HC Deb 06 November 1912 vol 43 cc1400-4

(1) The provisions in Section four hundred and three of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, relating to the voidance or termination of any lease or arrangement to let shall apply in like manner upon a conviction under Section thirteen of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885, as amended by this Act.

(2) This Section shall be substituted in Scotland for Section four of this Act.


I understood we were not going beyond Clause 4, and now we are starting on Clause 5.


I beg to move "That the Debate be now adjourned." We were not to go beyond Clause 4.


I accept the statement from the hon. Baronet that the arrangement was made, but I must say it was not made in those terms with my knowledge. However, if it was made on my behalf, I will adhere to it.


As I was engaged in the discussion I do not wish that there should be any misunderstanding. Subject to certain Amendments, we were to get Clause 4, but I did say while I hoped the proceedings would not in any way be prolonged that we might possibly take Clause 5, which I understood was a purely formal Clause, before we began Clause 6, which is a really substantial Clause.


I think my hon. Friend will remember that I said I only agreed on the understanding that we should not go beyond Clause 4. The arrangement distinctly was that we should not go beyond Clause 4.

11.0 P.M.


With the leave of the House, I wish to say I do not wish not to observe the agreement but I would appeal to the hon. Baronet. Clause 5 is a mere formal Clause, and if we took it now we could start to-morrow evening with Clause 6, which is a substantial Clause.


I agree.

Motion to report Progress, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (2).

Clause 4, which is a very good Clause, deals with landlords who let their premises for improper purposes. If the tenant is convicted, the landlord has to have the lease assigned to some other tenant. If he does it a second time he gets into trouble, as set out in the Clause. When that Clause had been passed, the Scottish Members met together and brought down this Sub-section. In my short experience of this House I have found that when the two Front Benches agree upon anything it is time for other people to be suspicious. Similarly, when all the Scottish Members agree, it is time for English Members to ascertain what is being done. By Clause 4 we have made it difficult for landlords to use their premises for improper purposes, and I rather object to this Sub-section which enacts that Clause 4 shall not apply to Scotland. The reason given by the Lord Advocate is that Clause 5 applies the existing law in Scotland to the matter. The existing law is that where a person is convicted of keeping a house of ill-fame she shall forfeit her lease to the landlord. That is a very good thing for the landlord; it may put something substantial into his pocket. But there are no provisions such as are contained in Clause 4 (2), (3), and (4). If the House comes to the conclusion that the morality of Scotland is such that Clause 4 need not apply, I shall not press the matter. If, however, now that it knows the facts, the House decides that what is sauce for the English goose ought to be sauce for the Scottish gander in this respect, it will accept the Amendment. Personally, I think the law ought to be the same in both countries.


I beg to second the Amendment. Very great care has been taken with regard to Clause 4, which we have just passed. It was the subject in Committee of very anxious examination by people of very divergent views, who came to the conclusion that as amended in the way it was justly amended, it is likely to do a great deal of good in meeting the cases which arise and which ought to be met. When we come to Clause 5 we find that this particular Sub-section, which the object of the Amendment now before the House is to leave out, would make Clause 4 unworkable in Scotland. If Clause 4 is a good Clause and we have taken the trouble to pass it a few moments ago, why should it not apply to Scotland? If there is to be a distinction between the two countries in regard to the application of the law on this very intricate, difficult, and delicate subject, I think it would be a very great mistake.


As I understand, the people of Scotland are agreed that our mode of procedure is preferable to the code laid down in Clause 4, but I understand the English people prefer Clause 4, and far be it for me to dictate to them. They understand their business and we understand ours. At all events by the arrangement come to in 1892 we have had a very specific code applicable to these things. Our code is that when the tenant or lessee is convicted of keeping a brothel by that conviction the agreement with the landlord ends, and the landlord is then entitled to enforce all the conditions of the lease against the tenant and damages for breach of contract and rent up till the end of the term if he so chooses. That remedy has been found satisfactory in Scotland during all these years. To make Clause 4 applicable to Scotland there would have to be a good deal of alteration of the phraseology to fit it to Scottish law and also to apply it to Scottish procedure, because our procedure is wholly different. We, at all events, are satisfied with the remedy which we have had since 1892 as applicable to this particular offence.


I think the Lord Advocate has not taxed his usually splendid memory in regard to the proceedings that took place in Grand Committee. We ascertained in the discussion that if the Amendment was made the position of the property owner in Scotland would be different to the position of the property owner in England. It is not a difference in procedure that is the point. Therefore, while there is a difference in the law there is also a difference in the result. The object of the Scottish Members in that Committee, under the able leadership of the Lord Advocate, was to place Scotch property owners in a preferential position when troubles of this kind occur to the position of English property owners. That was clearly admitted. I do not challenge the Scottish representatives for wanting to bring that about, but they must not forget that Clause 4 was in its application to England very largely by their voice and vote.

There were several discussions with regard to this English Clause in which the Lord Advocate himself took a leading part, and all the Scotch Members present were the keenest advocates of the rights of Scotland, and their votes turned the scale. I must say there was no reason that I could see why this legislation should not apply to Scotland equally with England. Scotch Members are perfectly satisfied with their own ideals and appeal to us to respect them. It repeatedly occurs in Grand Committee that when proposals are made which we English Members criticise and point out as being stringent and troublesome we are outvoted and outargued by the superior intelligence of the Lord Advocate, but when it comes to applying these very ideas to their own country they say, "Oh, no, our terminology is so different, it does not fit at all, and our property owners must not be subjected to the same laws as the property owners in England." That is what took place in Grand Committee, and I think it is necessary the House should know it.


I would like to ask a question arising out of what has been stated by the Lord Advocate. He told us that the law in Scotland is different altogether from that in England, but it seems to me that the law in Scotland as explained by the Lord Advocate does not deal with all the points dealt with in Clause 4. He told us that in the event of a place being used for the purposes here mentioned the lease would ipso facto be determined and the landlord would have the right to recover. But I am not sure of that at all. Sub-section (2) says that when the landlord has failed to avail himself of the provisions of Sub-section (1) he will be held to be guilty, and Sub-section (3) of the same Clause goes on to inflict certain penalties upon the landlord. I do not gather from the Lord Advocate that any provision is made for that in the Scotch law as stated by him.


The hon. Member is perfectly correct; there is no provision of the kind. But the hon. Member must not forget that under the Statute of 1885, the principal Act, the landlord is responsible and punishable if he is willingly a party to the continued use of the premises as a brothel, so he does not escape under the existing law.


Having heard the excellent explanation of the Lord Advocate, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill as amended (in the Standing Committee) to be further considered to-morrow (Thursday).

The orders for the remaining Government business were read and postponed,

Whereupon, Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of 14th October, proposed the Question, "That the House do now adjourn."

Adjourned accordingly, at Seventeen minutes after Eleven o'clock.