HL Deb 28 November 1983 vol 445 cc501-46

House again in Committee on Clause 3.

[Amendment Nos. 39 and 40 not moved.]

Lord Belstead moved Amendment No. 41: Page 7, line 17, leave out ("the deceased's agricultural work") and insert ("agricultural work carried out by either the wife or the deceased (or both of them)")

The noble Lord said: This amendment remedies a defect in the drafting of Clause 3(2)(b). It will ensure that a widow will be able to satisfy the livelihood test if, in five out of the seven relevant years, her livelihood was derived either from her own or from her late husband's agricultural work on the holding or a combination of either his work or her work. It is this last eventuality which the wording in this subparagraph did not cover and is now put right in the amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 41A not moved.]

Lord Sandys moved Amendment No. 42: Page 7, line 24, leave out from ("capable") to end of line 28 and insert ("of providing employment for at least one person reasonably skilled in agriculture; the method of calculating whether a unit is so capable shall be determined by statutory instrument made by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food;")

The noble Lord said: Having remained silent during much of your Lordships' discussion, I think it is appropriate that I should now declare an interest, which I do with pleasure, as a landlord. I think that the purpose of this amendment is to probe and to probe the question of whether the commercial unit test is an adequate reflection of hardship to the applicant and also to ask how the Government would propose to assess net annual income, a subject which the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, referred to before we adjourned during pleasure; and also the question of when a unit is farmed under competent management.

I have taken the opportunity of studying with care Paragraph 15 of the Notes on Clausesto which my noble friend Lord Belstead referred, and my noble friend advised me that the Government's recognition of the need for defining the commercial unit is contained in those notes. I have examined them with interest and I read in the Notes on Clausesa particular reference on this: It is therefore now considered that a definition of commercial unit should appear in the 1976 Act which will be independent of any other legislation and be expressed in terms of income generated by the unit".

Regretfully, I do not feel that this has gone quite far enough in this situation. May I therefore on this subject ask Her Majesty's Government this question? Does the commercial unit reflect hardship? May we look at the present situation in law as it stands. The 1976 Act purported to prevent hardship to the successor of a tenant after his death. It was recognised that if the successor was already an occupier of a holding large enough to support him, there was no place for him to have the right to succeed to that tenancy.

The 1976 Act interprets "hardship" by applying the commercial test that we have already considered. It defines the commercial unit in terms which are to be found in Section40 of the Interpretations in Part II of the 1967 Agriculture Act; but does it reflect hardship satisfactorily? Evidently, the Government do not think so and have introduced a different test in this Bill which deals with the viability of the holding and its capacity to employ two full-time male agricultural workers. If a farm is too small to be viable, it is quite understandable that the occupier's successor should be permitted to apply for the tenancy following the death of his predecessor. If the farm is big enough to be viable, then there is no obvious hardship.

The Ministry are well accustomed to applying the viability test. They apply it under the Agricultural and Horticultural Grants Scheme. If I may quote an example from Statutory Instrument 1980/1072, it requires the Minister, to be satisfied that the greater part of the employment of at least one person reasonably skilled in agriculture". The definition proposed in this amendment, however, omits the words "the greater part of ".

The effect of this amendment is not always to reduce the size of the farm at which the applicant becomes ineligible to apply for the right to succeed below that under the method proposed in the Bill. I feel that this amendment, while being only a probing amendment, will give the Government the opportunity to state the situation as it now stands and to offer your Lordships' Committee the opportunity to discuss this problem of viability and the commercial unit a little further. I beg to move.

Lord Middleton

The difficulty about subsection (3A) is that it seems on the face of it to be enlarging the number of potential eligible successors to a holding on the death of a tenant. Yet, as we know, the broad intention of the 1976 Act was to make ineligible for succession an applicant who is already the occupier of a viable holding. If a unit is not to be judged a commercial one until it is capable of producing a net annual income of an amount not less than the average annual earnings—earnings, not wages—of two full-time workers, then there must surely fall outside the category of "commercial units" so defined, a number of holdings that most people would consider perfectly viable.

I do not think it is the intention of the Government to allow the criteria in these cases to be relaxed, and I do not know of any organisation which has asked that that should be so. If, as my noble friend has suggested, that might be the effect of the clause as it stands, then I join him in asking the Government to have another look at it. I say that subject to what I have just said about what I call "the Northfield amendments", which of course I prefer.

The Earl of Swinton

I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Sandys for having introduced this matter. He said it was the first time he has spoken in this Committee. From the very eloquent way in which he moved his amendment, I am sorry that we have not heard him before and I hope that he will not stay silent from now on.

The revised definition of "commercial unit" contained in Clause 3(3) is designed to deal with some of the anomalies which have resulted from the application of the existing definition in Section 18(2)(c) of the 1976 Act. This definition is one which is in effect imported from the 1967 Agriculture Act and depends on the opinion of the Minister that the unit is capable of providing full-time employment for at least two people. The way in which the standard applied by the Minister (600 standard man-days) currently operates means that in certain circumstances—notably where we are dealing with extensive arable units—the result is unduly favourable to applicants.

This is why the Bill would apply a different test, based not on the employment which the unit would create but rather on the income which it would generate. We therefore chose an income standard which is expressed by "the average annual earnings of two full-time male agricultural workers". This is based on the recommendation of the working party, on which the NFU, the CLA and the professional organisations were represented.

As I have already made clear, it is certainly not our intention that as a result of this change the commercial unit test would be relaxed. I can assure my noble friend Lord Middleton on this. Indeed, if my noble friend is interested. I can provide him with figures which show that in a wide range of circumstances the test would be somewhat tougher than the one we already have, and in some cases considerably tougher. I do however accept that the degree of toughness depends on the precise method for calculating the "net annual income"—and here I can tell my noble friend Lord Sandys that this does not describe hardship. This is why we are discussing with the industry the detailed method which ADAS officers will use in making their assessments, and I hope that we shall be able to reach full agreement on the criteria to be used.

I note in this context that my noble friend has referred to the possibility of describing the method in a statutory instrument. This is a possibility which we will be considering, if only to reduce to a minimum the possible scope for argument. I hope, in the light of this explanation and of the assurances which I have given, that my noble friend will he prepared to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Sandys

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Swinton for his reply; but there are certain matters which are still unanswered. At an earlier stage, when we were discussing Clause 1, the question of the size of the holdings arose under Amendment No. 9. If I may refer the Government to col. 178 of the Official Report of Tuesday, 22nd November, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, there referred in some considerable detail to the different ways in which a holding could be made viable or unviable by certain different practices of farming within that holding.

One of the great treasures of British agriculture is the farm structure and also the farm size. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Belstead and the staff at the Ministry of Agriculture for providing a reply to a Written Question which I put down on the size of farm holdings in five countries. It is very interesting to note that the United Kingdom had an average farm size in 1981 in hectares of 69.4, and in acres of 171.5, compared with three notable competitors in the EEC. That is, Germany, where they have an average farm size of 38.3 acres; France, where they have an average farm size of 63 acres; and Italy, where the figure is 18.3 acres. I feel that these figures are significant in this context, because the United Kingdom farm size is so significantly higher that it does bear very closely upon the point. I have not translated the acres into hectares, which I could very easily do from the figures in front of me, but I feel it would weary the Committee to do so. Nevertheless, this is a very important point as to whether the viability test is sufficiently satisfactory. But I take the points made by my noble friend, and I feel that it would be much more appropriate if at this stage I withdrew the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 43 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 43A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 43B not moved.]

8.30 p.m.

Lord Northfield moved Amendment No. 44:

Page 8, line 9, at end insert— ("(4A) In section 20(8) of that Act (matters to be taken into account by the Tribunal when determining the case of an applicant applying for tenancy of a holding) there shall he inserted at the end of paragraph (a) the following words— and meets the standard which would be required by a responsible landlord".").

The noble Lord said: We are now moving on to a new part. The Northfield Committee was very anxious to improve the opportunities for people to enter the industry and wanted to tighten up the rules governing succession and eligibility, so that the less desirable made way for successors who were more desirable and for other people outside to have an opportunity to farm. In that context, the committee was anxious about the restrictions on the landlord's ability to get possession in the case of particular applicants who were, in certain ways, unsuitable and who should make way for others.

Paragraph 631 of our report states: Recent trends have made it more difficult for landlords to ensure that good farming is practised. We therefore recommend that the successor should meet the standard which would be required by a responsible landlord"— I use those words in the amendment— This change would mean a stricter application of the rules on eligibility, but primarily it would turn on the test for suitability. The object would be to ensure that the successor was experienced in husbandry and business management, had been trained in a way appropriate to the type of holding and had adequate capital. If cases of hardship arose, it would he for the ALCs and the SLC to settle them.

Therefore, what the amendment tries to do is to say that the simple ability to practise good farming should be extended to include the sort of things that also matter to a landlord—being trained in business management, trained in a way appropriate to the type of holding and having adequate capital with which to maintain, develop and improve the farm; indeed, to farm it correctly. I hope that this amendment commends itself, because it is an important amendment which tightens up on the less desirable successors who might otherwise take over a farm. I beg to move.

The Earl of Swinton

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, for explaining the purpose of his amendment and I really do not see a great deal between us. However, I feel that it reflects the considerations which tribunals already bear in mind in determining an applicant's suitability under the existing provisions of Section 20(8) relating to an applicant's training, experience, age, physical health and financial standing. I should have thought that that covered matters like business management, farming expertise and the necessary finance which the noble Lord has mentioned. Provision is also already made for the landlord to express views, if he wishes, on the suitability of the applicant, and I should have thought that this covered everything which the noble Lord mentioned.

If the noble Lord could indicate any additional factors which tribunals should be expected to take into account in applying the proposed "responsible landlord" test, I should be prepared to consider the point further. However, I must make it clear that, unless there is a good reason for including these extra words, I should be reluctant to to so because of the scope for additional argument to which they could give rise in dealing with succession cases.

Lord Northfield

I confess that I did not think that Section 20(8) went as far as I was hoping to indicate. I shall leave it that I would prefer to study what the noble Earl has said and then, perhaps, come back with a redraft at Report stage if I can improve on the matter. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

The Earl of Onslow moved Amendment No. 45: After Clause 3, insert the following new clause:

("Fixed term tenancies.

.The Minister may give his consent to fixed term tenancies of periods up to twenty-five years.").

The noble Earl said: I hope that your Lordships will bear with me if I take more than two or three minutes to deal with this amendment, because it is quite an important idea that I want to put before your Lordships. In the early part of this century, something like 87 per cent. of the countryside was tenant farmed, but, according to these bits of paper which I have been given and which I am told give very reliable statistics, that figure was down to 41 per cent. in 1981. I think it is recognised by everybody that it is very important that there should be an increase in the tenant part of the farming population.

As I said earlier, the NFU are interested only in protecting their own members' interests. That is absolutely right and proper and it is what Sir Richard Butler is paid for. But there is a wider interest—that is, the interest of the community as a whole—in seeing that that basis should be expanded. There is only a limited supply of land and at the moment, when land for tenancy becomes available, it is taken in hand, farming partnerships are created, share farming is created or it is arranged by the institutions, but I think I am talking here only about the private landlord. These partnerships or share farming arrangements are, to all intents and purposes, disguised tenancy agreements and it seems to me much more wise that we should get such agreements open and above board.

I am not suggesting that we should undermine the whole principle of the 1948 Act, which I bet will be in the brief of my noble friend Lord Belstead when he gets up to say that he does not agree with this amendment, because that is what the NFU say automatically. What I am suggesting is that certain parts of the agricultural landscape could be let for a little bit of time and within limited arrangements.

I shall take my own personal case, because it is sometimes easy to argue from personal experience. As we know, the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, has been doing it like a Tory squire who has had it well bred in him for a long time. I am privileged enough to own a 600-acre farm. It might be that I shall become old, go "ga-ga", fall off a horse, be run over by a bus or something like that, or that my son has a career which he does not want to interrupt. But, eventually, I should like my son—as does the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, with his son—to take over the farm, and it is possible that he would then like a 15-year or a 20-year tenancy for that farm.

The amendment is not very satisfactorily drafted. It makes eminent sense to a layman, but it is probably too broad for the lawyers. But it would seem a reasonable arrangement that the Minister could make regulations in the context of a farm which I want to let for 15 or 20 years. I could even let it in two or three bits to youngsters starting up. They could possibly share the buildings and so on. It would start people on the road. I am not suggesting that it should undermine the Agricultural Holdings Act 1948. I am suggesting that it should be supplementary to it. In the 1976 debates my noble friend Lord Middleton advocated a different method of doing it, and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, will move a slightly broader amendment.

I do not believe that any of us are particularly worried about the method by which it is done, but I would suggest to your Lordships that if by regulation a small amount of land could be let on fixed term tenancies it would help the community and broaden the agricultural base. It might bring more people back to the countryside and broaden the social base of the countryside. It might also make a little bit extra of a rung. I would not dream of trying to undermine the 1948 Act, even though it can be argued conclusively that if you take away the happiness of the landlord at his rent and the happiness of the tenant at his profit out of the farm you destroy the system.

It is beyond doubt true that the 1948 Act increased the decline in lettings. If you cut the value of somebody's property by one half and make sure that he cannot get it back, he will not go ahead and let it again. That follows as night follows day. I do not want to go into that matter. All I would say to your Lordships is: would it not be a good idea if we put in a little bit of extra regulation? The regulations could allow for variation from region to region. It might be reasonable not to allow it in hill farm areas, although it might be reasonable to allow it in the grain land areas of East Anglia.

I am suggesting that the Bill should contain an enabling power for the Minister to make regulations. We have had arguments in this Chamber until we have been blue in the face about "may" and "shall", because we always enjoy it; but I suggest that if the Minister may make regulations to enable short term or term tenancies to be brought into existence it would help to breathe a little more life into the countryside. I beg to move.

8.42 p.m.

Lord John-Mackie

Because I happened to mention during the Second Reading of the Bill the question of fixed tenancies, it was immediately presumed that I was in favour of them. I simply gave a list of matters to be discussed, and I am glad that the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has raised the question of fixed tenancies. As I said then, I believe that it should be discussed. For instance, a widow who is left a farm which she cannot afford to farm herself may have a son of 15 who in 10 years' time might be able to afford the farm and be capable of farming it; so it would be let for a short term. One could instance a number of cases like that.

I know that the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, has made the point that this would not break the spirit of the 1948 Act, but I feel that it would be a side door by which to get past the tenancy law. The noble Earl mentioned the early days of this century, when some 80 to 90 per cent. of tenancies in this country, particularly in Scotland, were fixed term tenancies—tenancies for 21 years, with seven-year breaks. But those days are past, mainly because the days of landlords like the late Lord Aberdeen, of 160 years ago, have gone. The situation in which you could almost trust that a family would succeed or that a short term tenancy would be a success have gone. The noble Earl must remember that the institutional landlords are increasing daily and that they have got to be considered. Although I appreciate the noble Earl's point, I am afraid I could not support his amendment.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

I am all in favour of my noble friend's amendment. Where practical, it is a good idea, and I do not see why it should not be practical. I was here for the first day of the Committe stage of the Bill, but unfortunately had lost my voice, much to the relief of your Lordships. I have now regained it, so I should like to say a few words about this matter. We have heard that the real problem is to get young people as farm tenants. If the Minister were given the power to allow a certain number of fixed term tenancies for 20 or 25 years, the problem which would arise then, if you wanted young tenants, would be how they were going to pay for their livestock. In Scotland, I have tenants on my farms. I have farms in England, too, but no tenants. In Scotland, the Highlands and Islands Development Board gives grants to new tenants to help them to buy their stock. Although there is no Highlands and Islands Development Board in England, a similar arrangement in this country would help.

I was brought up under the landlord-tenant system. We knew our tenants, their families and their ailments, As the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, said, that has all gone, but it would be a tragedy if the tenant farming system were to die. With due respect to my noble friend Lord Belstead, the Bill as drafted will not help. The tenant-farmer system will die. Therefore, I would personally clutch at any straw, however impracticable it may seem to civil servants. It seems quite practicable to me. I hope the Government will consider something along these lines and that the Minister will have the power in certain circumstances to allow fixed tenancies for a term of years.

Lord Howard of Henderskelfe

I want to correct one fact which came from the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie. He made the statement that an increasing amount of land is being acquired and dealt with in various ways by institutions. As we have heard on several occasions during the debate, this is just not so. It is a popular myth. Nearly all the land that comes on to the market, whether for sale or by way of letting, is grabbed hold of as quickly as possible either by neighbouring tenants or by neighbouring owner-occupiers, so we must not blame the grasping Church Commissioners, the horrible Oxford and Cambridge colleges and the rest. It is the farmers themselves who are taking that land in hand, because they know what is good for them.

Lord Northfield

May I make two short preliminary points on fixedterm tenancies? First, we must not forget that the possibility of short term tenancies already exists under Section 2 of the 1948 and 1949 Acts. The Minister has already said that the Government are clarifying the rules that they apply in using those two parts of the existing legislation. It would be helpful to know tonight to what extent they propose to clarify them and to use them in future to allow a farmer's son to take over for five years, or whatever period it may be.

Secondly, there is no unanimity in the industry about the matter. There are varying waves of opinion. The young farmers' clubs in Scotland were, I believe, against them when we inquired into the matter, while the young farmers' clubs in England were in favour of them. There is no unanimity, but that does not mean to say that one does not have to take action.

The real point is that we must beware, if we are to start fixed term tenancies, of this becoming the norm. That is the danger. If one has too broad a provision, it could quickly become the case that farms would never be let on any other form of tenancy, by some landlords at least. Secondly, one has to beware that the system does not lead to extractive farming; that is, people taking on farms for a relatively short period and then running down the agricultural value of those farms in the final years of the lease. That is a very real danger, although there is some evidence in Ireland, where such provisions exist, that that danger has not in fact arisen. Nevertheless, it is a point that has to be watched.

In those circumstances, it all depends on what could be added to the proposed provision by way of limitation on the Government's powers. Could we prescribe a set of rules that should go with any system of fixed term tenancies? All I venture to say on that point is that my committee did have a shot at it. I am not going to read out that part of the report because it covers the whole of one page and part of another—but we did try to set out the type of restrictions which ought to accompany any idea of fixed term tenancies.

I believe that those restrictions were quite reasonable. For example, we suggested that there would be a minimum of 20 years, say, for fixed term tenancies—or that if the farmer started later in life, the tenancy should at least continue until he was aged 65. The aim was to find some way of limiting matters so that the system does not become a ridiculous one which bleeds the land in various ways.

I must say that I have undergone a conversion on this point. I support the ideas of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, in general, provided we can impose sufficient limitations and qualifications to stop the system being abused. If carefully and sympathetically applied with a set of rules, such a system might well give an opportunity to provide what is in fact a missing rung of the ladder in many cases—for people to have a shot at running a farm for a fixed period of time, before establishing their own suitability and financial viability, and then moving on when the occasion occurs, and if it is possible for them, to a farm with a full tenancy on their own. On balance, I would support what the noble Earl is proposing.

Lord Walston

As it stands, I cannot support the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. The nobleLord, Lord Northfield, was perfectly correct in one of his statements, although he did not seem to follow it through in the way I expected—his statement that anything of this kind is liable to strike a blow at any of the normal tenancies. It can only work if it is very closely hedged in.

I should be very favourably inclined towards the proposal if it were possible to define in a perfectly clear manner within an Act of Parliament or statutory instrument the conditions under which a fixed term tenancy might be granted. An example might be an arrangement made in order to enable a minor to take over a farm when he came of age or had proved himself adequately trained. But that would have to be done in a very strict and narrow way. I should be surprised if parliamentary draftsmen, with all their skill, could evolve a form of words that would make that sufficiently narrow. If an attempt can be made to do that which we could discuss at Report stage, I should certainly be very happy, hut, as the amendment stands, I cannot support it.

Lord Middleton

I was very interested to hear the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Northfield—and from what he said it is very clear why there is no unanimity in the industry at the moment. I was absolutely delighted when I saw this amendment because I could understand it in a flash. I did not have to spend half an hour on it as I have had to do with other amendments! Having said that, I must tell my noble friend Lord Onslow that, if he wants to provide for short term tenancies, this is not the way to do it.

My noble friend referred to the amendment I put forward in 1976 and to which your Lordships agreed. That amendment provided that a notice to quit served after a given time could not be met by a counter notice; and in any year of the tenancy it remained a tenancy from year to year—thereby retaining all the advantages of the agricultural holdings legislation. Those advantages are considerable. I believe that my noble friend knows as well as I do the benefits that follow from a year to year tenancy under the ordinary Act, and so I will not enumerate them. I believe that that amendment provided for a tenancy of 25 years to which your Lordships agreed at that time, although it was not agreed to in another place. After that time, notice to quit could not he met by a counter notice. If one is going to do it at all, then that is the way one should do it—not in the way suggested by my noble friend Lord Onslow.

Lord Belstead

I believe that almost everything that ought to be said about this matter has been said. It is a highly difficult and contentious matter. It is looked upon by many people as a matter of principle going back over 35 years to the 1948 Act. It is not a political matter. It is not a factual matter. It is a practical matter, as to whether an amendment of this kind could harm long term planning and investment in tenanted land. I say that hearing in mind that my noble friend Lord Onslow has done his very best by making his amendment permissive and for the Minister's discretion.

None the less as the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, said, if it became accepted as the norm, people would be left with the anxiety that it could lead to extractive farming. I put it to my noble friend—who I know is particularly interested in conservation matters—as to whether an amendment of this kind would be in the interests of long term conservation planning on agricultural holdings.

All your Lordships have probably read at one time or another the recommendations of his own committee which the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, mentioned. Whereas it was the unanimous agreement of the noble Lord's committee that unrestricted fixed term tenancies should not be justified, his committee added that those members of the committee who would support them considered that certain conditions should be applied to such an arrangement. Again, the noble Lord mentioned a couple of them.

It is at this place in the Bill, if I may so, that we are at least making a move towards what some members of the Northfield Committee recommended—and a little nearer to my noble friend's objective. As we heard on Amendment No. 37 from my noble friend Lord Kinnoull, there is support for provision to be made to facilitate succession on retirement of a tenant. Before my noble friend says that, no, that is not what he is after, let me remind him that the age of 65 was mentioned as one of the options in the Northfield Committee report if limited fixed term tenancies were to be considered.

What is more to the point perhaps, and to answer one or two of the questions which have been put to me, we now have a cast-iron undertaking by my right honourable friend that the arrangements under Section 2 of the 1948 Act will be extended for the Minister's power to be used in two particular ways which are of interest under this amendment. There will be an increase, my right honourable friend has said, from three years to five years in the period for tenancies granted under the Minister's discretion under Section 2 of the 1948 Act when either an inexperienced tenant needs a period of trial before entering into a full tenancy agreement, or the landlord's son or daughter is expected shortly to take over a vacated holding. That measure will be implemented administratively and requires no amendment to legislation. The extension of time for the period of trial would, I hope the Committee will agree, be a step in the direction which, I realise, my noble friend wishes us to go. I know that does not meet my noble friend's point, but I hope I have said enough to show that we are doing our best in what is undoubtedly a controversial area.

The Earl of Onslow

I notice that my noble friend did not produce the argument that I forecast he would about undermining the 1948 Act; but I suspect he might have done had I not said that he would. I take the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, and the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Northfield. Of course, one has to avoid extractive farming. I also note very carefully and agree with the point made by my noble friend Lord Belstead about the conservation aspect. I do take these points to heart. But all of these matters can be overcome by administrative order.

I am not suggesting that it should become the norm: I do not want it to become the norm. All I am hoping is that at Report stage we can put in a permissive power that the Minister may make regulations. Those regulations would have to be circumscribed so that it does not become extractive farming, so that conservation is protected. I would suggest, for instance, that you could say that no holding could be let successively on two-term tenancies; any tenancy after a one-term tenancy immediately becomes a fully protected tenancy. I do not want the term tenancies to become the norm. I want them to become an extra rung on the ladder, as one noble Lord said. That is what I want to do; and that, I think, would be a good thing.

I am not going to press this amendment to a Division at this stage because I think it would possibly be counter-productive. However if I can consider this further and possibly discuss it with various other noble Lords, and if we can produce a permissive amendment at Report stage which allows the Minister to do certain things with lots of protections engulfed in it, then I will be very tempted to divide on Report. With the Committee's permission, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 45A not moved.]

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Amendments with respect to cases excepted from restriction on operation of notices to quit]:

9.3 p.m.

Viscount Ridley moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 9, line 4, leave out ("omitted") and insert ("replaced by the following words— Case A—the landlord is a smallholdings authority for the purposes of smallholdings within the meaning of Part III of the Agriculture Act 1970, and—

  1. (a) the holding was let to the tenant in pursuance of the said Part III as a tenancy terminable between the seventh and tenth year of the tenancy;
  2. (b) the instrument under which the tenancy was granted contains an acknowledgement signed by the tenant that the tenancy is subject to the provisions of this Case: and
  3. (c) the notice to quit takes effect not earlier than the beginning nor later than the end of that period.".").

The noble Viscount said: This is the first of three amendments in my name designed to increase the number of smallholdings coming on to the market for letting and so to increase the number of young people who are entering the farming industry. This, as I was told some hours ago, is what this Bill is all about. I talk only about statutory smallholdings, which have been a county council function since 1908. The number of smallholdings now in England and Wales—Scotland is not covered by this legislation—is about 8,000. After recent reorganisation following the Wise Committee report, they can now be regarded as by and large economically viable units with an average size of 19 hectares and an average rent of some £86.00 per hectare at the latest count.

The purpose of these smallholdings was—and is—the laudable one of providing what is called the farming ladder whereby farm workers or other young people can start to farm on their own account and, it is hoped, progress in due course to larger farms as tenants or even as owners. Over the years it has been an effective way of introducing new blood into the industry; and I am sure we must all subscribe to the objective that it stands for. For example in England alone over the past three years Ministry statistics just published show that out of the 7,000 English smallholdings only some 120 per annum have come to be re-let, and I think your Lordships would agree that this is not enough. The trouble of course is that many smallholding tenants have not been able to move on; either they lack the opportunity or they may lack the capital, or indeed they may lack the will to do so. The ladder is only an effective mechanism if people either get off at the top, topple off halfway or come back down and get off at the bottom. It is the objective here to see that the ladder is improved as a means whereby people can flow up and achieve what they are after in a new holding.

I do hope the Government will not say that there is no room for legislation in this Bill on this matter. I know it is not part of the pact between the CLA and the NFU, but that should not rule it out. I do not believe those august bodies would oppose it. Indeed I have evidence that the NFU support it in a recent brief to us, although the CLA have remained ominously silent on the matter. There may not be another opportunity to consider smallholdings legislation for many years; I hope the chance will not be lost, and I think we should look at it.

Amendment No. 46 provides that a statutory smallholding authority—in practice a county council—shall have the power to grant an agricultural lease on what is called a starter holding intended specifically to provide an opportunity for young people starting out to prove themselves in farming. Such a starter tenancy is to be terminable as of right by the landlord at any time between the seventh and tenth year of the tenancy. The idea of this is fairly and squarely one of the most important recommendations, to my mind, in the chapter on smallholdings of the Northfield Committee report, and it is taken purely from their report.

This provision is very much in the interests of the farming industry generally. If the tenant is not able to prove his capabilities with such a holding within the fixed period of the lease, the authority should be able to obtain possession so as to enable movement within the smallholding estate. Another young entrant to farming might have the opportunity to prove his worth. The knowledge that an agricultural tenancy of this kind is specifically a starter tenancy should encourage a successful tenant to build up experience and capital in order to apply for a tenancy of a larger farm or indeed to move in some other way up the ladder.

The need for these starter tenancies—my noble friend Lord Onslow said that one must anticipate the Minister's reply—cannot be met satisfactorily by the Minister using his power under Section 2 of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1948. This would enable him to grant tenancies for a shorter period than for life. If this was the case then I would not be moving this amendment, but past history of the use of the discretionary powers by the Minister under that section is very unsatisfactory. Notwithstanding many representations by county councils and by the Association of County Councils and an undertaking by a previous Minister to widen the exercise of his discretion under that section, county councils are continuing to meet resistance in the face of reasonable and proper requests for the use of Section 2 to grant short-term licences for a period longer than one year.

I have ample evidence that no fewer than 11 English county councils have fallen foul of Section 2 of that Act, but it is not in the Committee's interests, nor mine, that I read them out tonight. However, I can assure your Lordships that it is not an isolated case which has caused me to raise this point. There is the additional point that Section 2 involves the Minister in exercising a role in an area where a decision needs to be taken by the smallholdings authority in the interests of proper management of its estate. If the Minister is to do no more than endorse the policy of the smallholdings authority there is no point in him duplicating a function that can properly be done by that authority. Surely it is the policy of this Government to give as much power as they can to local authorities.

The amendment itself is drafted in such a way as to be in addition to the provisions of Section 2 of the Agricultural Holdings Notices to Quit Act 1977. I repeat that the amendment only applies to statutory smallholdings provided by county councils and not to any other form of agricultural holding. I accept that it may be necessary, if the principle of the amendment is accepted that we will need safeguards to stop wicked authorities, having obtained possession under this provision, immediately selling the land in order to cash in. With that proviso, I beg to move.

Lord Prys-Davies

I have one question for the noble Viscount. I followed his argument with a great deal of interest, but what becomes of the smallholdings tenant if he receives a notice to quit between the seventh and tenth years and he is without an alternative tenancy?

Viscount Ridley

The answer to that is he must know when he accepts such a tenancy agreement that termination is likely to occur. He must therefore be prepared, if he takes the chance of entering farming, to find himself alternative accommodation. I accept it may be necessary to write in further safeguards, but the principle I seek to establish is that there should be such things as starter tenancies and that people who succeed should be able to move on and those who do not should be asked to make way for others who want to have a go.

Lord Northfield

This is the most difficult point in the amendment of the noble Viscount. I support his amendment in principle but when my Committee studied this matter we suggested that notice could be given between the seventh and tenth years. However, we also said that the tenancies would be terminable if the authorities could, at the time of termination, offer a larger holding suitable to the needs and resources of the tenant in terms of size and type of enterprise, or which met criteria agreed between the parties when the first tenancy was granted. In other words, we could not see the tenant—young or old as he might be—simply thrown out over seven years with no hope at all.

We went on to say that if no holding became available in the county during the period when the notice could be given then, except in various circumstances, we proposed that the right of the local authority to terminate the tenancy for this special purpose would lapse and the tenant would have the security which would normally apply. We were trying to make it a real rung on the ladder—to make a real ladder exist—and that the provison should apply when the county could offer a larger holding for the man to move on to after his initial apprenticeship, the building up of capital, and so on, that would take place in the seven or ten years. I support the idea but I hope that if we come back to this at a later stage the noble Lord will try to find some way of qualifying the suggestion in the ways we suggested; otherwise I am sure that there would be some hardship.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

There may be some small fault in the drafting of my noble friend's amendment. However, I hope that when my noble friend Lord Belstead replies he gives the principle a very fair wind.

Lord Walston

Again I find myself in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Northfield. I have some sympathy for this amendment, but it would be very unfortunate if a good young tenant who started farming in his early 'twenties and, having farmed well, found himself at the age of 30 moved out of his farm and unable to get another larger farm. It is true that the county councils' smallholdings were originally designed as a ladder; but if there is nothing at the top of the ladder one should not push the man off when he reaches the top. He should be allowed to stay there. If it were possible to restrict this power to those cases where the tenant has had the opportunity to get a larger holding but has refused to take it for some reason—although I do not see how this can be done—that would certainly be most attractive.

I wholeheartedly agree with the final point made by the noble Viscount. I was going to raise the matter if he had not done so. It must be made completely impossible for the county council, having given notice, then to sell the whole thing with vacant possession. That provision must clearly be incorporated in any legislation which may arise.

9.14 p.m.

Lord Belstead

The difficulty of comparing this amendment with the proposal in the report of the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, has been fully explained. Whatever the merits and demerits of fixed-term tenancies, they have the major drawback that in the absence of a reasonable supply of normal tenancies they are likely to mean that the beneficiaries—if that is the right term—are likely to find themselves out of a job and out of a home at the expiry of the term. It is the fact—and I am sorry that it is the fact—that over the 10 years to 1981 I am told that an average of only 14 tenants per year made a move to farms in the private sector. That is out of a total of approximately 7,000 tenants. We are talking of a situation where, however successful in themselves the smallholdings may be, the concept of them being a rung on the farming ladder has in so many cases not been achieved.

The damage to a man and his family of his going out of a job and a home would be accentuated by the fact that, since the Wise Committee made its recommendations, a larger proportion of smallholdings have become larger viable units, so that, in a sense, the damage being done is the greater. That is one area of difficulty. In listening to my noble friend Lord Ridley I think that we have to face that.

There is another area of difficulty. My noble friend was perhaps a little dismissive of the Minister's discretionary power under Section 2 of the 1948 Act. I have taken on board what my noble friend said and I shall follow it up. But I repeat what I said only a few minutes ago on a previous amendment. Currently my right honourable friend's approval is definitively going to be given for trial tenancies for an extended period from three years to five years concurrently with the coming into force of this legislation. These provisions are not perhaps as widely known or understood as they should be. We are therefore to issue public guidance on how they will operate. I am sure that they will be sufficient to give new entrants a sufficient period of trial where it is reasonable to do so. If I may say so on this amendment, it means that the maximum period we are envisaging at the moment for trial tenancies of five years falls only two years short of the seven to 10 years—the lower end of the scale which my noble friend is choosing for his amendment.

I am very ready to go away and think about what my noble friend has said and in particular about his criticisms of the way in which the Section 2 powers have been used. But I would ask him, if he would, also to think about what has been said about the difficulties of comparing this amendment with the Northfield proposals and also the possibility of making use of the new arrangements that there will be under Section 2.

The Earl of Kinnoull

I wonder whether my noble friend the Minister could expand a little bit more on the Section 2 provision. My noble friend Lord Ridley criticised it, and I must say that I have also heard criticisms of it, partly because, being discretionary, it seems that the Minister has this total power to say yes or no. Will the extension of the period from three to five years be introduced by statutory instrument or does the Minister have the power under the 1948 Act simply to state that the period will be extended? Secondly, can my noble friend go further? Could it be seven years? Whitish the object of going only to five years if he talks about a trial tenancy?

Lord Belstead

To answer my noble friend's first question, the period can be extended administratively. I think that I have said that the intention is that this would be done administratively concurrently with the passing of this Act. In response to my noble friend's second question, I would say that my noble friend is a past master at getting his foot in the door and then levering it open. Of course there is nothing to stop my right honourable friend extending his concept of the use of the Section 2 powers to a greater period than a maximum of five years. But I would draw my noble friend's attention to the fact that my right honourable friend has gone out of his way to see that, of all the grounds on which Section 2 discretions of the Minister can be used—those grounds extend to about seven different grounds on which you can give short-term lettings—he has chosen only two. Those are trial tenancies, and tenancies where you want a bit of time because a son or daughter of the owner of the land is coming along a little later. On those occasions, my right honourable friend has said specifically that he will be prepared to extend the time.

So my right honourable friend is being cautious about extending the scope of the use of Section 2 and is also being cautious about extending the period of time for which he would extend Section 2. Why is my right honourable friend being cautious? Because, once again, we come back to the old chestnut. He is concerned that there should be no question of breaching the principle of the 1948 Act that tenancies should be tenancies for life.

Viscount Ridley

I shall not waste time; I shall reply briefly. The noble Lord, Lord Northfield, will recall that what he published was not quite in accordance with the evidence of smallholding authorities. Nor can I accept the theory of the noble Lord, Lord Walston, that a good farmer can be thrown out on his ear at the age of 30. There is no question of that. It is surely a matter of getting rid of the chap who is not trying very hard. I accept that Section 2 of the 1948 Act, which my noble friend Lord Belstead promised to look at, is welcome. I shall not read out a lot of letters from his predecessor. There is room for improvement. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne)

Before calling Amendment No. 47, I should perhaps point out to your Lordships that it should read: Page 9, line 5, after ("Case C"), insert ("—(a)"); and also that the subsequent Amendment No. 48A should be marshalled immediately after Amendment No. 47. I understand that these are alternatives. It might be for the convenience of your Lordships' Committee if they were discussed together.

9.23 p.m.

Viscount Ridley moved Amendment No. 47: Page 9, line 5, after ("Case C"), insert ("—(a)").

The noble Viscount said: I am sure that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if Amendments Nos. 47, 48 and 57 could be discussed in the same debate. I hope that this is acceptable to my noble friend, and I have no intention of speaking twice.

Amendment No. 48: Page 9, line 10, at end insert ("and (b) the following shall be added at the end— For the purposes of this Case, in determining whether the tenant was or was not fulfilling his responsibilities to farm in accordance with the rules of good husbandry, the Tribunal shall have regard not only to subsection (2) of section 11 of the Agriculture Act 1947 (good husbandry) but also to the extent to which the tenant has complied with any covenant in his tenancy relating to the conservation of the landscape or the protection of wildlife or archaeological features.".").

Amendment No. 57: After Clause 7, insert the following new clause:

("Amendment of Schedule 1 to the 1948 Act.

. In Schedule 1 to the 1948 Act (matters for which provision is to be made in written tenancy agreements), after paragraph 10 there shall be added

"11. A covenant by the tenant to do or refrain from doing anything specified in the covenant relating to the conservation of the landscape or the protection of wildlife or archaeological features.".").

I move these amendments on behalf of my noble friend Lord Gibson. As your Lordships will be aware, he is chairman of the National Trust and, unfortunately, is unavoidably detained elsewhere tonight. He has put down these amendments on behalf of the National Trust. Your Lordships will I think agree that the National Trust deserves the most sympathetic and serious hearing on matters of this kind. Not only is it one of Britain's largest landowners, but its policy of letting land to tenants rather than farming itself or, indeed, of creating the dreadful new partnerships we hear about make it in this sense a model landlord. It now owns over 400,000 acres in England and Wales, of which no less than 200,000 acres are designated as SSSIs. That shows its interest in conservation if nothing else does.

The trust is very concerned, as are other bodies, that conservation has so far had no place in the Bill. The amendments seek to remedy this defect in a modest way. As the law stands, there is no statutory provision for conservation matters to be written into an agricultural tenancy agreement. A tenant following such principles may be at risk of accusations that he is farming in a manner inconsistent with the rules of good husbandry and of incurring any penalties that this might imply. Also, the landlord seeking to restrain practices inimical to conversation—I am sorry, I should have said, "to conservation"; we have all made that mistake—could be thwarted if the tenant can prove that such practices are inconsistent with the rules of good husbandry as stated in Section 11 of the 1947 Agriculture Act.

That Act was passed at a time when food production took precedence over conservation. Indeed, I think it will be agreed that the word "conservation" had hardly been invented then. Now there is need to be able to provide for more up-to-date control over such conservation issues as well as greater protection for a tenant who observes them. The amendments are by no means wholly designed to punish tenants but to protect them and to see that agreed conservation measures have some statutory backing in farmers' tenancy agreements in the future, and that tribunals should take note of them where necessary.

As your Lordships are well aware, lately there has been a very great deal of adverse criticism of the farming industry. Indeed, the Permanent Secretary, Sir Michael Franklin, according to the BBC said only recently that the tide of opinion is running against the farmer. The Secretary of State for Agriculture said three days ago that he had very important statutory conservation responsibilities. We all know the stories about hedges which have been removed, marshes drained, down land ploughed up and so on, and no redress is possible in the terms of the Landlord and Tenant Acts. I do not wish to start at this time of night a diversion on the Wildlife and Countryside Act. I am delighted to know that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is not in his place, or we should have had just that. Let us keep this matter in perspective.

We wish to make statutory provision for a clause concerning conservation to be written into a tenancy agreement where necessary and, by an addition to Case C of Section 2(3) of the 1977 Act, to widen the consideration of the tribunal beyond solely the rules of good husbandry to conservation matters in a tenancy agreement. The National Trust quite obviously by its very nature has many farms where conservation issues are of the greatest national importance. If this were acceptable, no longer would a tenant be able to disregard conservation responsibilities under the pretext of farming well; nor could he bow to the pressure to achieve high production to the detriment of the environment because of fear of these rules of good husbandry.

The NFU's brief on this matter while not totally unsympathetic, fears that a tenant might be disadvantaged in regard to security and to dilapidations. The purpose of these amendments is to see that that is not the case and that the tenant's anxieties are totally relieved in this respect. This is a most vital and important matter and an opportunity, which may not present itself for many years, to give effect to our responsibilities in this field and legal backing to environmental management. I know that the amendments will have the full support in principle of the Nature Conservancy Council and also the Countryside Commission. I cannot see any reason why my noble friend cannot welcome them with very open arms at the same time. They may only be a first step in the right direction. They may—they probably do—need much further discussion than we have time for at this stage, but I hope that they can be looked at in that light.

I know that Governments are apt to resist amendments of this type on three mains grounds. The first ground is that they just do not agree with them. That is a matter of opinion. The second ground is that the amendments are badly drafted. That is something which I can accept myself because I am not competent to argue. The third ground is that there is no need for the amendments. That I cannot accept. Much technical argument has gone on in this field about the fact that a "breach of covenant", obtainable from the court under the Law of Property Act 1925, is alleged to be an adequate substitute for conservation matters in an agreement. This really is no excuse for not making at this point a serious effort—not perhaps in detail tonight but during the course of the passage of the Bill—to bring these matters up to date. It is a unique opportunity for the Nature Conservancy Council, the National Trust, et cetera. They have sought legal advice on this and they do not believe that the Law of Property Act is going to have any effect. It is not true that it is an answer.

I believe that the CLA and the NFU, as I have said on a previous amendment, will be able to stand aside like two sacred cows and allow this amendment to pass between them. They are not, I think, affected and I hope that they are not biased for or against. There is, as I am sure your Lordships are well aware, a very great deal of concern in the country at large at the way such issues of conservation are developing. I hope that the Committee will give a sympathetic hearing and support me in the principle of these amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Sandford

I should like to support my noble friend in this amendment, and I can do so quite shortly because I think he has explained it very thoroughly to the Committee already. The fact of the matter is that the experience of the practitioners involved in the type of legislation with which we have been dealing, as it has so far been drafted and so far enacted, hinders rather than helps in the adoption of management agreements between public bodies such as the Nature Conservancy Council, the national park authorities, the local authorities on the one hand and landlords or their tenants on the other for the proper management of land in the countryside in the interests of conservation and a whole range of other activities on the land besides that of farming and agricultural production.

The amendment refers particularly to, "the conservation of the landscape", the conservation of wildlife, flora and fauna, and the conservation of "archeological features". However, there are other important aspects which this amendment does not cover but which I hope the Minister will bear in mind when he is reflecting on this debate, such as the use of the countryside for recreation and access for the public.

The fact of the matter is that landlords enlightened in this respect, wishing to enter into and adhere to management agreements, can be hampered by philistine and unco-operative tenants. Tenants, with the right ideas in these matters, can find their tenancies put at hazard by landlords questioning their husbandry if they seek to follow some of these agreements. So far from ironing out this problem in their Bill, neither the CLA nor the NFU have addressed their minds to it—it does not look as though they have—and nor does it appear that the Ministry has.

In the process of ensuring that this Bill meets the public interest as well as the interests of the NFU and the CLA, it is our job to ensure that from now on minds are addressed to this problem.

Lord Middleton

Does my noble friend distinguish between the public interest and the interest of the CLA and the NFU?

Lord Sandford

Indeed I do and so do many of my noble friends on both sides of the Committee. This is what we are here for. But I do not think that I need go into this matter much more. All that is necessary is for the Minister (if, as I hope, he agrees with the general drift of this amendment) to call into consultation some of the people who are involved besides the CLA and the NFU, such as the Nature Conservancy Council, the Countryside Commission, the associations and others. If this amendment or this formulation designed to deal with this matter is not the best, then others can be devised. However I am quite certain that something along these lines needs to be enacted.

Baroness White

From this side of the Committee I should like to support the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, and the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. Although I am not familiar with the precise details of the matter, it appears to me essential that something of this nature should be included in this proposed legislation. This time—almost to the minute—tomorrow evening I expect to be at Grosvenor House at the Red Dragon Ball, together with some 1,200 other good Welshmen and friends of Wales, listening to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, because the ball is in aid of the National Trust in Wales and the Prince's own Environment Committee, of which I have had the honour to be a member for a number of years. I am quite sure that it would cause considerable unease and disquiet if, for any reason, this case proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, was not found, in principle at least, to be acceptable.

As the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, and the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, have made very clear, plainly this kind of provision is essential if this part of the countryside is to have a fair deal. We are entirely in favour of many of the provisions in the Bill, but I think that this particular safeguard is a very necessary one and I hope that it will be found acceptable in all quarters.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

For the second time this evening I should like to support my noble friend Lord Ridley on this amendment. But, as a rather suspicious sacred cow, which I think he was trying to say I might be, I would ask my noble friend Lord Belstead to confirm two matters when he replies: that, should this be favourable to the Government, am I correct that there would be no question of a case of bad husbandry put against the tenant, so getting him removed, and indeed that there would be no case for giving greater dilapidation? I understand from my noble friend Lord Ridley that that is the case. I should be happy to hear the Minister confirm that, in which case I support this, too.

9.35 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness

I rise to support this amendment too. It follows logically from Amendment No. 11 which we discussed on the first day of the Committee stage, which was an amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, and myself. Everything has been said, and therefore there is nothing more for me to say, but I hope that my noble friend would give it a warm reception.

Lord Bishopston

In the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, who is chairman of the trust—and of course I declare an interest—may I say that the case has been well put by the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley. He made some reference to my noble friend Lord Melchett, implying his enthusiasm for the subject of conservation. Perhaps I may tell him that I was in your Lordships' company with many others on Saturday when we had a seminar on conservation, and I am well prepared for the amendments which have been discussed tonight.

As the noble Viscount said, the trust is concerned about the definition of good husbandry under the Agriculture Act 1947 and the Agricultural Holdings Act 1948, and the definition of good husbandry under the Acts does not heed the conservation of landscape, wildlife and archaeology, so that it is not possible to enforce clauses in a tenancy agreement necessary to define or promote these particular aspects.

Also the trust is concerned in particular about the provisions for remedying the breaches of covenant, where the approval of the agricultural land tribunal is required to a notice to quit for a breach of covenant. The trust also feels that the definition of the rules of good husbandry should in some way be amended to include the recognition of the importance of conservation in the management of a holding.

It would also like some means of enabling a landlord to introduce new restrictions into a tenancy agreement to prevent a tenant damaging an interest which has come to light since the granting of the original tenancy, and arbitration might be one way of achieving this. Finally, I feel that your Lordships, with your concern for conservation, will agree that conservation is not something to be added on to our other responsibilities. It is indeed an integral part of our responsibility for good farming and for good husbandry. I hope that the Minister will be able to give the Committee some assurances about the points which have been raised.

Earl Waldegrave

We have had support from all sides of the Committee, and I should have thought that it would be seen as an omission to leave out this amendment from this new piece of legislation on agricultural holdings when the whole question of nature conservation is so much in the public eye and when so many of the big landlords—such as the Duchy of Cornwall, with which I used to be associated but I am not now and I do not speak for them—take this matter so very seriously. It would strengthen those who are trying to make these voluntary agreements work—both private and public corporations—if there was some reference of this sort in the Act. I hope that this can be in this Bill when it becomes an Act, and I hope that this clause will be supported.

Lord Walston

The only thing which modifies my wholehearted support for this amendment is that all voices which have been raised so far have spoken in favour of it, and I cannot help feeling that there must be some reason against it. But I have overcome that feeling and I seriously give this amendment my wholehearted support. Farmers have traditionally always had the job of producing food; but they have also had the job—which they have fulfilled in the main extremely well in the past—of preserving and enhancing the environment. That is something which they must continue to do.

In many of the debates and discussions which have been held on this subject it has been asserted—and rightly asserted—that farmers are the best conservers of the environment. It is therefore right that this Bill should contain some provision to ensure that that minority of farmers who do not fulfil their obligations in this respect can be called to book. I believe this to be a good amendment. I should like to add that my noble friend Lord Hunt, who is president of the Council for the National Parks, was anxious to speak in support of this amendment, but unfortunately he could not remain here. He asked me to signify his strong support for it and the support of the Council for National Parks: support which is reinforced by very many documents and works which have been done pointing out the importance of this and how it can best be achieved.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

There is a slight rift in the Alliance. I have viewed with grave suspicion some of the people who have supported this amendment. It needs to be approached with extreme caution. It is a little hard to put into a tenancy agreement a covenant relating to the protection of the landscape, the protection of wildlife and archaeological features. One can say to a hardworking farmer, "You must not cut down trees. You must not plough up this site". But according to this one might direct him to divert his energies and, instead of trying to make a living, to conserve the wildlife round the place and forget about the vulgar business of farming and producing food. This bristles with difficulties, I agree.

The NFU has produced some useful figures about the number of trees that farmers have planted in the last 10 years. I know that most farmers do an excellent job in conserving the countryside and wildlife and improving the beauty. But we need to be extremely careful about the obligations that tenants may be forced to take on. The most we can do is to make them negative; to make them positive would not be useful.

The Earl of Caithness

If that concerns the noble Lord, I am very surprised that he did not support the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, and myself on Amendment No. 11, when we specifically asked for these matters to be taken into account in rent reviews.

Lord John-Mackie

I should like to make a few practical points, rather than support my noble kinsman's remarks. There is a world of difference between ripping up woodland, draining marshes, tearing out hedges, et cetera, and good husbandry on land that is already cultivated. With all due respect to my noble friend Lord Melchett, he has suggested that we leave two yards round all our hedges and such things.

I remember my father telling the story of his neighbour who told him that he had noticed that every time a fresh member of the family was born they took another furrow away from the hedgerows. I have pointed out to my son and to my foreman that when they leave a large corner into which it is too difficult to reverse the plough or turn the combine harvester, they are probably leaving enough land to feed an Indian family. This is what we need to watch—the difference between tearing up hedges, woodlands, et cetera, and cultivating properly, keeping down the weeds round the hedges and so on. There is a world of difference between the two and I felt I should point that out.

Lord Belstead

I do not think there is a difference between everyone who has spoken in this short debate about the necessity to try, wherever possible, to promote the conservation of the countryside. Indeed, in no way do I dissent from what one noble Lord said about there being no dividing line, or that there should not be a dividing line, between someone who wishes to conserve and someone who wishes to farm. Those who have been farming best over many years have been some of the best conservationists.

Having said that, I am advised that provision in the tenancy agreement is sufficient to provide protection for the tenant. That is advice which did not surprise me. In fact, it would have surprised me very much if there were provision in a tenancy agreement for conservation. Then the tenant could not be protected from a notice to quit on the grounds of bad husbandry. I should be absolutely astonished if that were the case. Therefore, I wonder (if I may say so to my noble friends Lord Ridley and Lord Sandford) whether Amendment No. 47 is necessary.

The effect of Amendment No. 57, however, is rather different. Here we have an amendment which, as I understand it, will make it naturally an implicit provision of the tenancy agreement that the tenant shall enter into a conservation covenant. Here I think we come rather nearer to the words spoken by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. While many landlords and tenants enter voluntarily into conservation arrangements—and may I make it crystal clear that the Government applaud efforts in this direction—I think it is questionable to introduce a form of compulsion. Again, I should be very ready to look at this for it is an important matter, and clearly many noble Lords think that it is an important matter: but I would ask my noble friends to look at what I have said in reply.

Viscount Ridley

In years of moving amendments late at night I have never had such support before. I am sure that your Lordships will agree that it is a gratifying experience. I think we have made the case. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, remains to be convinced that it is necessary; but I hope that those of your Lordships who understand the law will be able to convince him before lunch tomorrow that it is necessary that something of this kind be done. I hope that if he is not convinced he will allow me to move an amendment at the Report stage which to some extent meets the objections made.

I entirely take Lord Mackie's point. It is not intended to introduce more compulsion in this matter than is necessary. I think that the debate has shown that something has got to be done in this field, and must be seen to be done. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment in the hope that it is not forgotten.

Lord Belstead

Before my noble friend withdraws the amendment, may I ask why is it important that I, the Government spokesman, be persuaded before lunch tomorrow? Is it that after lunch, in some way, I shall be incapable of being persuaded?

Viscount Ridley

It is because I think it will not take that long to get it over.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.47 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 48A:

Page 9, line 5, leave out from ("Case C") to end of line 10 and insert ("for subsection (a) there shall be substituted the following— (a) were satisfied in relation to the holding that the tenant was not

  1. (i) managing it to the standard which would be required by a responsible landlord; or
  2. (ii) farming it in accordance with the rules of good husbandry; or
  3. (iii) managing or farming it to the standard which would be practised by a responsible tenant on a comparable holding".").

The noble Earl said: The purpose of Amendment No. 48A—which we are bringing forward before Amendment No. 48 because it comes before it in the Bill—is to facilitate the obtaining of a certificate of bad husbandry. It is quite proper for a prudent landlord to be concerned about the way that a tenant farms, notwithstanding that the law as it stands at the moment gives the tenant protection for three generations and that the chances of a landlord obtaining vacant possession during that time are small. The trouble is that history has shown that it is extremely difficult for a landlord to obtain a certificate of bad husbandry. The farm has to become a virtual disaster area before the tribunal will agree to the landlord's contention. This was a point faced regularly by the Northfield Committee, and I am delighted to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, for this amendment.

A certificate of bad husbandry was issued recently in the case of Leak v. Pick. The tribunal found that there was no reasonable prospect of the tenant's standard of husbandry improving and that he had detrimentally affected the structure of the soil in a field by the tracking of vehicles to reach a large number of wooden pallets which were being stored and repaired on the holding. However, to me the interesting point was that the tribunal said that had the case been a marginal one the landlord's previous inactivity might have tipped the scales against him. It was only because the farm was such a disaster that the certificate was awarded. Few landlords therefore pursue claims of bad husbandry as they are so difficult to obtain.

The 1976 Act created a very privileged person in the form of the tenant, and with this privilege should come more responsibility. It must be logical for the landlord to be able to obtain possession of a holding where the tenant does not come up to the required standard. This is particularly important where succession has taken place and the landlord has not chosen the tenant. It is clear from the recent tribunal decision that landlords who are concerned about bad husbandry must serve notices to remedy and follow them through on a regular basis. However, I do not think this is enough. Farming has changed, and it will continue to do so. Very often there will be more to a tenancy than pure farming and, as we have just discussed, wildlife and conservation. There are broader aspects.

We discussed this at some length on the first day of Committee and I will not repeat what I said then. However, the hope of broadening the base was that a tenant, instead of farming a holding, would have to manage it; and it follows that a certificate of bad husbandry must be able to be granted against him to cover all the tenant's new functions. Our amendment therefore covers the aspects of a tenant's not managing a holding to the standard required by a responsible landlord, not farming it in accordance with the rules of good husbandry and not farming it or managing it to a standard which would be practised by a responsible tenant on a comparable holding. This last point is very important as it would allow comparable holdings farmed by competent tenants to be used in determining whether or not a certificate should be issued.

I turn briefly to the positioning of the amendment with regard to this Bill and the 1977 Act. We have by error taken out a very useful amendment to Case C by deleting the last two words on line 6, and lines 7 to 8 inclusive on page 9 of the Bill as it now stands. These words result from, I think, Amendment 93 of the working party, and should be retained.

I apologise if this has confused some of your Lordships. If, as I hope, our amendment is accepted in principle by the Government I will beg leave to withdraw it and to reintroduce an amendment at a later stage. I have given my noble friend Lord Belstead a copy of a possible amendment, where it can be brought in, together with the words as they stand in the Bill. In the meantime, I commend this amendment to your Lordships, and I beg to move.

Lord Northfield

I hope the Minister will be sympathetic to the principle of the amendment, despite the fact that we have made a mistake in drafting. As I understand it—and I am no expert on the matter—landlordshave virtually given up trying to get certificates of bad husbandry. It is almost impossible, given the case law and the particular difficulties in every case. We really need now to follow up the recommendation in my committee's report, paragraph 632, which stated that the procedure, for obtaining certificates of bad husbandry should be revised to ensure that they can be used as proper sanctions. This is what the amendment is trying to do, to say that it should not just be bad husbandry, as measured by things like the quality of soil, extraction farming or the state of the property, or whatever it is. It should be a much more general view of the competence of the person concerned in his management function of the whole farm and in comparing it not with some absolute standard which is wrapped up in the words "good husbandry" but with the standard which reasonable farmers are practising on comparable farms. I am sure that something like this has got to be done. I venture to repeat that at the moment I think the law is a dead letter and landlords have almost given up trying to get certificates of bad husbandry.

Lord Belstead

I have become familiar in the last few months with views of the kind expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, and I am not unsympathetic to them. But I think the Government still feel that the considerations which tribunals already have to bear in mind in considering applications for bad husbandry certificates are in fact already covered in the purposes of this amendment.

I would draw your Lordships' attention to the definitions of good estate management and good husbandry in Sections 10 and 11 of the Agriculture Act 1947. Section 11, with which I am sure your Lordships are familiar, sets out both in general terms and more specifically the requirements of good husbandry. They include the maintenance of permanent pasture, the cropping and conditions of arable land, the managment of livestock, the control of pests and diseases, the protection of harvested crops and the necessary maintenance and repair which is not the responsibility of the landlord. The basic requirement is that the occupier should maintain, a reasonable standard of efficient production", while, keeping the units in a condition to enable such a standard to be maintained in the future". If my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, could indicate what additional factors the tribunals should be expected to take into account in considering applications for certificates under Case C, I should be prepared to consider that point further. But I must make clear that, unless there is good reason for including extra provisions, the Government would be reluctant to widen the scope of Section 11 of the 1947 Act, because this could provide scope for further argument and contention in hearings before the tribunals. I have taken on board what my noble friend Lord Caithness said about the drafting slip in his original amendment and I know he will be considering that if he wants to bring this amendment forward again.

Lord Northfield

Before the noble Lord sits down, is not the onus to some extent on the Minister? Does he not agree that the present law has almost become a dead letter and that it is not possible under the present law to carry out the intentions of Parliament; namely, to facilitate getting possession in a case of bad farming? If that is the case, may I suggest that the onus is partly on him to try to find a way of tightening up the Act? Otherwise, we shall end up by saying, "There it is, and nothing has been done about it".

Lord Belstead

The noble Lord has made a good point and it is more than a debating point. But if the Government are to go down this road, we shall need to consult the industry with some care as to whether there is agreement that the requirements of good husbandry, from which the penalties for bad husbandry are derived should be considerably tightened up. I must not be two-faced about this. I said at the beginning that I had become familiar with the sort of remarks that the noble Lord has made, and I agree that we have some responsibility in the Government to look at this. But if both the noble Lord and my noble friend feel that they want to pursue this themselves I should like to repeat that we should need to know more specifically what additional factors the tribunals should be expected to take into account. We, for our part, would have to bear in mind that we should have to be very careful not only that we carried the industry with us in changing these requirements of good husbandry, but also that we did not provide scope for further argument and contention in tribunal hearings.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I should like to support, if not the amendment, what the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, has said. It is true that, if you know of cases of bad husbandry, it takes the most tremendous amount of work and time before they are recognised as such. In fact, as has been said, they have to be a disaster, useful only to the conservationists in the amount of buttercups and wild flowers that you see below the grass. Good farmers these people certainly are not. I do not like the amendment, and particularly sub-paragraph (iii): managing or farming it to the standard which would be practised by a responsible tenant on a comparable holding". That could lead to as much trouble as the remark about good husbandry. I think that the Minister ought to look at it. One does not want tremendous persecution of mediocre farmers, but I could not agree more that it appears to be far too difficult to get rid of a really bad farmer—disastrous, yes, but bad, no.

The Earl of Caithness

I was somewhat disappointed by my noble friend's reply, because I feel that once again, with all due respect, he has missed the point. The point is that in future more and more tenants will be looking for means of raising income to support their way of life other than just pure farming, and the definition of "good husbandry" and "good estate management" under the 1947 Act is a purely agricultural one.

He asked for further evidence and I would again refer him to my speech at col. 171 of the Official Report of the first day of the Committee, when I cited the example of a caravan site. I can think of many cases where recreation is involved, and where it would be in the interests of the landlord and the tenant to encourage this, maybe at the expense of farming. However, I do not want to continue this debate unnecessarily. The noble Lord, Lord Northfield, and I ought to put our heads together on it and see the Minister, because we have a valid point. I am grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. In the meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 48, not moved.]

10 p.m.

Viscount Ridley moved Amendment No. 49A:

Page 9, line 38, at end insert— ("( ) A new Case shall be added as follows— Case 1—the notice to quit is given on the grounds that the tenant is aged 64 years or over and the holding consists of land held by a smallholdings authority for the purposes of smallholdings within the meaning of Part III of the Agriculture Act 1970 and the tenancy was granted in pursuance of the said Part III after the commencement of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1983 and suitable alternative housing accommodation will be available for the tenant when the notice to quit takes effect.".").

The noble Viscount said: This is another Northfield Committee recommendation dealing with statutory smallholdings and the farming ladder. In reply to my noble friend Lord Onslow's amendment, my noble friend Lord Belstead said that he was looking again at the whole question of fixed term tenancies, retirement ages, and so forth. If that is so, I will happily withdraw the very long speech I have here. If that is not the case, I will make it. Before I start on it, perhaps my noble friend will enlighten me, for it would save a lot of time.

Lord Belstead

I ask my noble friend not to make his speech, although I enjoy listening to him. I am prepared to consider the possibility at a later stage of bringing forward a suitable amendment, in consultation with my noble friend, to achieve the objectives outlined in this amendment. It is rather sad that I have not enabled my noble friend to make his speech so that I could say what I have just said as a result of his speech; but my noble friend knows that the persuasiveness of his drafting would have been exceeded only by the persuasiveness of his speech.

Viscount Ridley

With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 50A:

Page 9, line 38, at end insert— ("( ) There shall be added the following new Case— Case J—the notice to quit relates to a holding where—

  1. (i) at the date of the granting of the tenancy, the holding was not a "commercial unit" as defined in the 1976 Act, and
  2. (ii) the written contract of tenancy records that the tenant acknowledges the fact that the landlord or his successors in title may require vacant possession of the holding upon the giving of 12 months' notice to quit under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1983 to terminate the tenancy on a date not less than 5 years from the beginning of the tenancy
and it is stated in the notice to quit that it is given by reason of the matter aforesaid. For the purposes of this Case, no valid notice to quit shall be served under this Case where, for a period of 7 years before the granting of the tenancy, the holding formed part of an agricultural unit comprising a commercial unit (disregarding any part acquired by a Public or Local Authority in exercise of its compulsory powers).".").

The noble Earl said: Many of your Lordships might automatically associate notices to quit solely with the termination of a tenancy. While my amendment does that, it is designed in the first instance to create a tenancy where a tenancy would not have been created before. It is a new concept to try to broaden the base of the landlord-tenant system. It relates exclusively to uncommercial holdings. I stress that existing tenants of such holdings are fully protected by current legislation. My hope is that in the future landlords, who might for very good reasons require vacant possession of an uncommercial holding, will let that holding, subject to certain provisos.

The first is that the tenant acknowledges that the landlord might want the holding back some time in the future, but not before the expiration of at least five years of the new tenancy has elapsed. The second is that twelve months' notice needs to be served on the tenant. There might be a fear that a landowner would deliberately break up a larger farm. Consequently, a further proviso has been added, that if the holding formed part of a commercial unit at any time within the last seven years then a notice to quit could not be validly served. The exception is when land has been taken by compulsory powers—which, of course, is out of the hands of the landlord.

We all know of instances where tenancies such as this could be of use. I will mention just one. A farmer friend of mine in Oxford shire farms land for five landlords in the neighbourhood. Each parcel of land is an uncommercial unit in its own right. His agreements to farm the land vary from a tenancy under Section 2 of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1948 to a gentleman's agreement. He acknowledges in each case that he is tenant for a limited period only; but how much more sensible it would be if he could farm the land on the same basis for all landlords. It would soon encourage other landlords to participate in the scheme, and it would therefore make available land which otherwise would remain owner occupied. This would surely be of benefit to farmers and tenants. I beg to move.

The Earl of Swinton

I am grateful to my noble friend for explaining what I found to be a rather complex amendment, although I must admit that I am not absolutely certain that I understand it yet. In essence it seems that the amendment would allow fixed term tenancies in relation to small parcels of land which do not amount to a commercial unit. Since I agree that my noble friend's objective is to bring into agricultural production small parcels of land which would otherwise remain unworked—may I ask my noble friend whether I am right about that? I am not quite sure that I am.

The Earl of Caithness


The Earl of Swinton

Then I must say that I am in a real muddle. The example which my noble friend gave of his friend in Oxford shire is just the sort of situation which I should have thought would cause problems: where a tenancy may not in itself amount to a commercial unit but may amount to one when taken together with other parcels of land which the tenant rents, perhaps from different landlords, which I believe is the very case my noble friend was mentioning. I should have thought that in that situation, it would be wrong to interfere in a way which would make the total holding non-viable. I hope that my noble friend will withdraw his amendment. I shall have to read what was said because although I stated that I found his explanation very helpful, it has confused me all the more!

The Earl of Caithness

I am sorry if I have confused my noble friend and kinsman. The point I was trying to get across was this. Let us take the example of a new tenant coming into a viable farm. I, perchance, own 50 acres adjoining his farm which I do not want to farm—but I might want those 50 acres back in 12 years' time. That land can be given to the tenant on a tenancy, but the tenant in the first place having agreed that I might want it back. It is an uncommercial unit in its own right. It is not absorbed into his existing holding and therefore does not become a commercial unit. It remains uncommercial—but it does serve the purpose of providing more land for adjacent tenants to farm. This is perhaps something we ought to discuss in more detail between now and the next stage. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mackie of Benshie moved Amendment No. 51:

Page 9, line 38, at end insert— ("( ) A new Case shall be added as follows— Case K—at the date of the giving of the Notice to Quit the tenant, under a tenancy agreement drawn up in accordance with the Model Repairs Clauses as in S.I. 1473 (1973) and entered into after the passing of this Act, has passed the age of 65 years; providing that vacant possession of the holding is required in order to re-let to a tenant farmer under the age of 35 years.".").

The noble Lord said: We put down this amendment in something of a hurry and we are now profoundly dissatisfied with it. However, I regret that I cannot withdraw it because the amendment raises a point that the Committee will want to discuss. And if I were to withdraw our amendment, I believe it would prevent the noble Lord, Lord Monk Bretton, from putting his rather better amendment to our amendment.

The problem is a simple one which we have touched on already in this Committee; it is that if under the new Act one has a life tenancy, and if there is nothing for the tenant to do and he has not made enough money to retire in great comfort, he will hang on until he dies—thereby keeping someone else out of the tenancy.

As we have drawn it here, it is a further restraint on landlords letting land, in that we would be creating if not a permanent tenancy for one family or one man, then a permanent tenancy because, if the land owner had to re-let the land to a tenant farmer under the age of 35, as we have put the amendment down, it might apply when that chap came to be 65 as well. The problem is well known to us in this Committee. Many things could be done. It has been suggested that there should be, in the case of a new letting of a certain size of farm, a compulsory agreement between the land owner and the tenant to have a pension scheme. Indeed, I see in one of the local authority smallholding amendments it is suggested that a house be made available for anyone who is retiring from a farm.

So it is an unsatisfactory amendment, we admit, but taking out the part about vacant possession and re-letting to a tenant farmer under the age of 35 years, it does pose a problem. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Monk Bretton, seeks to insert the words, vacant possession of the holding being required in order to create an opportunity for a new entrant"— and if the amendment stopped there, it would be a good amendment. But the amendment continues, or for an existing tenant desirous of developing his farming business". That would do something we do not want to do socially; it would reduce again the number of starting places and farms in the countryside. With that, I leave the matter open to discussion. I beg to move.

10.10 p.m.

Lord Monk Bretton moved as an amendment to Amendment No. 51, Amendment No. 51A: Leave out lines 6 and 7 and insert ("vacant possession of the holding being required in order to create an opportunity for a new entrant or for an existing tenant desirous of developing his farming business." ")

The noble Lord said: I am greatly relieved that the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, has taken so kindly to my interference in all this. Of course, both the amendment of the noble Lord and my own are outside the package; I have a feeling that they are perhaps not so far outside as all that—at least, I hope they are not, because I believe they carry the seeds of something important.

A retirement provision would provide more new lettings than simply a return to life tenancy without that provision. It is the purpose of the Bill to provide more farms to let, and therefore it should be in agreement with the purpose of the Bill. I believe a retirement provision would produce less strife also than a return to lifetime tenancies without that provision.

I found the noble Lord's amendment too restrictive to achieve as much as I felt it ought, and therefore I sought to widen it. I hasten to say at this point that I am not a landlord seeking a charter for himself. What I put down is in fact the original wording that came from the Tenant Farmers' Association. I trust the Committee will bear in mind that the source is a body that consists entirely of tenant farmers. I thought that this amendment should see the light of day at this stage, warts and all, because again I doubt whether it is perfect.

In passing, I feel that a first criticism of the noble Lord's original amendment is the age of 35 being the maximum age at which he could come into a holding where a former tenant has retired was too low, and I believe that 45 would be more realistic. I thought of the logjam in council holdings currently, and I also thought of the tenant who would like to and who might be capable of taking on a larger farm.

To landlords there is considerable advantage in being able to let to retirement age. This particularly applies to private ones. They would know more clearly how long they would be letting. They would be letting for a little shorter period. I do not believe that is a very big factor; but I do believe overall they would be considerably more willing. As for tenants, I say this. I think that often, when they ask for lifetime tenancies, they possibly have not thought the matter through as well as they might. I think that lifetime tenancy tends to discourage them from making proper retirement plans and provisions. I also think that too often the son is expected to be a tractor driver, dogs body, or whatever, as we have heard already today. And there is that tendency for the farmer to want to keep his hands on the reins and to do so for too long. The advantage for the son of the tenant is that he is in a better position to find out his own fate with that particular farm and to make a plan for his own life, and I hope also that this provision would free other possible tenancies for him. Lifetime tenancy is fine so long as the decisions on what is to happen are made at or around the time the tenant is reaching retiring age. If such decisions are not made at that time it can lead to bitterness. After all, owner-occupiers do have to face these decisions at that time and one is right to ask why tenants should not do so, too.

I now come to the effects of the amendment. It widens the definition of the person who takes over the farm after retirement from a new tenant under 35 to "a new entrant". He may be another tenant, of course, and I think this should cover a tenant from a smaller holding—an important point that must be considered. He may be a purchasing owner-occupier. The Tenant Farmers' Association repeatedly says that it recognises and accepts that landowners may have to sell for family or tax reasons, or both. The association does not want to bar this and emphatically states that it wants to provide landowners with more encouragement to let. A "new entrant" could cover the owner's son; it could cover the owner without a viable holding wishing to farm. What I think "new entrant"would not cover is the owner of a substantial viable holding proposing to add to it. The proposal goes on to admit the addition of the holding to that of an existing tenant; I think the reason being to provide for cases where good estate management precludes letting an unviable holding.

There could have been a simpler proposal than the amendment as I have tabled it. I could have proposed to delete all the words in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, after "35 years". That would have been much simpler for me because it would have been less difficult to explain and the drafting problems would have been considerably fewer. I think it is worth saying that the Tenant Farmers' Association would pretty nearly go along with that. So I am not quite sure whether I have interpreted the drafting correctly. I have tried to gather what I understood to be the wishes of the Tenant Farmers' Association in this matter and doubtless it will be able to read my remarks and tell me or my noble friend the Minister whether I have got it wrong. I dare say that the whole matter needs much thought and further refinement. I am very anxious to hear views on this amendment, particularly the Government's views. I am very reliant on what has already been said; that the NFU/CLA discussions should be widened to take more fully into account the whole of the industry. I hope that possibly something may come of this. I very much hope that something can be done. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

This is another amendment dealing with retirement, and from that point of view I welcome it because, as I made clear earlier on behalf of the Government, this is an objective to which we must find the right answer. On the other hand, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, will not mind my saying that arguably it would be wrong to allow mandatory retirement provision—because that is what we are talking about here—to be enforced by notice to quit, even in the limited circumstances provided for in this proposal. I also think that, arguably, it would be wrong to link retirement to the nature of the repairing conditions of the tenancy agreement.

That brings me to the third issue relating to relating. I readily understand the arguments in support of this proposal, but I wonder whether it would work in practice. Even with the amendment of my noble friend Lord Monk Bretton, could we, for example, prevent someone who it was thought was going to be the tenant then in fact choosing to or being induced to go off elsewhere? It would be asking too much of the tribunals to require them to enforce this provision, even as amended by my noble friend or amended along the lines that the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, wanted. I really do have my doubts as to whether that part of the amendment would work in practice.

I think that it is important to add one other thing. The Government are considering proposals to encourage voluntary retirement in the case of existing tenancies by making it easier for an eligible and suitable successor to take over earlier than on death. I started off by reminding the Committee of this and I repeat it now. Tenants who wish to make provision for their retirement will in the future be substantially assisted by a provision that my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is proposing to include in the next Finance Bill. He has announced that he is to do this. It will give tenant farmers who wish to purchase retirement accommodation the opportunity to benefit from tax relief on the mortgage interest paid on their retirement home. Having said that, the Government are reluctant to go so far as to introduce an element of compulsion. Although of course we should be very ready to look at this amendment along with all the others so far as trying to bring forward the right amendment on retirement is concerned, from our point of view it suffers from that particular disadvantage.

Baroness Robson of Kiddington

I was going to apologise for daring to take part in this all-male preserve of the Agricultural Holdings Bill, but thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady White, I am the second speaker from our side, so to speak.

I fully accept what the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, says about the amendment. We are in agreement that something that encourages retirement at 65 would be a good thing. I am particularly of that opinion. I think back to before the 1976 Act and remember from my own experience farmers who went on in their tenancy until they died. Quite frequently as a result they left their widows and children without any particular provision. It is in the interests of the farmer to think in terms of retiring at 65 and to make the right provision for himself and his family. If he has a life tenancy without the encouragement to retire at 65, the incentive is not so much there. That is important.

I take the point that it is difficult to make a mandatory retiring age for a farmer who is a self-employed man. It is argued that no other self-employed person has a mandatory retiring age. But there are people in society, apart from civil servants, who are professional men. It is true that it is not mandatory but in a partnership they agree that they will retire at 65. Somehow or other that kind of principle should be incorporated in the Bill. I believe that it would be in the interests of the tenant and of his family.

Lord Prys-Davies

I am in sympathy with the Minister's response. We are all in favour of encouraging retirement, but compulsory retirement as a deliberate act of policy is very much another matter. Certainly, compulsory retirement should not be rushed through in an amendment such as this. It could cause an appeal brought about without adequate preparation, support and discussion within the industry. Having said that, we are very much in sympathy with the principle that the farm be relet to a tenant farmer. I think that the first part of the amendment is particularly helpful. We are not especially impressed that the reletting should be to a tenant of any age in particular but that the opportunity should be given for a new entrant to the industry.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I started by saying that we were dissatisfied with our amendment. That has been proven by every speaker who has commented on it. However, the matter has been ventilated. Everyone agrees that it is a problem and the sort of thing that we need to look at. We ourselves are most unhappy about compulsory retirement by notice to quit and so on. As it has been ventilated. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Earl Cathcart)

I think that it would be the correct procedure to dispose of Amendment No. 51 A first. May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Monk Bretton to speak?

Lord Monk Bretton

I think that at this hour we have had a good discussion. I should like to thank my noble friend the Minister for what he has said. I am glad that he is looking at retirement in general, though I am a little disappointed that he was not more amenable to our problem. I should like to return to the matter at Report stage but, in the meantime, I am sure that my best course is to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment to the amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 51.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

10.27 p.m.

Lord Northfield moved Amendment No. 52: After Clause 5, insert the following new clause:

("Additional consent to operation of notice to quit.

The following paragraph shall be inserted in section 3 of the 1977 Act (Tribunal's consent under s. 2 to operation of notice to quit) after subsection (3)(b)— (bb) that the tenant is already holding by statutory succession within the three calendar months which precede the landlord's application, a tenancy, joint tenancy or tenancies which form a viable economic unit or units, taking into account the productive capacity of the land, and that the landlord is willing to create and let a new agricultural holding that includes the land to which the notice relates.,".").

The noble Lord said: I can be brief, although the point is of immense importance. I am sorry that it has come on late at night, when we cannot test the opinion of the Committee upon it. Earlier, we were talking about restricting the right on an eligible successor and we said that we wanted to reinforce the point that a tenant who already has a good farm, a viable farm, should not inherit another one that is the subject of a tenancy.

This thinking was taken further by the committee which I chaired when we recommended that we should say that no-one should inherit a holding or a collection of holdings that formed more than a single viable commercial unit; in other words, that when a tenant dies there should be a chance for a challenge as to whether the whole of the perhaps scattered system of tenancies that he had built up should be passed on, or whether that succession should be limited to what, in effect, comprises a viable commercial unit with the landlord then able to let the rest to someone else. It would create more opportunities for tenancy and more opportunities for new entrants than almost anything we have been discussing today if we could stop this indiscriminate, if you like, inheritance of tenancies when they comprise together much more than a single viable unit.

It was a star recommendation of my committee in paragraph 630 of the report, and I am surprised that it has not had a good deal more attention in the four years since the report has been published. It is of great importance. I suggest that it would have enormous effect if people could inherit only enough to form one viable holding. I beg to move.

Viscount Ridley

I wonder whether the noble Lord could say whether this is a retrospective amendment? If not, I think that it is worthy of the greatest support, and I hope that it will be agreed to.

Lord Northfield

As far as I can see, I do not think that it is retrospective because it would insert the power of the tribunal to apply a notice to quit from the date of the passing of the Act. Therefore, it would be up to landlords at any time after the passing of the Act to go to the tribunal and say that they would like to contest the power of the successor to inherit the whole of the tenancy. The landlords would say, "We think that it is more than one viable unit and we are prepared to let the land to somebody else". No, I do not think that it would be retrospective.

Lord Belstead

This amendment suffers from the same defect as the noble Lord's Amendment No. 43; namely, we require a definition of "viable unit" before we are through, and I think that the noble Lord accepts that. Having said that. I should like to look at what the noble Lord has said as regards this amendment. At this hour I do not want to go through a lot of reasons as to why we do not like the amendment. However, I am advised that there are certain technical defects.

If the noble Lord would not mind my leaving the matter in that way at this hour of the evening, I should like to have a close look at what he has said because there is no question about it that the objective of the noble Lord is to try to deal with an intractable problem. I accept that. I am not absolutely certain, to be perfectly honest, whether this particular amendment, No. 52, would achieve it, quite apart from the need to find the right definition. I hope that that is not a very slipshod way of replying on this particular occasion.

Lord Northfield

I am most grateful to the noble Lord. The fact is that it is amateur drafting by me, rather than drafting with legal advice. If the noble Lord will have a look at how it could be drafted (even if he does not want to put the amendment down himself) to help me get it right before the next stage, I shall be delighted. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 53 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

10.34 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 7 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Mackie of Benshie

I rise to give notice of my intention to oppose the Motion That Clause 7 shall stand part of the Bill. In so doing I should like first to apologise to the President of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, because during my Second Reading speech I meant that for this function they were the worst people in the world. It went down in Hansard like that, but the House understood that I meant that remark to apply to this function. However, in Hansard it stood by itself, which was an insult I did not intend in any way. Hansard are not to blame. They took it down as I said it, but of course it looked different in print. However, it is a most unsuitable function for the President of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to appoint an arbitrator for this function.

However well they mean, their main function, and the main place from which they draw their income, is of course the sale of land or the letting of land, and, try as they may, they cannot help but be prejudiced by their function. If they are not prejudiced then certainly the farmers who are under dispute or who are applying for arbitration will feel that they are prejudiced. What I cannot understand is why the Government, with this agreed Bill, should go against both the NFU and the CLA in this matter. I would not of course dream of using unparliamentary language, like "stupid" or "bonkers" or anything like that. It would be quite wrong of me to do that. I shall confine myself to saying that it is lamentable and unbelievable that they should produce this scheme.

It is the only mistake in the Bill; and they have been extremely sensible, and up to now have discussed a great many differences of opinion in this Committee. I hope and trust that they will return to the simple method of the Ministry picking the arbitrator. They seem to think that they will save some money. I cannot believe that they would save any significant amount of money; and, anyhow, I think that the tenants would rather pay a little more than have the Ministry give up its function to the Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

I should like a strong assurance from the Minister that he will listen to the opinions in the Committee and will genuinely reconsider this clause. It is of great importance, because to have in this Bill (in respect of which so much has been said about confidence, progress and the difficulty of reaching an agreement on a delicate subject) Clause 7, which is wholly opposed by both the main parties to the agreement does not appear to me to be sensible. I therefore oppose the inclusion of Clause 7 as part of the Bill.

Lord John-Mackie

I am afraid I must disagree with my noble kinsman on one remark that he made; namely, that this is the only mistake there is in the Bill. I think that the Bill is full of mistakes, and this is certainly one of them. I shall be very brief indeed. Whatever happens, I think that when the arbitrator is appointed he must be seen to be fair by the tenant and the landlord. It is always considered that, in appointing arbitrators, the Ministry has been as fair as it possibly can be. However, if one hands this task to an association such as the RICS then it is bound to be biased—I think my noble kinsman used a rather stronger word—in which case there would be some doubt. I think that the Government must be seized of the fact that nearly everybody is against this clause, and I am sure that the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw the clause from the Bill.

Lord Stanley of Alderley

I strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Mackie. I cannot support the retention of this clause for one minute. The RICS must be seen to be impartial, and it cannot be at the moment when it is to be both judge and jury. I should like to quote a Written Answer which I received on 23rd November to the following Question. This brings out the point very clearly. It is as follows: To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are prepared to consider nominations to the Lord Chancellor's panel of arbitrators constituted in accordance with Schedule 6 of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1948 from organisations representing farmers and landowners; and, if not why not. My noble and learned friend replied: Farmers and landowners are the parties at arm's length to the disputes which are subject to these arbitrations. Arbitrators nominated by organisations representing these interests would not be seen to be impartial. What is sauce for the gander—need I go on? If that is the line of my noble and learned friend, then I implore my noble friend on the Front Bench to take a similar view.

I would urge the Government very seriously to think again about this, and either to throw Clause 7 out completely or, perhaps much better, to think about it and rewrite it altogether. I do not want to go through the Lobbies because if I do I shall certainly not be in the same Lobby as my Front Bench.

I am afraid that I really do smell dogma here. I am not objecting for one minute to paying the going rate, and I do not mind to whom I pay it, provided that the person to whom I pay it can be seen to be impartial. I hope that when he replies to this matter my noble friend will allow me to stay in my place and not go through the Lobby, but I shall go through unless a categoric assurance is given by him that he will do something when he brings back the Bill next time.

The Earl of Caithness

I rise to oppose this Question, that Clause 7 should stand part of the Bill. This problem first came up in the working party, and the RICS was approached on the matter. They said at the time that appointments should be a decision for the Minister and not the president of the RICS. The matter lapsed and the RICS were more than a little surprised to have it raised again just prior to the publication of the Bill. They did not ask for this clause.

Of course the president of the RICS is capable of performing the functions required, and indeed is probably the best person for the job other than the Minister. However, welcoming something does not mean that there is not a better alternative. As has been pointed out, we are talking about human nature. Notwithstanding the fact that surveyors act for more tenants than landlords, they have become affectionately known as, "landlords' men". It is unfortunate that this is true in agriculture, because in the commercial and residential world the title does not apply at all, as in those fields particularly tenants realise the complexity of the law and seek advice of surveyors. There are a number of tenant farmers however who think that they can do a better job than surveyors, and because they have come unstuck, they have labelled them "landlords' men".

It is important that the appointment of the arbitrator is not only impartial but is seen to be impartial. The passing of this duty to the president of the RICS would, in some people's minds, cast doubt on the impartiality; but of course this would be erroneous. However, if that feeling of impartiality is not in the tenant's mind, then we are going to cause a great deal of May I ask my noble friend what savings the transferring of this function to the president of the RICS will achieve? If it is going to save any money—and I believe it is going to save something in the region of £50,000—why does not the Ministry itself introduce a fee to cover all these costs?

Viscount Ridley

Could the noble Lord give those of us who are members of the RICS some guidance? Can we vote, or not, on this issue?

Lord Renton

May I ask two questions which are relevant to this, and on a matter on which I must confess I am an honest wobbler? It seems to me that there may be little difference between the appointment of these people by the Minister and appointment by the RICS. The same people are likely to be appointed in any event, and therefore there would not be very much difference. But we are told in the Notes on Clauses that this is an honest attempt at privatisation. Of course the expenses incurred by the Ministry in carrying out these administrative functions will presumably have had to be expended by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Will the Institution be reimbursed when they spend the money, and how much will it cost?

The Earl of Kinnoull

I should like to add my name to this debate. I believe the RICS would do this job rather well, but I do not support this clause. As others have said, it would appear unfair. I think that there are 207 agricultural arbitrators under the Lord Chancellor's panel. They are held in high respect, and it would be damaging if that respect were in any way lessened because what appeared to be fair now did not appear to be fair in the future.

10.44 p.m.

Lord Belstead

This proposal in Clause 7 is an example of a situation where the private sector not only can but should provide a service which is at the moment being provided by Government. I was asked by my noble friend Lord Caithness how many people are involved on this work at the moment in my right honourable friend's department, and the answer is four people are involved. I am not making a joke when I say that those who have been supporting the Government Front Bench in the Ministry of Agriculture would dearly have loved to have four additional personnel to help with the considerable amount of work that there has been on the Bill and will be on the Bill in the future. All of your Lordships who are interested in agriculture would, I am sure, be able to tell me of occasions where extra members of ADAS would be more than welcome. Another four members, instead of working on this particular work, could be better involved out in the field. So the examples can go on.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, who in characteristically fair terms moved the motion that the clause be left out—indeed, I am sorry to be crossing swords with him on this matter because he has been more than supportive to the Government in a difficult Committee stage over the two days of the Committee—said that this, nonetheless, was an unsuitable proposal. The RICS already appoints arbitrators in many non-agricultural cases; I am advised that the number exceeds 2,000 a year. The institution is also designated, by statute, to appoint arbitrators in agricultural cases where the Crown is a party to an arbitration. I have no doubt that the Royal Institution can carry out this extended function objectively and impartially as it already does in the case of the appointments for which it is currently responsible.

Lord Howard of Henderskelfe

The president of the RICS told me only last week that the Institution deals with between 4,000 and 5,000 commercial arbitrations per year, and that although he does not personally appoint all of them, they all come under his jurisdiction.

Lord Belstead

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, for underlining the point that the Royal Institution is admirably qualified, both in its qualifications and in its track record, for making these appointments for non-agricultural matters and where the Crown is party to arbitrations. It is also, by statute, required to make similar appointments, though there are very many fewer.

My noble friend Lord Caithness, quite rightly, said that these appointments must not only be impartial but must be seen to be impartial. I should like to make it clear that we are discussing the appointment of arbitrators only from a standing panel of arbitrators. This panel is appointed by the department of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor and no change of any sort will be made in those arrangements.

My noble friend Lord Renton said that he rather suspected that there would really be no change in practice if this proposal were agreed to—

Lord Renton

In personnel.

Lord Belstead

In personnel—my answer to that is that virtually all the members of this panel, 202 of them out of 206, are, in any case, members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

As to the practical arrangements, the president of the RICS has given an assurance that the procedure currently followed for the appointment of arbitrators would remain substantially the same if this clause were to be agreed to as he would undertake to make the most suitable appointments in all cases, whether the arbitrator concerned is a member of the RICS or not. Officials of my right honourable friend's department and the other agricultural departments would cooperate closely with RICS officers during the hand-over period to ensure that the new arrangements operate smoothly and effectively right from the start.

On Second Reading I made the point that we would not intend to bring this into effect at once because everybody would want time to get used to the idea. There is the power in Clause 10(4)(a) for it to be brought in later on and the intention of the Government would be that it would be brought into effect no sooner than one year after the Bill comes into force.

I return to my original point. It may not sound to some a very persuasive argument that there is a shortage of manpower in the public service and we must make the best use of that manpower. However, it is the truth, and it is the truth—if I may remind my noble friends—because all of us and everybody else outside the Committee have to dip into our pockets through our taxes for pay for the public service. Therefore we in Government have a responsibility to see that we are making the best use of the manpower—the overworked manpower—that we have. And the Government genuinely believe, for reasons that I have tried to outline in the last few minutes, that this is a function which would be most admirably discharged by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. I therefore hope your Lordships will agree that Clause 7 shall stand part of the Bill.

Lord Walston

May I ask the noble Lord one or possibly two questions? As I understand it from what he said, the object of this exercise is basically to save money, to save the salaries of four officials. Would the noble Lord agree with me that it is tantamount or analogous to say that undoubtedly money would be saved if our judges were appointed not by the Lord Chancellor but by the Bar? They would be able to do it and they could probably do it cheaper, and various public officials could probably be dispensed with. But nobody would suggest that that is the right way of doing it. We do not want to save money at the expense of having litigants feel that they are not getting a square deal as they do today. Yet the noble Lord is saying to us that, in order to save a very small amount of money, we should run the risk—a risk which has been expressed by people who are very close to both farmers and landowners—that those litigants in dispute will feel, if the present system of appointing arbitrators is dispensed with, that they are not getting a square deal.

The second point on which perhaps he could enlighten me is this. There is a panel, as I understand it, appointed by the Lord Chancellor, of some 200 experts, respected people, most of them nominated by the president of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. There are not a very large number of arbitrations every year. I do not know what the number is. He undoubtedly does know. But is he really telling us that it takes four full-time officials to choose which of those 200 or 220 eminent and suitable people should carry out an arbitration; or are there other works that they are doing, and, if so, perhaps he could tell us what are these other works?

Lord Belstead

I think there is a misunderstanding. uncharacteristically, on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Walston, about the qualifications of the RICS for this particular matter. The noble Lord was suggesting in his remarks that it would be equally possible for others to discharge this function but that it would not be right for them to do so, either. In this case, not only is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors professionally qualified for this matter but, as I sought to lay before the Committee, the RICS is actually designated by statute to appoint arbitrators in agricultural cases where the Crown is a party to the arbitration. I will not mislead the Committee by saying that those appointments are all that frequent. They run, I think, into two rather than three figures each year.

Nonetheless, the RICS keeps on making those appointments and as I understand it—and as all the Committee would expect—it is done in the most admirable fashion by the RICS in addition to—as I said 2,000 and as the noble Lord, Lord Howard, was saying, he understood that it was nearer 4,000—arbitration appointments made for nonagricultural cases. Therefore, with respect, I would reject the argument that in some way one could say, "Oh yes, this is an organisation which is very well qualified, but it is wholly unsuitable".

The Government really do believe that the RICS would be highly suitable, not only by way of qualification but by way also of its track record in the matter of making these appointments. So far as money is concerned, I think I ought to make the point (which I have not yet made) that there would have to be a fully-costed analysis by the president of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to back up the level of fee which would be charged if Clause 7 were to be agreed to; and, of course, noble Lords would know, from looking at the text of the Bill, that that fee would then have to come before both your Lordships' House and another place to receive affirmative resolutions under a statutory instrument. There is that matter also. And finally I come again to the point that no change is to be made in the fact that the names will be drawn from a standing panel which is kept by the Lord Chancellor's Department nor will any change be made in the personnel who will be chosen, because the panel consists already of 202 out of 206 in total being RICS members.

The noble Lord, Lord Walston, asked me how was it that four people can be engaged in this work. The reason is because judgment has to be used when a particular case comes up on a particular kind of tenancy in a particular part of the country as to which panel members will be the most suitable and, indeed, as to whether they will be acceptable both to the landlord and to the tenant. That has to be done with care, and the number of arbitrations take that amount of people to do the work.

I am speaking now off the cuff: I am not aware that those four personnel are involved in other work. I will not tread the same ground again. I will just say that your Lordships are very knowledgeable; your Lordships could all say to me where an extra four people could be so well used in the agricultural industry in this country instead of sitting behind a desk and doing work which is important but which could be so well done by the private sector. I hope I have said enough to persuade your Lordships that Clause 7 is necessary. I do not do it out of any intention to try in any way to cut across the advice which your Lordships have given. We genuinely believe that this is a desirable step and that it will do harm to none.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

The Minister has fought hard and well. He is able and persuasive, but really I do not think that he has made the case for the Government and I do think that he really made our case when he said that these four men in the Ministry were experienced; they knew the people; they knew the different parts of the country; and the selection of an arbitrator to suit both the landlord and the tenant, to he fair, was a job calling for great skill. That great skill lies in the Ministry where these four people have been working at it for years. There is no doubt that the expert opinion on all sides of this Committee does think that the expertise and the standing of the Ministry should remain to make this Bill a workable one. So, with great regret, I must maintain my opposition to Clause 7.

10.59 p.m.

On Question. Whether Clause 7 shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 39; Not-Contents, 17.

Airey of Abingdon, B. Margadale, L.
Avon, E. Middleton, L.
Beloff, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Belstead, L. Renton, L.
Boardman, L. Ridley, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Rodney, L.
Bruce-Gardyne, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Cox, B. Sandford, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Sandys, L.
Glenarthur, L. Savile, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Shannon, E.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Harvington, L. Swinton, E. [Teller.]
Home of the Hirsel, L. Trumpington, B.
Homsby-Smith, B. Vickers, B.
Howard of Henderskelfe, L. Waldegrave, E.
Kimberley, E. Whitelaw, V.
Long, V. Windlesham, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L Wynford, L.
Lyell, L.
Bishopston, L. Mottistone, L.
Boston, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Caithness, E.
Hives, L. Prys-Davies, L.
John-Mackie, L. Robson of Kiddington, B. [Teller.]
Kilmarnock, L.
Kinnoull, E. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Lawrence, L. Walston, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Whaddon, L.
Monk Bretton, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 7 agreed to accordingly.

Lord Denham

I am in the hands of the Committee. It is always a little difficult at this stage, noble Lords having waited so long to move their amendments, to know whether or not one is being unfair to them in adjourning early. My feeling is that the Committee would probably like to adjourn now to another day, but if I am wrong no doubt noble Lords will let me know.

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and. on Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at eight minutes past eleven o'clock.