish agricultural leases and the clawback provisions of CTT illustrate the Government's commitment to the expansion of tenant farming?

Mr. Walker

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Buchan

Does the Minister agree that the NFU was absolutely right to support the Labour Government's legislation in 1976? The NFU argued that, far from any change in succession leading to more farms to let, it would lead to landlords taking over vacant farms for direct farming, and that therefore an element of public ownership was almost the only way in which tenancies could be made available? Were there not two heads to the agreement—one on rates and the other on succession?

Will the Minister introduce legislation to reduce rents based on the proposals put forward by both the NFU and the Labour Party?

Mr. Walker

No, Sir. There is no evidence that the land nationalisation advocated by the hon. Gentleman would be other than disastrous. I am delighted that the Labour Party manifesto contained such proposals.

There is an agreement between the NFU and the CLA, and I note that the Labour Party is unwilling to support it, which is wrong.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Is not now the opportune time for the Minister to urge his colleagues to give extra financial aid to local authorities to buy more land in Britain to let to young tenant farmers?

Mr. Walker

I do not believe that that is a desirable role for local authorities or a correct use of public resources.