HC Deb 17 September 2003 vol 410 c778W
Miss McIntosh

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects to propose detailed provisions on rural development fund payments and their application to tenant farmers. [R] [129635]

Alun Michael

The England Rural Development Programme was established in 2000 and measures under it are available to all farmers, including tenant farmers, on the same terms. Because the Government were keen to ensure that tenants are not disadvantaged in applying for farm diversification or agri-environment schemes, we asked the Tenancy Reform Industry Group to consider this issue. This group, which included representatives from all key industry stakeholder organisations, published its report in June 2003. TRIG has proposed a comprehensive package of legislative, fiscal and other changes that are intended to ensure both landlord and tenant have more flexibility to deal with the long-term nature of rural land management. These recommendations have the support of all TRIG members.

TRIG did not find sufficient evidence to warrant recommending a change to agricultural tenancy legislation to give tenants a greater ability to diversify or participate in agri-environment schemes. However, they have proposed that a new Code of Good Practice should be drawn up to help avoid disputes between landlords and tenants on consent for diversification into non?agricultural activities. The Group also recommended that if, after a period of years the Code of Good Practice was not seen to be working and there is evidence to show that the legislation is acting as a barrier to diversification, legislative change should be considered.

The Government's formal response to the Group's report has not yet been published. However we have asked TRIG to take work on a Code of Good Practice forward and a small working group will be working on this over the autumn.

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