Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:13 pm on 11th February 2020.

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George Dunn:

Just to correct something that you might have said in your question, for the basic payment scheme, which is being phased out, in 99.9% of the cases that would be going to the tenant, the occupier, who has the land at their disposal.

Obviously, within some of the newer farm business tenancies under the 1995 Act—which I referred to earlier, following the Minister’s question—a landlord might expect to receive at least the basic payment scheme in rent, plus more, in terms of the tenant’s willingness to pay rent on that basis, so there is a secondary move of the payment to the landlord, but the claimant is the tenant, and that is what the regulations say.

The bigger area that we have concerns about is the agri-environment scheme, where there has been this idea that you could have dual use, where a landlord could claim countryside stewardship and environmental stewardship while the tenant is claiming the BPS. We think that is wholly inappropriate, and we will ask for amendments to the Bill to define the rightful recipient of some of this money. It should be the active farmer who is in occupation of the land.

Responding to what Judicaelle said about the need for tenants to have access, all of Judicaelle’s members will be entirely reasonable and will give consent to our members to go into these things, but we are looking for those beyond the CLA’s membership, who are not always as reasonable. Sadly, we do see landlords withholding reasonable consent very frequently. “Reasonable” is the key word here. We are looking for a set of regulations. The Bill provides that there should be regulations, and those regulations will set out what are the reasonable terms upon which a tenant should be able to apply and insist upon a consent, for either fixed equipment or for access to a scheme.

If we take the issue of trees, for example, trees are normally reserved out of tenancy agreements. It is the landlords who hold the trees, so if there are any carbon credits available under the Bill, they will not be accessible by the tenant because those trees are reserved to the landlord. Perhaps that is something that needs to be thought through, if trees are going to be a really important part of the Government’s policy going forward.