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Agricultural Holdings

Volume 21: debated on Thursday 1 April 1982

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has received any recent representations from the National Farmers Union and the Country Landowners Association concerning the interests of landlords and tenants of agricultural holdings.

We have had no recent representations from the presidents of the National Farmers Union and the Country Landowners Association. We have, however, received a number of letters from hon. Members passing on the views of local branches of those organisations.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that his endeavours to create agricultural tenancies, and so to give our young farmers the opportunity to branch out on their own, are frustrated by the blind opposition of the Labour Party? Will my right hon. Friend urge leaders of the NFU and of the CLA, in the interests of agriculture's future, to obtain from the Labour Party an agreement to those sensible proposals?

There is no doubt that the objectives that the CLA and the NFU have sought to achieve are broadly supported in the House. Good progress has been made so far. As the House knows, there are some differences of opinion. We have received a number of other representations, which we are considering. I hope that Opposition Members will have listened to what my hon. Friend has said.

If the Government favour the proposals of the CLA and NFU, why do they try to pass the responsibility for not acting on those proposals to the Opposition and not bring forward their own proposals? Is the Minister aware that the NFU now views the Government's delay as a ducking of responsibility?

The hon. Gentleman is completely incorrect in his final remark. If he were more in touch with what was happening in agriculture he would know that many different views are expressed. In the long-term interests of agriculture, whatever changes are made should be effective and long lasting. It is worth while taking a little longer to reach the right solutions.

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that the NFU must be accepted as speaking for the farmers? It is in agreement with the CLA. There is no other sphere in which the concurrence of the official Opposition is required, so why on earth should it be required in this sphere?

My hon. Friend should be aware that a number of other representations have been made. We are discussing this matter with the various interests concerned. I hope that, once the discussions are completed we can come to conclusions. There is no doubt that there is room for improvement. We wish to see sensible improvements in future.