HL Deb 28 October 1976 vol 376 cc735-8


Clause 19, page 25, line 44, leave out from below, to end of line 3 on page 26 and insert "give a direction granting the tenancy of the holding to the applicant whom the landlord may choose from amongst those applicants who are deemed to be suitable by the Tribunal."

Page 26, line 9, leave out from "applicant" to "the" in line 10.

The Commons disagreed to these Amendments forms the following Reason:

Because the selection of the most suitable person to be the subject of a direction giving entitlement to a tenancy of the holding ought to be left to the impartial judgment of the Agricultural Land Tribunal.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth not insist on Amendments Nos.14 and 15 to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 16. My Lords, the question of the landlords' rights under the family succession scheme has exercised the minds of both Houses over a considerable period of time. Noble Lords opposite and the Opposition in another place all feel, and I know feel most sincerely, that where the Agricultural Land Tribunal consider, as provided in Clause 19(6), that more than one applicant is both eligible and suitable to take over the vacant tenancy and the landlord is not prepared to agree to a joint tenancy, he—that is the landlord—should choose which of the suitable applicants is to be the new tenant.

As Reason No. 16 sets out, the selection of the most suitable person for the vacant tenancy should be left to the impartial judgment of the Agricultural Land Tribunal. But, of course, this does not mean, I hasten to assure your Lordships, that the landlord's views will go unheard. On the contrary, the landlord has the right, under Clause 19(7) to state his views on the suitability of each applicant as his future tenant, and there is nothing to stop him giving those views in such a way as to make his preference clear to the Tribunal. But in the view of the other place the final decision must clearly lie with the Tribunal. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House doth not insist on Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 16.—(Lord Strabolgi.)


My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has pointed out, this gives the right of choice of a tenant who claims under this Bill to the Agricultural Land Tribunal, and removes the right of choice of the landlord. In this particular case, what we are considering is a situation when there are two applicants who both say, "We have passed the eligibility test—we are a daughter, son or widow—and we have passed the suitability test, having shown that both of us can farm this farm; so we both have equal rights". We had hoped that it would have been reasonable for the landlord, who will presumably know both these people and who, by this Bill, is going to lose the right of his farm, to have been able to choose which of those two should in fact farm the farm of which he happens to be the owner. We thought that this was a reasonable thing to request, particularly, as I say, almost certainly the landlord, being on the spot, will know both the characters involved well.

However, the Government, in their wisdom, have said: No, we think that the impartial judgment of an impersonal body such as the Agricultural Land Tribunal will be better than the intimate knowledge of the landlord himself. I think that in all this Bill we have had far too much reliance on the Agricultural Land Tribunal and on other people having to solve problems which this Bill of itself creates. I think this is yet another example of how, in all the legislation that we are having, we are building up tribunals, committees and other bodies of people, all of whom have got to be consulted in order to get some kind of degree of fairness; and yet, really, very often, the problem is quite a simple one. I think the Government are wrong again on this. I do not think this is such an important point as the last point. I think it merely happens to be common sense that if a landlord is going to lose the right of his farm for two generations, and if two applicants are to lay equal claim, then he should have the choice; but another place have decided that this is not to be, and we would not wish to quarrel over that.

My Lords, I come back to saying—and I think this is the last Amendment on which to say it—that I think the Government will rue the day when this Bill was introduced, because I think they will find that it will have a marked disadvantageous effect on British agriculture and will in no way help it to become efficient or to produce food in better and more efficient quantities than it is at the moment doing. This is a restricting measure and I think it is one which British agriculture will regret.

8.40 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say a word on this. The whole success of the landlord and tenant organisation in agriculture, the whole success of the relationships which, I think, at the moment are extremely good between the landlord and tenant and between worker and landlord and tenant, as the case may be, depends on the personal interest, personal touch and personal work of the landlord. To think that a Tribunal, however admirable, is going to know more about the farm which belongs to the landlord and which the landlord is letting, and will know more about the type of person who would be going into it, seems to me not to bear any relation to fact. It is a thousand pities that one has to bring in outsiders to decide something which can so easily be decided between people who understand and know the conditions themselves, have worked those conditions and understand the characters of the persons whom they want. If there were disputes, then one can bring in outside persons or tribunals to arbitrate; but this is not what this proposal is: it is to say that at no point can the landlord choose his own tenant. This is a disaster and I am sorry that the other place has seen fit to decide in this way.

On Question, Motion agreed to.