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Agricultural Land Tenancies

Volume 986: debated on Thursday 19 June 1980

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has yet received the views of the National Farmers Union regarding agricultural land tenancies.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the conditions necessary to give landlords the confidence to relet agricultural land must be the prospect of their being able to regain possession of it some time in the future? Is not anyone who argues to the contrary guilty of wishful thinking?

I certainly accept that that is one of the many factors in this complicated matter.

Will the Minister inform his hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) that there is an appeal arrangement available at present? Does he agree that any change in the existing arrangements will be bitterly resented by thousands of tenant farmers who will conclude that the Conservative Party is far more concerned with those who own than with those who contribute?

The hon. Member is jumping to a number of assumptions. The Government have no plans to make any changes until such time as the industry comes to an agreement. At the moment there does not seem much evidence of that being likely.

Will my hon. Friend not give as excuse for doing nothing about this matter the fact that the Country Landowners Association and the NFU have failed to agree?

It is not an excuse for doing nothing. If a law is passed that is unsatisfactory, either the landlords' section or the tenants' section will not use it. Therefore, there is no point in proceeding unless we have that agreement.

Will the Minister accept that the increased security of tenure given by the Labour Government to families of farmworkers and tenant farmers was a long overdue measure of social justice? Does he realise that whatever deal is struck by the NFU and the CLA, the Labour Party will oppose any undermining of that security?

The hon. Member knows that what he is saying is, to a large extent, condemning the system of landlord and tenant, as we know it, to extinction.