§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, to return to the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hilton of Upton, for the concise and lucid description he gave us of this miscellaneous Bill and its various Parts. It is, of course, an Agriculture (Miscellaneous) Bill. It contains a number of minor measures, most of them welcome, but I hope the noble Lord will not take it amiss if I say that it seems curiously irrelevant to the needs of the industry at the present time. The Government are not coming forward with something which might give the boost that the industry could do with. No industry could make a greater contribution to the needs of the nation at this time in increasing home production, thereby reducing imports, and thereby improving our balance of trade.
The noble Lord—indeed all noble Lords—will recognise that our present system of guaranteed prices makes an automatic break on expanding production, because all Governments feel the necessity to keep the total cost of this system within a bracket of about £250 million to £300 million per annum, because the cost must fall direct on the taxpayer; and this inevitably has some deterrent effect on expansion. I am sure that we shall hear to-morrow of the big increase in costs and the Government's headache in trying to balance this particular problem. I would hope that if the noble Lord and his noble friends come forward with another agriculture Bill next year, it might be one which would change the system of price support to the same system as our Western European neighbours have, that of import levies, which would get us out of this annual difficulty, and so, I believe, help us get the expansion we all want. We shall hear to-morrow from the noble Lord, when we hear about the Price Review, what the plans are for the future.
To return to the Bill itself, the noble Lord, Lord Hilton, has described to us Part I and how it is to give statutory effect to the Report of the Brambell Committee, set up by my right honourable 1244 friend Mr. Christopher Soames. The noble Lord has admirably explained to us the rather complicated machinery set out in Part I. In effect, this section of the Bill amounts to a rudimentary Factory Act for intensively kept livestock. For myself, I have no complaint. I feel that this is a reasonable thing to do. We have to accept the fact that the modern trend in livestock management is towards intensive systems, not only for chickens and pigs, but increasingly now for cows, sheep and cattle. The fact is that these systems give better results; they are more economic and have lower costs.
On the other hand, we are—and I can proudly say it—a nation of animal lovers, and it is only natural that people should want suitable safeguards for our livestock, to ensure that their conditions of health and welfare are all they ought to be. This, I am sure, is right in principle; and I am also sure that it would be, and indeed should be, supported by every farmer. At the same time, it is necessary, I suggest, to recognise that intensive systems of livestock-keeping are repugnant to many people. Many people with nice feelings would like to see these systems abolished altogether. I would suggest that it is Parliament's duty to keep the right balance between these feelings, which in my judgment go much too far, and the rare exception of the farmer who would neglect or ill-use his livestock. I make the point advisedly—that such a farmer is the rare exception—because livestock which are ill-used and badly kept will not thrive; they will suffer mortality and will not make a profit. It is thus against the farmer's own personal interest, his own financial interest, to practise forms of management which cause stress or ill-health.
The structure of this Bill seems to me to follow a sensible, practical structure, with the codes of practice, which will not have statutory sanction, and the regulations, which will have regard to the observance of the codes of practice and, where prosecutions are concerned, will provide the evidence. I confess to the noble Lord, Lord Hilton, that I should have liked to see in the Bill a specific obligation on the Minister to consult with those representing livestock producers, such as the National Farmers' Union, rather than the very general terms that are used. However, I feel sure that in practice they 1245 will be consulted, though it would be nice to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, when he winds up, that this is the Government's intention when codes of practice, and indeed regulations, are contemplated.
A practical point on Clause 6 which I should like to mention at this stage relates to the powers of entry for the supervision provided for by this particular clause. These powers of entry are of course essential in order to ensure that codes of practice and regulations are properly observed, but I think it is most necessary that there should be adequate safeguards against the spread of infection. The fact is, as many noble Lords will know, that all intensive systems of livestock management are vulnerable to various forms of virus and bacterial infection. Foot-and-mouth in cows and cattle we all know all too much about after recent months. But there is also virus pneumonia in pigs, and fowl pest and infectious bronchitis and mareks in poultry. All these infections are virulent; they are carried by shoes, by clothes, by hands, and can easily be carried from one unit to another unless the very strictest hygiene regulations are observed. In research institutes, of course, workers are obliged to go through shower baths and change their clothes, and so on. This is not practicable on the farm, where a shower would undoubtedly be cold. Nevertheless, various simple safeguards can be observed, and they really are essential if an inspector going from one farm to another is to minimise the risk of carrying infection from one intensive unit to another.
The provision in the Bill is that the Minister of Agriculture will have inspectors, who I imagine will be veterinary surgeons. They, of course, fully understand the risks involved and, I am sure, take all necessary precautions, especially with livestock. But the local authority inspectors might not necessarily be so fully trained. I should like to see in the Bill a requirement that the local authority inspectors also should have veterinary qualifications. This is a point I should like to raise on the Committee stage and I may put down an Amendment to that effect. It is a most important point. Apart from great harm to individual farmers, disrepute may be 1246 brought to the whole administration of the Bill unless we ensure that this point is adequtaely covered.
I have one further point on the administration of this clause. The Minister of Agriculture, whoever he is, the present one or a Minister in the future, in establishing codes of practice and regulations must take great care to keep the balance right in the standards he requires. This is particularly so in regard to livestock, where there are considerable imported supplies coming into this country with which the home producer has to compete. It obviously would be absurd if we established standards of housing and management which considerably increased the cost of production, if our farmers then had to compete with imports produced under very different conditions. So here again, reality must be kept in perspective. However, let me say to the noble Lords that, in general, I feel it is right and necessary that this legislation should go on the Statute Book, but it needs to be administered with full understanding of the factors involved.
Part II I certainly welcome. This is the part that gives an extra four years' compensation to the dispossessed tenant farmer whose farm is going to be used for some development, such as house building, road building, school building, or whatever it may be. I am sure this is a wise and a fair move, and I particularly welcome the fact that I understand the money will be tax free, so that he will have the maximum chance to start again somewhere else. But I think I should be right if I said that as the landlord has to pay this, sooner or later it is bound to work its way through into the purchase price for land, and therefore eventually will end up in higher prices.
Part III is the only part which I feel is really controversial. As the noble Lord, Lord Hilton of Upton, has told us, this part deals with the law with regard to succession for tenant farmers in Scotland. Surprisingly, it was introduced only at Committee stage. It seems to be rather an afterthought, and I wondered whether it was being introduced to stem the tide of Scottish nationalism, but no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will tell us about this later.
Clause 18 seems to me to be going very far when it fixes an automatic succession 1247 from the tenant farmer to his near relatives, which includes adopted children. This seems to me to open a very wide door. I make this point because it not only affects Scotland but could well affect England in the future. If the Government penalise the private landlord too heavily, the attractions of agricultural land investment, which to many people already seem largely irrational because there is a low return, will eventually disappear altogether. This will not happen immediately; it may take one hundred years to do it—say two or three generations—but agricultural land investment and tenant farming will disappear.
The tenant farming structure has served well. In England and Wales about 50 per cent. of our farmers are tenant farmers, and the fact is that most farmers prefer to be on this basis. That is the view of the National Farmers' Union of England and Wales. Farmers can make very much better use of their money by investing in livestock, machinery, and so on, than they can by investing it in ownership of land, which gives them only about a 4 per cent. return. On the whole this method has worked extremely well for the farming community of England, and I am sure it is in the long-term interest of the agricultural industry for this structure to continue. I hope the Government will proceed with great caution in Scotland, because I do not think it possible for there to be, for long, one law in Scotland and another law in England. My noble friends from Scotland will have something to say about Clause 18 as it applies to Scotland, but I fear the long-term implications for England as well.
Part IV, on land drainage, is quite non-controversial. It is entirely welcome, especially by the river authorities—and here I should declare an interest. I am President of the Association of River Authorities. I was sitting in their Executive Council this morning and they were all making the most polite remarks about the Government (which must be very welcome); the Government had done just what they wanted. The 1961 Act is based on a Schedule A assessment and in practice has proved pretty well unworkable. This Bill now changes the basis of assessment to an acreage basis 1248 which, as the noble Lord rightly says, is the only practicable method of assessment.
It has certain snags; one must be clear about that, and I think they are inevitable, but to some extent it will shift the incidence of a drainage charge from the good land to the less good land. When the assessment is on the Schedule A basis that is of course related to the annual value of the land, and the best land would pay more per acre than the less good land—usually, the lowland more than the upland. Now we are putting it on the flat rate basis, the total incidence of the drainage charge, and to that extent it will be borne more by the upland than the lowland farmers, and doubtless they will tell us so from time to time in the future. Nevertheless it is the right thing to do. The existing system really is unworkable. The change proposed for the drainage boards in setting up the assessment machinery is also welcomed; as the noble Lord said, it was badly needed.
With regard to the several minor improvements in Part V, referred to by the noble Lord, I would refer to only one; that is, Clause 40, which provides grants for break crops. Noble Lords who are farmers will know how valuable this is. It is already in action for beans. This is in areas where root crops—potatoes or sugar beet—for one reason or another cannot be grown. The modern trend is continuous cereal cropping, which runs into all kinds of pest problems with regard to weeds, viruses, and so on, and a reasonably paying crop like beans, which can be used as a break crop, is a most valuable piece of practical husbandry. I would only ask that the noble Lord, Lord Hilton of Upton, will consider including rape seed for oil, which looks as if it could make an equally valuable contribution. I have no further comment to make on the Bill itself, which contains a number of useful improvements to farming legislation. I have much pleasure in welcoming the Bill.
§ 3.58 p.m.
My Lords, I feel great diffidence in addressing your Lordships on this Bill after the two quite excellent speeches, one by the noble Lord, Lord Hilton of Upton, in introducing the Bill and the second by 1249 the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford. By and large, this is an admirable "tidying up" Bill. However, there are certain omissions from Part IV which I should like to deal with later, but there is also the incentive omission mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, for increasing agricultural production. In these hard times, when hard currency is difficult to come by, we ought really to encourage our farmers to produce more and so reduce the importation of food from abroad. How we are to do this I do not know, but if the notes are issued they stay in England—they are not going abroad—and therefore I think agriculture can stand a certain amount of inflation for home production.
In Part I of the Bill I welcome Clause 2(1)(b), which enables inspectors to inspect the food given to animals on the farm. I especially welcome this clause in the light of the Minister of Agriculture's statement that he was going to allow Argentine beef from now onwards. It is very very important that not only the food which is given to the stock but how it is treated should be inspected, and if you can stiffen up this clause in any way, so that bones shall be boiled and no swill can avoid being boiled on the farm, all to the good.
I thoroughly approve of Part II. Part III deals with Scotland, which I know nothing about, but certain other noble Lords will give us the benefit of their views on this subject. We now come to Part IV. As a member of an internal drainage board I have a great deal to say on this matter. The internal drainage boards are excluded from the charges on upland land, but I feel that the upland lands must be examined very carefully. If you are going to have a universal charge on the upland land, people farming on the downs in Kent and Sussex, and I daresay on the Yorkshire wolds, will feel that they are very hard done by if they have an acreage basis where their water percolates into the chalk and in only a very minor degree overflows into the rivers and ditches. The drainage charges on the uplands, as I read the Bill, are mainly for taking over additional main rivers and maintaining them. In the case of my own county we have not taken advantage of the 1961 and 1963 Acts because the amount obtainable barely covers the cost of the collection; and there must be 1250 many counties in the same position. Also we do not want to take over any further main rivers. I understand, however, that in Lincolnshire these charges have been extensively used for considerable improvement in watercourses and new cuts; therefore one has to regard this portion of the Bill on a regional view, not purely a river board or county view.
I come to my last point, which I think is very important. The newly constituted river authorities under the 1963 Act more or less entirely leave out agricultural representation, and I cannot help feeling that if these drainage charges are going to be levied on the agricultural population they should have equal representation with the urban population. There is one other point here. The authorities have, by statutory right, many water authority officials and civil servants on the Board, and I feel that these civil servants should be excluded from voting. I do think, however, that there is a case for the internal drainage boards to be further represented. I should like to hear what the Government reply is to this question, and if they cannot produce a satisfactory one I should like to move an Amendment.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I certainly welcome this Bill on the whole, but—I am sure the noble Lord. Lord Hughes, will know what I am going to say—I shall have something to say about Part III; I cannot say I welcome that. On Part I, I thoroughly agree with everything that my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford said. Of course, Part I does not go quite as far as everything said in the Brambell Committee, and it probably would not go as far as all animal lovers might like, but on the whole I think it goes quite as far as all rural animal lovers like. I differentiate rural animal lovers from urban animal lovers, who of course have the same motives of kindness but not the same practical experience.
Clauses 1 and 2 are the important clauses in Part I. The Brambell Committee say:Intensive husbandry should not in itself be regarded as objectionable and may often benefit the animals.I heartily agree with that. We are very inclined to think that animals like to roam the range and have perfect freedom, but an animal in its natural state 1251 has a perpetual struggle to find its food, to find shelter, and often it suffers an extremely unpleasant death. Part I of this Bill, on which I congratulate Her Majesty's Government, so far as I have read and understood the clauses, will provide animals with these three requisites: plenty of adequate, wholesome food; shelter, and protection from violent and painful death by their enemies. If these requisites are coupled with the other regulations laid down in Part I, the domestic farm animals in Great Britain will, I think, become the most contented members of the community.
As I have said, there are those who in these matters are more moved by emotion than by logic. People are often inclined automatically to equate intensive husbandry with cruelty. To take the case of Merino sheep, if you give them free range they have a great struggle for existence and would far prefer to be in a lush pasture. But if you put them in a lush pasture, what do they do? They proceed to eat themselves to death. Therefore, I should like, by that instance, to try to explain to urban animal lovers that all animals do not appreciate free range, because speaking now of wild animals and animals in their natural state, there is too much danger associated with it and it is too much of a struggle. If they have plenty of food and shelter they are far more content.
Before leaving Part I, I should like to point out one aspect of Clause 2 which will be of great help, but not as regards intensive husbandry. I am now thinking of hill farming, and especially farming on the poorer hill lands. Under our system of subsidies often farmers on these hill lands are tempted to overstock. They over-stock by gambling with the winter. Things may go all right if there is a mild winter, but often we get a severe winter, and if that happens I have known several instances where great cruelty occurs, because these farmers have not enough food to feed their animals and they may be loath to buy fodder at the high prices prevailing in, for instance, February and March. Thus, there is starvation. I have witnessed this and it is most cruel. I sincerely hope that under the penalty clause of this Bill such people will be severely dealt with, 1252 and that the inspectors of the area will be alive to this disturbing factor.
My noble friend Lord Nugent has already made the other point that I wished to make on Part I, but I should like to re-emphasise it. When this Bill becomes law it will be most unfair if farmers in this country have to compete with intensive husbandry from abroad. I think they should be safeguarded as far as possible from overseas competitors, who presumably have no restriction placed upon them regarding intensive husbandry, like battery-hen farming and such methods.
Turning to Part II, I warmly support this section. I am extremely pleased to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Hilton, that this payment of four times the rent to tenants who are to be dispossessed for the development of land for building is not to be subject to tax. I was rather frightened that it might be, but I am very glad to hear the noble Lord say that that is not so. I am rather confused by Clause 15. I understand that if the land of a tenant is required to be taken over in less than the twelve months, he should be compensated for the loss of profits that he would have made had his land not been taken over at that short notice. I do not quarrel with that at all. But how is one to assess those profits? I agree that this is more a Committee point. But are they to be assessed on three years' balance sheets or something like that? The clause seems a little vague.
Now I come to Part III, which has to do with Scotland. I cannot welcome that Part. It really surprises me that a Socialist Government should try to bring in legislation to make tenancies hereditary. Surely this is an extraordinary departure from their usual theories. You could describe this as land confiscation with no compensation. I quite agree that there are certain safeguards here, but the question is: are they worth the paper they are written on? Clause 18(2)(a) says that the Scottish Land Court shall consent to a notice to quit the land if the hereditary successor does not appear to have sufficient training in agriculture or sufficient experience in the farming of land. Clause 18 then goes on to mention in subsection (2)(a) the words "with reasonable efficiency." Here again, we have that very nasty word "reasonable". 1253 It may sound all right on paper, but when it is put into practice I can foresee that very few hereditary successors will be given notice to quit under that paragraph.
Paragraph (b) of subsection (2) mentions the situation where in the opinion of the court a holding is not capable ofproviding full-time employment for the individual occupying it and for at least one other man.Of course, one could stretch out that paragraph a great deal in practice. Further on in the paragraph there is the other arrangement affecting amalgamations of land, where the Land Court might allow notice to quit. But if one reads on, one sees on page 17:Provided that, notwithstanding that they are satisfied as aforesaid, the Court shall withhold consent to the operation of the notice if in all the circumstances it appears to them that a fair and reasonable landlord will not insist on possession.There again one see that word "reasonable", which is a very difficult word to assess when one comes down to practical applications.
I am afraid that great injustice will be done if that clause becomes law as now drafted. After all, the landlord's son or his grandson might want to farm, but under this clause the landlord's family will never be able to get the farm back. They will have lost the farm for ever. A young man who wants to farm will now find it almost impossible to get a farm. Farms are hard enough to get anyway. Farming will become a closed shop. There is also the question of capital investment. It will probably be all right on the rich farms on the East coast of Scotland where, no doubt, the tenant will be able to provide sufficient capital, but on the poorer farms in the Highlands I cannot see the tenant providing the capital to keep up the buildings. I have tried one or two repairing leases, with completely peppercorn rents, but one finds that the tenant does not keep up the buildings. I am afraid that, especially on the West Coast, if the capital of philanthropic landlords—and one can only call them philanthropic—is denied to the farms, all the steadings and fences would deteriorate and in about 15 to 20 years' time the whole of the Highlands would be a land of ruined steadings. I suppose the Government could provide all the capital to tenants for their repairs 1254 if they brought in legislation to that effect, but that would be quite absurd, because one would only be displacing one set of landlords to create another set of landlords—that is to say owner occupiers—who would be entirely dependent on Government capital. I object to Part III. I hope that we can alter it in Committee. For instance, why should an adopted son or daughter have the farm where there are no blood relations? I think that that will have to be altered in Committee.
I have no objections to the remaining parts of the Bill, and on the whole they are very sound, but I cannot emphasise too much that Part III will came great injustice and will be quite impracticable in regard to the poorer land. Therefore I sincerely hope that the Government will have second thoughts about this matter, because if they do not I foresee disaster. These poorer types of tenants in the Western Highlands are rather like those in the West of Ireland, in that they are inclined to put off till to-morrow what they should do to-day. To-morrow never comes. If the tenant is to be responsible for repairs one will find that repairs are never done and that the farm will run down and down. I know farmers who will pass a fallen gate every day of the week and never even think of putting it up—and if they do put it up, they will probably nut the back of an old bedstead in its place. I feel that in regard to the poorer farms the Government will be making a great mistake if they pursue this legislation.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I should like to join with my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford in welcoming the first Part of this Bill. I think it is important that a result of the Brambell Committee should be interpreted and put into action, and that it should be put into action in this manner. I think the line the Government have taken, of putting forward a code of practice, is in the best interests of the industry, and one hopes that the code will be applied in the manner the noble Lord, Lord Hilton of Upton, has indicated. I support my noble friend in saying that we must be careful about the importation of meat from animals produced abroad under conditions which, under this Bill, will not be tolerated in this country. I do 1255 not know what can be devised to ensure this but, just as we prevent the exportation of bad animals, so we ought to be able to prevent the importation, in competition with our own animals of animals raised under conditions not allowed in this country.
There are two small points in this Part of the Bill to which I wish to draw your Lordships' attention. The first point, which arises on Clause 6, was mentioned by my noble friend, and concerns the person authorised by the Minister or the local authority to enter upon land for the purpose of inspection. I would reinforce what my noble friend has said about adequate disinfection beforehand. This is tremendously important, especially as there are herds which, at great cost, are free from all sorts of diseases. I refer particularly to those herds of pigs which are free from the infectious pneumonia virus which, once it breaks out, is impossible to control and is very easily carried.
I intend at the Committee stage to move an Amendment with regard to the words in subsection (3) of Clause 6:a person authorised … to enter upon any land—I should like to remove the words, "if so required". It ought to be essential for an inspector from the local authority to produce evidence on his arrival at the farm that he is authorised to go on to it. The farmer is not always there when inspectors and such people arrive, and the herdsman may be somewhere else. Somebody must he sought out and informed that the inspector is there, before he goes on to the land. The inspector from the local authority should not be able, as I understand the clause as it stands would permit, to go right on to the land and all over the place without the owner's knowing that this was happening.(a) shall if so required produce evidence of his authority ".
The second point I want to make on this Part of the Bill concerns Clause 8, which contains a definition of livestock. Clause 8(1) says:… 'livestock' means any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skin or fur or for use in the farming of land or for such purpose as the Minister may by order specify.The subsection refers to "any creature", but the word "creature" is applied 1256 equally to the human species and to animals. In the past I have had some difference with the Government about the use of the word "animal" in relation to the animal world. I notice that we have a right reverend Prelate here, so one might ask his opinion of the interpretation of the words of the Godly Bishop Ken, when he wrote:Praise Him all creatures here below.My conclusion has always been that when one sung those words one meant the human creature, as well as the animal creature; and in literary use the word "creature" applies equally to man and to animals. I suggest that the Government might take a second look at this word, and substitute "animal" for the word "creature". The word "animal" is only rarely applied to man, except in an opprobrious, derogatory or contemptuous manner.
The most ancient association of man with the word "animal" that I have been able to discover goes back to Aristotle, who stated that man is not an animal; but there was an adjective before "animal"—the word "political". Reverting to the hymnary, the lines,All things bright and beautiful,All creatures great and smallmean that this clause would apply equally to bees; and bees live in a degree of congestion considerably greater than some of the animals for which legislation is deliberately being made. There are also the silkworms. There are silkworm farms, and they too would come under the Bill. I wonder whether the Government are aware of this point. To extend it a little further, the earthworm is an absolutely essential animal for the proper fertility of the soil: we cannot do without the earthworm, and the more earthworms there are in pastureland the more fertile is that pastureland. So there is greater congestion than ever against which it might be possible to take action.
I should like to suggest to Her Majesty's Government that they might return to the word "vertebrate". If the Bill said, "'Livestock' means any vertebrate animal," I think that would make the position very much clearer.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, is not man a vertebrate animal, and therefore does not the noble Lord's original objection still hold?
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, man is not an animal. I was trying to make that point. Normally, the word "animal" is rarely applied to man. If I may say so, the animal kingdom ceases with the primates.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, regarding Part III of the Bill and the succession to tenancies, I have very great misgivings about allowing an adopted child to succeed to a tenancy. It would be perfectly possible for a farmer to pass on a tenancy by adopting a son for that purpose, though there might be no other genuine connection at all. One has heard of cases of sons being adopted quite late in the lives of both the father and the son.
I am interested in the grant for the break crop. I think that is a very good grant and it is a constructive item in this Bill. I have some misgivings about the bacon subsidy. The bacon subsidy has been an excellent emergency measure, but it is a pity it ever had to be imposed. I believe that up to date it has cost over £5 million, and I should greatly regret it if this were enshrined in this Bill and the Government then thought they had got the bacon industry on to its legs. Something more long-term is needed for the bacon industry than is contained in the Bill.
My Lords, with regard to the Part of the Bill dealing with plant varieties, Clause 42, there is a point here which I found somewhat confusing. I take it that the opening part of the new clause, put in as an amendment to the Plant Varieties and Seeds Act 1964, is intended to ensure that when a person sells a plant with a registered name he must use that name and no other. I cannot think of any other definition. But, having read the "gobbledygook" in which those thoughts or intentions are enshrined, I think something could be done to make this new, amending clause more intelligible to the ordinary plant breeder and horticulturist.
There is one, I think, very grave omission from the Bill. It applies particularly to Scotland. I very much regret that the Government have not taken the opportunity in this Bill to do something to ease the confusion which exists in Scotland 1258 among farmers on the subject of what buildings are liable for rates. There have been a series of cases. They started, of course, quite rightly, with the highly-intensive factory farms which were put into the valuation rolls; but the new cases which certain district valuers are putting up now are leading to its being extremely difficult to determine what are the buildings on a farm which are liable to be derated and what are otherwise. It is the greatest of pities that this has not been cleared up.
I would agree with my noble friend Lord Nugent when he says that the expansion of agriculture is at the present moment a vital necessity, bearing in mind the state of our economy and our present difficulties. It is a pity that the opportunity has not been taken with this Bill to do more to give confidence to the farmer; and, while one should not object to getting a crumb from the Governmental table for agriculture, one hopes that those responsible for the Bill are not kidding themselves into thinking that they are producing something very wonderful for the farmers.
§ 4.44 p.m.
My Lords, I defy any noble Lord to make a Second Reading speech upon the Second Reading of this Bill. It covers so many and so wide a variety of things that inevitably one must behave almost as if one were in Committee. Generally speaking, like other noble Lords I think that this is a useful Bill. There are certain things in it which I think could be cleared up and straightened out, perhaps in Committee, not only in this Bill but in others, possibly the Finance Bill. There are other things which I think are not in the best interests of the agricultural industry, and I shall say something about them.
First of all, may I deal with Part I of the Bill? Lord Nugent's likening of this clause to a mini-Factory Act for animals I thought was rather good. But I do not follow him in saying that, in general, farmers will not follow practices which are bad in themselves and are likely to produce bad results for animals in order to get profit because there will not be any profit. I am afraid this is not true. I remember as a child being taken to look in the attic of a farmhouse where 1259 there was a curious device for stuffing turkeys. You put the nozzle of this thing down the turkey's throat and you wound the handle. This churned in predigested food, which had already been prepared, and it built the turkey up to a size which otherwise it would not have been willing to reach. I cannot believe that this was in the best interests of the turkey, but the farmer no doubt thought that it was. I am not quite sure how the best pâté de foie gras is produced now, but it used to be said that it was produced by nailing the goose's feet to a board and stuffing it up until its liver degenerated. As I say, this is the sort of thing which we farmers, if left to ourselves, are very apt to do unless we have mini-factory inspectors sitting on top of us telling us that we must not.
Nevertheless, having said that, I think the Government really must make an effort—and I follow the point of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, here—to consult properly. When I say, "consult with the industry properly", again I follow the noble Lord's point. It is not enough just to consult the N.F.U. Consultation does not mean consulting with particular lobbies: it means consulting with people who really know the facts, and I think that very often the Government have failed to do this. They sometimes listen to a particular lobby—all Governments, I suppose, must do this—but they do not pay enough attention to cross-examining experts before they bring in legislation. I hope they will do that with regard to the Brambell Report.
With regard to Part II, again I think this is admirable. There has arisen the curious anomaly that although agricultural tenants have virtually a leasehold for life, on paper it is only an annual tenancy, so they were being compensated only for what in fact existed on paper, and this is unfair. I think this new arrangement goes some way towards putting that matter right. Nevertheless, it raises certain matters which I should have thought were fairly easy to put right. There is the question of the extreme complexity with which the whole thing will have to be managed. First of all, there is the question of the Clause 10 exceptions. It is Clause 11 for Scotland. This seems to me to be a curious upside-down way of doing the thing, and 1260 I should have thought the Government could overcome that problem. Secondly, it now means that this particular kind of compensation applies to all notices to quit, whether in fact this extra compensation was intended or, indeed, is fair or not. So you will have the position in which the landlord, in order to serve a valid notice, has virtually to serve notice for everything in the Agricultural Holdings Act 1948, and in this Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, too.
There is a limit to the amount of complication you can have in the standard forms for giving notice to quit. At the moment, if a landlord wants to give a notice to quit, or if a tenant wants to serve a counter-notice, he can fairly easily get out of Scammell or Jackson, the standard textbooks on the subject, the form that he requires. But under this new Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, you are going to get a state of affairs so complicated that nobody will know quite how to serve a notice at all. I think that this is undesirable, and that it should be straightened out.
Also, under the clauses dealing with additional payments to tenant farmers, there are anomalies about betterment levy which I think ought to be straightened out. As I understand it, at the moment a landlord cannot accept that extra compensation which he is paid on top of his base value in arriving at betterment value. That ought to be a fairly easy matter to put right. The same anomaly exists where part of a holding only is required for development, but where the holding is of such a size that you have to sell the whole lot. These are anomalies which it should not be difficult for the Government to sort out.
Then we come to the question of Part III, the "hereditary tenancies", perhaps jokingly so called. First let me say that I know nothing about Scottish law. I do not know at all conditions as they affect landlord and tenant in Scotland. Further, may I say that on this issue I am not entirely in agreement with some of my honourable friends in another place. But I cannot help thinking that were this clause to be passed so far as Scotland is concerned and then come to apply to England, it would not be in the best interest of, at any rate, English agriculture. I know that this Part deals only with Scottish agriculture; but I 1261 cannot help feeling that mutatis mutandis, the same thing applies: what is not good for English agriculture is not good for Scottish agriculture.
The reason is this. We have reached the stage now where more than half of the farmers in this country are owner-occupiers and they are in great difficulty with regard to the whole question of capital. An owner-occupier has to find two lots of capital: his working capital, on which he earns what any commercial man earns—say something between 12 per cent. and 15 per cent.—and another amount, perhaps the slightly bigger one, for his land, on which he earns something like 1½ per cent. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, said it was 4 per cent.; but most organisations dealing with land ownership put it as low as 1½ per cent. of the capital value. That, in the conditions prevailing to-day, of capital gains tax and of betterment levy, means that it is extremely difficult for the small man to find capital for both things. There is this state of affairs now, where more than half the farmers in this country are owner-occupiers. There is a slight feeling that this may have been a mistake and that it is asking too much of anyone to have to divide one block of capital into these two parts.
One may have a swing-back to the old landlord and tenant system, which served us very well in the past and in which one kind of man with one kind of expertise provided one part of the capital (that is, the land and the fixed equipment) and another kind of man provided the working capital and worked the land. This system operated well in the past; although there has been a swing away from it. I suggest that there may be a swing back again, because of the difficulties of owner-occupiers with regard to the capital side of their business. It would not help, in the agricultural industry as it is now, if we were to give another knock on the head to the poor landlord and tenant system, and this proposal must inevitably do that.
If you are going to penalise landlords—and it is a penalty to suggest that there should be hereditary succession in tenancies—then you are going to find that landlords will be unwilling to let farms at all, or at any rate will do so only to old men who have no relations. 1262 I cannot believe that that is a good thing. I and my family have been landowners for a long time. We frequently let land to the sons of tenants; but we let it to those sons because they are the best available tenants for us. That happens very often; but it is an impossible state of affairs to have to accept the system of hereditary tenancies. It is almost impossible to find reputable arguments for keeping hereditary Peers in this House. Some of them are quite good; some of them one does not wish to be unkind to and say, "Out on your head now". So one thinks in terms of phasing it out. But these are not arguments for hereditary succession to anything—I mean arguments of hardship; neither are they arguments for hereditary succession of tenancies. It is interesting to note that the National Farmers' Union in England has not thought it to the best interests of English agriculture that there should be this system in England. It seems to me amazing that their Scottish equivalent do think so in the case of Scotland. I am sure it would be a mistake. I do not see that it is in the best interests of agriculture.
My Lords, I have nothing but good to say about Parts IV and V. Again, there are certain Committee points with regard to Part IV which may have to be straightened out, but apart from that the general principle seems to be a good one. The Bill covers so many other points, from plant breeding to bacon curing and subsidies, which I do not know where to stop. But I think I have said enough, and with what I have said, in general, I give the Bill a welcome.
§ 4.56 p.m.
My Lords, although this Bill is given the title of an Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill it nevertheless contains some very important chapters and there is really not much difference in weight between it and the Bill we had last year which, I suppose for reasons of status, was given the title of an Agriculture Bill. But I fear there is not much in this Bill designed to help the country's more immediate economic problems.
The year 1967 has not been an easy year for the Minister of Agriculture, any more than for the farmers. The Minister has had the negotiations in regard to our joining E.E.C.; he has had the troubles 1263 of devaluation; he has had the trouble and expense of foot-and-mouth disease; and he is still in the terrible dilemma of what to do regarding importing meat from the Argentine. Then we must also remember that he is a member of a Government whose reputation is steadily declining. That last, I think, probably explains the more political provisions in this Bill and the bid to win the votes of the adopted sons and daughters of Scottish farmers. If the law of adoption in Scotland is as easy as their law of marriage—it is not very difficult to get a wife there—then with a little ingenuity they might be built up into quite a substantial corps.
With regard to the different chapters of this Bill, first Part I, I hope that when the various schemes are designed they will avoid persecution of the many in the efforts that will have to be made to ensure that the few ignorant or wilful men who try to get round these regulations do not, in fact, get away with it. There is always a danger, when regulations are drawn to compete with the few, that a quite unnecessary burden is put on the many and at the same time an organisation is built up which costs the taxpayer a great deal of money and achieves very little in the end.
Turning to Part II, I have no complaint at all at the proposal for a higher rate of compensation when farm land is taken in circumstances as set out and converted to various industrial uses. I think this proposal is entirely right, but I want to make just a few comments about forestry, which is of a somewhat different nature from other development envisaged by this Bill. First, I should like to ask this question. Are the Forestry Commission, who are of course agricultural landlords on a very big scale, in exactly the same position as any private landlord?
Secondly, with regard to land which is to be planted with trees, we can say that such proposals generally concern either very large areas or very small ones. When very large areas are under consideration, it probably means that a whole farm or large parts of a farm will disappear. I would not quarrel about the proposals in the Bill being operative in these cases. But one of the needs of this country, particularly since we are 1264 having ever fewer hedgerow trees, is to plant up the many small banks and wet patches on farms up and down the country which are quite useless for agriculture—they produce virtually nothing. There are many cases where such small areas as these have been planted; and they are always planted by private owners, because the Forestry Commission could never be interested in such small areas. But if, before planting such a plot of five acres or so, which would be of very small value for agriculture, it became necessary to pay compensation on the scale now written into the Bill, it is quite certain that thousands of such small areas would not be planted but would remain bare and useless. Here we should note, too, that when these small woods are planted it is generally done as much for the benefit of the farm, because of shelter. I hope that during the Committee stage we can look at this again to see whether it is not possible to have a difference in procedure regarding small areas which are useless for agriculture but which, if planted with trees, would bring an advantage to farms.
My Lords, turning to Part IV of the Bill, which relates to drainage, I am very glad to see that there is to be substantial amendment of the 1961 Act. I say that in spite of my affection for the 1961 Act, since I served on the Standing Committee which dealt with the Bill. In a sense it was of course a transitional or stop-gap Act, and the main figures in it were based on compromise agreements between the many interested parties. That does not mean that the passing of the 1961 Act did not represent a substantial step forward, but it was a measure which most of those who worked on it, seven years ago, knew was not the sort of Act of Parliament which would have a very long life. When it comes to the Committee stage of this Bill I intend, my Lords, to ask a number of questions, and I give notice now to the Minister concerned. I apologise in advance to the noble Lord, Lord Hilton of Upton, for the amount of "homework" which may be involved. I do not think that it will mean so very much for the noble Lord, because he knows a great deal about this subject; and if my memory is correct he was a member of the Standing Committee in 1961 and has long been closely associated with drainage legislation and practice.
1265 Lastly, turning to Part V, I should like some information about the the subsidy for what are called "break crops". Looked at from one angle, a subsidy for break crops would appear to be a bonus for bad farming. Those who have robbed the land by planting a succession of white straw crops are to be given a subsidy to help them repair the damage which they have done. That is how the subsidy will appear to many people, and I should like the noble Lord at least to attempt to dispel it when he replies to the debate.
Looking round the country to-day, my Lords, one wonders what crops there are which are not subsidised in one way or another or at some time or other. Perhaps one is entitled to-day, on the eve of the Price Review announcement, to think a little about the problems that the Minister may have had to face. I hope that he has resisted the temptation to allow our support system to become still more complicated. The administration of the agriculture support system has become so complicated that very few people understand it fully and many have to employ professional help in finding their way through the regulations, in the same way as, without necessarily being very rich, we have to employ professional help in order to have our tax case represented to the Inland Revenue.
I am sure it is true that every Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food starts off with the fundamental thought that when he makes changes in the support system he should do so as far as possible, in a way which simplifies the system. But he comes under pressure, first from this group and then from that, and attempts are made to persuade him that it would all be fairer if only he would accept a minor variation here and another variation there. Then, at the end of the Price Review negotiation—possibly in order to get the acceptance of a package deal—some of these variations are allowed to creep in. Here in this Bill, it seems, we have one such, and I must press the Minister to tell us what is the thinking behind this decision to pay subsidy on break crops, and why it has been necessary to introduce this further variation into what has become an all-too-complicated system.
§ 5.5 p.m.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, I think that if this Bill had remained in the state as that in which it was first introduced in to another place, neither the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, nor I need have come South last night; and that, I am sure, would have been a convenience for us both. But as another place did make several substantial changes in the Bill, we both felt that our journey was absolutely essential.
As you may have gathered, my Lords, I shall confine my remarks almost entirely to Part III, but I should like to say just a word or two about Part II. I wish mainly to say that I agreed with everything said about Part II by my noble friend Lord Inglewood. I am convinced that heretofore tenants have been very badly treated when a part or the whole of their farm, but particularly a part, has been taken for some reason or other by compulsory purchase. I fully understand the reasons why the Government wish to put forestry on the same footing, as obviously, from the point of view of a tenant farmer, it can be just as annoying if part of the land is taken to be planted as if the land is taken in order to build a motorway or for some such purpose.
If the Government seriously wish to encourage private forestry—and I admit that there are moments when I wonder whether they do—I must say that I think this will be another difficulty chat is being put in the way. Because, my Lords, tenant farmers will be very reluctant to give up land for forestry purposes if they consider they may have the chance of getting four years' rent as compensation by hanging on to the land and becoming rather awkward. In many cases the trees that would be planted would benefit not only the landlord but also the tenant. The difficulty, of course, is that, on the whole, landlords want to plant very large shelter belts, because only if they plant a really large area does the operation become economic, whereas tenant farmers are generally interested only in small shelter belts in order that they may retain the maximum amount of land for grazing purposes. I should like the Government to look again at the position of forestry in relation to Part II of the Bill. I fully realise that it is a difficult problem, and it may be 1267 that the Government have found the fairest answer. I would not argue this point very hard. Nevertheless, I think it will make one more difficulty for private forestry, and that will be a pity.
Turning to Part III, my Lords, I think it very strange that the most controversial clauses in the Bill should be introduced after the Second Reading in another place. I am sure that if a private Member tried to do that in your Lordships' House, he would be told that it was not within the thesis of the Long Title and that it would therefore be out of order to introduce these particular clauses into the Bill. I do not know how the Government got over this difficulty. It seems to me that it would have been better had the change in the law of succession been introduced in a separate Bill and if all the interested parties had been consulted before it was done. There was, I think, a deplorable lack of consultation with one of the interested parties before these changes were made.
It seems to me that the proposed change in the law of succession will have three main disadvantages—and here I agree very largely with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Henley. In my opinion, the differences between England and Scotland regarding agriculture do not extend to the system of tenant and landlord, and the disadvantages enumerated by the noble Lord which would apply in England if this became part of the English law, would also apply in Scotland. They are, my Lords, the difficulty that will be experienced by a young man who wishes to enter farming in getting a farm to tenant, and, secondly, that landlords will tend, when existing tenants leave, to take farms in hand or let them to elderly tenants who are unlikely to have any children.
Thirdly, with the present rate of death duties, even on a comparatively small estate, many of these farms will become very under-capitalised, because the new tenant will have to pay death duties when he inherits the lease and will be extremely loath to give up what is obviously a certain asset—his sitting tenancy of a farm. I do not think that this will be in the best interests of farming, but it is a minor point compared with the other two; that it will be difficult for new blood and new thinking to enter the industry as 1268 tenant farmers (it needs a lot of capital to enter as owner-occupiers) and landlords will tend to take farms in hand when they probably already farm a sufficient amount.
I realise that we are fighting a vain battle to try to get the Government to omit Part III of the Bill. They told the Scottish Farmers' Union that they were going to put this Part in. I presume they wish to win a few votes in the agricultural constituencies, but I cannot see how this in the end will make any great difference to their future. I wonder whether the Government would consider reversing the whole of Clause 18(2)(a), so that the onus of proof would be put on the near relative to show that he or she would be a competent and efficient farmer, rather than on the landlord to show that the tenant would not be a competent and efficient farmer. As we all know, it is extremely difficult to prove something that someone is not going to be. I think this change would be a great help. Obviously, there are landlords who would still be reluctant to let farms to young couples who had a lot of children, because they would not be likely to get their farms back for two or three generations, but at least they would be more likely to look with favour on young and efficient people trying to enter the industry.
What I find really extraordinary about these provisions is that they do not apply to England. I should think, in view of the fact that we are trying to enter the Common Market, that it would be desirable to get the law in England as close to that in Scotland as possible. But the English N.F.U. does not want this. May I quote the last half of paragraph 64 of a paper by the N.F.U. of England and Wales, entitled Tenure of Farm Land, because I think it puts the situation far better than I possibly could:While we well understand the feeling of a father who hopes to hand over the farm to his son and continue the tradition which may well have lasted for several generations, there is no reason why the son, whatever his familiarity with the farm, should have a prior claim in law over others with more experience and greater competence. The day has passed when the mere fact of having been raised on a farm gives one enough experience to manage it efficiently. The fact of having been born a farmer's son does not of itself provide the degree of managerial capacity, business acumen, practical application and sound judgment which 1269 the more exacting demands of modern farming require of successful farmers. Hard though it may seem upon the older generation of farmers, we cannot feel that a special case on behalf of their sons stands any chance of successful pleading, although we hope that all landlords and agents will give particular consideration to the son's hopes, and recognise that confidence in succession gives many older farmers a strong incentive to maintain and improve the farm as though it were their own.Whoever in the English N.F.U. wrote that cannot know the Secretary of State for Scotland, or he would not have put in that bit about special pleading. The only thing that encourages me about Part III of the Bill is that presumably the Government have now given up their idea of reforming this House and we hereditary Peers will be able to succeed to a place in your Lordships' House automatically if we satisfy the Committee for Privileges that we will act our part here with reasonable efficiency.
§ 5.15 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to make a few comments on Part I of the Bill, which deals with the welfare of livestock. I was struck by what the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said. There must be horrible people in England, and had I known there were such people I would not have lent him my shirt, as I did a few years ago in Paris. If the provisions of the Bill were carried out as they seem to be stated, I should be quite happy about the position in Scotland. I think that farmers there have nothing to fear. So long as there are people who like animals and spend their time looking after them and taking a pride in them, as 90 per cent. of Scotsmen do, then the other 10 per cent. can get what is coming to them and I hope they get it hard.
I think it is essential that the advisory services of the three colleges of agriculture and the N.F.U. should be consulted by the Departments, because it is no secret that the scientists and eminent doctors in some of these colleges are dead against Professor Brambell. They have said they would have nothing to do with the original Report. That point was made to me and renewed three days ago by one of them. So it might put things in proportion, which is all I am asking, if more than one scientific opinion were required. Within that framework, I would say that these provisions 1270 are excellent. I should like to repeat what everybody has said: that if we import from overseas, from Europe and the Argentine, food which is produced under conditions which we condemn here, and buy it at the cheapest price, it is a great act of hypocrisy. I do not know what can be done about it, but I hope something will be done.
So far as Part II of the Bill is concerned, the division of forestry and agriculture worries me a little because many leases prohibit the resumption of land for "agricultural purposes" but do not prohibit it for forestry. So far as I can see, a clear distinction is not made in the Bill and forestry is treated as agriculture, which is what it is, but there may be some mix-up with existing leases in force in Scotland.
Coming to Part III of the Bill I am not so hot under the collar as my noble friends about the question of security of tenure. There are several things that give me pleasure. One point already mentioned is the violent swerve towards the hereditary principle which has suddenly been taken by the Socialists. Not all farmers' sons wish to carry on in a jolly hard industry. Lots of them would like to go and sit much nearer bingo and have a soft job in the city. Another thing which gives me great contentment is this. I think it is worth while to compare the N.F.U. brief on this matter with the actual words in the Bill. The N.F.U. say categorically:It should be remembered that a farm which is unable to provide employment for two men is not to be protected by the new provisions where a landlord wishes to amalgamate it with another unit.That is cut and dried, but the Bill is not. If that was in the Bill in language which any Scotsman could understand, then I should not worry.
But so far as I can see, you have a good definition—I think it is 600 man days as being a two-man farm—and you have the normal conditions with which you have to comply with the Department. I suggest that it is unnecessary to have anything other than the right of appeal to the Land Court. In this way it could be decided far cheaper, far quicker and certainly far easier through the machinery which the Government have already set up. If the tenant disagrees, give him the right to appeal to the Land Court.
1271 I think there is an enormous amount of complication in the Bill which is quite unnecessary. It is not desired by the Farmers' Union, at least according to their brief. I am a member of the North-Eastern Area Executive of the Farmers' Union, and have been for a long time, and I am sure they mean what they say: that they do not want to perpetuate small uneconomic farms in any circumstances. I do not see why that should not be followed in the Bill. I should think, according to the Bill, that the tenant farmer could tout his holding round. He could offer it first to his oldest son, and if he says, "I do not want it", he could then offer it to his next son, then to his daughter and then to his daughter-in-law. I do not think that is what is meant, but it would be utterly undesirable. If it is turned down by the heir, that should be that. The possibility of handing it on to anybody you can find is entirely undesirable. This may not be what the Bill means to do, but that is what I think it does. On the question of adoption, in proper circumstances I have no objection to a farm going to an adopted child, but I believe that the child should have been adopted fifteen years before and should be of age before the place is handed over to him. With that proviso, I see nothing wrong with this procedure.
Then I come to Part IV—I shall say nothing about Part V, because I do not understand it. I should like to know whether the Forestry Commission are going to be assessed on one-fifth of their forest area, or whether there will be some sort of swindle and a formula produced which does the local authorities out of the cash which they ought to get. I hope that the Forestry Commission will pay up the same as we all do.
It seems to me to be a little hard when you consider that the roofs, roads and concreted spaces of a housing estate are well over 90 per cent. impervious, and are the reason for the cost of the drainage, or a very large amount of it, and the local authority pay a very small amount. It seems rather hard that the landward area, which gets no benefit from this, should pay on a high scale. I think that the Government could look at existing classifications of their own. They have classified hill land; they have 1272 classified livestock rearing areas. All the work is done, and all they have to do—they have assessed one-fifth for forest areas—is to say that one-half or one-third, or something like that, for these other classifications, which would be a far fairer share of the burden. Again, the burden of an upland farmer is the same as the burden of a man in the rich lands down in the low ground. I do not think that is just, and that would be an easy way out of it.
In the upland farms we spend a lot of money keeping watercourses clear, for which we get no grant. For example, I have on my own little bit of land a tractor and a man working the entire winter. On top of that I am to be levied, or may be, for drains. I think there will be a good deal of grumbling, and I may well be grumbling, too.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ LORD BANNERMAN OF KILDONAN
My Lords, I should like to express two or three opinions, quite shortly, on one particular section of the Bill, which is the Scottish section. I am glad to follow the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, who has not been so completely against this section of the Bill as previous noble Lords who have spoken. They seem to be worried that these provisions might rub off on to England. These are specifically clauses applying to Scotland, and noble Lords should not be worried. There was a far more severe Agriculture Bill, which came during the time of the Socialists in 1947–48, which gave continuity to the farming industry in Britain, and possibly did more to raise production in agriculture than any other single factor did. Continuity of tenure in agriculture is valuable, not only for the fact that it produces more food, but because it keeps people on the land and families do not disappear from the land as they are doing.
The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, was worried that this very reasonable security of tenure would worry people in England. Under the old Socialist Act the pendulum was undoubtedly swung completely away from the landlord in favour of the tenant. In those days the landlord could not sell his farm, because he could not realise its true value, public market value, due to the fact that there was a sitting 1273 tenant with complete security. We all felt that that was an injustice, and I feel that a semblance of this injustice still remains under this Bill. The fact that the heir is secured to follow on is a good thing, but if it affects the selling price which the farmer may hope to get from a farm, then I think there is hardship, so far as the landlord is concerned, and this Bill should contain some provision to get rid of this hardship. I see no reason at all why this hardship cannot be dealt with in this Bill.
There is a fair rent in Scotland, determined by the Land Court. There is no reason why a fair selling price, the market price, could not also be determined by the Land Court; and that would be the price at which the landlord would sell the farm, or which he would expect to receive for his farm. There would be an onus on the successor in the tenancy to buy the farm, if he so wished, at that open market price; and if he was not prepared to do so, then I say that he would do better to give up the farm. That is all I am going to say in favour of the landlord. I think that the question of whether or not the farm is let to elderly tenants does not affect the issue. There can be adoption for the elderly tenants who could work against such a clause.
The other thing that worries me is the term "amalgamation". I am not sure that in agriculture I like the term "amalgamation". There are small units of agriculture in Scotland, family units, which, although they are not big economic units, are valuable, not only for the production of food but for the production of families; and in the past that was the most important product that came out of our Highlands and Islands area. When I listen to the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, I know that he is connected with Mull, and that there is regard for him as a landowner there. I know that owing to the situation that has existed in Mull, and in great areas of the Highlands, agriculture and the people have disappeared, until an area such as Mull is the most desolate island in the whole of the Western Hebrides.
This occurred under a system whereby landowners owned the land. It is high 1274 time to recognise that land is valuable when it is farmed in continuity and continuously by the men nearest the soil. That is why the Scottish N.F.U. support Clause 3 of this Bill, and that is why all Scotsmen believe that security of tenure in agriculture is a good thing, with the safeguards which I have referred to relating to the landowner. This principle should be adhered to, and the Government should be congratulated upon having swung the pendulum back again. It was right over on the left in 1947; it was carried right over to the right in 1957, and then we had a landlord Agriculture Act. This Bill is at least a compromise between the two. For that reason, when it secures the unit on the land and gives the farmer the confidence to put his lime and manure on his land for years ahead—looking ahead for years to come for his sons—it is good for the sons, it is good for the land, and it is good for the people.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, may I make one point before the noble Lord sits down? He called Mull the most desolate island. With due respect, he cannot know his facts, because Mull is one of the most heavily stocked sheep-farming areas in the whole of the Highlands. In fact, compared with the position before the war, the amount of livestock carried on Mull is two and a half times as great as before. True enough, the population has gone down, but that is due to economic causes and the different standard of living. It has nothing to do with the landlord. Before the war a man was paid 30s. a week; now he is paid £15 a week. And so, of course, one has to produce far more to pay that wage and one cannot employ so many men—
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, may I be allowed to ask whether the noble Viscount is asking a question? If not, I would remind him that last week, after certain exchanges, we decided that this form of irregular debate is not desirable.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, the noble Viscount having been called to Order, it would be quite wrong to permit the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman of Kildonan, to go into disorder also.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, the noble Lord having been asked a question—the noble Viscount said, "Before the noble Lord sits down", the noble Lord not having sat down—he is surely entitled to reply to the point made in the interruption.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I quite agree. I think we agreed that if a noble Lord was asked a question before he resumed his seat he could reply to it. The whole point here is surely that the intervention from the noble Viscount could scarcely be described as a question.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, what the noble Viscount was doing was making a second speech because he disagreed with some of the things the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman of Kildonan, had to say about Mull. I can understand the noble Viscount's point of view, but it is not the way that it should be expressed. If he had started off by saying, "Is it not a fact…?", or something like that, he might have put himself in order, but he did not do that; he did not ask a question.
I should point out at this stage that I am not replying to the debate; I am intervening only on the subject of that part of the debate, dealing with Part III of the Bill, which applies to Scotland. I think it would be helpful if I added a little to what my noble friend Lord Hilton of Upton said in introducing the Bill. A number of noble Lords have indicated that their enthusiasm for Part III is not as great as the Government's, and it has been suggested that in fact we have not consulted people properly about this. I wish to dispute this contention. One of the first things that happened after the 1964 General Election was that various organisations in Scotland sought to meet the new Secretary of State, and the Scottish N.F.U. was one of these organisations. This I remember because I was at this particular meeting in about November or December, 1964.
One of the points which was put forward most strenuously on that occasion by the Scottish N.F.U. was that in 1958 (to use the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman) the pendulum had swung too far in the opposite direction, and that some legislation was necessary 1276 to put the matter right. There have been various meetings and representations since 1965; there has also been correspondence. No one can suggest, the point having been represented to the Government so forcibly at the end of 1964, and now being brought into legislation in January, February and March, 1968, that the Government have exactly rushed in and that the matter is being dealt with in an ill-advised way. In fact, the Government have spent a great deal of time on this matter, because they accepted the fact that experience had shown that the 1948 legislation went too far in favour of the tenant; it went too far against the landlord, and we wanted to be quite sure that, in remedying the admitted defects of 1958 in going in the other direction, we did not just create a new set of injustices.
In another place, on Committee stage it was suggested that the Government were still making the matter too wide, and at Report stage the Government introduced an Amendment on the subject of efficiency and experience which went at least part of the way to meet the points made by the Opposition. I admit quite freely that it did not go all the way, but that was because we felt that they were asking too much. The proposals, therefore, which we have put forward are in the Government's view calculated to give a fairer deal to competent successors to tenancy than was provided by the 1958 Act.
In meeting what we felt was reasonable criticism against the pre-1958 position, namely, that it was likely to result in the freezing of smaller, unsatisfactory-sized units, we have provided that the landlord should be able to obtain possession of the smaller type of holding which was not capable of providing full-time employment for two men, if he planned to amalgamate it with another holding. I would suggest to the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, that if he looks at this again he will find there is nothing particularly complicated about it. It is a straightforward way of going ahead with the amalgamation and it will not present the National Farmers' Union with any difficulty in practice.
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him? I am not against that at 1277 all; all I was saying—and it is probably because I have read the Bill incorrectly, and it is difficult to understand—was that I felt it would be far better and simpler to use the existing machinery for amalgamations that the Government have produced, vulgarly known as the "golden handshake", rather than require them to incur the time and expense of going to the Land Court. Nevertheless, I suggested that if the tenant was aggrieved he might appeal to the Land Court.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I would remind the noble Viscount that the difficulty in what he suggests is that the "golden handshake"—or the "silver handshake", according to the value one places on it—is entirely voluntary. The amalgamation and the handshake arise only if the holder of the small unit is willing to give it up; but in this case the amalgamation will be a compulsory one, which the owner wishes to undertake but the potential successor is opposing. After all, if he is not opposing there will be nothing to go to the Land Court about. This is going further than the ordinary amalgamation machinery, in the interests, in this case, of the landlord owner.
I should like now to come to some of the other points that have been made in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, all touched on the point of the adopted son or daughter, and they all had some misgivings about this provision. There need be no misgivings about it. The law of Scotland in relation to succession has been altered to give the adopted son or daughter the same rights of succession as a natural son or daughter. It would be quite improper if in this particular instance we were to say that an adopted son or daughter was not to have the ordinary legal rights. This is the simple reason why this provision is in the Bill. The rather fanciful suggestion that Scotland is so infested with farmers determined to plague the landlords that, in anticipation of their own death and the fact that the landlord is going to sell the land, they will go around looking for someone to adopt, merely for the purposes of frustrating the landowner is really not tenable. I do not know in fact whether there is any tenancy farm in Scotland where the farmer has an adopted 1278 son or daughter. I suspect that there may be, but I do not really know. However, I do not suppose there are many, and I would point out that the number of farms which come up for letting is comparatively small.
This brings me to touch on the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene, and Ferrard, that this provision would dry up the number of farms available for letting. I would not deny that it may reduce the number to a small extent, but we ought not to exaggerate its effect. At present, many landlords allow a tenant's son or other relative to succeed to a holding, and the fact that this Bill may become an Act is not going to alter the attitude which these landowners would have taken in any event. We do not know exactly how many farms become available, but it would seem that the number become available for letting in a year is somewhere between 35 and 60, and it seems unlikely that a high proportion of these are cases in which the landlord has given a successor an incontestable notice to quit. That has been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven. In not every case where a farmer dies does his son—or any other relative, for that matter—wish to succeed. After all, this will not compel someone to take up the tenancy; it is merely to give an opportunity where someone wishes to take up the tenancy; and can show that he is a fit person to get it.
VISCOUNT MASSE REENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, may I ask what is the position of the landlord's son if he wants to farm and all the landlord's farms are let and all the tenants have successors? It would seem that then the landlord's son has no chance of ever getting any land.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, the noble Viscount is not as well aware of the rights of landowners as I should have expected him to be. If a landlord has a son who wishes to farm he may apply, under Section 26(1)(d) of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1949, to the Scottish Land Court for consent to dispossess a tenant, on the ground that greater hardship would be caused to the landlord by not getting possession than would be caused to the tenant by losing his holding. So in this case what the 1279 Land Court has to decide is where the greater hardship lies. It may be that it will be difficult for a landlord in these circumstances to prove that there is greater hardship, but the noble Viscount gives up too readily if he is making out the case that it is impossible that this should ever arise.
THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, does the noble Lord not think that if the tenant's son or daughter has this right they will tend to take advantage of it, and thereby stay on the farm, when perhaps they are not really interested in farming but are perfectly entitled to within the provisions of Clause 18 of this Bill? Possibly one way to avoid this might be to adopt the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman of Kildonan.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I do not think so. I subscribe to the view, which has frequently been expressed, that there are many easier ways of earning a living than by being a farmer. I am certain that sons or daughters who wish to succeed to a tenancy in those circumstances will do so because they are genuinely interested in farming, and not because they are under any illusions that it is an easy way of getting a living.
The noble Viscount also suggested that the provisions of Part III would be unworkable on poorer land. I do not think that is the case, because it is likely, in the first instance, that these would be the smaller units not employing more than two men, so that there are grounds for seeking an amalgamation. It also assumes that the landlord will stop investing capital in all such holdings. After all, a "reasonable" landlord—if I may use what the noble Viscount called a "nasty" word—is expected to do a certain amount of investment in the property which he is letting, and it surely is quite unreasonable to suggest that because tenancies are to continue there is not going to be further reasonable investment in the farm.
The noble Duke suggested that Clause 18(2) should be reversed to put the onus of proof on the tenant. I should like to point out that this is hardly necessary. It is only if the landlord is objecting to the tenancy arising that there is a case to go to the Land Court in the first 1280 instance, so that the action must be initiated by the landowner. But once it goes to the court, the court must look at both sides. We all know that the Land Court operates with a little more informality than some of the other courts of the country. They will look at it both ways, both seeking to consider how the landowner has proved inefficiency or how the prospective tenant has proved efficiency. I think it will work both ways.
I was a little amused that the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, raised the question that the Government suddenly had been converted to the hereditary principle. I would remind both noble Lords that this is not something new. After all, what we are seeking to do in part in this Bill is something which we did in 1948, and we were not more enthusiastic about the hereditary principle for law-makers then than we are now. We were enthusiastic then and are still about the rights of families, and if there is any business in this country which is more firmly tied as a family unit than farming I do not know what it is. It is reasonable that the proper rights of families in farming should be looked after to some extent, and that is what the Bill does. It goes no further than that. The unfortunate thing is, like it or not, that there is a certain element of the hereditary system in families. That is as far as we are going in this Bill.
If I may sum up what the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, said, he was not objecting really to the extension of tenure in the Bill. Much of what he was saying was in objection to tenancy as such, and the logical conclusion of his argument is that all farming should be done by the owner of the land and that no man should have a farm unless he owns it. That may or may not be a desirable thing, but it certainly is not a practical proposition at the present time.
The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, touched on the subject of rating of agricultural subjects, and in regard to the present situation, shall I say that I find it difficult to disagree with him when he says it is chaotic? But, unfortunately, if there is to be an alteration it is not an alteration of agricultural law, it is an alteration of valuation law which is necessary; and while one can put many matters 1281 into an Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, to start altering the valuation laws is, I suggest, and I think the noble Lord will immediately agree, going just a little too far.
I have said more than once in this House that I am not a Scottish Nationalist in the sense that members of the Scottish National Party are, but if ever I was in danger of applying for membership of that Party it was this afternoon when I was listening to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and to a certain extent the noble Duke. I can well understand the noble Lord, Lord Henley, as an English Peer, preferring the views of the English National Farmers' Union in relation to farming conditions in Scotland, but I certainly take the strongest exception when he goes on to suggest that if something is good for English agriculture it must by the same token be good for Scottish agriculture, particularly when he prefaced it by saying that he did not know anything about Scottish agricultural conditions or tenancy. But when he went on to say, "The English N.F.U. do not want this system, and it seems to me amazing that the Scots should", I almost went out and wrote for membership of the Scottish National Party then, but I realised I was allowing myself to be driven by illiberalism into insanity.
§ LORD BANNERMAN OF KILDONAN
My Lords, would the noble Lord agree there was another Liberal opinion?
§ LORD HUGHES
Yes, my Lords; and if the noble Lord, Lord Bannerman, wants me to make forecasts I would say that for every member of the Scottish National Party in Scotland who quotes his views on land tenure there will be 100 who will quote Lord Henley's views against the Liberal Party. That was bad enough coming from the noble Lord, Lord Henley, because, after all, he is English and he has a perfect right to prefer English conditions to Scottish conditions. But when the noble Duke read from the memorandum of the English N.F.U. and said that this was a reasonable thing, and did not read a single word from the document of the Scottish N.F.U., which expresses the contrary opinion very forcibly indeed, then he certainly has no qualifications even to apply for membership of the Scottish National Party.
§ LORD HUGHES
That is a more reasonable expression of opinion than what the noble Duke said about the Scottish N.F.U. views. There were some rather surprising things said about the Government's ideas in putting this provision in. I am always happy when I see that the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, is to make a contribution, because I can always extract a crumb of comfort from it. He said that the Government was declining rapidly, and then he suggested that perhaps our reason for our interest in adopted sons or daughters was to help to recover the situation in Scotland. If our position in Scotland has only declined so little that the proportion of 35 to 60 farmers who may get tenancies in a year and who also have an adopted son or daughter can put it right we have little to worry about.
§ LORD HUGHES
I only wish to give the noble Lord credit. I always give the noble Lord credit for helping Her Majesty's Government; I did so last time, and I will continue to give credit where credit is due. It was also suggested, I think by the noble Duke, that the reason for our doing this was that we were seeking to get the votes of tenant farmers in Scotland. I would say quite honestly that if we could get the votes of tenant farmers in Scotland we would not despise them, but I would add that I am not terribly optimistic. Everyone has said that what we did for the farmers in 1947 was more than was ever done by any Government, but the number of farming votes it brought in did not bring us a single constituency. So I am not terribly optimistic that the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968 is going to swing Scottish farmers behind us in one body. It may bring one or two in, but it is not going to win us many constituencies.
This is a simple measure of justice which has been introduced into a Bill on farming, not right at the beginning, because the Government's intention really had been to introduce a simple Bill at the appropriate stage in which to put 1283 this provision. But then after the Miscellaneous Provisions Bill was put forward it was realised that this was a perfectly proper vehicle through which it could be done, and could be done much more quickly than waiting for the opportunity of yet another small Agriculture Bill. It does not do everything the tenant farmer wants, or everything the landowner wants. In so far as it is perhaps nearly a halfway house between the two points of view, we think it is something that will be fairer than what was done in 1948 and in 1958, and with good will on both sides, which I am certain will be forthcoming, the 1968 provision may have a longer life than the 1948 or 1958 ones.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords, I am sure the whole House will agree that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, always introduces a certain flavour into any debate, and I again congratulate him to-day on his performance. My only comment on his performance is that perhaps what we read to-morrow will not be quite so good as what we heard to-day. Along with other noble Lords I welcome this somewhat ragbag of a Bill. I find myself in a slightly awkward position, because prior to the beginning of the Second Reading of this Bill I had prepared three-quarters of my speech on Part III of the Bill, not knowing that I was going to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. I think it would be discourteous of me to raise any further points on this Part. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will welcome this.
I would, however, as a Scot, just say that I entirely agree with my noble friends on this side of the House, that such a measure does nothing to help to improve either the efficiency or the productivity of Scottish agriculture, and I hope that the Government will reconsider this matter and will be persuaded in Committee to withdraw it. The other comment that I should like to make is that the Government have indeed done us a great honour to-day on this small Bill by putting up three Front Bench speakers. I am only sorry to see that none of their Back Bench speakers was prepared to follow them.
Although I welcome the Bill, I must confess, as a practising land agent, that 1284 this type of legislation often proves a nightmare to follow. It deals with such a galaxy of varying subjects, some of which I personally feel should have been dealt with in their own legislation—here, of course, I refer to Part II of the Bill, to tenant's compensation. I think it would have been far better if that Part had come under a proper agricultural holdings Bill.
Along with other speakers, I naturally welcome Part I of the Bill, dealing with the welfare of livestock, and I look forward to seeing what regulations the Minister proposes to make. My only regret in regard to this Part of the Bill is that neither this House nor another place has seen fit to provide time to debate the Brambell Report. Such debates could have been quite useful to the Minister when drafting the regulations. My noble friend Lord Nugent commented earlier that it is Parliament's duty to keep the right balance in these factors. Whereas such a system of farming often increases productivity, I would put forward three suggestions whereby I believe Part I of the regulation could be enforced.
The first concerns the system of rearing veal calves. I was particularly interested to note in the Brambell Report that evidence was taken from a farm near Henley which I myself have visited and seen. The method of veal production on this farm is, I think, common to many other producers. It is where the young calf of four days old is put into a small crate with slatted floors, and from that moment on until it is slaughtered some twelve weeks later it never leaves the crate and is restricted to standing or lying down in that one position. I am sure its diet is splendidly scientific, but it includes no roughage and it lives on a high protein gruel. I believe it is a system which should be abhorred by those generally interested in livestock welfare. I believe it is the nearest thing to an inhuman factory system you can get.
The second point I would comment on is the system of intensively reared broiler chickens. As I understand it, the Brambell Report came down against debeaking and for the minimum requirement of 12 square inches per bird. In my experience in managing such a broiler unit both these points could be challenged, and I should be happy to give the noble Lord 1285 evidence of this later should he require it. The third point in regard to the Brambell Report to which I should like to draw attention is the present laxity in the methods of both castration and the slaughter of animals. I believe that often there is unnecessary suffering to animals in this respect, mainly because farmers have been used to a certain system of castration or of slaughter all though their lives and they see no reason to alter their system now because of a certain new set of regulations. I hope that the Minister will study both practices and improve on them.
Turning briefly to Part II of the Bill, I personally welcome the additional compensation that will become payable to displaced tenants. In this House I asked an Unstarred Question on this particular subject some two years ago, at a time when a good deal of acquisition of land was going on for a new town in Buckinghamshire. I remember that the noble Lord, Lord Champion, who replied for the Government on that occasion, was most sympathetic to the case. My only comment on the provision, which I think is a good one, is that I believe that the compensation should be geared to the rack rent of the farm and not to the existing rent. I know that this point was argued in another place, and I hope we may have an opportunity of taking it up again on Committee. In my opinion, if we uproot a farmer and his family and take away his livelihood we should give all the financial assistance we can.
There are two small points on Part II of the Bill that I should like to raise with the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. The first arises where a tenant is farming under licence. Here I am thinking of Section 2 of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1948. I am sure the noble Lord will recall that under licence a tenant does not have the same security of tenure, but he can, of course, go on farming under licence year after year, with the approval of the county agricultural executive committee. I should like to ask whether he will be entitled to similar compensation under Part II. The second question that I would ask under this Part is whether, in the event of part of the farm being taken back for non-agricultural use and the tenant deciding that the remainder of the farm is an uneconomic unit, he is allowed to claim the full compensation 1286 on the land not necessarily required for non-agricultural use.
One small but important clause in the Bill, which I think only the noble Lord, Lord Hilton of Upton, mentioned, is Clause 44. This clause deals with the Agricultural Wages Committee. I am pleased to see that at last those involved in land, in agriculture, are to be rewarded for their efforts; and I hope that in future there will be less disparity between the farm staff on the farm and those who work in industry. As this is a miscellaneous provisions Bill, I hope I may be excused for mentioning one subject which is not specifically mentioned in the Bill but which concerns the farming community—it is the question of farm mortgages. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will know that the chief source of farm mortgages is the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation. At the present time and for the last nearly two years the rate of interest on an agricultural mortgage for farmers has been high. I think at present it is approximately 8 per cent.
The point with regard to this mortgage is that whereas the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation offers a mortgage over, say, 40 years on a repayment basis, the farmer at the time of taking out a mortgage finds that his interest is constant. It is but a small inducement for any farmer to take out a long-term mortgage at the present high interest rates. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to comment on this matter and perhaps some improvement could be incorporated into the Bill. I would end, as have other noble Lords, by confirming my support for the Bill. I hope that the reference by the noble Lord, Lord Hilton of Upton, to to-morrow's announcement of the Price Review is in anticipation of good news for an industry which has served the country so well in the past and which now deserves some new encouragement.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, has shared one difficulty with his noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford. Both of them, on behalf of the Opposition, were unwilling to oppose this Bill, but both were unable to be unduly enthusiastic about it. I thought that they contrived to achieve the sort of balance which we want to see when we apply the provisions of Part I 1287 of the Bill. I should like to take up the noble Earl's offer to let me have the information about veal production, and I was interested to hear what he said about the debeaking of broiler fowls; there was also the other point he made about castration. Those are matters which might well be profitably discussed on Committee stage.
The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, said that the Bill was curiously irrelevant. With respect, I thought that that was a rather strange description of this Bill. "Incidental", possibly; but not "irrelevant", Incidentally this brings much valued reform to the agricultural scene, but it is in addition to other provisions which this Government have brought in to assist the farmer. I will resist the temptation put before me by the noble Lord to discuss the relative merits of a dear food system in the Common Market, as against the support prices in this country. I think that he will agree that, no matter what basic agricultural policy we have, we shall still need to have regard to the welfare of animals, fair play to the displaced tenant farmer, a proper system of drainage charges, and other things contained in this Bill—not to mention the supervision of the gardens at Wakehurst Place. I shall leave what was said by some noble Lords from across the Border, since I thought my noble friend Lord Hughes dealt more than adequately with their criticisms, though I have no doubt that we shall be hearing much more about these problems at a later stage of the Bill.
I was gratified to hear the general welcome which was given by Lord Nugent, by Lord Kinnoull, by Lord Balerno, by Lord Nunburnholme, and by most noble Lords who have spoken to Part I of this Bill. If there had been any doubt whatever about the necessity for something of this sort, those doubts would have been dispelled by what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Henley. However, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, expressed some doubt about the position in which the farmers in this country would be left, when competing against farmers overseas, who possibly do not have to adhere to, or meet, the same standards which one might expect will be contained in the regulations when approved. There may well be a 1288 point here, although social differences in other countries probably have much greater effect on price levels than any farm animal welfare regulations are likely to have. But the Government accept that there is a point here. Of course, in practice any effect which these regulations, when drafted, will have will be spread over many years. Moreover, in regard to white veal, which was a possible import mentioned in another place, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has given an undertaking that the other Governments concerned overseas will be consulted to ensure that there is no unfair competition there.
I was rather surprised to hear the thoughts of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, on some of these matters. I may be allowing myself to jump to wrong conclusions, but I felt that he was saying we were assisting the farmer rather too much in respect of the grants for break crops. There was an inquiry from my noble friend which was rather contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, asked me whether it would be possible to extend this grant to other crops. Again, my right honourable friend has given an undertaking that the possibility of extending this scheme to other crops will be considered. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, if I understood him aright, asked me why should we give this kind of assistance anyhow. My Lords, we all know that there is very special value in rotation of this kind, and I should not have thought that anyone would argue against the fact that field beans would improve the fertility of the soil.
My Lords, I do not want to pursue this in detail now. Of course, the introduction of certain crops in rotation improves the soil, but from my reading of the Bill this grant appeared to be a grant to help people to repair damage which they themselves had done. I was also expressing the general thought that there appeared to be no end to the farming operations, in one direction or another, which attract some help. I feel, as I am sure does the noble Lord, that this is a trend which one would like to see reversed.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, certainly there are occasions when one thinks that there is no end to the assistance 1289 that can be given to the farming community; although I am bound to say that I hope that this thought expressed so well by the noble Lord will be echoed to-morrow when we are discussing the Statement to be made on the Farm Price Review.
The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, asked about the qualification of the inspectors who would go on to the land in order to satisfy themselves that they conformed with the regulations. I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, if these officers would be qualified veterinary officers. The Ministry inspectors will, of course, be qualified vets, although they may take their technical assistants with them. In regard to local authority officers, they will be concerned only with feeding-stuffs. I should not have thought that any such qualifications would be needed there, but if there is still a difficulty about this then we can perhaps discuss it when considering the Amendment which the noble Lord has promised us. I can assure the noble Lord that the Departments concerned will issue an advisory circular to local authorities stressing the necessity of having, if not professionally qualified people, at any rate people who would observe the sort of code which the noble Lord has in mind.
I was also asked about establishing the identity of officers who are to make inspections on a farmer's land; I was asked whether identification ought not to be mandatory. Well, the wording of the Act requires these persons to establish their identity if they are asked. I should not have thought that, in practice, we shall have any trouble about that, but if the noble Lord has any point which he thinks might be further discussed, perhaps we could look at it on Committee stage.
The noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, asked about representation on the river authorities and suggested that those who pay charges should be represented, especially the farming community. When a draining charge is raised an additional member is appointed to the authority to represent the draining charge payers. It would not, of course, be right to give the agricultural community equal representation with the local authorities, because, after all, it 1290 will be the local authorities who will still contribute the major part of the bill. But where we are dealing with the farming community, it is very likely that the local authority representatives will include farmers or people allied to the farming industry. Moreover, the land drainage members will normally include representatives of the farming community, and in that capacity, too, as members of the internal drainage boards they will sit upon the river authorities. As I understood him, the noble Lord went on to criticise the practice of civil servants voting on these river authorities. I am afraid that I could not quite understand the point he was getting at, because there are no civil servants on them as such.
My Lords, the Minister has power to appoint so many members on the river authority.
§ LORD BESWICK
Certainly he does, my Lords, but not necessarily civil servants. Possibly what the noble Lord was thinking of was the representatives of the water undertakings. There may well be representation there, but I should have thought it was proper that, in that case, they should have the right to vote. The noble Lord also asked me about the drainage charges. I should emphasise that this is a purely discretionary charge. No river authority is obliged to I raise it, although we hope that many will do so since there is certainly a good deal of work still to be done.
The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, asked in a reference to affairs South of the Border how profits will be assessed in reckoning compensation under Clause 15 in Part II of the Bill. The actual amount will be a matter for agreement between landlord and tenant. If they cannot agree, then the dispute can be referred to the Lands Tribunal in compulsory purchase cases, or to arbitration when the dispossession is by notice to quit. I understand that the assessment of such compensation under the compulsory purchase code—that is, in cases of compulsory dispossession—takes into account recent years' profits and the current farming practice in relation to the holding. If a tenant thought his assessment was unfair he could appeal to the Lands Tribunal.
1291 The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, and also the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, asked whether the Forestry Commission will be liable for payments under Clause 9. The answer is, Yes. They will have to make payments in exactly the same way as a private landlord or, for that matter, as a public authority. Part II applies to them all. The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, had a most intriguing Committee point about the word "creature". I must get the Parliamentary draftsman on to this, and see whether there is anything in the point which he made. He also asked about the registration of a plant variety. I am bound to confess to him that I find this one a little difficult. I should like to study what he said, and either I will write to him or we will again come back to that at Committee stage. I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, about the question of compensation, which he thought would possibly deter landlords from planting trees.
§ LORD BESWICK
He said that the landlord may want to plant a bank of trees, but if he has to pay compensation under Part II he is unlikely to plant. But if they are shelter belts, which I think the noble Lord had in mind, then they would fall within the definition of "agriculture" in the Agricultural Holdings Act, and the landlord would not in that case be obliged to make the new payments. If, however, the parts of land involved are the small wet patches, which I think the noble Lord described, then the payments would be based only on the rental value of the land and, judging by his description of the land, the amount of money involved would be very small indeed.
The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, asked about tenants on licence under Section 2 of the Agricultural Holdings Act: and whether they would be entitled to the new payment. The answer is, No. The new sum is not payable when there is no entitlement to disturbance compensation, and licensees under Section 2 are not so entitled. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, had one or two points which I thought were better left until the Committee stage. But he asked me a question which perhaps I might deal with 1292 now, about the betterment levy, and whether there was a liability on the part of landlords in relation to Clause 9 payments. The Land Commission are understood to take the view that where the landlord pays the new sum to an outgoing tenant he will not be able to add it to the base value of his interests for levy purposes when he comes to sell the land for development. Questions of liability for betterment levy are the responsibility of the Land Commission, and an Agriculture Bill cannot legislate away existing liabilities. A landlord is not, however, obliged to sell with vacant possession, though he will no doubt do so where, as will generally be the case with sales for development, he thereby gains enough on the sale price to leave him well in pocket after paying the new sum to the tenant and discharging his tax liabilities as well.
My Lords, I am not quite sure that I accept the noble Lord's assurance that there is no injustice, because I suspect that there is an injustice here and that it ought to be put right. But I agree with the noble Lord that this cannot be put right in this particular Bill, and it is really a matter for a Finance Bill.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord. He has made his point and I have no doubt that it will be considered by others. Another point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and by the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, was about the application to England of the better parts of the law applying to Scotland. I may just add—although my noble friend Lord Hughes dealt with most of this—that the desirability or otherwise of providing greater security for the near relatives of deceased tenant farmers in England and Wales will be discussed with interested agricultural and professional organisations, as part of the general review of agricultural holdings legislation now in hand. I hope that noble Lords from North of the Border will be satisfied that justice is eventually to be done South of the Border. I hope I have dealt with most of the points that have been raised. Possibly I have not dealt with some of them, but perhaps we can return to them at Committee stage, or if there are some which I can deal with before that I 1293 will certainly write to the noble Lords concerned.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.