Consequential Amendments

Part of Orders of the Day — Agricultural Tenancies Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 19th April 1995.

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Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier , Harborough 6:30 pm, 19th April 1995

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is bragging or complaining. Perhaps we will draw a veil over his personal problems.

The Bill is widely welcomed throughout the industry, and it is a matter of some sadness that the most notable thing that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) found able to say during the course of his short remarks was—I hope that I quote him correctly—we stand four square in opposition to the Bill, because we are concerned for security of tenure. I paraphrased that. It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman has, with his colleagues, come forward with that attitude.

We had an interesting discussion of the detail of the Bill in Committee. Many amendments were tabled and withdrawn by the hon. Member for Clwyd, South-West (Mr. Jones). It was a sensible Committee, if I may say so, and we have come up with a good Bill. It generated an almost total lack of controversy—I make no criticism of the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), who represents the Liberal Democrats and who was unable to be in Committee for the most part—because it came to the House and to another place with the support of the whole industry. I shall not go through the acronyms of all the bodies that are represented in the TRIG. None the less, the Bill is welcome, and I am here today to welcome it on behalf of my landowning and tenant farmers in Harborough.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton-Brown) has already mentioned the other wing or leg of the argument that will help to increase the amount of acres let in England and Wales—the alteration to the capital tax provisions. It is worth mentioning that it is not every Cabinet Minister who can persuade the Treasury to yield to his blandishments. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is to be congratulated on the subtle and effective way in which he has managed to persuade the Treasury to accede to his requests. It was a worthwhile aim, and I am delighted that he was so successful.

I have heard from a number of landowners that, because of the Bill, they will definitely let land as from 1 September. I regret that they may change their minds or feel rather less comfortable in having made those promises having heard the attitude of the official Opposition. It is regrettable that the Opposition are not coming at the Bill in the spirit in which it has been presented to Parliament and in the spirit in which it has been welcomed by all other interested parties.

In my view, the Bill restores balance. It is fair to say that, in the early 19th century, the balance in the relationship between the landlord and tenant was almost entirely in favour of the landlord. That situation pertained throughout the 19th century. Throughout this century, particularly since the second world war, the balance has gone too far in favour of the tenant, to the detriment of farming and of landowners. I believe that the Bill at last redresses the balance, so that both sides can now look at each other with equality. It is a pity that the Opposition do not recognise that.

It is perhaps ironic that the Opposition, who are so against the hereditary principle when they discuss the other place, should be so in favour of the hereditary tenancy legislation of 1976. I wish that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang), who has made it clear that he will not act retrospectively, in the unlikely event of the Labour party coming to power in some future time, on tenancies under the Bill, had been clearer. He inaccurately described them as Tory tenancies. I think that industry tenancies is more accurate, or TRIG tenancies would be the better short form. It is a pity that Opposition Members seem to be putting in doubt the confidence of farmers and landowners who so avidly want to see the Bill work, and who want to see additional land let to new and young entrants to farming.