HL Deb 18 May 1970 vol 310 cc893-905

2.44 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now received.

Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Beswick.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 13 [Provision for Levy]:

LORD BESWICK rose to move Amendment No. 1: Page 10, line 26, after ("Act") insert ("(a)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I wonder whether the House would agree that it would be for our general convenience if we took Amendments 1 to 6 together. I can imagine that it would help our proceedings along. When we discussed these matters on Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and other noble Lords opposite, argued that it was desirable, on grounds both of principle and also of expediency, to include some provision in the Bill for consulting the interests concerned before levies were imposed directly on the industry for such purposes as market support and advertising. In order to achieve that result, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, successfully moved a series of Amendments to Clause 13, together with a new clause which is now Clause 14. I think it fair to say that the noble Lord made it clear that he was not bound or wedded to the particular form of words or method of achieving a certain result. The result that he wished to achieve I found attractive. He wanted to ensure that we had adequate consultation with those people from whom the money was being raised and he suggested during the Committee stage that the Government ought to take this matter back and look at it again if we still thought that the Amendments he had moved were unsatisfactory.

That is what we have done. We have considered this matter very carefully and I am offering to the House an alternative way of securing the objective which I felt most of us in this House wished to achieve. These Amendments, in their negative aspect, reinsert in Clause 13 the words which were taken out on Committee stage and we propose to delete the new Clause 14 which was inserted at that stage. In the positive aspect, and that is the most important one, they give effect in the new subsection (4) of the Amendment to the principle of prior consultation with the interests concerned; and, as I have already said, this is something to which most people attach great importance.

The effect of the Amendments is that when a situation is reached in which the levies are collected direct from the industry by means of a Scheme under what is now Clause 17 of the Bill, Ministers will be required to have consultations with representative organisations as described in the new subsection (4) before determining the amounts to be raised by levy or supplementary levy to meet the Authority's expenditure. The noble Lord was particularly concerned with the Authority's expenditure on market support and advertising, but we have thought it right to go further and to extend the consultations to include the Authority's expenditure on general administrative functions. In this way the whole of the expenditure to be met from the levies will be covered. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, will agree that the industry will be concerned with the total amount to be raised by levy as well as with the element to be included for market support and advertising. The Amendments therefore provide for prior consultation by Ministers before they determine the amounts to be raised by levies or supplementary levies for the Authority's general administrative functions as well as for market support and advertising.

The consultations will be with such organisations representing the interests of producers and such other organisations as the Ministers consider appropriate, if the levy for a particular accounting period will or may be imposed on persons other than producers. If the House sees fit to accept these Amendments I, for my part, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, for his constructive approach to this problem. I hope that he will agree that the wording which I have been privileged to offer to your Lordships does secure the objectives which clearly the House wished to secure when we discussed this subject on Committee.


My Lords, if no noble Lord objects I will take Amendments Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, together. The Amendments proposed are those set out on the Marshalled List of Amendments.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 1 to 6.

Amendments moved—

Page 10, line 26, after ("Act") insert ("(a)").

Page 10, line 28, at end insert— ("(b) functions under the said section 3 or paragraph (b) of the said section 18(1); (c) functions under the said section 8 or paragraph (c) of the said section 18(1).").

Page 10,line 34, leave out ("paragraph (a)") and insert ("paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) respectively").

line 45, after ("(a)") insert ("(b) or (c), as the case may be").

Page 11, line 9, after ("(a)") insert ("(b) or (c), as the case may be").

Page 11,line 25, at end insert— ("(4) Before determining any amount under subsection (2)(a) or (3)(a) of this section as one to be raised for an accounting period the levy for which is, by virtue of section 15 of this Act, to be imposed in accordance with section 17(7) of this Act, the Ministers shall consult with such organisations appearing to them to represent the interests of producers as the Ministers consider appropriate, and, if the levy will or may be imposed on persons other than producers, with such other organisations as the Ministers consider appropriate having regard to that fact. (5) Where under subsection (2)(a) or (3)(a) of this section the Ministers determine that an amount is to be raised by levy for the purposes of the functions referred to in two or all of paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (1) of this section, any order under subsection (2)(b) or (3)(b) of this section specifying the rate of the levy shall indicate how much of that rate is attributable to functions referred to in each respectively of those paragraphs.").—(Lord Beswick.)


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, and pay tribute to the helpful and constructive part which he has played behind the scenes in trying to reach what I hope will be an agreed solution of this problem? Noble Lords will remember that at the Committee stage I was advocating that we should have a poll of producers as a solution to this problem of adequate consultation with producers before a levy was imposed. I made out a case, which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has acknowledged, that there was need for real consultation before this charge, which might be quite a heavy one, was imposed. But the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, advised the Committee that in his opinion a poll of producers would involve great complications and delays and would be very costly.

As the debate, in which noble Lords on all sides had taken part, concluded, and although we had a Division and put the new clause into the Bill, I then said to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that if the Government did not like the poll procedure because it was too costly and complicated, I hoped that they would look at the problem again and possibly find some other solution. I think I should say that in order to assist this consideration I consulted informally with the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, and gave him an alternative Amendment, somewhat in the form that is now on the Marshalled List, which would require consultation with producer organisations before a levy was raised. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, was good enough to undertake to pass it on to his right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for his consideration.

Of course, drafting an Amendment of this kind is an expert job, and naturally I was not asking that my form of Amendment should be accepted. I understood it when the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, told me that the final form would be drafted by professional draftsmen, and in consultation with the Ministry. But I have to make this point: that although I am pleased that we are reaching an agreed solution, I was surprised that in the event the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, put the Amendment down himself and, as I understand it, was advised by his Department that it was necessary that he should move it.

An essential part of this exercise is that we as a House should now proceed to move out of the Bill Clause 14, which we put into the Bill in Committee: In other words, the initiative is very much with the Opposition in this matter. While I quite accept that no Amendment moved by the Opposition is ever correct, I should have thought that it was taking the infallibility of Government Departments a little far to insist that it must be a Government Minister who moves the Amendment, as well as that the Government should draft it. While I know that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has no wish other than to get the right result here, and I would entirely exonerate him from any ulterior motive, this can cause misunderstandings. As an example, noble Lords may have received the same document that I have from the National Farmers' Union, advising me to support the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. I am glad to have support from any quarter, but that is the kind of misunderstanding that can come out of a situation where the authorship of the Amendment as it appears on the Marshalled List has been incorrectly attributed.

I suggest that this is due not so much to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, as to his advisers: that it would have been better to follow the conventional course and allow me to move the approved Amendment. Then everyone would have known where it came from. Indeed, that happens, I think, on this particular Marshalled List, because Amendment No. 10, which my noble friend Lord Burton is about to move, has been drafted by Government Departments in an approved form, and I rather suspect that the Government are therefore going to accept it. I think it might have been better to follow that usual form in this case.

I do not wish to sound ungrateful. I am, indeed, very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, because I know that he took a great deal of trouble to facilitate the acceptance of the thought that I was putting forward. My concern here was to see that there was adequate consultative machinery with producers before this step was taken. I am grateful to the noble Lord for the help that he has given in persuading Ministers that this was the right thing to do, and for using his influence also with noble Lords here, so that, as I hope, it will be generally acceptable. For myself, I would certainly advise the House that this is a good solution, and I hope that the House will accept it.

On Question, Amendments agreed to.


My Lords, in this particular case I should have been very happy for the noble Lord to move the Amendment, and I willingly acknowledge the fact that he is the natural father of these Amendments. This Amendment is consequential to the other Amendments that we have accepted. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 14.—(Lord Beswick.)


My Lords, perhaps I should just say a farewell word to my child before it goes. I think it has been a valuable precursor of what now turns out to be the right Amendment, and I am happy to support the noble Lord in moving it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 17 [Levy by scheme]:

LORD BESWICK moved Amendment No. 8: Page 15, line 7, leave out ("it has been decided to impose") and insert ("is to be imposed").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment. Clause 17(2) deals with the requirements as to registration, keeping of records and so forth that may be provided for in a scheme for raising the levy direct from the industry. These schemes are subject to the specific approval of Parliament under the procedure laid down in Clause 17(5). When the subsidy runs out in 1974 they will provide the only method available to the Authority for raising the levy. During the two years 1972–73 and 1973–74 the Authority will have the option of deducting the levy from the subsidy payment or proceeding by means of a scheme under Clause 17. The words which we are proposing to take out under this Amendment are strictly applicable only to these two years when the Authority will have the option that I have mentioned. We propose to substitute the words "is to be imposed" to cover the situation both in these two years and in the period from 1974 onwards. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

2.48 p.m.

LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved Amendment No. 9:

After Clause 100, insert the following new clause: After Case 13 of Part II of Schedule 3 to the Rent Act, 1968, there shall be added the following:—


Where the dwellinghouse was at any time occupied by a person responsible (whether as owner, tenant or agent of another) for the control of the farming of the agricultural unit of which the dwellinghouse forms a part and—

  1. (a) the tenancy is not a tenancy to which Case 13 in Part II of this Schedule applies; and
  2. 899
  3. (b) not later than the commencement of the tenancy the tenant was given notice in writing that possession might be recovered under this case; and
  4. (c) the court is satisfied either that the dwellinghouse is required for occupation by a person or to be employed by the landlord in agriculture or that the dwellinghouse is required for a person responsible or to be responsible (whether as owner, tenant or agent of another) for the control of the farming of the agricultural unit of which the dwellinghouse forms a part;
and for the purposes of this Case 'employed' and 'agriculture' have the same meanings as in the Agricultural Wages Act 1948, and 'agricultural unit' has the same meaning as in the Agriculture Act 1947."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 9 standing in my name. This is a new clause to come in after Clause 100. It is in fact a revised version of the new clause which I moved on the Committee stage to cater for the surplus farmhouse which may be wanted again at some time in the future for the working of the farm holding. This new clause would add an additional case to the Rent Act 1968. Schedule 3 to that Act includes a Case, No. 13, which makes special provision for the farmhouse which becomes surplus on an official amalgamation of farms under Section 26 of the 1967 Agriculture Act. My new clause would be supplementary to that; it would become Case 14 to provide for the farmhouse which becomes surplus in the future due to some other circumstance other than an official amalgamation.

On the Committee stage of the Bill, when I moved my first version of this new clause, the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, cast some doubt on my first version on the ground that as it was then drafted it would prejudice the safeguards in Case 13 in the 1968. Act. There are ceilain safeguards there for the position of the retired farmer and his widow continuing to occupy the surplus farmhouse. Therefore, I accepted the noble Lord's advice that my new clause might be defective and I am now putting down this new version. As noble Lords will see, this new clause, which would be Case 14 in Schedule 3 of the 1968 Act, specifically reserves tenancies arising out of Case 13. This meets the main objection of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. I hope that this new clause, in its new form, will find favour with noble Lords to-day.

Perhaps I should add one word on the merits of the case for the benefit of noble Lords who were not present when we discussed this matter in Committee. The merits of the new clause are that there will sometimes be cases where a farmhouse is not required for occupation by the farmer or one of his family—it is surplus to requirements—and therefore for the time being it is not wanted in connection with farming the farm. This can happen sometimes as the result of circumstances other than a formal amalgamation under the 1967 Act. In those circumstances, if the owner creates a tenancy, if he lets the farmhouse, under the law as it now stands a protected tenancy would arise and the farmhouse could not be recovered in the future if it was wanted for the working of the farm. Thus the owner of a surplus farmhouse at present has two choices before him: either he decides to keep it empty against the future when it may be wanted again to be occupied by his son, relative or manager—or somebody in connection with the management of the farm—or, if he decides not to do that, the only alternative is for him to sell it with vacant possession, in which case he will make a fair sum of money. If he sells it, the farmhouse is permanently lost for the working of the whole of the holding and there will be some ultimate loss in the productive capacity of the farm.

I suggest that neither of these courses is desirable; we wish to see the farmhouse kept there so far as possible, available, if required, for the future working of the holding. This is the intention behind my new clause: to ensure that the farmhouse, if it is let, is occupied only on a temporary basis until it is again required for the farming of the farm.

As noble Lords will have seen from the Order Paper, one of the conditions that will be imposed in Case 14 is that the tenants would know that this was the condition when he took the tenancy of the farmhouse; he would know that he was under this control. The farmhouse might be wanted back again and, obviously, he would pay a good deal lower rent accordingly because he would have no security. There will not be many tenancies involved, and this must refer entirely to the future: farmhouses which are now let would not be affected. It could provide a useful safeguard to cover these special conditions, and it would be of some benefit, therefore, to the structure of our farms. I beg to move.


My Lords, I do not think this is a case where we have to dispute parentage; it is a matter more of deciding what kind of child we want. I have had discussions with the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, on this as well as on previous matters with which we have already dealt. I indicated to him previously that the principle he was seeking here was something with which I agree, but it was a matter of getting appropriate wording. I indicated to him earlier to-day that I thought it would be possible to get some wording which would secure the necessary result. I thought that the clause he put before us on the previous stage was deficient. I am now advised that the present clause put before us is deficient in several respects.

I suggest to the noble Lord that he may care to withdraw this Amendment, and I shall be happy to arrange for discussions with him afterwards to see whether we can produce a better clause for the next stage on Wednesday. I mentioned some of the points which needed looking at when we discussed this clause in Committee. We need to have safeguards for the position of the previous farmer, for workers and for their widows. I know that the noble Lord has tried very hard to safeguard their position, but I am advised that he has not succeeded in doing so. We must also consider whether a time limit on the right of repossession is needed. There is the further point that the case as drafted would apply however long ago the house might have gone out of agricultural use.

Lastly—a deficiency which I know will be appreciated by some noble Lords—the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, will realise that this will apply only to England and Wales. I think the noble Lord would probably prefer it to be extended to Scotland. I think the noble Lord's proposal, as I understand it, and I do not want at this stage to be dogmatic about the modifications that are needed. As I said in Committee, our difficulty all along has been to see how far the extension of the present law would be justified, bearing in mind the problems of definition and the need for safeguards to avoid undermining the general legal framework. I therefore leave it to the noble Lord: If he presses this Amendment, with his majority he can get it, but I propose that we have discussions afterwards, before the Third Reading, to reach another version of this clause. The noble Lord may think it more efficient to withdraw his Amendment now on condition that either he or I produce another clause later on.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his generous reception of this child, although this time, as he says, it is not his parentage; it is solely mine. The child obviously is not entirely legitimate, and somehow we must get its parentage right before it takes the final place on the Statute Book. I agree that the right course is now to withdraw the Amendment and for me to accept the noble Lord's offer to assist me to put down a corrected form for the Third Reading. although this seems a fairly simple matter, it is an extremely complicated one. As the noble Lord will know, a good many shots have been made at this particular new clause already in another place, and it has defeated expert draftsmen many times; so my handiwork is not quite as inept as it seems. However, I am very happy to accept the noble Lord's offer, and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 105 [Eradication of brucellosis]:

3.9 p.m.

LORD BURTON moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 93, line 46, at end insert— ("( ) Any person who offers for sale, otherwise than for slaughter, any animal known to him to be a reactor to brucella abortus shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £400, or, if the offence is committed with respect to more than ten animals, to a fine not exceeding £50 for each animal.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Amendment to-day varies little from the Amendment which we had on Committee last Monday. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, was kind enough to agree to the principle of this Amendment, and I am grateful to the Minister for his help and the help of his officials in redrafting the Amendment as now presented. The principal alteration is in the penalties. Two of my noble friends commented on my proposals on Committee stage, and probably the new wording will not satisfy either of the points they raised. The new proposals, however, bring the position into line with the other animal health regulations; and this is obviously a sensible move. I accordingly beg to move the Amendment.


My Lords, I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Burton, who has just spoken, and to thank the Minister for strengthening this clause. This is an indication that the Ministry is fully aware of the grave offence which is committed by passing on an infected cow. The Amendment will no doubt have the effect of rousing many farmers from the kind of apathy into which they have sunk regarding brucellosis. That of course excludes the very active group of farmers in this House who have pursued this subject with great energy. In consequence, I feel that we have (if I may dare say so to my noble friend Lord Beswick) invigorated the Ministry.

The other point we raised, and about which I feel very strongly, is notification. My noble friend told us last time that consultations were being held on this subject. This is only one step in the right direction towards eradication, but a very important one. If we can have notification, as well as making this offer for sale a very serious offence—as it will be regarded, in view of the fact that the fine is being raised to £400—we shall have gone a long way towards eradicating the disease both from animals and from humans.


My Lords, could the Minister, when he replies, tell us When the clause will come into operation, assuming that the Bill receives Royal Assent? I imagine it is the day after the Bill receives Royal Assent. Is that correct?


My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Burton, introduced an Amendment along these lines at the Committee stage I asked him, in as many words, to think over the balance between the advantages he foresaw in having this new provision and the difficulties I foresaw in operating it. In any case I invited him to have a look at the penalties so as to bring them into line with those for offences against the Animal Health Code in general. This he has done. However, in view of the interest that was shown by the noble Duke, possibly I ought to clear up a misunderstanding about the level of penalties.

In the main brucellosis clause we are now concerned with two quite distinct classes of offence. The first is making false statements or the like to obtain payments; and here the penalties as prescribed in subsection (6) of Clause 105 are in line with the corresponding provisions for the general run of agricultural grants and subsidies. Then there is the offence to be viewed in the context of disease control. This takes us to Section 79(1) of the Diseases of Animals Act, for which the penalties are being uprated in Clause 104(5) of this Bill. It is with these latter penalties that the noble Lord, Lord Burton, has now, rightly in my view, aligned his Amendment.

On the Amendment itself, I need only recall the three main points in the analysis I gave your Lordships when we were in Committee. First, it could apply only to those animals which had been subject to reliable tests. Secondly, I referred to the difficulties of enforcement. And finally I explained that it could have some unintended side-effects, notably on the scale and type of tests which owners undertake. The Government cannot point to any drafting or other changes which could remove these possible difficulties. Against all those difficulties must be set the psychological advantages which the noble Lord, Lord Burton, my noble friend Lady Summerskill, and others, have constantly urged upon me in Committee. I accept the good will and the promises of co-operation that have been proffered to me since I indicated that we were prepared to accept the decision of the House in regard to this matter. I hope, as my noble friend Lady Summerskill says, that it will be taken as an indication of the seriousness with which we regard this disease, and will be setting the proposed campaign and the proposed scheme on a really good start.


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, sits down, would it be possible for him to deal with the marking of infected animals?—because he said that this Amendment would apply only to animals that had been through a test. Surely, if those animals were marked when they were tested, this provision would be unnecessary.


My Lords, I should like to think that that was so; but let us be certain what we are talking about. When the compulsory scheme comes into operation the animals in the eradication areas will be slaughtered compulsorily, so branding or otherwise does not come into it then. In practice any question of branding would virtually be confined to situations where an owner elects to have his animals tested privately, by a recognised test, at his own expense. The cost of such tests and the veterinary time involved would increase quite sharply if every time a reactor is disclosed there must be a return visit to the farm to seek out and mark the animal concerned.

Here I am bound to recall what I said in Committe when I reminded the noble Lord that one effect of creating this offence might be to encourage owners to go for the less reliable types of test where the results could not constitute either evidence of a "reactor to brucella abortus" or, incidentally, grounds for branding. This would not be in the interests of effective disease control. I think the House has indicated that this deterrent would transcend any side-effect of this kind. We can only see how it works out. But, for the moment at any rate, my advice is that it would be unnecessary and unwise to insist on the branding.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

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