asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take steps to help young persons entering the agriculture industry to buy their own farms.
My Department supports the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, which makes loans for land purchase available to creditworthy new entrants, and the Agricultural Credit Corporation, which can guarantee bank lending for working capital. This is one of the matters which my right hon. Friend is considering in the light of the representations which interested parties have made on the Northfield committee's report.
Does the Minister accept that the current methods are insufficient, especially in view of the high interest rates and the fact that institutional investors are buying more and more land? Is he aware that it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people to get into farming? Indeed, it is becoming a hereditary privilege, and a limited one at that. Is he able to see his way forward to greater intervention to help young people to get into agriculture?
This is a matter that is receiving considerable attention in my Department. The effect of the 1976 Act has meant that very few farms are available to let. It is also a fact that, regrettably, the National Farmers Union and the CLA have not been able to agree on a solution to the problem. That background does not make my task any easier.