§ Order for Committee read.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Commitee.)
§ Clause 3 (Relief against forfeiture in leases).
§ MR. GRANTHAM
said, he had an Amendment on the Paper; but, having communicated with those who had charge of the measure, he proposed to withdraw it, and to move another in page 2, line 2, after "assignment." He wished to add words to sub-section 2 of Clause 3, to provide that the person making the assignments mentioned should pay to the lessor such fee as he should require, not exceeding £1 1s. for each assignment. Under the circumstances, it appeared to him to be only fair that some acknowledgment should be made for the work done, and that the lesser should not have the work thrown on him without payment. During the whole of the term the leases had to run—and some of them were long, 99 years being a very common period—he had not the slightest control over the assignments, although it was necessary that a record should be kept of them. Members on both sides of the House with whom he had discussed his proposal seemed to think it was very fair; and he therefore trusted that the Attorney General would accept it.
In page 2, line 2, after "assignment," to add the words "shall pay to the lessor such fee as he shall require not exceeding one guinea for each assignment."—(Mr. Grantham.)
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, the hon. and learned Member had appealed to him; but he 86 had not charge of the Bill. No doubt the hon. and learned Gentleman had in his mind, when he made the proposal, the case of the large Companies who issued circulars, and who would, no doubt, suggest such an arrangement. It would suit large Companies; but in country places, where the leases were not so important and valuable, the case would be different, and the proposal would be a tax to the extent of £1 1s. He was aware it would only apply to cases where it was stipulated that the assignment should be prepared by a solicitor; but, in many cases, solicitors would be able to charge £1 1s. for doing nothing. The fee was supposed to cover the work of preparing a lease; but the solicitor would not prepare one, because this part of the Bill was to meet the very case where he had not prepared it. While the proposal would be beneficial in the case of London Companies, in other cases it would not be beneficial, but would mean the imposition of a tax of £1 1s. for the benefit of solicitors, who would receive it for doing nothing at all.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, that although the Amendment was in the interest of a Profession to which he used to belong he could not support it. He could not help thinking that it would be an unsatisfactory addition to the clause. Why should the tax be paid in this instance, whilst it was not in many other instances? Take a policy of insurance; the office had to receive a notice with regard to insurance with a fee of only 5s.—that was the case of a Company which had to investigate the title of a person to whom it had something to pay. If the Amendment were accepted a tax would be inflicted upon the community, for which there was no reason at all. It was wrong in principle, and therefore he objected to it—it would be an encumbrance upon property which Parliament ought not to allow. He agreed with the Attorney General that they ought to get rid of this proposal as an obnoxious impediment in the way of the assignment of leasehold property.
§ MR. H. DAVEY
said, the object of the Amendment was to provide some means by which the lessor might be told whom his tenants were; the fact would be conveyed to him by the notice of assignment. It was suggested by the hon. and learned Member for East Surrey (Mr. Grantham) that the lessor's solicitor 87 could not be expected to take note of these things, and keep a register, unless he received a fee. He confessed, however, that he had thought the charge ought to fall on the lessor; but, under the circumstances, he had been willing to concede the amended Amendment which his hon. and learned Friend had placed on the Paper. The fact was the lessor had the lessee more or less in his power in matters of this sort. He hoped the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) would not think it necessary to divide the Committee. On the whole, the Amendment was reasonable and proper, and one which he, having charge of the Bill, could agree to.
§ MR. GREGORY
was anxious to see people relieved from the liabilities they were under at present as to these objectionable covenants; and he took it that the proposal of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Grantham) was a sort of compromise. He was willing to accept it as such.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
Suppose a lessor's solicitor says—"I will not prepare a lease, although I am entitled to a fee." He would be able to do that, and yet could charge for doing nothing at all.
said, this discussion, so far as it had gone, showed the extreme inconvenience in matters of this kind of not having the Amendment on the Paper. An Amendment had been placed on the Paper by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Surrey, and that hon. Members had come down prepared to discuss; but, instead of their being asked to consider it when the Bill went into Committee, it was withdrawn, and a new one was presented in its place. The Attorney General had given strong reasons why the Amendment should not be accepted; and he would, therefore, suggest that it should be withdrawn. It could be placed upon the Paper and fully considered on Report.
§ MR. DODDS
pointed out that unless an Amendment were introduced in Committee there would be no Report; and, therefore, it would not be possible to raise another discussion on this matter. The Amendment was not an unreasonable one, and it would give great relief to the lessee; therefore he trusted the Committee would adopt it.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he should be sorry to stand in the way of an amicable settlement of this question. Unlike the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), he did not think it would be well to have a formal discussion on Report. He would withdraw his opposition to the Amendment, seeing that the latter was a compromise between the opponents of the clause and the promoters of the Bill. The whole matter was not very important; therefore, he hoped the Committee would not be detained on it any longer.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. WARTON
said, he had made a mistake, and it was in line 29. The Amendment was very short, being merely to omit the words "before or" in line 29. The new provision ought not to apply to leases made "before," because, of course, there were now vested interests in those leases.
I must point out to the hon. and learned Member that as we have now put the Question, "That this Clause stand part of the Bill," his Amendment cannot be considered.
The hon. and learned Member can move his Amendment on Report. The Question is, "That this Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.