Stage 1 of the Land Reform Bill has reached its conclusion and not without amendment.  Time, space and strength of will does not permit me to discuss all amendments in detail but one caught my eye in particular.

An amendment has been proposed, to be introduced during Stage 2 of the Bill’s passage through parliament, to introduce more detail on the conversion of 1991 Act tenancies to new Modern Limited Duration Tenancies.

It could be argued that this is one of the most significant sections of the Bill so far as it relates to Agricultural Holdings as it is one of the main mechanisms by which tenant farmers’ succession planning and retirement is to be made easier and more dignified.

So what is the amendment going to be?  Well, that’s just the point, the change is simply going to be to actually set out in the Bill (and subsequent Act as this seems an inevitability) some detail about how such a transfer will take place.

It’s not that a proposed procedure has been found to be flawed; it’s just that no procedure or detail was ever given.  The matter was going to be dealt with in secondary legislation, like so much else in the Bill.

Of course, this amendment is to be welcomed, assuming the detail to be introduced into the Bill is sensible and workable.  However, the fact that such an amendment has proved necessary is a clear indication that the Bill was worryingly lacking in detail in the first place.

This round of Agricultural Holdings reform should have been the most significant in a generation, coming as it did on the back of recommendations by the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group, with their breadth of experience and expertise.  I can’t help but feel that their extensive review is unlikely to be given justice by a Bill clearly being rushed through parliament prior to this year’s elections.

We can only hope that Stage 2 brings further amendment with further detail and heralds the possibility of relying less on secondary legislation.

January 18, 2016