HC Deb 22 October 1987 vol 120 cc911-2
10. Mr. Beith

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent discussions he has had with tenant farmers; and what subjects were discussed.

Mr. Gummer

My right hon. Friend the Minister and I meet tenant farmers regularly and discuss a very wide range of subjects of mutual interest.

Mr. Beith

If a landlord gets planning permission, encouraged by the Government, for building or tree planting on his land, what will the Minister do if the tenant loses his security of tenure? Surely there is not much "alluring" for the tenant farmer in the Government's package?

Mr. Gummer

I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that that, as a summation of the effect of ALURE on the tenant farmer, is a rather narrow and prejudiced point of view. We are looking at this with the industry at the moment, which is discussing closely what should be done and how the division between the various responsibilities should be seen in the light of diversification and other changes. From the reports that I have, it seems that the industry is coming to an understanding on this matter, and I am looking forward to hearing from it. If we can get an industry-agreed solution to those problems, we shall be very pleased.

Mr. Heddle

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the tenant farmers whose land is blighted by coal mining subsidence suffer considerable consequential losses? What does he propose to do, and will he take steps to persuade his ministerial colleagues to implement the recommendations of the Waddilove report?

Mr. Gummer

Obviously the recommendations of the Waddilove report are a responsibility of other Ministries. I understand that they are looking at those recommendations carefully at the moment, and I have certainly made clear to them the particular damage of which my hon. Friend speaks. It is not limited to tenant farmers. There is no doubt that the whole question of subsidence is one that has now been thrown into great prominence and that farmers need to be properly protected.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is it not true that the Minister has received repeated representations from tenant farmers in Scotland, Wales, Cumbria and Yorkshire about contaminated lamb and the blighting of land in those areas following Chernobyl? To talk in the European Communities of raising the becquerel limit from 1,000 to 5,000. and thereby derestricting those areas, is just cheating one's way around the problem. What will he do to resolve the problem of blighted land in those areas?

Mr. Gummer

I am not sure whether those are not two parts of a totally different question. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has no doubt received such representations, as has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales. I have received representations from farmers in Cumbria. The hon. Gentleman may like to throw around words such as "cheat" and the rest of it, but some of us are trying to face the difficulties. After the Chernobyl incident scientists recommend a figure, and they are now recommending a different one. Politicians have to try to decide what is right between these figures, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am trying to make the decision on scientific grounds and on no other. He can say "cheat" as often as he likes, but if he does so he tells untruths.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I ask the House to listen to answers, or to carry on conservations outside the Chamber.