Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord welcomes the construction of the Channel Tunnel rail link. Much of the speed that he desires is in your Lordships' hands with the introduction of the Hybrid Bill on this subject in your Lordships' House in the coming Session.

Lord Shaw of Northstead: My Lords, does my noble friend recall our recent debate about the report of the Court of Auditors and the frauds mentioned therein?

12 Dec 1994 : Column 1112

Does he also recall the significant difference between what came out of that debate—namely, that the Council took absolutely no notice of what the Court of Auditors said—and what happened at the latest meeting of the Council? Is it not a fact that the change has come about through the efforts of the Prime Minister in insisting that the role of the Court of Auditors be improved? Further, is it not true that the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, is a little ungenerous in not seeing any improvement? He sought immediate perfection, which is never possible. This is a big improvement.

I raise one query. The Commission now fully backs the move to settle these frauds and deal with them. However, I notice that the Statement states that a number of Members of the Council also gave support. Are there other members who are not so forthcoming in their support, and are those members significantly related to where the inquiries are most needed?

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I agree with the first part of my noble friend's question. However, I would not dream of commenting on his second question.

Agricultural Tenancies Bill [H.L.]

4.33 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 1.

Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 2, line 6, at end insert:
("(iii) in any case where a residence forms part of the tenancy, containing a statement that at the end of the tenancy any residence occupied by the farm business tenant must be vacated, and setting out such arrangements, if any, as have been agreed between the parties with a view to ensuring that alternative accommodation will be available to the tenant and his family at the end of the tenancy.").

The noble Lord said: With so many leaving the Chamber it is depressing that your Lordships think that agriculture is so much less important than the European Union. I rise to move Amendment No. 10 and beg leave to speak at the same time to Amendment No. 11. I believe that on all sides of the House and industry the object of the Bill is to achieve something together. What we are trying to achieve is that landlords should be willing to let their land, thereby enlarging the size of the tenanted sector; in other words, we want to make the legislation work.

I suggest to your Lordships that the family home has been at the crux of the problems relating to agricultural tenancy legislation over the years. The family home is an emotional problem. It was suggested to me recently by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, that it would be on the day that the first family was evicted from its farming home under this Bill that the effectiveness of this legislation would break down. I suggest that it is in the interests of both landlord and tenant to try to minimise the trauma that will arise at the end of an agricultural business tenancy.

The noble Lord, Lord Carter, in his amendment relating to whether or not Clause 1 should stand part addresses this question. However, I respectfully suggest to him that he addresses it in a way that is not in the spirit of the Bill, or indeed in the spirit of what has been

12 Dec 1994 : Column 1113

agreed between the various sides of the industry. My amendment is much more modest. It simply seeks to ensure that the landlord and tenant, on the day they go into disagreement or shortly before, have sat down and thought about it. I have suggested that they should be required to give notice, or that there should be an acknowledgement and acceptance within the text of the tenancy agreement, that the effect of this Bill is that when the tenancy comes to an end the tenant will have to quit the main residence.

I believe that when the two parties sit down to consider this matter they will realise that it will be a bad moment for both of them unless they think constructively on what can be done about it. I hope that a good landlord will say to a tenant, just as a good employer says to an employee, "What about pension arrangements? Have we got something sorted out for the time when you will not have this source of income any more?"—or, in the case of a farm business tenancy, "this house".

If a landlord values his reputation he does not want to have a tenant who has made no provision for the future when he comes to the end of the tenancy. I suspect that intelligent landlords and tenants will sit down together. The landlord may say, "I want you to undertake to take out a pension plan, and perhaps I will give a modest rent remission in consideration of your doing so"; or the landlord may contribute a small part to the cost of such a plan. Alternatively, he may pay the outgoings on a mortgage for another house to which the tenant can move, as very often happens in the case of a farm manager today.

The implication of my amendment is that the notice condition will become mandatory for all farm business tenancies that involve the tenant living in a house, the tenancy of which he will have to give up at the end of that tenancy. I recognise that the objection to this is: what happens if the landlord and tenant do not reach such an agreement? The danger is perceived to be that the tenancy will then fall back as a tenancy under the Landlord and Tenant Act. I am not absolutely clear why that will be so awful, but if it is awful perhaps we can word it in another way so that there is some other sanction. However, what I seek to achieve is that landlord and tenant should specifically be encouraged to sit down to think about the problem right at the beginning, before it arises.

Lord Carter: This amendment is very helpful in introducing the important subject of a tenant's home as part of a tenancy. We feel that our Amendment No. 13, which defines a residential farm business tenancy, is perhaps a better way to deal with it. Certainly, the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, in introducing this matter has for the first time in our discussion of the Bill raised the central issue of the tenant's home.

As I and others have said at Second Reading, a tenanted farm is not just a means of earning a living; it is often the home of a family. If, as I am sure the Government intend, there are a number of what I call decent long-term arrangements under farm business tenancies, there may be a situation where people obtain

12 Dec 1994 : Column 1114

tenancies in their early 30s which perhaps go on for 10 or 15 years. In their late 40s, having established themselves in the area, the farmer may be chairman of the parish council, his wife a school governor and the children educated in the village. Their home is there. For some reason or other they find that the tenancy is coming to an end and they are out of a house. There is also a problem as to what happens in amalgamations.

Where there is an oral but not written tenancy agreement, unless there is a provision of this kind in the Bill to look after the home I believe that the tenant will be even more exposed than he already is, because this relies upon an agreement in writing which will have to be implemented. We shall return to the arguments for and against having an oral or written tenancy. If there is an oral agreement, how is the tenant protected when there is no statement anywhere about what should happen to the family home?

The noble Lord's amendment relies on well-meaning attitudes of landlords. Those of us who have been, sadly, involved professionally in tenancy succession cases over the years know just how tough some landlords can be when it comes to obtaining occupancy of a farm to get it back. I have a fear that some landlords would not be too keen on having to provide alternative accommodation.

It is important to remember that we are not dealing with office blocks but with people's homes as well as their livings. Although it is well meant, encouragement is not enough. At a later stage of the Bill, with our Amendment No. 13 we will perhaps want to obtain the support of the Chamber for an amendment which will mean that a tenant who moves in and whose home is a part of the tenancy will be protected when that tenancy comes to an end.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, for raising this subject. I did so at Second Reading. I entirely agree with him that, if there are some hard cases of eviction after, say, some 15 years of being in a house, we shall return to the dramas that occurred in 1970 and 1976.

I do not know that the noble Lord's amendment is correct—he himself is not sure either—but it is a matter that we should follow up. I speak now off the top of my head but, if the landlord at the initial stage cannot provide, or hope to provide, alternative accommodation, could not low cost housing be provided, or the local authority enter into some form of covenant, or whatever, to provide for it? I am glad that the issue has been aired.

Lord Carter: There will be occasions when the landlord does not have alternative accommodation to offer and one can understand that. In moving the amendment the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, made the point that if that were the case and the parties sit down and discuss the matter, there could perhaps be a financial arrangement whereby the tenant farmer would have a sum of money when the tenancy ends or in one form or another is helped to buy another house. That is the other way to do it.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page