HC Deb 12 March 1997 vol 292 cc269-70W
Mr. Richards

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are the results of the new annual survey of tenanted land; and if he will make a statement. [20100]

Mr. Douglas Hogg

The results of the annual survey of tenanted land were published today. I have placed in the Library of the House copies of a departmental statistical notice which gives a summary of the results of this survey.

The first annual survey of tenanted land was carried out in October 1996 and replaces the previous rent enquiry. The new survey seeks details on rental agreements and on rents from a random sample of farmers who have rented agricultural land.

The survey indicates that in October 1996 the average rent paid for agricultural land in England was £116.99 per hectare. A total of 559 from business tenancy agreements were recorded in the survey. That figure represents over 11 per cent. of all types of agreement. And in terms of the amount of let farmland recorded, farm business tenancies account for more than 7 per cent. of the agricultural rented area.

Although the Agricultural Tenancies Act came into operation on 1 September 1995, that is only a short time ago in farming terms. I am greatly encouraged by the interest shown in the new farm business tenancies. The survey results provide statistics on a wide range of types of agreement, and illustrate that the flexibility available under the new legislation is already being used by the tenanted sector. Over 7 per cent. of FBT agreements in the survey sample were for five years duration or more, and a number of landlords had sufficient confidence to offer lettings for 25 years or more.

The new survey will be conducted each autumn, and, as well as collecting data on agricultural rents, makes good the Government's commitment, given during the passage of the Agricultural Tenancies Bill, to monitor uptake of farm business tenancies.

In addition, an independent policy evaluation of the effect of the new legislation has been commissioned, and I intend to publish the results of that study later in the year.