HC Deb 10 June 1982 vol 25 cc377-8
3. Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take steps to prevent further loss of land for letting to tenant farmers.

Mr. Peter Walker

I have nothing to add to the replies given on 1 April and 6 May to my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Heddle). We are continuing to consider what action is required to encourage the letting of land to tenant farmers.

Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler

When does the right hon. Gentleman intend to introduce legislation to implement the CLA-NFU agreement? What discussions has he had with his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the need for fiscal measures to encourage new lettings, and what steps does he propose to take to ensure that county councils no longer sell vacant tenancies into private ownership?

Mr. Walker

The selling of tenanted land is something about which the county councils must, as democratically elected bodies, take their own decisions. We are considering what should take place in legislation, and that will obviously be considered within the context of the Government's future legislative programme. As to implementing the CLA-NFU agreement, I hope that as part of an alliance the hon. Gentleman will confer with his colleagues in the other half of that alliance who have made it clear that they would wish to make substantial amendments to the CLA-NFU agreement.

Mr. Charles Morrison

My right hon. Friend will be aware that one of the consequences of the shortage of land is that last year there was an average increase in farm rents of about 25 per cent. in England, and rather more in Scotland. In the light of that, will he now give further consideration to introducing changes in the system of rent arbitration?

Mr. Walker

In the context of the whole question of tenanted and rented land, that is one of the matters that we are carefully considering.

Mr. Newens

Does the Minister recognise that over a number of years the pattern of agricultural subsidies has tended to favour large-scale farming operations and, thereby, the incorporation of smaller holdings into larger ones. Will he recognise that that factor, as well as the sale of smallholdings by county councils, has diminished the amount of tenanted land available? In those circumstances, he ought not to pay too much attention to the Country Landowners Association.

Mr. Walker

The agreement is not one by the CLA alone. It has also been arrived at by the NFU, which represents the majority of tenanted farmers in Britain. I have had no complaints from either the smaller farmers or the tenanted farmers about progress on the price structure and so on. Indeed, among farmers of every description—tenanted and others—I find a complete dislike and disfavour of the Labour Party's current proposals to nationalise the land.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

Will my right hon. Friend accept that many of his hon. Friends do not think that the last Session of this Parliament is the most appropriate time to implement the CLA-NFU agreement? However, those hon. Members hope that the agreement will be implemented in the first Session of the next Parliament.

Mr. Walker

I take note of my hon. Friend's views.

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