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Reference to Arbitration of Refusal or Failure to Give Consent or of Condition Attached to Consent.

Part of Orders of the Day — Agricultural Tenancies Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 19th April 1995.

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Photo of Martyn Jones Martyn Jones , Clwyd South West 5:30 pm, 19th April 1995

We obviously welcome amendments Nos. 3 to 11, because, in effect, they are equivalent to our new clause 3, which was not moved. We know that they are welcome to the industry. Opposition Members have been asking for tenant right since the first stages of the Bill in the Lords and we have done so again on Report in this House, with our new clause 3.

In the other place, Lord Howe, speaking about tenant rights, said that he thought that that was an issue that should be covered by the RICS guidelines, not the Bill; so Lord Howe was asking farmers to sign up to guidelines that had not even been written.

We understand that industry has been pushing the Government hard for those changes, while we have always been committed to tenant right. We are glad that, for once, the hard line dogma of deregulation at all costs, which appeared to be the major motivation of the Bill, has been ignored in favour of industry-driven good management.

We are sorry that it has taken the Government so much longer than us to come round to that way of thinking. We also hope that their loose wording of "routine improvements" will not lead to hardship to tenant farmers as landowners fight over the issues of the wording.

In addition, we can foresee that vague wording being used by less honest landlords as a way to bring pressure to bear on tenants seeking another tenancy from them, the landlord forcing the tenant, quite legally, to reduce his' demands for compensation. We believe that the use of the phrase "tenant right" as used in our new clause would have been a defence against that. We hope, however, that the amendment will provide the protection demanded and required by the industry.

We should also like an assurance from the Minister that "routine improvements" includes crops in fields at the termination of the tenancy and emergency repairs without permission of the landlord.

In cases not covered by tenant right, we have worries about the delays in compensation. I know that that is not directly covered by the amendments, but there could be a two-month delay following written application to the landlord. Time could be lost while the arbitrator was appointed and a hearing date awaited before the tenant could do any major project not covered by the words "routine improvements".

I shall be grateful for any comments that the Minister wishes to make on those matters of concern.