Skip to main content

Tied Cottages

Volume 884: debated on Wednesday 22 January 1975

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received concerning legislation on tied cottages.

I have received direct representations from the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, the Scottish Landowners' Federation and the Aberdeen and District Milk Marketing Board. They all expressed concern about the possible adverse effect on Scottish agriculture of the proposal to abolish the tied cottage system.

What consultations has my hon. Friend had with the Department of the Environment about any proposed legislation? Will this apply to all tied housing, or only to the 10 per cent. in agriculture? Does he also agree that the problem of tied housing in agriculture is largely a reflection of the shortage of housing in rural areas generally? If legislation is not brought in this Session, will he consult local authorities about measures to alleviate this shortage?

Yes, I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. There have been discussions with all interested parties in Scotland and in the United Kingdom as a whole, but the House should be reminded that there are sometimes different circumstances in Scotland, so the effects of our policy will require careful consideration. However, the Government are convinced that the existence of tied cottages is detrimental to social justice, and causes hardship in many cases. We therefore intend to ensure that these injustices are removed. But this is a complex matter and I want it to be seen in the context of tied houses generally.

Does the Minister realise the cruelty which can be inflicted on cattle if stockmen do not actually live on the farms where they work?

This point is put to me regularly. I remind farmers that when my daughter was born, the midwife did not sleep with me—and I reckon that my wife is more valuable than any cow that the hon. Member has.

I certainly have no intention of venturing on to that ground. May I bring my hon. Friend back to his original answer? Was I right in understanding that he has not received representations or views from individual farm workers, who are the people most affected by the agricultural tied cottage system? Will he consider advertising in the farming industry's own Press to invite independent points of view from ordinary farm workers on a confidential basis? He will understand, I am sure, that there is a difficulty in organising these people.

I am always willing to meet people, but I am a little reluctant to give that specific commitment. It could, perhaps, be arranged privately. If my hon. Friend has any ideas on the subject, perhaps he will discuss them with me. There are unions involved in this, so I can take account of the official representations made at both Scottish and United Kingdom level. I emphasise that we recognise that there is a difference in the Scottish scene. Bearing in mind that new district authorities are coming into being in May, I would not see it as a top housing priority in Scotland at the moment. However, we have given a commitment in our manifesto, and it will certainly be honoured.

Does the Minister appreciate that in the west of Scotland, where farms are scattered, the real problem is providing housing for farm workers once they have left their tied cottages on retirement, and that the provision of such housing would solve the whole problem?

Yes, I agree, but it is not as simple as that. The hon. Member must make up his mind whether he is on the side of the local authorities, the farm workers or the farmers. This is a com plex problem. I want to discuss these matters with local authorities in the context of the provision of housing for general needs as well as those which might arise from the abolition of tied cottages.

Does the Minister accept that the House appreciates his reasonable approach at this stage to this complex problem? Does he not also accept that the key issue is the new district authorities? Will he put on them all the pressure he can, with support from all parts of the House, to provide a stock of housing to which people retiring from farm work, or the police or local authority service, will be able to move? This is the crux of the matter, not the individual industries.

My dilemma is a personal one. I have two hats, one representing agriculture and the other housing. With my agricultural hat on, I would say that it has been the backwardness of local authorities which have been Tory-dominated in the past which has failed to face up to this problem—

Dumfries County Council is probably one. But with my housing hat on, as I have said, I want to approach this matter with some urgency, bearing in mind the other demands made on housing resources.