HC Deb 30 May 1916 vol 82 cc2674-6

(1) A County Court may authorise the grant of a new lease for a term of twenty-one years or upwards of a dwelling-house to which the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (War Restrictions) Act, 1915, applies in consideration for which a fine premium, or other like sum, in addition to the rent is required, if the Court is satisfied that the terms of the tenancy are on the whole more favourable to the tenant than the terms on which the dwelling-house was previously let, and in such cases Sub-section (2) of Section one of the said Act shall not apply.

(2) This Section shall be construed as one with the said Act.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "tenancy" ["terms of the tenancy"], to leave out the words "are on the whole more favourable to the tenant than the terms on which the house was previously let," and to insert instead thereof the words "are fair and reasonable, both parties being agreed."

If a landlord and a tenant come together and agree as to terms, then the bargain has to go before the Court to be ratified, and it has to be on the whole more favourable to the tenant than the terms on which the dwelling-house had been previously let. That seems to be an unusual interference with contracts. The learned Solicitor-General will remember that during the passage of the Act dealing with rent and interests it was pointed out that there were certain houses, possibly in a row, let to old and esteemed tenants at, say, 8s. per week, while the standard rate was 10s. The landlord was not allowed to raise the old and respected tenant's rent to the standard. Now suppose that the tenant of one of those 8s. houses sees that he can come to terms with his landlord, is the bargain to be on the 8s. basis? Is it not fairer to let the people come together and deal on the 10s. basis or even as to what the market value will be after the War? I do not suppose there will be very many cases, because whilst the tenants are so favourably treated there is not likely to be much sale. If other cases occur, such as the case of the Marquess of Bute and his tenant, which this Clause is put in to remedy, surely it will be fairer to let the bargain go on market lines. I think it is only fair and reasonable that the party should be allowed freedom of action from such conditions. If the hon. and learned Gentleman wants to limit the scope of the Bill and to prevent any injustice being done, I think my Amendment meets the case and is absolutely fair.


I am afraid I could not accept this Amendment. My hon. Friend seems to be under the impression that this Clause limits the freedom of action of a landlord to let and a tenant to take. That is not so. This Clause is a relaxation of the restrictions of the Act which is now the law. The present Act prevents anything higher than the present rent on certain houses. There have been cases, of which the Marquess of Bute's is the best known, but not the only one, in which that has prevented a very fair deal, and prevented the landlord from granting to his own sitting tenant a house at a very low rent simply because he has sold the lease and has taken a payment for the lease. The tenants are perfectly willing to buy a lease on those terms, and the landlord is perfectly willing to sell, and the tenants are going to gain, but owing to the terms of the Act it is impossible for the transaction to go through. We want to meet that case and that case only. We are putting in power to leave it to the Court to say whether a transaction of that kind is on the whole more favourable, or not less favourable, than the existing lease. My hon. Friend seeks to go further and reopen the whole thing, and I think his Amendment is going behind the principle of the principal Act, and we do not want to do that in an amending Bill, certainly not without letting the whole House know what is proposed and putting the Amendment on the Paper. In any case, I do not desire to reopen the matter because I am not very anxious to impose on the County Courts the duty of considering whether rents are reasonable or not. That is the beginning of a Rent Court which I myself am not very anxious to see. I cannot accept the Amendment, and I hope it will not be pressed.


May I suggest the words "are on the whole not less favourable"?


I am willing to accept those words if this Amendment is withdrawn.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In Sub-section (1), leave out the word "more" ["more favourable"] and insert instead thereof the words "not less."—[Mr. Rawlinson.]

Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.