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Land Letting

Volume 12: debated on Thursday 12 November 1981

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is his policy towards increasing the supply of agricultural land available to let; and what proposals he is considering in this respect.

We are at present considering the package of proposals for amending the agricultural holdings legislation put to us by the presidents of the National Farmers Union and the Country Landowners Association, which was designed, among other things, to encourage new lettings.

I thank my hon. Friend for her reply. Does she agree that, despite the ostensible agreement by the Labour Party that much more land should be available to let and that there should be a fairer system of arbitration for fixing farm rents, its posture is entirely contradictory in that respect? Does my hon. Friend agree that now is the time for her Department to take the bull by the horns and introduce primary legislation without delay?

I agree with my hon. Friend's first comments, but I assure him that now that we have finished our detailed examination of the amendments we expect the two presidents to request an early meeting so that progress can be made, which will be welcome.

Does the hon. Lady accept that the agreement between the CLA and NFU does not make sense, as it would give rise to two different classes of agricultural tenant in England and Wales? Will she look at the agreement reached between the Scottish Landowners Federation and the NFU in Scotland, which does not include an attack on tenants' security of tenure? Would it not make sense to introduce legislation on those lines for England, Wales and Scotland?

No doubt my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will consider that suggestion for Scotland. I regret that I do not know as much about landowning as does the hon. Gentleman.