FBT tenants face the prospect of being excluded from post-Brexit support because of a legal loophole in the Agriculture Bill.
Under the terms of the current legislation, tenants renting land under the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 would be unable to object to a landlord’s refusal to allow access to financial assistance.
During a March 3 session of the Public Bill Committee which scrutinises the Agriculture Bill, Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said FBT tenants had been denied the same protection as Agricultural Holdings Act tenants because their contracts are shorter and reviewed more regularly, so there is more opportunity to vary the terms to fit changing conditions.
Amendments tabled by the Labour Party, known as ‘amendments 85 and 86’, which would have closed the loophole, were subsequently voted down.
Now the Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) has now written to the Minister to complain about the Government’s position.
In the letter, TFA chief executive George Dunn said: “Your rejection of amendments 85 and 86 is particularly troubling as it will leave many tenants vulnerable to being disenfranchised from the new financial assistance arrangements.
“In our experience, many of these new agreements contain very restrictive clauses which landlords are able to insist upon given the dominant position they have within the market for let land.
“It is, for example, often the case that agreements require the tenant not to access financial assistance schemes in order to provide the landlord the opportunity to do so. We believe this is against public policy.”
Mr Dunn has asked the Minister to commit to ensuring tenants will not have to seek landlord’s consent to enter any financial assistance scheme unless they are restricted by the terms of their agreement.