Consequential Amendments

Part of Orders of the Day — Agricultural Tenancies Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 5:42 pm on 19th April 1995.

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Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West 5:42 pm, 19th April 1995

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

At the last election, the Conservative party gave a clear manifesto commitment to introduce proposals to liberalise agricultural tenancy laws. If passed by the House today, the Bill will deliver that commitment.

We can truly say that the Bill has not been particularly divisive in party terms. We have had the broad support of the Liberal Democrats; we shall perhaps return to the attitude of the Labour party later. At least we have heard support from the Labour party today for amendments and improvements that have been proposed, some of which were suggested by the Opposition Front-Bench team and Opposition Members.

Above all, the Bill responds to an unparalleled breadth of consensus within the industry. No one who has held my office, even for as short a time as I have, would expect to find unanimity in agriculture. If two or three farmers gather together, there are likely to be at least three or four opinions after a little bit of debate.

The work done over a number of years to bring together a coalition of the principal interests has been remarkable. I do not think that even five years ago people would have predicted such agreement on such a far-reaching and forward-looking package of reform. It took much discussion and much hard work and patience for that consensus to be reached. For that, I pay tribute to my two predecessors in my ministerial office, who clearly set out their views on the direction of reform and who acted as midwives at the birth of the child who has come of age today.

I should particularly like to thank the various associations—perhaps, above all, the Tenant Farmers Association, as it would have been easiest for it to take a negative attitude. It did not, and it and its policy adviser, Jeremy Moody, played a key role in maintaining progress throughout. That organisation was ably supported by the National Farmers Union, the Country Landowners Association and the young farmers associations, and the dialogue has been good.