Statutory Succession by Person Nominated by Retiring Tenant

Orders of the Day — Agricultural Holdings Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 10:30 pm on 6th June 1984.

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Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Ceredigion and Pembroke North 10:30 pm, 6th June 1984

I beg to move amendment No. 30, in page 21, line 5, leave out 'a single eligible person' and insert 'one or more eligible persons.'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 32, in page 21, line 11, at end insert '; or(c) a notice is given to the landlord by one or more eligible persons named in the notice indicating (in whatever terms) that one of the conditions contained in (i) or (ii) below applies and that he or they wish to succeed the tenant or tenants of the holding to the tenancy of that holding as from a date specified in the notice, being a date on which the tenancy of the holding could have been determined by notice to quit given at the date of the notice and which falls not less than sixteen months after the date of the notice.

  1. (i) the tenant (or in the case of a joint tenancy) all of the tenants have become unfit to farm the holding by reason of ill-health or infirmity; or
  2. (ii) the tenant or all of the tenants consent to the application by the eligible applicant.'.

No. 39, in page 22, line 12, at end insert 'successor's notice" means the notice mentioned in subparagraph (1)(c) above, "eligible appplicant" means the eligible person mentioned in subparagraph (1)(c) above and named in the successor's notice.'.

No. 41, in page 22, line 33, after 'successor', insert 'or eligible applicant'.

No. 42, in page 22, line 35, after 'successor', insert 'or eligible applicant'.

No. 43, in page 22, line 43, after 'successor', insert 'or eligible applicant'.

No. 46, in page 23, line 8, after 'notice', insert 'or successor's notice '.

No. 47, in page 23, line 18, after 'notice', insert 'or successor's notice'.

No. 48, in page 23, line 22, after 'notice', insert 'or successor's notice'.

No. 58, in page 24, line 41, after 'successor', insert 'or eligible applicant'.

No. 59, in page 24, line 45, after 'notice', insert 'or successor's notice'.

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Ceredigion and Pembroke North

Schedule 2 introduces the possibility of a nomination by a tenant or a successor to take over the holding when the tenant retires. It applies only to tenancies already in existence. The tenant or tenants may give notice to the landlord nominating their successor. The alliance supports that amendment to the present situation. It feels that if that opportunity is available to the tenant, he need not hold on to the tenancy to death so as to pass it on to the eligible person, who is defined in paragraph 2 as a close relative in whose case the following conditions are satisfied". In Committee I tried to secure some assistance for the daughters of tenants who might be at a disadvantage in remaining on the farm to help in the home and who failed to qualify as an eligible person. The concession has been given to the wife of the retiring tenant by paragraph 2, but my amendment was rejected. We feel, however, that a further amendment to allow the tenant to nominate one or more eligible persons is the way forward. The alliance is anxious to encourage joint tenancies and partnerships for family farms so that wives or husbands have an interest in the business also. The amendment recognises that more advanced approach.

10.45 pm

I shall now discuss amendment No. 32. Given that we accept the possibility that a tenant may wish to retire and pass on the tenancy to a successor before he dies, we feel that a means should be provided also for when he becomes unfit to farm and possibly too ill to notify that fact to the landlord and make the proper nominations to the landlord. In that case, we feel that the close relatives who are eligible should be able to make the application for the tenancy, rather than see the farm deteriorate and go downhill before they take over.

The "eligible applicant", which is the term we have given to the peron to distinguish him from an ordinary successor, must prove that one of two conditions exist: first, that the tenant is unfit to farm because of mental or physical infirmity or, secondly, that the tenant consents. The close relative cannot just take over at will and without any real basis for doing so. We believe that this measure provides for a realistic approach to succession tenancies and might help to remove some of the anomalies. This is a more humane approach than compulsory retirement, which provision we tried to remove in Committee.

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

I understand the problems that the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) is trying to solve with these amendments. I know of his concern about this matter, because we have discussed it before, but there are certain difficulties about the amendments.

I shall deal first with amendment No. 30. I certainly understand that, on a large holding, there could be two potential successors who have, over a long period of years, derived their principal source of livelihood from the holding. The basic arrangements. however, for succession contained in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 provide for only one eligible person to claim succession. There is a good reason for that. For example, two eligible persons could be the son and the grandson of an elderly tenant. To allow them to succeed jointly to the tenancy would add an extra generation to the statutory succession chain. In view of that, and the fact that we take a view about the number of generations that can succeed, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to learn that I find his amendment unacceptable.

Not only is the amendment, for understandable reasons, out of step with the existing arrangements for statutory succession on death; it is also wrong in principle. I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to paragraph 2(7) of schedule 1 which facilitates inter vivos succession to joint tenants by agreement with the landlord. I believe that that is as far as we can go in that matter.

I listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman's further explanation of amendment No. 32 and the other amendments. Although I realise that there could be difficulties connected with failing health, I conclude on the whole that those difficulties should not be settled by legislation. The provisions proposed by the hon. Gentleman could give rise to conflicts in farming families that are probably worse than the difficulties that he wishes to solve—for example, difficulties about ousting a sick or infirm father against the father's wishes. Those difficulties must be left to be settled within the family, without recourse to legislative pressure.

The hon. Gentleman will know, following the debate in Committee, during which I undertook to look at certain aspects of the failing health problem, that we propose to provide in a forthcoming amendment to the Bill for inter vivos succession on grounds of ill-health before the age of 65, subject to the tenant's consent. That measure goes some way towards meeting the hon. Gentleman's concern and is as far as I am prepared to go in this sensitive area.

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Ceredigion and Pembroke North

Once again, the Minister has failed to convince me, although he has tried very hard during the day. We were told earlier that he was a very intelligent person, but he has not acceded to even one of our requests so far today. We shall thus have no alternative but to press amendment No. 32 to a Division at the appropriate time.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn

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

I beg to move amendment No. 31, in page 21, line 10 leave out 'sixteen months' and insert `one year, but not more than two years,'. The purpose of the amendment is to extend the period for giving notice of retirement from not less than sixteen months", as the Bill now provides, to one year, but not more than two years before the date specified in the retirement notice. I am grateful to note that the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Hughes) approves of the change. It follows representations from the NFU when the Bill was in Committee that 16 months was insufficient, but discussions were not quite complete at that stage. It is in line with the time scale for notices to quit, I believe that it makes sense and I commend it to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed: No. 32, in page 21, line 11 at end insert ; or(c) a notice is give to the landlord by one or more eligible persons named in the notice indicating (in whatever terms) that one of the conditions contained in (i) or (ii) below applies and that he or they wish to succeed the tenant or tenants of the holding to the tenancy of that holding as from a date specified in the notice, being a date on which the tenancy of the holding could have been determined by notice to quit given at the date of the notice and which falls not less than sixteen months after the date of the notice.

  1. (i) the tenant (or in the case of a joint tenancy) all of the tenants have become unfit to farm the holding by reason of ill-health or infirmity; or
  2. (ii) the tenant or all of the tenants consent to the application by the eligible applicant.'.—[Mr. Geraint Howells.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 89, Noes 168.

Division No. 354][10.52 pm
AYES
Anderson, DonaldCallaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterCampbell-Savours, Dale
Beckett, Mrs MargaretClark, Dr David (S Shields)
Bermingham, GeraldClay, Robert
Blair, AnthonyCocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Conlan, Bernard
Caborn, RichardCook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Corbett, RobinMcWilliam, John
Cowans, HarryMadden, Max
Craigen, J. M.Marek, Dr John
Crowther, StanMaxton, John
Cunliffe, LawrenceMaynard, Miss Joan
Dalyell, TarnMichie, William
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Dixon, DonaldParry, Robert
Dormand, JackPenhaligon, David
Eadie, AlexPike, Peter
Eastham, KenPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Ewing, HarryPrescott, John
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)Richardson, Ms Jo
Fisher, MarkRobertson, George
Forrester, JohnRobinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Foster, DerekRoss, Ernest (Dundee W)
Freud, ClementRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Harman, Ms HarrietSheerman, Barry
Haynes, FrankSkinner, Dennis
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Home Robertson, JohnSnape, Peter
Howells, GeraintSpearing, Nigel
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)Stott, Roger
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Strang, Gavin
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Kirkwood, ArchibaldTinn, James
Lambie, DavidTorney, Tom
Leighton, RonaldWallace, James
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Wareing, Robert
Lewis, Terence (Worsley)Weetch, Ken
Litherland, RobertWelsh, Michael
Loyden, EdwardWinnick, David
McDonald, Dr Oonagh
McKay, Allen (Penistone)Tellers for the Ayes:
McKelvey, WilliamMr. A. J. Beith and Mr. Michael Meadowcroft.
Maclennan, Robert
McTaggart, Robert
NOES
Aitken, JonathanDicks, Terry
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelDouglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Ancram, MichaelDover, Den
Arnold, TomDunn, Robert
Ashby, DavidDurant, Tony
Aspinwall, JackEmery, Sir Peter
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Evennett, David
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Eyre, Sir Reginald
Baldry, AnthonyFallon, Michael
Batiste, SpencerFarr, John
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyFavell, Anthony
Bellingham, HenryFenner, Mrs Peggy
Benyon, WilliamForman, Nigel
Berry, Sir AnthonyGale, Roger
Bevan, David GilroyGalley, Roy
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnGlyn, Dr Alan
Bottomley, PeterGoodhart, Sir Philip
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaGorst, John
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)Greenway, Harry
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Hargreaves, Kenneth
Braine, Sir BernardHarris, David
Brinton, TimHawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Brooke, Hon PeterHeddle, John
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)Henderson, Barry
Bruinvels, PeterHoward, Michael
Budgen, NickHowarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Bulmer, EsmondHunt, David (Wirral)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hunter, Andrew
Carttiss, MichaelJackson, Robert
Cash, WilliamJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Chope, ChristopherKey, Robert
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Knox, David
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Latham, Michael
Conway, DerekLawrence, Ivan
Coombs, SimonLester, Jim
Cope, JohnLightbown, David
Couchman, JamesLilley, Peter
Currie, Mrs EdwinaLloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Lyell, NicholasShelton, William (Streatham)
McCurley, Mrs AnnaShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Macfarlane, NeilSims, Roger
MacGregor, JohnSkeet, T. H. H.
Maclean, David JohnSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
McQuarrie, AlbertSoames, Hon Nicholas
Major, JohnSpencer, Derek
Malins, HumfreySpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Malone, GeraldStanbrook, Ivor
Maude, Hon FrancisStern, Michael
Mawhinney, Dr BrianStevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Mayhew, Sir PatrickStevens, Martin (Fulham)
Mellor, DavidStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Meyer, Sir AnthonyStewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Mills, lain (Meriden)Stradling Thomas, J.
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)Sumberg, David
Mitchell, David (NW Hants)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Moynihan, Hon C.Temple-Morris, Peter
Murphy, ChristopherTerlezki, Stefan
Neale, GerrardThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Needham, RichardThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Nelson, AnthonyThompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Neubert, MichaelThornton, Malcolm
Nicholls, PatrickThurnham, Peter
Norris, StevenTracey, Richard
Oppenheim, PhilipTwinn, Dr Ian
Page, Richard (Herts SW)van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Parris, MatthewViggers, Peter
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethWaddington, David
Percival, Rt Hon Sir IanWakeham, Rt Hon John
Porter, BarryWalden, George
Powell, William (Corby)Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Powley, JohnWaller, Gary
Prentice, Rt Hon RegWardle, C. (Bexhill)
Proctor, K. HarveyWatson, John
Raison, Rt Hon TimothyWatts, John
Rathbone, TimWells, Bowen (Hertford)
Renton, TimWells, John (Maidstone)
Rhys Williams, Sir BrandonWhitfield, John
Ridsdale, Sir JulianWinterton, Mrs Ann
Rifkind, MalcolmWinterton, Nicholas
Robinson, Mark (N'port W)Wolfson, Mark
Roe, Mrs MarionWood, Timothy
Rowe, AndrewWoodcock, Michael
Ryder, Richard
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.Tellers for the Noes:
Sayeed, JonathanMr. Tristan Garel-Jones and Mr. Ian Lang.
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')

Question accordingly negatived.

11 pm

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

I beg to move amendment No. 33, in page 21, line 12, leave out from beginning to `shall' in line 13 and insert 'the principal paragraphs of this Schedule'.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

With this we shall discuss Government amendments Nos. 34, 36, 37, 45, 49, 50, 53, 55 to 57 and 66.

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

I am pleased to bring before the House this rather large batch of amendments that improve the procedures in schedule 2 for facilitating statutory succession on the voluntary retirement of the sitting tenant. Most of these amendments are in fulfilment of the undertaking I gave in Standing Committee on 10 April in relation to the suspension of notices to quit when notice of retirement is served. There are also some drafting amendments to clarify the text and to remedy some minor defects. I shall try to explain their purpose as quickly as possible, but there are many of them.

The first amendment concerns the case where there has been service of a valid notice to quit under case B, D or E—that is, when land is needed for development or there has been a breach of the tenancy agreement—before the giving of the retirement notice. If the notice is not one in respect of which the retirement provisions of schedule 2 are entirely excluded under paragraph 2(1)(c) of the schedule because arbitrations and tribunal procedures relating to the notice have already been exhausted, the retirement notice is held in suspense until action on the notice to quit has been settled one way or the other. If the notice to quit is upheld, the retirement notice is of no effect. That is set out in the new paragraph 2(3) and (4) of schedule 2.

If a valid notice to quit is served on or after a retirement notice is given but before the tribunal has started the hearing of the application by the nominated successor, the amendments provide that if the notice to quit is given under case F—that is, the tenant's backruptcy—or case C when a bad husbandry certificate has already been given, the retirement notice is of no effect. They also provide that if the notice to quit is given under case B or D, the retirement notice is held in suspense until action on the notice to quit has been settled one way or the other. If the notice to quit is upheld, the retirement notice is of no effect. This is set out in the new paragraph 2A.

In all other situations not already covered by the text of schedule 2, a notice to quit may not impede an application for a tenancy under paragraph 4 of the schedule.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 34, in page 21, line 14, at end insert `and subject also to paragraph 2A below.'.

No. 35, in page 21, line 39, leave out from `land' to end of line 40.

No. 36, in page 21, line 49, at end insert— '"the principal paragraphs of this Schedule" means paragraphs 3 to 9 below (except paragraphs 4(9) and 5(6), which are of general application);'.

No. 37, in page 22, line 1, after `means', insert '(subject to paragraphs 2(4) and 2A(3) below)'.

No. 38, in page 22, line 3, at end insert— '"the retirement date" means the date specified in the retirement notice as the date as from which the proposed succession is to take place;'.

No. 40, in page 22, line 25, leave out `and' and insert— '(aa) Schedule 3A to that Act (which provides for the disregarding of certain kinds of occupation as well as specifying circumstances in which a person is deemed to be in occupation of land) shall apply in relation the nominated successor as it applies in relation to a survivor of a deceased tenant, but subject to the following modifications, namely—

  1. (i) references to the occupancy condition shall be read as references to the said paragraph (b),
  2. (ii) the reference in paragraph 4(2) to section 20 of that Act shall be read as a reference to paragraph 4 below, and
  3. (iii) paragraphs 3 and 6 shall be omitted; and'.

No. 44, in page 22, line 45, after '(4)', insert `(aa) or'.

No. 45, in page 23, line 7, leave out `following' and insert `principal'.

No. 49, in page 23, line 45, after `holding', insert 'or a related holding'.

No. 50, in page 23, line 46, after `holding', insert `or a related holding'. —[Mr. MacGregor.]

Mr. Jackson:

I beg to move amendment No. 41, in page 23, leave out lines 49 to 51.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

It will be convenient to discuss at the same time the following Government amendments: Nos. 52, 54 and 60.

Mr. Jackson:

In Committee we had a useful discussion of the point raised by the amendment, so I can be brief. I seek to remove the age restriction on the right of a tenant to pass on his tenancy. When I tabled an amendment in these terms in Committee, the Minister was kind enough to say that he would table a Government amendment on Report to lift the restriction in cases of ill health or other incapacity.

But, perhaps ungratefully, I wish to press my hon. Friend further. I do so for two reasons. The first is concerned with what we have been told is the main objective of the Bill — increasing the number of tenancies and promoting mobility, so making way for new blood to come into the industry. My amendment would help in those respects. The second reason is more fundamental. The restriction that we are discussing is a major restriction on the freedom of the tenant and his would-be successor, and we should put an end to it.

What considerations have been put forward to justify this restriction on their freedom? In Committee, my hon. Friend advanced two reasons, the first being that this is a package and that because the CLA has struck an agreement with the NFU, this serious restriction on the freedom of some individuals should be maintained. That cannot be regarded as a substantial argument.

The second reason is even more paternalistic. In Committee, my hon. Friend argued that there was a fear that if the restrictions were removed in the case of some tenants, there would be increasing inter-family pressures on the tenant to retire early in favour of an eligible successor. However, my hon. Friend gave his case away when he went on to say that while he could not gauge the strength of that feeling, it was not the business of Parliament to solve disputes within the family. I thoroughly agree with that sentiment, which is why I ask the Minister to accept the amendment and, with it, to make a small but useful expansion in the area of elementary human freedom.

Photo of Mr Andrew Hunter Mr Andrew Hunter , Basingstoke

I shall speak to amendment No. 51, in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson). My hon. Friend explained clause 4 and schedule 2, which would enable an existing tenant to apply to the Agricultural Land Tribunal for a direction for a tenancy to be passed on to a nominated successor. That can happen in the event of a refusal by the landlord of an application to transfer the tenancy.

I entirely accept and applaud the intention and objective of clause 4. It will create many tenancy changes and that will be generally welcomed. It is reasonable to argue that a significant number of tenancy changes would not otherwise occur until the tenant's death. However, I must tell the Minister — in a friendly way — that I cannot understand or accept the limiting of its application to tenants of 65 years of age or over. I support my hon. Friend in urging that the age limitation should be removed. I believe that tenancy transfers should meet with Agricultural Land Tribunal approval, regardless of the age of the tenant. There are many personal and health reasons other than age alone that can prevent the continuation of effective farming.

Mr. Mark Hughes:

It is clear, in relation to amendment No. 54 — we pressed this matter in Committee—that transfer because of mental or bodily ill-health should be made easier. Serious practical difficulties arise from the amendment. The Agricultural Land Tribunal would need to be satisfied that, first, the tenant is infirm in body or mind and that such infirmity is likely to be permanent; and, secondly that as a result the tenant is incapable of conducting the farming business in perpetuity.

Nobody on the Agricultural Land Tribunal is in a position to make such medical judgments. We support and welcome the Minister's intention to make available the ill-health ground, but we are not satisfied that amendment No. 54 achieves that objective. I should be most grateful if the Minister could satisfy us on that matter.

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

Hon. Members are now endeavouring to be brief, so I shall try to do the same. As those Members who were on the Committee know, I undertook to consult outside interests to see whether it was possible to make a provision in the Bill for succession on grounds of ill-health before the age of 65. I was struck by the case before the Committee sat, but I wanted to hear the Committee debates before taking action. I was impressed by the arguments that I heard there and I entered into consultations. As a result, I am pleased to bring forward amendments Nos. 52, 54 and 60.

The amendments will enable a tenant to retire before the age of 65, in favour of a nominated successor, if he is suffering from ill-health to an extent which permanently prevents him in his personal capacity from fulfilling his responsibilities to farm in accordance with the rules of good husbandry. In the case of joint tenancies, all tenants must meet that condition of ill-health.

The tribunal must satisfy itself that the grounds of ill-health are established. That is a question of medical judgment in many cases. The problem of medical judgment is always implicit, and probably explicit, in any endeavour to introduce this sort of change in the law. It will be up to the tribunal to decide how it wishes to proceed. I can cite other cases of semi-traditional or traditional processes in which decision-takers do not have medical skills but call upon those who have them for their advice. Perhaps that is the way in which the tribunal would decide to proceed.

We felt that it was unnecessary to write that approach into the Bill, but that we should leave it to a tribunal to satisfy itself that the grounds of ill-health are established and to decide how it would satisfy itself. I freely confess that that may not be perfect, but the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Hughes) will agree that it is not possible to find a perfect solution to the problem. If, for any reason, the tribunal dismisses an application by the nominated successor under the arrangements, there may be no second bite by the nominated successor. An application by any other would-be successor may be made only on the death of the tenant.

11.15 pm

I refer next to the amendment proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson). I hope he will agree that I have at least gone some way towards meeting the problems which he and others raised, and of which I was aware, by enabling the tenant to have the opportunity to retire on ill-health grounds before the age of 65. My hon. Friend was seductive in the way he moved his amendment and in his appeal to the principles of freedom, but at this late stage of the Bill I am reluctant to make this final change. As I emphasised in Committee, the transfer that he seeks can take place at any age where the landlord agrees. Therefore, we are talking only about cases where the landlord does not agree.

The age of 65 has been agreed by the industry, is in line with the Northfield report recommendations and is a well-recognised retirement age for many groups of people. In the absence of general agreement about going anywhere below the age of 65 within the industry as a whole, and in view of the desirability of ensuring that the Bill, in its final stages, gets through the House with the general agreement of the industry, I feel reluctant to go as far as my hon. Friend wishes, but I hope he will support my amendments and feel that they help quite a bit.

Amendment negatived.

Amendments made: No. 52, in page 23, line 49 leave out from '(e)' to end of line 50 and insert 'subject to sub-paragraph (1B) below, if at the retirement date'.]

No. 53, in page 24, line 10 at end insert— '(1A) In sub-paragraph (1)(d) above "related holding" means, in relation to the holding, any agricultural holding comprising the whole or a substantial part of the land comprised in the holding.'.

No. 54, in page 24, line 10 at end insert— '(1B) The principal paragraphs of this Schedule are not excluded by sub-paragraph (1)(e) above if the retirement notice is given on the grounds that—

  1. (a) the retiring tenant or (where the notice is given by joint tenants) each of the retiring tenants is or will at the retirement date be incapable, by reason of bodily or mental infirmity, of conducting the farming of the holding in such a way as to secure the fulfilment of the responsibilities of the tenant to farm in accordance with the rules of good husbandry; and
  2. (b) any such incapacity is likely to be permanent; and that fact is stated in the notice.'.

No. 55, in page 24, line 11, leave out 'following' and insert 'principal'.

No. 56, in page 24, line 20, at end insert— '(3) If on the date of the giving of the retirement notice the tenancy is the subject of a valid notice to quit given before that date and including a statement that it is given for any such reason as is referred to in Case B, D or E in section 2(3) of the 1977 Act (not being a notice to quit falling within sub-paragraph (1)(c) above), the principal paragraphs of this Schedule shall not apply unless one of the events referred to in sub-paragraph (4) below occurs.

(4) Those events are as follows— (a) it is determined by arbitration under the 1948 Act that the notice to quit is ineffective for the purposes of section 2(3) on account of the invalidity of any such reason as aforesaid; or(b) where a counter-notice is duly served under section 4(2) or (3) of the 1977 Act—

  1. (i) the Tribunal withhold consent to the operation of the notice to quit, or
  2. (ii) the period for making an application to the Tribunal for such consent expires without such an application having been made;
and where one of those events occurs the relevant period shall for the purposes of this Schedule be the period of one month beginning with the date on which the arbitrator's award is delivered to the tenant, with the date of the Tribunal's decision to withhold consent, or with the expiry of the said period for making an application (as the case may be).

Notices to quit restricting operation of Schedule

2A. —(1) If the tenancy becomes the subject of a valid notice to quit given on or after the date of the giving of the retirement notice (but before the Tribunal have begun to hear any application by the nominated successor under paragraph 4 below in respect of the retirement notice) and the notice to quit—

  1. (a) falls within Case C in section 2(3) of the 1977 Act and is founded on a certificate granted under section 2(4) of that Act in accordance with an application made before that date; or
  2. (b) falls within Case F in section 2(3);
the retirement notice shall be of no effect and no proceedings, or (as the case may be) no further proceedings, shall be taken under this Schedule in respect of it.

(2) If the tenancy becomes the subject of a valid notice to quit given on or after the date of the giving of the retirement notice (but before the Tribunal have begun to hear any application by the nominated successor under paragraph 4 below in respect of the retirement notice) and the notice to quit—

  1. (a) includes a statement that is given for any such reason as is referred to in Case B in section 2(3) of the 1977 Act; or
  2. (b) includes a statement that it is given for any such reason as is referred to in Case D in section 2(3) and is founded on a notice given for the purposes of that Case before that date;
the retirement notice shall be of no effect and no proceedings, or (as the case may be) no further proceedings, shall be taken under this Schedule in respect of it unless one of the events referred to in sub-paragraph (3) below occurs.

(3) Those events are as follows—

  1. (a) it is determined by arbitration under the 1948 Act that the notice to quit is ineffective for the purposes of section 2(3) on account of the invalidity of any such reason as aforesaid; or
  2. (b) where a counter-notice is duly served under section 4(2) or (3) of the 1977 Act—
    1. (i) the Tribunal withhold consent to the operation of the notice to quit; or
    2. (ii) the period for making an application to the Tribunal for such consent expires without such an application having been made;
and where one of those events occurs, and the notice to quit was given before the time when the relevant period would expire apart from this sub-paragraph, that period shall for the purposes of this Schedule expire at the end of the period of one month beginning with the date on which the arbitrator's award is delivered to the tenant, with the date of the Tribunal's decision to withhold consent, or with the expiry of the said period for making an application (as the case may be).

(4) For the purposes of this Schedule an application by the nominated successor under paragraph 4 below which is invalidated by sub-paragraph (1) or (2) above shall be treated as if it had never been made'.

No. 57, in page 24, leave out lines 23 to 28 and insert 'any notice to quit the holding or part of the holding given to the tenant thereof (whether before or on or after the date of the giving of the retirement notice), not being a notice to quit falling within any provision of paragraph 2 or 2A above.'.

No. 60, in page 25, line 3, at end insert— '(2A) If the retirement notice includes a statement in accordance with paragraph 2(1B) above that is given on the grounds mentioned in that provision, then, before the nominated successor's application is further proceeded with under this paragraph, the Tribunal must be satisfied—

  1. (a) that the retiring tenant or (as the case may be) each of the retiring tenants either is or will at the the retirement date be incapable, by reason of bodily or mental infirmity, of conducting the farming of the holding in such a way as to secure the fulfilment of the responsibilities of the tenant to farm in accordance with the rules of good husbandry; and
  2. (b) that any such incapacity is likely to be permanent.'.—[Mr. MacGregor.]

Mr. Jackson:

I beg to move amendment No. 61, in page 25, line 30, at end insert— 'If the Tribunal dispose of the nominated successor's application otherwise than by the giving of a direction under sub-paragraph (5) above, the nominated successor may not on the death of the tenant, make an application for a direction entitling him to the tenancy unless a period of five years has elapsed from the date on which an application under paragraph 4(1) and (2) above was made.'

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 68, in page 27, line 41, leave out sub-paragraph (4).

Mr. Jackson:

It has been my good fortune—at least I think it is so—to have these late amendments selected, and I shall be brief, as I know how late it is.

The purpose of the two amendments is to put right what I consider to be a serious potential injustice to a few individuals. Under the arrangements proposed in the Bill, a tenant can apply only once to the Agricultural Land Tribunal to transfer his tenancy to a successor, and if he fails, he can never do it again.

We must ask ourselves what that could mean to the individuals concerned. We are considering a moment that is a turning point in their lives, perhaps one of the most important moments in the career of a would-be successor. He has to show that he is both eligible and suitable to succeed to the tenancy, for which he might have been preparing himself all his adult working life. However, under the Government's proposals in the Bill, he has only one chance to demonstrate that eligibility and suitability, and if he fails, he does not have another chance. It is a throw of the dice; all or nothing—in a phrase, "sudden death". It is as if, in the House, we were allowed only one chance to be elected to Parliament, and having failed, we could never stand again. [HON. MEMBERS: "A good idea. "] It may a good idea for some, but we all agree that it could be less satisfactory for ourselves.

I do not believe that the Government proposal can be justified in the light of natural justice. The criteria of suitability are set out in the 1976 Act — training, practical experience, age, physical health, and adequate financial standing. On all those criteria a man may fail, but he can draw lessons from his failure, and if he is given the chance, he can demonstrate that he has learnt the lessons. But it is precisely that chance that the Government, in their legislation, fail to provide, and which I am seeking to make possible by my amendment. I know that it is a bore and a cost for the landlords, but I hope that the House will look with favour on an amendment moved in the interests of simple natural justice.

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

I gave much thought to the amendment, because I saw the point of the argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson). He will not find my answer satisfactory, but I hope that he will understand the spirit in which it is given.

I must resist the amendments, for the following reasons. The inter vivos succession provisions in schedule 2 were introduced as part of the mini-package agreement reached between the National Farmers Union and the Country Landowners Association. It was not part of that agreement that an unsuccessful applicant could apply again on the death of the tenant. The CLA contends—it has a point—that the landlord should not be put to the trouble and expense of having to oppose again an applicant whom he has already proven to be ineligible. Under the provisions in schedule 2 the tenant and nominated successor are free to choose the best time to serve a retirement notice in order to optimise the nominated successor's eligibility. If, having done so, the applicant is found to be ineligible, the passage of further time is unlikely to make him so. In those circumstances, there is a problem about putting the landlord to further trouble and expense.

As there is a compromise agreement on this, and for the reasons that I gave on the previous group of amendments, it is better to leave the Bill as it stands. I hope that my hon. Friend will accept those reasons.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 19, Noes 170.

Division No. 355][11.21 pm
AYES
Ashdown, PaddyParry, Robert
Beith, A. J.Penhaligon, David
Campbell-Savours, DaleSkinner, Dennis
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Cunliffe, LawrenceThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Ewing, HarryWallace, James
Freud, ClementWareing, Robert
Howells, Geraint
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Tellers for the Ayes:
Jackson, RobertMr. Archy Kirkwood and Mr. Robert Maclennan.
Loyden, Edward
Meadowcroft, Michael
NOES
Aitken, JonathanGarel-Jones, Tristan
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelGlyn, Dr Alan
Ancram, MichaelGoodlad, Alastair
Arnold, TomGorst, John
Ashby, DavidHargreaves, Kenneth
Aspinwall, JackHarris, David
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Hayes, J.
Baldry, AnthonyHeddle, John
Batiste, SpencerHenderson, Barry
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyHoward, Michael
Bellingham, HenryHowarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Benyon, WilliamHunter, Andrew
Berry, Sir AnthonyJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Bevan, David GilroyKnox, David
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnLang, Ian
Bottomley, PeterLatham, Michael
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaLawrence, Ivan
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)Lester, Jim
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Lightbown, David
Braine, Sir BernardLilley, Peter
Brinton, TimLloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Brooke, Hon PeterLyell, Nicholas
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)McCurley, Mrs Anna
Bruinvels, PeterMacfarlane, Neil
Buck, Sir AntonyMacGregor, John
Budgen, NickMaclean, David John
Bulmer, EsmondMcQuarrie, Albert
Carlisle, John (N Luton)Major, John
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Malins, Humfrey
Carttiss, MichaelMalone, Gerald
Cash, WilliamMaude, Hon Francis
Chope, ChristopherMawhinney, Dr Brian
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Mellor, David
Conway, DerekMeyer, Sir Anthony
Coombs, SimonMills, Iain (Meriden)
Cope, JohnMills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Couchman, JamesMitchell, David (NW Hants)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaMoynihan, Hon C.
Dicks, TerryMurphy, Christopher
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Neale, Gerrard
Dover, DenNeedham, Richard
Dunn, RobertNelson, Anthony
Durant, TonyNeubert, Michael
Emery, Sir PeterNicholls, Patrick
Evennett, DavidOppenheim, Philip
Eyre, Sir ReginaldPage, Richard (Herts SW)
Fallon, MichaelParris, Matthew
Farr, JohnPatten, John (Oxford)
Favell, AnthonyPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Fenner, Mrs PeggyPercival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Forman, NigelPorter, Barry
Gale, RogerPowell, William (Corby)
Galley, RoyPowley, John
Prentice, Rt Hon RegTemple-Morris, Peter
Proctor, K. HarveyTerlezki, Stefan
Rathbone, TimThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Renton, TimThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Rhys Williams, Sir BrandonThompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Ridsdale, Sir JulianThornton, Malcolm
Rifkind, MalcolmThurnham, Peter
Robinson, Mark (N'port W)Tracey, Richard
Roe, Mrs MarionTwinn, Dr Ian
Rowe, Andrewvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
Ryder, RichardViggers, Peter
Sayeed, JonathanWaddington, David
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Shelton, William (Streatham)Walden, George
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Sims, RogerWaller, Gary
Skeet, T. H. H.Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)Warren, Kenneth
Soames, Hon NicholasWatson, John
Spencer, DerekWatts, John
Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)Wells, John (Maidstone)
Stanbrook, IvorWhitfield, John
Steen, AnthonyWinterton, Mrs Ann
Stern, MichaelWinterton, Nicholas
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)Wolfson, Mark
Stevens, Martin (Fulham)Wood, Timothy
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)Woodcock, Michael
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Stradling Thomas, J.Tellers for the Noes:
Sumberg, DavidMr. David Hunt and Mr. Tim Sainsbury.
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendments made: No. 62, in page 26, line 44, leave out from second `the' to end of line 47 and insert `retirement date, except that—

  1. (a) where such a direction is given within the period of three months ending with the retirement date, the Tribunal may, on the application of the tenant, specify in the direction, as the relevant time for the purposes of this paragraph, such a time falling within the period of three months immediately following the retirement date as they think fit;
  2. (b) where such a direction is given at any time after the retirement date, the Tribunal shall specify in the direction, as the relevant time for those purposes, such a time falling within the period of three months immediately following the date of the giving of the direction as they think fit;
and any time so specified shall be the relevant time for those purposes accordingly.'.

No. 63, in page 27, line 16, leave out 'the end of' and insert— (a) the end of the'.

No. 64, in page 27, line 17, at end insert ; or(b) the end of three months immediately following the date of the giving of the direction;whichever last occurs.'.

No. 65, in page 27, line 24, leave out from 'after' to end of line 25 and insert 'giving the retirement notice.'.

No. 66, in page 27, line 29 after 'and', insert `no proceedings, or (as the case may be)'.

No. 67, in page 27, line 36, after `above,', insert 'but before the relevant time (within the meaning of that paragraph),'.

No. 69, in page 28, line 20, leave out from beginning to end of line 21 and insert the reference in the definition of "relevant land" to agricultural land which is occupied as mentioned in paragraph (a) of that definition included a reference to agricultural land which is deemed to be occupied by the nominated successor by virtue of this paragraph.'.—[Mr. MacGregor.]