Interpretation and Commencement

Orders of the Day — Rent (Agriculture) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th November 1976.

Alert me about debates like this

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 1, line 9, leave out sub-paragraph (i).

6.45 p.m.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Photo of Sir Arthur Irvine Sir Arthur Irvine , Liverpool Edge Hill

I understand that we are to take at the same time Lords Amendments No. 2 and 5.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

This first group takes us straight to the heart of the matter. The scope of the definition of "agriculture" has already been debated at length. Lords Amendment No. 1 is important because it reveals the attitude of a majority of the Members of another place to this Bill: it is a wrecking amendment.

The National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers has campaigned for many years for the abolition of the agricultural tied cottage. In the course of my interest in these issues, which goes back a number of years, I have discussed them with farm workers throughout the country. Some of them have been remarkably conscious that the Bill would have to be passed not only by this House but by the other place. They were aware, and more of them than ever are now aware, of the anachronistic composition of the second Chamber, which gives landed gentry the power to dominate its decisions. An overwhelming majority of the peers who voted for this wrecking amendment are hereditary peers—perhaps not surprisingly, since they number over 800, as opposed to 295 life peers.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Royal Tunbridge Wells

Would the Minister say what proportion of the Labour peers entitled to attend actually did so?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

We could have a great debate about the various proportions of different parties who voted on this amend ment, but I am making one central point of which farm workers have been very conscious—that there is a particular interest in this measure in the other place precisely because it is a basic advance and reform in the countryside—

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

I intend to do just that—

Photo of Mr Peter Mills Mr Peter Mills , Devon West

What rubbish—a basic reform!

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

It has been said that to extend security of tenure to workers in sectors of agriculture involving livestock, and particularly to dairy stockmen, would damage the industry. The Government have argued that that is without foundation. There is no justification for speculating that the rehousing obligation in the Bill will not work and that livestock farmers will not be able to regain possession of their cottages if they need them for essential incoming workers. Nor have hon. Members or noble Lords been able to bring forward any convincing evidence to support that view. It is merely alarmism and has done nothing to further constructive debate on the Bill. By agreeing to these amendments the Lords have deliberately sought to deny the Bill's protection to the largest single group who should be eligible for it.

This means that they would have no protection. It is still not widely appreciated in the country at large, or perhaps by hon. Members—it is certainly not appreciated by urban electors—that the farm worker and his family have no security whatever in their agricultural tied cottage; that if a farmer or a landlord takes a worker to court to get him out of the cottage, as the law stands the court has no alternative but to grant possession to the farmer. All that it can do is delay the process for a short time. It does not matter whether the farmer wants to leave the cottage standing empty, to sell it or to use it as a second home. That is irrelevant. If the amendment stands, this important section of the agricultural labour force will continue to have no legal protection in the occupation of their dwelling-houses.

A high proportion—about 76 per cent.—of stockmen are housed by their employers and their houses account for about a quarter of the total cottage stock occupied by whole-time workers. This is not a small peripheral group: these people are right at the centre. It is obvious that the Government had the particular and often pressing need for their rehousing very much in mind when tailoring the Bill.

My noble Friend Lord Peart said in another place that the amendments drove a coach and horses through the Bill. So they do, and so they were intended to. I do not see how anyone can refer to amendments which seek to remove such large numbers of people from the Bill as revision. They are wrecking amendments. If the Bill is left as the Lords suggests it will fail utterly to meet our objective.

Let me briefly rehearse some of the arguments yet again. The Government fully recognise and always have recognised that there are occasions when it is necessary to house the workers on or close to the farm. That is why there are provisions in the Bill for farmers to make applications to rehouse outgoing workers in a way that enables local housing authorities to take into account not only the agricultural need but the urgency of any particular case. We are presently discussing with both sides of industry how best to guide housing authorities and the advisory committees on the weight to be attached to the various elements of agricultural need. The industry is wholly behind us in this exercise and I am confident that sensible and workable criteria will be evolved.

As my noble Friend the Undersecretary of State for Scotland said on Second Reading in another place, I would expect that those sectors where the welfare of animals is directly involved would merit high priority ratings on grounds of agricultural need and urgency in the advice which local authorities will be receiving from agricultural dwelling-house advisory committees.

The amendment to exclude the use of land for grazing, meadow or pasture land would exclude both work on land used for the grazing and free running of livestock and land producing grass for subsequent drying or ensiling. It is not acceptable, for the same reasons and considerations as apply to the proposed exclusion of dairy farming and livestock keeping and breeding.

I have been at pains to express why I believe that it is right and proper for the Government to ask the House to reverse these amendments which strike at the heart of this basic reform. The reform has been campaigned for for many years by farm workers and their families. It is a reform for which the Government received a mandate at the last election. The Bill received a decisive Second Reading in this place. The only people who opposed the measure on Second Reading were either members of the Conservative Party or Ulster Unionists. The measure had a majority of 40 on Second Reading.

Photo of Mr David James Mr David James , North Dorset

As we are both Scots, will the Minister tell me why our Scottish colleagues do not want to see anything of this?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that matter. I hope, if I answer it once, that will dispose of it for the rest of the evening. The Government gave a commitment at the last election to farm workers and their families not just in England and Wales but in Scotland as well. When the measure is implemented it will give security to farm workers and their families in Scotland. The Secretary of State for Scotland and his junior Minister have made clear that the Government accept this commitment to Scotland. It is usual for legislation affecting housing in Scotland to be included in a separate Bill. It is right and proper that decisions on the precise nature of the Scottish legislation and its timing should be a matter for the Secretary of State for Scotland. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Labour Party does not intend to renege on the promise given by the Government to farm workers and their families in Scotland.

Mr. Strong:

I cannot give way again. I have given way once.

Photo of Mr Myer Galpern Mr Myer Galpern , Glasgow Shettleston

Order. If the Minister does not wish to give way, he will not give way.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

I have tried to explain that this is a vital matter which has been voted for decisively by the House of Commons. It is right that the House should reject the amendment, which is a wrecking amendment.

Photo of Mr Francis Pym Mr Francis Pym , Cambridgeshire

I should first like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary for agreeing to the adjustment of the placing of Clause 30. I very much appreciate it. At the outset, I declare an interest which, perhaps in the spirit of what the Parliamentary Secretary said, might also be taken as an omnibus declaration.

The purpose of the amendment is to confine the effect of the Bill more narrowly and to exclude from it one sector of agriculture. Admittedly, that sector is as closely concerned with housing as is any other sector. That is the purpose of the amendment. It is not a wrecking amendment, as the Minister described it.

At the outset of his remarks the Minister showed incredible prejudice against another place. He talked about debates not being constructive, but has he read the debates in another place? If he does not consider them to be constructive, helpful and knowledgeable debates about agriculture, I do not know what he considers to be constructive debates. I do not think that he has gone into the matter. It is wrong for him to explain the position as he did. He was completely inaccurate, and indicated painfully clearly that he is motivated by sheer prejudice.

The purpose of the amendment is to leave out one sector of farming. I think I heard the Minister say that the sector of agriculture affected by the amendment would cover about one-quarter of those engaged in farming. It is not a wrecking amendment, because the other three-quarters would remain.

Whether or not we agree with the intention of the Bill, the Opposition understand at least one of the Government's motivations—that is, to try to deal with evictions that arise occasionally from time to time, and the consequential hardships. My hon. Friends have given no ground in their desire to avoid those hardships. We all want to avoid them, but not by creating a whole range of other hardships. The case that we have been making, and the case made by my noble Friends in another place, is that by doing it in this way other hardships will be created. The Bill singles out agriculture for treatment in this way, leaving 90 per cent, of tied accommodation untouched. It is not the principle of a tied house that the Government are going for here; it is just the agricultural element.

It is fair for the Government to say that some farm workers want the Bill and always have wanted it. But many do not want it—perhaps most of them do not want it. The Bill will put them all in an extremely privileged position. They will enjoy more privileges than will workers in a great many other industries. We question the way in which the Parliamentary Secretary, in his enthusiasm, has sought to bring this about.

Those in the agricultural world are very interested in the Bill. That is natural. Because of the nature of the work they do, all farmers are worried that their houses may not continue to be occupied by men who work on the farm. Under the Bill there is no certainty when the fanner will get repossession of a house to enable him to offer it to another man who will work on the farm. That is a particularly acute matter for livestock farmers. That is the point of the amendment.

Livestock farmers have to look after their animals all round the clock. Poultry hen batteries, pig units and dairy herds all have to be looked after all round the clock, and the stockmen have to live on the job or very close to it. Stockmen understand their responsibilities and know that they have to live near the job. It is in their interests to do so, and they do it gladly. Stockmen do an extremely good job for the industry.

When there is a change of stockman on the farm, there may be real difficulties. It is all right for a few days, or a few weeks. The farmer can look after the stock himself, if necessary all round the clock. If there is any long-term delay, however, complications may arise, which the Parliamentary Secretary has completely failed to recognise. Some farmers who get into these difficulties will say that the game is not worth the candle and that they cannot go on with it.

I know that the Parliamentary Secretary brushes all this aside as though we do not know, do not care and do not understand what the Bill says. He takes the attitude that he knows best. My right hon. and hon. Friends do not think that he does know best and we think that he has not thought through the Bill's implications. No one knows how it will work in practice. No one knows how the local authorities will respond to these so-called "best endeavours".

Therefore, we support their Lordships in proposing a more modest beginning for the Bill. If the Government are so passionate about putting through the Bill they will have their way, but we say that they should recognise that there are difficulties and uncertainties in it and that these exist in the most acute form for the livestock farmer.

Let the Government implement the Bill on a more modest basis, initially, exclude the livestock farms, and see how it works. If it proves to be anywhere near as successful as the Parliamentary Secretary expects—though we do not—he can bring forward amendments in a few months' time to include the livestock sector.

Surely common sense, experience and reason should lead the Government to accept the amendment and to try out the Bill on a more modest basis at first. I shall advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the amendment.

7.0 p.m.

Photo of Miss Joan Maynard Miss Joan Maynard , Sheffield, Brightside

A lot of words such as " prejudice " and " privilege" are being flung about the House. I admit my prejudice on the side of farm workers, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will admit the prejudice of another place which is so apparent to everyone.

Let us examine the antecedents of another place, how many of its Members went to Eton and other public schools and how many are landowners, so that we may see how representative and unprejudiced they are.

We have been told that the Bill will make farm workers a privileged group. If so, that would be a pleasant change. They are important workers and they have always been a very under-privileged group. Do farm workers want the Bill? I have been a member of the farm workers' union for nearly 30 years and I have never attended a union meeting where there has been a call for the retention of the tied cottage system.

Photo of Miss Joan Maynard Miss Joan Maynard , Sheffield, Brightside

The position in Scotland was dealt with by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary.

We are told that another place is a revising Chamber, but the amendment not only wrecks the Bill but rips it apart. It comes from people who have never lacked security themselves but who are determined to deny it to farm workers.

We are told that the inclusion of this group in the Bill would have a damaging effect on the industry. I have been connected with the industry all my life, and I suggest to Opposition hon. Members that the archaic, feudal, out-of-date tied cottage system does the most damage to the industry and means that it has an ageing labour force. The Opposition ought to be as concerned about that as is everyone else who cares about agriculture.

The real reason behind the wish to exclude these workers is that they are the most difficult to attract into the industry because theirs is a seven-days-a-week job, with long hours and a tremendous responsibility for pedigree herds.

The argument about evictions has been used again and I repeat what has been said many times before. Evictions are merely the tip of the iceberg. It does not matter whether a farmer evicts a man, his wife and family. What matters is that the power to do it is there.

The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) said that he wants to avoid hardship. If that is so, he should support the Bill. To argue that it is essential for stockmen and dairy men to live on the farm is to ignore completely the fact that there are such things as cars and telephones which make it easy for a stockman to reach the farm quickly. We do not live in the era of carrier pigeons; we are living in the twentieth century.

Let us examine the argument that the industry will be wrecked by the Bill. We were told that the industry would be wrecked when farm workers were given Saturday afternoons off and again when the Agricultural Wages Board was established. Yet the Opposition are now great supporters of the Board.

Whenever there has been any reform in our society, whether in agriculture or anywhere else, employers have always argued that industries would be wrecked. The real wreckers are those in another place who would have us support this amendment. I know that this House will throw it out.

Photo of Sir Timothy Kitson Sir Timothy Kitson , Richmond (Yorks)

The hon. Lady is a member of the farm workers' union in the North Riding. She has spoken about cars and telephones but has not mentioned a word about the welfare of stock. The union does not have many members in Wensley-dale and Swaledale, where it does not matter whether a worker has a car or a telephone; the real problem is how to get a worker to the farm in the winter. Will the hon. Lady say something about the welfare of animals?

Photo of Miss Joan Maynard Miss Joan Maynard , Sheffield, Brightside

The hon. Gentleman says that I know only about Yorkshire farm workers and speak for them. I remind him that I was national vice-president of the union for six years and have held national responsibilities, travelled extensively and met farm workers from all over the country.

The welfare of stock is obviously important, but it is not more important than the welfare of human beings. I sometimes wonder whether that view is shared by everybody. I remember sitting in a county court during the eviction case of a couple when the farmer said that he must have their house—though it then stood empty for two and a half years after the eviction. The judge in that case said that, although it seemed a hard thing for him to say, land was more important than people. He was making the point made by the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Sir T. Kitson) that animals and land are more important than people. I believe that people are more important.

Wensleydale is in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, so he should know about it. I have had many connections with it and it is one of my favourite beauty areas. Nearly every farm there is a family concern, and that is why there are not many members of the union in that area. Consequently, the point raised by the hon. Gentleman in his intervention does not arise.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

I support Lords Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 5, which are the crux of the Bill. It is sad that, however cogently arguments are put in this debate, the issue will be decided by the vast majority of hon. Members who have not heard any of the speeches.

It is difficult when one intervenes at this late stage in the passage of the Bill to put any new angles. Even if there were new angles which might interest the House, putting them would have no effect because of the weight of votes which will be going into the Government Lobby. I wish to raise a couple of points put to me not by the NFU but by a stock farmer and a dairy farmer in the Midlands. They have explained how difficult life will be for them if the amendments are rejected.

A farmer and his brother who farm on a small scale have told me that, with the aid of a building society Ioan and a county council grant, they have built farm cottages for their employees. If the amendment is rejected, farmers will not bother to do that any more. Although the number involved might not be large, farmers would be made to build cottages for their workers if the Bill were enacted in its present form.

The other new point relates to the difficulty of possession. If the Bill is enacted as it stands and a farmer finds difficulty in gaining possession of his stockman's house because the local authority cannot provide alternative accommodation, if his employee is incapable of looking after his stock any longer the farmer will think twice before employing again a stockman who does not have accommodation of his own. Some stockmen can travel to a farm every day from a council house by motor cycle or by car and a farmer will therefore be reluctant to take on a stockman who is dependent on a stockman's house, because of the difficulty of regaining possession. A farmer might be loth, having gone through the difficult process of gaining possession, to let it again, particularly if he can employ a stockman who already has a council house. He would regard that as better than again employing a man who could be a positive disruptive influence on a farming enterprise living in the stockman's cottage but not working on the farm.

Photo of Mr Thomas Swain Mr Thomas Swain , North East Derbyshire

Is it not the custom that when an hon. Member addresses the House he should declare his interest in the subject on which he is about to speak? The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) is a gentleman farmer, but he has not so far declared his interests, which, I am told, are vast.

Photo of Mr Myer Galpern Mr Myer Galpern , Glasgow Shettleston

Is the hon. Member raising a point of order, or is he making an intervention?

Photo of Mr Thomas Swain Mr Thomas Swain , North East Derbyshire

I have been a Member of the House for 17 years—

Photo of Mr Myer Galpern Mr Myer Galpern , Glasgow Shettleston

Is the hon. Gentleman raising a point of order with the Chair?

Photo of Mr Thomas Swain Mr Thomas Swain , North East Derbyshire

It is an intervention-cum-point of order. I have been here for 17 years—

Photo of Mr Myer Galpern Mr Myer Galpern , Glasgow Shettleston

The hon. Member appears to be making a hybrid point of order.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

The hon. Member should take his hands out of his pockets.

7.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Swain Mr Thomas Swain , North East Derbyshire

I am keeping my hands in my pockets to stop the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) from stealing my money. Is it not a custom, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that Members should declare an interest when discussing an issue in which they are concerned? Can the hon. Member for Harborough give specific numbers of the houses built in the past 25 years?

Photo of Mr Myer Galpern Mr Myer Galpern , Glasgow Shettleston

I now have the sense of the hon. Member's point of order. There is some doubt, as I discovered yesterday, about whether an hon. Member, having declared an interest in the Register of Members' Interests, should still declare his interest during debate. My ruling then was that he must still declare it, but I shall leave it to the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) to decide whether he wants to declare his interest in farming.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

I am grateful for your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My interest in this subject is declared in the register, but I shall be guided by your ruling. I understood that once an hon. Member had declared his interest during the passage of a Bill in the House, that was sufficient. I declared my interest both on Second Reading and on Report. It is a waste of time to declare it again, especially as the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) was not there at the time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) referred to the strange attitude of the Government in selecting agricultural tied cottages. That selection has puzzled us, but we have not had a satisfactory answer. Of a national pool of 165,000 tied cottages, only 65,000 are occupied by agricultural workers. The remaining 100,000 are owned by the National Coal Board, the British Waterways Board, the British Steel Corporation and the British Railways Board. It is strange that the Government should single out agricultural landlords. It must be some form of spiteful victimisation, because it can have nothing to do with the record of agricultural landlords. Their record bears comparison to that of all the others.

It is important for us to accept Lords Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 5. The Government have been big-headed and have defied the advice of the NFU, the Milk Marketing Board, the British Pig Producers Association, the Country Landowners Association and—if they ever read it—the excellent independent report produced by Miss Gasson of Cambridge University. The advice given by those bodies reflected the attitude of those who know what the situation is. But their advice has been denied by the Government. They have been steered towards their target of abolishing agricultural tied cottages by the extreme left wing of their party on whom they depend for remaining in Government.

Only 2 per cent. of dairy farms in Britain have council houses within walking or cycling distance. The remainder depend on stockmen who live in a tied cottage or on the farmer doing the work himself. Unless the amendments are accepted, grave difficulties will result.

Photo of Mr John Watkinson Mr John Watkinson , Gloucestershire West

I have no interest to declare, except in so far as I represent an agricultural area.

The Opposition have taken exception to the Parliamentary Secretary's description of the amendments as wrecking amendments, but it must be conceded by any reasonable person that if the other place removes from the ambit of the Bill 50 per cent, of the people whom we intended to be covered when we passed it, it must at least emasculate the Bill. It removes an enormous percentage of those whom we have set out to cover—an enormous number of agricultural workers whom, as a matter of principle, we sought to protect.

Photo of Mr Francis Pym Mr Francis Pym , Cambridgeshire

The Parliamentary Secretary said that the figure was a quarter, which is rather different from a half.

Photo of Mr John Watkinson Mr John Watkinson , Gloucestershire West

I accept that correction. I misheard my hon. Friend. But the right hon. Gentleman must agree that it is a significant proportion.

Representing an agricultural constituency, I meet my farmers reasonably regularly. I believe that the views expressed by Conservative Members have been hysterical and—to repeat the term used by my hon. Friend—alarmist. I have discussed the issue with farmers in my area. I have not found that the problem is uppermost in their minds. That is not to say that they are not concerned about it, or that I do not understand their concern, but they are far more concerned about problems relating to the drought and the green pound.

When we have discussed the issue I have acknowledged that there are problems, but I have tried to put to them, as my party has tried to put to the nation, that the principle at stake is whether it is desirable that farm workers should have their working conditions so inextricably tied up with their living conditions. The farmers to whom I have spoken have felt unhappy about this, but have pointed to the practical difficulties raised by hon. Members. However, Conservative Members must accept that a principle is involved and that sooner or later we must stand up and be counted on that principle. That is what we are doing with the Bill.

A stockman in my constituency came to my surgery and said " I've come to talk to you about the tied cottages Bill. I am not in favour of it. I earn a very good wage. I have free accommodation and a good boss, and I am happy." But then I asked him the question that has been put so often by my hon. Friend: "What happens to you, a hale and hearty worker now, if you fall ill? If you die, what happens to your family?" There was a long pause, as there inevitably is when such a question is put, and no answer could be given. We are trying to deal with that problem, trying to provide a basic security to such men and their families. That is the essence of the Bill.

At the same time, we are trying to remove from farm workers who face the problem of eviction the stigma associated with going to court. I speak as a lawyer. I do not know how many Conservative Members present have been before a court, or know what it is like to do so. Even if it is merely a matter of pleading guilty or facing a fait accompli, when the individual may have to do no more than to appear before a judge, there is a stigma.

It cannot be something of which any of us is proud that a significant number of people must appear before a court to obtain housing. We are attempting to remove an objectionable stigma which attaches to those unfortunate enough to be asked to leave their cottage. That is an honourable intention, which I would have hoped Conservative Members would welcome.

Hon. Members have pointed out the difficulties associated with the stockman and herdsman. I accept that there are difficulties, but let us face the brute fact that even under the present arrangements the farmer cannot get his stockman out of the cottage for a period of six months after he has first taken action. The farmers are somehow coping with that. Conservative Members have not been honest about the matter. As farmers, they know that that happens and that colleagues of theirs who are farmers have survived the problem.

The Labour Party is committed to an honourable principle. I accept that in the farming community, including that in my own constituency, there are doubts and fears about the matter, but we have nailed our colours to the mast and said that it is not right that people's work should be so inextricably tied up with their housing. That is an honourable cause, and for that reason I support the Bill.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

It is always a great pleasure to speak after the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Watkinson). He presented his case with sweet reasonableness, and there is no doubt that he could be, and perhaps is, a very successful lawyer. But what is important is not necessarily what the lawyers say. What they leave unsaid is even more important. I am concerned about the Government's proposals, and fully support the amendments made by another place. I congratulate it on its careful, positive and constructive consideration of this very important Bill.

I intervened from a sedentary position in the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary and he indicated that he would mention the industry. Regrettably, he left it and its future out in the cold. He did not mention agricultural production or the damage the Bill may well cause to the livestock industry.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

If the hon. Gentleman reads the report of my speech in Hansard tomorrow he will see that I paid particular attention to that point. I discussed the role of the agricultural dwelling-house advisory committees and made clear that the Government had built into the Bill a procedure whereby, if a farmer really needed his house for an incoming worker, the committee would advise that there was agricultural need. We have been over this ground time and again. The committee can even advise that there is not just need but urgency, and the local authority must then respond.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

I listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman. In my view he did not deal with the point adequately.

I need not remind the House that calving takes place during the year on livestock and dairy farms. A farmer may have in his tied accommodation a man who is no longer working for him, perhaps because of ill health or because he has taken another job, and night after night the farmer may be forced to spend long hours in helping cows to calve when he should be in bed, because cows do not always conveniently calve between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Swain Mr Thomas Swain , North East Derbyshire

Are they never born within those hours?

7.30 p.m.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

I do not say that it never happens, but calvings do not necessarily take place within a convenient working day. Great strain and pressure can be put upon livestock and dairy farmers at certain times during the year —strain and pressure which would not occur very often if the Lords amendment were accepted. The Minister and the Government have not answered these questions.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

I give way to the hon. Gentleman, who has only recently entered the Chamber.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Renfrewshire West

I have only recently come in, and I apologise to the House for that. The hon. Gentleman knows my normal involvement in agriculture. When the hon. Gentleman's wife is pregnant, does he ensure that the obstetrician remains in his house throughout the period?

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

I am happy to say that on the three occasions that my wife has been pregnant and produced a fine child for me, I have taken her to the hospital—it has always been at night—and there has always been someone on duty. There is adequate staffing in most of our hospitals. They have skilled staffs, who realise that they have to work on a shift system. They are not available throughout both day and night, but when I have taken my wife to hospital she has been given the most excellent attention. That disposes of that rather irrelevant question easily and quickly.

I found it interesting that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard) talked about security. The Government's tax proposals and the other pernicious legislation that they are pushing through the House are undermining the security of certain people who are fortunate enough to live on estates and in country houses which are of great benefit to the nation. Their future is insecure under a Socialist Administration. What security do they have? Likewise, the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West easily overlooked the pertinent points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). He spoke about the great number of tied cottages occupied by people within the coal industry and the steel industry, and in the employ of the water authorities and local government. All these people are living in tied accommodation. When will the Government pick upon these other sectors and introduce similar legislation?

It is perhaps relevant to remind the the House that the Government may think—perhaps they are right—that a majority of farmers, who are private individuals with private enterprise businesses, vote for a party other than the Socialist Party, and that they can get away with introducing damaging legislation such as this without affecting their electoral chances. I put that to the House because it is a relevant factor.

I represent an area in Cheshire that has an important livestock industry. Many people have made representations to me—for example, members of the NFU Council and members of the NFU locally in Cheshire and Macclesfield—expressing grave concern about the problems that they will face as a result of this legislation. Would the Minister be happy to get up week after week during the calving season to assist and attend cows? Would he be happy to get up week after week to attend pigs, or poultry? I have had personal experience of the poultry industry, although I have no interest to declare. When electricity is cut off there are grave problems for those who are responsible for the huge poultry units. What happens when the electric fans go off? The answer is that tens of thousands of birds will be in jeopardy if no one is readily available immediately to open all the accesses to allow air in, or even to switch on emergency equipment. Grave losses could be sustained if no one were immediately available. Have all these matters been properly considered by the Government?

In my view, too much legislation is being pushed through the House—this Bill is an example—that is party politically motivated. The hon. Member for Brightside talked about the poor agricultural worker. I am delighted that the hon. Lady has returned to her seat. There are a few poor agricultural workers, but in one breath she described them as poor and under-privileged while in the next she talked about the same people having cars and telephones. I am not sure that those factors go together.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

I shall give way if the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene again. He made a useless exhibition of himself on his last intervention. I am reminded that his security of tenure has not been too good as a Member of this place. I gather that the union that sponsors him lays down—

Photo of Mr Myer Galpern Mr Myer Galpern , Glasgow Shettleston

Order. We shall not go into those matters.

Photo of Mr Thomas Swain Mr Thomas Swain , North East Derbyshire

The hon. Member should not be so childish.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

We are talking about security of tenure, and I was saying that the hon. Gentleman's union insists that he retires at 65. I personally regret that. Back to the amendment—surely it is important that a worker who is closely involved with animals—unfortunately the welfare of animals has not featured sufficiently in our debates—should live close to his work. If he finds that he must leave his job, and the house goes with the job, the house should be vacated. I wonder how many cases of genuine hardship the Minister or Labour Members can put forward in comparison with the total number of agricultural service cottages. I suspect that they could put forward only very few.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough said, this is a politically motivated Bill. Those in another place have done a great service. If the Minister and his hon. Friends had read the Hansards covering the debates in another place, as my right hon. and hon. Friends have done, they would have seen that in no way was the consideration that was given to this measure dogmatic or bigoted. Indeed, their Lordships considered it diligently and constructively.

This is not a wrecking amendment. It seeks to exclude from the Bill a vital sector of the agriculture industry that needs its tied cottages and accommodation for those who serve it and the livestock that is the essence of the industry. I have great pleasure in supporting the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr Pym). Once again, I thank those in another place for the tremendous job that they have done in trying to improve this unfortunate Bill.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Brigg and Scunthorpe

A matter that must be made clear if we are to have a fair debate is whether the Opposition are against the abolition of tied cottages. If they are, that is a fair point of view. By means of the amendment, however, are they seeking to demonstrate that the provisions affecting livestock are unacceptable while the rest of the Bill is acceptable?

I believe that we should have a fair debate, and I meet the Opposition by saying that livestock has special needs. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has said that we must give special attention to poultry as well as cows calving. He said that if this iniquitous Bill becomes an Act there will be great suffering among livestock farmers. He said that if the fans go off, tens of thousands of birds will be suffocated. Where has he been living lately?

Modern conditions are such, irrespective of tied cottages, that unfortunately disasters take place almost day by day. If the hon. Gentleman reads the provincial Press in the Library—there are not many headlines of this sort in the national Press—he will see that they happen frequently. Modern methods of industrial farming, especially in poultry, lead to occasions when breakdowns can result in 50,000 birds being found suffocated. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) shakes his head in dissent. I have made a considerable study of these matters and I assure him that there is chapter and verse to confirm what I have said.

Why cannot we see more trends in agriculture in the poultry, beef and pig industries embracing automatic methods of time switches and automatic feeding? If those systems are to be perfected, the industry should surely adopt the same approach as that adopted by other industries involving men working shifts.

We hear a great deal from the Opposition about fanners having to stay up night after night because animals calve at such awkward times. Again, why cannot some form of shift work be introduced? Let us apply some common sense to the matter. Therefore, I believe that many of the arguments advanced by the Opposition on the Bill are fallacious.

Has anybody calculated how many tied cottages are involved on the farms and in the villages? I know from my own observations that farms with stock do not always have a hindhouse. Some farms have such accommodation but others do not. Certainly some farms employ men who live in nearby villages. In other words, arrangements are made to cope with the situation. Therefore, on the basis of reasoning that argument is not a fair runner.

Labour Members are often accused by the Opposition of being ideological and of adopting a doctrinaire approach. Some of us have lived in these villages. Do any Conservative Members know what it means to live in a house and to know that one day a knock on the door may mean that one has to vacate the premises and find alternative accommodation? We say that that is wrong in all circumstances. It is not good for the man concerned, for the employer or for the industry.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Brigg and Scunthorpe

The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) instances National Coal Board accommodation, but on how many occasions have miners been thrown out of their homes? Many of these eviction cases involve workers on the land. We say that this amounts to a social ill.

We believe that once the Bill is enacted the industry will be able to cope and that there will be a much happier relationship on the land which will benefit agriculture and will be seen to do so in future years.

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Cardigan

I wish to take this opportunity to declare my interest. Before I entered this House I was a full-time farmer. I now employ four workers, who do an excellent job of work. I have given a great deal of thought, as a practical farmer and as a politician, to Lords Amendment No. 1 and I find it impossible to support it. If we support the Lords amendment, we shall discriminate in favour of one group of workers against another.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland

I am surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman say that he is not prepared to support the Lords amendment. Perhaps he will explain why the Liberal Party in the other place voted unanimously in favour of it. He may like to know that a total of six Liberal peers voted for it and, indeed, that one of them, Lord Mackie, referred to the amendment as " monumental good sense ".

7.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Cardigan

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing my attention to that situation, but I was elected to this House by the people of Cardigan and, as agricultural spokesman for the Liberal Party, I am here to represent my constituents' views rather than the views of noble Lords in another place.

If the amendment is accepted, I shall have to return to Cardigan and tell my three stockmen that they will not be protected under the Bill, but at the same time I shall be able to tell my tractor driver that he is safeguarded by these provisions. That surely is wrong. I am sure that within a period of a year relationships! on my farm between1 the tractor driver and the stockmen would not go well. There are many farmers in Wales, and, indeed, in other parts of Britain, who employ tractor drivers, shepherds and stockmen.

In considering this matter, we should examine a former Prime Minister's words expressed only last year at the Royal Show. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) said on that occasion: The Government's policy is to establish a framework which can give confidence for the future—for the consumer and for the producer so that he can plan and invest. At this time above all, we need to make the best and most economic use of our own resources, not only of land but the skills of our agricultural workers and farmers. A survey was published soon after that speech in which a farmer was quoted as saying: We would have more confidence in the future if we knew we would be allowed to keep the staff housing we have. This is a key to future confidence. We cannot produce without labour. I believe that we are not abolishing the tied cottage system, because the staff housing will remain. We must do our utmost to secure staff housing for our stockmen and others. A farm is dependent on the efficient and dedicated efforts of its work force if its output is to increase. We have only to examine the figures over the last 15 years to see how dramatically the work force has declined. In 1960, 505,000 full-time workers were employed in agriculture. At present the figure is only 223,000. If we are to increase production, can we afford a further decrease in the labour force? I believe that if we are to succeed we must hold on to the present labour force and look after those men in the next 20 years.

I believe that there are many hon. Members on both sides of the House who have no connection with agriculture but who are still worried about the welfare of livestock. Many people believe that stock will suffer, and, indeed, will be neglected, if the Lords amendment is not accepted. However, I do not take that view. I believe that the majority of stockmen will remain in the cottages in which they already live. I believe that the stockmen will not run away but will remain at their work.

I disagree with the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who said that many chickens might be burnt overnight and that cows might not be able to calve. I know stockmen and I know the kind of work force that exists in agriculture. They look after the stock when the cows calve. They will be living in the staff house provided for them by the management. Therefore, there is no need to worry on that score at all. It is our duty as farmers, as employers, to look after the interests of our employees, who have given such excellent service to the industry.

Whatever we decide tonight, we must ensure that the agriculture industry continues to thrive and that it is not prevented from expanding. We must ensure the health and well-being of livestock and give every encouragement to producers to increase their production from the land. In my view, therefore, we must not discriminate on behalf of one group of workers against the others. I shall be asking my hon. Friends to vote against the Lords amendment.

Photo of Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann , Merton Mitcham and Morden

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells), who brings to the debate a combination of knowledge and experience, and a degree of impartiality which, unfortunately, is not shared by the majority of those sitting on the Opposition Benches. I wonder how much real political benefit accrues to the Opposition from seeking to make political capital from the Bill, to the extent that the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) was attempting to do.

I believe that the Bill is a serious attempt to balance the conflicting problems which have to be faced in this issue and that the amendment which the Lords have introduced would cut a very substantial part of the heart out of the Bill.

I remind hon. Members that if the Lords amendment were carried, whole villages would be adversely affected. I know one village in Essex where every house is owned by the farming company, a very large dairy organisation catering for a large part of Essex. Every house in the village is owned by that farming company I was parliamentary candidate in the constituency some years ago and found that it was virtually impossible to get a single person to tell me on the doorstep what his political views were because of apprehensions as to the attitude of the employer, the farming company.

The hon. Member for Macclesfield spoke of the Bill as having been forced on the Government by the militant left-wing of the Labour Party. I do not think that he would describe me as militant Left-wing, but I have spoken of my experience in the constituency, and there is absolutely no doubt of it whatsoever. Those living in tied cottages in agricultural areas feel all through their lives a degree of insecurity. They dare not express themselves politically to their bosses in a way which is fundamental to the expression of proper individuality and freedom in our society.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

If that is the case—and I accept that the hon. Gentleman holds that point of view sincerely—will he direct his attention to the other large sectors of industry which provide tied accommodation, and indicate whether he would support the abolition of tied accommodation in those industries? Will he say whether the reservations he has expressed about people living in agricultural tied accommodation are also reflected to these other sectors as well?

Photo of Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann , Merton Mitcham and Morden

I was coming to that very point. I greatly welcome the Bill as a first step towards the abolition of tied accommodation in any field. I take the point about the National Coal Board, although I do not think that miners would feel any degree of apprehension about the Coal Board coming down on them if they were to display a Tory poster in a window.

Photo of Mr Thomas Swain Mr Thomas Swain , North East Derbyshire

Is my hon. Friend aware that the National Coal Board has already announced that every house in its possession, from the managerial level down to the lowest level, is up for sale to the sitting tenant or to the local authority? In my area alone during the past four years 968 houses have changed hands from the National Coal Board to the local authorities. God bless the Coal Board for selling them.

Photo of Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann , Merton Mitcham and Morden

I am very glad to learn of that progress, but there are many other people involved. There are the school caretakers, employees of local authorities, employees in catering establishments, managers of laundrettes, and so on. There is a very great degree of abuse where the house goes with the job. I shall be very anxious to see the principle which we have started in the Bill extended to cover all these other categories.

I believe that in the Bill the balance is right and that we have tackled the problem correctly, but it involves a risk that the agricultural tenant who is threatened with eviction will override the priority of other people on the housing waiting list in the area; others on the waiting list will be displeased. Never- theless, I believe that the balance in the Bill is correct. I remind Conservative Members that, as has been said, at present if a farmer wishes to gain possession of a tied cottage from the family of an agricultural worker, or from the worker himself, there is a six-months' delay. I agree that the real effect of the Bill may well be to impose a duty on the local authority to find accommodation.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

Has the hon. Member looked at the Bill's wording?

Photo of Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann , Merton Mitcham and Morden

I am familial with the words of the Bill. I was present in Committee and the hon. Member was not.

Nevertheless, a strong obligation is imposed on the local authority, and I believe that the overwhelming majority of local authorities—most of them are Conservative-dominated—will seek to do what is necessary. I believe that the farmer will find it much easier to get the outgoing tenant or worker rehoused by the local authority, and will be able to get his new employee into the accommodation more quickly than if the Bill had not been introduced.

The balance of the Bill, I believe, is a fair one. I hope, as I have already1 said, that it will be possible to extend it to a great many other areas, but we have to take note of the fact that we cannot put an evicted laundrette manager straight into council accommodation over the heads of others who have been on the waiting list for some time. This is an experiment, in the sense that we shall be able to see how it works, and then we must learn, from experience with the Bill, how it can be applied elsewhere. Every piece of legislation is to some extent an experiment. The hon. Member for Macclesfield may grin, but every social change involves a degree of experimentation.

I feel that the Bill is likely to work satisfactorily. If we were to accept the Lords amendment it would mean allowing whole villages to remain subservient to a single employer, with every person knowing that he could lose his home and his job at the same time. If the amendment were to be accepted the Bill would not be worth having. I therefore trust that the amendment will be rejected.

Photo of Mr Peter Mills Mr Peter Mills , Devon West

I start by declaring an interest. I have lived in a tied cottage, and I do not think that many hon. Members can say that. I can certainly say that I did not have any problems.

I take issue with the Parliamentary Secretary when he talks about a wrecking amendment. We do not believe that it is a wrecking amendment in the sense in which he speaks. We are trying to show our concern at what will happen because of these measures. Without being rude, I would emphasise that our concern is based on experience. From my knowledge of the industry and of stockmen generally, I believe that most stockmen want to live very close to their work. The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head, but this is true. This amendment is not a wrecking amendment, it simply shows concern based on experience.

8.0 p.m.

I take issue with the Parliamentary Secretary when he talks about "basic advances in the countryside". This shows how little he knows about the countryside; perhaps he has forgotten. However, that phrase will hang around his neck like a cow's tether in years to come, especially when we see the Bill's result on many stock farms.

The Parliamentary Secretary also said that this had been a campaign for many years. I suggest that not every campaign is wise. Some have even proved disastrous. I do not say that this campaign is disastrous, but certainly I believe it to be unwise. We must protect the workers and the farmers, but above all we must protect the agricultural industry as a whole.

It is very sad that the Government feel that they have to bring in a measure like this to deal with a very small number of farmers who have let down the farming community in this way. It is sad that the Government see fit to bring in a measure of this kind when so many fanners are utterly responsible in this respect.

It is also important to highlight why the Government have picked on agriculture. We have never had a satisfactory answer to that question. They talk about moving into other spheres. In west Devon, which is truly rural, there is a large number of tied cottages. On Dartmoor, most of the prison officers are in tied houses. Will the Government extend this principle to Dartmoor? If they do, it will be very difficult to operate Dartmoor Prison from Tavistock or elsewhere. Why should the Government pick on agriculture? If I were told that legislation to deal with other sections of industry would be introduced I might be a little happier.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Bright-side (Miss Maynard) said one of the saddest things I have heard in this House for a long time. She said that farm workers were under-privileged. That is an insult to them. I do not believe that they feel under-privileged one little bit. That is not my experience in working and living with them. Generally, I have found them to be a proud bunch of men—proud because they know their job. I think that that was a very sad phrase the hon. Lady used.

The hon. Lady also talked about stockmen always being able to use the telephone. What a remarkable statement. I cannot imagine a cow 'phoning to say that it needs a stockman. The whole trouble is that the hon. Lady and others like her do not realise just how stockmen feel about these matters. The important thing to them is to have that last look around their yards or over their flocks. They are not always paid for it, but they enjoy it. If they see trouble they put it right at once and that saves them a lot of work in the long run. But they must be on the spot. To talk about the telephone shows how little the hon. Lady knows about the real problems of stockmen.

Being a stockman is, of course, a tie. Some hon. Members in this House have never worked with cows daily, as I have. It means milking them 14 times a week, and very often it means no holidays. Of course it is a tie, and of course it is difficult. Naturally, we want to move towards a time when there is far more active relief for stockmen so that they have more time for their own use, but is it wrong to think that they are not concerned about their stock. In many cases they count their stock as their own, and looking after it is their life. Woe betide the farmer who gives a stockman too many orders, because in most cases it is the stockman who want to run the show.

This whole business of tied cottages has been exaggerated. If a count were taken of every stockman in this country it would be found that most would say that they want to live near their stock, in order to help themselves. To talk about the telephone shows the poverty of the Labour Party in these matters.

This is a very sad debate in many ways. I admit that there is a small minority of farmers of whom I am ashamed, but it is a small number, and to bring in a measure like this to deal with them will do nothing but harm to the farming industry, and in particular to stock farming.

Photo of Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann , Merton Mitcham and Morden

If the hon. Member believes that this is such a small minority which is abusing the system, would he agree that only a very small number of farm workers abuse it also? Why should he be apprehensive about a system whereby a farm worker remains in a cottage unless other accommodation is there for him to turn to?

Photo of Mr Paul Hawkins Mr Paul Hawkins , South West Norfolk

I was brought up among stockmen. I have an interest to declare, in that I managed several estates with tied cottages. This is one of my major interests in Norfolk, where this campaign has been continuing for 40 or 50 years. I appreciate the arguments that have come from Norfolk and I understand them. I would want to see the system done away with if I knew that enough new cottages were available to go around so that an incoming stockman was not put to any great hardship.

The Government never think of the incoming stockman in the situation that arises when a stockman dies and his widow wants to get into a council house. The incoming stockman is the man who has been employed to look after the flock or the herd and sometimes he cannot take up his duties without the tied cottage system. That is where we find ourselves in difficulty. Quite frankly, I find that there is always one particularly bad tied cottage case in my area which comes up during the General Election period. I wonder whether it is done deliberately by my opponent. Personally, I would like to see the system done away with if I knew that there were enough cottages in the area to go round and that there was a guarantee for the new man of a "cottage on the job".

The stockman is the salt of all workers, and it is true that the stock is his stock. It was always "my horses", and there have been instances of a horseman stealing from the next-door corn bin to get his horses extra feed.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Brigg and Scunthorpe

There is no point at issue between us here. I know of a case in which an employee was not particularly concerned about the wages for himself, but when it was suggested that he should consider cutting down rations for his animals, he was so angry that he left.

Photo of Mr Paul Hawkins Mr Paul Hawkins , South West Norfolk

I entirely agree with that. As I have said, I should like this system done away with if that were possible. But the venom displayed by the Parliamentary Secretary was enough to make anyone oppose him. However, I have doubts whether it is right to divide farm workers into two classes—whether it is right to give stockmen less security than other farm workers. I am worried on that point, and also because it will be extremely difficult for local authorities to carry out the rehousing that the Government envisage. There are already priority lists for people who are without housing. Quite rightly, all the Service Ministries recommend that Service men who have not had the chance to get housing points with a local authority should be given an advantage. The Bill will provide yet a third group of people who will be put ahead of those who, by right of long standing, have a place on the council house list.

I hope that we shall find sufficient cottages in the right places, because without them this scheme will not work. The incoming stockman who wants to look after his stock properly and to be with them will not get a house, and it is that sort of person that we want to take care of.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland

I begin by declaring my interest. One thing that has emerged from the debate is the clear indication of the way in which the guillotine has provided totally insufficient time hi which to deal with the Lords amendments. We have seen the extent to which Labour Members have participated in the debate, which has taken a considerable amount of time. My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) put his finger on the point when he said that this had been a sad debate in some ways. Many of us have publicly acknowledged that the Bill owes its birth, to a large extent, to the activities of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard). In her speech today she demonstrated her bitterness and venom, and her reliance on the life-long class warfare which she has carried on, and showed some of the misguided philosophy that lies behind the Bill.

As we have proceeded further with the Bill the Parliamentary Secretary has shown, as one of my hon. Friends remarked, increased venom in answering the debates on the amendments. Labour Members have clearly shown that the Bill is backed more by their desire to fulfil arbitrary political objections than the effect that it is likely to have on the industry and those who work in it.

When the Parliamentary Secretary opened the debate he spoke about the amendment's standing between the Government and its political objectives. That clearly summed up the position of Labour Members, whose attitude is far more political than practical. They have spent very little of their speeches discussing the merits of the amendments, the welfare of farm animals, or the convenience of farm workers. All the talk about cars and telephones is just so much nonsense. We know that Labour Members are hell-bent to secure their political objectives. That is clearly demonstrated by their attitude to Scotland. Their only reason for not applying the Bill to Scotland is that farm workers there are against it.

8.15 p.m.

Labour Members have this evening tried to dress up their arguments with an attack on the other place. That is totally irrelevant, especially in view of what happened last week on the Dock Work Regulation Bill, on which the actions of the other place enabled us here to think again on those matters.

I should like to take up what my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) said about little attention having been paid to the views and studies that have been produced about the impact of the Bill. The Minister said that the Bill would not lead to a reduction in agricultural production, or have a bad effect on the livestock industry. Let me refer him to page 3 paragraph 7 of the document that Miss Ruth Gasson produced. It stated that: While livestock producers as a whole have a very good case for requiring workers to live on the premises, pedigree breeders and milk producers were the most insistent that their enterprises would be unworkable without a key man living on the spot. The Government have not considered sufficiently the effect of the Bill on agricultural production or on their White Paper "Food from Our Own Resources". The Bill will set back further the attainment of the targets in that White Paper.

The Government have defied the advice of those who know about agriculture. We have seen the totally impractical attitudes displayed by the hon. Members for Brightside and Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Ellis) towards the agriculture industry and those who work in it.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Brigg and Scunthorpe

If the hon. Member is suggesting that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard) and I are motivated only by prejudice and malice, will he explain why the Conservatives have lost the support of the Liberals? Does he suggest that the Liberals are motivated in the same way?

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland

I could not think of a more helpful intervention by the hon. Member. The Liberal Party in the country is a totally unco-ordinated group, which does one thing in this place and something totally different in another. No doubt we shall see more examples of this nonsense. We do not know what the Liberals are doing, and I do not think that they know themselves.

We have heard too little from Labour Members about the problems of incoming stockmen, so I believe that we should press the amendments. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) expressed honestly-felt doubts about the amendments. I hope that he will recall te opening remark of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), that it is surely best, in view of the uncertainties surrounding the Bill, to start with the non-livestock sector. We must try for a few years to see how it works, and deal with the livestock side later.

I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary intends to reply to the debate. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will vote in support of the other place on these amendments.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

I shall reply briefly, because I understand that the Opposition want to make progress. Indeed, that was why we accepted their amendment to the procedure.

Virtually all the arguments about this matter have been gone over time and again. The issue is quite simple. The Government believe that a farm worker and his family should have a right to the roof over their heads comparable with the right that is taken for granted by the vast majority of workers and their families.

This Bill is about security. It is about ending the insecurity of the farm worker with a young family who is worried about the future if he loses his job. It is about ending the insecurity of the wife who sees her husband's health deteriorating while working on the farm and wonders what will happen to the family when he is no longer able to work. It is about ending the insecurity of the old farm worker who goes on working beyond the age of 65 because he does not have a house to which he can retire.

That is what the Bill is about. That is why the Government cannot accept this wrecking amendment, which would exclude about 25 per cent. of farm workers and their families from coverage of this legislation. They would have no legal protection whatsoever.

The hon. Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) said that there were very few evictions each year. I am not sure how many evictions are carried out. The Tavistock Institute reckoned that there were about 1,200 court orders a year.

Photo of Mr Peter Mills Mr Peter Mills , Devon West

The Parliamentary Secretary must realise that there are very few real evictions. Many of the court orders are taken out in collaboration

Division No. 412.]AYES[8.24 p.m.
Abse, LeoBenn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodBuchanan, Richard
Allaun, FrankBennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)
Anderson, DonaldBidwell, SydneyCallaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)
Archer, PeterBishop, E. S.Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)
Armstrong, ErnestBlenkinsop, ArthurCampbell, Ian
Ashley, JackBoardman, H.Canavan, Dennis
Ashton, JoeBooth, Rt Hon AlbertCant, R. B.
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)Bottomley, Rt Hon ArthurCarmichael, Neil
Atkinson, NormanBoyden, James (Bish Auck)Carter, Ray
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Bradley, TomCarter-Jones, Lewis
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Bray, Dr JeremyCastle, Rt Hon Barbara
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)Brown, Hugh D. (Proven)Clemitson, Ivor
Bates, AltBrown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)Cocks, Rt Hon Michael
Bean, R. E.Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)Cohen, Stanley
Beith. A. J.Buchan, NormanColeman, Donald

with the farm workers concerned so that they can get other houses.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

I do not dispute that some of the court orders are taken out in collaboration with farm workers, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Watkinson) said, it is somewhat demeaning and unfair that farm workers should be dragged through the courts, even if it is in collusion with their employers, to obtain the offer of alternative accommodation by local authorities. Sensible, progressive, practical farmers welcome this measure because it will end that degrading process, which some of them dislike just as much as their workers.

The issue is simple. We cannot accept the exclusion of this vast number of workers from the coverage of this legislation. I think that the House was impressed by the point made by the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells), based on his own experience—namely, how can we tolerate a situation in which one farm worker is in a cottage and has a basic protection because he drives a tractor, whereas the farm worker in the cottage next door, because he works with livestock, has no legal rights regarding his accommodation when he ceases to work for his employer?

This is not a question of how many evictions there are or how many court orders are taken out. That is the tip of the iceberg. That is the manifestation of the situation. We believe that it is wrong that a farm worker's accommodation should be dependent on the attitude of his employer. I urge the House to reject the amendment.

Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment: —

The House divided: Ayes 292, Noes 253.

Colquhoun, Ms MaureenJackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)Price, William (Rugby)
Conlan, BernardJanner, GrevilleRadice, Giles
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)Jay, Rt Hon DouglasRees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Corbett, RobinJenkins, Hugh (Putney)Richardson, Miss Jo
Cowans, HarryJenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Cox, Thomas (Tooling)John, BrynmorRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)Johnson, James (Hull West)Robertson, John (Paisley)
Crawshaw, RichardJohnson, Walter (Derby S)Robinson, Geoffrey
Cronin, JohnJones, Alec (Rhondda)Roderick, Caerwyn
Crosland, Rt Hon AnthonyJones, Barry (East Flint)Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)Jones, Dan (Burnley)Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)
Cryer, BobKaufman, GeraldRooker, J. W.
Cunningham, G. (Islington S)Kelley, RichardRoper, John
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiten)Kilroy-Silk, RobertRose, Paul B.
Davidson, ArthurKinnock, NeilRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)Lambie, DavidRoss, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)Lamborn, HarryRowlands, Ted
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Lamond, JamesRyman, John
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)Latham, Arthur (Paddington)Sandelson, Neville
Deakins, EricLeadbitter, TedSedgemore, Brian
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Lee, JohnSelby, Harry
Dell, Rt Hon EdmundLestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Dempsey, JamesLipton, MarcusSheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Doig, PeterLitterick, TomShore, Rt Hon Peter
Dormand, J. D.Lomas, KennethShort, Mrs Renee (Wolv NE)
Douglas-Mann, BruceLoyden, EddieSilkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Duffy, A. E. P.Luard, EvanSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Dunn, James A.Lyon, Alexander (York)Silverman, Julius
Dunnett, JackLyons, Edward (Bradford W)Skinner, Dennis
Eadie, AlexMabon, Dr J DicksonSmall, William
Edge, GeoffMcCartney, HughSmith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)McDonald, Dr OonaghSmith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)McElhone, FrankSnape, Peter
English, MichaelMcGuire, Michael (Ince)Spearing, Nigel
Ennals, DavidMacKenzie, GregorSpriggs, Leslie
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)Mackintosh, John P.Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)Maclennan, RobertStoddart, David
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)Stott, Roger
Ewing, Harry (Stirling)McNamara, KevinStrang, Gavin
Faulds, AndrewMadden, MaxStrauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.Magee, BryanSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Fitch, Alan (Wigan)Mahon, SimonSwain, Thomas
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W)Mallalieu, J. P. W.Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Flannery, MartinMarks, KennethThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMarquand, DavidThomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Ford, BenMarshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Forrester, JohnMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)Mason, Rt Hon RoyThorne, Stan (Preston South)
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)Maynard, Miss JoanThorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Freeson, ReginaldMeacher, MichaelTierney, Sydney
Freud, ClementMellish, Rt Hon RobertTomlinson, John
Garrett, John (Norwich S)Mendelson, JohnTorney, Tom
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Mikardo, IanUrwin, T. W.
George, BruceMillan, Rt Hon BruceVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Gilbert, Dr JohnMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Ginsburg, DavidMiller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Golding, JohnMoonman, EricWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
Gould, BryanMorris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Gourlay, HarryMorris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Watkins, David
Grant, George (Morpeth)Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Watkinson, John
Grant, John (Islington C)Moyle, RolandWeetch, Ken
Grocott, BruceNewens StanleyWeitzman, David
Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Noble, MikeWellbeloved, James
Hardy, PeterOakes, GordonWhite, Frank R. (Bury)
Harper, JosephOgden, EricWhite, James (Pollok)
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)O'Halloran, MichaelWhitehead, Phillip
Hart, Rt Hon JudithOrbach, MauriceWhitlock, William
Hatton, FrankOrme, Rt Hon Stanley Wigley, Dafydd
Hayman, Mrs HeleneOvenden, JohnWilley, Rt Hon Frederick
Healey, Rt Hon DenisOwen, Rt Hon Dr DavidWilliams, Alan (Swansea W)
Heffer, Eric S.Padley, WalterWilliams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Hooley, FrankPalmer, ArthurWilliams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Horam, JohnPardoe, JohnWilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)Park, GeorgeWilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)Parker, JohnWilson, William (Coventry SE)
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)Parry, RobertWise, Mrs Audrey
Huckfield, LesPavitt, LaurieWoodall, Alec
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)Pendry, TomWoof, Robert
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Penhaligon, DavidWrigglesworth, Ian
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Perry, ErnestYoung, David (Bolton E)
Hunter, AdamPhipps, Dr ColinTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)Prentice. Rt Hon RegMr. Ted Graham and
Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)Price, C. (Lewisham W)Mr. James Tinn
Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)
NOES
Adley, RobertGoodlad, AlastairMore, Jasper (Ludlow)
Aitken, JonathanGorst, JohnMorgan, Geraint
Alison, MichaelGow, Ian (Eastbourne)Morris, Michael (Northampton S)
Amery, Rt Hon JulianGower, Sir Raymond (Barry)Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Awdry, DanielGray, HamishMudd, David
Baker, KennethGrieve, PercyNeave, Airey
Banks, RobertGrist, IanNelson, Anthony
Bell, RonaldGrylls, MichaelNeubert, Michael
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)Hall, Sir JohnNewton, Tony
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)Hall-Davis, A. G. F.Nott, John
Benyon, W.Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Onslow, Cranley
Berry, Hon AnthonyHampson, Dr KeithOppenheim, Mrs Sally
Bitten, JohnHannam, JohnPage, John (Harrow West)
Biggs-Davison, JohnHarvie Anderson, Rt Hon MissPage, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Blaker, PeterHastings, StephenPage, Richard (Workington)
Body, RichardHavers, Sir MichaelPaisley, Rev Ian
Boscawen, Hon RobertHayhoe, BarneyPattie, Geoffrey
Bottomley, PeterHeath, Rt Hon EdwardPercival, Ian
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)Heseltine, MichaelPeyton, Rt Hon John
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)Hicks, RobertPink, R. Bonner
Bradford, Rev RobertHiggins, Terence L.Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Braine, Sir BernardHodgson, RobinPrentice, Rt Hon Reg
Brittan, LeonHolland, PhilipPrice, David (Eastleigh)
Brocklebank-Fowler, C.Hordern, PeterPrior, Rt Hon James
Brotherton, MichaelHowe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyPym, Rt Hon Francis
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Howell. David (Guildford)Raison, Timothy
Bryan, Sir PaulHunt, David (Wirral)Rathbone, Tim
Buchanan-Smith, AlickHunt, John (Bromley)Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Buck, AntonyHurd, DouglasRees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Budgen, NickHutchison, Michael ClarkRees-Davies, W. R.
Bulmer, EsmondIrving, Charles (Cheltenham)Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Burden, F. A.James, DavidRidley, Hon Nicholas
Butler, Adam (Bosworth)Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)Ridsdale, Julian
Carlisle, MarkJessel, TobyRifkind, Malcolm
Carson, JohnJohnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Chalker, Mrs LyndaJones, Arthur (Daventry)Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Channon, PaulJopling, MichaelRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Churchill, W. S.Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Kaberry, Sir DonaldRoss, William (Londonderry)
Clark, William (Croydon S)Kershaw, AnthonyRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Kilfedder, JamesRost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Clegg, WalterKimball, MarcusRoyle, Sir Anthony
Cockcroft, JohnKing, Evelyn (South Dorset)Sainsbury, Tim
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)King, Tom (Bridgwater)St. John-Stevas, Norman
Cope, JohnKitson, Sir TimothyScott, Nicholas
Cordle, John H.Knox, DavidShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Cormack, PatrickLamont, NormanShelton, William (Streatham)
Corrie, JohnLangford-Holt, Sir JohnShepherd, Colin
Costain, A. P.Latham, Michael (Melton)Shersby, Michael
Critchley, JulianLawrence, IvanSims, Roger
Crowder, F. P.Lawson, NigelSinclair, Sir George
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)Le Marchant, SpencerSkeet, T. H. H.
Dean, Paul (N Somerset)Lester, Jim (Beeston)Smith. Dudley (Warwick)
Dodsworth, GeoffreyLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Speed, Keith
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLloyd, IanSpence, John
Drayson, BurnabyLoveridge, JohnSpicer, Michael (S Worcester)
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardMcAdden, Sir StephenSproat, Iain
Dunlop, JohnMcCusker, H.Stanbrook, Ivor
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnMacfarlane, NeilStanley, John
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)MacGregor, JohnSteen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Elliott, Sir WilliamMacmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Emery, PeterMcNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Stokes, John
Eyre, ReginaldMcNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Tapsell, Peter
Fairbairn, NicholasMadel, DavidTaylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Fairgrieve, RussellMarten, NeilTaylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Farr, JohnMates, MichaelTebbit, Norman
Fell, AnthonyMather, CarolTemple-Morris, Peter
Finsberg, GeoffreyMaude, AngusThatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Fisher, Sir NigelMaudling, Rt Hon ReginaldThomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMawby, RayTownsend, Cyril D.
Fookes, Miss JanetMaxwell-Hyslop, RobinTrotter, Neville
Forman, NigelMayhew, PatrickTugendhat, Christopher
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)Meyer, Sir Anthonyvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Fox, MarcusMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove)Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Mills, PeterViggers, Peter
Fry, PeterMiscampbell, NormanWakeham, John
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Moate, RogerWalker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester).
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)Molyneaux, JamesWalters, Dennis
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)Monro, HectorWarren, Kenneth
Glyn, Dr AlanMontgomery, FergusWeatherill, Bernard
Godber, Rt Hon JosephMoore, John (Croydon C)Wells, John
Whitelaw, Rt Hon WilliamYoung, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Winterton, NicholasYounger, Hon GeorgeMr. Fred Silvester and
Wood, Rt Hon RichardMr. Cecil Parkinson

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords Amendment No. 2 disagreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 3, in page 1, line 20, leave out "and (v) forestry;

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

It will be convenient to consider at the same time the following Lords amendments: No. 4, Nos. 7 to 9, Nos. 53 to 57, Nos. 59 to 61, and Nos. 72, 74 81, 83, 84, 118 and 129.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

All these Lords amendments are concerned with forestry, and the total effect of them, by removing forestry from the list of activities included in agriculture, would be to preclude the application of the Bill at any time to whole-time workers in forestry. This is not acceptable.

I remind the House that in the consultative document we noted that existing tied cottage legislation would apply to many forestry workers and that pay and conditions for many forestry workers are subject to the Agricultural Wages Act". It was clear to us when we came to draft legislation that the links between forestry and the remainder of agriculture were such that forestry was an integral part of the agriculture industry and should be included in the Bill.

There was a need to improve the information available on the situation in forestry, particularly with a view to being able to give housing authorities a clear indication of their likely obligations towards this sector. A survey is presently being conducted on behalf of the Forestry Commission by the Tavistock Institute to provide this information. The specific reference to forestry in the Bill is provided to ensure that a clear distinction can be made between workers who are covered from the appointed day for agriculture and those who are covered from the later appointed day for forestry.

I should add that we expect the Forestry Commission, which is the largest woodland owner in the country, to treat its tied cottage occupants—when the legislation is brought into effect for forestry—exactly as private forestry landlords will be required to do. Although the Forestry Commission is exempt from a statutory obligation under the Bill, there will be no question of discrimination in practice between the one sector and the other.

Photo of Mr William Benyon Mr William Benyon , Buckingham

I first declare my interest as an owner of woodlands and, of course, of the houses that go with those woodlands. In the rest of the proceedings, I hope that my interest can also be taken to apply to agriculture.

I hope that the Government will think again about this. The forestry situation is most extraordinary. As it stands at the moment, the Bill does not apply to forestry until the appointed day arrives. It will not apply to Scotland if and when the appointed day is designated. From the last debate it is clear that the Scottish Union of Agricultural Workers does not want the Bill to apply to agriculture, and there have been no moves to have it applied to forestry in Scotland.

The Forestry Commission itself is excluded, with the 1,500 houses that it owns for its own employees. If and when the Bill applies to forestry it will therefore apply to a very small proportion of the industry itself. To date, no previous legislation concerned with agriculture and forestry has defined forestry as forming part of agriculture. Therefore, there is no precedent whatever for including it in legislation such as this.

The next point is that, by and large, forestry exists in extremely isolated areas. This point was brought out to the full during the debates in the other place. Therefore, the need for employees to be on the spot is absolute. I ask the Minister point-blank whether the advice that he has received from the Forestry Commission is that the industry cannot continue if it cannot be assured of accommodation for its work force within a reasonable distance of its operations.

This summer has proved conclusively the need for this, because we have had the great menace of fires. I share my own experience with the House, because I have lost a considerable acreage of young trees. In fact, it was only the heroic efforts of the fire brigade, and my own staff, that managed to stop the destruction spreading further. The same thing happened in parts of Yorkshire and in Scotland. The need for staff to be near at hand in these isolated areas has been proved conclusively during this hot, dry summer.

The Government would do much better to accept, first, that no demand has been made by the industry and its workers for forestry to be included in the Bill. Secondly, the problems of definition are very great. Most forestry operations combine the growing of trees with the processing of the timber. That is an industrial process, and would have to be excluded from the Bill.

Thirdly, as I have already said, a large part of the industry is excluded in any event.

Fourthly, the location and organisation of the forestry industry presents great difficulties.

It seems that the Government are seeking to save face by delaying the application of the Bill to forestry. It would be far more honest and straightforward, and would benefit the stability and progress of the industry, if they came clean and took forestry out completely. I therefore advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against the motion.

8.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Jasper More Mr Jasper More , Ludlow

The eloquence of my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) has been so compelling that I would not have ventured to take part in the debate but for the Minister's opening words, which were so disgraceful as to be hardly credible. He said that forestry is an integral part of agriculture. It is, of course, a far more important industry than agriculture.

The Bill's farcical nature is evident when one considers the balance of forestry among the different parts of the United Kingdom. The major effort in forestry now is in Scotland, but as both Scotland and Northern Ireland will be exempt from the Bill we are really talking about England and Wales. It is farcical to pass legislation applying these provisions only to England and Wales.

All that my hon. Friend has said about the problems of working in isolated areas and the dangers of fire—which were so evident both in 1976 and in 1975—needs no further emphasis. But it is difficult to leave this matter without referring to the Minister's extraordinary words about the Forestry Commission—that it was to be asked, persuaded or somehow cajoled into treating its employees exactly the same as those employed by private forestry. That gives the ultimate air of unreality to the Government's motion. I have the greatest pleasure in giving my utmost support to my hon. Friend. I hope that the Minister will see sense and decide to withdraw his stupid motion.

Photo of Mr John Watkinson Mr John Watkinson , Gloucestershire West

I am moved to speak only because of the claim of the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) that agriculture is less important than forestry. That might conceivably be true in my constituency, which includes the Forest of Dean and where forestry is a major industry, but it could not apply across the country. I support the motion and reiterate the point which lies behind the Bill—that is, that we are determined to see an end to tied cottages generally within the country and particularly in agriculture.

Photo of Mr Jasper More Mr Jasper More , Ludlow

When the hon. Gentleman says "within the country", does he include Scotland and Ireland?

Photo of Mr John Watkinson Mr John Watkinson , Gloucestershire West

We have been through that many times. They are not included in the Bill, as the hon. Gentleman knows.

There is a principle at stake here. We wish to see an end to tied cottages. The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) spoke eloquently about this matter, but I do not think that even he could pretend that the force of the argument used in the preceding debate about the necessity for having dairymen and stockmen on the premises is not weightier than the argument he used about forestry. We all know of the exceptional circumstances this year. In my constituency problems arose from fires, but the hon. Gentleman will have to accept that the most important element in bringing those fires under control was the fire brigade, which in my area had to travel several miles to deal with the fires.

I welcome the undertaking given by my hon. Friend the Minister to carry out an investigation of forest tied-cottage dwellings. I shall support him in rejecting the Lords amendment.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

With the leave of the House, I should like to respond to some questions which have been asked. The National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers has been consistently in favour of the protection and coverage of forestry workers as well as of agricultural workers. Perhaps I misunderstood the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon), but my impression was that he sought to apply that across the border. We are not discussing Scotland because the legislation does not apply to Scotland. The Forestry Commission has not opposed the implementation of the measure.

I do not want to be drawn into the argument about whether forestry or agri-

Division No. 413.]AYES[8.52 p.m.
Abse, LeoCrawshaw, RichardGrant, George (Morpeth)
Allaun, FrankCronin, JohnGrant, John (Islington C)
Anderson, DonaldCrosland, Rt Hon AnthonyGrocott, Bruce
Archer, PeterCrowther, Stan (Rotherham)Hardy, Peter
Armstrong, ErnestCryer, BobHarper, Joseph
Ashley, JackCunningham, G. (Islington S)Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Ashton, JoeCunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)Hart, Rt Hon Judith
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)Davidson, ArthurHatton, Frank
Atkinson, NormanDavies, Bryan (Enfield N)Hayman, Mrs Helene
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Davies, Ifor (Gower)Heffer, Eric S.
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)Hooley, Frank
Bates, AlfDeakins, EricHoram, John
Bean, R. E.Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)
Beith, A. J.Dell, Rt Hon EdmundHowells, Geraint (Cardigan)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodDempsey, JamesHoyle, Doug (Nelson)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Doig, PeterHuckfield, Les
Bidwell, SydneyDormand, J. D.Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)
Bishop, E. S.Douglas-Mann, BruceHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Blenkinsop, ArthurDuffy, A. E. P.Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Boardman, H.Dunn, James A.Hunter, Adam
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertDunnett, JackIrvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)
Bottomley, Rt Hon ArthurEadie, AlexIrving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)
Boyden, James (Bish Auck)Edge, GeoffJackson, Colin (Brighouse)
Bradley, TomEdwards, Robert (Wolv SE)Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)
Bray, Dr JeremyEllis, John (Brigg & Scun)Janner, Greville
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)English, MichaelJay, Rt Hon Douglas
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)Ennals, DavidJenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)
Buchan, NormanEvans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)John, Brynmor
Buchanan, RichardEvans, Ioan (Aberdare)Johnson, James (Hull West)
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)Ewing, Harry (Stirling)Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)Faulds, AndrewJones, Alec (Rhondda)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Campbell, IanFitch, Alan (Wigan)Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Canavan, DennisFlannery, MartinKaufman, Gerald
Cant, R. B.Foot, Rt Hon MichaelKelley, Richard
Carmichael, NellFord, BenKilroy-Silk, Robert
Carter, RayForrester, JohnKinnock, Neil
Carter-Jones, LewisFowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)Lambie, David
Castle, Rt Hon BarbaraFraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)Lamborn, Harry
Clemitson, IvorFreeson, ReginaldLamond, James
Cocks, Rt Hon MichaelFreud, ClementLatham, Arthur (Paddington)
Cohen, StanleyGarrett, John (Norwich S)Leadbitter, Ted
Coleman, DonaldGarrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Lee, John
Colquhoun, Ms MaureenGeorge, BruceLestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)
Conlan, BernardGilbert, Dr JohnLipton, Marcus
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)Ginsburg, DavidLitterick, Tom
Corbett, RobinGolding, JohnLomas, Kenneth
Cowans, HarryGould, BryanLoyden, Eddie
Cox, Thomas (Tooting)Gourlay, HarryLuard, Evan
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)Graham, TedLyon, Alexander (York)

culture is more important. I think that on reflection we would all agree that they are both basic and enormously important industries in our national economy. They are interrelated. Very often there is coordination between forestry and farming. In some instances the farmer or small landowner works his forestry with his farm.

I accept what my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester, West (Mr. Watkinson) said. I am glad to have his support, well knowing the deep interest he takes in forestry matters and his commitment to forestry in his constituency.

Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment: —

The House divided: Ayes 290, Noes 248.

Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)Parker, JohnStrang, Gavin
Mabon, Dr J DicksonParry, RobertStrauss, Rt Hon G. R.
McCartney, HughPavitt, LaurieSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
McDonald, Dr OonaghPendry, TomSwain, Thomas
McElhone, FrankPenhaligon, DavidTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
McGuire, Michael (Ince)Perry, ErnestThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
MacKenzie, GregorPhipps, Dr ColinThomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Mackintosh, John P.Prentice, Rt Hon RegThomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Maclennan, RobertPrice, C. (Lewisham W)Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)Price, William (Rugby)Thome, Stan (Preston South)
McNamara, KevinRadice, GilesTierney, Sydney
Madden, MaxRees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)Tinn, James
Magee, BryanRichardson, Miss JoTomlinson, John
Mahon, SimonRoberts, Albert (Normanton)Torney, Tom
Mallalieu, J. P. W.Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)Urwin, T. W.
Marks, KennethRobertson, John (Paisley)Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Marquand, DavidRobinson, GeoffreyWainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Roderick, CaerwynWalden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Rodgers, George (Chorley)Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Mason, Rt Hon RoyRodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Maynard, Miss JoanRooker, J. W.Watkins, David
Meacher, MichaelRoper, JohnWatkinson, John
Mellish, Rt Hon RobertRose, Paul B.Weetch, Ken
Mendelson, JohnRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)Weitzman, David
Mikardo, IanRoss, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)Wellbeloved, James
Millan, Rt Hon BruceRowlands, TedWhite, Frank R. (Bury)
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)Ryman, JohnWhite, James (Pollok)
Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)Sandelson, NevilleWhitehead, Phillip
Moonman, EricSedgemore, BrianWhitlock, William
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Selby, HarryWigley, Dafydd
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Moyle, RolandShore, Rt Hon PeterWilliams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Newens, StanleyShort, Mrs Renee (Wolv NE)Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Noble, MikeSilkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Oakes, GordonSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Ogden, EricSilverman, JuliusWilson, William (Coventry SE)
O'Halloran, MichaelSkinner, DennisWise, Mrs Audrey
Orbach, MauriceSmall, WilliamWoodall, Alec
Orme, Rt Hon StanleySmith, Cyril (Rochdale)Woof, Robert
Ovenden, JohnSmith, John (N Lanarkshire)Wrigglesworth, Ian
Owen, Rt Hon Dr DavidSnaps, PeterYoung, David (Bolton E)
Padley, WalterSpearing, NigelTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Palmer, ArthurSpriggs, LeslieMr. James Hamilton and
Pardoe, JohnSteel, David (Roxburgh)Mr. David Stoddart.
Park, GeorgeStott, Roger
NOES
Adley, RobertChannon, PaulFraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)
Aitken, JonathanChurchill, W. S.Fry, Peter
Alison, MichaelClark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.
Amery, Rt Hon JulianClark, William (Croydon S)Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Speithorne)Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Gardiner, Edward (S Fylde)
Awdry, DanielClegg, WalterGilmour, Sir John (East Fife)
Baker, KennethCockcroft, JohnGlyn, Dr Alan
Banks, RobertCooke, Robert (Bristol W)Godber, Rt Hon Joseph
Bell, RonaldCope, JohnGoodlad, Alastair
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)Cordle, John H.Gorst, John
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)Cormack, PatrickGow, Ian (Eastbourne)
Benyon, W.Corrie, JohnGower, Sir Raymond (Barry)
Berry, Hon AnthonyCostain, A. P.Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)
Biffen, JohnCritchley, JulianGray, Hamish
Biggs-Davison, JohnCrowder, F. P.Grieve, Percy
Blaker, PeterDavies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)Grist, Ian
Body, RichardDean, Paul (N Somerset)Grylls, Michael
Boscawen, Hon RobertDodsworth, GeoffreyHall, Sir John
Bottomley, PeterDouglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesHall-Davis, A. G. F.
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown]Drayson, BurnabyHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardHampson, Dr Keith
Bradford, Rev RobertDunlop, JohnHannam, John
Braine, Sir BernardEden, Rt Hon Sir JohnHarvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss
Brittan, LeonElliott, Sir WilliamHastings, Stephen
Brocklebank-Fowler, C.Emery, PeterHavers, Sir Michael
Brotherton, MichaelEyre, ReginaldHawkins, Paul
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Fairbairn, NicholasHayhoe, Barney
Bryan, Sir PaulFairgrieve, RussellHeath, Rt Hon Edward
Buchanan-Smith, AlickFarr, JohnHeseltine, Michael
Buck, AntonyFell, AnthonyHicks, Robert
Budgen, NickFinsberg, GeoffreyHiggins, Terence L.
Bulmer, EsmondFisher, Sir NigelHodgson, Robin
Burden, F. A.Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesHolland, Philip
Butler, Adam (Bosworth)Fookes, Miss JanetHordern, Peter
Carlisle, MarkForman, NigelHowe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Carson, JohnFowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)Hunt, David (Wirral)
Chalker, Mrs LyndaFox, MarcusHunt, John (Bromley)
Hurd, DouglasMiscampbell, NormanSt. John-Stevas, Norman
Hutchison, Michael ClarkMitchell, David (Basingstoke)Scott, Nicholas
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)Moate, RogerShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
James, DavidMolyneaux, JamesShelton, William (Streatham)
Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)Monro, HectorShepherd, Colin
Jessel, TobyMoore, John (Croydon C)Shersby, Michael
Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)More, Jasper (Ludlow)Sims, Roger
Jones, Arthur (Daventry)Morgan, GeraintSinclair, Sir George
Jopling, MichaelMorris, Michael (Northampton S)Skeet, T. H. H.
Judd, FrankMorrison, Charles (Devizes)Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Kaberry, Sir DonaldMorrison, Hon Peter (Chester)Speed, Keith
Kershaw, AnthonyMudd, DavidSpence, John
Kilfedder, JamesNeave, AireySpicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Kimball, MarcusNelson, AnthonySproat, Iain
King, Evelyn (South Dorset)Neubert, MichaelStanbrook, Ivor
King, Tom (Bridgwater)Newton, TonyStanley, John
Kitson, Sir TimothyNott, JohnSteen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Knox, DavidOnslow, CranleyStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Lamont, NormanOppenheim, Mrs SallyStokes, John
Langford-Holt, Sir JohnPage, John (Harrow West)Tapsell, Peter
Latham, Michael (Melton)Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Lawrence, IvanPage, Richard (Workington)Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Lawson, NigelPaisley, Rev IanTebbit, Norman
Le Marchant, SpencerParkinson, CecilTemple-Morris, Peter
Lester, Jim (Beeston)Pattie, GeoffreyThatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Percival, IanThomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Lloyd, IanPeyton, Rt Hon JohnTownsend, Cyril D.
Loveridge, JohnPink, R. BonnerTrotter, Neville
McAdden, Sir StephenPowell, Rt Hon J. EnochTugendhat, Christopher
McCusker, H.Price, David (Eastleigh)van Straubenzee, W. R
Macfarlane. NellPrior, Rt Hon JamesVaughan, Dr Gerard
MacGregor, JohnPym, Rt Hon FrancisViggers, Peter
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)Raison, TimothyWakeham, John
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Rathbone, TimWalder, David (Clitheroe)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Made), DavidRees-Davies, W. R.Walters, Dennis
Marten, NeilRenton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)Warren, Kenneth
Mates, MichaelRidsdale, JulianWeatherill, Bernard
Mather, CarolRifkind, MalcolmWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
Maude, AngusRippon, Rt Hon GeoffreyWinterton, Nicholas
Maudling, Rt Hon ReginaldRoberts, Wyn (Conway)Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Mawby, RayRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinRoss, William (Londonderry)Younger, Hon George
Mayhew, PatrickRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Meyer, Sir AnthonyRost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)Mr. Michael Roberts and
Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)Royle, Sir AnthonyMr. Fred Silvester.
Mills, PeterSainsbury, Tim

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 dis-agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 6, in page 2, line 20, at end insert— (3A) In this Act "relevant licence" and "relevant tenancy" have the meanings given by Schedule (Meaning of "relevant licence" and "relevant tenancy") to this Act.

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

With this we may take Lords Amendments Nos. 10, 38 to 40—plus Government Amendment —75 to 77—plus Government Amendments—108, 123, 125 and 127.

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

The House will be pleased to hear that the amendments are less formidable than their length would suggest. Their main effect is to transfer the contents of Clause 2 to a new schedule and to deal with two points of substance which were troubling the Opposition. They were welcomed by spokesmen for the Opposition in another place and I trust that they will be equally welcome here.

The first point of substance covered in the new schedule concerns board. Out policy intention is that no worker receiving board should be protected, just as under the Rent Acts no tenant who receives board qualifies for protection. Under the Bill in its current form, where a farmer provided a qualifying worker with board but charged him no rent, such a worker would be protected, though a worker who paid some rent in similar circumstances would not be protected. That is not the effect that we set out to achieve. The new schedule sets matters right. It also deals in similar form with attendance. I imagine, however, that in the agricultural world attendance is not likely to loom large, although the question of board could in some parts.

The second point of substance concerns hostels. The amendments make sure that occupants of hostels are excluded from protection, which is not to extend to a worker sharing a dwelling for four or more persons where each person has one room, and only one, to himself. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and I have both said that the residual problem of hostels would not be solved easily. The detailed nature of the amendments on the subject—amendments that are complicated and technical—bear out our warnings, but I am sure that the end result is one on which both the Government and Opposition are agreed.

Photo of Mr Hugh Rossi Mr Hugh Rossi , Haringey Hornsey

Earlier this evening I submitted a manuscript to Lords Amendment No. 77. I understand that Mr. Speaker has been kind enough to select it but that it is still being duplicated for circulation to hon. Members. This is part of the problem if the Government are taken unawares, with the result that we have little time to consider these matters. The Government are in as much difficulty now as possibly we were in the early hours of the morning because they brought this matter forward so quickly.

My amendment seeks to insert in Lords Amendment No. 77 for the purposes of this schedule". I seek to do so to make clear that the modifications that are being made to Section 2 of the Rent Act 1968 are purely for the purposes of the schedule and for no other reason and that they relate to agricultural tenancies and no others.

I must confess that when I first read the schedule, which is written in extremely complex and complicated language, dealing with highly technical matters under the Rent Acts, I was somewhat alarmed. If one reads paragraph 3 of the schedule in isolation, it makes the bald statement that Section 2 of the Rent Act 1968 is being modified to a certain extent. That is what the language of sub-paragraph (3) states. I appreciate that the foregoing paragraphs appear to imply that the relevant licence and the relevant tenancy are defined by reference to subsequent amendments in paragraph 3 to which I am referring.

On one construction of the schedule, it can be said that the only effect of sub-paragraph (3) in law is inasmuch as it relates to the preceding paragraphs 1 and 2. That is the conclusion that can be reached if paragraphs 1 and 2 are read first. However, if we take sub-paragraph (3) in isolation, someone coming to the Bill for the first time could correctly say that it is a bald statement of law without qualification that Section 2 of the Rent Act 1968 is modified. If that construction can be put on the paragraph the ramifications are enormous.

It is to ensure that no doubt can arise that I wish to insert the words in the amendment. Unless it is made clear beyond peradventure, doubt could be caused. We start in sub-paragraph (2) of paragraph 3 with the statement that we omit paragraph (a) of Section 2 of the Rent Act 1968. That sub-paragraph of Section 2 of the 1968 Act ensures that tenancies at a low rent are not protected tenancies. If we do not ensure that end by removing paragraph 2(a) of the 1968 Act, it could happen that if the wrong interpretation were put on the schedule a person would find that he had let into possession a protected tenant and had been denied his home. That would be the position if he had to leave his house for some time and, in order to prevent squatters moving in, he let it to a friend at a nominal rent—for example, £1 a week, a shilling a week or, as is done quite frequently, a case of whisky at the end of six months as payment in kind.

Similarly, complications could arise in the hotel industry. Hoteliers often acquire accommodation and let it to their work force at nominal rents so that they can attract staff to their hotels. I am referring not to people who reside in a hotel under service occupancies but to staff who are outside the hotel in accommodation provided for them by the hotel at nominal rents. If the Lords amendment remains as it is, unqualified, the danger may arise that those hotels will find that all the accommodation would become subject to protected tenancies. I am advised that the effect on the tourist industry would be considerable and very much to its disadvantage. Therefore, we must make clear that no such suggestion is implied by the legislation.

9.15 p.m.

Paragraph 3(4) of the new Schedule 1A could cause considerable difficulty. That provision recasts the conditions under which attendance is taken into account in deciding whether a tenancy is protected. The Rent Act 1968 contains words to the effect that the attendance must represent a substantial part of the rent paid. That matter has now been determined by the Court of Appeal in the case of Woodward v. Docherty, although in that case the court was dealing with a furnished tenancy. Nevertheless, attendance in terms of furnished tenancies is dealt with in the same sub-paragraph and it was considered in that way by the Court of Appeal.

The effect of the sub-paragraph is to override the decision of the Court of Appeal. The courts would be thrown back to the somewhat unsatisfactory situation that obtained in earlier years as thrown up by the case of Sagoo v. Goel. The courts were there concerned not with assessing the value of attendance or furniture in relation to rent but with the value of the services or furniture provided to the tenant irrespective of any arithmetical calculation of rent. That would be an unsatisfactory departure in regard to tenants—I speak in general terms rather than in terms of agricultural tenants—if they were denied the protection given them by the Court of Appeal in the case of Woodward v. Docherty.

Unless we are careful to ensure that paragraph 3(4) of the schedule relates only to what is contained in the schedule under the kind of construction that I suggest, the implications for the general law of landlord and tenant could be consider able. That is the reason for my amendment. Since the Minister said in opening this discussion that the Government in tended to limit these matters simply to agricultural tenancies and not extend them to the general law of landlord and tenant under the Rent Act, I hope that he will accept this small amendment to make the situation clear beyond any shadow of doubt.

The other matter I wish to mention concerns the Minister's amendment to Lords Amendment No. 77. As I understand the situation, paragraph 4 of the new schedule is now being deleted. That paragraph gives the concession for which we asked in regard to hostels. Will the Minister in reply explain why, having said that this concession is being given to hostel accommodation, he should now seek to amend the schedule by removing that reference?

I appreciate that there is another amendment in this group of amendments—I think it is Lords Amendment No. 40, to Clause 24—in which there is a further provision relating to hostel accommodation. But that again is being amended by the Minister by a further amendment which has appeared on the Amendment Paper, and there must be some watering down of this concession.

I ask the Minister to forgive me for asking for this explanation of his amendments following his opening statement, but he will appreciate that the Opposition have been put in great difficulty by the shortness of time in which to study these matters. They are extremely intricate and, therefore, I have not readily been able to follow why he should be taking reference to hostels out of Schedule 1 but leaving it in Clause 24 in a form that he is now seeking to modify.

Photo of Miss Joan Maynard Miss Joan Maynard , Sheffield, Brightside

I find this—and I am sure other hon. Members do—a very technical and difficult matter to understand. I want to make it clear that we do not want for farm workers any more than we would ask for any other group of workers. That applies to farm workers whether they live in hostels or in any other accommodation.

There was one important admission from the Conservative Front Bench in talking about the accommodation offered in the catering industry. It was said that this accommodation was often offered at nominal rents—as, of course, tied accommodation is in agriculture—in order to attract labour to the industry. Workers in the catering industry are notoriously badly paid, as are agricultural workers. I have always found that tied accommodation at nominal rent was one way of attracting labour into a low-paid industry. We have had an admission tonight from the Conservative Front Bench in relation to another industry.

Photo of Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) in his request for an amendment at the beginning of paragraph 4 of Schedule 1A so that the schedule shall only apply to agricultural tenancies. If I may invite the Minister to intervene and say that he accepts that, I need not speak any further.

Photo of Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby

I am grateful to the Minister for that firm assurance. It shortens the debate considerably.

I declare an interest. Some time ago I wrote a book on the Rent Acts. The more the Government revise the Rent Acts, the more likely are the publishers to ask me for a second edition.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Royal Tunbridge Wells

Nobody has ever asked me to write a book on the revision of the Rent Acts, and nobody is likely to do so. I wish, however, to voice a very angry protest at the mode in which this revision of one of the 13 Rent Acts to which we still have from time to time to refer is being made in Amendment No. 77.

The Rent Acts range from 1915 to 1974. The corpus of law that they constitute is properly described as monumental, but hardly stands as a monument to the limpid clarity of the legislation that we turn out from this House.

I think it nothing short of a disgrace that we are now, at this short notice, being invited to consider a new schedule that consists of 75 lines of closely drafted amendments to Clause 2, which itself sets out to modify provisions of the 196S Rent Act.

The Rent Acts to which we now have to refer constitute a kind of archaeological dig. Everyone knows that they are ranged one upon another. Some derive support from those beneath them, and others from those alongside. Therefore, everyone must know the effect on each individual slice of this sandwich cake in order to get accurate advice about the law. Nevertheless, all these acts received proper debate in this House, to the best of my knowledge. None was subjected to a guillotine, and certainly none was subjected to substantial amendments to the extent of 75 lines in a completely new schedule rearranging the definitions, brought forward in a debate that was itself subject to the guillotine, at rather less than 30 hours' notice.

This House is not just a means of sustaining a Government in office. Neither is it just a means of getting the Government out of an inconvenient spot at any given time. Its function, first and foremost, is to make law. The Minister knows in his heart of hearts that it is quite indefensible to seek to make law by means such as this amendment. How can hon. Members give their minds satisfactorily to this degree of lawmaking—75 lines of new definitions recasting Clause 2 at such short notice? The danger is that the Government will be tempted to think that they can do this.

The Rent Acts constitute a difficult field of law, and many humble people depend on accurate advice about their real meaning. Here, once again, we are doing an in-defensible thing. We are not taking the trouble to satisfy ourselves that we know that what we are saying is right. If we fail to do our parliamentary job of making law carefully, it costs us nothing at all. We are comfortably protected from the consequences of our own negligence—we take great care to see to that. The cost falls upon those people who have the misfortune to be affected by the law that we make so heedlessly and lightly. Other people have to pay to find out the meaning and the effect of the law which Ministers are paid to make clear.

I dare say that the Minister will claim that this is a tightening-up operation, designed to meet objections expressed here and in another place. But we have not been given sufficient time to discover whether these amendments are sufficiently clearly expressed, or whether they do the job they purport to do. It is the people affected by our laws who suffer. They have to act on the best advice available to them, which later may be held by a bare majority of judges to have been wrong.

Anyone who has any knowledge of the law of landlord and tenant, and particularly of the Rent Acts, will condemn the Government's action today as an iniquitous scandal and a blatant affront to the law for which, from Clay Cross to Grunwick Laboratories, they have frequently shown contempt.

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

I am sorry that the hon. and learned Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew) has used such exaggerated language in giving his proper attention to something which we have not had a great deal of time to consider. I was in some difficulty here because of the manuscript amendment, but I do not complain about it. I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for the valuable advice he gave me on Rent Act legislation—which is difficult—during our deliberations in Standing Committee.

When I first came to the House, having previously been a schoolmaster, I was determined that any Bill with which I was associated would be made clear to the layman. How foolish I was to think that that was a simple operation! Since then we have been in the hands of the lawyers. Rent Act legislation is complex and difficult. I can assure the hon. and learned Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells that if we discussed the subject from now until next Wednesday the House would not be very full and I do not know that the subject would be much clearer to those of us who were present. That is why we are having a thorough review of Rent Act legislation. I do not accept the criticism that what we are seeking to do in the amendments is scandalous behaviour.

9.30 p.m.

I must tell the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) that I am advised that his manuscript amendment is not strictly necessary because paragraphs 1 and 2 of the new schedule spell out the details adequately. However, since his amendment may make it little clearer to those who have to work the Act and understand it, I am prepared to accept the amendment. I am pleased to concede anything that makes legislation clearer, and for that reason I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I remind the Minister that since he has accepted the amendment he must bear that in mind after the guillotine falls, when it is he who will have to move the amendment.

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

Thank you for that reminder, Mr. Speaker. I can assure you that I shall bear it in mind. We are thinking of little else in North-West Durham.

Let me deal with the point about hostels which is dealt with by paragraph (4) of the new schedule in Lords Amendment No. 77. The paragraph was inserted to make sure that the occupants of hostels were excluded from protection. The seven Government amendments to Amendment No. 77, remove paragraph 4 from the new schedule and transfer its effect into Clause 24.

Government Amendment No. 40 is a matter of drafting. Together, the Government amendments seek to achieve the same effect in a somewhat neater way. There is no watering down of the provisions. The right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) led me astray many times in the Standing Committee dealing with the reorganisation of local government. Nevertheless, I am grateful for his intervention today. He is an acknowledged expert on Rent Act legislation.

I must tell the hon. and learned Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells that the whole effect of the Lords amendment is to apply the relevant sections of the Rent Acts to agricultural licensees or tenants not now protected by the Rent Act legislation. It does not have any effect on those already protected by the Rent Acts.

I am grateful to hon. Member for their detailed submissions on this matter. The complexity of it is one of the reasons why we are now having the full Rent Act review. I hope that what I have said will commend itself to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords Amendments Nos. 7, 8 and 9 disagreed to.