HC Deb 26 February 1908 vol 184 cc1779-81

said that in asking leave to introduce this Bill he wished to explain that he had ventured to bring it in under the Ten Minute Rule, because, while they all had sympathy with the agitation proceeding on behalf of dwellers in the country districts, and in the slums of our great cities, there was very great danger of overlooking the injustice from which dwellers in town houses and shopkeepers, and the thousands of the working men cottagers in mining and quarrying districts, and leaseholders of chapels suffered. What was that injustice? It was that enormous sums of money all fell into the hands of ground landlords, who had done little or nothing to create it, it having been, in fact, created by the individual efforts of the leaseholder in particular, and of the community in general. The evils which had resulted from that system had been admirably set out by the inquiries made by a Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes and by the Town Holdings Commission. The former body reported in favour of legislation for the aquisition by the leaseholder of the freehold interest, on the ground that it would greatly conduce to the improvement of the dwellings of the people and create an interest on the part of the occupier in the house he represented. The system was almost solely confined to England. The late Earl Granville, when Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, ordered an inquiry as to whether this leasehold system obtained in Europe, and he found that in fact it was only in existence in certain parts of England and Wales—in great centres of population like Cardiff and Newport, in Bath, in Cornwall and other parts of the West of England, where it inflicted very great injustice on the leaseholder. The question had been discussed in the House on two occasions already—in 1889, when the Second Reading was lost by twenty-one votes, and in 1891, when it was lost by thirteen votes. It was no party matter, and he had received an intimation from the chairman of the Conservative Association of a very large town that if it would strengthen his position he would be glad to get his association to pass a resolution in favour of it. The Bill simply proposed to remove the injustice from which owners of houses and shops in large towns, and tens of thousands of working men who owned cottages in mining districts, suffered, by giving them power to purchase the freehold at a fair sum, which in case of disagreement should be settled by a local court—the County Court or otherwise. That was a point which was open to adjustment. It also made provision whereby the present ground rent could be converted into what was known as a fee-farm rent such as at present obtained in Lancashire and some parts of Somersetshire. There were restrictions whereby the local authority could insist upon certain conditions being maintained for the public interest, and also upon the insertion of provisions, should the public interest demand it, for the purchase of the freehold by the leaseholders.

Leave having been given—

Bill to provide for the Enfranchisement of Leaseholds, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Maclean, Mr. Hay Morgan, Mr. Brace, Mr. Ellis Griffith, Mr. William Abraham (Rhondda), Mr. Gooch, Mr. Jenkins, Mr. Simon, and Mr. Rees.