HC Deb 09 July 1984 vol 63 cc849-50

6. The reference in the definition of "relevant land" in section 18(6) of this Act to agricultural land which is occupied by any such person as is mentioned in paragraph (a) of that definition includes a reference to any agricultural land which is deemed to be occupied by him by virtue of this Schedule."."

with the following amendment:

Line 95, at end insert— (4) Where by virtue of paragraph 3 above any land is deemed to be occupied by each of two or more survivors of the deceased as a result of a direction entitling them to a joint tenancy of the land, the preceding provisions of this paragraph shall apply to each of the survivors as if the land were jointly occupied by him and the other survivor or survivors as joint tenants under that tenancy.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John MacGregor)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 2 and 3.

Mr. MacGregor

These final amendments to the Agricultural Holdings Bill relate to the eligibility of applicants for succession. On Report in this House we debated this matter when I moved several amendments on behalf of the Government. During the debate on one of those amendments the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) drew attention to a loophole which he considered would still exist after the amendments had been made.

I said in reply that I recognised that this is an extremely complicated area of law … I accept that there will inevitably be some loopholes and that it is not possible to put an end to all the difficulties."—[Official Report, 6 June 1984; Vol. 61, c. 399.] I said, in conclusion, that I had taken note of the issues raised by the hon. Member for St. Helens, South.

These amendments deal with one of the loopholes. It has been pointed out that where the death of the tenant is anticipated, or where the tenant plans to retire under the inter-vivos retirement arrangements, it will be relatively easy for a potential applicant for succession who occupies a commercial unit to grant one of the forms of excluded tenancy or licence under paragraphs 2(1)(a) to (e) of new schedule 3A to a member of his family or even to an outsider. In this way the grantor would cease to be in occupation for a short period during which he can establish his eligibility and succeed to the tenant's holding.

These amendments close the loophole, and I commend them to the House.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

I thank the Minister for his explanation. I agree that the amendments close one of the loopholes. My party accepts that it would be extremely difficult to close the other loophole, because of the tortuous drafting that would be involved. We accept that there are difficulties. The Agricultural Lawyers Association, which has been of considerable assistance to both sides of the House during all stages of the passage of the Bill, accepts that these amendments go a long way towards covering the matters that I raised on Third Reading and on Report. We hope that those who have to operate this legislation will accept that it was the intention of Parliament to ensure fairness in succession and in eligibility, and that the Act will be read in the spirit in which the Bill has been debated in this House.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 2 and 3 agreed to.

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