§ 2.59 p.m.
§ Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Beswick.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Regulations with respect to the welfare of livestock]:
THE EARL OF SELKIRK, moved, after subsection (1) to insert:
() The regulations mentioned in subsection (1) of this section shall contain provisions adequate to ensure that, as from a date laid down in the regulations, every animal shall have sufficient freedom of movement to be able, without difficulty, to turn round, groom itself, get up, lie down and stretch its limbs.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, in Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill provision is made for dealing with animal welfare. During the Committee stage discussions I sought to ascertain from the Government what were their intentions regarding the use of the powers for which they were asking under these two clauses. I am sure we are all satisfied that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, goes as far as he is permitted by his brief and it may be that he goes a little further, but I am bound to say that his reply on that occasion was very disappointing. He was unable to give any undertaking about the use of the powers. That gives me the impression that the very interesting Report we have had by Professor Brambell on the welfare of animals kept under intensive livestock is going to be pushed under the carpet.
I am fortified in that view by a letter which was written to Mr. Lever, a Member of Parliament, by a former Minister
(I do not, of course, know the views of the present Minister), who said:
The Brambell Committee made it clear that the welfare standards they were recommending were based on their judgments of where the animals' interests lay, though often these judgments could not be backed by scientific findings.
The Brambell Committee recommended further research. It is a widely held opinion that, of all the sciences, biology may well show the greatest advances over the next ten years, but are we to wait before taking action for many years until additional scientific investigations take place?
§ What I suggest in this Amendment is taken from Chapter 4, paragraph 37, of the Brambell Committee's Report as meeting the position of intensive agriculture. In the opinion of the Committee, this is the minimum requirement which is necessary. What was this Committee to which I am referring? It was a Committee appointed by Mr. Christopher Soames, which was, I think, the first to make a systematic examination of intensive agricultural methods in this country or, for all I know, in any other country. By any standards it was a strong Committee. I do not propose to summarise the arguments set out in Chapter 4, which make extremely interesting reading, or the remarks of Professor Thorpe in Appendix III, but I think it worth looking for a moment at the membership of this well-balanced Committee.
§ It was chaired by a distinguished zoologist from Wales. It had a former deputy director of the Veterinary Field Service in Scotland, who may therefore be presumed to be fairly familiar with the position in Scotland; a professor of animal husbandry from Bristol; a former Secretary of the Royal Agricultural Society of England; an Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture—and he at least could not have written the briefs of the noble Lord when he came to speak to us on the last occasion—a regional director of the National Agricultural Advisory Service and a professor of animal behaviour from Cambridge, a man of great distinction. This was a strong and well-balanced Committee of men of ability who have studied this subject and of practical men who have worked in the field of agriculture. So far as I know, there were no professional humanitarians on the Committee.985
§ The Committee's examination was extensive. They heard oral evidence from 23 bodies and individuals, most of whom gave written testimony as well. They took written evidence from some 50 different bodies, and carried out visits to 65 farms in this country and abroad. I think that it was in every way a thorough investigation and that the findings of the Committee are probably based on wider information than is available to most of us in this whole field. We should have to wait a long time before we get another examination of such a character, and we are not likely for a considerable time to have a Bill which can deal with the subject.
§ On the one side, that is the opinion of an expert Committee; on the other side, what is the opinion of the public? I do not suppose that noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite are deeply impressed with the doctrine of vox populi, vox Dei—at least, not at the present time. They probably think that the Almighty can express His views through different channels. None the less, it is interesting to be reminded that 87 per cent. of the people who were asked thought that these words which I am moving should be incorporated in the Bill. On either side, we have expert opinion and public opinion, with the Government standing in the middle preventing a reform—or, may I say, development—which I should have thought was both sensible and publicity wanted. I can only say, using the classic phrase, that the Government is a brewer's dray standing in the way of reform.
I think that the reason is that the Government are afraid of offending the opinion of the farmers. I wonder whether they are right in this. Many farmers are concerned at the public anxiety on this whole subject. I should like to read a letter that I have received from Mr. John Charrington, agricultural correspondent of the Financial Times, who speaks with some authority on this matter. He wrote:
I must say that most intensive farmers of my experience are to some extent worried by the public criticism of their industry and would, I think, welcome legislation that imposed a common code of conduct on them. I cannot see that they could object to reasonable inspection, which of course is the key to all enforcement.
That is what we want here, my Lords: a common code based on a comprehensible principle.
I should like to make one other point, a wider point. This I take from a letter that I received from Professor Tinbergen, who signed the letter in The Times dealing with this particular subject who strongly recommended that these words should be incorporated in the Bill. He wrote:
Personally, my own concern is more with the effects on human beings. Keeping animals in a way which rightly or wrongly strikes most of us as intolerably cramped may breed a kind of callousness to our fellow human beings.
I think that there is quite a burden of consideration in this view.
§ For all these reasons, I suggest that this House should make its position clear and that the kernel of the Brambell Report recommendation should be incorporated in the Bill in a flexible way, as it is in this Amendment, and so lay down a comprehensible and correct guiding principle. For these reasons, I ask your Lordships to accept this Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 30, at end insert the said subsection.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, we debated this question just before the last Recess, when I spoke rather strongly. Since then I have had time to consider what I said and to wonder whether I had been entirely reasonable. I come to this debate feeling more strongly than I did a few weeks ago about the principle embodied in this Amendment. May I explain what we are asking for? We are asking that every animal should have sufficient freedom of movement to be able without difficulty to turn round, groom itself, get up, lie down and stretch its legs. As I said in the last debate, if a prisoner was confined to his cell, there would be an outcry. He would at least be able to get up, sit down and stretch himself, but we would say that he should also have adequate exercise. This Amendment does not ask for even adequate exercise for these poor animals. It merely asks that, while they are being fattened up and presumably waiting for death, they should be humanely treated. In my opinion this 987 cannot be regarded as an unreasonable request. Surely the very minimum we could ask for an animal—if indeed we believe that animals should be humanely treated—is that it should be able to get up, stretch its legs and scratch itself.
I would ask your Lordships to consider the background. I realise that these animals are being kept in order that the farmers should make a profit. We have to face up to whether we accept that profit should be put before all human considerations. Perhaps I am feeling a little warm about this to-day, having put a Question which I think also involved a clash between profit-making and humanitarian considerations. But if this minimum Amendment is not accepted, then we are inviting farmers and other people all over the country to cramp animals together, to allow them to live in such conditions that when the end comes we shall be only too happy.
This question, I suppose, is one that can arise only in the twentieth century. If this matter had been debated in the nineteenth century, when the approach to animals was a little different, no doubt it would have been laughed out of court. There is no doubt that this is a sign of our civilisation; it is a sign that we are involved when we say that, even in respect of the most humble of our animals, when it is within the power of a human being—who can be cruel unless he is controlled—we must use our power to protect that animal.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I should like to give strong support to this Amendment, and especially to draw attention to what the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said when he spoke about the expert composition of the Brambell Committee. I suggest that the Government cannot lightly disregard the findings of such a Committee. If we call ourselves a civilised community, as I think we do, then I cannot in all conscience see how we can confine animals in this way. There might even be (Heaven forbid that it should happen) more excuse for confining human beings in such a way, because human beings have a mind, they can read books and write. An animal has not a mind, and the whole life of an animal is in its instincts to move, to 988 eat and to enjoy freedom. It is true that in the rush hour we confine human beings to the most intolerable crushing together. But that is completely voluntary. I would repeat that, in a civilised society, to confine animals so that they cannot stretch their legs and never see daylight: birds so that they cannot preen themselves and stretch their wings, is intolerably cruel, and is going against every natural instinct that they have.
I agree that there are commercial considerations involved here, but in the end they must give way to humane considerations. We cannot completely override humanity in regard to the treatment of animals. If the Amendment were accepted by the Government, surely they could pass legislation to protect farmers in this country from livestock being imported into this country from abroad that has been produced under restricted conditions. I should not think that this was impossible. Having said that, I would repeat that I strongly support this Amendment.
§ BARONESS PLUMMER
My Lords, from the things that have been said in this debate, it would appear that every fanner in this country is huddling his animals and poultry in horrible conditions and trying to kill them off quickly. I think we should have a greater sense of proportion about all this. So far as the experts on the Committee are concerned, to whom the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, referred, there are other practical experts, the farmers—and many noble Lords in this House are farmers—who have experience of this sort of thing. There are procedures for inspection of these farms by Ministry inspectors. It is not true that there is widespread cruelty to these animals, because there are these inspections. There are always black sheep in every industry, and we can only hope that the inspectors of the Ministry will be able to discover these. But I should like your Lordships to remember that there are many noble Lords who are expert in the rearing of cattle, beef, dairy herds, poultry, pigs and sheep, who all know one thing; that is, that you will not get production from these animals and poultry unless they are healthy and happy.
My Lords, we rejected a similar Amendment to this on 989 the Committee stage because we felt that what noble Lords who moved the Amendment wanted was already implicit in the Bill. I hope the noble Baroness will not feel that I am arguing for commercial farmers to be able to be cruel to animals in order to make profit, because I am not. Nor do I entirely accept the proposition put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Plummer, that all farmers necessarily consider the welfare of their beasts only because that is the only way to get profit. We know that this is not so,
I support entirely the sentiments put forward, and I support also the Brambell Committee and their Report. I do not feel, as the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said, that there is any danger that the Committee's Report is being swept under the table if we reject this Amendment. This is not true. One only has to read the provisions of Clause 1 to see that the whole thing is implicit in the Bill, and that what the Committee recommended will be carried out. If the noble Earl wanted to move an Amendment, the only one I can think of is that the word "must" should be substituted for "may". Apart from that, I do not think there is anything we can do by specifying one small point out of the Brambell Report and putting it into the Bill. Surely this is a way of weakening the other propositions contained in the Report. I hope, for these reasons, that your Lordships will not accept this Amendment; and in saying that, I hope you will not think that 1 am arguing the case for cruelty to animals, because I am not.
§ LORD BANNERMAN OF KILDONAN
My Lords, I should like to say that I support the specific wording of this Amendment, and I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, for bringing it forward. But there is one phrase in the Amendment which I suggest is not a wise phrase, because it would affect most of the dairy and fatstock industry in this country. I refer to the phrase "to turn round". Half the livestock of this country are tied humanely by the head. They are able to get up, scratch themselves and move about, but they cannot turn round. They may do so when the farmer lets them out in the afternoon, but when they are tied humanely by the head they cannot turn round. If you are going to be accurate in a Bill or an Act, the 990 words "to turn round" should be cut out of the Amendment.
My Lords, I am merely going to make the same point I support the Amendment in principle, but I cannot wholly support it, because of the danger that has just been pointed out. I should like to enlarge upon this argument slightly, because I have had experience of it. I thought that the traditional methods of tying a beast up during the winter, not by the head but by the neck—and I am now talking of beef farming, not dairy farming—were such that the animal could groom itself and get up and stretch backwards and forwards but could not turn round. I once had the experience of lengthening the neck yoke on a sliding bar where the shackle slides up and down because I thought the animal was too short tied. The result was that the animal put its foot over the chain, got it twisted round its leg, and I very nearly had to slaughter it. Can your Lordships imagine what would happen if this provision became law? It is common practice for two animals to be kept in a stall. They would twist their chains and strangle themselves. It is one thing to put a paragraph in a Report, but to copy it without alteration into an Act of Parliament is very dangerous indeed. Therefore, while I accept the principle behind the Amendment, I cannot support the detail.
§ 3.21 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, in supporting my noble friend in this Amendment I have comparatively little to add to his comprehensive speech, but I should like to reply to some of the points that have been made and to say why we drafted and put down this Amendment. In the discussion on the Committee stage on March 19 I made my views clear and there was general sympathy for the Amendment moved at that time by my noble friend Laid Selkirk, although he moved his Amendment to the next clause of the Bill. Paragraph 37 of the Brambell Report is one of a group of three paragraphs setting out the principles to which the Brambell Committee attached the greatest importance and to which they referred subsequently in the course of their Report when considering the case of particular animals. The only essential words of 991 the requirement as set out in paragraph 37 that are not repeated in our Amendment have been mentioned by some noble Lords; in paragraph 37 this requirement has the qualification that this should be secured "at least".
May I give an example of the use made by the Brambell Committee themselves of their reliance on the principle of this paragraph, paragraph 37, subsequently in the course of their Report? On pages 40 and 41 of the Brambell Report they are considering the case of rearing calves in the "white" veal industry. If noble Lords will refer to paragraphs 148, 149 and 150 they will see that the Brambell Committee seek to apply to the case of those animals the very carefully considered principles they have set down in the paragraph from which we quote in our Amendment. May I read paragraph 149, and part of paragraph 150? Paragraph 149 runs as follows:Provided it is not too small, the individual pen or crate allows some freedom of movement and is tolerable. Unless under specific veterinary advice for individual sick animals, we consider that calves should have sufficient room to be able at all ages to turn around, to groom themselves and to move without discomfort. The size of pen in common use at present for 'white' veal production is, we believe, too small to meet these requirements adequately, especially as the calf approaches slaughter size".Then, proceeding to paragraph 150:We have considered carefully the representations that have been made to us in favour of the small pen and we are unable to accept that those advantages which cannot be secured in other ways are sufficient to justify so close a measure of restraint".I give that as an example of the use made by the Brambell Committee themselves of this fundamental paragraph.
As everybody in this House is painfully aware, I know very little about agriculture. In the course of more than thirty years in Parliament I have never previously put my name to an Amendment to an Agriculture Bill. If I venture to do so now it is because I share with my noble friend Lord Selkirk profound admiration for those who wrote the Brambell Report. They are, after all, experts on agriculture and animal welfare and behaviour. They are not sentimentalists or cranks.
But the confidence I have in the Brambell Committee and their recommenda- 992 tion was very much strengthened by a letter from my friend Julian Huxley and others that was published in The Times on February 21 of this year. I think noble Lords will agree that Julian Huxley is a zoologist of world-wide reputation. Another of the signatories is Dr. Tinbergen, F.R.S., now Professor in Animal Behaviour at Oxford University, another great authority. So important do I consider this letter, and so much influenced was I personally by it, that if the House will allow me I should like to read it to them. It would at any rate, I think, be helpful if this letter were in Hansard. The letter runs as follows:Sir,—We welcome the principle in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which aims to safeguard farm animals from needless pain and suffering.The trend towards confining whole herds and flocks of animals permanently in buildings in conditions of close restriction and towards regarding them more and more as mere units in a process for converting feeding stuffs into flesh must create a sense of detachment in those who deal with them. It is not difficult to see how in conditions of economic pressure, or lack of sensitivity or of observation, suffering among the animals can become extreme. We are concerned that regulations for their welfare should match in efficiency human factory legislation.We note that the new definition of suffering will cover 'unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress' and that Codes of Practice are being drawn up to guide stockmen. But we feel that there is one very real omission in the Bill, and that is any form of guiding principle by which suffering can be assessed and on which the codes should be based.The Brambell Committee declared unanimously: 'An animal should at least have sufficient freedom of movement to be able, without difficulty, to turn round, groom itself, get up, lie down, and stretch its limbs.'A recent Gallup Poll survey showed an overwhelming majority of public opinion behind this, eighty-seven per cent. of the people interviewed thought that a basic rule of the Codes of Practice should be that farm animals should be able to turn round in their pens, ninety-one per cent. felt that all birds should have sufficient room to stretch their wings.We urge that this basic rule be written into the Act".The Amendment which we are now debating is an attempt to do just that which Julian Huxley and his fellow signatories to that letter sought to have done.
May I now deal with two possible criticisms? On the last occasion, at the Committee stage, it was suggested that 993 the regulations for which we ask may not be immediately practicable. Our Amendment accepts that view, to this extent: that we do not propose that these requirements should come immediately into operation. We leave the date for the operation indeterminate. The date would be laid down in the regulations themselves. Nor do we suggest that these precise words should go in; only that their object should be secured. The words of our Amendment are before the House.
The second possible criticism is that our Amendment to put this requirement into the Statute is not being put in at the best place in the Bill. That is open to debate. On the last occasion my noble friend sought to amend the next clause. I thought that the balance of argument developed in our previous discussion was that it should appear in Clause 2 where it is now proposed that it shall appear. But when the Minister replies he may point out that, while our Amendment looks, on the face of it, to be mandatory, it is put into a clause which is in essence permissive. He may point out that Ministers are not compelled by the Bill to make regulations at all. That is true. It is equally true that this Amendment, if it is carried—as I hope it will be—will not compel them to make such regulations. But those regulations I think ought to be made, and the result of accepting this Amendment would be that, if they are made, they will at least have to satisfy the requirement that the Amendment lays down. I am convinced that that is worth while.
We drafted the Amendment and commend it in no spirit whatever of hostility to farmers—and here perhaps I might deal with what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Plummer. I should like to make it absolutely clear for myself what the Brambell Committee made clear for themselves in paragraphs 229 and 230 of their Report. They did not suggest at all that farmers were lacking in these feelings, and I should like to assure the noble Baroness that I have the highest respect and admiration for the farming community, and there is no aspersion against them in our Amendment. May I read paragraph 229?There are two further general points which we wish to make. First, it will be seen that we have found it necessary to make recom- 994 mendations which would have the effect of laying down certain basic standards for animal welfare. We would most emphatically wish to state, however, that in our opinion the great majority of farmers are concerned to ensure the welfare and health of their stock, and our Report should not be read as being in any way a condemnation of the attitude of farmers in general. We feel it necessary to stress this conviction to avoid misunderstanding.Then in paragraph 230 the Committee say:Secondly, we recognise that the effect of some of our recommendations may be to increase costs in certain sectors of the industry, at least in the initial stages. We believe that public concern about animal welfare on farms is such that this will be understood and consumers will be prepared to meet any marginal extra costs.They then go on to say that it is essential that this policy, which they recommend, should not be defeated by imports of meat produced under less tolerable conditions.
§ LORD ROWLEY
My Lords, would the noble Lord deal with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Henley: that the substance of the Amendment which we are now discussing is contained in, and covered by, the Bill itself?
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, one has only to read the Bill to see that it is not. What is covered in the Bill is power to include all these things, both in the code and in the regulations, but there is nothing whatever to ensure that it will in fact be included. And I take the same view as my noble friend Lord Selkirk, that we do not have the opportunity to legislate on this subject very frequently, and it is important that from the first this legislation should have this guiding line, as Julian Huxley and his fellow signatories to that letter propose. It is worth while to secure this Amendment. I honestly believe that it is in the interests of the farmers themselves that these principles, which command so much public support, should be written into the Bill.
I am not a vegetarian; I eat meat with pleasure. But having read of some of the conditions that operate in the white veal industry, having read the arguments put forward in this Report by those who gave evidence in favour of some existing practices, if my only alternative to being a vegetarian were to eat white veal produced under these conditions, I should unhesitatingly be a vegetarian. We never buy white veal, simply on account of the 995 possibility that it might have been so produced.
Before farmers decide to oppose this type of Amendment, I wonder whether they have really considered what will be the effect on public opinion, if there are no restrictions of this kind. The last thing that I should do would be to intrude what I consider to be moral principles in deciding a question of this kind in this House—
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, if my noble friend will forgive me for interrupting one moment, he has not yet dealt with what I regard as the crucial words in this debate—the words "turn round". They mean, so far as I can see, that no animal can be tethered by the head, which is the most humane way. If the noble Lord will give me a satisfactory answer to that question I will vote for the Amendment; otherwise I cannot do so.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I was going to mention it, but it is perfectly true that I have not yet done so because, as the House well knows, I am not an experienced agriculturist. If this Amendment is substantially right there are further opportunities of modifying it, should the Government be so advised. I accepted that the distinguished writers, both of the letter and of the Brambell Report, could be relied on in this matter, and I think what they had principally in mind was that animals should not be kept continuously and for ever under these conditions. There may be cases where tethering may be right; but that animals, throughout the whole of their existence, should never have the opportunity of turning round seems to me, at least, to be fundamentally wrong.
I was coming to what to me is the moral principle involved. I do not believe that we are entitled to treat living creatures as mere things. I do not believe that it is right that an animal should be denied every element of a natural existence for our imagined convenience. I do not believe that practices that disregard the conditions laid down by the Brambell Committee are either necessary, or that they can be justified, merely on economic grounds. I must confess that some of the arguments sometimes put forward for such practices remind me of the arguments which were 996 once put forward to justify employing small children in coal mines.
It may be that these words are not perfect. I do not think there is much wrong with them. But they are the considered words, strongly supported, of a very strong Committee. Some of the leading authorities in the world on this matter have written a joint letter to The Times urging that the words should be put in the measure before us. I believe that they are right, and I hope that the House will accept the Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one question? I do not suppose there is anybody in the House who has a word to say in favour of this white veal business, but the whole point here surely is, would the noble Lord except from this Amendment dairy cows which have every opportunity of lying down but which certainly have not the opportunity of turning round when they are kept like that? Nobody has ever suggested that there was anything in the faintest degree inhumane in the way these dairy cows are kept.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I am immensely impressed with the point which has been put to me now by three noble Lords. They are all far more experienced in this matter than I am. But I do not really regard that as an argument against our Amendment at this stage. If there is something technically wrong, if there are some classes not wholly provided for or if, in some ways, this wording is too stringent, I am certain the House would accept at the next stage some Amendment to what I and my noble friend are seeking to put into the Bill. What I cannot accept from any of the noble Lords who have intervened is that this is a ground for putting no guiding principle into the Bill whatsoever. My noble friend Lord Swinton never makes an intervention for which I do not feel the greatest respect. If the Government say, "We accept in general this Amendment but we think it will need modification at the next stage", I have no doubt that my noble friend and I would accept such modification. But what we press for is an acceptance of the principle that this guiding paragraph of the Brambell Report shall be incorporated in the legislation.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, this has been again a very interesting debate on matters on which I think noble Lords on all sides feel very deeply. I should like, if I may, to congratulate my noble friend Lord Selkirk on putting the case so eloquently, a case which is felt very widely throughout the country and which was very substantially supported by my noble friend Lord Conesford in his maiden speech in the world of agriculture. Of course, we all sympathise with this proposal in principle, but it would not be right for my noble friend Lord Conesford to say that there is nothing in the Bill as a guide principle. There is Clause 1 specifically setting out thatAny person who causes unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress to any livestock …et cetera. There is the general principle.
I think this debate has shown as well as any debate could the great practical difficulties of putting specific regulations into the Bill. My noble friend Lord Stonehaven I thought particularly graphically explained what happens if you tie up a cow or any cattle with a loose chain so that it can turn round. I think my noble friend Lord Conesford realises that if this Amendment were inserted and a regulation were made like that exactly as it stands, pretty well every dairy shed in the country would be made illegal. That is the specific difficulty which arises through putting regulations of that kind into a Bill. I think the structure of the Bill has really been rather well thought out, in making in Clause 3 provision for establishing codes of practice which will specifically deal with practical points of management of all livestock and provide for essential consultation with farmers in the farming world.
I was only too happy to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Plummer, say more eloquently than I could that farmers are very much in favour of the welfare of their animals as well as the profit, and I am glad the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, agreed. You must consult with the people doing the work to get the right balance between the humanitarian and the practical. That is what the Bill does. Codes of practice are laid down in Clause 3, after consultation. Under Clause 2 regulations are made based on the codes of 998 practice, and the codes of practice provide the evidence for the enforcement of the regulations.
I think we have achieved the right balance between the ideal and the humanitarian which we all want to see and the practical necessities of the farming world. I should think it very likely —I shall be interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, says—that special codes of practice may be necessary for dealing with the calf fattening trade. It is known that the conditions to which noble Lords referred do exist, rather more, I believe, in Continental countries than in this country. I would, in conclusion, say this to noble Lords. I think that our awareness, and indeed the awareness of the Government, that 87 per cent. of public opinion expects something to happen which will secure humane management of our livestock will be sufficient to ensure that the Ministry of Agriculture acts in this matter, makes codes of practice and in due course makes regulations as well; and that is really the better way to proceed to get the result everybody wants.
My Lords, I am going to speak very briefly because your Lordships have already been wearied enough. It is not just a matter of changing from tying up to letting loose; it is a matter of complete reorganisation of farm buildings, something that cannot be undertaken at the present time of high interest rates and the difficulties of building in general. It entails complete modification not only of the farm buildings but also the drainage system from the farm. We are having difficulties enough at present in dealing with the pollution of rivers. We are willing to do it; we are doing it as far as possible, but up to the present we have not found any authority which can tell us how to overcome the problems there are in preventing effluent from reaching the streams. If we are to have this imposed on us in addition, it will mean t very great root-and-branch change in the whole of dairy farming in this country.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford. If this Amendment were to go through it would give great hardship to the female of two 999 species, the sow and the cow. The pregnant cow or the pregnant sow yarded is far more likely to be bullied by the bully cow or the bully sow. If any of your Lordships see a modern byre, a modern cow shed, where the cow is tied up and the milking line goes round the shed, you will find that on the average the cows give a higher yield of milk than they do when they are yarded, coming into the milking parlour and being knocked on the way, because, as always in every society, human or animal, there is always liable to be a bully.
That is becoming particularly obvious in the handling of the sow. It is quite clear that a sow is kept under much happier conditions if she is kept in a sow stall rather than in a yard. Sows in a yard can be under great discomfort, and usually are, because there can be a great deal of knocking around by other sows. It has become abundantly clear from research work which has been done in the Lewitt Institute that the individual feeding of the sow is of the greatest importance because of the diet of the pregnant sow. Unless something of this sort is done the probability of abortion by allowing the sow to become overfat is increased. Therefore, if this Amendment is allowed to go through it will be to the great detriment of the female of the species.
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ LORD STRANGE
My Lords, I spoke before on this matter, and I should like to say that I think there is a certain amount of "red herring" going on about dairy cows. I do not see that the Bill really touches them at all. The dairy cow is tethered in its stall, either by yoke or by chain. It can always lick itself. As a dairy cow it must be groomed at least once or twice a day, according to law. It gets frequent exercise by going out to the fields, and is often taken to the milking bay and milked, and there is further exercise when it goes back to the stall. The same applies to a sow. There is a pen for sows to farrow in. The pen is often supplied with hot pipes. Sows can move about in the pens. When they have the young piglets in the farrowing pen measures are taken to prevent their being laid upon. This is humane.
The main point concerns the "factory" hen. I feel that commercialism has 1000 gone too far. These hens cannot turn round; they never leave the pens. They get no exercise; they cannot stand up. A hen likes to stand up and stretch, like I do. I think it is inhumane, and if commercialism is allowed to go as far as this to restrict the normal, hereditary instincts that all creatures have, it is going too far. I am glad that I have no commercial qualities myself. I am glad that I do not lay golden eggs, otherwise I should be put in a pen.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, that there is a deep feeling in all parts of the House in regard to this subject of animal welfare; but I do not believe that it behoves any one of us to claim that he feels more deeply than others. I am bound to say that I thought the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, introduced his Amendment in some rather uncalled for, emotive language; and he was supported by my noble friend Lady Summerskill with some equally emotive language. She seemed to think that it was a matter for stricture because some of these animals were produced for profit. We should go quite hungry if we were to restrict the production of animals that are produced for profit.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I think my noble friend must be corrected. I said that we must not forget our humanitarian instincts and put profit before them. I think that reflects the feeling of people to-day.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, my noble friend can read what she said. She was giving support for this Amendment on the basis that we were dealing with animals that were being produced for profit. I agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken, that in certain cases some of these animals are being produced in conditions in which commercialism has gone too far. I accept that. But the question is, how can we put into an Act of Parliament language that helps in the one place where it ought to help, but restricts in another sphere where no restriction is called for.
The noble Earl said that we were "sweeping under the carpet" these recommendations of the Brambell Committee. That is completely untrue. What 1001 does he mean by "sweeping under the carpet" when the Government takes the trouble to produce a Bill? It is a strange way of sweeping something under the carpet to publish a Bill of this kind, the first part of which says that if any person causes unnecessary pain or distress to any live stock he shall be guilty of an offence. The words I have read out are more useful for obtaining the objective which the noble Lady is after than are the words in the Amendment.
I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Henley, says, that if these words are put into the clause they will have the effect of weakening rather than strengthening it. This is a permissive clause. To me, it seems strange that the noble Lord, Lord Conesford—though he may be an amateur in agriculture, he is certainly not in the use of words and legal definitions—should seek to write into a permissive clause mandatory action. If the action which he calls for in this Amendment was contrary to the intentions of the Government, then it would be simple not to produce any regulations at all. If we did not want to do what he is asking us to do it would be perfectly within the terms of the Bill as now framed just to refrain from publishing any regulations at all. So I honestly do not believe that what is sought in this Amendment would be achieved if the words were included in the Bill.
Moreover, the words are in fact less applicable, or, I would go so far as to say to the noble Earl, less sensible than those in his previous Amendment. If these words were incorporated in the Bill it would mean that every time the Minister wanted to issue any regulation about drainage or water supply, or the importation of feedingstuffs, for example, he would be compelled to tag on to that regulation these words about enabling animals to get up, groom themselves and lie down again. That clearly would be absurd, and I do not believe that that is what the noble Earl or his supporters would wish to have done.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt for a moment? He quotes the first paragraph of the Bill, which is naturally quite plain in meaning. But who is to decide what is necessary and what is unnecessary pain? It is presumably the Minister. The rest 1002 of the Bill merely allows the Minister to make what regulations he likes.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, probably the noble Lord will allow me to proceed, but the short answer to him is that the institution or individual who will determine whether an offence is committed is the court of law, or the judge before whom a farmer or producer may be brought, if he were thought to be causing unnecessary pain. But I was going on to say something about the Brambell Committee. The noble Earl quite rightly said that the Brambell Committee was composed of authoritative persons. I absolutely agree with that. But far from pushing all this under the carpet, as he tried to make out, subsequent to the publication of the Brambell Committee's Report the Minister has appointed, as the noble Earl well knows, the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. This is charged with the task of drafting the type of code of practice and the type of regulations which the noble Earl, the noble Lord and the noble Lady want. This body, the Welfare Advisory Committee, is as authoritative as the Brambell Committee. It includes veterinary surgeons, animal welfare representatives, farmers and scientists, who have to get down to the difficult job of producing a farm of words which would do what the noble Lord, Lord Strange, wants to do but would not have the effect of unduly restricting the dairy cows. Surely it would be better to allow them to complete their deliberations and to produce a code of practice and the regulations. I said on Committee stage—and I repeat—that I find it inconceivable that this code of practice would not deal with the accommodation for the animals with whose welfare it is dealing there would be specific reference to accommodation within the spirit of the Brambell Committee. We want to achieve what the Brambell Committee said should be achieved, but I am suggesting that the actual form of words for this should not be written into the Bill.
I was asked by the noble Earl about the time scale for results from the deliberations of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. I think he implied that there would not be any action consequent on the Report of the Committee. He is quite Wrong. First of all we have 1003 this Bill, and while the Bill is going through the House the Advisory Committee will be considering the necessary codes of practice and the regulations. I understand that there are now in course of preparation codes for pigs, cattle, domestic fowls and turkeys. These codes will be circulated to interested parties during the next two months, and the Parliamentary timetable envisages that the regulations will be going through the two Houses by the end of this year or the beginning of next. I feel that this is going as far as one could reasonably go. I accept the need for action, but I am sure that we should proceed on the lines I have outlined. Since the words of the Amendment would have a somewhat distorted effect on any subsequent regulations, I hope that the noble Earl will withdraw the Amendment.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I should like to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Plummer, that nothing I said was meant to be critical of farmers. I think I should make it clear that probably 90 per cent. of the farmers of the country will be unaffected by these particular provisions. I have received letters from successful farmers who are fully in agreement with this Amendment. The sort of dairy conditions which were envisaged by my noble friend Lord Bannerman are not intensive farming at all, since the cattle constantly go out. This does not arise in relation to this Amendment in the proper sense of the word. Serving on the Committee was a member of the Veterinary Field Services in Scotland, who presumably knew something about these matters.
Nobody has made any criticism of the Amendment, except for the words "turn round". Nobody has criticised the remaining words:sufficient freedom of movement to be able, without difficulty, to … groom itself, get up, lie down and stretch its limbs".
§ LORD BESWICK.
My Lords, the noble Earl said that nobody has criticised the Amendment. I pointed out that if the proposed words were included, it would have the absurd effect that they would have to be tacked on to any regulation.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, is the Minister seriously suggesting that, if the regulations to meet what is required 1004 in this Amendment have once been made, they would have to be repeated in every later regulation? That would be contrary to all common sense. But if that were the legal effect of what we are proposing, it would be the simplest thing to put that right at the next stage. It is not a serious objection to what we are suggesting.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I understand that the Minister is under no obligation to make any regulation at all. In those circumstances what the noble Lord has said is irrelevant. The point is that although there have been a large number of Bills in this House going back one hundred years or more on the subject of cruelty, nothing specific is laid down to deal with these matters. It is a matter of handing over entirely to the Ministry of Agriculture inspectors. Parliament is handing over its powers and saying, "Do what you like." I consider that we should be more specific and say that we want a general code indicating to farmers the standard to which we want them to work.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I must interrupt the noble Earl, for he is distorting what I said. I have not said that we should leave it to the Ministry inspectors. What I am saying is that we should await the detailed recommendations of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, which is now occupied in drawing up precisely the type of code which the noble Earl wishes to see.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, the noble Lord already has the Brambell Report, which has been published and whose recommendations are extensive. What assurance have we that he will fulfil any of the recommendations on this matter?
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I have specifically said—and I gave this undertaking—that the regulations will be designed to incorporate the spirit of the recommendations of the Brambell Committee. I cannot go any further than that.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK
How does the noble Lord know that? He has already said that he cannot undertake to do anything of this kind. I should like to see something specific included in the Bill. It would be a pity to hand over this matter to the Ministry inspector unless we have a specific recommendation as to 1005 what will be required. I must make clear that I undertake at the next stage to take out the words "turn round"; the remaining words would be left in. I am sorry if I did not make this clear to my noble friend Lord Bannerman.
§ Clause 11 [Provisions supplementary to section 9 in Scotland]:
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR SCOTLAND (LORD HUGHES) moved, in subsection (1)(c), after "(iii)' to insert: "or the matter mentioned in paragraph (c)". The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 2 I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 3, 10, 11, 14 and 15. The substantive Amendment among those is No. 10 which1006
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 23; Not-Contents, 96.1005
|Ailwyn, L.||Granville of Eye, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Audley, Bs.||Greenway, L.||Polwarth, L.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Hankey, L.||Selkirk, E. [Teller.]|
|Conesford, L. [Teller.]||Horsbrugh, Bs.||Somers, L.|
|Derby, Bp.||Huntingdon, E.||Strange, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Lothian, M.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Feversham, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Molson, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Douglas of Barloch, L.||Moyle, L.|
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Douglass of Cleveland, L.||Noel-Buxton, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Dudley, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Amulree, V.||Dundee, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Arbuthnott, V.||Ebbisham, L.||Oakshott, L.|
|Arwyn, L.||Effingham, E.||Ogmore, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Perth, E.|
|Balfour, E.||Ferrers, E.||Phillips, Bs.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Fleck, L.||Plummer, Bs.|
|Bannerman of Kildonan, L.||Foley, L.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Gardiner, L. [L. Chancellor.]||Rhodes, L.|
|Birk, B.||Gladwyn, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.|
|Blackford, L.||Granville-West, L.||Rowallan, L.|
|Boothby, L.||Gridley, L.||Rowley, L.|
|Bowles, L. [Teller.]||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Hacking, L.||St. Helens, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Henley, L.||Segal, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.]||Serota, Bs.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Hives, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Buckton, L.||Hughes, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Burden, L.||Ironside, L.||Soper, L.|
|Burton, L.||Jellicoe, E.||Sorensen, I.|
|Byers, L.||Kennet, L.||Stonehaven, V.|
|Carnock, L.||Kirkwood, L.||Strang, L.|
|Chalfont, L.||Lambert, V.||Swinton, E.|
|Clwyd, L.||Latham, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Lindgren, L.||Tayside. L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Long, V.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||McLeavy, L.||Williamson, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Merrivale, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|De Ramsey, L.||Milverton, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Mitchison, L.||Younger of Leckie, V.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ inserts additional wording into the Bill. The other Amendments are paving or consequential.
§ During the Committee stage I said that the Government sympathised with the principle behind an Amendment which was put down by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, and which would have had the effect of allowing a landlord to seek the consent of the Land Court to the dispossession of a successor who already had another agricultural holding capable of providing employment for two men. I explained then, however, that the noble Earl's Amendment was open to a number of objections as it stood. But on his 1007 withdrawing the Amendment I undertook to produce an alternative form of words which I felt would meet the noble Earl's purpose, and which would be quite acceptable to the Government. Amendment No. 10 fulfils that undertaking, and I hope that this group of Amendments will commend itself to your Lordships. I beg to move.
Page 9, line 33, after ("(iii)") insert ("or the matter mentioned in paragraph (c)").—(Lord Hughes.)
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, we have already discussed this point fully in Committee, and I have nothing more to say, except to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for the trouble he has taken in redrafting the Amendment in a way which is more satisfactory, and also for accepting my Amendment in principle.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 10, line 3, leave out ("section 18(2) (a)") and insert ("paragraph (a) or paragraph (c) of section 18(2)").—(Lord Hughes.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE moved, after Clause 12, to insert the following new clause:
§ Power to make amendments in respect of rating at present being applied to agricultural buildings.
§ ".—(1) In compiling any valuation list for the year 1968–69 and for ensuing years, any buildings which are occupied together with agricultural land, whether or not such agricultural land is adjacent or contiguous to the buildings, and which are used for the purpose of the breeding, rearing or fattening of livestock, shall be deemed to be agricultural buildings in terms of section 26(4) of the General Rate Act 1967.
§ (2) In the application of this section to Scotland it shall be deemed to include references to any valuation roll and to agricultural lands and heritages, and shall be read as applying to the provisions of section 7(2) of the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act 1956.
§ (3) 'Agricultural land' in this section shall have the meaning given to it in section 26(3) of the General Rate Act 1967; and 'agricultural lands and heritages' shall have the meaning given to it in section 7(2) of the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act 1956."1008
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, as I have told the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, this question of rating is not one of which I have any recent, direct experience of my own, but it is a question which at the moment is causing a great deal of concern in many parts of Scotland, and in the last week or two I have found that the concern is a great deal more widespread than I had at first thought. This Amendment is identical to an Amendment which was moved in Committee in another place. It was withdrawn then because the Minister said that the Government were considering the matter. He excused himself from dealing with it in this Bill because, he said, it would not be appropriate to do so in an Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. But I think there is a certain amount of feeling in Scotland that if it is appropriate to deal in this Bill with the whole question of succession to farm tenancies it cannot be too much out of place to deal with the question of rating. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to meet us on this Amendment.
§ I should have thought there was no doubt that it was the intention of Parliament in passing the 1956 Act that all agricultural buildings should be derated, irrespective of whether or not they were contiguous to the land which the occupier was farming. I shall be glad to hear from the noble Lord if he thinks that the Act of 1956 is defective in its wording, whether it needs to be changed; and, if so, whether the Government would consider making the necessary amending alterations at an early date, if they do not feel able to do anything under this Bill. If they do feel able to clarify the position under this Bill, I should have thought it might not be too difficult to do so, with general agreement, on Third Reading. I hope that if the noble Lord does not think that my own Amendment in its present form is correct he will perhaps consider doing that. I beg to move.
After Clause 12 insert the said new clause. —(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, that there is a good deal of feeling about the uncertainty concerning rating legislation, especially as it is applied to buildings used for intensive husbandry. But the difficulty (and I think the noble Earl 1009 appreciates it) is that there is no general agreement as to how we should remove those uncertainties. One very radical solution which is favoured by some people is to withdraw agricultural rating exemption altogether. There would then be no problem whatsoever. An equally thorough-going solution would be to give total and unquestioning exemption to every building that could be described in any sense as an agricultural building. As I understand it, the noble Earl is not disposed to accept either of these two radical solutions. But his Amendment would not obviate all difficulty by any means. It would still leave anomalies.
For example, there is the case—I gather it has achieved some fame—of the cotton mill converted to the rearing of chickens. This could be said to be not contiguous to any farming land and therefore, one would have thought, would have been liable to rating. I do not quite know what the noble Earl means about being together with agricultural land lying at possibly some distance away from the buildings in question. There are therefore difficulties, even if one accepts the Amendment put forward by the noble Earl.
But, however sympathetic one may be to the desire to introduce improvements into the rating law, it would be quite inappropriate, I suggest, to do it in a Bill such as this. This is an Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which really is not the right place to introduce what would, after all, be very substantial changes in taxation law. Proposals to change the law on the rating of agricultural buildings may of course have implications on other, nonagricultural aspects of the rating law, and these must be considered, as well as the effects which various possible solutions might have on different sections of the agricultural industry itself. The only assurance I can give the noble Earl is that the Government are aware of the difficulties to which he has drawn attention, and that we shall do our best to find a reasonable solution. This is as far as I can go. There are discussions going on at the present time. I cannot say when any decision may be reached, but I hope that, on the assurance that we recognise there are difficulties which ought to be obviated, the noble Earl 1010 will feel able to withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, might I help the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, in reaching a definition as to what would be agricultural land in the case of these more intensive livestock units? If you were to take as the definition the fact that a substantial part of the feed or a substantial part of the bedding was used for the animals in these houses, or that the dung produced was returned to the land, it would, I think, provide a fairly precise definition which could be easily applied. I throw out that suggestion. I am glad to hear the answer of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, to the point made by my noble friend Lord Dundee.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, may I just add a word in support of my noble friend Lord Dundee? What is bothering noble Lords on this side, and I am sure on the other side, too, is the trend here: that by a series of individual rating decisions a progressive process of re-rating agricultural buildings is taking place quite sporadically and fortuitously, some areas being affected worse than others and some areas not being bothered at all. It naturally causes great anxiety to those individuals whose buildings are re-rated, and it causes anxiety to us here, my Lords, beef use at this time, when intensive livestock-keeping is the trend (indeed, we were discussing it just now in another context, and it is certainly the most economic way of managing all forms of livestock) it poses this question: are the Government content to watch this progressive re-rating taking place and to allow it eventually to happen completely?
There is on the Statute Book this general intention of Parliament that agricultural buildings that are used in connection with the farming of the land should be de-rated. I should have thought that that principle should be upheld; I should have thought that there would be on both sides of the House general support for it. But evidently at this moment in time a fresh definition is most urgently needed. I should like to add my word of support to press the noble Lord to ask his right honourable colleague the Minister of Agriculture, and, indeed, his other Ministerial colleagues, to regard this as a 1011 matter of urgency, for it is causing increasing anxiety throughout the farming world.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I shall not pursue the technicalities of this question with the noble Lord because I do not think your Lordships would wish me to do so. I have no doubt that there may be difficulties of definition; but I should not have thought it all that difficult to get a definition—some improvement perhaps on the wording of the 1956 Act—which would make sure that what I think were the intentions of Parliament would be carried out. It is evidently not possible for the Government to do that on this Bill. I should have liked the noble Lord to say a little more about the nature of the inquiries that are being held into this subject and about which body was carrying them out. In view of the assurance he has given, which I am sure is sincere, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 14 [Provisions supplementary to s. 12 in Scotland]:
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 5 I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 37 and 38. These are purely drafting Amendments which are made necessary because the New Towns (Scotland) Act 1968 has been enacted since the present Bill was introduced. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 18:
§ Termination in case of near relatives of deceased tenant
§ (2) Notwithstanding section 26(1) of the principal Scottish Act (which provides for the Scottish Land Court consenting to the operation of a notice to quit in certain circumstances), where the said section 6(3) would apart from the provisions of this section apply to the notice, the Scottish Land Court shall consent under the said section 25(1) to the operation of a notice to quit given to such a near relative as is mentioned in the foregoing subsection—1012
§ (a) if they are satisfied that the near relative has neither sufficient training in agriculture nor sufficient experience in the farming of land to enable him to farm the holding to which the notice relates with reasonable efficiency, and if it is stated in the notice that it is given by reason of the matter aforesaid, or
§ (7) In the case of any lease of an agricultural holding entered into after the passing of this Act where a landlord and a tenant have agreed that the lease shall be terminable after such term of years as may be specified therein this section shall not apply to any notice to quit given at the termination thereof and accordingly at the termination thereof the landlord shall have power to serve an incontestable notice to quit.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ LORD BURTON moved, in subsection (2)(a), after "has" to insert "(i)". The noble Lord said: My Lords, with your consent I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 together since they are dependent upon each other. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and I have had correspondence on these Amendments, but I suspect that he has been advised to resist them. The arguments so far produced for resisting them have left me quite unconvinced. I feel that too much of a political atmosphere has entered into this whole clause and, as a result, Amendments to it are now suspect and have not been looked at with the merit they deserve. I am unable to see that these particular Amendments are in any way political; they are purely for the good of agriculture in Scotland. There has been mention of social justice. There is no social injustice in these particular Amendments. However, your Lordships are renowned for taking an impartial view and for doing that which is right, and I am therefore hopeful that you will accept these Amendments.
§ We discussed these Amendments on Committee when the noble Lord speaking for the Government undertook to look afresh at the position; and I am sure that he did so because he had some doubts himself. Under the 1949 Act the landlord may lodge objections to the succession of an heir on the ground that it is in the interests of efficient farming; and the Land Court may sustain the objections. It is common knowledge, however, that the Land Court is inclined to favour the tenant in preference to the landlord, and thus the financial aspect has to be desperate—indeed, as 1013 my noble friend the Duke of Atholl said on Committee, the tenant has to be almost bankrupt—before the Court will decide against him. Since 1949, the position has been radically altered by the Succession (Scotland) Act 1964. Many of us were opposed to that Act applying to agriculture, but our good counsels were ignored. Thus it is scarcely right for Government spokesmen to refer to case law based upon the situation which has since materially deteriorated. The fact remains, however, that the Land Court have made case law on this subject; so my Amendments do not greatly alter the practical situation. But they do make the position statutory and binding on the Land Court.
§ I do not imagine that many of your Lordships have had practical experience in attempting to operate the law to remove a prospective agricultural heir from succession in Scotland. I have had this unforunate experience and it is neither pleasant nor easy. I do not believe there are any ill feelings over the action which I had to take; but if this Bill had been in operation I should probably have failed to remove this tenant. I should have been saddled with an unsatisfactory tenant. Perhaps of greater consequence, a progressive young man would have been deprived of the tenancy of this farm.
§ If this Amendment is accepted, your Lordships will see that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has an Amendment down (No. 8) which would, in fact, slightly alter the wording. So far as I can see there is no objection to this alteration in the wording and I hope that this may perhaps be altered at the next stage. I therefore earnestly request your Lordships to accept this Amendment, and I beg to move.
Page 16, line 23, after ("has") insert ("(i)").—(Lord Burton.)
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend Lord Burton. This Amendment is of some importance because I think it essential that tenants, when they succeed to a lease, should not be suffering from insufficient financial resources. This does not mean that they have to show that they are capable of paying with ready cash all the debts due on the estate of the person from whom they are inheriting and still have a 1014 reasonable amount of working capital. I am told that the legal definition of "financial resources" includes what you are able to borrow. Therefore any sums which they would be likely to be able to borrow would be perfectly adequate, so far as this Amendment is concerned, to enable the Land Court to decide in favour of the tenant and against the landlord. The Land Court would have to decide in favour of the landlord and against the incoming tenant only where it was quite obvious that he was going to have insufficient financial resources of any sort, including what he might be able to borrow.
There is a very important reason why this Amendment should be accepted. It is in connection with intestacy. We all hope that people will make wills; we all know that it causes a great deal of trouble when they die intestate. But unfortunately it does happen and it leads to complications. If someone died intestate and had, say, three sons, the residue of his estate would be split between the three sons equally. The executor would allocate the lease of the farm to one of these three and the value of the lease would be assessed against that son's share of the estate. The son would then have to stock the farm; and this, too, would be assessed against his share of the estate. Unless his father (or the one who died, whomsoever he may be) had left a lot of ready cash which did not go in death duties, or unless he, himself, was comparatively wealthy he would be bound to be in a very "dicey" financial situation, because he would have to make good to his two brothers that part of the estate which he had had extra, due to his need to stock up the farm with the machinery, livestock and dead stock which must go with it to make it a viable unit.
Of course, in some cases his brothers may agree that they should not inherit their share of the estate, or that it should be regarded as a loan from them to the brother inheriting the farm. This would be quite all right so far as this Amendment is concerned, because then the tenant would have sufficient financial resources and would be in no fear that the Land Court would find against him, even if the landlord tried to bring a case on these grounds. But suppose the brothers did not agree that they should forgo their share of the estate and let it stay with the brother who was to take 1015 over the farm. In such a case the brother taking over the farm would be most unlikely to have sufficient financial resources to be able to farm it efficiently and in a proper manner.
I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will say that this would be a very unreasonable thing for the brothers to do, but it could quite easily happen if they wanted to set up in different businesses and needed capital. I do not think that it would be at all unreasonable on their part if they insisted on having their share of their father's estate. I can visualise that happening, not frequently, but perhaps once or twice a year. I think it is a point which needs to be covered, and I gather that there is little hope of amending the 1964 Succession Act so that its provisions would not apply to rural or agricultural holdings. Many of us wanted that in the first place, as my noble friend Lord Burton has already said, but we were overruled and told that it would be impracticable to have different laws for the rural and the urban areas.
The second reason which I think the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will give for opposing this Amendment is that it is unnecessary and that the point is already covered by Sections 20 and 21 of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1949. My Lords, the Land Court has shown remarkable reluctance to find in favour of a landlord on the ground of the tenant's insufficient financial resources unless the tenant is nearly bankrupt, and known to be so—that is the point. Only if the tenant has left a trail of bills round the district and is well known to have done so is the Land Court likely to find in favour of the landlord.
The other snag of the 1949 Act is that it is necessary to serve notice on the tenant within a month of the death of his father, if it is his father who has died. This seems rather callous and a procedure which one would not necessarily wish to follow. I should have thought, therefore, that there could be little harm in accepting the Amendment, and it may be that a great deal of good would be done. It would add to the efficiency of farming in Scotland. Only in a few cases would a deserving son be turned out under this provision; in fact, I should think that it could hardly ever 1016 happen. Obviously, if the son is deserving and likely to make a good tenant, a landlord will be only too keen to keep him, even though the landlord may be slightly worried about the son's immediate financial situation. I cannot see why the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, should be unable to accept the Amendment, and I see every reason why it would make an improvement if he did accept it.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Burton, and the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, when predicting what I might say in reply to this Amendment, were not demonstrating that they were possessed of clairvoyant powers. They were merely indicating the text of the correspondence which we have been having over the last fortnight and which I can assure them has been read by me. During the Committee stage we had considerable discussions on this matter. As the noble Lord, Lord Burton, has indicated, I said, although not for the reasons he attributed to me, that I would look into the information available. It was not, as the noble Lord implied, because I had any doubts in the matter, but because I thought I could find backing from what had taken place for the information which had been given to me on this matter, and which I passed on to your Lordships.
I am surprised at the weight which is being placed by both noble Lords on their remarks that a tenant must be almost bankrupt before the Land Court will act against him. The first thing I would say is that both noble Lords must have remarkably good memories, because in 1956 the law was changed so that an owner could dispossess a tenant without giving any reason at all. Therefore, there has been no need since 1956 to use the powers of the 1949 Act. It is not surprising, therefore, that there has been little or no use made of the powers to seek the Land Court to dispossess a tenant on financial grounds when all the landowner had to do was to give notice to quit. Any recollection or reference which either the noble Lords or I can make must refer to something prior to 1956—
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
The other point is that surely, regarding existing tenants who have sought to renew their leases, or to continue the lease from year to year, the Land Court has shown a marked reluctance to enable landlords to get possession of farms even though the tenant has been well known to be almost insolvent. I do not say known to be a long way behind with his rent, because we all know that if he is over 18 months behind he can be dispossessed anyway. But if a tenant is getting well behind with his rent, and even if it is known in the district that he has a great many unpaid bills, the Land Court can still show reluctance to enable the landlord to regain possession of the farm. I agree that this applies to existing tenants because, as the noble Lord quite rightly said, since 1958 one has been able to get out tenants of succession without giving any reason.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I must apologise for saying 1956 instead of 1958. I looked into the position before 1958. Up to 1948 this was a matter for the sheriff, and as only a very small proportion of sheriff court cases are reported it is extremely difficult to find out what happened in the sheriff courts. But from 1948 the jurisdiction was with the Land Court. The law on the interpretation of the phrase, "reasonable ground of objection" is summed up in a recent legal textbook in the Scottish Universities Law Institute series—Paton and Cameron on the Law of Landlord and Tenant in Scotland (1967), where on page 356 these words appear:Probably any objection must be personal to the legatee, e.g., lack of sufficient capital or skill or being of a disreputable character.There have over the years been a number of cases in which lack of capital has been considered as a ground of objection. I would remind your Lordships that these grounds will become once again much more important than they have been since 1958.
Perhaps I may quote cases. In Sloss v. Agnew (this is one of the sheriff court cases which we discovered, and it dates from as far back as 1923) the absence of capital was one of the grounds on 1018 which the sheriff found that there was "a reasonable and valid objection" to the bequest of the tenancy. In 1952, in the Scottish Land Court Reports for that year, we find the case of Howie v. Lowe. In a legal debate the Court observed that objections based on financial stability and available resources were relevant in considering "any reasonable objection" to a legatee. Then in 1953, in Chalmers Property Investment Company v. Bowman an objection to an heir-at-law on the ground of absence of acequate financial resources was upheld by the Land Court, and the tenancy was terminated. On the other hand, in Reid v. Duffus Estates Limited (reported in 1955) the landlord objected to a legatee on the ground, inter alia, of lack of financial resources; but the objection was repelled on proof that overdraft facilities of £7,000 were being made available from the bank on the strength of the good order of the farm and a guarantee of person substance.
If the Amendment were accepted, this sort of judgment would be made exceedingly difficult. Lack of financial resources would be a specific reason for dispossession under Clause 18, and the Land Court would have to consider this in isolation. In a marginal case a young man, who might be short of stock or implements or capital, nevertheless could be eminently capable of getting round his immediate difficulties. But what banker is going to provide overdraft facilities to somebody who might be dispossessed under this Amendment? It is not because we think that there are no cases where an heir-at-law could be dispossessed properly on the ground of lack of financial resources that we are opposing the Amendment, but because it would be so restrictive that it would make it exceedingly difficult for a man of ability—perhaps in the case about which the noble Duke has spoken, of the man who through intestacy becomes tenant without inheriting all the resources available to his father—to be able through loan facilities to possess himself of the necessary finance.
In the Bill as it stands, we give reasonable protection to a landowner to dispossess a tenant who would not halve the financial resources and is unlikely to be able to lay his hands properly on them. 1019 The Government have no more desire than noble Lords opposite to see farms in the hands of people who cannot run them properly, and it is not part of our case to see that these people continue in occupancy of farms. Our case is that under the law as it stands there will be ample opportunity to dispossess the man who ought to be dispossessed without risking the dispossession of the man who ought to be given his chance. While I do not believe that I have persuaded the noble Duke and the noble Lord that they are completely wrong in their contention, I hope that I have persuaded them that their case will not be completely lost if they choose to rely on the law as it is.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, as usual the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has produced wonderful oratory, which I feel I cannot possibly match. But what we are asking is that Case Law should be made statutory law. This seems fairly simple. The noble Lord has told us that a man should not go into a farm with a financial burden. Why then, I wonder, is he resisting this Amendment?
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, the Reid case, where the heir-at-law did not have financial resources in the sense of this Amendment, but was able to satisfy the Land Court that he could lay his hands on finance through a bank overdraft, would not get through this Amendment.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, I think the noble Lord said that the tenant went in with a £7,000 financial burden round his neck. If we take into consideration the current bank rate, which was not the same in 1955, there would be a very severe financial burden round this tenant's neck. Furthermore, the position has been seriously altered by the Succession (Scotland) Act and in many cases properties are going to be broken up between the various members of the family, the widow and other members getting their share, and I foresee a great deal of difficulty arising. Therefore, I would ask your Lordships to support this Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, with permission I would speak to Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 together. These are drafting Amendments, the purpose of which is to bring the clause into line with the 1020 equivalent wording in other parts of the Bill. I beg to move.
Page 16, line 27, leave out from ("if") to ("that") and insert ("the notice contains a statement").—(Lord Hughes.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 17, line 1, leave out ("has specified") and insert ("specifies").—(Lord Hughes.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I have spoken to Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 already on Amendments Nos. 2 and 3. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 17, line 3, at end insert—
(c) if they are satisfied that the near relative is the occupier (either as owner or tenant) of agricultural land other than the holding to which the notice relates, or, where the holding forms only part of an agricultural unit, other than that unit, being agricultural land, which—
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 17, line 8, leave out ("subsection (2) (b)(i) of this section") and insert ("paragraphs (b)(i) and (c)(ii) of the last foregoing subsection").—(Lord Hughes.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, I wonder whether it is in order to ask if it would be possible for Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 to be taken together. I know that that would have the support of the noble Lords, Lord Bannerman of Kildonan and Lord Hughes, and of my noble friend Lord Dundee. These two 1021 Amendments hang together, and I think it would help many of us if they were discussed together.
§ 5 p.m.
§ LORD BANNERMAN OF KILDONAN
My Lords, my Amendment is to leave out subsection (7), because in my opinion there would be a great area of mutual trust between landlord and tenant brought into jeopardy or betrayal by this subsection. As I read it, all tacit relocation of farms and tenancies—and these are fairly well spread throughout Scotland— would be in jeopardy when the tenant and the landlord have not bothered to renew the lease, perhaps because of mutual trust, and have gone on from year to year. It would be most inequitable to exclude such tenancies from the benefits of security to be conferred by this Bill. I beg to move.
Page 17, line 33, leave out subsection (7).—(Lord Bannerman of Kildonan.)
THE EARL OF DUNDEE had given Notice of an Amendment to leave out subsection (7), and insert:
("(7) In the case of any lease of an agricultural holding entered into after the passing of this Act where a landlord and a tenant have agreed that the lease shall be terminable on the death of the tenant this section shall not apply to any notice to quit given after the date of death of the tenant and accordingly after the said date the landlord shall have power to serve an incontestable notice to quit.")
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I think your Lordships appear to agree that we should discuss Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 together, which is obviously convenient. I have always taken the view that the only important effect of Part III of this Bill will be to create an extreme scarcity of farms to let in Scotland. Your Lordships may well say: "Surely the simple and sensible remedy would be to move to leave out Part III of the Bill". But I wanted to try to see whether I could manage to reconcile the Government's desire to give legal protection under Part III to the heirs of a tenant farmer with my desire not to discourage the future reletting of the vacant farms. The Amendment which was carried in Committee was carefully drafted so that it did not withdraw protection from any existing tenant. It would not, I think, affect any present case in which the farmer is continuing on tacit relocation; 1022 it would apply only to new leases entered into ab initio since the passing of this Act.
§ LORD BANNERMAN OF KILDONAN
My Lords, those who are on tacit relocation have no lease. If you give them a new lease, does that mean that at the end of that lease you can terminate the tenancy and allow no successor to continue?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
No, I think not: because if they are on tacit relocation, under the present law they have security for life anyhow, and do not require a new lease. When this Amendment was carried in Committee, I said that I would substitute an alternative Amendment, which is now on the Marshalled List as Amendment No. 13, because I thought that this alternative Amendment, which again protects all existing tenants, as Part III wishes to do, and only puts future leases on a par with the present position in England, might be more likely to be favourably considered by the Government, although I understand now that the chances of this are not dazzlingly bright.
I had two reasons for pressing my Amendment to a Division in Committee. The first was that it really seemed to me that the Government did not appear to understand what they were doing in Part III of the Bill. Indeed, I do not think I can remember in all my 40 years' experience in both Houses of Parliament any piece of legislation which seemed to be so little understood by its authors. Two or three months ago I had to lead a deputation on this subject to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and it was quite plain that he did not appreciate the probable consequences of Part III of the Bill on the future reletting of vacant farms in Scotland. Of course, Part III was not discussed on Second Reading in another place, because it was not then in the Bill. The whole of Part III was introduced as an Amendment in Committee upstairs. It was only carried there by one vote, and again, with great respect to the other place, it did not seem to me that the Government spokesman had properly comprehended the subject.
The point which I submit we ought to try to grasp is this: that the effect of Part III of the Bill in giving protection to the heirs of tenants will be extremely 1023 small in comparison with its effect on the future reletting of vacant farms. Suppose that a landowner has a farm which is occupied by a tenant, who has a son, and he is told that in future under this Bill the tenant, his son and his descendants for all time will be given a statutory right to succeed to the tenancy. The owner will probably say: "When this farmer dies, I will in any case confirm his son in the tenancy, and I have little doubt that my son in due course will confirm his grandson in the tenancy. Therefore, this Bill will make no practical difference to the future tenancy of this farm". But suppose the owner has another farm, whose tenant dies without having any heir, or suppose that the farmer buys a farm of his own in some other part of the country and moves out, that farm will then become vacant; it will not have a tenant, and will not be occupied. The owner must then decide whether he is going to relet this vacant farm or not.
When the owner is told by his legal adviser: "You will not be allowed to relet this vacant farm except on the condition that the new tenant's son, grandson and descendants for all time to come will have a statutory right to succeed to the tenancy", then the owner will probably say: "I do not think I will relet this vacant farm. I will either sell the farm with vacant possession, in which case I shall at least receive its true econmic value, which might otherwise be denied me and my heirs for ever; or I will take the farm over and farm it myself; or I will make some new arrangement, possibly some kind of partnership, which will be altogether outside the scope of this legislation." Whichever of these courses the owner decides to adopt, the vacant farm will not be relet.
The number of vacant farms or the average number re-let every year in Scotland is not known. It seems that no one has ever taken the trouble to count them and there are no official statistics. But on Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, gave an estimate in which he said that to the best of his knowledge the average number would probably be somewhere between 35 and 60 farms which had fallen vacant and which were being re-let. The noble Lord added, I think very rightly, that of these 35 or 1024 more vacant farms very few, or perhaps none, had become vacant because the son or heir or tenant had been given an incontestable notice to quit. They had nearly all become vacant in the natural course of events.
It is these farms, these, let us say, 35, 40 or more farms which become naturally vacant year by year, which, as a result of this Bill, in my view will cease—or most of them will cease—to be offered to be re-let. They will not all cease to be offered. Some, I have no doubt, will still be re-let, and I should think that possibly a vacant farm might have a better chance of being re-let if it happened to belong to a very large landowner with an enormous number of farms, like the old woman who lived in the shoe and had so many children she did not know what to do. But I should expect that certainly a good deal more than half of this usual number of farms which has been re-let lately in Scotland, vacant farms, would cease to be offered to be re-let. That is in accordance with past experience. When the war-time emergency regulation, giving protection to all tenant farmers in England and Scotland, was made statutory in England by the 1947 Act and in Scotland by the 1948 Act, it was not generally realised at first that, owing to the difference between England and Scotland in the laws about succession, intestacy and so on, these Acts had the effect in England of giving the tenant security only for his life, while in Scotland they had under Scots Law the result of giving security to the tenant and to his descendants for an indefinite period. I did not happen to be in Parliament at that time, but I have been told the Scottish Law Officers did not notice this. However, when it came to be generally realised, there was a very heavy decline in the number of vacant farms which were offered to be re-let; and one of the reasons which prompted the Secretary of State, Mr. James Stuart, as he was then, now Lord Stuart of Findhorn, in 1957 to decide that something must be done about it in the next Session was that so few farms were being re-let. And this was done. The law was changed, as your Lordships know, in Scotland and in England in 1958, and when that was done everybody thought that an unintentional mistake had been permanently corrected.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, pointed out in Committee that the Conservative 1025 Party came into office in 1951, and he rightly said that they took seven years before they altered this, and he seemed to think that seven years was rather a long time. I think it is rather a short time. It is hardly more than one-third of the 19 years which used to be the customary period of a contractual lease in some parts of Scotland, and it is just exactly half the 14 years which used to be the contractual period in other parts of Scotland. But surely the important point is that the Scottish Ministers of that time were impelled to make a change in the law in 1958 because of the falling in the number of farms which were being re-let; and although, as I have mentioned, there are no official statistics on the subject, everybody who lives in the countryside may have observed that since 1958 the number of farms being re-let has increased. It has increased slowly, but it is more now than it was in the middle 1950s.
Now, after another ten years, the law is being reversed, and this time, as I shall try to show in a minute or two, I think the reversal will be permanent. I think we were right in asking—I think we should ask—the Government to take a long look at the future pattern of farm tenure in Scotland which will, maybe slowly but surely, result from Part III of the Bill. First, we shall have the hereditary tenant farmers whose numbers will decline slowly but continuously, because there will always be some who die without any heirs at all. There will always be some others who will move of their own accord to some other place, like Mr. Quintin Hogg or Sir Alec Douglas-Home; and in some cases there may be an heir to a farm tenancy who, like Mr. Wedgwood Benn, will refuse to succeed, and the Government will not allow my suggestion of easing the situation with a few "Life Peers", as it were. Their numbers will decline, but they will never become totally extinct. There will always be, I hope, some farming families who will have heirs and who will stay in the same place with the heirs who want to succeed. There are families in Scotland now who have tenanted the same farm for two centuries, and I hope there will be many more families who will last as long as that in the future. And so a graph showing the future decline of the tenant farmer population 1026 in Scotland would not be a straight line; it would be a downward curve, gradually flattening out as it gets nearer the bottom but never quite touching the bottom.
Next, there are the owner-occupiers whose numbers will increase rather more rapidly than they have been increasing lately because rather more farms will be offered for sale with vacant possession. Next, there are the multiple farmers who will also tend to increase because more farms will be taken over and farmed by owners. It is the fourth category—the men who are not heirs to a farm tenancy, who would like to start farming by making a bid for a vacant farm which has come on the market to be re-let—which will be, not entirely, but very largely eliminated as a result of Part III.
I am not suggesting that this would be a major agricultural disaster. The hereditary tenant farmers whose numbers will decline are as a rule very good farmers. The owner-occupiers also as a rule are very good farmers, and on many grounds it is desirable that their numbers should increase. As for the multiple farmers, they may sometimes achieve a higher level of productivity than single ones, and they may sometimes have better facilities for new experiments and trying out new methods. And I may be wrong in thinking, as I do, that it is also a good thing that we should have a small but appreciable number of new men coming into the farming industry wishing to make a bid for a vacant farm which is being offered to re-let. It is arguable that we could get on without them, and it may be that the Government think we could get on better without them. But it really is a mistake to beat the Scottish Nationalist drum on this question, which I have noticed a few people are sometimes anxious to do; for what are these men doing who cannot get a farm to rent because they are too scarce in Scotland? They are emigrating, some to England, where farms to let are less scarce than in Scotland because of the difference in the law; some are emigrating elsewhere, and although their numbers are not enormous, in terms of skill and ability they represent a loss to Scotland. They are part of that general problem of skill emigration which has given such a headache for so long to so many Scottish Ministers. And, make no mistake about it, that problem of skill emigration will, without any doubt, be aggravated by Part III of this Bill.
1027 My other reason for wishing to press this question with some urgency on the attention of the Government in the Committee stage was this. If we think it is detrimental that we should have very few new farmers coming into the industry—some noble Lords may not think so, and they may be right—then it follows that the detriment will be irreparable as soon as Part III of this Bill reaches the Statute Book. It would not repair the damage if some future Parliament were to repeal Part III of this Bill unless it were done with universal consent, because the lifetime of a Parliament is so much shorter than the duration of a farm tenancy. If a future Parliament were to repeal Part III, let us say in 1978, ten years after it was enacted, without universal consent, everybody would think it quite probable that it would be put back again in 1988, so there would still be no vacant farms offered for reletting. If anything can be done, these things must be done by general consent, which must at least include the agreement and consent of the two main Parties, otherwise there will be no confidence in the continuity of future policy and therefore our object—if you think it worth achieving in any case—will not be achieved.
I submit to your Lordships that if the Government do not feel able to modify Part III of the Bill in the sense in which I have been trying to persuade them to do, then we must accept the future pattern which will slowly but inevitably result within the next generation, and it will not all be adverse. The increase in the number of owner-occupiers will be a good thing which may partially balance the decline in the number of tenant farmers, but the thing which I regret about it is that there will be such a great scarcity of new farms to let, with the consequence of increased emigration.
I have done my best to find some Amendment which would be able to meet what the Government want, as well as saving this situation with regard to the letting of new farms, but unless the Government are able either to accept it or to propose some alternative of their own I think it would do more harm than good if I were to persist with this Amendment in an atmosphere of controversy and disagreement. I think that would defeat our own object and make matters worse. I have done all I can to warn the Govern- 1028 ment about the consequences of their policy. The Government have had more than a month since the Committee stage in which to reflect on this matter, and if they do not feel able to modify the terms of Part III in the sense in which I hoped they would, then I would invite your Lordships to allow my Amendment to be deleted.
§ 5.24 p.m.
My Lords, there are just two points which I should like to be told about. The first is that when one is sitting on tacit relocation one has a lease. Tacit relocation really means that you sit under your existing lease, the terms of which you cannot alter and you must fulfil, and you are allowed to sit there on a year-to-year basis. If either the tenant or the landlord demands a new lease, I believe that lease must be supplied. Therefore, that means that if anybody is under tacit relocation, or if any lease goes on long enough to come under tacit relocation, then a new lease under this term could be demanded.
§ LORD BANNERMAN OF KILDONAN
My Lords, according to this subsection, if a new lease were entered into it would be after the passing of this Act, which would allow the landlord to have final power to serve an incontestable notice to quit. That is what is said here.
My Lords, that is the point I was making. The noble Lord said it in a louder voice than I did, but it is the same point. The only other thing I wish to mention about this provision is that the wording is rather strange. I have never heard of a lease being granted until somebody dies; it is always for a period of years. It may mean that under normal leases one has security of tenure, but I am not quite sure whether that is what it says.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has gone into almost everything that he said on the previous Amendment on Committee stage. With that I do not quarrel at all, because I have no doubt about the sincerity of the motives which the noble Earl has in seeking to amend Part III. However, I cannot accept as correct some of the arguments which he has put forward, and I wish briefly to deal with them. In the 1029 first place, he has accused the Government of not understanding what they are doing in this matter. Towards the end of his remarks he referred to the fact that it is now a month since the Committee stage, and he said the Government have had a further month in which to reflect on it, but I have already pointed out that as far as I am concerned I have been living with this problem since 1964, when it was first brought to the Government. It is not a case of just considering what has been said in your Lordships' House over recent weeks but considering all that has been said on the subject during recent years. I do not criticise the previous Government for having waited nine years to amend the 1948 Act. In fact, what I said was that the previous Government and the present Government were on a par in not rushing in to amend the legislation. We have not waited quite so long, but we certainly have waited more than three years before acting on something.
Also, the noble Earl was not correct when he said that in 1958 everybody agreed that the situation had to be altered, if by that he implied that there was general agreement that it should be altered in the way it was done. There was a considerable measure of agreement that the 1948 Act had swung too far in favour of the tenants.
§ LORD HUGHES
Yes, my Lords, it is the 1949 Act. There was a considerable measure of agreement that it had swung too far in favour of the tenant, but the amendments which we made in 1958 met with very strong opposition from farming circles in Scotland and those circles were still pressing in 1964 for an amendment of the 1958 legislation. Here we are amending the 1958 legislation in 1968. I cannot accept the argument of diminution of tenancies which the noble Earl put forward. He tried to paint a picture of what the future was going to be. He said that over a period of years the number of what he called the hereditary tenants would disappear.
§ LORD HUGHES
The curve would flatten out at a fairly low level, and if his Amendment were brought in there 1030 would be a maintenance probably of the number of farms to let. Some of these would be remaining with heirs of existing tenants, and some would be going to new tenants. If an owner wishes to sell the land, the noble Earl's Amendment is not in fact going to increase the number of tenancies: the land will still be sold. But the Government's position on this is not going necessarily to increase the number of farms sold. Unless it is otherwise in the owner's interest to sell, a farm will not be sold. There is no simple position which applies all along the line, whether the land is sold or not sold.
After all, a great deal depends on the total resources of the landowner. It may well be that in many cases there are circumstances where re-letting will be very much more advantageous than selling, and losing in relation to that particular asset the benefit of the 45 per cent. reduction in estate duty which is applicable to land. There has to be a very considerable increase in the asset value on sale, as compared to the asset value of continued tenancy, in some cases, to make it worth while to sell. So we simplify the position if we say on tie Government's side that they would all be lettings and on the other side that there is going to be a minimum of lettings. The figure obviously lies somewhere in between.
If I were to follow the noble Earl to a certain extent on the theme of not understanding, I think I could more properly lay that charge at his own door. After all, the Amendment to take out subsection (7), which is in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, and myself (and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, is also seeking to take it out, but he seeks to replace it by other wording) was one which commanded remarkably little support from Scottish noble Lords on the opposite Benches during the Committee stage, because they appreciated, as the noble Earl apparently did not, the adverse effect that letting a farm for a fixed number of years could have. With no security of tenure beyond that period, they foresaw the possibility that during the last years of a fixed lease the tenant might do little or nothing to maintain the agricultural value of the land.
The noble Earl's Amendment has, from my point of view, other major 1031 defects. If the Amendment is accepted, the tenant knows that he has security, and his family have security, only during his lifetime. He farms in the knowledge that if a tractor overturns on him in a field, and he is killed, there is no guarantee of any security for his family. He knows that if he goes to market in his car, and is killed in a motoring accident, not necessarily from any fault of his own, his family have no security. It is not the sort of thing that we are seeking to do. We have had security of tenure in Scotland, of one sort or another, for practically a quarter of a century.
In a way the noble Earl's new subsection would bring insecurity in in the worst possible circumstances. Apart altogether from the accident, there is the man who has coronary thrombosis, the man struck down by an illness, which may not kill him and which may make it possible for the family to carry on farming; but all the time they have the knowledge that when that illness brings his life to an end the tenancy is brought to an end as well. The noble Earl is not a hard man. I know that he is not thinking that that is the sort of case in which the tenant would be dispossessed, but it is in such circumstances as these that the lease could automatically come to an end. If the law had remained as it was in 1949, and the Government in 1958 had sought to amend the law, not on the basis that they did but on the basis they are now suggesting, there would have been an even greater clamour from the Farmers' Union to have such a provision taken out of the law.
We in the Government are at one with noble Lords opposite in seeking to combine the best aspects of security of tenure with the best aspects of farming. We think this is as good a way as any to continue tenant farming in Scotland as part—not the whole but part—of our structure of agriculture. We think it is as likely as any alternative, or more likely, to keep farmers in Scotland; and for these reasons I was very glad to hear the noble Earl's final remarks: that if he failed to persuade the Government to amend Part III on this subject of tenure along the lines he indicated he would not press his Amendment.
1032 Only time will tell which of us is most right and which of us is most wrong. I am quite certain that time will show that not all the arguments being advanced from the Government side in support of this proposal will have been proved to be 100 per cent. justified, but I am also quite certain that not all the fears expressed on the Benches opposite against the proposals will prove to have been justified either. It is on that note, and in this very sincere belief, in all the consideration which the Secretary of State, my honourable friend the Under-Secretary responsible for this, and I myself, have given to this over the last three years, that I ask your Lordships not to accept Amendment No. 13 but that your Lordships should agree to Amendment No. 12.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 19 [Transitional provisions for provisions of Part III]:
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 are consequential on Amendments already agreed by your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 18, line 25, at end insert—
("(c) the matter mentioned in section 18(2)(c) of this Act;").—(Lord Hughes.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 18, line 45, at end insert—
(c) the matter mentioned in paragraph (c),").—(Lord Hughes.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE DUKE OF ATHOLL moved, after Clause 19, to insert the following new clause:
§ Landlord's power in certain cases to require tenant to purchase holding
§ ". In any case in which, in pursuance of the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act, a landlord is precluded from giving an incontestable notice to quit to a tenant who has acquired right to the lease of an agricultural holding, the landlord may give notice to the tenant requiring him to purchase the holding and in any such case the tenant shall purchase the holding at such price as may be agreed between the parties or, in the case of dispute, as may be fixed by the Scottish Land 1033 Court who shall fix the said price on the basis of what price the holding would realise if offered for sale in the open market with vacant possession.".
§ The noble Duke said: My Lords, I have put down this Amendment in exactly the same terms as that which we discussed at some length on the Committee stage of the Bill, and which I agreed to withdraw when the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said that he would undertake to consult his right honourable friend as to whether there are any circumstances in which a purchase might be considered as alternative to continuation of tenancy to a near relative. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has been kind enough to send me some letters on this subject, which show that he has indeed done as he promised and consulted his right honourable friend the Secretary of State. Unfortunately, he and his right honourable friend do not seem to have been able to arrive at any form of words or to bring forward any ideas which might improve the particular aspect of the Bill that I am trying to achieve by tabling this Amendment; namely, that a landlord is suffering a severe disadvantage, once this Bill becomes law, from the fact that when he comes to sell a tenanted farm it is bound to sell for considerably less than its value would be if the landlord had vacant possession.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, pointed this out on Second Reading, in a way on which I certainly could not improve and which, for many years yet, even if I improved as a speaker, I should not be able to equal. But this raises real problems. I am sure that this situation is going to make people less keen on letting farms. This is but one reason (there are many others, which we have already discussed) why landlords having vacant possession will be less keen on letting farms to tenants. It is also going to give the sitting tenant an immediate capital profit. He will be able to buy the farm at a price considerably below its open market value and, if he cares to go, he will be able to make a fairly large profit. No one knows quite how much it will be, because at the moment this Bill is not law; so we have no experience of the amount by which the price of the tenanted farm is likely to depreciate. But undoubtedly it will have quite a severe 1034 effect. I must admit that I argued this Amendment at some length on Committee, and I really have nothing further to add to what I said then. With those few words I beg to move.
After Clause 19 insert the said new clause.—(The Duke of Atholl.)
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend in this Amendment. We must realise that this is really confiscatory legislation. The noble Lord opposite laughs; but that is the truth. By giving tenants possession in perpetuity you are, in fact, taking away half the value of the landlord's land, with no compensation at all and with great unfairness and injustice, as my noble friend behind me has said. It will also make it even harder for young men to come into farming. If a farm does fall vacant, a landlord, if he has any commercial sense at all, will never relet it under this Bill, because if he does so he has only half the value of his land. The only objection I can see to this Amendment is that perhaps the tenant might not have, or might not be able to raise, all the capital to purchase the farm. But I cannot see why the Government cannot enter into a scheme to help the tenant to purchase his farm. They could perhaps do it through the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation on extremely easy terms.
When this question was broached on the Committee stage I quoted the case of the Irish Land Act. I agree that it is a bad comparison, but broadly speaking, the same principle applies. I am sure that the Government do not want to pass really unfair legislation. This legislation is unfair. Take death duties. If a landlord has a farm which falls vacant he knows that if he lets that farm his heir cannot at his death sell the farm; and if he does sell the farm with a sitting tenant he will get only half the value for the purpose of relief from estate duty. This is really grossly unfair. I hope that the Government can accept this Amendment, because if this Bill goes on the Statute Book as it stands it will be a real blot against the Government. The Government cannot argue that this is not unfair, confiscatory legislation. 1035 With those words, I strongly support the Amendment.
My Lords, I should not have intervened here had I not noticed that my noble friend Lord Bannerman of Kildonan has gone back to Scotland. I have the feeling that the noble Lord opposite is not going to accept this Amendment because he feels that the open market price will be too high a price to pay. My noble friend Lord Bannerman suggested in terms that the open market price was the right price in regard to this matter, but as he is not here to tell us, I cannot say whether or not he meant that. I would suggest that the noble Duke might agree that there should be some sort of arbitration in regard to what the figure should be—perhaps something slightly less than the open market price.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, may say that the difficulty about the tenant's being compelled to buy his farm is that he will not be able to raise the money. In fact, it is much easier for a tenant to raise the money on this basis to buy the farm than it is to raise money to farm the farm, because if you are buying something at less than vacant possession price you will be able to borrow from the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation as much as you are paying, because you are sitting at a profit if you wish to cash in on it. Would the noble Duke be prepared, in the event of his Amendment not being acceptable to the Government, to think up another one in which he would want less than the open market price to be paid?
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for that suggestion. I do not know why the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, has chosen this point to disappear. Perhaps he will regret what he said on the previous occasion. On the other hand, knowing the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, I am pretty certain that once he has said a thing he does not have any occasion to regret it. But the point which the noble Lord, Lord Henley, has put forward was in fact stated by the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, when he was speaking about supporting this Amendment on the previous stage. When he realised 1036 that what he was being asked to support was a take-over, the tenant being required to purchase as if the price had been fixed with vacant possession, the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, hastily withdrew, and he said that he would be prepared to support it only in different circumstances. I do not want to quote exactly what he said, but it was my impression that it should be sold as a tenanted farm. However, I am not quite certain of that, so that all I will say is that he was prepared to support it in other circumstances than with vacant possession.
As the noble Duke has said, it is perfectly true that on the last stage I said that if he withdrew his Amendment and put it down again at this stage I would consider the matter and would in the interval consult my right honourable friend. This was because I thought that points had been made which must be considered. We are trying to hold the balance between the two sides. It is not right to lean too far in the one direction, any more than it is right to lean too far in the other direction. Therefore, there was a case to be looked at.
The Amendment is not explicit on the point that if a successor who was asked to purchase a farm would not, or could not, do so the landlord would be entitled to give him an incontestable notice to quit. I am sure that it was the noble Duke's intention that if the heir does not, or will not, purchase in those circumstances he should be given an incontestable notice to quit, but the Amendment does not make this explicit. It is at least possible that one would find oneself in the position that, if such a request was given and was ignored, nothing would happen other than that the tenant would carry on. I go further than that because that is not what the noble Duke intends. In those circumstances he wants a notice to quit to be given. We can set aside those cases where a successor may be perfectly willing to purchase. In such a case there is, of course, nothing to prevent him coming to an agreement on this. Therefore, we have to assume that the case with which we are dealing is one where the successor does not wish to purchase the holding before the provision proposed by the noble Duke would have any effect.
1037 If the landlord is given a right to insist on compulsory sale at the vacant possession value, then it seems likely that the power might be exercised in at least as many, if not in more, cases than the old power to dispossess under Section 6(3) of the 1958 Act. The tenant might have just sufficient capital to run and manage the farm but not enough to purchase as well. This is a point on which the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, made a contribution. He said that in those circumstances the tenant would be acquiring the farm at a good deal less than its open market value and he would have no difficulty in raising money. I pointed out that the tenant was being asked to acquire it at full market value, and the noble Lord admitted that in the circumstances the successor might not be able to raise the money. He therefore withdrew his support for the proposal as it then stood.
We must face up to the fact that the net effect of the clause would be to take away a successor's security, just as completely as did the existing law which the Government are seeking to amend. A tenant and his successor would not know whether, on the tenant's death, the successor was likely to be faced with a request to purchase the holding or get out. Whether, or in what proportion of cases, it might be reasonable for him to raise the money does not matter all that much. We are dealing in this clause generally with a small number of cases where hardship may arise. Acceptance of the Amendment seems to the Government to be likely to create as great hardship as that which we have been trying to remove.
In our consideration we have not ignored all the points made by noble Lords during our last consideration, when it was argued that a landlord should have a right to get the market value for his farm. But I hope that in considering this matter noble Lords will bear in mind all the provisions which we have made in the clause for the landlord repossessing his farm. The Amendment to Section 6(3) applies only where there is a near relative to succeed—and one who wants the farm. I do not think that the hardship to the landlord is likely to be as great as the noble Duke has argued. Therefore, I hope that the noble Duke will see that there are grave objec- 1038 tions to his Amendment and will not press it.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, if it is possible, will the noble Lord consider the suggestion that the Government should make money readily available to tenants to purchase their farms on easy terms?
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I thought that it was the view of the noble Viscount, in an argument which I heard him make not so long ago, that the Government were already making too much money available to too many people.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, based his objections to the Amendment on two grounds. One was that the tenant might not be able to raise the money; and the other was that it would introduce an element of uncertainty, an uncertainty which in Part III of the Bill they sought to take away from tenants who succeeded to agricultural leases. The noble Lord's first point holds no water at all I am convinced that it is far easier to raise money to purchase land, even at an open market valuation by the Land Court, which would probably tend to favour the tenant by putting it on the low side rather than on the high side, particularly at a time when the price of agricultural land is continually rising. I am sure that the Land Court would not entirely have allowed for the rate of inflation in the price of land over the last five or ten years. Therefore, the tenant would easily be able to borrow the money on a mortgage with the land which he purchased with it as security. I am sure that if he ever wanted to sell, he could do so at a profit and easily pay off the mortgage. Therefore, I do not think the money argument holds any water at all.
The noble Lord said that it would introduce some element of uncertainty, and might lead to as many cases of tenants being required to purchase holdings as under the 1958 Act, with the tenant being given incontestable notice to quit. I do not believe this to be the case, since very few landlords want to break up their estates, particularly if the farm concerned happens to be in the middle of an estate. It is highly unlikely that any landlord 1039 would want to take advantage of the subsection since it would split up his estate and would take away some of the advantages of owning an estate—for instance, the shooting rights. This would not, I feel, be used very frequently, but it would enable a landlord on occasions to be able to realise capital which he might need urgently; it would also enable him to know that when he re-let a farm at some time in the future he would be able to get almost its true market value.
During the Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, kept on talking about social justice. It seems to me that this proposed subsection would be a small piece of social justice which the Government ought to be able to include in the Bill. Part III of the Bill gives the tenant certain advantages which up to now he had no reason to expect when he entered into his lease—unless, of course, he entered into the lease between 1949 and 1958. Therefore, in the interests of social justice the landlord should have some hope at some moment of time of being able to realise the true value of the farm if he wishes to do so.
The noble Lord also said that they had restricted it to the near relative. This just increases the gamble. All it means is that if your tenant has a near relative who is interested in farming, you have
§ no hope of getting the farm back; if he has not a near relative, or has relatives who are not interested in farming, you probably have every chance. This seems to me to make a gamble of the whole thing. Under the 1949 Act it was not a gamble; one knew that, from the landlord's point of view, it was a dead loss. So I suppose that this is an improvement in that respect. But it still does not seem to me to be an improvement which ranks as a shining example of social justice. I do not feel that I can withdraw this Amendment. I feel very strongly that to accept it would be a move in the right direction, and that it would make this Part of this Bill a little more fair than it is at the moment.
§ In reply to the point of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, about open market value, I agree that possibly a little below the market value would be the answer, but as I am sure he will appreciate, that is extremely difficult to define. But if he could bring forward any suggestions at the next stage of the Bill, I should be only too delighted to consider them.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ On Question, whether the said Amendment (No. 16) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 52; Not-Contents, 41.1041
|Ailwyn, L.||Craigmyle, L.||Kinnoull, E.|
|Airedale, L.||Denham, L.||Macpherson of Drumochter, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Drumalbyn, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V. [Teller.]|
|Aldington, L.||Dundee, E.|
|Arbuthnott, V.||Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Mills, V.|
|Atholl, D. [Teller.]||Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Audley, Bs.||Falkland, V.||Newton, L.|
|Bannerman of Kildonan, L.||Ferrers, E.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Fortescue, E.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Gisborough, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Gridley, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Burton, L.||Hacking, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Byers, L.||Hawke, L.||Somers, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Henley, L.||Stonehaven, V.|
|Carrington, L.||Hives, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Colyton, L.||Iddesleigh, E.||Thurlow, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Inglewood, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Jellicoe, E.|
|Beswick, L.||Gaitskell, Bs.||McLeavy, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Maelor, L.|
|Bowles, L.||Granville of Eye, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Granville-West, L.||Moyle, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Heycock, L.||Peddie, L.|
|Burden, L.||Hilton of Upton, L.||Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]|
|Champion, L.||Hughes, L.||Plummer, Bs.|
|Chorley, L.||Kennet, L.||Popplewell, L.|
|Evans of Hungershall, L.||Latham, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.|
|Fiske, L.||Lindgren, L.||Rowley, L.|
|Sainsbury, L.||Shepherd, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|St. Davids, V.||Silkin, L.||Tayside, L.|
|Serota, Bs. [Teller.]||Sorensen, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Shackleton, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 6.10 p.m.
LORD BESWICK moved, in subsection (1)(a), to leave out "and maintain in the prescribed form" and to insert:
in the prescribed form and within the prescribed period or such longer period as the Minister may allow in any particular case,".
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope it will be for the convenience of the House if we take Amendments Nos. 17, 18 and 19 together. The three Amendments make provision for additional matters which the Minister may need to prescribe in regulations for the register and map of drainage hereditaments, which each drainage board will be required to prepare and maintain for public inspection. The register will show the valuation of hereditaments for drainage rating purposes, and in conjunction with the map will provide the only means by which drainage ratepayers can ascertain whether they are fairly assessed in comparison with their neighbours. The first of the proposed Amendments will enable the Minister to prescribe a period within which the preparation of the register and map must be completed. Obviously, any delay in making these documents available for inspection could work to the disadvantage of the ratepayers who may wish to exercise their rights. There needs to be flexibility in applying time limits for the preparation of these documents, and the proposed Amendment will make this possible.
§ The other Amendments will make it possible for the Minister to prescribe certain matters which could be of equal importance in ensuring that the purpose of the register and map will be fully achieved. For instance, he will be able to prescribe the way in which any necessary alterations should be made and the place where the register and map should be kept for inspection by the public. The three Amendments together will make it easier for the ratepayers to make certain that they are being assessed correctly, and I therefore hope that your Lordships will approve them. I beg to move Amendment No. 17.1042
Page 31, line 7, leave out ("and maintain in the prescribed form") and insert ("in the prescribed form and within the prescribed period or such longer period as the Minister may allow in any particular case,").—(Lord Beswick.)
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for putting down these three Amendments and for telling us their purpose? They meet some points which were raised by the Association of River Authorities and the Association of Drainage Authorities, and the representations have been adequately met. I imagine that regulations will be made in this field, and I wonder whether the noble Lord would be kind enough to confirm that when those regulations are made in this highly technical field there will be the usual consultations with the A.R.A. and the A.D.A.
§ Amendment moved—
Page, 31, line 11, at end insert—
("() to maintain the register and map prepared by them in pursuance of paragraph (a) above and to alter the register or map in such circumstances and in such manner and within such periods as may be prescribed;").—(Lord Beswick.)
Page 31, line 14, leave out ("by") and insert ("at prescribed places by members of").—(Lord Beswick.)
§ Clause 40 [Grants for break crops]:
§ EARL FERRERS moved to leave out Clause 40. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I put this Amendment down for one simple reason, and that is because I believe the inclusion of this clause in the Bill is wrong. Here we have the Government writing into the Bill permission to pay a grant on the growing of field 1043 beans. I am one of those who feel that the Government—and, indeed, all Governments—interfere far too much in our daily lives, and I believe also that they interfere far too much in the running of agriculture. I look forward to the day when they interfere a little less and when agriculture can move away from the system of direct Government financial support to a position where, whilst protected, it can stand more on its own feet in the open market.
§ But what is the purpose of a £5-an-acre grant on field beans? Oddly enough, it is not to encourage people to grow beans because they are wanted: it is to discourage people from growing cereal crops continuously. It says so in subsection (5)—that that is the sole purpose of the grant. As my noble friend Lord Inglewood said on Second Reading, if continued cereal growing is bad husbandry—and I am not saying that it is—and such bad husbandry that the Government are worried by it, it seems odd to pay farmers a grant for having practised bad husbandry and for now receiving the benefits of their malpractice. I am not one of those who consider that any form of Government support to agriculture is of itself to be commended and welcomed. If this grant has the effect desired, it is going to result in more beans being grown, more beans will come on to the market and the price of beans will drop—and it will probably drop by more than £5 an acre. Therefore, the result will be that the farmer will be no better off, but the Government will be considerably worse off.
§ Then, my Lords, if continuous cereal growing is really such a hazard to agriculture as to make the Minister and his advisers consider that break crops must be encouraged by financial reward, I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, why it is that the grant is restricted to field beans. Why not include rape, or peas? What is so desirable and unique about beans? It may be, of course, the excellent condition that they leave for the following crop, which everyone knows is indeed substantial. But if that is so, and if beans are so beneficial, why restrict the grant to field beans? Why not include dwarf beans, broad beans and runner beans, all grown on a commercial scale? The answer, of course, 1044 is that these crops, like peas, which is another very useful leguminous break crop, are almost always grown on contract, and I suspect that the Government consider that the decision whether or not to grow these crops should fall or stand on the value of the contract. If that is so, I think that the Government are quite right in so thinking. But here they are giving a direct incentive to farmers to grow a crop which is not particularly in demand and which is not in such demand that the price on the open market encourages it to be grown for its own merits.
§ But, my Lords, it does not stop there. You do not just plant a field of beans and collect £5 an acre. Forms have to be filled in, and these have then to be shunted to and fro within the Ministry. Records have to be kept, fields have to be inspected and the heavy hand of the Civil Service once more descends upon the field of beans. I make no apology for stressing this, for I believe it to be a vital point. I believe there is now a ratio of something like one civil servant to every 13 farmers; and this I believe to be appallingly high. They are all employed in telling farmers what to do and what not to do; in finding out what they have done and what they have not done; and in showering the poor individuals with forms and asking fatuous questions—
§ LORD SAINSBURY
My Lords, is the noble Earl suggesting that the Agricultural Advisory Service, for example, be abolished?
My Lords, I cannot think how the noble Lord could have read that into what I have said. I said nothing about the Advisory Service, which I think is excellent. I said that I think that the forms are now too numerous and the questions are far too fatuous. I will give an example to the noble Lord. When I filled in the forms for a subsidy a short while ago I was asked by an officer who came to see me whether I would kindly alter the form because the address was wrong. I looked at the form and pointed out that the address was that of my farm. The officer replied that it was not the address of my house. I said that that made little difference because letters addressed to my farm reached me at the house. The officer replied that the farm was not my registered address. So I deleted a line 1045 and added a word and returned the form to the officer, who thanked me. I said to the officer that surely this was something he could have done in the office. He said, "We are not allowed to change a form. As a matter of fact, I have been out to see you three times. And my divisional office is 12 miles away".
I do not blame the officer concerned at all; I blame the system. And this is not an isolated case. On another occasion I had a long letter from the Ministry complaining that the acreage of barley that I had claimed as being harvested did not agree with the acreage that I had claimed as having been sown. When one fills up these forms it is necessary to enter the acreage of each field to three places of decimals. One adds these up and totals them at the bottom. My mistake was that in each case I had tried to be accurate. In fact, I made the great mistake of not realising that the two forms should bear the same total acreage, whether that figure were right or wrong. In this particular case the difference was of the disconcerting size of 1.232 acres. One is asked what has happened to that acreage.
I give those examples simply because I believe the system that we are adopting at this moment is such as to encourage a proliferation of forms and a proliferation of questions which I believe, in the long run, is not in the interests of agriculture. I want to see a simpler system, a less fastidious system, possibly a slightly less accurate system; but a cheaper, a more sensible, a simpler and less wasteful system. Our aim, I believe, should be to see our system of agricultural support more simplified; but here we have the Government deliberately making it more complicated. Here we have the Government deliberately encouraging a proliferation of forms, a proliferation of grants. They are encouraging a crop to be grown for which there is no particular demand and they are doing it for a thoroughly negative reason—not because the crop is wanted but because another crop is not wanted. I know that the noble Lord, Lork Beswick, wishes to do his best for agriculture. I am sure that he will have listened to my arguments and that on consideration he will think they are worth while. I look forward to hearing him say that he will accept my Amendment. I beg to move.
Leave out Clause 40.—(Earl Ferrers.)
My Lords, may I make one suggestion to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick? Instead of specifying beans as a break crop the provision might be extended to grass; because grass does not fluctuate in the amount or stock you carry on it or the amount of hay you make with it. It is, in my opinion, just as good as beans for putting back fertility in the land.
My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend Lord Ferrers in his submission that this clause should be omitted, because what it proposes is really silly; it brings the policy of agricultural support and production grants into ridicule. Although at the moment it refers to beans, I think the provisions of the Bill are not limited to beans. There is power in the final subsection to include other crops in future which, in the opinion of the Minister, are justified in being treated in this way. But I think I can see how it arose. There are certain conventions in this world of agricultural support. There is often some difficulty in exactly balancing the estimated value of the guarantees as against the statutory obligation to maintain them at a certain level from year to year, subject only to reductions of a small percentage which are laid down. If it happens that there are small differences to make up, one can see the National Agricultural Advisory Service—with respect to the noble Lord opposite—jumping in and saying, "Ah, Minister, is this not an opportunity to do something for the maintenance of fertility?"—and something like this provision gets rushed in at the end.
As I mentioned on the Second Reading, however, it really seems not only illogical but wrong that the farmers should be subsidised for growing a crop which, in fact, is supposed to repair a certain damage which they have done. That will be so in many cases. Furthermore, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, knows, over the years it has been considered, and has never been contested, that the greater benefit from the agricultural support system has gone to the farmers in the arable counties who have been in a position to grow cash crops as against those whose farming is based on animal husbandry. If it were the other way 1047 round, if an attempt were being made to right that balance, I could understand the Ministry saying that the arguments in favour of it were not as strong as some but none the less it was an attempt to keep a fair balance as between the farmers of the West of England and those of the East. But this is exactly the opposite. The arable counties are to get another advantage. This is an argument that my noble friend Lord Ferrers did not use; but he comes from East Anglia, and that would explain it. He will agree, however, I am sure, that, by and large, over the years the greater benefit has accrued to the arable farmers. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will see that in its form this clause is ridiculous and that he will agree to withdraw it.
My Lords, bearing in mind that beans will not grow in Scotland, or hardly at all, is this not clearly a case of racial discrimination?
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I hesitated before I got to my feet. I was looking for a little support. I am sorry it is not forthcoming. The provision in this clause has been asked for by other noble Lords opposite. In fact, I think I am right in saying that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, on the Committee stage not only warmly welcomed it but asked about the possibility of extending it. It is not good enough for the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, to say that this is ridiculous when his noble friend supported it. He really should be more careful in his choice of words.
§ LORD BESWICK
I see the point put by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, who obviously has a very healthy objection to filling in forms. I share this objection; and on that account alone I should be prepared to accept his Amendment, but I am afraid that other considerations are involved. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said that the necessity for a break crop arises from bad husbandry. That is not the case. What has happened, as the noble Lord himself will realise, is that with the policy of the Government to encourage import-saving crops there has been an extension of cereal growing. This extension has meant that in some 1048 cases the necessity for a break crop arises, whereas before it did not arise. I think everyone agrees that the protein content of the bean makes it an absolutely admirable break crop. There are two advantages. First, the land is improved; secondly, the field bean so grown again is very useful as an import saver added to the animal feedingstuffs compound. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said that no one wanted this crop and that there would be difficulty in disposing of it. That is quite wrong.
§ LORD BESWICK
I am sorry. I misunderstood. The fact is that in the first place there was a little prejudice against this crop for use in animal feedingstuffs. That prejudice has now gone. I understand that the compounders welcome this additional source of protein for animal feeding. The figures of the increase are very considerable: from 90,000 acres in 1966 to 140,000 acres in 1967. The provision here is that the grant shall be for a three-year period, after which we shall have a look at it and then, if necessary, action can be taken.
The suggestion was made that there was an element of "racial discrimination" here. I think that what the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, had in mind was the possibility of growing sugar beet or some other break crop. On Report stage I gave an undertaking that the possibility of extending this provision would be considered. Having, I hope, satisfied the noble Lords on that point, and having indicated, what I hope will be accepted, that field beans are required; and having given the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, the opportunity of making a real attack upon form-filling and thus having got himself into a better frame of mind, I hope that he will now be able to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, sits down, may I ask him a question, for my own enlightenment? The object of growing a bean crop is to obtain a greater yield of protein per acre. May I ask whether there would be a greater yield from a bean crop than from a grass crop, in the form of either hay or silage?
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot answer the noble Lord off the cuff. I know that he would wish for an accurate and scientific answer, which I will get for him. What can be said with certainty is that the productivity of a given area of land over a period of time, say ten years, planted with cereals and with a break crop, would be greater as a result of this than it would otherwise have been.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, does not mean that grass is not a good break crop?
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I am not venturing to enter into that aspect. All I am saying is that at the end of a decade I should expect that the output from a given area of land would be higher as a result of this piece of husbandry.
§ LORD GISBOROUGH
My Lords, is the noble Lord sure that is true?—because I do not think the result of tests bears this out.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for his reply. I had a sneaking suspicion that he was not going to accept this Amendment, and for one half-second I thought my ears were deceiving me when he said that he agreed with it. But of course the noble Lord was kind enough to say only that he was agreeing with one part. I hope that he will not think that I put down this Amendment merely as a vehicle by which to rid myself of upsets over form-filling. That was not the object of the exercise. I think that this is a bad and an unnecessary grant, and I should prefer to see it not used.
I beg the noble Lord to do one thing; that is, in future, when problems of agriculture are discussed, to do all that he can to find ways of simplifying the machinery, which at present is getting hopelessly complicated. This clause only makes the problem more complicated. The noble Lord was kind enough to say that he shares with me a dislike of form-tilling. So does everyone; but nobody does anything about it. It is up to the Government to try to do something to make things easier, as opposed to doing something, as is done by this clause, that merely makes the system under which we operate even more complicated and I 1050 think, in the long run, less satisfactory. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his few words of kindness. I must say that I was not in the least impressed by the arguments which he put forward, but I do not propose to press this Amendment to a Division, and I ask leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 41 [Grants towards cost of water supply to agricultural buildings]:
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I was hoping that this Amendment would have the particular support of the noble Lord, Lord Balerno. The intention is to remove words which are superfluous and might cause some confusion. I think that the wording will be improved by this Amendment, and I hope that the House will be able to accept it. I beg to move.
Page 36, line 21, leave out ("situated on or").—(Lord Beswick.)
§ On Question, Amendment age to.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK moved, after Clause 41, to insert the following new clause:
§ Compensation in connection with compulsory acquisition etc. of agricultural holdings
§ ".—(1) Subject to the following provisions of this section, where in pursuance of any enactment providing for the acquisition or taking of possession of land compulsorily an acquiring authority acquire the interest in an agricultural holding or any part of it of the tenant of the holding or take possession of such a holding or any part of it, the compensation payable by the authority to the tenant in connection with the acquisition or taking of possession shall be assessed without regard to the tenant's prospects, if any, of remaining in possession of the holding after the relevant date.
§ (2) In subsection (1) of this section 'the relevant date' means the earliest date on which, apart from the acquisition or taking of possession, the landlord could obtain possession of the holding in pursuance of such a notice to quit as is mentioned in paragraph (c) below if—
- (a) the tenant exercised any tenant's option to extend or renew the tenancy in any case where, apart from this section, he would benefit from doing so; and
- (b) any such provision in the contract of tenancy or lease as is mentioned in subsection (1) of section 15 of this Act were treated as provided by paragraphs (a) and (b) of that subsection except where the tenant would benefit from disregarding this paragraph; and
- (c) the landlord served a valid notice to quit on the tenant in respect of the holding on the date of service of notice to treat in respect of the acquisition or the date of the taking of possession, as the case may be, or as soon thereafter as he became entitled to serve such a notice to quit; and
- (d) the provisions of section 24 of the principal Act or section 25 of the principal Scottish Act (which restrict the operation of notices to quit) did not apply to the said notice to quit;
§ (3) Subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to such an acquisition or taking of possession as is there mentioned—
- (a) in the case of such an acquisition, unless the date on which notice to treat in respect of the interest to be acquired is served or treated as served on the tenant by the acquiring authority is after the date of the passing of this Act;
- (b) where in the case of such a taking of possession prior notice of the taking of possession is by virtue of any enactment required to be served on the tenant by the acquiring authority, unless the date on which the notice is so served is after the date of the passing of this Act.
§ (4) Section 17 of this Act shall have effect as if any reference to Part II of this Act, other than the reference in subsection (4), included a reference to the foregoing provisions of this section.
§ (5) Nothing in this section shall be construed as prejudicing the provisions of any other enactment under which, apart from this section, compensation in respect of any such compulsory acquisition or taking of possession as is mentioned in subsection (1) of this section falls to be assessed without regard to the prospects there mentioned."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I fear that this clause is somewhat more lengthy than the one that we have just accepted. It is a formidable looking clause, but is not quite so bad as it looks. The object of Part II of this Bill is to alleviate the hardship that tenant farmers suffer when they are dispossessed of their land for development. The Government accepted that they suffered hardship on compulsory dispossession because they were compensated on the basis of the actual length of their tenancy—which in the case of an agricultural tenant was, of course, generally very short. The proposal was, with the approval of the House, that this hardship should be met by providing for an 1052 additional payment, based on four years rent of the land taken, to help the tenant in the reorganisation of his affairs. That was the intention of the Bill and it was supported by your Lordships. But as some noble Lords may be aware, a case was decided in the Lands Tribunal some months ago which, if correctly decided, upsets the basis of compensation by reference to which the additional payment was conceded to agricultural tenants. This case, Pettitt v. Ministry of Transport, said, in effect, that the compensation a tenant received was to be based not on the actual length of his tenancy but on the length of time for which he would be likely to enjoy the tenancy, taking into account all the relevant circumstances including, in the case of an agricultural tenant, the security of tenure given by the Agricultural Holdings Acts.
§ If this decision is correct then there is an obvious danger that the agricultural tenant will get double compensation—he will get compensation on the Pettitt basis for the prospect of his remaining in possession, and payment under this Bill for the hardship he was agreed to be suffering whilst compensation was awarded without regard to his prospects of remaining in possession.
§ This new clause makes it clear that compensation for agricultural tenants—which is all with which this Bill can deal—is to be assessed on the basis which we always thought it was to be assessed. It takes nothing away from the tenant's compensation which he always had and it does not in any way cut across the Government's desire to relieve hardship. It is necessary, however, to avoid double compensation.
§ I know that there has been some criticism about this clause being introduced at a late stage, but I hope your Lordships will realise that we waited as long as possible to see whether the impending appeal against the decision in the Pettitt case would have been heard before this Bill passed through Parliament. It now seems that the appeal will not so be heard, and it is therefore necessary to provide for the situation which we face at the present time. I ought to add that, no matter what happens to this clause, it will have no effect on the case of Mr. Pettitt. Compensation will be payable to him, if the court so decides. I hope 1053 that, with that explanation, it will be possible for your Lordships to accept this Amendment. I beg to move.
After Clause 41, insert the said new clause. —(Lord Beswick.)
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for explaining to us the purpose of this lengthy new clause. As I am sure the noble Lord has observed the number of pieces of green paper floating round the Chamber, he will realise that the N.F.U. have been briefing us to express their dissatisfaction with this situation. Despite the noble Lord's explanation of the late appearance of this new clause on the Order Paper, I still feel that it is a little late to put down a brand new clause at this stage of the Bill, even though his motive was the need to wait for the appeal result.
This is a complex matter, and as the noble Lord will know, if he has read the N.F.U. brief, there are cases where a tenant has paid something to his predecessor in a holding in order to get possession, and may have paid a considerable amount in order to secure the future. I do not pretend to know the merits of these cases. I recognise the point that the noble Lord has made. It may be that there should not be double compensation, but there may be special cases about which we do not know. Heaven knows we have not had time to investigate this. I think that the noble Lord should take note of the weight of the complaint. It is not really right to put down something as important as this so late.
For myself, I should have liked to see the N.F.U. representatives and ask them a good many questions about this to find out the extent of this difficult situation. Ought not the law to take account of this? What are the merits of the cases? We do not know the answers. The noble Lord has given us one aspect, which is perhaps a reasonable one. It appears that there is another one, of which we are not fully informed. I cannot say more than that I accept what the noble Lord has now told us, but I certainly wish to question the N.F.U. representatives before Third Reading and, if necessary, put down an Amendment then so that we may have a further discussion. I 1054 hope that the noble Lord will accept that this is the right way to deal with this.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, if I may, with the leave of the Howe, speak again, I fully understand the noble Lord. On one point he has quoted from the green paper, the case where a tenant has special entitlement in his original contract, although the noble Lord says that there may be such cases, I have made inquiries and I cannot find such a case. But if there were such cases, the fact that such an entitlement was written into the original contract would increase the market value of the tenancy, and if the market value was well above the tenant's four-year entitlement to compensation under the Bill, the difference between that four-year entitlement and the increased market value, as a result of any special clause in the contract, would accrue to the dispossessed tenant. Or, as since put to me, if the right to assign was personal, then it does not form part of an interest in land and would not have any compensatable value. If it is not personal and forms part of the tenancy agreement, its value would be reflected in the value of the interest to the extent that the market would pay for it. However, I agree that this is a lengthy Amendment. The noble Lord is going to look at it. For our part, we, too, will look at it again, and if it can be shown that an improvement is possible on Third Reading, I shall be very glad to consider an Amendment.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT STONEHAVEN moved, after clause 41, to insert the following new clause:
§ Redemption of Multures
§ ". Where any owner or occupier of land is required to pay multures to another person, he shall have the right to redeem those multures at a price to be agreed between the parties, and in default of agreement the price shall be determined by the Scottish Land Court."
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I must apologise for putting this down at a late stage of the Bill but I frankly admit that I appear to be in good company in doing so. I must also declare a personal and rather unique interest. The subject we are about to discuss is the payment of multures. Part of the land which I farm is under thirlage and astricted to the 1055 Mill of Monqueich, for which I have to pay an annual sum of £17 13s. 6d. as a commuted multure to the occupiers of the land on which the mill once stood. On the other hand, I am paid as commuted multures £4 15s. 9d. annually by two farmers whose land is also under thirlage and astricted to an old mill, the Mill of Mowtie, which I own and have converted into a grain drier. Of course I am giving more than I am getting. The controversy here is that those who are getting multures for nothing do not want to give them up and those who are paying multures for nothing, do. I think that is quite normal.
§ Originally, mills were built as a sort of machinery syndicate. The English think that they invented this, but it was invented by the Scots in 1300 and something—I cannot tell the exact date. Tenants guaranteed work for the mill if somebody would put it up and the land was thirled to the mill. I want to protest here and now, that there is no similarity whatever between feu duties—a form of ground rent which is very complicated indeed and a controversial subject—and multures. There is no likeness at all. I can think of nothing more miscellaneous than a multure, but it is definitely agricultural. One of the definitions of multure is this. Multures were payments in kind for grinding grain exigible under the obligation of thirlage. The multurer was a tacksman of the mill, who as tenant derived rights from the heritor of the mill to exact the multure due.
§ If it helps noble Lords to understand what I am talking about, I will read a little bit more. In interpreting astriction, thirling fire and water means only "kilning and bobbing", not "brewing and baking". This was decided in a case between the Earl of Cassilis and the heritors of Maybole in 1682. If noble Lords know what that means, it is more than I do. This is the kind of thing that we are talking about. The undertaking to pay dry multures in perpetuity may be established notwithstanding the discontinuance of a mill. That was a ruling in Porteous v. Haigh in 1901, so it is quite modern. It has been a thorn in the flesh of everybody for a long time. The Act 39, George III, had a "go" at multures, and in the Conveyancing 1056 (Scotland) Act 1924, Section 12 (I think that is the right reference) multures must be commuted to cash payments, but these payments may be apportioned over the land. If you sell part of the land, you can apportion the multure over it.
§ It is a little difficult to understand. Terms in this usage are astriction, bannock, mill of barony, corvees, gowpen, knaveship, lock, multures, abstracted multures, dry multures, insuken multures, outsuken multures, quern, sequels, suken, sukener. Whether the sukener is the origin of the word "sucker" I could not say. The point is that should a local authority wish to purchase land which happened to be astricted or thirled to a non-existent mill they might find themselves sukeners and obliged to pay multures, not to mention bannock, corvees, gowpen, knaveship and lock, to a neighbouring car park. I think it is high time that steps were taken to save them from this frightful fate. I beg to move.
After Clause 41, insert the said new clause. —(Viscount Stonehaven.)
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I should hope that, for the benefit of the Official Reporter, though contrary to what I believe is supposed to be the principle of your Lordships' House, the noble Viscount was reading every word of what he said: otherwise the Record on the occasion of this Amendment is going to take some compiling. Even as regards the very word which is the subject of the Amendment, "multures", I am certain that if anybody on the Front Bench other than the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, had been moving this Amendment he would have fallen into the mistake of thinking that he was talking about something called "mooters", because that is how it is pronounced.
I am going to depart from the brief with which I am provided, and the result will probably be that I shall say something that I ought not to say. But, while departing from the official attitude, I should like to say that I have never yet heard anything in defence of multures. It seems to me that it is something appertaining to the land which the owners of particular bits of land have managed to get thirled to themselves very thoroughly over a period of years, and no tenant would ever have succeeded in hanging on 1057 to something of this kind, to which, whatever right there may have been in 1300, 1500 or even 1800 or 1901, there is, in most cases at any rate, little right to-day. As the noble Viscount has said, the mill may have ceased to exist, so no possible service can be rendered for this money; and yet it continues to be like feu duty, in one respect, and forms a burden on the land.
Having said that, the noble Viscount will think—and he will be wrong if he does so think—that I am going on to accept the Amendment. I cannot accept the Amendment, although I am with him, for the reason which my right honourable friend has stated in another place: that he wishes to have a thorough view at the system of conveyancing land in Scotland, the investigation of feu duties and so on. May I say, before coming to that, that I can offer a practical suggestion to the noble Viscount to help him in getting rid of his adverse liability on his multures, outgoing and incoming, at any rate for the present year? I suggest that he offer to repeat his speech for the B.B.C., and I am sure it will be well worth a fee which will take care of his multures for this year. I am not at all certain, however, that it would get over anywhere other than in the Scottish programme.
To come back to a serious note, many objections are being taken at the present time to feu duties as they stand, and not all those objections are as well founded as some people would have us believe. After all, it is not always quite clearly understood that the abolition of feu duties does not mean that the people get a present of the land for nothing. Everybody with knowledge of this subject realises that, just as in the case of this Amendment, what would be put in its place would be a capital payment which would wipe out the feu duties for all time, just as what is suggested in this case would wipe out the multures for all time. The extinguishing of something like a multure, which has so few friends, might well attract support at a comparatively small number of years' purchase, but there is the danger that a decision on the much greater question of feu duties would tend to be guided by anything which was decided earlier on this subject of multures. There is really not a comparison. In the one case, there is something actually being received in 1058 exchange for the feu duty: there is the virtual ownership of the land. At least in some of the cases of multures nothing else is being received in exchange, whatever may have been received in the past.
So, while I am in complete sympathy with the noble Viscount in wishing to get rid of multures, I think it would be dangerous to attempt to deal with this comparatively minor aspect of land ownership in Scotland apart from dealing with the question of feu duties. I am making it perfectly clear that I do not consider necessarily that the extinguishing payments should be the same in both kinds, but I think we should be doing a disservice if we led anybody to believe that if in due course feu duties are going to be compulsorily extinguished there is any prospect of their being extinguished at the same rate as might be proper for the extinguishing of these out-of-date payments. I hope, therefore, that the noble Viscount will be content to have demonstrated his point and obtained from me an equal demonstration of dissatisfaction with the continuation of this out-of-date payment. I join hint in the hope that it will not be long before it is made possible to extinguish this payment as part of a general reconstruction of land payments.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend Lord Stonehaven in his desire to have the multures made extinct. I rather think that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has used the wrong analogy in drawing an analogy between the multures and feu duties. The correct analogy, as I see it, should have been between the multures and the teines. They are far more closely allied than multures and feu duties. In so far as the teines have become redeemable, so I think it is only common sense that the multures also should be redeemable.
My Lords, I cannot agree that feu duty is a good analogy, because for a feu duty, whether you like it or not, something is done, as the noble Lord said, whereas a multure is quite different. Therefore, I think that the teines, which were extinguished, is a better analogy. But, nevertheless, as the noble Lord was kind 1059 enough to support me in principle, although not to accept the Amendment—in my wildest dreams I had never thought for a moment he would accept any Amendment I might propose—if your Lordships will allow me, I will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.1 p.m.
LORD BESWICK moved to insert, after subsection (1):
() Subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to a person who reasonably believes that the material is to be exported from Great Britain.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in Committee on Clause 42 I accepted in principle the Amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Cawley, subject to consideration of the wording. This Amendment, which I now move, follows the structure of Section 21(2) of the Plant Varieties and Seeds Act 1964, which already exempts exports of seeds from the provisions relating to the Index of Names of Plant Varieties. The clause as it now stands does not prescribe what name should be used once reproductive material of a plant variety is exported. That would be a matter for the legislation of the importing country. The effect of the Amendment is to exempt from the scope of the clause sales or offers for sale of plant material of a protected variety which take place in this country but where the material which is the subject of the sale is to be delivered abroad. It thus relates to specific transactions. The Amendment refers to Great Britain because the 1964 Act applies to Great Britain and is extended to Northern Ireland under Section 39. The extension of Clause 42 is provided for here in subsection (3). I believe the clause satisfies Lord Cawley, who made such an interesting speech on this point at Committee stage, and I hope it will be accepted by the House as a whole. I beg to move.
Page 36, line 44, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Beswick.)
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord, 1060 Lord Beswick, for going thus far to meet the objections of the experts on this particular and highly technical matter. May I join with the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Cawley. Unfortunately, urgent family business took me away before we reached that particular stage of the Committee, and therefore I was not able to take part in the discussions. Had I done so, I should have tried to develop some further complexities of this very intricate matter. Whether I should have improved the situation or not I would not know.
But I hear now, that although this is obviously an improvement, and I thank the noble Lord for what he has done, Mr. McCreedy, who lives in Northern Ireland, and therefore must regret that this is extended to cover Northern Ireland, and is I suppose our greatest rose breeder, contends that this is really not going to help very much. He says:I am afraid Lord Beswick's Amendment is not really of much use to us. I really cannot think of any Amendment which would fit the Bill. Our strongest point is the fact that the other European countries are not drafting their legislation in the same fashion".This is important in view of the European trade. At this stage I have certainly no Amendment to suggest to the noble Lord. All I would ask is that the Ministry of Agriculture officials should watch closely the working of the Bill as now amended to see that, so far as possible, it is working in a way which will facilitate rather than inhibit the rose trade, and especially the very small handful of fundamental breeders, and that if it appears necessary to make some further small Amendment they will do so. Certainly Mr. McCreedy seems to think that, although we have improved it, we have not done all we need to do. If the noble Lord would be kind enough to bear in mind that word of caution I should be most grateful to him.
§ Clause 44 [Modification of Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1956, in relation to agricultural marketing boards]:
§ LORD BESWICK moved, in subsection (2)(a), to leave out "not less than twenty-eight days". The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is designed to bring the provisions of subsection (2) paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 1061 44 more closely into line with each other. At the moment subsection (2)(a) requires that the agricultural marketing boards, in order to gain exemption from the provisions of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act for certain agreements, must inform the Minister of the terms of the agreements not less than 28 days before they enter into them. Subsection (2)(b), on the other hand, is so framed that it will be possible for the Minister to signify his approval to an agreement before the expiry of the 28-day period, should he so wish. It has been suggested to us that the retention of that period in subsection (2)(a) may to a certain extent frustrate the purposes of subsection (2)(b) and give rise to practical difficulties for the marketing boards. This Amendment therefore deletes the 28-day provision in subsection (2)(a). Of course, the Minister must have time in which to consider any agreement submitted to him, and it will be noted that subsection (2)(b) remains as before so that the Minister will have full discretion as to whether or not lie will approve any particular agreement before the 28-day period is up. I hope that noble Lords will think that this is a sensible Amendment, and I am glad to move it.
Page 39, line 11, leave out ("not less than twenty-eight days.")—(Lord Beswick.)
LORD BESWICK moved, after subsection (4), to insert:
() Where by virtue of any of the provisions of subsections (2) to (4) of this section Part I of the said Act of 1956 does not apply, or does not apply or is deemed not to have applied as respects any period, to an agreement made between a board and a trade association within the meaning of section 6 of that Act, being an agreement as to the terms for other agreements between the board and persons who are members of the association or are represented thereon by such members, the said Part I shall not apply or, as the case may be, shall not apply or shall be deemed not to have applied as respects that period—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment takes the form of a new subsection which will complete and supplement the provisions of subsections (2) to (4) of Clause 44. Under these subsections agricultural marketing boards will be able to seek exemption from the provisions of the Restrictive Trace Practices Act for certain agreements which would not otherwise be exempt by submitting these agreements to the Minister for his approval. The idea is that the boards may wish to seek exemption in particular for certain agreements which they make with trade associations, and the Minister will have power to exempt such agreements. Thereafter it can be expected that the boards will make a number of individual agreements with members of their particular trade association, each of which will incorporate the terms which have been agreed with the association and which have been exempted by the Minister. There will be many cases in which, by virtue of one provision or another of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act, these individual agreements themselves will be exempt. But it is desirable to ensure that none of them will be subject to the requirements of that Act. The new subsection does this by specifically exempting agreements made consequent upon the main exempted agreement between the board and the trade association. I beg to move.
Page 40, line 14, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Beswick.)
§ VISCOUNT STONEHAVEN moved, after Clause 48, to insert the following new clause:
§ Amendment of Section 7 of Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act 1956
§ ". In subsection (2) of section 7 of the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act 1956, in the definition of 'agricultural buildings,' for the word `solely' there shall be substituted the word 'mainly'."
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this Amendment really follows on from an Amendment of my noble friend Lord Dundee. This is a different point and it is only a small one, as can be seen. My noble friend would leave the wording in subsection (2) of Section 7 of the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act 1956 as it is in the definition. One of the chief troubles that rating authorities 1063 have had is with the interpretation of the word "solely". "Solely" is a very difficult word to interpret leniently at all, and the substitution of a word that is not quite so rigid would, I dare to suggest, require something between the two extreme alternatives which were proposed by my noble friend Lord Dundee. The value of that might be that these rating problems could be settled reasonably and amicably without having to delve into and upset anything more than just one word in an existing Act. One would not have to write new clauses or anything else, as my noble friend wishes to do. If you could alter that one word I think you would get rid of 80 per cent. or a large proportion of the difficulties which now exist in the rating of agricultural buildings. I beg to move.
After Clause 48, insert the said new clause.— (Viscount Stonehaven.)
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend Lord Stonehaven in his Amendment. This has only become necessary now that the county valuation officers have ceased to be "doves" and turned into "hawks". If the word "solely" is applied by them in its strict sense, it means that the use of the farm for the barn dance and other festivities will no longer be in order. I support my noble friend and I trust that the Government will give this Amendment favourable consideration.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, I also support this Amendment. If one of your farm workers puts his car anywhere in your farm buildings you are then liable to have the whole of the building rated. Equally, if you take in one of your neighbour's combines the same thing happens. This is obviously not what the Act was intended to do, and I believe that my noble friend's Amendment would help to rectify the situation.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I sincerely hope that county assessors do not find Hansard of your Lordships' House among their favourite reading, because I am quite dismayed at the suggestions made by the noble Lords, Lord Balerno and Lord Burton, as to ways in which the assessors can rake into the net still more agricultural buildings.
My Lords, this is exactly what they have done; otherwise I should not have bothered to mention it. I have already been rated as a garage because a car was left in my steading. This is the reason why we raised the point.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, perhaps I, too, should declare an interest because I have been threatened with exactly the same thing.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I must admit that an aspect is being brought into this matter of which I had not heard before. All the discussion which has taken place in the past on this subject has arisen largely because of the same proposal as was discussed on a United Kingdom basis in the Amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, to Clause 4, in relation to the rating of livestock units. I should certainly like to look at this other aspect of it. This is the first I have heard of it, and the suggestion that if a farmer allows a dance to be held in the barn the assessor is then possibly going to regard it as a dance hall, and rate it accordingly, seems to be so fantastic and so far removed from any intention of the Agriculture Acts that this must obviously intensify the case for looking at it again.
Complications are already arising from the livestock part of it, which after all is the main burden of complaint. Other things may be incidental—though I can appreciate the point of view that if you add together sufficient incidentals they may become as acute a problem as the main item. However, my right honourable friend has undertaken to look into this matter. It is something which is being investigated on both sides of the Border, although I must admit that it is a more intense problem in Scotland than it has yet become in England. This is simply because our quinquennial revaluation has taken place and many of the assessors have in fact operated on the decision which the valuation appeal court took in some of these cases. Therefore, from the farmers' point of view we are, unfortunately, a little further ahead than is the case with farmers South of the Border.
We accept that this is a point which must be looked at, but one of the difficulties about altering valuation law is that 1065 it is difficult to alter it in isolation. If we were to do something of the kind it is almost certain that it would create in some other direction—whether in agriculture or in industry—anomalies as great as those we are examining. I accept that what is being done is not what was contemplated when the law was framed, because the sort of agricultural practices which are being hit at were not in existence then. We accept that it should be looked at urgently. We are undertaking consultations about varying proposals which have been put forward, varying from complete derating to 50 per cent. derating, to put it on the same basis as industry in Scotland. So it is easy to recognise the extent to which existing valuation procedure has departed from what was originally contemplated. If it were as easy to find a solution it might well be that the amendment of the law could have found a place in this Bill.
I accept that a solution is necessary and we will certainly hurry it as much as the proper consideration of the problem and the appropriate consultations will allow. I hope that, with that assurance, both of future action and of urgency in such action, the noble Viscount will not feel that 1 am letting him down too badly in asking him yet again to withdraw an Amendment which I readily admit has substance behind it.
My Lords, before I ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw the Amendment, may I go a little further? Naturally, I understand the complication of the rating law, but if the noble Lord is good enough to look into it I would ask him also to look into the general aspect of the matter. I am sorry to quote my own cases but I was so incensed that farm buildings, both my own and those of my tenants, were rated as garages because cars, which are necessary agricultural implements, were left in certain places that I took three cases to the local appeal court, which is our first appeal, and I won those three cases.
The assessor at once asked for a case to be stated. He withdrew two cases, because he had not a leg to stand on, and he knew it. But he did not withdraw my case—I thought it was a little spiteful. But the point I want to make is that if 1066 one is arguing about principle, as one has a right to do, if I take the stated case I have to risk the costs. It cost me £250 or thereabouts, and if I win I am going to save myself £3 a year. There is a large element of almost blackmail in that, and I wish the noble Lord would look at that aspect because it is grossly unfair.
It may be said that it does not matter about me—and probably it does not—but it is an indication of the unfair way in which the rating system in Scotland works to-day. If one wins a case in the first court (which is legally advised) then I think it is quite respectable for the assessor, if he is not content, to take the case further, but I do not see why one should have to pay the costs when it is not a flippancy but something which has been passed by one lot of lawyers. The situation to-day is unjust, and is preventing cases from being brought it forward, because people say "I cannot afford to be £250 'down the drain'." I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 53 [Short title, commencement and extent, etc.]:
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, this is really a consequential Amendment, the purpose of which is simply to exclude Northern Ireland from the operation of the new clause which we agreed on compensation payment. This is a matter wholly within the legislative power of the Northern Ireland Parliament. I beg to move.
Page 44, line 4, after ("41") insert ("(Compensation in connection with compulsory acquisition etc. of agricultural holdings)")—(Lord Beswick.)
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, this is a formal Amendment designed to safeguard the position of the Northern Ireland Parliament on the provisions of Clause 44. I beg to move.
Page 44, line 10, after ("in") insert ("section 44 of this Act or in").—(Lord Beswick.)
§ Schedule 1 [Transitional provisions relating to payments under s. 9 in England and Wales]:
§ LORD HENLEY moved, in paragraph 1(b), to leave out "two" [months] and insert "three". The noble Lord said: My Lords I will deal, if I may, with the seven Amendments in my name together. They are on the same theme, and as I understand they are accepted by the Government I will do no more than explain what they are. Schedule 1 refers to England, Schedule 2, to Scotland. Among the miscellaneous provisions it was the intention that when a tenant was dispossessed of his land for reasons other than agriculture he should have four years' rent as additional compensation, making six years' rent in all. The Bill in fact provides by Clauses 9 and 10—and this is an anomaly—that the landlord must pay this additional compensation in all cases unless the notice to quit contains a valid exempting statement. Owing to the complexity of the Bill, it seemed to some of us that the two months allowed for a landlord to serve this notice was too short a time. I originally suggested four months and the Government were willing to compromise upon three, with the proviso that if a landlord had this extra month to make up his mind and to go into the complexities of the law the tenant should also have an extra month to serve, if necessary, a counter notice. Amendment No. 30 increases the time from two months to three, and the rest are consequential. I beg to move.
Page 45, line 19, leave out ("two") and insert ("three").—(Lord Henley.)
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, says, this is a compromise between his four and our two. He fairly stated what I think is a fair compromise, and I am happy to accept it.
Page 45, line 35, leave out ("two") and insert ("three").—(Lord Henley.)
Page 46, line 5, leave out ("two") and insert ("three").—(Lord Henley.)
§ Schedule 2 [Transitional provisions relating to payments under s. 9 in Scotland]:
Page 46, line 36, leave out ("two") and insert ("three").—(Lord Henley.)
Page 47, line 2, leave out ("two") and insert ("three").—(Lord Henley.)
Page 47, line 36, leave out ("two") and insert ("three").—(Lord Henley.)
Page 48, line 5, leave out ("two") and insert ("three").—(Lord Henley.)
§ Schedule 4 [Supplementary provisions with respect to payments under s. 12(1) in Scotland]:
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, the remarks which I made on Amendment No. 5 also cover Amendments Nos. 37 and 38. I beg to move Amendment No. 37.
Page 51, leave out lines 10 to 12.—(Lord Hughes.)
§ Amendment moved—1069
§ In the Title:
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, this is an Amendment to extend the Long Title to cover the new clause on compensation to tenant farmers. I beg to move.
Line 15, after ("buildings;") insert ("to make further provision with respect to the compensation of tenants of agricultural holdings whose land is acquired or taken possession of compulsorily;").—(Lord Beswick.)