Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Gallacher moved Amendment No. 13:


After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:

Meaning and effect of "residential farm business tenancy"

(".—(1) A tenancy is a "residential farm business tenancy" for the purposes of this Act if it is a farm business tenancy under which the tenant is occupying living accommodation provided by the landlord within the terms of his agreement with the tenant.

12 Dec 1994 : Column 1126


(2) A residential farm business tenancy which is current immediately before the term date shall not come to an end on that date except by being terminated in accordance with this Act and if not so terminated shall be deemed to continue until so terminated.
(3) Where by virtue of subsection (2) above a tenancy is continued after the term date, the tenancy shall continue at the same rent and in other respects on the same terms as before the term date.
(4) The landlord may seek to terminate a tenancy to which this section applies by agreement in writing with the tenant following the service of notice in accordance with section 6 of this Act.
(5) If agreement between the landlord and tenant cannot be reached in accordance with subsection (4) above before the term date, the landlord may apply to the court for an order granting him possession of the tenancy.
(6) On an application by the landlord the court shall grant an order terminating a residential farm business tenancy and giving the landlord possession of the land and buildings only if they are satisfied that one or more of the following grounds applies:
(a) that the tenant has attained the age of 65 and suitable alternative accommodation is available for him, or will be available for him at the date on which the landlord is seeking to possess the holding;
(b) that the tenant of the holding was not fulfilling his responsibilities to the farm in accordance with the rules of good husbandry, including the conservation of flora or fauna, features of geological interest and the protection of buildings or other objects of archaeological, architectural or historic interest located on the holding and that a certificate to this effect has been issued by the Minister;
(c) that the tenant has been given a reasonable opportunity to remedy a breach of a term or condition of the tenancy and has failed to do so;
(d) that the tenant has failed to comply with any term of the tenancy as to payment of rent or rates or as to insuring or keeping insured any premises;
(e) that the land and residential buildings comprising the holding are reasonably required by the landlord for his own accommodation and agricultural use or the accommodation and agricultural use of any son or daughter of his who is over eighteen years of age;
(f) that the tenant is a person who has become insolvent;
(g) that the person who was the tenant (or sole surviving tenant) has died;
(h) that planning permission has been obtained for the development of the land or for a change of use to a use other than as agricultural land.").

The noble Lord said: The amendment seeks to add a new clause to the Bill after Clause 1. It introduces and defines the concept of a residential farm business tenancy. We have, in a sense, already touched on the problem when considering Amendments Nos. 10 and 11. I noticed with interest that the Minister admitted that there was, if not a problem here, an issue that merited further consideration. He has promised to give that consideration, which we welcome.

The clause is set out in full detail on the Marshalled List. It begins, I hope, with an effective definition of a residential farm business tenancy, and the circumstances in which a tenant is occupying living accommodation provided the landlord can agree upon such a tenancy in conjunction with a tenant. Subsection (2) provides:


    "A residential farm business tenancy which is current immediately before the term date shall not come to an end"—

under the clause we seek to add—


    "... except by being terminated in accordance with this Act and if not so terminated shall be deemed to continue until so terminated".

12 Dec 1994 : Column 1127

Under subsection (3) we refer back to subsection (2), and make provision for the continuance of the tenancy after the term date at the same rent and in other respects on the same terms as before the term date.

Subsection (4) gives the landlord power:


    "to terminate a tenancy to which this section applies by agreement in writing with the tenant following the service of notice in accordance with section 6 of this Act".

By subsection (5):


    "If agreement between the landlord and tenant cannot be reached in accordance with subsection (4) above before the term date, the landlord may apply to court for an order granting him possession of the tenancy".

Finally, under subsection (6), we set out in some detail the conditions which the tenant will have to satisfy, or—putting it another way around—the conditions, the breach of which, will compel the court to grant an order terminating the residential farm tenancy, and giving possession of the land and buildings if one or more of the breaches of the tenancy agreement apply. I shall go through the breaches to which the clause refers. Under sub-paragraph (a):


    "that the tenant has obtained the age of 65 and suitable alternative accommodation is available for him, or will be available for him at the date on which the landlord is seeking to possess the holding;"

Sub-paragraph (b) imposes a condition of good farming, something upon which my noble friend Lord Carter has placed great emphasis, and the absence of which from the Bill as a whole is disconcerting at least to us if not to farmers in general. Sub-paragraph (c) would give possession where the tenant:


    "has been given a reasonable opportunity to remedy a breach of a term or condition of the tenancy and has failed to do so".

Sub-paragraph (d) would apply when the tenant has failed to pay his rent or rates, or keep the premises ensured in accordance with his agreement. Sub-paragraph (e) would be available to the landlord when he wished the holding (the land and residential buildings) for his own use or for the use of his son or daughter over the age of 18. Sub-paragraph (f) relates to that horrible but increasingly common situation where the tenant is a person who has become insolvent. Sub-paragraph (g) provides for the landlord to take possession where the tenant (or sole surviving tenant) has died; and sub-paragraph (h) takes care of the position where a planning application for change of use has been successful. In all those cases, the court would be obliged to grant an order terminating a residential farm business tenancy under the terms of this new clause.

We must address the problem of the farm tenancy. I recalled, as I listened to the debate on Clause 1 stand part, in an earlier translation trying to persuade small shopkeepers that it was no bad thing that the building societies and estate agents were beginning to dominate the high streets of this country. I told them that the alternative probably was that they would be unable to find a tenant when they wished to sell their freehold. We now have the position where a walk along some of our best high streets can be a disconcerting experience. All the indications are that the number of empty shops may increase rather than decrease.

12 Dec 1994 : Column 1128

I blame no one in particular for that. It is the evolution of retailing and business in general which can never be forecast accurately no matter who is doing the forecasts. One would have expected the building societies to know their requirements; but they are rapidly reappraising them. Equally, one would have expected estate agents, sometimes supported by building societies, to know their requirements. They too are following a similar example.

I mention that by way of supporting the details of the clause, because, despite all that has been said about the flood of agricultural land for letting on business tenancy terms which is expected after the passage of the Bill on 1st September next year, I am not wholly convinced. Much of that is in the lap of the gods and unpredictable. What we must do in looking at the problem is to recognise that hardships could arise—severe hardships at that—and the amendment seeks to ameliorate, if not to eliminate, those hardships. I beg to move.

Lord Middleton: My Lords, we should take a close look at the effect of the amendment, which is that a tenant of a holding with a farmhouse can refuse to accept a notice to terminate a farm business tenancy at the term date. The landlord can apply for a court order; but the court cannot grant an order under the amendment for surrender of the land and buildings —not just the house—if the tenant is under 65, unless he has committed one of the tenants' sins which are listed under sub-paragraphs (b) to (h). If the tenant is over 65, then an order can be made only if he has alternative accommodation.

I am well aware of the sensitivity of the farmhouse issue. No one in farming is unsympathetic. I listened with great interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, said, and I agreed with much of what he was saying. But life moves on. If we are to continue to have tenancies, under the new arrangements some of them will be for less than a lifetime. I am sure that the Tenant Farmers' Association, the young farmers clubs and the NFU saw clearly the implications of shorter tenancies on the housing of their families when they worked out the Bill's shape.

The Bill brings farming more into line with other rural businesses. No village pub keeper at the end of his tenancy would expect to remain living in the pub, denying the living quarters to his successor. One can also think of police and clergy houses in rural areas in similar situations. We must be hard-nosed about the issue. We should be wary about altering the Bill as is proposed so as to discourage farm letting with a farm house. No lettings, no houses in the first place.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page