HC Deb 30 June 1983 vol 44 cc691-3
10. Mr. Strang

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has any plans to alter the security of tenure for tenant farmers.

Mr. Jopling

As indicated in our manifesto and in the Queen's Speech, we shall introduce legislation to make more farming tenancies available in England and Wales. I hope to introduce this legislation soon after the summer recess.

Mr. Strang

Is it the Government's intention to introduce legislation whereby, when a farmer drops down dead, his son will have no right whatsoever to take over the holding, even although he might have worked the bulk of his working life on the holding and invested virtually all the profits of his labour in the tenant's capital of that holding?

Mr. Jopling

Unlike the legislation that was introduced in 1976, which caused the drying up of farm tenancies, we intend to introduce a Bill to implement the balanced package of proposals agreed between the National Farmers Union and the Country Landowners Association. One important part of the package relates to the succession provisions of the earlier Labour legislation, and while all existing succession rights will be unaffected, new tenancies would be subject to lifetime security of tenure only. These proposals have the full support of both the NFU and the CLA.

Mr. Benyon

Is my right hon. Friend aware how much many of us welcome these provisions in the Gracious Speech? Is he also aware that without the co-operation of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer these measures will not be sufficient?

Mr. Jopling

If there are matters for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, no doubt my hon. Friend will raise them with him. I am concerned to take steps within my responsibility to make more tenancies available and to give new opportunities to the many young men who are clamouring for them.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Minister accept that what he has just said does not add to the number of tenancies; it just takes away the prospects of some sons or daughters of tenant farmers at present, and adds the possibility that existing tenancies could be amalgamated into one unit instead of two, thus reducing the numbers?

Mr. Jopling

I strongly disagree with the hon. Gentleman. I hope that this legislation will allow tenancies to be created when land becomes vacant which, in present circumstances, is sold, amalgamated, or in some cases farmed by the landlord. I hope that this will encourage landowners to make new tenancies available to people who want to start farming. Certainly that is the view of the NFU and the CLA.

Mr. Body

Before introducing any legislation, will my right hon. Friend agree to discuss the matter with the Tenant Farmers Association and the Small Farmers Association?

Mr. Jopling

Yes, of course. I am perfectly happy to discuss these matters with interested parties. I have seen the proposals of the Tenant Farmers Association, and I am glad that it broadly supports the NFU/CLA agreement, although I realise that it wants to go rather further in certain aspects.

Mr. Skinner

Will the Minister confirm that, in accordance with the principles of Tory ideas of a property-owning democracy, he will allow a tenant farmer to get the farm at half price if he has lived in it for 20 years?

Mr. Jopling

That is no part of our policy.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

May we take it then that the overriding consideration in my right hon. Friend's mind is that the legislation should have the support of the representatives of agriculture and the rural community as a whole?

Mr. Jopling

I welcome the fact that the CLA and the NFU have come to an agreement. We have always felt that we could create more tenancy opportunities only in the context of agreement between those two bodies, so that we can change the law in those respects in an atmosphere of general consent in the rural communities.

Mr. Mark Hughes

Does the Minister accept that his branch of the NFU—North Yorkshire and Durham—has many members who do not agree with that concordat? Does he also accept that the NFU of Wales does not agree with it? Are there not many people in the rural community who believe that to give hereditary powers to a landlord that are denied to a county council and then to take them away from the tenant is not the way forward?

Mr. Jopling

I have spent enough of my life in rural communities and in my present post to know that lucky and rare is the man who is always able to do only that which has unanimous support. Of course I am aware that there are dissenting voices, and we shall be prepared to listen to them.

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