1 and 2.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) how he proposes to assess the rents to be charged for agricultural land after it has been bought by the Government on a voluntary basis under the proposed new scheme; and how the tenants will be selected if there are numerous applicants for one particular farm;(2) on what principle he will allot agricultural land bought by the Government on a voluntary basis under the proposed new scheme for amalgamation with other land to form holdings of a commercial size.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he plans to farm himself, as Minister, any of the land which the Government may purchase in course of the proposed farm amalgamation programme.
The present intention is to let rather than farm such land until it can be used for an amalgamation to improve farm structure. The method of selecting tenants, and the rent to be charged are matters of everyday land management which will be decided in the light of the circumstances of each case.
Is the Minister aware that there will be many competitors for each of the farms, when they are available, and that these will include many of the neighbouring farmers? What steps is he taking to ensure that a procedure is adopted which is fair to all concerned, so that there can be no repetition of the error of judgment in his Department which culminated in Crichel Down?
I was not responsible for administration then, but I would agree that any administration must be fair and must also appear to be fair. I will try to achieve that. I think that it is very important. We have a very effective land service, and I am quite certain that, as they have been in my other estates, they will be efficient and fair in these cases.
This kind of letting—would it be of a terminable kind, not a fully protected agricultural letting? Would it be done on something like a year's notice so that the Minister would be able to have the land available for amalgamation when he wants it?
I hope that the hon. Member will not tie me down to give a definite answer on that. As he knows, I am preparing legislation, and I am having discussions, on this very important matter. I will take careful note of what the hon. Member has said, as I believe he has said it in a constructive spirit.