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As a matter of principle, the Government should take responsibility for their actions. Nearly two years ago, the Minister came in at a very late stage of the passage of the Bill to abolish the milk marketing boards. Some of the claims by Opposition Members then have the ring of truth now.
I hope that the new clause will be accepted. The Government claim that they want to put new land on the market and to create new entrants; they must now show that they mean it. I have always been sceptical about their claims: I believe that, although new land will come on to the market, most of it will go to established farmers and landowners, and there will be few new entrants. I also fear that there will be very short tenancies, rather than the 10, 15 or 25–year tenancies that would encourage capital investment. That will not be good for the industry. I hope that the survey required by the new clause will also examine rents, which I fear will become very high.
In Committee, we pressed the Minister about the sale of British Coal land. I acknowledge that the Minister was helpful throughout our discussions, but I remind him that, some weeks after the end of the Committee stage, problems remain.
I know that allotments are close to the Minister's heart; I hope that the first annual report will state clearly what has happened to British Coal allotment holders. I am not confident that the promises by Ministers in other Departments have the ring of authenticity. Nothing has happened yet, but I hope to read in the first report that allotment holders maintain their plots.
I also hope that the survey will reveal what has happened to larger pieces of land. Issues involving Crichel Down remain to be resolved—for instance, the question of tenants taking contaminated British Coal land and being indemnified. Large parts of the country are being blighted where the rural aspect coincides with the industrial; the sooner we get rid of that blight the better.m
I hope that the new clause will be accepted, and that the first annual report shows that the decent thing has been done for British Coal tenancy holders.