Amendments with Respect to Cases Excepted from Restriction on Operation of Notices to Quit

Orders of the Day — Agricultural Holdings Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 6th June 1984.

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Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) 8:30 pm, 6th June 1984

I beg to move amendment No. 18, in page 11, line 28 leave out 'was' and insert 'is'.

This is a small amendment but it covers a significant point. The new case I inserted by clause 6(6) provides, subject to certain conditions, for compulsory retirement at age 65 for tenants of statutory smallholdings in relation to new tenancies granted after commencement.

The amendment makes clear that the right to serve an incontestible notice to quit under case I belongs only to a smallholdings authority. If the authority sells the land the new landlord, if he is not a smallholdings authority, does not acquire with the holding the right to impose retirement on the tenant. That right ceases when the ownership changes hands.

I repeat that this is in relation to new tenancies granted after commencement. It will ensure equity amongst tenants of non-statutory smallholdings in relation to retirement.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Weetch Mr Kenneth Weetch , Ipswich

I beg to move amendment No. 19 in page 11, line 38 at end insert— '(bb) the smallholdings authority or the Minister intends to re-let the holding as a smallholding in pursuance of Part III of the Agriculture Act 1970 and has entered into a contract of tenancy with a prospective tenant contingent only upon the notice to quit taking effect; and'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 20, in page 11, line 38 at end insert— `(bb) the smallholdings authority or the Minister intends to re-let the holding as a smallholding in pursuance of Part III of the Agriculture Act 1970 within six months of the notice taking effect; and'.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Weetch Mr Kenneth Weetch , Ipswich

I intend to be brief, so as to keep up the speed which we seem to have acquired of late. Both amendments are concerned with restrictions on the operation of notices to quit. In effect, the amendments would add conditions to the illustrations in subsection (6). A council should be restrained from requiring a tenant to quit if it is not prepared to re-let the land to another tenant. The amendments are alternative ways of preventing councils from operating the retirement provision unless they intend to re-let the smallholding. I do not think that it is incumbent upon me to explain this further, because it is abundantly clear what the amendments are about.

The only point that I would make is that the amendments have been thoroughly considered by the NFU, which has given both approaches a great deal of scrutiny and study. I put it to the Minister that he could accept either of these conditions, or else suggest an alternative.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I can understand the hon. Gentleman's objectives in moving these amendments, which, as he indicated briefly, stem from a desire to ensure that where a smallholdings authority takes advantage of the retirement provisions for its tenants it does so to enable a new tenant to take over the holding, rather than to obtain vacant possession for subsequent sale or whatever. It brings us back, however, to a point of principle which we have sought to defend many times during debate on the provisions of the Bill, as well as during our discussion on new clauses 1 and 3, that management decisions on the efficient organisation of a smallholdings estate should be taken by the smallholdings authority concerned without undue interference from central Government. In reaching their decisions I am sure that local authorities will take full account of the interests of their tenants, current and prospective, and the need to provide some degree of movement within their estates.

It is, however, perfectly possible that, on the retirement of certain tenants, the good of the estate as a whole is best served by the sale of the land comprising that holding, and the use of the proceeds to maintain and improve buildings and equipment on remaining holdings. The smallholdings authority should be able to pursue that option.

In line with the general belief that discretion about smallholdings should be left to the local authority, if the amendment is pressed to a Division I shall urge my hon. Friends to vote against it.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North 9:15 pm, 6th June 1984

I listened to the Minister with disappointment. I agree that local authorities should be allowed the greatest possible autonomy, but the possibility of retirement at 65 is a new provision for new tenancies. The Government are making that change.

The Bill's intention is to make more tenancies available and the purpose of retirement at 65 is to accelerate the turnover of tenancies, if only by a couple of years. The Government should provide protection to ensure that a tenancy which becomes vacant as a result of retirement at 65 should be available for relet. I hope that the Minister will think afresh.

It is for my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch) to decide whether to force the amendment to a Division, but if he does he can count upon my support. I think that we should force the matter to a Division. The Minister should accept the amendment. It was urged upon us by the NFU, which feels strongly about it.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Weetch Mr Kenneth Weetch , Ipswich

I was disappointed at the Minister's reply. He could have been more flexible on the issue of principle. I have no alternative but to press the amendment to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 97, Noes 180.

Division No. 351][9.17 pm
AYES
Anderson, DonaldCocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterConcannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Ashton, JoeCook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Craigen, J. M.
Beckett, Mrs MargaretCrowther, Stan
Beith, A. J.Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bermingham, GeraldDalyell, Tarn
Blair, AnthonyDavies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)Deakins, Eric
Campbell-Savours, DaleDixon, Donald
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Dormand, Jack
Clay, RobertDouglas, Dick
Dubs, AlfredMaxton, John
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.Maynard, Miss Joan
Eadie, AlexMeadowcroft, Michael
Eastham, KenMichie, William
Ewing, HarryMillan, Rt Hon Bruce
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Fisher, MarkParry, Robert
Flannery, MartinPenhaligon, David
Forrester, JohnPike, Peter
Foster, DerekPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Freud, ClementPrescott, John
Godman, Dr NormanRadice, Giles
Harman, Ms HarrietRandall, Stuart
Haynes, FrankRedmond, M.
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Richardson, Ms Jo
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Home Robertson, JohnRoss, Ernest (Dundee W)
Howells, GeraintRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Hoyle, DouglasRowlands, Ted
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)Sheerman, Barry
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)Spearing, Nigel
Kirkwood, ArchibaldStrang, Gavin
Lamond, JamesThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Leighton, RonaldThompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Lewis, Terence (Worsley)Tinn, James
Litherland, RobertTorney, Tom
Loyden, EdwardWallace, James
McDonald, Dr OonaghWareing, Robert
McKay, Allen (Penistone)Welsh, Michael
McKelvey, WilliamWinnick, David
Maclennan, Robert
McTaggart, RobertTellers for the Ayes:
Madden, MaxMr. John McWilliam and Mr. Ken Weetch
Marek, Dr John
Mason, Rt Hon Roy
NOES
Aitken, JonathanDouglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelDover, Den
Ancram, MichaelDunn, Robert
Arnold, TomDurant, Tony
Ashby, DavidEmery, Sir Peter
Aspinwall, JackEvennett, David
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Eyre, Sir Reginald
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Fallon, Michael
Baldry, AnthonyFarr, John
Batiste, SpencerFavell, Anthony
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyFenner, Mrs Peggy
Bellingham, HenryForman, Nigel
Benyon, WilliamForth, Eric
Berry, Sir AnthonyFranks, Cecil
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnGale, Roger
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnGalley, Roy
Bottomley, PeterGarel-Jones, Tristan
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaGlyn, Dr Alan
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)Goodhart, Sir Philip
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Gorst, John
Braine, Sir BernardGower, Sir Raymond
Brinton, TimGreenway, Harry
Brooke, Hon PeterHampson, Dr Keith
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)Hanley, Jeremy
Bruinvels, PeterHargreaves, Kenneth
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.Harris, David
Budgen, NickHayward, Robert
Bulmer, EsmondHeddle, John
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Henderson, Barry
Carttiss, MichaelHoward, Michael
Cash, WilliamHowarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Chope, ChristopherHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Hunter, Andrew
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Jackson, Robert
Conway, DerekJohnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Coombs, SimonJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Cope, JohnKey, Robert
Couchman, JamesKnight, Gregory (Derby N)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaKnox, David
Dicks, TerryLatham, Michael
Lawrence, IvanShelton, William (Streatham)
Lee, John (Pendle)Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lester, JimShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lightbown, DavidSims, Roger
Lilley, PeterSkeet, T. H. H.
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lyell, NicholasSoames, Hon Nicholas
MacGregor, JohnSpencer, Derek
Maclean, David JohnSpicer, Jim (W Dorset)
McQuarrie, AlbertSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Major, JohnStanbrook, Ivor
Malins, HumfreyStern, Michael
Malone, GeraldStevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Maude, Hon FrancisStevens, Martin (Fulham)
Mawhinney, Dr BrianStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Mayhew, Sir PatrickStewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Mellor, DavidStradling Thomas, J.
Meyer, Sir AnthonySumberg, David
Mills, Iain (Meriden)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)Temple-Morris, Peter
Mitchell, David (NW Hants)Terlezki, Stefan
Moynihan, Hon C.Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Murphy, ChristopherThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Neale, GerrardThompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Needham, RichardThornton, Malcolm
Nelson, AnthonyThurnham, Peter
Neubert, MichaelTownend, John (Bridlington)
Nicholls, PatrickTracey, Richard
Oppenheim, PhilipTwinn, Dr Ian
Page, Richard (Herts SW)van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethWaddington, David
Percival, Rt Hon Sir IanWakeham, Rt Hon John
Porter, BarryWaldegrave, Hon William
Powell, William (Corby)Walden, George
Powley, JohnWalker, Bill (T'side N)
Prentice, Rt Hon RegWaller, Gary
Price, Sir DavidWard, John
Proctor, K. HarveyWardle, C. (Bexhill)
Pym, Rt Hon FrancisWatson, John
Raison, Rt Hon TimothyWatts, John
Rathbone, TimWells, Bowen (Hertford)
Renton, TimWells, John (Maidstone)
Rhodes James, RobertWhitfield, John
Rhys Williams, Sir BrandonWinterton, Mrs Ann
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasWinterton, Nicholas
Ridsdale, Sir JulianWolfson, Mark
Rippon, Rt Hon GeoffreyWood, Timothy
Robinson, Mark (N'port W)Woodcock, Michael
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rowe, AndrewTellers for the Noes:
Ryder, RichardMr. Ian Lang and Mr. David Hunt.
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) 9:30 pm, 6th June 1984

I beg to move amendment No. 21, in page 12, line 9, at end insert— '(aa) was granted on an application made by the National Coal Board; and'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 22.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

It might be appropriate to say now, to save time and avoid me having to say the same thing in respect of the majority of the rest of the Government amendments, that most of them are a response to firm commitments or offers which I made in Committee to consider matters. Some Government amendments are technical and have been tabled as a result of further legal or other expert consideration. These amendments have often been tabled following discussions which have taken place in pursuit of the changes that it has been necessary to make to the Bill as a result of the commitments that I gave in Committee.

Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 are exceptions to the majority of Government amendments and I must apologise to the House for having to introduce them. They are designed to correct a technical flaw in a Government amendment which was accepted in Committee to deal with security of tenure provisons for tenants of land to be worked by the National Coal Board for opencast coal.

Unfortunately, the earlier amendment related to provisions for the granting of planning permission specifically to the NCB. We now understand that as a general rule planning permission applies for the benefit of the land and any person interested in it. The amendments rectify the flaw by relating the provisions to the granting of planning permission following an application by the NCB for the working of coal by opencast operations. The amendments will achieve our original intention and I commend them to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 22, in page 12, line 10, leave out `by the National Coal Board'.—[Mr. MacGregor.]