As a former farm manager who had some responsibility for farm workers' housing including tied cottages, I believe that there is a housing crisis in the countryside. Many tied cottages have become extremely valuable to the owners because there is no real alternative accommodation. Owners want agricultural workers to get out of their houses so that they can put them on to the housing market in rural areas.
When an agricultural worker takes a job, he will normally sign a contract of employment. Provision is often made in a contract for the worker to live in property that is owned by the farmer or landowner. I do not want agricultural workers to have less security of tenure than they enjoy now. In days gone by, many enlightened landlords ensured that the widows of farm workers who had perhaps worked on an estate or large farm for 30 or 40 years or more could remain in their cottages for the rest of their lives.
We are dealing with relatively low-paid workers and, because of the reduction in local authority housing stock as a result of the right-to-buy legislation, particularly in rural areas, there is often no alternative accommodation for farm workers who have lost the tenancies of tied cottages. Will the Secretary of State assure us that farm workers will be given the opportunity to remain within the tenancy until they can find an alternative tenancy in the locality?
In days gone by, when tenants of tied cottages changed their jobs, there was always local authority housing. Such opportunities no longer exist, yet it is important that such a tenant moves on because another farm worker may well need the house. The lack of alternative housing creates a serious situation for the agricultural worker and his family. I hope that the Secretary of State will say what security such tenants will have.