HL Deb 22 May 1973 vol 342 cc1102-7

Clause 31, page 30, line 9, leave out ("or")

Clause 31, page 30, line 10, leave out from second ("lease") to end of line 12, and insert ("with an unexpired period or continuing on tacit relocation, or of a crofter").

The Commons disagreed to the above Amendments but proposed the following Amendment in lieu thereof:

[No. 6]

Page 30, line 12, at end insert ("or the interest of a crofter or a landholder").


My Lords, this is much more difficult because I have to move that this House doth agree with the Commons to disagree with the Amendments that your Lordships made and to agree to the Amendment that they made in lieu thereof. There is only one.

When we discussed this matter on Third Reading, the noble Lords, Lord Hughes and Lord Hoy, made very strong representations that the Government should accept the Amendments they had put down in order, because of the technicalities of the matter, that it could be looked at again in another place. After what I considered to be a spirited defence on my part, I eventually capitulated to the Scottish Lobby and we agreed that the Amendments should be put in so that they could be considered in another place. They were so considered. The outcome of the consideration is now contained in the new Amendment to what used to be Clause 31 as the Bill reached us, and it has the effect of giving the farm loss payments to crofters and to small landholders. The Amendment, in fact, goes further than what the noble Lords opposite put down, because I think that at that stage they were concerned only with crofters, and we have now included landholders who are, of course, unusual in this respect: first that they happen only in Scotland and only in the Lowland, non-crofting counties, and secondly, that they are similar in some respects to the crofters, in that usually they have provided their own buildings on the land in very much the same way as the crofters.

The argument on Third Reading was that the farm loss payment should be available to a number of extra categories of agriculturists in Scotland. In fact, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, wanted, by his Amendment, to cover the year-to-year tenants, but the technicalities are such that his Amendment would not have had that effect; it would have been overridden by the provision in what used to be Clause 31(5) which excluded farm loss payments where there was a payment under Section 12 of the Agricultural (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968. This would have affected the year-to-year tenant and disqualified him despite the terms of the Amendment that was put down. So they are still excluded. But what we have done is to meet the point made by noble Lords opposite that there is a special status for the crofters and now also for the small landholders in the Lowland counties and they will get farm loss payments.

The others will, of course, get their payment, as the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, who is so knowledgeable about this subject, having piloted the Act through another place in 1968, will know. The classification tenants will get their ordinary compensation as improved by what in this House we have recently referred to as Clause 48, supported by Section 12 payments under the 1968 Act. That is the code. The other code applies to the owner, the tenant for three years or more, and now the crofters and the small landholders, who will get their ordinary compulsory purchase compensation plus, if within the term of the Bill they relocate themselves and start up farming in a new place within the limitation of time. So noble Lords opposite have drawn attention to what was an anomaly. We have put it right, but we have had to limit it because of the different categorisation between what might broadly be called an owner and what might broadly be called a short tenant. We have kept the two codes separate, and I think we have met the point made by noble Lords opposite that there were certain special features about crofters and small landholders. That is what the Amendment does. I hope that noble Lords opposite, who brought this matter forward with very great enthusiasm and knowledge, will accept that we have gone as far as we possibly could to meet the points they made.

Moved, That this House doth not insist on their Amendment to which the Commons have disagreed, and agrees with the Commons in thier Amendment proposed in lieu thereof.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)


My Lords, I do not suggest that we should disagree with the Commons in this Amendment, although I must express regret that the Government have gone only half way to meet the objective which I placed before your Lordships on the Third Reading of this Bill. I sought to give the benefit of farm loss payments to those who were crofters, and that the Government have conceded, and for that I am grateful; I think it is the right thing to do and I am glad the Government have agreed. But they have not done it for the year-to-year tenants or those with less than three years of a lease to run. As I understand it from what was said in another place, the reason is that some of these tenants—not all of them—benefit from Section 12 of the 1968 Act. If I remember the information given to me correctly, those with two years or less of a lease to run benefit from Section 12, which gives them four years' rent as against the year's profit, which is the amount of the farm loss payment. But, again if the information I have been given is correct, in those cases of year-to-year tenants, or the tenant with two years or less to run, the amount which he receives under Section 12 is deducted from the amount of compensation payable under Clause 48 of the present Bill. So in fact these tenants are not receiving anything extra at all; they are merely receiving the amount of compensation to which they are entitled on the taking over of their land under Clause 48.

We therefore have the situation that the crofter and the tenant with three years or more of a lease to run gets both the compensation under Clause 48 and also the farm loss payment; whereas the tenant with less than three years of a lease to run receives, in effect, only the compensation under Clause 48. This is the information that I have been given, and I still think that an injustice is being done to people who may have the tenancy of their farm to run for many years ahead. However, it is too late in the day even to persuade the Government to remedy this. I am quite certain, if what I have related is factual—I almost fell into the error of talking about "true facts", as if there were such things as untrue facts—I am certain that at some future date the Government will remedy the situation. If my information is incorrect, then it is enough for me to express gratitude for the gift to the crofters, and I hope—although I would not guarantee it—that in due course they will be grateful.


My Lords, I said "or, upon reflection, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, called the "true facts" or, upon reflection, "facts"—


What I refuse to call the "true facts".


My Lords, I said "or, upon reflection the facts "—is that the remarks he made about those with two years or less being as it were subvented by the payments under Section 12 is not a matter so much of pure law, but of law as applied in the valuation courts. This at the moment must, I think, be slightly speculative on his side, as it must be on mine, since we are changing what has previously been decided by the courts as the basis of compensation and inserting in this Bill what in recent stages we have been calling Clause 48. So I do not think that it can be conceded as a categoric fact that so and so with two years' tenancy or less will get something, and someone else will not, because this is a matter of valuation which will have to be worked out in the courts. I am grateful to the noble Lord for recognising that we have tried to meet his point. We have gone a little further than he went by including the landholders in the non-crofting counties. We have not gone so far as he was trying to go in dealing with the year-to-year tenant. As the noble Lord may have heard as he came into the Chamber, his own Amendment was defective because that particular provision could not have been enacted in the teeth of Clause 31 (5) as the Bill reached us in the terms of the Commons Amendments. So here one had a technical difficulty which could not be overcome.

We also think that we have difficulties of principle, and I have spoken at great and possibly excessive length about them before. Probably the noble Lord is right and we shall have to see how this works. If there are still defects, then one day the Government may have to deal with them. We think that we have attempted to find a fair compromise in this matter and that we are putting forward for the various classes of agriculturists in Scotland something which they will find does not do them any harm and in fact produces a reasonable and fair provision of compensation if they are compulsorily acquired. I am grateful to the noble Lord who has dealt with this subject and I hope that the House will now agree to the Amendment.

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, I regret having omitted to thank the Government for including the landholder who, as the noble Viscount stated, was not covered by the Amendment. When I moved the Amendment I did say I expected it would prove to be technically defective, because if I could do the sort of thing which ought to be done I would not be standing here but sitting at higher remuneration over there. I also said that if the Government had wanted to do everything I wished to do, the remedy was not to amend my Amendment but to seek to amend Clause 31(5). However, that may be difficult. I accept what the noble Viscount has said. In this element there must be a margin of speculation on both sides. Having regard to the way the noble Viscount explained the matter I am satisfied that if in due course it should prove that my speculation is correct and the Government's speculation is wrong they will seek to do justice to their friends, the farmers.

On Question, Motion agreed to.