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Earl Howe: I am grateful to the noble Lord and I take note of what he has said, as he clearly has knowledge of those matters.

I merely wish to convey to the Committee my view that the drawing up of a farm business tenancy agreement presumes a high standard of legal knowledge, not merely relating to the contents of the Bill but a high standard of legal knowledge across the board. I believe that it would be right to ensure that the task of drawing up that agreement rests with someone who is fully at home with the law generally and not simply with property law.

As I understand it, members of the RICS are not able to draw up forms of tenancy other than very short ones. I am not sure why, in this instance, there should be an exception for longer term agreements. I shall reflect on what has been said in the debate but I shall need some convincing that my position is incorrect.

Lord Carter: If that is so, why is the RICS, rather than the Law Society, being asked to draw up the model tenancy agreements?

Earl Howe: It is certainly the province of the RICS to draw up the model agreements because those concern day-to-day matters with which they are familiar. My

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point is that a legal document in its full state is rather a different matter. I believe that the two points are separate.

Lord Carter: If the landlord and tenant agree to take off the shelf the model clauses which have been designed by the RICS, they must have a solicitor to tell them that it is legally OK; is that right?

Earl Howe: That is as we propose it, yes.

The Earl of Kinnoull: When my noble friend reconsiders this matter, I hope that he will consider other bodies which are equally well qualified, such as the CAAV and so on.

Lord Gallacher: I am grateful for the support that I received from the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and from the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, on the amendment. I am indebted also to the Minister for saying that he is prepared to reflect on the matter and I hope that he may look rather more sympathetically at the thinking behind the amendment.

To the best of my knowledge, licensed conveyancers were introduced because of complaints about the costs of conveyancing in relation to housing. There were complaints that some solicitors were rather expensive in that area and that the work could be done quite well by a qualified body of people who specialise in such transactions.

At this stage I am not advocating that the remit of licensed conveyancers should be extended to this area which is being created by the Bill. It is true that some comparison with business lettings is valid but surely this is a completely new area. While I agree entirely that it is extremely important that in the document to be drafted, the legal details are totally correct. But in my experience, the authorisation of qualified surveyors to undertake such work will not diminish in any way the possibility of incorrectness and, indeed, their reputation stands extremely high in that regard, as was pointed out to me in no uncertain terms yesterday evening.

What worries me—and the Minister did not refer to it—is that, on this side of the Committee, we are desperately anxious that as many as possible of the agreements between landlord and tenant should be in writing. We are against anything which may act as a disincentive in that regard. The new clause may not be an incentive but it is at least an encouragement to tenant and landlord to put their agreement in writing. Indeed, it is for that purpose that the RICS is to publish, as my noble friend persuaded the Minister to admit, a code which will be very important, even to solicitors, in drawing up tenancy agreements of the kind which the Act will require.

Nevertheless, the Minister has promised to reflect on what has been said and we shall do the same. Perhaps, at a later stage of the Bill, we may ask the noble Earl for the outcome of his reflections. But, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 31, 32 and 33 agreed to.

Clause 34 [Service of notices]:

Lord Gallacher moved Amendment No. 79:

Page 15, leave out lines 22 to 25 and insert ("in accordance with the Rules of the Supreme Court relating to service of documents in force at the time of the service").

The noble Lord said: The above amendment seeks to specify in the legislation the manner in which the service of documents is to be handled so far as concerns the Bill. Perhaps I may say at the outset that we are not claiming that we have here an amendment which is particularly perfect as regards its wording. However, we are of the opinion that Members of the Committee may be interested to note the peculiarity of having rules of service which relate only to farm business tenancies. We wonder whether it would be better, by and large, for there to be standard rules of service. The amendment would achieve just that aim.

There are problems with the clause as drafted; for example, what about faxes? My noble friend Lord Carter is an authority on faxes. In fact, I believe that, had he been given his title a few years later, he might have considered a change of name to Lord Fax. In the room that we share, the fax machine spills them out non-stop. When I am acting as my noble friend's underling, I have the responsibility of dealing with them, and the difficulty of not knowing what a fax machine is, let alone how to deal with such an outpouring of paper.

Nevertheless, we have taken the trouble to look up a document concerning the Supreme Court practice and its rules. In those rules, we believe that there are assurances regarding, first, how faxes are dealt with; and, secondly, the rules allow for first-class post. Both those items of information are contained in the rules, a copy of which I have with me.

The amendment is by way of an invitation to the Government to think again on the matter. It is to be hoped that, if they are not able to agree to what we are asking, they will be able to suggest to us an alternative means which may achieve the uniformity of procedures which the amendment seeks and, at the same time perhaps, bring the question of faxes into the Bill somewhere. However much I may deprecate them, faxes are a fact of life and likely to remain so. I beg to move.

Earl Howe: I am grateful to the noble Lord for speaking to the amendment in his customary clear way. I accept that the ideas proposed in the amendment would be helpful to the extent that they would allow for changes in the rules as regards the transmission of documents in the future, instead of prescribing specified delivery methods in the Bill. The Rules of the Supreme Court prescribe how service of a document may be effected for the purposes of court proceedings where the document is not required to be served personally. For example, they include rules governing transmission by fax, as mentioned by the noble Lord.

However, I understand that the rules are fairly complex and may not be easily accessible to, or understood by, the general public, including agricultural

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landlords and tenants. Indeed, under the current rules, service of a document by fax can only be effected by one solicitor upon another. I therefore have some reservations about whether the amendment would be the best way of achieving the desired flexibility towards accommodating new methods of delivery at some future time.

Having said that, I accept in principle that it may be desirable to provide more flexibility than Clause 34(2) has, as currently drafted. An alternative option to a reference to rules prescribed by some other body might be to set out the principles with which any delivery method should comply, rather than prescribing the precise methods which are permitted to be used. For example, we might consider allowing forms of postal delivery provided that confirmation of delivery can be obtained.

Clearly the question goes wider than just the service of notices for the purposes of the Bill and it is, therefore, appropriate that we should take time to give it proper consideration and consult more widely. I should like to invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment for the present, on the understanding that the Government will consider the issue and will initiate further debate on the amendment, or on an alternative proposal, at a later stage in our consideration of the Bill.

Lord Gallacher: I am grateful to the Minister for what he said and for his invitation to me to withdraw the amendment, which I readily agree to do. I was intrigued to be reminded that the Rules of the Supreme Court allow faxes only between solicitors. The previous amendment sought to ensure that only solicitors could undertake such very important legal work. Therefore, that in itself would not be an inhibition. Nevertheless, I do not wish to cavil or quarrel with the noble Earl about such points of detail.

I believe that the noble Earl has said enough to cause me to think that the Government will look at the matter in a constructive way and that they will do something about it, if not in the Bill then at some suitable time. I hope that that, plus the fact that we have had this brief discussion recorded in the Official Report, will be of some value in stimulating the interest of the farming profession in the matter. At the outset, I frankly admitted that we had an imperfectly worded amendment. That gives me additional cause to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 34 agreed to.

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