My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, and others, I support Amendment 227, which, as a proposed new clause, advises a land use strategy for England, as the noble Baroness explained.
First, it is consistent with the purposes of the Bill, for if we carry out the Bill’s dual intention of improved food security and environment conservation, we will have followed a different land use strategy in any case.
Secondly, however, we do need targets—this is what the noble Baroness’s amendment implies—for these are what strategies must use if they are to be successful. Meeting them does not have to be mandatory, but setting them in the first place makes it far more likely that we will get nearer to where we hope to be in 30 years’ time than if we do not start out with such targets in the land use strategy for England.
My Amendment 228 relates directly to the new clause suggested by the noble Baroness. It
“would enable the Secretary of State to support landowners to make land available to new entrants and farming entrepreneurs.”
As we are well aware, the average age of a United Kingdom farmer is 60—that has been mentioned frequently in our debates—yet for new and aspiring farmers, land continues to be hard to come by. Nevertheless, although it is a long-standing problem, we are now even more challenged in two ways.
We are challenged first by the terms of the Bill, for its twin aims of improved food security and land conservation require of our farmers ever more energy, vision and initiative; and, secondly, by the economic circumstances affecting and surrounding the United Kingdom, including the impact of cheap imports from the United States and of highly subsidised agricultural produce from European Union states. These considerations make it all the more necessary to encourage new entrants to farming.
On measures to increase their opportunities, the Scottish Land Commission recently made some useful recommendations proposing business incentives for young farmers and income tax relief incentives for landowners to make more land available. Provided that they already own three hectares of land and produce a workable plan, new entrants aged between 16 and 41 would qualify for a business grant, some of which would be paid at the outset and the balance of which would be paid at the end of four years if by then they have generated a stipulated amount of business income. Corresponding to this, under the current farm business tenancy scheme, income tax relief incentives would also be offered to landowners provided that they have contracted with a new entrant for not less than 10 years.
Does my noble friend the Minister agree that new entrants to farming are essential to the success of the Government’s intentions; that measures along the lines of the Scottish Land Commission’s recommendation would achieve a significant uptake; yet, that apart, but in the first place, the resolve of the Secretary of State to provide such incentives to encourage new entrants to farming should now be incorporated within the Bill? I beg to move.