HC Deb 21 March 1991 vol 188 cc393-4
12. Mr. Colvin

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the response to his consultation paper on the reform of agricultural tenancy law.

Mr. Gummer

The closing date for responses to the consultation exercise is 13 May. Early indications are of widespread acceptance of the need for change, but, quite properly, the various interests are taking time to prepare their considered responses. All comments will be weighed very carefully by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and myself before any decisions are made.

Mr. Colvin

Does my right hon. Friend acknowledge the serious decline in the agricultural rented sector since the end of the second world war? Does he agree that it would be in the best interests of British agriculture if that trend were reversed? Will he ensure that any new agricultural tenancy legislation will be positive enough to encourage the industry to be dynamic and flexible, so that it may be able to compete in the 1990s? Does he agree that freedom within contract might be the best basis of any new legislation?

Mr. Gummer

My hon. Friend is perfectly right. The tenanted sector is indeed in decline. We want to improve the opportunities for new entrants to the farming industry. The only way to achieve that is to ensure that more land is available. That is why I have made some radical propositions for change in the landlord and tenant scheme. I am pleased that there is widespread acceptance of both the need for more land and the need for radical change.