HC Deb 28 November 1911 vol 32 cc351-3

All bedding material, as well as all tools and implements of trade used or to be used by the occupier of a small dwelling-house or any member of his family as the means of his, her, or their livelihood, which are in the dwelling-house, and also such further furniture and plenishing in a small dwelling-house as the occupier may select to the value, according to the sheriff officer's inventory, of ten pounds, shall be wholly exempt from the right of hypothec of the owner.


I beg to move, after the word "pounds" ["of ten pounds"], to insert the words "and any articles not the property of the tenant." This is an Amendment which I moved in Committee, and which was defeated by only one vote. I therefore venture to bring it forward again, and to make another attempt to overcome the scruples of the Lord Advocate. The object of this Clause is to reserve for the tenant of a small dwelling-house the tools and implements used by members of his family as a means of livelihood, and "such further furniture and plenishing in a small dwelling-house as the occupier may select to the value, according to the sheriff officer's inventory, of ten pounds." If my Amendment is adopted there will also be reserved to the owner of the property any article not the property of the tenant. The idea is, of course, to exempt property which has been hired, such as pianos, sewing-machines, and furniture. Men are in the habit of hiring out these articles to the working classes, and they do not become the property of the hirer until the full price has been paid for them. Surely it is only equitable that these articles should be excluded under the Clause. Dealers in such articles have during the last twenty-five years had them constantly seized by owners of property in Scotland, and sold in payment of arrears of rent. In the year 1905 a decision was come to in favour of the owners of the articles, and since then they have led a more peaceful existence, but this Bill is going to disturb it. I hope the House will accept this Amendment.


I hope the House will not accept the Amendment. For years I have spoken and written against hypothec, and, indeed, I have brought in a Bill to abolish hypothec altogether. Had it been a proposal to extend the exemptions from £10 to £20, I might have been, prepared to support it, but it is a proposal of an altogether different character. It is intended to give special protection to articles supplied on the hire-purchase system. My first observation will be that whatever may be the private arrangement between the buyer and the seller, this is a question of the rights of a third party, who can have no knowledge that the articles in the house have been obtained on the hire-purchase system. I oppose this Amendment because it will work to the detriment of the small trader, as under it it will be possible for all articles of value to be removed, and the small trader who has supplied necessaries of life on credit will be placed at a great disadvantage, and may perhaps lose everything. The opposition to the Amendment is strengthened by the fact that in many cases the articles thus protected will have been almost wholly paid for; four-fifths of the instalments may have been paid, and yet the person who has hired them out may be able to resume possession of them and make a profit out of the transaction, while the ordinary trader will be in a much worse position than he otherwise would be. It seems to me that this Amendment would not work out with fair play to the small trader who cannot afford to go into the intricacies of the hire-purchase system. In so far as hypothec is retained, it should continue to apply equally all round under the hire-purchase or any other system.

Amendment negatived.